IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (2)

I’ve often mentioned how picking up a single or album and looking at the release date has an ability to make me feel old and/or provided a jolt to the system when you realise just how long ago it was.  I did it again yesterday, and today’s offering is perhaps the ultimate for that particular sensation.

PJ Harvey’s debut single was released in October 1991.  That’s 26 years ago.  That’s the best part of half of my lifetime. And yet I still think of her as a relatively new kid on the rock’n’roll block………..

It’s worth recalling that Dress, along with all the other songs that made up the first two albums, were the work of an acknowledged trio that worked under the name of their enigmatic yet charismatic frontwoman.  Rob Ellis on drums and Ian Olliver on bass were the players on the debut single , although the bassist would soon be replaced by Stephen Vaughan in advance of the recording of the sophomore single and debut album. There was also a double bass contribution to Dress from Ben Groenevelt.

The years haven’t diminished the impact of Dress as a calling card by an unknown band.  It’s big, bold, booming, boisterous and bloody brilliant. It’s memorable, mesmerizing and magnificent.  It’s delightfully danceable.  It’s phenomenal.

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Dress

I have to hold my hands up and admit that I missed out on its release.  My first exposure to PJ Harvey came, as so many things did in those days, via Jacques the Kipper when he included Sheela-Na-Gig on one of his regular compilation tapes, a tune that made such an impression on me that I bought the CD album the very next day and that would have been the first time I ever heard Dress which stood out even among an album of astounding songs.

The version of Dress on the album is the same as that released as a 45 a few months earlier – that much can be deduced from the credit given to Ian Olliver.  It was released on CD and in 12” format with the latter now fetching around £20 on the second-hand market.  Even the CD can attract the best part of £10.

The two tracks on the b-side were Water and Dry; the former would appear on the debut LP released in March 1992 while the latter, despite being the title of said debut LP, would turn up on the follow-up Rid Of Me the following year after which the trio would split up and PJ Harvey would become a solo project, albeit Rob Ellis would remain an essential part of the new set-up.  The credits on the sleeve of Dress indicate that its b-sides were recorded and produced by PJ Harvey and so are different versions to those that would appear on the albums.  So I’m guessing they were demo versions and I’ve only been able to source one of them:-

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Water

But is Dress the finest 45 from PJ Harvey?

IMHO…………..Yes.

JC

PS : If I’ve got it wrong about the b-sides, then I apologise. If someone out there does have rips of the actual b-sides than I’d happilly receive copies and give you credit right below here….

THE PASSING OF TIME SCARES ME…..

Yesterday I mentioned, cheekily, that Mrs Villain was now just a year away from her bus pass. I suppose I should have provided a translation for those of you who have no reliance on public transport nor any knowledge of rules/regulations here in the UK, but you qualify for free travel on our buses when you reach 60 years of age.

Rachel (to give Mrs V her proper name) is a very sprightly and active person. She also has retained a degree of youth in terms of looks and could easily pass for a decade or more younger. But it does feel weird that she is close to hitting a number that, when I was growing up, seemed to mean you likely didn’t have that long left to live. It didn’t help that my childhood neighbourhood was an area that has historically been a statistical time bomb for early deaths in Glasgow that that no academic study has ever really gotten to the bottom of. My family does seem to be defying the stats – dad is 82 in a few days time and mum is the youngest 77-year old on the planet in terms of her wonderful attitude to life. But we all, and I include myself in this, increasingly suffer from the aches and pains of bodies whose halcyon days have come and gone.

Aside from thinking about people’s ages, the other thing that makes me realise that time is marching on at a scary rate is looking at the year a song came out and refusing to believe what the number adds up to. Like this tremendous Top 30 tune:-

mp3 : Sugar – If I Can’t Change Your Mind

It remains the only time that Bob Mould has ever cracked the singles charts here in the UK, and he did it in 1993. The year I became a 30-something and thought I was middle-aged. I’m in total denial about what I am now. I’m certainly not thinking I’m old.

