SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #179 : THE KLF

Bill Drummond was/is part of The KLF. And that’s justifiable enough in my book for this posting.

Edited from wiki:-

The KLF (also known as the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The JAMs, the Timelords and other names) were a British electronic band started in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Beginning in 1987, Bill Drummond (alias King Boy D) and Jimmy Cauty (alias Rockman Rock) released hip hop-inspired and sample-heavy records as the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, and on one occasion (the British number one hit single “Doctorin’ the Tardis”) as the Timelords. The KLF released a series of international hits on their own KLF Communications record label and became the biggest-selling singles act in the world for 1991

From the outset, they adopted the philosophy espoused by esoteric novel series The Illuminatus! Trilogy, making anarchic situationist manifestations, including the defacement of billboard adverts, the posting of cryptic advertisements in NME magazine and the mainstream press, and unusual performances on Top of the Pops.

On 12 February 1992, the KLF and crust punk group Extreme Noise Terror performed a live version of “3 a.m. Eternal” at the BRIT Awards, the British Phonographic Industry’s annual awards show; a “violently antagonistic performance” in front of “a stunned music-business audience”. Drummond and Cauty had planned to throw buckets of sheep’s blood over the audience, but were prevented from doing so due to opposition from BBC lawyers and Extreme Noise Terror. The performance was instead ended by a limping, kilted, cigar-chomping Drummond firing blanks from an automatic weapon over the heads of the crowd. As the band left the stage, the KLF’s promoter and narrator Scott Piering proclaimed over the PA system that “The KLF have now left the music business”. Later in the evening the band dumped a dead sheep with the message “I died for you – bon appetit” tied around its waist at the entrance to one of the post-ceremony parties.

Scott Piering’s announcement was largely ignored at the time. NME, for example, assured their readers that the tensions and contradictions would continue to “push and spark” the KLF and that more “musical treasure” would be the result.

In the weeks following the BRITs performance, the KLF continued working with Extreme Noise Terror on the album The Black Room,  but it was never finished. On 14 May 1992, the KLF announced their immediate retirement from the music industry and the deletion of their back catalogue:

We have been following a wild and wounded, glum and glorious, shit but shining path these past five years. The last two of which has [sic] led us up onto the commercial high ground — we are at a point where the path is about to take a sharp turn from these sunny uplands down into a netherworld of we know not what. For the foreseeable future there will be no further record releases from The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The Timelords, The KLF and any other past, present and future name attached to our activities. As of now all our past releases are deleted …. If we meet further along be prepared … our disguise may be complete.

In a comprehensive examination of the KLF’s announcement and its context, Select called it “the last grand gesture, the most heroic act of public self destruction in the history of pop. And it’s also Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s final extravagant howl of self disgust, defiance and contempt for a music world gone foul and corrupt.”

Many of the KLF’s friends and collaborators gave their reactions in the magazine. Movie director Bill Butt said that “Like everything, they’re dealing with it in a very realistic way, a fresh, unbitter way, which is very often not the case. A lot of bands disappear with such a terrible loss of dignity”. Scott Piering said that “They’ve got a huge buzz off this, that’s for sure, because it’s something that’s finally thrilling. It’s scary to have thrown away a fortune which I know they have. Just the idea of starting over is exciting. Starting over on what? Well, they have such great ideas, like buying submarines”. Even Kenny Gates, who as a director of the KLF’s distributors APT stood to lose financially from the move, called it “Conceptually and philosophically … absolutely brilliant”. Mark Stent reported the doubts of many when he said that “I [have] had so many people who I know, heads of record companies, A&R men saying, ‘Come on, It’s a big scam.’ But I firmly believe it’s over”. “For the very last spectacularly insane time”, the magazine concluded, “The KLF have done what was least expected of them”.

There have been numerous suggestions that in 1992 Drummond was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Drummond himself said that he was on the edge of the “abyss”. BRIT Awards organiser Jonathan King had publicly endorsed the KLF’s live performance, a response which Scott Piering cited as “the real low point”. The KLF’s BRITs statuette for “Best British Group” of 1992 was later found buried in a field near Stonehenge.

mp3 : The KLF vs Extreme Noise Terror – 3 A.M. Eternal

Yet another that I’m unlikely to air at the football on a Saturday afternoon or at a Simply Thrilled evening.

JC

WHY ARE PEOPLE GRUDGEFUL?

