TIME TO GET MOODY AND UNCOMMUNICATIVE

TVV turns 13 years old today.

30 September 2006 saw the first ever posting on the old blog which lasted till 24 July 2013 when Google/Blogger nuked it out of existence after 2,313 postings. Later that same day, like some sort of mythical being which gives you nightmares in fables or provides faith in religious writings, it rose from the dead and called itself T(n)VV and today’s is the 2,354 on the resurrected effort.

I’ve used all my fingers and toes and so it would seem that all told, that’s 4,667 posts all in, albeit there’s been a few repeats over the years and, of course, I can’t take the credit for everything as there have been hundreds of magnificent guest postings without which the place would have ground to a halt.

Even more ridiculous is the fact that the current blog has attracted almost 13,000 comments and while I don’t have the ability to count up how many were left behind over at the old place, I think it’s a fair assumption that there have been the equivalent of at least 20,000 letters to the editor up till now, and not too many have been of the disgruntled variety.

As I was reminded the other day, teenager is just another word for adolescent, and that many societies have some sort of formal ceremony to mark this stage in life. You lot will have to make do with a few relevant song titles:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Teenage Kicks
mp3 : X-Ray Spex – Germ-Free Adolescents
mp3 : The Delgados – Thirteen Gliding Principles
mp3 : Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers – I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent
mp3 : Sweet – Teenage Rampage
mp3 : Johnny Cash – Thirteen
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Everything Flows

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (4)

The second official single saw the light of day in May 1993.

Despite being one of the best 45s of the era, it was a monumental flop, not getting close to the Top 75.

mp3 : The Auteurs – How Could I Be Wrong

I’ve mentioned before how I’m a total sucker for cellos on pop singles, so you can see why I have such a love for this one.  Indeed, it was this song, more than any of the other early releases, that got me interested in The Auteurs. I still find it hard to believe that daytime radio weren’t remotely interested in playing it.

The single was made available on CD as well as two vinyl versions – 10″ and 12″.

There were two new songs made available as b-sides:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – High Diving Horses
mp3 : The Auteurs – Wedding Day

These are decent enough songs. maybe not quite as strong as the previous b-sides, but they were far from mere throwaway efforts.

The 10″ version of the single was a limited edition effort and it also offered up a live version of Staying Power (a b-side of debut single Showgirl) as recorded at a gig in Paris in February 1993.  Sadly, I don’t have a copy….

Worth mentioning that the Paris gig is mentioned quite extensively in Bad Vibes, the first of what have so far been two hugely enjoyable autobiographical volumes written by Luke Haines:-

“Early February and Paris is calling me. France is a country where English rock groups traditionally sell jack shit, and so despite all the press attention in the UK weeklies, no one at the record company has particularly high expectations. Then something happens.  The French press add two and two together and come up with 12. You see the album’s called New Wave – which translates as Nouvelle Vague. The band is called The Auteurs. Auteur theory, Cahiers du Cinema, ah, it all makes sense, a band of English Francophiles. Hell, the singer’s name even means Luke Hatred. The second most touted band in Great Britain seem to have French art house leanings.

“The Cellist, Manager Tony Beard and I fly to Paris to test the water with an acoustic gig at the Passage Nord Ouest…a Bohemian venue close to the Gard du Nord station. (The low-key acoustic promotional gig is a sure sign that the record company thinks the artist is going to tank, so keep the costs down and that’s your lot. Ta very much).

“There’s some kind of movie premiere at a cinema a few hundred yards from the venue and they’re queuing round the block for a glimpse of Gerard Depardieu.  Then it hits me.  The punters aren’t here to worship the old French idol; they’re queuing to get a glimpse of the new one.  C’est moi.  The tiny 250-capacity venue sold out in minutes. We could have filled it three or four times over. The gig is a revelation. The French existentialists listen in religious reverance. The New Wave songs deconstruct perfectly with acoustic guitar and cello.  The audience lap it up, surrendering themselves to abandon at the end of each song. Four standing ovations later and I’m back in the dressing room.”

I’ll return to this very gig in next week’s instalment……

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #177 : THE KINGFISHERS

In 2012, Postcards, the debut album from The Kingfishers was released on Creeping Bent, the label owned and run in Glasgow by Douglas Macintyre. This favourable review from The Scotsman newspaper will give you an idea of what it was all about:-

ANOTHER welcome vehicle for the extraordinary voice of Monica Queen who is still, 15 years on, best known for her guest vocal on Belle & Sebastian’s Lazy Line Painter Jane. Here, she indulges her love of the Postcard Records sound, backed by a crack team of Postcard alumni, including Aztec Camera bassist Campbell Owens and Jazzateers/Bourgie Bourgie guitarist Mick Slaven, but adds her own pedal steel-dappled country pop slant to a cohesive mix of originals, including the Velvets-esque Deep In My Bones, and beautifully aching covers of gems by Orange Juice, Vic Godard, Gene Clark and Captain Beefheart.

