Pale Movie very much reminds me of Domino Dancing by Pet Shop Boys given its mix of dance-pop alongside traditional Spanish guitars. It was a fairly brave move by Saint Etienne to go down this road – all of the songs on Tiger Bay, the LP that was released a few months later, was described by Bob Stanley as an album of modern folk songs done in twentieth century styles like techno and dubmix. It didn’t go down all that well at the time with the singles that were lifted from it not doing nearly as well as previous efforts and dance fans being left a bit bemused by it all.

If only the hardcore element had bought the 12″ version of the single for they would have found all sorts of different styles to meet their every whim, including a hugely extended 10 minutes plus version:-

mp3 : Saint Etienne – Pale Movie
mp3 : Saint Etienne – Pale Movie (stentorian dub)
mp3 : Saint Etienne – Pale Movie (secret knowledge trouser assassin mix)
mp3 : Saint Etienne – Pale Movie (lemonentry mix)

I’ve really no idea where the names for these mixes come from…….

Oh and a quick reminder that I’m hoping some of you will come up with postings/contributions for December in which I want to look back at all that was important, relevant and good about music in 2017.



This is why events unnerve me
They find it all a different story

The plethora of books and documentaries, along with one outstanding biopic, means that we are very familiar with the events leading up the suicide of Ian Curtis and how his fellow band mates came to the view that things had to be kept going. But back in 1980/81, those of us who were fans of Joy Division had little or no idea what was going on, relying totally on any snippets of news that we could pick up in the pages of one of more of the weekly music papers.

Until the suicide, Joy Division were very much seen a cult band. Unknown Pleasures had sold around 20,000 copies which was still more than decent for a band on a small and relatively obscure Manchester-based record label. The adulation heaped upon the singer after his death was a big factor in raising the profile of the band and the subsequent rise in popularity. This created a bit of a problem in that New Order, as they had now been renamed, were understandably reluctant to do much in the way of press or media as the dominant topic wouldn’t be ‘What are you doing next?’ but the inevitable inquisition into why the their former frontman had killed himself – and remember…his epilepsy, his messy personal life and his battle with depression wasn’t something that had previously been mentioned or written about – we know so much more now all these years later than we did at the time.

It was against this background that Ceremony was slipped out, almost unnoticed and with very little fanfare, as the debut single in January 1981. I had it on order (boom-boom!) at the local record shop and picked it up a couple of days after its release. I still hadn’t heard it by this point and was secretly pleased when the long-haired rocker behind the counter said it was unlistenable and depressing and wasn’t prepared to play it in the shop for me. It meant I would get to hear it at home, albeit on a record player that was as basic as there was although I had hopes of getting to play it on the ‘big stereo’ if my folks weren’t in. The amazingly effective and affecting bronze-coloured sleeve that looked like some sort of memorial plaque, almost as if it was paying respect to the old band, only added to my excitement as I raced down the road as quickly as I could without running – that would have been uncool and pathetic.

The label on the record gave a writing credit to Ian Curtis as well as the three members of New Order, so it was clearly a song Joy Division had been working on at some stage; in later years we would learn that it was one of the last songs they had demoed just days before the suicide.

The needle hit the groove and I listened in awe to music that was comfortingly familiar albeit it was lacking the vocal was lacking power and authority.

mp3 : New Order – Ceremony

The b-side was, if anything, even more reminiscent of the old band. I was mesmerised.

The single climbed into the charts in the high 30s and so the local record shop got in some more copies, including the 12” in a green sleeve. I bought that too and was marginally disappointed that only the b-side was slightly longer in length.

mp3 : New Order – In A Lonely Place (7″ version)
mp3 : New Order – In A Lonely Place (12″ version)

It was a brilliant debut single. If New Order had wanted to call it quits there and then, I’d have been okay with it. I wasn’t alone in thinking back then that Ian Curtis was the principal songwriter, lyrically and musically, and so if there weren’t many more tunes that he’d been involved with before the suicide, the new band might struggle to match the heights of their first release. Subsequent events proved otherwise…..

Ceremony is not, by a long chalk, the best single ever released by New Order. I reserve that honour for Temptation. But it’s a hugely important and significant 45 for all sorts of reasons…as indeed were the next few singles that the band would release. Which is why, now that I’ve reached the end of the look back at XTC,the Sunday singles focus will now be on Gilbert/Hook/Morris/Sumner.


