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

THE UNDERSTANDABLE POPULARITY OF A FOURTH SINGLE FROM THE ALBUM

Here’s the dates when The Human League released material in 1981:-

20 April: The Sound of the Crowd (single)
27 July: Love Action (single)
28 September: Open Your Heart (single)
16 October: Dare (LP)

All the singles had been major hits, with the latter two going Top 10. The parent album entered the charts at #2 and took the top spot the following week. It would spend 22 successive weeks in the Top 10 of the album chart, and it wouldn’t drop out of the Top 100 until 19 February 1983, some 70 weeks after its release.

The reason for the longevity? The popularity of the fourth single which was released on 27 November 1981 at the insistence of Virgin Records and very much against the wishes of the main principal in the band:-

mp3 : The Human League – Don’t You Want Me

Not counting a particular charity release a few years later, it is, arguably, the most recognisable song of the 80s (at least here in the UK). It is everything you are looking for in a perfect pop single – hooks, rhythm, beats and a chant-along chorus. It came with the added bonus of the verses being similarly ear-wormy, and, in an era when music videos were beginning to be an essential part of the package, the promo was memorably different and watchable, for at least the first 50 viewings or so.

Don’t You Want Me had a difficult birth. Phil Oakey had initially thought of it as a song that he would sing on his own, considering it not an ode to lost love but, in his own words in an interview many years later, as a nasty song about sexual power politics. It was while in the studio working on all the songs that would appear on Dare that he realised it could also work as a duet, and this led to Susan Ann Sulley, one of the two backing singers in the band, being asked to become co-lead for the first time. Seemingly, the initial duet version was quite dark and harsh, reflecting the bitter feelings of the male and the exasperation of the female. Producer Martin Rushent, with whom Oakey had already had a number of rows about the way the songs on the album were turning out, remixed things (with the help of Jo Callis from the band) to the singer’s horror who felt it now sounded limp and was by far the weakest of the new material, which goes someway to explaining why it ended up as the last song on Side 2 of the album.

As mentioned earlier, the album had enjoyed immediate success, but it had slipped off the #1 spot after just one week which led the label bosses to float the idea of a fourth single to boost sales, particularly in the run-up to Christmas when sales are traditionally at their highest levels. The fact the bosses wanted to issue Don’t You Want Me did not go down well with Oakey – partly as he felt it was substandard to the earlier 45s and that he felt its pop-feel would alienate many long-standing fans. He must have been amazed when, just two weeks after its release, it gave the band its first #1 single, holding on to the top spot for five weeks, including over Christmas, fending off all the novelty stuff and one-offs that often dominates the singles charts at that time of year.

It’s to his credit that Phil Oakey went along with things, playing the role of pop star to perfection and making sure all promotional activities around the song were realised. Six months later, the song went to #1 in the USA and he, and his bandmates, were made for life.

Don’t You Want Me is fast approaching its 40th anniversary but shows no signs of losing its popularity. Indeed, it is better loved nowadays than even at its height when it sold in its millions, with fans of an age when it was first released now joined by millions across the world who only know it a retro-hit or as a bona-fide karaoke classic. Yes, most of those who get up and grab the mics during drunken nights out with friends and/or work colleagues probably do think they are singing a doomed love song and aren’t acting out the tale of sexual power politics, but so what? It’s a great, instantly recognisable tune that only the hardest and coldest of people can say they have no time for.

The b-side was also lifted from Dare, indicating that The Human League had all but exhausted their seam of material for now. It’s one of the tracks that harked back to the harder-edged sound of earlier material, and probably the song that Phil Oakey would have been happy see released as the a-side to any fourth single:-

mp3 : The Human League – Seconds

As with the earlier singles from Dare, the 12” version contained an extended dance mix which stretched out to more than seven minutes

mp3 : The Human League – Don’t You Want Me (extended)

Quite experimental in some places, it’s impossible to deny its influence on so many pop tunes that followed in its wake – the Pet Shop Boys were most certainly tuning in!

