THE GUEST SERIES FROM JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER
Today’s Charged Particles ask: What Are You Feeling? Hopefully one of the following:
Affection – Jonathan Richman
Infatuation – The Rapture
Satisfaction – Allen Stone
Today’s Charged Particles ask: What Are You Feeling? Hopefully one of the following:
Affection – Jonathan Richman
Infatuation – The Rapture
Satisfaction – Allen Stone
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?
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….
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.
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
PS : Happy birthday to Mrs Villain. 52 weeks away from her bus pass……
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.
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
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…
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.
6. Nothing Brings 0Me 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.
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.
Returning again to the series looking at some of the bands on C87, a 3xCD box set issued last year by Cherry Red Records, as a 74-track compilation of material that was released across different indie labels in 1987. The only rule for featuring is that the act in question has to be making a debut on the blog.
It was the ever-knowledgable Brian from Linear Track Lives who mentioned Egg Records in a recent comment, and that labels pops up within the booklet comments that accompany Track 23 on CD1:-
“This obscure Scottish band comprised Paul McNeil (guitar/vocals), Brian Kane (guitar), Craig Keaney (bass) and Scott Blain (drums). The Submarines’ sole release was the wistful, Weather Prophets-ish “Grey Skies Blue” (backed by the equally wonderful “I Saw The Children”) on Jeff Barrett’s Head label. Sadly, it disn’t launch a glorious career and the band was no more by 1989. However, Jim Kavanagh’s Egg label did an excellent excavation job, raiding the vaults for “Telegraph Signals : Recorded Artefacts 1986-89”
It is indeed a great lost 45 of the era:-
mp3 : The Submarines – Grey Skies Blue
I’ve managed to track down the b-side and it too is well worth a listen:-
mp3 : The Submarines – I Saw The Children
This got me interested in seeking out that Egg Records compilation; turns out it was issued on CD in 2004. There’s only one second-hand copy kicking around on Discogs and the asking price is £30 plus postage from the Phillipines. I think I’ll pass for now…..
OCD EP #6 – Joy Division
Quite honestly, I hardly feel worthy writing about a band so seminal to the post-punk movement that I generally prefer to sit in silent reverence and awe. Fortunately, thanks to the wonderful New Order/Joy Division Recycle project of several years back it has all been written before (almost certainly more accurately than I would be able to muster). And since, the Recycle site has long since been deleted, I feel no shame in reposting their words.
When it comes to assembling a Joy Division OCD EP, the exercise is really not more difficult than asking, “Was it compiled on Heart and Soul?” Here are four that were not, with notes from the Recycle team.
1. Digital (Genetic Demo)
[This] is a diligent – and FAST – run through for (and produced by) Martin Rushent, part of a series of demos recorded at Eden Studios, London on 4 March 1979 for Genetic Records. Oddly enough the only track from these sessions not to be released on Heart and Soul, I find this take – while pedestrian – as gravitating as the Hannett recording. Slightly cleaned up from a low-generation cassette copy, [this track was] originally sourced in the early 1980s from an unnamed band member.
2. Atrocity Exhibition (Piccadilly Radio session)
[This] track was recorded on 3 June 1979 at Pennine Sound Studios, Oldham for Piccadilly Radio, produced by Stuart James. It is unknown if this session was ever actually broadcast. Four other tracks from this session (These Days, Candidate, The Only Mistake, Chance (Atmosphere)) were released on the Heart and Soul box set, but this track was held off. [Previously] available [only] on noisy bootleg releases, this particular version was sourced from the private collection of a longtime friend of the band, who received it from an unnamed band member in the early 1980s.
3. Transmission (Central Sound Rough Mix)
4. Novelty (Central Sound Rough Mix)
The first true kickass JD track, Transmission and its sibling Novelty were recorded twice by Martin Hannett. The first attempt is captured here in never-before-heard quality. These were recorded in July 1979 at Manchester’s Central Sound Studios, and as the title implies, are presented here as “rough mix” versions. As far as we know these are the only versions that ever made it out from the masters. Two other tracks recorded at the same session, Dead Souls and Something Must Break, are on the Heart And Soul box set – though in lesser fidelity. [These tracks were] sourced from a recently-surfaced (Ed. note: at the time of the Recycle project) extremely low generation “rough mix” tape, from an unnamed band associate or member.
