THE NEW ORDER SINGLES (Part 12)

Single #12 appeared in September 1986.

As usual, I bought the 12″ version.  Took it home and played it and found myself a tad underwhelmed.  It seemed a tad flimsy and basic compared to some of the most recent work.  There were bits of it sounded OK but it just didn’t hang together all that well.  It also sounded strange to hear New Order try to make something of a political statement:-

mp3 : New Order – State of the Nation (12″ version)

Flipped it over to the b-side, and judging by its title was anticipating a remix, which is exactly what it proved to be:-

mp3 : New Order – Shame of the Nation (12″ version)

I actually got more out of the slightly longer b-side with its more clubby production and the addition of female backing vocals – something that hadn’t worked with Sub-Culture a short time previously now seemed to make sense.

It was only a few years later when playing both sides of the single again to see if I was now any more fond of the a-side that I spotted something about the credits.  State of the Nation is attributed to New Order while Shame of the Nation is the work of New Order and John Robie.

I still think the b-side would have made a better a-side if that makes sense, and would probably have gotten higher than #30 in the singles chart….it was a big drop in sales from Blue Monday, Confusion and Thieves Like Us, and while everyone at Factory would say they weren’t all that bothered, it must have irked the band and their entourage somewhat that they were beginning to be written off by some of the music press.

I picked up the 7″ not too long afterwards as it was one that ended up quickly in the bargain bins.  These are heavily edited versions of those found on the 12″:-

mp3 : New Order – State of the Nation (7″ version)
mp3 : New Order – Shame of the Nation (7″ version)

According to wiki, the 7″ version of Shame is only available via this piece of plastic or as the b-side to a subseqent Australian single.

Not one that I return to all that often….it’s not their finest moment.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #106 : THE FRATELLIS

from wiki:-

The Fratellis are a Scottish rock band from Glasgow, formed in 2005. The band consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Jon Fratelli (born John Lawler), bass guitarist Barry Fratelli (born Barry Wallace), and drummer and backing vocalist Mince Fratelli (born Gordon McRory). They have released four studio albums and thirteen singles since their breakthrough in 2006. They won in the category Best British Breakthrough Act at the 2007 BRIT Award.

It is fair to say that they arrived with a bang as debut LP Costello Music sold over a million copies in the UK thanks to a range of catchy sing-along tunes that captured the imagination, in particular, of the boozed up festival crowds.

I actually didn’t mind the band too much to begin with, although like just about everyone else, I got heartily sick of hearing Chelsea Dagger on TV, radio and as the accompaniment to goals being scored at football grounds up and down the country. Mrs V was a fan and so I accompanied her to see the band play on a headlining tour that included a gig at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh, probably my least favourite location to see any singer or band thanks to its dreadful acoustics and sight lines. The Fratellis, I’m sorry say, were pretty lousy that night – even Mrs V was disappointed. Neither of us have paid much attention to them since – indeed I thought they had broken up a while back but there’s news of a new album and tour in early 2018.

I listened again to snippets of the songs on the debut album. It hasn’t dated all that well…..this is one of the better ones.

mp3 : The Fratellis – Cuntry Boys and City Girls

JC

I COULDN’T HAVE PUT IT ANY BETTER MYSELF

AS SEEN OVER AT THE OLD BLOG ON 22 JUNE 2009

The background to this post is that, in June 2009, I had been seeking a way to write a critique of why I really detested the hit single I Kissed A Girl by Katy Perry, but somehow never quite got down what exactly I was looking for as my words made me look like a real music snob while they also veered uncomfortably towards homophobia.

And then I discovered that Coxon Le Woof, of the now very occasional blog To Die By Your Side, had nailed it with a great piece of writing:-

Sometimes music isn’t just about music and lyrics.

It’s about context.

You could easily dismiss ‘I Kissed A Girl’ as little more than a catchy pop song.

The question is, should you?

Is music just entertainment or should it have some kind of social or moral responsibility? Now, I’m more than aware that last sentence makes me sound like an old fuddy duddy and spits in the face of everything that rock and roll is supposed to stand for but hey, maybe I am. Maybe I’m overanalysing it. Taking it too seriously. Either that or I’m a closet Daily Mail reader in disguise and this post should simply read ‘Ban This Filth!.

You see, while it may attempt to pass itself off as some kind of lesbian liberation anthem, I can’t help but find this song insulting and derogatory. Sung by the kind of social tourist that Pulp lampooned so well in ‘Common People’. Yet we’re supposed to accept that or ignore it because it comes wrapped in a slick, shiny bubble gum pop wrapper. We’re meant to accept it because flirting with lesbianism has been deemed cool. We’re meant to accept it because Katy Perry is an attractive, non threatening female. And we’re meant to accept it because she’s straight. I mean, imagine if she actually was gay. But then why waste your time imagining that?

Oh wait, no, that’s what we’re supposed to do isn’t it, because the whole thing is cynically designed to titillate us. So long as we remember that she’s not actually gay. This is the same kind of faux lesbianism that floods the insides of so called lads mags. The media constructed myth that lesbians are okay so long as they’re attractive to men. A lipstick lesbian cliche. Besides, we all know they love a bit of cock really, right guys?!?!

