Black Sea had been released to high critical acclaim at the same time as Generals and Majors was denting the charts. Virgin Records decided to strike while the iron was hot by quickly releasing a second single from the album. It was a slight gamble in that it was going to have to be an Andy Partridge composition as he was responsible for nine of the ten tracks that were still a possibility; after all, none of his previously penned 45s had made the charts. It turned out to be sixth time lucky….

mp3 : XTC – Towers of London (single version)

As with many of the other singles, it was a slightly abridged version compared to the LP, this one being about 50 seconds shorter.

It later transpired that the band’s first stab at the song was a much slower, more acoustic and mournful take appropriate to the subject matter of the tens of thousands of unsung heroes whose blood, sweat and toil had shaped London in the Victorian and Edwardian era when so much of its infrastructure was laid and so many of its landmark buildings had been erected. It’s a version that would surface on Coat of Many Cupboards, a compilation LP of unreleased tracks and demos issued in 2002.

The b-side of the single was a live version of a song from the band’s debut LP White Music as captured by the BBC for an In Concert broadcast from The Rainbow Theatre in London in September 1979:-

mp3 : XTC – Set Myself On Fire (live)

The initial copies of the single came with a free 7″. One of the tracks on the free single was a live version of Battery Brides, a track on the band’s sophomore album Go2, and again recorded at the gig at The Rainbow. Sadly, I don’t have a copy of the free single and so can’t provide that particular song.

The other track was a Peel Session version of a track on the band’s third album Drums and Wires. The modern miracle of file sharing and the fact that so many folk do like to put Peel Session versions of songs out there means I have been able to track it down:-

mp3 : XTC – Scissor Man (Peel Session)

For my money, this faster and more frantic version is superior to that recorded for the album.



Richard Peter Gaughan usually known as Dick Gaughan (born 17 May 1948, Glasgow) is a Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter, particularly of folk and social protest songs.

He has been making music most of his life, with his first LP dating back to 1972 since which time he has released at least 26 records either as a solo artist, as part of a fully-fledged band or in collaboration with other performers.

His is a style of music with which I’m not too familiar and indeed although I had heard his name mentioned many a time over the years as someone who was incredibly important and influential in the story of modern music in Scotland, the first I ever knowingly heard anything he had been involved in was when Billy Bragg covered his song Think Again on the Help Save The Youth of America EP in 1987 and then again three years later when the two of them worked together on the recording of The Red Flag for Billy’s LP The Internationale LP.

I finally saw and heard Dick Gaughan many years later, and again it was courtesy of Billy Bragg as the two of them co-headlined on a gig at the annual Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow in January 1997. There were a few left-wing anthems such loudly that night……

Drew who of course writes so brilliantly at From Across The Kitchen Table is an admirer of Dick Gaughan and it is from his place that I first heard and downloaded this song:-

mp3 : Dick Gaughan – No Gods and Precious Few Heroes (live)

It’s not a Gaughan original – the words and lyrics are by Brian McNeill.

If you like the sound of today’s featured artist and want to find out more, I think his official website is the perfect place to start.




JC writes:-

I really hope you’ve all enjoyed this past week of guest postings.  I’ve a couple more ICAs of my own in the pipeline which I’ll eventually get round to.  In the meantime, it seems appropriate to have Brian round things off given that he got things going so fantastically a few days back.

Following up The Sugarplastic with one more L.A.-based power-pop band from the ’90s. You probably know Wondermints as the backbone of Brian Wilson‘s talented band. You may also know keyboardist Darian Sahanaja as the maestro that helped Wilson reconstruct the most famous lost album of all time, ‘SMiLE.’ He was the perfect man for the job, too. Sahanaja and fellow Wondermint Nick Walusko had been obsessed with the album since the early ’80s, but I digress. Wondermints were seemingly born to back Brian, but before all of that, they were pop purveyors in their own right, releasing four fantastic indie albums and a few self-released tapes I’ll attempt to sum up here.

Side 1

“And Penny Knows”

In the early ’90s, Sahanaja and Walusko were sharing a four-track, passing it back and forth and playing their projects for each other. Like many unsigned bands at the time (Pixies come to mind), Wondermints made color-coded cassettes of their songs that made it into the hands of fans and labels alike. Many of the songs on ‘The Purple Tape,’ ‘The Green Tape’ and ‘The Blue Tape’ would appear on their first album. “And Penny Knows” didn’t make the cut and wouldn’t get a proper release until the odds ‘n’ sods album ‘Kaleidoscopin’: Exploring Prisms of the Past’ in 2009. Sahanaja certainly got the most out of a basic piece of recording equipment with this one.


From 1993, the first proper single was a clear-vinyl 7″ via Pop Psycle Records out of Studio City, Calif. Outside of their work for the first Austin Powers movie, this is arguably the band’s most heard song. Only a handful were pressed, but the song would eventually become their debut-album opener and would appear on a popular 1997 power-pop series Rhino released called ‘Poptopia!

“Silly Place”

The B-side to “Proto-Pretty” was written by Brian Kassan, a bassist briefly with the band in early days. He would go on to form the catchy power-pop outfit Chewy Marble. Kassan said of the song, “[I]t came to fruition in a way that I thought was a culmination of all the years of piano lessons, listening to my parents’ records – wanting to be a great songwriter, but not sure how to get there.”

“Tracy Hide”

Brian Wilson’s influence is never far away, but this one could have been one of the lost tracks from the ‘SMiLE!’ era. If I could only have one song by Wondermints, this one would be it. First appeared on the self-titled debut album in 1995.

“Carnival of Souls”

Just about any song from the debut could have been chosen for this slot, but the fellas throw everything at this, the album closer. The bassist at the time, Jim Mills, must have had a blast with this one.

Side 2

“Porpoise Song”

It probably won’t surprise you Wondermints are big in Japan. The debut album got its initial release on Japanese label Toy’s Factory before Big Deal put it out in America. Toy’s Factory released a follow-up covers album in 1996 that never got a domestic release, and I paid a fortune for it back in the day. As you would expect from a band that has an encyclopedic knowledge of rock and pop, covers have always been a huge part of their repertoire. My favorite is their take on “Xanadu” (see it on YouTube), but their version of the Goffin-King penned “Porpoise Song,” made famous by The Monkees in 1968, is a close second. Other songs on ‘Wonderful World of Wondermints’ include “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “Barbarella.” I would be remiss if I didn’t add the multi-talented Probyn Gregory joined the band at this point.

“Arnaldo Said”

More label shifting followed before the release of 1998 album ‘Bali.’ Another one bought as an expensive Japanese import. For once it was worth it because ‘Bali’ took years before it got a domestic release. It’s more terrific power pop with a retro feel, but I find it to be the least Wilson-influenced of their three original studio albums. A couple of songs, like “Arnaldo Said,” are downright hard. This album fits in well with early Apples in Stereo and other Elephant 6 releases that wear ’60s influences on their sleeves.

“Chris-Craft No. 10”

“Cellophane” was released as a single in Japan. If I was the suit behind the desk chomping a big cigar, this would have been the single from ‘Bali.’ Beautifully crafted pop.

“Another Way”

It would be four years between ‘Bali’ and the next album, ‘Mind If We Make Love to You.” What took so long? In 1999, Wondermints played “This Whole World” at a tribute to Brian Wilson in Hollywood. Wilson heard the song while backstage and flipped. The band has backed the Beach Boy ever since. ‘Mind If We Make Love to You’ is Wondermints grown up. The album is less power pop and more of the chamber variety. You’ll hear oboe, recorder, violin, viola and, of course, theremin.

“So Nice”

The last song on the last album. Wilson helped arrange the vocals on this one, and he lends his voice too. It has been 15 years since we have had something new from Wondermints. My hunch is that wasn’t planned. Sahanaja has said he couldn’t have imagined back in ’99 the gig with Wilson would have lasted so long. Members of Wondermints have been in high demand from other artists, including Eric Carmen, the Zombies, the Beach Boys, the Granite Shore and on and on. I will be forever grateful for what Wondermints did for Wilson. Having said that, when Brian decides to retire for good, I hope Wondermints decide to follow up ‘Mind If We Make Love to You.’




My Top Ten Blog

JC writes:-

This is a thrill for me.  

Rol’s blog is one of the most imaginative out there – always superbly written and there’s usually great follow-ups of immense quality (unless I’ve thrown in my tuppence worth).  He’s also written about a band that I’ve had recommended to me many times over the years but never been sure where to start.  Cheers mate….

