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

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #190 : LONELY TOURIST

Those of you who are able to cast your memories back to July 2014 will recall that the previous time this singer and song was featured. Today’s posting leans heavily on that occasion….

This song was brought to my attention via the exceptional Football and Music website. It is devoted to linking football and music and it does so to great effect, very often in the most entertaining and educational way and is the way that I came to learn about Lonely Tourist, the name adopted by Paul Tierney, a Glasgow-born singer/songwriter now based in Bristol (well, at least he was back in 2014).

mp3 : Lonely Tourist – The Ballad of Paul Tierney

The thing is, the song written by Paul Tierney the musician is about Paul Tierney the footballer. This is the summary from wiki:-

Born in Salford, Greater Manchester on 15 September 1982, Tierney signed for Manchester United as a trainee in July 1999 and as a professional 12 months later. He was loaned out to Crewe Alexandra (where he scored his first career goal against Blackpool), Colchester United, and Bradford City. He made his senior debut for Manchester United on 3 December 2003 against West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup. He signed for Livingston on 16 June 2005 having been released by Manchester United, but failed to impress in his first season at the club and they were relegated from the Scottish Premier League. He joined Blackpool on 2 June 2006 on a free transfer.

In July 2007, Blackpool manager Simon Grayson allowed Tierney to join Stockport County in a six-month loan deal. At Stockport he scored once against Macclesfield in the Football League Trophy. Tierney returned to Blackpool in January 2008, and in May 2008, he was released by the club. In September 2008 he signed for Conference National club Altrincham. However, he left the club after less than a month.

Tierney has also represented the Republic of Ireland at under 21 level.

Here’s the thing, Paul Tierney’s one first team appearance for Manchester United was alongside a few household names, with none more famous than Cristiano Ronaldo. As Webbie, the brains behind Football and Music said:-

Paul Tierney in his time did something we all dream about – playing football for an elite team. Playing football professionally and being paid for it.

It was during his spell in Scotland with Livingston FC that Paul Tierney the musician first noticed him and led to the writing of the song. It turns out that, via Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq, word got back to Paul the musician that Paul the footballer had heard the song, and not only did he like it, but he was flattered by it.

I picked up a copy of the song via bandcamp. If, having listened to via this posting and you find that you like it, I’d respectfully ask that you do similar.

https://lonelytourist.bandcamp.com/track/the-ballad-of-paul-tierney

Cheers

JC

LOTS OF PROFANITIES TODAY!

1985 was the year that the NME went nuts for the Jesus and Mary Chain.

Psychocandy was placed at #2 in the albums of the year poll, beaten to the top spot by Rain Dogs by Tom Waits.

As far as the tracks of the year went:-

#1 : Never Understand
#2 : Just Like Honey
#6 : You Trip Me Up

Interestingly enough, while three tracks from Psychocandy were among the best six songs of the year, none of the songs found on Rain Dogs made the Top 50. Go figure that one out……………..

You Trip Me Up was released as a single in May 1985. It was the band’s third 45 on the back of Upside Down and Never Understand.

mp3 : The Jesus and Mary Chain – You Trip Me Up

It’s worth recalling that the JAMC enjoyed a certain amount of notoriety at this point in time, partly from the violence that seemed to be present at almost of their live performances (and which was a huge factor in my decision not to venture along to see them) but also for them being bloody-minded and provocative when it came to getting product into the shops.

They had signed a fairly lucrative contract with Warner Bros. but through the subsidiary Blanco y Negro – bands hadn’t forgotten the backlash faced by The Clash when they had signed on the dotted line with CBS and the trick was to try and appear as if you were still of an indie-bent when in fact your paymaster was one of the biggest global operations imaginable.

Never Understand was only eventually issued as a single after much to-ing and fro-ing about the b-side with the label rejecting Suck, no doubt imagining and dreading the backlash from the tabloid press picking up on the closing line of Cunts!Cunts!Cunts!Fuck!Fuck!Fuck!……but eventually giving in when it was indicated that the only alternative would be a new song, still to be recorded, that had the title of Jesus Fuck…..

