JUST REALISED…..

……that it’s the end of the first month of 2017 and I never ever got round to sharing with you my favourite record of 2016.

For the first half of the year, I had assumed it was going to be Adam Stafford who would have taken the honour for his wondrous work Taser Revelations which was without any doubt my most played album across the entire year; there was also going to be an honourable mention for Emma Pollock whose In Search Of Harperfield was as classy and enjoyable as anything she had ever recorded in her time with The Delgados and was way superior to her previous two solo efforts.

But in mid-July, Ette released their debut LP Homemade Lemonade which in due course proved to be the one that I fell most for last year.  I wasn’t alone as a number of other Scottish-based bloggers and professional writers (i.e. those who get paid by magazines and newspapers for offering their opinions) also gave it the highest possible praise.

Ette is sort of the solo project of Carla Easton, one of the four members of the all-girl Glasgow band Teen Canteen. She teamed up with multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer Joe Kane and in just five days they recorded a damn-near perfect, diverse and intelligent pop album.  All ten tunes are memorably catchy, tipping their hat to all sorts of all genres and influences – I hear, among others, the girl-groups so beloved of Phil Ramone mixing it up with Clare Grogan, Kate Bush, Kylie, 80s synth bands, bubblegum, rap and the occasional hint of folk-rock that so many bands from Scotland are proving so adept at.

I was also delighted that it came out on Olive Grove Records, a label that has been on the go for a few years now thanks to the hard work and dedication of Lloyd Meredith, one of the real unsung heroes of the music industry in Scotland; at long last, his label has what I hope is proving to be a reasonably decent selling record after so many top-quality releases over the past five or so years have sold in relatively small numbers.

https://olivegrove.bandcamp.com/artists

No mp3s with this posting – I encourage you all to spend your money on this very fine record which comes in eye-catching pink vinyl (or digitally if you prefer things that way).  Here’s a promo for one of the songs.

I was lucky enough to see Ette at a tiny venue in Glasgow for the gig that launched this album – and had the privilege of actually working on the merchandise stall that night as an Lloyd needed an extra pair of hands given that just about everyone who was at the gig also bought the album such was the quality of the performance from Carla, Joe and the band they had put together for the evening.

Enjoy.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #106 : NEW ORDER : VOL. 3

They were #20 in the series back in June 2015 and I went with these tracks:-

Side A

Age Of Consent
The Perfect Kiss (12″)
Lonesome Tonight
Temptation (12″)
Run

Side B

Love Vigilantes
True Faith
Ceremony
Blue Monday
Leave Me Alone

Just six weeks later, a second New Order ICA was offered up as #28 in the series, courtesy of a guest posting by Martin Elliot from Sweden, that had been a work in progress when my own offering appeared:-

Side A

Blue Monday
1963
Round & Round (KS club mix)
Regret (Sabres Slow n Low)
Age Of Consent

Side B

True Dub
Someone Like You (GD Vocotech dub)
World (Brothers in Rhythm)
The Perfect Kiss (12″)
Ceremony

I happened to put New Order on shuffle on the i-pod the other week and was quickly reminded just how many great bits of music they had put out, particularly in the early part of their career, so much so I thought a record-breaking third ICA would go down well. The only rule being all ten songs this time can’t have been featured at all in any shape in either of my own or Martin’s postings from 2015. Let’s Go……

SIDE A

1. Love Vigilantes (from Low-Life, 1985)

If it wasn’t for the fact that Age of Consent is such a stunning opening to Power, Corruption & Lies than I would reckon many of us would argue that this is as fine an opening, not to just to any New Order LP, but to any LP as there has been. It’s a tremendous bit of pop music and one of the finest ghost stories that anyone could ever sway their hips to.

2. Confusion (rough mix) (single, 1983)

Let’s stay up there on the dance floor with the song that paid tribute to the changing face and sound of NYC nightclubs and hatched the idea for The Hacienda. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, it wouldn’t have happened without the production work and values of Arthur Baker as clearly demonstrated by its similarities to the earlier hit single I.O.U. by Freez, but it was a sound and a technique which New Order were already exploring, the conquering of which would make them as important as any band that has ever emerged from the UK.

3. Thieves Like Us (single, 1984)

I had the b-side to this on the original ICA and while I stand by my claim that Lonesome Tonight is the better song there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a hugely under-appreciated single which in many ways ticks all the boxes – great bass line, unusual and catchy drum beat, the one-fingered keyboard solo and a nonsensical lyric that, by somehow hanging brilliantly together, makes perfect sense. And as an added bonus it has Barney singing in and out of tune….

4. Shame Of The Nation (7″ version) (b-side 1986)

While he’s no Weller or Bragg, I’ll doff my cap to Barney for having a go at writing a political protest song at the height of Thatcherism. It was a single that was widely ridiculed upon its release and which, to be honest, hasn’t date all that well , but the additional work on the b-side, for which producer John Robie is attributed a credit, means it is more than salvageable thirty years on. As far as I know this particular version has never been made available in any other format than the original 7″ vinyl. It’s clearly been edited down from the full-length format with some unwieldy edits but it’s included here given that any Volume 3 of a release needs some sort of rarity to make it appeal….

