THE DISCO THAT WAS DIFFERENT

A killer riff, the perfect punk rock ‘n’ roll riff, written by Ricky Gardiner. Iggy, narrator and punk outsider, riding around Mitteleuropa in David Bowie’s car, seeing the city’s ripped backside, the hollow sky and everything else, through the window of the car. Little touches can make such a difference in recordings- note the bell ringing at the start. I read somewhere that The Passenger is Johnny Marr’s favourite song. A song that is both impossibly exciting and as numb as it can be.

I really can’t better Swiss Adam’s description from the Iggy Pop ICA.

mp3 : Iggy Pop – The Passenger

I will always associate The Passenger with Friday and Saturday nights in the Student Union of Strathclyde University, 1982-1985. Please indulge me… and some of the details may be slightly wrong as it is now almost 35 years since I last set foot in the building (except on one occasion in 1995 when I had reason to visit with a politician whom I was working for at the time).

The building is eight levels in height. The first level had a games room, the second level had a bar and shop, immediately below a large canteen known officially as the dining room. Floors 4-7 were a mixture of bars, meeting rooms, a debating chamber, staff offices and places from where the likes of the student newspaper was produced. Level 8 was the home of a purpose built venue where bands played and discos took place….it was imaginatively called ‘Level 8’.

In my first year at uni, I never ventured much beyond the dining hall/canteen, shop and bars. I was still living at home and a lot of my social life was based around where I stayed. I began to venture out a bit more in second year and then I was never away from the place in third and fourth years, thanks to my moving out of the parental home and into a flat less than 800 yards away from the front door of the union.

Level 8 was a great venue for bands and almost as good for the disco nights, where the music was a mix of the current chart stuff, disco classics, bands who were on the student union circuits and the occasional bit of what we were increasingly referring to as indie. The gender mix was 50/50 and it was the type of place where blokes plucked up the courage to ask an already gyrating female if they could temporarily invade their space – no words needed to be exchanged, and if the female wasn’t up for it, she would simply turn her back on the bloke who would then shuffle awkwardly off to the side of the space and return to his drink. It was through such a method that I found myself of an evening when my ‘asking’ was accepted for a boogie by none other than Clare Grogan, only for me to blow it big time by talking to her during which I drunkenly asked for her hand in marriage, with my proposal turned down with the words ‘Fuck off creep’.

But Level 8 wasn’t the only place where you could enjoy a dance. As soon as the last student vacated the canteen on a Friday evening at 6pm, the tables and chairs were folded away and space was cleared for a decent sized dance floor with a raised platform brought in to host temporary DJ decks, all of which would remain in situ on the Saturday night, being put back into place by staff on a Sunday afternoon in time for Monday morning breakfasts.

Unlike up the stair on Level 8, there was no great lighting available and so the Dining Hall disco took on a cave-like appearance and feel, with the DJ making the conscious decision to play music that matched the ambience and atmosphere. It was also a venue where anything went as far as dancing, with no awkward shuffling up towards someone of the opposite sex and hoping they will take notice and/or pity on you. It wasn’t too long before I found myself being wholly attracted by its charms.

The thing is with the DJ, he knew what his audience liked and wanted. It was as if he was a finely-honed band out on a world tour with what felt like the same set-list being churned out night after night after night after night. – A Forest, Love Will Tear Us Apart, I Travel, Heroes, Enola Gay, Hanging on The Telephone, The Cutter, London Calling, Ever Fallen In Love and The Passenger were guaranteed among many others….and quite often he would play the songs more than once on the same evening with folk coming in, maybe after having watched a band upstairs, and complaining that they had missed out on a particular favourite. It was within these confines where I learned that dancing alone is no crime and carries no shame…..a trait I’ve continued to adopt ever since, often to the horror of work colleagues at Christmas nights out who just think it is weird behaviour, especially by a 50+ fat, balding bloke…..

I love dancing to The Passenger. It’s perfect for throwing all sorts of strange and awkward shapes, depending on whether you’re keeping time with the riff or reacting to Iggy’s vocal. It’s just magical.

Not too many folk will be aware of the fact that it wasn’t ever released as a stand-alone single in the UK until 1998, when it reached #22. It was only a b-side back in 1977 on the reverse side of this:-

mp3 : Iggy Pop – Success

Here’s a cover version, from 1987, by another of the bands who were given a regular spin in the Dining Hall Disco:-

mp3 : Siouxsie & the Banshees – The Passenger

Iggy is known to like this version, having said during an interview with MTV in 1990 : “She sings it well and she threw a little note in when she sings it, that I wish I had thought of, it’s kind of improved it…the horn thing is good.”

Sorry Mr Osterberg, we will need to differ on this occasion.

JC

IMPORTANT, YET INSIGNIFICANT

Fun 4 are an important and yet insignificant footnote in the development of indie-pop round these parts. The importance comes via who was involved in the band, the insignificance comes from the fact that their sole release wasn’t very good.

Rev Thomas was the vocalist, James King played guitar, Colin McNeill was on bass and Steven Daly was the drummer. Their sole single was released on NMC Records in 1980:-

mp3 : Fun 4 – Singing In The Showers

I’ve only recently picked up a copy of the track, courtesy of its inclusion in the Big Gold Dreams boxset, with the accompanying booklet offering up some priceless info:-

Originally known as Rev Volting and the Backstabbers, The Fun 4’s only gift to the world featured James King and Steven Daly, plus Colin McNeill and vocalist Rev Thomas. While King and McNeill went on to form James King and The Lone Wolves, Daly joined The Machetes. Along with that band’s guitarist James Kirk, he wound up drumming in The Nu-Sonics, who eventually morphed into Orange Juice, who subsequently invented indie-pop as we know it. Daly and Kirk went on to form Memphis, before a move into journalism saw Daly write for Rolling Stone and becoming music editor of Spin magazine. Daly became a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and has also written two books, Alt.Culture and The Rock Snob’s Dictionary.

Simon Goddard’s book on the birth and development of Postcard Records makes passing reference to the single, observing that Steven Daly had gone down with Alan Horne to London to catch Subway Sect play live after which the plan had been to take Grant McLennan and Robert Foster of The Go-Betweens back to Glasgow to get them involved with the label. In doing so, Steven also took down some boxes of the Fun 4 single in the hope that the Rough Trade record shop would agree to stock and sell it. The shop did take a small number of copies but the record was doomed after very lukewarm reviews in the music press in which the band were written off as very poor Ramones imitators, which is fair enough; it was probably also tedious to listen to such an obvious effort to offer up a shock factor that these weren’t the type of showers in which people would want to sing.

Like many other bands of the era, there’s a lot more myth than truth surrounding them, albeit the story provided in the press release that accompanied the single makes for entertaining reading:-

The original Fun 4 were formed two years ago. The history of the band reads like a trash short story. On their debut, supporting the Rezillos, Bob Last was so moved he tried to strangle the drummer and Faye Fife thought it was the most unpleasant night she’d experienced.