Wrong. This song does nothing to advance the acceptance of gays and lesbians in society. It trivialises an important issue. Mocks it. Leaves a series of outdated attitudes in it’s wake while strengthening stereotypes and doing lord knows what damage to both gay and feminist movements. But then what do I know? I mean, I’m not a girl and I’m not a gay girl so what do I know? Why should I worry? Why should I care?

Well I care because I worry what this song says to the kids it’s aimed at. In the same way that I worry about the over sexualised lyrics and imagery that a band like The Pussycat Dolls portrays to impressionable young girls. What are vulnerable girls supposed to take from this? That this is how they have to behave to attract boys? And what of those who are questioning their sexuality? Are they supposed to assume it’s just a phase? Won’t it just add to their confusion? Or am I missing the point? Maybe it is just a bit of fun?

Like I said, it’s all about context. If this song were written and sung by a lesbian then yeah, maybe it would be a proud, defiant anthem. A celebration. But it’s not, it’s about context.

And if you don’t believe that context alters a song, listen to this version by Travis. It’s the reason why I’m ranting a year and a half after the song came out and I think you’ll get a whole different take on it. No strangers to interesting cover versions, here Travis give the song a treatment that manages to start out seemingly innocent, coy and sweet yet somehow ends up seeming strangely creepy and sinister.

mp3 : Travis – I Kissed A Girl (live in session)

That final sentence, composed in the summer of 2009, describes the horror for any actress or starlet who had the misfortune to be offered career opportunities by Harvey Weinstein.

JC

ALWAYS FONDLY REMEMBERED ROUND THESE PARTS

AS SEEN OVER AT THE OLD BLOG ON 22 JANUARY 2009

Glasgow’s very own Urusei Yatsura are one of those bands who really should have been far more famous than they turned out to be. They were largely an out and out pop band with a sound that was influenced by so many others….Sonic Youth in terms of the guitars….a hint of Pavement in respect of weird lyrics…..glam-rock as evidenced by the Glitter Band style chants……the buzz and feedback of the Jesus & Mary Chain…..and the delights and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub…and yet, they somehow always semed to make distinctive records.

They were particularly productive between 1994 and early 1998, but then problems linked to their record label, Che Trading, going bust had led to a near two-year hiatus just as they were really getting a head of steam. Well, just the other day and much to my surprise, I came across a mint copy of their comeback record from late 1999, released on Beggars Banquet, in a second-hand shop.

Consisting of 2 x 7″ singles (on white vinyl no less), I am delighted to bring you the Yon Kyoku EP:-

mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Kaytronika
mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Still Exploding
mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Nobody Knows We’re Stars
mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Mother of the MBK

To all the acts that I mentioned in the pre-amble, I think I’ll now add Jimi Hendrix, as the first few seconds of Kaytronika remind me an awful lot of his Foxy Lady….

It’s a great wee EP – Still Exploding is akin to the sort of songs that the band had been turning out a couple of years earlier, but tracks 3 and 4 are a bit different and indeed unexpected. Nobody Knows We’re Stars is the bitter and melancholic sort of lyric and tune I’d expect from Luke Haines, while Mother of the MBK, with a slow build up to something approaching a wall of noise, is along the lines of what would emerge a few years later in the sounds of The Twilight Sad……

JC

PS

Tomorrow will revisit an old post from June 2009, the closing line of which sent a shiver down my spine in connection with one of the main new stories to emerge in 2017.

BEFORE HE WAS FAMOUS

AS SEEN OVER AT THE OLD BLOG ON 21 SEPTEMBER 2009

Take a close look at the sleeve, and in particular the bloke in the foreground. Vaguely familiar?

Yup, you’re right……it is top comedian Ricky Gervais.

Back in 1982, during his last year at University, Ricky, together with his mate Bill Macrae formed a synth-pop duo called Seona Dancing and set out to take the world by storm. Signed to London Records, the duo got no further than a couple of flop singles in 1983, neither of which troubled the charts. But they must have got played on the radio, as I wouldn’t have bought their debut effort without having heard it beforehand:-

mp3 : Seona Dancing – More To Lose (extended version)
mp3 : Seona Dancing – You’re On My Side

I’ve done a bit of research and discovered that More To Lose was classified as reaching #113 in the charts (I didnt know the numbers stretched that far), while follow-up Bitter Heart did marginally better, reaching #70.

JC

PS

The posting back in 2009 wasn’t the first time that I’d mentioned this synth-pop duo and it was triggered by an episode of Flight Of The Conchords when the boys changed their image thanks to hair-gel and I immediately thought of Ricky’s first efforts at stardom as can be seen from the promo to Bitter Heart:-

I was quite stunned when I went to Discogs to get a copy of the sleeve to accompany this posting to discover that a mint 12″ copy of this single, which mine almost is, can fetch about £150. Either there are a lot of folk looking for this piece of history or Ricky is buying up all available copies and destroying them!

A TAD TENUOUS

Bummed, the album released by Happy Mondays in 1988, is, by any definition a classic of its time that has aged rather well, partly as a result of the quality of the songs but also the great production from Martin Hannett.

