SAME AS IT EVER WAS

One of the reasons I began blogging was to feature some great songs that were often hard to track down thanks to them only ever being released as b-sides on vinyl that was often long deleted.

Today’s offering is an example of one such track – a piece of music by The Go-Betweens that many other bands at the time would have loved to have been able to offer up as a single rather than something that’s almost a throwaway:-

mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Wait Until June

It first appeared in July 1988 as the b-side to the dreamy yet sinister Streets Of Your Town, which was about as close to a UK hit as the band ever got.

This song was once rare and difficult to track down. But, as would become increasingly common, later re-releases would see albums come back to the shelves and racks with bonus material, usually consisting of long-lost b-sides and live recordings from a particular era, and was the case back in 2004 with 16 Lovers Lane. Things have moved on even further with i-tunes, spotify etc. making just about everything in the back catalogue immediately accessible.

So technically, Wait Until June isn’t all that difficult to get a hold of nowadays, but there’s got to be something different about the mp3 being via a needle settling into the groove. Especially when it hits the bit that jumps and skips at the one minute mark (you’ve been warned!!!)

JC

THE XTC SINGLES (Part 20)

One look at the 7″ sleeve (pictured up top) tells me that I’m about to listen to an anti-nuclear song.

And sure enough, the second single to be released off The Big Express proves to be such:-

mp3 : XTC – This World Over

In an era when the protest song was again becoming hugely fashionable, XTC did things in a really understated way in which there was no rabble-rousing or sing-a-long chorus;  instead it’s a melancholy and resigned number that sadly looks back at the aftermath of the bomb dropping on London as a parent tried to explain the madness of it all. It’s very listenable and has dated ok, but I should add it reminds me a bit of later-era The Police.

The 12″ had an extended version of the song and was housed in a sleeve that disguises somewhat the subject nature as the sleeve uses an old-fashioned passenger request button once commonly found on buses.  But the ‘Push Once’ message is very clever and subversive:-

mp3 : XTC – This World Over (full length mix)

The same b-side was on both releases:-

mp3 : XTC – Blue Overall

It’s a bit meh… but I do accept it’s a bit unusual for a song reflecting on a relationship gone wrong.

In an era of an expanded singles chart, this one managed to find itself at #99 for one week before disappearing to the bargain bins.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #85 : EL HOMBRE TRAJEADO

From one of my indie reference books not too long after the turn of the century :-

El Hombre Trajeado in Glasgow in 1996 by vocalist Hubby, Stevie Jones and Stef Sinclair; Ben Jones was added after their debut 45 in the Autumn of ’97 Moonunit Manual. Translating the ‘smart’ name roughly as ‘the man in the suit’, this post rock outfit issued further special edition singles during ’98 before embarking on fully-fledged tours across the ocean with peers Sebodah and The Delgados. Not surprisingly, John Peel was impressed too.

They subsequently released their long awaited debut set entitled Skipaphone on Guided Missile Records. Tracks like Nofa displayed a visual genius through landscapes represented by staccato guitars, inane mumblings and – used to humorous effect – cowbells. Neoprene found its way onto the Glasgow EP which was shared with oyhers including Mogwai, Yummy Fur and The Karelia. Following a few delays, sophomore effort Saccade was released in 2000 on Human Condition.

Wiki, at its page on RM Hubbert, (the above mentioned ‘Hubby’) states:-

El Hombre Trajeado released three albums; Skipafone (Guided Missile Recordings, GUIDE33CD, 1998), Saccade (Human Condition Records, HCCD0031, 2001) and Shlap (Lost Dog Recordings, ARFF004, 2004) before disbanding in 2005. Although the band rarely toured, they supported artists such as Nick Cave, Sebadoh, Tortoise, Mike Watt and The Delgados around the UK. They recorded three radio sessions for John Peel on BBC Radio One between 1998 and 2001.

The band have since reformed and in 2016 played some gigs before releasing their fourth album, Fast Diagonal, on Chemikal Underground Records. Three of its tracks can be enjoyed here.  They are well worth 15 mins of your time.

