BONUS POST : DOLORES O’RIORDAN R.I.P.

The Cranberries haven’t ever featured much on this or the old blog, mainly as they were a band who I thought released a couple of very good singles and then didn’t really do too much for me. There were obviously a lot of words said yesterday in the mainstream media as well as social media about the death of lead singer, Dolores O’Riordan, at the young age of 46.

One particular Facebook posting from a friend of mine called Robert caught my attention for the lovely way he expressed his thoughts about someone who only fleetingly had an impact on him as a music fan. It really resonated with me, as I’m sure it will with most of you, as we’ve all had songs that have done the same to us at some point in time but nothing else from a singer or band ever had an impact.

For a few months in late 92 early 93 the Cranberries were my special band, they were a band that only I knew. I had been introduced to them by a friend who is long since gone who advised that they were a cross between The Sundays and The Cocteau Twins.

I heard the first single they released and tried unsuccessfully to buy it, I managed to order, through a local record shop, their second “Linger” which to my ears sounded like a heart breaking. Having ordered it I remember it took forever to arrive and when finally it did arrive I must have listened to it a hundred or more times in those first few days. It’s a song that made me sad, emotional and somehow maudlin for no real reason.

They toured with Suede and by the time their debut album came out I had moved on, I never even heard their debut record. They didn’t ever capture me again. In 94 Linger was re-released and everyone knew them, the time had passed. I know very little of their catalogue and never really liked anything else they made but for a few months in 93 they were special.

To me there singer always seemed troubled and never quite happy, I was initially surprised to read about her passing but it didn’t last long. I hope she is happy now. RIP Dolores.

I’ve thanked Robert for allowing me to put this up today…and it’s a reminder that this really was a lovely 45:-

mp3 : The Cranberries – Linger

JC

FAC 167

A post that was inspired by hearing this wonderful 45 at an indie-disco just before Christmas.

I’d completely forgotten that The Railway Children were, briefly, a Factory band. They released two singles and an album for the label in 86/87 before signing a lucrative deal with Virgin Records. I think it’s fair to say that they never quite scaled the heights the label bosses anticipated, although there was one hit single, Every Beat of the Heart, in 1990.

The hit single wasn’t played at the indie-disco but their sophomore effort for Factory was.  I’m willing to admit I don’t know a great deal about the band beyond this and the chart hit, but I’m willing to bet that very few, if any, 0f  their other songs can better this wonderful slice of pop that sounds both of its time and timeless:-

mp3 : The Railway Children – Brighter

I suppose what held the band back  that they weren’t quite distinctive sounding enough from many other C86 influenced guitar bands – there’s a lot of the Postcard/Go-Betweens sound in there at the back of a gentle, dreamy vocal that is perfect for the sunniest of days. I’ve dug out the two tracks that were on the reverse of the 12″ and, without trying to be too critical, they are more ordinary or routine that anything special or memorable.

mp3 : The Railway Children – History Burns
mp3 : The Railway Children – Careful

As I said, I’m not really familiar enough with the band to offer up much else. I’d be delighted to hear from anyone with more knowledge….maybe an ICA if you’re so inclined.  Indeed, just typing that sentence has given me an idea for later this week.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG (ON MONDAY) : #108 : FRIENDS AGAIN

I’ve written extensively about Friends Again over the years as they were one of my favourite bands back in the early 80s and all these years later I can still listen to their entire output without getting bored, although I do get frustrated and pissed-off that Phongram Records made such a mess of things in terms of how to get tbe best possible studio sound out of them.

Fishing around t’internet, I found the press release that accompanied the sole LP, Trapped and Unwrapped and thought I’d reproduce it in all its glory:-

Friends Again are five young men from Glasgow. They have clear sight, strong ambition and a proven talent to deliver a promise. Chris Thompson (vocals, rhythm guitar, songs), Neil Cunningham (bass), Stuart Kerr (drums, harmonies), Paul McGeechan (keyboards) and James Grant (lead guitar, vocals, songs) go back together some way – school, college, punks and clubs. They will go a lot further ahead.

