THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Forty-nine: HONEY, BABY

I posted a mixtape back on 1 February, and tucked away in the middle was this absolute gem of a 45:-

mp3: Grrrl Gang – Honey, Baby

I wrote that Grrl Gang come from Indonesia, consisting of a one girl/two boy trio of Angeeta Sentana (vocals & guitar), Edo Alventa (guitar) and Akbar Rumandung (bass) having been together since 2016. That was certainly the info I picked up via the Bandcamp page.

I’ve now found a clip of a performance of Honey, Baby as part of what was an online SXSW festival in 2021, and as you’ll see, there are in fact four musicians in the band:-

I really have fallen quite heavily for the charms of this particular single.  Yes, it is very derivative of the indie-pop of the 80s, particularly of the sort which emerged from Glasgow and the surrounding towns, but so what?  

I do hope they manage to find their way to Glasgow for a live show later this year.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 36)

 

Warning.  This tale is chaotic in the extreme.

October 1996. Brix Smith leaves mid-tour after a violent confrontation with MES in the soundcheck at a gig in Motherwell, some ten miles south-east of Glasgow.  She came back a few days later, after a heartfelt plea to from the booking agent, to play the tour finale at the Forum in London, knowing it would be her last ever involvement with The Fall.

A new guitarist, Tommy Crooks comes on board in May 1997 and two months later work got underway on a new album.  The sessions were messy and difficult, and during them, Simon Wolstencroft decided to quit after ten years as drummer, frustrated by the way MES was behaving.  For the live dates over the summer, Karl Burns came back in yet again (possibly for the ninth time!!)

It was also a year in which loads of compilation albums, consisting of live recordings and alternative versions of previously released songs, were issued by various labels, all the result of the chronic inability, over many years, of MES to sort out his affairs.

September 1997, the album Levitate is released via Artful Records, a relatively new and cheap’n’cheerful indie label.  The songs came from three different sessions at three different locations over an extended period of time.  One way to illustrate how chaotic it all was is the inclusion of a track called Tragic Days, which is credited to MES and Martin Bramah. The explanation provided a few years later by Bramah was that it was really a work in progress, recorded in 1990 as a home-produced jam session between himself and Craig Scanlon; he also added that the song was really more of Craig’s than it was Martin’s…..

No singles were released prior to Levitate hitting the shops.  But in February 1998, something strange happened in that Masquerade, an MES/Julia Nagle co-composition was released as a single, a full five months after first being made available.  The fact that MES and Julia were now an item, may or may not be coincidental.

Masquerade was released on 2 x CDs and on 10″ vinyl, with the latter having exclusive mixes.

mp3: The Fall – Masquerade
mp3: The Fall – Ivanhoe’s Two Pence
mp3: The Fall – Spencer Must Die (live)
mp3: The Fall – 10 Houses of Eve (remix)
mp3: The Fall – Calendar
mp3: The Fall – Ol’ Gang (live)
mp3: The Fall – Masquerade (Mr. Natural mix)
mp3: The Fall – Masquerade (PWL Mix)

Masquerade reached #69 in the singles chart.

Six weeks later, The Fall flew off to America for a tour of America. It was a five-strong band consisting of MES, Steve Hanley, Karl Burns, Julia Nagle and Tommy Crooks. It was their first visit to the States in four years and as there was no record company support, it had been pulled together by Hanley, calling in a few favours along the way.

The first four dates pass off without incident, although MES is sporting a black eye having been hit in their hotel room by Nagle.

The fifth date in Philadelphia is in a venue that is barely half-full. MES takes to the stage exceedingly drunk and gives his mic to a member of the audience. He spends the night making a total nuisance of himself, unplugging equipment and walking on-and-off the stage. Shambolic doesn’t come close to describing it. Hanley eventually snapped and, accompanied by Burns and Crooks, left the stage for MES and Nagle to finish off the show on their own.

The next night is Washington DC. Things are a lot better, although Nagle walks off mid-set for a few songs.

The seventh night is New York, on 7 April, at a venue called Brownie’s. MES was again very drunk, and he began the show by purposely knocking over the drums. He would later again hand the mic to the audience, during Hip Priest, and bumping to Crooks as he tried to play the guitar notes. He then stole Burns’s spare sticks which leads to the drummer leaping out from his kit to try and throttle the singer, only prevented from doing so by Hanley getting in-between them and shouting him down.

Unbelievably, the show got going again, but before long it was Crooks’ turn to be on the receiving end of MES’s temper, leading to the guitarist swinging his instrument at the singer’s head. In a similar ending to the Phily debacle, the trio of Hanley, Crooks and Burns walked off, leaving MES and Nagle to finish the show.

It gets worse. Back at the hotel post-gig, the police are called, and they arrest MES for third-degree assault after he hit Nagle. He was held for three days until his $1000 bail was posted, and it would take until Tuesday 14 April for him to appear in court where he was ordered to undergo an alcohol-treatment programme and anger-management counselling. There was also a limited order of protection afforded to Nagle, the terms of which enabled them to continue to work together. MES was finally able to fly back to the UK on Saturday 18 April, by which time he had learned that each of Hanley, Burns and Crooks had quit.

Steve Hanley would later say the American tour had been the final straw, especially given he had put so much work and effort into making it happen. MES’s antics with walking offstage had seen promoters refuse to pay a full appearance fee, only adding to his stresses and strains. After 18 years, he’d finally had enough.

The really incredible thing was that just ten days after getting back to the UK, The Fall were back on stage in London, as a three-piece with MES, Julia Nagle and a temporary drummer in the shape of Kate Leatham. By necessity, the next time the Fall went into a recording studio, the line-up would be much changed. Somehow, the next single eventually become the best known of all their songs here in the UK…..hey, hey, hey.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #296: SIMPLE MINDS

There’s been loads said on the blog about Simple Minds, sometimes positive, but occasionally they’ve taken a kicking.  I’ll just stick to the music today:-

mp3: Simple Minds – Premonition (Peel Session)

Recorded on 19 December 1979 and first aired on 7 January 1980 along with Changeling, Citizen (Dance Of Youth) and Room, which means the session comprised three tracks from the then recently released album Real to Real Cacophany, while Room would make it onto the next album, Empires and Dance.

I thought this was the first time the Peel Session version of Premonition had been posted, but I just checked and remembered it was the final track on Side B of ICA 72, back in June 2016.  It’s hard to keep up.