That’s it for bands in my library that warrant the OCD EP treatment, so unless any other readers want to pick up the gauntlet or until the “I’ve got to have everything they ever recorded” bug bites me again, it is time to say goodbye to this series.
JC adds……but what a way to bow out!!! I’m hoping Dave will come back again soon with more ideas.
I’ve been blown away by the rich and varied responses to the request for suggestions for inclusion in this series looking at those who had it and then inexplicably lost it. Thank you so much!
I think I can make five categories up from the suggestions:-
This category is for those I had either already been mulling over or whose suggestion provided a light-bulb above the head moment:-
Paul Heaton/Beautiful South
These are those singers or bands who, on the face of it, should be included but there’s a debate to be had on whether they ever had it:-
Spandau Ballet (I think they did have it, and indeed have already drafted something for future posting)
U2 (who, if they did ever have it, actually managed to find it again and then carelessly lose it a second time)
Midge Ure (solo)
Grace Slick (and thank you Moz for such a brilliant comment that made me laugh out loud!!)
Wet Wet Wet
This was a very interesting suggestion from Mopyfop – I concur with his view that initially they had it with having caught the band live on a number of occasions in 1985 and 1986 thanks to a flatmate, who was from their home town of Clydebank, being very friendly with a number of the band. But outwith the excellent debut single, which has featured before on the blog, there’s nothing other than personal memories to back up the claim that that they ever had it….
On the face of things, should be a stick-on; but I can’t quite find the words to back it up….maybe this should be a Cat 3 and over to postpunkmonk to tell us why.
It’s a brave man or woman who suggests she lost it……I’m not up to that task!
It’s probably true that his recent material is nowhere near the quality of his 70s output, but could it be argued that he’s another who having lost it did manage to find it again for the MTV generation to pick up on him only to get careless in the 21st century? Probably best that someone offers up an ICA before condemning him to this particular series
The C86 version of the band is so different from the Screamadelica era and beyond that there’s a question to be posed as to them taking their time to have it before losing it
New Order –their most recent album was a return to form
The Fall – may have shown signs of losing it on a few occasions over the decades but MES always seems to pull things back from the brink when you least expect it
The Clash – yes, they did lose it with ‘Cut the Crap’ but was it really The Clash without Mick Jones? And besides, they broke up once they realised it was a turkey
Echo & The Bunnymen – totally lost it in late 80s and did the decent thing by breaking-up; the majesty of comeback single Nothing Lasts Forever gives them a lucky free pass
Arcade Fire – only on the basis that I haven’t had time to listen to the new LP yet….the may move to a different category in due course
The Beta Band – agree that they never bettered the debut material, but that’s not to say they lost it. If the series was to look at singers/bands whose debut was their best ever effort, it would never end. See also De La Soul
You’ll therefore see that this is a series with huge potential, but in the same way that the ICAs took off and then endured, it will rely heavily on guest contributions. No words and sounds will ever be rejected!!!
I was surprised nobody mentioned Morrissey, but I reckon he’s another I’d need to disqualify on the basis that, like MES, he has an uncanny ability to release a great album when you least expect it, although he is currently sitting on two strikes right now as a result of his last album being a turkey and his offensive outburst in recent times.
I’ll offer up a controversial one today….and really this one is all down to personal taste and I’m not confident that too many of you will agree with me. It’s a short summary too rather than any well-argued case.
He had it big time with The Jam; held it together initially with The Style Council but lost it towards the end with the prosecution relying on the evidence that was led in 19-part singles series back in 2105/16; and in this one time fan’s opinion, he never ever got it back with his solo career that was just far too dad-rock for my liking (exception being the Wild Wood 45); oh and he was also responsible for the heinous crime of inflicting Ocean Colour Scene upon us.
The Good : The Jam – When You’re Young
The Bad : The Style Council – How She Threw It All Away
The Ugly : Paul Weller – Peacock Suit
Just after completing all of the above, an e-mail dropped in, courtesy of Walter of A Few Good Times In My Life fame: –
Many months ago I started an ICA about The Pogues but I couldn’t finish it. I always asked myself about the reasons and now I know it: they had it and they lost it. So I think it is the right time to write about them in your new series.
