AFTER THIS….A WEEK OF GUEST POSTINGS

I’m taking a wee bit of a breather this week.

Today’s posting is one from the vaults while the next four days will see sundry guests step up to the plate, including a few superbly diverse ICAs.

I’m doing so as I’ve a couple of guest postings of my own over at S-WC and Badger’s place and I don’t want to hog things. If you haven’t been across to look at The WYCRA 200 then you really are missing out on some ridiculously good tunes long with some of the best writing you’ll find anywhere on the internet.

#65 on the rundown came courtesy of SWC’s dad, and it was the rather wonderful Downtown by Petula Clark. Reading it made me dig out this piece of my own from December 2009:-

“Just heard that the Cowell hit-making machine has been stopped, temporarily, in its tracks with the news that Rage Against The Machine are grabbing the Xmas #1.

If we’re going to manage to do the same next year, we need to get behind one track. There will be some out there who ask that it be The Pogues, others will want Slade…..we might even get behind the Sex Pistols in an effort to give them the #1 they were denied in Jubilee Year in 1977.

I’d like to suggest what I reckon is THE best Christmas single ever……

Here’s what the NME of 28 November 1987 had to say:-

From sample Wonderland to Get Down town, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu power on. Here, the Kings of the Greengate Sampler have hired the talents of the London Community Gospel Choir, received permission to use Petula Clark’s classic, and fireballed the two, along with their own rap, into one massive hell-hating holler of a song.

Whereas ‘Whitney Joins The Jams’ was a tale of simple sample fantasy, ‘Down Town’s’ lyrics question the inadequacies and inconsistencies of society in the same demanding way ‘All You Need Is Love’ first fingered the confusion and hysteria surrounding AIDS.

Deep down in the mix amidst the sleigh bells, the church organ and the police sirens King Boy can be heard bouncing questions like rubber bricks off the walls of “Glory, what Glory? In a wine-bar world? In a tenement block? OK let’s hear it” crows the Clydeside MC.

The Jams may not be the hippest, sanest or sweetest band to stalk the earth this year, but they’re certainly the most imaginative…..firing a trail so shocking they couldn’t have kept you more on your toes if they stuffed a hand grenade up your ass and sent you to tap dance in a pair of stilettos!

mp3 : The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – Downtown (12 inch version)

OK….there’s a real 80s feel to much of the production but it doesn’t detract from the fact that Bill Drummond was a genius then, is a genius now and will be a genius forever.

BUZZCOCKS SINGLES 77-80 (Part 10)

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As mentioned last week, the release of the third LP was always going to be crucial in terms of what happened next for Buzzcocks.

But before then, the Spiral Scratch EP was given a re-release and climbed into the Top 40 in August 1979.  A few weeks later a new 45 was released to precede the new LP.  It was a single now regarded with the benefit of hindsight as one of their finest but which on release was a total flop.

This must have been hard to take.  A single containing everything that had brought the band to the fore wasn’t playlisted by Radio 1, which in those days was basically a death sentence.

Unperturbed, the band announced a major UK tour to promote the new LP which they called A Different Kind Of Tension which, although it could be thought of as a swipe at their critics, was in fact the name of one of the new songs.

It was 1979 that I started going to gigs and I got myself a ticket for Buzzcocks at the Glasgow Apollo – looking it up now I can see the gig was on Friday 5 October.  I got along early, as has always been my practice, to catch the support act. This lot had been getting a great deal of coverage in the music press.

It was Joy Division.

The intensity and power of their set, which to be honest wasn’t universally enjoyed as there were a lot of slow songs which wasn’t quite what the audience were there for.  But their front man really made a huge impression.  The fact that Pete Shelley took  to the stage a short while later and opened with the words ‘excuse me while I put out my ciggy’ instead of blasting into a great hit from days of old showed that he knew the game was up and new bands were about to become the media darlings.

The album did hit the top 30 but no other single was lifted from it and released in the UK.

mp3 : Buzzcocks – You Say You Don’t Love Me
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Reason D’Etre

Decent enough old-fashioned b-side too.

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #47 : CAMERA OBSCURA

Camera-Obscura

Camera Obscura are among the favourite bands of my good friend Aldo. He’s been promising me an ICA for about nine months now…maybe this will provide the impetus.

From all music:-

Pairing bright and clever retro-styled melodies with smart, witty lyrics and a sense of style that is sleek but lived-in at the same time, Camera Obscura are a Scottish indie pop group who became one of the most celebrated acts on the U.K.’s twee pop scene, while also displaying a pronounced country influence in their more low-key numbers.

Hailing from Glasgow, Camera Obscura were formed in 1996 by lead vocalist and guitarist Tracyanne Campbell, percussionist John Henderson, and bassist Gavin Dunbar. After playing out with a handful of guest musicians, Camera Obscura expanded to a quartet with the addition of guitarist David Skirving, and in 1998, the group issued their first single, “Park & Ride” on the indie Andmoresound label. In 2000, Lee Thompson joined Camera Obscura as their full-time trap drummer, and Lindsay Boyd signed on as keyboard player.

In 2001, Skirving left the band, and Kenny McKeeve became their new guitarist. As they became better known, they were frequently compared to Belle and Sebastian, and B&S leader Stuart Murdoch was recruited to produce their debut album, 2001’s Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi. The album earned praise from influential BBC disc jockey John Peel, who invited the group to record a live session for broadcast on his show, and the single “Eighties Fan” became a modest hit. In 2002, Lindsay Boyd parted ways with Camera Obscura and Carey Lander took her place behind the keyboards, while Nigel Baillie also joined the band, handling trumpet and percussion.

