AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #199 : SONS & DAUGHTERS

From wiki:-

Sons and Daughters were a rock band from Glasgow, Scotland formed from 2001 to 2012. Its members were Adele Bethel (vocals, guitar, piano), David Gow (drums, percussion), Ailidh Lennon (bass, mandolin, piano) and Scott Paterson (vocals, guitar).

Conceived while on tour with Arab Strap in 2001, Sons and Daughters was initially Adele Bethel’s creation. The band’s line-up at first comprised Bethel, David Gow and Ailidh Lennon, and the band began recording. After the later addition of Scott Paterson as a second vocalist, the band played a number of successful concerts. Their debut release, the twenty five minutes-long Love the Cup was financed by the band and initially released on Ba Da Bing Records label in 2003, and later re-released when Sons and Daughters signed to Domino Records in 2004.

Their second album, The Repulsion Box was released in June 2005. In February 2006 the band were invited to tour with Morrissey on the first leg of his UK tour. Their third album, This Gift, produced by Bernard Butler, was released on 28 January 2008.

After a few years of relative inactivity the band released a free download, “Silver Spell”, accompanied by a trailer for their new album, Mirror Mirror, which was released on 13 June 2011.

On 2 November 2012 the band announced that they would no longer continue as a band bringing an end to 11 years of their career.

They were a band I had an awful lot of time for, and not simply from the connections with Arab Strap. They made music that was unlike most of their Glasgow contemporaries – you would certainly never mistake them for Belle & Sebastian or Camera Obscura – consisting of a blend which tried to fuse post-punk, blues, folk, rockabilly and goth. A more tuneful and slightly less menacing 21st century Birthday Party if you like…..

I’ve long been meaning to pull together an ICA, so here goes. Oh and it has 12 tracks as the normal 10 tracks would have been short a running time.

SIDE A

1. Johnny Cash (from Love The Cup, 2004)

One of my favourite songs of all-time, earning a place in the 45 45s at 45 rundown back in 2008. And the only song by a Glasgow band that I’ve ever heard being played on commercial radio while hanging around a clothes shop on the French Caribbean island of Martinique.

The song was my introduction to the band. I had been told to look out for them by a few who were ‘in the know’ but I had never got round to buying anything. The video to Johnny Cash, played by Zane Lowe on MTV2, immediately caught my ear, thanks to its riff, beat and growling, almost menacing, vocal. And then Adele came in on backing/joint vocal for the chorus and I was mesmerised. I went out and bought the CD the following day.

2. Dance Me In (single version, 2005)

Love The Cup was a calling card, more a seven-track EP than a full-blown album. It was after signing to Domino Records that they went into the famous Conny Plank’s studio in Cologne in January 2005, with Victor Van Vught (who had previously worked with, among others, Nick Cave and PJ Harvey) in the producer’s chair, with the end result being a blistering and frantic 10-track record that was barely 30 minutes in length.

The album had been preceded by the release of a new single, one which had been recorded in August 2004 at Westheath Studios in London, with owner Edwyn Collins in the producer’s chair and his sidekick Sebastian Lewsley on engineering duties.  I’m not entirely sure why Edwyn didn’t go on to produce the whole album – it may well have simply been he didn’t have the time  – but his version of Dance Me In comparion to that which appears on the album is just that little bit more dynamic and danceable.

3. Chains (from This Gift, 2008)

A kind of second cousin to Dance Me In, thanks to the now trademark duel lead vocals and the whoa-whoa-whoas which Adele and Scott delivered like no others. By now, if you’ve really entered into the spirit of things, you should have sort of gyrated yourself dizzy….so it’s time to slow things down just a tad.

4. Rama Lama (from The Repulsion Box, 2005)

Sons & Daughters did record an awful lot of murder ballads, and so it was no real surprise that they eventually appeared on Mr Cave’s radar with him asking them to open for the Bad Seeds at what was, at that point in time, their biggest UK show at the Alexandra Palace, London in August 2005. I had no idea until I got to the venue that they were the support act and so it made for a very special evening.

As with any support acts in a venue as cavernous as the Ally Pally with its 10,000+ all standing capacity, they struggled to get everyone’s attention and there was far too much chattering. What I do recall, however, is that a group of about a dozen folk close to where myself and Mrs V were standing did shut up for a few minutes having been drawn in initially by the punch-to the-guts bass notes opening to Rama Lama and then by the gory and disturbing story which unveiled over the next five minutes. Adele’s spine-chilling vocal back-up to Scott’s deadpan, near spoken delivery, was that of someone who sounded as if she was possessed by something not of this world. Old Nick put on a great show that night, but he and his band didn’t get close to the brilliance of this.

5. Rose Red (from Mirror Mirror, 2011)

If I’m being brutally honest, the final album just before the break-up was something of a disappointment in comparison to what had come before. The band lost much of their edginess, possibly in the hope of getting some overdue commercial success, but the songs just weren’t there. The energy had largely been sapped which was all too apparent in the live setting of a packed hometown gig at SWG3 where a disappointing set was saved towards the end with some oldies before Rose Red, something of a highlight on the new record, brought the night to an end. No encore was given but none was really wanted by the audience. It was no surprise that they break-up was just a matter of months away.

6. Nice’n’Sleazy (b-side, 2005)

Yup…..it’s a cover of The Stranglers song………..and a bloody good one at that. The bass lines and keyboard solo may not be in the class of the original, but Adele’s breathless vocal delivery goes a long way to compensate.

SIDE B

1. Medicine (from The Repulsion Box, 2005)

The opening track on The Repulsion Box opens with what can only be described as a hoedown stomp on speed and sets the tone for much of what was to follow. Oh and it features the best use of a mandolin on any piece of music since….well I’ll come to that a bit later on.