5. Dreams Never End (from Movement, 1981)

This is inspired by Martin who, in his New Order ICA, pointed out that a brilliant LP opener – Age Of Consent – can also work just as effectively as a closer to a side and make you want to flip the vinyl over without any hesitation. The one where Hooky had a go at being lead vocalist and the one that you know would have made a great Joy Division single.

SIDE B

1. Your Silent Face (from Power, Corruption & Lies, 1983)

This was the one track that I just couldn’t find the room for back in June 2015 which was painful as it is one of my all-time favourite NO songs, but my rule of thumb for an ICA is that it has to hang together as an album and not merely be a collection of tunes. It opens up Side B of PC&L and this is perfectly place right here.

2. Bizarre Love Triangle 94 (from Best Of, 1994)

The rapid advances in production techniques were such that Stephen Hague could take what was one of the band’s most recognisable numbers and make it even more New Order-sounding than the band had managed back in 1986. It was one of four tracks that he worked on for this particular release and helped make it something worth purchasing with the nice little fade out at the end allows a nice lead-in to….

3. Paradise (from Brotherhood, 1986)

The band’s fourth album was something of a disappointment in comparison to the other work that came immediately before and shortly afterwards. It certainly suffered from the decision to put five guitar-based songs back-to-back on side A with the flip side being the more electronic based numbers. I’m not going to argue that all ten tracks are essential but it certainly isn’t as duff a record as I first thought.

4. Vanishing Point (from Technique, 1989)

I’ll long argue that Technique is the band’s finest LP, It’s strange because it came out at a time when I was missing out on so much music and I wasn’t buying much, but as a long-standing fan and having just about everything in the collection I made sure I picked it up when it was released. It came across as such a happy and triumphant record that I fell for its charms on first listen – it seemed to have everything I wanted the band to do with its mix of guitar and electronica with so many that you just wanted to dance to…and yet the tracks that really seemed to stand out early on was this resigned sounding mid(ish)-tempo number. Maybe it was that I was feeling my own life was no holiday and I had personally reached the point of no return. Imagine that…a New Order lyric that proved to be philosophical.

5. Ruined In A Day (from Republic, 1993)

I’m closing things off with a track that I’ve come to love and appreciate only in recent years. I was never fond of much of the parent album and thought it was a sad ending (as it appeared at the time) to the band’s career. I also hated the promo video that accompanied the release of Ruined In A Day as a single and struggled to disassociate the two. But a few years ago, this came up via shuffle while I was lazing out in the garden on one of the few sunny days we get in Glasgow and it just sounded quite lovely through the headphones. It would probably have made a superb Electronic record….just imagine Johnny Marr adding a guitar solo in the middle of it and it would be damn near perfect.

So there you have it. A third volume, and while it is easy to bemoan the lack of some classics, I think it hangs together pretty well.

Bonus track today. It’s featured before on the blog in video form. If you do like this, then I urge you to go and purchase it along with the other four versions that are available:-

mp3 : Mike Garry & Joe Duddell – St Anthony : An Ode to Anthony H Wilson

Just when you thought Your Silent Face couldn’t be bettered. Buy here.

Enjoy

THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Part 10)

The next single was released in February 1982.  I’ll hand over to Michael Bradley from the band to offer his take on it:-

“A strange one : probably the first song we didn’t have live. We hadn’t properly played it before going into the studio. There’s a sort of sequencer or synthesiser type thing going on there. It was a big departure for us. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea. But it came at a time when, commercially, we were down. We were very vulnerable to someone saying ‘This is shite.’ Our confidence had been weakened because Julie Ocean didn’t get into the Top 40, Positive Touch wasn’t as successful as Hypnotised and It’s Going To Happen! was a bit of a disappointment, too. Beautiful Friend was a good song, and we enjoyed it as a development, but it was never going to set the charts on fire, as they say.  The whole new romantic thing was happening, suddenly we were passe. People weren’t interested in boys from Derry playing guitars.”

mp3 : The Undertones – Beautiful Friend

To say it bombed would be an understatement.  It didn’t sell enough copies to scrape into the Top 100, this from a band who less than two years previous had enjoyed a run of Top 20 singles.

It was the first of their singles I didn’t buy.  I thought it was dull and uninspired and I haven’t changed my mind all these years later.

The b-side was a reworking of Life’s Too Easy, a song on Positive Touch.  Here’s Michael’s take on it:-

“Another strange one.  It was contrived. Again, it was us doing something different, possibly for the sake of doing something different. I wasn’t happy with that one.”

mp3 : The Undertones – Life’s Too Easy

(apologies for the poor quality of this track – I had to source it from somewhere else on t’internet – it’s not worth paying 99p for via i-tunes).  Worth mentioning too that Michael was a co-writer of Life’s Too Easy so his criticism of the new version has to be seen as very valid.

The band, on a new label with bosses having high expectations, were at a crossroads.  The new material for the fourth LP was going to be crucial….

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #60 : COMMUNARDS

I wasn’t sure whether to include Communards in this series – but using the same logic as I did with Bronski Beat then I’m more than happy to do so.

They formed in 1985 after Jimmy Somerville left his band behind to team up with classically trained musician Richard Coles who was best known as a pianist although he was already familiar to Bronski Beat fans thanks his clarinet solo on the hit single It Ain’t Necessarily So.

