THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Part 3)

History is littered with bands who, by the time they have been able to release the debut album, have disowned many of the songs in favour of those that they have been prepping, either on the road or in the studio, for the follow-up record.

Simple Minds proved to be such a band, although their desire to get away from the songs on their debut was somewhat predicated by the fact it hadn’t brought any meaningful success. In September 1979, just two months after Chelsea Girl had let everyone down, they were back in the studio, again with John Leckie in the producer’s chair, determined to get it right the second time around.

The recording of what became Real to Real Cacophony was, seemingly, a pleasant experience with sessions being completed quickly, so much so that the record label had it delivered in time to make a decision to release it before the end of the calendar year. The only thing was that they delivered a record that the label was not anticipating, lacking any potential hit singles and packed with strange, often experimental-sounding numbers the likes of which were uncommon in 1979.

Some 40 years after the fact, it’s now seen as an album very much of the type that marked the beginning of huge changes in post-punk/new wave music, with moody and atmospheric keyboards taking a greater role at the expense of jarring guitars. Some critics, such as Paul Morley, immediately ‘got it’, suggesting that Simple Minds deserved to be lauded every bit as much as the likes of Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Wire and Public Image Ltd, all of whom could do no wrong in the eyes of the opinion-formers.

Arista Records, however, were spooked and their reaction was to put the album out with little fanfare, content that it would sell to the band’s fan base and with little or no accompanying promotion, the losses could be minimised (and no doubt written off against any previous advances).

The hopes of manager Bruce Findlay for the band to be at the forefront of his own Zoom Records become internationally famous were dashed when Arista insisted it be released as part of its wider stable of artists.

There was, eventually, one single lifted from Real to Real Cacophony, and even then it was all a bit shambolic. Changeling wasn’t issued to help further promote the album, but instead to raise the profile of the band as they undertook a tour. It was also decided to use an edited version of the song, cutting out some 45 seconds from the album version, and to have a live track on the b-side, with a song lifted from a New York gig in October 1979. Even then, mistakes were made as the mix of the live track, done back in Glasgow, had a miscue from the master tape and the recording put down on vinyl starts with the end of the previous song!!

mp3 : Simple Minds – Changeling (edit)

mp3 : Simple Minds – Premonition (live)

The single, unsurprisingly, was a monumental flop. Things looked bleak.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #167 : JOSEF K

From wiki:-

Josef K were a Scottish post-punk band, active between 1979 and 1982, who released singles on the Postcard Records label. The band was named after the protagonist of Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial. Although they released just one album while together and achieved only moderate success, they have since proved influential on many bands that followed.

The band was formed in 1979 originally as TV Art by Paul Haig (vocals, guitar) and Ronnie Torrance (drums), later joined by Malcolm Ross (guitar, keyboards), with Gary McCormack added on bass guitar, who soon left (later joining The Exploited) with David Weddell replacing him. After recording a ten-track demo, their first release was the “Romance”/”Chance Meeting” single on Orange Juice drummer Steven Daly’s Absolute label in December that year. They were then signed to Postcard Records, the label founded by Daly and Alan Horne, releasing a string of critically acclaimed singles in 1980 and 1981. The band recorded their debut album, Sorry for Laughing, in 1981 at Castle Sound Studios in Pencaitland, but it was shelved, with the band unhappy with the clean, polished production, Haig describing it as sounding “flat and disinfected”, with only a few copies being released. They returned to the studio in Belgium to record The Only Fun in Town, opting for a more ‘live’ sound and recording the whole album in two days, Haig later expressing a measure of regret that “we decided to make an almost unlistenable record with the vocals mixed down really low”. It was their only album release while together, and while it placed well on the UK Independent Chart, it received a poor critical reception.Their earlier unreleased Sorry For Laughing album was eventually issued on a 1990 CD reissue of The Only Fun in Town.

The band split prior to the release of the 1982 single, “The Farewell Single” through Les Disques du Crépuscule, which included the Peel session track, “The Missionary”, Haig deciding to call an end to the band while they were at a creative peak.Torrance joined Boots for Dancing and later (with Weddell) formed The Happy Family with Nick Currie (aka Momus).Haig embarked on a long solo career, releasing a string of albums on his own Rhythm of Life label between 1984 and 2008, while Malcolm Ross joined Orange Juice and then played with Aztec Camera and Blancmange before embarking on a solo career.

And going back to 1979 and the pre-Postcard era:-

mp3 : Josef K – Romance

JC

THIS IS A JOURNEY INTO SOUND

It was back in 1984 in the city of Aberdeen, on the north-east coast of Scotland, that a group of friends, all aged in their early 20s, decided to form a band and name themselves after a track that had been written and recorded in the 60s. As so many new and young bands did during that era, they launched their own label for their debut single:-

mp3 : Alone Again Or – Drum The Beat (In My Soul)

It proved to be the only release on All One Records as the band, consisting of by Colin Angus (vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass) , Derek McKenzie (vocals, guitar) and Keith McKenzie (drums) were picked up by Polydor for whom they released a one-off flop single in 1985 before taking the decision to change their name to The Shamen, once again preferring to do things their own way via another newly-formed label in the shape of Moksha Recordings.

There wasn’t too much of a change of direction in terms of music, as can be heard from the lead track of their 1985 EP, They May Be Right…But They’re Certainly Wrong:-

mp3 : The Shamen – Happy Days

This early incantation of the band were very good at what they did, being part of an indie-scene in the UK but making a different kind of music from their peers, most of who were adopting an almost-shambolic or twee approach to their music. The Shamen, on the other hand, were ridiculously proficient and constantly seeking ways to expand what they were doing, looking more to incorporate house, techno and dance music into their sound. They had added Peter Stephenson on keyboards by the time they went into the studio to record their debut album, Drop, that was released in early 1987. Before the year was out, they had cut a new single, one that deployed new(ish) methods of studio recording such as sampling and fused them with the guitar sound:-

mp3 : The Shamen – Christopher Mayhew Says

Not everyone was happy with the shift in direction and Derek McKenzie decided to take his leave, which very much left Colin Angus as the figurehead, and it was he who really began to drive things forward, aided and abetted by the recruitment of Will Sinnott (aka Will Sin) into the band, a musician who was also keen to increase the dance element of the band.

In 1988, The Shamen released a single, one which made heavy use of sampling and covered the subject matter of fundamedalist right-wing religious nutters:-

mp3 : The Shamen – Jesus Loves Amerika

(Just imagine what the President would be saying if this was being blasted out over the airwaves nowadays…..)

