IN THE BED WHERE THEY MAKE LOVE, SHE’S IN A FILM ON THE SHEETS

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.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (10)

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.

JC

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)

 

THE XTC SINGLES (Part 33)

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

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

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.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #98 : FINLEY QUAYE

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

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (9)

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

JC

RUBBISH

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.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #144 : THE FALL (3)

A GUEST POSTING by JONDER

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.

jonder

GUESS WHO’S BACK???

A GUEST POSTING by SWC

Ten Reasons to Be Cheerful

I was sitting in a sports bar in Concourse D at Charlotte Airport, North Carolina waiting for a flight back to the UK. I am sat watching the Cleveland Indians win their 21st consecutive ball game (beating the Royals in the 10th Innings 4 to 3) – slowly munching on a plate of Nachos and sipping a Miller Lite (yeah Miller Lite, shut up, it’s quite nice) when the tannoy strikes up “Flight 245A to London Heathrow is delayed by four hours”.

Four Hours.

Oh come on British Airways – you could nearly walk to London in that time. Sort of. What have I ever done to you? I’ve caught six flights with you in the last four months, every single one of them has been delayed and on one you lost my bag somewhere near Istanbul which is still lost now. There was a picture of me in that bag that is now being used as currency in a Turkish prison somewhere. Probably. That’s your fault you buggers.

I know it’s a first world problem and I should quit my moaning because I’m lucky. I’ve just been on a work paid trip to New Orleans, I’m healthy, happy, incredibly good looking, and I have a lovely family who will be delighted to see me when I get home in the next fifteen hours. I sigh, I stop moaning.

I sink back into my seat. I realise that I’m tired, I’m bored, and the salsa on the nachos has given me a slight bout of heartburn but I smile and get on with the wait. I then realise that I am smiling directly at a man across the bar and he is looking uncomfortable about it. I stop smiling and fish out my ipod from my bag. I’ve barely listened to music over the past four months due to being busy at work and not having a blog to write everyday – honestly, new albums from LCD Soundsystem, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Kendrick Lamar have arrived and I barely listened to any of them.

So before I left the UK I created a playlist of music released in 2017 that I have purchased, downloaded, stolen and barely listened to – about 400 tracks in all.

On the flight over I didn’t listen to any music because I watched Boss Baby and them for some reason the remake of Dad’s Army and then fell asleep.

My plan was to listen to this playlist on the flights and to reacquaint myself with what has been going on this year musically, to find some inspiration because if I’m honest I miss writing, I miss the fun of a blog, I miss the pointless compiling of lists telling you what I think are the best 50 songs that feature the weather in their title (Number One Happy When It Rains – obviously). I miss raving about how brilliant a new band is, I miss stealing other people’s ideas and claiming them as mine.

I’ll let you into a little secret, there is a chance that the WYCRA team might be reborn, because by the time you read this, Badger will probably be back from Australia, KC (now KT) will be back from honeymoon (Vietnam – a train ride from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh) and my workload will have reduced. I mean it won’t be WYCRA it will be called something else – but we have spoken about it – Anyway…

I pull out the iPod and the battery is low, it is giving me the little apple sign – bugger, it has switched itself on and had a wobbly, my fault for not locking it. It’s going to be a long four hours. My smile is reducing.

I wander over to the gate where I need to be – there is a bright shining light and choir of celestial squawking and I look over and see a long thin table full of plug sockets and ipod docks. I look up to the ceiling (where airplane fans there is a full scale model of a Bellanca 14-9L Crusair hanging – see above) and mouth ‘Thank You’ and the spirit of Biggles salutes me and flies off….

I plug in and get comfy, I press shuffle on the playlist and relax….

The four hours fly by (in the end it was three and a half hours in fact), there has been some brilliant music released this year and here are according to me the ten finest musical releases of the year so far, in reverse order and to be honest it could have been a Top 100 because it doesn’t include stuff by bands like Alvvays, The Shins, The Horrors, Fucked Up, Middle Kids, Communions and countless others. You are very welcome.

TEN

Rockabye Baby – Joey Bada$$ taken from ‘All Amerikkkan Badass’.

Just to get you warmed up. Within the first two minutes of this, Joey has jumped down your throat and called for a revolution and hollered ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ at you. Incredible, incendiary, seething hip hop from the greatest American Rapper that isn’t called Kendrick Lamar.

NINE

Percolator – Charly Bliss taken from ‘Guppy’

So I’m going to say it. Ok. Here goes. ‘Percolator’ is three things, firstly it’s the greatest song ever to have a kitchen appliance in its name, secondly it’s the greatest song by a band with a ‘name’ name since ‘Seether’ by Veruca Salt and thirdly, this, this three minute blast is what the words ‘bubblegum pop’ was invented for. There I feel better now.