Pursuing a left-wing political agenda in their lyrics while making hi-energy dance music proved to be a successful formula. The duo gradually expanded, incorporating, among others, Sarah Jane Morris on vocals and June Miles Kingston on drums, and would go onto enjoy nine hit singles, including a #1 with a cover of Don’t Leave Me This Way and two Top 10 albums.

There was an acrimonious split in 1988, sparked seemingly by the instrumentalist lying to the singer that he had contracted HIV/AIDS.

Jimmy Somerville would subsequently embark on a solo career which has been sporadically successful while  Richard Coles firstly pursued a career as a journalist before training as a priest, eventually being ordained in 2005, all the while maintaining a writing career combined with an increasing number of radio and television appearances, often in the area of light entertainment but increasingly on religious issues.  He’s actually better known and more famous these days than his former sidekick.

This was on the b-side of their debut single back in 1985.  It’s sadly still as relevant and poignant more than three decades on.

mp3 : Communards – Breadline Britain

Enjoy

 

THEY PUT THE FUNK IN FACTORY

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A Certain Ratio were also responsible for the first ever release on Factory Benelux/Les Disques du Crépuscule back in August 1980 with a song that bemused everyone who had considered everyone on, and involved with, the parent label to be doom merchants:-

mp3 : A Certain Ratio – Shack Up

Here’s some other singles from their time on Factory which ended in 1986 although they would continue recording and performing for a number of labels for many more years to come.

mp3 : A Certain Ratio – Knife Slits Water (12″)
mp3 : A Certain Ratio – I Need Someone Tonite (12″)
mp3 : A Certain Ratio – Mickey Way (The Candy Bar) (12″)

You can tell they are a band I don’t actually know that much about!!  Anyone care to offer up some words and tunes via an ICA? (I’m thinking and looking at you Swiss Adam….the fount of all Mancunian knowledge….)

 

 

 

WHICH ONE DO YOU DIG?

If you happen to use a similar browser as mine then underneath this bit of text is Pop Will Eat Itself while the right hand image is Mock Turtles.

 

 

In 1989, the grebo/crusty combo finally cracked the Top 40 at the sixth attempt with this:-

mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It? (extended mix)

In 1991, the indie/baggy combo enjoyed a #18 hit with this:-

mp3 : Mock Turtles – Can You Dig It? (extended mix)

Totally different songs by totally different bands but which I bet are often mixed-up in pub quizzes.

And getting down to it boppers, I’m in the PWEI camp in terms of preference, albeit it’s not among their greatest 45s. Mock Turtles is just a wee bit too samey as so many other songs by so many other bands of the same era.

EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING

I would have been just short of my 8th birthday when South-African musician John Kongos took He’s Gonna Step On You Again into the UK charts in May 1971. I can honestly say that I have no recollection of the record whatsoever and therefore had no idea, until reading about it at the time back in 1991, that Happy Mondays latest single Step On  was a cover.

The two songs are really quite dissimilar and I don’t think may would argue that the Happy Mondays greatly improved on the original. I think the big difference is that the original really does sound of its time while the cover has become genuinely timeless – it does help of course that the production advances over the two decades between them meant that loveable Mancunians could do so much more with the tune but it still doesn’t detract from the fact that they derived a classic.

And yet, the original outperformed the cover – John Kongos got as high as #4 while Happy Mondays stalled at #5 – and it’s likely in pure sales terms that the original did better. What I didn’t know until doing a wee bit of research for this piece is He’s Gonna Step On You Again, according to wiki, is cited in the Guinness Book of Records as being the first song to have used a sample which just goes to show how long that’s been around contrary to popular belief. Having said that, a much later CD reissue of the parent album states it wasn’t a sample but a tape loop of African drumming and so debunked the alleged first.

Also worth mentioning that the Happy Mondays version actually sampled three guitar notes from the original as can be heard easily when you listen to both versions:-

mp3 : John Kongos – He’s Gonna Step On You Again
mp3 : Happy Mondays – Step On

Enjoy.

BONUS POSTING : IT’S GETTING BETTER

Not too long ago, I shared with you some of my on-going concerns in life and how they were combining to impact on my ability to get fully motivated this year. Those of you who know me in any shape or form will have immediately realised that throwing in Trump and Raith Rovers was just my way of clouding what was really on my mind, namely Mrs Villain being unwell and requiring a couple of hospital visits over the festive period.

The emerging and good news is she has nothing that is life-threatening; she does have some issues with a lung which is likely to make her susceptible to infections, some which will be worse and more painful than others (the 2016/17 strain is a belter in that regard) but nothing that can’t be fixed in the medium-long term with medication and a degree of rest. Given there is a history of fatal lung diseases in her family, there was a real fear gripping Villain Towers for a while.

Thank you for all your very kind words and thoughts after that particular posting – they meant a great deal and were hugely appreciated. Here’s my way of showing said appreciation; don’t read anything into the choice of songs – it was just me having a bit of fun and thinking this would make a good hour of listening:-

mp3 : Various – Breathing That Sigh of Relief

Tracklist

Love Vigilantes – New Order
Did You Evah? – Iggy Pop & Debbie Harry
Kelly’s Heroes – Black Grape
Waking Up – Elastica
Penelope Tree – Felt
My Love Is Like A Gift You Can’t Return – The Man from Delmonte
Radio Radio – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Amateur Hour – Sparks
Sheila Take A Bow – The Smiths
Bye Bye Pride – The Go-Betweens
Fait Accompli – Curve
Setting Sun – The Chemical Brothers
Come Home (original version) – James
Sweetheart Contract – Magazine
The Model – Kraftwerk
Lost Weekend – Lloyd Cole & the Commotions
Talulah Gosh – Talulah Gosh
Final Day – Young Marble Giants

Worth mentioning that my football team are still struggling to win a game – the last victory was in late October – but we did a well merited draw in a cup tie last Sunday against a team from a higher division. Maybe it’s a sign that things will begin to improve on that front.