From the first time I saw them in a small club at my place back in 1982 I got a huge fan of their music and I liked the way they combined traditional Irish music with the punk influence of various band members. While Red Roses For Me was a rough gem where they tried to find their style the subsequent two albums were milestones in new music in the mid 80’s. Elvis Costello led them on Rum Sodomy & The Lash to the height of their career. Brilliant songs were also on the following record If I Should Fall From Grace With God and marked the end for me. The following records weren’t too bad but never reached the quality of the first ones. Probably because the leading figure of the band, Shane MacGowan got more and more problems with the booze they were no more able to make great songs again and playing live with the verve they had in their early days. Even Joe Strummer couldn’t bring them back to what they were once had.
I remember their last concert I saw, when Shane walked up the stage with a bottle of red wine in his hand, singing two songs and than falling on the floor. I felt sorry for him and Strummer had to sing the songs till the end of the concert. So here are some songs that had the magic that I listened to often:
The Sick Bed of Cuchuliann
Bottle of Smoke
Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six
Hope everything is well in Glasgow. Have a good time
JC adds….a perfect example of what I’m looking for in guest contributions!!
TAKE 2 : APOLOGIES FOR NOT POSTING THE SONG FIRST TIME ROUND
Do you remember my sister? How many mistakes did she make with those never blinking eyes? I couldn’t work it out. I swear she could read your mind, your life, the depths of your soul at one glance. Maybe she was stripping herself away, saying
“Here I am, this is me
I am yours and everything about me, everything you see…
If only you look hard enough”
I never could
Our life was a pillow-fight. We’d stand there on the quilt, our hands clenched ready. Her with her milky teeth, so late for her age, and a Stanley knife in her hand. she sliced the tires on my bike and I couldn’t forgive her
She went blind at the age of five. We’d stand at the bedroom window and she’d get me to tell her what I saw. I’d describe the houses opposite, the little patch of grass next to the path, the gate with its rotten hinges forever wedged open that dad was always going to fix. She’d stand there quiet for a moment. I thought she was trying to develop the images in her own head. then she’d say:
“I can see little twinkly stars
Like Christmas tree lights in faraway windows
Rings of brightly coloured rocks
Floating around orange and mustard planets”
“I can see huge tiger-striped fishes
Chasing tiny blue and yellow dashes
All tails and fins and bubbles”
I’d look at the grey house opposite, and close the curtains
She burned down the house when she was ten. I was away camping with the scouts. The fireman said she’d been smoking in bed – the old story, I thought. The cat and our mum died in the flames, so dad took us to stay with our aunt in the country. He went back to London to find us a new house. We never saw him again
On her thirteenth birthday she fell down the well in our aunt’s garden and broke her head. She’d been drinking heavily. On her recovery her sight returned. “A fluke of nature,” everyone said. That’s when she said she’d never blink again. I would tell her when she started at me, with her eyes wide and watery, that they reminded me of the well she fell into. She liked this, it made her laugh.
She moved in with a gym teacher when she was fifteen, all muscles he was. He lost his job when it all came out, and couldn’t get another one, not in that kind of small town. Everybody knew every one else’s business. My sister would hold her head high, though. She said she was in love. They were together for five years, until one day he lost his temper. He hit over the back of the neck with his bull-worker. She lost the use of the right side of her body. He got three years and was out in fifteen months. We saw him a while later, he was coaching a non-league football team in a Cornwall seaside town
I don’t think he recognized her. My sister had put on a lot of weight from being in a chair all the time. She’d get me to stick pins and stub out cigarettes in her right hand. She’d laugh like mad because it didn’t hurt. Her left hand was pretty good though. We’d have arm wrestling matches, I’d have to use both arms and she’d still beat me
We buried her when she was 32. Me and my aunt, the vicar, and the man who dug the hole. She said she didn’t want to be cremated and wanted a cheap coffin so the worms could get to her quickly
She said she liked the idea of it, though, I thought it was because of what happened to the cat, and our mum.
mp3 : Tindersticks – My Sister
Originally released on Tindersticks II in 1995. One of the finest examples of a short story set to music. And not for the first or last time by that particular band.
