AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #196 : JOE JACKSON BAND

It is important to note that this ICA is by the Joe Jackson Band, and is drawn entirely from just three albums, all of which were released in under two years in 1979/80. The four musicians involved are Joe Jackson (vocals, piano, harmonica), Gary Sanford (guitar), David Houghton (drums) and Graham Maby (bass), with the last-named being a particular hero and influence on Jonny the Friendly Lawyer of this very parish.

David Ian Jackson was born to be a musician, spending his formative years and youth initially learning the violin and later the piano, on which was proficient enough to earn money playing in pubs and bars from the age of 16 (this would have been around 1970). He would later win a scholarship which enabled him to study at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London, drawing on his love for and appreciation of all genres. He was a restless, non-conforming individual to the extent that, where many of his academic contemporaries remained wedded to their art, Jackson hooked up with a cabaret act in an effort to make a living, as much out of need than anything else as his upbringing was far from privileged and bordered on the impoverished.

It was during his time on the cabaret circuit that he gained the nickname Joe, allegedly on the basis of the cartoon character Joe Piano, who occasionally featured in the Charlie Brown/Snoopy/Peanuts comic strip. He used some of his savings to record a number of self-penned demos, the contents of which impressed record industry insiders enough to lead to him signing to A&M Records in 1978, with the bosses determined to have him replicate the career path and success of Elvis Costello, with many of his lyrics and tunes covering similar ground.

The demo was made with a band in tow, and all four of them would stay together over the next few years. The demos were polished up and formed the basis of debut album Look Sharp, released in January 1979, although by now there were many more songs in the locker which is why follow-up I’m The Man came out just nine months later. Both albums benefitted from having a smash-hit single, leading to Joe Jackson (as the act was known) gaining fame and a bit of fortune, headlining sell-out tours in the UK and many other parts of the world, including the USA and Australia.

The third album, Beat Crazy, was released in October 1980 and was credited to Joe Jackson Band. There had been a conscious effort to switch sound on the third album, with some ska and reggae influences brought to bear, but all that seemed to do was have the critics accuse the frontman of having made an initial career as a Costello-mimic now trying to become something akin to Sting-lite. It was an unhappy time with the album selling poorly and the audience numbers dwindling, so the decision by Houghton to leave the band made it easy for Jackson to call a halt to things entirely.

He was still on a long contract with A&M Records and throughout the 80s he would write and record a number of albums, some of which sold well while others quickly found themselves in the bargain bins. It was a period when I paid no attention to his music as it, to be honest, bored me. Joe Jackson has remained very active in the music industry going into the 90s and the new century, constantly shifting direction and being impossible to pin down into one particular box/genre. In 2003, he got his old band together and released the aptly named Volume 4 which was accompanied by a lengthy tour in which the old material featured prominently…..I didn’t make the effort to get a ticket, nor get my hands on the record.

I really did like the songs Joe Jackson and his band were releasing when they burst onto the scene, and I listened to the albums a fair bit in my late teen years. As I said above, I went off him fairly soon after, being disappointed and bored by the new sounds and not helped by seeing him perform on shows like The Tube where he seemed old and dated in comparison to the new kids on the block emerging at the onset of the 80s. But I do reckon I can offer up a decent enough 10-track ICA from the stuff that I did, and still, like.

NO SUCH THING AS TOMORROW
AN ICA by JOE JACKSON BAND

SIDE A

1. One to One

Thought I’d begin with a bit of a curve-ball, taking a very melancholy piano-based ballad from Beat Crazy and putting it as the opening track. I’m doing so on the basis of it being the song with which Joe opened the live shows promoting the album, coming on stage alone to take us through this real heart-breaker before the others ran on to take their places on stage and get the crowd going.

2. Happy Loving Couples

From the debut album, this is one of the tracks which would have caught the ear of those who thought Joe could be the next Elvis (new wave version) or indeed were determined to ensure that someone who owed a debt to Graham Parker would crack the mainstream. A bittersweet pop song that makes fun of the subject matters of sickly pop songs.

3. Kinda Kute

A fun anthem for smitten blokes who can’t dance. The third and final single released off I’m The Man and a monumental flop as the record-buying public made it clear once and for all that they only loved the songs where Joe’s heart was breaking. Talking of which….