PS : Part of what I’m intending to do in the series is offer up some of the alternative/re-recorded versions of singles and so, for the sake of completeness, here’s the second and, IMHO, inferior version of the debut, issued in 12″ form in September 1981, and which, unlike the original, features a contribution from Gillian Gilbert:-

mp3 : New Order – Ceremony (re-recorded version)



From wiki:-

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) is the fourteenth and final studio album by the English band XTC, released on Cooking Vinyl/Idea Records on 23 May 2000. It is the second volume of the Apple Venus set and reached the UK Top 40 albums chart.

At this point, guitarist and singer Andy Partridge and bassist and singer Colin Moulding were the only two band members left. The duo therefore utilised session musicians on every track to fill in the musical elements that they were incapable of performing themselves. Partridge’s daughter Holly made her singing debut on record singing backup vocals in the song “Playground”.

One single was lifted from the album and as such was the last ever XTC 45 to be given a physical release:-

mp3 : XTC – I’m the Man Who Murdered Love

As farewells go, it’s not that bad. It’s tuneful, catchy and radio-friendly. I certainly would have anticipated it charting if it had been written and recorded earlier in their career.

Here’s yer b-sides:-

mp3 : XTC – I’m the Man Who Murdered Love (home demo)
XTC – Didn’t Hurt A Bit (Home Demo)

Yup….I’ve failed again at the last hurdle. The home demo version of this Colin Moulding song was put on the final single but seems to have been lost in the midst of time for a more-fleshed out version that appeared on the compilation Coat Of Many Colours that was released in 2002 and whose sleevenotes revealed it was an outtake for the Nonsuch album back in 1991/92:-

mp3 : XTC – It Didn’t Hurt A Bit

One final postscript.

It seems XTC released a download only single in 2005 that was later included on a very limited box set entitled Apple Vinyls that was released in December 2006.

This box set consisted of thirteen 7 inch singles compiling the 23 tracks from Apple Venus [Volume One] and Wasp Star [Apple Venus Volume Two] together with three previously download-only songs – the afore-mentioned single Where Did The Ordinary People Go? plus Say It and Spiral.

Copies of Apple Vinyls now retail on the second-hand market for more than £200. I’ll round off the series with these as they did, technically, feature on 7″ vinyl:-

mp3 : XTC – Where Did The Ordinary People Go?
mp3 : XTC – Say It
mp3 : XTC – Spiral

The last of these seems a wholly appropriate and wonderful way to close off this series. A largely unheralded and little known number that encapsulates everything that made XTC such an important and essential part of music over a 30-year period and which could be the catechist for T(n)VV.

Spiral, torn from the tone arm
Waking up the track
Dormant in the black valley of the vinyl

Spiral, dug by the diamond
Running it around, turn it into sound
Entering my spinal

Got to play all my favourite 45’s
Stacked way up high
Well everyday I spin away my 45’s
Help me to fly

Spiral, ripped from the record
Roll into the room, dissipate the gloom
Happiness eternal
Spiral, pulled from the plastic
Angel choirboys, devilish the noise
Heavenly infernal

Got to play all my favourite 45’s
Ten thousand times
Every day I spin away my 45’s
Help me to climb up

Spiral, torn from the tone arm
Waking up the track
Dormant in the black, valley of the vinyl
Spiral, dug by the diamond
Running it around, turn it into sound
Entering my spinal

Got to play all my favourite 45’s
Oh how they give
Every day I spin away my 45’s
How else do I live?

Hope you’ve enjoyed this series.  Stayed tuned for news of who will be appearing next in this particular slot.



with help from wiki:-

Finley Quaye (born 25 March 1974, Edinburgh, Scotland) is a Scottish musician. He won the 1997 Mobo Award for best reggae act, and the 1998 BRIT Award for Best Male Solo Artist.

He is the youngest son of jazz musician Cab Kaye, the half-brother of guitarist Caleb Quaye, and half-brother of jazz musician and ethno-musicologist Terri Quaye. His father was born in London, but considered himself as African. Although known as Cab Kaye, his full name was Nii Lante Augustus Kwamlah Quaye and he was a Chief of the Ga tribe centralized in Jamestown, Accra, Ghana. Kaye was the son of the pianist Caleb Jonas Quaye a.k.a. Mope Desmond, who was born in Accra, Ghana. Finley did not grow up with his father and only found out, in his twenties, about his father’s history as a musician.