2. Red Receiver (from The Repulsion Box, 2005)

There have been quite a few songs written over the years about being jilted at the altar….but none as good as this.

3. Gilt Complex (from This Gift, 2008)

Another album opener. It was released on 7” and digital download in advance of the album with hopes that it would get airplay and lead to some commercial success. Domino Records had drafted in Bernard Butler to add finesse and polish to the band….it would later be revealed that the recording process wasn’t easy and created a lot of unhappiness for the band…and while the results were a bit mixed there is no question that Gilt Complex was everything that the label was looking for. It must have been a sore one to take when it disappeared without trace. I should mention that the b-side of the 7” was a cover of Killer, the #1 hit for Seal….but having mentioned it, I’ll say nothing more other than it stinks the house out.

4. Fight (from Love The Cup, 2004)

The third track on this side of the ICA which had originally provided the opening to an EP or album. In many ways, it is the archetypal Sons & Daughters track with great vocal interplay between deadpan Scott and excitable Adele while the talents of David and Ailidh see things driven along at perfect pace and without either of them seeming to break sweat. Oh and it features the best use of a mandolin on any piece of music since Losing My Religion…..thanks Ailidh.

5. Broken Bones (from Love The Cup, 2004)

Just as I always expect Red Receiver to follow on immediately from Medicine (see above), so do I always expect Broken Bones to follow on immediately from Fight. This was the first of the Murder Ballads to be put down on vinyl and is one of their most enduring.

6. Awkward Duet (from Love The Cup, 2004)

I realise that by using the closer from Love The Cup to close the ICA, I’ve leant heavily on the EP with four of its seven tracks making the cut. There was just something almost other-worldly about the debut material which was recorded at Chem 19, just outside of Glasgow in the summer of 2003 and which was initially put out on a very small indie before Domino came calling. It is certainly more basic than all the successor works, but by no means is it lo-fi. Sometimes, a minimal amount of tweaking works best of all, as can be heard on Awkward Duet which, at times, almost collapses in on itself such is its fragility. It’s an unexpected piece of maudlin, coming-down type of music at the end of a record which had been truly dynamic and utterly different.

And that, dear readers, brings ICA #199 to an end.

#200 has already been written and held in reserve for that particular occasion. But as I’m going off on holiday next week and as I’m using that particular period for something specific (tune in on Monday for more), you’ll all have to wait a bit.

In the meantime, I’m set to enjoy myself at Simply Thrilled tonight…..

JC

MUM’S THE WORD

It’s after 2am and I’m pulling this piece together just a few hours before publication.

This is most unusual as I’m the type who has things written up weeks in advance, rarely deviating from a planned schedule. But in truth, the posting for 29 November 2019 was always going to be about a blogging friend but I wasn’t sure until now just how I was going to approach it.

The past wee while has been strange in terms of blogging. A crisis of confidence (of sorts) has led to me not reading other people’s stuff over the past six months – I was genuinely scared of visiting places and discovering so many amazingly well-written posts which I had no chance of matching that I’d end up using them as the excuse to give up entirely.

It’s been a selfish thing to do, especially given that I rely often on guest contributions. It’s also been a stupid thing to do as I’ve missed out on things that have been happening to friends – some good things, some bad things, some sad things and some happy things – and my life has been the poorer for it.

I can say that with some certainty as I’ve just spent much of the past three days, whenever I’ve had some spare time (of which there hasn’t been much and thus this particular late shift), catching up with SWC, Tim Badger and KT over at The Sound of Being OK.

There’s a number of reasons why theirs was the first to go back to after all these months – one being that I have received a few e-mails from the trio asking after me and they were kind enough to accept my excuses for not visiting and indeed being very understanding in so many ways.  The main reason, however, was because Tim and SWC supplied me with info and news which was very much in the public domain through their blog but which, of course, I had missed out on, namely that KT and her husband Dom were going to become parents around the end of this calendar year.

I don’t know how many of you are regular visitors to their place – I do know from their own comments section that a number of the regulars to T(n)VV are fans of TSOBO, something which is hardly a surprise given the quality of writing to be found over there.

The month of November has been a particular joy to read as TSOBO has been more or less handed over in its entirety to KT to allow her to say a few things before she takes her leave (hopefully temporarily). Tomorrow is her last day and will see her reveal something about her #1 song/singer/band of all time.

But today, KT will talk about #2 and I have it on good authority it will feature Coldplay. And I have promised the boys that, in her honour, and as a way of saying both thank you and good luck, I will have this blog do likewise. Eventually…..

KT previously provided an ICA on Coldplay. It was a wonderfully written and high-quality piece as you would expect, albeit most of the songs were unfamiliar to me, which in itself is not unusual with most guest ICAs.

However, in this instance, there was a badly judged effort on my behalf to take the piss out of the band, one in which I shamefully encouraged others to join in. It was meant to be funny but the joke wore thin rather quickly and KT would have been well within her rights to call me all the names under the sun.

The fact that she didn’t shows what a class act she truly is…..and I’ll always be grateful to her for being so magnanimous.

TSOBO is the follow-on from an old blog which was known commonly as WYCRA, something which the authors collectively deleted sometime ago.

KT (or KC as she was for much of WYCRA) was introduced to us on the back of an incredibly personal posting about how her world had collapsed around her without warning….it was one of the most remarkable pieces of writing I’d seen anywhere, in hard physical copy or digitally. Over the succeeding weeks and months, Kay (for that is her given name) took us on a rollercoaster of a journey through the life she had lived, introducing us to so many great people who surround her, be they family or friends. Oh, and she also threw out the most wonderful titbits that revealed very funny things about SWC and Tim Badger….

Kay is a ridiculously talented writer – as indeed are her two male sidekicks… and I’ll likely focus on them some other days.  Today is all anout the mum-to-be, someone who is  going to be missed by many, and no doubt by SWC and Tim more than any others, and I’m really looking forward to reading her final two contributions today and tomorrow.