April 1993 saw the release of the 31st single by The Fall. The only previous chart success enjoyed by the band had come via cover versions. There’s A Ghost In My House (as made famous by R. Dean Taylor) had gone Top 30 in 1987 and the following year Victoria (originally by The Kinks) had reached #35.

This time round, Mark E Smith took some drastic action by merging two cover songs into one, and creating a sound that bore little resemblance to the originals. The best and simplest explanation is offered up on a fan site devoted to the band:-

“Why Are People Grudgeful? is a cover version, or to be more accurate, a cover version of two different but related songs. The story behind the original versions is as follows:

“Born in the rural Jamaican village of St. Mary’s in 1936, Lee Perry began his surrealistic musical odyssey in the late ’50s, working with ska man Prince Buster selling records for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd‘s Downbeat Sound System. Called “Little” Perry because of his diminutive stature (Perry stands 4’11”), he was soon producing and recording for Dodd at the centre of the Jamaican music industry, Studio One. After a falling out with Dodd (throughout his career, Perry has a tendency to burn his bridges after he stopped working with someone), Perry went to work at Wirl Records with Joe Gibbs. Perry and Gibbs never really saw eye to eye on anything, and in 1968, Perry left to form his own label, called Upsetter.

Not surprisingly, Perry’s first release on Upsetter was a single entitled People Funny Boy, which was a direct attack upon Gibbs. What is important about the record is that, along with selling extremely well in Jamaica, it was the first Jamaican pop record to use the loping, lazy, bass-driven beat that would soon become identified as the reggae “riddim” and signal the shift from the hyperkinetically upbeat ska to the pulsing, throbbing languor of “roots” reggae.

Joe Gibbs released a reply (using the moniker Sir Gibbs) in a song using the same rhythm called People Grudgeful. MES amalgamated the two songs to help create The Fall’s cover version.”

The reviews were mostly favourable with the UK-based paper Melody Maker going as far as saying it was the most engaging thing Smith had done for a couple of years. As ever, there was no day time airing on the BBC or commercial radio but there were enough sales to see it reach #43. It was also voted in at #11 in the John Peel Festive Fifty of 1993.

mp3 : The Fall – Why Are People Grudgeful?

mp3 : Lee Perry – People Funny Boy
mp3 : Sir Gibbs – People Grudgeful

The 12” version of the single was deleted very soon after release and is one of the harder-to-find and more expensive bits of vinyl across the entire back catalogue. It contained three tracks on the b-side:-

mp3 : The Fall – Glam-Racket
mp3 : The Fall – The Re-Mixer
mp3 : The Fall – Lost In Music

Yup……the latter is a cover of the disco classic as made famous by Sister Sledge. Bonkers and brilliant in equal measures.

JC

NO POP, NO STYLE

This is a sidebar to the current Sunday series that is looking at the singular life of Luke Haines. I did promise that I wouldn’t feature any of the Black Box Recorder singles on the basis that he was part of a collective within that group rather than the main focus of attention….however, re-reading Post-Modern, his second volume of memoirs which covers the period in which BBR were to the fore, reminded me of a great tale that has to be shared, if nothing else to show up how messed-up the music industry was at the tail end of the last century.

The Auteurs had, to all intent and purposes broken up, albeit not quite as a final album would later emerge (something which will be covered in the Sunday series). Luke Haines was at a loose end and bored, and when that happens, he gets himself into mischief. This time round he found two partners in crime in the shape of John Moore (a one-time member of the Jesus and Mary Chain whose current speciality was playing a saw in a 20-strong indie-folk band) and Sarah Nixey, a sultry backing vocalist with the same band for whom Haines would occasionally play glockenspiel. The trio decided to form Black Box Recorder whose debut album, which eventually came out on Chyrsalis Records, was made thanks to five different record labels providing them with sums of £1,000-£1,500 to record demos.

England Made Me, was released in July 1998. It’s lead-off single is Child Psychology but receives no radio play thanks to it having a chorus of ‘Life is Unfair….Kill Yourself or Get Over It’. The follow-up single is the title track of the album, but it too fails to come close to the charts.

The record label bosses feel that the band’s cover of the reggae track Uptown Top Ranking, a huge hit for Althea & Donna in 1977, should be the next single as a further push to improve sales of the album.

mp3 : Althea & Donna – Up Town Top Ranking

Somehow, Luke Haines and his manager persuade the label to cough-up a further £1,000 as a ‘reggae reserach budget’ in advance of the album version being re-recorded for release as a single, a budget which is spent partly on buying reggae singles and albums but mostly on sustaining a rock’n’roll lifestyle.

