NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING???

Now (v) will appear next Monday, the day that I actually fly back into Glasgow. Today’s post is all about a very significant anniversary.

It was 40 years ago today…….

I’ve written about this before, so what you’re getting is a based on a posting from February 2014.

I’ve mentioned a few times that my first live concert was on Thursday 31 May 1979 at the Glasgow Apollo. The headline act was The Police and support came from both Bobby Henry and The Cramps. The tickets, costing £2.50 in advance or £2 on the door, had gone on sale a few months earlier but such was the anticipated lack of interest in the headline or support acts that the promoters and venue management had made plans to open just the stalls area and for all tickets to be on an unreserved basis.

The fact that a re-released Roxanne began to storm up the charts changed things somewhat, but even then, it was something like just 48 hours in advance of the gig that tickets for the circle and upper-circle areas went on sale, leading to a last minute surge in demand.

The Apollo was an old traditional style venue, having first opened in 1927 as a theatre. It did have a very high stage which, as I was to learn in later years, made for a great gig from the perspective of bands as it was impossible to invade – but it gave fans down at the front a really sore neck looking up at their heroes and heroines. It had hosted thousands of gigs over the years, being the main venue in the city for all sorts of touring acts across all genres, but I’m not sure if it had ever hosted anything where the seating was totally unreserved while being a sell-out. Nobody was ready for what happened on the night.

Large groups of young people went along and having gained access at the front door, went where they wanted inside the building. Naturally, most gravitated to the stalls and this area filled up very quickly, albeit it was obvious most folk were using tickets for other parts of the venue. The upshot was that fans who had bought tickets some weeks or months ago found they were now being shunted to the upstairs parts of the venue and there was a huge amount of anger, especially among those who were so late in arriving that they were only allowed access to the Upper Circle, affectionately known as the nose-bleed seats, such was their height above ground.

Me? I did what I seemed to have done at just about every gig I’ve gone to over the past 40 years and that’s get there not long after doors arrive to make sure, if it’s a seated venue, that I see the support act, and it it’s a standing venue, I get a good spot somewhere in the middle, close to the front (although in later years, my definition of close to the front has become loose!!)

As for the music, I’ll have to hold hand o and admit that I can’t remember much of Bobby Henry who, gawd bless, will always be the first live musician I had the privilege of seeing. The Cramps were chaotic and confrontational and didn’t go down too well with the majority of the audience. Lux Interior didn’t help things by constantly challenging folk to invade the stage and fight with him – which, as I’ve indicated earlier, was a near impossibility given the height of the stage above the font of the stalls but what did become clear was that anyone crazy enough to jump down on to the stage from the circle area (it was a drop of about 20 feet) stood a chance…..and so a few of the bouncers were deployed to ensure this didn’t happen as Lux was, as the show went on, really antagonising most of the audience. I thought it was huge fun and enormously entertaining, and it was there and then that I made the menal note to make sure I’d see support bands, on the basis it would be easy enough to walk down into the foyer if they were dreadful (I assumed at this stage that all concert venues in the world were laid out like The Apollo).

By the time Sting, Stewart and Andy hit the stage, the place was rocking and absolutely roasting hot. And I was high with euphoria.

They opened with I Can’t Stand Losing You, the song which had first got be interested in the band. I don’t have details of the exact set list, but just six days previous, in Chicago, this is what they had played and it’s very likely the Glasgow set was identical:-

Can’t Stand Losing You
Truth Hits Everybody
So Lonely
Fall Out
Born in the 50’s
Hole in My Life
Be My Girl – Sally
Message in a Bottle
Peanuts
Roxanne
Next to You
Landlord
Encore – Can’t Stand Losing You

My memories are that the Outlandos d’Amour album featured heavily and that there were a couple of tracks that I hadn’t heard before – one of these would likely have been Message In A Bottle but I have a feeling Walking On The Moon may have been aired as there was a lengthy almost boring bit where Sting did his ‘yay-yo’ nonsense while asking the audience to respond to his calls. Andy certainly performed Sally as I can still picture him going off to the side of the stage and returning with a rubber doll, to the great delight of the many adolescents in the audience (myself included) who thought it the most outrageous thing we were ever likely to see in our entire lives.

The encore was more than one song, but I’m sure it was just the three singles from the album played for a second time. It lasted about an hour all told and it went by far too quickly.

The other passengers on the 62 bus home must have been in despair as the four strong group of us from school – all boys as the girls from the school who were going along that night wanted nothing to do with us!! – were still in hyper-mode and we didn’t or couldn’t shut up. And we talked a lot about Sally……..

mp3 : The Police – Be My Girl/Sally

40 years on, and I still get excited when I walk through the doors of live music venue. I’ve long lost count of how many shows I’ve seen – and I still kick myself that I didn’t think to keep ticket stubs – they were simply thrown away, often inside the venue itself as they no longer had any use or purpose.

