SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 31)

A song I got to know from a version recorded by Johnny Cash and later on by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Ten years ago, on a cold dark night
There was someone killed ‘neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene, but they all agreed
That the slayer who ran looked a lot like me

The judge said, “Son what is your alibi?
If you were somewhere else then you won’t have to die”
I spoke not a word though it meant my life
For I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

The scaffold is high, and eternity nears
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But sometimes at night when the cold wind mourns
In a long black veil she cries over my bones

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me, nobody knows but me, nobody knows but me

It was written in 1959 by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin, the latter being one of the few females able to make any sort of living as a songwriter in those days.  Her most famous composition, written in the mid-70s alongside Kris Kristofferson, is the country/christian ballad, One Day At A Time, a version of which, recorded by Scottish cabaret singer Lena Martell, spent three weeks at #1 in the UK in November 1979, much to the disgust of my 16-year old self.

Long Black Veil has been recorded by hundreds of different singers and groups, and just last year, the original version was selected by the Library of Congress in the USA for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

mp3 : Lefty Frizzell – Long Black Veil

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #237 : WARREN ZEVON

A GUEST POSTING by ROL HIRST

mastermind behind My Top Ten blog

Warren Zevon is known to the great unwashed for one song and one song only. It’s a great song, don’t get me wrong. I never tire of hearing it and it contains the best example of alliteration-meets-assonance I’ve ever heard in a pop song.

Little old lady got mutilated late last night

Sorry. We English teachers have to get our kicks where we can.

For many years, I didn’t know much more about Warren Zevon, and then I bought his “Greatest Hits” album Genius and found myself loving all the songs. Zevon’s songwriting has wit and attitude, a real edge that separates him from many of his contemporaries… and he swore a hell of a lot on record, even back in the 70s. Swearing on record is pretty much de rigueur these days – even Lloyd Cole sings “Motherfucker” on his latest album – but Zevon led the way… which might explain why many of his best songs never got any airplay.

Eventually I started digging into Zevon’s back catalogue proper, and that’s when my love affair with his work really began. Over the last few years, rarely a week has gone by where I haven’t listened to something by Zevon… and I can’t think of any other artist I could say that about, even my all-time favourites.

I thought it was about time I got around to inflicting a Warren Zevon ICA on JC… but there were so many great tunes to choose from, I had to restrict myself. So… no Werewolves, and none of the other “hits” from Genius. This means I couldn’t include Excitable Boy; A Certain Girl; The French Inhaler (an absolute classic); Poor, Poor Pitiful Me; Splendid Isolation; or Roland, The Headless Thompson Gunner. I wouldn’t even allow myself the greatest Prince cover ever recorded… Raspberry Beret by The Hindu Love Gods (aka Warren with Peter Buck, Bill Berry and Mike Mills).

Despite all those omissions, I was still spoilt for choice, and it took me some time to narrow this list down. Hope you enjoy my selections… there’s many more great tunes where these came from.

1. Play It All Night Long : from ‘Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School’ (1980)

In 1970, Neil Young wrote Southern Man, criticising the southern states of the USA for their history of racism and slavery. In 1972, Lynyrd Skynyrd responded “I hope Neil Young will remember: a southern man don’t need him around anyhow” on Sweet Home Alabama. In 1980, Warren Zevon wrote a “satirical homage” to Sweet Home Alabama while stoned. It’s the perfect threequel, though the lyrics kept it well away from the radio.

Grandpa pissed his pants again
He don’t give a damn
Brother Billy has both guns drawn
He ain’t been right since Vietnam
Daddy’s doing Sister Sally
Grandma’s dying of cancer now
The cattle all have brucellosis
We’ll get through somehow

I’m going down to the Dew Drop Inn
See if I can drink enough
There ain’t much to country living
Sweat, piss, jizz and blood

“Sweet Home Alabama”
Play that dead band’s song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

How many other pop songs can you name which contain the word “brucellosis”?

Oh, there’s one more link in this chain (that I know of). In 2007, southern man Kid Rock released All Summer Long which samples both Sweet Home Alabama and Werewolves of London. Its chorus also echoes Play It All Night Long as Rock sings “Singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long”. It’s pretty good, for a Kid Rock song.

2. For My Next Trick, I’ll Need A Volunteer : From Life’ll Kill Ya (2000)

One of my favourite Prefab Sprout songs is The Old Magician, in which Paddy McAloon uses his titular magician as a metaphor for old age, failure and regret. Here’s Warren doing similar, although his magician represents being useless in love.

Well I can saw a woman in two
But you won’t want to look in the box when I am through
I can make love disappear
For my next trick I’ll need a volunteer

I can pull a rabbit out of a hat
I can pull it out, but I can’t put it back
I can make love disappear
For my next trick I’ll need a volunteer

Both magicians end up alone on an empty stage.

3. Night Time In The Switching Yard : From Excitable Boy (1978)

It’s not always the lyrics that draw me to Warren’s work. There are very few in this track. What grabs me instead is the funky bassline – you’d be forgiven for thinking Warren had dragged Nile Rodgers into the studio. Night Time In The Switching Yard has an incredibly hypnotic quality. Great late night chill-out listening, on repeat, forever.

4. Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School : From Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School (1980)

Here’s another one that doesn’t get in primarily on its lyrics – though that title alone surely deserves a place in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Dancing School is a metaphor for brothels, apparently. I love the way this opens with strings and then kicks into an edgy rocker, and Warren’s voice is perfect for pleading.

5. Frank And Jessie James : From Warren Zevon (1976)

Not his debut album, but considered by many to be so. Prior to this, way back in 1969, Warren had released one other record, under the name Zevon, partly produced by Kim Fowley, until the pair of them fell out. It took Warren 7 years to recover and get another record out, this one produced by Jackson Browne. You can hear that very clearly in the production, which appropriately evokes the wide open spaces of the old west. A story song: no jokes, no snark, just well told and emotive. (Though it may be a bit too Billy Joel for JC.)

6. Desperados Under The Eaves : From Warren Zevon (1976)

In a similar vein musically, but one of the first times that the true character of Warren Zevon shows through in the lyrics. Cynical, world weary, with a bruised heart and an eye for devastating detail.

I was sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel
I was staring in my empty coffee cup
I was thinking that the gypsy wasn’t lyin’
All the salty margaritas in Los Angeles
I’m gonna drink ’em up

And if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing until I pay my bill

Obviously this was the one that most inspired the band Lucero to pen: Went Looking For Warren Zevon’s Los Angeles.

7. Disorder In The House : From The Wind (2003)

OK, enough of the slow stuff. let’s kick it up a notch. Shortly after his death in 2004, a number of celebrity admirers contributed to a Warren Zevon tribute album titled Enjoy Every Sandwich (his own philosophy, after he was asked how he was coping with the cancer that eventually killed him). Covers were contributed by Bob Dylan, The Pixies, Van Dyke Parks and Don Henley, among others, as well as one track from a big Zevon fan and collaborator, Bruce Springsteen. The pair first worked together on Warren’s 1982 album The Envoy, but this track comes from Zevon’s final album, released 21 years later. Springsteen’s guitar and backing vocals mix well with another of Warren’s witty takes on mortality. He’s really enjoying every sandwich on this one.