The Vic Godard cover on Postcards was Stop That Girl.

However……that was not the first effort released by The Kingfishers, nor was it the first go at a Vic Godard cover:-

mp3 : The Kingfishers – Make Me Sad

This is lifted from a split 7″ single, (with the other side featuring Wake The President, another band from Glasgow) that had been released back in 2008 on the German label Aufgeladen Und Bereit. There’s not a great deal of information available but I believe the lead vocal is provided by Sam Martin….based on this video clip I found, dating back to April 2008, and in which Douglas Macintyre is playing acoustic guitar:-

Here’s the original version:-

mp3 : Vic Godard & The Subway Sect – Make Me Sad

JC

TAKE THE NATIONAL EXPRESS

Today’s posting is looking back at what has, thus far, proved to be the biggest hit enjoyed by The Divine Comedy.

I suppose I better set the scene for some overseas readers who might not get the cultural reference(s).

National Express is a long-distance coach service in the UK, covering more than 750 locations with just under 2,000 services a day. It is a cheaper alternative to the train, but the downside is that the journeys tend to take a bit longer, albeit the majority of trips use the motorway network. Being a cheaper alternative to the train, it has an undeserved reputation for attracting folk who are less well-off, which is important to bear in mind…….

In January 1999, The Divine Comedy (which in effect is the name under which composer/singer Neil Hannon records) released a song called The National Express. It was the third single from the album Fin de Siècle and it attracted a very scathing NME review from Steven Wells:-

What a filthy, disgusting, revolting, nauseating little record this is! Summed up in one utterly crass but nonetheless deeply psychologically revealing lyric, we find all the reasons we’ll ever need to hate The Divine Comedy… This is mock-pop. This is the work of an ‘artist’ who thinks himself superior to his art form and despises his audience.

Here, in full, is the lyric that so seethed Mr Wells:-

Take the National Express when your life’s in a mess
It’ll make you smile
All human life is here
From the feeble old dear to the screaming child
From the student who knows that to have one of those
Would be suicide
To the family man
Manhandling the pram with paternal pride

And everybody sings “ba ba ba da…”
We’re going where the air is free

On the National Express, there’s a jolly hostess
Selling crisps and tea
She’ll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks
For a sky-high fee
Mini-Skirts were in style when she danced down the aisle
Back in ’63 (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
But it’s hard to get by when your arse is the size
Of a small country

And everybody sings “ba ba ba da…”
We’re going where the air is free
Tomorrow belongs to me

When you’re sad and feeling blue
With nothing better to do
Don’t just sit there feeling stressed
Take a trip on the National Express
On the National Express

Let’s go

National Express, National Express
National Express, National Express

The NME review did upset Neil Hannon a bit, and in response he pointed out he had made a bit of a living from penning light-hearted observational songs, none of which were intended to cause offence. Indeed, he went as far to state that the line about the man with the pram was specifically an in-joke at his brother’s expense and nothing throughout the lyric was a dig at anyone’s social circumstances.

Most folk ignored the spat, including a multitude of radio producers and presenters who ensured the single got plenty of air play. It went on to sell enough copies to reach #8

mp3: The Divine Comedy – The National Express (radio edit)

Here’s the two tracks made available on the CD1 version of the single:-

mp3: The Divine Comedy – Going Downhill Fast
mp3: The Divine Comedy – Radioactivity (a Kraftwerk cover)

JC

CLOSE TO ME (again and again and again……)

It was exactly six years ago today that I had a quick look at In Between Days by The Cure, together with the exceptional b-sides made available on the 12” vinyl here in the UK:-

mp3 : The Cure – The Exploding Boy
mp3 : The Cure – A Few Hours After This

It proved to be a very popular posting with a number of folk coming in to offer their own positive thoughts and views via the comments section. I thought it would be worth marking the anniversary with a look at the follow-up single, a track that was lifted off the album The Head on The Door:-

mp3 : The Cure – Close To Me

There were very significant changes made to the version that was released as a 45 in September 1985, namely the addition of a squeaky door and brass section.

mp3 : The Cure – Close To Me (7” version)

It’s one of the catchiest and memorable releases of the band’s entire career and deserved a far better fate than stalling at #24. It also came with a top-quality b-side, offering further evidence that the band were very much in their ‘imperial phase’ (copyright, Echorich)

mp3 : The Cure – A Man Inside My Mouth

A jazzy, fun-filled extended version, coming in at over six minutes in length, was also put together, demonstrating that Robert Smith & co. were as far removed from the gloomy goths that many in the media were lazily portraying them:-

mp3 : The Cure – Close To Me (12” version)

The single was also accompanied by one of the most memorable promotional videos of all time. Here’s the description offered up by wiki:-

Written and directed by the band’s frequent music video director Tim Pope, it consists of the band all inside a wardrobe on the edge of a cliff at Beachy Head.