2003 saw the release of the band’s second album, Underachievers Please Try Harder, followed by an international tour covering Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States; in the wake of the tour, John Henderson left the group. In 2004, Camera Obscura recorded another session with John Peel, one that saw the band debuting special new material, as Peel had invited them to set several poems by Robert Burns to music. The group’s third studio album, Let’s Get Out of This Country, was released in June 2006, and features one of the band’s most popular tunes, an answer song to Lloyd Cole titled “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken”.

In 2009, Camera Obscura were signed by the celebrated U.K. label 4AD, and they released their first album for it, My Maudlin Career, in April of that year. The success of the single “French Navy” helped push the album into the Top 50 of the U.K. album charts, and the Top 100 of the American album surveys. The year saw another lineup change for Camera Obscura, as Nigel Baillie left the band to spend more time with his new family.

In 2013, the band released their second album for 4AD, Desire Lines, which was produced by Tucker Martine, best known for his work with the Decemberists and My Morning Jacket. The album achieved commercial success similar to that of My Maudlin Career, but it also preceded the end of an era for the group.

In 2015, Camera Obscura canceled a tour of the United States when it was learned Carey Lander had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. Lander’s bandmates rallied around her, helping support an online campaign to raise both funds for treatment and awareness of the disease, but on October 11, 2015, cancer claimed Lander’s life. After her passing, Tracyanne Campbell posted a message on social media, declaring, “(Lander) didn’t leave the band. She left her body. She’s still in the band. Right!”

It is also worth mentioning that a fundraising effort by Carey for Sarcoma UK raised over £100,000 with more than 4,000 separate donations.

Here’s one of their earliest and most enduring songs.

mp3 : Camera Obscura – Eighties Fan

Enjoy.

R.I.P. Carey.

STATS THAT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU…..

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Let’s have a quick quiz question….

How many times has a PJ Harvey single appeared in the Top 20 of the UK charts??

Those of you who said ‘None’ are correct. Incredible to believe that such a critically acclaimed artist, and one whose tours of decent-sized venues sell our pretty quickly, has never gotten any higher than #25 in the singles charts despite almost 30 attempts at doing so. Indeed, the stats paint a pretty depressing picture as only nine of her singles have ever made it into the Top 40, only one of which has been this century.

Things are surely better on the album front, so let’s have another question.

How many times has a PJ Harvey album appeared in the Top 10 of the UK charts?

The answer is ‘Three’

Rid Of Me in 1993; Let England Shake in 2011; and The Hope Six Demolition Project which gave her a first ever #1 earlier this year.

Incidentally, the dreadful state of the music industry can be seen from the fact that this album went to #1 on the basis of less than 11,500 sales in the first week of its eagerly awaited release. I’m terrified to think how low the sales are for bands on the smaller, indie-labels.

The stats also show that PJ’s best-selling album is Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, the Mercury Prize winner released back in 2000. In terms of the charts, it peaked at #23 but has been a consistent seller over the years and has recently just gone above 300,000 sales.

Part of the problem is that PJ Harvey has released songs that were just ahead of their time in that their unfamiliar style or sound would become popular a short while later but other bands would get all the glory. Such as this from 1995 which to my ears has something that dragged Radiohead to world-wide fame and fortune the following year:-

mp3 : PJ Harvey – C’mon Billy

The three extra tracks on the single are well worth a listen….all completely different in form and delivery and yet all so typically PJ Harvey.

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Darling Be There
mp3 : PJ Harvey – Maniac
mp3 : PJ Harvey – One Time Too Many

Enjoy.

DISPOSABLE FLUFF THAT GOT TO #1

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This was the second successive UK #1 for Blondie, in May 1979, just a few months after Heart Of Glass.

mp3 : Blondie – Sunday Girl
mp3 : Blondie – Sunday Girl (French Version)
mp3 : Blondie – I Know But I Don’t Know

They didn’t get the hat-trick however, as the next release, Dreaming stalled at #2 some 17 months later.

But Blondie would go on to enjoy another three #1 hits in 1980, making them, without question, the most commercially successful band of the era.

And with the unexpected success of Maria, they would also go on to have a sixth song reach #1 come 1999. Not sure if nineteen years between #1 singles is some sort of record or not….particularly when it involves a new and not re-released song. Can’t be bothered looking it up though.

Oh and it was pure chance that a band from NYC was scheduled to feature the day after I found the space for the lastest treat from JTFL and Echorich.

EVERYONE’S YOUR FRIEND IN NEW YORK CITY (3)

A GUEST POSTING FROM ECHORICH &

JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

The Streets of Your Town

Manhattan seems like a huge place but the actual acreage is minuscule — you’re constantly traversing the same routes. Live there long enough and you establish a regular orbit limited to a couple of square miles that you might not stray from for months at a time. That’s okay: turns out there’s a magic spell, lucky charm and pot of gold hidden every ten steps in the city. For this reason, particular streets, blocks and even corners have more happening than your average American suburb. Also for this reason there are as many songs about single streets as anywhere else in the world. Here are some of our favorites.

1. 14th St. Beat – Sylvain Sylvain.

JTFL: When I finally moved to Gotham it was into a studio apartment at 7 W. 14th Street, just off 5th Ave. (\For those unfamiliar with Manhattan, 14th street runs straight across Greenwich Village, river to river; Fifth Avenue bisects most of the island from the top of Central Park at 110th down to 8th Street. From my front door you could see the Lonestar Cafe on the corner of 13th, with its 30-foot iguana on the roof. (That block was later torn down to make way for the magnificent facilities of The New School). Westward to the corner of 14th and 7th Ave. was The Homestead, an infamous mafia steak house. Cadillacs parked three deep and pinkie rings the size of golf balls on display. If you headed east a few blocks past Union Square to 14th and 3Rd. Ave. you’d find the Palladium, one of the best music venues in the city. (That’s the stage of the Palladium on which Paul Simonon is smashing his bass on the cover of London Calling). I moved in August 1, 1981 and turned 18 two weeks later. It was like going to heaven. Or Oz. Sylvain Sylvain had already written the soundtrack two years earlier.