EIGHT

Modern Act – Cloud Nothings taken from ‘Life Without Sound’

Which is pretty much the title of this piece summed up in music, a triumph call to arms. Confident, bold and yet slightly fragile. Quite easily the greatest moment of Cloud Nothings career so far.

SEVEN

Fade – Waxahatchee taken from ‘Out of the Storm’

‘Fade’ is a beautiful song. It comes at the end of the album, an album about heartbreak, and righting lots of wrong things. Then ‘fade’ comes on and it’s your own heart that breaks, well more melts, I suppose, as Kate Crutchfield tells you in a whispery vocal that she is “Walking Away” – it’s a compelling and intimate release.

SIX

You + Me – Public Service Broadcasting taken from ‘Every Valley’

The new Public Service Broadcasting album is a stroke of genius, the piece de resistance is this, right in the middle of it. A glorious, dreamy duet with Lisa Jen Brown of Welsh band 9Bach in which we hear the voice of PSB’s WIllgoose for the first time. It’s a ruddy delight.

FIVE

Hymn for an Average Man – Algiers taken from ‘The Underside of Power’

Algiers are a difficult band to pigeonhole. What they are a devilishly clever band, ‘The Underside of Power’ is their second album and mixes funk, gospel, rock and R&B with a healthy slab of fury and noise. ‘Hymn for an average man’ takes aim at Trump voters with the aid of a skipped record sample and a sombre sounding piano and it is just stunning.

FOUR

Planet – Four Tet ‘Single

I had stopped thinking that Four Tet could surprise me. I mean I knew that any new record would be incredible, but I didn’t expect this. Seven minutes of breathy vocals, thumping percussion, some synths and then this weird mesmering string thing plucking away in the back. Astonishing and the best use of a stringed instrument in a dance record since ‘The Private Psychedelic Reel’ (yes it does I’ve just checked it).

THREE

Arc of Bar – Japandroids taken from ‘Near to the Wild Heart’

You can almost hear the conversation in the recording studio “Hey Dave, you know what’s been missing from rock music over the last 70 years?”. Silence. “Songs about mosquitos”. Yup. A Seven minute tubthumping rock anthem about mosquitos (and other things) and you know what. Its totally brilliant.

TWO

Call The Police – LCD Soundsystem taken from ‘An American Dream’

“We all know this nothing” sings James Murphy. You speak for yourself young man. For me, and with a nod to the chap below, this has been the single most important musical release in the last four years. A big bold stadium rock sized anthem made just fucking perfect with a shamelessly liberal ‘borrowing’ of the melody from ‘Procession’ by New Order. Oh man. Every time I hear this I end up grinning like a chimp let loose in wool factory.

ONE

Humble – Kendrick Lamar taken from ‘Damn’

Sorry to be so utterly predictable but Damn Indeed. ‘Humble’ is incredible, a rapping masterclass, just heads and shoulders above everything else that is around. Not only is this the best single of the year, ‘Damn’ is also the best album of the year too, and that even features U2 for God’s Sake.

So there we have it and I’ve not even mentioned Run The Jewels, Spinning Coin, Swimming Tapes, Whiskey Stain, The National or Taylor Swift.

SWC

JC adds….I was going to keep this back till December in line with my request for postings that look back on the year that was for music.  But I couldn’t resist.  He’s been missed hasn’t he?

A SPECTACULAR SPECTACLE

This blog started out back in 2006 just as Frightened Rabbit were beginning to get noticed, initially here in Scotland and then, thanks to a combination of some very fine early releases and some equally fine live tours It also helped that lead somgwriter Grant Hutchison was such a sound and decent bloke who, fully understanding and recognising that new media, including blogging, could go a long way to breaking new and emerging talent, was always willing to give of his time to anyone who asked for it.

Back in April 2008, Frightened Rabbit released a monumentally impressive sophomore album. I wrote an awful lot about Midnight Organ Fight over at the Google version of this blog before it was unceremoniously torn down. Like many others, I fell head over heels for its intense and passionate blend of indie-pop/folk across songs that, for the most part, dealt with falling in love like you’ve never done before only for it to all go horrendously and hideously wrong. The lyrics were honest to the point of brutal with absolutely no sugar-coating whatsoever. It also helped that I was at the launch gigs in tiny Glasgow venues, including Mono and King Tuts, at which you could see at close-hand just how difficult and painful it was for the frontman to relive so many real-life episodes through the medium of song.