To nobody’s real surprise, Keith Mackenzie and Peter Stephenson soon quit the band having contributed in part to the 1989 album In Gorbachev We Trust, released on Demon Records, the label that had been founded by Jake Riviera and Elvis Costello at the beginning of the decade. Angus and Sinnot were now left to their own devices and this led them to relocate to London and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the rave scene, including participation in highly popular events under the banner of Synergy that combined live performances with DJing from some of the biggest club names.

This enabled them to meet all sorts of new people and bring even more influences to their music, including the addition of a rapper and a female vocalist, together with a live drummer and bass player which more or less completed the transformation into a full-blown rave act. In March 1991, the Shamen, having moved to well-known indie label One Little Indian, finally cracked the singles chart:-

mp3 : The Shamen – Hyperreal

Tragedy struck just two month later when Sinnott drowned while swimming off the coast of one of the Canary Islands on the back of the band having gone to Tenerife to film a video for the follow-up single Move Any Mountain, which was one of the stand-out tracks from the well-received new album En-Tact.

Having given things some thought, Angus decided to continue with the band, bringing the rapper – Mr C – in on a full time basis and seeking increased contributions from him to the new material. What happened next was a real surprise and ended with most of the UK record buying public thinking that The Shamen had come from nowhere and were something of a novelty band:-

mp3 : The Shamen – Ebeneezer Goode

Released as a single in August 1992, it rocketed to #1 in the UK charts. I think wiki covers things well:-

“Ebeneezer Goode” was accused of promoting drug use, owing to the refrain, ‘Ezer Goode, Ezer Goode’ as homophonic with ‘E’s are good’ (E being slang for the drug ecstasy), ‘These F in Es are good’ as ‘He’s Ebenezer Goode’, and to double entendre drug references throughout the song. Despite – or maybe because of – the subsequent storm of publicity, the song reached the top of the UK charts and stayed there for four weeks.

The new album Boss Drum, released the following month, climbed to #4 and provided three other Top 10 singles. Come the end of 1992, The Shamen were voted as “Best New Act” by BBC Radio 1 listeners….not bad for a band whose first single, which was barely recognisable from what they were now famed for, dated back to 1985.

Angus decided to focus his energies on mixing, leading to the 1993 release of Different Drum in which every track on Boss Drum was given a radical makeover. Three more studio albums would follow between 1995 and 1999, none of which were intended to be commercial enough for the singles and mass markets that had come their way in 1992. The Shamen called it a day before the dawn of the 21st Century.

JC

SUNDAY DRIVERS

JC writes…..

Today’s posting features an incredible rare piece of vinyl. Just five copies of it were pressed up.

I first became aware of it some four months back, when Craig McAllister, from the magnificent and inspiring Plain or Pan blog, put this up on Facebook

27 years in the making, our Sunday Drivers demos have made it to vinyl. A limited run of 5 copies, it’s the in sound from way out, the sound of young Scotland pressed for posterity for Grant Canyon’s 50th birthday. The ultimate in vanity projects, there was no scrimping on coloured labels, proper cover or pull-out poster (ah aye!) A juxtaposition of brilliant memories and traguc sadness, it’s a beautiful thing.

I contacted Craig and asked if he would be okay with me featuring Sunday Drivers on the blog as I thought that it was an amazing story. He and his bandmates were more than okay with the idea but, sadly, the timing wasn’t quite right. We spoke again a few days ago and he approved me mentioning things today, Thursday 27 June 2019. The easiest thing is to lift from a post that he put up at Plain or Pan just over a week ago.

Craig’s words

It was supposed to be the ultimate in vanity projects, the 50th birthday present to top all others; our band’s demos cut onto vinyl and pressed in just 5 copies, the cost split between 4 of us for vocalist Grant’s birthday present. Sunday Drivers was our band. A 5-piece that sat somewhere between Buzzcocks’ arched-brow punkish charm and the arrogant self-belief of a still-to-hatch Oasis, we had two types of songs; fast ones and faster ones. Never quite skilled enough to match the heights of our heroes – Smiths, Clash, Beatles, Pixies, REM etc etc – we were best-experienced in the live setting where the ramalama of the backline was offset by Grant’s audience baiting and occasional forays into Duglas T Stewart twee territory. We coulda been, shoulda been contenders, but like all the great bands – and we were spectacularly great – tensions bubbled just under the surface.

“You’ve got the ending of that one all wrong, John!”

“Try coming in on 4, Derek!”

“That new tune of yours sounds exactly like The Cure!” (I’m still ticked off about that particular slight.)

“Grant wants to play the whit?!? The guitar?!?”

And so, after burning brightly but briefly, we fizzled out. Memories linger though, and, as it turns out, that’s really important.

Sunday Drivers (l to r) Derek, John O’C, Craig, Grant, John T

Derek had a sore knee at the end of November. At Christmas he suffered a series of seizures. As 2018 rolled into 2019, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The outlook was not good.

Our vanity project suddenly, immediately, took on a whole new meaning. Until now, we’d been considering pressing the ultimate in pop-art statements, a 7” single, and the talk had been about which tracks would make the cut and which would be left off, which song would be the a-side and which would be the b-side…. the important stuff, y’know?

“Fuck the money,” instructed Derek. “Let’s dae it right.”

And so, our wee 7” single became a 6-track 33 rpm LP, with actual labels, a proper colour-printed outer sleeve and, the icing on the cake, a full-colour pull-out poster featuring a montage of the band in its prime at various gigs, rehearsals and the 1993 Shabby Road recording session from where the 6 tracks were taken. It was a real labour of love and it’s a beautiful work of art.

When it was completed, we had a night at Derek and Elaine’s to present the finished record in all its 180 grams glory to Grant ahead of his birthday party. He was overwhelmed by it, the effort and expense instantly justified, and I think – I know – that Derek was the proudest of all of us to see and hear the finished results.

I also gave Derek a second record – this time a 4-track EP of the music we’d made as Fonda. After Sunday Drivers, Derek and myself kept playing and our regular sessions led to tunes which led to songs which led to a new band with Richeal Reader on vocals. The Sunday Drivers stuff was mainly all 100 mile an hour bluster, loud and fast and in your face. Fonda, by contrast, was more carefully considered, certainly more melodic and pretty good.

Quite quickly we played shows. One national tabloid ran a feature on us. “The most important band to come out of Scotland since Travis!” they trumpeted. It was on page 11, the main news feature after 10 pages on Bill Clinton’s dalliance with a dress in the White House. Yes, we were that important! That particular red top is not known for its subtlety nor accuracy though, and not for the first time, they were proved wrong. It wasn’t just them that had us ear-marked for the top – I’ve got a flyer somewhere from a show we played in Glasgow: Live Thursdays headlined by tomorrow’s stars. Biffy Clyro. Muse. Fonda.’ I suppose two out three is fairly good speculation.