Friends Again emerged in 1982 with their independently conceived single “Honey At The Core”/”Lucky Star” – an immediately recognisable good thing to have and to listen to: a friend again and again. After six weeks of enthusiastic responses and fast sales on the Moonboot label, Phonogram enticed the group to make a logical decision; which meant that last year there was more honey with “Sunkissed”/”Dealing In Silver” and “State of Art”/”Winked At”. Just as excitingly, the band played hard, drawing more people towards what they do; a classic framework of tightly crafted writing.

Friends Again are bursting with raw charm. They may be a slippery group to define because they assimilate so much style and many styles into their sound they keep you on your toes. Is it the driving homegrown country swing that appeals, or the dramatic harmonies? Whatever sophisticated conclusion you reach, rest and be thankful that there is nothing evasive about their impact. They move, it moves, you move.

They have been writing long enough to stop being a well kept secret but they remain as fresh as this morning’s milk. Ask them what they do and you’ll get a host of different answers. The flexibility is as integral to their natural development as their lack of a cosy hip sensibility. According to Thompson: “James will say that we are a rock ‘n’ roll group and he’ll know what that means to him.” He will. James Grant’s hot guitars are the envy of every band in Scotland. He’s had more poaching offers than Jack Charlton [An English Football player]. He won’t go.

As for the country inflexions, Thompson points out that, yes, they could be there. He won’t force the issue anymore than he’ll admit to portraying a clean cut pop output. One thing they don’t do is jangle, on nerves or on strings. And they aren’t a postcard. “There are no songs where you can say that is a certain thing. People hear the songs in various ways. Someone told us it was good driving music, implying a certain American feeling. Well, in that case I think it’s just as good to listen to on the highway out of Hamilton or Lancaster…”

Just before their recent British tour (Strathclyde to Southampton), the group completed a debut album called Trapped And Unwrapped–a reference to the teething, or the thought put into practise. They started work with noted producer Bob Sargeant, then they got well mixed by Pat Moran at Rockfield. Due for release later this year, the songs show they won’t be typecast.

Thompson is as happy to discuss Joni Mitchell as Bowie, Tim Buckley as the Sex Pistols but Friends Again are happiest being themselves. What this is, doesn’t need to be experienced in a video or from the inside of a TV studio. It’s more illuminating to experience the group’s heart warming lyrical lullabies and intense blood racing melodies face to face.

After all the tired old men and too much tired young synthetic pop their vitality is all the more appealing. Direct emotional response is what they are dealing in.

Friends Again are … an invitation not to be ignored.

One of the great things about writing this blog over the years has been the contact from like-minded folk who have been generous in sharing or passing on stuff. One of the best instances was when I was given a file containing a load of demo and live recordings by Friends Again that haven’t ever been made commercially available. I’d like to share one of the unreleased songs with you today:-

mp3 : Friends Again – A Reader Decides

Sigh.

JC

THE NEW ORDER SINGLES (Part 14)

‘What the Fuck?????’

I think it’s fair to say that this was my reaction when first hearing True Faith. It was via a TV set when the accompanying video was shown.

The summer of 1987 was a time when I was otherwise occupied and not paying too much attention to music. I wasn’t buying all the much and indeed if hadn’t been for a subsequent friendship with Jacques the Kipper whose C90 cassettes filled in so many gaps, then it’s fair to say I would have little or no knowledge of about two years worth of indie music.

New Order‘s latest single was a huge hit, thanks in part to the astonishing and innovative video, but let’s face it, True Faith was, and remains, an outstanding piece of pop music. It may have been a long way removed from Blue Monday, Temptation and Ceremony, but it is a wonderfully timeless and catchy piece of music.

It was written, along with 1963, its b-side, in the studio for the sole purpose of being new songs that could be included on Substance, a compilation album that brought together various singles and b-sides that have already featured in this series.

Substance was intended to be issued simultaneously in the US and UK, and it was the band’s American manager, Tom Attenacio, who pushed hard for a breakthrough pop hit to be written and included, and so pushed the band in the direction of Stephen Hague. The story behind the sessions that produced True Faith and 1963 is one of the most fascinating parts of Hooky’s book on New Order – the producer had very firm and fixed ideas about how it should be put together and he didn’t think there was much room for the usually distinctive bass sounds and indeed they were only added at the 11th hour after Attenacio, thankfully, intervened on the basis that you couldn’t have a New Order song on which only three of the band made a contribution as the bass is one of the things that drives it along beautifully.

mp3 : New Order – True Faith (12″)

The b-side was another lovely bit of synth-pop, something that could have (and subsequently would) work as a stand-alone 45:-

mp3 : New Order – 1963 (12″)

The single was released in two formats, with a radical remix by Shep Pettibone, aimed squarely at the dance market, also made available on 12″ vinyl in a different sleeve:-

mp3 : New Order – True Faith (remix)
mp3 : New Order – True Dub

The remix single also included the version of 1963 that was housed within the ‘blue’ sleeve, and all told it reached #4 in the UK singles chart and #32 on the US Billboard charts. Job done in terms of Substance.