Then Sham 69 had the misfortune to play top over the Fun 4 on Jimmy Pursey’s birthday. The Fun 4 must be one of the few bands to terrorise a Sham audience. Reacting to a stage invasion with cans and guitars reducing poor little Jimmy’s celebration to chaos with the bizarre twist of audience as the victim.

Inevitably John Cale was drawn to these scenes of weirdness and demo tapes were submitted. However, since these tapes were bedroom cassette studio quality, it was just a little too off the wall for Mr. Cale.

In the best trash tradition, the Fun 4 burnt themselves out. After an April Fool’s gig in 1978 in Edinburgh, certain members were ejected from the van and the band at 3am, 50 miles from Glasgow.

And so to 1979.

The Fun 4 reunited and determined to wipe out the 70’s ties, locked themselves in the cheapest studio available and emerged with three trash classics. The recording quality might leave little to be desired but the band commandeered the mix and accept the blame. The results are available on their own label NMC Records, named after a famous book about Glasgow (No Mean City).

To sum up The Fun 4 sound, it is straight from the streets of Glasgow with all that entails.

I’ve dug very deep to find copies of the two tracks that made up the b-side, but alas, could only come up with one of them:-

mp3 : Fun 4 – Elevator Crash

At the risk of boring you with repeated sayings, important yet insignificant.

JC

THE GREATEST B-SIDE OF ALL TIME?

It was hearing this song coming out of a radio as I passed a local shop the other day that inspired the posting. I have always associated A Change Is Gonna Come with my days in student activism, thinking it was the perfect soundtrack to my miniscule role in ridding the world of atomic weapons and bringing about the end of the despicable system of apartheid in South Africa. It was a song that, when I was particularly drunk, could bring tears to my eyes, given the seemingly simple nature of its message against the seemingly impossible task of achieving significant change.

mp3 : Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come

My intention was to have this posting headed up ‘NEVER SETTLE FOR STATUS QUO’ which I thought worked on a couple of levels. It was only when I looked into the history of the song did I learn that it was only issued as a b-side in the USA in 1964 and similarly in the UK in 1965. As such, there is surely some justification for calling it the greatest of all time in respect of that genre.

The other thing I hadn’t realised was that Sam Cooke only ever performed the song once in his lifetime. It had been recorded on 30 January 1964 and just a week later was aired on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The singer hadn’t been keen to do so, but was persuaded by his manager after the promise that it would involve a full string section performing in the TV studio. Sadly, NBC did not keep a tape of this truly historic performance.

The album for which the track had been recorded, Ain’t That The Good News, was released on 1 March 1994. The fact that Sam Cooke wasn’t keen to perform the song, in part because of the complexity of its arrangement, most likely had a lot to do with the fact that it remained an album track only throughout the year, albeit it received a great number of radio plays and had been picked up as an anthem by the civil rights movement.

RCA decided that it should be be the b-side to a new song that Sam Cooke had just recorded with it to be released just before Christmas 1964.

mp3 : Sam Cooke – Shake

We will never know if the singer had changed his mind about performing A Change…in the live setting or within the confines of a TV studio as he was shot dead in tragic and bewildering circumstances in a Los Angeles motel on 11 December 1964.

The release of the single went ahead and it became a posthumous Top Ten hit in the USA in February 1965.

JC

YOU’VE GOT TO TOLERATE ALL THOSE PEOPLE THAT YOU HATE

From wiki:-

Juxtapozed with U” is the thirteenth single by Super Furry Animals. It was the first single to be taken from the Rings Around the World album and reached number 14 on the UK Singles Chart on its release in July 2001.

It was inspired by the Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder track “Ebony and Ivory” as well as the work of Marvin Gaye and Caetano Veloso. The track was originally conceived as a duet, with the band approaching both Brian Harvey from East 17, and Bobby Brown to sing alongside Gruff Rhys. Both turned the band down so Rhys sang the verses through a vocoder to imitate another person, something which he has described as a “very schizophrenic thing to do”.

Rhys has claimed his lyrics address social injustice and are about “house prices going up, and people being left behind by the super rich”. The song has echoes of the Philadelphia soul music of the 1970s as well as David Bowie’s “plastic” approximation of the sound on his 1975 album Young Americans. The group tried to make the song as “plastic” as possible: “if we’d tried to make it sound authentic, it would have been awful.”

According to Rhys the band were keen to challenge people’s opinions of them with the track which is a “shocking song, because you can’t shock with loud guitars any more” and, as a polished uplifting pop song, is “fairly subversive” when contrasted with the macho guitar music which the band felt was prevalent in 2001.

It’s a song that got a lot of critical acclaim and in reaching #14, it provided the band with their second biggest hit to that point in time (Northern Lites had got to #11 two years previously while Golden Retriever would later become the second-best performing single, hitting #13 in 2003).

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Juxtaposed With U

Having said that, it wasn’t one which found much favour with our old friend and native of Wales, the Robster, who made the observation that both of its b-sides were better:-

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Tradewinds
mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Happiness Is A Worn Pun

Indeed, Robster included both songs in his Super Furry Animals ICA, which appeared as far back as June 2015. It was an ICA with a difference as it consisted solely of b-sides, all of which were top quality. Here’s what he said about the above two songs:-

Tradewinds : A cool funky reggae sound with a hazy psychedeleic bent. It was the b-side of what was at the time my least favourite Furries single. While the a-side has grown on me over time, I was always a fan of Tradewinds

Happiness Is A Warm Pun : Bowie circa Aladdin Sane could have written this. He’d have probably left out the Sasquatch though. Bit too strange for Dave, I reckon. Both b-sides of Juxtaposed With U are still better than the lead track.

I miss the Robster. He’s a great writer with a real love for his music, never afraid to offer an opinion that goes against the grain.

I’ve sent him a link to this posting in the hope that he reads it and perhaps gets him in the mood for another guest posting or two

JC

BONUS POSTING : ESPECIALLY FOR ECHORICH : A FURTHER SINGULAR ADVENTURE OF LUKE HAINES

Echorich is an incredibly valued member of the TVV community, and when I picked up this comment just a few minutes ago, I really had to respond in the only way possible:-

All the songs that surround the release of Now I’m A Cowboy are what I go back to when listening to The Auteurs. There is so many songs that remind me of the sounds I heard growing up on music from the Downtown NYC music scene. Bits of Johnny Thunders, lots of Television, but filtered through what was then current music tropes. I think back and wonder how legendary The Auteurs might have been if they were around playing CBGB’s in ’76 or ’77.

Not sure if you will include this, but my favorite track from Now I’m A Cowboy, Underground Movies, was only released as a single in either France or Germany. I can’t believe it wasn’t release EVERYWHERE as an album single. Listening to it again today reminds me of how engaging and timeless it is. It also contains one of the best lyrics I have ever heard –

Four weeks later in April
I took her to the doctors
Said, “I’ve no prescription
For compromised solution” – MAGIC!

