SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #191 : LONG FIN KILLIE

From wiki:-

Long Fin Killie was a Scottish experimental rock/post-rock band, which released three albums and several EPs on the British avant-rock label Too Pure in the 1990s.

Long Fin Killie’s core line-up consisted of Luke Sutherland (vocals, violin, guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, saxophone, hammer dulcimer, thumb piano, etc.), Colin Greig (electric and upright bass), David Turner (drums/percussion), and Philip Cameron (electric guitar). Sutherland had previously been in a band called Fenn, based in Glasgow, who played many support gigs, including Ride and Catherine Wheel. Their name was taken from a family of ornamental freshwater fishes known as killifishes, noted for their interesting drought survival and reproductive habits.

The members were all highly trained, enabling them to create complex, atypical music which usually featured hypnotically-bowed violins/celli, jazz-influenced drumming, and meandering ambient passages. Allmusic cited them as having “staggering levels of musicianly talent”.Vocalist Luke Sutherland often delivered his cryptic, highly literate lyrics in an androgynous falsetto voice.

Their debut EP Buttergut was released in 1994, with debut album Houdini following the next year. The band’s sound, though diverse, was influenced by the likes of dream pop mainstays A R Kane, Cocteau Twins, and Slowdive, 1970s German krautrock groups like Can, and labelmates Moonshake, Pram and Laika. Mark E. Smith of The Fall contributed “guest rants” to the song “The Heads of Dead Surfers,” which appeared in 1995 on the EP of the same name, as well as on Houdini. (Listeners to British DJ John Peel’s radio show voted this the No. 10 best song of 1995 in the “Festive Fifty” list of that year.) LFK toured America in 1995 with the band Medicine; a split EP was released to promote it.

The band received widespread critical acclaim, but little to no radio play, though they did tour on the 1996 edition of Lollapalooza as part of its “second stage,” in support of their 1996 second LP Valentino. While driving from Sweden to Norway in late 1996, the band’s tour bus was involved in a major accident on a patch of ice, causing Sutherland to suffer a collapsed lung, broken ribs and collar bone, and other injuries. He began writing his first novel while recuperating from the crash. In 1997, Turner was replaced by Kenny McEwan on drums. Subsequent album Amelia (1998) featured songs of shorter lengths and more conventional structures, but it proved to be their last. The group disbanded shortly afterwards, to little mainstream notice, in 1998 or 1999.

All I have in the collection are the four tracks from the Hands and Lips EP, that was released in 1996.  Here’s the title track:-

mp3 : Long Fin Killie – Hand and Lips

I have picked up at some point, from another blog, the track that made it to the Peel Festive Fifty of 1995.  It’s rather  unusual:-

mp3 : Long Fin Killie and Mark E. Smith – The Heads of Dead Surfers

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (38)

“After The Sugarcubes, I guess I had a mixture of liberation and fear. It had been obvious for a while in the band that I had different tastes than the rest. That’s fair enough – there’s no such thing as correct taste. I wrote the melody for “Human Behaviour” as a kid. A lot of the melodies on Debut I wrote as a teenager and put aside because I was in punk bands and they weren’t punk. The lyric is almost like a child’s point of view….”

Nobody anticipated the sounds that Björk would bring to the party with her first solo material after The Sugarcubes had called it a day. There was a fair chance that it would be a touch different from the music she had made over the years with her band, but surely it was still going to be indie-schmindie with the emphasis still being on a traditional line-up of a guitar, bass and drum, with a flavouring of keyboards……so it was something of a shock to the system to hear this:-

mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour

The single was released in June 1993. My first recollection of hearing it would have been at least a month later when I was browsing in a record shop I was known to frequent on a very regular basis (although to be more accurate, it should have been called a CD shop as about 90% of the stock was in that format), when my ears picked up that Björk was singing over what seemed to be an experimental trip-hop outfit. I hung around for a bit and found myself intrigued and enjoying the music, although I still wasn’t sure what was going on and whether it was a new record or was it something on which the chanteuse was guesting. A chat with the sales folk established that what was playing was an album, appropriately called Debut, which was the new material from Björk. I mentioned that I was a fan of her former band but was told that this was nothing like the old stuff, but in a good way. I was also, very kindly, offered the chance to take the CD home with me for free, on the proviso that I would return it after the weekend if I didn’t like it or pay for it the next time I dropped in. The cash was handed over a few days later………

I think I would have struggled if I had heard Human Behaviour in isolation – I certainly wouldn’t have forked out the money for what would have been an expensive single. It’s not the most commercial sounding piece of music and was from a genre of which I knew very little, albeit the stuff I had managed to pick up, such as Massive Attack, was finding favour…..but deep down, I was still an indie-boy at heart. It was only hearing it in the wider context of the album and taking the time to luxuriate in all that was coming out of the speakers that I was able to realise just how special the debut solo single had been.