I’ve never heard the song I’m posting today….but an internet search of ‘What’s the happiest Coldplay song?’ threw it up as a suggestion…..and the title seemed appropriate.

This one’s for you missus…..and I want to wish you, Dom and your soon-to-be-born daughter all the happiness in the world.

mp3 : Coldplay – Adventure of a Lifetime

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #131(a) : HIFI SEAN

I mentioned back in #131 of this series that Sean Dickson (formerly of The Soup Dragons and The High Fidelity) was still making records under the name of HiFi Sean.

Thanks to the generosity of Drew from the blog Across The Kitchen Table, I’m able to offer up something very special today, namely the 45 that was made available in a limited number for Record Store Day 2018. Here’s what the promotional blurb said:-

Record Store Day 2018: Clear 7″ vinyl in a clear plastic bag with a clear sticker to announce the partnership of HiFi Sean and David McAlmont (McAlmont & Butler) of their forthcoming album in later part of 2018 which is partially recorded with a Bollywood orchestra in Bangalore, India . The single ‘Transparent’ is in two parts over both sides and will only exist on this vinyl and will not be included on the forthcoming album.

mp3 : HiFi Sean & David McAlmont – Transparent

JC

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 18)

It was back in July 2017 that I first featured this occasional series, the idea being to try and offer up an example of where the lyric of a song makes for a great short story.

Here’s a rundown of previous chapters:-

1. I Work In A Saloon – Arab Strap
2. My Sister – Tindersticks
3. Up The Junction – Squeeze (guest contribution from Walter)
4. The Curse of Millhaven – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
5. Rushholme Ruffians – The Smiths
6. The Mariner’s Revenge – The Decemberists (guest contribution by Jonny)
7. The Gift – The Velvet Underground (guest contribution by Jacques)
8. The Most Fun – Brakes (guest contribution by jimdoes)
9. Lady of a Certain Age – The Divine Comedy (guest contribution by FoRW)
10. A Week In A Country Jail – Tom T. Hall (guest contribution by Jonny)
11. She’s Leaving Home – The Beatles (guest contribution by Jules)
12. I saw You – Arab Strap
13. Friday Night, Saturday Morning – The Specials
14. Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured – Arctic Monkeys
15. The Ballad of Tindersticks – Tindersticks
16. David’s Last Summer – Pulp
17. Famous Tracheotomies – Okkervil River (guest contribution by Jules)

Strange in some ways that rap hasn’t thus far featured, given that so many of the lyrics tell stories. I’m changing all that today with one of the darkest, most disturbing and chilling of them all. One in which a sexually abused girl, who can’t get anyone to believe her because her father is a respected member of the community, just snaps and kills her father, while he is working in store grottos dressed as Santa Claus.

“If you will suck my soul
I will lick your funky emotions”

(Posdnous)

This is the stylin’ for a little that sounds silly
But nothin’ silly about triflin’ times of Millie
Millie, a Brooklyn Queen-originally from Philly
Complete with that accent that made her sound hillbilly
Around this time, the slammin’ joint was Milk is Chilin’
But even cooler was my social worker Dillon
Yeah, I had a social worker ‘cuz I had some troubles
Anyone who’d riff on me, I’d pop their dome like bubbles
He’d bring me to his crib to watch my favorite races
That’s how his daughter Millie become one of my favorite faces
She had the curves that made you wanna take chances
I mean on her, man, I’d love to make advances
I guess her father must ‘a got the same feelin’
I mean, actually findin’ his own daughter Millie appealing
At the time no one knew but it was a shame
That Millie became a victim of the touchy-touchy game

(Trugoy the Dove]

Yo Millie, what’s the problem, lately you’ve been buggin’
On your dukie earrings, someone must be tuggin’
You were a dancer who could always be found clubbin’
Now you’re world renowned with the frown you’re luggin’
Come to think your face look stink when Dill’s around you
He’s your father-what done happen-did he ground you?
You shouldn’t flip on him ‘cuz Dill is really cool
Matter of fact, the coolest elder in the school
He hooked up a trip to bring us all the Lacey
He volunteered to play old Santa Claus at Macy’s
Child, ya got the best of pops anyone could have
Dillon’s cool, super hip, you should be glad

(Posdnous)

Yeah, it seemed that Santa’s ways were parallel with Dillon
But when Millie and him got him, he was more of a villain
While she slept in he crept inside her bedroom
And he would toss and then would force her to give him head room
Millie tried real hard to let this hell not happen
But when she’d fuss, he would just commence to slappin’
(Yo Dillon man, Millie’s been out of school for a week, man, what’s the deal?)
I guess he was givin’ Millie’s bruises time to heal
Of course he told us she was sick and we believed him
And at the department store as Santa we would see ’em
And as he smiled, his own child was at home plottin’
How off the face of this earth she was gonna knock him
When I got home, I found she had tried to call me
My machine had kicked to her hey how ya doin’ (sorry)
I tried to call the honey but her line was busy
I guess I’ll head to Macy’s and bug out on Dillon

(Trugoy the Dove]

I received a call from Misses Sick herself
I asked her how was she recoverin’ her health
She said that what she had to ask would make it seem minute
She wanted to talk serious, I said, “go ahead-shoot”
She claimed I hit the combo dead upon the missal
Wanted to know if I could get a loaded pistol
That ain’t a problem but why would Millie need one
She said she wanted her pops Dillon to heed one
Ran some style about him pushin’ on her privates
Look honey, I don’t care if you kick five fits
There’s no way that you can prove to me that Dill’s flip
He might breathe a blunt but ya jeans he wouldn’t rip
You’re just mad he’s your overseer at school
No need to play him out like he’s someone cruel
She kicked that she would go get it from somewhere else
Yeah, whatever you say, go for ya self