One of its tracks, Lazyitis, was remixed and given the new title Lazyitis – One Armed Boxer.  This version featured Karl Denver, a Glasgow-born singer (his real name was Angus Murdo McKenzie which is about as Scottish as it gets), who had enjoyed a string of yodelling hits in the UK at the beginning of the 60s.

mp3 : Happy Mondays feat Karl Denver – Lazyitis – One Armed Boxer

You have to admit that the cast who came together alongside the Happy Mondays to compose this song – Lennon/McCartney, David Essex and Sly & The Family Stone – is fairly impressive!

It’s here today as 26 December is known as Boxing Day in the UK…and there was no chance that I’d feature the Morrissey song about that sport, so Happy Mondays it is (even though it is a Tuesday)

JC

THE NEW ORDER SINGLES (Part 11)

The fact that John Robie had made such a pig’s ear out of the Sub-Culture remix didn’t stop New Order teaming up with him for the next single which hit the shops less than six months later in March 1986:-

mp3 : New Order – Shellshock (7″ version)

The song was put together for inclusion on the soundtrack to the movie Pretty in Pink and indeed that was where you could first pick it, about four weeks prior to Factory issuing it as a single.  As a poorly-paid admin worker at the time when choices had to be made about paying rent/buying food/going out for vodka/purchasing vinyl, I skipped buying the album and waited instead to ensure my collection of 12″ singles remained intact:-

mp3 : New Order – Shellshock (12″ version)

Indeed, I didn’t pick up the 7″ until many years later, inspired to find vinyl again after starting this blog.  Its b-side was an instrumental of Thieves Like Us, as featured previously in this series.

The 12″ on the other hand, had a dub mix of the new song as its b-side:-

mp3 : New Order – Shellcock

Also worth mentioning that the 12″ version came in at not far short of ten minutes, and has the distinction of being the longest single they committed to vinyl.  It was some almost four minutes longer than the version that was made available via the Pretty In Pink soundtrack and it was also edited down substantially for inclusion on the subsequent Substance compilation, omitting one of the verses.

mp3 : New Order – Shellshock (Substance version)

The collaboration with John Robie was crucial in this instance as Shellshock was inspired in the studio by a club hit from 1983 that Robie had produced and indeed performed on:-

mp3 : C-Bank (feat Jenny Burton) – One More Shot

Shellshock reached #28 in the UK singles chart but hit #1 in the indie singles chart.

I think its fair to say it has proven to be one of their most enduring singles….it’s certainly one that I don’t get bored with.

 

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #105 : FRANZ FERDINAND

The wiki summary:-

Franz Ferdinand are a Scottish indie rock band, formed in 2002 and based in Glasgow. The band’s original lineup was composed of Alex Kapranos (lead vocals and guitar, keyboard), Nick McCarthy (rhythm guitar, keyboards and backing vocals), Bob Hardy (bass guitar), and Paul Thomson (drums, percussion and backing vocals). Dino Bardot (guitar and backing vocals) and Julian Corrie (keyboards, synthesiser, guitar and backing vocals) joined the band in 2017 after McCarthy left during the previous year. The band has been notable for being one of the more popular post-punk revival bands, garnering multiple UK top 20 hits and selling over 3 million albums worldwide.

The discography consists of four studio albums, one remix album, and twenty-two singles, the most recent of which was adownload, released in October 2017, as a precursor to the new album due in February 2018.

I’ve always had a soft spot for this band, having been lucky enough to see them at small venues as well as at an arena gig when they were on the undecard for a Morrissey event in Manchester.

This is a belter of a single from the early days:-

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Michael

A #17 hit back in 2004.

JC

BLEAKNESS PERSONIFIED

Some 21 years ago, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds recorded a sinister, brooding, manic, dark and occasionally intentionally laugh-out-loud LP called Murder Ballads. The album title gives it away somewhat in that all the songs dealt with sudden, brutal and violent death. The record, rightly, received all sorts of critical acclaim, with many highlighting just how Cave’s amazing stories were perfectly matched by the tunes that he and his band members had conjured up.

But for all that the record did contain some gruesome and almost unthinkable tales of wrongdoing, none of the songs were as shocking or audaciously jaw-dropping as this from 1984:-

mp3 : Violent Femmes – Country Death Song

Five minutes of music in which there are two deaths; the murder of a young child at the hands of her father and his subsequent suicide, both of which are deeply disturbing. Like Cave’s songs more than a decade later it was a tale in which the tune captured your ear perfectly but such was the sheer horror of the lyric that it was a difficult thing to say the song was enjoyable. Blister In The Sun it most certainly wasn’t.

It took me many years to understand and accept the concept of the murder ballad, mostly thanks to an increasing awareness and acknowledgement of the darker and more brooding side of the country/folk genres but back when I bought the sophomore album by Violent Femmes, I really should have initially dug a bit deeper into the lyric and tried to seek out the true meaning.

Country Death Song isn’t just about a psycho dad gone mad who commits an act of filicide. It’s a genuinely horrific and sad tale of a man, so racked with guilt at being unable to ensure the land he keeps can fend for his family, makes a decision that his daughter would be better off and happier living alongside angels in heavan that enduring a miserable existence on Earth. His love for her is such, that he’s willing to pay the price of himself being eternally damned in hell. Religious beliefs don’t often make sense to me. But all too often, people acting on them send shivers down my spine.