Another stab at an occasional series. This will look back at what I consider to have been an outstanding debut single that many years later has not only stood the test of time but reckoned by some out there never to have been bettered.
mp3 : Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – Perfect Skin
Perfect Skin by Lloyd Cole and The Commotions was released in May 1984. It enjoyed a ten-week stint in the Top 75, gradually but slowly making its way to #26 after seven weeks before falling away quite quickly. This demonstrates it was one of those songs that didn’t make an immediate impact on radio listeners and the record-buying public but the more familiar they became with it, the more they appreciated it and the more numbers went out and spent money on it. After all, there was no other alternative as the frontman was a complete newcomer to the music scene although at least one of the backing band, Lawrence Donegan, had experienced some success with The Bluebells.
There’s a wonderful quote given by Lloyd in an interview to one of the UK music papers in 1984, just before debut LP Rattlesnakes was released:-
“If I hadn’t listened to ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ I could never have written ‘Perfect Skin’. I was totally drunk on Dylan at the time I wrote that song and all the imagery is deliberately Dylanesque. I thought, ‘why not be blatant?’ The only difference is, Dylan would have written a song like ‘Perfect Skin’ in an hour. It took me a week!”
I didn’t make that connection at the time as I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in Bob Dylan. All these years later, with my tastes thankfully less narrow than they were in my formative/poseur period, I do get it.
mp3 : Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
Perfect Skin was issued in 7″ and 12″ formats. Here’s the more than listenable b-sides, with the latter of them initially being exclusive to the 12″
mp3 : Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – The Sea and The Sand
mp3 : Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – You Will Never Be No Good
But was it the band’s finest 45?
That accolade goes to Rattlesnakes, released as the third single from the LP in November 84.
Grass had flopped badly and Skylarking had been the first XTC album to fail to crack the charts. It was a gloomy time for all concerned, but a second single was lifted and released in February 1987, on 7″, 7″ clear vinyl and 12″:-
mp3 : XTC – The Meeting Place
mp3 : XTC – The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul
I was sure this would have been my first exposure to this song but on hearing it I had an inkling I had prior knowledge of it – turns out I has seen it on The Tube on Channel 4 when I hadn’t thought much of it (and still don’t). That and it being on Jonny’s ICA….sorry mate…….we can occasionally agree to disagree!!
The b-side is wholly unexpected. It’s damn near a jazz/swing number!! To paraphrase Star Trek….it’s XTC but not as we know it, Jim. I do quite like it, but it’s not one that I’d return to week-after-week.
The 12″ had four demo songs on it…and yup, I’ve tracked them down for today:-
mp3 : XTC – Terrorism (home demo)
mp3 : XTC – Let’s Make A Den (home demo)
mp3 : XTC – Find The Fox (home demo)
mp3 : XTC – The Troubles (home demo)
First one is all Andy Partridge
Second one is all Andy Partridge. It’s a song that Todd Rundgren insisted should open side two of the album Skylarking. The band had a go at it in the studio but it fell victim to the constant fighting between the producer and the songwriter
Third one is all Colin Moulding
Fourth one is all Andy Partridge
This is the only song I know from Endor and its thanks entirely to its being included on Get While The Getting’s Good, a 19-track compilation of Scottish bands that was released on the German-based Aufgeladen Und Bereit label back in 2007.
mp3 : Endor – Hold On
A bit of digging via Bandcamp reveals the band, consisting of Mark Church, Richard Ferguson, Calum Johnston & David McGinty, released a self-titled album in 2010 but Hold On wasn’t part of it.
A bit of further digging reveals that Richard Ferguson and David McGinty are currently in a band called Fake Major and this can be found on wiki:-
Fake Major was formed by David McGinty and Richard Ferguson in 2013. They were former members of the band Endor (2001–2012), which split up after 10 years. Endor consisted of four members, David McGinty (Vocals/Guitar), Richard Ferguson (Drums/Vocals), Calum Johnston (Bass) and Mark Church (Guitar/Vocals).
Endor released an EP “Without the Help of Sparks” and a self-titled album which featured music played with drums, guitars, glockenspiel, harmonica, melodica, organ and rhodes.
A second Endor record was considered but Richard Ferguson and David McGinty, being the main song writers of Endor, decided to start their own project as a duo. McGinty and Ferguson prepared their Fake Major EP before officially announcing the disbandment of Endor.
