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’.