The fact that The Police would eventually become just about the biggest act on the planet for a brief time in the early 80s, as well as Sting becoming the most self-righteous and pompous prick imaginable makes it all too easy to mock them. But as a 15 year-old lad, I thought they were as good as anything else that was emerging from the post-punk era that had been christened New Wave which is why I’m still proud that they were my first headline act. They say you never forget your first time, and that a small part of it lives with you forever. I’m no different…..and although I’ve been left embarrassed by an awful lot of the stuff that came out after the initial singles, I’ll never forget the part The Police played in developing my life-long love and affection for music and live gigs.

JC

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA (iv)

As I explained back on Monday, I’m in Toronto and its surroundings this week and have come up with a way of keeping things ticking with lazy posts, but hopefully in a way that will provide interest. .

For the most part, the NOW albums, since their inception in 1983 have been, for want of a better word, a shit listen, bought in the main by folk who don’t explore much beyond the mainstream fodder. This five-part series, of which this is the second instalment, will hopefully bring some sort of balance.

The words used to describe each of the songs have been lifted from the particular individual ICA in question. There’s a multitude of contributors, but I’ve decided against highlighting who wrote what…..I like to see this, and indeed the entire output of T(n)VV as a collective.

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA….(iv)

SIDE A

Tears Are Cool – Teenage Fanclub (Track 1 from ICA#86)

So, there’s this girl, we’ll call her Aerosmith Girl, actually let’s call her Sally, and she was lovely. I had a massive thing for her in the early to mid nineties. She drunk in my local pub – where I lived at the time. I ignored the fact that she loved Aerosmith because she was so lovely.

Anyway, one night in the pub, I saw her crying, sitting there on her own, crying. I went over and spoke to her, turns out her cat had died (to be honest, she should have just stayed in – the attention seeker) anyway, after about five minutes, I said “its ok Tears Are Cool” – taking it from the song that Teenage Fanclub had released on their most recent album.

On Saturday night it was Open Mic night, when a few people turned up with acoustic guitars, played for fifteen minutes and then sodded off to claim two free pints. That night, for the time ever, I got up to play – I mumbled my way through an acoustic version of a Levellers song and then something in my head went “This ones for Sally” and I looked straight at her and did a little fist pump. I know. Sorry.

Then I sang ‘Tears Are Cool’. When I finished she wasn’t even sitting where she was when I started it. Twenty minutes later I saw her outside eating chips with a bloke called Gavin. Chips. Gavin. I’d sang my heart out in there and she fucked off and bought some chips. I never sang in that pub again. Come to think of it I don’t think I’ve ever sung live again.

I Was A Teenage Armchair Honved Fan – Half Man Half Biscuit (Track 2 from ICA#8)

A cracking indie tune backed by a lyric that namechecks an obscure Hungarian football team, and then comes up with a pretentiously marvellous couplet for making toast:-

I went dans la cuisine in a bilinguistic mood
And Morphy Richards popped up with the goods

It then takes the piss out of rock band clichés before closing out with an extended repeat of the song’s ultra catchy one-line chorus.

Out Of This World (a Gino Washington cover) – The Detroit Cobras (Track 3 from ICA#34)

Normally, dear friends, coverbands rather are an atrocity, they exist to – more or less – “entertain” you at family parties. The Detroit Cobras from, obviously, Detroit, though take the cover business seriously and they are doing this perfectly fine since 1994. The music that the band play is a mix of soul, Motown, R&B and R&R, that is literally stripped from Mary Ramirez’ and her music partner in crime, singer Rachel Nagy’s record collections. They play other people’s music, but more specifically they cover other artists’ B-sides and deep cuts, and they do so with such a raw and ferocious energy that the songs rarely sound anything like the original versions, but all of them end up sounding like Cobra songs.

Breaking Point – Bourgie Bourgie (Track 4 from ICA#66)

The opening burst of cello will grab you and look to get you hooked immediately. If that doesn’t work, then surely you won’t be able to resist the voice.

This was my personal introduction to Paul Quinn as a lead vocalist in his own right (I’d first heard him on Barbecue which was a b-side to the 12” of I Can’t Help Myself by Orange Juice). In all truth I was as excited by the fact that Bourgie Bourgie was going to have a number of ex-Jazzateers in its line-up as I felt they were one the great ‘lost’ Scottish bands of the era. (If you don’t have a copy of their 1983 self-titled debut album on Rough Trade then I can only recommend you track down a copy – there’s a few out there at not too stupid a price.) But once I heard that voice I was smitten.