The album featured in many end of year lists and deservedly so. The band followed it up with The Winter of Mixed Drinks in 2010, their third and final LP for indie-label Fat Cat Records, a record that broadened their appeal enough to attract the attention of Atlantic Records with who the band signed a deal not long after. Maybe it was the music snob in me, somewhat annoyed that this band that I had been lucky enough to see around the toilet circuit were now capable of selling out Barrowlands in a matter of minutes and had an audience that wanted to sing-a-long to everything, thus ruining the subtle parts of the gut-wrenching songs, including the ones that were on the newer records. But I sort of lost interest in Frightened Rabbit, albeit it was genuinely pleasing to see them become a little bit wealthier on the fruits of their labours.

I did, however, see the band back in 2013 when, by complete chance, they happened to be in Berlin when I was celebrating my 50th birthday with a first ever visit to the city in the company of Mrs Villain. We were having a fantastic time enjoying the sights, including out at the Olympic Stadium the day after my birthday when a text flashed up from Aldo telling me he had noticed Frightened Rabbit were playing in what seemed to be a small-medium sized venue in one of the more bohemian parts of the city. We managed to get tickets and along we went – it was a decent gig but nothing more. The songs were largely drawn from what was then their most recent album Pedestrian Verse, a work that I had bought but only listened to once on the basis that it didn’t do anything for me, and the live renditions didn’t really spark much either. Having said that, it was still a great way to have an unexpected night out in Berlin.

Four and a bit year on, I ventured out to see the band again. It was apt that I was in the company of Mrs Villain and Aldo. It was the latter who had spotted that the band were putting on a special show in which they would be accompanied by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) inside the very grand Paisley Abbey, a church that dates back in parts to 850 years ago and is still in use today. The show was part of the sixth annual Spree Festival during which the RSNO always team up with a Scottish band or singer and perform inside the Abbey. We were lucky enough to see Twilight Sad and Admiral Fallow with the orchestra back in 2013 and that proved to be a special and enjoyable occasion.

This, however, took the whole collaboration thing to entirely new heights. There’s a depth and emotion to Scott Hutchison’s song-writing that lends itself perfectly to huge arrangements such as were provided on the night. The show opened with three songs that I didn’t know at all thanks to them coming from albums or EPs that had been released in 2016 or 2017 and which I hadn’t picked up; nevertheless, the atmosphere was incredible with a reverential and fully seated audience hanging onto every note, with not even a whisper to be heard during the performance. The band’s playing was perfectly in tune with the orchestra, beautifully understated within a minimum amp so that the entire sound could be enjoyed.

And then something truly magical happened. The band, with the exception of Scott, took their leave. The singer said that he was about to do the scariest thing in his entire life as a performer. And with that he began to strum and play this:-

mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – Poke

One of the highlights of Midnight Organ Fight and a song that conveys all the sad emotion of how it feels to be broken-hearted while failing to comprehend just why everything went pear-shaped. It’s a song that uses the word ‘cunt’ and Scott didn’t hesitate to utter it, despite knowing he in the middle of what to many people is a very sacred and spiritual location.

The audience applause went up a fair few notches at the end of the song. I didn’t think the night could be bettered and would happily have gone home there and then thinking it had all been worth it.

The band came back on and Scott said they were going to perform some songs without the orchestra before ending the night with further collaborations. I was gob-smacked that the next four songs turned out to be energetic and immense versions of tracks on Midnight Organ Fight immediately followed by two of their more pop-orientated songs from some of the later albums.

The night ended with five more songs performed alongside the orchestra. It is worth stating, this was a full orchestra with strings, brass, wind and percussion, with every player being internationally renowned. The band really had to be on top form to cope with it.

The night ended with all sorts of thanks offered prior to the playing of the final number. I was sitting there quietly wishing for a particular song as I reckoned it would make for the perfect ending as it really did offer the greatest potential for an orchestral arrangement. But at the same time, I thought it might just be too much of an ask for the band to pull it off in such distinguished company. If I believed in God, I might even have offered up a silent prayer at the time with an ask….I simply sat there and hoped. I later found our Mrs Villain was hoping for the same thing…and although I never asked him, I’m sure Aldo was also hoping for the same.

And we got it:-

mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – Keep Yourself Warm

I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved emotionally by one single song performed in the live setting as I was sitting there in Paisley Abbey. As it ended, I, along with just about everyone present, leapt up and roared an approval with a sustained round of applause – just as you do when you’ve enjoyed a classical music performance. I glanced across at Aldo and we simultaneously mouthed the word ‘wow’. There was no need for anything else to be said.

Back in 2013, footage was later released of The Twilight Sad/RSNO efforts and indeed this can still be viewed on-line. If the same thing happened from the other night, I’ll be sure to draw it your attention.

I’m still getting shivers days later thinking about it.

JC

THE XTC SINGLES (Part 32)

See all that I said last week, it’s much the same this week. Except…….

……………..I have recently watched This Is Pop, a new documentary film that tells the tale of XTC.