(Posdnous)

Macy’s department store, the scene for Santa’s kisses
And all the little brats demandin’ all of their wishes
Time passes by as I wait for my younger brother
He as his wish, I waste no time to return him back to Mother
As I’m jettin’, Millie floats in like a zombie
I ask her what’s her problem, all she says is “Where is he?”
I give a point, she pulls a pistol, people screamin’
She shouts to Dill he’s off to hell cuz he’s a demon
None of the kids could understand what was the cause
All they could see was a girl holdin’ a pistol on Claus
Dillon pleaded mercy, said he didn’t mean to
Do all the things that her mind could do nothing but cling to
Millie bucked him and with the quickness it was over

mp3 : De La Soul – Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa

Despite a real lack of radio play, its release as a single in 1991 saw it reach #50. Don’t think, however, it’s made it onto any festive compilations.

JC

HERE COMES YOUR MAN (AGAIN)

No apologies today even though this is a repeat posting from January 2017 in terms of the songs. In my defence I’m coming at the lead song from a different angle as last time round it was one of the b-sides which prompted the piece.

Pixies never really wanted to be bona-fide pop stars whose songs hung around the higher echelons of the charts – for evidence, you only need to look at the way they handled the eventual release of Here Comes Your Man as a stand-alone single.

The track is very unusual in comparison to much of the rest of the band’s late 80s/early 90s material. As has been written elsewhere on t’internet:-

“In contrast with the fractured compositional style the band became known for, Here Comes Your Man follows a straightforward verse/pre-chorus/chorus structure, with a short instrumental break in the middle – the very definition of a perfect three-and-a-half-minute pop single.”

It’s also a song which, by the time of its release in 1989 was almost ten years old as Black Francis had composed it when he was just 15 years of age. A version had been included in the demo tape which got them the deal with 4AD Records but the composer vetoed its inclusion firstly on Come On Pilgrim and again on Surfer Rosa. Indeed, it was only sleight of hand by producer Gil Norton that led to it being recorded for inclusion on Doolittle – the band, and in particular the front man condescendingly referred to it as ‘the Tom Petty song’ and way too commercial sounding. Norton waited until Francis was out of the studio and had the other three members record a fresh take on the tune, including Joey Santiago adding a new riff to beef things up, with the results being different enough to warrant a new vocal.

The label bosses worked hard to have it scheduled as a single, only getting their way by agreeing it wouldn’t be used as a precursor for the album. A promo video was made but sort of sabotaged by Francis and Kim Deal who made no attempt to mime the words thus causing severe bafflement to the MTV bosses. The band also turned down requests to play the song on the national chat shows which dominated US television in those days and indeed hardly ever included it in any live shows.

Despite all this, the single got a fair bit of play on college radio in the States and on evening shows in the UK and Europe. It reached #54 in the UK singles charts in July 1989, #1 in the UK Indie Charts and #3 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Here’s all four tracks from the 12”

mp3 : Pixies – Here Comes Your Man
mp3 : Pixies – Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
mp3 : Pixies – Into the White
mp3 : Pixies – Bailey’s Walk

The question is……given that this alternative, wonderfully slowed-down version of Wave of Mutilation was recorded at Palladium Studios in Edinburgh, does it qualify enough to be aired at Simply Thrilled, the upcoming club night celebrating the best of Scotland’s alternative music??

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF PAUL HAIG (Part 8)

It was as recently as 15 April 2018 when I featured the eighth solo single by Paul Haig:-

Released in Sepember 1984, the production is credited to B-Music/Dojo; in other words Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson. How many of you wanted to shout out ‘Confusion’ just before Paul’s vocals kicked in?

The b-side is also worth a listen for a number of reasons – it’s a fun and fast-tempo cover of a Suicide classic that was produced by Alan Rankine.

The same b-side as had appeared on Big Blue World (featured in Part 7 of the series) and so it won’t be re-posted.

As for the a-side, the April post featured the 7″ version as released here in the UK. The sleeve at the top of this posting is that of the 12″ Belgian release on Les Disques Du Crépuscule and here’s the two tracks:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – The Only Truth (extended)
mp3 : Paul Haig – The Only Truth (instrumental)

The latter is a particular joy, especially if you’ve any fondness for mid 80s era New Order.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #139 : HUDSON MOHAWKE

Other than the fact it is alphabetical, nobody can ever accuse this series of being predictable. Last week it was the near 60-year old Horse Macdonald (not her real name) while this week it is 32-year old Hudson Mohawke (not his real name).

And just like last week, I only have one track in the collection, this time courtesy of a download a couple of years back when he was shortlisted for Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) award in 2016.

From wiki:-

Ross Matthew Birchard (born 11 February 1986), better known by the stage name Hudson Mohawke, is a producer, DJ, and composer from Glasgow, Scotland. A founding member of the UK label collective LuckyMe, he signed to Warp Records and released his debut album Butter in 2009. In 2011, he formed the duo TNGHT with Canadian producer Lunice and released their debut EP the following year.

In 2012, he began a series of collaborations with Kanye West, resulting in production credits on the GOOD Music label album Cruel Summer. On 17 January 2013, it was announced that Mohawke had officially signed with GOOD Music as a producer, whilst remaining with Warp and LuckyMe as a recording artist. TNGHT announced their hiatus on 27 December 2013.

Mohawke co-produced two tracks on West’s 2013 album Yeezus (“I Am a God” and “Blood on the Leaves”) and contributed to West’s 2016 follow-up The Life of Pablo, in addition to working with various other hip hop and pop artists, including Drake, Pusha T, and Future. In 2015, he released his second studio album, Lantern (which was the work nominated for the SAY Award). Also in 2016, he collaborated with singer Anohni on her 2016 album Hopelessness, and created the original soundtrack for the video game Watch Dogs 2.

