30, 20, 10 (Part 3)

The latest installment in the monthly series looking back at the songs which were #1 in the indie charts on the first day of the month 30, 20 and 10 years ago.

Thus far, it has shown decent enough stuff (for the most part) in 87 and 07 while demonstrating that 97 was a year in which the major labels took dross to the top of the indie charts thanks to the exploitation of a loophole around distribution.  R. Kelly and The Rembrandts cannot, by any definition, be classed as ‘indie’.  Third time lucky perhaps?

1 July 1987 : mp3 : The Soup Dragons – Can’t Take No More

The band’s fifth release and their first, and indeed only 45, to take the top spot in this chart. It was probably helped a bit by the fact it was released in three different vinyl formats – 7″, 12″ and a live 12″ , the latter which included a rather appalling version of Purple Haze.  It’s all a long way removed from the baggy/dance stuff that took them into the proper charts a couple of years down the line.

1 July 1997 : mp3 : Blur : On Your Own

Food Records by this time were completely owned by EMI and so Blur were only eligible for the chart via that loophole referred to above.  It’s actually one of my favourite tracks of theirs from that era – it’s since been said by Damon Albarn that it was one of the first tunes he wrote with Gorillaz in mind. It climbed as high as #5 in the UK singles chart, again helped by the fact that it was released on 7″ vinyl and well as 2xCD singles with a number of b-sided that had all been recorded live at John Peel‘s home studio at Peel Acres and broadcast on his show on  8 May 1997. Here’s some bonuses for you to celebrate this series featuring that very set:-

mp3 : Blur – Popscene (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – Song 2 (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – Chinese Bombs (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – Movin’ On (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – M.O.R. (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – On Your Own (live at Peel Acres)

And now, especially for those of you who like the electronic sort of stuff:-

mp3 : Blur – On Your Own (Walter Wall Mix)

It’s a 15 minute remix courtesy of William Orbit.

1 July 2007 : mp3 : Jack Penate – Torn On The Platform

I was working in Canada ten years ago and hearing this makes me glad of that. This is my first exposure to this particular singer/songwriter.

He was on XL Recordings which that same year also released albums by Radiohead and M.I.A. I’m guessing it was the late teens/festival goers who took him to the top of this chart and to #7 in the UK singles chart. Wiki tells me he was popular in 2006/07 but his second LP in 2009 sort of sunk without trace. His fifteen minutes of fame had come and gone.

JC

THE FAREWELL SINGLE IN ALL ITS GUISES

Orange Juice signed off with a flourish with their final single having the very tongue-in-cheek title of Lean Period. It was issued in 7″ and 12″ formats in a brown paper bag (the reverse side of the 7″ version is pictured above), a 12″ format with a printed sleeve and a limited 7″ edition that came with an additional flexi disc with two live tracks.

Despite all this, it staggered around the nether region of the charts but as this was a time when the charts were measured on a Top 100 it meant, in official terms, that Lean Period actually spent three weeks in the official rundown – entering at #78, rising to #77 and then leaping, salmon-like to the giddy-heights of #74 in October 1984.

mp3 : Orange Juice – Lean Period
mp3 : Orange Juice – Bury My Head In My Heads
mp3 : Orange Juice – Lean Period (12″ dub version)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Rip it Up (live)
mp3 : Orange Juice – What Presence?! (live)

The flexi disc recordings are very lo-fi, ripped as they are straight from those fragile and flimsy bits of plastic and so you’ll have to turn the volume right up. There are superior versions available via the Coals to Newcastle boxset but I thought I’d stay true to the blog’s principles.

JC

THE SECOND ONLY MAKES YOU WONDER

Back in July 2015, I wrote about Propaganda and their debut single Dr Mabuse, released in February 1984. The piece made passing reference to the fact that the follow-up single, Duel, didn’t get released until much later largely as a result of ZTT having to concentrate on the phenomena that was Frankie Goes To Hollywood. I always meant to do a follow-up posting but never quite got round to it until now.

Duel is a lovely bit of electro-pop that fitted in just perfectly with so many of the other musicians I was developing a love for in the mid-80s, and in particular Pet Shop Boys. There was also something quite erotic about the vocal delivery of Claudia Brucken, but visually it was the other female in the band – Susanne Freytag – who really did it for me. The band actually were on UK telly quite a bit around the time of Duel, including a couple of live songs that were aired on Whistle Test on BBC 2 during which they proved, as a live act, they could cut it, albeit there were some backing tapes involved. It was also interesting to see Derek Forbes, formerly of Simple Minds, making an important contribution to the live sound.

