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 respons 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