It aired on Sky Arts here in the UK – the satellite station seemingly picked up the option after it had been rejected by the BBC – a big mistake on the part of the national broadcaster.  The film was every bit as different and entertaining as the band were throughout their time together.  It did centre around the often self-deprecating and very funny contributions of Andy Partridge but there was plenty of screen time given to the other band members, particularly Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory.  The vintage footage was priceless and there was a fair bit of honesty about where things had gone wrong over the years.  Some fans will be disappointed that the film largely focussed on the earlier years and the post-English Settlement material didn’t get anything like the same level of attention or detail, although there was a decent segment on the Dukes of Stratosphear project and the issues that arose around Skylarking.

The film does provide a reminder of how many other great groups over the years have grown and evolved to ensure they never got boring or clichéd.  It also was a wonderful reminder of why nobody could ever make the suggestion of XTC being a contender for the ‘Had It. Lost It’ feature in these pages.

And so while the final few singles the band would release aren’t to my personal tastes, I really am wide of the mark by suggesting that while they ‘have their charms, but it really isn’t XTC is it?’  The songs from Apple Venus Volume 1 are very much those of the band – they may be a long way removed from the sounds they made in the late 70s/early 80s but they are unmistakably, undeniably and still uniquely the work of XTC.  It’s my fault for not paying attention back in the day.

Single #2 from Apple Venus Volume 1 was released in June 1999. Just like its predecessor Easter Theatre, it didn’t chart, and it also had a similar style in terms of content:-

mp3 : XTC – I’d Like That
mp3 : XTC – I’d Like That (home demo)
XTC – How I’d Like That Came To Be

The demo actually appears to be two recordings spliced together – a genuine low-fi effort of about a minute in length before it becomes something a bit more sophisticated.  While it might not be my preferred choice of beverage,  JTFL will disagree as he included the song on an ICA in June 2016

I didn’t bother trying to track down the spoken word effort this time. Sorry if you were looking for it.

Next week is the final instalment of this series.  A huge thanks to all of you who have taken the time to drop by and offer your own views, thoughts and opinions.  Even those of you who found it boring.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #97 : FINITRIBE

From wiki:-

Finitribe was a dance band formed in Edinburgh, in 1984 by Chris Connelly, John Vick, Andy McGregor, Philip Pinsky, David Miller and Simon McGlynn. The group is sometimes also referred to as Fini Tribe.

Initially a post-punk guitar outfit, the band released a debut E.P. Curling and Stretching on their own Finiflex label in the summer of 1984, graduating to their first John Peel Session in 1985 before rethinking their whole approach in the mid 80s.

Tired of the conventional drums, bass and guitar set up, they acquired a sampler and began experimenting with electronic music. The result was Let The Tribe Grow, an EP released on the Glasgow label Cathexis and featuring ‘De Testimony’, a seminal dance floor anthem for the original Balearic/Acid House generation. Subsequently, signing to Chicago label Wax Trax the band released two singles, “I Want More” (a cover of the Can song) and “Make it Internal”, raising their profile in the States and resulting in extensive radio and club success.

A long and arduous “toilet” tour of the UK in 1988 led to the departure of three members – including Connelly who relocated to the States and joined the Revolting Cocks and Ministry – and a parting of the ways with Wax Trax Records.

This in turn resulted in a resurrection of the Finiflex label and a distribution deal with Fast Forward for a long-awaited debut album, Noise Lust and Fun. The band was now made up of Pinsky, Vick and Miller along with various contributions from Little Annie, Rosanne Erskine and Wilf Plum. A series of remix EP’s proved their electronic and dance floor credentials and brought indie chart success.

The band met and signed a long-term publishing deal with Andy Heath (director of Beggars Banquet and Momentum Publishing), allowing the band to grow and develop without the constant need for advances from record companies.

After signing a new deal with One Little Indian the band with encouragement from label boss Derek Birkett ran into controversy almost immediately with the ‘Animal Farm’ EP. Subverting the nursery rhyme “Old MacDonald” for the purposes of berating the similarly titled hamburger outlet, Finitribe (as they were now known) offered up a flavour of the anti-consumerist stance prevalent on new album Grossing 10k (1989). The subsequent threat of legal action was not exactly helped by a “Fuck off McDonald’s” poster and T-shirt campaign.

The band continued to develop stronger links with the electronic music world for their next single and album. Andrew Weatherall produced and remixed the single “101” (1991) along with Graham Massey from 808 State. Justin Robertson then worked with the band to remix and produce the singles “Ace Love Deuce” and “Forevergreen” (1992). These singles all featured on the band’s most critically and commercially successful album, An Unexpected Groovy Treat (1992), the last album they were to record for One Little Indian.