4. Is She Really Going Out With Him?

This made the lower reaches of my 45 45s at 45 rundown back in 2008. It would still find a place in a similar rundown today. The song which perfectly captured the 16-year old JC who just couldn’t catch a break trying to find love at school. A genuine bona-fide classic pop song in anyone’s book. An initial flop when released in 1978, it got all the way to #13 in the UK singles chart the following year

5. I’m The Man

He might have been famed for his ballads, but the first two albums in particular were full of new-wave influenced pop songs, delivered at a frantic pace with clever, almost all-knowing lyrics, akin in many ways to what Andy Partridge was doing with his run of flop singles for early XTC. It’s a song which enables the band to show off their playing abilities and back in the day it was always a highlight of the live shows, often extending out in a highly energetic form that, gasp, saw some pogo-ing down the front.

SIDE B

1. On Your Radio

Opening track from I’m The Man. Joe spits out his venom for those who said he’d never make it big.

2. Sunday Papers

A biting satire on life in the UK in the late 70s. It’s really hard to imagine in this era of fast-moving news across so many medias, just how much influence newspapers had in terms of forming public opinions. News on the radio was broadcast for a few minutes every hour, news on the television a couple of times a day, lasting maybe 45 minutes all in. The printed press was king, and whatever was in the headlines I the morning was all that everyone talked about at home or work. Sundays were the day when the salacious tales were told – the ones which were planned and devised over a previous week-long period with the aim of bringing maximum embarrassment or shame to those who were the subject matter.

It’s a song of its time and contains language of its time that nowadays is deemed as unacceptable, but I’ll make no apologies for featuring a song in which the word ‘spastic’ is used as an adjective. Joe, along with others such as Tom Robinson and later on Billy Bragg, were among those who had the courage to actually challenge the bully boys and girls of the UK press, and for that he should be applauded.

3. It’s Different For Girls

The other big UK hit, indeed it eclipsed Is She Really Going Out With Him? by stomping all the way up to #5 in February 1980. Unusually, there is no use of the piano, meaning that Joe contributes only a vocal while his colleagues bash away at the complicated tune in which there are tempo and volume shifts on a number of occasions. It’s a clever song, which goes totally against the grain of ‘man wants six and woman needs love’, which form the basis of so many romantic tales. Joe, again, captured perfectly the feelings of Mr Loser, of which there are many more out there than Mr Winner.

4. Pretty Boys

A kind of throwaway number with a nod to ska which features towards the end of Beat Crazy, it’s one that I feel just fits in perfectly at this stage of the ICA. Joe knew he wasn’t much of a looker, and things weren’t helped by him being very prematurely bald, and he knew too that he was in an industry, like that of film and TV, where stardom isn’t always based on talent.

5. Got The Time

It closed out the debut album in an energetic and frantic fashion. No semblance of a clever smart-ass lyric, just an effort to pen a tune which was in keeping with the new wave style of the time. But it does provide the words for the title I’ve given to this ICA.

JC

TINTIN AND THE TRAINSPOTTER

I was scrolling down the list of singers/bands/subject matters previously featured on this little corner of t’iternet when I discovered a medium-sized hole where the words Lilac Time should be.

I could have sworn that I’d typed up some sort of posting in the dim and distant past but it certainly isn’t showing up in the index. I recall picking up a second-hand vinyl copy of the album Paradise Circus some five or six years ago in the days before charity shops started to make a killing on such product and I do recall scribbling down some notes as I gave it a listen but I must have left it at that or else I’ve accidentally deleted an initial draft (I’ve history in that respect).

Anyways…..The Lilac Time have been making music for over 30 years now without ever getting beyond cult status. They have, in the main, been a vehicle for the brothers Stephen and Nick Duffy, the former whose name may be familiar to you if you’re ever followed the career of Duran Duran – he was one of the founding members of the New Romantic beat combo but left about a year before they landed the major record label and became international superstars. As Stephen Tin Tin Duffy, he enjoyed some chart success in 1985 with the charming but saccharine Kiss Me, albeit at the third attempt, and in a remixed form, some three years after its initial release

mp3 : Stephen Tin Tin Duffy – Kiss Me

It was around 12 months later that The Lilac Time formed, with their self-titled debut album coming out on a small independent label, but creating enough of a buzz to have Fontana Records dangle a contract. The debut album was remixed and reissued by the new label to reasonable reviews but without gelling with the radio producers or the record purchasing public. Given that Stephen Duffy had demonstrated immense staying power and determination to achieve his previous hit single, it was no surprise that the band knuckled down for album number two, Paradise Circus, which was released in 1989.