For today though, I’ll go back to the Glasgow EP from November 1998:-

mp3 : El Hombre Trajeado – Neoprene

JC

 

A RATHER UNUSUAL SLEEVE

The Lightning Seeds released their sophomore album Sense in April 1992. The first single lifted from the LP had been The Life of Riley which, for a pop song of such quality, disappointingly stalled at #28.

The label decided that the follow-up should be the title track of the LP, a song that Ian Broudie had co-written with Terry Hall. Again, it was another 45 tailor-made for radio play and to further boost sales it was decided that the 12″ version should not only contain a wonderfully dreamy remix of the previous single but two very fine cover versions, one of which saw Ian’s new band tackle a song by his old band while the other was a rather gorgeous piano ballad. Oh, and a gimmick was thrown in too, with the sleeve having a special strip that was sensitive to heat and when warmed in any way would reveal the word ‘Sense’ as if by magic. It worked too…although it was useful to remember to remove the actual record from the sleeve in advance so that you didn’t do it any damage.

None of which, however, led to any huge sales and the single stalled at #31 despite, as I mentioned earlier, having four songs of genuine quality:-

mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Sense
mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Flaming Sword
mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Hang On To A Dream
mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – The Life of Riley (remix)

A sunny foursome which seem appropriate for this time of year.

JC

ACTIVE WITH THE ACTIVIST (2)

The second in this occasional series in which Jacques the Kipper and my good self will offer some observations on Billy Bragg‘s LPs.  If you need a reminder, or indeed missed it when it appeared some four months ago, here’s what we said about the debut.

Jacques is going to get things going this time around……

I’ll start by clarifying any misunderstanding from my assessment of the first album. I have been an avid purchaser of and attender at all things Bragg since way back when he was shouty. I love the first album. I am a fan. (Although I am struggling with his new single. Love the politics, not so keen on the tune.)

With that, I move on to album number two in this occasional series, Brewing Up With… First, a HUGE admission. This may be the Bill album that, in its entirety, I’ve listened to least. Possibly surpassed, or underpassed, by Mr Love and Justice in recent times, but that’s about it. JC won’t be happy but I had to look back at what tracks were actually on it. This album harks back to being on the dole with no money and thus buying power. I did buy it at the time – I had after all plenty time to hunt round the many (sigh) record shops to look for it at the cheapest possible price. Truth is though, at that particular time, my friends and neighbours were not in the main listening to this particular pop-folk. Instead we were favouring men and women who banged on metal piping and the like. And Dead or Alive. (No worries though, I was about to see Buba and the Shop Assistants.)

Anyhow, on checking track listing, imagine my surprise to learn how many of my absolute favourite songs reside on this album. I must have listened to these as individual songs hundreds of time over the years and have heard most of them live tens of times. It seems therefore only fair to abandon, for 40 minutes or so, Breakfast Muff’s new release to revisit an album that I didn’t realise I loved so much.

It says here we start with It Says Here. As said above, I’ve heard this so many times that I’m finding it hard to critique. Simple but effective summary of everything that is distasteful about the Press. Prescient too given what was to happen in subsequent years with the exposure of various UK tabloid papers abhorrent practices.

Love Gets Dangerous definitely would not have gone down well with my mates of that time. Bit too conventional singalong pop. Never a favourite of mine either.

The Myth of Trust is a lyrical mini masterpiece though. JC will describe it better than I ever can.

Guitar frenzy From a Vauxhall Velox. It’s kinda over before you even knew it had properly begun. A metaphor for my love life at the time if ever there was one.

Pause. I’m about to say something that many, almost certainly most, of you will disagree with. The Saturday Boy is one of the finest songs ever written. In another Vinyl Villain piece I selected a different Bill tune as a favourite. However, this may well be THE favourite. I’d swap this for all that Bob Dylan or McCartney/Lennon have ever written. Perfect. In every way. That is all.

Then there was the one about Bill’s time in the army. The fact that he’d signed up rather than sign on used to be considered quite controversial by some in a highly political audience. There were a few spats. Oh to be so virtuous as to never have made a mistake, career or otherwise. For the record, this is an anti-war song. Nice guitar thrashing.

St Swithin’s Day soppy stuff. Lovely.

Like Soldiers Do. Nice metaphorical wordplay. Not one I often listen to. And I’d forgotten the Clash style ending.