Jonny has come back with another batch of Charged Particles, and as I cut’n’paste from his e-mail I also want to share with you some other exciting news from him:-
“Happy Summer, JC! Things are rocking along over here. I am excited to say I will be recording with the Aces in a few weeks’ time. I only ever recorded once and that was back in 1987! Very psyched to get into a proper studio (first time out was just two takes per song in a converted brownstone in Brooklyn — we recorded live in the living room with the mixing board in the kitchen.) This will also be the first time I get to record backing vocals. I’ll email again when it happens – hoping it’s as fun as I anticipate.”
As I said before when news came that JTFL was, in his early-50s, getting a chance to be part of a touring and recording country band…..WOW!!!!
Here’s his latest very fine contribution to this little corner of the internet.
Charged Particles #2 featured a pair of tracks by Elvis Costello, who I described as “everyone’s favorite wordy old uncle.” Today’s set features a couple from his cantankerous older brother, Graham Parker.
Protection. From Parker’s best LP, 1979’s ‘Squeezing Out Sparks’. Featuring the classic Rumour lineup: Schwarz, Belmont, Bodnar, Andrews and Goulding.
Stupefaction. From ‘Sparks’ follow up 1980’s ‘The Up Escalator’. All of the Rumour save Andrews featured again. This time out keyboard duties were handled by ivory legend Nicky Hopkins and The E Street Band’s Danny Federici. (The Boss himself turned up for background vocals on ‘Endless Night’.)
It’s a toss up between ‘Local Girls’ and ‘Stupefaction’ as my favorite GP song. What’s amazing to me is how the thoroughly English Parker managed to capture the mood of Los Angeles in the latter song. Or at least I always understood him to mean LA. Surely the lines about driving on Sunset (Blvd.), “the bodies so revealing,” and the “cameras without action” are all references to Hollywood? In any event, while Parker was arguably operating near the level of Costello at the time (EC’s ’79 and ’80 releases were the spectacular ‘Armed Forces’ and ‘Get Happy’) I think he peaked with ‘Escalator’. His subsequent albums without the Rumour never really did it for me.
Here’s The Robster again…..
I swore I wasn’t going to do any more ICAs, but the other day Walter posted something that inspired me. He mentioned he’d seen Gemma Ray at a festival and enjoyed her immensely despite having never been familiar with her before. So I took that as a cue – I’ve done a Gemma Ray one.
While putting it together, I found another ICA I started last autumn then seemed to have forgotten about – Grandaddy. So I set about finishing it off after the Gemma one and reckoned you might as well have it too.
As usual, do what you want with them. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them.
Hope all is well with you in sunny Glasgow!
I started compiling this ICA back in September last year, shortly after the release of Grandaddy‘s comeback single Way We Won’t. And then, for some inexplicable reason, I forgot about it; although the tracklisting was in place, everything else was only half written. I wrote about my excitement for their then forthcoming album, hoping it would live up to the standards they had set themselves over the course of the decade or so they existed first time around.
Since then, said album has been released and I’ve seen them live. They’ve not disappointed me. Far from it; in fact, ‘Last Place’ rates among their best records. I’m sure most of you know a Grandaddy track or two, and they were one of my favourite bands during the first half of last decade. Like many, I first became aware of them through their second album ‘The Sophtware Slump’, though they had been going for eight years by that point. Their earliest material was released on homemade cassettes and was raw and fast, influenced heavily by US punk and the so-called ‘slacker’ scene (Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, etc).
Over time, they refined their sound and became one of the most instantly identifiable bands around. Their blend of vintage electronics, psychedelia, Americana, alternative rock and acoustic melancholy gave them a sound of their own. Their discography boasts only five proper studio albums, but there’s a plethora of singles, EPs and compilations in there, which makes compiling a satisfactory ICA all the more difficult.
I’d argue that Grandaddy got better with each album. I know the purists are squealing – let them squeal. If I am going to listen to any Grandaddy album beginning to end, it would most likely be the new one or their 2006 swan song ‘Just Like The Fambly Cat‘. Having broke up just prior to that record being released, frontman Jason Lytle has made two solo albums, a soundtrack, a mini-album and a live album.