He’s been a busy young man right enough, and according to those who know about these things, he’s always been re-defining his musical style with one critic saying in 2015 “in the six years since debut full-length, Butter, Hudson Mohawke’s music has gone from a glitch-y, turntablist jitter to a euphoric, multicolored trap-hop pound and everywhere in between.”

mp3 : Hudson Mohawke – Scud Books

JC

ONE WEEK TONIGHT

Last week I said that I was hopeful of including music from five separate decades in whatever set I come up with. I still am, but it’s a near certainty that I’ll end up concentrating on a particular era and try to throw in some non-hits:-

mp3 : Friends Again – Honey At The Core
mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – The Rattler
mp3 : Shop Assistants – Safety Net

JC

AIN’T NOBODY WHO CAN SING LIKE ME

Today’s another example of time catching me out as I’d never have guessed it is now 20 years since Mermaid Avenue, the collaboration between Billy Bragg and Wilco in which music was put to previously unheard lyrics by the late Woody Guthrie, one of America’s most revered folk musicians.

The project had been a number of years in the making, its origins lying with Nora Guthrie, who was the director of her father’s foundation and archives. Woody had been a prolific lyricist and his archives contained more than a thousand sets of lyrics to which music had never been put and it was her dream/ambition that they be offered to a contemporary artist who could put a late 20th century slant on things, with the hope that her father’s work and legacy would reach a newer and wider audience. Billy Bragg was the person to whom she turned, but in doing so she wanted the songs not to simply be a pastiche of her dad’s sound.

The singer/songwriter was extremely honoured but unsure if he could do the project full justice and in turn he asked Wilco, a then relatively new(ish) band from Chicago with its roots in indie and country rock, to consider lending a hand.

The results were surprisingly good. The efforts of all concerned did justice to the brief insisted on by Nora with it being a genuine collaboration for the most parts with Billy often being backed by Wilco (in much the same way as he had enjoyed recording with The Red Stars and various guest musicians in the early 90s and would do again with The Blokes in the noughties) while the band itself drafted Billy in on acoustic guitar and backing vocals on the lyrics to which they were writing the music. Billy’s tunes were recorded in Dublin and Wilco’s tunes in their home city. A number of other musicians, such as Natalie Merchant, Bob Egan and Eliza Carthy came on board as guests, adding further layers of authenticity class to the finished product. The critics reacted positively to Mermaid Avenue, sales were quite decent and all seemed to be good.

The following year, a 90-minute DVD was released in which the story of the venture was told, including great studio footage and interviews with all concerned, during which a few tensions were revealed, particularly around who got to choose which lyrics and how best they should be recorded. There was also a bit of angst over the fact that the song selected by the record label for the single didn’t really feature Wilco and indeed was probably the closest to a Woody-type recording rather than a contemporary interpretation. The fact is, however, it is the most striking and memorable track on the album:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg & Wilco – Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key

I’ve no doubt that Billy, upon seeing the refrain ‘ain’t nobody who can sing like me’ was desperate to grab this one for himself. It’s one that really does lend itself to his gentle acoustic side, while the violin accordion and backing vocal from Ms Merchant turn it into a thing of genuine and moving beauty.

There were two previously unavailable tracks added to the CD single:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg & Wilco – My Thirty Thousand
mp3 : Billy Bragg & Wilco – Bugeye Jim

Both are tracks in which Billy wrote the music, which sort of gave the impression that Wilco were a junior partner in the collaboration, a situation which understandably annoyed frontman Jeff Tweedy.  Listen closely to the former and you’ll hear the tune is very much based on Battle Cry for Freedom, from which Billy had composed Power In A Union on his 1986 album, Talking With The Taxman About Poetry.

Interestingly, when Billy went out on the road with The Blokes to perform the songs from Mermaid Avenue, he took a completely different tack with Way Over Yonder…..

mp3 : Billy Bragg and The Blokes – Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key (live)

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (25)

OK…I’ll willingly confess.

I had no idea this was a debut single and indeed until the release of the release of the C87 box set by Cherry Red a couple of years back, I hadn’t even heard of The Waltones.

Although they were a Manchester band, this particular 45 and indeed two subsequent singles and a debut album were to be found on Medium Cool, a London-based indie label which also put out material by the likes of The Corn Dollies, The Raw Herbs and The Siddeleys.

As the reverse of the sleeve indicates, the band consisted of Alex Fyans (drums), Mark Collins (guitar), James Knox (vocals, harmonica) and Manny Lee (bass, backing vocals). The debut album came out just as their label went bust and so they made a move to Midnight Music for a second album, at which point the drummer upped sticks. A new bloke was brought in and the band was renamed Candlestick Park, but after just one single they called it a day.

Mark Collins soon afterwards, in 1991, joined The Charlatans as the replacement for the recently departed and original guitarist John Baker; it’s a move I don’t think he’s ever regretted.

Oh, and the reason I love the debut 45 by The Waltones? It’s such a close cousin to The Bluebells but with a great Manc sounding vocal……

mp3 : The Waltones – Downhill

Here’s the equally enjoyable b-side:-

mp3 : The Waltones – Closest To

Great guitar work on this one….no wonder Mr Collins was much in demand.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #197 & 198 : BLONDIE

The second successive JC ICA of an act from the teenage years.

Linked in with a guest posting by Walter of A Few Good Times.

It was inevitable that two ICAs would overlap.  I’d no sooner made my mind up on mine that Walter’s dropped into my inbox.  So here goes with two-for-one.  Only 3 songs made both lists…I wonder, before you scroll down, you hazard a guess to what they are and then see if you were right.

JC writes…..

Blondie.