It also contains the line:

I’m sprawled across the davenport of despair

I mean, come on… beat that! (Oh, there’s also a Lhasa Apso in this song. Just saying.)

8. Let Nothing Come Between You : From The Envoy (1984)

A love song, plain and simple. Zevon-style.

Got the license – got the ring
Got back the blood tests and everything
Putting on my boutonniere – It’s her favourite flower
Then I’m walking down the altar and I’m gonna take the vow
De de de de de de de de de de
Don’t let nothing come between us

Brucellosis, boutonniere, Lhasa Apso, davenport… truly there was no word Warren Zevon was afraid of using in a lyric.

9. My Shit’s Fucked Up : From Life’ll Kill Ya (2000)

Surprisingly written some time before his terminal diagnosis, although this one does confirm his phobia of doctors. One to turn up loud if you’re feeling your age this morning. (I know I am.)

Well, I went to the doctor
I said, “I’m feeling kind of rough”
“Let me break it to you, son”
“Your shit’s fucked up.”
I said, “my shit’s fucked up?”
Well, I don’t see how–“
He said, “The shit that used to work–
It won’t work now.”

10. My Ride’s Here : From My Ride’s Here (2002)

This one, on the other hand, was written shortly after Warren learned that he was dying. I can’t help but think that the hotel he’s waiting at here is the same one where he sat drinking salty margaritas in Desperados Under The Eaves. I like the way he appears to be tempted back into religion (Zevon came from a Jewish background) but appears to reject it at the end. Where is that ride taking him?

I was staying at the Westin
I was playing to a draw
When in walked Charlton Heston
With the Tablets of the Law
He said, “It’s still the Greatest Story”
I said, “Man, I’d like to stay
But I’m bound for glory
I’m on my way
My ride’s here”

11. Keep Me In Your Heart : From The Wind (2003)

The final Warren Zevon song. Last track of his last album. If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, get yourself some eyedrops.

I want this song played at my own funeral.

Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house
Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for a while

ROL

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 3)

A GUEST SERIES

43. Dirty Boots – Sonic Youth (1990 DGC Records)

Released as a Single in April 1991 (Did not Chart)

‘Dirty Boots’ was the third and final release from Sonic Youth’s sixth album ‘Goo’ which some people will say is Sonic Youth’s finest hour (it’s not ‘Daydream Nation’ is but let’s not argue). ‘Goo’ was my introduction to Sonic Youth and by including this in the list allows me to reintroduce Our Price Girl to these pages, and her brother, albeit briefly.

In the late part of 1991 I was in the start of relationship with Our Price Girl, I was a naïve 16 year old who still mainly listened to whatever the NME or Melody Maker told me to listen to that week. At the time that was ‘Nevermind’ by Nirvana and a bunch of other American rock acts that had started to get some press.

One evening Our Price Girls brother, Dan picked me and her up from a pub in downtown Chatham and on the way back, ‘Goo’ filled the car. As we parked up I asked Dan what the music was and he told me – he flipped the cassette (ask your parents, kids) out the stereo and gave it to me. Have a listen he said.

At five am, I left Our Price Girls house, via, as usual, the back door, I was walking the mile or so down to the small newsagents that I worked at. The shop was run by two brothers who from now on will be known as the Indian Organised Crime Syndicate, because that is basically what the shop was a front for (allegedly in case they are reading). As I was leaving I grabbed the cassette of ‘Goo’ from the kitchen workshop and stuck it in my Walkman.

Side One Track One is ‘Dirty Boots’ and I can remember vividly walking down a track to get onto the hockey pitches behind OPG’s house as it all kicks in and every time I listen to it I am taken back there.

I can picture it now, I’m stood in this field, from which I can see most of my journey ahead. The field runs down to a path where it joins a road to the ice rink, there is a small hill to clamber down to reach the path, behind the ice rink there is a factory, (which is no longer there) where meat pies are made and the smell of them is just starting to fill the air, you can almost taste them (in fact that factory and its smells are one of the reasons I turned vegetarian at the age of 14). Beyond the factory lies the huge site of the new Tesco and the road which leads to my dad’s house and the shop.

I was 16, I was probably experiencing my first real feelings of love, and I was deliriously happy and right then, right there, I didn’t have a care in the world.

‘Dirty Boots’ was released as EP it was backed with a bunch of live tracks.

This was one of them

Eric’s Trip

SWC

JC adds…….Here’s a bonus of the other live tracks that backed the EP version of Dirty Boots:-

White Kross
Cinderella’s Big Score
Dirty Boots
The Bedroom

EVIL

Interpol had been around for a few years before making a breakthrough with the album Turn On The Bright Lights in 2002, which was bang in the middle of a period when a number of bands from New York City, such as The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were coming to wider attention, and which coincided with an explosion in what was labelled a post-punk revival thanks to guitar bands again coming to the fore and taking their influences from the 70s and 80s, both in terms of sound and vision.

There was, however, something more to Interpol than most, possibly because they had a level of craft and musicianship that seemed to be a bit above the norm, something which became particularly apparent with their second album, Antics, which hit the shops in September 2004 and immediately became lauded as one of the essential records of the year. It certainly ticked all my boxes, and where the debut had been at times felt moody and slightly impenetrable, the new collection of songs seemed destined to get the festival audiences on board, thanks to irresistible, upbeat tunes over which ambiguous and multi-meaning lyrics were sung. It felt like the best elements of Joy Division/New Order, the Bunnymen and The Cure had been meshed into one band, although there were a number of critics, especially in America, who had a real go at the band for failing to develop their own style and for becoming a pastiche of a bygone age.

The album had been preceded by the single Slow Hands, which took Interpol into Top 40 of the UK singles charts for the first ever time. The album provided a few obvious candidates for a follow-up, but the record company held back for a period of time, deciding that the first week of January 2015 would be the best time for the release of the next 45. Maybe that fact that it would be accompanied by what I have long felt to be the most creepy and genuinely disturbing music video ever made was a factor……it certainly would have been a sobering and cheerless view in the run-up to Christmas:-

It’s certainly an unforgettable promo, even if it is one that I can only watch on an intermittent basis. It’s a terrific piece of music, driven along relentlessly by the basslines of Carlos D but to which all the other members of the band make the most marvellous of contributions. It was a song that deserved to be a huge chart hit, and while it would prove to be the biggest single success enjoyed by Interpol, it deserved a better fate than stalling at #18. Maybe the fact that so many folk already owned the song, via the purchase of the album over the previous four months, was more of a factor than anyone at the record company had realised.

The period following the release of Antics was when Interpol cashed in, taking its their own headlining tours across the world, appearing as special guests at outdoor gigs by some of the giants of the stadium-rock gigs (including U2 in Glasgow and Coldplay in London), as well as taking their place high on the bills of various summer festivals. Evil was the track that got folk dancing and singing along more than any other.

mp3 : Interpol – Evil

Here’s the rather excellent b-side of the CD single, one that was otherwise unavailable:-

mp3 : Interpol – Song Seven

Incidentally, if you want to waste a few minutes of your life, you could browse around the internet and read all the different interpretations of what Evil is meant to represent, despite its composer, the aforementioned Carlos D never ever uttering any words of explanation.

