SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #94 : FAKE EYELASHES

Creeping Bent, aka The Creeping Bent Organisation is an independent record label set up by avant provocateur Douglas MacIntyre in 1994, based in Glasgow, Scotland. Creeping Bent was officially launched with a maxi–media event at Glasgow’s Tramway Theatre on 12 December 1994. The event was called A Leap Into The Void (BENT 001), in homage to Yves Klein, and featured film / theatre / pop ….made – up by a variety of artists.

Over the years Creeping Bent has focused on audio & visual stimulation, releasing music by an eclectic array of artists operating across multiple genres. Here is an example of some of the artists who have worked with Creeping Bent over the years; The Nectarine No9, Appendix Out, Found, The Secret Goldfish, Bill Wells & Isobel Campbell, Alan Vega / RCTJ, Adventures in Stereo, Bricolage, Future Pilot AKA, The Sexual Objects, Monica Queen, Fire Engines … There have been several highlights along the way, perhaps the most prestigious was being chosen by John Peel as the featured label when he curated the Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall… perhaps having Creeping Bent artists record 20 sessions for Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show comes a close second.

(as lifted from http://www.creepingbent.net/contact.htm)

I’ve mentioned Douglas MacIntyre a few times previously at this little corner of the internet, sometimes as the pop label boss but more often as a playing musician in all sorts of capacities and guises.  What I didn’t know until a newspaper feature a few years ago that had nothing at all to do with music, was that his wife is none other than Katy McCullars (aka Katy Lironi) who was part of the semi-legendary Fizzbombs in the C86 era, as featured here back in June 2015.

Katy would later be part of The Secret Goldfish, a band that released a number of intriguing and occasionally brilliant records in the 90s.  Fast forward to 2011, and she is the lead singer with Fake Eyelashes who released what I think was a download only album entitled A Little Bit Of Bread And No Cheers, via Creeping Bent.  There’s a wonderfully worded review to be found on-line from the archives of The List, a Scottish magazine that features all aspects of the performing and visual arts:-

Katy Lironi’s pedigree as a chanteuse dates back to C-86 swoonsters Fizzbombs followed by a stint fronting bubblegum stompers The Secret Goldfish. This latest vehicle for Ms L’s sublime cooing is an infinitely more laidback affair. Think Saint Etienne-style ballads without London-centric reference points but with a melancholy worthy of bedsit-era Tracy Thorn. This solitary, gal-in-exile feel is fleshed out on a still lugubrious ‘If You Made It Easy For Me by a mellowed out band arrangement, while electronic skitters underscore the equally plaintive ‘If I Could Only Cry’ on a late-night affair that sounds in need of a cuddle.

I’ve one of the songs on the laptop – courtesy again of Phil Hogarth who I mentioned in the posting in this series last week. It’s one mentioned in the above review.  And it’s rather wonderful to listen to, although the vocal is a bit on the fragile side:-

AND NOW WE’RE GONNA DANCE TO A DIFFERENT SONG

The Damned, thanks to New Rose on Stiff Records in October 1976, may have released the first punk rock single in the UK but to many they were regarded as a bit of a joke band and never given the same kudos as many of their peers.

If you look back at their history, they do appear to have been a half-decent pop/rock band who were in the right place at the right time to jump on the bandwagon with enough savvy among certain band members to adopt the look and feel of punk, including adopting silly monikers, to get noticed and written about.

I hadn’t fully realised that they had broken up for a bit after their second album had been panned, undergoing various changes in personnel including having Jon Moss, later to find huge pop fame/infamy as part of Culture Club, on drums for a short spell. They were absent for much of 1978 but came back with a bang in 1979 with the occasionally tuneful Machine Gun Etiquette from which this classic 45 was lifted:-

mp3 : The Damned – Smash It Up

It was banned by the BBC on the basis of its title despite it not really being an anarchistic call to arms. Still made #35 in the charts but deserved better.

