BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 9): THE SOUP DRAGONS

I know…..it’s an absolute bummer to find it’s me and not SWC on duty today. I thought I’d take a leaf out of his book and regale you with a tale from my life.

It’s August 1991. I’m outside a football stadium in Glasgow on a Tuesday night gearing up to watch Raith Rovers take on the might of Celtic in a cup-tie. My best mate is a centre-half for Raith Rovers but he’s a product of the youth development at Celtic and he’s still friendly with a number of the opposition players. It’s a game he’s been looking forward to since the draw had taken place two weeks previously. As usual, there’s a complimentary ticket (referred to as a ‘comp’) waiting for me, but it’s been left by one of the other players and not my mate which seems strange.

I make my way in and as I look around to take in the scene, I spot my mate sitting in a separate area of the stand, somewhere that I can’t access from where I’m sitting. Nowadays, it would be a case of texting/phoning, but remember this was 1991 when mobile phones were anything but. I start waving frantically to get his attention, and after a number of minutes he signals that he’ll make his way over to where I’m sitting.

‘I’ve been dropped’, he tells me. First time in his career and he looks devastated. It turns out he’s one of four changes to the normal team as the manager tries to catch Celtic on the hop by playing a number of younger players. I’m really upset for my mate and I’m tempted just to head home instead of watching the game – it’s the night before Rachel’s birthday and we have a lovely day planned for the Wednesday, and I’m thinking I could get extra brownie points by coming back unexpectedly. My mate talks me out of it by saying he’d appreciate it if we could go for a post-match beer when he can reflect a bit on what’s happened to him as well as giving us an opportunity to dissect the game.

I re-take my seat in the stand and he goes back to where the club officials are sitting. I notice that I’m surrounded by a lot of unfamiliar faces and it hits me that the remaining comps are most likely in the hands of the family and friends of the incoming players as well as those who don’t come along to the run-of-the-mill matches.

Much to my disbelief, the manager’s tactics work out well as Rovers get the opening goal, which is cancelled out just before half-time. As the second-half progresses, Celtic see a lot of the ball but get no end product. Rovers fashion a great chance but the young, inexperienced centre-forward makes a mess of it. Almost immediately, Celtic score to take the lead and within a couple more minutes grab another to take a 3-1 lead. My frustrations boil over and I let rip with a volley of abuse at our centre-forward for his earlier ineptitude. As I do so, two folk sitting directly in front of me, what looks like a mother and teenage daughter, get up and leave.

I meet up with my mate outside the main entrance and we get in his car to take the drive into the city centre. I’m still wired from the disappointment and I tell him that I’d lost it when we had gone 3-1 down, taking it out on the player who had missed the sitter. When he tells me that the young boy had nearly been devastated in the dressing room after the match, I feel a lot of guilt, shame and remorse. It was senseless behaviour on my part.

The next night, which remember is Rachel’s birthday, I get home around midnight to find a message on the answering machine from my mate asking me to give him a bell, no matter how late. I decide that midnight is just too late….

I’m wakened up by the phone ringing at 7am the following morning. It’s my mate. I’m expecting him to ask how my day away with Rachel had gone, but instead, he unleashes a volley of abuse. He’d gone to training and he’d heard the manager say to the players present that he was unhappy that someone who was sitting in the area where the comps had been allocated had been overly abusive, to the extent that one of the players mum and sister had to leave early, in tears, as the abuse was unacceptable.

My mate didn’t throw me under the bus in front of his team-mates, but he didn’t miss me with this phone call. Let’s just say that I was rightly chastised…..and I can say, in all honesty, that I have never at any point over the past 29 years, ever singled out an individual player for stick at a football match. Well, when I say ‘never’, what I mean is I don’t scream and yell at anyone at the top of my voice – you just never know whose mum might be sitting close by….

All of which brings me to the latest piece of vinyl in Badger’s Box, a single dating from not too long before my rant:-

mp3: The Soup Dragons – Mother Universe (12″)

The original version of the song was released as a 45 in March 1990 but, like every other single by The Soup Dragons, it proved to be a flop. A few months later, and their cover of I’m Free was given the indie-dance treatment. As I said when I looked at the charts of July 1990, those of us up here in the Glasgow area who had watched The Soup Dragons be part of the twee, occasionally shambolic but always guitar-based Bellshill scene (along with the likes of BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub) were stunned, bemused and delighted to see the band take the singles charts by storm by hitching their wagon to the Madchester sound.