Everyone seemed OK with the fact that You Trip Me Up would the next single, but yet again the band, egged on by their confrontationally-minded guru Alan McGhee, wanted the newly named Jesus Suck as the b-side and while the record label eventually gave in, the folk at the pressing plant refused to authorise its pressing, on the grounds of blasphemy. It was all great publicity as far as McGhee was concerned and in due course, things were settled with the a much acceptable track offered up as the b-side:-

mp3 : The Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Out of Reach

The 12” came with an additional track, one that made an ICA as selected by swc in November 2016. Here’s his fabulous description:-

“Opening line ‘C…..F!

Some people say that the Marychain did thus sort of thing to be deliberately provocative and to show they were angry but I think on reflection it was weariness and frustration. Its songs like this that give us fans that were too young to witness the early chaotic violent gigs, some impression as to what they actually sounded like.”

mp3 : The Jesus and Mary Chain – Boyfriend’s Dead

It pains me to argue with swc – and I’m doing it from the safety of my bedroom and using a keyboard as he’d wipe the floor with me if we were sitting opposite one another and talking this one through – but it really was all down to provocation. In evidence, I present the song that could have, and in the eyes of the JAMC, should have, been a b-side, finally made available in 2011 when Pyschocandy was re-released as a two-CD edition with the extra tracks consisting of both sides of the debut singles, three separate John Peel sessions, demos and a small batch of previously unreleased material:-

mp3 : The Jesus and Mary Chain – Jesus Fuck

It’s fair to say that the lyric won’t be a candidate for the ‘Some Songs Make Great Short Stories’ series.

JC

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 28)


I was tidying up a few things a few days back when I came across this comment from Echorich, in response to my lavishing praise on Record, the 2018 release from Tracey Thorn:-

“Record is all about strength, doubting it, gaining it, using it, sustaining it. It was certainly one of my favorite albums of 2018. I’m currently obsessed with the track Smoke. I might suggest it for Some Songs Are Great Short Stories…”

Let’s just say, it’s a great suggestion.

From Carlton Road came Mirriam and Joab
Came Mirriam and Joab
Came Mirriam and Joab

From the wide flat fields to the rolling smoke
to the rolling smoke
to the rolling smoke

I made a little home in the family
a family, a family

As the years went by they led to me
led to me

In good time they had a son called James
who had a son called James, were there no other names?

The first world war and the second one came
the second one came
the second one came

My mother now was a teenage girl
she survived the blitz
she survived the blitz

Though she knew a girl, who knew a girl
Who was blown to bits
who was blown to bits (ah, ha)

London you in my blood and
you’ve been there for so long
London you in my blood but
I feel you going wrong

And so my parents fled the smoke
some ancient feel for green awoke

But I look down the railway line
back to the city, that felt like mine
Where no one cared, what clothes you wore
Or who you loved, what books you bought
Where you were born, what God you loved,
or so I thought
or so I thought

London you in my blood and
you’ve been there for so long
London you in my blood but
I feel you going wrong

And though its streets are paved in gold
all bought and sold
all bought and sold

Still the river runs its course
Back to its source
back to its source

Tied and broke and river fleet
and hearts that beat,
and hearts that beat

Blood that flows and hearts that beat
And hearts that beat…

From Carlton Road came Mirriam and Joab
Came Mirriam and Joab
Came Mirriam and Joab

From the wide flat fields to the rolling smoke
to the rolling smoke
to the rolling smoke

mp3 : Tracey Thorn – Smoke

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #231 : FAD GADGET

A GUEST POSTING by THE AFFECTIONATE PUNCH

I crave your indulgence with what is a rather long article.

Recently JC posted Ricky’s Hand by Fad Gadget (a band whose creative nucleus is Frank Tovey). This got me thinking that, as I consider myself a fan, perhaps I should give an ICA a go. My problem was where to start and what theme, if any, should I use?

I thought the songs would largely take care of themselves but what to write and how? Should I go for something factual – an almost Wikipedia summation – or something a little more personal? So many questions. It took me a while but I eventually decided on personal.

I’ve opted for an almost chronological tracklist. The songs chosen are derived only from the Fad Gadget period. Perhaps a future ICA on Frank’s other works may follow.