JC

PS…..Here’s the anticipated schedule over the festive period:-

Saturday 23 December : Saturday’s Scottish Song #105
Sunday 24 December : The New Order Singles (Part 11)
Monday 25 December : A Xmas Day Song
Tuesday 26 December : A Boxing Day Song
Wed 27 – Fri 29 December : Three postings from the vaults
Saturday 30 December : Saturday’s Scottish Song #106
Sunday 31 December : The New Order Singles (Part 12)
Monday 1 January : 30,20,10
Tues 2 – Friday 5 January : Four postings from the vaults
Saturday 6 January : Saturday’s Scottish Song #107
Sunday 7 January : The New Order Singles (Part 13)

After which, normal service should resume……

 

ICA #150 : A SHORT POSTSCRIPT

A few of the very welcome comments earlier today led to me doing a quick bit of number crunching.

150 ICAs – of which more than two-thirds have come via guest postings.

40 of you have made a guest appearance via the ICA at one time or another – SWC leads the way with 14.5 contributions, closely followed by The Robster (8) and Tim Badger (7.5). And they’ve come from all corners of the globe, although I’m still waiting on my first from Japan.

Full list of credits, in alphabetical order:-

Aidan Baker (1)
Alex G (2)
Brian Linear Lives (2)
C (1)
Charity Chic (2)
Comrade Colin (1)
Craig McAllister (1)
Dave Ashley (1)
Dave Glickmann (1)
Dave Martin (1)
Derek Howie (1)
Dirk Sexy Loser (3)
Drew Kitchen Table (1)
Echorich (4)
Eric (1)
Friend of Rachel Worth (1)
George Forsyth (5)
Gil Gillespie (1)
Jacques the Kipper (1.5)
Jen (1)
JC (46.5)
jimdoes (3)
Jonder (4)
Jonny the Friendly Lawyer (5)
Jules (1)
KC (as was, now KT) (1)
Martin New Amusements (1)
Martin Elliot (3)
Mike Melville (2)
Nik (1)
rhetor (2)
Rich Cundill (1)
Rol Hirst (2)
Strangeways (2)
Strictly Rockers (7)
SWC (14.5)
Swiss Adam (4)
The Crumpsall Correspondent (1)
The Robster (8)
The Swede (1)
Tim Badger (7.5)

Thank you so much. And keep ’em comin’

mp3 : Chemical Brothers – Music : Response

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #150 : THE SMITHS (2)

The first ICA was 19 June 2014. It featured The Smiths. Little did I know how popular the series would become or just how many fantastic guest contributions it would result in. Now that the series has hit #150, allow me a little self-indulgence with a long-overdue Volume 2:-

Side A

1. Girl Afraid

To me, the great single that never was. There are some critics out there who feel the tune is let down by a trite and simplistic lyric. Maybe it was one that Morrissey wasn’t completely convinced by and so it ended up initially as the extra track on the 12” release of Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. It was one of the first of the second batch of songs that fans got to enjoy (i.e. it wasn’t on the debut album nor had it been aired on a BBC radio session) and to those of us who liked to throw ourselves all over the student union dance floor, it was deemed an instant classic. It’s still one that I love to air whenever I’m lucky enough to be putting together playlists for club nights. The lengthy instrumental introduction set a standard for indie music that very few, if any, matched over the remainder of the decade.

2. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side

Released in August 1985. One that annoyed me back in the day for the heinous crime of having a promo video. Morrissey’s multiple statements from 1983 that The Smiths would never make a video to accompany any 45 had meant a lot when they were uttered. In an era when big-name bands were on what seemed like a suicidal mission to outspend one another on lavishly filmed features complete with nonsensical storylines in which the musicians were free to deploy abysmal acting and lip-synching skills, that my band were different was something to be proud and boastful about. I was such a sensitive prick in those days.

I also felt, back in the day, that this was one of the weaker tracks on The Queen Is Dead, mostly as there were so many other songs that would have made better 45s. As time has gone on, it has become one of my favourite numbers in the entire back catalogue – it’s one of the best examples of Johnny Marr’s quietly understated guitar work that is perfectly complemented by a gentle and whimsical vocal delivery.

3. This Charming Man

This didn’t make the first ICA? Really???? It seems not……

Just to be different, I’ve gone for the ‘London’ version of the song. Worth mentioning that Johnny wrote the tune, partly as a response to being slightly jealous that Aztec Camera were enjoying chart success. The London version was the first stab at cutting the 45 but was discarded for version recorded a few days later back up north in Stockport. There’s a great on-line description of the song which states “Early Elvis would have approved of the music, Wilde of the words”. Wish I’d thought of that back in the day.

4. I Know It’s Over

It was tempting at this point, having gone Girl, Boy, Man to launch into Wonderful Woman, and then perhaps complete side A with a name check for Jeane, Sheila,William or Mr Shankly. But I take these things seriously!!

Ballads were important to the band and their fans; the quality of the slow songs, from the very beginning, marked out just how special and unique The Smiths were. This was only kept off Volume 1, by the very slimmest of margins, by Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me. I sometimes look at ICA1 and think I might have got it wrong. But only sometimes.