I’m not going to make any outrageous or bold statements of it being a lost classic, but I think it is fair to say that it is an album that ought to be better known than it is and certainly deserved a better fate than failing to chart, nor indeed did any of its three singles, including this perfectly polished piece of pop:-

mp3 : The Lilac Time – The Girl Who Waves At Trains

The album as a whole is a gentle and enjoyable listen, fairly acoustic in nature, and packed with catchy choruses that worm their way into your brain. But 1989 was the time when British pop music was almost exclusively focussing on baggy/Madchester and the sounds being offered up by The Lilac Time were deemed by many to be old-fashioned toe-tapping stuff that belonged to a different era.

A third album in 1990 didn’t get them any further forward, and having been dropped they made a move to Creation with label boss Alan McGhee also taking the management reins. After it flopped, the band broke up and Stephen tried his arm as a solo artist to no great avail. He did, however, in 1996 get back into the charts as one-quarter of the Britpop group Me Me Me, whose other members included Alex James of Blur and Justin Welch of Elastica, with this one-off single that reached #19:-

mp3 : Me Me Me – Hanging Around

It’s not one that I recalled when typing up these notes but I did recognise it, without fondness, when I went digging for a listen.

The Lilac Time reformed in 1999, but again experienced no commercial success. Despite this, Stephen Duffy had built a reputation as a great songsmith and arranger, and so it was no real surprise that Robbie Williams came calling in 2004 asking for help In writing and producing songs, a venture that was stupidly successful with the one album they delivered together selling in excess of 8 million copies.

In a sense, nothing really mattered after that as the money from the Williams partnership would see him set up for life and before long he was back with his brother as The Lilac Time making records of a pop/folk nature, the type that has me running for the hills.

I might not have much time nowadays for the output of the band, but I’m always happy when one of the 1989 songs come up on random shuffle on the i-pod player, such as these:-

mp3 : The Lilac Time – American Eyes
mp3 : The Lilac Time – If The Stars Shine Tonight

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF PAUL HAIG (Part 6)

If Paul Haig was looking for evidence that Island Records were going to squeeze as much out of him as possible, then it could be easily found with the decision to release a third single from the debut album, despite the fact that the two previous 45s had been commercial flops:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Justice

Look in back on things, the Rhythm of Life album suffered from being recorded and released at a time when changes to electronic music with an indie bent was being transformed by New Order, and in particular Blue Monday, and the production techniques brought by Alex Sadkin to the album were light and disposable in comparison.

The fact that Paul was totally disillusioned with things can be seen from the songs he elected to perform when invited onto an evening show on BBC Radio 1 for a session in May 1983. Four tracks were aired, and none of them were on the album he could have and perhaps should have been promoting. Indeed, he went further by going with a session in which guitars featured prominently as evidenced by this being lifted for use on the b-side of the new single:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – On This Night Of Decision

Worth noting that the producer of the BBC session was John Porter, who would, just a couple of years later, work with The Smiths.

The 12″ release of the single had a bonus track, and it was an earlier version of Justice, produced by Paul himself, and one which had been slated as a potential 45 by his Belgian label only for the licensing arrangement (which I referred to in an earlier entry in this series) to put a halt to things:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Justice 82 (12 inch version)

A few years later, the 7″ version of the song was finally made available via a compilation album.

mp3 : Paul Haig – Justice (original 7″ version)

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #137: THE HONEYMOONERS

If the perfect musical career is indeed, as some have claimed, simply to consist of getting together and releasing a one-off single before breaking up, then The Honeymooners, from Airdrie, a small town to the east of Glasgow on the old secondary road out to Edinburgh, managed it in style.