JC

A SORT OF FOLLOW-UP TO LAST FRIDAY’S POST

You’ll recall that last Friday saw me recycle a post from the old blog, looking at a handful of covers.  This is a follow-up.  Of sorts……

Close Lobsters, in March 1989, released their fifth single on Fire Records, just prior to their second album.

mp3: Close Lobsters – Nature Thing

It may have been less jangly than many of their previous efforts, but there was plenty of evidence that they had an ability to come up with riffs that got stuck in the heads of anyone listening.

The single did betray signs that the writing process for the second album had been difficult in that of the other three tracks on the 12″ (and indeed the CD release), two were cover versions and one was a fresh take on an old favourite, re-recorded as live in the studio:-

mp3: Close Lobsters – Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)
mp3: Close Lobsters – Paper Thin Hotel
mp3: Close Lobsters – Never Seen Before (‘Live’ Version)

Those of you who paid attention to the recent Neil Young ICA will know that Hey Hey.. was originally released in 1979 on Rust Never Sleeps. As these things go, it’s a strange one as it hugely lacks the power of the original but has an energy and pace that’s more in keeping with the jangly-guitar bands emerging in the mid-late 80s. It gets a pass mark from me, but a borderline one.

Paper Thin Hotel dates from 1977. It was written by Leonard Cohen and Phil Spector, and appears on the former’s fifth studio album, Death Of A Ladies’ Man. The original is a slow, rambling track that runs to almost six minutes in length, and it’s not one that I particularly enjoy listening to. Close Lobsters again give it the jingly-jangly treatment, greatly speeding it up so that it takes not too much over three minutes from start to finish. Again, it gets a pass mark from me, another borderline one, but this time for elevating a song which I never thought I would like into something listenable.

Years later, I’d hear another take on Paper Thin Hotel, one which was more faithful to the pace of the original, and as such should have been something I recoiled from in horror. But this is absolutely superb, and as such shows how messed up Cohen and Spector were in the studio back in the 70s…. we can only make an educated guess as to what lay at the heart of their collective problems in identifying what was going wrong with the recording process.

mp3: Fatima Mansions – Paper Thin Hotel

Cathal Coughlan giving it his all……

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #307: MARK LANEGAN

A GUEST POSTING by JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

The great singers from the Seattle grunge scene are cursed. Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, and Chris Cornell all passed way before their time.

Now we have to add Mark Lanegan, who died on February 22 at the age of 57, to that sad list. And he was the best of them all. Cobain had the edge, Staley had the power, Cornell had the range. But Lanegan had all of that and more.

Most folks will recognize his powerful baritone on the song ‘Nearly Lost You’ by his first major band, Screaming Trees. It’s a great song, and probably the most successful one that Lanegan wrote and sang. But Lanegan could, and did, sing with anyone and everyone. There’s a hell of a lot to say about Lanegan and his many recordings, collaborations and writings. But you can just listen for yourself, and remember:

Winter Song.

An album track from Sweet Oblivion, Screaming Trees’ 1992 breakthrough sixth album.

Hanging Tree.

From Songs for the Deaf, the 2002 album by Queens of the Stone Age. Lanegan was at one time a full member of the band and wrote and recorded on three QOTSA albums.

Bête Noire.

From 2008’s Saturnalia, an album Lanegan recorded with Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli under the name The Gutter Twins.

All The Way Down.

Guest vocal on Soulsavers‘ 2009 LP Broken.

Black River.

Guest vocal on Bomb The Bass‘s 2008 LP Future Chaos.

Sure Nuff ‘N Yes I Do.

Cover of the Beefheart classic recorded for Nick Cave‘s 2012 Film Lawless. The soundtrack band was called the Bootleggers and featured Cave and Warren Ellis.

Revolver.

Between 2006 and 2010 Lanegan released three albums with Isobel Campbell of Belle & Sebastian fame. ‘Revolver’ is from the first LP, Ballad of the Broken Seas.

Hit The City.

In addition to appearing on everyone else’s records, Lanegan hosted a number of luminaries on his own solo albums, of which there were twelve. His 2004 album Bubblegum features none other than TVV fave PJ Harvey on this track.

Locomotive.

Mad Season was a grunge supergroup, including Layne Staley from Alice in Chains, Mike McCready from Pearl Jam and Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees. They only released one album, 1995’s Above, which featured Lanegan on five songs including Locomotive, whose lyrics Lanegan wrote.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night.

Everyone remembers Nirvana’s chilling live acoustic performance of this traditional American song. But that one was recorded a few years after Lanegan recorded this version for his 1990 debut solo album, The Winding Sheet. Cobain can be heard singing background vocals, with Krist Novoselic playing bass.

JTFL

JC ADDS…..

A huge thanks to Jonny for writing this very quickly during daytime in Los Angeles and getting it over to me during the night here in Glasgow so that it could be published on the blog today.

R.I.P. Mark

 

THESE ARE ALL I HAVE….

Preston School Of Industry was the band formed by Spiral Stairs (aka Scott Kannberg) after the messy end of Pavement in 1999.

I was always bemused as to why he chose to name his new act after what I assumed was a place of learning in a town in the north-west of England, but that’s only because I had no idea it was actually all to do with a correctional facility in California, originally opened in 1894 as a reform school.

He recruited Jon Erickson on bass and Andrew Bodger on drums.  A five-track EP, Goodbye To The Edge City, was independently released in early 2001, after which the trio signed to Domino Records.  The album All This Sounds Gas hit the shops in August 2001, bookended by two singles – Whale Bones and Falling Away.

My own preferences for Pavement had largely been the tracks on which Stephen Malkmus had been at the forefront, and so I wasn’t all that fussed or inclined to go seek the PSOI material out. What I do have are the two singles mentioned above, one courtesy of it being included on a Domino Records compilation, while the other came from a one-track promo CD, which was later sold on by a record/CD shop for the grand cost of 50p.

mp3: The Preston School Of Industry – Whale Bones
mp3: The Preston School Of Industry – Falling Away

They are quite different in mood and tempo. Whale Bones, which I recently discovered was written with the intention of being included on the final Pavement album, Terror Twilight, does have the feel of what could have been a single by the his old band, and it would have been interesting to hear Malkmus’ contribution to any backing vocals. Falling Away is much more upbeat and quirky in nature, one which occasionally threatens to take off and go somewhere special without, it seems, ever really doing so.

