HALF TIME SCORES

Four teams jumped out to leads of at least five points within the first 36 hours which is when most of the voting tends to take place.  It’s also a fact that a five-point lead has been near impossible to turn around.

Some folk were happy to admit that some of the ties did cuuse them huge grief, none more so than The Swede who said of the Devoto v Gedge match-up:-

Magazine v The Wedding Present went to extra time, then a replay. Then another replay. Then penalties. Then another replay. Then a coin toss. The coin landed on its edge. Unseparateable. Do your worst JC.

Tne Swede bottled out of voting…and he wasn’t alone; but if you’re reading this mate, please remember you’re still able to come in again before 10pm on Friday evening.  It night make a difference…..

Oh and three of the early leaders have had very strong finishes to the half and look home and dried.

The Jam 28 v The Detroit Cobras 3
Half Man Half Biscuit 19 v Trashcan Sinatras 12
Pete Wylie 22 v PJ Harvey 11
Magazine 14 v The Wedding Present 18

Today’s accompanying tune, as per the newly adopted practice, comes from the ICA of a singer or band knocked out in the last round by one of the above eight sides:-

mp3 : Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Radio Radio

Don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m having fun with this series!

JC

 

BONUS POST : HERE’S ONE I FASHIONED FOR ELSEWHERE

I rely very heavily on guest postss to make this place tick, so when I get asked if I want to contribute the odd piece elsewhere, I’ll almost always certainly take up the challenge.

I did so just yesterday over at The Sound of Being OK, the new(ish) venture from SWC, Tim and KT. I know that just about all of you were very fond of their work under the When You Can’t Remember Anything banner which, sadly, had to come to a sudden halt for all sorts of reasons in the summer of 2017, but the great news is that the quality of writing and the ideas they are generating for features across the new blog are every bit as first-class as the old place.

They are running a wonderful series on the best b-sides of all time; well it was wonderful until I got involved and offered up some thoughts on a 1986 single by Primal Scream. This was its a-side:-

mp3 : Primal Scream – Crystal Crescent

Click here if you fancy reading what I had to say about its more illustrious flip side.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #156 : SOFT CELL

This will be an ICA heavily reliant on singles as there can be no question that Soft Cell, especially in their most commercially successful period between 1981 and 1983, released a number of 45s that today can still be regarded as classics. It also contains songs that have featured in the blog in the past and I’ve taken the liberty of doing some cuttin’n’pastin’ from old posts as I don’t think I can improve on what I said previously.

It really is a frightening thought that Marc Almond and David Ball first hooked up at Leeds Polytechnic more than 40 years ago and that they unleashed their music on the listening public as long ago as 1980. They were very much at the forefront of adding pop hooks to synth music thus broadening its appeal beyond that of the musos and nerds, but they did so in a way unlike any of their contemporaries.

It is always worth remembering that the duo didn’t set out to be pop stars and that their collaboration was initially all about creating music for extreme and often very confrontational performance art shows in which sexual imagery was readily deployed. This was in the middle of an era when colleges and schools all across the UK were able to offer students the opportunity to study art in its broadest sense of the word and the likes of John Lennon, Keith Richards, John Cale, Pete Townsend, Ray Davies, Freddie Mercury, Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Ian Dury, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones were among the best examples of musicians who had benefitted from such courses. In later years, Sade, Jarvis Cocker, Graham Coxon and PJ Harvey would do similar.

Their academic background meant that Almond and Ball had innovative ideas and ways to add to the music they were making and they also emerged just as video was becoming an integral part of the make-up of pop singers and bands; in some ways, they were in the right place at exactly the right time but there is no question that their ability to write and record some amazing original hooks, as well as finding ways to modernise and update obscure but brilliant northern soul records, was what enabled them to rise to the top.

SIDE A

1. Memorobilia (edit)

The best-known of the early songs remains the perfect calling card. A limited edition EP in 1980, funded, as so many of the great records of era seemed to be, through borrowings from family, had caught the attention of Stevo, the owner of Some Bizarre which was a newly established label based in London, and the duo were invited to contribute tracks to a compilation album aimed at showcasing the label. The early promise was followed up by a couple of singles, neither of which set the heather alight, but one of which was finding huge favour in some of the more alternative and fetish nightclubs that were beginning to pop up in all sorts of strange new venues in the capital. Memorobilia had a weird, other-wordly riff to drive it along while the desperate vocal sounded as it had had been penned and was being delivered by someone who was dancing the hours away in one of these clubs – when images of Soft Cell began to circulate, along with rumours that they had all sorts of pervy songs in their canon, the touchpaper had been truly lit.