It turned out to be the band’s best-selling single in the UK reaching #21 in May 1985 but I always felt the group never got the success it really deserved as the media by now were setting out on a ZTT backlash, sick to the back teeth of FGTH, and arguing that their success was down to the production skills of Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson and the hype-skills of Paul Morley rather than any talents the musicians might have.  It seemed to be implied that Propaganda were no different despite the fact that anyone who saw them perform on Whistle Test and indeed The Tube on Channel 4 would know these were bona-fide musicians and singers.

The band toured for much of 1985, promoting debut album A Secret Wish. A remix album was issued just before Christmas but the band were strangely absent throughout 1986 and out of the blue came the news that Claudia Brucken was leaving to pursue a solo career.  It turned out that the group had been taking legal action against ZTT as they were unhappy with the details of the recording contract and the label had counter-acted with action that prevented them going elsewhere.  The new-look group did get a move to Virgin Records in 1988 but without the sort of attention foisted on them when they first burst onto the scene,

The 7″ version of Duel appeared on the debut album:-

mp3 : Propaganda – Duel

The 12″ had an extended version along with an industrial version on its flip side:-

mp3 : Propaganda – Duel (Bittersweet version)
mp3 : Propaganda – Jewel (cut rough mix)

JC

HIPS SWAYING

It was back in the Autumn of 1999 that I first came across Basement Jaxx, thanks to two of their singles being played in all the pubs and clubs I found myself traipsing into on the Costa Del Sol while on a golfing holiday with a crowd of mates.

Now I’ve never been someone who has dismissed dance music as ‘not for me’, but to be honest I don’t have that much of the genre in the collection. But Red Alert and Rendez-Vu had become such an integral part of the week that I set out to track them down on my return to Glasgow.

In the end, I bought the LP Remedy and found that there was an awful lot to like about this lot. Indeed, not long afterwards they played a show at Glasgow Barrowlands and I dragged Mrs Villain along and we had a right good time despite being among the oldest folk in the venue, and that more than anything else convinced me that Felix and Simon were well worth keeping an eye on.

Since then, we’ve gone along to see them on a few more occasions and never been disappointed, although it’s fair to say that the shows at the Barowlands outshone those at the Academy, mainly due to the sound at the latter venue often being problematic. They’re an act that always get me off my seat and onto the dance floor – as can be testified by a good friend of ours who, somewhere, has video footage of myself and Mrs Villain dancing to Red Alert at his 40th Birthday party a number of years ago….the icing on the cake being it was a fancy dress bash and we were there as Austin Powers and Felicity Shagwell.

I’ve also picked up cheap second-hand copies of the two singles that made such an inital impression; I flipped a coin on which to feature – the image at the head of this picture gives away which song won..as do the mp3s:-

mp3 : Basement Jaxx – Rendez-Vu (single edit)
mp3 : Basement Jaxx – Miracles Keep On Playin’ (Red Alert Remix)
mp3 : Basement Jaxx – All U Crazies

Also forgot 2 Many DJs took a Basement Jaxx number and mashed it up with something by The Clash; it was made available on a bonus disc when the Jaxx released a Greatest Hits CD:-

mp3 : Basement Jaxx vs The Clash – Magnificent Romeo

JC

BONUS POST : TEENAGE SUPERSTARS

Two years ago, I was lucky enough, courtesy of Jacques the Kipper, to find myself at the world premiere of Big Gold Dream, a documentary film that told the story of the Scottish post-punk scene. Some of you may even recall my review of the film. It can be found here.

Fast forward two years and once again JtK has come up trumps and gotten his hands on tickets for Teenage Superstars, the second part of the filmmakers’ project. This time round, it focussed on how the scene developed from the end of Postcard Records through more than a decade to when Britpop came into being. It was an era of some of the finest ever music to come out of Scotland; indeed it could be argued that a ten-part series would be required to do full justice to the subject matter and so trying to squeeze it into a 110-minute long feature was a tall ask.

The director Grant McPhee, co-producers Wendy Griffin and Erik Sandeberg and editor Angela Slaven skilfully get round things by focussing in the main on the Glasgow/West of Scotland scene and the music which emerged from the brain of Steven Pastel and from the mining town of Bellshill. As with the earlier film, it proved to be a hugely entertaining watch, filled with great humour from just about everyone who was interviewed but also made room for the occasional piece of pathos from those who were an important part of the story but who were ditched before their bands made it big.