Wiki provides the info that PSOI released a second album, Monsoon, in 2004, after which Stairs next burst of activity came in 2009 when he released the album The Real Feel under his own name.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #306: DAVY HENDERSON

For the most basic of background info, here’s the opening para of the wiki entry:-

David Alexander “Davy” Henderson (born c.1962) is a Scottish singer and guitarist whose career began in the 1970s. He is best known for his work with The Fire Engines, Win, The Nectarine No. 9, and more recently The Sexual Objects and Port Sulphur.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve lived almost all my life in Glasgow that I tend to look upon the musicians from the west coast of Scotland as always being the pioneers of all that’s been great about the local/national indie scene that I sort of overlook the impact of Davy Henderson over the past 40 years.  All the bands mentioned in that wiki entry have featured on this blog over the years, and you can use the index or search facility to go and read more if you’re so inclined.  In the meantime, here’s an ICA which tries to do justice to his career.  It’s not necessarily the very best or most innovative of his music, but I think it works well as an introduction to those of you perhaps unfamiliar with much of his music.

SIDE A

1. Candyskin – The Fire Engines (1981)

It was back in December 2015 when I used the phrase ‘a magical and wondrous moment in pop music history’ to describe the nineteenth second of this song. It’s when the strings so unexpectedly kick in.

Candyskin was the second single to be released by The Fire Engines. It came out on the Edinburgh-based Pop Aural Records, which was a subsidiary of Fast Product, the label to which the likes of Postcard and Factory owe a big debt.

2. Don’t Worry Babe You’re Not The Only One Awake – The Nectarine No.9 (1994)

Originally released on the 1992 debut album A Sea with Three Stars (or C*** going by the artwork on the sleeve), this version is taken from the CD Guitar Thieves, which brings together two sessions recorded for the BBC along with some incidental pieces of music in between each of the songs.

3. The Lane – Port Sulphur (2018)

Port Sulphur is the name given to a collective pulled together by Douglas MacIntyre of Creeping Bent Records. All told, almost thirty musicians have this far contributed to the work of the collective, including some who are no longer with us such as Alan Vega and Jock Scot. The music has been recorded periodically and thus far released through a ten-song vinyl-only album, Paranoic Critical in 2018, followed by Compendium, a CD and digital release in 2020 which offered up all the songs from the previous album along with an additional ten pieces of music.

The Lane is a song co-written by Douglas and Davy, along with the legendary Vic Godard, and there’s a shared vocal for your enjoyment.

4. Saint Jack – The Nectarine No.9 (1995)

The title track and opening song from the second studio album, originally released on CD by Postcard Records in 1995 and given a vinyl reissue by Forever Heavenly twenty years later. It’s a strange and ambitious recording, with songs interspersed with poetry and samples of dialogue taken from TV shows and films. The extensive notes provided with the 2015 re-release explain that much of the album was influenced, or more accurately inspired, by Davy’s love of the characters in Saint Jack, a 1979 film starring Ben Gazzara, which itself was an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Paul Theroux.

The author Irvine Welsh has said that Davy Henderson is a genius, and Saint Jack is him at his very best. It is certainly an album quite different from most, one which I thoroughly enjoy listening to from start to end, even those bits which I initially found to grind on my nerves but would later realise had a role to play in getting from the beginning to the end.

5. Super Popoid Groove – Win (1987)

The late 80s saw Davy Henderson almost become a bona-fide pop star. Alan Horne had signed Win, the band formed in the aftermath of the break-up of The Fire Engines, to his new label Swamplands, an indie bankrolled by London Records. Pop music with an indie-twist (of sorts) and a dance-beat (of sorts). Like so much music from the era, it’s dated a bit. The strange thing about Win, and in particular the debut album, it is a time when I didn’t really keep up much with what was happening in music, but living, working and partying in Edinburgh meant you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing this or the other near hit singles as the city really believed it was going to become home to the next big breakthrough act. I still have a real love for it all.

SIDE B

1. Exploding Clockwork – Port Sulphur (2020)

The concept of Port Sulphur was explained earlier. This wonderful piece of pop music is co-written by Davy and James Kirk….yup, the singer/guitarist who was part of Orange Juice way back at the beginning and who has drifted in and out of music over the succeeding years, preferring to concentrate on his career as a chiropodist.

Aside from Davy and James, the other musicians on this one could easily form a Scottish indie/pop supergroup from the past three decades – Andy Alston (keyboards), Katy Lironi (vocals), Douglas MacIntyre (guitars/vocals) and Campbell Owens (bass).

2. Here Come The Rubber Cops – The Sexual Objects (2008)

Whether it was a sense of dissatisfaction after the Win experience, but Davy Henderson has seemed quite content these past 30 years to make music under his own terms without any concerns for commercial success. The Sexual Objects have been around just as long as any of his other bands ever managed to stay together, but there’s not been too much in the way of singles or albums. One of their best songs dates back to 2008, courtesy of a 7″ inch single, limited to just 300 copies, on a label based out of Hamburg in Germany. I’ve long wanted to own a copy, but apart from being near impossible to find, the asking price is a tad on the steep side.

3. Constellations of A Vanity – The Nectarine No.9 (2001)

The Nectarine No.9 switched labels on a regular basis, and by the early 21st Century had been taken on by Beggars Banquet, for whom they would record three albums, none of which were remotely commercial. I suppose, similarly to The Fall, some record label execs liked the idea of having mavericks on the roster, perhaps hoping that the constant championing by folk like John Peel might somehow lead to some sort of progression beyond cult status. It’s hard to imagine any sort of similar act getting a deal these days, although I suppose the modern way, for the most part, is to go down the self-releasing route.

In among many strange songs on Received Transgressed & Transmitted, the first album for Beggars, there hides a most tremendous, upbeat and damn catchy song, one which extends to the best part of six minutes.

4. Big Gold Dream – The Fire Engines (1981)

The follow-up to Candyskin. There was enough of a buzz about this at the time of its release that it led to The Fire Engines making an appearance on Riverside, a BBC 2 youth programme that was broadcast in the early 80s. It’s out there on YouTube if you fancy.

5. Marshmallow – The Sexual Objects (2017)

I’ll recap the story of the release of the album Marshmallow.