I bought this on CD and you’ll see that the sleeve calls it a limited edition. Not that limited as you can still get it on Discogs for 39p; having said that, the non-limited version is going for 1p. Nobody seems interested in CDs nowadays, so expect them to become hip again in 2029. Here’s tracks 2,3 and 4.

mp3 : Sugar – The Slim (BBC)
mp3 : Sugar – If I Can’t Change Your Mind (BBC)
mp3 : Sugar – Where Diamonds Are Haloes

The BBC tracks were recorded for a session for the Mark Goodier Show that was broadcast on 24 August 1992. Yup, more than quarter-of-a-century ago.

JC

FIVE FANTASTIC HOURS

There are times when I know that I’m an incredibly lucky fella.  Last Saturday was one such occasion.

I wangled my way into helping out at the latest Strangeways event and ended up doing the 9pm-10pm slot where the hope is you gradually build up the atmosphere for the later part of the evening. What I didn’t know until I got there was that my set would be followed immediately by the main guest DJ for the night , a bona-fide indie-pop star in the shape of Gavin Dunbar, bass player with Camera Obscura and drummer in the live rendition of Ette.  Happy to report that there were folk dancing by the time Gavin took over but he took it to a whole new level which was then maintained all the way through to the end thanks to Hugh and Robert, who make the whole thing look effortless.

Here’s the full playlist for the evening…..the change in colours is where someone took over….first hour was Carlo, then myself…and as indicated Gavin did 10-11 before handing over to the mainstays for the final two hours.

The First Big Weekend – Arab Strap
My Favourite Wet Wednesday Afternoon – The Siddeleys
Push – The Cure
Like A Daydream – Ride
Little Baby Nothing – Manic Street Preachers
Sixty Eight Guns – The Alarm
The Eton Rifles – The Jam
Her Jazz – Huggy Bear
Atta Girl – Heavenly
Don’t Talk, Just Kiss – The Wedding Present
Really Stupid – The Primitives
Thorn – MBV
Surfin’ USA – The Jesus & Mary Chain
Orange Appled – Cocteau Twins
Hounds Of Love – Kate Bush
And She Was – Talking Heads
Bring On The Dancing Horses – Echo & The Bunnymen
The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – The Smiths
Theme From S’Express – S’Express
Love Vigilantes – New Order
Picture This – Blondie
Pulling Mussels From The Shell – Squeeze
The Look Of Love – ABC
Reward – The Teardrop Explodes
Give Me Back My Man – B52s
There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis – Kirsty MacColl
(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville – R.E.M.
Bigmouth Strikes Again – The Smiths
Ask Johnny Dee – The Chesterfields
What’s The World – James
Crocodiles – Echo & The Bunnymen
Domino Dancing – Pet Shop Boys
Don’t Go – Yazoo
What! – Soft Cell
The Boy Wonders – Aztec Camera
William, It Was Really Nothing – The Smiths
Atomic – Blondie
Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
Debaser – Pixies
Party Fears Two – Associates
Boys and Girls – Blur
Do You Remember The First Time? – Pulp
Intergalactic – Beastie Boys
Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
Last Nite – The Strokes
Sparky’s Dream – Teenage Fanclub
Blue Monday – New Order
Something For The Weekend – The Divine Comedy
Baggy Trousers – Madness
Tears Of A Clown – The Beat
Gangsters – The Specials
Blue Boy – Orange Juice
Dirty Dream #2 – Belle and Sebastian
Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken – Camera Obscura
He’s On The Phone – Saint Etienne
West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys
Raspberry Beret – Prince
Tainted Love – Soft Cell
Inbetween Days – The Cure
Personal Jesus – Depeche Mode
Young Americans – David Bowie
Pretty In Pink – Psychedelic Furs
Don’t You Want Me? – Human League
Rock Me Amadeus – Falco
Crash – The Primitives
Enola Gay – OMD
Love Plus One – Haircut 100
Last of The Famous International Playboys – Morrissey
Here Comes Your Man – Pixies
Road To Nowhere – Talking Heads
Public Image – Public Image Ltd
A New England – Kirsty MacColl
Getting Away With It – Electronic
The Night – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Sheila Take A Bow – The Smiths
Trash – Suede
Sabotage – Beastie Boys
Just Like Heaven – The Cure
Girl From Mars – Ash
Lust For Life – Iggy Pop
I Am The Resurrection – Stone Roses
I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor – Arctic Monkeys
Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
Cannonball – The Breeders
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths
At The Indie Disco – The Divine Comedy
Nothing To Be Done – The Pastels

I had my set together in advance, but ended up dropping one song so that Gavin would come on as planned bang on 10pm…it was running very slightly behind schedule and besides, I felt that Really Saying Something by Bananarama, which was due to slot inbetween Pet Shop Boys and Yazoo, might have reduced the dancing numbers a bit….the synth-pop just seemed right at the time.