Being invited to compile an ICA by JC is, as far as blogging goes, one of the ultimate accolades. It’s like being invited to the palace for a knighthood… except I won’t turn it down.

I’ve been following The Vinyl Villain almost since the beginning. My original blog, Sunset Over Slawit, wasn’t set up as a music blog, but reading JC (and a few other music bloggers from that era, many of whom are no longer part of the blogosphere) convinced me to dip my toe in the water. The problem was, my tastes were always a little too unhip. Yeah, I liked most of the artists JC featured – many were among my favourites – but I also loved a bunch of far less “cool” musicians. Queen. Meat Loaf. Billy Joel. Neil Dia… I’ll stop there, shall I?

Despite this, JC was always immensely supportive of my efforts and, unlike some other bloggers, he never went out of his way to ridicule the stuff I liked that he really didn’t. I’ll always be grateful to him for that (although I still wish ICA #069 wasn’t an April Fool’s gag).

Anyway, The Magnetic Fields.

I featured a track from their new album box set, 50 Song Memoir a couple of weeks ago, and JC popped up in the comments with that offer I couldn’t refuse. I was beginning to think I’d missed the boat – most of the suitable bands I like have already been covered by others. That said, I’ve admired The Magnetic Fields for a long time, and although they probably wouldn’t make my all-time Top 50, Stephin Merritt and co. have certainly produced enough outstanding material for a 10 track Imaginary Compilation Album… or ten.

Side 1

1. Papa Was A Rodeo (From ’69 Love Songs’)

How many truly great double albums can you name? I bet you can count them on one hand. Most have a truly great single disc trapped inside, screaming to drag itself up above the so-so tracks that have padded out disc 2 side 2.

How about triple albums? Can you even think of one truly great example?

I can. But only one.

1999’s 69 Love Songs is The Magnetic Fields’ masterpiece. Three discs. 69 songs. All (or at least 60 of them) magnificent. The hardest part of compiling this ICA was not just choosing ten songs from that album.

Papa Was A Rodeo is (arguably, of course) the greatest song on 69 Love Songs. It’s a country song at heart (if that puts you off, more fool you) which begins with a barroom conversation and turns into a sweet (if extremely sardonic) love song that flashes forward in the final verse to reveal a 55 year relationship still going strong. And the chorus is lyrically perfect.

2. Too Drunk To Dream (From ‘Distortion’)

I haven’t had a drink in over 16 years, but this song makes me want to crack open the Jack…

Sober, life is a prison
Shitfaced, it is a blessing
Sober, nobody wants you
Shitfaced, they’re all undressing
Oh, sober, it’s ever darker
Shitfaced, the moon is nearer
Sober, you’re old and ugly
Shitfaced, who needs a mirror?
Oh sober, you’re a Cro-Magnon
Shitfaced, you’re very clever
Sober, you never should be
Shitfaced, now and forever

3. Acoustic Guitar (From ’69 Love Songs’)

Stephin Merritt isn’t always the voice of the Magnetic Fields. He knows when best to give his songs to sweeter, less dry and world weary vocalists, one of whom is Claudia Gonson, who makes beautiful work of this bittersweet ode to the most romantic of instruments.

4. 100,000 Fireflies (From ‘Distant Plastic Trees’)

And here’s Susan Anway, taking lead vocal on the very first Magnetic Fields single, from way back in 1991. My favourite early Fields number, I just discovered I’m not alone in admiring it. Iffypedia calls it “the ultimate staple of indie mixtape culture during the 1990s”. Well, how hip am I? (Answer: Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, etc. etc.)

5. I Don’t Want To Get Over You (From ’69 Love Songs’)

We’ll close side one with the return of Stephin Merrit, at his most drolly maudlin. Is drolly a word? Maudlinly droll? Like Morrissey, Jarvis and Neil Hannon rolled into one, with a sprinkling of John Grant

I could dress in black and read Camus
Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth
Like I was seventeen
That would be a scream
But I don’t want to get over you

Side 2

1. The Book of Love (From ’69 Love Songs’)

Stephin Merritt has, on occasion, been compared to a modern day Cole Porter for his wit, wordplay and occasional bouts of bittersweet cynicism. The Book of Love sounds like prime Porter: a song about how boring people in love can be… unless you’re one of them. It’s been covered by lots of people, from Peter Gabriel to Zucchero (who translated it into Italian), The Airbourne Toxic Event to South Park.

2. I Don’t Believe You (From ‘i’)

If you haven’t guessed so far, I’m a big fan of clever, witty or storytelling song lyrics. Stephin Merritt is well regarded as one of the premier lyricists of his generation (hence that Cole Porter comparison), and he’s also the king of the killer rhyming couplet, as this cut from his 2004 album ‘i’ (all the track titles began with the 9th letter of the alphabet) proves most eloquently…

I had a dream and you were in it
The blue of your eyes was infinite
You seemed to be
In love with me
Which isn’t very realistic

He also manages to get the word ‘ampersand’ into this song. You’ve got to give him a prize for that.

3. Come Back From San Francisco (From ’69 Love Songs’)

Another of Merritt’s female collaborators is Shirley Simms, who takes leads vocals on this gorgeous love song, featuring the best invitation to visit the Golden Gate state you’ll ever hear…

Come back from San Francisco
And kiss me, I’ve quit smoking
I miss doing the wild thing with you

4. ’85 Why I Am Not A Teenager (From ’50 Song Memoir’)

The latest Magnetic Fields album is a thematic follow-up to 69 Love Songs: a five disc autobiography in song to celebrate Merritt’s 50th birthday, one song for each year. 1985 was the year he hit 20… not a great year to be a young gay man in America, it turned out. Still, at least he wasn’t a teenager anymore…

All that money they got
They don’t give you a shot
This is why I am not a teenager

When you never get paid
And you never get laid
And you’re full of these stupid hormones
And just then they come out with AIDS

5. How Fucking Romantic (From ’69 Love Songs’)

There’s no better way to close this ICA: it says everything you need to know about Stephin Merritt in under one minute. Can we say ‘genius’ now?




JC writes:-

Dave has been contributing to the blog for many years, mostly through comments but with the occasional guest posting.

It turns out that BACK in June 2016 he fired over an e-mail with a guest ICA but for whatever reason I never received it.  Or if I did, I accidentally deleted it.  Honest!

Luckily, he had a copy of his e-mail and a recent posting as part of the Saturday series saw him get in touch and resubmit his ICA.  As I’ve said before, I never refuse an ICA submission (and would only do so if I thought that he band/singer’s music or viewpoints were offensive) and so I’m more than happy to have this appear today.  So over to Dave….

Hi Jim

Just read your Deacon Blue post and it struck a chord. I loved Raintown (and still do) and when they toured with it thought they were fantastic live (I remember seeing them play Leeds Poly and the crowd refusing to leave with the house lights on and the band eventually coming back again for the 3rd or 4th encore and sheepishly admitting that they had run out of songs to play). I despaired at the follow-up ,with its awful 80s production all big gated drums and stabbing synths. Luckily I missed the more political Ricky Ross ( think even he realised preaching independence to an English audience wasn’t the best career move) , I just sensed he was a bit worthy, and well a bit boring , both of which were forgivable. As a result I stuck with them. I realise that they might well be one of those bands you love to hate for a lot of regular readers, but there have been diamonds in the dirt. Here therefore is a post-Raintown compilation.

Side 1

Rae (from Homesick)

Deacon Blue have a tendency to start an LP with something understated and as a result some of their best songs are tracks 1. This is from Homesick (one of the “comeback “LPs) . When you strip away the bombast they can hook you in with a simple tune and this has a chorus melody to die for.

Love and Regret (from When the World Knows Your Name)

The 2nd LP was a bit of a car crash from the title onwards. There were a couple of shining lights and this is one of them . When he gets it right Ricky Ross can write a fine lyric and this is one of my favourites . It chugs a long a bit but is one of the few tracks that isn’t drowned out in over production and is allowed to breathe a bit. Reading the notes from the recent re released box sets there is a sense of a band not fully in control of their own destiny.

The Hipsters (from The Hipsters)

After a 10 year break they suddenly reappeared in 2012 with their best LP since Raintown. A radio friendly song that didn’t really get any radio play.

A New House (from A New House)

A couple of years after the Hipsters came A New House. A major disappointment , mainly down to the production which swamped the songs. This is one of the best things on it.