Completed in 2014 and made ready for release in January 2015. Davy Henderson, frustrated at the conventions of record releases, decided to play a high risk strategy with the master copy by putting it up for auction, the idea of the auction was that whoever was the highest bidder would win the rights to the recordings, and it would become their decision to release as many or as few copies of the album as they chose.

In an interview at the time, Henderson said he was thinking of the record as being like a painting with just the one owner, but that owner then having the freedom to do anything they liked, even if the decision was to keep it to themselves with no further public consumption. The auction was won by folk who decided to allow 300 copies to be issued on vinyl….alas, I don’t have a copy, but I did pick up a digital copy when it was temporarily made available via Bandcamp.

It’s a great album, as upbeat and straightforward a recording as he’s ever issued, but yet there’s still a curveball across its nine tracks thanks to a sixteen-minutes instrumental guitar epic which takes up around one-third of the playing time.

So there you have it. Ten works spanning a period of almost 40 years from the fertile imagination of one of Scotland’s lesser-known but hugely valued musical treasures.

JC

 

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Forty-eight: HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE

I’ve said before how much I love every second of the album Parallel Lines.

Hanging On The Telephone is such a prefect opener, and as I said when I used it for the same purpose in my Blondie ICA (#197, November 2018), it provides a nod to the band’s roots in terms of its sound, energy and tempo. It was also a nice touch to take a largely unknown song, written by someone whom Chris Stein and Debbie Harry thought of as deserving success, and ensure a lifetime of royalties for Jack Lee. I think it’s fair to say that without the cover treatment, this song, originally recorded in 1976 by Los Angeles-based power-pop trio The Nerves, would have gained nothing more than a minor cult status.

mp3: Blondie – Hanging On The Telephone

The single enjoyed a twelve-week stay in the UK singles chart at the end of 1978 and into the first month of 1979, peaking at #5. Four of the next six singles by Blondie would reach #1.

Oh, and the picture sleeve is quite divine……the mp3 above is ripped from the 7″ single.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 35)


Last week’s post took us up to August 1994 and the expansion of The Fall to seven members, consisting of Mark E Smith, Craig Scanlon, Steve Hanley, Simon Wolstencroft, Dave Bush, Karl Burns and Brix Smith, all of whom had either been a constant or frequent member of the band over many years, a good portion of which, particularly in the previous decade, had threatened to make them a commercial only for MES to continually thwart things.

The next few years proved to be a crazy period.  Band members came and went at a ridiculous rate.  The live shows all too often bordered on the shambolic.  Financial troubles saw far too many poor quality releases issued in an attempt to generate income.  The lowest point may well have been when MES found himself locked up after a post-show fight in New York in 1998. But, just as you thought these various implosions had to mean the end, The Fall always somehow seemed to find a way back to win back the hearts and minds.

It’s actually quite difficult to make sense of it all.  There are conflicting accounts depending on whose book you read.  I’m inclined to put my faith in Steve Hanley whose The Big Midweek – Life Inside The Fall (2013) is an informative and entertaining read, one in which he is regularly as hard on himself as anyone else.  Brix’s tome, The Rise, The Fall and The Rise (2016) is a bit flighty in places and very prone to portraying MES in the worst possible light, which in many cases might well be nearest the truth.   MES didn’t get round to penning his own memoirs, and the best out there is the ghostwritten Renegade (2008), but one which feels as if it should be taken with a pinch of salt.

From this point on, I’m going to just give the facts behind each single, such as date of release, who played on it, chart success etc, rather than go into any of my own thoughts and views.  This is, in the main, due to being quite unfamiliar with most of the songs, only picking them up via later compilations or, in the very late years, looking to fish them out simply for this series.

The new line-up of The Fall released the album Cerebral Caustic in February 1995, again on Permanent Records.  No singles were lifted from it, but whether that was down to MES or the record label I’m unable to say.  The album certainly got a bit of a mauling in many parts of the music press, with perhaps too many feeling let-down that the return of Brix to the band hadn’t seen a return to the more pop-orientated tunes of the Fontana era.  The album turned out to be the end of The Fall’s relationship with Permanent.

It also saw Dave Bush sacked after five years with The Fall.  It had been a period in which the keyboards had been an increasing part of the band’s sound, but they were largely missing from Cerebral Caustic, which gave MES the ideal opportunity to elbow him out.

It didn’t, however, mean that keyboards were out altogether, as Julia Nagle was brought in as his replacement. Her first contribution to a Fall record came via a single released in February 1996.

mp3: The Fall – The Chiselers
mp3: The Fall – Chilinist
mp3: The Fall – Interlude-Chilinism

All three tracks are a variation on one tune.  It seemingly took an eternity to record in the studio.  It was issued on 7″, CD and cassette on Jet Records, a label that I have long associated with Electric Light Orchestra. I actually thought it might have been a different label altogether, but it seems not. As it turned out, the label would issue just this single and the subsequent album, The Light User Syndrome, released in October 1996.  The Chiselers reached #60 in the singles chart.

Oh, and is if to illustrate the sort of chaos I was referring to earlier, Craig Scanlon, who been with The Fall as lead guitarist since 1979, was sacked from the band in November 1995. He had played on The Chiselers in the studio, but MES decided to wipe out his contribution prior to the final mix. For someone who had writing credits on more than 120 songs by The Fall, it was a sad and inglorious ending. MES did subsequently say that he regretted his actions, suggesting that his own increasing dependence on alcohol had very much clouded his judgement.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #295: SHOP ASSISTANTS

As Saturday’s postings are meant to offer me the chance to be lazy, here’s wiki:-

Shop Assistants were a Scottish indie pop band from Edinburgh, formed in 1984, initially as ‘Buba & The Shop Assistants’.

The original line-up was Aggi (Annabel Wright, later of The Pastels), guitarist David Keegan, bassist John Peutherer, and drummer Moray Crawford. This line-up released one single, the now highly collectible “Something to Do” on Villa21 Records, which was produced by Stephen Pastel. Pastel also contributed backing vocals.

Aggi left to be replaced by Karen Parker, who was later joined by second vocalist Alex Taylor. After some live performances, Parker, Peutherer, and Crawford departed and were replaced by Sarah Kneale (bass), Laura MacPhail (drums) and Ann Donald (drums). The band’s name was shortened to Shop Assistants, and the first release under their new name was the Shopping Parade EP in 1985 on The Subway Organization.