A band with its roots firmly in the NYC punk scene who would, over a six-year period achieve world domination in terms of chart positions and record sales, thanks in part to having a stunning and striking look in an era when video was beginning to become increasingly important to the music industry, but also for the fact that this was a band who never stood still, always surprising fans and critics alike with moves into some different genre than their previous outing.

New wave, pure pop, disco, rap and reggae were all, one point in time or other, utilised to bring success. It wasn’t always the best use of the genres, and indeed in the grand scheme of things the rap and reggae efforts can be seen as a bit to-curling in places, but credit has to be given for trying and for using their position of influence to try to widen the tastes and listening habits of their fans. They are more than worthy of an appearance in this long-running series. Again, what follows is not necessarily my favourite ten Blondie songs, nor their best, but it comes together rather well as a stand-alone album.

SIDE A

1. Hanging on the Telephone (1978)

 Parallel Lines, the band’s third LP, has sold more than 20 million copies. Being the archetypal muso-snob, it’s not all that often I find myself raving about a record which has proven to be so popular with the general public, but there are many fantastic moments across its 35 minute duration, not least its opening track. It’s a song which is a nod the band’s roots in terms of its sound, energy and tempo, but it is also an acknowledgment of the fact that many of their peers and contemporaries, whom Chris Stein and Debbie Harry thought were more than worthy, hadn’t been able to keep things going for one reason or another. Not many people outside of LA had likely heard of song composer Jack Lee or his power-pop trio The Nerves until Blondie gave it the cover treatment. It still sounds ridiculously good 40(!!!!) years on.

2. Dreaming (1979)

The band’s drummer, Clem Burke, has always been important to the sound. He’s had to constantly adjust his style to suit whatever genre the band were concentrating on, but there can no arguing that, at heart, he’s just a guy who is at his happiest when he’s allowed to pound away loud and fast, dragging the band along breathlessly in his wake. He’s probably never given as fine a performance as on this hit single from the band’s fourth album, which is fitting given that it seems he came up with the phrase ‘Dreaming Is Free’ around which Debbie constructed the lyric – and I still admire the fact she was able to achieve a rhyming couplet of restaurant and debutante. Genius.

3. In The Flesh (1976)

It’s quite incredible to look back and realise that human error in Australia was responsible for setting Blondie on their way to fame and fortune. The debut album, like many of its type in the mid-70s, was more cult than commercial. It was that transitional period when punk/new wave was finding its feet on both sides of the Atlantic, still a long way from the mainstream and wider acceptance. The biggest pop show on Australian TV at the time was called Countdown and it was one that was ahead of many in airing new sounds by new bands. The plan has been to highlight X-Offender, a new 45 by Blondie but an error was made and the promo for its b-side was played instead and generated a positive response.

It didn’t, however, lead to any huge upsurge in sales, but the following year saw the band’s contract shift to a new label, Chrysalis, where somebody remembered that In The Flesh, a slow number almost reminiscent of many girl groups of the 60s, had gone down well and so it was re-released, this time as an A-side. In November 1977, the song reached #2 in Australia, providing the band with its first ever hit, a full six months before they troubled the UK singles charts.

4. Sunday Girl (French Version)(1979)

One in which the band really sounded as if they were just a backing group for the gorgeous lead singer. This was released in the summer of 1979 when the band had just really taken the UK by storm. It was the fourth single to be lifted from Parallel Lines, some nine months after the album hit the shops, a situation that would normally see a 45 sink without trace with fans refusing to part with hard-earned cash for something they already owned. It was especially so with Blondie as even most of their b-sides tended to be album tracks. Chrysalis came up with a fantastic ploy, namely being to have the 12” of the single come with a new vocal from Debbie, sung entirely in French, recalling the refrain from Denis, their breakthrough UK hit. Not a single adolescent fan could resist, and this rather flimsy sounding yet brilliant piece of pop, written entirely by Chris Stein, raced up the charts to #1.

5. (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear (1978)

Gary Valentine is one of the unsung heroes of the Blondie story. He wasn’t the original bass player – that honour went to Fred Smith but he had jumped ship (understandably) when he was asked to join Television after Richard Hell had departed following one too many arguments with Tom Verlaine. Gary Valentine soon immersed himself fully with Blondie, adopting a look the band wanted and contributing a number of full-fledged tunes, including X-Offender which, with a Debbie Harry composed lyric, became was the first ever 45. Another of his compositions, (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear was chosen as the follow-up to Denis, and provide the band with its second successive Top Ten hit in the UK. The irony of this was that Gary Valentine had already left Blondie, frustrated in part by an unwillingness to record more of his songs, to be replaced by Nigel Harrison who was there all the way as the stellar ride to stardom gained momentum. He would later, in the 1990s after a move to London, pursue a fairly successful writing career, under his real name of Gary Lachman.

Presence is a fantastic love song, written for his girlfriend of the time on the back of them, despite often being thousands of miles apart while he was touring, having similar types of dreams of an evening, a situation that led him to pen what I’ve long thought as being one of the band’s finest ever moments.

SIDE B

1. Heart Of Glass (1979)

The 12” version of this song is one of the finest pieces of music in my lifetime. It goes on and on and on and on…..and there are days, especially when I’m lying on the beach under a blazing sun, when I feel it comes to a halt all too prematurely. Indeed, on such a day and when I’m in such a mood, I’d be happy to have a 25-minute version of Heart of Glass take up an entire side of an ICA. But such a thing, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t exist, and so the usual rules will now be applied…..which leads nicely to….

2. Union City Blue (1979)

I wrote about this at length on the blog not too long ago in which I admitted that back in 1979, I wasn’t totally convinced of the merits of this song as its mid-paced tempo and rock rhythm was not exactly what I had come to expect from Blondie. But, now that my tastes have developed and matured, this is up there as one of my all-time favourites. Not only that, but it just sound so good on the back of Heart of Glass and immediately in front of…..