JC

STUFF BOUGHT IN 2019 (1)

Most folk do end of year lists to highlight all the great new music they picked up in 2019. I’m too lazy/alternative for that……plus there’s the fact that I tend not to buy too much later in in any given year so that Santa Claus can come up with some goodies.

Every now and then over the coming weeks and months I’m going to bring your attention to stuff that I did spend money on/was gifted at Xmas that was released during 2019.

The very first album that I bought in 2019 (on limitede edition blue vinyl!!) turned out to be my favourite album of 2019. I don’t think I’ve ever gone a calendar year before when that was the case.

I’ve covered The Twilight Sad many times before, and I do appreciate that they they are not to everyone’s liking. The new album was a long time coming and there was an incredible amount of anticipation, and some intrepidation too, given that there had been some more personnel changes during the intervening years with the departure of long-time drummer Mark Devine, a man who had provided much to their sound in the studio and in the live setting.

Catching them live in June 2018, at their first UK gig for the best part of three years and hearing some new songs had been a great experience, but there was always the nervousness about how the recorded versions would sound. As has become typical nowadays, there was a drip-feed of new material, with tracks being made available digitally via the band’s website and videos posted up on you tube etc. There was also a 10″ single released in late 2018 with a remix of a new track and then finally, on 18 January 2019, It Won/t Be Like This All The Time came out, on Rock Action Records, a label owned and run by Mogwai.

The critical acclaim was near-unanimous and deservedly so. It’s the band’s fifth studio album and contains their strongest and most consistent collection of songs yet. It is a loud album, but in a totally different way from the earlier material released at the tail end of the first decade of this century. There’s a great deal more electronica and bass on it than before but not at the expense of some incredible guitar work from Andy McFarlane, one of just two members left from the original line-up. The other, of course, is singer James Graham, and on this record he again spits out an incredible set of raw and emotional lyrics in that unique way of his – he sounds just as good when he sings soft and quiet ballads as he does when he is competing with the five-piece band going at full pelt. He’s one of the few these days who can get me right in the chest every single fucking time.

mp3 : The Twilight Sad – VTr
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – I/m Not Here (missing face)
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – Auge/Maschine

There’s a live show coming up at Glasgow Barrowlands in April 2020. It will be a triumphant homecoming and probably the occasion that puts this album to bed and signals the start of a whole new set of songs. It’s one of my most eagerly awaited events of the next 12 months, and believe me, it’s a year that is going to be packed with all sorts of highlights.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (17)

I bet some of you had thought I’d forgotten all about this series.  Apologies for the unexpectedly long delay since Part 15, but I wanted to make sure none of the postings got lost in the festive stuff and the Steve dropped in his wonderful review of Rockaway Beach that just couldn’t be held back.

The Guardian, in December 2006, carried a superb appreciation of Luke Haines, penned by the always-readable Alexis Petridis. The article looked back with a bit of nostalgia to the days of the Auteurs and Black Box Recorder, but in the main was rightly full of praise for a solo album released in October 2006 as I will now aim to demonstrate via a lengthy extract:-

Luke Haines is such an extravagantly talented songwriter, both unique and, one suspects, uniquely unsuited to mainstream success. It’s a fact underlined by the title track and lead single from his 11th album: for Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop, Haines called upon the services of sometime Sugababes and Rachel Stevens producer Richard X, then put him to work remixing a song that references transgressive performance artists the Viennese Aktionists, the 1914 Vorticist art journal Blast, Hungarian photographer Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Nazi anthem The Horst Wessel Song. Despite the producer’s ministrations, the charts remained mysteriously un-busted.

It sets the tone for the rest of the album, which manages to be both accessible and deeply unsettling, matching crunching glam-rock guitar riffs and huge choruses to subject matter most songwriters would steer well clear of. The Walton Hop makes blackly comic capital from the topic of the teenage disco frequented by convicted child sex offenders including Jonathan King.

Pop-related paedophilia crops up again on the closing Bad Reputation, which retells the story of Gary Glitter’s downfall from the perspective of a member of his backing group, aghast at the effect The Leader’s sexual proclivities are having on his own standing. It offers perhaps the most improbable singalong chorus of the year: “Gary Glitter – he’s a dirty old man, ruining the reputation of the Glitter Band.” Leeds United is both naggingly catchy and about the Yorkshire Ripper murders. In the same way that the topics explored on Haines’ remarkable terrorism-obsessed 1996 album Baader Meinhof suddenly seemed far less esoteric five years after its release, it makes for pretty queasy listening in light of current events: “In the House of Lords, the Chamber of Horrors at Madam Tussauds, out with the old, we’ve got to make room for them all.”

Occasionally, Haines’ desire to provoke verges on the suicidal. That Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop was released to a response muted even by Haines’ standards may have less to do with its quality than with the presence of Heritage Rock, a viciously funny satire apparently aimed at the handful of magazines that usually champion him. Then again, one of the artists lovingly alluded to on the title track is Wyndham Lewis, the brilliant painter and sculptor whose belligerence effectively scuppered his own career, leaving him, as one contemporary put it, a “lonely old volcano”.

It’s a description that fits Luke Haines pretty well, but as Off My Rocker proves, when he erupts, it’s still pretty spectacular.

Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop is a tremendous listen, as good as anything he had ever released previously. It was an audacious and ambitious piece of work, full of humour, pathos and great tunes laced with knowing and cynical lyrics, as alluded to in the Petridis piece quoted above.

mp3 : Luke Haines – Off My RockerAt The Art School Bop (Richard X single mix)
mp3 : Luke Haines – I Am The Best Artist / Skinny White Girls

Should have been a huge hit…..tailor made for daytime radio!

The following year, another track was lifted from the album, to which three new songs and a live rendition of the title track were added to make a new EP, released only on CD, but given that the subject matter was a mass murderer and the failure of the police to track him down for years, it can be no real surprise that it was largely ignored by the media and received little, if any, airplay:-

mp3 : Luke Haines – Leeds United
mp3 : Luke Haines – Bovver Boys
mp3 : Luke Haines – Country Life
mp3 : Luke Haines – Queen Elizabeth I
mp3 : Luke Haines – Leeds United (live in Leeds)

I can’t let this week’s posting go without giving space to the dig at the man born as Paul Gadd, whose loud, anthemic and stomping glam-pop music of the 70s was a staging post for many a young boy and young girl on the road to them becoming post-punk/new wave/indie devotees:-

mp3 : Luke Haines – Bad Reputation

As a great philosopher once wrote – naughty, naughty, very naughty. But absolute genius.

JC

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #196 : LUCKY PIERRE

I’ve one 7” item by Lucky Pierre in the collection. It’s called Pierre’s Final Thought and it dates from 2000, being picked up on the basis that Lucky Pierre was the name adopted by Aidan Moffat for a side-project. It was a name he kept in use until 2005 when he shortened it to L Pierre, and over the years he has released five albums and eight singles/EPs of music that, shall we say, is a long way removed from his stuff with Arab Strap, Bill Wells or RM Hubbert, or indeed any of the solo material he’s issued under his own name.