Back Here in Beanoland (from Viva Las Vegas)

The band always put a bit of effort into their b sides and Viva Las Vegas pulls together a lot of the post Raintown b-sides and various other bits and bobs. This I think is a “love” letter to Dundee where old ladies wrote letters to the local press complaining about a busking Danny Wilson.

Side 2

James Joyce Soles (from Fellow Hoodlums)

The 3rd LP felt like a conscious attempt to return to the feel of Raintown, helped by the fact they returned to Jon Kelly for production . However it all felt like they were trying too hard ( every song seemed to have to have a Glasgow street mentioned in it) However Twist and Shout is a great pop song and this is an ache of a song.

Laura From Memory (from The Hipsters)

Could have been any number of songs from the Hipsters LP but I like the way the words tumble over each other and the abba-esque piano

Your Town (from Whatever you Say , Say Nothing)

By the 4th LP (with yet another awful title) there was a whiff of desperation as Steve Osborne was drafted in to produce. The lead off single was a blast of fresh air but the LP didn’t really herald a brave new direction but instead often lapsed into stodgy rock. This is still a great track though.

The Outsiders (from The Hipsters)

Another big radio friendly song that was about 20 years too late.

Sad Loved Girl – long version (from When the World Knows Your Name )

The short version appears on the LP as a kind of not quite as good Born in a Storm. However in its full version on the re-release brings things to a low-key end.

Bonus – the piano songs

I recently saw Ricky Ross tour playing various songs across his career using only a piano a backing and met him afterwards for a quick chat. He was still a bit worthy , but whether age or comfortableness with life he was also full of self depreciating humour. It was good to hear one of their worst offending songs come alive in the stripped down version

Wages Day piano version
Circus Lights piano version
Bethlehem’s Gate piano version

I am pretty sure the above isn’t going to convert anyone and it isn’t really a case for the defence, more of a recognition that post-Raintown they could produce some stuff I love.


STOP PRESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hi y’all

I had an amazing few days over the weekend

I saw Butcher Boy get together for the first time in almost four years and deliver a memorable set in a unique venue as part of Record Store Day.

I traveled to Manchester and met up with Jonny the Friendly Lawyer for the first ever time and then watched his band The Ponderosa Aces play a stormer of set in which a song was dedicated to me.

And I will, at some point, expand on both of these unforgettable events along with how I squeezed in in another Record Store Day gig on the Saturday evening.

But I think it’s fair to say, and I know from the conversation we had on Sunday night that Jonny will agree with me, all of this pales into insignificance with the news that SWC and Tim Badger have announced plans for the return of When You Can’t Remember Anything.

It’s going to be the morning of Thursday 27 April. And in due course, all your usual favourites will be making an appearance.

It’s been a very good few days indeed.

mp3 : Blink – Happy Day




(long time reader, first time contributor)

Mike Melville‘s survey of Wire’s 21st century albums inspired me to compile songs from Mission Of Burma‘s reincarnation.

Mission Of Burma released two singles, an EP, and one LP before guitarist Roger Miller‘s tinnitus forced him to retire from live performance in 1983. Miller formed the neo-classical Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic.

Pete Prescott stepped out from behind the drum kit to lead the band Kustomized, followed by The Volcano Suns.

Burma’s bassist Clint Conley left the music industry completely.

The 2001 book Our Band Could Be Your Life put Mission Of Burma in context as the equal of contemporaries like Black Flag, the Minutemen and Husker Du; and as a formative influence on Big Black, Fugazi, and Sonic Youth.

In May of 2000, Prescott’s band The Peer Group opened for Wire. Conley filled in on bass, and Miller joined them for one song on keyboard. It had been over 15 years since Burma’s members last shared a stage. Conley started writing songs again, and formed a band called Consonant in 2001. Miller soon donned a guitar and a pair of ear protectors. Mission of Burma played its first reunion show in 2002, and released the first of four new albums in 2004. They last played in 2016, but there have been no new Burma songs since 2012.

1 Fever Moon (from ‘On/Off/On‘)

Roger Miller was born in Detroit and raised on the Stooges and the MC5. He was also a student of modern classical composition. Miller and his music are equally at home with the visceral, the cerebral, and the surreal. I picture the “sentimental Visigoth” of this song as a personification of all three traits.

2 2wice (from ‘The Obliterati’)

Clint Conley is the least confident of Burma’s three songwriters, despite his exceptional melodic sense and the stirring words of ‘Academy Fight Song’ and ‘That’s When I Reach For My Revolver’. In Consonant interviews, Conley expressed dislike for his Burma songs, and he employed Holly Anderson’s poems as Consonant lyrics. Conley is an excellent bassist with a nimble voice, and he displays the range of both instruments on ‘2wice’.

3 The Enthusiast (from ‘On/Off/On’)

Peter Prescott contributes fewer songs to Mission Of Burma than Conley or Miller, but some of them are real gems. This one is reminiscent of his 1982 exhortation, ‘Learn How’. Prescott often adds enthusiastic shouts to punctuate his bandmates’ songs; his voice is the last sound on the closing track of the first Burma LP. Prescott has a new band called Minibeast.

4 Careening With Conviction (from ‘The Obliterati’)

Martin Swope was invited by Miller (a John Cage disciple) to add an element of chance to Mission Of Burma’s sound. Swope recorded tape loops of Burma’s music, manipulated them and fed them back into the mix. Swope never appeared onstage, and he declined to participate in the reunion, so Bob Weston assumed his role. ‘Careening With Conviction’ features three voices: Miller, Conley, and a Miller/Conley splice created by Weston.

5 SSL 83 (from ‘The Sound The Speed The Light’)

Another phantom voice flickers to life in this song, reminiscent of the tricks that the Beatles used: running tapes backwards and altering the speed of sound. Martin Swope was Burma’s “fifth Beatle”.

6 Slow Faucet (from ‘The Sound The Speed The Light’)

Mission Of Burma are perhaps Wire’s closest American counterparts. Both groups left behind the strictures of punk and the conventions of songwriting. Burma and Wire share an intellectual restlessness: suspicious of conformity, deeply averse to repeating themselves, with each member pushing the others to greater creativity. ‘Slow Faucet’ has a layered structure that briefly collapses before restating its defiant theme: “you don’t know me.”

7 Invisible (from the ‘2wice’ single)

Gang Of Four were another of Burma’s British contemporaries. The interpersonal politics of Gill and King‘s lyrics are evident in this track, as is the Gang Of Four’s sonic assault: a massive bassline, slashing guitar and a relentless beat. Hugo Burnham was among the musicians who joined Mission Of Burma onstage during Burma’s first reunion show.

8 Donna Sumeria (from ‘The Obliterati’)

Who but Mission Of Burma could have created this? There’s a brief paraphrase from the disco queen’s immortal ‘I Feel Love’, and perhaps the pun begat the song, but there’s no use playing “spot the influence” here.

9 1,2,3 Partyy! (from ‘The Sound The Speed The Light’)

Another paraphrase, this time from The Syndicate Of Sound‘s ‘Little Girl’. Conley and Miller first played together in The Moving Parts, an avant-garage band (to borrow a hyphenate from Pere Ubu). The Moving Parts covered The Music Machine‘s ‘Talk Talk’, another proto-punk classic.

10 7’s (from ‘Unsound’)

Like ‘SSL 83’, this song might be autobiographical. “All we ask is one more shot,” Conley sings, while acknowledging that the effort is “totally ridiculous”. It’s hard to tease out the meaning of Conley’s lyrics. ‘1,2,3 Partyy!’ seems to be about a man trying to control his drinking, and ‘2wice’ may be told from the perspective of a stalker. These songs speak of mistakes and self-contradictions, themes that date back to ‘Academy Fight Song’.

11 Youth Of America (live at the Cat’s Cradle, 16 April 2004)

Amps to eleven, Burma blazes through a cover of The Wipers’ 1981 anthem, which rebelled against the punk rebellion and its dictates (no long songs! no guitar solos!)

BONUS TRACK: This Is Not A Photograph by Great Ytene (from the ‘George Street‘ single)

Three decades on, Mission Of Burma continues to exert a powerful influence. Here a young British quartet adds its own energy to a classic from 1981’s ‘Signals, Calls, And Marches’.




JC writes….

I do love the fact the ICA series has proven to be so popular.  I am especially pleased that so many of you take the time to submit guest postings that, in many cases allow singers and bands never previously featured on TVV to be the focus of attention.