Worth also noting the classy and crisp production courtesy of the then little known Kingbird, aka Ian Broudie, whose work with so many bands in Liverpool and then later in his guise as Lightning Seeds has lit up many an indie disco over the past 30 plus years.

Psycho Killer – Talking Heads (Track 5 from ICA#115)

The bass line of God. Psycho Killer is a song that I hold close to my heart. It was less than a year since the killing spree of the Son of Sam killer, David Berkowitz when Psycho Killer came out. I lived not 4 blocks from the next to last of his killing scenes at local discoteque, Elephas, in Bayside, Queens. The events of that killing changed my neighborhood for years. Psycho Killer was the darkest song I had ever heard. The motorik influence of the song brings out the detached nature of the song. Its darkness is still powerful 40 years on.

SIDE B

Bluebeard – Cocteau Twins (Track 6 from ICA#195)

In 1993 I was fed up with all the music in my collection and was listening to the radio in search of something new to get into. The moment I heard the gleaming guitar riff on this intro, I thought “That’s the one for me, I’ll go straight out and buy this.” By the time Liz’s vocals started, it was clear that everything I knew was true and that the world was spinning smoothly on its axis. Robin once said he couldn’t stand those Pink Floydy guitarists who can play all six strings at once; I think he manages at least three on this.

Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division (Track 7 from ICA#160)

Millions of words have been written about LWTUA and I don’t have anything new or fresh to add. One thing that does stand out for me, however, is that despite it being by far and away the most popular and most aired of their songs, I never ever get tired of hearing it. Oh, and I’m pleased that a promo video was shot for it as it did provide some high-quality footage of the band before it became tragically too late.

Nimrod’s Son – The Pixies (Track 8 from ICA#6)

I can’t think about most Pixies songs without thinking about them being performed live – and that means thousands of people shouting “You are the son of a mother fucker”. An absolute joy.

Burn The Witch – Radiohead (Track 9 from ICA#108)

In which Radiohead go all Camber-wicker Green. A genuinely great song and one that is, even without the video, genuinely disturbing, with its lyrics of low-flying panic attacks, red crosses on wooden doors and, most ominously, “we know where you live”. Add the sawing, minor-key string backing and this isn’t going to pack the floor at your local indie disco in quite the same way as Creep. A song for these times, where Washington has become Summer Isle or, perhaps, Salem.

Moaner – Underworld (Track 10 from ICA#25)

JC posted this song recently so I was in two minds about whether to include it – but for me, there isn’t really any other song that could have ended this compilation – it’s almost impossible to follow. They pretty much always played it last as it was guaranteed to get you dancing like a machete and give you whiplash.

ENDS

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA (iii)

As I explained a couple of days back, I’m in Toronto and its surroundings this week and have come up with a way of plastering the blog with lazy posts, but hopefully in a way that will provide interest. .

For the most part, the NOW albums, since their inception in 1983 have been, for want of a better word, a shit listen, bought in the main by folk who don’t explore much beyond the mainstream fodder. This five-part series, of which this is the second instalment, will hopefully bring some sort of balance.

The words used to describe each of the songs have been lifted from the particular individual ICA in question. There’s a multitude of contributors, but I’ve decided against highlighting who wrote what…..I like to see this, and indeed the entire output of T(n)VV as a collective.

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA….(iii)

SIDE A

Weirdo – Charlatans (Track 1 from ICA#42)

Don’t you just LOOOVE that intro?

One of the best noises on any record. Weirdo was the lead single from the Charlatans’ second album and was the best thing they’d done up to that point. It slapped me around the face like a wet kipper before cheekily skipping off, enticing me to chase it. I followed it of course and fell for its cheeky charms. It’s still one of my fave tunes by the band.

Tupelo – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (Track 2 from ICA#13)

Talking of dark and menacing, how about the tale of Elvis’ birth delivered Cave-style? A fine example of how a rock band can create an uncomfortable atmosphere and mood. Nick’s growling vocals, Barry Adamson’s ominously brooding bass, Blixa Bargeld’s scratchy guitars and Mick Harvey’s pounding drums combine to create a song that’s blacker than black.

The Facts Of Life – Black Box Recorder (Track 3 from ICA#179)

Although the BBR songwriting chores were shared between Luke Haines (who, I’d guess, had more hand in the lyrics) and former Jesus & Mary Chain drummer John Moore, the band’s greatest asset was arguably Sarah Nixey.