But here’s the full 60 minutes in a continous mix.

mp3 : Various – Enjoy This Trip

 

JC

PS : Happy birthday to Mrs Villain. 52 weeks away from her bus pass……

THE XTC SINGLES (Part 24)

You’ll hopefully remember that two weeks ago I mentioned that a b-side to Grass had later been released as a 45 in its own right.

mp3 : XTC – Dear God

Picking up a few bits’n’bobs from wiki and elsewhere, it would seem that Dear God was intended to be included on Skylarking but was left off as some folk at Virgin Records were concerned that the album was too long and that the song, being one which is critical of religion and christianity, would be too much for certain audiences, principally in America, and feared certain stores may have refused to stock the album. Seemingly, Andy Partridge went along with the idea as he felt it wasn’t quite a strong enough take on the subject matter.

Thus it was on the b-side to Grass; but then a number of DJs, principally across US College stations, began to pick up on the b-side and give it some airing and it began to climb the Billboard rock chart. It was subsequently added to later pressings of Skylarking, replacing the track Mermaid Smiled, and issued as a 45 here in the UK in June 1987, some nine months after its initial appearance as a b-side. It flopped despite being issued in 7″, 12″ and, for the first time for an XTC single, on CD (the latter brought together in one place all the Homo Safari recordings from earlier years)

Worth mentioning too that the first verse and closing line are sung by eight-year-old Jasmine Veillette, the daughter of a friend of Todd Rundgren.

The b-side has already been made available as an album track on Skylarking:-

mp3 : XTC – Big Day

The 12″ had a bonus track:-

mp3 : XTC – Another Satellite

It’s a different version of another song from Skylarking. It was recorded live for a BBC TV show – well liveish, in that the band put down a pre-recorded track with a drum machine and then sang over it.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #89 : ERRORS

Adapted from wiki:-

Errors formed as a bedroom electronic-based project in Glasgow 2004 by members Simon Ward, Greg Paterson and Stephen Livingstone, and were signed by Post-Rock band Mogwai to their Rock Action Records imprint who released a limited run 7″ single “Hans Herman” which sold out quickly.

The band followed up their debut with the ‘How Clean is your Acid House? EP in 2006. Following the release of the EP the band recruited former Multiplies and Dananananaykroyd drummer James Hamilton, who had been performing as a live member of the band, to the band as a full-time member. In summer 2007 they supported UK dance band Underworld on a UK tour.

Their debut album Its Not Something But It Is Like Whatever was released on Rock Action records in June 2008 and the band also toured extensively throughout 2008 and 2009. In 2010 they released their second full-length album Come Down With Me on Rock Action records and spent the Spring and Summer touring extensively throughout the UK and Europe before releasing a remix album titled ‘Celebrity Come Down With Me’, featuring remixes of tracks from their previous album by artists including Gold Panda and Ceephax Acid Crew.

In 2011 Errors were invited performers at the South By Southwest festival in March and in the same month released a limited edition 7-inch picture disc single featuring new tracks ‘Magna Encarta’ and ‘Ganymede’. In April/May 2011 Errors embarked upon a tour of the United States and Canada supporting Mogwai. In December 2011 Errors played their last full show with guitarist and founding member Greg Paterson, supporting Mogwai at Glasgow’s Barrowlands (Paterson would later re-join the band onstage at a secret show in their native Glasgow, the band’s only live date during a year-long hiatus in 2013)

In 2012 the three piece Errors released two albums, Have Some Faith in Magic and an eight track mini-album New Relics which was released on a limited edition VHS cassette, and embarked upon an extensive touring schedule of the UK, Europe and North America.