The idea is normally to have one ICA per week so that enough attention can be devoted to each post – I know that some readers do drop in every day and it’s no hassle to read and hopefully enjoy a long and detailed posting, but many others are occasional visitors and to see screeds of type can be off-putting. leading to a quick scan of things and perhaps missing out on some great posts simply because the band wasn’t known to them or was of little interest. (I say that with some confidence as it is something I can be guilty of myself when time is tight).

The thing is, I’ve had a great run of e-mails with suggested ICAs that to hold them to one per week would mean some folk not seeing their efforts on the screen for a long while yet. I don’t think that’s a good way to treat anyone and so, with your indulgence, the rest of this week is going to be dedicated solely to ICAs….all, of which are fantastically and lovingly written in ways that will educate and entertain in equal measure.

First up is Brian from Linear Track Lives with yet another quality look at a band, I have to be honest, completely passed me by.  It’s also appropriate that he name checks Jonny the Friendly Lawyer as this post will appear a matter of hours after I meet him for the first ever time at his gig in Manchester (an event I will turn into a post as soon as time allows….it’s all a bit manic just now with work and folk also over visiting from Canada….not to mention gearing up for early May when there’s the bloggers get-together in Glasgow).

Anyways….here’s Brian.

When you think of Los Angeles, what’s the music scene that pops into your head? Is it the punk movement of the late ’70s and early ’80s? How about the Paisley Underground? For me, it’s ’90s power pop. Now, power pop has had a rich history in the City of Angels for more that 40 years, from The Nerves and its many offshoots to Tulsa transplants 20/20 and the Dwight Twilley Band, to name but a few, but there were two bands from near the end of the century I liked better than the genre’s giants. I’ll get to the other one next time, but let’s begin with The Sugarplastic.

I have featured this trio on my blog many times, and the reception has generally been tepid, but I’m a stubborn sod. Two recent developments inspired me to be a Sugarplastic disciple once more. On Sundays, JC is taking us through the singles of XTC, a band you’re bound to think of while listening to this ICA. I also discovered quite inadvertently through the comments section of my blog that our friend Johnny the Friendly Lawyer/Johnny Bottoms is a big fan. Finally, after nearly eight years of pushing the Sugarplastic, I have found a comrade. I swear I heard angels singing.

Like so many bands that have received the ICA treatment, I could easily focus on the early years and give you the Sugarplastic’s best work, but I have decided to go for a comprehensive listen.

Side A

“Ottawa Bonesaw”

All those hours practicing at the appliance store owned by the father of drummer Josh Laner paid off. The band’s first release came out on Los Angeles-based Pronto Records in 1993, and it was quite an introduction. The label went all out and created a box set of three 7″ singles at a time when vinyl had all but disappeared. Johnny the Friendly Lawyer commented “the first compilation tape I made for my son… had ‘Ottawa Bonesaw’ on it. Every kid loves that tune.”

“Jesus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”

The Sugarplastic had three songs on Pronto’s 1993 compilation ‘Meg: An L.A. Sampler.’ This song never showed up anywhere else. The band’s next two singles would be released with little fanfare on Small-Fi and Minty Fresh. The Sugarplastic didn’t stand a chance. The Chicago label was busy pushing the popular Veruca Salt at the time.

“Radio Jejune”

The title track from their 1995 album and first long player, this time on Sugar Fix Recordings. While the fellas were in the studio, Geffen came sniffing around. A deal was struck, but the Sugarplastic agreed on the condition ‘Radio Jejune’ would come out on Sugar Fix before they would begin recording for the major label. Here’s where Ben Eshbach really began to blossom as a writer. His songs had more hooks than an old man’s fishing hat, and folks outside of L.A. began taking notice.


By ‘Radio Jejune,’ it was obvious XTC (particularly album ‘Drums and Wires’) was a huge influence. As a fan, I didn’t take this as a negative. I always thought it meant clever lyrics and a herky-jerky, tension-filled delivery, but as more listeners were exposed to the Sugarplastic, the derivative label began rearing its ugly head. Instead of running the other way, Ben had fun with it. “Life Begins at the Hop,” anyone? How’s this for a cheeky lyric: “Sit back and watch me crack, what Mr. Moulding’s done before.” I chose “Arizona” because of the XTC connection, but any song on ‘Radio Jejune’ could have shown up on this ICA. It’s an essential album.

“Polly Brown”

Now signed to a major, fortune and fame followed. Uh, maybe not. The Geffen era was one album, ‘Bang, the Earth is Round,’ but what a great album it was! “Polly Brown,” an old song from the “Ottawa Bonesaw” box set, was shined up and released as a single that went nowhere. To give you a little perspective, “Macarena” was the top song of 1996 on Billboard.

Side B


If I was honest about this ICA, the A-side would be from ‘Radio Jejune.’ The B-side would be filled from ‘Bang, the Earth is Round.’

“Sheep” was a forgotten single from 1993 that found its way onto the Geffen album. It has a lyric I have always loved: “I’ve sired now I’m tired and I want to go to sleep.” The additional vocals from Gretchen Parlato worked really well. Parlato has gone on to have a quite a career as a jazz vocalist.

“Don’t Look Down”

Sugarplastic Central became quiet for four long years. During that time, Laner left the band and was replaced by David Cunningham. In 2000, Craig McCracken, creator of animated series The Powderpuff Girls released ‘Heroes & Villains,’ a compilation of songs inspired by the show. McCracken said these bands inspired his own work, and a quick look at the roster revealed I wanted to be friends with this guy. Devo, Bis, Frank Black, Apples in Stereo, Komeda and many other greats participated. This is the Sugarplastic’s contribution.

“Dunn the Worm”

Another album, another label. ‘Resin’ came out on Escape Artist Recordings in 2000. Andy Metcalfe of Squeeze and the Soft Boys produced. The songs were quirkier than ever, but there were ever-so subtle changes in sound. The comparisons to XTC faded.

“Hey Mr. Lockjaw”

In 2003, after three more years of quiet, Tallboy Records out of San Francisco made a major announcement. The Sugarplastic would release seven 7″ singles, about one every three months, via subscription. I was subscriber No. 63 of 300 available slots, and all of my singles were numbered as such. The sleeves and colored vinyl can only be described as art. One side of each single was penned by principal writer Eshbach. In a rare move, bassist Kiara Geller wrote the songs for the other side. “Hey Mr. Lockjaw” was my favorite of Geller’s contributions.

“The Runaround”

I never heard or read a definitive pronouncement the Sugarplastic had called it a day, but it has been 12 years since their last album. I’m beginning to lose hope. If ‘Will’ really was the end, though, I can accept it, but I still check the Tallboy site from time to time with hopes of some news.

Hidden Track


This is a short song (1:49) from the “Ottawa Bonesaw” box set in 1993. It also appeared on the Japanese import of early works called ‘Primitive Plastic: Demos and B-Sides’ from 2001. Like so many underappreciated bands from the West, the Japanese got the Sugarplastic. Of course they did! Eshbach wrote in the liner notes of ‘Primitive Plastic:’ “Some [of these songs] are unfinished – all of them are a little embarrassing – but Josh, Kiara and I secretly love every one of them. Dover, in fact, is my favorite Sugarplastic recording of all time.”


JC adds….

See that comment I signed off with recently when Nik wrote about YMO?? Same applies this week….only this time I knew nothing of this band…not even their name!

I particularly love Brian’s attention to the smallest of details such as sharing with us he was subscriber #63. His love for, and knowledge of, the most obscure of bands, never ceases to amaze me. Can’t wait to see him again next month.


And so we come to the era that most casual fans of XTC will be most familiar with – the singles that were lifted from the 1980 LP Black Sea. There were four in total in the UK between August 1980 and March 1981. There was also a further single, not on the album, which was released in November 1980 – but all of that will be covered in due course.

General and Majors predated the release of the LP by around five weeks. As we would later discover, there were loads of options for decent 45s but given that Colin Moulding had supplied the only two previous chart hits it was no surprise that Virgin Records went for one of his to lead things off.

mp3 : XTC – Generals and Majors

An anti-military establishment rather than an anti-war song, it is one of those incredibly simple but effective tunes made memorable from a combination of catchy chorus (which Colin has always been quick to say was really a fine-tuning, by Andy Partridge, of a half-finished lyrical idea), fantastically fast and furious guitar work, whistling and humming. It had smash hit written all over it….but stalled at #32 despite a marketing campaign that saw the first 15,000 copies of the record be a double-single with tracks that would be unavailable on the parent LP.

mp3 : XTC – Don’t Lose Your Temper
mp3 : XTC – Smokeless Zone
mp3 : XTC – The Somnambulist

The first is a rockin’ n’ rollin’ two and a half minutes of music that really got up hopes for the forthcoming LP. If something as fine sounding at this hadn’t made the cut then something special had to be coming down the line.