I find it difficult to write about Ms. Nixey objectively without coming across as an old letch… but the best way to describe her would be in twisted comparison to Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell. Imagine a cartoon where a lovelorn young bloke has a pure, perfect, sweet-voiced angel dressed in white sitting on his right shoulder, encouraging him to be good and kind and virtuous. That would be the Sarah Cracknell angel. On the other shoulder, however, would be Sarah Nixey, dressed in black, also sweet-voiced… but that’s where the comparison ends. Now imagine that second angel was the teacher in your Sex Ed class…

Welcome to The Facts Of Life, a single which took Luke Haines into the top 20 for the first and only time in his career. If you’d asked me before I started compiling this ICA, I’d have told you this song must have been Top 10, probably Top 3… I mean, surely this was one of the biggest hits of the year 2000? It was in my head, anyway. In reality, it scraped #20 for a week then disappeared from the chart forever. A true sign of quality.

Better Things – Massive Attack w/ Tracey Thorn (Track 4 from ICA#76)

In my mind, far superior to ‘Protection’. ‘You say the magic’s gone. Well i’m not a magician. You say the spark’s gone. Well get an electrician’ Just genius!

Delilah Sands – The Brilliant Things (Track 5 from ICA#163)

This is my favorite BC Song. I can’t get enough of it. There’s just something about the way it’s all put together, from the unusual bop ba da da bop cold start through to the brilliant trumpet line. This is my go-to whenever I need a little pickmeup. BC firing on all cylinders to be sure.

SIDE B

Happy When It Rains – The Jesus and Mary Chain (Track 6 from ICA#94)

More rain, but this time the band are a bit happier and as it happens, this is my favourite JAMC track. Its my favourite for one single reason, once in 1992 in the pouring rain outside the Army and Navy pub in Rainham, Kent, Our Price Girl gave me the best kiss of my life – at the time at least – and then sang this to me sweetly in my ear as the rain dripped off our hair. We then walked three miles, soaked to the skin hand in hand and hardly said a word, because frankly she said it all.

Shining Light – Ash (Track 7 from ICA#190)

It’s difficult to say much new about this song. It is their biggest selling single and probably their most recognisable song and one I have grown to love more as the years have gone by. A wonderful melody, with lyrics full of religious imagery, not surprising really, as Tim Wheeler grew up in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s, when the church really dominated society there. Fun fact, this song won an Ivor Novello songwriting award.

Shot By Both Sides – Magazine (Track 8 from ICA#35)

One of the great post-punk anthems, the debut single had the audacity to reach #41 in the singles charts and somehow trigger off an appearance on Top of The Pops. The sight of Howard & co obviously frightened everyone concerned for instead of it climbing into the Top 40 the following week thanks to being exposed to millions of viewers/listeners it dropped like a stone. The band never got near the singles charts again despite releasing a run of cracking 45s over the next three years.

The album version of the song is marginally different (the thing most noticeable is that each chorus of the single begins ‘Shot, Shot by both sides’ while the LP is simply ‘Shot by both sides.’ It’s a tune co-written with Pete Shelley who loved it so much that he used it for the track Lipstick some ten months as the b-side to the hit single Promises but rather naughtily didn’t give Howard a writing credit……….

Bloodsport For All – Carter USM (Track 9 from ICA#50)

When I was 15 I nicked a fiver out of my dad’s wallet, I then walked four miles to Chatham and bought this on 12”. It was my first ever 12”. Ironically I bought it from Our Price – the same shop that I would later meet Our Price Girl in. I told my dad two days later about the fiver – he grounded me for a week. It was worth it – every second.

St Anthony- An Ode To Anthony H Wilson – Mike Garry and Joe Dudell (Andrew Weatherall Remix) (Track 10 from ICA#102)

Mike Garry’s wonderful poem for Tony Wilson, a celebration of the Factory boss and ‘Manchester music, marijuana, majesty and Karl Marx’, was set to music by Joe Dudell, a string quartet version of New Order’s Your Silent Face. Weatherall took it back to the electronic roots of Power, Corruption and Lies.

ENDS

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA (ii)

As I explained yesterday, I’m in Toronto and its surroundings this week and have come up with a way of covering the next few days with lazy posts, but hopefully in a way that will provide interest.

For the most part, the NOW albums, since their inception in 1983 have been, for want of a better word, a shit listen, bought in the main by folk who don’t explore much beyond the mainstream fodder. This five-part series, of which this is the second instalment, will hopefully bring some sort of balance.

The words used to describe each of the songs have been lifted from the particular individual ICA in question. There’s a multitude of contributors, but I’ve decided against highlighting who wrote what…..I like to see this, and indeed the entire output of T(n)VV as a collective.