It’s actually best to rely on what other, more talented writers have said at various junctures. This was Betty Clarke, in The Guardian in 2002, reviewing Hypnogogia, the debut album:-

Lucky Pierre – aka Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat – makes songs full of childlike innocence and fairy-tale fears, with the intensity and claustrophobia of nightmares frighteningly evoked. The pictures on the album sleeve sum up the nature of Moffat’s dance-influenced dreams. A painting of a young boy’s smiling face, faded from years of display, adorns the front, while a dark, blurred image of a ghoul graces the back. Hope and sadness are entwined. Moffat is wonderful at conveying dense emotions, but the misery is overwhelming.

And from Fiona Shepherd, writing in The List in 2017, reviewing 1948-  , the final ever release by L Pierre:-

Over the past 15 years, Arab Strap mainman Aidan Moffat has sporadically indulged as L Pierre, his DIY repository for soothing found sound, scratchy samples and field recordings. For his fifth and final fling, he has lifted wholesale (from Youtube) samples of the recording of Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Violin Concerto in E Minor’ by esteemed soloist Nathan Milstein with the New York Philharmonic. The original recording became the first ever 12-inch long player release in 1948, hence the title, with the date left hanging pointedly because, despite persistent whispers of its demise, vinyl isn’t dead yet.

The music comes pre-distressed, with the tremulous, slightly creaky strings sounding a little warped and the concerto chopped up and stuck through a blender. Following a tantalizingly slow fade-in, a mournful melody takes subtle hold, running through the piece like a blue mist, the patina of distortion conjuring up images of European melodramas from the 70s, a realm of long doleful glances, lurid eyeshadow and fur coats. These moody moments are punctuated with stirring, urgent passages and dramatic crescendos before fading out on an exquisite haunting requiem which hits a locked groove at the end so that the listener can lick that wound for as long as they wish. It’s what Pierre would have wanted.

Make of those what you will. It doesn’t appeal much to me and I was quite disappointed with both sides of the single I picked up:-

mp3 : Lucky Pierre – Chloe
mp3 : Lucky Pierre – Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child

JC

THE BEST OF SWEDISH MUSIC IN 2019

A GUEST POSTING by MARTIN ELLIOT

Happy New Year! I have again tried to summarize the best of Swedish music from last year, though I have to admit 2019 won’t go down in history as the best vintage but I put together something like a 5 track sampler 12″. My personal favourite is the closing track by Honungsvägen (Honey Road) from their eponymous debut album – by far the best Swedish album from 2019, unfortunately for most of the TVV crew in Swedish.

A. Electronic side:

A1. Red Mecca – Centrum

Red Mecca is the keyboard player from 80’s post-punk outfit Brända Barn (Burned Children) with a female voice having turned electronic in his “old” days. Maybe not revolutionary considering he played keyboard already back then, but with Red Mecca he’s gone fully electronic. At a gig last year they were joined on stage by the former singer of Brända Barn and together they made a version of their own classic “Centrum”. With the great response they decided to record it properly in the studio. Originally released in 1983, this version provides a darkwave update to a lyric sadly still valid on murky right-wing nationalism.

A2. ionnalee – Some Body

ionnalee was represented also last year and in a productive flow she released another album in 2019. Remember The Future has trademark sound, great track here – however her creative rush combined with a world tour took its toll and she now suffers from exhaustion.

AA. Alternative side:

AA1. The Polaroids – Getting By

They have Velvet Underground high on their list of influences, which is probably more predominant live than in the studio but speaks of high aspirations. The album sounds maybe more like Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand or something in that vein. Their debut “Whatever Makes A Profit” is 30 minutes energy and well worth checking out.

AA2. Delagoon – Shimmering (feat. Groovy Rickz)

True indie/punk style they flew high on several music blogs around the world (or at least around europe), recorded a great album and disbanded all in a matter of a year having played around small clubs in Stockholm way below any attention for a couple of years before. Being the pop-iest track on the album this has hit potential and is a good door opener.

AA3. Honungsvägen – Kroppen Din Och Hjärtat Mitt

A bit of a northern Sweden indie super group, especially when you consider the people around the group itself contributing with song writing, playing on a track, mixing – you get the picture. The back cover printing is almost a “who is who” in (northern) Swedish indie – and with the very distinct brittle (in search for a better word) sound of groups like The Wannadies, Hello Saferide and the likes. A beautiful song of a lover lost. This suffers a bit for non-Swedish speakers, hopefully you can enjoy anyway.

Bonus track: Brända Barn – Centrum (1983)

All the best!
Martin

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #236 : THE SCHRAMMS

A GUEST POSTING by HYBRID SOC PROF,
our Michigan Correspondent

I only have a vague recollection of Yo La Tengo releasing Ride the Tiger (1986). I knew they were from the musical world that bounced between Hoboken and New York, so their mixture of acoustic and electric guitars, folk, rock and experimental sounds made sense… I liked it, but not enough to go see them. I did see them in San Francisco a few years later, after President Yo La Tengo (1989) was released, which I liked more. But live, at that point, only three songs really worked for me. Otherwise, they seemed somewhere between pretentious, precious and annoying.

Perhaps what was missing was Dave Schramm. Schramm had played guitar on Ride the Tiger before parting to start his own band, The Schramms. Their first record, Walk to Delphi (1989), came out around the same time as President Yo La Tengo and I instantly fell in love with it. Like so many bands/musicians I like, Schramm’s commitment to singing is deeper than his talent – but his voice blends really well with his guitar (and that guitar is wonderful) and the tone of the band’s songs. Acoustic and electric guitars blend and intertwine, there’s sustain and vibrato to make your heart go pitter-pat, he put poems by Emily Dickinson to music, and there’s a quiet instrumental about a little green inchworm. The songs are sweet but never saccharine, they’re romantic yet never cloying… “It’s Not What She Wants” and one of the Dickinson poems, “Out of the Earth,” are included here. The version of “Number Nineteen,” originally recorded for Walk to Delphi (and the other Dickinson poem), that I’ve added is from a solo record release in Germany, Folk Und Die Folgen (1993.)

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Dynamite (1992) was a decent follow up but the band members had changed and, to my ears, some of the soul was missing. I’ve included my favorite, the bouncy “How Many Lives” in this set. Around this time, I first saw the band appear on one of the many song collections they’ve contributed to. Neurotically Yours: A Tribute to the Saints from 1992is really uneven but the Schramms’ cover of “In the Mirror” rings and soars and makes me smile just to think about. It’s the fifth cut here.

When Little Apocalypse (1994) was released, my time on radio was coming to an end and I was a little tentative about giving it a listen. I’d read that the composition of the band had shifted once more, and I really didn’t want to be disappointed… It’s a superb record, solid-to-excellent throughout. The standout cut Schramm wrote himself is the lament, “Where Were You” but the best song on the record is a cover of Lucinda Williams“Side of the Road”… To my ears it’s noticeably better than the original, possibly the best among the many and diverse versions so easily found.

Dizzy Spell (1996) followed two years later, with fewer changes to the line up, and – while not as good as Little Apocalypse – is close (to my mind.) “Wild Season” fits the flow of the ICA and is among my favorite songs on the record. The version of “Tell Me Again and Again,” the fifth song on Dizzy Spell, I’ve added is from 2000 Weiss Beers from Home (2003), I high quality solo live recording from a show in Regensberg, Switzerland.