Almost 1.6 million copies of the 7” and 12” were sold in the UK. It also went to #1 in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and, as mentioned earlier, the USA. It also enjoyed Top 10 success in Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and West Germany.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (3)

I ended last week’s posting with the words “There were a number of really strong candidates for the next official single, the one that would, from the marketing perspective, hopefully get the band onto Top of The Pops and lead to increased sales of the album, thanks to more folk become aware of what they were capable of. Except……”

……The Auteurs got sidetracked by an invitation to be part of the Rough Trade Singles Club, whose mission was to save the 7″ singles by offering subscribers a one-off record every four weeks, recorded by artists ranging from the talented but unknown to the highly collectable.

The first release had been in October 1991.  The Auteurs would be the fifteenth in February 1993 .  There would, in the end, be 47 such pieces of plastic before the venture folded.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Housebreaker (acoustic version)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Valet Parking (acoustic version)

Both songs had originally featured on New Wave and the first of them must have been one of the tracks that Hut had been eyeing-up for themselves as a 45, albeit the lyric was maybe a tad dark and pessimistic.

The limited nature of this release meant it had no chance of taking the band into the charts.  Maybe the next time?

JC

PS……delighted to announce that I’ll be getting some assistance with this series as chaval has accepted an invite to contribute the occasional guest posting, starting in a few weeks time.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #176 : KING CREOSOTE

Edited from wiki:-

Kenny Anderson,  known primarily by his stage name King Creosote, is an independent singer-songwriter from Fife, Scotland. To date, Anderson has released over forty albums, with his latest, Astronaut Meets Appleman, released in 2016. Anderson is also a member of Scottish-Canadian band The Burns Unit. In 2011, Anderson’s collaborative album with Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine, was nominated for the Mercury Prize and the Scottish Album of the Year Award.

After having featured in Scottish bands Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra and Khartoum Heroes, in 1995 Kenny Anderson launched Fence Records, alongside Johnny Lynch, and began recording albums under the name King Creosote.  He eventually stepped back from day-to-day running of the label in 2010.

In recent years, Anderson has teamed up with Domino Records who have co-released some of his albums. He also spent some time on Warner subsidiary, 679, which gave him major label backing for the first time. His increasing frustration with the music industry and how digital recordings are becoming throwaway commodities led him to release his material in small, vinyl only runs which were largely only available at concerts.

Today’s track is taken from the LP, KC Rules OK released in September 2005. The album’s liner notes state that its songs were written between 1988-2003. The backing band were The Earlies, an English/American four-piece who have been described in the media as folk-psychedelia and as country-meets-prog-meets-electronica symphonies.

In December 2009, KC Rules OK was ranked #6 in a local magazine’s “Scottish Albums of the Decade” rundown.

mp3 : King Creosote – I’ll Fly By The Seat Of My Pants

In 2014, I was lucky enough to be helping out with the arrangements at this unforgettable day of music.

King Creosote was headlining the second of the big gigs but as a warm-up, he turned up, unnanounced, in a local pub, and played three songs standing next to the fruit machine as locals looked on in wonderment. I’d been tipped off this was going to happen and got myself along….and stood no more than five feet away as it all unfolded.

It was sublime, sensational and unforgettable

JC

PS: Just remembered I took a hasty and poor quality photo while KC was performing in the pub….

 

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapters 25 & 26)

Two for one today , thanks to Half Man Half Biscuit, described by wiki as an English rock band, formed in 1984 in Birkenhead, Merseyside and known for their satirical, sardonic, and sometimes surreal songs.