Since then, we’ve had other nights where the focus has been on Indian food and the talk has been of old music, new music and days gone by as Sunday Drivers. The past few months, Derek has become increasingly nostalgic. He’d found an old film of the band playing in The Attic, Irvine’s version of CBGBs or Eric’s or the Hacienda and watched it on repeat. He made us all DVDs of it and implored us to watch it. I told a wee white lie, that I’d watched a bit of it before turning it off. In truth, I hadn’t watched it at all. I didn’t fancy watching an old gig with wonky intros, shonky backing vocals and in-jokes shouted down the microphone. I could tell Derek was a bit put out by my vague dismissal though – he’d spent the time between chemo sessions transferring the VHS to DVD and made us each a copy – so, a couple of weeks ago I stuck it on while no-one else was around. It was a hoot.

Amongst the sturm und drang of the on-stage goings on, there was film of us setting up for the gig; Derek lugging PA speakers from his old Ford Escort (EGB 666X) and up the back stairs, some of us larking around in the DJ box, assorted pals and hangers-on, keen for a hold of a guitar case and the right to free entry as an important part of our stage crew. As I watched, kicking myself for not having watched it before now, I texted Derek. He replied with a simple thumbs up, his more recent form of communication when he’d been too tired or unwell to muster anything wordier.

This time last week we were texting one another, making plans for Teenage Fanclub’s Kelvingrove show at the end of July. I thought this rather optimistic. By now, Derek was unable to walk and was extremely tired most of the time, but he was determined he’d be going. Courtesy of good friends in high places, disabled parking passes, a space for his wheelchair and some unofficial VIP treatment had also been arranged. It was shaping up to be a good night out.

The next day, Derek took a turn for the worse. He lost his speech. Despite his best protests, he ended up being ambulanced to hospital. He never returned home.

Derek Reid died on Sunday. Elaine and Harris, his family and wide circle of friends are shattered.

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JC again…..

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of TVV, it’s that we have an incredibly strong sense of community among the band of readers/contributors, ready to just be there when things aren’t all they should be.

Derek is being buried today.  Craig and the rest of the gang will be there, no doubt going through the entire range of emotions that come with saying the final farewell to a close friend taken far too soon.

No songs from me today.  But if you want to listen to Sunday Drivers (and I really think you should), then please take a trip to Plain or Pan by clicking right here.

JC

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #217 : THE STYLE COUNCIL

The Style Council previously featured in a 19-part series looking at the singles back in 2015/16, and as such I wondered whether adding an ICA, albeit a few years down the line, would amount to overkill. But it’s too late babies……..

SIDE ONE

1. Mick’s Blessings (from the album Café Bleu, 1984)

It’s quite remarkable that TSC released five singles before issuing the debut album. Just as remarkably, none of those singles, certainly in the form in which they had been originally released, made it on to the debut album. Most remarkable of all, however, is the audacity of Side One of said debut, Café Bleu, which offered up seven tracks, four of which were instrumentals while another had an ‘Honorary Councillor’ on lead vocals, meaning that Paul Weller, the central and essential figure for so many fans of the band, provided just two lead vocals, one of which was a completely different version of a previous hit single. It was a bold, brave and potentially career-ruining move, throwing down a challenge his listeners and fan base and offering evidence that his new band was about the collective and not the individual.

The opening track of the album open this ICA….and a vehicle for Mick Talbot to showcase his talents and provide conclusive evidence that his contributions were going to be an essential part of the sound of TSC…and nobody really cared what hard core and appalled fans of The Jam were thinking! This jaunty and short number, running to just 75 seconds in length, has jazz, blues and pop influences to the fore and offered a great foot-stomping, hand-clapping opener, not just to the album but to the live gigs that the band were embarking on.

2. The Whole Point II (from the single Walls Come Tumbling Down, 1985)

The Whole Point of No Return was the second track on the debut album. It was a piano ballad in which was clothed a revolutionary call to arms for the working classes to rise up against the privileged few who formed the aristocracy and not to be afraid to use violence if necessary. It was an idealistic number with its sentiments totally at odds with the tune.

Much more effective was the revisit of the tune the following year. The Whole Point II is a really disturbing song from the perspective of someone who is contemplating suicide by jumping into the seas and letting the waves wash over them. There’s more than a hint of sadness tinged with understanding in the vocal delivery and I have to be honest and say that, as I become increasingly aware of the number of young people, and particularly men, who take their own lives each year on account of mental illness, it’s a song that hits home time and time again. It might be good to talk…..but it’s even better to listen.

3. Long Hot Summer (12” version) (from the a Paris EP, 1983)

It’s a hard task to find something on the ICA to follow on from the previous track without it being too trite…..it’s about trying to avoid a situation akin to that which drove Morrissey to pen the lyric to Panic, which was seemingly to express his disgust that a lengthy doom-laden news bulletin on a pop station would be followed immediately by a piece of music that was so disposable and meaningless that the listener would instantly forget what they had been listening to during the news.

I think I’ve managed it with this, possibly the best-known and best-loved of the entire TSC canon. The one in which the previously angry young man showed he could not only pen the dreamiest and lushest of love-songs but he could sing them in a way that didn’t grate on your nerves. The shooby-doo-up section of this song was the soundtrack of my life in the scorching summer of 1983 as I prepared to move out of the family home and into my first student flat.

4. My Ever Changing Moods (12” single, 1984)

Catchy, jaunty and splendid to listen to, this captured the essence of what would become the recognisable male trio in the band with the drumming and percussion skills of the precocious 18-year Steve White very much in evidence (most of the early TSC songs had featured the very different drumming style of Zeke Manyika, a real talent in his own right but not quite having the finesse that Paul and Mick would require as the band evolved into a jazz/funk/pop combo of equal measures.

5. It Didn’t Matter (7” single, 1987)

As I’ve said repeatedly, ICAs aren’t about a band’s ‘best’ or most-loved songs, but about finding a damn near-perfect running order. It Didn’t Matter is a good pop song, not a great one and it has a production that can now be seen to be very much of its time. It was the band’s 13th single (and their last ever Top 10 hit); it was the curtain raiser for what would become their third album – The Cost of Loving – which is now widely regarded as the release where it all began to unravel and an extended period in the wilderness for Mr Weller. It’s one I hadn’t listened to in a while in advance of compiling the series looking back at all the singles, but found myself enjoying it far more than I had remembered.