The fact that the record label thought the cover was worthy of release as a single was just insane. Here’s Luke Haines to explain:-

‘Uptown Top Ranking’ is, in its original form, a thing of true joy as any child of the 70s will attest to. By the time BBR finish with the song it sounds like it’s been fucked with elephant tranquilliser. Any notion of dreadlocks has been replaced by dread.

The cover version started off as an afterthought during the England Made Me sessions; whilst producer Phil Vinall is mixing an album track, we go off and commandeer a little eight-track recorder. The entire song is constructed in the studio vocal booth. John Moore has brought in a sample of an old recording by rum 70s suave man actor Peter Wyngarde. The Wyngarde sample is from a song called ‘Rape’ (a rakish comedy skit on sexual assault). The Wyngarde monstrosity goes into the sampler and we slow it way, way down until we hit negative equity.

Next up is ‘The Turn’. Sarah Nixey doesn’t know Althea and Donna’s original which is perfect; she is also magnificently hungover. Again, perfect. We write out the lyrics – mainly Jamaican patois which we cannot make out – phonetically, and she reads them out into the microphone in one take, with the enthusiasm of a cash and carry shelf stacker. If schoolgirls won’t sing along with our songs on the top deck of the bus, then we will make records that sound as if they’ve been made by a schoolgirl on the bus – a schoolgirl from The Village of The Damned of course. Bung on a bit of bass – lemme wind out me waist – press record, and catch a few incongruous whoops from Moore, and the track is finished in an hour or so.

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Up Town Top Ranking

Six months later and the trio find themselves in On-U Sound to do the remix. In Haines’s words, a studio where you could record a brass band from Grimsby and it would come out sounding like Augustus Pablo. After a few hours of mucking around, they have something which to Haines’s ears sounds pretty much the same as it did when they first recorded it,  and they hand it over to the record company:-

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Up Town Top Ranking (remix)

A few days later word comes back that Chrysalis will not be releasing a third BBR single nor will they be contracting a second BBR album. But, as a way of saying sorry for this turn of events, the label offers some more money for further demos so that BBR can try to find a new home at an alternative label. In due course they do, and the second album and one of its singles turn out to be hits.

As I said, the music industry was particularly messed up at the time….bloated with cash from the short-lived boom in CD sales as many abandoned vinyl and bought replacements via the shiny silver discs.  There will be many more similar but untold stories out there……

JC

NO TEARS, PARTY TIME IS HERE AGAIN

I try hard not to get too overtly political on this blog. But the attitudes and behaviours of Johnson and Trump are beyond belief.

Can’t get this song out of my head:-

mp3 : The Psychedelic Furs – President Gas

The opening track on the 1982 LP, Forever Now. And while the lines ‘He comes in from the left sometimes, He comes in from the right’ would suggest it is a wider attack on politicians in general rather than anyone specific, it’s worth remembering that the President at the time was Reagan and there were many of us who believed he would have no qualms about pressing the button to fire off some nuclear weapons.

I genuinely am not as scared of Trump as I was of Reagan, but I do think the current PoTUS is a far more dangerous character in that, as a serial liar and absolute egotist, he is unfit to hold any sort of public office far less sit in the White House. Boris the Bampot over here is no different.

While I’m on, here’s the two sides of a fabulous single by The Psychedelic Furs from a year or so earlier:-

mp3 : The Psychedelic Furs – Dumb Waiters
mp3 : The Psychedelic Furs – Dash

The 7” version is about 90 seconds shorter than the album version. The b-side is an instrumental number and the way the piano and guitars link in the middle of the song always makes me think of a fast version of New Year’s Day by U2.

I had a recollection, which was confirmed by looking it up, that the Dumb Waiters single came with a gimmick, namely that the sleeve could be played as it was in effect a flexidisc which had was an advert for the album, Talk Talk Talk.

Sparks did something similar with a hidden track at the end of the 12” pic disc of Beat The Clock, utilising the vocal talents of the comedian Peter Cook:-

mp3 : Sparks – Ad for #1 In Heaven

JC

INSPIRED BY YESTERDAY’S HUMAN LEAGUE ICA

Another from the Big Gold Dreams boxset:-

SHAKE – Culture Shock : (Sire SIR 4016 7/79)

When The Rezillos split in 1978, while Eugene Reynolds, Fay Fife and Hi-Fi Harris formed the similarly trashy Revillos, song-writer Jo Callis, bassist Simon Templar and drummer Angel Paterson, plus future Teardrop Explodes guitarist Troy Tate, became Shake.