Side One

1. Back to Nature (non-album single)

Back to Nature is the second single to be released by Mute Records. Laconic and brooding the song comes in at a whopping 5.49 minutes – hardly radio friendly. To promote the single Fad Gadget began to play live gigs, the 1st being on 18th July, 1979, at The Moonlight Club in West Hampstead. They shared the bill with The Monochrome Set with whom Frank had previous form. Leading to his 1st meeting with Daniel Miller (Mute Records), Frank said … “My flatmate said he knew Daniel Miller so I arranged to meet him at a Monochrome Set gig. I got kind of pissed and fell behind the drum kit so we didn’t meet that night. I met him at Rough Trade later.” Miller claims that their initial meeting was always planned to take place at the offices of Rough Trade in Ladbroke Grove

It’s worth noting that about this time Frank portrayed Daryll of the Silicon Teens; a virtual band created by Daniel Miller but Frank did not play on any Silicon Teens’ record.

A convincing piece of miming by Frank can be viewed in the Teens’ Memphis Tennessee video:

I’d be keen to know if “geodesic” has appeared in any other song lyric?

2. Lady Shave (b-side of Make Room non-album single)

Fans listed Lady Shave within the top 5 most popular Fad Gadget songs as part of the Fad Gadget by Frank Tovey retrospective that took place in 2006.

This is an incredible dance-floor filler with a pulsating beat that’s now synonymous with the time. Speaking to Paul Morley at the NME a year later Frank explained “I object to the pressures put on people to have hair here but not there … the pressure that says that hair on a certain part of a woman’s body is unfeminine. I don’t think pubic hair is shocking at all. I think it’s quite funny. I can’t understand why pubic hair is supposed to be naughty or shocking? Why are there certain parts of the body that you mustn’t talk about? Why can’t you have your pubic hair coloured and attended to by a hairdresser?”

When David Hepworth reviewed the single for Smash Hits it’s not clear if he was including Lady Shave within his comments “Spare, rhythmic and very clever. If Fad is crazy, he’s crazy like a fox and this deserves radio play at the very least.”

3. Ricky’s Hand (non-album single)

As much as I enjoyed the synth pop that would soon fill the charts, I genuinely believe this helped pave the way. There’s a raw naivety to it – it’s pop but it’s also quite experimental too. I think Frank had a knack to be at the forefront of genres without gaining much of the recognition:- synth/new wave/industrial. He later rejected synthesizers in favour of more traditional instruments circa 1986. I’ve actually got Toyah to thank for all of this you know. She was a fan of Fad Gadget. I was a huge fan of Toyah. Fad Gadget provided support for her Glasgow Apollo show December 1981. I was ridiculously excited to be going with my friend. My friend decided to paint his face (one of the faces from the cover of 4 from Toyah) – a brave move as we were travelling from Easterhouse on the 41 bus. However the face painting took so long that we arrived just as Fad Gadget left the stage. It remains an open wound.It transpires that I saw Toyah 3 times at the Apollo, in just over a year for the princely sum of £12 in total.

4. Pedestrian (from the album Fireside Favourites)

Prescient is the best possible term for this song. While there was some understanding of the negative impact on ill-health and environmental impact due to increasing car usage in the early 80s it now seems more stark in the present generation climate emergency.

This is perhaps as funky as Fad Gadget ever got.

“Twenty-five acres every day
to make one mile of motorway.
Pedestrian wait.
Don’t breathe the air it’s full of lead,
babies sick, babies dead.
Pedestrian wait.”

This is a theme that would be further explored in Wheels of Fortune (Under the Flag)

“I choke on my words as I speak
Brain damaged citizens file along the street
A view from my window
A motorway intersection
Exhaust pipes at pram level
Now playgrounds are carparks”

5. Innocent Bystander (from the album Incontinent)

The stunning Friedrichstrasse blog that dedicates 4 pages to early Fad Gadget contends that Innocent Bystander and Blind Eyes reflect the social unrest in the UK at the time. Whether true or not the lyrics are striking …

“Wiped away the condensation
Looked down at the empty street
A girl in white – fright screaming loudly
A screwed-up nut in pursuit

I stood and watched
Frozen to the spot
I stood and watched her bruised chest heave and stop”

6. Swallow It (live) (b-side of Saturday Night Special from the album Incontinent)

This song instantly catapults me back to a time when I would just constantly turn the 7” vinyl from side to side – perched as I was on the edge of my bed and covered in oose (oos or fluff) from a deteriorating candlewick bedspread. It’s one of a very few live, recorded performances that I can say I find captivating. The cynical delivery and impact of the lyrics continues to resonate. The “regurgitated” remix that appeared on the 2001 Best of … is also well worth seeking out.