Here’s your b-side

mp3 : The Damned – Burglar

Comic-book punk rock indeed. The sort of stuff that Kenny Everett parodied in his TV shows of the time

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #142 : SUPERGRASS

One of the many great singles released by Supergrass emerged out of nowhere the other day, courtesy of i-pod random shuffle. It got me thinking that while they are a group I haven’t listened to in much detail for about ten years now, theirs was a career than more than merits a stab at an ICA. I’ll warn you now though, this is one that leans very heavily on singles….they did after all release 26 of them over a fourteen-year period.

SIDE A

1. Caught By The Fuzz (debut single, 1994 and I Should Coco LP, 1995)

This vibrant, catchy and fast-paced ditty, detailing the story of Gaz Coombes’ run in with the law for possession of cannabis at the age of 15, might well have been the debut appearance of Supergrass but two-thirds of the band were already veterans of the local music scene in Oxford.

Gaz, together with drummer Danny Coffey had been part of The Jennifers who had been signed by Nude Records in 1992. Only one single was released before the band fell out with the label and split-up. Gaz and Danny hooked up with bassist Mick Quinn to form Supergrass in February 1993 at which point in time Gaz was one month shy of his 17th birthday, Danny was 19 and Mick was positively ancient at 22.

The debut came out on local label Backbeat Records; one of its early champions was John Peel and the song was a hit with his listeners who voted it in at #5 in the Festive Fifty rundown of 1994. The attention that it, and follow-up single Manzsize Rooster, brought on the band led to them being courted by a number of major labels with them deciding to sign to Parlophone Records with who they would go on to record for the next fourteen years.

This was the song that popped up on the i-phone and I thought immediately that it should be part of the debut singles series that I’ve just got going, but as I said, further thoughts led to this ICA.

2. Alright (I Should Coco LP; single, 1995)

This, along with Common People by Pulp, is the song I most associate with the rise of Britpop.

It’s a song that really could only have been written by a young, carefree and happy songwriter, celebrating the fact that he is young, carefree and happy. It’s actually quite hard to imagine that it lay ‘unrecognised’ on the album for so long – it was the fifth and final single to be lifted from I Should Coco, but then again I suppose timing was everything. It came out in July 1995 and such a rousing and anthemic number was tailor-made for the summer. There will be millions of folk out there in this world whose holiday memories of that particular year will include a drunken sing-a-long at some location or other.

It’s often the case that over-exposure to a tune can make a listener grow sick and tired of it. Alright hung around the charts gaining airplay for months on end, as well as having a brilliant, funny and memorable video that was on heavy rotation, but somehow avoided every becoming annoying. Still great to listen to all these years later, albeit I can’t imagine its one that Gaz is comfortable playing these days now he’d middle-aged.

3. Grace (single; Life On Other Planets LP 2002)

One of things that gives Alright such a memorable hook is the piano part which was played by Rob Coombes, older brother of the band’s frontman. Indeed, Rob’s contributions in the studio and on-stage were always an essential part of the band’s sound but it wasn’t until the release of the time of the release of Life On Other Planets, their fourth album in 2002, that he officially became the fourth member.

It was long-overdue recognition but it did run the risk of perhaps turning the band into just another plodding four-piece going through the motions, especially given that their LP, released in 1999, had been a bit of a let-down to many, (despite harvesting a couple of excellent 45s). Nothing had been heard of the band for the best part of three years until a deliberately low-key and very limited edition 7” single, Never Done Anything Like That Before, was issued in July 2002 that came and went before most folk knew the band were back. As such, Grace was the comeback songs in advance of the new LP. It proved to be a superb return to form, allaying any fears of them becoming as dull, plodding and irrelevant as so many of their peers from the Britpop era.

4. Jesus Came From Outta Space (from Supergrass LP 1999)

It’s not that Supergrass was a poor album but it did have the unenviable task of following up two of the best received LPs released that decade. I’m a huge fan of the single Pumping On Your Stereo and it was a candidate to open up Side 2 of this ICA, but in the end it didn’t even make the cut. Certain things just had to give to accommodate other memorable pieces of music, not least this album track that is a wonderful blend of Blur, Violent Femmes and Super Furry Animals and yet is still recognisably 100% Gaz & co. A lyric that can be interpreted in a number of ways, I don’t see it as an attack on religion as such but it does such suggest that nobody should listen to fundamentalists or zealots. Would have made for a great single but would have likely suffered from a lack of airplay as cautious/conservative radio bosses would fear a backlash.