6. The Paris Match (from the album Café Bleu, 1984)

Don’t shout at me for breaking my own rule of ICAs ideally being 5 tracks per side…..the opening two songs on this effort came to a little more than four minutes in length, leaving loads of time and space for a sixth track….and I can’t think of a better way to close Side One than calling on the talents of the Honorary Councillors Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt. The original, which had appeared on a Paris, was more than decent….but this version took it a whole new level. Almost made me a jazz fan……

SIDE TWO

1. Shout To The Top (12” single, 1984)

TSC really were at the top of their game in the year that Orwell predicted would be all doom and gloom. Hit singles and an album that had led to critics re-assessing their view of the band, fully realising now that Weller’s new band was the real thing and a revival of The Jam was never going to happen.

The first post-LP single arrived in October 84 and almost 35 (!!!!!!) years on still sounds fresh, energetic and timeless. The use of strings was yet another new development for the group and the vocal interplay between Paul and DC Lee is quite superb.

2. Speak Like A Child (7” single, 1983)

I’ve previously posted that the release of the debut single by TSC was a mere 15 weeks after the final single by The Jam. The 19 year-old me hadn’t fallen for the charms of Beat Surrender as it wasn’t new-wave enough and it was always going to be associated with the break-up of the world’s most important band. I was a bit nervous about what was to come next.

The first few notes of Speak Like A Child removed any doubts. It still is a great sounding piece of music that gets me up on the dancefloor every time and having it on constant rotation back in the day helped me go back and make the connection with the dying days of The Jam and appreciate that their ending had been very fitting and, although it would take me a while to realise it, extremely timely as the legacy would never be tarnished.

3. Money Go Round (12” single, 1983)

As I wrote in the piece looking at this as a single, my introduction to the song came via a live performance (to a backing track) on a TV show and it kind of filled me with dread as it confirmed the circulating rumours that that the backing singer of Wham! was now part of Paul Weller’s new band – it felt like heresy. This was a time when I recorded all sorts of TV appearances onto VHS tape as additions to the record collection and it didn’t take me long to fall for this one in a big way. It’s a big song in every aspect – the best part of eight minutes long, Paul’s pulpit sermon is given added nuance thanks to D.C’s breathless backing efforts while Mick hits the keyboards as if he’s determined to land the next big solo on a song by The The; there are pounding drums, lashings of bass slaps and the best use of a trombone/trumpet combination outside of 2 Tone. It’s still, for me, one of the best moments in all of the Modfather’s lengthy career.

4. You’re The Best Thing (12” single 1984)

You can see where this side of the ICA is going can’t you? It’s hopefully a reminder of the quality of radio-friendly 45s the group were coming up with in 83/84. The Jam had enjoyed fantastic acclaim for their singles and TSC were now proving that, despite a sound that was a million miles away from new wave/post-punk/updated mod, they deserved similar levels of praise.

You’re The Best Thing was the sixth single but the first to be lifted from the debut album – indeed it was only released two months after Café Bleu had hit the shops and it had the desired effect of giving the album a second wind and keeping riding high in the charts. As I said in the piece for the singles series, this song is one that I will always associate with turning 21 years of age in the summer of 84 and one particular intense, and for a decent enough period, a happy relationship. The girl involved bought me Café Bleu for said birthday and there’s a handwritten note inside the accompanying booklet that will always remind me of her. We both thought, at the time, that we were the best things that had ever happened to one another…..but we didn’t last and it’s not well over 30 years since we were last in the same room. I’ve had an occasional notion to make a search on social media to see what’s happened to her since, but I’ve resisted as it’s best that bygones be exactly that.

5. The Boy Who Cried Wolf (from the album Our Favourite Shop, 1985)

This sort of keeps the singles run going as this track, from the second album, Our Favourite Shop, was issued as a 45 in some countries outside of the UK, and indeed charted in Australia and New Zealand.

The previous song on the ICA is the one that best reminds me of a relationship from decades ago – this is the one that reminds me of the ensuing break-up. It’s a wonderfully crafted number, an upbeat and uplifting tune masking a very sad and sentimental lyric, packed with regret and more than an element of self-loathing. It’s a break-up song that I’ve long regarded this as the yin to the yang of The Bitterest Pill, one of the most underrated singles released by The Jam, which looked at the ending of a relationship where the blame was attached entirely to the other person….

6. Walls Come Tumbling Down! (7″ single, 1985)

There was anger and optimism in this one in equal measures. The political call to arms about the class war being real and not mythologised. The hope that the young and disaffected would cotton onto the fact that they could really make a difference if they wakened up to the fact that politics was not an abstract or boring concept. Sadly, not enough of us did and things would remain bleak for a very long time.

Walls Come Tumbling Down is a floor-filling, pounding effort that, like many of the best TSC numbers, remains very listenable many decades later. It’s the perfect way to end this ICA….it’ll surely make you want to walk over to your turntable and flip the vinyl back to the other side and listen to the whole damn thing again.

JC

BROKEN CHANTER

I’ve long been a fan of Scottish indie-pop combo Kid Canaveral, bemused and frustrated by the unwillingness of a wider audience to embrace their music and fall head-over-heels for their charms as a live act.

The band are on a bit of a hiatus at the moment and frontman David MacGregor is embarking on a solo venture under the name of Broken Chanter.  He’s spent quite a bit of the past few months gigging, either as one man with his guitar or with a full backing band, and having caught a couple of shows with him in both guises, it is great to report that he’s still as charismatic and entertaining as ever.

The debut single was released at the end of May 2019, via two of the most energetic and hard-working locally based labels – Last Night From Glasgow and Olive Grove Records.

It proved to be quite different from the output with his previous band, more intense and less frantic than most Kid Canaveral songs. It’s a very mature sounding piece of music, gently paced and melodic with its author again demonstrating that there are few as good as him when it comes to giving listeners the catchiest of choruses.  The icing on the cake is the contribution from Jill O’Sullivan (ex Sparrow and The Workshop) on backing vocal/harmonies and violin, lifting the song well above your standard guitar-laden number and making it something that you will want to return to for numerous repeat listens.

It has become one of my favourite 45s of 2019 and it bodes well for the release of the debut album this coming September.

mp3 : Broken Chanter – Wholesale

If you’re as equally enamoured by it, then please treat yourself to a proper hi-quality download from the usual places.  Click here.

JC

 

THE AFFECTIONATE PUNCH

A GUEST POSTING by STRANGEWAYS

So DIY in spirit that their songs should be sold by B&Q, The Affectionate Punch have been releasing music online since November 2018.