I hadn’t intended to feature it in the series as, to the best of my knowledge, it was only a CD promo single in France, a country where The Auteurs were highly popular, even more so than they were in the UK. But for Echorich, and also reflecting that two different mixes (more rock orientated and radio-friendly!!) had been made available:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Underground Movies (alternative version)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Brainchild (alternative version)

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (8)

October 1994.

Oasis go top 10 with their new single Cigarettes & Alcohol.  But the chart isn’t quite Britpop crazy just yet.  The Top 5 slots are held by Take That, Pato Banton, Whigfield, Bon Jovi and Cyndi Lauper.  Elsewhere, singles by Madonna, Elton John, Wet Wet Wet, Boyz II Men, Gloria Estefan, Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey, R Kelly and East 17 are riding high.  It’s not a vintage week and Luke Haines is probably very glad not being asked by his label to compete.

But in the absence of a third single from Now I’m A Cowboy, he comes up with an idea to get The Auteurs noticed in a completely different market place.  And Hut Records go for it.

Here’s wiki:-

The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq is a remix EP from British intelligent dance music producer μ-Ziq (a.k.a. Mike Paradinas). It was released October 1994, on Hut Records in the UK then released as μ-Ziq vs. the Auteurs on Astralwerks in the US during February 1995. μ-Ziq remixes tracks from the “Now I’m a Cowboy” album by The Auteurs, about which in his memoir Bad Vibes, singer Luke Haines claimed this album to be his version of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music —that it was deliberately unlistenable and mocking the critics who gave it great reviews.

μ-Ziq at this point was still very much an underground name, whose work was incredibly experimental (in later years he would come to the fore as one of the pioneers of mixing electronic music with drum’n’bass and creating a different sort of sound for clubbers). His work with The Auteurs was the first time he has been commissioned by a mainstream label, and I’ve no doubt that he was selected specifically by Luke Haines for his uncompromising approach to the project. Judge for yourself:-

mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Lenny Valentino 3 (8:09)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Daughter of A Child (6:10)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Chinese Bakery (4:51)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Underground Movies (4:40)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Lenny Valentino 1 (12:27)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Lenny Valentino 2 (8:50)

I’ve put the times in of each track….you’ll see that the two-minute masterpiece that was Lenny Valentino got stretched out a fair bit.  I can’t imagine the EP got any plays on BBC Radio 1………

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #181 : THE LANTERNS

Today’s song must have been one that I picked up from another blog at some point in the dim and distant past as I have no recollection of The Lanterns, despite them being singed to Columbia Records and releasing three singles and an album in 1999.  They group was centred around songwriter/musician Jim Sutherland and vocalists Sylvia and Gina Rae.

Here’s a link to a piece in The Guardian, from July 1999, which provides a detailed backstory.

mp3 : The Lanterns – High Rise Town

In a nutshell, it’s two girls with distinctive Scottish brogues, singing about their own urban surroundings in a less salubrious part of Edinburgh, over the sort of mid-paced dance tune that was all the rage at the tail end of the 20th Century. I have no idea what became of the Rae sisters, but Jim Sutherland remains heavily involved in music and culture in Scotland, especially in the field of traditional and folk music, as well as the composition of scores for films, tv and theatre productions.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #229 : CARTER USM (2)

ICA 50 was a joint effort by SWC and Badger in which they pulled out a perfect 10 from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine. I’ve thought for a while that a Volume 2 is long overdue, but shied away on the basis that so many of the very best tracks had featured first time around. But then again, this is a band that, over a period over much of the 90s managed to record and release six studio albums together with sixteen singles/EPs, meaning that there are still plenty of first-rate options available to compile a further ICA.

I say all this knowing full well that Carter USM are a band that divides opinion. I think much of this is down to the fact that they enjoyed mainstream success for a short while, seen by other bands and their fans of from the era as being too gimmicky, while some of their own long-standing fans turned on them quite viciously with the ‘I much preferred the older stuff and the live shows before they got the hits’.

They were also of their time, and the limitations posed by two men, two guitars and a drum machine making noisy agit-pop was always going to stifle any development in terms of their sound. It was, however, great while it lasted and looking back on it now, you can detect that the duo themselves quickly got bored and tired with the trappings of success and in a sense, they ‘did a Pulp’ and sabotaged their careers by writing and recording tunes that were to all intent and purposes, verging on commercial suicide. But then again, as the songs that make up the middle of this ICA can testify, Carter USM were no strangers to death/murder ballads.

Anyways, with all of that as a preamble, here now is ‘This Is The Sound Of An Electric Guitar – A Second ICA from Jim Bob and Fruitbat’

SIDE 1

1. Rubbish (single, June 1990)

Let’s face it, no Carter USM compilation worth its salt is going to open up with anything other than Surfin’ USM, the opening track from their very best album, 30 Something. SWC and Tim nailed it when they said:-

“This one took us about eight seconds to decide upon. In 1992 I went to see Carter with my friend Rob –it was his first ever gig. To this day I have never seen someone grin as much as he did when that Red Dwarf sample starts up, then the crowd start chanting ‘You Fat Bastard’ at the (starry eyed?) bollock naked guy on stage and then the guitars fire up. This was why we all loved Carter. The amazing lives shows and the sense of belonging you got at one of them.”

With it being otherwise unavailable, I’m going for the first song of theirs that I can recall ever hearing, and it came courtesy of its inclusion on a compilation tape lovingly out together by Jacques. It was the band’s third single, but the first after the release of the debut album 101 Damnations. Fast, furious, funny and fantastic….it provided the template for so many of the earliest songs in which the DIY ethos of manic 100mph punk guitar gets crossed with the Pet Shop Boys on speed with lyrics written and spat out by a South London version of John Cooper Clarke.

2. Rent (b-side, June 1990)

I don’t think I’ve ever had two sides of a single open up an ICA before. Jacques had the decency to have this on the same tape as Rubbish, a deviation from the norm as he never put two songs by one singer/band on the same C90. If you don’t know it, it’s the cover of the rather beautiful single by the Pet Shop Boys. Only it’s nothing like the original.

Neil and Chris sang happily of life being so easy, with the music matching that carefree and chilled feeling. Jim Bob and Fruitbat on the other hand are cracking up under the pressures of modern living, finding it impossible to love a system in which something as basic as having a secure and safe roof over your head becomes a logistical nightmare. It’s an incredible take on the song, and it’s a damning indictment on UK society that nothing has really changed over the past 30 years.

3. The Only Living Boy In New Cross (single, 1992)

Carter USM thrived on puns and lyrics that reflected the late 80s and early 90s culture. Their biggest hit single clearly gave a knowing wink to Simon and Garfunkel’s ballad, The Only Living Boy in New York.

For the uninitiated, New Cross is an area in south-east London, in the community from where Carter USM had emerged. It was on the unfashionable side of the river in the capital, poorly served by public transport and in the late 70s and early 80s had become somewhat notorious as a place where far-right and racist politics were thriving, albeit the majority of local people were appalled by such developments. London is a city which has long inspired songwriters to compose words and music to fit in with their surroundings, but few, if any had previously celebrated life in the SE14 postcode district. Until now.