The ICA ends with “Simple Arithmetic” from One Hundred Questions (2000). In one way, it’s more of the same style and tone but I learned, some time back, that about half the time what I want from a band is to continue to do what they do as well as they can do it. Hope you like the set.

1. Dave Schramm – Number Nineteen, from Folk Und Die Folgen (1993)
2. The Schramms – Side of the Road, from Little Apocalypse (1994)
3. The Schramms – It’s Not What She Wants, from Walk to Delhi (1989)
4. The Schramms – How Many Lives, from Rock Paper Scissors Dynamite (1992)
5. The Schramms – In the Mirror, from Neurotically Yours: A Tribute to the Saints (1992)
6. The Schramms – Tell Me Again and Again, from 2000 Weiss Beers from Home (2003)
7. The Schramms – Where Were You? , from Little Apocalypse (1994)
8. The Schramms – Out of the Earth, from Walk to Delhi (1989)
9. The Schramms – Wild Season, from Dizzy Spell (1996)
10. The Schramms – Simple Arithmetic, from One Hundred Questions (2000)

HSP

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 2)

A GUEST SERIES

44. Everybody Needs A 303 – Fatboy Slim (1996 Skint Records)

Released in February 1996 (Reached Number 191)
Re-released and remixed in October 1997 (Reached Number 34)

Back in 1996 I was a student and I was editing the music pages of the student rag. I used to get sent a bunch of stuff every week and I would trudge back to my digs and spend three hours listening to it all. One week I walked into the room set aside for the paper to find a bloke in there waiting for me. He was called Ben and he worked for one of the promotion companies that supplied the records for me to review.

He handed me a 12” record and said that this was “The next big sound, dirty acid house-y dance music”.

He then vanished as quickly as he had appeared. Like a goatee bearded spectre.

Back then of course, Britpop was still just about king and I used to strut around the mean streets of Guildford in my skinny fit Salad Tshirt, so my colours were firmly tied to that mast, but something was happening to music. Indie music had started a passionate and potentially damaging affair with dance music, and the result was music that had beats that were massive and this noise that sort of twitched and bleeped like a demented warthog in a bath. But I knew relatively little about it. Pretty much the only dance record I owned in 1996 was ‘Leftism’ by Leftfield and I had no idea what a 303 was, I thought it was the road to Devon.

So I stuck this record on, poured myself a cup of tea and waited.

It turns out Ben was right because ‘Everbody Needs A 303’ blew my tiny mind. A staggering twitchy, bleeping acid house ode to the TB-303 synthesizer (I looked it up in my Penguin Big Book of Music) that also samples Edwin Starr. The beats kind of thump against the side of your speakers, the 303 squelched and chirps along getting faster and faster and more distorted as it goes.

I rarely dance, even back then, when I sort of could, I considered myself way too cool to throw shapes on a dancefloor (I mean I was a twat, let’s make that clear). But this record made me want to dance. I wanted to bop along to these filthy beats.

The next week I was due to DJ at University’s ‘indie club’ a Thursday shindig in a basement and when the floor was busy I chucked it on. It was bedlam and indeed the Next Big Sound.

The 12” I mentioned earlier had this on the B Side –

Going Out Of My Head

Not sure if this was actually on the official release or not, but it’s still a tune.

Oh and one for all the fact fans out there. The first ever record to reach the UK Top Ten that featured the use of a 303 was this

Rip It Up – Orange Juice.

SWC

 

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 1)

A GUEST SERIES by SWC

I’ll be honest, 2019 was the year that I feel out of love with music. For a good six months, everything I listened to sounded boring, dated, uninteresting and worthless. I mean everything. I have my reasons. I downloaded precisely zero music throughout 2019. I listened to a lot of podcasts instead.

This malaise ended in December. Three days before Christmas I came home for work and found my daughter sitting on the sofa listening to music via the Amazon sponsored listening device that is Alexa. The song she was listening to was ‘the Mince Pie Song’ by Santa.

Which is awful but it does contain the immortal line ‘Oooh they are so tasty, they are my favourite kind of pastry’. When it had finished, my daughter told me that it was ‘Her Favourite song of the year’ and then she asked me ‘What my favourite song of the year was’ and I didn’t know. Normally I could reel off a Top 50 for her (not that she’d be interested in whether I thought Denzel Curry was better than Jamelia Woods or not – he’s not, just in case).

So I said “Well, ‘The Mince Pie Song’ I suppose”. And I meant it because it was genuinely the only song that I heard in 2019 that stayed in the mind. At that point I thought I must be able to do better than that. So that evening I went online and read a ton of end of year charts, I listened to a bunch of playlists and slowly the love ebbed back into my life.

There was this for example

Big – Fontaines DC

Or this

Would You Rather be Lonely? – Red Rum Club

And, rather unpredictably, this

Hero – Michael Kiwanuka

All of which made me realise, exactly what it was I loved about music.

By New Years Day, music was back in my life. On January 2nd I sat at my computer and found myself browsing old posts of the Vinyl Villain (I was looking for a particular track by The Fall, I’m not some weirdo fanboy, well I am, but…anyway…) and I stumbled across the excellent 45 45’s at 45 series and a little light pinged somewhere – this is my 45th year on the planet and I suddenly whirled away into a reverie compiling a list of my favourite 45 records of all time. Which I’ve sort of already compiled elsewhere in the past at a blog that no longer exists. So instead I’ve compiled a list of 45 singles that have in some way influenced my life – they are not the Best 45 Records Ever (although some are) and if JC will indulge me I’d be honoured if you’d let me talk you through them. To tempt you further I’d like to start with this.

45. Mogwai Fear Satan – Mogwai (1997 Chemikal Underground Records)

Released a single in March 1998 – it did not chart

In 1999, I saw Mogwai play in Berlin, by complete chance at it happens, (I’ve told this story before) in a burnt out cinema, it was one of the greatest evenings of my life – they ended show with Mogwai Fear Satan and it was utterly incredible. I could barely hear for three days afterwards.

‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ for those in the dark is a sixteen minute instrumental track that closes Mogwai’s debut album ‘Mogwai Young Team’. It is an incredible sixteen minutes of music that is centres around a chaotic drumbeat that fades in and then out again and then in again and a guitar riff that does the same thing. It also features a flute before it fades away into a blur of feedback.

In March 1998 it was released as a single to accompany ‘Kicking A Dead Pig’ a Mogwai Remix album. Which saw the likes of u-ziq, Surgeon and My Bloody Valentine tweak the track beyond all recognition.

Mogwai Fear Satan (My Bloody Valentine Mix)

SWC

JC adds…….

This new series will appear at regular intervals over the coming weeks and months, leading up to the #1 song being revealed on the day that swc turns 45.  The second part is tomorrow…..

THE BIG HITS…..30 YEARS ON

A new feature. It may prove temporary, but I’ve a feeling I’ll get 12 postings out of it.

It’s partly inspired by reading somewhere that anyone who was born back in 1990 is now just as close to the year 2050 as they are to the year of their birth.