3. 11:59 (1979)

At this point in the ICA, I was torn between including Picture This, which is yet another of my favourite 45s and this, the track that opens side 2 of Parallel Lines. Either song fits in quite perfectly at this juncture, but I swung in favour of 11:59 thanks to the superb organ instrumental bit in the middle of the song, courtesy of Jimmy Destri, the composer of this particular ditty. The keyboards were always there with Blondie, but all to often hidden away beneath the new wave guitars which were so in vogue when the band began to emerge. Can’t explain why, but this track has always seemed to me to be the most NYC of Blondie songs…even though it mentions oceans and the like which is clearly so L.A.

4. Rip Her To Shreds (1976)

An early song. It’s title would have you believe it is an angry punk classic when in fact it is a wonderfully funny, knowing, catchy and catty pop song. It is full of comic-book violence rather than anything real, quite camp in many ways as la Harry sneers at someone who, presumably, is encroaching on her territory. There’s only room for one killer queen on this sidewalk dontcha’ know? It’s another song in which Destri’s keyboard skills are to the fore while the surf-style guitar offerings bring to mind the also emerging at this time, B-52s.

5. Atomic (1980)

BOOM!!!!! The one where new wave met rock met disco in one generous helping. If Blondie had done nothing other than record Atomic, we would be raving about it as a work of distinction and quality all these decades later. It begins with a twanging guitar and it gallops along at a fair face thereafter, every single member of the six-piece band giving their all. It’s the perfect song to close the ICA as all you’ll want to do with the imaginary vinyl record is flip it over and start all over again.

JC

Walter writes:-

Looking back to all the ICA’s that was made by many guest writers I think it is time to feature a band that had their greatest moments in the late 70’s/early 80’s. It is a band I grew up with and accompanied me during the years were many great music was released. Blondie was formed by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein in 1976 as one of the first American punk and new wave band. Following the road The New York Dolls prepared they started with the finest songs that this new genre made in USA. After their first successful steps they added an organ to their sound and in the following years they added disco, pop and reggae to their eclectic sound. So here we go:

Side One

X-Offender (from Blondie)

First released as a single called Sex Offender and later shortened because too many radio stations banned this song mostly in America. Based on the sound of 60’s girl groups harmonies the band crated their very own sound that fit to the upcoming punk and new wave scene. A steady drum and an organ in the background made their trademark in the early days.

Rip Her To Shreds (from Blondie)

Also a song ruled by an organ in the background but with a bit more guitar. This one showed the way Blondie will walk next. The road of power-pop influenced new wave. This songs showed Debbie Harry’s abilities about phrasing and making a simple song great.

Denis (from Plastic Letters)

This was the first song ever I heard from them. As a teenager I was on the move some time with older friends from the biker’s scene and one day in a pub one of these guys dropped a coin in the jukebox and selected Denis. I was fascinated by this sound and couldn’t believe that they knew more than Steppenwolf and Deep Purple. Probably Blondie’s perfectest pop-rock song

(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear (from Plastic Letters)

Another song from this album that climbed the charts but it is okay because these songs were the soundtrack on many parties in these days. The song is is because of using more guitars and the more reluctant singing of Debbie Harry more different to the songs before.

Fade Away And Radiate (from Parallel Lines)

With a new producer the left the punk-roots and the three chord songs to create a symbiosis of their roots and popular music. There were more guitars on it and the songs were arranged around Debbie’s voice.

Side Two

11:59 (from Parallel Lines)

Another example why this album reached high positions in the charts. With this song they came very close to the perfect pop song. These are just two songs from an almost perfect album. You can put songs like Hanging on the Telephone, Heart of glass or Sunday Girl at this place and it would be good as well.

Rapture (from Autoamerican)

This is the next step in Blondie’s musical evolution. Leaving punk/new wave/pop behind they now turned into something new. It seem like they have been in many discotheques in New York these days because they integrated influences of funk, jazz, rock and rap into their superb arranged songs. Rapture might be the perfect example for.

The Tide Is High (from Autoamerican)

Blondie were always a band that covered song and made a great job. I didn’t expected that they would make a song by The Paragons a song of their own. Reggae was in 1980 not that popular in mainstream and it is due to Blondie the mass could get in touch with the sound coming from Jamaica.

Call Me (from American Gigolo Soundtrack)

It was the lead song by the movie with Richard Gere. The soundtrack was written and produced by Giorgio Moroder and this song originally planed to be sung by Stevie Nicks. After she declined Debbie Harry took the chance to give this great song the vocals it deserves.

Ring Of Fire (from Roadie Soundtrack)

Blondie made another cover version in Alan Rudolph‘s movie Roadie with the first starring role by Meat Loaf. Never thought that even a song by Johnny Cash could fit to their sound.

Walter

JC : I don’t think anyone would have guessed the three in common were Rip Her To Shreds, (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear and 11:59………….

 

JOHNNY MARRVELLOUS

A GUEST POSTING by DAVIE & MOLLI HANCOCK

JC writes…….

Today’s contributor is a long-time friend, someone whom I’ve gotten to know through a kindred love for Raith Rovers FC.  I’m on my second season in carrying out the matchday announcements and providing the pre-match music but Davie has been a stalwart of Raith TV for years, giving very freely of his time to do matchday commentaries and carry out interviews for an on-line service which is the envy of many a big and highly-financed club.

The following words come direct from a Facebook posting, written on the back of last week’s gig by Johnny Marr at the Glasgow Barrowlands. My thanks to Davie and his daughter Molly for allowing me to use them on this little corner of the internet….

A long post but we wanted to show the upswing of the VIP process that is priceless as without it this couldn’t have happened…..