I add some insightful live information below although it predates the release of Swallow It (live).

Fad Gadget was a performance art band and Frank often put his own safety at risk. There are a number of incidents on file …

Paradiso, Amsterdam: when in the audience he made a flying leap and landed on his heels on a set of steps. He snapped the tendons in both legs in the process. He managed to crawl back on stage, using a tunnel under the main hall, to finish the show. The remainder of the tour was a write-off.

Clarendon, London: Frank decided to play electronic drum with his head during the opening track, managing to gash it open in the process. His head was bandaged, the performance completed, with photographers from “The Face” on hand to capture it for posterity. Frank then went to Charing Cross Hospital.

The Mudd Club, New York: Frank hung from the lighting rigging, beating his chest and making animal noises with the microphone jammed firmly into his mouth.

I believe the photo below was taken after Frank re-emerged from the crawl space of the lowered ceiling. I hope the venue had decent insurance.

His on-stage behaviour was not exactly atypical of so-called synth bands of the time.

Side Two

7. King of the Flies (from the album Incontinent – kind of)

The track 1st appeared on Flexipop issue 11 as a split single with Depeche Mode’s Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead on the a-side. It’s been suggested that this is a different mix although it’s also noted as a promo for the forthcoming single and album. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t own a copy. The single however is a different mix from the album version.

It was anticipated that with an NME interview with Paul Morley, having his photo taken by Anton Corbijn, and being the subject of a whole page feature and interview in Smash Hits, that King of the Flies might be the break-through hit. It wasn’t to be.

It reached number 17 in the UK independent singles chart in April, 1982*. It was during this time that news filtered through that Frank was working on a collaboration with Boyd Rice. Titled, “Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing”, the album was eventually released in 1984.

* The highest charting Fad Gadget single was Collapsing New People which reached No, 5 (independent charts) in January 1984.”

8. Life on the Line I (a non-album single)

I was all but convinced that this single would enter the charts and was hugely disappointed when it didn’t. I have noted it here as version I for clarity however it is listed plainly as Life on the Line. It did chart at number 10 in the independent charts. Versions I to IV were released as b-sides and album tracks. It’s a concept that I believe works superbly. This is one of the tracks on which you can distinctly hear Alison Moyet.

Where version I (7”) is a straight forward pop song, version II (12”) is a proper mash-up remix. Glorious. Version III (12”) is a vocal and piano version with the backing vocal choir coming into full effect. Exquisite. IV returns us to a more conventional pop orientated mix and appears on the album Under the Flag.

9. Under The Flag II (from the album Under The Flag)

Under the Flag I opened the album Under the Flag while Under the Flag II closed it. I have chosen II for its plaintive, yet anthemic, feel.

Lyrically it’s akin to Bauhaus

“Well I tried so hard to please you
’cause I know that you crave blood
Consumer credit carnivores
And now the masses have been fed
Suck the offal from the dead
Now the joker’s here to pick the sores”

10. Speak to Me (from the album Gag)

Appearing on the final Fad Gadget studio album, Speak to Me is a pop delight. Vocals are shared between Frank and Barbara Frost.

If the line “Hang your bloody linen on the barbed wire fence” doesn’t capture your attention I’m not sure what will?

“Um, sha la la la, um sha la la la ooh,” indeed.

11. Jump (from the album Gag)

I have had the honour of dancing to this at an indie disco. I played it and then ran like a maniac to the dance floor. Lyrically, it’s far from uplifting but somehow, lost in the trance of rhythmic disco lights and an insistent sound system I was uplifted.

The window ledge is calling you
Your mind’s in disarray
The way out seems so simple now
In the cold, cold light of day

The world is rough and jagged
And it tears you up, it tears you up

12. One Man’s Meat (from the album Gag)

Frank seemed to favour the darker side when it came to lyrics and none more so than here.

“I felt like dropping down
Sick in the street
I could hardly care about walking
Dragged along with no force in my feet
And all the bones in me knocking
Worn down by caution
Make numb with restrain
In all of my sweetness
I retch and I faint”

I get a clear sense that I Discover Love – a non-album single released prior to the album – was recorded very close to One Man’s Meat the final single to be released by Fad Gadget in 1984 (not including the re-emergence of Fad Gadget with remix singles in 2001 and 2003).