5. You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby

One of the songs that benefitted from there being a fifth, temporary member of the band in the shape of Craig Gannon. It’s one that was initially thought of as a possible single in 1987 but had such a spectacular fall from grace in terms of the politics of the band that it was never ever performed live nor featured in any radio or TV performances. Johnny, realising that he had written something rather special (again!!) was more than happy to return to the studio the following year and contribute to a superb version by his good pal Kirsty MacColl. Even Morrissey would, belatedly, acknowledge its worth by including his own solo version within a live CD released in 2009.

Side B

1. A Rush and a Push and The Land Is Ours

The strange ghost story piano number that opens up the band’s final album is ridiculously camp, even by Moz standards. But it’s one of his best, and I’ve always considered the couplet “There’s too much caffeine in your bloodstream / And a lack of real spice in your life” as being laugh-out loud for all the right reasons. And having, at the time, just gotten through a rather messy break-up of my own, I empathised entirely with not wanting to mention love as I hated the pain and the strain all over again.

It’s a song that gives an indication of just where the band could have gone to with a sixth and subsequent studio LP is they hadn’t combusted so spectacularly.

2. London

In complete contrast, here’s Johnny wigging out big-style on the guitar. Fast, furious and as frenetic as a late-running Virgin Train West Coast Line service trying desperately to make up time as it speeds onto Euston. It’s two minutes of musical mayhem and it’s also one of Morrissey’s most clever lyrics as he faced up to his critics, such as the late Tony Wilson, who weren’t happy that the band had decamped south in pursuit of their career. I’m sure there was plenty of jealousy in the eyes of the ones who had to stay behind and look on as The Smiths churned out one great song after another. I’ve included the rarer John Peel session version in this ICA, not on the grounds that it is superior, but just because it seems only right to have it feature just ahead of something else that is different…..

3. Reel Around The Fountain

A website dedicated to all things Smiths/Moz provides the following info:-

“The song was written in the spring of 1983. It was first professionally recorded on 18 May 1983 for the band’s first appearance on John Peel’s BBC programme (first broadcast on 31 May 1983), with producer Roger Pusey. It was professionally recorded again in July/August 1983 at London’s Elephant Studios with producer Troy Tate during the initial sessions for the band’s debut album.

It was recorded again on 25 August 1983 for the band’s second appearance on David Jensen’s BBC programme (first broadcast on 5 September 1983), with producer John Porter. However, because of controversy, the song was banned by the BBC and this version of “Reel Around The Fountain” was not broadcast until two years later when the whole session was repeated on Janice Long’s programme.

The definitive version was recorded in mid-October 1983 at Pluto Studios in Manchester, with producer John Porter. Additional mixing was done during sessions in November 1983 at Eden Studios in London.”

A flatmate had captured, in high quality, that first Peel session and that was the version of the song that I knew so well by the time the debut album was released. It was a fragile sounding song that ran to almost six minutes in length and felt like nothing else that any other band had ever recorded. I’ve no idea how many times I ended up copying this onto compilation tapes over the summer of 1983 as I desperately wanted to share it with everyone. The studio version on the debut LP, which was much more polished and accomplished, lost something along the way.

I’ve therefore gone for the middle ground and fished out the lesser known Jensen session from August/September 83. It’s one that captures the band on the cusp of true greatness.

4. Sweet and Tender Hooligan

The Smiths weren’t strangers to the BBC studios, broadcasting on four Peel Sessions (May 83, September 83, August 84 and December 86) as well as two Jensen sessions (July 83 and September 83). A number of these performances, going back to This Night Has Opened My Eyes in 1983, became the only time they were ever officially released songs either as tracks on compilation albums or b-sides, thus demonstrating just how seriously they took such events and how, having felt the radio sessions couldn’t be bettered, they never really returned to them in the studio.

This is a close cousin to London in that Johnny plays very hard and fast while Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce work hard to keep up with him. Its inclusion in the set list for Morrissey’s frantic and chaotic solo debut in Wolverhampton in 1988, in which he was backed by the duo as well as Craig Gannon, has always seemed as s two-fingered gesture at Johnny as if to say that the band was capable of continuing without him.

5. These Things Take Time

Indeed they do. Another classic b-side from the early days. “The most inept that ever stared”. I love that line so much.  Substitute ‘typed’ for stared and that’s sometimes how I feel in 2017!

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (12)

Thanks so much for the very kind comments that were added to the previous entry in this series.

As much as I think Gangsters was an outstanding single, I do think that Ghost Town was the finest moment in the career of The Specials. A well-deserved #1 hit, it does still seem bemusing that right on the back of it the band was torn asunder when Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Neville Staples left and decided to form Fun Boy Three, one of the most tongue-in-cheek monikers you could ever imagine given the sullen and serious reputation that the music press had attached to Hall who, despite arguing that the trio were of equal importance and relevance, was held up as the main driver of the vehicle.