The success of this album allowed the band to re launch their ‘finiflex’ label and the in-house production team recorded and released many singles including those by Justin Robertson, State of Flux, Ege Bam Yasi and Sparks. A Finiflex Compilation album And Away They Go was released to critical acclaim in 1993. The band was redeveloping their studio complex in Leith during this period and coordinated all management, recording, press and merchandise from there.

After leaving One Little Indian the band further developed their studio complex and looked for a new recording deal. With the assistance of Tom Watkins (Pet Shop Boys, East 17) the band negotiated a deal with Pete Tong at London/FFRR. This deal allowed for the completion of the state of the art recording studio in Leith and facilitated complete independence for the recording of their next album.

For the writing and pre-production of the band’s fourth album they relocated to a small crofting settlement called Sheigra. near Kinlochbervie in the north west of Scotland. In 1994 the band released the single “Brand New” and although a minor hit the relationship with London/FFRR was cooling. A further single “Love Above” and the album Sheigra were released in 1995. The band followed this with a tour with Sparks and then their own headlining tour of the UK.

By early 1996 David Miller and Philip Pinsky split from John Vick, the former continuing with Finitribe and John Vick successfully continuing with the studio complex Finiflex.

The slimmed down Finitribe, now operating from house built on the side of a volcano, started a new label U.G.T and released an LP by Acid House maverick Ege Bam Yasi. While looking for a new label and a new singer Finitribe went to Essex to work with former Prodigy collaborator Jason Byrne. The result was the EP Squelch and the meeting up with future producer Witchman (John Roome).

For a short while the band hooked up with Chas Smash (Madness) as manager, this indirectly led to a meeting with Korda Marshall and a deal was struck with Infectious/ Mushroom Records (home of Garbage and Ash). Philip and David recruited a band and picked up some guitars and drums.

The band’s fifth album ‘Sleazy Listening’ was recorded in Edinburgh with John Roome (Witchman) producing. It featured Paul Haig, Little Annie, Niroshini Thambar, Chris Ross, John Roome and Katie Morrison. The album mixed electronica and live instrumentation and received critical acclaim. Melody Maker stating that, ” If Finitribe had lived and worked in Bristol they would have won the Mercury Music prize by now”.

The album was launched with a sell out gig at The Shooting Gallery, Edinburgh with Davy Henderson’s Nectarine No. 9. The band toured the UK with their most successful gigs for several years, headlining the ICA in London. They recorded the first ever John Peel live session and released three further singles for Infectious.

This was the band’s last album and tour. Their last gig was at a sell out Bath Moles Club in the summer of 1998.

Other interests and priorities meant that Philip and David put Finitribe to one side . One more single was released ‘Bored’ (2000).

mp3 : Finitribe – 101 (Sonic Shuffle Mix by Andrew Weatherall)

Finitribe completely passed me by.  It was only through the contributions from  across the blogging community this past decade that I have learned of them and come t0 appreciate them.

Thank you my dear friends.  You know who you are and I’m forever in your debt.

JC

RELUCTANTLY CROUCHED AT THE STARTING LINE

I just love that opening line to this #22 hit single from the autumn of 1996.

My first exposure to it was on Channel 4 which, at the time, occasionally aired music videos inbetween programmes. I’m almost certain this was shown immediately in advance of the main news show which has always been broadcast at 7pm.

Cake, as wiki informs us, are an alternative rock band from Sacramento, California. Consisting of singer John McCrea, trumpeter Vince DiFiore, guitarist Xan McCurdy, bassist Gabe Nelson and drummer Paulo Baldi, the band has been noted for McCrea’s sarcastic lyrics and monotone vocals, DiFiore’s trumpet parts, and their wide-ranging musical influences, including country music, Mariachi, rock, funk, Iranian folk music and hip hop.

They have enjoyed sporadic success in their home nation, including a #1 album as recently as 2011 but over here in the UK they have been very much an underground act and The Distance remains their highest charting 45 while the LP it was lifted from, Fashion Nugget, is the only one that has made it inside the Top 75.

I do like this single – the deadpan vocals and the trumpet solo help lift it above the norm.

mp3 : Cake – The Distance

The CD single had three other tracks on offer:-

mp3 : Cake – Multiply The Heartaches
mp3 : Cake – Jolene (live)
mp3 : Cake – It’s Coming Down

The first is very influenced by country music; bits of it remind me of Squeeze tacking the genre on Labelled With Love. There’s also a feeling of sounding, vocally, like Mark E Everett.

The second is NOT a cover of the song made famous by Dolly Parton and later recorded by Glasgow’s very own Strawberry Switchblade. It’s one of their own compositions and could be something out of the canon of Violent Femmes with added trumpet. Warning. It goes on for over 8 minutes and involves audience participation. I’m guessing it’s lifted from a radio show as the occasional swear word is bleeped out.