4. Young Offender’s Mum (single, 1995)

The meteoric rise had been accompanied by near-unanimous positive media. The album 1992 went straight in at #1 which was almost heard of for a band that had such indie-roots. The only problem was that 1992 – The Love Album wasn’t anywhere near as accomplished and realised as its predecessor. The album closed with a cover where, in the past, these had been confined to b-sides. Most of the Carter covers were decent affairs, but not so their take on The Impossible Dream, and to compound matters, the band thought it would be a good wheeze to release it as a single to further promote the new album and to have a stab at landing the Christmas #1. It didn’t work and many long-term fans squirmed in embarrassment. The band never really recovered from this misstep.

Fot the most part, the tracks on Post Historic Monsters (1993), Worry Bomb (1995) and I Blame The Government (1998) aren’t as immediate or memorable as the earlier material, with a sense of weariness creeping in.  This single, lifted from Worry Bomb, was something of a throwback, albeit there’s a touch of the Britpop sound in the tune.

5. Midnight On The Murder Mile (album track 1990)

Down In The Tube Station at Midnight re-imagined and relocated to the streets of South London. Worth mentioning in passing that Carter USM covered The Jam classic as a b-side in 1992.

SIDE 2

1. The Road To Domestos/Everytime a Churchbell Rings (album track, 1990)

The opening track on the debut album. It’s about suicide. It’s quite a heart-wrenching lyric when you listen closely, with tales of young people who decide that there is no longer anything worth living for. AS with the best Carter USM sings, there’s an underlying element of anger about it all.

I’ve just looked up some stats….and I’ve read that in 2017 the UK male suicide rate of 15.5 deaths per 100,000 was the lowest since figures began to be collated in a certain way back in 1981. It certainly doesn’t feel that way with so many tragic stories to be found across social media channels, with friends left behind paying warm and heartfelt tributes.

2. My Second To Last Will and Testament (album track,1991)

I, James Robert Injustice
Being of unsound body and mind
Hereby bequeath all worldly goods
To anyone who wants’ em

The worldly goods consist of debts, arrest warrants, bills and the deadly bullet that led to his demise. There’s also a set of instructions on burial arrangements. It’s all rather fast, furious, funny and fantastic (again!!) and far from serious. Guaranteed to get you sweating profusely down the front at the gigs.

3. After The Watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way) (single,1991)

The summer of 1991 had seen Carter USM reach new heights, with huge acclaim given to the album 30 Something and their live performances, particularly at all the outdoor festivals where they could be booked for a fairly low fee as there were low overheads and in return deliver something that was just different from anyone else at the time. These shows created a sense of almost uncontrolled euphoria and proved to be a real problem for those bands above then on the bill with their performances inevitably feeling leaden, dull and slow-paced in comparison.

The next single was always likely to be a hit. Carter USM decided it would be the one that addressed child abuse, taking a very taboo subject matter into the Top 20, while sampling a lyric from a Rolling Stones song that led to legal action. It was an astonishing, audacious and ambitious thing to do. Don’t ever expect to hear this one covered by anyone on a Saturday evening talent show.

4. Anytime, Anyplace Anywhere (single, 1991)

There were a couple of earlier reference to the Pet Shop Boys and the opening of this always reminds me of the first few notes of It’s A Sin…..

The phrase ‘Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere’ had been the advertising slogan of Martini in the 1970s.  Carter USM used it as the title of a hard-edged songs about the perils of alcohol dependency.

Moonshine, Firewater
Captain Morgan, Johnnie Walker
Southern Comfort, Mother’s Ruin
Happy hours of the homeless brewing
Galloways sore throat expectorant
Aftershave and disinfectant
Parazone and Fairy Liquid
If it’s in a glass you’ll drink it….

5. Falling On A Bruise (album track, 1991)

A big big big ballad. One that Mike Skinner of The Streets was surely inspired by……..

Jim Bob and Fruitbat were the most unlikely of pop stars.  They weren’t spring chickens when the hits arrived and they weren’t really well placed to deal with the amount of success that came their way.  They attracted a devoted following, many of whom still go along to Jim Bob’s solo gigs where he is always happy to play songs from the days of old.

Those gigs are, understandably, a tad less subdued than those heydays of the 90s when Carter USM were, without any question, the most exciting live act on the planet.

JC

 

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 27)

It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under

Broken glass everywhere
People pissing on the stairs, you know they just don’t care
I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far
‘Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
Ah-huh-huh-huh-huh
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under

Standing on the front stoop, hanging out the window
Watching all the cars go by, roaring as the breezes blow
Crazy lady, livin’ in a bag
Eating out of garbage pails, used to be a fag hag
Said she’ll dance the tango, skip the light fandango
A Zircon princess seemed to lost her senses
Down at the peep show watching all the creeps
So she can tell her stories to the girls back home
She went to the city and got so sadity
She had to get a pimp, she couldn’t make it on her own

Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
Huh-huh-huh-huh
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under

My brother’s doing bad, stole my mother’s TV
Says she watches too much, it’s just not healthy
All My Children in the daytime, Dallas at night
Can’t even see the game or the Sugar Ray fight
The bill collectors, they ring my phone
And scare my wife when I’m not home
Got a bum education, double-digit inflation
Can’t take the train to the job, there’s a strike at the station
Neon King Kong standing on my back
Can’t stop to turn around, broke my sacroiliac
A mid-range migraine, cancered membrane
Sometimes I think I’m going insane
I swear I might hijack a plane!

Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under

My son said, Daddy, I don’t wanna go to school
‘Cause the teacher’s a jerk, he must think I’m a fool
And all the kids smoke reefer, I think it’d be cheaper
If I just got a job, learned to be a street sweeper
Or dance to the beat, shuffle my feet
Wear a shirt and tie and run with the creeps
‘Cause it’s all about money; ain’t a damn thing funny
You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey
They pushed that girl in front of the train
Took her to the doctor, sewed her arm on again
Stabbed that man right in his heart
Gave him a transplant for a brand new start
I can’t walk through the park, ’cause it’s crazy after dark
Keep my hand on my gun, ’cause they got me on the run
I feel like a outlaw, broke my last glass jaw
Hear them say “You want some more?”, livin’ on a see-saw

Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head (Say what?)
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under

A child is born with no state of mind
Blind to the ways of mankind
God is smiling on you, but he’s frowning too
Because only God knows what you’ll go through
You’ll grow in the ghetto living second-rate
And your eyes will sing a song of deep hate
The places you play and where you stay
Looks like one great big alleyway
You’ll admire all the number-book takers
Thugs, pimps and pushers and the big money-makers
Driving big cars, spending twenties and tens
And you’ll wanna grow up to be just like them, huh
Smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers
Pickpocket peddlers, even panhandlers
You say “I’m cool, huh, I’m no fool.”
But then you wind up droppin’ outta high school
Now you’re unemployed, all null and void
Walking ’round like you’re Pretty Boy Floyd
Turned stick-up kid, but look what you done did
Got sent up for a eight-year bid
Now your manhood is took and you’re a Maytag
Spend the next two years as a undercover fag
Being used and abused to serve like hell
‘Til one day you was found hung dead in the cell
It was plain to see that your life was lost
You was cold and your body swung back and forth
But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song
Of how you lived so fast and died so young, so…