2. Bedsitter (12”)

You have to allow me to leap forward a bit. Soft Cell could have become just another cult band if it hadn’t been for what happened next, namely that they recorded and released a single that was as equally perfect for radio and dancehalls. The fact it was a cover version was neither here nor there, for it was of such an obscure song that everyone assumed it was an original, written to take advantage of electronica, including synths and drum machines. But we’ll come to that later in the ICA.

The next again single provided a remarkable social commentary, juxtaposing the loneliness and emptiness of living alone in a cold and damp single-room within a multiple occupancy flat with the temporary and artificial highs that come with being the party animal. I bet the protagonist in this song was a Gemini.

3. The Art Of Falling Apart

The title track of the sophomore album bounces along at a frantic pace and fits in really well at this stage of the ICA. It also works in a sort of conceptual way in that I’ve long thought this is the tale of the boy in the bedsitter, having achieved some unexpected fame and fortune, soon realises that he’s incapable of sustaining anything in his life and, piece by piece, it is going to come crashing down spectacularly on top of him. Soft Cell were, by this time, regulars in the singles charts and on Top of the Pops but all three of their albums went beyond mere pop and I’m thinking a few parents would have been horrified by the sounds and noises emanating from the stereos in their teenage kids bedrooms.

4. Martin

The ones most horrified would be those whose kids were quick enough to buy The Art of Falling Apart to also receive the limited edition bonus 12” single in which the duo, on one side, did an extended medley of songs made famous by Jimi Hendrix (with each of Hey Joe, Purple Haze and Voodoo Chile being brilliantly, almost unrecognisable) and on the other they unleashed Martin, a completely OTT number. more than 10 minutes in length, chronicling the exploits of a teenage vampire, complete with ‘kill kill kill’ refrain. Sweet Suburbia indeed.

5. Soul Inside

Pop stars in the 80s were able to enjoy all sorts of the trappings associated with success and the incredibly rapid rise came at a hefty price for the duo. The promotion of the hits and the albums had been fuelled by a mix of alcohol and drugs and probably the only thing that saved them was a temporary six-month break during which the singer formed Marc and the Mambas and the instrumentalist drew breath. They got back together in late 83 to work on their third album but soon came to realise that they had different perceptions for the best way forward. The decision was taken to complete and release the album but to call an end to the group. The album, This Last Night in Sodom, is a bit on the patchy side, (although some think it is their finest effort), but this, its lead-off single, is an absolute belter, an upbeat and joyous anthem of wild celebration which seems to acknowledge that it really had been worth it.

SIDE B

1. Frustration

The opening song of the debut album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. As I’ve said before, it’s a great opener to one of the greatest albums of all time and is, more or less, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin set to pop music.

2. Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?

On the LP, the last wail of the sax on Frustration goes straight into one of the most recognisable two-note pieces of music ever recorded.

Marc Almond has since written that the arrangement on Tainted Love is all down to David Ball, with one exception; it was Marc’s idea to open with the tinny sounding ‘bim bim’ that would then be repeated throughout the song in the background. It was also his idea that the song would segue perfectly into another sixties classic, albeit in Where Did Our Love Go? they were deploying a tune that was incredibly well-known. At this time, the duo were still focussed on being experimental as much as possible and the plan when they went into the studio was to go for a 12” release aimed at the club market. It was producer Mike Thorne who twisted their arms to go with Tainted Love as a stand-alone track and as a compromise, a stand-alone cover of the Supremes number would be the b-side.

The 7” became a #1 hit the world over and went Top 10 on the Billboard chart in the USA, staying in that particular Top 100 for 43 weeks. It has sold millions, but of course neither Almond or Ball have any song-writing royalties from such sales thanks to the error of not including one of their own compositions on the single (albeit a re-recorded Memorobilia was on the 12”).

3. Torch

I’d like to think that Soul Inside was written with the times of writing and recording Torch in mind. New Order have, and rightly, long been lauded for heading to New York and immersing themselves in the fabric of the city in ways that influenced their sounds. Soft Cell, however, were truly the pioneers of this approach spending loads of time Stateside on the back of the success of Tainted Love and exploiting the fact that there was an ever bigger market for their kinky brand of electro-pop.