The second was a bit more experimental albeit it kept up the frantic face of the two songs that made up the standard 7″. It was about now that I began to think of XTC not simply as a new wave band but more in keeping with the tradition of greatly talented but occasionally eccentric English bands who made music that you couldn’t ever pigeon-hole.

The third song is the only one on the double-pack not produced by Steve Lillywhite; instead it is attributed to Andy Partridge. It’s a very strange and eerie piece of music that was totally unlike anything else the band had done before – it was almost as experimental as the sounds of the likes of Ultravox, Human League, Tubeway Army or those other weird synth-based groups who were never going to amount to anything.

I had no idea back then what a somnambulist was…I had to look it up. That it was an ode to a trance-like state for sleepwalkers sort of made sense with the tune. Truth be told, I hated it back in 1980 Far too refined for my 17 year old tastes. Nowadays, I think it’s a masterpiece. Oh and I’ve since learned, thanks to researching for this series that it pre-dated much of the Black Sea material as it was recorded as part of spare time left over in a BBC studio while making a Peel Session in March 1980.

Oh, also worth mentioning that the single version of Generals and Majors is about thirty seconds shorter than would appear on the subsequent LP.




Quite simply, the most important group to ever have come out of Scotland whose legacy has brought so much joy to so many people over the years.

The Delgados were more than a band. They were, and remain, an institution thanks to the establishment of Chemikal Underground.

Five studio LPs, sixteen singles, one live CD and a Peel Sessions collection is what they left behind on their own account.

Arab Strap (and solo careers for Moffat and Middleton), Mogwai, The Phantom Band, Bis, Aereogramme and RM Hubbert are just a small sample of those singers and groups who owe just about everything to Alun Woodward, Emma Pollock, Paul Savage and Stewart Henderson.

I’ve tried and failed miserably at least four times to come up with an ICA. Maybe I just need to feature them in depth at some point in the future.

mp3 : The Delgados – Accused of Stealing

From The Great Eastern LP, released in 2000. One of THE great Scottish albums of all time.



I found a copy of a posting from 2007 that even today, nearly ten years on, I’m quite proud of. The old blog was less than a year old and having just found my feet and gaining the confidence to post every day, I then found myself in Toronto for a five-month spell that prevented me blogging every day ( mainly a combination of pressure of work and not having access to the thousands of mp3 files I had lovingly created); but the time in Canada brought other great opportunities my way that more than made up for it.  Such as being among the first to see a stunning movie that I reviewed at the time.  From 9 September 2007….

This past week and a bit saw Mrs Villain join me for a short stay in Toronto. It was her first ever visit to the city, and we did loads of touristy things including going along to something that was part at the recently opened Toronto International Film Festival 2007.

We were lucky enough to get two tickets for Control. We had hoped to get to the first showing at 9.45pm on a Friday evening, but the tickets were impossible to obtain. But we had the consolation of getting to the second and final showing, albeit at the ungodly hour of 9am on a Saturday morning.

First surprise was that we were far from alone. The cinema was almost full to capacity with maybe the best part of 1,000 folk inside. Second surprise that it was not an audience entirely made up of music fans – just behind us we heard one exchange along the lines of “Was this guy Curtis some sort of cult figure?”. The third surprise was a brief personal appearance by Anton Corbijn, who expressed his delight that so many people would come along so early in the morning to watch a black and white feature by a first-time film director.

The effort of getting out of bed at such an ungodly hour on a weekend was more than worth it. Control is an exceptional piece of work. I’ve long been a fan of Corbijn’s photographs and videos, so I had a fair idea that it would look good. What I wasn’t prepared for was the level of performances from just about everyone in the film.

The part of Ian Curtis is played by the relatively little-known Sam Riley, and he does an unbelievable job. The more famous Samanatha Morton is outstanding as Deborah Curtis, especially in the second half of the movie as she begins to come to terms with how her husband is treating her.

The other young actors who play the members of the band – James Anthony Pearson (Bernard Sumner), Harry Treadaway (Steven Morris) and Joe Anderson (Peter Hook) are just about perfect, and not just because the roles called on them to play live. Bernard in particular comes across perfectly as the wide-eyed little-boy not quite believing that he’s making it as a musician.

While the overall mood of the film is, as you would expect sombre, the script is packed with some fantastic one-liners, some of which are delivered by Hooky, but most of whom belong to Rob Gretton who is played by another relatively unknown actor, Toby Kebbel.

If I have one gripe, it was that I wasn’t initially convinced by Craig Parkinson as Tony Wilson – most probably because I found myself comparing it to the way that Steve Coogan portrayed him in 24 Hour Party People – but I did find myself loosening up a bit as the movie progressed and appreciating his performance.

And there will be some people – there always are – who will be apoplectic with rage that the film has not stuck 100% to the facts. For example, Tony Wilson introducing them on So It Goes on Granada TV. In real life, Joy Division performed Shadowplay, but the film has them playing Transmission.

There’s also a number of occasions when the need to have the movie go along at a decent pace means some things appear just a bit too melodramatic – for instance, the inspiration for the lyrics behind She’s Lost Control.

I understand that Control will be coming out in the UK early in October. I also expect that not everyone will greet it with universal approval. For instance, Kevin Cummins, another photographer who worked with the band has said “The film lacks humour. It would appear that Corbijn has bought into the mythology surrounding the band…the crypto-fascist young men in their grey overcoats from the grim north of England. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

I think that’s a bit harsh, but then again it is a fact that in just under two hours, there’s no evidence of the light-hearted side of Ian Curtis (such as the well-documented high-jinks the band got up to when they undertook a tour as support to Buzzcocks).

There will be others who just don’t get it. There’s one scathing review kicking around on the web from the Reuters Hollywood Correspondent who saw the movie at Cannes back in May. He didn’t like Control because it doesn’t live up to the 1960s black and white movies set in Northern England that often starred Albert Finney or Tom Courtenay (and which were so beloved by Morrissey).

It’s a dreadful and lazy comparison to make- the films of the 60s were based on fictional novels whereas Control is of course based on real-life events – the only thing they have in common is that they are black and white films.

It is my view that Control falls into the category of ‘must-see’, especially if you are a fan of Anton Corbijn, Joy Division, Ian Curtis or indeed Samantha Morton.

Incidentally, I’m not ashamed to admit that I was in floods of tears at the end of the movie – as was Mrs V. Yes, we both knew how it was all going to end, but that didn’t stop the intensity of the performances from the two lead roles having a huge effect on us. We weren’t the only ones sobbing and sniffing away in Toronto. So take along your hankies….

song : Joy Division – Passover

2017 update

By now, I’m guessing all of you with any interest in the band or film-making will have seen Control.  I think my initial review, written and published the following morning after its second screeing at the 2007 festival has stood up well.



And so to another band that were introduced to me via a mid-90s cassette compilation by Jacques the Kipper.

Madder Rose were a four-piece band from New York. The main songwriter was lead guitarist Billy Cote, but the vocal duties were taken by rhythm guitarist Mary Lorson. They emerged in 1993 with a sound quite different from the grungy stuff that had dominated indie music for the proceeding 2 years, and a million miles away from Britpop that was shortly to take over. In other words, they were doomed to be no more than a cult footnote in history thanks to being in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time.

I don’t own too many of their songs – they released three LPs and handful of other singles/EPs before disbanding in 1999, but the dozen or so tracks I do have I thoroughly enjoy. Mrs V struggles to rate many bands with female singers, and Madder Rose she describes as ‘the sort of rubbish you fall for’.

Altered Images, Belly, Everything But The Girl and The Sundays are among many others that Mrs V would put in the same category….

These are the four tracks from a 10″ single released in 1994:-

mp3 : Madder Rose – Car Song
mp3 : Madder Rose – Johnny Take A Ride
mp3 : Madder Rose – The Widow Song
mp3 : Madder Rose – Holiday

Here’s another of their singles that I’m fond of, courtesy of an NME best of 93 compilation CD:-

mp3 : Madder Rose – Madder Rose



One of my really young work colleagues, understandably, only knows of Blondie as being a relic of the past. The conversation had initially been sparked by a number of us talking about whether or not to have an office night out at a Blondie tribute act at a nearby location (in the end we decided against the idea), but the young ‘un was bemused that such a little-known band (in her eyes) was the subject of a tribute act not only performing but generating such interest among so many of us.

