IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (61)

And an equally cracking b-side as well.

Released in June 1985 and going all the way to #8 in the charts, this is one of those records that I had on 7″ vinyl back in the day, but which would be lost with many hundreds of others after a disastrous and misguided effort to do a runner from a rented flat in Edinburgh.  It’s one that I liked, but didn’t love enough to ever go chasing any replacement, but when a 12″ copy showed up a few weeks back, I decided to take it home and give it a listen.

mp3: Fine Young Cannibals – Johnny Come Home (extended version)

I was quite bemused to find that the first minute or so is merely an extended noise before the music begins. Even then, it takes the form of an extended drum roll and some incidental music before the familiar trumpet solo eventually begins. As a result, it doesn’t feel as immediate or as sharp as the 7″ version as can be heard in this promo video which, if memory serves, was made for showing on The Tube on Channel 4:-

I was also struck by how much of the sound on the 12″ would be ripped-off by Communards for their cover of Don’t Leave Me This Way, which would go to #1 the following year.

I’d also forgotten how much I had enjoyed the b-side, re-discovering it again after such a long time:-

mp3: Fine Young Cannibals – Good Times And Bad (extended mix)

The song is credited to Andy Cox, the guitarist with FYC and who had, along with bassist David Steele, on the demise of The Beat, joined forces with vocalist Roland Gift to form this new band. But the lyric doesn’t feature Gift; instead, it is the work of Douglas Kahn, an American-born but Australian-based academic who is renowned for his writings on the use of sound in the avant-garde and experimental arts and music.

It had been back in 1980 that the then 29-year old Kahn had, through the use of a razor blade and a reel-to-reel player, created a tape called Reagan Speaks for Himself, taken from a media interview given by the then presidential candidate. All these years later, and such things are easy enough to pull together, but this was genuinely well ahead of its time, and it was released by Sub Pop on a compilation cassette in 1981 before being given away as a flexidisc with the March 1982 edition of RAW, a comic magazine from the USA.

Either way, Andy Cox was obviously aware of the work, and in adding a funky, jazzy, poptastic soundtrack, he helped to create something that was, certainly back in 1985, far from the norm.

JC

7 thoughts on “IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (61)

  1. I haven’t played my vinyl in ages and whilst I’ve got the A-side ripped from my copy of one of those 12″/80s compilations, I didn’t have an MP3 of the B-side. I’d forgotten how good it is, or that Andy Cox (& David Steele) were playing around with cut ups from the start and well before their 2 Men A Drum Machine And A Trumpet side project. Fond memories of that debut promo on The Tube and I agree, the 12″ version is a bit flat compared to the immediately engaging original.

  2. To this day I’m not quite sure I like Roland Gifts voice enough to fully appreciate FYC but I feel it was different enough to take some notice of. It’s a personal conundrum.

    Stylistically, the band look amazing.

    I do wish they’d used those jerky walking movements for this video and the never, ever again.

  3. It must have been an early June release because the first time I heard it was when I brought it back to the student radio station as a “recommended track” from the local record shop with whom we had a deal, i.e. it was one of the freebies for that week. (Late June and we’d have been back at home).

    The freebies were generally not great, with the odd exception, and a small group of us liked to do a weekly Juke Box Jury on them, armed with an imaginary thesaurus open on the page with alternatives for the phrase “unlistenable tat”.

    This is my first recollection of a track where everyone just went “Wow!”. I know I immediately stuck it on the playlist for my next show – and suspect we all did.

    Saw Roland Gift performing this at Rewind North in August (it was live music, after a long gap, 6 miles up the road – don’t judge me!) . I cheerfully sang along to every word. A great song.

  4. Yep, cracking song, so of its time but still sounds good today. I sometimes wonder why Roland Gift didn’t become huge- his acting roles in the late 80s and his voice and looks suggested he should have been massive. Maybe he just didn’t fancy it. I remember seeing him once walking along the road in Islington and being quite star struck.

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