A remixed version of Mother Universe was issued as the follow-up to I’m Free in October 1990. It should rightly have featured in the recent post looking at that month’s new entries, but knowing I had been asked to write about it as part of this particular series, I left it well be.

I think Mother Universe is a great song…far superior to the better-known I’m Free. I actually have a copy of the 12″, but it’s quite different from the one in Badger’s Box. His has a white sleeve, with two live tracks on the b-side:-

mp3: The Soup Dragons – Dream-E-4-Ever (live)
mp3: The Soup Dragons – Softly (live)

There’s at least three other 12″ versions kicking around with different b-sides or versions. The one I have has a black sleeve and comes with a poster, with one track on either side of the vinyl:-

mp3: The Soup Dragons – Mother Universe (dub version)
mp3: The Soup Dragons – Mother Universe (Original ’89 version)

It proved to be the last time The Soup Dragons enjoyed any commercial success in the UK although Divine Thing would give them a hit in the USA in 1992. Lead singer, Sean Dickson, continues to make excellent electronic and dance records under than name of HiFi Sean. Here’s a collaboration of his from 2017. If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, there really is no hope for you.

JC

9 thoughts on “BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 9): THE SOUP DRAGONS

  1. What must it be like to lead a perfect, blameless life? I don’t excuse your behaviour – you don’t (my get-out clause) – but that one incident has helped shape you into a more considerate person and has undoubtedly changed your behaviours. I’d also just throw this in … is a football match a place now, as then, a place to go to experience a refined afternoon? I don’t excuse just add context of a place in time.

    I didn’t really take to this era Soup Dragons, although I would, on occasion, have the odd dance.

    Time, I think, has been kind to them and those songs do stand up.

    When I first heard of HiFi Sean I really did think my leg was being pulled. Soon after I saw some Baggy documentary or other and he seemed so content/happy.

  2. Reminds me of some “banter” The Bloke Behind Me had with the father of a visiting Scottish international when I was in the Main Stand at Maine Road back in the 90s. It was easy to see from which parent the player had inherited his short fuse. City were playing a team from the Midlands. I’ll leave you to guess who it might have been, but the funniest comment made is unrepeatable here.

  3. Very interesting post, JC. I’m sure we’ve all said things to strangers
    that we later regret. I know I have. And to add further to the contexts
    already provided:

    I remember a colleague from years ago describing the moment he
    realised streams of urine were collecting around his shoes. He was
    standing watching a match at the time, turned around, and the
    chap behind him was having a pee.

    When my colleague,with no words, queried the situation, the
    response (translated, for readers, from the Glaswegian) was ‘What’s
    the matter with you? You’re at the football!’

    That really is taking the concept of ‘I’m free to do what I want any old
    time’ a bit far.

  4. Wow, thanks for the HiFi Sean link, featuring Crystal Waters and all. My work from home playlist was spiralling into despair as I was re-visiting the early Cure albums of my teens and had reached Faith, so back up on a baggy rave trip (minus the drugs) now 😃

  5. I cant compete for sweariness but it does remind me of my one visit to Wimbledon many years ago.
    The UK No.1 was playing a 15 year old Belgian called Kim Clijsters on an outside court.
    Kim was hammering her but our hero was in control of one point when Clijsters put up a weak lob with an easy smash at the net required.

    However the shot came off the top of the racquet and went straight up in the air causing me and my mate to dissolve into laughter at the sheer uselessness of it.

    “She’s trying her best” came an admonishing voice from the row behind.

    Her mum.

  6. My dad always tells a story about the time Liam Brady threatened to deck him at a West Ham match. Apparently dad was sat behind Brady and told him in no uncertain times what was wrong with his game in the early eighties. Brady didn’t like it. This is the polite version of that story.

  7. Always had a soft spot for Mother Universe, the 89 version especially. As for saying the wrong thing, it happens and we learn from it. Eventually.

  8. A great post and comments. Based on my personal sporting history, I was more likely to be the subject than the perpetrator of the verbal abuse, to be honest…!

    As for Mother Universe, I got the original 12″ and liked the change of direction. I’m Free was a welcome hit, though I preferred the follow-up Electric Blues, which returned to the vibe of Mother Universe.

    Out of interest, the Original ’89 Version is the Love Dub mix on the original 12″ and is my favourite. I like the liberal use of samples in the Dub Version from the ‘black sleeve’ 12″, though all the mixes are pretty good in my opinion.

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