Back in the late 70s and 80s when I was beginning to immerse myself in music, the sounds and songs of three decades earlier seemed totally alien and of no interest to me. But these days, thirty years doesn’t feel all that long a time period with many songs from three decades ago still very much an essential part of listening lists, often inspiring memories of happenings, events and gigs that were life-changing (it’s no coincidence that 1990 was the year that myself and Rachel moved in together).

Each month, I’m going to have a casual look back at the songs that hit the UK charts 30 years ago; it’s not going to about sneering at some of the awful pap that reached the top end of the charts, nor is it going to highlight a singer or band scraping into the lower echelons of the Top 75 for a week and then doing nothing else during their career, but it will make mention of minor hits by major bands.

The introduction to the series will be something of a slow burner as record companies have always tended not to push out too much in the way of new singles in the month of January, preferring to let the Xmas market fade away slowly. There were some great singles kicking around in the charts in January 1990, but almost all of them had been released the previous year. Here’s some, however, that did break through during the month in question:-

Welcome To The Terrordome – Public Enemy

Entered the charts on 20 January at #26, reaching its peak of #18 just a week later.

Public Enemy were very much at their peak in terms of awareness, including here in the UK, on the back of two hit albums, sell-out tours and supplying music for Do The Right Thing, a critically acclaimed and commercially popular film by Spike Lee. Some of the wider awareness, however, was to what had happened in mid-1989 when the band had seemingly broken-up and then re-formed, all related to them having to respond to Professor Griff making inflammatory anti-Semitic comments during an interview with the Washington Post.

Welcome to The Terrordome was the band’s first new piece of music since the row. It was a response to the turmoil that had engulfed them, with Chuck D hitting out hard, reminding the world just how often the black community had been victimised throughout history. I don’t recall this 45 getting played much on radio at the time, and it is quite remarkable to realise it went Top 20.

Boing.

Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor

Entered the charts on 20 January at #30. Climbed to #3 the following week and then spent four weeks at #1, before finally dropping out of the Top 40 in April.

One of the best known cover versions of all time, and one of the best examples of a promotional video boosting sales. A song in which sadness and anger are conveyed in equal measures, it propelled Sinead O’Conner from cult to mainstream status, something which subsequent events proved she was not fully prepared for. It is reckoned that  3.5 million copies of the single were sold in 1990 and it reached #1 in more than 20 countries. See that thing I mentioned earlier about inspiring life-changing memories? This was hanging around the charts as myself and Rachel braved up to deal with the domestic fall-outs from both of us leaving someone else for one another…….

Hello – The Beloved

Entered the charts on 27 January at #44; it would enjoy a seven-week stay, peaking at #19 in mid-February.

A superb and mellow dance-track in which a shout-out is given to some friends of The Beloved, as well as a number of famous people, some of who were fictional. Jeffrey Archer (politician and novelist), Fred Astaire (actor and dancer), Bobby Ball (comedian), Charlie Brown (cartoon character), Tommy Cannon (comedian), Billy Corkhill (soap opera character), Leslie Crowther (TV presenter), “Freddie” Flintstone (cartoon character), Paris Grey (singer), Brian Hayes (broadcaster), Vince Hilaire (footballer), Barry Humphries (comedian), The LSO (orchestra), Kym Mazelle (singer), Mork and Mindy (TV characters), Little Nell (character in a novel) Friedrich Nietzsche (philosopher), Charlie Parker (musician), André Previn (musical conductor), Little Richard (musician), Salman Rushdie (author) Jean-Paul Sartre (philosopher), Mary Wilson, Di and Flo (The Supremes), William Tell (Swiss folk hero), Sir Bufton Tufton (fictional character in a satirical magazine), Desmond Tutu (religious leader), Willy Wonka (character in a novel), Zippy and Bungle (TV characters).

The references to Peter and Paul are in respect of apostles and gospel writers; Chris and Do are friends of the band while Steve and Claire was a reference to guitarist Steve Waddington and his then girlfriend.

Hello was also given countless remix versions, some of which still sound great while others have date badly.

Telephone Thing – The Fall

Entered the charts on 27 January at #58. Dropped out of sight the following week

The first non-cover version to get into the Top 75. The previous year had been a horrific one for Mark E Smith – Brix had left him, his dad had passed away and he’d been dropped by Beggars Banquet, the label that had seemingly been the one to finally understand how to get the best out of him in terms of commercial success. It was a huge surprise that 1990 got off to a bang with a single recorded with Coldcut, a duo of English electronica producers who had enjoyed chart success previously with the likes of Yazz and Lisa Stansfield. The lyrics were written on the back of MES believing he had evidence his phone was being tapped.

Ride – Chelsea Girl (from Ride EP)

Entered the charts on 27 January at #72. Went up one place the following week and then fell back down again

Their first official release by Ride, issued by Creation Records. I’ll admit to it totally passing me at the time. Indeed, I’ll go further by admitting that I never bought anything by Ride at the time they emerged. Shoegaze was never quite my scene.

I’m thinking that reading all of this today might make a few of you feel quite old.

JC
(aged 56 years and 7 months)

ROCKAWAY BEACH : A BOUTIQUE INDOOR MUSIC FESTIVAL

A GUEST POSTING by STEVE McLEAN

Righttttt! So let’s say this upfront! This wasn’t a Butlin’s ‘themed weekend’ populated with tributes acts, Sonja and one member of Five Star pretending to be Five Star. This was a bona fide curated music festival, we know that because there was loads of posters saying so.

Piss taking aside, it WAS FUCKING BOSS! I’m not kidding, I had a better time there than I’ve had at any music festival since my teens. If I have one complaint, there wasn’t enough ‘Butlinsy’ type stuff. A lot was closed down for the winter. Shame!

We (myself and my pal Tom) got there after kick off, meaning we missed Bellatrix and a few others but it’s not all bad as we were given a chalet bigger than we were expected. You know you’ve hit your 40s when you get excited about having a spare room that no one will sleep in.

So the first thing we took in was John Cale chatting about his life. I say chatting about his life, he tells stories like Grandpa Simpson, there was one where he caught the bus to Shelbyville with an onion on his belt (which was the style at the time). It was kinda endearing. John Robb did a good job of livening things up a tad. Look man, when John Cale speaks, you listen, even if he’s doing his best Stanley Unwin.

The first music act we saw was also John Cale. We didn’t really have our shit together, so we had a double Cale first day. It’s cool though, I’ve seen Cale around half a dozen times and Paris 1919 shows aside, I’ve never heard so many Cale classics in one sitting. It’s a pity not one of them sounded like they did on the records. That’s the beauty of Cale, not one fuck was given by him. He must have seen Bob Dylan and thought ‘I’ll have some of that’. It was fucking fab in places though and a bit patience testing wank in others. We didn’t need a spoken word / ambient version of Half Past France, but it was great to hear Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night back in the setlist.

Someone shouted out for Hallelujah and then someone else shouted out ‘wanker’, I think it was a response to the first shout out, rather than an attack on JC. (editor’s note…..it wasn’t an attack on me either!!)