Donald left in late 1985, and was briefly replaced on drums by Joan Bride. Shopping Parade was followed in early 1986 with “Safety Net”, the first release on Keegan’s 53rd & 3rd Records, which peaked at number two in the UK Independent Chart.

In 1986, The Shop Assistants were featured on the NME’s compilation C86 with one of their slower songs, “It’s Up To You”, taken from Shopping Parade EP. Also in that year, they signed to Chrysalis Records’s sublabel Blue Guitar for another single, “I Don’t Wanna Be Friends With You”, as well as their only album, Shop Assistants. That single reached number 77 in the UK Singles Chart, while the LP spent one week at number 100 in the Albums Chart.

The Shop Assistants split early in 1987, when Taylor left the group to join The Motorcycle Boy. After a two-year hiatus, the band reformed without Taylor, and with Kneale on vocals, MacPhail on bass, and the addition of Margarita Vasquez-Ponte of Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes on drums.  With the new line-up, they recorded new material in late October 1989 at Chamber Studios in Edinburgh; releasing the singles “Here It Comes” in 1989 and “Big ‘E’ Power” in 1990 on Avalanche Records. They split up again shortly afterwards, with Keegan joining The Pastels.

It was revealed in 2020 that Alex Taylor had died in 2005.

I’ve previously featured all the songs on the Shopping Parade EP, as well as Safety Net.  So here, for a change, are the tracks from the 12″ version of the single recorded for Blue Guitar:-

mp3 : Shop Assistants – I Don’t Want To Be Friends With You
mp3 : Shop Assistants – Looking Back
mp3 : Shop Assistants – All Day Long (slow version)

JC

A SMATTERING OF COVER VERSIONS

I’ve found an old posting from the deleted blog, and feel that in these environmentally aware times that it is worth of recycling.  Originally from November 2009:-

It’s been a wee while since I threw some interesting cover versions your way. So much so, I feel it needs to be a quartet today – all of them covers of classics:-

mp3 : British Sea Power – A Forest

This is such a difficult song to cover. I’ve always felt that with this 1980 single, The Cure created one of the all-time classic goth anthems. Almost 30 years on, the original hasn’t dated one bit – it still fills the floor of indie discos the world over. Just the other week, I saw trendy young things dressed head-to-toe in black at a Halloween event scream with delight when this was played. Alongside them on the dance floor there were blokes old enough to be their dads just as excited….and closing their eyes and imagining themselves to be three stones lighter, with full heads of hair and so on.

To be fair to British Sea Power, they make a good first of it, and they manage to make it sound like one of their own songs. But….given how much prominent the bass line is in the original, it seems strange to discover it is so relatively low in this mix. Anyone got strong views either way?

mp3 : Carter USM – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight

Once again, a very difficult track to do justice to. But if you didn’t know the original, I reckon you’d think this was yet another a Carter USM classic lyric and tune. Jim-Bob and Fruitbat have done a very fine job….the vocal delivery isn’t a million miles away from that of Paul Weller…and they keep the classic chant-along “whoa-oh-oh-oh” refrain after the song title is sung. I love it…..

mp3 : The Divine Comedy – Party Fears Two

Now, I am very sure about this. The Divine Comedy have taken one of the best-loved songs ever released by a Scottish group and ruined it. Neil Hannon is not a bad singer by any means, but his half-arsed effort at this shows just how distinctive and unique a vocal talent we had in the late and lamented Billy Mackenzie. And don’t get me started on how a great pop tune in the hands of Alan Rankine has been turned into something that makes me want to throw rotten fruit in the direction of those with the musical instruments in their hands. Bloody awful. But feel free to disagree.

mp3 : Aidan Moffat & The Best-Ofs – I Got You Babe

Despite me being just 2 years old when Sonny & Cher took this to #1 in both the USA and UK in the late summer of 1965, it is a song of which I know every single word and note,  simply because it was a staple favourite of radio stations for at least a decade afterwards. These were the years when DJs relied heavily on requests from listeners, and inevitably it would be a couple’s anniversary and this was the song they fell in love to and/or it was the first song at their reception. Oh, and it was always one asked for by wives on the Armed Forces request show on Sunday mornings for their husbands serving their country, usually in Germany or Belize.

Aidan Moffat‘s version, which was made available on 7″ vinyl if you bought the deluxe version of his 2009 LP How To Get To Heaven From Scotland has turned into one of my favourite bits of music released over this past year. Aidan delivers it with enough sincerity to make us believe that he’s a big fan of the original, and yet thanks to that brilliantly distinctive Falkirk twang in his voice he could just as equally be accused of taking the piss, such is the lack of polish in its production. Personally, I think he really is delivering a heartfelt tribute….and the singing and playing are complementary to much of what was on his own material on the LP. But if you don’t get Aidan Moffat or think Arab Strap are hugely overrated, then I suspect this cover is not for you.

JC

SOMETHING SAID EARLIER (2)

As promised last time out. Here’s the late Tim B.  From ICA 193, published on 18 October 2018.

We did add a rule when writing these ICA’s – no more than 4 singles on the album, and it must contain at least one B Side, remix or cover version, it can contain more if you want it to. I may be slightly hoisted by my own petard here, as I own no Arctic Monkeys cover versions (actually I own one, a live version of a Beatles song, but it is rubbish, so we’ll ignore that) and I’m fairly sure that they’ve never been remixed. But then again, four of their six albums are masterpieces, so I’ll be alright I think.

People say that ‘Humbug’ was patchy (it sounds way too much like the Queens of the Stone Age to be honest), but I think it’s one of the four masterpieces that I mention up top (the two that aren’t are the second album and the most recent one in case we are playing Arctic Monkeys poker at all). ‘Cornerstone’ is lovely as well, an obvious album highlight, which stood out at the very first listen. It shows off what Alex Turner is famous for, subtle and intricate songcraft. The song is packed with vivid lyrics and observation about various watering holes and females who remind Turner of someone, we never find out who, but the song is so beautiful we don’t really care.

mp3: Arctic Monkeys – Cornerstone

It was the second single from Humbug, released as such  16 November 2009, a few months after the album first hit the shops.