The final track is very much a b-side effort; it’s a bit laboured and repetitive. Not one that I’ll listen to again willingly – one for the ‘next’ button function on your listening device.

JC

HAD IT. LOST IT. (Part 10)

I do feel as if this latest instalment has been covered somewhat in previous postings; I also feel it’s like shooting into an open goal as there is near unanimity that Simple Minds were a band who really lost it (although I do accept that some folk out there – and I’m looking directly at you Jacques the Kipper – feel they never had it in the first place).

For those who don’t know the back story, Simple Minds began life as a straightforward punk band called Johnny & The Self-Abusers, hailing from Toryglen which, despite its name, is a solidly working-class community on the south side of Glasgow. This particular band played the pub circuit in Glasgow throughout 1977, a unique outfit amidst what was predominantly a hard-rocking, long-haired and blues orientated set of bands. They were thought of enough by London-based Chiswick Records to cut a single, Saints and Sinners, in November 1977 but in keeping with the spirit of the times the band split immediately, some going on to form a power-pop outfit called Cuban Heels and others establishing Simple Minds who were more focussed on the glam side of things with an increasing focus on electronica.

It took a few personnel changes and a number of stop-start efforts at finding a defining sound, but by early 1979 the band were on Arista Records and in the studio recording their debut single and album, Life In a Day. It received something of a mixed reaction but the album did make the Top 30 and the single spent two weeks in the chart, peaking at #62. There was some concern, however, that the much-anticipated follow-up 45, Chelsea Girl, was a monumental flop. Jim Kerr has subsequently acknowledged that there was too much of a reliance on mimicking the pop elements of Roxy Music and that the band were ignorant of much of what has happening elsewhere at the time, not least the emergence of Joy Division.

Determined to take a stride forward, the band were back in the studio within a matter of months and able to release a second album before 1979 was out. Real to Real Cacophony was very different from the debut being more dark and experimental sounding in nature with barely a hint of a catchy pop song. It’s an album that had a lot in common with the afore-mentioned Joy Division as well as Magazine, PiL and Gang of Four as groups looked to create something that combined the best elements of post-punk and the often derided prog-rock. It was music you had to sort of work hard at to fully enjoy and appreciate with very little in the way of instant gratification.

mp3 : Simple Minds – Changeling

This was proof that Simple Minds definitely ‘had it’ albeit they were regarded at this point in time as an albums band who were worth catching when they played live. Their music wasn’t considered radio-friendly not helped by the fact that 1979/80 was a time when most DJs and stations were suspicious of electronic music thinking it was a fad that would soon fade. Nobody at Arista was therefore ready for what the band presented to them in late 1980:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – I Travel

A booming, catchy, commercial and incredibly danceable piece of music that was surely tailor-made for the charts was a monumental flop as the label weren’t geared at all to promote Simple Minds to the pop market. The crime was made worse when an equally wonderful follow-up, Celebrate, was an even bigger flop and the label failing to print enough copies of the parent album Empires and Dance to meet the demand that was being created from favourable reviews across much of the UK music press.

The band took their leave of Arista and headed into the welcoming bosom of Virgin Records for whom they soon hit payola. It was a bit of a slow burner with two albums, Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, released at the same time in 1981. Both were produced by Steve Hillage whose fame and career had been built entirely on prog rock but any worries or concerns that Simple Minds would become unfashionable and unlistenable were soon allayed. These were confident sounding records being a blend of synth-pop , rock and dance that seemed bold, innovative and which were more than capable of grabbing and holding the attention of even the most causal of listeners. There were 15 tracks across the two albums including what should have been three smash hit singles but the band still suffered from the perception that they were one solely for album buyers.

Everything changed with the next album exactly one year later. The band had been helped by radio stations belatedly picking up on the flop singles and giving them occasional air time, while Arista Records had cashed in on their higher profile by issuing a decent compilation of the early material as well as making a push with a re-released I Travel. Virgin Records geared up for an assault on the pop market, encouraged no doubt by the fact that ever-increasing numbers of synth-based bands were becoming successes. There was an early indication that 1982 was going to be the breakthrough year with new single Promised You A Miracle crashing into the Top 20 that April, triggering off a run of what turned out to be 21 hit singles in a row over the next sixteen years.

New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84) turned out to be a shimmering and very listenable forty-five minutes of music across nine slabs of pop-orientated pieces of music that were of huge appeal to the masses. It was an album very much of its time, sitting comfortable alongside critically acclaimed and best-selling efforts from the likes of ABC, Yazoo, Associates, Soft Cell and Heaven 17 among others.

mp3 : Simple Minds – Glittering Prize

Nobody embraced Simple Minds quite like the city of Glasgow. There was a huge pride that the local boys had come real good and in response the band would write and record an anthem that was clearly about a city that was on the cusp of a cultural renaissance as part of its efforts to recover from the collapse of its traditional industries and way of life. Waterfront was big, booming, powerful and a portent of what was coming down the road.