Chapter 25

A mistake has been made
It’s a fact they can’t hide
Though I’m partly to blame, it cannot be denied
There ain’t no use defending
It seems I’ve been tending
The wrong grave for 23 years

A letter dropped onto my doormat one day
And I thought: “I’ll ignore that, it might go away”
And I took up my shears
To the place where for years
I presumed my sweet darling had lain

Curse those in charge of plots
Curse these forget-me-nots
I’ve been sharing my innermost thoughts with an Edward McCrae
I’m inconsolable and at times uncontrollable
Ah but she wouldn’t know ‘cos she’s two hundred metres away
Let’s complain…

On my long weary journey back home I took the less frequented path and ended up in the Meadow of Consolation. It was a magical place – I half expected a nymph to appear, shyly from out of the brake. Some not unexpected She from the brushwood; and me dressed as a dandy in practice for the Summer Eights …even the glebe cow started to drool …but then, almost inevitably, Claire Rayner appeared

I’m numb from the sting
That I’ve been tending
The wrong grave for 23 years
I walked up in autumn, I ran up in spring
To the wrong grave for 23 years
Oh ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling
Now ain’t that a thing
The wrong grave for 23 years
The wrong grave for 23 years
The wrong grave for 23 years

mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Tending The Wrong Grave For 23 Years

Released on the Saucy Haulage Ballads EP back in 2003.

Chapter 26

I fancy I’ll open a stationer’s
Stock quaint notepads for weekend pagans
While you were out at The Rollright Stones
I came and set fire to your shed

‘Cos you probably work at an all-night garage
You probably work at an all-night garage
You probably work at an all-night garage
With Talk Radio on

And you curse my soul if I don’t want petrol
Curse my soul ‘cos I don’t want petrol
I only came down for a tube of Pringles
…Sour Cream and Chives

Because you gotta get up off your fat arse to go and get my crisps and you gotta go around the counter and it’s really inconvenient; and when you come back, you toss them into that sliding metal tray device thing that separates us and you say: “One pound thirty-five”, as opposed to: “That’ll be one pound thirty-five please, sir”. This is of course done to annoy me but has the opposite effect of amusing me no end, because suddenly I’ve got other things to buy…

“I’ll have two Scotch eggs and a jar of Marmite,
Two Scotch eggs and a jar of Marmite
Two Scotch eggs and a jar of Marmite
…what sandwiches have you got?”

Well now you become quite irate and your voice becomes louder, and you start to sound like Leadbelly at the depot…

“I got ham, I got cheese, I got chicken, I got beef,
I got tuna-sweetcorn; I’ve got tuna-sweetcorn…”

“I’ll have ten Kit Kats and a motoring atlas
Ten Kit Kats and a motoring atlas
And a blues CD on the Hallmark label
– that’s sure to be good”

Oh he went to play golf on a Sunday morn’ just a mile and a half from town
His head was found on the driving range and his body has never been found

mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Twenty Four Hour Garage People

Released on the Trouble Over Bridgwater LP back in 2000.

JC

MIXING POP AND POLITICS, THEY ASK ME WHAT THE USE IS

Billy Bragg famously related the tale of him being asked said question, by a cynical fanzine writer, within the lyric of Waiting For The Great Leap Forward. If only the writer had been brave enough to ask a similar question of Jimmy Somerville…….

It will be 35 years next month since Age of Consent, the debut LP by Bronski Beat was released. The trio of Somerville, Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek had already tasted chart success earlier in the year with their first two singles, Smalltown Boy and Why?, going Top 10 in many countries across Europe. They weren’t the first to make wonderfully catchy synth-pop that was aimed at the dance floor, nor were they the first to link the genre with gay culture; but they were the first pop stars to get up on a soapbox and demand that folk listened and took action on the inequalities of life that had to be endured if you were of a gay persuasion.

Nobody should be in any doubt that the band took huge risks with such an agenda. The early 1980s was not the most tolerant of periods, with some of the most right-wing and conservative political administrations governing the UK and the USA. It was a period when the cultural world of performing and visual artists did voice their concerns in a concerted way about some injustices happening within society, not least the horrors of the apartheid system in South Africa, but nobody was willing to really stand up and shout about homophobia and the dangers faced daily by, in particular, young people the world over. The promo video to Smalltown Boy had been a revelation, being, in effect, a short film that showed a gay man seemingly finding some happiness, only to have it ruined, firstly by the vicious fists and boots of a violent mob and secondly by the vicious rejection of his family. The line ‘mother will never understand why you had to leave’ is one of the saddest lyrics you’re likely to find in any uptempo tune.