Some seven years later, and the post-Factory release of The Best of New Order on London Records saw a little bit of history repeating with True Faith being used, in a re-recorded style, to promote the release:-

mp3 : New Order – True Faith 94
mp3 : New Order – True Faith 94 (Perfecto Mix)
mp3 : New Order – True Faith 94 (Sexy Disco Dub)
mp3 : New Order – True Faith (TWA Grim Up North Mix)

Make of them what you will…..it still pisses me off how cynical London Records were proving to be, but I’ll return to that it in a few weeks time when, among other things, I’ll feature the time when 1963 was issued as a stand-alone 45.  Worth mentioning that such was the popularity of New Order in the mid-90s that the re-mixed True Faith went all the way to #9 in the UK singles charts.

JC

BONUS SERIES : THE ICA WORLD CUP : ROUND 1 (Part 1)

Feel free to have the video on loop as you make your selections. You don’t have to vote on all ties, but the more entries, the more fun!

The first 16 ties in Round One offer some very, very tasty match-ups; all of the songs came out via the coin and dice method and there was no match-rigging. There are a number of very tough choices facing everyone.

Deadline is Friday 19 January, midnight UK time. Results will be officially announced on Sunday 21 January.

The Lemonheads v Spoon

Hospital (from Car Button Cloth, 1994) v Waiting For The Kid To Come Out (from Soft Effects EP, 1997)

The Indelicates v Kitchens of Distinction

The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock n Roll (from American Demo, 2008) v Japan to Jupiter (from Folly, 2013)

Butcher Boy v The Magnetic Fields

Imperial (from Helping Hands, 2011) v How Fucking Romantic (from 69 Love Songs, 1999)

The Feelies v Paul Quinn

Loveless Love (from Crazy Rhythms, 1980) v Stupid Thing (single by Paul Quinn & The Independent Group, 1993)

Big Audio Dynamite v The Streets

E=MC2 (from This Is Big Audio Dynamite, 1985) v Has It Come To This (from Original Pirate Material, 2002)

Talk Talk v Death In Vegas

Happiness Is Easy (from The Colour of Spring, 1986) v Dirge (from The Contino Sessions, 1999)

Sonic Youth v Billy Joel

I Love You Golden Blue (from Sonic Nurse, 2004) v Piano Man (from Piano Man, 1973)

PJ Harvey v Malcolm Ross

The Wind (from Is This Desire?, 1998) v Radio Drill Time (single by Josef K, 1980)

Associates v Edwyn Collins

This is the tie that the TV companies made a mad dash for:-

Breakfast (1985)

Keep On Burning (1997)

LCD Soundsystem v New Order

Yeah (Crass Mix) (12″ single, 2004) v Blue Monday (12″ single, 1983)

The Cramps v Shit Robot

I Wanna Get In Your Pants (from Look Mum, No Head, 1991) v I Got A Feeling (from the Cradle to the Rave, 2010)

Deacon Blue v The Wedding Present

The Outsiders (from The Hipsters, 2012) v Always The Quiet One (from Take Fountain, 2005)

The Police v Captain Beefheart

Invisible Sun (from Ghosts In The Machine, 1981) v Circumstances (from Clear Spot, 1972)

The Charlatans v The Mekons

The Only One I Know [acoustic version] (from Warm Sounds EP, 2011) v Teeth (from 7″ EP, 1980)

Saint Etienne v The Sugarplastic

How We Used To Live (from Sound Of Water, 2000) v Don’t Look Down (from The Powderpuff Girls soundtrack, 2000)

Tilly and The Wall v Orange Juice

Falling Without Knowing (from O, 2008) v Felicity (single, 1982)

As I said, get listening and get voting. The next 16 match-ups will be revealed next Saturday- and if you think the above lot were tough, just you wait!