Cheers.

THE FIRST KLF RECORD?

The label says it’s The KLF but to all intent and purposes it really is a release from The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu ; the packaging and labelling are the same as their three previous singles and the biggest clue can be seen from a few words that were printed on the label – ‘THIS IS A TRANSITION RECORD’. There’s also the fact that the record, prior to it being issued as a single it had been a track on the LP Who Killed The JAMMs released in February 1988.

There’s no doubt that the wholly uptempo nature of the tune is in keeping with that much later KLF material which brought fame and fortune, not to mention infamy after the burning of £1,000,000.  But at the time, it was simply a way of drawing the ‘career’ of the JAMMs to an end and the next thing that Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty would go and do is record and release a novelty single as The Timelords that became a surprise #1 hit.

The subject matter of Burn The Bastards is the debut JAMMs LP 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) which had been produced using extensive unauthorised samples in a very crude and elementary way – eventually a complaint from ABBA about the use of Dancing Queen led to an order from the bosses in the music industry for all remaining copies of the album to be firstly withdrawn and then destroyed.  Drummond and Cauty took legal advice but were told it would cost a minimum of £20,000 to defend in court and they had little chance of winning.

They complied but in ways that were often unorthodox such as throwing them into the sea off the coast of Sweden after a well-publicised but totally futile attempt to have ABBA’s management change their minds.  The records overboard event had come after they had illegally gone into a farmer’s field outside of Stockholm and set fire to copies of the record – only to be forcibly removed with the threat of arrest by the police (it’s even been suggested they were chased out of the field by the farmer brandishing a shotgun). An image of the bonfire was used on the sleeve of the second LP.

mp3 : The JAMMs – Burn The Bastards

Making great use of Dance to The Music by Sly and the Family Stone (along with a cheeky wee swipe of Bad by Michael Jackson), this single is an absolute hoot and infectiously danceable. If Bill’s rough Scottish brogue is too much for you, then get yourself moving to the instrumental b-side:-

mp3 : The JAMMs – Burn The Beat

The single vanished without a trace.

Enjoy

ELECTRO-POP MAGNIFICENCE

It was Heart which made the rundown of my 45 45s at 45 but I reckon now that of all the Pet Shop Boys singles, my favourite is  Left To My Own Devices. My first exposure to this particular track was the LP version at just over 8 minutes:-

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices (album version)

It would become the second 45 to be lifted from the LP Introspective which itself was an unusual album for the fact that it was far removed from the normal process for pop/dance acts to release as singles with it being made up of lengthy songs and the versions issued singles had to be heavily edited for radio play.

I was quite bemused when I read it was going to be issued as a single given it was such a strange and almost surreal lyric. OK, the word love was contained within the chorus but it wasn’t quite boy meets girl or boy meets boy or girl meets girl material what with it also wittering on about Che Guevara drinking tea and setting the sounds of classical composer Claude Debussy to a disco beat. But somehow the madcap approach worked as it reached #4 in the UK singles chart when it was released in November 1988 and climbed all the way to #4 in the UK singles chart.

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices (single edit)

But it turns out that the album version wasn’t the one that they had also thrown in the kitchen sink. Nope, for that you had to get the 12″ version which extended out to an incredible eleven and a half minutes, beginning with an unlikely drumroll before incorporating house, disco, brass, strings, operatic backing vocals and a more deliberate spoken rap from Neil. What’s not to love?

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices (disco mix)

The b-side is a bonkers sounding bit of music, the sort of thing that seems to accompany a character in a film having a drugs-induced breakdown or panic attack. And in the typically perverse way the boys were behaving at the time, the short version was put on the CD and 12″ releases with the full version only on the flip side of the 7″:-

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – The Sound Of The Atom Splitting (extended version)

Enjoy.

THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Part 9)

The next single was released in July 1981 and became the first since Jimmy Jimmy not to crack the Top 40.

The band’s third album Positive Touch had been released a couple of months previously, their first for EMI, but it hadn’t sold nearly as many copies as the previous records.  Critics had been a bit bemused by it – while they were keen to praise what was a marked departure in sound with comparisons now to The Velvet Underground instead of Buzzcocks, there was a sense that the band were missing what many felt they were best at – fast and furious post-punk guitar led music. The use of piano and trumpet, combined with an increasing reliance on acoustic guitars, certainly divided fans and there was a marked reluctance from them to embrace much of the new material in the live setting as you couldn’t really dance to it.

It also created a problem for the label bosses as there was no real obvious single to follow-up It’s Going To Happen! and so the decision was taken to take a fabulous ballad and re-record it. Here’s the LP version:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Julie Ocean (original version)

The Velvet Underground influence can easily be discerned across its less than two minutes of magnificence.