5. Low C (Road to Rouen LP; single, 2005)

The music on Road to Rouen is a very long way removed from the carefree attitude of the band’s origins and it does have the feel of the work of middle-aged musicians which is strange as Supergrass consisted of men who were in their late 20s or early 30s and still of a an age where fun was there to be had and recovery times from having such fun should be short.

It was a few years later, in the promotional activities around the next album, that Mick Quinn revealed the introspective nature of Road to Rouen was related to the death of Gaz and Rob’s mum, as well as the tensions in the band around Danny Goffey recovering after an extended period in which his life had somewhat spiralled out of control, thanks to him being part of a socially hedonistic London-based scene that revolved around people who were of huge interest to the UK tabloid newspapers – model Kate Moss and singer Liam Gallacher being prime examples. The music, and the lyrics, were inevitable given the sombre and serious place everyone found themselves in. It’s an album of just nine songs, none of which were obvious singles and yet it contains some of their finest work. There’s more to come on Side B…..

SIDE B

1. Richard III (single; In It For The Money LP, 1997)

The momentum from the debut album was maintained in early 1996 by the release of the single Going Out, a song that was, without any question, a sideways swipe at Danny Goffey who was just beginning to show signs of enjoying life a bit too much and not wanting to contribute to the band.

It took a year before anything else was released, but it was well worth it thanks to this near hard-rock production that I’m sure had a big influence on Matt Bellamy as he tried to work out where to position his band, Muse. It’s an absolute belter of a pop/rock hybrid in which the drummer was given his place to show how important he was to them. Worth mentioning that the name of the song comes from its working title in which all the new tunes were given people’s names. This just happened to be the third song called Richard and has nothing to do with the real-life kings and the famous play by Shakespeare.

2. Moving (single, Supergrass LP, 1999)

This was the 45 released on the eve of the third album. The glam-rock influenced and slightly silly but hugely enjoyable Pumping On Your Stereo had already been a hit earlier in the summer and most folk were probably expecting something similar as the follow-up. Once again, Supergrass did the unexpected with a mid-tempo, sad sounding number that is a commentary on how tedious, dull and repetitive life as musician out on the road could be. It was hardly an original topic for a songwriter to turn their attention to, but it’s done here in such a clever way, with the melancholy verses always giving way to a foot-stomping and catchy chorus that in a sense, is a guarantee of future success and further condemning the band to more time out there belting it out from stages the world over.

3. Diamond Hoo Ha Man (single, Diamond Hoo Ha LP, 2008)

The final Supergrass songs came and went without much fanfare in 2008. This was initially as much to do with the band releasing the first single via just a limited edition 7” vinyl single and latterly from the record label not wanting to spend too much in promotion. It was a sad and bitter end to what had been a long and successful involvement with Parlophone Records – it wasn’t actually supposed to be the band’s final album as come 2010 they were set to get going again, with indie label Cooking Vinyl announced as their new home. This single, the first new music since the downbeat and melancholy material found on Road to Rouen, was a very welcome return to the dynamic sounds of yesteryear. The pity is that much of the rest of the subsequent album didn’t match it.

4. Mansize Rooster (single, 1994 and I Should Coco LP, 1995)

And so the ICA goes from near the very end all the way back to the near beginning. It’s a great indication of what was to follow and listening again, more than two decades on, it’s no real surprise given the quality of this, the band’s second single, and their debut (as featured at outset of this ICA), that so many labels wanted to sign them and so many music lovers were quick to pledge their allegiance. Just don’t ask me to try to offer any logical explanation as to what Mansize Rooster is all about. Just enjoy the tune. And just enjoy how brilliant Supergrass were. All that’s left to say is this…………

5. Fin (Road to Rouen LP; single, 2005)

Sigh.

JC

HAD IT. LOST IT. (Part 7)

The debut pioneering single, as featured yesterday, was August 1972. Ten years later, Roxy Music released the utterly unlistenable AOR album Avalon. It’s another great demonstration of having it and losing it, but depending on your viewpoint, the band had perhaps long passed their sell-by date sometime previously.