Released as the lead number on a 10” EP, their exuberant debut highlighted a Callis-penned song that had originally been part of The Rezillos live set, and can be heard on Callis’ former band’s Mission Accomplished…But The Beat Goes On live swansong recorded at Glasgow Apollo. A second single, Invasion of The Gamma Men, followed, before Callis embarked on a pop voyage that would ultimately lead to global domination with The Human League.

mp3 : Shake – Culture Shock

Here’s the other three tracks from the EP:-

mp3 : Shake – (But) Not Mine
mp3 : Shake – Glasshouse
mp3 : Shake – Dream On

It’s a long way removed from Love Action.….

JC

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #228 : THE HUMAN LEAGUE

The positive response to the recent musings on Don’t You Want Me, and in particular the unbridled enthusiasm of Post Punk Monk, has led to this very quick cash-in.

It’s awfully easy to forget that much of the new wave/electronica music and the sound of the underground here in the UK in the late 70s/early 80s was unable to travel very far, unless it either crawled into the mainstream or the singer/band in question was on a label that had the ability to have product issued on overseas subsidiaries or affiliates; even then, a would-be-listener, especially in North America, usually had to dig deep to find things in smaller record stores having, in all likelihood, heard the music on an obscure or college radio station.

PPM mentioned that his first Human League purchase was The Sound of The Crowd EP, released by Virgin Canada in 1981 which very handily contained some tracks from the back catalogue, thus giving him a great insight as to how the band’s sound developed.

This ICA is quite narrow in its outlook. There aren’t necessarily the best ten tracks that the band ever recorded and everything is lifted from a short period in time, with nothing after 1983. There’s also no Don’t You Want Me or Seconds on it, on the basis that both songs featured a short time ago (both tracks would ordinarily have been shoo-ins).

Side A

1. The Things That Dreams Are Made Of

Even if had turned out that Dare wasn’t packed with unforgetable hit singles, the very existence of this, the album’s opening track, would have made it an essential purchase. It’s the perfect blend of art-house synth and pure pop in which Phil Oakey gets to go all Mary Poppins and sing all about a small number of his favourite things.

2. Being Boiled (John Peel Session)

It’s still amazing to think that this track has such a strong Scottish connection, originally being released (in mono) on Fast Product, an Edinburgh-based independent label which was run by Bob Last. The music for this one was composed by Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, both of whom would leave The Human League in 1980 and going on to form the equally successful Heaven 17.

It was released at different times in different forms to differing acclaim and sales, I thought for something different that it would be worth featuring the Peel session version that was broadcast in August 1978.

3. The Sound of The Crowd (complete)

The breakthrough hit that catapulted the band into the Top 20 for the first time, here it is in its full 12″ vinyl glory.

It was a real bolt out of the blue as just two month previously, they had released a single called Boys and Girls which was a real disappointment, offering little of merit and suggesting they had next-to-nochance of surviving the departure of Ware and Marsh. The decision to feature female vocals and to ask a more pop-orientated producer to get on board proved to be a masterstroke. It also got invited onto Top of the Pops on 30 April 1981, and would, over the ensuing weeks and months, lead to many a joke about a particular haircut.

4. Rock’n’Roll/Nightclubbing

As featured on the Holiday 80 EP, which was released in the period between debut album Reproduction and its follow-up, Travelogue, and came from a period when the band had been working with John Leckie, who was also very heavily involved at the time with Simple Minds and Magazine.

The EP had a new version of Being Boiled on it, but the highlight for many was this six-minute effort that was a medley consisting of a cover of tracks by Gary Glitter and Iggy Pop, neither of which seemed obvious choice for the electronica treatment.

In what was a very unusual move, the producers of Top of The Pops invited the band to perform on the show in May 1980, even though the EP wasn’t in the Top 40. It proved to be the only time the original line-up would appear on the show:-

Ah…. the haircut was in place all that time before…..but when you don’t have hits, nobody pays attention!

5. Hard Times

Such was the depth and quality of material available during the sessions for Dare that this, largely instrumental number was only made available as the b-side to Love Action (I Believe In Love). The 12″ version of the single came with a 10-minute effort in which the b-side segued seamlessly into the a-side….but that’s for another occasion.