Here’s the outcome of asking Dave Balfe and Hugh Jones to come in and work their brand of magic on it:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Julie Ocean (single version)

At almost three and a half minutes, it’s way longer than the album version – it also sees Feargal deliver a different vocal with a change in tempo and use of echo taking away from the simplicity and fragility of the original. It also has a long fade-out which seems to indicate that the producers weren’t quite sure what to do with it.

I don’t think I’m alone in preferring the album version but at the same time I can see what the new version was trying to achieve in terms of creating a more radio-friendly sound. They did a decent enough job in that regard and the song certainly deserved to do better than #41 in the charts.

The b-side was a new song, and again came via the time in the studio with Balfe and Jones:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Kiss In The Dark

Again, it marked the new more mature sounding Undertones. I remember being a bit disappointed with it at the time but as my tastes have developed and matured over the years I’ve grown to like it a bit more. But it’s no True Confessions or Mars Bar…..

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #59 : COME ON GANG!

Come On Gang! were an Edinburgh trio who formed in 2007 and broke up in 2011 almost immediately after the recording of their debut LP.  They were a trio consisting of Sarah Tanat Jones (vocals and drums), Mikey Morrison (guitar) and Trev Courtney (bass). Jones, who was originally from Brighton, and Courtney, from the Scottish Border town of Galashiels, had met at Edinburgh College of Art and recruited Morrison via a locally placed advert. They quickly gained a reputation for being a more than decent sounding indie-pop band with the media particularly keen (as usual) to shine a light on an act who had a charismatic and articulate female lead.

An early single on a small indie label was picked up by Radio Scotland and this additional exposure saw them invited to perform sessions for television which at the same time helped increase their profile. They were a hard-working group, supporting many bands in venues all over Scotland and appearing low down on the bill of many festivals but also being recognised as having huge potential as can be seen from being part of a Scottish showcase at the 2009 South by Southwest festival in Texas.

There were however, only three singles ever released (one of which was a split single with Kid Canaveral with whom they gigged on many an occasion) followed by Strike A Match, the debut LP (produced by Paul Savage of The Delgados) in February 2011 which was launched at a gig in Edinburgh, an event the band had already indicated would be their last.

mp3 : Come On Gang! – Fortune Favours The Brave

Enjoy

MY POLITICAL PROTEST SONG FOR TODAY

I’ll do my best to avoid watching any coverage of today’s inauguration ceremony and instead immerse myself in music. Here’s one of my favourite songs of recent years. Such a positive message even if few in power really want to listen:-

mp3 : British Sea Power – Waving Flags

You are astronomical fans of alcohol
So welcome in
Are rising in the East and setting in the West
All waving flags

We’re all waving flags now
Waving flags
But don’t be scared
And you, you will be here for a while
And it’s all a joke
Oh, it’s all a joke
Oh

Are here of legal drinking age, on minimum wage
Well, welcome in
From across the Vistula, you’ve come so very far
All waving flags

We’re all waving flags now
Waving flags
But don’t be scared
‘Cause you, you will be here for a while
And it’s all a joke
Oh, it’s all a joke
Oh

Beer is not dark
Beer is not light
It just tastes good
Especially tonight

So welcome in, we are barbarians
Oh welcome in, across the Carpathians
Oh welcome in, we are from Slavia
Oh welcome in, across the stadion
Oh we cant fail, not with Czech ecstasy
No we won’t fail, not with Czech ecstasy
So welcome in

It was released in January 2008 as the first single from the LP Do You Like Rock Music? There were 2 x 7″ singles and a CD version – all had different b-sides while one of the pieces of vinyl had a lovely and melancholy instrumental version of the single:-

mp3 : British Sea Power – Waving Flags (Wandering Horn Instrumental)

Always brings a lump to my throat.

RAVE ON THIS CRAZY FEELING

Northside were a Manchester band, and given what Factory Records was becoming famous for at the beginning of the 90s, it was a natural home for them. But they were another to suffer from the curse of the label’s inability to get product out when it most mattered – this was something that affected even the likes of New Order and Happy Mondays.

There were three singles and one LP released before the label went bust and the band broke up.

This was one of the singles which I’m sure brings back fine memories for those of you who loved popping your Ecstasy tablets…..

mp3 : Northside – Shall We Take A Trip?
mp3 : Northside – Moody Places

Just looked it up and turns out it was their debut for Factory (FAC 268) and the single was banned by the BBC thanks to the drugs references.

Here also is the 12″ version of their final single – a cracking bit of indie/baggy pop that should have been a massive hit, helped, as indeed were all their releases, by the usual marvellous job from producer Ian Broudie:-

mp3 : Northside – Take 5 (12″ version)

Enjoy.

IN WHICH I SLAGGED OFF KATE BUSH

AS POSTED OVER ON THE OLD BLOG IN AUGUST 2010.

I was never completely convinced by Kate Bush when she first emerged in January 1978. The early singles sold in their millions but as a mid-teens boy with a love for post-punk bands with all their loud guitars and even louder shouty lyrics, the talents of the singer-songwriter at the piano with her squeaky voice just didn’t register.

Oh and she was ancient as well at 18 and a bit years of age……..

But as I got older and realised that there was a wee bit more to music than spotty oiks in sweaty venues, I fell for the charms of Ms Bush and started to listen to her much more closely. Oh and some brilliant promotional photos on giant billboards also had something about grabbing my hormonally-charged attention…..