A few videos were fired up on You Tube to illustrate just how many hits there had been when Blondie were at their peak but they all meant next to nothing to a 19 year-old. The 50-somethings in the team on the other hand got very nostalgic.

I looked up the discography on wiki and found that between January 1979 and October 1980, Blondie released six singles in the UK, four of which went to #1 (Heart of Glass, Sunday Girl, Call Me and Atomic) while another was a #2 hit (Dreaming).

The odd one out was the second single lifted from the Eat to The Beat album:-

mp3 : Blondie – Union City Blue

This comparative flop stalled at #13 in November 1979. The fact that subsequent 45s hit the top spot would indicate that this was merely a small blip in an otherwise stellar performance chart wise as the decades of the 70s and 80s intertwined.

It’s no real surprise that Union City Blue didn’t quite gel with the record buying public as much as the others. It was more rock than pop and the mid-paced tempo was something that, up until now, had really only been found on album tracks or b-sides. My abiding memory of the song back in the day really centres round the video, and in particular the opening shot where an aerial shot (I’m guessing from a helicopter) zooms along a largely derelict and decaying waterfront before zooming in on the band performing on a dry dock. Debbie Harry looks more gorgeous and alluring than ever, wearing an orange jumpsuit with much of her face hidden behind aviator shades. Oh and she has a guitar around her neck which somehow only adds to the appeal.

Later shots from behind the band reveal that the dry dock is on the New Jersey shoreline as not far in the distance is the very distinctive New York skyline, a city at that time, as I’ve said before, was the one place more than any other that the 16-year old me wanted to visit.

Strange thing is, I’d forgotten how awful the second half of the video is after it switches it to the nightime footage…

Back in 1979, I wasn’t totally convinced of the merits of Union City Blue as I’d been so smitten by either the fast-paced new wave material or the more danceable stuff. In later years, as my tastes widened and matured I now find myself liking it much more than many other tracks from the post-Parallel Lines period. I’d even be willing to nowadays to classify it in the danceable category but I maybe alone with that.

It’s worth noting that the tune was penned by Nigel Harrison with Debbie adding the lyric in a rare(ish) departure from her working alongside Chris Stein. The b-side was written entirely by yet another member of the band, Jimmy Destri and was also the closing track on Eat to The Beat:-

mp3 : Blondie – Living In The Real World



I’m wondering if some of the words used in today’s posting will attract folk directed here on the basis of one word typed into a search engine.

The LP cover up above is that of a 1988 LP called Tender Pervert. The act who recorded it is Momus, a Scotsman whose real name is Nick Currie.

He calls himself Momus after the Greek god of mockery. As this wiki entry indicates, he’s been around for a while recording hyper-literate, quirky songs that have been known to blend accessible dance-pop with such heavy lyrical themes as paedophilia, necrophilia and adultery. (That’s just about a fullhouse for pervy bingo….maybe one more to come(ahem))

Actually, the stuff isn’t all that bad. I have in my possesion a copy of Tender Pervert and its by no means the worst purchase I’ve ever made. I must actually get round to giving it a proper review and posting in here some day.

Anyway, the reason I bought it was down to the fact is was cheap in a sale, and I already knew and loved one track from it, thanks to it appearing on a Creation Records compilation entitled Doing It For The Kids (this was when Creation Records was very much a vanity project for Alan McGhee and friends, way before it began to make serious money).  As referenced last year on this very blog.

mp3 : Momus – A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)

I’m surprised that the boys and girls from New Order didn’t sue in respect of the tune….

If my stats highlight any unusual paths into TVV over the next few days, I may well draw them to your attention.



The Lotus Eaters were part of that great Liverpool scene of the early 80s, albeit as a band they came along after the demise of Zoo Records albeit their individual members were around at that time.

Jem Kelly had been a member of The Wild Swans whose Revolutionary Spirit/God Forbid 12″ was arguably the best 45 ever released by Zoo. Their break-up had seen vocalist Paul Simpson go off and form Care alongside Ian Broudie. Kelly, who had written the music for the Zoo singles hooked up with Peter Coyle who had sung with a number of local bands that hadn’t made any breakthrough. They turned out, initially, to be an ideal match for one another.

Such was the affection that listeners had for The Wild Swans, this new band were invited to record a session for the John Peel Show before they had signed any deal. This session, in October 1982, created a bit of a stir and a bidding war for the band, largely on the basis of one of the songs – The First Picture Of You – that had been aired during the session.

In due course, the band would sign to Arista Records for what was allegedly a decent sum of money. The first single, released in July 1983, was no surprise.

mp3 : The Lotus Eaters – The First Picture Of You (12″ version)

It’s a wonderfully, dreamy, laid back piece of pop music that climbed all the way to #15 in the singles charts, spending three months in the chart. The b-sides were decent too…

mp3 : The Lotus Eaters – The Lotus Eaters
mp3 : The Lotus Eaters – Stranger So Far (Peel Session)

Big things were expected of the band. But to everyone’s disappointment, the follow-up single was a flop, failing to hit the Top 40.

mp3 : The Lotus Eaters – You Don’t Need Someone New

The next four months were spent working on the debut LP with a variety of producers and in April 1984 what was regarded as the strongest new song was released as the band’s third single:-

mp3 : The Lotus Eaters – Set Me Apart

It sold even more poorly than the sophomore effort. All the hopes and aspirations from the time leading up to the release of the single were gone. Record company interest totally diminished almost overnight and the release of the debut LP, No Sense of Sin, was greeted with huge indifference thanks to a non-existent marketing/media campaign.

Twelve months later it was all over.

In the immediate aftermath, Jem Kelly reformed The Wild Swans while Peter Coyle recorded some solo material before immersing himself in the dance scene of the late 80s/early 90s.

And now to the postscript.

In 2001 there was a reunion of The Lotus Eaters with a new album on a Japanese-owned indie label along with some live shows. Nothing much happened for another eight years as the two protagonists did their own things in academia but in July 2009, there was seemingly a one-off concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, with a string quartet, to play the songs from No Sense of Sin. The interest in and reaction to that show led to a another album of new songs in 2010 along with promotional tours of the UK and Japan. There’s been various rumours of them working together more recently but nothing concrete has emerged.

All I have in the collection is the debut single. It’s on vinyl and its more than a third of a century old. That’s my excuse for the occasional hiss, pop, crackle and jump you might hear.

Oh and here’s a copy of the Peel Session version that caused such a stir:-

mp3 : The Lotus Eaters – The First Picture Of You (Peel Session)

It is VERY Wild Swans.  Easy to see why so many record company folk were keen.



It was something of a strange decision not to follow-up ‘Nigel’ with any other track from the LP Drums and Wires. This was partly down to XTC, like many of their peers, wanting to minimise the number of singles associated with any album, but it was also linked to something mentioned in a previous post, namely that loads of new material was being written at a fantastically quick rate thanks in part to the band now having, in effect, two principal songwriters.

This led to the a non-album single being the next UK release in March 1980.

mp3 : XTC – Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down

Despite being a decent enough track, albeit at more than four minutes in length a bit of an epic as far as the singles went, this latest effort failed to trouble the charts, thus becoming the fifth successive Andy Partridge composed 45 to suffer such a fate. It’s another fine and clever lyric in which the protagonist is offering sage advice to a female of the species predicting that while her looks, wit and charm have her currently floating in exalted circles within a new and upmarket social gathering, there will inevitably come a time when she will have to rely on old friends. The tune though is a wee bit clunky and that made it less than ideal for radio play and thus difficult to pick up on.

In contrast, the single came with a quality b-side:-

mp3 : XTC – Ten Feet Tall

The original version of Ten Feet Tall was, and still is, one of the best tracks on Drums and Wires. It was the first mid-tempo love song that the band had recorded and was a pointer to where they could go in the future once the fad for new-wave had worn off (as it was already threatening to do).

The label thought that a re-recorded version with more electric rather than acoustic guitars would work as a single, primarily for an American market. And so the band re-cut the song and it was released in the USA where it sunk without trace but made available for UK fans as the b-side. If more had been made of the fact that it was a new recording – perhaps indeed going as far as making it a double-A side with the likelihood of airplay – then maybe it wouldn’t have been a flop.