He opened with Helen of Troy which is in my top 10 Cale tunes and while a roaring version of Waiting For The Man predictably got the biggest cheer. Villa Albani was the only song I’d not heard him do live before, so that to me was a special treat.

mp3 : John Cale – Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
mp3 : John Cale – Villa Albani

After Cale we headed off to the chalet as we were pretty knackered after the traveling and such. We stopped by Burger King, which was open until 3am, for fuck sake. THREE AYE EMM!

Saturday kick off, all you can eat breakfast. That’s where we made our money back. I’ll be surprised if they do a buffet again next year as I think we took them to the cleaners in hashbrowns alone. After about an hour we went to the swimming pool. The pool was only open for about 4 hours on one day. That fucking sucks man, plus we didn’t find out until afterwards…. basically we’d have gone earlier and stayed later if we’d known. Those flumes are the balls.

Music wise, we kept our powder dry until Peter Perrett. We’d seen a bit of his talk and if I’m honest it was like watching a model made by the Jim Henson creature shot. Wanna feel old? Peter Perrett is what the robot Lou Reed from No Money Down looks like now

But Jesus, he fucking nailed it. His band were tight AF and cool AF and rocking AF and just AF. Peter is still the teller of stories rather than the singer of songs. I didn’t recognise much of the material as most of it was culled from his solo albums that I’ve heard but not digested. Surely the sign of a great act and great songs is when you’re hooked without knowing a note? He rewarded the non-fans with Another Girl, Another Planet and a rollicking cover of the Velvets What Goes On, but he didn’t need to. He had the songs to leave without the fan service. Baby Don’t Talk from his 1990s outing The One was a nice opener while War Plan Red and An Epic Story are up there with his classics.

mp3 : Peter Perret & The One – Baby Don’t Talk
mp3 : Peter Perret – An Epic Story

We went off to watch some footy on the big screen and play some pool. The pool got quite contentious but the final score was 3 to Steve and 2 to Tom. It’s not my fault he loves potting the black. I tried my best to lose to him, I really did. Then more food. I mean fucking loads. We went to the American style diner. I had a cheeseburger, topped with a chicken burger and some bacon. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking ‘Steve you earned that burger topped burger after all your swimming’ Damn straight.

We got back in time for the The Nova Twins, they had come highly recommended so we were eager. They were okay I guess, but I didn’t click with them. That said, the crowd fucking loved them and I was in a food coma. so I might not the best person to ask. They looked lively. The tune Vortex is a banger.

After that it was the Jesus and Mary Chain. One of the main reasons I’d come was for JAMC. I love my bands when they have dry ice and strobes so you can’t see how badly they’ve aged. Nice one lads, you should have seen the rest of us, not a proper hair line among the crowd although many of us were convinced that our skinny jeans still fit (imagine the buzzer noise from Family Fortunes here)

A crowd pleasing set followed, April Skies, Just Like Honey, Candy Talking, Head On etc etc.. they also played a couple of newer songs – Amputation stands out as a clear winner although they didn’t play my favourite song, Snakedriver, so in their own vernacular they can get tae fuk.

mp3 : The Jesus and Marcy Chain – Amputation

After that we opted again for Burger King and back to the chalet. The other option was listening to Steve Lamacq playing some records and I’d spent hours in the 1990s doing that. I can’t imagine he’s improved.

Sunday! Bloody Sunday! More breakfast! The good thing about a buffet at breakfast is the amount of melon I eat. I never eat melon after a fry up in real life. It was practically a health spa weekend. Seriously, melon for breakfast, like I’m Meghan Markel or something!

After breakfast we went for a walk along the beach. We saw a seagull the size of a fucking bouncer. Hard bastard he was, instead of stealing chips, he was nicking B&H out of ten year old’s mouths.

There was more pool after the beach, some would say that Tom won because a 5 – nil drubbing meant he was ahead 7-3 but those people would be wrong as it was clearly a two legged affair where goal difference doesn’t count. The ‘final’ was decided Tom potted the black. Sorry man, I *don’t* make the ”rules”.

Music wise, Sunday had a lot to offer. True to form we dicked around too long so the first band we saw was Brix and Extricated. It was curio for me as I was only ever ‘okay’ with The Fall . The best songs they played were Fall songs. The stand out was Glam Racket , from 1992 which was co-written by guitarist Steve Hanley. You have the feeling that this band consider themselves a sequel to The Fall.

Brix was followed by The Wedding Present. The Weddoes were another reason for me being here. I have loved them in most of the forms they have taken. I am more of a Bizarro fan than Seamonsters or George Best and I was well served with Brassneck, Kennedy and What Have I Said Now. There was enough classics and enough ‘new stuff’ to keep everyone happy. For new stuff read post 2004 reunion. My fave WP song is Montreal which they didn’t play. I am more forgiving than I am of JAMC because of all the Bizarro stuff. Gedge introduced the band as an Indie supergroup as they have the drummer from My Life Story and the guitarist from Sleeper. To paraphrase Ross’s girlfriend from Friends; Playing it fast and loose with the word super, there.

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Kennedy

Closing band of the weekend were Fontaines DC. or The Fontaines as everyone seemed to be calling them. I’d not encountered them before, but alarm bells rang when my friend Ian mentioned that they were like Oasis crossed with the Pogues. If only it was the other way around, Ian.. If only.

Look, I know I’m a contrarian. My favourite Byrds album is Byrdmaniax, I think Squeeze is a legitimate part of the VU discography and Greedo shot first (that last one is bollocks, but my back is up). Seriously, I’m not on board with these guys. Tom (who has more of an open mind than me when it comes to not pre-judging) looked at me with a face that said MEH and I thought he was being generous. It was like every student uni band that you ever saw. I can only assume that people are enjoying them because new bands are so insipid that anyone offering a slight element of danger seems like The Stooges. Sorry guys. BUT! Look on the bright side, I’m in my 40s, you don’t fucking want me in your fan base… all of those people who were there getting into you who were also in their 40s were taking some real cool points off you though. Soz.  (editor’s note……I disagree with the our reviewer’s take on Fontaines DC…Santa was kind enough to bring me the debut album….and they will be getting a further mention on this blog in a couple of days time)

And that was that. We skipped Burger King (I’m lying here, for effect.. we had double Burger King because we knew it’d be our last… Take that colon!) Then breakfast again and then nothing. Fuck. Well not completely nothing, we got back to the chalet and the radio was playing Five Star! Proper Five Star with all the members intact. WOO HOO!

To sum up – It’s fucking rubbish not living in Butlins, they have a little shop that charges three quid for a diet coke. That’s an amazing mark up. A few years ago I was offered a job with Pontins and I’ve sent them an email to see if it’s still going. Oh and I’ve booked Rockaway Beach for next year. Bands, burger king, amusements, swimming, pool, grabby machines and rambling old men.

Rockaway Bi-atches!

STEVE

JC adds……

I’ve known Steve a good number of years, initailly through our collective love for Butcher Boy.  He was kind enough to allow me to use his FB thoughts on a Sgt Pepper tribute album for a posting last year and I was delighted when he said yes when I asked if he fancied penning a review of Rockaway Beach 2020.  Here’s hoping he feels like contributing more stuff over the coming months.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #195 : LOWLIFE

Lowlife are a band that I know next-to-nothing about despite them enjoying a recording/performing career of some twelve years in the 80s/90s. All I could have told you was that I was aware of the name, partly from the fact it had been taken from an exceptional album by New Order and from reading somewhere that Will Guthrie, formerly of Cocteau Twins, was a member. I can’t recall ever hearing their music played, although looking the artwork across the five albums they released during the time they were together, I can recall seeing some of their CDs in the racks of record shops. What I had no idea of was that Hugh Duggie, who is both a lifelong friend of Jacques the Kipper and whose work with Foil and Sons of the Descent have featured previously on the blog, was also a member of Lowlife for a period of time. What now follows is gleamed from on-line research.