Side B

1. Black Hit of Space

A song that should provide a stonewall defence should anyone accuse early-era The Human League as being po-faced and without humour. The opening track on Travelogue in which a shit-faced Phil Oakey gets home after a night on the piss and proceeds to play a futuristic looking and sounding record that proves to be so big and popular that it takes over everything. Some said at the time that he was looking enviously at Gary Numan……

2. Mirror Man

The first new song to emerge after the success of Dare, almost a full year after Don’t You Want Me had been the world-wide smash. It’s reminiscent of the Motown sound, having the same sort of beat as so many of the big hits of the 60s; worth noting too that the the female members of the band, while being very integral to the song, don’t actually have any lyrics beyond ooh-ing and ahh-ing to great effect.

3. (Keep Feeling) Fascination

There are days when I think this could very well be my favourite of all the hit singles. It was the follow-up to Mirror Man and it felt as if the band were throwing the kitchen sink at it. From it’s jarring and nearly out-of-tune opening synth notes to the fact that all three main vocalists get a solo turn (as indeed does the mostly unheralded Jo Callis), it was the signal that, from now on, The Human League were going down the pop route and to hell with anyone who pined for the days of the Being Boiled/Reproduction era.

OK….there wasn’t all that much that I loved afterwards as the sound degenerated largely into the sort for which the 80s became loathed, with the synths bordering on soft-rock at times (exhibit #1 being the album Crash which was released in 1986), but that spell from April 81- April 83, which was bookended by Sound of the Crowd and Fasination was triumphant.

4. Empire State Human

My first exposure to the band and one of the first electronica singles that I ever bought, back in June 1980 when it was given a re-release by Virgin Records some nine months after first flopping. I wasn’t the tallest of teenagers and I was envious (a bit) of the lads who could hold their own at centre-half in the football team. It was easy to sing-along to this one.

5. WXJL Tonight

The closing track on Travelogue and a sort of sci-fi fable in which radio DJs have become a thing of the past and music is played on an automated basis. Might have seemed a tad far-fetched in 1980, but with Spotify and its ilk becoming the choice of millions the world over………………..

JC

 

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (5)


I finished last week’s post with mention of Luke Haines incredulous reaction to him and James Banbury, on cello, selling out a gig in Paris in February 1993.  One of the tracks from the show, Staying Power, has been included as a b-side of the 10″ version of How Could I Be Wrong, but such was the quality of the performance that Hut Records tried to drum up more interest in The Auteurs with the pressing of a 7″ single, consisting of live renditions of four more songs, all of which had appeared on New Wave.

The Live Acoustic EP wasn’t put out for general sale via shops, but instead seems to have been available, on request, by return mail. I’m not sure if it the release was widely publicised – I certainly don’t have a physical copy despite being an obvious member of the target audience. Having said that, the fact it is available for as little as £3 on Discogs would indicate a fair number were sent out and that it’s not too rare an artefact.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Housebreaker (live, 1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Junk Shop Clothes (live, 1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Star Struck (live, 1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Home Again (live, 1993)

All these years later, you’ll find that the Luke Haines of 2019 plays shows in which it is just him and an acoustic guitar, and on the odd occasion you might get to hear one or more of the above tracks.

Worth mentioning that the venue was the Passage Du Nord Ouest, one of the most famous and historic music halls in the city which actually closed down in 1996, but re-opened as a theatre in 2008.

Tune in next Sunday for a guest contribution as part of this series.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #178 : THE KISSING BANDITS

I only have one track by The Kissing Bandits and it is courtesy of its incluson on the Park Lane Archives CD which was featured many moons ago in March 2016 as the 1,000th posting on the new blog.

I quoted from the booklet that came with the CD:-

This band led by Ronnie Costley remained very underground, despite releasing two 7″ singles ‘In Another Time’ and the Flamin Groovies ‘Shake Some Action’, plus a mini-album ‘The Sun Brothers’ on the French New Rose label. Featured the multi-award winning ‘Moulin Rouge’ composer Craig Armstrong on keyboards. This track is from the ‘Caveman’ single, taken from ‘The Sun Brothers’. Ronnie now croons in Ireland and has a country album ‘Dancing To Johnny’ out in Nashville.

mp3 : The Kissing Bandits – The Only Thing That Keeps Me Alive

I also had a closer look at the many personnel listed on the back of the mini-album sleeve (which would indicate the band went through a number of personnel changes over the period they were in existence) and spotted the name of Stephen Irvine who would find some fame in later years as the drummer with Lloyd Cole & The Commotions.