It is also incredibly informative. Who knew that the BMX Bandits based part of the design of the sleeve of their debut single on something they literally ripped off the back of a Sigue Sigue Sputnik 12”? Who had any idea that, of all the individuals to come out of Bellshill at the time, Sean Dickson of the Soup Dragons would be the one who was the most creative and most driven to be a success? Who would have thought Douglas Hart of the Jesus and Mary Chain would prove to be full of gentle, self-deprecating humour about his time working with the Brothers Reid? Who  realised that over the years, there have been 28 different members working alongside mainstay Duglas T Stewart in the afore-mentioned BMX Bandits; or that Eugene Kelly, having brought an end to The Vaselines, was so down on his luck that he worked as a barman on the same street as where I had lived for the first 9 years of my life (it’s a big street, admitedly).

Others would certainly have known this, but it was news to me that the reason AGARR came into use as the catalogue prefix for all the singles on the 53rd and 3rd record label was that it was short for ‘As Good As Ramones Records’

Oh, it wasn’t all surprises – other parts merely confirmed what you thought, including that Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love are three of the most intelligent and lovely blokes ever to venture into pop music.

All the way through this world premiere, I thought of my Seattle-based friend Brian from Linear Track Lives who would have reckoned this just about the perfect night. There were wonderful  shots of modern-day Glasgow dotted throughout the film interspersed with original footage that belonged to one or more of the contributors, including all sorts of stills and videotape of them in locations such as the house belonging to Norman Blake’s grandmother (where many rehearsals took place), busking to a large but bemused crowd outside Marks & Spencer in Glasgow (where, on a good day, Sean, Norman and Duglas would make enough money to buy a baked potato each before going home on the train) and inside the legendary Splash One club where so many of the bands would make their live debuts (and which your humble scribe missed out on as I was working and living 45 miles east in Edinburgh).

Oh and the film was followed by a Q&A before decanting to a nearby venue for live acoustic sets from Eugene and Duglas – although with an 11.30pm start to the gig, there was no way I could stay on without getting overnight accommodation and then up really early to be through at work in Glasgow the following morning.  I’m really sorry that I can’t include a review of that here for you.

It is a documentary for music obsessives, lovingly filmed and edited, getting across that those who were interviewed really enjoyed reminiscing; there weren’t too many scores settled, although it is fair to say that Bobby Gillespie gets a bit of criticism at various times, and it’s interesting to note that neither he nor Jim Reid and William Reid from the Mary Chain took part;  on the other hand, there is regular use of Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth as a talking head, and he make it very clear just how important and influential every single one of these Teenage Superstars turned out to be in the pantheon of modern music towards the end of the 20th Century.

The film will be getting a second screening on 1 July in Edinburgh as part of the international film festival.  After that, who knows?  I’m sure it will air at some point in the future in Glasgow but it really does deserve to be seen much further afield.

Inevitably, I’ve spent the weekend listening again a few of the timeless songs that popped up during the film.

mp3 : The Pastels – Truck Train Tractor
mp3 : BMX Bandits – E102
mp3 : The Vaselines – Molly’s Lips
mp3 : The Soup Dragons – Hang Ten
mp3 : Shop Assistants – Safety Net
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Upside Down

PS : The original review contained a link to Velocity Girl ; however, it, and indeed no Primal Scream songs were actually used in the documentary and so, to avoid any confusion or potential problems to Grant & co., I’ve removed the link.

JC

 

THE XTC SINGLES (Part 16)

Now we get into the section of the series where I will struggle a bit.

You might recall a couple of weeks back my passing comment that I don’t own any XTC albums after English Settlement. This is partly down to the fact that 1983 saw me fall head over heels for so many other great bands and singers that there was no room for XTC anymore; it wasn’t helped by me being bitterly disappointed by the singles that were released to support their next album, and none more so than this from April 83:-

mp3 : XTC – Great Fire

I thought it limp and uninspiring on its release and I haven’t changed my mind since.

It was released on 7″ and 12″ in two different but equally appalling sleeves (as you can see above). The 12″ enabled the continuation of the Homo Safari series that had begun back in 1979 on the flip side of Making Plans For Nigel. Nos 1-3 had been released previously so it begged the question about what happened to No.4 (it turns out this would eventually appear in 1987)

mp3 : XTC – Gold
mp3 : XTC – Frost Circus (No. 5 In The Homo Safari Series)
mp3 : XTC – Procession Towards Learning Land (No. 6 In The Homo Safari Series)

Crap single. A ‘trying too hard to fit in with contemporary pop’ B-side – complete with horns – that seemed so alien to the sound of XTC and two boring instrumentals. File under inessential recordings.

I’m sure at least one of my regulars, to whom I am both grateful and of whom I am always in awe of, will drop by with a wonderfully-worded and persuasive contribution that proves my opinion, in this instance, is wrong!

JC