The single certainly raised awareness of the fact that attitudes, particularly among those living in traditional working-class communities, had much to do with the fact that young gay people felt the need to run away from the security of their home and upbringing. Many parents felt stigmatised and regarded themselves as failures if their son or daughter had turned out to be queer, with the situation exacerbated by the shame of knowing their offspring was breaking the law. (I should, and indeed must, point out that Jimmy Somerville’s own Glaswegian parents did not disown their son at any point in time, albeit he did indeed leave home and head to London, but only as a result of frustration he felt at the narrowness and limited appeal of a ‘gay scene’ in his home city and elsewhere in Scotland)

The hit singles had created the circumstances that the Bronski Beat debut album was likely to enjoy a fair amount of commercial success. It offered the perfect platform to say and do something of huge significance and to the delight of what seemed like the entire gay community, and those standing outside who were appalled by homophobia, the band didn’t disappoint.

Forget, for a moment, that the vinyl contained ten tracks of high-class music, some of which burst and bristled with energy while others were mournful and thought-provoking. Forget too, that one of its highlights introduced the work of the Gershwin brothers to a whole new audience and instead take a few minutes to study the artwork.

The inner sleeve and the label on the vinyl is dominated by a pink triangle, the symbol used by the Nazis in concentration camps to identify homosexual prisoners. Originally conceived as a badge of shame, the pink triangle had, from the 70s onwards, began to be reclaimed as a positive symbol of self-identity. The inner sleeve also set out, plainly and simply, the different international ages of consent for males to engage in gay sex, drawing attention to, and ridiculing, the fact that there were huge inconsistencies, with the UK being amongst the worst examples in declaring the age to be 21.

The so-called swinging 60s has been an era in which the UK establishment began to relax its attitudes across a whole swathe of societal issues with new and more liberal laws covering divorce, abortion, race relations and fairness in the workplace. Homosexuality had gone from being wholly illegal but was still seen as a huge taboo, causing all sorts of outcries and scaremongering within the powerful media circles, particularly across tabloid newspapers where so many agendas were set and led to millions of readers forming opinions and holding attitudes. Oh, and the churches didn’t help things either, choosing to focus on very narrow and literal interpretations of scriptures as an excuse to uphold bigotry, hatred and prejudices.

Nothing had changed much in the best part of 20 years and indeed there was a feeling at large that the right-wing nature of the Thatcher government was going to make things worse. Indeed, in 1988, things did take a turn for the worse with the passing of the outrageous and scandalous ‘Section 28 Amendment’ to local government legislation that made it illegal for schools and teachers to promote the idea that homosexuality could be a stable and harmonious way for a family relationship.

The thing was, for many people, this was closing the stable door long after the horse had bolted as attitudes, particularly among young people had changed dramatically. Bronski Beat had shown up the insanity of the UK’s approach to homosexuality and had done so with grace, dignity and some fabulous music. In their wake followed many, not least The Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Culture Club, Holly Johnson and, of course, The Communards, the group formed by Jimmy Somerville just a year after the success of Bronski Beat, all of whom not only enjoyed #1 hits and sell-out tours, but did so to an incredibly mixed audience.