In 2014 the band played their first shows in Japan, supporting fellow Glaswegians Chvrches and playing the Hostess Club Weekender in Tokyo and began work on their fourth full-length studio album “Lease of Life” which was released on 23 March 2015.

They are a band I’ve seen a few times and while enjoyable, I’ve never been persuaded enough to part with hard cash for product although I doI have a couple of their tracks via compilation albums, including this decent enough take on a New Order song:-

mp3 : Errors – The Village

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #132 : EMILIANA TORRINI

A GUEST POSTING from C

https://sundriedsparrows.blogspot.co.uk/

This is new to me. I‘ve nothing but admiration for anyone who’s ever contributed one of these much-celebrated ICAs. Now I’m delighted and honoured to present one too but, ohh – it’s so hard! Where to begin without tripping breathlessly over my words like an overexcited child? How to edit to just ten tracks? And then there’s the all-important running order!

I so want to do my chosen subject justice, to ‘sell’ her to you if you’re unfamiliar or undecided. I’m sure you know the feeling: when you really like someone, and you just want to share them and for everyone to love them as much as you do. Well, perhaps not everyone, not the masses, not those with indiscriminate tastes, as that might spoil the sense of being in on a special, precious secret. But I want us to share that secret.

I’m flitting – reminding myself of intros, outros. Will it flow? This one? Or that one? Scraps of paper with titles scribbled out, then scribbled back in. Adjectives jotted down, a Thesaurus by my side. I hadn’t realised how tough it is to really write about music rather than just present it and merely say it’s “great”, so hats off to all who do it regularly. How do I get across the effect it has on me, which I hope it will on you? I don’t know, but I’ll try. I trust the songs to do the rest.

So, I first heard Emiliana Torrini about 14 years ago, when a friend passed on a copy of the 1999 album ‘Love In The Time Of Science’ which they’d picked up (in a cheapie bin – sacrilege!) It wasn’t Emiliana’s first album, but neither of us had heard of her before – probably because her previous ones had only come out in her native Iceland. ‘Love In The Time Of Science’ was, however, the first to be released internationally as Emiliana had been signed up by our very own One Little Indian label, home to another Icelandic songstress, Björk.

And certainly when I played it the first time, I thought of Björk . There are similarities, as you might expect, in accent/intonation, plus a kindred playfulness in some songs and a darker, slightly creepy edge in others. Emiliana’s voice is sweeter and warmer, though, and she doesn’t push it to the extent that Björk does. (This sounds weird, but I visualise the way Emiliana sings her notes as being like pegging washing to a line, whereas Björk puts hers in the tumble dryer. Does that make sense?!) The more you listen, the more you hear that difference.

Even if you haven’t heard Emiliana’s name before, it’s very possible that you already know her voice from somewhere – she featured on Thievery Corporation’s ‘The Richest Man In Babylon’ album, collaborated with Steve Mason and Toy, she’s the vocalist on ‘Gollum’s Song’ from ‘Lord Of The Rings: Two Towers’ and several of her songs have been included in TV series such as ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’. And did you know she co-wrote Kylie Minogue’s ‘Slow’? (No, me neither, until I started this…)

But let’s begin at the beginning, with the first song I ever heard…

Side 1

1. To Be Free (from ‘Love In The Time Of Science’, 1999)

“Who is Emiliana Torrini?” I thought as I pressed Play. I couldn’t tell anything from the cover (a close-up of her lovely, freckled face), nor from the name. But the moment this opening track started I was intrigued and hooked. There’s something surreal about it, especially in the delivery of its slightly odd lyrics. Listening to this again nearly 20 years after its release, I’m more aware of the trip-hop rhythms (I’ve also seen it described as ‘progressive house’) yet the song is unconventional and infinitely enduring. A No. 1 in Iceland, it was released as a single in the UK but only reached No. 44.

2. Lifesaver (from ‘Fisherman’s Woman’, 2005)

This isn’t a chronological ICA – I’m going purely for an aesthetically pleasing order! – so I’m fast-forwarding 6 years. The trip-hop/electronic sound has gone and ‘Fisherman’s Woman’ is an album steeped in subtle, acoustic nuance in which Emiliana’s songwriting has been likened to a female Nick Drake.

