45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 39)

A GUEST SERIES

7 – One More Time – Daft Punk (2000, Virgin Records)

Released as a single in November 2000 (Reached Number 2)

To say the situation is frosty is an understatement. We haven’t spoken since we got in the car at the airport and that was an hour ago. My hands are sore because I’ve been gripping the steering wheel too hard, his steering wheel. I’m in my brother’s car and we are driving back from Heathrow after having spent three days at Munich’s annual Oktoberfest.

We are not talking because my brother has a hangover and he is being especially stupid about it. In my head I am going through the amount of times he has irritated me since 8am that morning, a list I am going to relay to you all now, well most of it. I am also being enjoying suddenly having to be harsh on the brakes of his car and jolting him in his seat.

At 8am earlier that day, the phone in my hotel room starts ringing. I have to get out the shower to answer it. A strange German voice speaks to me down the line. He tells me that my friend is ill in Room 423. This is my brothers room. I throw some clothes on and stroll on down to the room. The first thing that greets me is the smell. There is sick on the floor, in the bed, in the sink, on the fucking window, god knows how it got there. The most disgusting sight however, is the sight of my brother in what looks like leopard skin boxer shorts and very little else, lying on the bed. The cleaner identifies himself as the caller and points at my brother. I shake my head and give the cleaner 20 euros for his trouble and for his later troubles and I apologise to him – he smiles and says ‘Oktoberfest?’ and I nod. He laughs and says, ‘Every year, you English…’

I tell my brother that he needs to drink some strong coffee and get packed and ready to leave as we are booked on a flight in five hours time. He tells me that he will catch a later flight. I tell him I am leaving in one hour and so is he, and I pick up his tickets and passport and walk out of his room.

At 9.15am my brother vomits outside a Porsche garage about five minutes’ walk from the hotel. He at least gets most of it into a handily positioned bin. The sick is a weird orange colour, like the colour of Donald Trump’s hair. I walk off and sit on a wall overlooking a nice park and wait for him.

At 10am my brother lies down on the floor of train to ‘stop the world moving so fast’. A nice American couple ask me if he is ok. A German man looks at him and then at me and says ‘Oktoberfest?’ I sigh and nod and the German laughs so much he starts coughing like a comedy villain in a Childs TV programme. Twenty-three other people get up, walk over him and sit somewhere else.

At 10.30am I make my brother run to catch our airport connection. We don’t need to run but I convince him that it is leaving in two minutes. This makes him dry retch into a carrier bag. This pleases me. I text my wife and update her with the circumstances she tells me to leave him where he is. She doesn’t like my brother since he beat her at Risk two Christmases ago.

At 11.15am my brother somehow makes it through security. Despite looking like someone who has been killed. Twice.

At 1130am whilst in departures, my brother vanishes. I sit in blissful moan free silence for 45 minutes for the first time that day I relax and I listen to some music. This track comes on and I feel my anger subsiding a bit and a little bit of sympathy creeps in for my brother.

Jump N Shout – Basement Jaxx (1999, XL Records, Reached Number 12)

At 12.15pm they call our flight. My brother hasn’t returned from wherever he is. I guess it’s the toilets. So I grab his bag and my bag and head to the toilets. Of which there are four sets. I pick the closest one and shout his name when I go in. Two men leave quickly. A cubicle door slowly opens and a white-faced shadowy figure who looks like my brother emerges. “Let me die” he says with a croak. Which I have to say makes me laugh.

Between 1pm and 3pm my brother sits on a plane in the crash position blowing into a sick bag. I chat to the German man next to me. He looks at my brother and says “Oktoberfest…?” I sigh and nod. He tells me that he goes every year and every year on the flight he catches back there is at least one.

I get off the plane at 3pm and wander down the gangways and into the arrivals lounge. When I got off the plane my brother was behind me, when I got to arrivals he was nowhere to be seen. I retrace my steps and find him being pushed in a wheelchair by a kindly air stewardess. She frowns at me when my brother tells her that I am with him. We at least avoid the crowds going through customs.

At 5pm I have to pull over on the hard shoulder on the M3 so that my brother can be sick. After improving the Wiltshire countryside, he at least perks up a bit. He manages to control his own window switch and asks nicely if we could stop at the next services, which we do. I sit in the car park in the service area near Yeovil and wait for him to come back.

I switch the radio on. My brother comes back and gets back in and offers me a weak “Thank You”. He’s carrying a can of Red Bull and is eating a bacon sandwich. About ten minutes later, ‘One More Time’ by Daft Punk comes on, and my brother looks at me. “I bloody love this song” he says. It’s the best thing he has said all day. “Me too” I tell him and I turn it up.

You know something” he tells me ten minutes later, the mood having lightened considerably “that was a brilliant trip, I mean, today was a bit shit, sorry, for being such a lightweight, but I’m definitely going to do that again next year, you’re coming right…?”

To be honest he wasn’t a lightweight, he drank way more than me, I just remembered that we had a flight to catch, so stopped drinking and went bed earlier than him. I left him drinking in the hotel bar with a couple of Albanians, but I don’t tell him that, he was convinced I was there until the end. I look at him, somewhat gobsmacked. But he was right. It was an amazing trip.

Life Is Sweet – Chemical Brothers (1994, Virgin Records, Reached Number 25)

SWC

BONUS POSTING : MUSIC FOR OUR TIMES

It’s been a long while since my football team was last in action – Saturday 7 March to be precise – and the pre-match playlist that day was curated especially to reflect that we were using the occasion to acknowledge International Womens’ Day.

Despite the fact we have had no games – home or away – the creative talents behind the match programme have been producing a weekly bulletin to download or read online, with important updates and information from the manager, players, and directors.

There’s also been a few things to keep fans occupied or entertained such as a look back at past games, anagrams that are Rovers related, themed quizzes and, for younger readers, a page in which you can colour-in a photo of a current player.

My weekly contribution has been a column entitled ‘Music for Our Times’ with five songs picked out to reflect a theme. The initial efforts were linked to football but then I began to focus on the lockdown itself, including the role played by emergency workers, the advice being provided to us by scientists, and the desire of everyone to have things return to normal. But, just in case it was getting too serious for everyone, I then did five songs about barbers/hairdressers!

This week’s bulletin was published today. My piece was submitted last Tuesday. I have to stay within a limit of 500 words. Here’s what has been printed.

There’s been one story dominating the headlines this week. Here’s a bumper edition of Music for Our Times.

1. No Regrets – Robbie Williams

A hit single back in 1999, lifted from the album ‘The Ego Has Landed’

2. Driving In My Car – Madness

The Nutty Boys from Camden, London took this all the way to #4 in the charts back in1982. It would later, in 2010, be included on the re-release of the album ‘The Rise and Fall’.

3. Get Outta London – Aztec Camera

A ballad that you can find on the 1990 album ‘Stray’. The words in the chorus are somewhat appropriate to this week’s theme:

“Get outta London, while the getting’s good,

Get outta London, while I know I could”

4. Durham Town – Roger Whittaker

An easy-listening number from 1969. It is actually about taking leave of the north-east, but when you think about it, you can only get away from somewhere if you’ve actually been there in the first place.

5. Hit The Road Jack! – Ray Charles

Feel free to join in with the next line of this one from way back in 1962:

‘And don’t you come back no more……’

6. Unbelievable – EMF

Jumping forward now to 1990 and the catchy debut single from a London dance-rock band that went all the way to #3:

“The things, you say,

Your purple prose just gives you away,

The things, you say,

You’re unbelievable”

7. Brassneck – The Wedding Present

The Wedding Present, from Leeds, have been part of the indie-music scene in the UK since 1986. Graeme Ramsay, who was a member of the band between 2006 and 2012, is a Raith Rovers fan. This particular song dates back to 1990. It has the chorus of “I just decided I don’t trust you anymore.”

8. Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)- James

Another band that has been around for decades, and who enjoyed huge success in the 90s playing gigs and arenas all across the UK and Europe. This particular single came along a little bit later, in 2001, and it reached #22.

9. Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon

A song from 1971 that expresses frustration with deceptive politicians and hypocrisy.

10. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word – Elton John

“It’s sad, so sad (so sad) ,It’s a sad, sad situation, And it’s getting more and more absurd”

As the Rovers Review Bulletin is a publication read by folk of all ages, I couldn’t include the song above all others that sums things up. Sweary words warning:

mp3: Jarvis – Running The World

He’s right, you know.

PS: Here’s a link should you want to download the bulletin. Click here

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #214 : MONICA QUEEN

Monica Queen has been part of the music scene in Scotland for more than 25 years, initially through her involvement with the band Thrum, whose music was very much of the country-rock variety, inspired by a love of Neil Young.

Thrum spilt up in 1995 (although they would reform in 2011), and two years later Monica would record what is probably her best known vocal, when she duetted with Stuart Murdoch on Lazy Line Painter Jane, the stand-out and lead track on the second EP released by Belle and Sebastian.