The social and political outcomes of The Age of Consent must never be underestimated, but I’ve no doubt in my mind that it needed the music to be of top quality and mass appeal to succeed on these fronts. Indeed, if the album had been duff, there would have been a danger of setting things back somewhat, giving strength to those (and there were many) who felt that dance music was only good for clubs and discos and not for promoting any meaningful messages.

mp3 : Bronski Beat – Why?
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Need A Man Blues

Bronski Beat would enjoy two more hit singles lifted from the album, both of which were covers. Indeed, for the final hit single, they revamped the closing song of the album by introducing a guest singer, someone who had overcome all sorts of homophobic media coverage as his fame increased to find himself, and his attitudes, accepted increasingly by the mainstream:-

mp3 : Bronski Beat – It Ain’t Necessarily So
mp3 : Bronski Beat feat. Marc Almond – I Feel Love/Johnny Remember Me

No embarrassment or the usual excuses. A copy of The Age of Consent should be in every pop fan’s collection.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #226 : FUCKED UP

A GUEST POSTING by SWC

A couple of weeks ago, JC posted a couple of tracks by Dolly Mixtures and I happened to mention that I owed a couple of their tracks as covered by Fucked Up and sort of walked into writing something about them. Taking that as a cue, I’ve turned that request into an ICA. This should walk the forthcoming ICA World Cup by the way.

The Toronto based sextet Fucked Up are, I think, the greatest hardcore punk band of the last 20 years. Over the last fifteen years or so they have released track after track of brilliantly abrasive compelling punk rock. Their music is blended around the voice of Damian ‘Pink Eyes’ Abraham, a man blessed with a voice that sounds like he spends all his time rubbing a cheese grater against his throat. Which by the way sounds way better than I have described it. Behind that voice you get an onslaught of guitars, an assault of drums, an immense wall of sound, the occasional flute and the odd piccolo.

However, it’s not just about punk rock with Fucked Up though. The band have experimented, last year they released the wonderful (honestly one of the eight best records ever made) album ‘Dose Your Dreams’ which saw the band blend their punk sound with shoegaze, rave, baggy, twee, jazz and indie pop. The album showcased their wide range of musical influences, the pick of which are below. The first track liberally borrows a bassline from ‘Pills N Thrills..’ era Mondays and it’s incredible.

Talking Pictures

Raise Your Voice Joyce

Two albums before that came ‘David Comes To Life’ an 18 track rock opera concept album about two starcrossed lovers (David and Veronica) who conspire together to build a bomb and cause general mayhem and destruction (seriously, it gets pretty deep). It is 70 odd minutes of screaming, beautiful brilliance, which contains the tracks below. The first track of which is easily one of the best punk rock tracks ever recorded (very easily). As rock operas go, this knocks ‘Tommy’ into a cocked hat.

Queen of Hearts

The Other Shoe

Before ‘David…’ came ‘The Chemistry of Common Life’ which I think was their second album (I lose count to be honest), and the first signs emerged that the band were trying to become more accessible or had perhaps outgrown their DIY roots (despite refusing to change their name and you know, try to actually sing). That album contains probably their finest single moment (although my opinion on this changes literally every day) in ‘No Epiphany’.

The fact that the band are called Fucked Up hasn’t helped their radio play, the fact that Pink Eyes has a voice that sounds like the noise wire wool makes when you scrap it along a wall, hasn’t helped their radio play, regardless of what they are called. However, if anyone else had sung this and if anyone else had recorded this it would have been long since heralded as one of the greatest guitar records of all time and would be on an endless loop on Radio X. Yes it would.

No Epiphany

In their early days though the band were very much a singles band. Their first dozen releases were (I think), all limited edition 7” singles, which became and remain very collectible.

I Hate Summer

On top of that they have released a single for every sign of the Chinese Zodiac. Most of these are 20 minutes long so I ain’t sticking them up but still they are all utterly astonishing especially ‘Year of the Snake’. They’ve also bundled up all their single releases and most of the B Sides into two compilation albums (containing some 50 odd tracks), all this before album three hit the shelves.

Back in 2006 though they decided that they wanted to release something special for Record Store Day, which sort of brings me to the reason why I wrote this piece in the first place. The band decided to release two limited edition 7” singles featuring two covers each of two of their favourite bands. Bands that they loved, grew up listening to, bands that sat firmly in the tweepop genre bands that were as far removed from punk rock as you could get.