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA….(ii)

SIDE A

Time To Pretend – MGMT (Track 1 from ICA #138)

There is of course only one place to start when we are considering an ICA on MGMT…….

“Lets make Some music, make some money, find some models for wives…” this track couldn’t be any easier on the ear if it tried. Shamelessly poking fun at rock star dreams and ‘living fast and dying young’. Brilliant drenched in synths and catchy riffs, MGMT announced their arrival to the world with not just a terrific single but with one of the best tracks in the last ten years.

Seven Seconds To Midnight – Wah! Heat (Track 2 from ICA#43)

Pete Wylie is my favorite Rock Star of ALL TIME…Probably because he’s the only one I’ve gotten drunk with until 7am in a New York Nightclub 4 nights on the trot, and definitely because he NEVER attained Rock Start status but was always prepared for it.

JC, you’ve picked the three songs which earned him the rank of a great artist. But I will add three that I just can’t live without, and one is among my 10 favorite songs of all time.

The first, and one which first blew my socks off and sucked me into WAH!’s aural vortex was Seven Minutes To Midnight. There might not be any more urgent Post Punk song ever written.

Reflection of The Television – The Twilight Sad (Track 3 from ICA#3)

More loud and wailing guitars, pounding drums and a killer hypnotic bass line. The opening track of the second LP. The song was later given a complete remix by Errors for inclusion on the Wrong Car EP – by complete I mean the drums, bass and guitar are almost completely replaced by electronica and a dance beat. And such is the greatness of the song and the music that the remix more than holds its own.

Ping Pong – Stereolab (Track 4 from ICA#174)

Mars Audiac Quintet was a huge leap forward for Stereolab, the first album on which they really integrated their love of lounge, exotica and bubblegum with the familiar krautrock grooves half-inched from NEU! and Can, and this was its most accessible song. Indeed, probably the group’s best-realised attempt on mainstream pop ever.

A Promise – Echo and The Bunnymen (Track 5 from ICA #41)

If Postcard could claim to be the Sound of Young Scotland then those who came to prominence through Zoo Records are entitled to claim the same crown for Young Liverpool. This particular single could easily have been written and recorded by Wylie, Cope or The Wild Swans and it would have been equally majestic. Will Sargeant teased a ridiculous amount of stunning sounds from his guitar over these damn near perfect four minutes.

SIDE B

Free Range – The Fall (Track 6 from ICA#147)

This single from 1992’s slight “Code: Selfish” album is an example of what Smith and his fans claim to be his psychic or “pre-cog” abilities. The lyrics may refer to the history of Balkanization, or they might presage the coming Bosnian War. Smith seemed to predict the 1996 Manchester City Center bombing in the song Powder Keg, and Terry Waite Sez preceded Waite’s kidnapping.

Stay Together – Suede (Track 7 from ICA #209)

Their joint biggest hit (along with Trash) and the only standalone single they ever released. This was the first notice that Bernard Butler wanted to start producing epics and this longer version definitely feels like a production where the kitchen sink has been thrown at it, particularly in the four and a half minute outro. A clear signpost to what they would go on to produce on the Dog Man Star album.

Cattle and Cane – The Go-Betweens (Track 8 from ICA#98)

The single version is some 20 seconds shorter than the version on the LP Before Hollywood. I’ve mentioned before that this is a very special song to me for a number of reasons; nowadays, it makes me sad as it reminds me of Grant’s sudden and very unexpected death but it is a song, along with a few others, that I associate with some of my happiest days, weeks and months on Planet Earth when I fell properly in love for the first time.

Some facts : It was written as a recollection of childhood in a London flat in an effort to combat homesickness with the band as far away as can be from their native Australia, cold and skint and fearing they’ll never succeed. It was written using the acoustic guitar belonging to the owner of the flat while he lay comatose from drug abuse. The guitar belonged to Nick Cave.

Sublimely beautiful.

Join Our Club – Saint Etienne (Track 9 from ICA#47)

Another great pop single that dropped in between the first two albums. It’s all about finding your ‘tribe’ through music, particularly at a time when rave and grunge were dominant. It does, however, reference pop music through the ages and how it brings people together. It’s a subject they would revisit on more than one occasion.

Feel Every Beat – Electronic (Track 10 from ICA#205)

A five-minute version of this closes the debut album and tempting as it was to use that here, I have to bow to the remixing skills of Stephen Hague who chops about a minute off the original and helps deliver something which captures perfectly what Jonny and Bernard wanted Electronic to sound like and what they wanted a band to be….’we don’t need to argue, we just need each other’

ENDS

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA (i)

So…. I’m in Toronto and its surroundings this week, having flown over here last Friday and not due home till a week tomorrow (those of you unfortunate enough to be mates on Facebook will already be aware of this).