I say this with a bit of conviction in that I didn’t buy Wait Till Your Boat Comes Down at the immediate time of release – I had seen copies in the shop but was, at a time when value had to be sought from any purchases, shied away as the b-side looked like it was the album version. Nothing on the sleeve indicated otherwise unless you looked closely a the name of the producer in small print. A wasted opportunity but then again, a bargain bin copy at half-price just a few weeks later was a personal consolation of sorts.



Sourced (in edited style) from wiki

Del Amitri formed in Glasgow in 1983.

The band was formed with the original line-up of Justin Currie (bass and vocals), Iain Harvie (lead guitar), Bryan Tolland (guitar) and Paul Tyagi (drums). Currie and Harvie were the only members of the band to remain present throughout its history. They were also the main songwriters of the group.

After becoming popular on the local music scene and having demo material played on DJ John Peel’s show on BBC Radio 1, the band broke through in 1984 when they were signed by Chrysalis Records, who released their eponymous début album in 1985. The band also appeared on the front cover of Melody Maker and supported The Smiths on tour. Despite this exposure, neither the album nor its singles were a success.

The band was dropped by Chrysalis but continued working together, touring the US in 1986 on a tour that was financed partly by themselves and partly by their small but enthusiastic fan base. The time they spent working on new material proved worthwhile, as they were eventually signed again in 1987, this time by A&M Records.

During the recording of the new album, which eventually came to be released as Waking Hours in 1989, the band’s line-up was further augmented by the arrival of keyboard player Andy Alston, who outside of Currie and Harvie has proven to be the longest-serving member of the band’s line-up.

Waking Hours proved to be Del Amitri’s breakthrough, reaching No.6 in the UK Albums Chart and also providing them with their biggest ever single chart hit at home when the song “Nothing Ever Happens”, rose to No 11 in the corresponding singles listing. They also gained some mainstream exposure abroad for the first time, as Waking Hours was a success in several territories with the single “Kiss This Thing Goodbye” flirting with the lower reaches of the US Billboard Hot 100’s Top 40. In between Waking Hours and their next album, the band released the single “Spit In the Rain” which, although it did not chart in the US, reached No. 21 in the UK.

The follow-up album Change Everything was released in 1992 and became the band’s biggest chart success, reaching No. 2 in the UK. The single “Always the Last to Know” was another Top 20 UK hit, peaking at No. 13, and again provided them with an entry into Top 40 in the US.

Next up was Twisted, released in 1995 and which peaked at No. 3 in the UK. The lead single “Roll to Me” was only a moderate hit in the UK where it reached No. 22 but did reach the Top 10 in the US charts, a noteworthy achievement during an era when British acts were finding success in the US difficult.

1997 saw the release of Some Other Sucker’s Parade, which was another Top 10 hit in the UK, reaching No. 6, but the band found it harder to consolidate on their previous successes in the US, however, and lost out on more airplay at home when their record company took the decision to withdraw the album’s planned third single “Medicine” in September 1997, putting out a false press story that the lyrics could be interpreted as a critique of the then recently deceased Diana, Princess of Wales.

Five years passed before Del Amitri released another album. In 1998, however, they recorded the official anthem for the Scottish World Cup squad, “Don’t Come Home Too Soon”. It reached No. 15 on the charts, becoming their third biggest UK hit and their last Top 20 entry to date. They also released their best of album, Hatful of Rain: The Best of Del Amitri, which was a No. 5 success in the UK Albums Chart and was accompanied by a new track, “Cry to Be Found”, which reached No. 40. The best of album had been released by Mercury, who took over the band’s contract after A&M had gone out of business.

The band’s final album to date, Can You Do Me Good?, was released in the spring of 2002, which was backed up with a successful UK tour. Despite their time away from the public eye, both the album, and the single “Just Before You Leave”, reached the Top 40. However, sales were not as high as Mercury had wanted and later in the year, the band was dropped from the label and broke up

Justin Currie then embarked on a solo career over the next decade without too much commercial success. In September 2013 the reunion of Del Amitri was announced with a UK tour undertaken in January 2014 including a hometown gig in front of 8,000 fand that was later released as the live album “Into the Mirror”.

I don’t own any Del Amitri songs other than the flop debut LP (which sounds nothing at all like anything they made afterwards) and some later songs that have come via compilation albums/CDs. My young brother is a bit of a fan though, so this one’s for him:-

mp3 : Del Amitri – Nothing Ever Happens



The record companies really had us over a barrel in the 90s. Not only were CD singles usually retailing for £3-£5 a pop, but they were also issued in multi-formats meaning that fans/completists sometimes had to spend almost as much on one single as they would for the LP that it came from.

Sometimes I was foolish enough to buy the different formats, but quite often I would take my pick of one or the other. As I did back in 1996 when I bought something by Manic Street Preachers for the first time. Yup….confession time….my first purchase was the really big breakthrough hit.

It wasn’t that I had any dislike for the Manics in their early years, but they were very much a band that I could take or leave in equal measures. I was never moved enough by any of their first three albums or near twenty singles to spend my hard-earned cash on them – but equally I would never argue in the pub that they weren’t all they were cracked up to be. Like most music fans, I was intrigued by the appearance of band member Richey Edwards, and assumed the incident would be the end of the group.

But this, the ‘comeback’ single in April 1996 was something that I found pretty astonishing on first listen, which must have been on the radio in the morning before going to work. I recall chatting to a colleague later on in the day who I knew was a big Manics fan to tell him how impressed I was with it all, and I recall him raving down the phone that if someone like me ‘had seen the light’, then at long last the rest of the world was going to come to realise that the Welsh combo were indeed the best band that walked the planet.


Anyways, I did go out that same day to buy the single and I was faced with the dilemma of paying £3.99 for the one in the silver sleeve with four different songs on it, or the one with the gold sleeve that had an orchestral version of the single plus a track mixed by The Chemical Brothers.

I went for the latter – something I don’t regret as I’m still quite fond of everything, and I still reckon the single is the best thing the band ever did:-

mp3 : Manic Street Preachers – A Design For Life
mp3 : Manic Street Preachers – A Design For Life (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Version)
mp3 : Manic Street Preachers – A Design For Life (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Instrumental Version)
mp3 : Manic Street Preachers – Faster (Vocal Mix – remixed by The Chemical Brothers)



My mission in life, via this blog at least, is to share with you those songs and bands that have stood the test of time – the sort of stuff that doesn’t lead to ridicule. But I reckon, every now and again, its worth throwing out the musical equivalent of the curve ball – something that is rather unexpected in comparison to what you normally read about and listen to in here.

So here’s probably the best bit of bass slapping by anyone who ever appeared in Eastenders.

mp3 : Spandau Ballet – Paint Me Down (12″ mix)

This was the follow-up to Chant No.1 and was expected to maintain the sort of momentum that comes from having a radio-friendly single that goes Top 3 and which dominated the airwaves in the summer of 1981. But Paint Me Down didn’t do the business, stalling at #30, and as such indirectly led to the band taking the MOR journey to glory and its accompanying fame and fortune.




Hello there. this is Nik from the infamous occasional music blog Critter Jams. I’m sure you’ve heard of it! What? No? Well then. I was wondering if you were looking for some guest ICAs, cuz I love the idea. I see no one’s covered Yellow Magic Orchestra yet!

Are Yellow Magic Orchestra the greatest supergroup of all time? I guess it depends how you define “supergroup” and what makes one great, but I personally have difficulty thinking of another group where the members had such massive careers inside and out. I can think of great supergroups that didn’t have much else going on (ELP fit here, as good as The Nice and early King Crimson were), or supergroups that were loaded with talent but wound up rather lousy (Asia). And then you’ve got the ones that were successful, but didn’t last beyond an album or two – Derek and the Dominoes, U.K., uh…Oysterhead. You know the ones. YMO, on the other hand, they got it all. If you get hooked, welcome to your new obsession. The main issue I have with the label of YMO as the “Japanese Kraftwerk” is that Kraftwerk have gotten by on their facelessness – you don’t ever think of those guys outside of the group. How often do you see a solo album by a member of Kraftwerk? Pretty much never, that’s when – Karl Bartos thus far leads the pack with 2. Meanwhile, Yukihiro Takahashi has released 26 solo albums from 1978 to now, and he’s actually the group’s least productive member (this, of course, does not count the half-dozen bands he’s been in since then).

Doing an ICA of YMO would be fun, but it’s kind of a useless exercise. Because let’s face it, you can’t do an honest compilation of the band that didn’t include “Firecracker”, “La Femme Chinoise”, “Behind the Mask”, “Technopolis”, “Cue”, “Pure Jam”, and “Kimi Ni Mune Kyun”…which gives you room for what, three more? Too many key tracks to make it interesting, and too many changes in style to make something cohesive. So I thought I’d mix things up and come up with an Imaginary YMO-related Compilation, comprising of tracks recorded while YMO was active, but were not released under that name. An alternate history of Yellow Magic Orchestra, if you will.