The time spent in the seedier clubs, and more importantly necking copious amounts of a new drug called Ecstacy, led to them penning a new song whose title was applicable to both the style and subject matter of the tune and lyric. Torch also made the trumpet a cool and hip instrument again, but best of all, it thumbed its nose at the establishment by utilising the band’s drug dealer on co-vocal, this ensuring she had a legitimate reason to be allowed into the UK for work purposes, including a memorable appearance on Top of the Pops.

4. Mr Self-Destruct

The opening song from the final LP which could be seen as their look back on the career they were calling a halt to. On the album it segues straight into Slave To This and this stand-alone version comes from a budget CD released long after they broke up….sadly it completely omits the use of the word ‘fucker’.

5. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye (12”)

In which Soft Cell showed that the cold and harsh synth sounds could be every bit as soulful and haunting as the Tamla Motown mid-temp ballads. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye really is What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted in a new era and a new location. Every late-teen and twenty-something, male and female alike, empathised with the protagonist who was standing in the door of the Pink Flamingo, crying their eyes out as the rain poured down in sympathy. The 12” inch is particularly glorious, with its extended and mournful clarinet solo intro setting the perfect tone for what, I would argue, has always been the finest few minutes in Marc Almond’s entire career, with his failure to hit the perfect notes at the end of the song only adding to its poignancy. There is no better way to close out this ICA.

JC

BONUS POST : DRAWN TO THE DEEP END

Many of you will realise that the title of this bonus posting shares its name with the title of a song by Gene. What you might not realise, until you look at the accompanying image, is that it also shares its name with the title of a new book by author Martin Pond. What you might also not realise is that Martin has been an occasional contributor to this blog and that his place, New Amusements, is one to which I provide a link.

Martin didn’t get in touch with me to ask for a plug for his book, which is his first full-length novel, fully self-funded and available through Amazon, although if he did I would have been happy to help out. I only picked up he’d penned the work after reading a review by Rol over at My Top Ten. Martin had mentioned the book at New Amusements but it was during that period in late 2017 when all sorts of things prevented me keeping up with all that was appearing in so many great blogs.

I’m not the greatest at trying to put down on paper why it is I like or dislike most forms of art, be it in the visual or performing sense, and I’m not great at turning my hand to book reviews beyond those that are autobiographical and on someone I’m familiar with. But I really want to try to do so today in the hope that some of you may be persuaded to pick up a kindle or physical copy of Martin’s book.

Drawn to the Deep End is the tale of Peter Potter, a 30-something single man who lives and works in Cambridge. Anyone observing him from a distance would think he was an ordinary enough bloke who inhabits an ordinary enough world – one of those dependable and likable enough guys who just gets on with things and deals with the ups and downs of life without any real problems. As the book unfolds, however, it becomes clear to the reader, if not to Peter himself, that he is a lonely, vulnerable and despairing man who actually isn’t very good at dealing with adversity and who has a dreadful habit of making the wrong decision in almost every situation he faces.

Peter is a brilliantly drawn character, someone who will run the full gamut of your emotions and catch you off-guard every now and again; you will have empathy and sympathy one moment but it won’t be too long before you want to grab him by the throat and shout ‘what the fuck??’ into his face to get him to see sense. The book is also populated by a cast of wonderful co-stars, especially from the world of work where the sheer one-dimensional aspect of so many of them struck a chord, given my own experiences in different offices over the past 30+ years with colleagues who have displayed many of the traits on show across the 230-odd pages – I might even admit, with a sense of shame, of seeing something of my younger cocky and arrogant self in parts of the minor characters. It is a book that also contains some of the most moving passages anyone will ever read on just how difficult, draining, frustrating and ultimately heart-breaking it is to be responsible for a demented and elderly parent.

Martin Pond has delivered something that is overwhelmingly intense and quite demanding, but not without humour, often of the blackest kind. It is contained across three chapters, ‘Deep’, ‘Deeper’ and ‘Deepest’, followed by a short epilogue; the story unfolds like a play or a feature film that I would have likely devoured in one sitting a few years ago when I could read for hours not worrying about a lack of sleep and needing to to work the next day.

