BELTER OF A B-SIDE

Julian Cope was enjoying being a pop star. Reward and Treason had taken him into the charts, onto Top of the Pops and into the pages of the likes of Smash Hits magazine where teenage girls were coo-ing over his good looks.

Only he knew in advance that the next again single was going to be even more poppy, lighter and catchier than anything else he’d ever written with its killer-chorus and umpteen ba-ba-ba-ba-ba sing-a-long moments, so he put a killer track onto its b-side as a reminder that he remained more than capable of delivering material that was ahead of the curve:-

mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Christ versus Warhol

Radiohead would rip off this tune for Karma Police a few year later…….go on, admit the openings are identical.

It was a stroke of genius to put this on the b-side rather than parent album Wilder as it prevented any fundamentalists getting hot under the collar and demanding it be withdrawn. Oh and have a listen just before the two-minute mark for what could pass as Jarvis Cocker‘s recording debut….

Here’s the fabulous a-side. Criminal it stalled at #25:-

mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Passionate Friend

Tune in tomorrow for a guest ICA on another of our maverick geniuses.

JC

IT WAS THIRTY YEARS AGO TODAY…..

I went to a gig last Saturday night in the Glad Cafe on the south side of the city not too far from Villain Towers, but before I say a few things about it there needs to be a bit of context.

The Glasgow Garden Festival was held between 26 April and 26 September 1988. It was the first event of its type to be held in the city in 50 years, since the Empire Exhibition of 1938, and also marked the centenary of Glasgow’s first International Exhibition, the International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry of 1888.

It attracted 4.3 million visitors over 152 days and was part of a sustained effort by the local politicians to use arts/culture/events as a way of providing a new meaning for a city that had been decimated by the collapse of its traditional industries and was something of a precursor to the year-long European City of Culture festival in 1990 which, quite honestly, was an astonishing and mind-blowing 12 months that just couldn’t be repeated nowadays.

The Garden Festival site covered 120 acres of land, much of it reclaimed from the filling in of disused docks that had long been closed and were a sad reminder of the decline of the River Clyde and its shipyards. There was a garden element to the festival but most folk were attracted by the likes of a 240-foot high tower, the then biggest rollercoaster ride in Scotland, the re-introduction of trams, a temporary rail line, the first new pedestrian bridge over the Clyde in a generation, boat trips, art installations and various music/dance performances which changed daily.

It was always intended as a temporary event with the site to be fully re-developed immediately afterwards, mostly for housing. It didn’t turn out that way and although a small amount of housing was built and the small Festival Park created, the vast majority of the site lay derelict for about 20 years although things have moved on a bit since then including it now being home to a media campus including the headquarters of BBC Scotland and Scottish Television along with a popular visitor attraction in the Glasgow Science Centre.

So…..what’s all this to do with last Saturday’s gig?

The answer is that the one-off gig paid tribute to and celebrated the 1988 event with the release of a new album by Jamie Scott.

Jamie first came to notice as on half of electronic duo Conquering Animal Sound whose debut album Kammerspiel was shortlisted for Scottish Album of the Year in 2012 and whose follow-up On Floating Bodies was released by Chemikal Underground in 2013. I don’t think the band have officially split up but they’ve been quiet for a few years in which time Jamie has moved to the forefront of Scottish rap/electronica – a genre which is quite unlike many other urban/ghetto scenes – under a number of guises and with other collaborators such as Jonnie Common, who is in fact his older brother.

Jamie has spent well over a year coming up with a concept of in which he wanted to write and record a series of songs which explored the heritage of the 1988 festival and to stage his one-off event because:-

The Garden Festival did so much for the soul of the city. Glasgow’s residents saw the best of their people, saw an enduring, open spirit, and they began to imagine how their city could be. It may have lasted only a few sun soaked weeks, but it changed the city forever.

Those words came from Jamie’s introductory comments in the specially produced 28-page programme given to everyone at the gig. His introduction also points out that very little, outside of people’s memories, remains of the 1988 festival and so it was his hope that the Glad Cafe event would explore its legacy and ensure the positivity, energy and inspiration from what is still a partially derelict pocket of land wouldn’t be forgotten.