So having rediscovered the unfinished ICA while preparing the Gemma Ray one I did recently, I decided to resurrect it. It does not include anything from the new record; it’s too new so go buy it. That said, even taking that one out of the equation, some very tough choices had to be made and there are some significant omissions (Crystal Lake, anyone?). I’m sure you’ll point them out…
1. AM 180 (from ‘Under The Western Freeway’, 1997)
Best known in the UK for its use in a BBC ad for it 6 Music radio station, as the theme tune for ‘Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe’ and in the zombie flick ’28 Days Later’. It’s one of those that sticks in your head and refuses to budge. The best track on the debut album for sure.
2. Now It’s On (from ‘Sumday’, 2003)
The opener from Grandaddy’s third album is one of their best songs. ‘Sumday’ was the album that really showed off Jason Lytle’s progression as a songwriter. It’s got some cracking tracks on it, two or three that I really wanted on this ICA but couldn’t find a place for. To me, Now It’s On sounds like it’s about coming out of a period of darkness and making a fresh start, something I know a bit about.
3. Hewlett’s Daughter (from ‘The Sophtware Slump’, 2000)
One of the highlights of what many believe to be Grandaddy’s finest hour. ‘The Sophtware Slump’ was a triumph for sure, a huge leap in quality from their previous works. It’s an unusual record that throws all kinds of sounds and moods at you, but every so often a pop gem leaps out. This is one of them.
4. Aisle Seat 37-D (split single, 2003)
In which Jason Lytle imagines himself on a plane falling from the sky. While all around him descend into panic and chaos, he remains calm, looking for the picture he carries of his loved one while having one last drink of wine before it all ends. Sometimes, Lytle can write the most touching music you’ll ever hear.
5. Jeez Louise (from ‘Just Like The Fambly Cat’, 2006)
This tale recounting a lost love whose parents disapproved of the relationship was the loudest, fastest track Grandaddy had made for some time. Yet it retains that melancholic air and winsome vocals that they do so well. Even with the guitars turned right up, there was still plenty of room for a dead good tune.
6. Taster (second single, 1995)
Pre-dating the first album by some two years, the somewhat appropriately-titled Taster was the first sign of what Grandaddy were to become. It’s their most melodic and melancholic early track and even though it lacks some of the band’s later idiosyncrasies, it’s recognisable as the Grandaddy that we all came to know and love.
7. The Group Who Couldn’t Say (from ‘Sumday’, 2003)
I love the lyrics of this song. It’s the story of a bunch of office-bound city folk who spend a day in the countryside and realise a whole new existence. It has one of my favourite Grandaddy lyrics:
Becky wondered why she’d never noticed dragonflies
Her drag and click had never yielded anything so perfect as a dragonfly.
8. Disconnecty (from ‘Just Like The Fambly Cat’, 2006)
My fave Grandaddy track of all. No further explanation needed. Probably because I don’t have one…
9. Miner At The Dial-a-View (from ‘The Sophtware Slump’, 2000)
This track, more than any other here, sums up the quirkiness of Grandaddy. Lytle explains it thus: “After a certain point, when the earth has been tapped of all its resources, they start mining other planets. And there’s these machines, and the idea is to add coins to it, and you can punch in the latitude and longitude of places on earth, and revisit wherever you want. And he’s actually revisiting his house, and he’s seeing the girl that he’s got back home is hanging out with some other guy, and he misses home.”
10. Goodbye? (from ‘Excerpts From The Diary Of Todd Zilla’, 2005)
Grandaddy’s penultimate release (prior to their reformation) was an EP which closed with this song. I wonder if it foreshadowed what the band probably knew at that point – that they were breaking up. Though in that case, why didn’t it appear on the final album? And does the question mark signify that this might not really be the end, that there was a chance we’d see them again? As with much of what Grandaddy did, there are untold mysteries and plenty of unanswered questions. As it turned out, they did reform and they did make another (very good) record.
Sadly, the joy of Grandaddy’s comeback has been tempered by the sudden death of bass player Kevin Garcia back in the Spring. It remains to be seen whether the band will continue without him.
Returning again today to the series looking at some of the bands on C87, a 3xCD box set, released last year by Cherry Red Records, as a 74-track compilation of material that was released across different indie labels in 1987. The only rule for featuring is that the act in questio has to be making a debut on the blog.