 

STOP PRESS

With only one tie in the preliminary round, it was possible to declare a result very soon after the final whistle blew on what proved to be a titanic struggle over 60 hours.

The 12 noon kick off on Wednesday clearly suited the American art rockers as they raced into a 10-6 lead following the opening exchanges over the first four hours.  The Scots beat combo fought back tenaciously, and shortly after 8pm they took the lead for the first time when DG’s contribution made it 15-14.  This only seemed to rile the fans of Byrne & co and by half-time, at 6pm on Thursday, they had opened up a substantial lead with the score being 27-20 in their favour.

The Heads came out after the break looking to kill things off and scored the next three goals; the difference was now 10 and seemed unassailable.  The Lobsters, however, came back under the cover of darkness with five unanswered goals between 11pm and 4am – the gap was down to five with only the final third of the game left to play.

The boys from the small town a few miles south-west of Glasgow set about their task and momentum seemed to be on their side and  three Friday night goals saw the margin down to just one as we entered the final 60 minutes…..during which, incredibly, nobody added to their tally.

The final whistle brought an enthralling and exciting match to a close with the scoreboard showing :-

Talking Heads 31  Close Lobsters 30

The New Yorkers, despite scoring only one goal in that final third, had managed to hold on.  The decisive intervention came at 6.37 pm, with Ian saying ‘Talking Heads. Back of the Net.’  We will be hard pushed to get such a frantic match again in the remainder of the competition….or will we?

The reward for the winners is a home tie against Massive Attack in Week 2 of Round 1. Good luck with that one.

Huge thanks to everyone for such a great response.  I hope the interest can keep up over the next 27 Saturdays.

JC

PS : The Saturday Scottish Song was originally posted as planned, but it made for a very long read when combined with the above.  I’ve taken it down with a view to re-posting it one day next week….and that will likely be the case for the regular series while the World Cup is in progress.

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (13)

January 1978.

I was just getting my head around punk/new wave. At 14 years of age, I was still more into playing and watching football than I was getting my kicks from music. All that was to change over the next few years and I think it’s accurate to say that by my 18th birthday in June 1981, my head had been completely turned by some of the most amazing bands and performers who were integral to what we now lovingly refer to as the post-punk era.

It was around then, just as I was about to gear up for going to university that I discovered Magazine – the only problem being that the band were on the verge of breaking up.

There was a really interesting comment left behind not that long ago – I think it was from Drew – in which he said he envied someone discovering a class act fairly late on in their career as there is so much incredibly good music to go back and discover, and this was certainly what happened to me with Magazine. I can’t now begin to imagine being able to develop and expand my musical tastes without owning a copy of The Correct Use of Soap, the band’s third and best album, although there are moments on each of it predecessors, Real Life and Secondhand Daylight, which can held be held up as equally outstanding and memorable.

January 1978 was when Magazine released their debut single. As I said many moons ago when I pulled together an ICA (it was #35 in the series), Shot by Both Sides is one of the great post-punk anthems that had the audacity to reach #41 in the singles charts and somehow trigger off an appearance on Top of The Pops. The sight of Howie & co. – even in an edited two and a bit minutes clip – was something that scared the millions of viewers as sales dropped dramatically the following week and the band didn’t hit the Top 40. Indeed, despite what would become an outstanding catalogue of singles over the next three year, Magazine never got as close to a hit single as the debut.

The tune is one that dates from the fag-end of Devoto’s days with Buzzcocks, as can be seen from Pete Shelley being given a writing credit. Indeed, the latter used the tune himself some ten months later for Lipstick, the b-side to the hit single Promises, albeit, for some strange reason, Devoto’s name totally absent from its credits.

Shot by Both Sides still has the ability, what is now 40 years on (FFS!!!!!!!) to amaze and startle. All 3 minutes and 54 seconds of it, from the opening riff to the magnificently timed climax via the snarling, paranoid and terrified sounding vocal. It’s as near a flawless and memorable a debut as there’s ever been. Such a pity that the world wasn’t quite ready to embrace fully what this most extraordinary sounding and looking band were offering.