ER: Sylvain was always my favorite Doll. He always looked the most comfortable in rouge and lipstick and seemed to walk with much more ease in stilettos. This was not only a college radio favorite in 80-81, but crossed over to FM Rock radio a bit. The sound of subway trains pulling into 14th street stations brings back so many memories of Saturdays spent traveling in from Queens and rising from the subterranean other world of NYC Transit to the bright sunshine and ever growing blight that was Union Square back in those days…I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything…

2. 17th St. – Gil Scott-Heron.

JTFL: Still down in the Village. “If you’re looking for excitement you may need only look next door/if you thinking’ bout the Spirit an’ you want to get near it/c’mon c’mon and get down down down. Any questions?

ER: 17th Street on the far Westside is the land of the Fulton Houses and on the Eastside it’s the entrance into Stuyvesant Village. These massive complexes housed families in need of lower income housing, artists, musicians and all the hangers on that The Projects attract to its streets and courtyards. Gil Scott-Heron’s tribute captures the wonderful cultural and artistic mix you could find in these places, the latin, jazz and rock sounds coming from open windows Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Sure, you might take your life in your hands if you didn’t belong and stayed too long, but these places, 40 years later, are still a microcosm of NYC.

3. 53rd & 3rd – Ramones.

JTFL: Here’s the corner where Dee Dee supposedly turned tricks to support his heroin habit. Not sure if that really happened, but the spot was verifiably notorious as the city’s site of male prostitution. Which is weird, come to think of it, because it’s in mid-town — not the west Village which was the epicenter of gay NYC. It’s close to the 59th St. Bridge off ramp so maybe it was easy to get away from? Dunno — I only sell my ass as a lawyer!

ER: A Ramones Classic for me. When I first heard 53rd & 3rd I will admit I didn’t realize it was about hustlers turning tricks on what was NYC’s most notorious Rough Trade pick up location. This is probably one of Ramones most self-deprecating song, and some of Dee Dee’s most infamous lyrics.

4. Avenue B – Major Thinkers.

JTFL: I have a super soft spot in my heart for Avenue B because my band, Chronic Citizens, shared an AWESOME rehearsal space at 4th and B with a bunch of downtown scenesters: Ritual Tension, Film at 11, the Honeymoon Killlers–who would morph into the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion–and the Reverb Motherfuckers. The space was like a submarine: long, narrow and airless, the walls lined to the ceiling with amps and, for no good reason, a poster of Ace Frehley swinging a smoking Les Paul. Before every rehearsal we’d go the bodega on the corner and buy two El Presidente beers for $1 and a string of Santeria beads if we were feeling unlucky. Up the block on the corner of 7th and B the Horseshoe Bar still sits; it was used as a location for the movies ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Five Corners’. (Almost got killed in there once, but that’s another story.) Iggy Pop and Gogol Bordello both have songs called Avenue B, but this track by the unheralded Major Thinkers gets the nod because it hit the clubs in 1981 just when I got there myself. The Thinkers later became Black 47.

ER: The sound of Downtown Manhattan was changing rapidly in 1980 and 1981. Rap, Hardcore, Synth music were all making inroads in what was, for the most part, a really straightforward Rock and Punk scene on the surface. The DIY culture was in full bloom and younger artists and bands began to stretch the boundaries of sounds. Taking a simple drum machine pattern, throwing some layers of polyrhythmic live drums and a bone crushing bass with a Ventures guitar riff and a Terrace Shouting lyric and Major Thinkers had a perfect Pogoing classic on their hands.

5. Avenue A – The Dictators.

JTFL: Yer basic rock ‘n roll from another downtown stalwart, the Dictators. I have an even softer spot for Avenue A because it was the location of my only (modest) musical triumph: a record release party. It’s cool to have played CB’s and the Knitting Factory and everything, but everyone played those clubs at some point. Our gig at the Pyramid Club, on Avenue A and 7th at the southwest corner of Tompkins Square Park, was a different story — coveted Thursday night headline slot, full house, great show, people singing along — we even made money. (Followed by a weird episode in an S&M club, but that’s also another story.) Two weeks later I took the NY bar exam and that was the end of my music career. Two weeks after that the Tompkins Square Riots took place. The cops came in swinging batons, name tags removed and badge numbers covered. I dipped out when the bacon arrived on horseback, but they beat up a bunch of my friends who couldn’t get out fast enough.

ER: Metal Gods in their minds – well certainly in Handsome Dick Manitoba’s mind, and in reality Proto-Punks that had the respect of Rockers and Punks alike when I was growing up in NYC. My favorite Handsome Dick story involves one two many Jack + Cokes and a short staircase down from the VIP Room at Limelight. Missing the first step, he managed to staircase surf down two landings without planting his face on the floor. THAT takes experience.

6. Great Jones Street – Luna.

JTFL: A quieter number by a quiet band about a quiet street. Great Jones is actually 3rd street between Broadway and the Bowery. The term “Jonesing” supposedly comes from this short stretch of turf, which used to be a junkie precinct. That may be an urban legend, although it’s true that Jean-Michel Basquiat OD’ed at number 57, a converted stable owned by Andy Warhol. Across the street at number 54 the Great Jones Cafe is still up and running. It’s just a little block with a lot of character; somehow peaceful and isolated despite sitting between two major North-South throughways. Don Deliilo wrote a novel called Great Jones Street and that’s what Luna’s song is about.