The highlight of the event would be the launch of a new 10-track album, Glasgow Garden Festival ’18, to be played in its entirety by Jamie who was joined on stage throughout by drummer Roy Shearer and on occasions by backing singers.

In addition to the live music, there was also exclusive merchandise for sale, a specially brewed lager on tap at the venue and an array of free cakes and biscuits…oh and a replacement tower for Glasgow to replace the one that had been so popular at the 1988 festival.

Having been at the football in Kirkcaldy earlier in the day, I didn’t get back down the road in time for the 8pm Opening Ceremony of Glasgow Garden Festival 18, but it was clear from the packed crowd already in the venue that folk were enjoying themselves with a great buzz and vibe very much in evidence.

The night opened with a short set from Two Kings. It proved to be bonkers, bewildering and brilliant in varying measures. I can’t tell you too much about Two Kings – it was two men, dressed in capes and wearing crowns, who made all sorts of wonderful electronic sounds while recalling tales of ancient history from a long-forgotten and long-lost kingdom. They are undoubtedly from one or more of the many acts with whom Jamie Scott has worked with over the years and while I enjoyed what they were doing, I’m not sure if I could have taken much more than the 20 minutes or so they were on stage as the joke could well have worn off.

The mesmerizing Adam Stafford was next to take to the stage. As ever he delivered a blistering set, via his guitar, effects pedals and mics, made up of familiar favourites, one brand new song and spellbinding versions of tracks from his latest opus, Fire Behind The Curtain, a double album of instrumental music that was released in May this year and which, to my shame, I’ve never got round to reviewing….but regular readers will know that as far as I’m concerned, Adam can do no wrong, and this neo-classical effort contains some of the finest pieces of work he’s ever done:-

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Zero Disruption

A short interval followed during which the soundtrack was Scottish pop/indie hits of the 80s…it was almost like being back at the Simply Thrilled night in The Admiral just two weeks ago….before the festival headliner took to the stage.

My comrade in arms for the night, Mike G, is a big fan of dance/hip-hop, rap and electronica music and has long enjoyed Jamie Scott’s work over the years. I’ve always been a bit less enthused, mostly as I’ve felt Scottish rapping to be a bit cringeworthy – there’s just something unconvincing about this style of music being delivered in such a broad and distinct accent.

But there was something on the night that made it click for me.

It is partly down to Jamie’s engaging personality and his ability to always seem to be enjoying himself on stage. This was a determined and genuine attempt to look back with fondness at 1988 for an audience who, with the exception of a handful of members, were all either born after it concluded or were so young that their memories would have been from a child’s perspective. He was passionate, reverent and caring about his subject matter, with the song titles and lyrics reflecting on the attractions of the original festival wrapped in love letters to the city and its citizens. The occasional slow song ensured it was a far from one-dimensional show but all the while the humour was never far away.

The show and album reflect on what is happening in the city and the country nowadays in this period of wider political upheaval and uncertainty but there’s also a number of nods to music of the era, including (Don’t You) Forget About Me in which Jamie reflects on what actually happened to the 88 site and the broken promises of an immediate regeneration. The show closed with a song that isn’t on the album, a beautifully conceived ballad version of Somewhere In My Heart with a co-vocal from Emma Carey, which seemed so apt given what had been recalled over the previous 45 minutes and also on a night when Roddy Frame himself was performing elsewhere in the city and no doubt getting his own audience on its feet with the same hit song. It was a moving end to a night with a difference.

mp3 : Jamie Scott – The Tower

Glasgow Garden Festival 18 is available to download from here.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 1995

The great solo career many had predicted for Lloyd Cole hadn’t quite worked out as planned. The fall-out from the poorly received and poor-selling Bad Vibes rumbled on into 1994 with no new material made available. It would later transpire that Lloyd was busy writing and demoing new songs but there was very little faith being shown in him by those who had backed him to this point in time.

There were a number of false starts on the next record which can be evidenced on the finished product with five different production credits listed across twelve songs. This would normally be a sign of a disastrous product with the record going through all sorts of gestation periods and being fiddled around with, but somehow Love Story manages to hang together very well and to be a very enjoyable and listenable album.