Track 13 on CD1. Originally released on Ron Johnson Records
mp3 : The Great Leap Forward – My Grandfather’s Cluck
Here’s what the info booklet says:-
EX-BIG FLAME STALWART Alan Brown formed The Great Leap Forward announced by the EP ‘Controlling The Edges of Tone’. which contained ‘My Grandfather’s Cluck’. More melodic yet as quirky and political as bIG fLAME, the group progressed with ‘A Peck On The Cheek A La Politique’ (1987) and 1988’s ‘Who Works The Weather’ before the Heart & Soul EP appeared on Communications Unique. A debut album, ‘Don’t Be Afraid of Change’, appeared in 1988 prior to a compilation Season 87-88. Brown temporarily quit music but returned in 2008 with the album ‘Finished Unfinished Business’ and now plays with A Witness.
It is akin to bIG fLAME in as much as it has the same vocalist but the spiky abrasive guitars have been toned down somewhat. I’m guessing their hardcore fans would have been appalled!
It’s not easy coming up with fresh ideas for this little corner of the internet that have the ability to run’n’run. The ICAs have worked, Jonny’s charged particles are proving to be popular and I suppose the weekend features will always generate copy. This one might work…but will again likely depend on the views and opinions of the readership.
I want to look at singers or bands who, at some point in time, had ‘it’ (however you choose to define ‘it’) and then all of a sudden, and usually without warning, lost ‘it’ and never recovered ‘it’. I’m not meaning those who gave us a stellar debut album and a bum follow-up as the rock and pop worlds are littered with such acts. This is about folk who were massively popular and deservedly so only for their music to go a bit ‘meh’; sometimes their popularity remained intact and their profile remained high while others would see their sales plummet and fade quietly into obscurity. Oasis are an example of the former while most of their Britpop peers can be filed under the latter.
I’m doing parts one and two in a single sitting. Two of the biggest stars whose music once made me smile but then made me squirm.
It was this incredibly imaginative advert that helped remind me of how much I enjoyed listening to Elton John songs when I was a young kid.
Rocket Man was a huge hit back in 1972, hanging around the singles charts for months when I was turning nine years of age. Like probably just about every other kid of that age and of that era, the idea of space travel was particularly exciting with tales of the exploits of astronauts all over newspapers and television, while Star Trek was a show that was watched and enjoyed my parents (whom I’ve just realised would have only been in their mid-30s at this time) as well as my five and six-year old younger brothers. Elton’s hit 45 just seemed to be part of the magic of that time.
I guess that made me something of an Elton John fan, albeit I wasn’t yet at the stage of going out and buying his, or indeed, anyone’s records. Besides, I didn’t need to as some of my older cousins, whose house I’d go and visit every two weeks or so, seemed to have all his albums and they would let me hear his stuff, whether on vinyl (with record sleeves that always seemed so vivid and colourful) or on 8-track cartridge, which one cousin told me would soon make bulky record collections a thing of the past.
Here’s a reminder of some of the 45s that I would be exposed to over the next few years:-
mp3 : Elton John – Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting
mp3 : Elton John – Crocodile Rock
mp3 : Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
mp3 : Elton John – Bennie and The Jets
In 1976, after many years of trying and near misses, Elton John finally hit the #1 spot; it took a duet with Kiki Dee to hit the pinnacle but Don’t Go Breaking My Heart just left me ice-cold. The thirteen year-old me didn’t have the capacity to offer any critical analysis of the song other than to say it was fucking shite (even as a pre-pubescent teen, I already had a capacity for swearing but never in front of my parents!). My admiration for Reg had come and gone. And it’s never come back.
Some of you will recall that myself and Jacques the Kipper pulled together a Billy Joel ICA for a bit of fun on 1 April 2016. We had a bit of a chat on the way to the football one day as to how we could follow it up this year and I really wanted to do similar to Elton John’s 1980s output. You know, the classic songs that area such a part of everyday listening on the smooooooooooooth radio stations.
Nikita; I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues; Sad Songs; Kiss The Bride; I’m Still Standing.
Jacques talked me out of it. I suppose I should thank him as I would have needed to listen to the songs again if I was to have a stab at such an ICA, even for piss taking purposes.