Don’t push me, cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
Huh-huh-huh-huh
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under
Huh-ah-huh-huh-huh-huh
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under
Huh-ah-huh-huh-huh-huh

[Outro Skit]
Yo Mel, you see that girl there?
Yo, that sounded like Cowboy man
Cool
Yo, what’s up Money?
Yo, hey, where’s Creole and Rahiem at?
They upstairs cooling out
So what’s up for tonight y’all?
Yo, we could go down to Fever man
Let’s go check out “Junebug” man
Hey yo, you know that girl Betty?
Yeah man
Her moms got robbed man
What?
Not again man
She got hurt bad
When did this happen?
What’s goin’ on?
Freeze
Don’t nobody move nothin’
Y’all know what this is
Get ’em up, get ’em up (What?)
Oh man, we’re Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
What is that, a gang?
No
Shut up
I don’t wanna hear your mouth
Shut up
Officer, officer, what is the problem?
You the problem
Yo, you ain’t gotta push me man
Get in the car, get in the car
Get in the God…
I said, “Get in the car”
Why is he doggin’ us man?

mp3 : Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message

From 1982. Aptly named, as it is reckoned to be the first hip-hop/rap song that was used to offer a social commentary. Only two of the furious five contributed a vocal – Melle Mel and Duke Bootee.

I never get tired of listening to this….and the fifth verse, ‘A child is born with no state of mind…..’ is one of the finest bits of songwriting of any kind.

JC

RCA 2303

My first known exposure to Lou Reed would have been just short of my tenth birthday in the summer of 1973. I can say this with some confidence as none of my parents or my aunts, uncles or cousins ever owned anything by The Velvet Underground….if I had ever clapped eyes on a record sleeve with a banana as its cover, I’d have remembered it vividly.

So, the fact that the sophisticated and enigmatic New Yorker was riding high in the charts at the same time as I was really gaining an awaremess about pop music, shaped almost entirely by whatever was being played on BBC Radio 1 and was being shown on Top of The Pops, was the reason this was the song to which I was being exposed:-

mp3 : Lou Reed – Walk on The Wild Side

I obviously had absolutely no idea what the song was about. The lyrics made no sense whatsoever, I just knew it was a great and memorable tune, and I couldn’t help but love and no doubt sing along to the bit that went doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo…..

I would have been allowed to buy some singles with money and or record tokens for that particular birthday. Looking at the chart for the week in question, Lou Reed was sitting at #13, just beginning to drop down a bit having been in the Top 30 for the past five weeks and so it would have been one of the songs most known to me.

Like most kids my age, the simplicity and exciting of glam was hugely appealing, and so I would have bought the new stuff by Suzi Quatro (Can the Can was #1), Sweet (Hell Raiser was #21 but had been #2 a few weeks earlier) and Gary Glitter (Hello, I’m Back Again was just outside the Top 30 but had been a fixture of the chart for a couple of months). I’m sure I did want to buy Walk on The Wild Side but I was steered away in the direction of Rubber Bullets by 10cc, another of the quirky and bouncy tunes that was never off the radio….I certainly remember having all those singles in the house as a kid. Whether my mum and dad specifically stopped me getting my hands on Lou Reed’s 45, or whether the local shop just happended to be out of stock, I have no idea. But there’s no doubt a favour was done as I would have spent hours playing the song and learning it word for word, most likely singing it out loud absent-mindedly in front of my granny or one of my god-fearing aunties who would have been ashamed of my folks for allowing me to be so out of contraol.

I had no idea until looking it up in prepartion for this pithy piece that the b-side was another of Lou’s best known numbers:-

mp3 : Lou Reed – Perfect Day

Makes me wonder why the RCA bosses didn’t think to hold this back as a potential follow-up single. Then again, nobody, including the singer himself, ever anticipated that Walk on the Wild Side would even get played on radio far less become a smash hit.

Incidentally, one of the reasons the song ended up stalling at #10 was that Lou Reed didn’t fly over and make a Top of the Pops appearance, meaning his song wasn’t in the position to be aired on the one of the most popular TV shows in the UK, attracting some 15 million viewers, which was over 1 in 4 of the entire population. Having said that, the practice was to have such songs where the performer couldn’t be in the studio be the track to which the in-house dance group, Pan’s People, would stage a special performance. This probably did happen during the extended chart stay in May/June 1973, but there’s no footage available to confirm it.

JC

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF ELVIS

A GUEST POSTING by STEVE McLEAN

JC adds.…..Steve is a friend of old, who I first met via a mutual appreciation for Butcher Boy. He’s a stand-up comedian by trade (among many other talents as can be seen here…..) and with his permission, I’ve cut’n’pasted this from an on-going thing he’s doing on Facebook.

Steve’s Records In No Particular Order #14

Various Artists – The Last Temptation of Elvis

Ever fancied owning an album where Bruce Springsteen and Pop Will Eat Itself share the same space? We’re back to WTF here.

This is a compilation of Presley covers complied by the NME. I’m not sure if it was a mail away special or available in shops. I gather some of the songs were commissioned while some where in existence already. As with all tribute albums, it’s a mixed bag, so lets dive in –

The ”boss” (he’s not the boss of me etc etc) gives us Viva Las Vegas with his usual gruff-can’t-be-bothered-no-wait-I-can-no-wait-I-dunno-mehh attitude, it kinda works but only because I’m familiar with the ZZ Top version, which does the same but worse. It’s okay. Well done Bruce you don’t completely suck.

mp3 : Bruce Springsteen – Viva Las Vegas

Track two is Sidney Youngblood (I KNOW RIGHT! SIDNEY YOUNGBLOOD 🙂 I’m so happy just to hear his name 🙂 . This is a cracking acapella version of Teddy Bear. It’s do-woppy, it’s finger-clicky, it’s cool!

mp3 : Sidney Youngblood – Teddy Bear

Then Tanita Tikaram comes along with a version of Loving You. It’s everything you’d imagine from her – slow, dirgy and lovely in places.

mp3 : Tanita Tikaram – Loving You

Let’s Have A Party is Robert Plant‘s contribution, again like Tikaram, he seems to have gone out of his way to make this the most Robert Plant version of the song he can. It’s a shame because we know he’s got more to his locker these days.

mp3 : Robert Plant – Let’s Have A Party

The Pogues give us Got A Lot Of Livin’ To Do. In keeping with this side, they make it their own which totally works. It becomes a London Irish drinking song. Is there anything they can’t do that to?

mp3 : The Pogues – Got A Lot Of Livin’ To Do

Holly Johnson closes the side with Love Me Tender. To be honest it’s a let down. Of all the acts you want to not experiment, it’s Holly with his lush voice but he sings low and tries to own it too much.