Here’s the three tracks included as b-sides on the 10″ version:-

mp3: Arctic Monkeys – Catapult
mp3: Arctic Monkeys – Sketchead
mp3: Arctic Monkeys – Fright Lined Dining Room

Like the previous single Crying Lightning, the vinyl was made available only in Oxfam shops, which meant it was never going to chart at any high position. It peaked at #94.

The four songs do illustrate that there’s nothing predictable about Arctic Monkeys, with all of them offering up something different musically.

JC

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : SETTING SONS

Album: Setting Sons* – The Jam
Review: Uncut, 12 December 2014
Author: Garry Mulholland

*the review is of the deluxe and super deluxe editions

Remastered with bonus tracks. Weller and co’s fourth album improves with age…

“There is still a widely-held perception that Jam albums follow a numerical pattern; an inverse of the Star Trek Movie Curse. That is, the odd-numbered Jam albums are excellent, while the even-numbered ones are… well… not.

This has always affected the reputation of The Jam’s fourth album, with its healthy sales and inclusion of breakthrough Top 3 single “The Eton Rifles” undercut by a half-finished concept and a dodgy cover version closer that inevitably leads to Setting Sons feeling rushed and inconclusive.

But comparing Setting Sons with, say, the frankly awful second album This Is The Modern World is pushing a nerdy fan theory way too far. The excellence of six of its ten songs, and the tougher, denser sound fashioned by loyal Jam producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, make Setting Sons the successful link between the creative breakthrough of 1978’s career-saving All Mod Cons and the February 1980 triumph of the “Going Underground” single, an anthem of nuclear panic and social alienation that revealed that The Jam had stealthily climbed to biggest-band-in-Britain status by becoming the first single to enter the UK charts at No.1 since 1973.

The bonus tracks added to this remastered version – the brilliant pre-album singles and B-sides, the work-in-progress Setting Sons demos including three previously unreleased songs, the final Peel sessions, and the vinyl-only “Live In Brighton 1979” set – give the Jam loyalist an overview of exactly how Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler made that creative leap at the end of a decade that had began with the Beatles’ split and ended with the anti-rock experiments of post-punk.

Setting Sons saw Weller basing more of his lyrics on his own poetry, and established his credentials as an ironic commentator on both the British class system and the fleeting bonds of childhood friendship. The typically tough-but-tuneful “Thick As Thieves” and “Burning Sky”, and the ambitious mini-rock operatic “Little Boy Soldiers” are the most explicit survivors of the original album concept (as revealed to NME’s Nick Kent in September), of three male friends torn apart by a British civil war who meet up again after the war’s conclusion.

But “Private Hell”, “Wasteland”, “Saturday’s Kids”, “The Eton Rifles” and the orchestral version of Bruce Foxton’s “Smithers-Jones” are all close relations; bitter reflections on ordinary English men and women – working-class and suburban middle-class – alienated and manipulated by corporate and military power.

Only the closing “Heatwave” – essentially a cover of The Who’s cover of the Martha Reeves And The Vandellas hit, featuring future Style Councillor Mick Talbot’s first keyboard work with Weller – and the hilarious, out-of-character opener “Girl On The Phone” break ranks. One of the most underrated Weller gems, the latter examines the power of an imaginary stalker who knows everything about our bemused boy wonder, even “the size of my cock!” It’s the first evidence of Weller’s dark humour.

The new remaster gives freer rein to the density of the sound Vic Smith gradually developed for The Jam, with Foxton’s bass punching through, revealing just how much space his busy, lyrical lines open up for Weller to use guitar as sound effect rather than straight rhythm and lead. And while the Brighton live show is inessential, two of the three newly unearthed songs, Weller’s “Simon” and “Along The Grove”, are stark, caustic and could have been contenders. Foxton’s “Best Of Both Worlds” may have been best left in the vaults.

But Setting Sons has improved with age. It reminds us that working class life was best captured, not by The Clash, nor PiL, nor even The Specials, but by the mock celebration of The Jam’s “Saturday’s Kids”, with its life of “insults”, beer and “half-time results”, and Weller’s recognition that we – and our parents, with their “wallpaper lives” – were “the real creatures that time has forgot”.

At the time we were stunned, and grateful, that any dapper young rock ‘n’ roll star had noticed. The insight and empathy shown here marked Weller out as the first pop hero of the coming decade.”

JC adds…….

I’ve said before that, if pushed, I’d name All Mod Cons as my all-time favourite album.  The follow-up album, Setting Sons was in the shops on 16 November 1979, just 378 days after the release of All Mod Cons, but that doesn’t come close to telling the story as The Jam had released three astonishing stand-alone singles and quality b-sides in Strange Town (April 1979), When You’re Young (August 1979) and The Eton Rifles (October 1979), albeit the latter was also included on the later album.

At sixteen years of age, music really was beginning to mean the entire world to me.  I was finally being allowed to go to live concerts and was feasting on all sorts of post-punk new wave bands who were calling in at the Glasgow Apollo on their tours.  But The Jam were my go-to band, the one for whom I would have given absolutely anything to have been able to share a stage with, even for just one song, not withstanding that I had no musical ability at all.  I’d have mimed just as they did on Top of The Pops.

Setting Sons was the first album by The Jam I actually bought on the day of release – All Mod Cons was one that had waited until I had plenty of spare money from the Christmas tips given to me by customers on my paper round.  Setting Sons was played to death back in 1979, along with all those singles and b-sides, to the extent it soon got all sorts of scratches and marks as typical 16-year-old boys really don’t know how to take care of their records.  The copy from back then is long gone, thrown out when it became unplayable maybe six years later, replaced by a copy picked up cheap but which turned out to be a different pressing with a standard Polydor Records label in the middle of the record rather than the rustic drawings that had been on the original.

At the time, I didn’t think it had any flaws, although it was clear that some of the songs weren’t as immediate or as strong as the intermediate singles from earlier in the year.  I even liked Heatwave, which I suppose came from my love of dancing rather than just being wedded to the idea of angry men playing angry songs via fast guitars, basses and drums.

I was becoming ever increasingly politically-conscious, aware now that young people, just like me, were seen as being unimportant and dispensable.  I had stayed on at school beyond the summer of 1979 but could see that some mates who I’d played football with for years were now pretty fed up, with very few having got the sort of trade or job they had hoped for and were being forced into something they didn’t want to do for not all that much more money than I could make from my six-nights a week evening paper round and the big shift delivering Sunday papers for three hours from 7am every week.  There were even a couple of boys who had signed up for the army, and I had it in my head that I’d soon be reading about them in those very same papers having been shot dead while doing service in Northern Ireland as we were very much at the height of the ‘troubles’ (or so it seemed).