I’ve come up with a way of covering the next few days with lazy posts, but hopefully in a way that will provide interest.

I suppose I should explain the NOW concept just in case it’s needed….so here’s wiki:-

Now That’s What I Call Music! (often shortened to Now!) is a series of various artists compilation albums released in the United Kingdom and Ireland by Sony Music and Universal Music (Universal/Sony Music) which began in 1983. Spinoff series began for other countries the following year, starting with South Africa, and many other countries worldwide soon followed, expanding into Asia in 1995, then the United States in 1998.

The first Now was featured 30 UK hit singles from that year on a double vinyl LP or cassette. Although the compilation of recent hit songs into a single release was not a new concept (K-tel and Ronco, for example, had been issuing various artists’ compilations for some years), this was the first time that two major record labels had collaborated on such a venture. Virgin agreed to a deal with EMI, which allowed a greater number of major hits to be included (the first album in the series included a total of “eleven number ones” on its sleeve).

The rate of release settled very quickly to three per year: one release around late March/early April, another around late July and a third around late November. Over a hundred “main series” (not including spin-off and special edition) albums have been released to date. The UK series has followed a double-album format throughout the series (many other foreign franchises of the Now! series are only released on one disc), now exploiting the capacity of the CD to include between 40 and 46 tracks over two discs. Since November 2005 (Now That’s What I Call Music! 62), the Now! series have only been released on CD and digital download formats. Previously, the series had been available on vinyl, Cassette and MiniDisc. As these formats declined in popularity, Now releases are no longer issued on them.

The most successful volume to date is 1999’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 44, which has sold 2.3 million copies and remains the biggest selling various artists compilation album in the UK. 2008’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 70 sold 383,002 units in the first week of sales, the biggest ever first week sale of any Now album. Now That’s What I Call Music! 87 holds the achievement for the most tracks in total with 47 tracks

For the most part, the NOW albums have been, for want of a better word, a shit listen, bought in the main by folk who don’t explore much beyond the mainstream fodder. This five-part series over the coming week will hopefully bring some sort of balance.

The words used to describe each of the songs have been lifted from the particular individual ICA in question. There’s a multitude of contributors, but I’ve decided against highlighting who wrote what…..I like to see this, and indeed the entire output of T(n)VV as a collective.

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA….(i)

SIDE A

Complete Control – The Clash (Track 1 from ICA #12)

You’ve got to open any imaginary compilation album with a killer tune…something of an anthem which epitomizes the band or singer being featured….and I can’t think of anything better than this. One of punk rock’s greatest songs, written and recorded in frustration as the penny dropped for the band, and in particular Joe Strummer, that being a fully fledged, ideologically driven punk at the same time as being a core part of the mainstream music industry was an uncomfortable and some would say impossible position. Anger as an energy…..

Dreaming – Blondie (Track 2 from ICA#197)

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.

Blue Boy – Orange Juice (Track 3 from ICA#57)

Falling and Laughing may have been the debut but Blue Boy has proven to be the most enduring and enjoyable single from the Postcard era. And surely the greatest song to ever make use of the word ‘gabardine’.

The unexpected appearance of an organ just short of two minutes in adds to the charm of this otherwise noisy and frantic guitar frenzy.

Remember Me – British Sea Power (Track 4 from ICA#61)

If you needed proof that British Sea Power are actually fantastic, then this their first proper single emphatically proves the argument. ‘Remember Me’ has the possibly the most urgent, compelling and exciting opening to a record that I have heard. There must be a full 90 seconds of pounding drums, guitars and seaside sound effects before you even hear a single word uttered. A swirling psychedelic fury filled bastard of a song, a song according to my blogging partner swc, that is so good is sounded like Joy Division had reformed.

Levi Stubbs’ Tears – Billy Bragg (Track 5 from ICA#37)

“The sort a war takes away
And when there wasn’t a war he left anyway”

Everyone accepts that Billy isn’t the greatest singer in the world, but it’s the very basic, fragile and uncertain nature of his delivery that makes this so effective a song. See also, in a similar theme, the very moving Valentine’s Day Is Over from Worker’s Playtime or the Peel Sessions album.

SIDE B

Kennedy – The Wedding Present (Track 6 from ICA#7)

This is an immense piece of music that still sounds incredibly fresh more than a quarter of a century on. There is nothing more that needs to be said.

Let’s Fall In Love And Run Away From Here – Ballboy (Track 7 from ICA#177)

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 …

In Between Days – The Cure (Track 8 from ICA#157)

Another track that is truly wonderful and for years and years was the ring tone on my phone for whenever Mrs Badger phoned me. It’s just one of those songs that I will never tire of hearing.