Time has been very kind to Magazine in that they gained increasingly in popularity in the years after their demise and their comeback from 2009-2011 in which they toured and released a new album was praised and welcomed in equal measures; at long last, the band members made some money. The one down side was the sad and constant reminder that John McGeogh, whose guitar work had been integral to making the band such essential listening, had passed away in 2004, albeit Noko, who was Devoto’s side kick in Luxuria, did a sterling job in difficult and challenging circumstances.

Is Shot By Both Sides their finest 45? I personally don’t think so and would afford that particular accolade to A Song From Under The Floorboards. But nowadays, if I’m down at the old-fogies indie-disco, I think I’d rather hear Shot…..although if truth be told, I’d much rather dance these days to Definitive Gaze which, when played through expensive and modern speakers, does sound as if it’s from another galaxy altogether.

mp3 : Magazine – Shot By Both Sides (single version)
mp3 : Magazine – My Mind Ain’t So Open

JC

THE SECOND POST FEATURING EXTRACTS FROM ‘GRANT & I’

Click here for a reminder of the first post.

It may have been limited to just 500 copies, but the release of Lee Remick/Karen in the late summer of 1978 had generated a bit of a buzz around Go-Betweens.

“We mailed our record to the Australian and overseas press, where it was widely and positively reviewed, and to a select group of people who were important to us. We also targeted a list of record companies , one of which, Beserkley UK, the London-based home of Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, overwhelmed us by offering a worldwide multi-album deal.”

The label had also suggested it would be willing to release each of Lee Remick and Karen as singles and encouraged Robert and Grant to come up with b-sides. They went about this with some gusto, walking around Brisbane with a huge swagger and self-belief. Only to find that when they asked the label that the costs of the studio time be repaid that all communication suddenly stopped.

“The deal was off, as was our fast track to stardom; we were getting a crash course in the music business and the cruel, cruel world outside the environs of Brisbane.”

By now, Robert had finally, at the age of 21, left the comfort of his parental home and moved into the house in which Grant had been living for a number of years, in what is described as a bohemian lifestyle with a group of friends. The house, on Golding Street in the Toowong district of Brisbane, was now the recognised centre of all Go-Betweens activity and it was there that many of the next batch of songs were composed.

In another arty part of the New Farm district in late 78/early 79, a band called Zero ruled the roost. Robert’s book records that Zero had started out as a fierce, feminist group, whose core members Irena Luckus (vocals/keyboards) and Lindy Morrison (drums), had added a new male bass player in John Willsteed who had helped the band move towards a post-punk direction with their live set including covers of songs by Gang Of Four, Wire and XTC. Robert was so besotted with the drummer that he changed some of the lyrics of one of his new songs, People Say from “So pack your bags your saxophone/I’m gonna take you to Rome” to “So pack your bags your drums/I’m gonna take you till the kingdom comes”.**

It may have been corny, but it did help. Robert was now in the first serious relationship of his life, with a woman six years older than him and one who had a huge, dynamic personality with confirmed views on politics and life in general. It was a seriously steep learning curve for him.

The next few months were frantic. A new drummer, Tim Mustafa had been recruited into Go-Betweens, and with the addition of Malcolm Kelly on keyboards, they went into the studio in May 1979 to cut a second single for Able Records.

mp3 : Go-Betweens – People Say
mp3 : Go-Betweens – Don’t Let Him Come Back

The latter was the first Forster/McLellan joint composition. If you have one of the copies of this single, expect to get around £500 if you put it up for sale.

The single would be released in September 1979. The success of the debut meant the label pushed the boat out this time and pressed up 750 copies.  But before it hit the shops, Tim took his leave of the band. A stand-in drummer, Bruce Ashton, enabled some supporting gigs, all in Brisbane.

“There was no organisation in place to play Sydney or Melbourne: you had to move there. I was conflicted about leaving, the dream of escaping Australia with Grant, two drifters off to see the world – and there was a lot of world to see – severely shaken by my relationship with Lindy. Things became further complicated when I joined Zero as a stand-in guitarist.”

Robert and Grant made up their mind to go to London which they eventually did in November 1979. That chapter in their story, which includes a spell in Glasgow, will be told next time round.

JC

PS

** In later years, the original lyric would be re-adopted, as per this live performance in August 2005:-

mp3 : Go-Betweens – People Say (live at The Tivoli, Brisbane)