Monica would, in later years, duet or perform with a number of other high profile acts including The Jayhawks, Grant Lee Buffalo, Shane MacGowan, and Snow Patrol. She was also known, if she was part of the audience, to accept invites to come on stage and assist with a song or two (as she did, to great effect, at a Martin Stephenson gig at a tiny venue in Glasgow many years ago).

There was a short-lived solo career, which included the 77x EP and Ten Sorrowful Mysteries album for Creeping Bent Records in 2001, and from which today’s song is taken:-

mp3 : Monica Queen – 77x

JC

THE GIRLS BEFORE EVERYTHING BUT…

It’s now 40 years since Tracey Thorn dipped her toe into the murky waters of the music industry, initially with the help of one of her best friends at school, Gina Hartman.

The duo established Marine Girls, with Tracey on guitar and Gina taking on the tasks of vocals and percussion. In due course, the duo would be joined by the Fox sisters – Jane and Alice.

They fully embraced the DIY recording culture that had been promoted by the punk/new wave scenes, and their first self-financed release was A Day By The Sea, 12 very lo-fi tracks on a cassette tape. This led to an offer from In Phaze Records, a label whose owner and producer Pat Bermingham took care of everything from a small mobile studio in his garden shed and was every bit as DIY. The first release on the label was Beach Party – a further cassette-only issue of 16 songs, a number of which were newer versions of tracks that had been on A Day By The Sea.

There was a charm and innocence to Beach Party, no surprise when the ages of the performers were 14-17 and they were still very much learning how to play and sing. The entire length of the album was under 30 minutes and this also made for very short and occasionally shambolic live appearances, but there was enough about them to begin to gain a decent reputation and within a few months, the debut cassette was reissued on vinyl by Whaam! Records, a new label that had been started up by Dan Treacey of The Television Personalities.

By now, Tracey Thorn had moved to Hull to attend university and Gina took the decision to leave the band. The remaining trio managed to keep things going and before the year was out, they had recorded a debut 7″ single, issued jointly by In Phaze and Whamm?

mp3: Marine Girls – On My Mind
mp3: Marine Girls – The Lure of The Rockpools

This was really the first commercial release, as everything prior had been recorded for cassette-only projects, notwithstanding an eventual re-release on vinyl. It was also the longest and most ambitious piece of music they had written and recorded to this point with Tracey stepping forward to take the lead vocal. It was Alice, up to this point the principal vocalist, who took the lead on the b-side.

A number of journalists on a number of the UK music weeklies were captivated by Marine Girls and there were a number of fawning articles and features. This led to Cherry Red Records offering a contract, the first fruits of which were to reissue, and make more widely available vis improved distribution, the debut single in May 1982. The contract also allowed the band members to embark on solo projects, to be released by Cherry Red, and Tracey was first out of the blocks with the album A Distant Shore in August 1982, followed by a 7″ single just before Xmas:-

mp3: Tracey Thorn – Plain Sailing
mp3: Tracey Thorn – Goodbye Joe

The following month saw a new 45 from her group:-

mp3: Marine Girls – Don’t Come Back
mp3: Marine Girls – You Must Be Mad

In March 1983, the album Lazy Ways was released, an LP that would make the Top 50 on the end of year list with the NME. By then, however, Marine Girls were no more. Tracey was concentrating on a collaboration with her boyfriend, Ben Watt, on a new venture, while Jane Fox had issued her debut single in May 1983:-

mp3: Jane – It’s A Fine Day

She would later find her own collaborator in the shape of Owain Barton (known to all and sundry by his surname) and in September 1983, the duo released this:-

mp3: Jane & Barton – I Want To Be With You

….and then a self-titled mini-LP.

A couple of footnotes.

Jane and Alice Fox would jook up again with guitarist Lester Noel and drummer Steven Galloway in Grab Grab the Haddock and released two singles in 1984 and 1985 as mentioned here previously on the blog.

The posthumous diaries of Kurt Cobain revealed that Lazy Days was one of his Top 50 albums of all time. Tracey Thorn would later also discover that another huge fan was James Murphy of LCD Soundsytem.

This started out as a posting on the On My Mind single. It’s amazing how my mind drifts off and things expand as a result of now having more time on my hands. I’m not sure if it is entirely a good thing.

JC

45 45s @ 45: SWC STYLE (Part 38) + AN ISOLATION ICA FOR SEVEN-YEAR OLDS

A GUEST SERIES….WITH A VERY SPECIAL GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Last week my daughter received her next set of home school work. Each fortnight the children in her class get given a Project. Two weeks ago we designed a rocket out of cardboard boxes and plastics bottle tops. The time before that the children had a competition to build the strongest bridge out of Lego. The school give prizes for the ones with the most imagination and innovation. This time the Project is to write your own review of your favourite book or TV Programmes or Piece of Music. The blurb states that it needs to look like one of the reviews you will read in a magazine or a website and points will be again be given for imagination.

So, my daughter has compiled her own ICA featuring her favourite ten songs in the world (well sort of). Please bear in mind she is seven and a half and she wants to read all the comments that are left, so if you do comment please be kind. What follows are genuinely her own words (apart from the bits on italics, that was me and doesn’t appear in the school bit), she wrote this in her book and I have typed it and JC has published it (for which we are very grateful indeed). She has promised to draw him a picture to say thank you.

Oh one last thing, we will be sharing this with her school teachers and class mates so please if you decide to comment, be nice or kind. Thank You.

————-

My Ten Favourite Songs by Mini SWC

Last Christmas my daddy bought Alexa for a present to himself. Alexa is great she tells you jokes like “Whats Green and goes up and down?” A sprout in a lift. She sets alarms and tells me when my dinner is ready. She will also play music if you ask her, whatever music you want, it has all the songs in the world on it. My daddy plays lots of music and most of it is boring and a word that mummy uses to describe it that I can’t remember (the word used is ‘morose’ – swc). So he has let me have my own playlist – which I have called Rainbow Magic after the stories (Sorry, me again, Rainbow Magic are a bunch of stories by an author called Daisy Meadows which are fundamentally the same story rewritten 187 times each one with a slight tweak on the last one, a bit like the ongoing adventures of SWC and OPG you might say – swc) and I play music from it every day. It is a brilliant playlist much better than what Daddy listens to.

Side One

My favourite track in all the world is ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift. I want to be like Taylor Swift when I grow up. I want to dance around like she does and I dance like her in the lounge when I am supposed to be doing Joe Wicks PE, because Taylor Swift is better. All Joe Wicks does is talk about himself whilst jumping up and down. It is a very happy song and one that has handclaps and I always feel happy when I dance to it. Daddy also has this CD in his car (bought from Dr Barnados in Torquay for 50p shut up, it’s a great record – swc) and we listen to it on the way to school. I was really sad when Glastonbury was cancelled this year because Taylor Swift was playing last and that means she is the best popstar in the world. She is certainly better than all the boy popstars. Taylor Swift says that music is stronger than the coronavirus and that we should all stick together, boys don’t think that they just want to play football and be smelly. I give this song 185 out of 10.
(Shake It Off – Taylor Swift)

Another song I really like is in French and I don’t know who it is by. I like it because it is all about sausages which the man singing says in the first few words of it. This song is groovy and cool. Daddy says it is quite old and that the man singing it is really famous in France. I have never been to France but I would like to go because I want to go up the Eiffel Tower and eat a croissant by the river. I have been learning French and can ask for a drink of water if I need one. This is one of my mummy’s favourite songs as well. It’s also the best song to play musical statutes too.(the song is Le Responsable by Jacques Dutronc and she is right about the sausages – swc)

I like another song that is French and that I can’t remember the name of. But this one is the best song in the world for jumping about on Space Hoppers too. Space Hoppers are like big balloons that you can sit on and have races in the garden on. I have a blue Space Hopper and Mummy and Daddy have an orange one, but mine is the fastest and bounciest.
(She means Ca Plane Pour Moi by Plastic Bertranda song that was played at my wedding and did indeed involve Space Hoppers – swc)

My daddy keeps putting music on my playlist to try and catch me out but I can always tell what songs he has put on there, because they are mostly rubbish and I delete them. I just tell Alexa to delete it and she does. One that I have kept is Bird Is the Word (This one is Surfin’ Bird by the Trashmen and its another bonafide classic – swc). I really like the bit near the end of this where the singer sounds like he has a fish in his mouth and he doesn’t like it.
(Surfin’ Bird – The Trashmen)

Another one that daddy put on my playlist that I like is the song about Monsters coming over the hill. I like it a lot. I like to hide behind the sofa in the lounge and sing “Whats that hiding behind the sofa – is it a monster” and then jump out on mummy and daddy and scare them. This song is really fun and makes me think of cartoons like Scooby Doo.
(Monster – The Automatic)