For all that there was a run of classic singles in the early-mid 70s, Roxy Music were always judged on the contents of their albums. The self-titled debut was followed quickly by two albums in 1973 – For Your Pleasure and Stranded, and Country Life (1974) and Siren (1975). It really is astonishing to look back and see that five full studio albums were issued in a period of just forty months, all of which went Top 10 in the UK. The other thing to factor into this achievement is that, as a consequence of him being unhappy with the media focus seemingly all being on the frontman, Brian Eno left the band shortly after the release of the sophomore album. Any concerns that Eno’s departure would see Roxy Music’s popularity plummet were soon put to be bed; indeed Stranded, the first post-Eno LP became the band’s first ever #1 LP.

It wasn’t as if the band were wedded to the studio as each release was accompanied by live tours. A little bit of research reveals that Roxy Music played the major Glasgow venue (Green’s Playhouse/Apollo) in April 1973, November 1973, October 1974 (three nights) and October 1975 (three nights) which indicates this was a band that worked incredibly hard at all aspects of their trade.

They broke up in 1976, essentially as Bryan Ferry wanted to pursue a solo career. I was only 12/13 years old at that time and to be honest, was aware of the band less from their music (outside of their singles) and more from their evocative record sleeves in which you got to look at beautiful and scantily clad women in full colour at a time when such images were found only on top-shelf magazines. But this coincided with a time when I made new friends at secondary school, one of whom, Tam, was a huge Roxy Music fan as a result of his older twin sisters liking the band and playing their music non-stop, and through visits to his house I got to know the songs beyond the hit singles.

Fast forward to 1979. It’s Tam’s last year at school as he has already decided he’s going determined to leave as early as possible to get a job while I was set on staying on to University. We hear that Roxy Music have reformed and we both rush out and buy the comeback single Trash and later on the comeback LP Manifesto. We like what we hear but are shocked at the vitriol poured on the records by his older sisters. It’s the first time I can ever recall anyone who was such a huge and devoted fan of someone really being savage about their music – at that stage I’m in my musical development I was sure that once you were a fan, that was you for life.

Maybe what myself and Tam liked most about this era Roxy Music was that the new singles were being remixed and re-recorded for the disco markets and we were weekly regulars at a few church halls where you would turn up to receive your weekly humiliation at the hands of more confident, street-wise and sassy members of the opposite sex at the end of the night when the slow songs came on. But prior to that, you spent time in their company, not necessarily talking to them, but making awkward an unusual shapes with your body to the likes of Angel Eyes and Dance Away.

To those who were in their 20s and older, Roxy Music had already lost it. To us teens, they still had it in spades and more so in 1980 when Flesh + Blood spawned not only more dance singles but allowed Tam and myself to go see them at the Glasgow Apollo in July 1980 – the tickets given to us by his twin sisters for whom the latest LP was a step too far.

Not long after, Roxy Music enjoyed their biggest selling hit in the UK when their cover of Jealous Guy, released in the wake of the murder of John Lennon, went to #1. I didn’t like the single – I thought it bland, dull and unlistenable. In April 1982, Roxy Music released More Than This, another Top 10 hit single that I thought was appalling. By now, I cared little for the band and could finally understand why Tam’s sisters had disowned them three years previous when they too had left their teenage years.

So, I won’t argue that you can date Roxy Music losing it to when they reformed in 1979 as I was a huge fan for a while thereafter. But what I will say is, that if I was to piece together an ICA all these years later, it would almost certainly be made up of music that was recorded and released in the period 72-75.

I think we can all agree these demonstrate they had it:-

mp3 : Roxy Music – Pyjamarama
mp3 : Roxy Music – Out Of The Blue

These will satisfy fans of a certain age:-

mp3 : Roxy Music – Dance Away (12” version)
mp3 : Roxy Music – Over You

These, however, are shockers:-

JC

IT WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (6)

I’d have been just nine years old when today’s featured debut 45 stormed into the UK charts all the way up to #4. I do vaguely recall hearing it on the radio at the time but then again that might be my memory playing tricks on me and in fact I only became hugely familiar with it in the ensuing years.