This is a Glasgow-based ‘thing’ – yes, they’re a band, but no, they don’t tour – and probably they’re best described, really, as ‘a project’.

Each TAP song is led by speed and momentum, with almost every number taken from spontaneous idea to completed, listenable take, artwork (and, often, an accompanying video) in just a few hours (that’s about a second or two in KSST – Kevin Shields Standard Time).The rush is an essential ingredient, and a few songs have been abandoned midway when it’s clear they’d require lengthy noodling.

Other things that often take longer than the creation of a typical TAP song:

· Watching The Godfather Part 2
· Observing a couple, with a baby, park a car and remove from its boot items essential for a lunch in a café thirty yards away
· Resolving, via telephone, an issue that doesn’t make a large company more profit

Back to our B&Q shelf for a moment: although TAP explores a few styles of music, in general, you’d find them in the Indie aisle, probably between the Twee and Shoegaze sections. Led by just one person in one room, lurking close by, and keenly watched by the not-obvious-at-all store detective, would be a gang of contributors: Paul McKeever, a singer/songwriter from Larbet, Scotland, Marshmallow Fortresses, a musician from the San Francisco Bay Area, USA and, most regularly, Amanda Sanderson, a singer from Newcastle upon Tyne, England. As a non-musician myself, it is astonishing to me that this is largely a one-man band. Did I say band? I meant project. A one-man project, albeit one that welcomes these contributions.

The songs? They’re created for fun above all, and are led by guitars, keyboards, loops and samples – not to mention the odd peppering of toy orchestra lurking low in the mix.

And, yes, Associates fans: the project is named after the band’s debut LP. An Associates sample was being used on a previous project and this inspired the entire TAP idea. I love it when pop does stuff like that.

strangeways

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JC adds…..

Much of the stuff by TAP has been brought together on pages at Soundcloud and YouTube, and pointers to these place will be provided in due course.

As I’ve said before, I tend not to feature new or unsigned bands/musicians on the blog, but there was just something thrilling and different about what The Affectionate Punch is/are setting out to do that I wanted to bring things to your attention.  Besides, Strangways is a person of impeccable taste. The idea that music of this quality and distinction can happen almost in what is the musical equivalent of the blink of an eye is astonishing.

mp3 : The Affectionate Punch – I Fear

I Fear was the debut single from the collective, with the video put on YouTube on 10 November 2018 and the song placed on Soundcloud at the same time.

There are now an incredible 31 tracks on Soundcloud that can be accessed here

There are 11 videos on a dedicated You Tube channel that can be found here

While most of the songs are original compositions, you’ll also be treated to the occasional cover, such as this:-

There’s plenty of instrumentals out there too, with this one being reminiscent of the work of Robin Guthrie:-

mp3 : The Affectionate Punch – Neon Afterglow

And finally, a couple of the more recent additions to the collection:-

mp3 : The Affectionate Punch – Such Is Life

The next steps are to master some tracks that will then be added to Bandcamp, as a free download, as an LP with the title So Long Ago, Goodbye.

There’s also a planned release for a cover of Lene Lovich’s version of I Think We’re Alone Now. It will feature Amanda and Paul on vocals.

I’ve a feeling TAP might be featuring here again in the not too distant future.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Parts 1-2)

This was a last minute change of mind.

I’d already written postings for the next two Sundays but the fact that Johnny & The Self Abusers came up in the rotation yesterday for the Scottish song led me to go off at a tangent and instead put the spotlight on Simple Minds. But with the caveat that the singles will only cover the period 1979-1984 and that it will be the 7” versions featured as there has been a look previously at the 12” singles from the band.

As mentioned yesterday, J&TSA broke up on the day their only single was released. Four of its members – Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Brian McGee and Tony Donald – decided they would keep things going as Simple Minds. Things were a bit shambolic over the next year with a number of personnel and responsibility changes.

First up, Duncan Barnswell joined as second guitarist and then Jim Kerr decided he would rather just be the singer. This led to Mick MacNeil being brought in to play the keyboards but around the same time, Tony Donald decided he no longer wanted to be involved and so Derek Forbes came in on bass. The six-strong group recorded demos and began playing gigs in the hope of attracting attention from someone in the industry.

Bruce Findlay, the owner of a small chain of record shops in Scotland, decided to take a punt on the band, becoming their manager and suggesting they sign to his own Zoom Records, which at this point in time had issued only four singles. The next change was that Duncan Barnswell left the group after less than a year, seemingly at the request of the others. The quintet of Burchill, Forbes, Kerr, MacNeil and McGee became what is now regarded as the first serious attempt at the big time.

There was enough of a buzz about the group for Arista Records, an American-owned major label, to sign Simple Minds under license while issuing the debut material on Zoom.

The debut album was recorded over a two-month period at the end of 1978 and the beginning of 1979, with up-and-coming producer John Leckie assigned to production duties. This was something of a coup for Findlay and the band as Leckie was being given great plaudits for his work with Magazine and XTC, bands that were critically acclaimed but, as yet, not quite there with a commercial breakthrough.

It turned out to be a similar story for Simple Minds, with the debut single only reaching #62 in May 1979

mp3 : Simple Minds – Life In A Day
mp3 : Simple Minds – Special View

Some folk at the record label felt that the very minimalist cover art hadn’t helped things, and so a bit of effort went into the sleeve of the follow-up, a song that was probably given the warmest reception by fans at the live shows. The new single was released in June 1979 , to coincide with the band’s first UK headlining tour. The label also arranged to shoot what was, for the time, a hi-tech and expensive promo in the hope of promoting the band as being at the cutting edge of the music scene. There was a further attempt to appeal to fans by making the b-side a brand new song, not available on the album, demonstrating how much the band had progressed over the past six months.

mp3 : Simple Minds – Chelsea Girl
mp3 : Simple Minds – Garden of Hate

To the shock and horror of all concerned, Chelsea Girl was a monumental flop, not getting much airplay and failing to crack the Top 75.

It was back to the drawing board.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #166 : JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS

That’s the reverse of the picture sleeve of the one single released by Glasgow’s very own punk combo, Johnny & The Self Abusers.

The NME seemingly stated the single was “…a drab parade of New Wave that jerks off aimlessly into the void.”

mp3 : Johnny & The Self Abusers – Saints and Sinners

To be fair, the b-side was much more listenable:-

mp3 : Johnny & The Self Abusers – Dead Vandals

From wiki:-

The band was conceived by would-be Glasgow scene-maker Alan Cairnduff, although he left the job of organising the band to his friend John Milarky. At Cairnduff’s suggestion, Milarky teamed up with two musicians he had never worked with before – budding singer and lyricist Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill. Kerr and Burchill had known each other since the age of eight. After joining Johnny & The Self-Abusers, they brought in two of their school friends, Brian McGee on drums and Tony Donald on bass (all four had previously played together in the schoolboy band Biba-Rom!).