Side Two

My favourite TV programme is Horrible Histories (ditto – swc) and at Christmas Daddy took me to the cinema to see the movie of it (which I totally recommend – swc). It was all about the Romans and the Celts. The Celts used to build houses out of their poo and the Romans made the roads all straight and stole lots of money from people. In the film the Romans and the Celts have a big battle in somewhere called Watling Street. Daddy says he grew up near Watling Street, although I’m not sure it was in the time of the Romans, like he says. I like going to the cinema because I get to eat Maltesers and popcorn.
(The Battle of Watling Street – Kate Nash)

At school a few months ago before the lockdown came and I couldn’t see my friends anymore we had to do a play. In the play I was a sheep and I had to do a dance with my friends. The song we danced to was ‘I like to Move It Move It’. I like to listen to this song because it reminds me of my friends especially M (name removed – swc) and it reminds me that one day there won’t be a virus and we can do plays at school again.
(I like to Move It – Reel 2 Reel)

My mummys favourite song in all the world is all about dreams – I don’t know who sings it but it is a very happy song and it has no boring guitars on it and no shouting. We played this song really loud on Christmas morning this year as we unwrapped presents. I was allowed to jump off the sofa as it was Christmas it was fun I also had chocolate for breakfast (which is why she jumped off the sofa – swc). Mummy has better taste in music than daddy.
(Dreamer – Livin Joy)

One of my favourite foods is jam sandwiches. I had jam sandwiches for lunch today. I don’t like orange jam though like Paddington (she means marmalade – swc). After lunch I helped to make some scones with mummy while daddy painted the bench on the patio. Mummy got cross with him because he spilt brown paint on the bricks. This song mentions jam and that makes me like it.
(Pump Up The Jam – Technotronic)

I love to read books I have a lot of books, apart from Daisy Meadows my favourite writer is Roald Dahl his books are really funny and have really funny characters in them. I like Mr Twit because he reminds me of my daddy when he doesn’t shave for a week. I also love Mr Wonka and if I also think about finding a Golden Ticket inside one of my chocolate bars. I like chocolate almost as much as jam sandwiches and pasta. There is a song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that my daddy used to play to me when I was really little, like four or something, that I like to listen to when I am feeling sad because it makes me smile.
(Pure Imagination – Gene Wilder )

———-

I think I am slightly biased, but I think that might just be the greatest ICA ever written. Thank you for reading. Take care out there. Stay Safe.

SWC (aided and abetted by mini SWC)

WHERE ARE YOU GOING NEXT?

There’s been a lot of reading on t’blog in recent weeks….and there’s a few more lengthy ones in the pipeline.

Not today though.

mp3: Various – Predictably Unpredictable

I put this together up for listening to while out walking and where I could reimagine myself in Manhattan heading over the bridge in the direction of Brooklyn (and back).

TRACKLIST

Eye Know – De La Soul
Rapture – Blondie
This Is Radio Clash – The Clash
Love My Way – The Psychedelic Furs
Fast Boys and Factory Girls – Port Sulphur
I Love A Man In Uniform – Gang of Four
Spellbound – Siouxsie & The Banshees
Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars) – Grinderman
The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret – QotSA
I’m Scum – IDLES
Sign ‘O’ The Times – Prince
Torch – Soft Cell
Bodega Birth – Bodega
I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow
Life During Wartime (live) – Talking Heads
How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’ – The Fall

As ever, it’s an hour in length.

Enjoy.

JC

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 37)

A GUEST SERIES

9 – Bermuda – Kisses (2010, Transparent Records)

Released as a single in April 2010 (Did Not Chart)

The roof has come right off at the back. The wind has ripped through it and its flapping about like a pair of Ian Brown’s finest trousers. I look across at the old man, who has a cigar in one hand and a blow torch in the other and decide to move out of the way. I mean it’s his roof after all.

I should perhaps back up a bit. The house belongs to a man called Pythagoras, but everyone calls him ‘Santi’. I’m not sure why. Pythagoras is a brilliant name. The house is situated right on the coast in a small village called Tuckers Town, which is on the beautiful island of Bermuda. Santi’s house has just been hit by a hurricane.

Santi and his wife have lived in this house for 55 years. The roof, which is largely flat has withstood five hurricanes in the last twenty years, and this latest one, named Igor, was the weakest one to score a direct hit but has caused more damage than the rest of them put together.

At 9am the day after the Hurricane, Santi phoned me to ask for my help to fix his roof and clean up the fallen trees that now littered his garden. He said that the power was back on and that in return his wife would make me some mac n cheese, and he’d open a bottle of rum. I agree and tell him I’ll be there in an hour.

The walk to Santi’s house is a depressing one. I put some music on to try and blank out the walk but its hard work. There is a footpath system around the island, called the Railway Trail, so called because it used to be a railway. This trail is usually a mixture of sand and gravel today it is covered with leaves and debris and looks like someone has shoved a dirty green carpet all the way along it. It cuts through the National Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, normally home to about a thousand different types of trees and plant. Today it is a scene of absolute devastation.
This might sound weird, but I check in on my favourite tree, it’s a Banyan tree that looks exactly like a cat and I find myself feeling sad when I see that it is now half the tree it used to be.

I remember standing there, in this huge park the only human around and I’m trying to assess the devastation unfolding around the island. I’d completely forgotten that that iPod was playing and its only Matt Berninger’s baritone filling my ears that drags me away from the park.

Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National (2010, 4AD Records, Did Not Chart)

I first met Santi through his wife, Celeste. On my second day on the island I was sat at the bus station waiting for the Number 7 bus back to my flat. There were three people at the bus station. Celeste, me and a third chap who is sitting on a bench about 20 foot away. Moments later a white jeep pulls up, two men jump out and shoot the man on the bench through both legs and then drive off. Chaos ensues. I can still smell the sulphur today, I heard his scream every night for the next three weeks.

Celeste was dressed in her Sunday best and was on her way to church. I was carrying a bag of bananas, some pasta and some chocolate. She pulls out a mobile phone and does the necessary, I stand there wishing that I’d never got on the flight. I feel totally useless, totally selfish and totally alone.

Celeste is in her late seventies and she is an oasis of calm. She hobbles over to me, and asks me if I am ok. I nod. I mean I’m in shock, but I don’t have two mangled legs. She wanders over to the prone lad on the floor and shakes her head – she takes off her coat and covers him with it. “He’ll live” she says and then the ambulance and police turn up and she sits back down next me.

The next sentence she utters is one of the most glorious sentences that anyone has ever uttered in my company. Celeste brings out a small box of what looks like tobacco, puts a bit in her mouth and chews it for a minute or so. As the police guy shuts the bus station she spits the tobacco out of her mouth and looks at me and says “Goddam gangbanger muthafuckas ruinin’ my Sunday, forgive me Lord” and then she looks up at the sky and crosses herself.

Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio (1995, Tommy Boy Records, Number 1 – and the only number one on this rundown I think)

From that day I checked in on Celeste and Santi on a regular basis. I would meet Santi on the odd Saturday in an Irish bar in town we would watch the football (big Stoke City Fan for some reason) and then we would catch a bus out to one of his favourite spots on the island. It kept him out of Celeste’s hair whilst she made yam and pineapple cakes. One place we used to love to go was Fort Scaur an old defence fort hidden on a small hill on the south side of the island. It’s the highest point on the island and yet you can’t see the fort from the sea, because they built most of it underground. It’s full of tunnels, linking the fort to the hill side and then down to the sea. It remains one of my favourite places on earth.

Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records, Did Not Chart)

Santi and Celeste remain in the Top Five of brilliant people that I know. They are 88 and 85 now, still going strong. Still eating their yam and pineapple cakes.

SWC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #252 : COMSAT ANGELS

A GUEST POSTING by ECHORICH

THE COMSAT ANGELS – AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM…

I’ve wanted to submit this particular ICA for quite a long time. As can be the case when you are too close to a subject, I’ve found it hard to approach and feel good about it. But I want to share my appreciation, my affection for the music of Comsat Angels, a band that suffers greatly from those popular tropes of “they could have been” and “they should have been” much too often when they are talked about. I won’t contribute to that here, I want to focus in on 10 songs that have helped to make them one of the core bands in my musical collection.

I have mentioned a few times in the past that in the early days of Post Punk, I discovered quite a number of bands based on picking their debut album up from the racks in Metro Records of Little Neck, NY. The first WAH! album, the first Sound album, A Certain Ratio’s debut long player as well – to name a few. But one stands out to this day – The Comsat Angels debut Missing In Action. It featured an image of a Sheffield motorway at night that the photographer, Martyn Goddard, remembers being taken while accompanying the band to a show. I would find that the music held within the cover was perfectly complimented by the photograph’s desolate sulphur lit glow and trailing car lights, capturing speed in an instant of time. It’s an album cover that would lead to a 40-year relationship with The Comsat Angels’ music and carnival ride of a career.

Their name comes from a short story written by J.G. Ballard. Many of the debut album’s themes, could be categorized as Ballardian. These themes of doubt, ruin, post-modern paranoia and future shock, would be a continuous thread through much of the band’s 15-year discography.