Finley Quaye was inspired early on in his childhood by jazz musicians. He lived in London with his mother, who would take him with her to Ronnie Scott’s jazz club to catch performances of American jazz musicians touring Europe. He started recording in the early 90s, gaining some recognition for work alongside dance act A Guy Called Gerald. In 1997, he came to prominence with a number of Top 10 singles and the album Maverick A Strike which sold in millions in the UK and led to all sorts of awards over the next 12 months.

His star quickly waned with albums around and just after the turn of the century yielding very little returns. He has spent much of the past two decades living in the USA but he made the news back here in 2012 when first of all he was found guilty of aggravated assault in Edinburgh for which he was sentenced to 225 hours of unpaid work, while a few months later he was declared bankrupt with a tax debt of £383,000.

All a bit of shame really:-

mp3 : Finley Quaye – Your Love Gets Sweeter



Time does strange things to pop history.

There are many instances where the debut single has proven to be the defining moment of a band or singer’s career but more often than not it simply lays down a marker for bigger and better things further down the line. Many years later, said band or singer, having enjoyed an extended career, undergoes an extensive critical reassessment, part of which usually involves a fresh consideration of that crucial debut. I think Talking Heads are a great illustration of what I am getting at.

It was away back in February 1977 that the then trio released Love → Building on Fire as a single. It predated their debut album by more than six months and indeed was already considered such an ‘old’ song that it was left off said debut, albeit it seemed to be part of the regular set list for many years thereafter. The debut LP was the piece of plastic that took a by now four-piece Talking Heads to an audience well beyond the confines of NYC, with songs like Uh-Oh Love Comes To Town, The Book I Read, Don’t Worry About The Government and, above all else, Psycho Killer, making a huge and immediate impact. Most polls which look back at, and list, great debut albums usually have Talking Heads : 77 mentioned somewhere in the piece.

All of which somehow makes Love → Building on Fire (or Love Goes to Building on Fire which has always been easier to type) something of an afterthought when looking back at the band’s career. I first noticed increasing mentions of the debut 45 once it became clear that the band, having broken up, had no intention of ever reforming. It was almost as if those who were penning the valedictory pieces wanted their readers to think or believe that the writer had been ahead of the curve back in 1977 and had predicted or expected greatness and longevity on the back of the first few minutes of music that Talking Heads had ever released. And yes, there were some who argued that the debut was the watershed for the band on the basis that they lost something once they moved out of CBGBs.

It’s all, of course, utter nonsense.

Yes, Love → Building on Fire is a wonderful way to announce your arrival; it’s an entertaining and cracking three minutes of music, which is why I’m featuring it in this series; but Talking Heads would deliver so many better moments over the ensuing years.

mp3 : Talking Heads – Love → Building on Fire
mp3 : Talking Heads – New Feeling



Only it’s anything but:-

mp3 : Carter USM – Rubbish

It’s actually quite astonishing to look back and realise how Carter USM did something so basic yet made themselves one of the biggest (certainly in the UK) and most exciting live bands of their time. It was, when you boil it all down, just two blokes who made a lot of noise with guitars together with some pre-programmed keyboards and drums as background to shouted out lyrics in the most London of accents. On paper it all sounds a bit naff. On record, it was hugely engaging listening – pop music with a social conscience – but live it was just a crazy communal sing-along and pogo-fest. The early 90s gigs were among the most frantic, energetic and fun I’ve ever experienced.

Rubbish was the band’s third single back in June 1990. It was, like their previous two singles, a flop but within a year they had cracked the singles and album charts. Rubbish was re-released in January 1992 and reached #14.

It’s b-side was and still is one of the greatest ever cover versions:-

mp3 : Carter USM – Rent

The Pet Shop Boys beautiful love song turned completely on its head; samples galore and added lyrics to detail the misery of depending on the welfare state to provide the most basic and essential of life’s needs. The final ninety seconds or so are among the angriest bits of music you will ever listen to as Jim Bob screams out the questions contained in the complicated paperwork that needed to be filled in to get a housing allowance while Fruitbat sarcastically croons ‘it’s so easy’. A reminder of the fact that the Thatcherites and her successor Tories were utter bastards to those who were poor.