It does appear that the band were fairly active on the Glasgow scene in the mid 80s but I honestly can’t recall them. To be fair to myself, I did move away from the city in July 1985 to take up a job in Edinburgh and as I’ve mentioned a few times, there followed an approximate four year period where I more or less drifted away from keeping up with new and emerging music.

JC

A SARDONIC CAUTIONARY TALE ON THE PERILS OF DRINK DRIVING

This was inspired by occasional guest contibutor and regular commentator, FlimFlanFan, who in passing mentioned that he was a huge fan of Fad Gadget.

For those otherwise unfamilar, Fad Gadget was, initially, the stage name of the late Frank Tovey (8 September 1956 – 3 April 2002), one of the pioneers of electonica here in the UK. He wasn’t one who ever chased commercial success at any point in his career but he was namechecked by almost everyone who was anyone in the genre over the ensuing decades.

In 1979, Fad Gadget became the first (outside of label founder Daniel Miller) to release a single on Mute Records. He would be part of the label for the rest of his life, at no time ever being under the threat of being dropped. From 1984 onwards, he recorded under his own name. Anyone who happened to catch Depeche Mode on stage at various times could have chanced upon Fad/Frank as he occasionally went on tour as the support act. His death was caused by a heart attack, at the age of 45, which ultimately was no surprise as he had suffered from heart problems from a very early age.

I don’t actually have much in the way of Fad Gadget songs in the collection, although I know a lot of his material as a former flatmate from student days was a huge fan. One of my favourites, and it was the one mentioned by flimflanfan, was Ricky’s Hand, the second single recorded for Mute Records in 1980.

It actually has a substantial wiki page devoted to it:-

“Ricky’s Hand” is a song by Fad Gadget, released as a single in 1980. It was the second Fad Gadget single, following “Back to Nature” the previous year. The track was not included on any studio album, predating a debut LP by several months, but does appear on several compilations. Mute Records founder Daniel Miller collaborated on the writing, playing and production.

Lyrically the song was a sardonic cautionary tale on the perils of drink driving: “From the pocket it pulled five pound / Ricky bought another round… Ricky contravened the highway code / The hand lies severed at the side of the road”. The cover of the original vinyl single showed the hand in question being burnt by drops of beer in the fashion of a corrosive warning symbol.

The music was in a predominantly industrial style with an insistent electronic beat. A plaintive motif opened the track and recurred during the chorus, occasionally augmented by a distinctive ‘choir girl effect’, as it was described in the credits. An electric drill was also listed among the instruments; it can heard on the recording punctuating each mention of the song’s title.

mp3 : Fad Gadget – Ricky’s Hand

Great stuff, even if I say so myself and nobody other than FFF agrees!

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #227 : SAY SUE ME

I celebrated the blog’s 13th birthday by going along to catch the latest visit to Glasgow by Say Sue Me, this time in the company of Rachel, Aldo, Mike G and his good mate Andy R. It was a lovely way to mark things and it was the third time in just under a year that I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the audience as quite possibly the finest band ever to emerge out of South Korea has been on stage.

Say Sue Me are an incredibly hard working lot. The Glasgow gig was the third-last of a European tour that had got underway some six weeks previously with festival performances in the UK and then took in shows in Germany, France, Sweden and Holland before finishing up with a zig-zag across the UK to visit Brighton, York, Newcastle, London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Cardiff. They had every right to feel tired and homesick but there was no sign of that as they delivered a tight and hugely-enjoyable hour-long set in which they mixed up old favourites with new material that has emerged these past few weeks through a couple of vinyl singles.

For those who aren’t familiar with the band, they are from Busan, South Korea, forming in 2012 since when they have recorded two full-lengths albums, along with four EPs, three stand-alone 7” singles, one digital single and one split 7” single. The band members are Sumi Choi (vocals), Byunggyu Kim (guitar) and Jaeyoung Ha (bass) with Changwon Kim contributing on drums having come on board in 2016 after Semin Kang, very sadly, had to be replaced after taking seriously ill, rupturing his skull, a situation that led to music fans from Busan raising almost £10,000 in a day to help pay for his medical bills.

This was a tough time for the band given that the three male members had been friends since childhood and collectively had offered the role of vocalist to Sumi Choi after meeting her in a local tea shop in their home city. The first release to feature the new line-up was for Record Store Day in 2017, a 7” piece of vinyl which was given the affectionate title of the Semin EP in recognition of their ill friend (it contained two songs on which Semin Kang had drummed and two brand new songs to which Changwon Kim had contributed).