I’ve a few Kate Bush LPs sitting in the vinyl cupboard, but its been years since I played them. The only tracks that ever come up on the i-pod shuffle are those that formed part of a Greatest Hits CD that was released in 1986 that I picked up cheap a few years later. I didn’t pay any attention to the comeback record in 2005 although a few folk have said I’m missing out on something quite decent.

The thing is, while browsing in a second hand vinyl emporium a wee while back, I came across a copy of a 1979 EP, and given it was going for £2, I thought it worth giving a listen again all these years later.

It has four live tracks, all recorded at a London gig in May 1979. This turned out to be the only time that Kate Bush ever toured in her entire career*, although over the years there would be sporadic live appearances, either solo or as alongside a whole range of other performers, suggesting that it wasn’t a fear of playing live that she suffered from.

The four songs all originally featured on The Kick Inside or Lionheart, her first two LPs:-

mp3 : Kate Bush – Them Heavy People (live)
mp3 : Kate Bush – Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake (live)
mp3 : Kate Bush – James And The Cold Gun (live)
mp3 : Kate Bush – L’Amour Looks Something Like You (live)

So as its spinning round the USB Turntable and doing whatever thing it is gadgetry wise to turn the tracks into instant mp3s, I’m thinking to myself…….this is shite.

It just feels as if it is music played by top-notch session players incapable of hitting a bum note but who are just as incapable of adding any meaning or feeling to a song. It’s got wanky solos all the way through as well and the sort of music that punk/new wave/post-punk was determined to banish forever (not that they ever had a chance of succeeding).

I’ve recently read reviews of that six-week tour that Kate Bush undertook in 1979 and by just about every account, it seems to have been an event that was ahead of its time with its use of theatre and dance and multi-median innovations including the use of a head-mic. But tucked away in the middle of such reviews you cotton-on to the fact that the musicians were drilled to the Nth degree with no room at all for improvisation. It sounds as if it was more akin to going along to a musical than a gig…….and I reckon that’s what comes across on the tracks on the EP. They lack any real depth or soul……but I bet they were astonishing if witnessed in the flesh.

Oh well. I’ve said it.

Bring on the brickbats.

* written and published years before the London residency of 2015 which so many got really excited about.

GIVEN AWAY FREE WITH A NEWSPAPER IN 2003

Got to give The Observer a fair bit of credit for this as when it appeared in late 2003, The Strokes were one of the hottest acts in the UK.

It was there to promote the release of the band’s second LP Room On Fire and the five tracks were:-

mp3 : The Strokes – When It Started
mp3 : The Strokes – New York City Cops (live in Iceland 2002)
mp3 : The Strokes – Last Nite (original demo)
mp3 : The Strokes – Meet Me In The Bathroom (Home Recording)
mp3 : The Strokes – 12:51

The first track was a b-side to Last Nite while the last track was taken from the album the sampler was promoting.

I think the paper cost £1.50 at the time so picking it up for the three otherwise unavailable tracks was worth it.

Enjoy.

GOTHS ANONYMOUS

scabaret-1

Over the festive period, I managed to find a handful of postings from the blog that was murdered by google;  most of them aren’t really capable of being re-used as I’ve since covered the subject matters in different ways. But this guest contribution from Jacques the Kipper in July 2010 is different……

I was a teenage Goth. I’ve told you this before, I know. But it’s time to get it out of my system once and for all.

I didn’t mean to turn Goth. Sure, I had a penchant in the early 1980s for gloom-ridden songs, but I was also a devotee of Cherry Red, Postcard, ABC and much much more. I think the problem really began with Echo and The Bunnymen. Or more specifically Ian McCulloch. I’d worn my fringe like Roger McGuinn for a while and, to be honest, it was getting on my nerves. Well, to be honestly honest, I couldn’t bloody see. I needed a change and something based on McCulloch’s spikey barnet of the time seemed a better bet. The die was cast.

Being a bit thrawn, and wanting to avoid accusations of merely copying the (his own definition) “great” man, I began with basic spiking of my fringe, the rest remaining combed down. I soon got bored of that and the spikes spread back to my crown. In those days my hair was pretty thick so fairly quickly it grew into something that would test the bravest of any Disney prince seeking out his Sleeping Beauty within.

Meantime I had moved to the Big City. These were impressionable days and, even sporting a fairly standard spikey top, I was considered pretty weird on my accountancy course. To be fair, on that course, if you’d ever had (in fact, if you’d ever thought about) sex, then you were considered weird. The only vital statistics my fellow students cared about related to their balance sheets. And, just for the record, I don’t know why I was there as I’d never touched an accountancy book before – come to think of it, I don’t think I did during the “year” I was on the course. The only redeeming factor was it was many miles from Home Town and I got a grant for not attending any classes.

Instead I spent the time perfecting the art of backcombing, frequenting pubs, taking in gigs of all shapes and sizes, and meeting a whole range of people who didn’t want to be accountants.

Time passed, the Uni got wise and booted me out, and, but for the odd (sometimes very odd) self inflicted hacking, the hair got longer, the black tight jeans became the only jeans, the long black coat affixed itself permanently to my shoulders, eye liner became essential, lipstick a requirement for going out and, at a time of mass unemployment and conservatism among the masses, I became unemployed and unemployable – one of Maggie’s millions.