ER: Luna have a knack for taking their brand of Dreampop and infusing it with an arty Downtown NYC vibe that really REALLY has its origins in the sounds of The Velvets. Hell, they even supported the reformed Velvets between their first and second albums. They took it to the next level by having original VU member Sterling Morrison guest on guitar on Great Jones Street. The lyrics of Great Jones Street really speak to the “walking in place” that many artists and musicians find themselves doing when they get to NYC chasing their muse, searching for fortune or fame. But it’s also about how the simple things become so important and desirous when we find love. Setting the piece on the rooftops of Greenwich Village is simply romantic and truly bohemian.

7. St. Marks Place – Earl Slick.

JTFL: St. Marks is another stretch of blocks: 8th Street between 3rd Ave. and Ave. A. It had the best pizza place in lower Manhattan, Sounds record store, the Holiday Lounge, Trash & Vaudeville and countless other hipster shops, bars and tattoo joints. (It’s kind of the equivalent of King’s Road in London.) The cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti shows 96 and 98 St. Marks — Mick Jagger and Peter Tosh are sitting on the stoop of these exact buildings in the video for the Stones’ ‘Waiting on a Friend’. The back cover of the NY Dolls’ first album shows the band standing in front of the Gem Spa at the corner of St. Marks and 2nd Ave. I wonder how many folks recognize that Earl Slick is a NY pun: “earl” would be how you pronounced “oil” in Brooklynese. Frank Madeloni is, in fact, a Brooklyn boy, and made good as one of many guitar heroes that recorded with Bowie. You can hear him giving it the full StationtoStation as he just burns down the lead on this track. He’s joined on vocals by the Motels’ Martha Davis.

ER: Of all the places to hang out and grow up in Lower Manhattan, no other street had the magnetism that St. Mark’s Place did. St. Marks from Cooper Square traveling east was a young teen Punk/New Waver’s Mecca. We prayed in the direction of Trash & Vaudeville Boutique – where I bought my first pair of Doc Martens and a silver shark skin suit to graduate high school, sat on the steps of No. 96-98 St. Mark’s Place making fun of the fact that Led Zeppelin captured the building on the cover of Physical Graffiti – any Punk Teen’s least favorite album (except for maybe Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon). I used to hang around Manic Panic as a 15 year old helping owners Tish and Snooky unpack boxes and set up shelves. My favorite record store was on Second Ave. just around the corner from St. Marks – Freebeing Records. The owner seemed to be the most unapproachable, hardcore, punk/ex-con, but in reality he was a really affable, knowledgeable music lover who seemed to have on Tuesday what was released on Monday in the UK. Like every neighborhood with its own micro-culture, by the late 80’s “high street” stores like The Gap and Crunch Fitness started popping up. But my favorite experience on St. Mark’s Place was a summer afternoon with a few friends. I was walking backwards so I could talk to them about something that had me excited. Oblivious to where I was going, I saw my friends begin to slow down and mouths open as I was still at my walking/talking gait when I suddenly crashed into someone knocking them to the ground. I turned around immediately to find I had just knocked Patti Smith flat on her back. I was frozen, SHE was dazed, and my friends rushed to her aid. She got herself up, literally brushed herself off and walked up to me and said sorry TO ME! I immediately went into an apology babble which I have still not quite lived down and by the end of it all, Patti was asking US what we were up to and where we were going. She told us to walk down to Avenue B to have lunch at a little Polish diner – which we did and thus a legend was written.

8. Ludlow Street – Julian Casablancas.

JTFL: I never understood why The Strokes were seen as rock’s new saviors when they arrived. Their songs are kind of basic and they suck in concert. I do like Casablancas’ voice, however, and he uses it nicely on this track, even if he still hasn’t figured out how to program that sorry drum machine. Ludlow was one of the city’s hippest streets on the lower east side. In the mid-80’s, before the neighborhood became insufferably gentrified, my sister waitressed at The Hat – a Mexican restaurant on the corner of Ludlow and Stanton. She said the yuppies tipped better if you were rude to them. As Soho became more posh, the scene moved further downtown and Ludlow was the new ground zero of an artist’s community (which has since moved to the outer boroughs). I’m not too nostalgic about it, despite the fact that all four of my grandparents were born just blocks away from there. Pretty good panoramic view of the corner of Ludlow and Rivington on the cover of the Beastie Boys’ LP Paul’s Boutique.

ER: Ok, so I have to shake my head here. I am in the “I HATE THE STROKES” camp and I’m probably in an even bigger “No Time For Julian Casablancas” detractor. So let’s talk about Ludlow Street. Of all the streets on the Lower East Side, Ludlow is one that boasts the highest percentage of artists and musicians that I can think of. Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison all lived on Ludlow, recorded on Ludlow as well. A few of Warhol’s Superstars found apartments on Ludlow. It was also the center for New York’s No Wave scene. But what Ludlow is most important for in my mind is the location of Katz’s Deli at the corner of Ludlow and Houston Street. It is the palace of kosher Pastrami and hot dogs. It’s where Sally faked an orgasm for Harry and it’s where I seem to find myself every trip back to NYC.

9. Eighth Avenue – Hospitality.

JTFL: I’m expecting folks won’t be too familiar with newish Brooklyn outfit Hospitality — as this series progresses I hope to introduce music that’s not so well known. I like how Amber Papini’s high, breathy voice floats over the song and I like the pretty acoustic passing chords. In the song she walks 20 blocks to 44th and Eighth Avenue, which would be where Hell’s Kitchen approaches the theater district. She plays cards on the roof (naturally). It’s kind of a sentimental picture that shows how you can be alone and reflective in the middle of all the action.

ER: This track brings back a certain nostalgia I have for “the old” Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen. It was the time before Rudy Giuliani sold off midtown to Disney and the area lost all sense of itself. The Eighth Avenue of my youth was a seedy mix of prostitutes and young hustlers in tight jeans and Converse sneakers. It was a land of seedy dive bars and hole in the wall restaurants. The street was filled with yellow taxis and delivery trucks. Anyone driving up Eighth Avenue in their car was obviously not from NYC. I would eventually end up working on Broadway and 44th Street after college and Eighth Avenue was a bit of an afterwork playground.