Ghost Town was at #1 in July 1981 and finally dropped out of the Top 75 in mid-September. Less than three months later, the debut from Fun Boy Three was in the Top 20:-

mp3 : Fun Boy Three – The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)

I think it has to be admitted that without the pedigree of The Specials, there would have been little likelihood of any major record company such as Chrysalis allowing Lunatics to be a debut single. It was, however, the perfect follow-up to Ghost Town thanks to its very unambiguous political message around the dangers posed by those holding the highest political offices, particularly in the USA and UK where Reagan and Thatcher seemed unconcerned about using armed or nuclear war to get their own ways.

It wasn’t the easiest or most comfortable of listens, but it wasn’t meant to be. The pointed but angry verses are softly delivered over a tune that was miles removed from the poptones which were then dominating the charts. The ears of listeners were instead drawn to the choral chanting, the big bass drum and the eerie synth sound, all of which somehow combined to make a memorable bit of music that lodged in the brain – as indeed did the single ominous and titular line of the chorus. You just knew instinctively that the Fun Boy Three were making sense.

What happened next was a huge surprise as the boys linked up with another trio, the little-known all-female Bananarama for the follow-up, T’aint What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It) , a light and quite poppy cover of a jazz song that dated back to the 1930s. It stormed up the chart to #4 in March 1982 and for much of the next year and a bit, Fun Boy Three were never that far away for the higher end of the singles charts with five more top 20 hits, the last of which was their version of Our Lips Are Sealed, a song co-written by Hall and Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s whose version had barely dented the Top 50 in the summer of 1981 when Ghost Town was riding high.

Fun Boy Three split after little more than two years together but they left behind a very fine legacy of two highly listenable LPs alongside the aforementioned hit singles, some of which are rightly described as pop classics. They never quite made anything else that sounded as edgy or unique as the debut, and I reckon it’s one that is more than worthy of being included in this particular series.

Here’s your b-side, also lifted direct from the 12″ vinyl that sits in the cupboard :-

mp3 : Fun Boy Three – Faith, Hope and Charity

JC

PS : I know I’ve relied heavily on guest postings lately, but I am happy when asked to contribute at other places, as in this instance just yesterday.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #149 : THE CRAMPS

A GUEST POSTING FROM DIRK (SEXY LOSER)

Hello friends,

Had I written the below for sexyloser, there would have been no big need to be careful: I mean, there are seven readers and all of them are male and on the brink of their retirement, so why should I care?

Here, on the mighty Vinyl Villain, things are quite different. I know from good authority that this place is frequently visited by bright young ladies in their teens … and therefore I obviously don’t want to sound like a dirty old man when I try to describe why I love The Cramps as much as I do. It’s not all rousing vulgarity, it’s much more!

You see, The Cramps were perhaps not the most sophisticated band on the planet. In fact, there are times when I think they were the ones that invented rock ‘n’ roll! And that’s rock ‘n’ roll in the truest sense of the word, including all the dirt and filth it brings within.

If you have a look at the song titles below, you may perhaps already understand what I’m trying to say. I mean, ‘Bikini Girls With Machine Guns’?! The title alone tells you quite clearly that they won’t marry in the end, right? So, this band is nothing for romanticists, that’s for sure. Go on, listen to The Smiths instead!

The Cramps were Lux Interior on vocals and Poison Ivy Rorschach on lead guitar and occasionally on bass. And, listen up, romanticists, the two of them were indeed married! Now, I often wondered about Lux’ and Ivy’s family life. You see, when I wake up in the morning, Mrs. Loser and me just talk (although Mrs. Loser doesn’t like to talk much in the mornings anyway, but that’s a different story) about who drives Little Loser to the dentist in the afternoon or who buys some toilet paper when coming back from work. We pretty much don’t spend our time in disputing whether we’re gonna write a song about Zombies eating young girls today or one about young girls crashing Hot Rods!

I had the honor to see The Cramps live back in 1990. They were playing the Pukkelpop festival in Holland together with Billy Bragg, Henry Rollins, The Buzzcocks and Nick Cave. Up until then I was quite fond of what they did, their new album was rather splendid, but they were just a band I liked, not much more. But then everything changed, because their performance simply blew me away …. I fell in love!

There is a video of this gig on youtube, perhaps you have a look at it – or indeed at any other live show – ‘cos it’s rather hard hard to explain what happened on stage there: Lux came up in stilettos with heels as high as my forearm. I’m sure that if Mrs. Loser would wear a pair of those, she’d break her neck before having reached the front door! Poison Ivy wore what I (being not much of a fashion expert) would describe as ‘hot pants’, only they were way shorter than the hot pants I used to know then. Plus a bra. And that’s about it. In 1990 The Cramps had the wonderful Candy del Mar on bass, she looked as stunning as Ivy did, both of them just stood there, like icebound, rarely looking at the audience, just playing their instruments as if their lives would depend on it. Whilst Lux was jumping on the stage like a mad dervish, within the fifth number or so he was almost stark naked, just wearing his stilettos and some provocative lingerie that would have fitted Kate Moss nicely as well! Believe me, good ole’ Nick Cave had a hard time indeed afterwards in cooling down the crowd with his serious business jacket!

What I’m trying to say is: this gig showed me that both Lux and Ivy really lived this way, this hour up stage was not just for show, most certainly not. Of course it’s clear to me that Lux & Ivy needed toilet paper as well, but I’m willing to be that – unlike with me and Mrs. Loser – this has never been their main concern!