Here’s the mixes that were made available on the 12″/CD singles:-

mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour (Speedy J. Close To Human Mix)
mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour (Underworld Mix)
mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour (Dom T. Mix)
mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour (Bassheads Edit)

All are at least six-and-a-bit minutes in length. The Underworld mix extends to over 12 minutes. They are all worthy of your considered attention.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (37)

Today’s cracking debut single is one with a difference in that it proved to be the only single recorded by the act in question. It’s also one where the b-side subsequently became much better known than the a-side.

mp3 : The Normal – T.V.O.D.
mp3 : The Normal – Warm Leatherette

I’m sure the vast majority will know the backstory, but please, indulge me anayway.

The Normal was the performing name adopted by Daniel Miller in 1978 and under which he wrote, recorded, produced and distributed a 7” single that were quite unlike anything else happening at that time across UK music. The two songs were hugely influenced by the novel Crash, written by J.G. Ballard in 1973, with Miller being inspired to compose minimalist electronica to be played on what is today described as a ‘limited and quirky little synth’.

Daniel Miller never thought of himself as a musician, so it can be no real surprise that other than a 1980 live LP that was recorded in conjunction with Robert Rental (a Scots-born pioneer of electronica), there was never any other product from The Normal. Miller’s energies went into Mute Records, the label he had established to release the single, using its proceeds to run it as a full-time professional operation, primarily as a home for other experimental electronica artists and bands. The fact that he would discover Depeche Mode in 1980 changed forever his life, and the route the label was pursuing.

Huge credit has to go to Daniel Miller for the fact he stayed true to his principles as the money began to flow into the label, still seeking out and giving a home to acts that others shied away from on the basis of them being far from commercial and/or confrontational. It’s worth pondering just how different the music landscape in the UK would have looked in the 80s and beyond if The Normal’s one-off single hadn’t been issued and been enough of a success to allow its composer to fulfill his ambitions of an involvement in the industry.

JC

PS…..the reason the b-side became better known?

 

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (36)

I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating.

One of my fondest live experiences was a gig played by Queen at Ingliston in Edinburgh in 1982.

Don’t rush to judge me on the basis of that sentence as I went along purely to see the support act which was The Teardrop Explodes. The booking agent either had a sick sense of humour or hated Queen fans, or both.

Julian Cope took to the stage to a barrage of abuse, the intensity of which I’ve rarely witnessed, but he was ready for it and up for the fight. He continually taunted the crowd and the band (which was more or less session musicians as The Teardrop Explodes had more or less imploded by this point in time) treated everyone to some real obscurities. My favourite moment was when St Julian said “Here’s the one of mine that I’m sure you all know and love’ and as fans roared in expectation of hearing Reward, he launched into an acoustic and quiet version of Use Me, the b-side to Treason, and sung it in French!

It had been just three years earlier that The Teardrop Explodes came onto the scene, one of a number of Liverpool-based acts who were on Zoo Records, a venture formed and fronted by Bill Drummond who also seemed to have a role in each of the acts on the label, either as a performer or manager.

The debut consisted of a three-track 7” single:-

mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Sleeping Gas
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Camera Camera
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Kirkby Workers Dream Fades

It was a fine way with which to announce yourself and it would receive the biggest compliment imaginable in that Tony Wilson, who generally took an immediate and pathological dislike to anything that emerged out of Liverpool, gave it high praise. There was also some favourable coverage in the music papers with a number of journalists predicting that the band, and label mates Echo & The Bunnymen, stood on the cusp of greatness with long and successful careers inevitable.

Like many other acts who were attached to small labels at that particular time, the production values are basic and far from polished, but there’s certainly a noticeable spark about the music while there’s enough intrigue in the lyrics, certainly on the a-side, to make the most causal listener sit up and take notice.

Zoo Records eventually wound up and The Teardrop Explodes landed a contract with Phonogram Records, resulting in two very fine albums in Kilimanjaro (October 1980) and Wilder (December 1981), with three singles also hitting the Top 30. Indeed, the debut is one that has aged magnificently and is up there with the finest of all albums from the decade in which it was released. A re-recorded and more polished version of that early Zoo single was included:-

mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Sleeping Gas (album version)

I’ll finish off with a lift from a piece that appeared in The Guardian back in 2010 when a 30th Anniversary edition of Kilimanjaro was reviewed:-