10. Slaughter On Tenth Avenue – Mick Ronson.

ER: Tenth Avenue slices Manhattan’s West Side from the Meat Packing District until it morphs into Amsterdam Ave at 59th Street. It is a thoroughfare that is a main artery through Chelsea and Times Square. It is that special mix of tenements, storefront businesses, manufacturers and warehouses that defines many neighborhoods in lower half of Manhattan Island. It can be gritty, soulful, dangerous and familial. It is a perfect slice of New York City. Ronson named his first solo album after the song/dance sequence from the 1930’s On Your Toes. He is faithful to the Richard Rogers original in capturing the allure of the hustle and bustle, the dangers and darkness of this most urban section of NYC. Ronson, with the help of Mike Garson and Trevor Bolder, adds some of the Glam dramatics so deftly provided to David Bowie to this epic instrumental.

JTFL: Agree 100% with ER; 10th Ave. remains one of the most essential NYC north-south strips despite the constantly changing nature of the town. The action in the 1930’s musical concerns a murder on the upper west side. But 10th means something different to me. From the windows of my 11th floor apartment in Chelsea I could see a stretch of disused elevated rail tracks, rusting in place since the 1940’s. Over time that little strip, twenty feet above the street, developed its own ecosystem and wildlife. Somebody smart turned it into The Highline, an open air promenade with a view of the Hudson and now a major city park and tourist attraction, on par with the Arch in Washington Square.

Bonus Tracks:

5th Avenue – Gold Panda.

An electronic number for those in the TnVV crowd that appreciate this sort of thing, like my kids.

M79 – Vampire Weekend.

M79 isn’t a street; it’s a bus route. This is the bus you’d take going back and forth from the upper east side, through Central Park to the upper west side, then back again. Everyone knows that the subway is the fastest way to get around town (Take the ‘A’ Train!). But, after daily journeys crammed into the electric sewer with a million of your sweaty, agitated neighbors, sometimes it’s a luxury to take a little extra time and ride the bus. You get a unique view of the streets, perched up a good six feet off the pavement. The different perspective and more leisurely pace engenders daydreaming, especially if you’re riding through the park, and that’s what’s going on in this tune.

Readers will notice that all of the songs in this post concern the little/big island of Manhattan. ER and I aren’t ignoring NYC’s four other boroughs, just getting ready to sing their songs a little down the road…

Jonny and Echorich

Enjoy.

 

THE JOHN PEEL FESTIVE FIFTY OF 1983

This is, unquestionably, the most ambitious posting I’ve ever done.  50 songs in one go.  Broken down into five chunks mind you.

It’s here to mark the eleventh anniversary of the sad and untimely death of John Peel.  It’s also here as it is probably the Festive Fifty that I have most of in terms of vinyl (and where possible, I’ve used the vinyl when recording the songs which explains some pops and crackles – it also explains why the track which was #1 sounds a bit iffy as the vinyl is a tad on the worn side.  Maybe it’s a bit of a duff copy as the distinctive drum sound is very muffled…..but hey ho, you’ll all have the track anyway without needing it from here.

I’ve also gone for 1983 as it genuinely is a jaw-dropping rundown in terms of just how many songs, all these years later, are deemed as classics.  Also interesting to see at least one act in there that will raise a few eyebrows….

mp3 : Various – Festive Fifty 1983 (50-41)  (41 mins 50 secs)

Tom Robinson – War Baby
The Cure – The Walk
Elvis Costello – Shipbuilding
Strawberry Switchblade – Trees And Flowers
The Birthday Party – Sonny’s Burning
New Order – The Village
Cabaret Voltaire – Just Fascination
The Birthday Party – Deep In The Woods
Danse Society – Somewhere
U2 – New Years Day

mp3 : Various – Festive Fifty 1983 (40-31) (44mins 23 secs)

The Fall – Wings
S.P.K. – Metal Dance
Cocteau Twins – Hitherto
Sophie And Peter Johnson – Television Satellite
Luddites – Doppelganger
The Fall – Kicker Conspiracy
Tools You Can Trust – Working And Shopping (Peel Session)
The Smiths – Handsome Devil
Xmal Deutschland – Qual
The Chameleons – Second Skin

mp3 : Various – Festive Fifty 1983 (30-21) (37mins 31 secs)

Redskins – Lean On Me
Aztec Camera – Oblivious
Cocteau Twins – Peppermint Pig
Sisters Of Mercy – Alice
10,000 Maniacs – My Mother The War
New Order – Leave Me Alone
Elvis Costello – Pills And Soap
The Assembly – Never Never
Echo And The Bunnymen – The Cutter
The Fall – The Man Whose Head Expanded

mp3 : Various – Festive Fifty 1983 (20-11) (45 mins 50 secs)

Siouxsie And The Banshees – Dear Prudence
Sisters Of Mercy – Temple Of Love
New Order – Your Silent Face
Echo And The Bunnymen – Never Stop
Cocteau Twins – From The Flagstones
The Cure – The Lovecats
The Cocteau Twins – Sugar Hiccup
Xmal Deutschland – Incubus Succubus
Public Image Limited – This Is Not A Love Song
Red Guitars – Good Technology

mp3 : Various – Festive Fifty 1983 (10-1) (48 mins 32 secs)

Naturalites And The Mystics – Picture On The Wall
The Smiths – Hand In Glove
The Fall – Eat Y’Self Fitter (Peel Session)
Billy Bragg – A New England
The Smiths – Reel Around The Fountain (Peel Session)
Cocteau Twins – Musette And Drums
This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren
New Order – Age Of Consent
The Smiths – This Charming Man (New York Vocal)
New Order – Blue Monday

I’m not expecting anyone to listen to all five downloads, but for a little bit of fun, and as a tribute to the great man, I deliberately have the first five seconds of one of the tracks by one of the better known bands play a little bit more quickly. No prizes for finding it and naming it, but I wonder if anyone can find it…..