Here are the songs that best represent how The Comsat Angels have gotten under my skin and owned a piece of my memory banks for decades. I’ve decided to organize the list based on album release to give an idea of the evolution of the band’s sound – something which would impact their career and teach them some very important lessons.

1. Missing In Action – Waiting For A Miracle

Stephen Fellows opening chords are like a warning siren that starts slow and patterned and the quickly pick up to a frenetic pace as the rest of the band enters. I’ve always felt it was a song dealing with the fear and alienation of becoming an adult. Gone are the childhood things representing safety and security and ahead is a world of chaos and obstacles requiring all the strength and conviction a young person can muster. Kevin Bacon’s bass and Andy Peake’s synths lend heighten the paranoia and fear and Mik Glaisher’s drums are like a heart beat on the edge of bursting.

2. Monkey Pilot – Waiting For A Miracle

Post Punk’s most exercised theme gets a work out here – being out of control. The drums propel the track while also reflecting the theme of confusion and doubt. The addition of a farfisa organ heightens the feeling that things are out of place, out of pace. Fellow’s vocals reflect a man going about his everyday, his routine, but feeling as though somehow he’s loosing his grip.

3. Independence Day – Waiting For A Miracle

The track TCA are best known for, giving them one-hit wonder status were it not for the fact that it wasn’t really a hit. It is, somewhat perversely, one of the great guitar track of the 80s for me. It’s also a track with the most curated minimalist use of guitar I can think of. For that and because of my own perversity, it fulfills all the requirements to be one of my all time favorite tracks. I have never felt it was anything about proclaiming independence. More it’s about knowing that real independence can only ever be a hope, a wish, a goal and many times it’s just out of reach.

4. Eye Of The Lens – E.P

Released as a 7” single and 12” EP between the first and second albums. It points to the consolidation that the band’s sound was getting heavier, denser and darker. The paranoia is on full tilt, but again Fellow’s delivery is a mixture of self narration and resignation which manages to become a sort a strength against the prevailing forces.

5. Be Brave – Sleep No More

On their sophomore album, The Comsats project maturity in their sound while focusing their themes away from youthful perspectives of fear and nervous energy to ones of knowing and the resignation of unrealized dreams. Be Brave has a workman like bass and drums that set the tone while the guitar and keyboards the song’s emotional bed. Fellows guitar cuts through the landscape laid down by the rhythm section with emotional ferocity.

Sleep No More is an album that benefits more from being listened to than being reviewed. It is easy to put in a league with some very strong company, and many reviewers and critics have. But it’s darker themes require listening, most will not get it on first listen as it needs the listener to allow it in.

6. After The Rain – Fiction

With their third album The Comsat Angels took a lighter approach. Lighter is really not a fair word, but when put in relation to Sleep No More, it makes sense. The lightness is in the musical approach rather than the themes In fact, the Ballardian themes are still very evident. After The Rain seems to be about comforting and sheltering and love, but there is menace in the beauty of the track. “The rain” may be of a nuclear kind, and it may not be just one person needing shelter, but all of us.

After Fiction, with their Polydor contract up and no interest in the label resigning the band, they made the move to Jive Records. This was the house of A Flock Of Seagulls, rapper Whodini and Roman Holliday. It was also where producer Mike Howlett laid his hat, primarily producing the aforementioned AFOS. He took the reigns of their next album, Land, and guided a willing band into more commercial territory. Synths and Simmons drums replaced the harder, darker bass and drum-heavy sound of their Polydor albums. The sound fell somewhere between AFOS and Japan. As well Stephen Fellow’s lyrics were lacking the narrative, claustrophobic quality of his earlier work. While they found some Modern/Alt Rock radio airplay in the US with the single Will You Stay Tonight and a re-recording of Independence Day, the change in their path did not pay off commercially.

The second and last Jive release was their fourth album, 7 Day Weekend. While this album still retains their newly acquired “commercial” sound, the guitars, bass and drums are more upfront in the overall sound. They had a minor Modern Rock hit with single I’m Falling which also featured in the Val Kilmer film Real Genius. In the USA, it’s this song that they seem most remembered for. But there was one song that hinted that not all was lost…

7. You Move Me – 7 Day Weekend

You Move Me is a love song. It’s a love song that veers on obsession. The Fairlight is replaced by bass which propels the song forward as the guitar swirls like a mind on the edge of control. For me it is the most “successful” of their commercially intended songs. It is also a favorite, but throughout this period in the band’s output, the just never sounded as they were all that convinced themselves.

8. Flying Dreams – Chasing Shadows

By the time 7 Day Weekend was released, Jive had finished with The Comsat Angels. But the band found refuge from a left field Patron – Robert Palmer. Seems he was a fan and became the executive producer of their 6th album Chasing Shadows, bringing them along to Island Records. If there is anything missing from Chasing Shadows, it could be warmth. It’s an album that shows the education they received with their time at Jive.

Flying Dreams is not groundbreaking, but it references moods and elements from their first 3 albums with honesty of intent, while embracing the musical currents they found themselves attempting to navigate. There is strength and confidence in their attack. Back is Mik Glaisher’s dominant drums and Andy Peak’s deft touch with the keyboards. For me the song is refreshing and familiar. The song soars from it’s opening “take off” and glides off into the clouds searching for something yet unknown.

9. Pray For Rain – Chasing Shadows

One of the important changes on Chasing Shadows is Andy Peake moving from atmospheric synths to very pure piano – which is the cornerstone of Pray For Rain. Another change, and in some ways a return to an earlier ethic is that many of the tracks are realized in a minimalist fashion. Piano, Kevin Bacon’s faint, echoing bass and a pure vocal from Steven Fellows are the minimalist magic here. If the band’s output had ended with this track, it would have been a moment of closure in a career that began so very strong, stumbled, through a middle period, but regained momentum.

Unfortunately, this was once again a false start and their next – and last – album for Island would suffer from too much pressure to produce for the label. In fact, Fire On The Moon was so removed from what The Comsat Angels were about, they would only release it under a different name, Dream Command. It’s an album that veers from pedestrian FM Rock to heavy ballad, to synth noodling. It does nothing for their legacy…

…but in 1992, two years on from releasing an album not even good enough to put their name to, the band, still not ready to give up, came out with My Minds Eye. Released on the independent label RPM and self produced, TCA shine. It’s an album that’s heavy in parts, flirts with psychedelia but also references earlier themes in even more obvious ways than 1986’s Chasing Shadows. Andy Peake returns to form with a more atmospheric layering of keyboards. Mik Glaisher’s drums are at times martial and then tribal. Kevin Bacon’s bass returns to an anchoring position and Stephen Fellow’s guitar and vocals are confident in the colors they paint.

10. I Come From The Sun – My Mind’s Eye

For me, this is My Mind’s Eye’s stand out track. Subtle guitar and keyboards, an insistent drum beat and menacing bass combine into an other worldly setting which Steven Fellows’ echoey vocals only punctuate. It references the moodiness of tracks from Sleep No More but manages to get their with a lighter, maybe that should be softer, touch. I Come From The Sun, in my mind, stands up there with music by contemporaries like The Catherine Wheel or Swervedriver.

My Mind’s Eye would be the last album with the original line up intact. Kevin Bacon would leave the band to devote time to music and commercial production in the band’s Axis Studios in Sheffield (built with a ridiculous investment from Jive Records back in 1984). He would be replaced on bass by Terry Todd and an additional guitarist was added, Simon Anderson. They released the band’s final album, The Glamour in 1995. It continued on from My Mind’s Eye with an injection of a heavier Rock sound on many tracks. You can hear the influence of Grunge in the title track, while there are still moments of minimalist beauty.

The Comsat Angels find them right at the heart of what I love about Post Punk. They laid down many of the musical and thematic ethos that I searched out in music for many years – they still do. They endear me with their musical triumphs and their utter failure navigating the record industry.

Even if you limit yourself to The Comsat Angels first three albums, you are in for musically emotional ride. But give their entire catalogue some time. You will likely find music worth your time and you may be surprised just how much.

ECHORICH

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 36)

A GUEST SERIES

10 – Rolodex Propaganda – At The Drive In (2000, Grand Royale Records)

Released as a single in September 2000 (Reached Number 54)

You can’t stand up in the space below the floorboards. I have to crawl and crouch. The floor is littered with bits of old concrete, stones, dirt and general crap. There is part of an old newspaper down there. It is the Mid Devon Advertiser from the early part of the 80s.

I note for future reference that I can access the pipes underneath the bathroom from this space, which might come in handy. Its pretty dark down there. The only light other than the one from torch comes from the hole in the floor/ceiling about ten metres to behind me.

The space appears to stretch for a little distance, it looks like it goes underneath my lounge. You couldn’t see that from the top of the hole. I turn around, that in itself, is a job, and go back up to Mrs SWC and report back. She asked me again what is in the bags. I haven’t looked yet I tell her. She is drinking a cup of tea and looks really comfortable sitting in the hallway on the footstool.