The band had originally began life in the early 80s as Dead Neighbours, by all accounts a psychobilly four-piece band heavily influenced by The Cramps. They hailed from Grangemouth, which was the home town of Liz Frazer and Robin Guthrie, and indeed it was the latter’s brother, Brian Guthrie who managed the band. It was during the recording of Dead Neighbours second album in 1983 that Will Heggie came on board to help out after the unexpected departure of the bass player. By the following year, the guitarist had also left, unhappy with an increasing shift away from the psychobilly stuff, and the new-look four piece decided to do away with the original name and begin again as Lowlife, consisting of Craig Lorentson (vocals), Will Heggie (bass), Stuart Everest (guitar), and Grant McDowall (drums), with Brian Guthrie not only maintaining his role as manager but forming a new label, Nightshift Records, specifically to release their material.

This line-up would release two albums, two singles and two albums between 1985 and 1987, a period in which they supported The Go-Betweens on a UK tour (sadly, a tour that I didn’t see) as well as appear on a number of shows recorded by BBC Scotland. It was most likely around this time that I would have read about Lowlife and the Cocteau Twins connection, but it didn’t spur me on to check them out.

There would be three more albums between 1989 and 1995, recorded by different line-ups, with the latter two featuring the afore-mentioned Hugh Duggie on guitar. Vocalist Craig Lorentson was the only member to appear on all releases.

It is worth mentioning that the band came through a number of periods when circumstances where things were stacked against them, not least the collapse of Rough Trade Distribution in 1991 which impacted immensely on Nightshift Records, while earlier on, in 1988, they came very close, through a publishing arrangement, to landing a deal with Warner Brothers only for it to collapse as result of an internal changes within the company. The lack of any commercial success eventually took its toll and the band called it a day in 1997.

The one track I have in my possession comes courtesy of the New Gold Dreams boxset:-

mp3 : Lowlife – Hollow Gut

It is the lead track on the Vain Delights EP from 1986, which was recorded and issued in-between the first and second albums. It’s really very listenable…..you can hear all sorts of influences on it, and it wouldn’t have sounded out of place at an indie/goth night. If anyone out there has any more material, I’d be very happy for a guest contribution, possibly an ICA?

In 2007, LTM Recordings re-released the first four albums recorded by Lowlife, adding in the EPs, singles and radio session appearances, together with extensive notes provided by Brian Guthrie. This led to something of a re-kindling of interest in the band but any plans to fully reform couldn’t be followed through as Craig Lorenton wasn’t in the best of health, and indeed he passed away at the tragically young age of 44 in June 2010, as a result of liver and kidney problems.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #235 : MICHAEL HALL

A GUEST POSTING by HYBRID SOC PROF,
our Michigan Correspondent

My last five years on the radio in Santa Cruz, there were two ideas behind my show. The first was that there was a staggering amount of great music being made that hardly anyone was hearing and, relatedly, if I could start my show more quietly and accessibly with each set getting louder and each set being louder than the last, then I might push the bounds of listeners’ existing tolerances into new realms.

Michael Hall began his musical career as one of the two consistent members of the cowpunk -as I knew it in the mid-80s – band, Wild Seeds. Big in their hometown of Austin, Texas, and a group people who frequented independent record shops and/or listened to college radio had likely heard of, even if they hadn’t heard much from them. Hall wrote, sang and played guitar for the band, though he handed off vocals to the magnificent Kris McKay (see “Baby You Scare Me” as well as the bonus track below) over the course of the band’s short life… a life killed off by the bankruptcy of their label in 1989.

The release of his first solo record, Quarter to Three (1990), was sufficiently limited that I full on missed it and only started to catch up with Love is Murder (1992). You’re not into music if you haven’t purchased or taken a listen to a record for no other reason than the cover art… Love is Murder has a young 1950s couple looking out the back window of a yellow sedan, smiling, below which you read the album title. Then there are the song titles, “Let’s Take Some Drugs and Drive Around” (included here), “Put Down that Pig”, “What Did They Do with the President’s Brain”? What I found was that Hall was absolutely irreverent, a great recounter of the crap life can be and yet utterly and completely and totally infatuated with the prospect of robust, deep, permanent love… while unstinting in chronicling its contradictions. See “Baby You Scare Me.” If you want the more humorous tunes, they’re on youtube, you’ll enjoy them, but the others are more skillful and moving, rich and rewarding (I’ve been reading Horkheimer and Adorno on “The Culture Industry,” mea culpa.)

1994’s Adequate Desire was next, and Hall introduced a new theme to his work, on top of love, there’s now death. The death of love and just plain murder, untethered from love, arrives with Day (1996), but so also does “The Museum of Giant Puppets, PA.” The next two records are with a band he assembled, The Woodpeckers, before a final album, The Song He Was Listening to When He Died, in 2006. As far as I can tell, and as others I’ve read have reported, it seems like Hall called it quits after that record. You can find articles by him in publications connected to Austin in one way or another, after 2006, but I tried writing him an email to express my admiration and hopes for more in the pipeline 7-8 years ago… no response.

Even to his most conventionally structured songs, there’s a narrative and visual quality to Hall’s work that always moves me in one way or another. There’s an emotional sophistication and nuanced analytic sensibility I rarely find in any genre. It irked me that musicians like Hall didn’t get recognition, fame, and money for their skills when I was younger and maybe that these ICAs (my first outlet for 25 years for getting music out into some semblance of a public arena) that is what’s dredging these feelings up again, but I simply can’t understand how work this good didn’t sell. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know labels and distribution deals and cost structures and life happenings and the fickle blinders of popular taste but jeez so, so, so much talent has been denied/wrecked/wasted over the years, it’s just not right.) Hope this goes over well and you drink of it deeply.

1. Michael Hall – Let’s Take Some Drugs and Drive Around – from Love is Murder (1992)
2. Michael Hall – Amelia – from The Song He Was Listening to When He Died (2006)
3. Michael Hall – Las Vegas – from Day (1996)
4. Michael Hall – Baby You Scare Me – from Love is Murder (1992)
5. Michael Hall – I Just Do – from Adequate Desire (1994)
6. Michael Hall – The Museum of Giant Puppets, PA – from Day (1996)
7. Michael Hall – Hello, Mr. Death – from Adequate Desire (1994)
8. Michael Hall – Their First Murder – from Day (1996)
9. Michael Hall – River of Love – from Love is Murder (1992)
10. Michael Hall and the Woodpeckers – The Train will Surely Come – from Dead by Dinner (1999)

Bonus: Kris McKay – One Man Crusade (Rainer Ptacek cover) – from The Inner Flame – A Tribute to Rainer Ptacek (2012 – second release)

HSP