I was gutted on hearing the news that Fad Gadget was no more. It was ‘my band’ I was the only person that I knew that liked them and I felt a little cheated. It would be 4 years later, in 1988, before I met someone who had a) heard of Fad Gadget and b) liked Fad Gadget. We remain friends to this day.

Bonus Track

13. Spoil the Child (b-side to Collapsing New People from the album Gag)

This gem has an almost nursery rhyme feel to it and I can’t but wonder if it was originally linked to M4 (the b-side to Life on the Line). Vocals are by Barbara Frost who by this time had dropped the middle-initial J from her name and was now married to Tovey. Their daughter Morgan appears on M4 and Sleep (Gag album).

While it is often reported that Einstürzende Neubauten played on Collapsing New People, the seven-inch sleeve only credits the band as guest musicians on the single’s B-side, Spoil the Child. It credits them as appearing “with or without the kind permission of Some Bizarre”.

Blixa Bargeld has noted that overdubs from the Einstürzende Neubauten sessions were used by Gareth Jones on Depeche Mode’s People Are People.

In May, 2001 I learned that Fad Gadget would be supporting Depeche Mode on their Exciter tour, via a poster within Madrid Rock, a record shop once located on Gran Via, Madrid. I immediately double-checked the tour dates and was overjoyed to learn that a Madrid date had been scheduled. We bought our tickets then and there and began to plan for our return to Madrid from Glasgow in late September. Fast forward to the day of the gig …

We arrived at the stadium as elated as it’s possible to get. There was some dreadful, deafening music being played by a DJ (Angel Molina). The sounds of the DJ died away and Depeche Mode took to the stage. Eh? What!? It seems that Fad Gadget could not play due to a car accident in which a band member was injured. I nearly cried. I probably did. We decided to stay for Depeche Mode but my mood was dark. We sidled to awful seats and were confronted with some of the worst live sound it has ever been my misfortune to be assaulted by. It was so shriekingly-trebly that it actually did go right through us – like fingernails snaking their way down a blackboard. Our experience is substantiated by others at the gig and reviews on the Depeche Mode live site. I think we lasted 5 songs and left.

I’d like to say I was inconsolable – it’d be terribly dramatic. I was upset. However, I was also in my favourite city and it worked it’s magic. We visited some local music bars in Malasaña and I think I recall some indie-dancing as I stood at the bar watching in disbelief a vodka being poured: one, two, three, four, five seconds. Needless to say the remainder of the night passed quickly and enjoyably.

In issue 11 of Flexipop magazine, September 1981 Frank was asked what his fantasy was and he replied

 

On Wednesday 3rd April 2002 Frank realised his fantasy. He died of heart failure at his home in London.

Written in conjunction with a failing memory, Google, Wikipedia and http://friedrichstrasse.blogspot.com.

TAP

AND WITH SUCCESS COMES ACCEPTANCE

It was May 1979 when most of us got our first ever look at Gary Numan as he fronted Tubeway Army and enjoyed a #1 hit:-

mp3 : Tubeway Army – Are Friends Electric?

He was a very peculiar looking individual, looking more like a dummy or a robot from a sci-fi film than a human being. It’s only when doing the research for this post did it hit me that he was just 21 years of age when he achieved this mainstream success – he was only five years older than me but I remember watching him on Top of the Pops  and thinking that he was ancient.

The mentality of the school playground was such that I can’t recall any of my male peers being fans as he was considered an out-and-out weirdo. The girls didn’t fancy him either, probably on account that he didn’t ooze sex appeal. Looking back, we were of an age that didn’t get it.

You had those of us who loved the fast spiky guitars of new wave while others were at the other extreme of appreciating nothing but the bombastic noise of hard rock, and, for both camps, the very thought of synthesisers blasting out of the cheap stereo speakers in our bedrooms was too much to handle. There were some who had a love for keyboards via their prog rock collections, but their contempt for Numan was ever worse given his haircut and the fact he wouldn’t be caught dead wearing patchouli oil.