These were Dolly Mixtures (who Pink Eyes tells us in the sleeve notes, made a movie!) and Shop Assistants. Dolly Mixtures you will know all about because JC wrote about them a couple of weeks ago. Shop Assistants were from Edinburgh and have probably also featured on these pages somewhere. I’ve not heard any of the originals (perhaps JC will indulge us…) so I’m not going to comment apart from say that these versions are obviously ace.

Dream Come True

He’s So Frisky

I Don’t Wanna Be Friends With You

Looking Back

Thanks for reading

SWC September 2019

JC ADDS…..

…….Shop Assistants have made the occasional appearance on this blog, but not as often as their tunes have merited.  They also get aired every time when we have a Simply Thrilled night but until now I had no idea the cover versions of these songs existed:-

mp3 : Shop Assistants – I Don’t Wanna Be Friends With You
mp3 : Shop Assistants – Looking Back

And since SWC asked so nicely:-

mp3 : Dolly Mixture – Dream Come True
mp3 : Dolly Mixture – He’s So Frisky

Enjoy!

HOMAGE TO CATALONIA

mp3 : Scot & Sager – Barcelona

Fortunately, my own recent visit to the Catalan capital didn’t result in any similarly bad experiences to those suffered by the late Jock Scot, as recalled in the opening track on the 2006 CD, The Caledonian Blues, on which Gareth Sager made and played the music (minimally) while the grizzled old poet and punk veteran rants and raves to terrific effect.

In fact, my experiences in Barcelona in September 2019 couldn’t have been any happier.

Arriving on a Thursday morning, on a flight direct from Glasgow that was very much on time, myself and Rachel (aka Mrs Villain) rocked up at the hotel of choice to be informed that, as returning guests, we were being given an upgrade to a larger room which came with its own private terrace that proved to be a bit of a suntrap. The day was spent doing a bit of wandering around and re-aquainting ourselves with the city, and at night we returned to a tiny restaurant we had visited last year, delighted to find there was space to squeeze us in and that the food was every bit as exceptional and well-priced as before.

Friday saw the arrivals, from California, of Jonny the Friendly Lawyer (JTFL) and Goldie the Friendly Therapist, who were traveling to Spain for a 10-day city/beach holiday as part of an extended birthday celebration for the latter. I’d met Jonny before, both pre and post-gig when his band The Ponderosa Aces had played in Manchester in 2017, but this was a new experience for Mrs V while neither of us knew what to expect from Goldie. We spent the whole evening and all of the Saturday with our American friends – when we weren’t on the move or sightseeing, we were sitting drinking/eating in some very fine establishments, during which we talked endlessly about so many different things, but particularly love, life, work, music and achievements (but not in any boastful way!). The stay was topped-off with all four of us going to the Barcelona v Valencia football match on the Saturday evening, after which there were farewell drinks and promises made to hook up again soon, either in Scotland or California.

It was yet another example of how an incredible and strong bond has emerged as a result of this blogging nonsense. Jonny was the one who, years ago, came up with the JTFL as his moniker when he decided he wanted to leave comments on the blog. Friendly doesn’t come close to describing the man, for he is turns charming, articulate, generous, intelligent and witty among many other things. Above all else, he is completely down-to-earth and as easy-going as anyone I’ve ever met, about as far removed from any stereotype you would apply to someone of his chosen profession, especially one whose main professional activities centre around the cesspit of Los Angeles and whose upbringing was in New York.

It was an absolute joy to find that Goldie is as every bit as friendly as her partner/husband of some 30 years and the four of us couldn’t have gotten along any better over the entire time. It was inevitable that myself and JTFL would end up yakking for ages about our love for music and the things we know we have in common, but it was incredible to find that Rachel and Goldie share many common interests to the extent that they could have been sisters separated at birth.