With Milarky established as singer, guitarist and saxophonist, the line-up was completed by his friend Allan McNeill as third guitarist. Kerr and Burchill also doubled on keyboards and violin respectively. In common with the early punk bands, various members took on stage names—Milarky became “Johnnie Plague”, Kerr became “Pripton Weird”, MacNeil chose “Sid Syphilis” and Burchill chose “Charlie Argue”.

Johnny & The Self-Abusers played their first gig on Easter Monday, 11 April 1977, at the Doune Castle pub in Glasgow. The band played support to rising punk stars Generation X in Edinburgh two weeks later. The band went on to play a summer of concerts in Glasgow. The band soon split into two factions, with Milarky and McNeil on one side and Kerr, Donald, Burchill and McGee on the other: at the same time, Milarky’s compositions were being edged out in favour of those of Kerr and Burchill.

In November 1977, Johnny & The Self-Abusers released its only single, “Saints and Sinners”, on Chiswick Records The band split on the same day that the single was released, with Milarky and McNeil going on to form The Cuban Heels. Ditching the stage names and the overt punkiness, the remaining members continued together as Simple Minds (naming themselves after a David Bowie lyric from his song “Jean Genie”).

JC

THE STORY BEHIND A TRULY AWFUL PROMO

July 1990.

A band from Boston, Massachusetts, USA is really beginning to make big waves in the UK.

The previous year, Pixies had released a Top 10 album in Doolittle, one which rode high in all the end-of-year charts so loved in those days by newspapers and magazines. The band’s stock was very much at its peak thanks in part to what were always incendiary live shows and in part to the fact that they sounded quite unlike any other indie act from that particular decade.

The band had been announced as the headliner on the main stage of the final day at the 1990 Reading Festival, and the fact that they would close the 3-day event had led to a surge in ticket sales. There was a huge amount of anticipation about the new material that would be played on the day (worth mentioning, in passing, that the Reading show did extend to 32 songs on the day).

July 1990.

The new single is released:-

mp3 : Pixies – Velouria

It doesn’t disappoint the legion of fans, with its loud-quiet-loud progression, its screaming vocal and its perfectly place guitar solo delivered, effortlessly (as usual) by Joey Santiago.

It is being bought in decent numbers, enough to most likely give Pixies their first ever hit single, with a position that would most likely lead to an invitation to appear on Top of The Pops. The only problem is that there is a rule in place that invites will only be given to singers or bands who have a promo video in place, something the band aren’t keen to make.

The thing is, time and effort had gone into promos for the singles from Doolittle but these has subsequently seen very little in the way of airtime. Pressure was applied on the band and in the end they agreed on something which would involve minimal input on their part but which meet the criteria-

It really must be just about the worst promo ever made. So bad that some folk think it’s a fabulous artistic statement of protest. There’s a near frame-by frame description of it on a fan website devoted to the band:-

“We had to think about something because everybody was giving all this shit because we didn’t have a video to go with the single. So we just gave them something.” (Kim Deal, Rock A My Soul fanzine, 1990) In a Manchester quarry, the 4 Pixies stand on rocks. As the song begins, they start running in direction of the camera. But the song is long and the distance is short (about 10 seconds are needed to reach the camera), so they are running in slow motion. Very slow motion. One frame after another. The Pixies are running, running, running. Black Francis is the first to pass by the camera, David is very close. But where is Joey? Oh yes, he was out of the picture, but now he is jumping (nearly) on the camera. Come on Kim! Well, there are only the rocks now. The end.”

It did the job in terms of meeting the rule. It didn’t impress the BBC enough to show it, despite the fact that Velouria entered the charts at #28 on the first week of its release Oh, and it was a shockingly bad chart that week – https://www.officialcharts.com/charts/singles-chart/19900722/7501/ – and an appearance by Pixies would have saved what surely must have been one of the worst ever editions of Top of The Pops.

Here’s the three other tracks on the CD single:-

mp3 : Pixies – Make Believe
mp3 : Pixies – I’ve Been Waiting for You
mp3 : Pixies – The Thing

Lead lyric on the first of these is taken by drummer David Lovering, while bassist Kim Deal provides a take on a cover of a Neil Young song. The last of the tracks is a sub-two minutes effort described elsewhere as just a regurgitated reading of Bossanova’s “The Happening.” and nothing but straightforward pop that results in one of the group’s most boring statements.

It’s hard to disagree.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (30)

I’m serious.

The earliest music and indeed live shows by U2 are a world-removed from the bombastic style over substance era which began, arguably, with their appearance at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in July 1985.

They certainly had come a long way in just six years, with their initial release being a 3-track EP on 12” vinyl, in a cheap record label sleeve, with a pressing limited to 1,000 copies, available only in Ireland (and for the most part, only in Dublin). The band were making a great impression on the local scene but struggling to be heard above everything that has happening in the UK in 1979 as post-punk/new wave became the flavour of the day for the industry bosses, albeit only as a way of trying to gain some critical credibility as the big monies were still being made from MOR chart fodder and disco (it’s worth remembering that CBS was the home to Abba as well as The Clash).

But, as David Byrne would come to sing, ‘How Did We Get Here?’

The abbreviated version is that they formed in 1976 while all still at school, going through a few personnel and name changes in the early years. They began life as a covers band, gradually incorporating more new wave/post-punk songs into their sets. In March 1978, they became a four-piece and took the name U2 and around the same time won a talent contest for which the prize was £500 and studio time to record a demo. They began to be hyped by Hot Press, a new fortnightly-published Irish music magazine and then approached by a 27-year old named Paul McGuinness who offered to be their full-time manager with the promise of booking gigs and studio time.

The band members were just 16-18 year old at the time and there is absolutely no doubt that without these developments, they would likely have sunk without much of a trace beyond the Dublin scene. Word of mouth that they were a great live act, with an energy not unlike many of the new UK bands who were making waves, ensured the youth of Dublin turned out in ever-increasing numbers. By August 1979 they were largely performing their own numbers and felt confident enough to return to the studio, determined that the mistakes made after the initial effort on the back of the talent contest the following year wouldn’t be repeated.