Blue Monday – New Order (Track 9 from ICA#20)

This song was in and out of this imaginary album on at least ten occasions. I had settled on the running order for 9 out of the 10 tracks but just couldn’t make my mind up on what to put in as the penultimate track on Side 2.

Contenders included the 7″ version of Temptation, Love Less, Your Silent Face, the album version of Sub-Culture, As It Is When It Was, Cries and Whispers, 1963, Bizarre Love Triangle and Vanishing Point. But it is impossible to ignore the claims of what was and still is one of the most groundbreaking bits of music that has ever been recorded.

I had a short-term relationship in the summer of 1983 with a girl I had met on the dance floor of Strathclyde University Students Union. I was a regular at that venue but this girl wasn’t, and after a couple of dates it was clear things weren’t really going to work out, not least because our musical tastes were so different. She was real disco diva who had only gone to the Student Union to keep a friend company but had taken a shine to me on account of my constant dancing and she assumed I was someone who would have been happy going along to any club or venue. But I’ll always remember that she was an even bigger fan of Blue Monday than I was which says all you need to know about the crossover appeal of this piece of music. It is a genuine classic.

Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (Track 10 from ICA #45)

A number one single. A big emotional number one single – Skinner went for that deliberately and nailed it. The chorus sounds like Coldplay but like Coldplay sung by your mate, because it needed to. The devil is the detail – “She brings her hands up towards where my hands rested. She wraps her fingers round mine with the softness she’s blessed with. She peels away my fingers, looks at me and then gestures By pushin’ my hand away to my chest, from hers”. Brilliant, poignant, brutally honest. At the time I hated it, then I listened to it, and then I listened to again.

We struggled, I’ll be honest. Technically there are three singles on the first side and three on the second side. The two remixes don’t count as far as I am concerned. The Run the Road remix is an inspired choice and one I had forgotten about. Of the five Badger chose I had four on my list of Ten. He had three of my five.

By Skinner’s own admission Original Pirate Material is the “day in the life of a geezer” yet amongst the bitter-sweet, inner city anecdotes of drugs, violence, playing computer games, trips to the garage and going clubbing, there is a tender sweet message that is so compulsive. Look – don’t just download this stuff, check out Original Pirate Material you won’t regret it for one second.

ENDS

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF MARC ALMOND (Parts 22-25)

Two weeks ago, I made a statement which was quite wrong, but it was something I only found out after doing the research for this particular post. Read on and you’ll soon find out.

Marc Almond’s stock was reasonably high in the mid-90s, helped by positive press around his live shows and his uncanny ability to achieve major chart success with some 45 or other every few years.

There were huge hopes for his ninth studio album what with Marc composing songs at a furious rate, many of which he was promising would showcase the many styles he had utilised throughout his career, from barnstorming showstoppers to the most heart-wrenching of ballads. The record label were looking to hook him up again with Mike Thorne, the producer who had delivered so much at the commercial peak of Soft Cell, but the plan was vetoed by long-term manager and confidante, Stevo Pearce (of Some Bizarre fame) and the record ended up being made over an extended period in different studios with different producers in the chair. Unsurprisingly, the finished product feels a little disjointed and suffers from a lack of overall control with it stretching out to 16 tracks and more than 70 minutes in length – this was an era when labels and artists seem determined to fill the entire capacity of a single CD, making the error that fans and consumers wanted quantity rather than quality….

The roll-call of performers on Fantastic Star is quite an eye-opener. Some of the songs were co-composed with Steve Nieve (Elvis Costello & The Attractions) while Martin Ware (The Human League/Heaven 17) played on tracks as well as taking spells in the producer’s chair. Oh, and John Cale (The Velvet Underground) and David Johannsen (The New Yorks Dolls) also dropped in to add contributions on piano and harmonica respectively. I should also mention that the main collaborator in the studio was Neal X (aka Neal Whitmore) who had been guitarist in 80s cult band, Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

The only problem is that the album was doomed to fail on its release in February 1996 , for the simple reason that its best tracks had all been issued as singles many months prior, only one of which had delivered on its goal of chart success.

(22) Adored and Explored (7” edit) b/w The User b/w Loveless World (May 1995 – #25 in the UK charts)

This is the mistake from a couple of weeks back as I was certain that The Days of Pearly Spencer was the last time Marc hit the Top 40. This upbeat electronic number is one of Marc’s best moments, providing evidence, if any were needed, that he still had a knack for the sort of tune that sounds great whether blasting out of the radio or from the speakers in your home.