The 30th anniversary reissue recently spurred one heritage-rock magazine to ask the band’s former frontman Julian Cope if he would ever return to writing pop music. It seems a fair enough query given Kilimanjaro’s success: it spawned a top 10 hit in Reward, spent 35 weeks on the charts and displayed such commercial promise that both U2 and Duran Duran apparently considered the Teardrop Explodes their only real competition. You might also feel compelled to ask in light of Cope’s latter- day musical output. That variously includes an hour-long homage to the late Princess of Wales called She-Diana; a live recording of his “proto-metal” band Brain Donor; and Spades & Hoes & Plows, a self-styled “masterpiece of agrarian doom-clod-plod” that features Cope accompanying singer David Wrench on “Mellotron and 26-inch marching bass drum”, and culminates in an 18-minute instrumental inspired by a series of road-toll protests in 19th-century Wales. Alas, Helyntion Beca (The Rebecca Riots) seems to have been overlooked by the programmers of the Radio 1 playlist, a fate that also befell such other recent Cope numbers as All the Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers….(Will Realise the Minute They Die That They Were Suckers).

Actually, Cope told the magazine, he’d just written a pop song, inspired by the mid-60s baroque style of the Left Banke, a band not so wildly removed from the kind of influences that powered Kilimanjaro – the blasting brass arrangements of Forever Changes-era Love, the Seeds’ reedy garage rock, the sunshine pop of the Turtles. “It’s called,” he added, “The Cunts Can Fuck Off.”

He’d obviously been listening to early Jesus and Mary Chain

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (35)

Yesterday’s posting involved a lot of research and work. Today’s is a straight lift from wiki, albeit in edited form:-

Wuthering Heights is a song by Kate Bush released as her debut single in November 1977 and re-released in January 1978. It appears on her 1978 debut album The Kick Inside. It stayed at number one on the UK Singles Chart for four weeks, and remains Bush’s most successful single. The song received widespread critical acclaim, with Pitchfork naming it the fifth greatest song of the 1970s.

Bush wrote the song aged 18, within a few hours late at night on 5 March 1977. She was inspired after seeing the 1967 BBC adaptation of the 1847 novel Wuthering Heights. She then read the book and discovered that she shared her birthday with author Emily Brontë.

Wuthering Heights is sung from the perspective of the character Catherine Earnshaw, pleading at Heathcliff’s window to be allowed in. It quotes Catherine’s dialogue, including the chorus lyric “Let me in! I’m so cold!” and “bad dreams in the night”. Critic Simon Reynolds described it as “Gothic romance distilled into four-and-a-half minutes of gaseous rhapsody”. The vocal was recorded in a single take.

Bush’s record company, EMI, originally chose another track, James and the Cold Gun, as the lead single, but Bush was determined that it should be Wuthering Heights, which in due course was scheduled for release at the beginning of November 1977. However, the singer was unhappy with the images chosen for sleeve and demanded that it replaced. Although some copies of the single had already been sent out to radio stations, the label did relent and rescheduled the release for mid-January 1978, a move that actually was of immense and unforeseen benefit as a November release would have seen it clash with Mull of Kintyre, the new single by Wings that subsequently became the then biggest-selling single in UK history.

Wuthering Heights proved to be something of a slow burner, with most of its early plays being restricted to the London-based Capital Radio. It took a full month to reach the charts, but after a debut appearance on Top of The Pops, it went on an upwards spiral, hitting the top spot in mid-March, where it stayed for four weeks. It wouldn’t drop out of the Top 40 until May 1978, and come the end of the year was certified as the tenth highest-selling single of 1978, with sales of well over half a million.

mp3 : Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
mp3 : Kate Bush – Kite

Little known fact….and one which is a damning indictment on the pop industry.

Wuthering Heights was the first UK # 1 to be written and performed by a female artist.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (34)

I’ve decided to have a bit of a breather from the normal run of things as I’m off on holiday for a wee while (Barbados since you’re asking, Dirk) and have decided that while I’m away, and for a few days beyond so that I can recover from the jetlag, I’m going to resurrect the ‘Cracking Debut Single’ series (albeit the usual Saturday/Sunday features will still be delivered in the usual way…..)

Here’s what you’ve had thus far:-

1. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin
2. PJ Harvey – Dress
3. Six Pistols – Anarchy in the UK
4. The Cure – Killing An Arab
5. The Sundays – Can’t Be Sure
6. Roxy Music – Virginia Plain
7. Orange Juice – Falling and Laughing
8. Teenage Fanclub – Everything Flows
9. Talking Heads – Love → Building on Fire
10. New Order – Ceremony
11. The Specials – Gangsters
12. Fun Boy Three – The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum
13. Magazine – Shot By Both Sides
14. James – JimOne EP
15. Pavement – Slay Tracks 1933-69 EP
16. The Libertines – What A Waster
17. Aztec Camera – Just Like Gold
18. Curve – Blindfold EP
19. The Police – Fall Out
20. The Damned – New Rose
21. The Monkees – Last Train to Clarksville
22. The Skids – Charles EP
23. A Certain Ratio – All Night Party
24. The Strokes – Hard to Explain
25. The Waltones – Downhill
26. Violent Femmes – Gone Daddy Gone
27. The Who – I Can’t Explain
28. Nirvana – Love Buzz
29. Eels – Novocaine For The Soul
30. U2 – U2-3 EP
31. Subway Sect – Nobody’s Scared
32. Buzzcocks – Spiral Scratch EP
33. Suede – The Drowners

I really should feature The Smiths given that Hand In Glove was such an astonishing statement of intent, but this blog firmly remains a Moz-free Zone.