I crouch and crawl back along the ground, shining the torch as I go. In the far corner of the space, right under the lounge is a box, there doesn’t appear to be anything else down there, apart from the bags that is.

I spin around again and I drop the torch and somehow it manages to switch itself off. I let out a small cry and my wife sticks her head down the hole and asks me if I am ok – I tell her I need another torch and I crawl towards the hole in the ceiling in the dark. I’m a bit scared to be honest.

Freakin Out – Graham Coxon (2004, Parlophone Records, Number 37)

My wife hands me a small torch and I update her as to the box in the corner. She tells me to bring it to the hole and open it up. The small torch helps me find the bigger torch, which I am glad still works. I crawl back over to the box and push it over to the hole. I am intrigued to find it is sealed shut with gaffa tape and I call for a pair of scissors.

Mrs SWC hands me some scissors and I cut through the gaffa tape. The box contains old cameras. There are packed with old bits of polystyrene, but there are probably five or six cameras here. I pass the box up through the hole in the floor. Some of the cameras date back to the 1930s or so. I climb out of the hole and look longingly at the cuppa on the side of the cabinet. Mrs SWC tells me that she will pop the kettle on whilst I check out the bags and back down into the hole I go and form some reason this song is playing over and over in my mind

Get Got – Death Grips (2012, epic Records, Did Not Chart)

There were, as you will remember, three bags, a blue rubble style bag, a green bag and a dark coloured Adidas sports bag, and for those of you who get disappointed by anti-climax – switch off now.

The blue rubble style sack contains two sets of curtains, they are filthy and old and worthless. They used to be a brown colour. Brown would definitely not work in our lounge.

The green bag is slightly more interesting. It contains books and folders. They are in surprisingly good condition considering they have been shut in a dark space for some time. One of these folders contains postcards of trains, buses and tractors, it looks like a collection or a school project. It is sort of beautiful in a neglected waste of time sort of way. It also has a battered copy of ‘Animal Farm’ in it, two books by Danielle Steele, three books by John Buchan and most worryingly a couple of books by Dennis Wheatley, who writes about the occult.

The Adidas Sports Bag contained £860 in used £20 notes.

Nah not really, it contained a clock (broken), three plastic plant pots, an old (broken) nodding dog that you stuck on the parcel shelf of your car, some coat hangers and one female size 4 shoe.

The Other Shoe – Fucked Up (2011, Matador Records, Did Not Chart)

That was it. It was largely crap, and I for one felt slightly disappointed that there were not body parts or oodles of cash down there.

SWC

 

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #213 : MOMUS

One of the most written-about musicians ever to emerge from Scotland.  It is fair to say that he is a niche or even an acquired taste.  A full and detailed bio that has been lifted from all music. He’s been a very busy boy and much of his story would make for a fantastic film.

Named after the Greek god of mockery, Momus is the alias of Nick Currie, an erudite and esoteric Scottish-born singer, songwriter, author, and provocateur whose genre-defying music careens from acoustic ballads and electro-pop to easy listening and post-punk and back again. Known for his rich baritone and fascination with themes of psychosexuality and cultural and political crises, Momus emerged in the early ’80s as the leader of the avant-garde band the Happy Family. He joined the Creation label in 1987 and released his second solo LP, The Poison Boyfriend. Momus moved to Cherry Red Records in the mid-’90s and found considerable success in Japan, where he eventually relocated. Since his 1986 debut, the biblical-themed Circus Maximus, he has averaged an album a year, with highlights arriving via 1998’s analog Baroque Little Red Songbook, 2005’s musique concrète-inspired Otto Spooky, and 2016’s post-Brexit-minded Scobberlotchers.

Born in 1960, Currie spent time living in Greece and Canada before returning to Scotland to attend university. In 1981, he dropped out of school to form the Happy Family, a band additionally comprising three prior members of Josef K. After signing to the 4AD label, the group recorded only one LP, 1982’s The Man on Your Street, before disbanding.

After returning to (and graduating from) university, Currie moved to London in 1984. He cut a deal with el Records and released Circus Maximus in 1986, the first offering issued under the Momus name (chosen in honor of a Greek god banished from Mount Olympus for daring to criticize the wisdom of Zeus). A move to Alan McGee’s Creation label preceded the release of 1987’s melancholy The Poison Boyfriend, followed by 1988’s homoerotic Tender Pervert. Even more frankly sexual was the next year’s Don’t Stop the Night, a collection exploring taboo topics including incest and necrophilia. With 1991’s Hippopotamomus — dedicated to the late Serge Gainsbourg — Momus came under attack; the album, dubbed “a record about sex for children,” drew fire from feminists as well as a lawsuit from Michelin U.K., which objected to a lyrical reference to their mascot, the Michelin Man. (The suit was subsequently settled out of court, and all remaining copies of the album were destroyed.)

Undeterred, Momus returned in 1992 with a pair of new records, The Ultraconformist and the ambient-styled Voyager, inspired by the work of Yukio Mishima. After writing the 1993 album Shyness for Japanese performer nOrikO (who adopted her stage name Poison Girlfriend in tribute to Momus) and releasing Timelord (his final work for Creation), Currie made tabloid headlines for his 1994 marriage to 17-year-old Shazna Nessa, the daughter of a Bangladesh-born restauranteur. Currie and Nessa first met when she was just 14; after her parents learned of the relationship, she was sent back to Bangladesh to enter into an arranged marriage, but escaped to return to London to marry Currie, forcing the couple to go underground for fear that Nessa’s family would kidnap her.

Currie, living in exile in Paris, subsequently signed to the Cherry Red label and resurfaced in 1995 with The Philosophy of Momus, an eclectic set veering from reggae to blues to techno that featured “The Sadness of Things,” an indie hit recorded with Ken Morioka of the Japanese pop band Soft Ballet.

Slender Sherbet, a collection of re-recordings of material from the Tender Pervert era, followed later in the year as Momus suddenly found success in Japan writing and producing for pop songstress Kahimi Karie, with whom he notched a string of five consecutive Top Five hits.

20 Vodka Jellies, a collection of demos performed by Momus and intended for Karie, appeared in 1996, and was the first of his records issued in the U.S. In addition to writing and producing material for Nessa’s band Milky and the magazine Blender, Currie rounded out the year by writing, producing, and programming the collection This Must Stop. He issued Ping Pong in 1997, returning a year later with dynamic and inventive The Little Red Songbook. Released in 1999, Stars Forever was arguably Momus’ most controversial and provocative artistic statement yet — mounted to help defray massive legal costs facing Currie’s U.S. label Le Grand Magistery, each of its songs was commissioned for $1,000 apiece by various patrons, from Japanese pop mastermind Cornelius to the staff at New York City publicity firm Girlie Action, and written to the patrons’ specifications. Folktronic followed in early 2001, and two years later, Momus debuted on his own American Patchwork label with Oskar Tennis Champion.

Analog put out the two-disc Forbidden Software Timemachine: Best of the Creation Years, 1987-1993 compilation in 2003, followed by the chanson-forward Otto Spooky and Ocky Milk in 2005 and 2006. In 2008, Currie teamed up with Glaswegian producer Joe Howe for the album JOEMUS, released on the Analog Baroque imprint, with the YouTube-inspired album Hypnoprism arriving in 2010. Thunderclown, a collaboration with John Henriksson, arrived in 2011, followed by the British horror film-inspired Bibliotek in 2012. The year 2013 saw the release of Bambi, as well as the first installment of MOMUSMCCLYMONT, a collaboration with ex-Orange Juice member David McClymont. MOMUSMCCLYMONT II appeared in 2014, followed in 2015 by the triple-LP Turpsycore and Japanese folk-inspired Glyptothek.

Arriving in 2016, Scobberlotchers saw Momus taking on Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, while 2017’s Pillycock was influenced, in part, by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s Trilogy of Life films (Arabian Nights, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales). He returned in 2018 with Pantaloon, a topical cabaret LP that coincided with his move to Berlin. The following year, Momus purchased an accordion in a junk shop and was inspired to compose an album featuring the instrument; titled Akkordion (mixing the German and English spellings), the LP was issued by Creation Records in October 2019.


Despite such a prolific output, I’ve only one Momus album in the collection – Tender Pervert which I picked up on vinyl from a charity shop for next to nothing.  One of its tracks was also included on a Creation compilation, Doing It For The Kids, released in 1988.  It’s fair to say that it’s one of his more accessible offerings – and even then, you’d be hard pushed to ever hear it on radio.

mp3: Momus – A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17 to 24)

JC

THE 23rd NEW ENTRY BACK IN MAY 1990


Yesterday’s monthly nostalgia-fest mentioned that there were 23 new entries into the Top 75 singles chart in the first week of May 1990….a quite remarkable stat and I think you would be hard pushed to find any other week where almost one-third of the hits were new.

I deliberately left off the 23rd and last of them – the one that appeared at #75 and dropped out the following week.