It is a record in which LC goes back to basics for the most part, uncomplicated tunes with clear vocal delivery and next to no studio trickery. There’s even a couple of radio-friendly numbers included, one of which actually delivered a Top 30 hit in the UK singles chart, a very impressive achievement at a time when Britpop was dominating. The overall tone, however, is one of melancholy and my initial instinct on first hearing it was that someone should try to somehow have LC hook up with Moz as he’d have been a perfect mid-90s foil and between them they could have given us something ridiculously special, albeit Moz would need to have bowed down and allowed Lloyd to pen some of the lyrics.

It had been just over a decade since Rattlesnakes had taken the listening public by storm and it was not long after Edwyn Collins had made marked his great comeback in the public eye with A Girl Like You. There was therefore something of a renewed interest in Lloyd and the first new single certainly lifted the spirits and offered hope that he would again be a major seller:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Like Lovers Do

It was A-listed on Radio 1 bringing loads of airplay and back on your television screens again after an extended absence, looking just as suave, handsome and debonair as last time around.

Sadly, the next equally strong single didn’t find as much favour with everyone, missing out on the important listing and bellyflopping at #73:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Sentimental Fool

Love Story sold a lot more than Bad Vibes, but not as many as it deserved. It was largely ignored by the music papers and had no chance in the mainstream media who were totally obsessed with the new kids and their electric guitars. It’s an album I reckon would have done incredibly well if social media back in the day had beem more advanced as it was an LP bloggers and the like would have warmed to, given the quality and diversity on display, such as these:

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Be There
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Unhappy Song

There were even some superb songs left off the album and made only available as b-sides:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – I Will Not Leave You Alone
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Steady Slowing Down Of The Heart

This surely all pointed to a bigger, brighter future……but the fickle world of pop music doesn’t work that way and instead things got quite messy.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #123 & #124 : HAIG/MACKENZIE

Memory Palace is the collection of songs recorded by long time friends Paul Haig and Billy Mackenzie at various times between 1993-95. They were both fairly disillusioned with the music industry at this time and without record deals to constrain them they sought to fill the void by getting together in an Edinburgh studio and having a bit of fun, writing songs influenced by krautock, electropop and all out balladry, drawing on their many influences and talents for the unexpected.

It was an album released two years after Billy’s tragic suicide, with Paul fulfilling his pal’s wish to polish things off and make the music available to fans. It was initially only available via mail order through on Paul’s Rhythm of Life label but in due course, after a period in which it had seemingly been deleted, it was given a full release, with four bonus remixes, by One Little Indian in 2004.

It is an ambitious piece of work, not always the easiest of listens which is no real surprise given the chaotic and carefree nature of the recording methodology but at the same time, Billy’s voice comes through as strong and bold as at any point in his career while Paul provides reminders of why so many have long thought of him as one of the most visionary and creative talents of the late 20th century.

I thought I’d feature two songs from it, giving both of them the opportunity to take the lead vocals.

mp3 : Haig/Mackenzie – Thunderstorm

Heavily influenced musically by the trip-hop sounds of the likes of Portishead/Tricky, this tune shows how beautiful Billy could sound when he stayed comfortably with his range.

mp3 : Haig/Mackenzie – Listen To Me

Poptastic stuff. Paul would later re-record this for his Relive album in 2009 but without the killer backing vocal. The track is credited solely to Paul and I do wonder if the lyric was his heartfelt plea to Billy to look after himself a bit better.

JC

AND THE RODNEYS ARE QUEUING UP

I’ve often thought that The Stranglers would be very worthy of an ICA or to be a band on whom there should be a specific series looking at the 45s over the years…well, the period from 1977 to 1983 with maybe the occasional later single also worthy of praise. But I’ve never quite got round to either…..

In lieu of that, I thought it would be worth giving an airing to what I think, with the benefit of hindsight, is their most enduring few minutes of vinyl:-

mp3 : The Stranglers – Duchess

The Stranglers had been prolific in their output since 1977. They had enjoyed a run of Top 20 singles while releasing three albums that had all gone Top 5.