The said demo was three tracks and it was enough for CBS Ireland to show some interest. They offered to issue it on 12” vinyl but hedged their bets somewhat by making it a cheap release with just a generic sleeve and a run of 1,000 copies.

mp3 : U2 – Out Of Control
mp3 : U2 – Stories For Boys
mp3 : U2 – Boy-Girl

The initial 1,000 copies sold out quickly, and in due course the 12” would be re-pressed on at least seven occasions as well as appearing in 7” format, this time in a picture sleeve

Known as U2-3, it sold enough copies to go Top 20 in Ireland, leading to interest in the UK, with a London show in December 1979 being their first performance outside of Ireland. That particular show didn’t go well and so it was back to Ireland to think things over. The manager suggested a second single, which CBS Ireland were OK about releasing but without any further long-term commitment, as well as a tour which would culminate in a 2,000 capacity show in Dublin, one which would subsequently go down in local legend as one of the all-time great Dublin gigs.

Island Records swooped in as CBS continued to hum-and-haw. The rest, via a one-off single recorded in May 1980 with Martin Hannett, is history:-

mp3 : U2 – 11 O’Clock Tick Tock

The debut album, Boy, was released in October 1980. It included newly recorded versions of two of the songs that had appeared on the first release.

There is something about the early U2 releases which hinted they had something of a future, but I imagined at the time it would have been akin to so many other of the bands which emerged in the late 70s, namely a bright beginning followed by a fizzling away after a few albums. I had them down as being the Irish equivalent of The Skids…..

JC

HE WAS INFAMOUS FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES AND HE APPEARED ON PANORAMA

SWC and Badger, as part of this rather wonderful ICA on Carter USM that appeared back in November 2015, made the observation that Jim Bob wrote such wonderful lyrics that he had to become an author. As ever, the dynamic duo were bang on the money, with him now being the proud author of six books, two of which are autobiographical from his time with the band, and four highly readable and enjoyable works of fiction.

Jim Bob (real name James Robert Morrison) has long been a social commentator, with his lyrics, (and in later life his novels), making all sorts of observations about the unjust world we live in. He’s enjoyed chart success covering dark matters such as racism and bullying in the British Army, alcoholism and child abuse; he’s also targeted the rich, the pompous and the pampered, and on one occasion weaving all three attributes into a none too thinly disguised attack on the pop music industry.

Twenty years ago, he came up with one of his best – a blistering attack on slum landlords and the way they exploit their poor and vulnerable tenants in sickening and despicable ways,

Sheriff Fatman started out in business as a granny farmer
He was infamous for fifteen minutes
And he appeared on Panorama
Then he somehow got on board a Starship Enterprise Allowance Scheme
With a Prince of Wales Award
For pushing valium and amphetamines

Moving Up on Second Base
With Nicholas Van what’s His Face
At six foot six
And 100 Tons
The undisputed King of the Slums
With more alias’ than Klaus Barbie
Master Butcher of Leigh on Sea
Just about to take the stage
The one and only – hold the front page

Fatman’s got something to sell
To the Capital’s homeless
A Crossroads Motel
For the No Fixed Abodeless
Where you can live life in style
If you sleep in a closet
And if you flash him a smile
He’ll take your teeth as deposit

There’s bats in the belfry
The windows are jammed
The toilet’s ain’t healthy
He don’t give a damn
Just chuckles and smiles
Laughs like a madman
A born again Rachman
Here comes Sheriff Fatman

With his valium, amphetamines
Sicknotes and his phoney prescriptions
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the kitchen
Dead heads and cracked heads
Bunk beds and breakfasts
Wake up you sleepyheads
Check this

Moving up on second base
With Nicholas Van Whatshis face
At six foot six
And 100 tons
The undisputed King of the Slums
With more alias’ than Klaus Barbie
The Master Butcher of Leigh on Sea
Just about to take the stage
The one and only hold the front page

It’s a lyric that will, in all likelihood, make more sense to my domestic audience than those of you who reside overseas, so here’s a few wiki links to help with the background should you wish to explore:-

Panorama
Enterprise Allowance Scheme
Nicholas Van what’s His Face
Crossroads Motel
Rachman

The really frightening this is that nothing has changed in 30 years – indeed in many parts of the UK , the situation has got worse. It is estimated that more than 10,000 rogue landlords in England and Wales are collecting ridiculously high rents and offering sub-standard and cruelly inhumane conditions and the laws in place seem inadequate to prevent it happening time after time after time……

mp3 : Carter USM – Sheriff Fatman

The single was initially released in November 1989 when Carter USM were just beginning to come to the attention of an audience that went beyond the London pub circuit. It enjoyed a re-release in June 1991 and this time, despite most fans already having the song via the 101 Damnations album, it reached #23. The artwork and b-sides were the same on both the 89 and 91 releases, although they do have different catalogue numbers:-

mp3 : Carter USM – R.S.P.C.E.
mp3 : Carter USM – Twin Tub With Guitar
mp3 : Carter USM – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays

The first of the b-sides is another of the social commentary lyrics. Here in the UK, we have the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Birds (RSPCB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (RSPCC). Jim Bob combines all three to invent the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Everything and has a dig at ivory poachers, factory farming and sadistic parents.

The second of the tracks is an instrumental – a genre which Carter USM were particularly adept – and takes its name from a 1981 piece of Modern Art which is most often on display in the Tate Gallery in London but is presently on loan to the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle in Berlin.

The last on offer is a cover of the Buzzcocks single. The Carter USM version has its tongue very firmly pressed into its cheek, with the emphasis very much on life being an illusion……..

JC

DISARMED IN LIMBO – A MIX FOR TURNING 56


It’s becoming something of a tradition, merely for the fact that I want a new hour-long mix to listen to when I’m heading to work.

Feel free to join in with a download.

mp3 : Various – Disarmed In Limbo (a mix for turning 56)

TRACKLIST

Whatever Helps – Siobhan Wilson
Happy Birthday – The Birthday Party
Dare – Gorillaz
Ciao! – Lush
The Passenger – Iggy Pop
Say Sue Me – Say Sue Me
All Fall Down – Primal Scream
Humble – Kendrick Lamar
Intergalactic – Beastie Boys
Taste The Last Girl – Sons and Daughters
Why Are People Grudgeful? – The Fall
Let Them All Talk – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Promises – Buzzcocks
Sister – Tracey Thorn feat. Corinne Bailey Rae
Juxtaposed With You – Super Furry Animals
This Is The Day – The The
Monkey Gone To Heaven – Pixies
Intuition Told Me (Part Two) – Orange Juice

JC

HEART-SHAPED BOXES AND MARIGOLDS

Heart-Shaped Box was the first single in the UK to be lifted from In Utero, the third and ultimately final studio album by Nirvana.