#34 in the series is a song released around the time of my 16th birthday in June 1979, to be later re-recorded for inclusion on the band’s debut album in 1980. It has a very distinct subject matter, being a satirical attack on a real-life politician. It was an incendiary and controversial release as the title clearly alluded to former stanzas within a national anthem that have been withdrawn in modern history due to them being linked with Nazism. It’s a song that was (and is), in its 7” vinyl form, quite rough and unpolished, and with the lead singer not making much of an effort at the time to explain himself, nor make any concessions to those who were incensed and offended by the name of his group it ended up being banned from most radio stations across the globe.

The song dated from 1977 when two members of The Healers co-wrote it for that band, but it was never properly recorded until the singer hooked up with another guitarist to form a new punk/surf band based out of San Francisco. The name they took caused controversy and led to difficulties in them getting bookings without the use of one or more pseudonyms. The singer had to explain that they were as far removed from a far-right, fascistic and hateful band as could be imagined and that their name was not meant as an insult to the memory of one of the great American political dynasties but simply drew attention to the fact that the late 70s were seeing the end of the American Dream.

Despite all this, no American label would touch them which led to the formation of Alternative Tenatacles on which the debut single (and all subsequent material for the next eight years) was released.

mp3 : Dead Kennedys – California Uber Alles
mp3 : Dead Kennedys – The Man With The Dogs

The single was licensed in the UK by the Edinburgh-based Fast Product, selling enough copies, without much radio support, to go Top 5 in the UK indie charts. It proved to be the only release by the band on Fast as the following year saw Cherry Red sign a deal to release a subsequent single and the debut album on which a harder and faster version was issued:-

mp3 : Dead Kennedys – California Uber Alles (album version)

Worth mention here that in 1981, Dead Kennedys recorded an EP entitled In God We Trust, Inc.. The first six songs were around a minute or so in length before the centrepiece was revealed, an updated version of the debut single, now specifically about President Reagan, with a lounge-jazz sound, alternative lyrics and a much slower pace (well for bits of the song, anyway):-

mp3 : Dead Kennedys – We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now

There have been numerous covers/interpretations of California Uber Alles over the years, with many versions updating the lyrics so that they feature more contemporary politicians. Here’s a couple of my favourites, one being a straighforward cover and the other just a bit different:-

mp3 : The Delgados – California Uber Alles
mp3 : The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – California Uber Alles

I promise something a little bit less frantic and controversial tomorrow,

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (12)

After Murder Park entered the album charts at #33, dropping down the following week to #52 before disappearing altogether. Sales are disappointing and Luke Haines decides to call a band meeting and to inform everyone that once all the touring commitments are over, firstly to the USA and then Europe, there will be no more Auteurs.

The front man was already planning his next move which was to take up the offer from the record label to work up the idea of a Baader Meinhof album, but there was to be one last hurrah for the band via the release of an EP about which one critic would later say ‘proved to be one the best things Haines has ever released… and probably the most miserable.’

Kids Issue features four songs, two of which, the title track and A New Life A New Family, hadn’t previously seen light of day.  They were all taken from a John Peel session, recorded on 20 February and broadcast on 8 March 1996, just a week after the release of the new album and just as it was falling out of the charts.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Kids Issue (Peel Session)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Buddha (Peel Session)
mp3 : The Auteurs – A New Life A New Family (session)
mp3 : The Auteurs – After Murder Park (session)

Confession time.

Until getting things underway on this series, I had no idea whatsoever that this EP even existed. Wiki states that it reached #163 in the charts….I had no idea that the singles chart went so deep (or least it did in 1996)….which probably equates to sales of about 1,000 (which is a complete guess on my part!).

I did know the songs from their inclusion on a 3xCD retrospective Luke Haines Is Dead that was released in in 2005 but I’ve now managed to pick up a second-hand copy of the actual EP.  These four songs are an absolute delight, and it is hard to reconcile them with the fact that they were recorded at a time when the band was about to give up the ghost………..well, for now anyway, as will be explained in Part 13 of this series which will be here at the same time next Sunday on this very same channel.

JC