By this point in time, the band had already been lauded at home for the debut album We’ve Sobered Up (2014) and the subsequent EP, Big Summer Night (2015), both of which enjoyed moderate chart success having been released on a Korean independent label, Electric Muse. Say Sue Me had earned a reputation for making music which blended elements of surf-rock with the sort of sounds associated with the mid-80s golden era of UK indie-pop and this led to leading to the London-based Damnably Records offering a deal under which the first release was a self-titled compilation that paired the two Korean releases together as an 18-track CD in 2017.

The unexpected illness of their drummer was a real blow, but having found a way forward, they were soon back in the studio, releasing the afore-mentioned Semin EP and around the same time making their first venture across to the UK as support to Otoboke Beaver, an all-female Japanese hardcore punk who were another act being nurtured by Damnably, with the label, in November 2017 releasing a split single featuring both bands.

It was 2018 when things really took off for Say Sue Me, thanks to the acclaim rightfully given to the release of their sophomore album, Where We Were Together, an incredibly polished and infectious work in which their indie-pop and indie-rock tendencies came to the fore as the earlier surf-rock sounds took a bit of a back seat, best exemplified by the song Old Town, which gathered a lot of radio play back home and also became a bit of a favourite among a number of DJs on BBC Radio 6.

The new album was followed soon after by the Record Store Day release for 2018, It’s Just a Short Walk!, which was an EP comprising covers of songs by Blondie, The Ramones, The Velvet Underground, and one made famous here in the UK by Cliff Richard and in the USA by The Beach Boys. A triumphant year was rounded off with two further releases – a stand-alone single of a track that hadn’t quite been finished in time for the album followed by an EP, Christmas, It’s Not a Biggie, and yes, it contained four tracks with a festive theme.

2019 got off to a tremendous start at home with nominations in five categories at the Korean Music Awards – Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Modern Rock Album of the Year, Best Modern Rock Song of the Year and Artist of the Year – something quite unprecedented for a band on a small label and from a city other than Seoul. They were winners in two categories – Best Modern Rock Album for Where We Were Together, while Old Town was named Best Modern Rock Song. Theses accolades were followed by a hugely successful return visit to SXSW in Austin, Texas at which they performed one of the best-received sets of the entire festival, and after a short time back home in Busan, they embarked on the European tour that I referred to at the top of this piece, along with recording and releasing two new 7” singles.

After all that, here’s a ten-track ICA that I’m very confident will go down well with most of you. Like most of the ICAs that I pull together, it isn’t their best ten or my ten personal favourites, but something that hangs well together. I’ve also not included any of the four newest songs that have just been issued on their two new 7” singles…..anyone wanting these should do the decent thing and go to this bandcamp page.

SIDE A

1. Let It Begin – from Where We Were Together (April 2018)
2. Say Sue Me – from We’ve Sobered Up (October 2014)
3. Dreaming – from It’s Just A Short Walk! (April 2018)
4. Old Town – remixed single from original version recorded for Where We Were Together (April 2018)
5. To Be Wise – from We’ve Sobered Up (October 2014)

SIDE B

1. I Just Wanna Dance – from Where We Were Together (April 2018) ; original version recorded for the Semin EP (April 2017)
2. My Problem – from the Big Summer Night EP (July 2015) and later included on the Semin EP (April 2017)
3. Good For Some Reason – from the 7” split single with Otoboke Beaver (November 2017)
4. B Lover – from Where We Were Together (April 2018)
5. Just Joking Around – single (August 2018)

I’ll sign off by stealing some words from a review over at Paste magazine:-

The best pure indie-pop record of 2018 is not from Brooklyn or Glasgow or Melbourne or Olympia but Busan, South Korea. The album, Where We Were Together from the band Say Sue Me, is a perfectly paced fusion of jangling guitars, bouncing bass and sighed melancholy. The album’s best track, Old Town, is sleek and slightly frazzled, lithe but potent, and ridiculously catchy—as much so as any pop-rock you’ll hear this year.

It’s high praise, but it is entirely merited

JC

AS THEY PULLED YOU OUT OF THE OXYGEN TENT….

I’ve previously admitted that I was a fan of David Bowie, but not a devoted one. As a teenager, I liked his music although it would take many years to realise that what I had liked, I should have loved.