Alas, and to my great dismay, Lux died in 2009. Unexpectedly. And that, consequently, was the end of The Cramps. Rightly so, I would think. Lux was irreplaceable and I suppose everyone involved knew that.

Their legacy consists of nine fine studio albums, eight of which I proudly own. Plus a memory of a gig which will never fade, that’s for sure!

Coming back to the song titles: I went for a brilliant new idea in this ICA – series, a “Concept ICA”. Herewith legally ™, by the way! Forget about ‘Sgt. Pepper’ or ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, here’s the real thing, friends! The concept is: it’s only songs about dangerous women, women you always dreamt about and dream to meet and talk to, to drink with, to spend the night with. And, probably, perhaps, even more. This sex thing, you know what I mean. Problem is, in reality those women wouldn’t even remotely think of returning your look, not for a second! And that’s because a) they are the definition of ‘cool’ and b) you – and me – are not. Not the slightest, to be precise. Unlike Lux. And – as far as said women are concerned – unlike Ivy. Because only the pair of them could wake up in the morning and come up with songs like these:

– “Thee Most Exalted Potentate Of Love” (live) (from ‘Smell Of Female’ (’83))

– “Bend Over, I’ll Drive” (from ‘Look Mom, No Head!’ (’91))

– “Naked Girl Falling Down The Stairs” (from ‘Flamejob’ (’94))

– “What’s Inside A Girl” (from ‘A Date With Elvis’ (’86))

– “Inside Out And Upside Down (With You)” (from ‘Flamejob (’94))

– “Bikini Girls With Machine Guns” (from ‘Stay Sick!’ (’89))

– “I Wanna Get In Your Pants” (from ‘Look Mom, No Head!’ (’91))

– “Sheena’s In A Goth Gang” (from ‘Big Beat From Badsville’ (’97))

– “All Women Are Bad” (from ‘Stay Sick!’ (’89))

– “Like A Bad Girl Should” (from ‘Big Beat From Badsville’ (’97))

That’s ten neat tunes, I would think, all about ‘bad girls’ indeed, but it doesn’t include one of the finest Cramps – tunes in all of their back catalogue. So, out of concept, consider this to be the bonus track, if you like:

– “Surfin’ Dead” (recorded as a one-off track for the horror movie ‘The Return Of The Living Dead’ (’85))

I do hope the above met with your approval. I know the first two albums are missing, ‘Songs The Lord Taught Us’ and ‘Psychedelic Jungle’. Reason is, they just didn’t fit the concept by and large. I could easily have chosen to do a Cramps – Concept ICA ™ about Zombies and other unpleasant creatures instead , in this case those two albums would have been heavily featured. Perhaps next time, ey?

Until then, enjoy! Especially the person who left a comment elsewhere recently, saying he basically knows nothing by The Cramps. I forgot who said it, but this might as well be for you…..

DIRK

JC adds…………….This post is the perfect illustration of why I am particularly proud of what the ICA series has delivered over the years.  The guest contributions have been immense for so many different reasons.  I hope the others who have been featured won’t mind me saying that this is probably my favourite yet.  Dirk’s love for the band shines through and he draws out his on-line persona perfectly with his writing (he’s a sweet and gentle pussycat in real life, but don’t tell him I said that!!)

#150 in this series will appear on Thursday.  It’s one of mine that I’ve had on the back burner for a few weeks….but it feels wholly inadequate now.

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter Seven)

A GUEST CONTRIBUTION by JACQUES THE KIPPER

I feel this cautionary tale is particularly appropriate as we hit the festive period.

mp3 : The Velvet Underground – The Gift

JTK

Waldo Jeffers had reached his limit. It was now mid-August which meant he had been separated from Marsha for more than two months. Two months, and all he had to show were three dog-eared letters and two very expensive long-distance phone calls. True, when school had ended and she’d returned to Wisconsin, and he to Locust, Pennsylvania, she had sworn to maintain a certain fidelity. She would date occasionally, but merely as amusement. She would remain faithful.

But lately Waldo had begun to worry. He’d had trouble sleeping at nights and when he did, he had horrible dreams. He lay awake at night, tossing and turning underneath his pleated quilt protector, tears welling in his eyes as he pictured Marsha, her sworn vows overcome by liquor and the smooth soothings of some neanderthal, finally submitting to the final caresses of sexual oblivion.

It was more than the human mind could bear.

Visions of Marsha’s faithlessness haunted him. Daytime fantasies of sexual abandon permeated his thoughts. And the thing was, they wouldn’t understand how she really was. He, Waldo, alone understood this. He had intuitively grasped every nook and cranny of her psyche. He had made her smile. She needed him, and he wasn’t there (Awww…).

The idea came to him on the Thursday before the Mummers’ Parade was scheduled to appear. He’d just finished mowing and etching the Edelson’s lawn for a dollar fifty and had checked the mailbox to see if there was at least a word from Marsha. There was nothing but a circular from the Amalgamated Aluminum Company of America inquiring into his awning needs. At least they cared enough to write.