THE HOUSE IS FALLING IN: The Fall’s Third Decade

My last ICA on The Fall featured the group’s fourth decade, a period of stability anchored by Elena Poulou on keyboards. This ICA (1997-2006) captures The Fall in flux, from 1998’s onstage fistfight to the “traitors” who left Mark and Elena during a 2006 US tour. It’s all in the books: The Fallen, Mark E. Smith‘s Renegade, and memoirs by Brix, Stephen Hanley, and Simon Wolstencroft. A book on Manchester music by Paul Hanley is forthcoming.

This ICA showcases an exciting decade of sonic innovation. I think Fall members Dave Bush and Julia Nagle in particular brought a level of technical sophistication in keyboards and programming that expanded the Fall’s sound. Nagle is the only constant (apart from Smith himself) for the first five of these ten years.

1. Inch – the production team DOSE had worked with Mark on the single Plug Myself In, but DOSE was fired during the recording of the 1997 album “Levitate”. Inch begins with a glimpse of Smith’s methods as a composer: how does a man who plays no instrument communicate to musicians and producers what he wants to hear? Inch appeared on “Levitate” as the chaotic 4 1/2 Inch. This DOSE mix was not released until 1999.

2. Ten Houses Of Eve – kicking off with a jungle beat, Ten Houses was the opening track on “Levitate”. This remix is from 1998’s “Masquerade” EP. These were the last recordings to include the rhythm section of Steve Hanley and Karl Burns. Burns joined The Fall in 1977, Hanley in 1979.

3. Birthday Song – a fascinating departure from whatever one might consider “normal” for The Fall. Julia Nagle composed a stately instrumental and challenged Smith to write a love poem. Perhaps the only Fall song remotely like it is the touching Bill Is Dead. Birthday Song appeared on 1999’s “The Marshall Suite”.

4. Shake-Off – a more representative selection from “The Marshall Suite”, an album that generated a near hit with Touch Sensitive. The lyrics to Shake-Off touch on a range of unappealing topics: fixing a bathroom cistern, “eyeball injecting” chemicals, and a reunion of Simple Minds.

5. Dr. Buck’s Letter – Julia Nagle’s last album with The Fall was “The Unutterable” (2000). There are several outstanding cuts on that record, but Dr. Buck’s Letter is most beloved by fans. In the latter half of the track, Mark E. Smith reads from a magazine feature by Pete Tong, and cannot contain his amusement.

6. Crop-Dust – one of the few highlights of 2001’s “Are You Are Missing Winner”, an album recorded on the cheap with musicians from a local band called Trigger Happy. Many consider it one of the worst Fall albums. “Are You Are” is similar to the most recent Fall LP (“New Facts Emerge”) in that both were recorded after the departure of a lover, and both have an aggressive garage rock edge untempered by digital instruments. Crop-Dust, however, is built on a sample from garage rock progenitors The Troggs.

7. Janet vs Johnny – Elena Poulou joined The Fall in 2002 (as manager, keyboard player and Mark’s third wife). Poulou first appeared on the EP “The Fall Vs 2003″, which contains this psychedelic tune. A revised version entitled Janet, Johnny + James appeared on “The Real New Fall LP”. PJ Harvey has performed the song in concert.

8. The Past #2 – “The Real New Fall LP” (2003) has a strange lineage. It was originally entitled “Country On The Click”, but after the album leaked, the songs were re-recorded. There are also differences between the UK and US versions of the album. In any configuration, it ranks as one of the best long players in The Fall’s career. The Past #2 makes wonderful use of call-and-response vocals (as does the album’s centerpiece Theme From Sparta FC and earlier songs such as Eat Y’Self Fitter).

9. Blindness – the 2004 and 2005 albums “Interim” and “Fall Heads Roll” were disappointments. But the track Blindness was widely hailed by the long-suffering faithful. It conjures the menacing tone and relentless drive of the band’s Rough Trade era. This version of Blindness is from the vinyl pressing of “Fall Heads Roll”, which differs from the CD.

10. Higgle-dy Piggle-dy – from a 2006 tribute to The Monks. This is the third Monks song covered by The Fall.

BONUS TRACK: Family Feud – from the Von Südenfed album “Tromatic Reflexxions“, a 2007 collaboration between Mark E. Smith and Mouse On Mars which followed MES’ appearance on the Mouse On Mars single Wipe That Sound.