The promo video also incorporated a live performance that had been filmed at the Barrowlands Ballroom in the rundown east end of the city, a move that took many by surprise as the venue was not associated with rock/pop music with everyone preferring to appear at the Apollo in the city centre.

The thing was, the Apollo had recently closed its doors for the last time and it seemed that the only place open to touring bands was the newly opened and wholly soulless Scottish Exhibition Centre, which ironically was part of a redeveloped waterfront. Simple Minds had, almost single-handedly, shown what the Barrowlands was capable of delivering in terms of sound and atmosphere and it wasn’t too long before it became an established and popular venue that remains in use to this very day almost unchanged nearly 35 years on. If nothing else, I’ll always have Simple Minds close to my heart for being such pioneers.

Waterfront had heralded a new heavier sound for the band, one that was built on substantially with the release of Sparkle In The Rain in early 1984.

mp3 : Simple Minds – Up On The Catwalk

Although it has undergone something of a critical evaluation since, it musn’t be forgotten that just about all the music papers and magazines embraced the record, welcoming Simple Minds to the roster of popular anthemic bands such as Big Country and U2 whose appeal was based on a Celtic sound rock music that could, at its worst, veer into stadium rock.

The album also made the band very popular in countries well beyond the UK, including Canada, Australia and the USA. It put them on the radar of many high-ranking folk in the music industry and it was no real surprise that an approach came to record songs that were perfect for film soundtracks. Which takes us to the atrocity of Don’t You Forget About Me – written specifically by two composers who specialised in such material for the closing credits of the John Hughes directed teen-flick The Breakfast Club – and turned down by Billy Idol and Bryan Ferry before being accepted by Simple Minds. A #1 hit the world-over in 1985 but miles removed from the sounds that had made the band an essential listen less than five years previous.

But maybe this was just a temporary loss of form and the band’s next album of original material would salvage things…..

I’ll end it there as you know the rest.

JC

A BOOK REVIEW…..AND A POINTER TO A NEW OCCASIONAL SERIES

A short time ago, I went along to a cultural gathering in my home city.

Robert Forster was appearing at Mono, a location that is part music-venue, part vegetarian cafe and part record-store that is owned and run by Stephen Pastel.  Robert was going to take part in an interview to promote his recently issued book Grant & I : Inside and Outside The Go-Betweens and in the process sing a few songs.  It was an event that I’d have more than willingly paid a fair bit of money to get to and yet the tickets were free.

It was, as you’d expect, packed full of folk who had been Go-Betweens devotees at one time or another. I knew a lot of people in the room,many of who have become close friends in the near eleven years since I began this blog.  It was always going to be a special and emotional evening, not least as the Australian band were indirectly responsible for me getting my finger out and launching TVV and I’ve still never quite gotten used to the fact that Grant McLennan is no longer with us.

It turned out to be everything I could have wished for and more, thanks to the opportunity to meet Robert at the end of the night, have a photo taken with him and have him sign a copy of the book, with the dedication to The Vinyl Villain.  I’ve only one other book with such a dedication and it came from Grace Maxwell and Edwyn Collins;  I tend to shy away from having my records and books ‘defaced’ with signatures.

The following day I started reading the book and soon found it all-consuming.  Robert is an extremely talented and entertaining writer and of course the story he gets to tell is rather extraordinary.  The blurb on the back nails it perfectly:-

Beautifully written – like lyrics, like prose – Grant & I is a rock memoir akin to no other, Part ‘making of’, part music industry expose, part buddy-book, this is a delicate and perceptive celebration of creative endeavour. With wit and candour, Robert Forster pays tribute to a band who found huge success in the margins, having friendship at its heart.

It’s easy to forget that this was a band who never enjoyed the success in the 80s that their collective talents and output deserved.  The albums were well received but their singles all flopped despite most of subsequently proving to be timeless classics (unlike many others from the same decade).  They recorded for numerous labels, finding themselves dropped all sorts of strange and unrelated reasons looking on as so many of their contemporaries hit payola. But not once does the author feel the need to settle any old scores or cast aspersions on those who did get rich and famous – indeed I think there was just one swear word within its 330 pages and the profanity was followed by an immediate apology in brackets!