The thing is, The Stranglers were not and never had been a punk outfit. The reliance on keyboards and the bass lines being at the forefront of their sound had always laid bare their pub roots which they wrapped around various punk attitudes such as aggression, violence and confrontation. They were older and more experienced than most and they hadn’t, till this point, really worried about what folk said or wrote about them, but seeing punk’s metamorphosis into new wave, and that many of their peers and contemporaries were getting rich, seemed to bring about a change of attitude.

Duchess was released on 10 August 1979. That’s 39 years ago which is a truly terrifying realisation. This was an era when lead singles were an important precursor to what was to follow on a subsequent album and this 45 had a few folk scratching their head as it is power-pop at its purest, tailor-made for daytime radio with its catchy verses and chorus striding a colossus of a tune which is perfectly produced to allow all four members to demonstrate their playing abilities. And at two-and-a-half minutes in length, with an immediate beginning and no-fade ending, it enabled producers to have their DJs slip it in at any point in a show when there was a need to make up some time from the news, adverts or a bit of idle chat leading to a potential overrun. It should have been massive….and yet it only reached #14.

The general public, clearly, still wasn’t ready to embrace The Stranglers but things weren’t helped by the UK tabloid newspapers taking aim at the band, labelling them as blasphemous thanks to them dressing up as choirboys for the promo video, from which a still was used as the sleeve.

It was all the proverbial water off a duck’s back for the men in black, but it must have been galling for the record label as countless sales were lost with some of the chain stores refusing to put the sleeve on display. It really was a non-story turned into something…..and it shows how easily offended some folk were back in those days.

Worth noting that the American label, keen to avoid a similar controversy, issued the single in a completely different sleeve.

Here’s yer reasonable enough, Stranglers-by-numbers, b-side.

mp3 : The Stranglers – Fools Rush Out

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #177 : BALLBOY (2)

A GUEST POSTING by DIRK a.k.a. SEXY LOSER

You see, the problem with a follow-up to an ICA is that everything about band members and discographies has already been said and done. So please refer to JC’s ICA # 175 if you’re interested.

Also JC managed to pick some of the really good songs, it must be said! No problem though, because ballboy are a band with so many good tunes: it was fairly easy to find ten other ones. Well, not that easy, because I couldn’t rely on albums, singles and EP’s only, I just had to include non-commercial releases as well, because I thought you’d miss a treat if I would not do so. Which made the number of songs to choose from even bigger!

But in the end I succeeded, so, without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, Scotland’s finest, ballboy:

‘You Should Fall In Love With Me‘

As it so often is the case, the Peel Session is the superior version. Fact. Obviously this is not only true for ballboy recordings. At least in my books. Here we have to thank George Thomas and Nick Scripps, who produced and engineered this tune back in March 2003. The original version can be found on ‘The Sash My Father Wore’ … of course the album version is excellent as well, but not that excellent!

(JC adds….first time I’ve heard the Peel Session version…..and Dirk is right!!!!)

‘They’ll Hang Flags From Cranes Upon My Wedding Day’

Since I first heard this song, I tend to have a close look each year on August 14th on me way to work. Never saw a single flag though, but I suppose Mrs Loser is still working on this: hope is the last thing to die, right? First released on the ‘Girls Are Better Than Boys’ – EP in 2001, also to be found on ‘Club Anthems’.

‘Frankie And Johnny’

I like it when they do a cover version! Here they tackle a very old tune indeed, from 1912 or thereabouts in fact. Elvis sang that as well, perhaps this is the version that ‘Frankie And Johnny’ is remembered for best. Still he didn’t write it, but to my best knowledge Elvis only wrote a handful of songs, if at all. Another artist who recorded a version was Lonnie Donegan, which is the link to ballboy:

“This is a Peel Session track recorded in October 2004, 2 days after the great man passed away. He was planning a Lonnie Donegan special and invited us to record this. We recorded it in one take, all together in the room with no overdubs. It is ramshackle and raw, but we like it and we are desperately sad that we didn’t get to play it for him.”

‘Dumper Truck Racing’

From their very first EP, ‘Silver Suits For Astronauts’ from 1999. Again, also this was issued on ‘Club Anthems’. A mighty tune, no question about that!