Ian McCulloch had great hopes for his solo career when he flounced out of Echo & The Bunnymen in something of a hissy fit. His debut album, Candleland, released in September 1989 caught a few folk out as it was, in many places, far removed from the sound of the band with which he had made his name. There was even a song that was the biggest New Order rip-off since Robert Smith and his buddies had written and recorded Inbetween Days:-

mp3: Ian McCulloch – Faith and Healing

Have a particularly close listen at the 2:40 mark….

The album was reasonably well received by the critics and sold enough copies to reach the Top 20 here in the UK, but it was one of those that came and went quickly, largely as a result of not really having any obvious singles. Most folk seemed to think that the title track, featuring a guest backing vocal from one-third of the Cocteau Twins, together with a guitar contribution which found Mac trying (unsuccessfully) to channel his inner Johnny Marr, was the best song on the album; but it wasn’t an obvious 45:-

mp3: Ian McCulloch (featuring Elizabeth Fraser) – Candleland

Someone came up with the genius idea of inviting Gil Norton to sprinkle some fairy dust on the song. Strings were added and Liz’s vocal becomes more prominent, making it almost like a duet in many places. The result was quite splendid:-

mp3: Ian McCulloch (featuring Elizabeth Fraser) – Candleland (The Second Coming)

The mistake was to release it in an already very crowded market and no matter how hard the pluggers would have worked and pushed it, it was going to struggle to get airplay. It really deserved a much better fate.

The interesting thing, from a fan’s perspective, is that three new songs were included on the 12″ single, all of them produced by Gil Norton. The results are mixed but there’s occasionally a hint of the Bunnymen sound and tempo. The first of them has a feel that would be reproduced on the Evergreen comeback album, while the opening notes of the second song reminds me of Noctural Me from the Ocean Rain album.

mp3: Ian McCulloch – Big Days
mp3: Ian McCulloch – The World Is Flat

The final track is, IMHO, a bit of a letdown but here it is for completeness sake:-

mp3: Ian McCulloch – Wassailing In The Night

Mac was, and still is, a huge football fan and he must have looked on with a bit of envy to see New Order hitting the heights with the England World Cup squad. Eight years later, he got his chance when he was asked to write and record the official song for the team in advance of France 1998. He roped in Johnny Marr to help with the tune and members of Ocean Colour Scene, Space and the Spice Girls to join in the vocal.

It’s simply appalling and everything you fear with a release of this type. Especially the promo:-

It reached #9 in the charts

JC

THE BIG HITS…..30 YEARS ON (5)

 

Part 5 of this monthly feature should, if I wasn’t incompetent, feature and tell the stories of all the new singles to chart in the month of May 1990.  The thing is, I stopped a week early last month, mistakingly putting in 7, 14, 21 and 28 April as the date of entry when in fact that was the last date of the chart week.  The piece has subsequently been corrected to ensure with dates of 1, 8, 15 and 22 April now been applied, but this means that the chart announced on 29 April has had to carry over to this piece.

April ended with Madonna still sitting on top of the pile for a fourth successive week with Vogue.  Here’s the new entries worth drawing attention to

A Dream’s A Dream – Soul II Soul

Soul II Soul had enjoyed a stellar year in 1989 – the album Club Classics Vol.1 had gone triple platinum on the UK and double platinum in the USA, not to mention the incredible sales right across Europe. It would go on to spend 60 weeks in the album charts in the UK. The year had ended with a number of personnel changes among the collective, particularly on the vocal side of things, but Jazzie B was adamant that the replacements would be every bit as stylish, classy and popular.

A Dream’s A Dream was the first of the new material and it entered the charts at #8 on 29 April. Jazzy’s prediction was a tad wide of the mark as that was the peak position for the single and its follow-up, Missing, stalled at #22 on its release some six months later. The parent album, Vol II: 1990 – A New Decade while far from a flop, had less than one-third of the sales of the debut. It’s fair to say that the collective’s popularity would decline with each passing year in the decade.

I’ll mention in passing that a previous hero and later racist released his fifth solo single around this time and it entered the chart on 29 April at #13. It’s a pity he’s now persona non grata around these parts as November Spawned A Monster is a very fine 45

Looking all the way down to #41, and you will see this:-

Soon – My Bloody Valentine

It must have been a bit of a sore one for MBV and Creation Records that the media buzz didn’t quite translate to mainstream chart success. A few more sales and Soon might well have cracked the Top 40 and possibly led to Kevin Shields & co. being invited onto Top of The Pops. Now, THAT would have certainly become a legendary and much-repeated clip. The single spent two more weeks in the Top 100 before dropping out. It would take until the following year for MBV to hit the higher echelons of the singles chart for the one and only time (To Here Knows When – #29, Feb 1991)

Stepping Stone – The Farm

The Farm, from Liverpool, had been recording and touring since 1984, although their output till this point in time had been four singles on four different and small independent labels. Nobody really took them too seriously, but then they began to be lumped in with the baggy sound that was coming out of nearby Manchester and their t-shirts became fashionable, out of which, they began to sell music in increasing quantities as will be shown in a future posting within this series.

Hippychick – Soho

Soho comprised of sisters Jacqui and Pauline Cuff, together with producer Timothy London. Formed in 1988, nobody had paid too much attention to the release of any of their material, even this, their fifth single, a dance-infused number that sampled one of the best and most popular tunes recorded by The Smiths. It sold only enough copies to reach #68. Later that year, it became very popular in the clubs of big cities in America, leading to it being ‘re-discovered’ over here and re-released in January 1991 when it went Top 10.

And so, at last, we reach May 1990. The month that saw me settle into a daily commute between Glasgow and Edinburgh with the routine involving lots of cassette tapes and a Sony Walkman. It was over these pieces of plastic that myself and Jacques the Kipper truly formed a friendship that remains just as strong today.

The first chart of May 1990, announced on Sunday 6 May, is not the finest. Adamski took over at the top from Madonna and Killer would hold that position for the entire month. The Top 20 is packed with things that have become the staple of Smooth Radio stations – Paula Abdul, Alannah Myles, New Kids on The Block, Heart, En Vogue, Natalie Cole and Phil Collins. Somehow or other, this managed to be a new entry at #20

Circlesquare – The Wonder Stuff

The Stuffies were another who had burst through in 1989, enjoying three Top 40 hits, two of which had been lifted from Top 5 album, Hup. The introduction of Martin Bell to play fiddle and banjo had changed the sound from fast and frantic indie-style guitar to something that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at folk festivals, albeit folk festivals in which the audience would be charged up on amphetamines. Circlesquare was the third single lifted from the album….the band hitched its wagon to what was happening elsewhere in the UK indie music scene with this remix for the 12″

Circlesquare (Paranoia Mix) – The Wonder Stuff

Maybe a little dated some 30 years on, but it was a welcome burst of energy back then. Other indie bands, such as Soup Dragons, were also paying attention….

The next new entry worth drawing attention to came in at #35.

How Was It For You? – James

James, in 1990, was another band more famous for t-shirts than chart hits. How Was It For You was their biggest success to date, with previous singles such as Sit Down and Come Home not cracking the Top 75. It would be 1991 when their world turned upside down (although a couple more minor hits will feature before this ongoing look at 1990 comes to an end)

Keep On – Cabaret Voltaire

As with The Cramps a few months ago, I had to rub my eyes in disbelief that Cabaret Voltaire had seen a 45 graze the middle section of the singles chart, with this coming in at #55. It was their highest ever success, albeit a later single in 1990 did reach #61. But that’s for another time.

There were 23 new entries into the singles chart in the first week of May 1990, an indication that record labels of all shapes and sizes had that time of the year marked down as one to pay particular attention to. The rest of the month was a bit quieter.

It’s My Life – Talk Talk

This proved to be a big hit for Talk Talk at the third time of asking. It had reached #46 when originally released in 1984 and #93 the following year when the record label misjudged the public’s appetite for it. It was chosen to promote the release of a ‘best of’ compilation and decent amounts of radio play saw it come into the charts on Sunday 13 May at #46. It would go on to enjoy a nine-week stay, peaking at #13, just one of four occasions that Talk Talk would make the Top 30.

The Desperate Hours – Marc Almond

I’ve previously had an in-depth look at the singular career of Marc Almond, and pointed out that he tended not to enjoy chart success unless he was covering someone else’s song. His previous effort, A Lover Spurned had managed to make the Top 30 – this flamenco style follow-up came in at #49 climbed three places and then disappeared from view.

Doin’ The Do – Betty Boo

The first chart solo sighting of the 20-year old Alison Clarkson, aka Betty Boo. Her vocal on Hey DJ – I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing) by The Beatmasters, a top 10 hit in late 89, had catapulted her to fame and she was tipped for big things as a solo performer. The record label did it the right way…no huge hype and instead justlet the pop music speak for itself. In at #58, from where it climbed all the way to #7, and the week it finally dropped out of the charts some three months later, the follow-up was released along similar lines, meaning a total of 22 successive weeks in the Top 75 and constant radio play. Boomania indeed….

Express Yourself – N.W.A.