mp3 : Holly Johnson – Love Me Tender

Side two opens with McCartney being faithful to It’s Now Or Never – you can tell he loves the song and Presley and it feels like he’s enjoying himself.

mp3 : Paul McCartney – It’s Now or Never

Dion sings Mean Woman Blues and it’s a nice touch that they got a rival to take part, every one loves the king. Even if this is slightly phoned in.

mp3 : Dion MiDucci – Mean Woman Blues

The Jesus and Mary Chain knock the fuck out of Guitar Man, this and Youngblood from side one are the stand outs so far. Feedback, screaming lead guitar and JAMC all over the place.

mp3 : The Jesus and Mary Chain – Guitar Man

Cath Carroll & Steve Albini throw the kitchen sink at King Creole. They get some good results but fuck around half way through the song when they could have delivered a punk pop classic on it.

mp3 : Cath Carroll & Steve Albini – King Creole

A nice piano bar version of Young & Beautiful by Aaron Neville. It feels a bit wedding breakfast buffet.

mp3 : Aaron Neville – Young & Beautiful

Now we have the biggest duffer of the lot. Fucking Vivian Stanshell & The Big Boys with It’s Hard To Rhumba In A Sports Car. You know Vivian, there comes a time when you’ll have to forgive your parents for not letting you have chocolate biscuits.. HEY GUYS LET’S DO A SKIT! The problem is when you try so hard to be zany, you’re not zany by the very definition of being zany. You can hear themselves fucking each other over their cleverness of covering an Elvis song that’s both shit and very few people know. Jolly WHAT! Tedious fuckery. Fuck off.

mp3 : Vivian Stanshell & The Big Boys – It’s Hard To Rhumba In A Sports Car

Sorry, I think I probably revealed more about myself in that previous bit. The Primitives give us some nice Baby You’re So Square… It’s 1990 and the Primitives are a year past their big time so they’re just happy to be here. It’s a cool version. Well done guys.

mp3 : The Primitives – Baby You’re So Square

Side Three! Hall and Oates Can’t Help But Falling In Love and I can’t help wishing they’d do one, they seemingly inspired a similar version from UB40 with this and for that they can fucking spin. Sorry, I’m still annoyed about Vivian Stanshall.

mp3 : Hall and Oates – Can’t Help Falling In Love

Crawfish is the offering from the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra , it’s more a late 80s pop offering that wouldn’t be out of place on The Hitman and Her.

mp3 : The Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra – Crawfish

Ian McCulloch does a strange mix of Mac voice with indie guitar and RnR backing vocals version of Return To Sender. It works. The spirally guitar gives it a nice 90s indie disco feel.

mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Return to Sender

FUZZBOX! FUZZBOX! FUZZBOX! They do Trouble because they are trouble….. They do it awesomely because they’re awesome. The best band of the 80s and should be worshipped as gods.

mp3 : Fuzzbox – Trouble

The Hollow Men. I was gonna make a Hollow Meh comment but it’s okay. It’s a Peel Indie version of Thanks To The Rolling Sea. You can imagine it playing in a John Hughes film when someone is crying on top of their bed because they can’t afford to go to / can’t get a date for / have detention when the big dance is on.

mp3 : The Hollow Men – Thanks To The Rolling Sea

The Blow MonkeysFollow That Dream. Everything you need to know about the Blow Monkeys can be learned by knowing that Michael Stipe, one of the nicest people on the planet, took the piss out of them once at a concert… no wait, it might have been Mike Mills. Anyway, if you’re being bullied by REM you don’t deserve my review…. also this is a wank version with a drum machine programmed by a 13 year old boy.

mp3 : The Blow Monkeys – Follow That Dream

mp3 : Lemmy & The Upsetters with Mick Green – Blue Suede Shoes

I don’t think this is Lee Perry’s Upsetters, if it is then they’re rocking out to fuck. It’s got Mick Jones on it too. Mick Green was in Johnny Kidd and Pirates. This is a strong ending to side three and reminiscent of Motorhead‘s version of Please Don’t Touch.

Side four comes back to earth with a lovely version of Wooden Heart by Nanci Griffith. It’s sweet and folky.

mp3 : Nanci Griffith and The Blue Moon Orchestra – Wooden Heart

Jeff Healey will never top his cameo in Roadhouse in my eyes, imagine a Swayze / Healey supergroup playing ‘She’s Like The Wind’ in heaven right now – makes you wanna be a good christian just to get a ticket. Here he’s doing Down In The Alley. This feels like it’s in his set list already, it’s standard slow hand blues but it’s not forced. It’s got a groove.

mp3 : The Jeff Healey Band – Down In The Alley

The Cramps, Jailhouse Rock – Imagine this. It’s exactly as you’d imagine it. It’s fucking amazing. The Cramps loved Presley, long before the various cultural re-evaluations of the 90s / 00s / 10s. This is delivered with the frantic nerves you’d expect but I’m not going to use the phrase Psychobilly… except to say I’m not saying it.

mp3 : The Cramps – Jailhouse Rock

And now, ladies and gentlemen the band we’ve all been waiting for – Les Negresses Vertes performing Marguerita. I know, me neither. It’s the NME being the NME. I sometimes think the Ironic Review from TMWRNJ was entirely at the NME. Les Negresses Vertes do a good stab at this mind you. If it was the radio I wouldn’t turn it off. It’s got a nice brass section that feels like street music from a market from a naughty country in a James Bond film. I don’t know what I’m talking about.

mp3 : Les Negrettes Vertes – Marguerita

The penultimate song is Pop Will Eat Itself with Rock-A-Hula-Baby. It’s what you’d expect from them. It sounds like it was recorded in an afternoon with a casio keyboard and sampler. Probably was. Nice work. They keep singing ‘Elvis! El-El-El-El-Elvis’… it goes a bit Jive Bunny.

mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Rock-A-Hula-Baby

The set ends with the man himself. Elvis PresleyKing of the Whole World from the Kid Galahad soundtrack. It’s session version with a false start . It’s got everything you’d want including some great lead guitar from Scotty Moore and the Jordanaires singing back up. Plus a sax solo that owns you 🙂

mp3 : Elvis Presley – King of the Whole Wide World

I reckon about a third of this record is good to excellent, a third being okay with the remaining third being mediocre at best with the exception of Stanshall who has gotten right on my tits.

STEVE

 

GIG REVIEW : MALCOLM MIDDLETON : PAISLEY ARTS CENTRE : 19 OCTOBER 2019

Kind of got up close and personal at this gig, taking seats in the front row of an auditorium with a capacity of 150, sitting alongside Robert and Hugh of Simply Thrilled fame, and Rachel (aka Mrs V) who was seeing Malcolm Middleton for the first ever time.

Next month will see the release of Guitar Variations, under the guise of Human Don’t Be Angry, and will mark the eleventh solo studio album of his career. As much as I always enjoy seeing him playing in whatever band he has assembled to take on the road, there is something truly special with those shows when it is just Malcolm, his guitar and a microphone.