‘A Day In Space’

Also from the aforementioned debut EP: the truth of the matter is, I simply couldn’t decide which one to leave out, this one or ‘Dumper Truck Racing’, so you’ll get both, as easy as that …

‘Disney’s Ice Parade’

Anyone who starts a song with the line “You left your notes on lesbian sex on the fish tank in the hall/took me all afternoon to read them all” is alright with me, I must say! And in the case of ballboy it’s even more alright and I’m curious to find out how this story develops … and so should you, I tell you!

A lifetime ago the band offered podcasts on their website, those podcasts were made by Gordon ballboy and his acoustic guitar. The podcast were a regular feature and one was made every 2-3 weeks or so. The format was that Gordon talks a little, sings a new song, talks a little and sings an old song. ‘Disney’s Ice Parade’ is from a podcast from 2006.

‘Let’s Fall In Love And Run Away From Here’

Perhaps this my favourite ballboy tune. Here, I said it! Then again this might change in five minutes, as it did for a thousand times within the last two decades. It’s the opening track to ‘The Royal Theatre’ from 2004 and it proves what JC said in his wisdom in the first ballboy ICA: “Every one of the band’s EPs and albums opens with a truly memorable number”. This is but one of those, if you ask me …

‘Born In The USA’

Another cover version. I never cared all too much for Springsteen, so forgive me when I say: this is better than the original! From ‘The Sash My Father Wore’ from 2003.

‘We’ve All Had Better Days’

This is another one recorded for the Peel Session mentioned earlier on, the one which had ‘Frankie And Johnny’ on it. As far as I know there has never been a commercial release of this tune. Also I have a feeling that the correct title might possibly be ‘We’ve All Seen Better Days”. Not that it matters much anyway …

‘Where Do The Nights Of Sleep Go To When They Do Not Come To Me?’

A good question indeed, although one that I rarely as myself: I’m one of those lucky chaps who fall asleep as soon as my head touches my cushion. I always explain this ability with too much experience in the backs of transportation lorries when being a Lance Corporal in the German Air Force in the early 90’s, where we would sleep whenever and wherever possible!

‘Where Do The Nights Of Sleep Go To When They Don’t Come To Me?’ was a single from 2002.

Well, that’s it. The longlist, the list I made first, the one I had to delete songs from in order to number it all down to ten, was massive! I think this shows you how good this band really is.

Hope you enjoyed bits of it. Take good care, friends!

Dirk/sexyloser

38 YEARS AGO TODAY

8 August 1980. The date for the release of the song which would give David Bowie his second ever #1 hit in the UK, a full five years after Space Oddity.

mp3 : David Bowie – Ashes to Ashes (single edit)

The 17-year old me loved this. I hadn’t been all that much of a Bowie fan up until this point, admiring him more than adoring him, but this came out just as the point when it all began to make sense. My interest in electronica was beginning to grow at a rapid rate as my tastes expanded dramatically beyond the cut’n’thrust of new wave/post punk guitars.

I began to borrow Bowie albums from the 70s from friends who had either latched on to him earlier or who elder siblings who had been apostles from the earliest days. I didn’t embrace everything fully and indeed didn’t at the time feel any of his previous albums were as good as Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) which had been the first purchase of my own, followed by a budget price compilation album which was released just before Christmas 1980. I’ve changed my mind since then…..

I didn’t care much for the b-side to the single. It mentioned that it was from the album Lodger, a record I had listened to thanks to a friend buying it and playing it, but other than Boys Keep Swinging hadn’t done anything for me.

mp3 : David Bowie – Move On

I haven’t changed my mind on it track or its parent album over the years.

The US release of Ashes to Ashes had an absolute belter of a b-side:-

mp3 : David Bowie – It’s No Game (No.1)

The opening track of the Scary Monsters album remains one of my favourite Bowie numbers of them all, probably for as much as it being such an astonishing and different introduction to his wider work beyond the singles.

One bizarre thing I learned in doing a bit of research for this post. David Bowie would only enjoy one more solo #1 single in the UK with Let’s Dance in 1983. His total of three has been matched by a further three on which he was a co-vocalist or contributor (Under Pressure, Dancing In The Streets and Perfect Day, recorded with a myriad of others for a charity single in 1997). That’s some good pub quiz knowledge there for you…..

JC