It was a New York company. You could go anywhere in the mails. Then it struck him. He didn’t have enough money to go to Wisconsin in the accepted fashion, true, but why not mail himself? It was absurdly simple. He would ship himself parcel post, special delivery. The next day Waldo went to the supermarket to purchase the necessary equipment. He bought masking tape, a staple gun and a medium sized cardboard box just right for a person of his build. He judged that with a minimum of jostling he could ride quite comfortably. A few airholes, some water, perhaps some midnight snacks, and it would probably be as good as going tourist.

By Friday afternoon, Waldo was set. He was thoroughly packed and the post office had agreed to pick him up at three o’clock. He’d marked the package “Fragile”, and as he sat curled up inside, resting on the foam rubber cushioning he’d thoughtfully included, he tried to picture the look of awe and happiness on Marsha’s face as she opened her door, saw the package, tipped the deliverer, and then opened it to see her Waldo finally there in person. She would kiss him, and then maybe they could see a movie. If he’d only thought of this before. Suddenly rough hands gripped his package and he felt himself borne up. He landed with a thud in a truck and was off.

Marsha Bronson had just finished setting her hair. It had been a very rough weekend. She had to remember not to drink like that. Bill had been nice about it though. After it was over he’d said he still respected her and, after all, it was certainly the way of nature, and even though, no he didn’t love her, he did feel an affection for her. And after all, they were grown adults. Oh, what Bill could teach Waldo – but that seemed many years ago.

Sheila Klein, her very, very best friend, walked in through the porch screen door and into the kitchen. “Oh god, it’s absolutely maudlin outside.” “Ach, I know what you mean, I feel all icky!” Marsha tightened the belt on her cotton robe with the silk outer edge. Sheila ran her finger over some salt grains on the kitchen table, licked her finger and made a face. “I’m supposed to be taking these salt pills, but…” she wrinkled her nose, “they make me feel like throwing up.” Marsha started to pat herself under the chin, an exercise she’d seen on television. “God, don’t even talk about that.” She got up from the table and went to the sink where she picked up a bottle of pink and blue vitamins. “Want one? Supposed to be better than steak,” and then attempted to touch her knees. “I don’t think I’ll ever touch a daiquiri again.”

She gave up and sat down, this time nearer the small table that supported the telephone. “Maybe Bill’ll call, ” she said to Sheila’s glance. Sheila nibbled on a cuticle. “After last night, I thought maybe you’d be through with him.” “I know what you mean. My God, he was like an octopus. Hands all over the place.” She gestured, raising her arms upwards in defence. “The thing is, after a while, you get tired of fighting with him, you know, and after all I didn’t really do anything Friday and Saturday so I kind of owed it to him. You know what I mean.” She started to scratch. Sheila was giggling with her hand over her mouth. “I tell you, I felt the same way, and even after a while, ” here she bent forward in a whisper, “I wanted to!” Now she was laughing very loudly.

It was at this point that Mr Jameson of the Clarence Darrow Post Office rang the doorbell of the large stucco coloured frame house. When Marsha Bronson opened the door, he helped her carry the package in. He had his yellow and his green slips of paper signed and left with a fifteen cent tip that Marsha had gotten out of her mother’s small beige pocketbook in the den. “What do you think it is?” Sheila asked. Marsha stood with her arms folded behind her back. She stared at the brown cardboard carton that sat in the middle of the living room. “I dunno.”

Inside the package, Waldo quivered with excitement as he listened to the muffled voices. Sheila ran her fingernail over the masking tape that ran down the centre of the carton. “Why don’t you look at the return address and see who it’s from?” Waldo felt his heart beating. He could feel the vibrating footsteps. It would be soon.

Marsha walked around the carton and read the ink-scratched label. “Ah, god, it’s from Waldo!” “That schmuck!” said Sheila. Waldo trembled with expectation. “Well, you might as well open it, ” said Sheila. And both of them tried to lift the stapled flap. “Ah sst, ” said Marsha, groaning, “he must have nailed it shut.” They tugged on the flap again. “My God, you need a power drill to get this thing open!” They pulled again. “You can’t get a grip.” They both stood still, breathing heavily.

“Why don’t you get a scissor?” said Sheila. Marsha ran into the kitchen, but all she could find was a little sewing scissor. Then she remembered that her father kept a collection of tools in the basement. She ran downstairs, and when she came back up, she had a large sheet metal cutter in her hand. “This is the best I could find.” She was very out of breath. “Here, you do it. I think I’m gonna die.” She sank into a large fluffy couch and exhaled noisily. Sheila tried to make a slit between the masking tape and the end of the cardboard flap, but the blade was too big and there wasn’t enough room. “God damn this thing!” she said, feeling very exasperated. Then smiling,
“I got an idea.” “What?” said Marsha. “Just watch,” said Sheila, touching her finger to her head.

Inside the package, Waldo was so transfixed with excitement that he could barely breathe. His skin felt prickly from the heat, and he could feel his heart beating in his throat. It would be soon. Sheila stood quite upright and walked around to the other side of the package. Then she sank down to her knees, grasped the cutter by both handles, took a deep breath, and plunged the long blade through the middle of the package, through the masking tape, through the cardboard, through the cushioning and (thud) right through the centre of Waldo Jeffers head, which split slightly and caused little rhythmic arcs of red to pulsate gently in the morning sun.