There’s very little out there about the band, but Discogs is at least able to give us full names and not just those used on the back of the sole 45, released in 1987, on Mr Ridiculous, a label which itself folded after the single. :-

Jean McClure (vocals & trumpet), Martin Connelly (guitar), David Russell (fretless bass), Stewart Reid (drums) and Keith Dunn (guitar)

It’s another song that I’ve picked up via blogging and my life is all the richer for it:-

mp3 : The Honeymooners – Another Fit of Laughter

The b-side, for which I had to search quite far to find, isn’t anything as good, being just a bit rough and unready:-

mp3 : The Honeymooners – …And There They Were

JC

PS : Seems apt somehow to be featuring The Honeymooners on the very day that I will be performing best man duties at a wedding ceremony in Salford……

THREE WEEKS TONIGHT : A GUEST POSTING BY HUGH HAGGERTY

JC writes………I had intended to post something about the sorts of tunes that I might play at the next Simply Thrilled evening until I came across a wonderful piece of writing from Hugh Haggerty, one of the real driving forces behind the club. I told him that I intended to steal it and repost it….it’s his reflections on Teenage Fanclub, written in appreciation of them perform three entirely different sets on consecutive nights in Glasgow, drawing solely on the material from the years they were on Creation Records.

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“Every day I look in a different face”

Don’t we all? Looking in the mirror it reflects back all the new creases that my face seems to have picked up overnight, and I see the aggressive campaign that the grey in my hair is waging against the brown. (Spoiler: The grey hair is winning) I have to sigh and accept that I’m getting older, a fact that’s made all the more solid with the thought that popped into my head about the three nights of sheer guitar pop bliss I’m about to attend at the legendary Barras.

My first Teenage Fanclub gig at the Barrowlands was nearly thirty years ago.

Ten seems cheeky, twenty seems statesman like but thirty? That’s a lifetime. Could I ever have imagined as an awkward, skinny eighteen year old who babbled a lot of gibberish that I’d be right back at the same place but this time an awkward, fat forty-five year old babbling exactly the same gibberish but with the seasoned tone of man with aggressive grey hair.

Why have I come back? Well that’s obvious, Teenage Fanclub have been a hugely rewarding band to grow up with. The melodies have never left them, from those shambolic riffs and scattershot drums of ‘A Catholic Education’ to the pastoral multi-layered joy that is ‘Here’ and the constant beauty of all those glorious albums in-between, it’s a soundtrack for the musically eloquent who still have a sense of humour and dress well.

Since that freezing cold night in December 1991 (Why did Gerry want to assassinate December anyway, does he hate Christmas?) I’ve had the fortune to have met people that would become impossibly precious to me and I see some under the star strewn turquoise and cream ceiling each night. I shall spare their blushes and not name them but it doesn’t go without saying that each night of the band’s residency is made all the more special because of them.

Needless to say the gigs are an utter delight with so many highlights and here’s some of mine.

Brendan’s Back! I have a feeling of sorrow for those poor people who climbed aboard after Mr. O’Hare left the band, his Keith Moonesque tub-battery notwithstanding the high jinks and banter was solid gold entertainment. Never a dull moment with Brendan and it was no different for these gigs. My favourite moment being him walking onstage shrouded in a red cape only to drop it to shake the maracas for the intro to Sparky’s Dream. With perfect timing both musically and comedically.

‘Thirteen’ The album they were lambasted for getting it’s day in the sun. So much of this album has aged beautifully. Of course ‘Radio’ and ‘Norman 3’ still light the room up but ‘Fear of Flying’ (Given even more depth due to recent events), ‘Escher’, ‘Ret Liv Dead’ and the dreamy ‘Gene Clark’ all sounded magnificent. Extra credit for the always superb ‘Tears Are Cool’ and the utter joy of hearing ‘Get Funky’ live.

Norman and Raymond’s harmonies on ‘Say No’. A song that was merely ok in the past seems to come completely to life when live and the two voices lift it to a higher plain.

Gerry. Nuff said really, the man was born cool.

Paul Quinn’s drum THUNDER! I always thought Quinny’s (As the crowd were chanting) drums were really efficient and tight but watching the man up close I realise when he hits a drum they feel it in Australia! The recordings don’t do the man justice, he really batters those tubs and his fills are raptor-like. Hats off to the drummer man.

Norman being the most charming bastard ever made. Effervescent and smiling throughout, he gives the impression of a man who loves his job. And as such you can’t help feeling warm and fuzzy too.

Raymond being a guitar hero. Again having the fortune to watch the man at work up close pulls into focus how much he’s doing at any one time. From scuzzy guitar freak-outs to squealing solos the man does it without breaking a sweat. A total professional. (The solo during ‘I Need Direction’ is like a robust hug from a dear friend you’ve not seen in years)

Francis’ backing vocals. Tucked away at the back sat behind a keyboard with no spotlight Francis joins his voice with the three songwriters at the front and it’s alchemy, never showy but crystal clear harmonising. Wonderful and ridiculously multi-talented. Playing everything from drums to guitar, keyboards and even setting up the metronome for ‘If I Never See You Again’ He even stopped it at the right time, what a guy.