Stevie Wonder has been making music for some 55 years so inevitably there’s going to be a variation in quality. Some of the very earliest material hasn’t stood the test of time all that well but there are some golden nuggets to be unearthed such as this from 1965:-
mp3 : Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright)
But it’s the period from 1968-1977 that holds up to anything anyone else has ever produced over a similar length of time. Fifteen of his singles went Top 20 in the Hot 100 in the USA; he was just as successful in the UK with thirteen Top 20 hits. Some of them were straightforward love songs, others were brilliantly conceived socio-political commentaries on the issues facing black and poor people in his home country. All of them had tunes that were just killer. Here’s four such examples:-
mp3 : Stevie Wonder – Superstition
mp3 : Stevie Wonder – Living For The City
mp3 : Stevie Wonder – I Wish
mp3 : Stevie Wonder – He’s Misstra Know It All
The first sign of decline came with the double album The Secret Life Of Plants in 1979, albeit this was more a soundtrack to a documentary than a ‘proper’ commercial release. The following year saw the release of Hotter Than July, an LP that turned out to be his most successful album in the UK, selling more than 300,000 copies and spawning four Top 10 singles.
One or two of the songs on the album are up there in quality with his 70s output but others are just awful, not least Happy Birthday, his the well-intended and heartfelt tribute to Martin Luther King that suffered immediately from being hijacked for every single celebration party of that period. But, given that the song did so much to raise the profile of the campaign to have Dr King’s birthdate declared as a national holiday in the USA, I really shouldn’t really be so curmudgeonly. The sad thing, however, is that it’s an LP that has, for the most part, dated really badly and the ballads/love songs in particular are not a patch on his earlier efforts in that genre.
But what followed afterwards in the early-mid 80s was cringeworthy. Ebony and Ivory – the toe-curling and insufferable duet with Paul McCartney; I Just Called To Say I Love You which seemed to be #1 for months on end in 1984, no matter which country you lived in; Part Time Lover, a song that sits alongside those of Phil Collins as examples of what was so wrong about the charts of the era.
In 2017, Stevie Wonder remains a hugely important and influential recording artist and social figure. Just don’t ask me to listen to his recent music.
Now. Any volunteers to come up with Part 3?
It would be eighteen months before XTC released their next 45 in September 1986 during which period spin-off psychedelic band The Dukes of Stratosphear had issued six-track mini-album, 25 O’Clock, from which this was issued as a single:-
mp3 : The Dukes of Stratosphear – The Mole From The Ministry
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the band had been teamed up with American rocker Todd Rundgren to work on the new album which would be released with the title Skylarking. It’s a record I’ve never bought, partly based on some rotten reviews at the time and also the fact that I couldn’t understand why Virgin Records had thought an act so quintessentially English would get something out of working with someone I regarded as so antiquated and likely unsympathetic to the band. Turns out that Andy Partridge hated the idea too but not Dave Gregory as this excerpt from a 1990 magazine piece illustrates:-
“Todd and Andy were like chalk and cheese as personalities, they didn’t hit it off from the start. Things just went from bad to worse. Andy was saying how much he hated the album, and when we returned home, he was very depressed about it. My only misgiving was that it was badly recorded. Perhaps Todd was trying to recreate a Sixties sound to capitalise on our Beatles fixation: but having said that, Skylarking is probably my favourite XTC album. Personally, I like what Todd did with the songs.”
Here’s its first single and the bonus track on the 12″:-
mp3 : XTC – Grass
mp3 : XTC – Extrovert
The b-side to Grass was later re-released as a 45 in its own right and I’ll return to it in due course. For now, I’ll simply say that Grass (which JTFL had included as part of an ICA) it’s not as bad as you would fear – but it does sound a lot like Modern Life Is Rubbish-era Blur from a few year later. What it doesn’t sound like at all is XTC……unlike Extrovert but it suffers from having those awful 80s horns-sounding keyboards on it.
Formed in Glasgow in 1980, they released two singles on Mercury Records in 1982 that were well received in some quarters (Martin Fry was a fan) but ridiculed for a lack of originality in others.
The next year saw them draft in Brian McGee who had been the original drummer with the now increasingly successful Simple Minds and in due course were signed by Virgin Records to a multi-album deal in 1983. In the end, they were let go after four flop 45s and a poor-selling LP despite the fact the band had toured extensively both under their own steam and as support to a number of high-profile synth-pop acts. Endgames broke up in 1985.
This is the second of their singles for Mercury Records. It’s very much of its time and hasn’t date well at all. It’s easy to see why Martin Fry liked them bit also why so many didn’t rate them:-
mp3 : Endgames – First, Last, For Everything