We were lucky though – we had a city centre tenement flat, previously frequented by a certain Paul Haig, that was cheap as chips and housing benefit to pay it. Other benefits from the “Buroo” weren’t great but enough, with a bit of blagging and being known about town, to survive on. Fully signed up to the Goth Convention, we even spent most of the day asleep. My flat mate, and this is true, put a wardrobe on the floor and slept in it. We even shared a room for a while – me on a mattress on the floor, he in his wardrobe. A real talking point when either or, worse, both of us brought a woman home.

Early evening we utilised the long thin zigzag corridor for epic games of indoor football. Stopping only when a prolonged flurry of close range tackling ended in our hair becoming interlocked. (In many ways, I think we were fore-runners of the bizarre hairstyles of today’s professional game.) Later evening we would head out, seeking out free access and (very) cheap drink.

Our kitchen floor became a legendary stopping place for a range of fellow punks and Goths we happened to bump into of an evening. I can think of Falkirk, Dunfermline, Grangemouth, Cumbernauld and East Kilbride to name but a few towns who sent pioneers to the Big City, with no means of return after midnight. We would happen to meet them in a bar, a club, or even in a couple of cases the street, and invite them back for the night. A student friend, who stayed with us for a short while, used to talk of getting up early for uni, and wandering into the kitchen, always wondering what mass of hair and flesh might await. More often than not he’d tiptoe through the variously studded bodies, belts, bracelets and buckles, make his coffee and be off without anyone stirring.

But, you ask, did I embrace the musical darkside? Well, yes and no. Student indie discos were seen by the hard-core as too mainstream. We enjoyed (some might say with the benefit of hindsight, endured) club nights where the combination of limited lighting, dry ice, alcoves and most folk dressed in black with long hair meant when you hit the floor for a bop to Einstürzende Neubauten, you couldn’t find your friends again.

Yes, of course, I went to see the Sisters of Mercy, and in their pomp they were fantastic live. They were king for me at the time, but let’s not forget the likes of Xmal Deutschland, Alien Sex Fiend, Flesh for Lulu, And Also the Trees, The Danse Society, Sex Gang Children, Skeletal Family and, of course, my wardrobe mate’s faves – Virgin Prunes.

The (Southern) (Death) Cult didn’t really count but I have to acknowledge that live they were the Guns ‘n’ Roses of their day, and always entertaining. We even got on their guest list due to support band Balaam and the Angel ending up on our floor one night. But all that didn’t stop me at the time also seeing among others The Smiths, Billy Bragg, Daintees, James and even the likes of Bronski Beat.

I’m not claiming for a second that all of those black acts listed above are, or indeed were at the time, any good. Just, that they were part of my Gothhood. In fact, given my financial position at the time, I bought few records. So perhaps thankfully there is little legacy in my collection.

But being a Goth was great and I don’t regret a minute. At its crowning glory my hair was over a foot long and, when backcombed, which it pretty much always was, no doubt a bizarre sight. I’m not sure what it would take in this modern age to get the same level of reaction that we used to suffer.

There were bad bits. I was banned from pubs I’d never been in, including one or two where I was due to meet people (lesson one: in a time before mobiles, meet outside). I was threatened several times and, notably, beaten up only three hours after arriving in Rural Fife Town – how to make an impression on your already doubting new girlfriend’s parents- “Er….have you got anything in the freezer I can put on my eye?” I was spat on. I was stoned by wee kids in the Other Big City – they’re probably playing for Celtic now – and many people crossed the road to avoid me. I never made it to the Batcave. I never met a real vampire, though I knew one or two who thought they were. And, when it rained……disaster!

But there were many more good bits.

The camaraderie among fellow Goths (I’m deliberately forgetting the cliqueishness and hair-envy here), especially when you met counterparts in other towns.

Getting your photo taken by tourists (what did they say when that slide came up back in Canada?) – I was even painted twice.

Being the last person anyone would sit next to on the bus or train. (Note, though the other side of this is that, invariably, that last person is either a complete psycho, hopelessly drunk, or both. Some day I’ll tell you about the Hells Angels, the bottle of Smirnoff and the shotgun.)

Being known as Eraserhead.

Being offered various roles in various bands despite a complete lack of singing and musical ability.

Being on first name terms with punk legend Wattie, albeit he called me Mac and I called him, er, Wattie.

Sitting next to a woman with a toddler on her knee on the bus from Dunfermline, the toddler grinning and calling me “Daddy”, me smiling back, the woman clearly fearing I might eat her child at any time.

The Punks Picnic – how funny to see Goths sunbathing.

Introducing a friend to his future wife at a Cult gig.

The banter on the football terraces terraces (remember them?) in a time before satellite tv (remember then?) – “Hey, pal, can you get Channel 4 on that?”.

Dancing in the dark.

There were many misconceptions about our tribe. Depending on who you asked, and being frank, most folk didn’t need to be asked, we were any or all of weird, thick, lay-about, junkies, gay or scary. Of course, in some cases that was true, but no more so than any other group of young folk dressing to impress. A lesson learned when I look at the youth of today in their various guises.