Worth mentioning also this was also the era of multi-formatting with record labels issuing different versions of the CD singles, most of which simply had remixes of the main track. It’s far too time-consuming to try to track all of these down, so all I’m going to offer up are the other original songs made available on what were usually labelled ‘CD1’.

(23) The Idol (Part 1) b/w Law of The Night (July 1995 – #44 in the UK charts)

I’ve featured this track before on the blog, back in January 2016, in which I suggested Marc had been uncanny in his prediction of future events…….

The Idol starts off as homage to The Jean Genie before it turns into a sort of Stars on 45 tribute to the glam rock that I recall from the early 70s. Great guitar riffs, amazing backing vocals, and a pumping chorus. Tailored made for radio but got absolutely no exposure on the mainstream daytime shows.

Oh, and here’s the two other tracks on the CD single that I have sitting on the shelf:-

mp3 : Marc Almond – Adored and Explored (Live at Radio One)
mp3 : Marc Almond – Bedsitter (Live at Radio One)

The ‘Unplugged cover’ of the Soft Cell hit is particularly wonderful. No synths – just acoustic guitars and harmonicas. And proof that Marc was a better singer than most gave him credit for.

(24) Child Star b/w The Edge of Heartbreak b/w Christmas In Vegas b/w My Guardian Angel (December 1995 – #41 in the UK charts)

I reckon this is the most Almondesque of all the solo releases. A weepy ballad which has quiet reflective moments along with the most OTT pop orchestration to reach your ears. There’s even a bit where you think it will end only for one final incredibly dramatic and show-stopping surge to tug on your heartstrings. It’s a magnificent production to which Marc gives it his all….and it really was so much more deserving than the miserly #41 position. One appearance on Top of The Pops could have changed everything…..

The Edge of Heartbreak would later also feature on the parent album (the release of which had been delayed until early 1996) while the inclusion of Christmas In Vegas enabled fans to pick up on a track previously released only via a limited edition flexidisc.

(25) Out There b/w Brilliant Creatures b/w Lie (February 1996 – #76 in the UK charts)

The single which accompanied the release of the parent album – it was meant to be a double-A side effort although these things are impossible to determine when it’s CD and not vinyl. Out There and Brilliant Creatures were on Fantastic Star while Lie became the last from this incredibly bountiful song-writing period to find light of day.

Worth mentioning that the failure of the latter singles and Fantastic Star (it stalled at #54 and came nowhere close to recouping its costs) hurt Marc badly, both personally and professionally. His autobiography acknowledges his drug issues weren’t much of a help when it came to making rational decisions, and he mocks himself by referring to the album as Fading Star. It wasn’t too long before the major label let him go. His response was to establish his own independent label……

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #162 : JOCK SCOT

From wiki:-

John Graham Manson Leslie (21 September 1952 – 13 April 2016), known as Jock Scot, was a Scottish poet and recording artist.

Born in Leith, one of seven children, he was raised on a housing estate in Musselburgh, where he was nicknamed “Pooch” Leslie because of his small size. He sold soft drinks locally and worked as a labourer on building sites, until, in 1978, he threw his tam o’shanter on to the stage at an Ian Dury concert in Edinburgh, and was invited backstage. Dury invited him to join his tour party, ending up in London where he moved in with Dury and Clash associate and publicity officer Kosmo Vinyl. He worked for Stiff Records and later Charisma Records, and befriended many of the luminaries of the London punk rock scene, including the members of the Clash, Shane MacGowan, Billy Bragg, and Vivian Stanshall (formerly of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band).

Described as a “supplier of good vibes” to his friends, he began going on stage as a warm-up act for bands, reciting his poems. He regularly performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, toured with the band Rip Rig + Panic, and published a book of verse, Where Is My Heroine?, in 1993. The book drew on his earlier experience of heroin addiction in Scotland. In 1997 he recorded an album, My Personal Culloden, made with Davy Henderson of the band The Nectarine No. 9, and described at Allmusic as “a rich, fascinating travelogue through Scot’s id, ego, history, and city, all delivered in his robust musical brogue against a backdrop of experimental rock pastiches and grooves.” The album was reissued on CD in 2015.

According to his obituary in The Daily Telegraph: “He had startling presence, and a way of investing words with broad and deep meaning, and, with his interest in the Beat poets, horse racing and popular culture, straddled the worlds of London’s pub-land and the aristocratic demi-monde.” He was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, but refused chemotherapy and died in 2016, aged 63.

And from a Postcard Records EP called Pregnant With Possibilities (Volume 1):-

mp3 : Jock Scot – Grunge Girl Groan

JC