It comes highly recommended and is available from here.

mp3 : Gene – Drawn To The Deep End

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG (on a Monday) : #115 : GLASVEGAS

from allmusic:-

Based in Glasgow, Scotland, indie rock quartet Glasvegas comprise cousins James Allan (singer and principal songwriter) and Rab Allan (guitar), bassist Paul Donoghue, and drummer Jonna Löfgren. Although they deftly fused a love of doo wop and classic, Spector-produced pop with a nod to some of the more intense and inventive guitar acts of the ’80s, perhaps the band’s defining attribute was in James Allan’s earnest lyricism.

Former Creation boss Alan McGee and ex-Libertines guitarist Carl Barât were so struck by a 2006 hometown performance by the band that each went on to ensure that more people witnessed their powerful live sets. Their third single, “Daddy’s Gone,” was ranked as the second best track of 2007 by NME and even led to the band striking up a friendship with Lisa Marie Presley after the song came to her attention. Next, their platinum-selling debut album, Glasvegas, received widespread praise following its release on Columbia in September 2008, and went on to be nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize in 2009. Less than three months after the release of their debut, the Transylvania-recorded, Christmas-themed EP A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) was issued, bringing further acclaim.

The band’s sophomore full-length, Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\, was written, demoed, and tracked at a beach house in Santa Monica, California during 2010 before undergoing final production under the direction of Flood in London. Before any recording had taken place, it was announced that original drummer Caroline McKay had left the band. Her replacement, Swedish music student Jonna Löfgren, joined Glasvegas after sessions for the album had been completed. On its release in April 2011, Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\ reached the Top Ten of the U.K. album chart and also hit the number one spot in Sweden. To promote the album, the band embarked on a second world tour, which incorporated their biggest European headline gigs to date as well as successful trips to both Australia and Japan. Then, in late 2013, Glasvegas returned with a self-produced third studio album, Later…When the TV Turns to Static, released through BMG. The next couple of years brought further live dates throughout Europe and North America, and Later… also enjoyed a summer 2014 release in Central and South America. To assist with promotion of the album in these territories, the Secret Truth EP was issued, before Allan relocated to Stockholm to work on new material.

They’ve been fairly quiet for a while now and the feeling is they never quite managed to scale the heights of the earliest material.

mp3 : Glasvegas – Daddy’s Gone

JC

THE NEW ORDER SINGLES (Part 20)

I was very tempted to call an end to this series after World In Motion given that we are now onto the London era with the band signing to the label after the sad and bitter collapse of Factory.

It took nearly three years for the follow-up to the #1 hit to be released. By this time, the music scene in the UK and the US had gone through a number of major changes and there was a feeling that perhaps there was no longer a need for New Order. But doubts were banished when the first few notes of the comeback single were first heard:-

mp3 : New Order – Regret (7″ mix)

OK….it’s not exactly dance hall New Order, it’s not exactly electro New Order and it’s not exactly guitar-led New Order. But it is a rather lovely mid-tempo pop song in which the vocal comes through nice and clear over some polished and professional playing. There was no doubting that Stephen Hague‘s fingerprints were all over it as it sounded sublime coming out of a radio.

It was ‘new’ New Order, so to speak – one that seemed to promise much, albeit it was the sound of a band perhaps accepting their halcyon and wild days were over and it was time to settle down and make music for grown-ups and the baby boomers. They would no longer be a truly essential part of anyone’s aural landscape, but as long as there were enough songs of the distinction and quality of Regret, we’d have nothing much to worry about.

Except of course it didn’t happen that way.

Which is why this is the last 45 to be given a feature on its own, with all the b-sides brought together for your enjoyment. From here on in, the 45s will be lumped in on the basis of the albums they were lifted from.

Regret was released in 7″, 12″ and CD format. All of the b-sides were variations on the hit, which reached #4 in the UK, the last time the band enjoyed a Top 5 achievement:-

mp3 : New Order – Regret (New Order Mix)
mp3 : New Order – Regret (Fire Island Mix)
mp3 : New Order – Regret (Junior Dub Mix)
mp3 : New Order – Regret (Sabres Slow ‘n’ Lo)
mp3 : New Order – Regret (Sabres Fast ‘n’ Throb)

Fire Island and Junior Dub are the work of Terry Farley and Pete Heller. Sabres are that man Weatherall again…and both come in at more than 12 minutes in length. Here was the band showing that they could, indeed, still be relevant to dance halls. But you’d be hard pushed to recognise either of them as being related much to the original.