Worth mentioning that this particular Festive Fifty was broadcast, in the same batches of ten songs, on the shows of 21,22,27,28 and 29 December 1983.

Enjoy

 

PETE BURNS R.I.P.

Just picked this up from social media. Rolling Stone magazine tells the story:-

Pete Burns, lead singer of the Eighties goth new wave band Dead or Alive and their smash “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” died Sunday after suffering cardiac arrest, his management said Monday. Burns was 57.

“It is with the greatest sadness that we have to break the tragic news that out beloved Pete Burns of (Dead Or Alive), died suddenly yesterday of a massive cardiac arrest,” Burns’ Facebook alerted fans.

“All of his family and friends are devastated by the loss of our special star,” the message read. “He was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul, and he will be missed by all who loved and appreciated everything he was and all of the wonderful memories the has left is with.”

Boy George, who weathered comparisons both musically and stylistically to Burns, tweeted of the Dead or Alive singer, “Tearful about the passing of @PeteBurnsICON he was one of our great true eccentrics and such a big part of my life! Wow. Hard to believe!”

The androgynous Burns, who began cross-dressing as a six-year-old, emerged in the late Seventies as a member of the goth band Nightmares in Wax, which released their lone EP Birth of a Nation, highlighted by the single “Black Leather,” in 1979 before adopting the name Dead or Alive.

After a string of singles, including “The Stranger,” Dead or Alive released their debut album Sophisticated Boom Boom in 1984, with the band transforming KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s the Way (I Like It)” into an unlikely hit.

“The trouble is that people are all too ready to jump to conclusions about anybody who they think looks a bit strange. They think you must be mentally subnormal,” Burns once said of his unique appearance in an interview. “Over the years I’ve had to learn how to deal with people who refuse to take me seriously. That’s where I learnt the blunt side of my character.”

The following year, Youthquake arrived accompanied by the group’s biggest hit “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).” The single reached Number One on the U.K charts and peaked at Number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2006, the song returned to the British charts – at Number Five – following Burns’ infamous appearance on Celebrity Big Brother.

Three years later, Flo Rida and Kesha’s take on the song, dubbed “Right Round,” topped the Billboard 200 and shattered then-digital sales records.

The singer also recorded notable Dead or Alive hits with “Brand New Lover” and “Something in the House.”

Following the Eighties, however, Burns became more known for his reality TV appearances and ever-changing look – Burns underwent countless cosmetic surgeries over the past decades, with heavy physical consequences – than his music.

“People redecorate their homes every few years and I see this as no different. Changing my face is like buying a new sofa,” Burns told the Daily Mail after another string of surgeries left him virtually unrecognizable.

As Dead or Alive’s only constant member, Burns continued to tour under the group’s moniker until his death.

I think You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) is a classic disco/pop song that I’ve certainly enjoyed dancing to on many an occasion. I’m sure everyone knows the song so I won’t repeat it here. Instead, here’s that debut single from when he looked like a goth, but it’s a long way removed from the sound of that genre.  There’s no doubt Marc Almond was looking on and taking notes….

mp3 : Nightmares In Wax – Black Leather

I hope you’re finally at peace Pete.

 

IT PROVED NOT TO BE MY THEME SONG

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I once went on a chalet holiday with my mum, dad and brothers. It was in fact in 1979, just before my 16th birthday. A mate from school came along as well to keep me company as I was no doubt a really stroppy teenager.

I can tell you that I wasn’t able to go behind any chalet to make my holiday complete. I was just too shy. But I know my mate got lucky……

mp3 : Squeeze – Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)

This tribute to the joys of holiday sex only reached #44 in the UK Charts back in May 1980. For some reason or other this was one of the singles that didn’t get left behind when I did a moonlight flit in the mid 80s, so my limited edition red vinyl 7″ has a place in the cupboard. Here’s yer b-side:-

mp3 : Squeeze – What The Butler Saw

It wasn’t long after this that Squeeze suffered the departure of keyboardist Jools Holland as he went off to pursue a solo career, and although he rejoined the band in 1985, he again left to do other things in 1990. Whatever happened to him I wonder?

Incidentally, not long after said chalet holiday I lost touch with said mate as I went back to school into a 5th year while he decided to go and find a job.  I’m almost certain that his decision not to return to school was all down to the fact that he had now become a fully-developed man of the world….

BUZZCOCKS SINGLES 77-80 (Part 9)

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As with all new music back in 1979, the first place you would get to hear it would be across the airwaves of BBC Radio One, 247 on the Medium Wave.

I’ve no idea what DJ was spinning the discs when this came but he did introduce it as the new single by Buzzcocks.  I thought he had made a huge error.  Yes, it did musically sound like them, but unless Pete Shelley had been replaced as vocalist by one of The Stranglers, then this was most certainly another group.

A couple of weeks later and I saw them perform the new single on Top of the Pops and the mystery solved itself when the camera panned over to the mimed performance and it was Steve Diggle who was doing the singing as Pete moped around in the background trying unsuccessfully to be a team player.

Maybe it was the criticism of the vocal delivery on ‘Happy’ that had hit home or maybe it was just that the lead guitarist had come up with the best available song for the next 45.  Harmony In My Head was as post-punk/new wave as it came but the record buying public didn’t fall for it as it spent just three weeks in the Top 40 and got no higher than #32 – it was a far cry from the heady days of Ever Fallen In Love less than a year previously.

mp3 : Buzzcocks – Harmony In My Head
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Something’s Gone Wrong Again

Three singles in 1979 had suffered declining sales.  The third LP was going to be critical…..as indeed was the UK tour that had just been announced.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #46 : CALVIN HARRIS

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No….come back. There’s no need to be scared.  Or bemused.