Goldie, like her husband, is an incredible conversationalist, no matter the subject matter, but it was particularly enjoyable to listen to stories and incidents from throughout their lives, of how they came to be together and of how they encouraged one another to be a success in their chosen fields. They talked with real pride of their two kids – Sam and Jane – both of whom have been encouraged to make the most of the artistic/creative talents they have inherited through the genes. In return, our American friends wanted to hear about our family members and friends and to flesh out some of the stories mentioned over the years on TVV, particularly concerning the blogging fraternity whom I know or have met, which meant that a great deal was said about the Glasgow gathering of a few years back and the Simply Thrilled nights.

I think I’ve persuaded JTFL to share some more of his life stories via some future guest postings – you just can’t say that you were seated next to Shirley Manson at dinner and not tell the TVV readership how that came about.

mp3 : Garbage – Push It

Here’s to the next time. Quite probably over to a part of the world that has so beguiled David Gedge:-

mp3 : The Wedding Present – California
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Santa Monica
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Spider-Man on Hollywood

JC

A GREENOCK BOY MADE GOOD

The late John McGeoch (25 August 1955 – 4 March 2004) was a key part of many important and successful bands of the post-punk era. His guitar work was, if you’ll pardon the pun, instrumental in the way the sound of Magazine and Siouxsie & The Banshees developed and evolved over successive albums. He was also at the heart of the early material from Visage and in later years he helped fill out, especially in the live setting, the songs of The Armoury Show and Public Image Ltd. It’s worth mentioning too that he guested in the studio for the likes of Generation X, Peter Murphy and The Sugarcubes.

McGeoch hailed from the blue-collar town of Greenock, some 20 miles west of Glasgow. At the age of 16, his family moved to London and upon leaving school he successfully applied to attend Manchester Polytechnic to study fine art. One of his best friends, and indeed flatmate, was Malcolm Garrett who was part of the Buzzcocks inner-circle. It was Garrett who had no hesitation in recommending McGeoch to Howard Devoto, firmly believing that his friend, notwithstanding his key influences were the blues and Eric Clapton, was an exceptional talent who would be perfect for Magazine.

He was part of that band from 1977 to 1980, playing on the first three albums, but leaving before the largely underwhelming Magic, Murder and the Weather was written and recorded. Within a matter of months, he had become a Banshee. He played on three LPs, and was also part of seven hit singles, all of which are considered to be among the best ever recorded by the band – Happy House, Israel, Spellbound, Arabian Knights, Fireworks, Slowdive and Melt!

It was this period in particular that led the likes of Johnny Marr and Jonny Greenwood to later proclaim him amongst their heroes, pointing out how his style of playing was unique, effortless and incredibly creative. It is particularly telling that they both cite his work on this song as being particularly ground-breaking and influential:-

mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Spellbound

Released in May 1981, Spellbound reached #22 in the UK charts. It was deserving of much more than that but then again, it is hard for something as distinctive and unworldly sounding to get much in the way of daytime radio play. It did spawn this Top of the Pops appearance:-

The full gothic majesty of the song is probably best appreciated in its 12” version, which lasts some 80 seconds longer:-

mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Spellbound (extended)

Here’s yer b-sides for completeness (the latter of which is among the strangest things the band ever did) :-

mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Follow The Sun
mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Slap Dash Snap

The saddest thing about John McGeoch’s time with the Banshees is the way it ended in that he suffered a nervous breakdown due to the stresses of touring and his increasing fight with alcoholism, both of which contributed to him collapsing on stage during a performance in Madrid in 1982.

He rebounded in some style, and one of the obituaries at the time of his death in 2004 said, “he transformed PiL from a left-field, experimental outfit into a provocative, marauding rock band, becoming their longest-serving member bar John Lydon, staying until the band dissipated in 1992.”

I’ve contemplated pulling together an ICA featuring songs to which John McGeogh has contributed. It’s something I will turn my attention to in the fullness of time, unless someone else fancies volunteering.

JC