Following the musical scheme of the song, which builds up instrumentally, all the band members are inside the wardrobe, but not playing instruments. Boris Williams is clapping to the beat, keyboardist Lol Tolhurst is playing a very small, handheld keyboard, and Porl Thompson on the top shelf is plucking a comb to represent the short high sounds in the song. Bassist Simon Gallup does not play, and instead appears to be tied up. Tim Pope later revealed that Gallup had a light bulb in his mouth to create a “lit from within” feel, and the cloth was there to hide the wire.

Robert Smith then comes from the back of the wardrobe and sings, also playing with finger puppets, which appear to be voodoo dolls of the band members, as when he moves them, the corresponding member moves. He then becomes more violent with the dolls, shaking them around heavily, which in turn causes the band members to hit into the sides of the wardrobe, which eventually results in the wardrobe falling off the cliff and into the sea. As they go into the sea, the wardrobe fills up slowly with water, like a capsized ship, but the band members continue to play their “instruments.” The video ends with the wardrobe full of water and a band member pushing a rubber duck across the screen.

The promo continued to be aired long after the single had come and gone from the charts, leading to the situation that Close To Me, over the years, would come to be arguably the most instantly recognisable of all their songs.

Fast forward to October 1990 and the news that The Cure intend to issue an album of remixes of some of their most popular songs alongside some re-recordings of the older material, with an eye on having them fit for the floors of indie and alt-discos. A month prior to the release of the album, and a remix single was issued as a taster:-

mp3 : The Cure – Close To Me (Closest Mix)

The remix treatment came courtesy of Paul Oakenfold and was engineered by Steve Osbourne, both of whom had helped Happy Mondays into the charts earlier in the year.

A slightly longer version was issued on 12”:-

mp3 : The Cure – Close To Me (Closer Mix)

It would have been really easy just to re-heat the old promo to go with the remix, but they came up with something of a genius idea. Here’s wiki again:-

There is also a music video for the version of the song that appeared on Mixed Up. The video picked up where the original video ended, with the wardrobe crashing down the cliffside and sinking to the bottom of the sea. Robert exits first and is attacked by an octopus (seen playing the horns later in the video). After his struggle, the other band members try to flee as well, and are attacked by a starfish. The video ends without any of the band members reaching the surface, though they could see a boat overhead.

The remix version of the song, despite coming out only five years after the original, reached #13 in the UK singles chart, reflecting the fact that the late 80s/early 90s were the high-point, sales-wise for the band (the next studio album, Wish, released in 1992 would provide them with their sole #1 LP).

Close To Me, in either of its versions, still sounds fresh and exciting and the live renditions in the shows of 2019 inevitably received just about the biggest cheers of any night.

JC

I DON’T WANNA, I DON’T THINK SO

30 years ago, Spin Magazine published an article in which Kim Gordon, the bass player of Sonic Youth, interviewed the rapper LL Cool J. The original idea, certainly from Kim Gordon’s perspective was to establish that the largely underground New York noise rock scene, of which her band was probably the best known, had much in common with the local rap scene, of which the man born James Todd Smith was one of its biggest commercial success. It should be remembered that, at this point in history, Sonic Youth had recorded for a multitude of independent labels, gathering a fair amount of critical acclaim but not much in the way of sales while LL Cool J had enjoyed hit singles and all sorts of platinum and gold discs for his first three albums.

The outcome was something of a car crash. The rapper ‘s responses to the questions clearly antagonised the bassist almost from the outset as he boasts about his car collection and then makes fun of her knowledge of the emergence of the Beastie Boys out of hardcore rock into rap and the involvement of Rick Rubin, with whom LL Cool J had worked, before he talks about his love for Andrew Dice Clay, a comedian notorious for his sexist material. The lowpoint, however, had to be this exchange:-

KG : “What about women who are so into you as a sex object that they take a picture of you to bed with them and their boyfriends or husbands start freaking out?”

LLCJ : “It’s not my problem. The guy has to have control over his woman. She has to have enough respect for you to know not to do those things. It’s how you carry yourself.

Later on, he talks about his admiration for Bon Jovi and says he’s never heard of Iggy Pop and The Stooges. I’m not sure how many of his responses were deliberately designed to make fun of the interviewer or whether he was genuinely unaware of so much music history around his home city. Kim Gordon provided this addendum to the interview:-

“It seems pretty obvious L.L. doesn’t have many conversations with white girls like me. And likewise, I don’t have many conversations with rap musicians. But I have more access to his world – even if it is superficial, watching the NYC black video show on UHF or whatever – than L.L. will ever have to mine.”