I personally don’t have any Calvin Harris songs in my ownership, but the laptop does have a fair few of them stored on the hard drive as it is used to update Mrs V’s i-pod and she’s a massive fan of the Dumfries-born superstar DJ.

I won’t waste your time with any bio details or the likes as he’s probably the best known (and richest) Scot in the contemporary music scene right now.  I will say he is incredibly good at what he does.

mp3 : Calvin Harris feat. Tinie Tempah – Drinking From The Bottle

Enjoy.

BONUS POSTING – THIS ONE’S FOR JEFF

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I’ve always been amazed and humbled that this blog, and its predecessor, has managed to attract so many regular followers from all parts of the planet. One of the first to latch on to what I was trying to do was Jeff from Chicago with whom I exchanged a few e-mails about music and sport.

We got talking on one occasion about football and Jeff informed me that as he watched a lot of matches from the UK via satellite, he had gotten each of his kids to adopt a side to try to get them interested in things. It had worked to some degree but he wanted to do something different for his youngest daughter and so he asked for some info on my team, Raith Rovers, as he thought it would be neat (and I’m sure that was the word he used) for her to have them as her team of choice.

One thing led to another, and before long Jeff was actually making his way to Scotland to watch Raith Rovers play in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup in April 2010 where he met up with a number of my fellow friends including two contributors to the blog, Mr John Greer and Jacques the Kipper.

We’ve all continued to stay in touch with Jeff over the years – he often sends texts and messages on Saturday afternoons looking for live updates from the Rovers games. He’s nowadays a long way from Chicago, having taken a job that saw him and his family move to North Carolina, and so when he leaves comments nowadays on the blog it is usually just as plain old Jeff.

He did something really nice last week. Like many of the rest of us of a certain age, it can take time to master the techniques of social media but once he worked out how to do a certain shortcut for posting on Facebook he gave a big plug to this blog, adding that there are great ‘mixtapes’ to download. Almost immediately one of his friends (hi Elizabeth!!) said ‘totally made my Saturday night. Great site. Thanks for sharing.’

Now that the Blue Jays have been eliminated from the baseball, I finally have a bit more free time on my hands and one of the first things I wanted to do was this, a sort of companion piece to the earlier ‘One Hour Indie Disco’ of which he is a fan:-

mp3 : Various – This One’s For Jeff

Track Listing

Why Can’t I Be You? – The Cure
Hit The Ground – The Darling Buds
World Shut Your Mouth – Julian Cope
What Went Wrong This Time? – The Siddeleys
Song For A Future Generation – The B52’s
Union City Blue – Blondie
Winter In The Hamptons – Josh Rouse
Tears In Your Cup – Cats On Fire
French Disko – Stereolab
Intergalactic – Beastie Boys
Start! – The Jam
Cruiser’s Creek – The Fall
Ask – The Smiths
Come Saturday – The Pains Of The Pure At Heart
Gouge Away – The Pixies
The Sun A Small Star – The Servants
Oblivious – Aztec Camera
Fell In Love With A Girl – The White Stripes
Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft – The Wedding Present
Another Girl, Another Planet – The Only Ones

Forty seconds over the allocated time. But I just couldn’t fade out the final song.

WHEN THE MUSIC AND LYRICS PROVE EQUALLY BRILLIANT

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Second posting about this artiste in quick succession.  But this time it doesn’t feature his inital backing band and it only highlights how even two ICAs wouldn’t really do justice.

There are times when its the music that makes a song so utterly fantastic. Then there are other times when its the lyrics that make a song so utterly memorable. And just sometimes, both music and lyrics are as stunning as the other…

in 1986, the LP King Of America was released. It was the tenth LP in the career of Elvis Costello, and for the first time in seven years he hadn’t relied on the talents of The Attractions. Instead, it was a record released by The Costello Show featuring the Attractions and Confederates. Another change was that the songs were credited to Declan McManus, the singer’s real as opposed to stage name.

The Confederates were not a band as such, but instead a collection of top session musicians, most of whom had played and recorded with Elvis Presley. Some folk reckon its this fact that led to the songs not being credited to the be-spectacled Elvis….

Now I’m no great expert on every recording made by Elvis Costello, but I usually argue that this is the best LP he ever made. It’s a truly stunning bit of work that contains lyrics that go in many different directions – there’s the bitter and twisted, the poetically lovely, the hilarious put-downs and the occasional bit of self-deprecation – all underscored by some of the best and most varied music he would ever commit to one LP. As evidenced by the words to Brilliant Mistake, the LP’s opener:-

He thought he was the King of America
Where they pour Coca Cola just like vintage wine
Now I try hard not to become hysterical
But I’m not sure if I am laughing or crying

I wish that I could push a button
And talk in the past and not the present tense
And watch this hurtin’ feeling disappear
Like it was common sense
It was a fine idea at the time
Now it’s a brilliant mistake

She said that she was working for the ABC News
It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use
Her perfume was unspeakable
It lingered in the air
Like her artificial laughter
Her mementos of affairs

“Oh” I said “I see you know him”
“Isn’t that very fortunate for you”
And she showed me his calling card
He came third or fourth and there were more than one or two

He was a fine idea at the time
Now he’s a brilliant mistake

He thought he was the King of America
But it was just a boulevard of broken dreams
A trick they do with mirrors and with chemicals
The words of love in whispers
And the axe of love in screams

I wish that I could push a button
And talk in the past and not the present tense
And watch this lovin’ feeling disappear
Like it was common sense

I was a fine idea at the time
Now I’m a brilliant mistake

This would stand alone as a near perfect bit of poetry – and like so many of the best poems, it has a number of interpretations.