One rule – all the tracks below were recorded between 1978 and 1983, the years in which YMO was active. Not only because this ensures they have the YMO sound, but also because there’s no way I could do it otherwise. Just too much good stuff to consider, and even still, it would be easy to make a second, third, even fourth volume, especially if you branch into the many, many records that these guys got production/songwriting/performer credits on.

Anyway, I decided to stick the more pop-oriented stuff on the first side, then move to more experimental material as it goes on. Here we go….again

Side A:

Yukihiro Takahashi – It’s Gonna Work Out (What, Me Worry?, 1982) (4:00)

Though Sakamoto wound up becoming YMO’s most internationally known member, for a while Takahashi was the band’s breakout star. His knack for pop music always kept the band grounded, and it’s no surprise that his concurrent solo work sounds closest to the band’s style. What, Me Worry?, recorded during YMO’s year off in ’82, seems like a grab for international stardom, with English lyrics written by Peter Barakan (who also wrote for YMO), and guest appearances by Bill Nelson and Zaine Griff. It’s a solid album, but it doesn’t get better than “It’s Gonna Work Out”, a brisk and immediately catchy technopop tune that’s very nearly derailed by Barakan/Takahashi’s remarkably straightforward and conversational lyrics (Opening lines: I don’t want anything to do with anything that isn’t going to make the world a better place to live in, you know what I mean? There just isn’t enough time for that.”)

Haruomi Hosono – L.D.K. (Philharmony, 1982)

Hosono is one of my very favorite musicians, and it’s mostly because of stuff like this – even when he tries to do a more or less straight-forward technopop song, it still winds up sounding surreal and strange. “L.D.K.” is a fun little tune about starving yourself, featuring some real “did I just hear that?” lyrics like “my love is a tearjerker/like moldy junk food”. HH’s synth game was far ahead of the pack back then – check out the crazy instrumental bits after the chorus.

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Venezia (Left Handed Dream, 1981)

Similar to Takahashi, Sakamoto also attempted an international breakout album, a year earlier in fact. Left Handed Dream features contributions from Adrian Belew and Robin Scott, along with the other members of YMO of course. While a good half of the album is experimental and strange (unlike most of RS’s early 80’s work, which is all experimental and strange), the poppier tunes really do stand out, particularly this one, which is one of those songs that can burrow itself in your head for years. You rarely get to hear Sakamoto sing but he handles the vocals quite nicely on this one.

Yukihiro Takahashi – Drip Dry Eyes (Neuromantic, 1981)

This song features the best opening line I can think of at the moment: “Feels like I’ve been through a washing machine”. These sorts of classy ballads are where YT really makes his bread; maybe he’s not the greatest singer in the world but he’s got his Bryan Ferry imitation down pat. This is most likely Takahashi’s most covered song, and still a regular part of his live set.

Haruomi Hosono – Sports Men (Philharmony, 1982)

This may be the most by-the-book pop song Hosono ever did, and it’s a great one. So great that it often crept into YT’s sets, which strikes me as a bit odd, though this always struck me as Hosono imitating Takahashi’s style. You could be fooled – the only real giveaway (besides the singing voice) is the bizarre lyrics (“Don’t put me in skates/ping-pong I’m no great shakes”). Fun fact: this song was later brilliantly covered by Kimonos, a duo featuring Leo Imai, who would soon after co-front METAFIVE with Takahashi. Japan’s music scene is like that sometimes…

Yukihiro Takahashi – Something in the Air (Neuromantic, 1981)

Ever hear a song that you knew was going to be incredible after the first few seconds? That’s this one; another from his technopop crooner phase, and frankly one that probably didn’t need to be on this compilation, but it’s such a classic that I can’t leave it off. Still sounds like it’s from the future – never mind what it would’ve sounded like 36 years ago.

Side B:

Haruomi Hosono – Asatoya Yunta (Paraiso, 1978)

And now we get to the weird stuff. Those who know Hosono’s career know that he spent most of the 70’s making rather straightforward tropical folk music, which gradually got stranger and stranger. By the time of Paraiso, YMO had been fully assembled (it’s sometimes called the unofficial first YMO album; Sakamoto plays synths all over this thing, and Takahashi appears on drums for one song), though this is still Hosono’s rather left-of-center vision. “Asatoya Yunta” is a cover of a traditional Okinawan folk song, but Hosono’s take makes it sound both like something from a carnival and the strangest thing on the planet; the phrasing and pitching on this tune make it seem as though the vocals are backmasked, though a close listen reveals this isn’t the case. I’m not sure how to describe this one – it puts me in a weird place.

Ryuichi Sakamoto – War Head (B-side, 1980)

Now here’s a fascinating track; it’s technopop and glam rock all at once, with Bowie-like spoken word vocals and an excellent vocodered chorus. Sounds like nothing else Sakamoto ever did, or really anything else period. Amazing that it was never actually on an album – this was the B-side to “Riot in Lagos”, though a decade later it made the sort-of comp album The Arrangement, which was a reimagining of Left Handed Dream (but with English lyrics). One can only imagine what would’ve happened had Sakamoto persued this direction…

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Riot in Lagos (B-2 Unit, 1980)

And now for the A-side. What the heck year was this again? You’d never know it from this track, which all the way back in 1980 seems to predict both IDM and the future of techno, with its off-kilter rhythm and slinking melody. Granted I think all of YMO was ahead of the pack here (check out “Pure Jam”, which feels like its easily a decade ahead of its time), but this track in particular feels like an important missing link. Its parent album, B-2 Unit, is full of stuff like that – a truly experimental, one-of-a-kind effort, though sadly just a brief phase in Sakamoto’s career.

Haruomi Hosono – Shimendoka (Paraiso, 1978)

Another one from Paraiso. This one seems particularly emblematic of what Hosono does – write a nice tune and then corrupt it in some way. Not in an overt, obvious way, but rather do something that makes the whole thing sound off. In this case there’s two things – Hosono’s voice, which as always, just seems wrong for this kind of song, and those plinking synth tones, which sound like someone who doesn’t belong on the recording playing along, unaware. Needless to say, absolutely brilliant.

Akiko Yano – Rose Garden (Tadaima, 1981)

Now it’s time to get into the YMO family a little bit. An ICA could easily be made of this stuff alone, so I figured I’d put a taste on here. Akiko Yano is a jazz pianist who was married to Sakamoto for a long time, who put out a number of absolutely gorgeous records on her own. During YMO’s run she often palled around with the guys, often performing live with them, and one of her songs (“Rocket Factory”) became a YMO live sample. It helped that she can actually sing, whereas the guys in YMO really couldn’t. For a few records YMO functioned as Yano’s backing band, and the influence can really be felt here, with this Sakamoto-produced disc that came right as he was entering his most experimental phase. The whole disc is great, but this tune in particular stands out; another one that feels way ahead of its time, featuring the sort of complex electronic rhythm you just didn’t hear in the early 80’s. Not to mention those vocal effects, which still feel like they’re from another planet.

Logic System – Logic (Logic, 1981)

Logic System is the solo project of Hideki Matsutake, the sequencer wizard who often carried the title of YMO’s “fourth member” (as he appears on nearly all their recordings). Logic is one of those great unheralded electronic albums, veering somewhere between the technopop of YMO and the trippy spacejams of guys like Klaus Schulze. While none of the members of YMO actually appear here, it is of interest to anyone who’s a fan, as you’ll recognize a lot of the same sounds. The title track isn’t exactly emblematic of the album as a whole, but it’s the most catchy and fun thing on it, reminiscent of the goofier stuff on Xoo Multiplies. Seems like the perfect track to cap things off; fascinating but also a bit silly, much like YMO was throughout their entire career.


JC adds……

To me, this is the brilliance of the ICA series, and in particular, the guest postings.  Like those, for example, from George (Captain Beefheart) from Strangeways (Tilly and The Wall), from JTFL (Spoon) and from Charity Chic (Dwight Yoakim), this is a posting on a band/singer that I knew nothing at all about other than the name and in this instance that loads of high-profile Western musicians have been fans of YMO for decades.

Many thanks to Nik for such an enthusiatic and brilliantly informative, as well as enjoyable ICA.  Cheers.