The single Diamond Dogs was released just a matter of days before my 11th birthday. I simply had no ability to have an understanding of lyrics that told of Halloween Jack living on top of Manhattan Chase nor could my young ears really pick up some of the other big words that I didn’t know the meaning of. The only reasons I liked listening to the song were the very sing-able two line chorus quickly followed by a tune that somehow reminded my young ears of another song (which in later years I would identify as Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones).

I knew nothing about Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane or any of the other complexities of David Bowie. He was just someone who made pop music whose stuff got played sometimes on BBC Radio 1 (247 Medium Wave) although I was more likely to hear him as I listened to Radio Luxembourg (208 Medium Wave) while pretending I was asleep, with a small pocket-radio under my pillow turned down as low as I thought I could get away with. Sometimes I would manage to stay awake till after 10pm……..

I didn’t like Diamond Dogs as much as The Jean Genie or Rebel Rebel, both of which were songs with memorable choruses and were my early favourites. It was OK to listen to, in the same way as Starman, Life On Mars and Drive-In Saturday had been but one thing for sure was that it was much preferable to the ghastly Space Oddity…..but before you judge me too harshly, just remember that the storyline of the latter and the way the song unfolds is the stuff of nightmares for a kid of my age with a vivid imagination. The very thought of a spaceman floating around out there and dying was the stuff of nightmares.

I didn’t buy any David Bowie records until Boys Keep Swinging while my first album would have been Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). But not long afterwards, and with some money given to me at Christmas 1980, I went out and bought The Best of Bowie, a budget-priced compilation album on budget label K-Tel, that offered up 16 tracks, most of which had been hit singles:-

Side A

Space Oddity
Life On Mars
Starman
Rock’n’Roll Suicide
John, I’m Only Dancing
The Jean Genie
Breaking Glass (live)
Sorrow

Side B

Diamond Dogs
Young Americans
Fame
Golden Years
TVC 15
Sound and Vision
Heroes
Boys Keep Swinging

I wouldn’t call it an introduction to Bowie as most of the songs were known to me (Breaking Glass and TVC 15 were the exceptions) but it was a great way to finally have so many songs to listen to without relying on a radio. What I didn’t know was that a number of the songs had been edited down from the original versions, so as to fit all 16 tracks on two sides of vinyl. I didn’t have any sort of sophisticated record player either, so the fact that the songs had been crammed onto the vinyl with a subsequent dip in quality wasn’t apparent either. I just loved the idea of listening to a fantastic album time after time after time…..

For some reason, Diamond Dogs became my new favourite Bowie song. Maybe it was the fact that it sounded more new wave than many of the others or perhaps it was that the nonsensical lyrics now seemed so real, meaningful and intriguing to someone whose favourite new author was George Orwell…….

What I didn’t know was that Diamond Dogs was one of the most edited tracks on the K-Tel compilation, so for many years, this was the version I was most familiar with:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (K-Tel edit)

It comes in at just over three-and-a-half minutes, more than two minutes shorter than the original version that had limped to #21 in the UK singles charts in 1974.

Years later, and myself and Mrs Villain move in together. I bring an extensive vinyl collection, hers is much more modest but was of the utmost quality – she had he decided to leave much of hers behind when she left her marital home but among those that made the move were all the Bowie, T-Rex and Iggy Pop albums that she had bought on the days of their release throughout the 70s. As a result I got to hear the whole album in its full glory, while staring at the sleeve that had caused controversy back in the day.

mp3 : David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (LP version)

And for completeness, here’s the b-side to the single:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Holy Holy

JC

OKTOBERFEST

Goodness me…..is that the time of the year already?

mp3 : Various – Oktoberfest

Track Listing

Datsu. Hikage no onna – Otoboke Beaver
Profit In Your Poetry – Butcher Boy
Wood Beez – Scritti Politti
Blue For You – Paul Haig
Eat Your Heart Out – Hey! Elastica
Red Alert – Basement Jaxx
Pass The Mic – Beastie Boys
Chemical World – Blur
Don’t Call Me Jack – Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters
Violently Happy – Bjork
With Handclaps – Y’All Is Fantasy Island
Gut Feeling – Malcolm Middleton
Divine Hammer (single version) – The Breeders
Boyfriend – The Goon Sax
Here Comes A City – The Go-Betweens
B-Movie – Say Sue Me
Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting – The Twilight Sad

JC

PS : Many thanks for all your very kind words yesterday. Much appreciated.