Of course, I couldn’t live the dream forever. I could no longer afford the Boots hairspray for one thing. I moved away from the Big City and gradually I found the self inflicted chopping was removing more and more hair. The final cut came at a barbers in the Oily City. The woman asked me twice before removing the final few inches. When she stood back from the mirror and I could once more see myself I was nearly in tears. Not because I could no longer kid myself I was still a Goth, but because, despite what I’d said, she’d taken off far too much and I now looked like a US Marine.

While I made many friends, we drifted apart and few remain from that time. There must though be one or two fellow ex-Goths that I bought a cider and blackcurrant for, who nowadays walk the same corridors of power and attend the same parents nights that I do. Sadly we’ll never recognise one another as the spray, crimpers and in some cases cheap dye have taken their toll and we’ve all lost our hair and cut back on the eye liner. Shame.

But you’re really here for the music. Clearly that’s a problem as I know you’d hate most of the above so I thought I’d just focus on some memories of the time. At least give them one listen and if you want more info then I’ve checked – they’re all on Wikipedia.

mp3 : Exploited – Dead Cities

This reached no 31 in the real charts. Members may have changed but Wattie and the boys still keep up the good fight against fascism and racism. You have to admire 30 years of anarchy and chaos. And for good measure, here’s the b-sides:-

mp3 : Exploited – Hitler’s In The Charts Again
mp3 : Exploited – Class War

Another band surprisingly still with us, though I confess to having no knowledge of their oeuvre post 1985, are this lot:-

mp3 : Alien Sex Fiend – Ignore The Machine

And finally, a real favourite of mine at the time, though I confess it’s only while writing this that I’ve dug out the old stuff. Jim Thirlwell as in your face as ever. A true innovator and inspiration for many of the noiseniks that crossed into the mainstream in the late 80s/early90s.

mp3 : You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath – Wash It All Off
mp3 : You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath – Today I Started Slogging Again

And, here’s the link to VV fact fans, Jim T was a latter day pseudonymous member of Orange Juice. Look him out on Rip It Up on TOTP and consider that poppy jangle alongside this. ****

And if you really want to know what I looked like at the time, check out US cult band, The Naked and the Dead on Wikipedia. I may not actually be in the picture but I sure could have been.

Jacques The Kipper, Sunday 25 July 2010

**** JtK is not joking. Frank Want was one of the many other names by which Jim Thirwell was known.

Frank Want was a member of the live line-up of Orange Juice in 83/84 when the band were essentially down to Edwyn Collins and Zeke Manyika for studio purposes.  He played sax on the TOTP appearance JtK refers to.

THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Part 8)

Those of you who are observant will notice the word ‘Ardeck’ on the front of the sleeve for the eighth single from The Undertones.

The band took advantage of a successful 1980 sales-wise to put out the feelers for a new label as they were unhappy with Sire Records unwillingness to promote them to any great extent in the USA.  They ended up on EMI who agreed to a licensing deal with all material to be released on Ardeck Records, a label which has since only ever issued singles, albums, compilations and re-releases by The Undertones.

It’s Going To Happen! was a Damian O’Neill/Michael Bradley composition, in all likelihood chosen by some mogul at EMI on the basis that they had been the duo responsible for the band’s only Top Ten single. It was released in May 1981 and reached #18 in the charts, an excellent achievement given it was by far their weakest 45 to date, with many bemused by the inclusion of horns within the song.

Also worth noting that the band managed to skilfully avoid the fact that the song, while on the surface sounding as if it was just another innocent sounding pop song, possibly about a failing relationship, was in fact an attack on the intransigence of the UK government to find a solution to the political hunger strikes that were taking place at the Maze Prison in Belfast.  If the real intention behind the song had been revealed then a radio and TV ban was inevitable and it’s likely that the band, and their families, would have run into real issues around personal safety back home.

mp3 : The Undertones – It’s Going To Happen!

The b-side is one of the most peculiar sounding things the band ever recorded.  The info on the single would indicate that it’s a cover of a song by an unknown band called Tommy Tate & The Torpedoes,

but it was later revealed that this was a name adopted by Damian O’Neill and was intended as a wee bit of a joke, but in a semi-serious way, at his bandmates’ expense whom he felt were sailing in choppy waters, beginning to moan and whine about their lot when the fact was they were enjoying success and earning more than they had ever dare dreamed of.

mp3 : The Undertones – Fairly In The Money Now

Enjoy.

HERE COMES YOUR MAN

Pixies at Glasgow Barrowlands some six weeks ago was a real highlight in terms of live performances in 2016. Ok, there was no Kim Deal and I’d be lying if I said things were just the same without her, but Paz Lenchantin is a very capable replacement on bass and occasional vocals and to be fair, she’d never dream of taking a turn on Gigantic.

But she did play her part in a great rendition of another of Kim’s lead vocals, one that was originally released as the b-side to one of their best known singles:-

mp3 : Pixies – Here Comes Your Man
mp3 : Pixies – Into The White

The 12″ release, which incidentally is easier to track down than the 7″, had two additional tracks:-

mp3 : Pixies – Wave Of Mutlilation (UK Surf)
mp3 : Pixies – Bailey’s Walk

The former, a new version of a track from the then parent LP Doolittle, was recorded at the Palladium Studios in Edinburgh, a favourite of 4AD boss, Ivo Watts-Russell.  It was where he did much of his work with This Mortal Coil.

Enjoy.