Instead, it is a celebration of the fact the band had a lengthy career, initially from 1977 -1989 and then again when they reformed in 2000 through to Grant’s sudden death from heart failure in May 2006.  The book has a strong supporting cast including long-standing band members Lindy Morrison, Robert Vickers and Amanda Brown, various friends, family and band associates. There’s also many wonderful cameo appearances dotted throughout from other leading Australian musicians, the Postcard Records cognoscenti and all sorts of producers and artists.

Much of the book is set in Australia, and at different times paints wonderfully evocative pictures of the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, It certainly made me want to get on a plane and go see these places for myself.  It is rich in its description of life in London in the 80s, getting across the bizarre notion of musicians who were hugely respected and appreciated by just about everyone in the industry and yet rarely had more than £50 a week per person to live on.  There is a lot of self-deprecating wit on display throughout, punctured occasionally by a sentence or two that is genuinely shocking with revelations about personal circumstances that a sharp reminder that rock stars are human beings and suffer from the same type of frailties that impinge on the rest of us mere mortals.

But here’s the thing.  Having devoured the first 80-90% of the book in a matter of days, it took me weeks to pick it up again and finish it. It was all down to knowing that the hero dies in the end and I just didn’t want to face up to that. I had to be in the right frame of mind for finishing it off…but despite my best efforts I did find myself upset and crying.

I am delighted that Robert Forster has produced a masterpiece, as fine a music memoir as I’ve ever read, and given I have about 200 such books lying around the house I’m in a reasonable position to make such a judgement.  Even if you know little or nothing about the band, there is much to enjoy from the writing and the telling of what is a wonderfully played out story of two soul mates who perfectly complemented one another.

The book has given me an idea for a new, occasional (at best monthly) series and that is to look at the music and offer up some of Robert’s words as an accompaniment.  Staring right back with the debut single, released originally in 1978 on the Australian indie Able Label and restricted to just 700 copies.  If you want one nowadays, be prepared to shell out almost £1,500.

mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Lee Remick
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Karen

The latter was just about the first song the university student Robert Forster wrote. By this time, one of his best friends was fellow student Grant McLennan; Robert had been rebuffed by Grant in an effort to form a band as Grant was far more interested in and occupied by cinema.

Robert had instead formed a three piece called The Godots who were down to play in a Battle of the Bands competition in Brisbane. The set had to comprise one cover and four originals, one of which would be Karen, receiving its first ever public airing.

“My songwriting had also improved, taking a lion-sized leap with the completion of a simple, predominantly two-chorded number, a paean to the female librarians at the university – helpful, distant women I idealised – that swelled and built over three choruses to end in a shouted climax of the song’s title”

“An attentive silence came over the room as we began the song, brought on by the hypnotic beat of the long introduction; I was sensing a power I’d never known as I stepped up to the microphone to deliver the opening lines.”

Grant McLennan was in the audience watching his friend perform, perhaps sorry that he had declined to be in the band. They didn’t win the competition – in fact they weren’t even billed as The Godots, a misunderstanding with the organisers leading to the band being introduced as the less pretentious sounding The Go-Dots. By the end of the year, that band were no more and Grant, having been aware that Robert was writing other songs, including one that was all about Hollywood actress Lee Remick, said that he was willing to take away a cassette copy to listen to back home during the Xmas/New Year break of 1977/78. The rest, as they say is history.

Worth mentioning too that Lee Remick herself, many many years later, did meet Robert Forster and accept the gift of one of the singles that bore her name. She revealed that she was aware of its existence and was charmed by it. Robert, in the book declares the meeting as one of the highlights of his entire life.

JC

 

A WONDERFULLY DESCRIPTIVE OPENING TWO LINES

We drank from cups on standard issue sofas under scaffolding
Informed sources said we were seen by observers, it`s a meeting

Howard Devoto has always had a fine way with words. But the thing is, his band always had a fine way with music.

I was very tempted to have Magazine take up the slot on Sundays when the XTC series comes to its conclusion, especially as I’d previously put Buzzcocks under the spotlight, but I’m going elsewhere with it.

This would have been #8 in a series, released in July 1980 on the back of great acclaim for its parent album The Correct Use Of Soap:-

mp3 : Magazine – Sweetheart Contract

The b-side of this 7″ piece of plastic was recorded at the The Russell Club, Manchester on 3rd May 1980. It’s a version that is far removed from the original and shows just how good the band were live back in their prime with Barry Adamson‘s bass and John Doyle‘s drums driving the song on at a frantic pace while John McGeogh (RIP) and Dave Formula batter away at lead guitar and keyboards respectively to create a sonic thunderstorm which will have caused bleeding ears for the sweaty audience in the confinement of such a small venue.

mp3 : Magazine – Feed The Enemy (live)

Compare and contrast with the epic recording of the original, with one of the most sneering vocals ever delivered in history of mankind:-

mp3 : Magazine – Feed The Enemy

JC