By any account, this is a remarkable debut single. For one, it wasn’t the song that introduced Roxy Music to the general public as the debut album had already been in the shops for two months, an indication that the band and their record label were content to concentrate on that market and not worry about appearances on Top of the Pops.

For two, it’s a single that broke so many rules, particularly back in 1972. There’s a fade-in and gradual intro that would have confused DJs and there’s a dead-stop ending that would catch so many of them out. But most noticeably, there’s no chorus. Oh and the title of the song is only uttered once – and that’s with its closing two words.

mp3 : Roxy Music – Virginia Plain

Phil Manzanera provided a fascinating explanation in an interview many years later in that the debut album, which had sold I more than decent numbers, was full of songs that had no chorus and rarely referenced their titles, so when it was suggested that Roxy Music should cut a new song as a single nobody in the band knew how to write or record any differently.

The song developed from what was essentially a series of jamming sessions after Bryan Ferry had played three simple chords on the piano. The fact that the band were prepared to go a bit bonkers and throw in a studio effect of a motorbike revving as well as ask Andy McKay to go with an oboe solo rather than a sax solo merely made what would become Virginia Plain all the more unique and memorable.

It was also helped by a memorable and seemingly oblique opening verse:-

Make me a deal, and make it straight, all signed and sealed, I’ll take it
To Robert E. Lee I’ll show it, I hope and pray he don’t blow it ’cos
We’ve been around a long time
Tryin’, just tryin’, just tryin’, to make the big time!’

Why did the band namecheck the (in)famous Confederate general from the American Civil War? Turns out they didn’t….this particular Robert E Lee was the name of the band’s lawyer, so the lyric was in fact very literal.

One final thing worth mentioning. Virginia Plain was not some glamourous or alluring female with who the band had a connection. It was simply the title of a pop-art painting that Bryan Ferry had produced a few years earlier when he was an art student; Virginia Plain was a cigarette packet……….

But is it Roxy’s finest ever 45? There will be some who will say Oh Yeah to that question (but only to confirm Virginia Plain and not to make a case for a 1980 single); I’d personally have to toss a coin between Do The Strand and Love Is The Drug.

The b-side was an instrumental in which Eno and McKay feature prominently:-

mp3 : Roxy Music – The Numberer

JC

THE XTC SINGLES (Part 28)

The 90s dawned on us and the demand for idiosyncratic, guitar-led music was at it an all-time low since rock’n’roll had been ‘invented’ It was no real surprise that XTC battoned-down the hatches a bit and waited till February 1992 before emerging, blinking, into the daylight.

mp3 : XTC – The Disappointed

It’s unmistakably Andy Partridge on lead vocal and it’s a clever enough lyric, but the tune is a huge let down. Dull to the point of being a Tears For Fears mid-80s reject. But it did have its fans, reaching #33 in the UK singles charts and paving the way for the parent album Nonsuch to go Top 30 on its release a few months later.

The b-side of the 7″ was a Colin Moulding effort:-

mp3 : XTC – The Smartest Monkeys

I’ll hold my hands up and say that my first exposure to this was very recently as I had to go and find a lot of b-sides to complete the series.  If I had owned a copy of Nonsuch, I’d have been familar with it as it would later appear on the album.  I think it’s way superior to the a-side , but I’m afraid that’s damning it with faint praise as it’s not a patch on so much of the 70s and 80s output. They are both songs that would, I reckon, have had a live audience shuffling around the venue with boredom while waiting with anticipating for something more typical….so just as well then that the band didn’t tour!

The single also came out on 10″ format and on CD; it’s the latter I grabbed off Discogs a while back and here’s the other tracks:-

mp3 : XTC – Humble Daisy
mp3 : XTC – The Smartest Monkeys (demo)

Humble Daisy would also be on Nonsuch, and compared to the plethora a of otherwise unavailable b-sides in years gone by, this is also something of a letdown.

Nobody knew back then that this would be the final time XTC would ever have a hit single in the UK.

JC