This Guitar Says Sorry in which Bill hints at the Woody Guthrie obsession that would eventually surface.

Somewhere between the Clash and the Jam, Strange Things Happen.

As they say in that Friends thing that none of us have ever seen – this is the one about Adam and Steve. A Lover Sings is the anthem that Bill didn’t know he’d written. Still a live favourite and one we’ve all sung along to. What a fantastic way to end.

Okay, so that’s my conventional take on Brewing Up With… An album I didn’t remember I liked so much. Now, like you, I’m about to read what JC said. I’m sure he’s summarised things more eloquently and informatively. And there’s bound to be a moment (or three) where I think I should have said that…

(Addendum – there was.)

JC adds……………

Twelve months after the success of the debut album, it was time for Billy Bragg to test the waters with the follow-up. In some ways it was the same as before with left-wing politics mixed in with some incredibly personal observations on love and romance. But in other ways it was different as this record was more than just Billy thanks to some trumpet playing from Dave Woodhead and some keyboards from Kenny Craddock.

It wasn’t just the fact that he’d been getting good press that had raised his profile – the entire first half of 1984 was spent on the road most often as support for high-profile and chart acts. These included The Style Council on their first ever UK tour, and notwithstanding my brief glimpse in Edinburgh the previous August, that March 1984 gig at the Glasgow Apollo would have been the first time I saw and heard Billy Bragg in the live setting. There was also an increasing number of benefit gigs for a number of important causes that saw him on bills with the likes of The Smiths and The Redskins.

The second album was recorded in July 1984.  In the time between its completion but before its release, Billy would undertake his first tour of America as support to Echo & The Bunnymen, evidence again that he was having an impact on some of the most important and hip musicians of the era.  He, however, was determined to do things his way and not to fall for the trappings that often come with being a success in the music industry and where others sought six and drugs to accompany their rock’n’roll, our hero launched into even more benefit gigs, often to support the increasingly bitter Miners’ Strike.  These events saw him perform alongside some very fine exponents of folk and traditional music, and would go onto have a huge impact on his own songwriting and his stage manner.

Brewing Up With Billy Bragg was released in October 1984.  It contained many songs that had been written around the same time as those on Life’s A Riot but they benefit from a more confident sounding singer, a lot of which can be put down to how often and how well the songs had, literally, been road tested.

That he was seen increasingly as a political activist and agitator made it a sound and sensible decision to open the new album with one of his most obvious rabble-rousing songs.

mp3 : Billy Bragg – It Says Here

A scathing attack on the tabloid and gutter press that still resonates strongly today. It was however, one of only three outright political songs  with the other two were about life in the armed forces and the impact of the Falklands War.  The remaining eight songs on this new record were love songs; and were some of the best love songs that my then 21-year old ears had ever had the pleasure of listening to.

One of the songs really resonated with me.  And I’m sure it did similarly with any bloke who listened to it.

Everyone at some point during their school days suffered pain and misery with the opposite sex.  It was part of growing up.  Even if you were lucky enough to have the person you were besotted with pay you some attention, it was destined to end in tears and it was only years later that you realised you just hadn’t been grown-up or mature enough to really deal with it all.  But until now, nobody had ever really captured it so perfectly in words and music:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – The Saturday Boy

Even if he’d have quit the music industry there and then, Billy Bragg would have left a legacy that we would still be talking about and praising to the high heavens thanks to the 18 songs on the first two LPs, but in particular The Saturday Boy with its story of a love that grew in double-history and its tune that incorporated the coolest trumpet solo since the days of Louis Armstrong .

The album proved also that love songs can be played at the speed and with the energy of punk:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – Strange Things Happen

And Billy demonstrated that old punks can write the most stunning of break-up songs while owning up to being, literally, a wanker:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – St Swithin’s Day

I really could very happily put all 11 songs up with this posting and make a case as to why they are essential listening for one reason or other.  It’s an amazing album that has more than stood the test of time – but what I do recall from 1984 were reviews that suggested Billy should stop with the love songs as he didn’t have the voice or technical ability to really do them justice.  Other writers said they admired his personal stuff but given there was a need for a highly motivated and talented political songwriter to fill a huge void then they’d rather he concentrated on the songs he that went down best at the benefit gigs for the miners, students or, CND or got the loudest cheers when he entertained tens of thousands who marched in protest at the Thatcher government’s proposal to abolish the democratically elected Greater London Council for the crime of it being a different political hue than that of Westminster.