Last Saturday was one of the very best as he delved deep into the back-catalogue for songs that haven’t been aired in years alongside stripped-down and gorgeous versions of a number of songs from Bananas, his outstanding and shamefully-neglected album from 2018 (still can’t get my head round the fact it didn’t even make the longlist of 20 for the Scottish Album of the Year).

It was a very respectful audience….one that had come along to listen and applaud, with a few polite responses for their own personal favourites when Malcolm called for requests. Our collective appetites, including that of the performer, would only have been sated if the show had gone on for three or more hours as he himself was genuinely suprised when he looked as his watch and realised he was approaching the curfew and that he still had loads of songs he wanted to play.

I’ve long given praise to Aiden Moffat, the other half of Arab Strap, believing him to be as fine a lyricist as Scotland has ever produced, and as close to a modern-day national bard as we could hope to have. Malcolm Middleton is, however, equally capable of poetic beauty within songs. A while back, I did pull together an ICA within which I made reference to many of his lyrics often being self-deprecating to the extent of being on the verge of despair, but at other times laugh-out-loud funny with the most wonderfully astute observations on life…and finished off by observing that he pens a magnificent love song when the mood takes him.

I hadn’t really quite appreciated just how fine a lyricist he is until last Saturday’s show. Maybe it was the fact that I was close up and paying particular attention. Malcolm has never hidden the fact that he has battled with self-doubt and depression his entire career and this show brought home just many of those dark moments have been put into song but in ways that aren’t self-pitying, and indeed there’s more often that not an underlying message that someone or something gives the excuse, reason or strength to battle through and face another day.

I mused on things overnight and then it hit me….and while I’m 100% certain that I’m not the first to say it, there is something about Leonard Cohen in the way Malcolm Middleton conducts his craft with both of them being lazily badged as purveyors of misery when in fact there is so much more to the songs than first impressions would have you believe.

Oh, and never forget that he is an outstanding guitar player.

mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Ballad of Fuck All
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Stay Close Sit Tight
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Gut Feeling
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Love Comes In Waves (live, solo)

Thanks to Robert for the photo.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (7)

Chaval told the story last week of how The Auteurs sought to bounce back from the disappointment of a close-run thing with the 1993 Mercury Prize by recording and releasing an astonishing and surreal single that stalled at #41.  He also highlighted just how good the b-sides were, all of which bore well for the release of the next album.

Prior to that, we were treated to another advance single.  As was all the rage at the time, there were multiple formats – 2 x 7″ singles or 2 x CD singles offering up different choices for b-sides, with either a white or black picture sleeve.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Chinese Bakery

This was another triumphant and superb piece of music, opening with a melancholic vocal and cello refering to someone from uptown going downtown to where the brokers and dealers socialise…and then the bass and guitars kick in with a fair amount of ferociousness.    At any other time other than April 1994, this would have been given all sorts of column inches in the music press as the next essential element in how British indie pop music should be developing…..except that it was released about a month after Blur had experienced their first Top 10 hit with Girls & Boys and in the same week as the debut single by a new band called Oasis.  Oh, and Suede were still riding high although there were rumours that Bernard Butler wasn’t entirely happy with his lot.  In short, the media had enough to keep themselves occupied with concerning themselves about the views of Luke Haines.

Chinese Bakery stalled at #42.  It was a tough one to take.

The white 7″ and CD single offered up two more outstanding cuts as b-sides, with the latter seeming to be a title for a Haines Manifesto :-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Government Bookstore
mp3 : The Auteurs – Everything You Say Will Destroy You

The black CD offered up one new acoustic song and an acoustic version of the new single:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Modern History (acoustic)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Chinese Bakery (acoustic)

The following month, the album Now I’m A Cowboy hit the shops. Eleven biting, sarcastic, knowing and occasionally angry/resigned pieces of music, including the most recent two singles and a full band version of Modern History. It got rave reviews but it just didn’t really connect with the buying public, albeit it went Top 20 on the week of release. The problem was that it went down really quickly and the record label bosses despaired that it didn’t have any songs to compete with the happy-go-lucky stuff that was coming out of other parts of London and from Manchester. As Haines would relect many years later in Bad Vibes:-

Blur release their annoying Parklife album at approximately the same time as Now I’m A Cowboy. It sells 46 billion copies in Swindon alone and the world changes forever. From this point on anything that sells less than 46 billion is deemed a resounding failure. We are now on a different trajectory.

The coming weeks will show just how very different a trajectory was deliberately chosen……

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #180 : DREVER McCUSKER WOOMBLE

From the website of Navigator Records:-

As the old adage goes, if you want something done, ask someone busy. And if you want to hear some of the freshest, savviest, sweetest and most original songwriting around, look no further than three of the busiest musicians in Scotland, newly in cahoots as a trio: Kris Drever, John McCusker and Roddy Woomble. With their respectively distinguished pedigrees ranging freely across the folk and rock spectrum – and overlapping via several previous projects – each brings a wealth of diverse experience to the table, in a collaboration impelled primarily by that most magical of musical catalysts: pure enthusiasm.

“Our paths had all crossed in various ways over the past few years – working with Kate Rusby, and on Kris and Roddy’s solo albums – and our starting-point was basically just that we all really liked each other’s stuff,” says McCusker, the ex-Battlefield Band fiddler now equally renowned as a producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist. “There was no plan, except to try and write good songs: let’s all meet up and see what happens. That sense of freedom’s been really exciting, the opposite of keeping things safe – just putting yourself in that space where spontaneous things can happen, where you’ll just go for it and wing it; not worrying about making it immaculate, but going with whatever happens in the moment.”

For Woomble, who recently marked ten years as lead singer of top indie-rock band Idlewild, the new trio project is a natural onward step from his acclaimed 2006 solo debut, My Secret Is My Silence. “Being in the same band for that long, you get used to writing songs in that context,” he says. “The solo record was the first time I’d really pushed myself in other directions, and that’s given me the confidence to take it further: Kris and John each have such a different take on things like melody and lyrics, but we’re all working equally on the songs together, so the whole thing feels totally new. And it’s great getting to make another ‘first’ album at our age.”

That forthcoming fresh yet seasoned debut, named simply for its authorial triumvirate, was written over the course of just six or seven afternoons in McCusker’s Edinburgh living-room, demo-ed on a laptop, then transferred to the studio with judiciously minimal embellishment. “It was amazingly quick,” says Drever, the Orcadian singer-guitarist who won a 2007 Radio 2 Folk Award for his own first solo album, Black Water, and is a member of firebrand folk trio Lau. “We had a target number of songs we wanted to record, and we really didn’t discard many. A lot of them have stayed quite stripped-down, keeping that rawness, though there’s bass and drums on others, and a fair number of the colourful jazzy chords I like. It’s ended up an unusual mix – not quite folky, not quite rock – but it’s all really musical.”