But it’s amazing what a difference a few months can make. Most of the gang had left school in the summer of 1979, with many finding work as cheap labour in the banking and retail sectors, while others got a foot on the bottom rung of the civil service ladder.  The luckier ones found themselves an apprenticeship/trade and and the unluckiest found themselves on the dole, from where they would eventually be plucked and put into some sort of training scheme for not much more than slave wages.  Only about a quarter of us returned to school in August 1979, into 5th Year to sit exams that would possibly see us eventually go to college or university, and the biggest single change was that we now had a common room in which we could congregate when we weren’t attending lessons. A common room in which we could play music, mostly via radio but very occasionally someone would bring in a cassette player, having saved all their pocket money to buy the six large batteries that powered it. It was in that very common room that I would have first heard this:-

mp3 : Gary Numan – Cars

It seemed the weird looking bloke had gone solo and cut a record that was tailor-made for radio. He still had a squeaky, robotic-type voice but there was something rather immediate about the song which made it an enjoyable listen. Being know-all 16/17 year-olds, there was a bit of a competition to come up with the songs/records that were closely related to Cars, with, as you’d expect, David Bowie being mentioned, and in particular, Heroes. Those who had older siblings were dropping he names of Roxy Music and Brian Eno into the conversation and I threw in the name of a new band that had just come across my radar, Magazine, but was quick to point out that their songs also had loads of guitar and bass on them.

So…..we now had a situation where is it was now very acceptable to like Gary Numan, and indeed there were a number who were now saying that they had liked Are Friends Electric? all along (I’ll plead guilty to that charge…..). Little did any of us realise that an electronica revolution was just around the corner, and that just over a year later, a number of us would be making our way to the Glasgow Apollo to our first ever synth-gig where the headliners were Orchestral Manoeuvres in Dark, a duo that had just taken the singles chart by storm. Little did we know, until Andy McCluskey spoke during the set, that this was not OMD’s first appearance at the hallowed venue, having been there 12 months earlier as support to, yup, Gary Numan.

I now recognise just how big and important and how brilliant Gary Numan/Tubeway Army was back in the day. He paved the way for what would come next, enabling the likes of The Human League and Soft Cell to enjoy chart domination at the start of the 80s. But I still can’t get my head around the fact he was in his early 20s at the time.

Here’s the b-sides of the two songs featured above:-

mp3 : Tubeway Army – We Are So Fragile
mp3 : Gary Numan – Asylum

The latter, an instrumental, is like something out of a horror movie.

JC

BAD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN IT’S QUIET

Here’s some good news to brighten up a November morning.

Butcher Boy have been back in the studio in recent times, working on new material that could see the light of day in 2020. If so, it will be the first release since the Bad Things Happen When It’s Quiet EP that was issued by Damaged Goods on Record Store Day 2017 – Saturday 22 April – which itself was the first new material in six years.

The 2017 EP consisted of three songs which made up a three-part story told from three perspectives. It was an ambitious effort, with singer/songwriter John Blain Hunt taking his inspiration from what he had seen in his surroundings during some holidays to the Cape Cod area of the USA to which he applied his own fabulous imagination and story-telling skills to compose three faultless tunes that brought out the very best in his long-time bandmates together with a guest vocal from Anna Miles, a mainstay of the music and broadcasting scene in Glasgow. I’ve long wanted to feature the three tracks but have held off on account of it still being available from the website of the record label and my fear that I would be posting them as a eulogy for one of my favourite bands. The news of new material coming over the horizon has changed things:-

mp3 : Butcher Boy – November 1947, Storm Warning In Effect
mp3 : Butcher Boy – July 1950, The Captain is the Whale
mp3 : Butcher Boy – November 1951, Bad Things Happen When It’s Quiet

Butcher Boy have always made music that is a cut above the ordinary, but the ambition of these three songs really was on another level. The only sad thing, from a selfish point of view, is that the band haven’t ever aired them in the live setting beyond the one gig, held on Record Store Day 2017, in the unlikely setting of a disused swimming pool in a socially challenged community in Glasgow. It was a show that was very special in terms of location but it provided a unique set of challenges in terms of a live sound given the size, dimensions and acoustics of the venue – the band were set-up in what was the deep end of the pool with the audience sitting high above them.