On Thursday night I was able accompany my daughter to meet Johnny, the wonderful Union people were fantastic calling me to arrange after it from the USA. I needed permission to help her as she has a complex set of additional support needs (she hates the “D” word); her preference at home is to call her unique.

Aged 17 she tips the tape measure at 4’7″ with the world keen to remind her of her difference and what she can’t do each and every day and often.

However from the moment we entered the room Johnny filled her with confidence, from shadow boxing to telling her to pose like they were in a band together it was indeed Marrvellous.

First line “Hey my friend what’s your name…and how old are you?” She replies and says “I am 17” Johnny stands back weighs up what he sees and replies “you know it’s a fact..us little ones are definitely coolest.” They then went on to chat about guitars being cooler than drums, an interaction when she told him he stuck his tongue out at her at a previous show and football (Johnny playing along that he now supports Raith Rovers)

Fast forward to the inevitable next “episode” at school or in the community, and she has rehearsed that I’m not going to need to rescue her as “next time” her tears wont be there. I asked her why not…..”well, Johnny Marr thinks I am cool”

Over a 10 year period volunteering with my local football team I have interviewed 100 plus football players, managers, musicians, singers, authors, actors and politicians including a prime minister. I just don’t do nerves meeting people however I was star struck, it meant that much. My own lasting memory will be getting told told “you’re doing great, look after her.”

A wee funny offshoot is that we had to head to the guitar shop before the match today to buy light gauge strings and a capo as Johnny said they will be easier to play on the guitar that hasn’t been touched for 10 years. It wasn’t touched as she “would never be able to play it, you know because of my issues..” but since Thursday night………

Thanks to Aly and Ory too for badges and their company.

DAVIE H

Oh, and for a wonderful review of the gig, look no further than here which is Craig‘s take on it at Plain or Pan.

mp3 : Johnny Marr – Bigmouth Strikes Again (live)
mp3 : Johnny Marr – The Messenger

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF PAUL HAIG (Part 7)

The failure of the singles and the debut album must have left Paul Haig, and all concerned, a little bit battered and bruised. It certainly led to a bit of a pause as far as Island Records were concerned as the next solo single was issued in June 1985 solely under the steam of Les Disques Du Crepuscule.

I previously wrote about this single on the old blog in July 2009:-

Big Blue World should have been released on Island Records, but the strained relationship between singer and label which I’ve mentioned in past postings, saw it pulled at very short notice, but thankfully, the Belgian connection ensured it was available on import if you were so inclined to track it down.

There’s no denying that it is a sound of its time….but equally there’s no denying that, as a track aimed at the then hugely popular electro/dance market, it is an absolute belter thanks in part to Paul’s effortless croon and thanks in part to the production work of Alan Rankine. When you look back and consider that there were countless tunes, with less than 1% of the magnificence of this song, which went Top 10 and made temporary stars of nonentities…as Calimero might say….it’s an injustice.

The flip side of the 12″ has a couple of real treats with a great, trashy rockabilly cover version of Ghost Rider, featuring David McClymont and Malcolm Ross (both of whom were part of the chart-era Orange Juice), while Endless Song, unsurprisingly given who was involved in its making, is a cross between Josef K and Associates. So if that’s the sort of stuff you like, why not give it a listen…..

mp3 : Paul Haig – Big Blue World (12″ version)
mp3 : Paul Haig – Ghost Rider
mp3 : Paul Haig – Endless Song

2018 update.

This really is one of the great lost singles of all time, with three superb and diverse pieces of music. It’s interesting to ponder whether a push by Island Records would have helped it into the charts or would they have been unhappy with the production and insisted that it be handed over to someone in NYC to ruin. Also worth a mention is that The Tube, on Channel 4 here in the UK, did a 20-odd minute film feature on Scottish music in one of its broadcasts, including clips/interviews with of Bourgie Bourgie, Hey! Elastica, Paul Haig, and Billy Mackenzie. The section with Paul included him miming to his new single :-

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #138 : HORSE

Today’s offering is another that comes courtesy of a track being included on the CDs sent over a few years ago by long-time reader, Phil Hogarth.

The singer being featured has been a mainstay of the Scottish music scene for more than 30 years, but isn’t someone whose music has ever appealed to me that much, thus me not having anything beyond that provide by Phil.

Here’s a bio pulled together from a number of sites:-

Horse (born Sheena Mary McDonald, 22 November 1958 in Newport on Tay, Fife, Scotland) is a Scottish female singer-songwriter. She released her first single with the band Astrakhan in 1985, and has recorded eight albums to date. The first two records were made with the band ‘Horse’, and her subsequent releases have been as a solo artist.

One Scottish newspaper referred to her as “one of Scotland’s all-time great vocalists, also possessed of a keen songwriting intelligence”. Her UK and European tours tend to sell well, thanks to a fairly dedicated fan base and also for the fact that some of her songs have been recorded by mainstream artists such as Will Young and Jennifer Rush. Her shows in Glasgow always seem to do well, including sell-outs of iconic venues such as the Barrowlands which was the scene of a one-off show with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, in March 2013, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of her best-known album, God’s Home Movie, released on MCA Records and which reached #42 in the UK charts

The track included on the CD by Phil is a single from 1989 and a track on the 1990 debut album, The Same Sky:-

mp3 : Horse – You Could Be Forgiven

JC

TWO WEEKS TONIGHT

I’m still mulling over a potential set list. And I’m hoping, subject to audience approval (i.e., they do get up and dance), that five separate decades will be represented, possibly by these:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Life In A Day
mp3 : Altered Images – See Those Eyes
mp3 : Soup Dragons – I’m Free
mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Darts of Pleasure
mp3 : Sacred Paws – Strike A Match

Tickets are going fast.  Click here for entry to a guaranteed night of enjoyment.

JC