Fruitfully muddying the waters still further is an array of stellar guests from both the folk and rock spheres, including Radiohead drummer Philip Selway, Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake (vocals) and Francis MacDonald (drums), Capercaillie bandmates Donald Shaw (keyboards), Mike McGoldrick (flute/whistles) and Ewen Vernal (bass), plus Irish singer Heidi Talbot.

Forging the ideal balance between innocence and experience, Drever, McCusker and Woomble achieve a rare and thrilling synergy. With that founding enthusiasm only compounded by making the album, due out in spring/summer 2008, they’ll be hitting the road for a full UK tour in the autumn.

KRIS DREVER: Orkney-born Kris, emerged from the ferment of the late-90s Edinburgh session scene as a member of bands including Fine Friday and Session A9, and an increasingly sought-after accompanist, working with artists including Eddi Reader and Julie Fowlis. Fast building his name both as a guitarist of exceptionally eclectic talent, and a singularly eloquent interpreter of traditional and contemporary songs, he released his debut solo album, Black Water, in October 2006 for Reveal Records, going on to win the Horizon prize for best newcomer at the following year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards. Doubling as a founder member of the electrifying folk trio Lau, alongside fiddler Aidan O’ Rourke and accordionist Martin Green, he spent much of 2007 taking the international festival circuit by storm.

JOHN McCUSKER: Was born in the same Bellshill hospital as most of Teenage Fanclub and Sheena Easton, John McCusker formed his first band, Parcel O’Rogues, at fifteen, and joined top Scottish folk act the Battlefield Band two years later, remaining with them until 2001. During this time he also began a twelve-year partnership with celebrated Yorkshire folk-singer Kate Rusby, producing several of her award-winning albums and anchoring her live band. John’s film and TV soundtrack credits include the Damien O’Donnell movie Heartlands, Jennifer Saunders’ BBC1 sitcom Jam and Jerusalem, and Billy Connolly’s World Tour of New Zealand. He has recently recorded on Mark Knopfler and Paul Weller’s latest albums, and is current producing the forthcoming debut solo release by Radiohead drummer Philip Selway. In between working with Kris and Roddy, John will be spending much of 2008 in private jets and stadiums, as a guest on Mark Knopfler’s world tour before releasing another album and tour from his Under One Sky commission in the early Autumn of 2008.

RODDY WOOMBLE: A native of Irvine – small-town Scotland writ large – Roddy co-founded Idlewild in 1995, naming the band for the quiet haven featured in his then-favourite book, Anne of Green Gables. Given that the NME likened their early punk-fuelled sound – deftly revisited on their latest album, 2007’s Make Another World – to “a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs”, the quiet haven part was initially somewhat ironic, but gradually came closer as Idlewild meanwhile progressed through sweeping melodic rock to rootsy, melodic sparseness. Extending that softer lyrical vein of Roddy’s songwriting, 2006 saw his first solo release, My Secret Is My Silence, winning rave reviews across both the rock and folk press. He was also a key instigator behind the acclaimed 2007 album Ballads of the Book, bringing together leading Scottish poets and musicians to collaborate on new songs. After extensive recent touring with Idlewild, Roddy will be spending much of 2008 – as every other year – scribbling observations and lyrics in his notebook while out on walks.

JC adds….

I’ve one song from the album, courtesy of it being included in the CD that came with a monthly music magazine in October 2008:-

mp3 : Kris Drever, John McCusker and Roddy Woomble – Into The Blue

It’s decent enough and there will, I’m sure be some folk out there who really like it, but it wasn’t enough to make me want to explore further.

JC

BUT SOMEHOW THE VITAL CONNECTION IS MADE

I only know of The Passions via them having a one-off minor hit in the UK singles chart back in early 1981. But going by the tale on wiki, the band members knew and worked with lots of folk over many years:-

Based in Shepherd’s Bush in west London, the Passions formed in early 1978 as the Youngsters with a lineup of Barbara Gogan (guitar, vocals), Claire Bidwell (bass guitar), Richard Williams (drums), Dack Dyde (guitar) and Mitch Barker (vocals). Williams and Gogan were previously in the punk rock outfit the Derelicts. After a name change to Rivers of Passion, soon shortened to the Passions, Dyde was replaced by Clive Timperley (formerly of the 101ers, which was Joe Strummer‘s old outfit)

The Passions’ first single, issued in March 1979 on the Soho label, was “Needles and Pills” (written by Dyde), which assisted in gaining the band a recording contract with Fiction Records.  By the time the band recorded the first of three Peel sessions in November 1979, Barker had departed and Gogan took over as lead vocalist.

Michael & Miranda, the band’s debut album, was produced by Fiction head Chris Parry and engineered by Mike Hedges. In May 1980, the Passions embarked on a UK and European tour supporting labelmates the Cure. Bidwell left after the tour, replaced in July 1980 by David Agar, and the band were dropped by Fiction.

A meeting with Peter Wilson, the in-house producer for Polydor Records, led to the band signing to that label, which released their third single, “The Swimmer”, on 1 October 1980.

Their major chart hit, “I’m in Love with a German Film Star”, was released as the band’s fourth single on 23 January 1981.The lyrics were written by Gogan about Steve Connelly, a one-time roadie for the Clash and Sex Pistols who had minor roles in several German films. It was produced by Peter Wilson. According to Wilson, “It was a song that almost seemed to write itself”. The music weeklies declared the song “Single of the Week”, and it was named “Peoples Choice” on Capital Radio. This led to a Top of the Pops appearance on 5 February 1981, which was repeated on 26 February.

The next single, “Skin Deep”, produced by Nigel Gray, was issued on 2 July 1981.  “Skin Deep” and the previous two A-sides (“The Swimmer” and “I’m in Love with a German Film Star”) were included, along with several brand new recordings, on the band’s second album, Thirty Thousand Feet Over China, released 18 September 1981.

Timperley left the band in Verona in December 1981, during the Italian leg of their prophetically named “Tour Till We Crack” tour, as a result of “serious political differences”. The next single, “Africa Mine”, released on 8 January 1982, was recorded by the remaining members prior to a lineup change.

Kevin Armstrong, previously with Local Heroes SW9 and a contributor to Thomas Dolby‘s debut album, joined the Passions in 1982. The group also added a keyboard player, Jeff Smith, best known for his past work with Lene Lovich. Armstrong and Smith took part in the recording of the band’s third album, Sanctuary, produced by Mick Glossop. The first single, “Jump for Joy”, was released 5 May, followed by the album and “Sanctuary” single on 18 September 1982.

Stephen Wright, previously in the band Bim, then replaced Armstrong. The band toured Europe and the US, and appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC 2, and Whatever You Want on Channel 4. The Passions dissolved for good in the middle of 1983, after playing their last show at London’s Marquee Club that August.

mp3 : The Passions – I’m In Love With a German Film Star
mp3 : The Passions – (Don’t Talk To Me), I’m Shy

I was sure this had been a top 10 hit but seems it stalled at #25.

Here they are performing it, and another track, live on the telly.

 

JC