JC

BONUS SERIES : THE ICA WORLD CUP : ROUND 2 (Part 3)

Three of the ties were tight affairs for about three-quarters of the past week with all the winners finishing strongly.  All four losers this week would certainly have been worthy of a place in the final 32 and their fans will miss them.  The introductory title footage does reflect that this week ultimately proved to be a bit of an triumph for England.

New Order (3) 25 The Go-Betweens (2) 19
The Charlatans 32 Carter USM 13
Lightning Seeds 26 Big Audio Dynamite 17
The Cramps 20 Saint Etienne 26

This lastest batch of ties just about mirrors the full quality of last week and in Match 12, has what I think is the most scary one so far in this round, and in all likelihood the entire competition, partly on the basis of the two bands and partly on the songs that came out.  It would have made a worthy final.

Matches 9-12 of Round 2

The Jam v The Detroit Cobras

The Jam were perhaps fortunate that 1st Round opponents T Rex fielded a relatively weak song that enabled the use of album track The Gift to get the nod.  The Detroit Cobras, who offered Down In Louisiana, were on a hiding to nothing last time out, drawing Chris Martin and his merry men; readers of this corner of t’internet will just not counter any success for the latter, no matter the song.  The evil streak in me wishes I had rigged a Coldplay v Kanye West match-up – that would have got you muttering under your collective breaths.

On paper, the better known English beat-combo are favoured before the songs are drawn…..but it mustn’t be forgotten that their ICA consists solely of album tracks with the singles deliberately excluded.

Billy Hunt (from All Mod Cons, 1979) v  I Wanna Holler (But The Town’s Too Small) (from Baby, 2004)

Half Man Half Biscuit v The Trash Can Sinatras

This really is one for the purists with two of the finest wordsmiths going head-to-head with the extra spice of a cross-border battle which at club level would be Tranmere Rovers v Kilmarnock.  If you really want to enter into the spirit of things, you’d all wait till Friday night to vote for this one. Half Man Half Biscuit saw off the might of Elvis Costello & The Attractions last time out, but had to field a top-notch song in 1966 And All That to get through.  Still, there’s plenty more in their locker.  The Trashies had cult dance act A.R. Kane to overcome and they battled through thanks to All The Dark Horses, which will be an apt name to give to whoever emerges from here into the last 32. This is quality stuff.

National Shite Day (from CSI Ambleside, 2008) v Obscurity Knocks (from Cake, 1990)

Pete Wylie v PJ Harvey

Will you need to call in assistance from Sgt Rock to sort out this battle of the sexes or will the coin and dice make it such a mismatch that it’ll be an easy call to make?  Pete got through very easily last time against The Orwells despite fielding what could be considered a weak track in Remember, while Polly Jane casually went with one of her more  obscure numbers called The Wind which blew away Malcolm Ross despite him cranking things up with a Josef K number from the Postcard era, a result that saw the bookies react by reducing the odds on Ms Harvey being the eventual winner.  This has the makings of a superb tie.

The Story of the Blues (single, 1982) v C’mon Billy (from To Bring You My Love, 1995)

Magazine v The Wedding Present

You know those few opening minutes in the film Four Weddings and A Funeral in which the word ‘fuck’ is deployed on numerous occasions?  It was akin to the room in Villain Towers when these two names came out of the hat together.  Magazine and The Wedding Present….two of the most popular and written-about bands on the blog with very few, if any, dissenting comments ever left behind.

Round 1 saw very comfortable wins over Prince and Deacon Blue respectively, although it could be argued that in utilising The Light Pours Out of Me, Howie & co used a bigger weapon than Always The Quiet One as performed by TWP.

If this one comes down to a casting vote, it will be entirely about the song the coin and dice come up with.

Shot By Both Sides (single, 1978) v Kennedy (from Bizarro, 1990)

Fuckity-fuck fuck fuck.  That doesn’t help does it??

Please have your votes in by 10pm on Friday 3 March….as ever, you don’t have to vote in all of the ties but I’ve a feeling you might want to.

Tune in next Saturday for matches 13-16 which will be previewed by jimdoes, the mad genius who came up with this World Cup concept.  If you thought this week was tough, well babies you just ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

JC