Nine months later, Kim Gordon had penned a song that would provide her band with something approaching a breakthrough hit, based on her bitter experience:-

mp3 : Sonic Youth – Kool Thing

Chuck D makes a guest appearance, obviously quite comfortable about the music and politics of Sonic Youth and at the same time willing to poke fun at a fellow rapper, albeit one who was almost diametrically opposed to Public Enemy in terms of the music, the look and the acceptance by white America. It’s great fun to listen to, and it’s scary to think that it is fast approaching its 30th birthday.

The b-side to the 7” version of Kool Thing, certainly here in the UK was a cover version of a song written by Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine, and which pre-dated the formation of Television:-

mp3 : Sonic Youth – That’s All I Know (Right Now)
mp3 : The Neon Boys – That’s All I Know (Right Now)

I think it’s a fair assumption to say that LL Cool J would have been completely oblivious to this particular release.

JC

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE RECORDS OF 2019

I’ve never hidden my love for disco music, something that I can trace to the mid-70s and spending the Sunday evenings of my early teen years in the hall attached to a nearby church as Tam, whose daytime job was selling car and motor-bike accessories, indulged in his true love as the man on the twin decks who was available for hire at weddings and parties, whatever the age of the celebrant but would also stoop to providing entertainment for adolescents who were stoking up on Coca-Cola, Pepsi or Irn Bru – sugar-free and zero calories options had yet to be invented and we were all too timid to even think about smuggling in alcohol.

Disco was very often great fun to listen to and even more fun to dance to. The difficult part was when the likes of Rod Stewart and Cliff Richard began to have chart hits – there was nothing cool about dancing to music by singers that your parents or aunts and uncles liked. Although my tastes began to drift towards post-punk/new wave in the last 70s, I never ever completely gave up on the dancefloor classics, albeit not much was now being purchased and, depending on which friend was coming up to the house to have a look over my increasing collection of albums and singles, some were actually banished to the confines of a wardrobe full of clothes.

The explosion of electronica/synth-pop at the beginning of the 80s provided a great link back to disco and did much to prevent the genre from ever being regarded as completely out of fashion. The past 40 years has proven to be a period in which disco has come and gone and come back again as a key influence in the music being made and played by young and emerging bands. Earlier this year, quite a few months ago, while browsing around Stephen Pastel’s record store in Glasgow, I got the chance to hear very distinctively disco-orientated music and which came from a release that had been chalked up on the board as one of their staff albums of the week.

I made a mental note of the name of the band and put a call into a younger ex-colleague the following day to ask for the skinny. It was disappointing to learn that the band in question had actually played Glasgow a few days earlier and that I’d missed the show. I was also advised that while some in the media were saying the band were the next big-thing, it was likely they would remain a cult group rather than crossover as they were just too strange and obtuse.

It would be around a month before I returned to Stephen’s shop, and as part of a number of purchases, I got my hands on the self-titled debut album by International Teachers of Pop.

ITOP (which is much quicker and easier to type) seemingly emerged in the summer of 2018 with the track that had grabbed my attention in the shop:-

mp3 : International Teachers of Pop – Age of The Train

The song title harked back to the halcyon disco days in the 70s as it was the catchphrase of an advertising campaign to encourage higher patronage of train services, all of which were provided by the nationalised and state-run British Rail. The campaign was fronted by the now disgraced celebrity, Jimmy Saville.

ITOP are a trio from Sheffield, a city which, over the years, has produced many of the best electronic pop groups to come out of the UK. The three members are Adrian Flanagan, Dean Honer and Leonore Wheatley, with the last-named being the singer. They have been described as the love child of Giorgio Moroder and the Tom Tom Club, although Leonore’s delivery is more reminiscent of Ladytron. Lyrically, there are shades of Black Box Recorder in that underneath the music you’ll find downbeat subject matters, including sideswipes at the political mess the UK finds in….and all this before Boris Johnson became our buffoon of a Prime Minister.

In order to try and get that authentic 70s sound, the album was recorded on analogue synthesisers and old, near redundant drum machines, albeit full use was made of modern studio technology. The result is a joyous, bouncy and infectious album, which I am told is more than matched by an energetic and lively live show in which stage dancers are engaged.

Three other songs from the album have enjoyed releases as promo singles:-

Hopefully, you’ll have enjoyed this introduction to ITOP. They are well worth checking out, and a purchase of the album is highly recommended. At the very least, make sure you put it on your list for Santa…….

JC