It really would have been wonderful to hear things in a ‘proper’ venue whose acoustics were better suited to the music – maybe next year, although I’m reliably informed that with it being a logistical nightmare to get everyone together in one place at the one time, there are currently no plans for live gigs to accompany any future physical releases.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (11)

Previously on The Singular Adventure of Luke Haines:-

“It was April 1995 before he was in any sort of shape to return to the studio, where he took the songs he had been writing while recuperating and teamed up with Steve Albini, the producer best known from his work with Nirvana, It took just 13 days to finish work on the new album, which was given the title After Murder Park, and it was presented to the record label in May 1995. For one reason after another, its release is consistently delayed and it doesn’t see light of day until 1 March 1996. But that’s a story for another day”

We have now reached ‘another day’, via last week’s wonderful guest contribution from chaval with his thoughts on the masterful Back With The Killer EP.

It took just six weeks for Hut Records to issue the next 45 by The Auteurs, the all-important track to fully showcase the forthcoming album recorded so many months previously with Steve Albini. It came in at just over two minutes in length; it featured a swear word in the second line amidst a lyric that seemed to make little, if indeed any, sense; the responsibility for the promo video was handed to an up-and coming director named Chris Cunningham whose ideas  bordered on the surreal; and it had a title that, in the event of a war breaking out or some sort of aeronautical disaster incurring, faced an automatic radio ban:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Light Aircraft on Fire

I really didn’t like this single when I first heard it, thinking it was the final nail in the coffin for The Auteurs and indeed for Luke Haines himself. It’s a hard-edged, rockier sort of sound, which to be fair, should have been anticipated given who was in the producer’s chair, miles away from the chamber/baroque-pop that had been such an attraction in the early days. It was only when I read Bad Vibes more than a decade later did it hit me that Haines had come to the conclusion he was both unable and unwilling to play the game in terms of being a pop star, with things like the broken ankles from the fall that had brought a previous tour to an end and the release of the Baader Meinhof single being clear signs that he wanted someone to drive the stake through the heart of his band.

And it was only in listening to the track alongside the others that would appear on After Murder Park on its release a month or so later, did it make some sort of sense why Light Aircraft on Fire had been selected as a single – the other tracks were even less commercial sounding, although many of them bordered on genius, albeit from the mind of a complex individual. It was a long way removed from country houses, cigarettes and alcohol and the lives of common people. The fact that the album had titles such as Unsolved Child Murder, New Brat In Town, Tombstone (in which he dreams of blowing up the hotel of choice for the Britpop cognoscenti) and Dead Sea Navigators are all you need to know, not forgetting a wonderfully powerful version of an old b-side, Everything You Say Will Destroy You.

The reviews were again reasonably positive, with one or two being astute enough to suggest that Haines had things in common with the newly revitalised Radiohead and that songs on After Murder Park would not have sounded out of place on The Bends.

But that was all for the future. The most disappointing thing from the release of the new single was that the b-sides felt like the b-sides, which seemed a first in respect of The Auteurs (albeit the demo showed promise!):-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Buddha (4-track band demo)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Car Crash
mp3 : The Auteurs – X-Boogie Man

All told, it was no real surprise that the single failed to crack the Top 50.

Tune in next week for another instalment is this tale of the top of the flops.

JC

PS : Video bonus

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #184 -189 : LLOYD COLE

I’ve written many words on many previous occasions, so this time round I’ll just go with some songs, covering what could have been six separate entries along with some background info.  As far as I can recall, none of the six songs have been on the blog before.

mp3 : Lloyd & Will Cole – Perfect Skin

From 2012 when Lloyd and his son Will, having played some shows together for which they had worked out some brand new arrangements (and some variations on some very old ones), decided to drop into a studio and do some live material of said arrangements.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

In January 2010, Lloyd went into a studio with what he termed his Small Ensemble for a one-off recording of stripped-down acoustic takes on Commotions and solo material, which were then sold as a limited edition CD. The Small Ensemble consisted of Lloyd Cole and Matt Cullen on guitar and banjo, and Mark Schwaber on guitar and mandolin.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Andy’s Babies

B-side to Forest Fire (1985)

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – Impossible Girl

The Negatives consisted of Lloyd Cole (vocals, guitar and synthesizer), David Darby (bass guitar, vocals), Michael Kotch (guitar), Rafa Maciejak (drums) and Jill Sobule (guitar, vocals). They released an album, with eleven tracks, in 2000, a couple of which, including Impossible Girl, also had strings.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & Jill Sobule  – For The Good Times

Recorded for a 2006 tribute album to Kris Kristofferson

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & Robert Quine – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

Recorded for a 1997 tribute album to Burt Bacharach.

Taken together, these six tracks would have made for a very fine EP.

JC