Speaking of multi-talented what about Dave McGowan? With effortless grace he plays bloody everything whilst showing Brendan which button to press to make the whooshing noise on ‘Take The Long Way round’

The B-sides set. Every one of them belters! Two favourite moments were hearing ‘Long Hair’ which catapulted me back to being the aforementioned awkward teen but the stand out moment must be ‘Broken’ in which a hushed choir of perfectly formed voices sang ‘Your heart has been broken again, it’s broken’ over and over, even after the song finished. Shimmering and frankly stunning, it was a moment of beauty that could only come from the combination of Teenage Fanclub, their fans and Glasgow’s most beloved venue.

The sheer joy that this band give is one of the reasons we do Simply Thrilled. I walked away from the gigs right beside my brother in arms Robert and we were both deeply affected by the music and the way it was embraced. We want to capture a little of that magic, those voices, and many more, we want to light up people’s faces when their favourite Scottish song suddenly bursts from the speakers. We love this music, so should you.

HUGH

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mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – December
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Tears Are Cool
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Say No
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Start Again
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – I Need Direction
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Long Hair

Tickets are available from here.

JC

THE POSTCARD SINGLE THAT NEVER WAS….

The above photo is the reverse of the sleeve for Chance Meeting, a single released by Josef K on Postcard Records in 1981 and given the catalogue number 81-5. If you look closely or indeed magnify it, you’ll see that the opportunity has been taken to list all the previous singles, along with their catalogue numbers, as well as the anticipated next release:-

81-6 : Orange Juice
Wan Light c/w You Old Eccentric

Only it never happened. It was meant to be a 45 with both sides devoted to James Kirk songs. The band sped off to Polydor before there was a chance to issue a fifth single for the Glasgow label; indeed there would be one further 45 ever released out of West Princes Street, Glasgow and that was 81-8 : Mattress Of Wire c/w Lost Outside The Tunnel by Aztec Camera just before they signed to Rough Trade.

Wan Light was later recorded for You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever, the debut album, but it’s likely that the Postcard single would have been more like the rough n ready demo version previously recorded or perhaps the version recorded for BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on the Richard Skinner Show in January 1991.

You Old Eccentric was later issued on the b-side of the 12″ version of Felicity, but again it’s likely that the Postcard version would be more similar to the version recorded for BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on the John Peel show in October 1980.

On that basis, and with thanks to Auntie Beeb, here is the Postcard single that never was, 81-6:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Wan Light
mp3 : Orange Juice – You Old Eccentric

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (24)

I wrote some fawning stuff about The Strokes a couple of years back, and I think it’s fair to say that my regulars weren’t completely on my side. Indeed, some of the comments left behind contained two of the most scathing but wonderfully worded criticisms of anything that’s appeared on this blog all these years:-

“I never understood the fuss….it just sounded to me as they couldn’t be arsed. I thought they sounded like a low-rent Television’ : The Robster

“The Strokes always sounded like and came off as superficial to me. I’m grounded in a love of all things Downtown NYC since I was a teen – VU, Television, The Dolls, Talking Heads, Ramones having grown up with it. The Strokes were always like a fashion magazine update of the scene and lacked the gravitas” : Echorich

I’ll stand by my original views, namely that they were a very welcome breath of fresh air back in 2001. I was so sure I would never again get overly excited by thin young men and their electric guitars, but my first exposure to Hard To Explain changed all of that. It was, without question, a throwback to the post-punk/new wave era and it did pay its dues to NYC bands from that era, but it also managed to infuse something of the British pop ideals which made it immediately more accessible and radio-friendly than most. It wasn’t really their fault that they all looked as if they could have equally been at ease on a catwalk.

Hard To Explain was a killer debut 45. The follow-ups which also featured on the debut album – Last Nite and Someday – were every bit as good. It was that very rare instance of a new act being loved by the critics and selling the product to millions of fans.  Oh and the b-side wasn’t too shabby either.

mp3 : The Strokes – Hard To Explain
mp3 : The Strokes – New York City Cops

JC