Some even asked why, at a time of the most bitter industrial and class dispute in living memory, a song that Billy Bragg was performing to great ovations at the benefit gigs had been left off Brewing Up With.  This was the beginning of a hint at a backlash among some music writers, particularly on the hard-left, but events of 1985 and beyond would change all that.  That however, is for the next time round….

JC

PS : Today marks the beginning of my annual trip to Westport in County Mayo, Ireland.  If I’ve messed anything up in this or the next few days worth of postings then please let me know in the comments and I’ll rectify things on my return.  Just thinking that I’ve uses Billy’s songs over the years to help me through some really tough and emotional times……

DOES ANYBODY OUT THERE NOT LIKE THIS SONG?

“Jarvis the lounge suited Romeo reminisces about his first love to whom he is now a distant memory. The thing about this song, when you strip away the melody and the soaring chorus, is that it is one of Pulp’s more powerful moments; urgent, yearning and ferocious but yet fragile, like it would fall apart if you nudged it too hard.”

I’m really proud that such a description of Do You Remember The First Time? appeared previously on the pages of T(n)VV. It was back in August 2015 when a Pulp ICA was lovingly stitched together by Tim Badger who is one-third of the ridiculously talented team involved everyday over at WYRCRA. One of that blog’s other writers – KC – also recently referenced the song in a positive fashion. I’m not sure if SWC has publicly given his approval to the tune but given that he has demonstrated such fine taste over the years it would be a major shock of he was to give a thumbs-down to this #33 hit from March 1995.

mp3 : Pulp – Do You Remember The First Time?

It was the, coincidentally, the single that enabled Pulp to crack the Top 40 for the first time and it came at the fourteenth time of asking. Every one of their singles afterwards – and there were eleven of them – charted in the Top 30, including five successive Top 10 singles when they were at the height of their popularity. I reckon it would make for a good pub argument as to which few minutes of recorded material actually made for Jarvis & co’s finest ever achievement – you only need to refer back here to said ICA to see the extent of some of the songs that would qualify for consideration.

I’d like to make the case for First Time, although it is hard to add much to the succinct summary offered by Tim. It is a song in which the memorable chorus is matched by an equally memorable and infectiously danceable tune. It has that rare quality of a tune that seems to be fading out on itself just at the right point in time only for it to  come back for once last hurrah on the back of Jarvis shouting ‘hey’.

It’s the triumph of a band who, having more than paid their dues with the flop singles and suffered at the hands of a music press that repeatedly said they’d never amount to anything, showing that they in fact held all the aces and were now here not only to clean out the banker but every single player sitting at the poker table.

Once heard, never forgotten. It’s as infectiously catchy as any pop tune written for the latest manufactured combo to emerge from a TV talent show; it’s as heavily anthemic as any rock tune from those who can sell out stadiums in minutes; it’s as indie and hip as the next underground sensation that those ‘in the know’ are tipping for stardom.

It puts a smile on my face every single time I hear it.

Oh, and quite possibly, the song most capable than any other that’s ever been written of conjuring an entirely different memory for each and every member of a listening audience.

It’s also worth highlighting that it’s two fairly experimental b-sides are also of a very high standard; the first is Jarvis at his imperiously, creepy and seedy best; it’s an epic part spoken/part sung effort stretching out to the best part of six minutes with a story line that seems to lends itself perfectly to a film noir. It’s also not a million miles removed from the sort of dark stuff Marc Almond was penning at onset of Soft Cell’s career.

mp3 : Pulp – Street Lites

The third track is something that if played to most folk unnanounced would have them struggling to correctly name the band for at least the first 90-odd seconds of what is out-and-out krautrock (or possibly even prog rock) until the familiar voice comes in.  A fair bit more rocky stuff ensues before the conclusion of the tale with its little sting in the final line.

mp3 : Pulp – The Babysitter

JC