One viewing of the excellent film-bio Straight Outta Compton will demonstrate that N.W.A. weren’t really ever going to worry about their profile in the UK. The fact that their 45s were wholly unsuitable for radio play was never a real factor. Express Yourself had originally been released to little fanfare in September 1989 but it would go on to crack the Top 30 at the second time of asking, having entered the charts initially at #42 on 20 May 1990. Can’t ever recall hearing it on daytime radio, but I’m sure one or more of the ‘wacky’ Radio 1 DJs would have picked up on it.

World In Motion – EnglandNewOrder

Italia 90 was looming. Football wasn’t yet a sport that was being embraced by the middle-classes – the tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough still saw it as something that appealed only to the hooligan element in society. England reaching the semi-finals of the tournament went a long way to changing attitudes. It’s worth remembering that long before the tournament kicked-off, the best ever pop song by a football team had conquered the charts. This crashed in at #2 on Sunday 27 May…it went to #1 the following week and created history for Factory Records and New Order. It spent eight weeks in the Top 10. Things were never ever the same again.

And I just realised that the charts in May 1990 had two songs featuring the phrase ‘express yourself’…..

Chad Jackson – Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked)

A true one-hit-wonder for DJ and mixer, Chad Jackson. Something of a cash-in and novelty style effort, it entered the charts at the end of May 1990 at #12 and would peak at #3. It would likely have been a #1 hit if it hadn’t been for EnglandNewOrder.

The Only One I Know – The Charlatans

Seriously? 30 years?? If it hadn’t been for the fact that Indian Rope had come and gone without any clamour whatsoever, this would go down in history as one of THE greatest debut singles in the entire history of pop music. In at #24, it peaked at #9 in one of the weeks that EnglandNewOrder were at #1. And, to my utter disbelief, the first time I’ve ever posted the actual single to the blog.

As ever, I hope this has stirred a few memories for y’all.  There’ll be more reminiscing this time next month,

JC
(aged 56 years and 11 months)

 

LONG SHADOWS, HIGH HOPES

This meticulous 464-page bio of Matt Johnson was published in June 2018.  I didn’t actually pick up on that fact until late 2019 when I was looking for some ideas to offer to Rachel as potential presents from Santa.

I didn’t get round to reading it until early March and then I had to spend a bit of time gearing up for my imminent retiral from work, meaning that I ended up making my way through its pages in a more piecemeal fashion than I normally would.  I did intend to post a review almost right away but got distracted by a few other things.

Long Shadows, High Hopes is a very unusual offering when it comes to a music bio.  Neil Fraser has no connection whatsoever with the music industry. He is someone who has openly said that he wasn’t a huge fan of the music of The The, knowing little other than the albums Soul Mining and Infected and he recalls that he didn’t ever meet Matt Johnson until 2012 when Fraser was putting together a book on the Newham area of East London as it was undergoing a radical, and often controversial regeneration in advance of that year’s Olympic Games. The author spent some time over the coming years persuading his subject matter that he was worthy of a bio and that he was best qualified to carry out the task. Once it was agreed, it would take four years (2014-2018) of intensive research and numerous interviews to piece everything together. The end result is an excellent read, especially for fans, but in saying that, it is one that might just be a tad rich for others given how much detail is gone into. It’s certainly been a long time since I’ve seen a music bio bring so many people on board to tell the story.

One thing that does become clear as the story unfolds is that the author, in getting to know his subject matter personally from hours spent talking to him, does become a fan of the man and an increasing admirer of his music, possibly for the reason that Matt Johnson’s approach to songwriting and recording is akin to that of a writer who is determined to deliver a perfect article, chapter or entire book.

I knew a little bit about Matt Johnson before reading the book, almost exclusively from the stuff that had appeared in music papers and magazines each time he was promoting a new album, with further knowledge gained from Johnny Marr‘s autobiography in which he said being in The The was just about the happiest he has ever been as a recording and touring artist. I knew that they went back a long way, to a time before The Smiths had even formed, but I wasn’t aware until now just how close that friendship is – the friend who was walking with Matt Johnson in the cold light of morning as recalled in the opening lines of Love Is Stronger Than Death, was none other than Johnny Marr. But that’s just one of countless instances that increased my knowledge and understanding.

It’s a book that is particularly strong on Matt Johnson’s pre-fame years, with a childhood that came wrapped in music thanks to his parents running a pub at which many well-known bands performed in the 60s, through to him catching a break in the mid-70s when he left school with no qualifications but ended up working for a recording studio where he really did develop his love of experimentation and gadgetry. The characters that populate the early pages are tremendous, full of illuminating tales that do go some way to explaining the complex nature and personality of the musician, not to mention his determination to do things his way.

The story doesn’t flinch away from or sugar-coat, some of the less happy incidents in Matt Johnson’s personal or professional life. There’s a brutal honesty about making consistently bad decisions around contracts and management, as too those bouts of excessive drinking and drug consumption that often made him far from great company.

There were a couple of times when the book threatened to lose me – me being a non-musician didn’t quite follow or understand some of the technical parts where guitar pedals, mics, various types of keyboards and recording methods in the studio are dissected in detail. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before there was a return to the main story.

It’s astonishing to realise that Matt Johnson has been in the music business for more than 40 years, albeit there have been extended periods of radio silence – the part of the book covering the first decade of the 21st century when it really did seem as if he had quietly faded into obscurity is very illuminating, taking the reader on a journey that encompasses New York, Gothenburg and London.

It’s a book that I know I will return to and read again, hopefully in a way and manner that befits it rather than the stop/start nature of earlier this year. It did get me to go back and reassess some of the music – particularly the albums Mind Bomb, which I’ve long thought was weak beyond the singles, and Naked Self which I bought in 2000 out of a sense of loyalty but never quite appreciated its songs. Reading some of the context to the making of the album was a huge help.

Looking back, it was always going to be nigh-on impossible for Matt Johnson to maintain the ridiculously high quality of the two early 80s albums that brought him to the attention of those of us who like our music to be just that little bit outside of the mainstream but remaining radio-friendly. Soul Mining (1983) and Infected (1986) are among the records I have listened to most in my life and are the two that most fans quote as ‘the best’ – it’s no surprise that the sings from those records get the biggest reception at the live gigs. But, as the book demonstrates, there was a lot more to the singer/composer prior to these albums, not forgetting just how much he would go onto achieve in later years, including the wholly unexpected comeback a few years back, just as the book was being finished….it’s almost as if Matt Johnson, reading over the early drafts – purely for the purpose of fact-checking – realised there was as much a need for him to be writing and performing today as there has always been.

It was 1982 when I first bought a single by The The.

mp3: The The – Uncertain Smile

It was later given quite an extensive work-over in the studio during the sessions for Soul Mining, including an immense piano contribution from Jools Holland to replace the flute and sax solos favoured by producer Mike Thorne.

mp3: The The – Uncertain Smile (album version)

The book reminded me that Uncertain Smile had actually emerged from an earlier single by The The – one that I’ve only ever had a cassette copy of from a home recording by a mate.  It’s now been sourced digitally.

mp3: The The – Cold Spell Ahead

This dates from 1981 when The The consisted of Matt Johnson and his pal Keith Laws, with the latter now a very well regarded figure in the field of psychology.  Indeed, it was Keith Laws who came up with The The as the name of their fledging outfit….

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #251 : BLANCMANGE

A GUEST POSTING by DOUG McLAREN

Track 1: Distant Storm (from the album “Wanderlust”, 2018)

An excellent album opening track, from a really outstanding “comeback” album that is not at all a “comeback”. Plenty of 80’s electronics bands are resurrecting themselves throughout the past decade, primarily as nostalgia acts for the 40-to-50 year old set. But Blancmange cannot really be said to be just a part of that phenomenon, as they have continually been re-inventing themselves since 2011 and their new material has been equally as experimental and “out-there” as what they produced through their short run from 1979-1986, if not more so, and certainly more prolific, with 8 or 9 albums (depending on how you count) in fewer than 10 years.

Track 2: “Waves (12” Mix)” (from the album “Happy Families”, 1984)

A sprawling, morose, and lusciously produced track that really could be the showcase of any Blancmange “Best of” compilation, this song is an ideal chaser to the opening “Distant Storms”, if you want to chill to a building, ominous, and disturbing symphony of hopelessness, for those who know that “Time, Time’s not kind”:

“What are these waves?
They’re coming over me
It must be my destiny
Waves, coming by
Goodbye, goodbye…”

Track 3: “Mindset” (from the forthcoming album “Mindset” due out the end of May, 2020)

A spare, brutally honest electronic track that seems to speak to our times in these difficult days of home isolation and its consequent disorientation:

“Unlike Wednesday
This day is focused
There will be
No distraction
From the action…

…Beyond crash barriers
All is on hold
Story in waiting
Typesetting inky fingers
Plots yet to unfold…”

Track 4: “Don’t Forget Your Teeth” (from the album “Blanc Burn”, 2011)

Again, a very spare synthetic track that could be about almost anything, given the superficially nonsensical nature of the lyrics, though one suspects it is ultimately about unhappiness, and an uneven breakup. What is it that the psychiatrists tell us about dreams which involve losing our teeth?