Setting Sons spoke to me as I imagine it did to a lot of late-teens in the UK, and it was no surprise that by the time Going Underground came out just three months later,  it did the unthinkable and went straight in at #1, as Gary Mulholland points out above, the first single by any singer or band to do so in seven years.  This was our time and The Jam was our band.  Nobody who had come beforehand was relevant, and nobody who was to follow would be meaningful.

Nowadays, I can see some failings. Brilliant though it is, the concept of including the orchestral version of previous b-side Smithers Jones, as well including what I can now accept is a perfunctory cover of Heatwave, demonstrates that Setting Sons was a bit of a rush-release, timed to get out to coincide with the UK tour and in the shops so that lots of folk could get it as a Christmas present or, as in my case from the previous year, something to be bought with the tips from the paper round.

Three songs from Setting Sons made ICA 52 back in December 2015, itself an effort which precluded any single or b-side. I make no apologies for repeating those songs today, along with the words I wrote at the time

mp3: The Jam – Thick As Thieves

“It is astonishing to look back and realise that Weller was barely 21 years of age when he wrote the songs that made up Setting Sons, the band’s fourth and most ambitious album. There’s no doubt that in his head he wanted to pull together a concept album telling the story of three childhood friends whose lives don’t go the way of their youngdreams with everything changing after them fighting but surviving a war. The concept wasn’t fully realised, possibly being down to him deciding it was an ‘unpunk’ thing to do or perhaps it became just too big a challenge in too short a timescale.  It’s a real pity and begs the thought ‘if only….’ for the foundations that were laid down, as exemplified by Thick As Thieves, make you think that the result could well have been a record forever feted to be near the top of the all-time classic lists.”

mp3: The Jam – Little Boy Soldiers

“A song like no other in the history of the band and perhaps the new wave era’s equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody – or at least that’s how I initially felt when listening to this as a 16-year old back in 1979. It was earnest and it was thought-provoking stuff but above else it was unsettling, thanks in part to its constant changes in pace and rhythm but also as a result of the doom and gloom nature of the lyric.

OK, I was sure that I was going to leave school, head off to university and find myself some sort of job  linked to whatever qualifications I manged to get but I knew quite a few folk who were hell-bent on joining the armed forces and seeing what happened from there….none of them of course even remotely considered that in doing so they were putting their young lives at risk. I wanted so much to give every one of them a cassette with this song on and ask them to have a serious think about things….”

mp3: The Jam – Saturday’s Kids

At 16, I had no idea what the line ‘stains on the seats – in the back of course’ was all about. Nor did I know who smoked Capstan Non-Filters (Embassy Regal? yup….that was my dad’s choice of habit) and for Selsey Bill and Bracklesam Bay you would have had to substitute places a little nearer home or insert Blackpool which around half of Glasgow seemed to migrate to in the last two weeks in July back in the mid-70s. Otherwise it was a song that resonated with me and even now I can recite every single word of the lyric. But I do accept that, with its descriptions of things that aren’t part of modern society then it’s a lyric very much of its time and so probably won’t resonate much with today’s kids….except perhaps the bit about hating the system. Some things just never change.

And finally, one that made a second ICA, #152, in January 2018.

mp3: The Jam – Private Hell

This tale of a lonely, depressed, drug-dependant and mentally ill housewife was scheduled to feature in the ‘songs as short stories series’ but it has rightly fought its way into inclusion on this ICA. I used to think the lyric was all a bit melodramatic as I honestly couldn’t think of any female relative or mother of any friends of mine whose behaviour was like this. Looking back, I was wrong…it was just that some folk were exceptional at keeping things well hidden….

I also can’t imagine, to this day, just how brilliantly and accurately a 21-year old working class lad was able to put himself in the shoes of a middle-aged, repressed woman.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #305: SUPERTURTLE

A GUEST POSTING by MIDDLE AGED MAN

A couple of years ago my sister sent me a link to a track by Superturtle, this was something that had never happened before. My sister emigrated to New Zealand over 25 years ago and during those 25 years or so we had almost exclusively communicated through cards (Birthday and Christmas), occasional phone calls and more recently WhatsApp. We had certainly never mentioned music/bands and whilst I’m sure she knew I was a ‘music’ fan and had an idea of my tastes as I had taken her to gigs in the late 70’s/early 80’s including The Undertones and The Jam it was a shock that she would recommend a song to me.

As you will have already guessed, I clicked on the link and liked what I heard. I then explored their Bandcamp site, played another couple of tracks, sounded good and bought their full digital discography.

I made a conscious decision not to try and find out anything about the band other than what’s on their Bandcamp site so there is a lack of band info/history. : They are located in Auckland, New Zealand

Superturtles debut LP was released in August 2008 and now 12 years later the fifth album ” Wait For It ” has been released. The band have amassed a stellar catalogue of critically acclaimed releases.

I was surprised that they only released their first album in 2008 as their sound is very much early 1980s guitar led short 3-minute songs reminiscent of poppy Buzzcocks/Undertones/Blondie ( I might be overselling it slightly)

Side 1

1. Watch Your Eyes

The closest Superturtles come to a sing-along anthem and a cracking way to start an album.

2. Sit Still Now

A more typical sounding song with a title every parent of young children will be familiar with…

3. Down Down Down

Another ‘boppy’ tune but with a darker lyrical subject matter which appears to refer the consequences of committing a crime – although the consequence is not quite in the league of ‘The Mercy Seat’

4. Transatlantic Affairs

Not too sure what this one is about – but ‘falling down’ and being ‘the last to leave’ may be a clue

5. A Strange Sense of Forebording

Really like the guitar in this one and the female backing vocals add a lighter tone.

Side 2

I’ve tried to put together 5 tracks which have a common thread – the first 4 seem to describe what life is like in your late teens/early twenties when you have no responsibilities and your life is focussed upon going out dancing, seeing bands drinking with a group of mates and the last tracks describes meeting up again decades later

1. Dancing in the Hall

What all great music makes you want to do – although it’s mainly in the kitchen washing up for me these days.

2. Dress The Same

The title says it all.