It was released at the end of August 1993 and, in reaching #5, it gave the band their highest chart position on terms of singles.

The band had enlisted the services of Steve Albini to be the producer on the new album, intending to move away somewhat from the style and sound that helped Nevermind shift zillions of copies. They certainly achieved the desired outcome, much to the horror of the bosses at the record label, with the consensus being that it was bordering on the unlistenable and unlikely to get much, if any, exposure on mainstream radio – the suggestion was that it should be re-recorded or at very least, remixed. (During the subsequent row which broke out, the label denied they had felt this way and had put no pressure on the band to do anything in terms of re-recoding or remixing…..the facts of the matter have come to light in subsequent years)

It is fair to say that having left the studio and listened to the recordings back at home, the band members themselves were themselves having a few doubts over the end product – particularly with regards to how low the bass was in the mix and how so many of the lyrics seemed inaudible. Albini declined their request to do get involved in any remixing effort and so the band turned to Scott Litt, best known for his work with R.E.M.

Changes were made to a few tracks, including Heart Shaped Box, with Kurt Cobain also taking the opportunity to add acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies.

mp3 : Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box

There’s a very interesting story behind the b-side of the single.

During the period when Nevermind was being recorded, drummer Dave Grohl was busying himself in another studio writing and recording songs on which he sang and played all the instruments. He wanted to issue them in as low-key a way as possible and so they were sneaked out, as a cassette-only release on a small independent label. The album was called Pocketwatch and the work was attributed to an act called Late!. The only possible indication as to the true identity of the composer/performer were the words ‘all music and instruments by Dave G’.

The band, while in the studio with Steve Albini, recorded a new version of one of the songs that could be found on Pocketwatch, most likely always intending to issue it as a b-side to a subsequent single:-

mp3 : Nirvana – Marigold

Dave Grohl is on lead vocal on this recording. There was something of an element of surprise that, in the wake of Kurt’s death, he would find even greater and enduring success with Foo Fighters. Those who were perhaps paying closer attention to things might well say that his move into some sort of solo work was inevitable.

Here’s the original version of the single before Scott Litt did the remix…..the biggest difference is certainly in the vocal during the chorus and some harmonising during the verses….oh and the drums bring mixed right up top!!:-

mp3 : Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box (Albini recording)

And here’s the original version of the b-side, in its rough and lo-fi format:-

mp3 : Late! – Color Pictures of a Marigold

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF MARC ALMOND (Part 35-40)

And so to the last of this run through of the solo singles issued over the past 35 years by Marc Almond. One thing for sure, you can never accuse him of churning out the same old stuff, time after time…..

(35) Scar
(36) Pleasure’s Wherever You Are
(37) Bad To Me
(38) Demon Lover

(All taken from the 2015 album, The Velvet Trail)

The Velvet Trail is the twentieth solo studio album by the British singer/songwriter Marc Almond. It was released by Strike Force Entertainment / Cherry Red Records on 9 March 2015.

The Velvet Trail is Almond’s first album of original material since Varieté in 2010. It was produced by Christopher Braide and features a duet with Beth Ditto of indie rock band Gossip on the track “When the Comet Comes”.

Almond had previously stated that he would no longer record albums of original material following Varieté, calling that album “a kind of swansong”.He subsequently recorded a number of albums outside of the pop genre which mostly featured songs written by others. During this time he was approached by Braide, known for his work with pop artists such as Lana Del Rey, David Guetta and Britney Spears, who urged Almond to make “the ultimate Marc Almond album”Braide was a longtime fan of Almond and had in fact worked with Almond before, unbeknownst at that point to the singer. Almond explained the situation to Simon Price of The Quietus, stating “it was only afterwards that I realised where I knew Chris Braide from: he’d sung backing vocals on the Soft Cell reunion album Cruelty Without Beauty, and I’d passed him in the corridor”. Braide lured Almond back into songwriting by sending him three instrumental tracks, “hoping to change his mind about retirement”, a plan that worked when “all three were met with resounding enthusiasm”. They continued to work in this manner until the album was completed.

(39) A Kind Of Love (from the 2017 album, Hits and Pieces)

Hits and Pieces was a 35-track compilation of singles covering his entire career, and included Soft Cell hits and collaborations. A Kind Of Love was a new track, one which has been described as “three effortlessly breezy minutes that hint at Almond’s past the ‘light summery psychedelic sounds’ on that mid-60s transistor radio, the Northern soul scene that inspired Soft Cell to cover Tainted Love and What! without really sounding much like anything Marc Almond has recorded before.”

(40) How Can I Be Sure (from the 2017 album, Shadows and Reflections)

From The Line of Best Fit website:-

A title like Shadows and Reflections might make this album sound like a contemplative take on an illustrious three decades for synth pop pioneer Marc Almond, but it is certainly not a retrospective.

Recent success with his Hits and Pieces took care of previously released material; Shadows and Reflections is pure Almond, back on form and seemingly loving every moment. In fact, his new LP demonstrates that despite celebrating his 60th year in 2017, Almond has lost none of his heart stopping irony or youthful dramatic exuberance for mining 1960s back catalogues to create an astonishingly contemporary sound.

The songs on Shadows and Reflections were written or recorded by some of the most influential names in music over the last 50 years; veritable pop royalty including the likes of Burt Bacharach, The Action, The Yardbirds, Bobby Darlin, Julie Driscoll, Billy Fury and the Young Rascals. This impressive list alone stands testament to the reach and considerable influence Almond still wields after more than 30 years in the music industry.

Almond has never been one to shy away from theatrics, and so Shadows and Reflections is a showgirl of an album with sardonic delight bursting from under the petticoats of each baroque-styled pop song. As well as anthemic favourites such as Young Rascal’s “How Can I Be Sure” and gothic pop The Herd’s “From The Underworld” there are also new original compositions that provide “Overture” and “Interlude” to the performance.

When the curtain closes with yet another Marc Almond original “No One to Say Goodnight To” – composed and orchestrated by long-time collaborator John Harle – the dream is over and the tears can begin. For ultimately, in true Almond fashion, this musical nod to 1960’s Italian cinema is as much tragedy as comedy. The real tragedy however would be not to check it out.

And that final line is what I hope some of you will have been doing over the past few months of this series. Marc Almond is, very much, someone who should be in all your record collections and to a greater extent than you likely have.

My huge thanks to those of you who have dropped in to leave comments during this particular series – and yes, Echorich, there were times when I felt I was writing solely for your pleasure but that in itself was something of an honour and far from a chore.

Next up for the Sunday spotlight????  Ah…..you’ll need to tune in next week to find out…..

JC