EC himself in an interview in 1986 said:-

“Brilliant Mistake is a sad song, but it’s also sort of funny. It’s about America and it’s about lost ambition, not lack of inspiration. It’s about a disappointed or frustrated belief. It’s a song that people are going to read wrong. One line in it is, ‘There’s a trick they do with mirrors and with chemicals.’ It means celluloid and mirrors, movie cameras. It occurred to me the other day that people will think it’s a reference to cocaine. “

However, a more commonly held view was that Elvis was in the midst of a very painful and messy divorce, and that the heart of the song was a criticism of himself and his behaviour.

mp3 : The Costello Show – Brilliant Mistake

Now I make no apologies for adding a second song to this post – another from the LP and the track that I believe is the best he’s ever recorded:-

mp3 : The Costello Show – Little Palaces

This is basically a solo song – the acoustic guitar and mandolin are played by Elvis, with just a hint of string bass to back it up, played by Jerry Scheff. The closing few minutes of this song often bring a tear to my eye – the raw and powerful images invoked by the lyric and the traditional almost folk-like music.

I remember also when this LP was released that many long-time fans thought this would be the end of The Attractions. But instead, within six months, another LP – Blood & Chocolate – was released, and this was a bona fide band record.

And sometimes I think that just might be the best EC album……

Happy Listening.

ONLY THEIR SECOND TIME ON THESE PAGES

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It was earlier this year that jimdoes, in pulling together an excellent ICA on Sonic Youth, took a deserved sideways swipe at me for never previously having featured the band.

It’s now been 35 years since Sonic Youth began to make music and 5 years since they broke up. They’re yet another act who have never appear to have been all that bothered about breaking into the mainstream or even enjoying moderate chart success, even when during the 90s they were on the roster of Geffen Records, part of the giant MCA media operations.

One of the reasons they weren’t here before the ICA is that I can’t really class myself as a fan of Sonic Youth; I’m more of an admirer owning a couple of albums and a copy of the DVD compilation of the videos they have made over the years to go with the various singles from the 90s.

One of the albums I do have is Dirty released in 1992. Or as someone once said to me, the record the band made when asked to try to come up with something as spectacular as had been delivered by Nirvana.

Dirty was produced by Butch Vig, who was of course at the helm of Nevermind.

Dirty, unlike any other Sonic Youth LP spawned four singles, two of which made the Top 30 in the UK charts.

This was the lead-off single and opening track on the LP (together with its b-sides):-

mp3 : Sonic Youth – 100%
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Creme Brulee
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Genetic
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Hendrix Necro

Released in July 1992, it peaked at #28 in the UK, and provided the band with their biggest ever success in their homeland with a #4 placing on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. While this was impressive enough for a band that had always been cult more than anything else, it was probably a disappointment to the label bosses who must have realised that Sonic Youth just wouldn’t ever make the crossover to mass popularity and millions of sales the world over.

The video was one of the first to be made by acclaimed director and occasional actor Spike Jonze.

Two and a half minutes that did more to glamorise skateboarding than just about anything else and thus made walking around pedestrianised areas in city centres a dangerous occupation forever more.

But you gotta admit its a cracking tune.

SOUL MINING

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While Matt Johnson had previously made Burning Blue Soul as a solo record , Soul Mining was the first album by The The, and was released to huge critical acclaim in October 1983.  Indeed, a few years ago at the official website of The The, you could re-read endorsements from all four of the UK’s weekly music papers (NME, Sounds, Record Mirror and Melody Maker), as well as broadsheet newspapers and glossy magazines; there was even a thumbs-up from Smash Hits. But surely the most bizarre positive rating was this:-

“Soul Mining is certainly something to be treasured. One of those integrity leaden packages which manages to be both experimental and accessible.”
* (source at the foot of the page).

There’s only seven tracks on the vinyl version of  the LP with only three songs appearing on Side B. The Ramones it certainly wasn’t.

Most songs were at least 5 minutes long, with one stretching out to almost 10 minutes. But Genesis or Pink Floyd it certainly wasn’t.

From the opening countdown of ten-to-zero (which sounds as if it was sampled from an Apollo space mission) right through to the incessant beat and chanting of the closing song, this is an LP that has a bit of everything thrown in. Bitter and twisted lyrics of despair and attacks on Thatcherism nestle alongside songs about love, lust and devotion. But it’s very much the music that carries this album along.

The The, at the outset, hadn’t been a band.  It was a vehicle for Matt Johnson who preferred to write and sing songs backed by synthesizers and drum machines. But for Soul Mining other talents were brought into the studio, not least Zeke Manyika of Orange Juice – a hugely underrated drummer – and Jools Holland who contributed an astonishing piano solo to transform an older The The song – Uncertain Smile.

The use of these talents, combined with Matt’s growing confidence in his abilities as a vocalist, produced a piece of work that, in the opinion of this humble scribe, has not dated one iota.

I sometimes think Matt Johnson was someone just a little bit ahead of his time. Some ten years later, Thom Yorke and Radiohead came along with a similar style and approach that made them media darlings. And while I am very fond of The Bends and OK Computer, I do honestly believe that Soul Mining and its follow-up Infected are every bit as good. But I’m obviously in a minority going by poll after poll.

The full track listing of Soul Mining:-

01 I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
02 This Is The Day
03 The Sinking Feeling
04 Uncertain Smile
05 The Twilight Hour
06 Soul Mining
07 Giant

Initial copies came with a free 12″ single, and one of these tracks – Perfect – became an eighth track on the CD version of the album released in 1987 but seemingly much to Matt’s displeasure as it was removed for the 2002 re-issue so that the album was again, just the seven tracks.

Soul Mining ranks high among my favourite albums of all time.  That is all.

mp3 : The The – I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
mp3 : The The – Giant

*Oh and the unlikely plug for the album back in 1983 was from Penthouse magazine.