‘Lifesaver’ is quiet, understated, yet full of atmosphere… the inclusion of the rather eerie sound of a creaking boat is inspired.

3. Tookah (from ‘Tookah’, 2013)

I didn’t know what a ‘tookah’ is either, so I looked it up (it’s not a bird.) Emiliana made this word up to describe the ‘core’ of a person “… before life decorated you like a Christmas tree with all the baggage”. I appreciate what she means (and we all know how heavy those baubles can be, let alone chocolate penguins). This is one of those darker, slightly creepy songs I mentioned; a little unsettling. When she stretches out that word ‘tookah’ she puts me in mind of Siouxsie.

4. Wednesday’s Child (from ‘Love In The Time Of Science’, 1999)

Written by Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears (he also produced this album with Alan Griffiths, who sadly died earlier this year), there’s a hint of soul groove about this track, a bit of a Hammond organ sound going on and some retro “pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa…”s – but then it throws you off with a few lines of spacey synthesized vocal as well. Extra love for including the delightfully descriptive word ‘scatterbrain’.

5. Speed Of Dark (from ‘The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini’, 2017)

Emiliana is currently touring with Belgian duo, the Colorist, and they’ve just released this live album, in which a selection of songs from her back catalogue are given new treatment with orchestral backing. I adore the original version, but my ICA (which comes in imaginary purple vinyl, by the way) is going to end Side 1 with this updated rendition because it’s an epic track to finish on before you flip it over, hopefully leaving you satisfied on the one hand, but looking forward to a mood shift on Side 2. If you like The The’s wonderful ‘Giant’ I think you’ll like this.

Side 2

6. Nothing Brings Me Down (from ‘Fisherman’s Woman’, 2005)

I promised a mood change and Emiliana’s vocal is breathtakingly pure in this languid, seductive song. It’s charged with the heat of a Summer evening and understated sensuality. If you’re male, Emiliana is singing just for you. And if you’re female, then right now you are her, in a flimsy cotton dress and bare feet, lying in a hammock on a wooden porch with your glass of Pinot Grigio, a little tipsy and…. well, there’s something undeniably erotic about the line, “my love for you is ready”

7. When We Dance (from ‘The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini’, 2017)

A completely new track from the Colorist collaboration. It’s enchanting with a lilting chorus, some double-tracked vocals and lush orchestration; my current earworm!

8. Caterpillar (from ‘Tookah’, 2013)

This makes me cry. That’s a good thing. To my ears it’s just exquisite. I love the little bass motif that appears only twice, once in the middle and once at the end, both times just so briefly before it hangs. One of my favourite songs ever (even with tears).

9. Unemployed In Summertime (from ‘Love In The Time Of Science’, 1999)

It’s funny how you can often tell when someone’s smiling when they talk or sing even if you can’t see their face, so I can imagine Emiliana grinning throughout this joyous paean to friendship and those carefree Summers of our youth. It’s playful, feminine and evocative, with references to getting drunk, getting sunburned, waking up with make-up all over your face and doing the sex quiz from your friend’s magazine – we’ve all been there. (Haven’t we?) This could almost be a Saint Etienne song – it’s in the same league of classy, honest pop with unpretentious lyrics.

10. Summerbreeze (from ‘Love In The Time Of Science’, 1999)

Not to be confused with the other Summer Breeze! There is something so timeless about this, something quite traditional. A sweet (but not saccharine) and wistful love song, what better way to end an imaginary compilation album? An imaginary me in an imaginary world wants to sing this to an imaginary someone.

There are so many others I could have chosen, like the immense Bond theme-like ‘Telepathy’, and two personal favourites ‘Sunny Road’ and ‘Autumn Sun’,but sacrifices had to be made! I do hope you enjoyed it nonetheless.

C

JC writes…..This contribution emerged from an e-mail in which C made the observation that there weren’t many female artists among the ICAs and that she was willing to address the situation. I’ve long been an admirer of what C does over at her own place and was thrilled to receive such an offer. The result is one of the best and most interesting ICAs I’ve ever had with the artist in question being completely new to me.