“You got my coat
You got my coat
Don’t forget your teeth

You take the car
You take the car
I’ll take the past

You take the goldfish
You take the goldfish
I’ll take the bus…”

Track 5: “I Smashed Your Phone” (from the album “Wanderlust”, 2018)

It is about smashing cell phones. Enough said. Also, it name-checks Arthur C. Clarke. It is not even about our future. It is, sadly, our present.

Track 6: “Living On The Ceiling (Vince Clarke Remix)” (for the album “Happy Families Too”, 2013)

The Big Single, to open side two of the Vinyl version of this ICA. And it could only be the version remixed by Vince Clarke in 2013, as a promotion for the release of the re-realization album “Happy Families, Too”. For those not aware, Blancmange decided that 2013 was the year for not a re-release, but a re-recording and modernization of their classic 1982 album “Happy Families”, the one with the delightful cartoon cat album art. There is even new “space age cat” album art for this “30th Anniversary” edition. Definitely worth a listen.

Track 7: “Don’t Tell Me” (from the album “Mange Tout”, 1984).

This is the single that new wave nostalgia radio stations like Sirius XM’s “First Wave” consider the definitive Blancmange track, and still play 35 years on. Actually deserves it, too.

Track 8: “Murder” (from the album “Mange Tout”, 1984)

Just in case people were under the mistaken idea that Blancmange were a happy poppy synth band, I include this dark track. It’s a full 1:20 second before the vocals come in on the track, and soon enough, one might almost wish they hadn’t:

“…Kill me now
Kill me now
You don’t know what this will lead to
If you keep on pushing me
Murder
Murder…”

Track 9: “We are The Chemicals” (from the album “Unfurnished Rooms”, 2017).

A more recent, and disturbing track from the resurrected Blancmange, showcasing a band more than three decades older than on the previous track. One reviewer on electricityclub.co.uk informatively tells us that “[Neil] Arthur himself provides guitar on the track and a simplistic square wave synth and early Roland JP-style arpeggiator fills in the mid-range on the piece. The track’s beauty lies in that it doesn’t try too hard and in its concluding 50 seconds hits a wonderful, but still low-key climax with some additional soaring keyboard parts”.

For myself, I must say I personally love the ongoing series on the New Vinyl Villain entitled “Some Songs Make Great Short Stories”. I have always felt that there is room for genres even shorter than the Short Story, though—something that evokes, rather than captures a moment in time, where an impulse of action is all that you get, and must capture a truth of the human condition. What would that poetic but essentially narrative genre be? A “vignette”, perhaps? My dictionary defines that as “a small graceful literary sketch”. This sketch is pretty chilling:

“There’s been a chemical spillage
On a trading estate In Altrincham
The area in question has been sealed off
There are no reports
Of loss of life
At this present time
We are the chemicals
In a garden shed 80 miles due south
As the crow does fly
The identical scenario
Has taken place
On a much smaller scale
We are the chemicals
We are the chemicals
We are the chemicals
At this present time
Now walking back
Across the Irish sea
Would it surprise you to know
That in the boot of a hire car
On a rain swept street
Chemicals are at this moment
Seeping through the tiny perforations
In a Waitrose plastic bag
The liquid will lay for a while
On the surface of the man-made fabric carpet
That lines the said boot’s floor
Before gravity wins
And pulls it down
And the occupant
Locks the door
In this present time
At this present time
We are the chemicals
We are the chemicals”

Track 10: “Radio Therapy” (from the album “Blanc Burn, 2011)

Haunting, melodic, and chirpy. I think this is a great way to end a Blancmange Compilation album. We all could use some musical therapy if we have listened our way through the lyrical musings of Neil Arthur and the dark synthetic palette of Stephen Luscombe (until he left the band in 2011).

Bonus Tracks:

“I’ve Seen The Word” (from the album “Happy Families Too”, 2013).

Should have made the cut, but for the fact that Blancmange has a ridiculously strong back catalogue. It includes the most awesome opener to a Blancmange song ever, with Neil Arthur intoning in a deadpan voice “I’ve seen people, laughing in churchyards…”

Fader: “Laundrette”.

Fader is a kind of 2019 “superduo” comprising Blancmange’s Neil Arthur and the synth wizard Benge. Another song that could make a great “vignette”.

“The Day Before You Came” (from the album “Happy Families”. “Mange Tout” 1984).

Blancmange covering ABBA: how is it possible that this did not make the 10 song ICA cut???

Faithless (feat. Blancmange): “Feel Me”

A really fun blippy and bleepy 2010 track by the English electronica band that gives an interesting “facelift” to the 1982 “Happy Families” track.

Kincaid (feat Blancmange): “Big Fat Head”.

Hilarious lyrics about forgetting what exactly happened at the party you were at last night. More spoken word than sung, and plenty of quirky remixes included on the 12” single. What more could you ask for?

DOUG

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (48)

Wow.

Just when I thought the blog was fading quietly away into obscurity, a few words about the debut single from Duran Duran sparked a lively response, the majority of it on the favourable side.  My special thanks, however, to my dear friend Drew for his pithy ‘fuck off’.  Reading it made me laugh out loud, which is no mean feat these days – partly as I knew that if he had chosen to make any sort of response it would have been exactly along those lines; above all else, when a mate from round these parts tells you to fuck off, he knows that there is likely to be some sort of comeback line rather than taking the advice/instruction to heart.

Which is why the latest entry in this series is another shiny product from another shiny new act from 1981.  It was tempting to go with Spandau Ballet, but that would have been taking the piss (although I do reserve the right to feature To Cut A Long Story Short at some point in the future).  Instead, I’m heading out of London and to the steely industrial city of Sheffield, which arguably, along with Glasgow and Manchester, were the UK’s most innovative and interesting cities music-wise in the late 70s/early 80s.

ABC made it big in 1981, just reward for the efforts in particular of Stephen Singleton and Mark White who, together with Ian Garth and David Syndenham, had been members of Vice Versa, part of the city’s vibrant electronica scene since 1977. They had supported many acts that had gone on to enjoy critical and occasionally commercial success, going as far as establishing their own label, called Neutron Records on which there were two EPs in 1979 and 1980. The latter piqued the attention of a fanzine writer/editor from Greater Manchester by the name of Martin Fry who, having interviewed Singleton and White, then found himself being asked to join Vice Versa on keyboards.

Within a year, having learned that Fry was a superior singer to Singleton, Vice Versa had put him upfront and began to move towards a sound that was more pop-orientated, including Singleton taking up the sax. In late 1980, the decision was taken to change the band name to ABC, stripping back to a trio and then adding a bassist and drummer.

They were snapped up by Phonogram Records, who were so confident of immediate success that they agreed to allow the band to continue to use the Neutron Records imprint. The first 45 via the new arrangement had catalog number NT101, released in late October 1981:-

mp3: ABC – Tears Are Not Enough

It was a pop/soul/funk debut that had barely a trace of electronica. It must have come as a shock to those who had followed Vice Versa through thin and thin with barely a nod to all they had written and recorded the previous four years.  It was bright, breezy, fresh and infectious.

Listening to it now, it offers a template for the pop sounds that would emerge in 1982 – I’m surely not alone in thinking that George Michael was listening and adopted it for the early Wham singles – not forgetting also that the new wave kids who had loved The Jam were picking up on this sort of sound as Paul Weller incorporated brass and keys onto the records and the live shows, and thus laying the foundations for The Style Council.

Phonogram, despite the single going Top 20 after a slow and steady climb up the charts, took the decision to ditch producer Steve Brown and bring in Trevor Horn to add something just a bit more substantial to the sound, including the latest synth technology and orchestral arrangements. The results, the following year, saw hit singles in Poison Arrow, The Look of Love and All of My Heart, as well as the album The Lexicon of Love eventually selling 300,000 copies in the UK and more than 500,000 in the USA.

I think it’s fair to say that the change of producer nailed it for ABC, that and the expensive marketing and promo campaign offered up by the record label. It brought fame and fortune but in the long-run caused friction between the band members with neither Singleton nor White choosing to be part of the modern-era ABC which tours the nostalgia circuits, preferring instead to reform Vice Versa in 2014.

Tears Are Not Enough was a very fine and cracking debut single but it got dwarfed by what followed, with the Look of Love being as near a perfect pop single as there has ever been. I’m still not sure if Horn hadn’t been brought on board whether or not ABC would have been an international success. It’s interesting to note that they struggled to enjoy much success with different producers in later years.

Here’s the b-side to the debut.

mp3: ABC – Alphabet Soup

This is a gazillion miles removed from the polished stuff on the debut album.  Lots of bass-slapping and funk elements abound… I think it’s fair to say if they had gone down this road in 1982, they wouldn’t have stood out.

JC