3. That’s What You’re Looking For

Faster, more aggressive sounding and only 1.30 mins in length. Every album needs that wake up track to make sure you are still listening.

4. Best Days Of My Life

The foot tapper – the drums pound away driving this song forward

5. Student Flat Reunion

Slower more reflective.

I hope you enjoy listening to Superturtle ( not sure about the name), it won’t change your world but will hopefully brighten up your day

MIDDLE AGED MAN

 

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Forty-seven: SORRY FOR LAUGHING

Optic Nerve Recordings is the English-based reissue label specialising in releases from the 80’s and 90’s. I’ve picked up a few gems over the years.  The singles usually come in some sort of coloured vinyl, along with a poster or postcard (or both) associated with the band or a gig they might have played back in the day.  I’ve have already put in my order for some of the twelve singles being brought out in 2022.

But not this one, as I’ve got a copy of the 1981 original:-

mp3: Josef K – Sorry For Laughing
mp3: Josef K – Revelation

It came out on the Belgian-based Les Disques Du Crépuscule, under licence from Postcard Records.  It’s regarded by many, including myself, as the band’s best and most enduring song.  It was also later covered by one of the acts signed to ZTT:-

mp3: Propaganda – Sorry For Laughing

The Josef K tracks are ripped at 320kpbs as part of the ongoing theme of this weekly series.  The cover version by Propaganda is not……..

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 34)

March 1994.  Mark E Smith finally gets to appear on Top of The Pops.

Just one month later, and the new single by The Fall was released, on 10″.12″ and CD.  The increased exposure for MES as a result of his collaboration with The Inspiral Carpets didn’t help much, with it stalling at #65:-

mp3: The Fall – 15 Ways
mp3: The Fall – Hey! Student
mp3: The Fall – The $500 Bottle Of Wine

For all the fact that Dave Bush’s keyboards had been an increasingly important part of the sound of The Fall in recent years, this EP was, in many ways, a return to basics as all three tracks were written by MES/Craig Scanlon/Steve Hanley.

15 Ways certainly leans, lyrically, on Paul Simon‘s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, a hit single from back in 1975. What nobody knew at the time was MES’s second marriage was falling apart, and so it’s no real surprise that he came up with this sideways swipe at Saffron Prior. It’s a real pop song, certainly as far as The Fall goes, of the type that many other bands would have enjoyed a Top 40 hit with.

Hey! Student is a magnificent tune, one of my very favourite Fall songs of them all. It is basically a rewrite of Hey! Fascist, an old punk thrash number that The Fall had played a few times in 1977 before disowning it without ever giving it a proper studio recording. Worth mentioning that the listeners voted this in at #2 in the Peel Festive 50 at the end of 1994, beaten only by the Inspiral Carpets/MES collaboration.

The $500 Bottle Of Wine is fairly disposable in that it, if you take away MES’s vocal, the tune could belong to any of a number of post-punk bands from the 80s or 90s. It’s a song that doesn’t seem to make sense, but the explanation came many years later with Steve Hanley revealing in his book The Big Midweek (2013) that three goths, having been wound up by the band post-gig in Los Angeles had actually enjoyed the experience so much that they went out and purchased an expensive bottle of wine and left it back at the band’s hotel with a thank-you note. Let’s just say, it’s unlikely to have happened in many other cities that The Fall played in over the years, particularly here in Scotland!

The following month, Middle Class Revolt, the band’s new LP would be issued. Half of its fourteen songs had previously been released on Behind The Counter and 15 Ways. Three of the other seven were cover versions, while another was actually a discussion between Craig Scanlon and John Peel about a football match. It was a far cry from the triumph of The Infotainment Scan of just twelve months previous, and again the press were wondering out loud if MES and his team had run their course.

There weren’t that many live performances in the first half of 1994, certainly in comparison to previous years. The band didn’t venture out of England and the shows were undertaken by the quintet of MES/Scanlon/Hanley/Wolstencroft and Bush, with Karl Burns seemingly having again been sacked at the end of 1993.    The biggest show of the year was as on the main stage at the Phoenix Festival in July 1994, third on the bill on the first night behind The Wonder Stuff and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine.

Just one month later and The Fall played three shows in Scotland. The band was now seven-strong.  The two new musicians?  Karl Burns and Brix Smith……

What could possibly go wrong?

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #294: SHITDISCO

I’ve only one track from list lot on the hard drive, courtesy of it being included on a CD given away free in 2008 with a Sunday newspaper, and I know hee-haw about them. Here’s an edited take from wiki:-

Shitdisco were a dance-punk band from Glasgow, Scotland. They formed in 2003 while studying at the Glasgow School of Art, consisting of Joel Stone (bass, guitar, vocals), Joe Reeves (bass, guitar, vocals), Jan Lee (keyboards, backing vocals) and Darren Cullen (drums). The band’s first single “Disco Blood”/”I Know Kung Fu” was released in December 2005. Signed to record label Fierce Panda, their debut album Kingdom of Fear was released on 16 April 2007.

The album was recorded in London with former Clor guitarist turned producer Luke Smith. It was scheduled to be recorded in two sessions, with the 2nd session taking place after the band had completed the NME New Rave Tour (Oct 2006) supporting Klaxons. During the tour however, after a gig in Birmingham, drummer Darren Cullen fell from the roof of the band’s tour bus, breaking his right wrist, requiring an operation and the fitting of a metal plate. For the second recording session, Kieron Pepper, live drummer for The Prodigy, was brought in to play on two tracks.

Jan Lee left the band in January 2008 to concentrate on his career as an illustrator, and later also entered the restaurant business. He was replaced by Tom Straughan, similarly on keyboards and backing vocals.

In 2009 the band split after mutual agreement. Members went on to form the bands Age of Consent and Ubre Blanca, while drummer Darren Cullen has also pursued a career in political art.

mp3: Shitdisco – Lover Of Others

I’ve had a look, and it seems this was a track from the debut, and as it turned out, sole album. Listening to it again for the first time in years, I can see why I didn’t pursue things.

JC

THE OCCASIONAL DIP INTO ANCIENT INDIE HISTORY (1)

New features.  Just like buses.  You wait ages for one to appear, and two decide to come along back-to-back.

I initially gave this latest series the title of ‘Weekly Dip Into Ancient Indie History’.   It actually might turn into that, but I’m hoping I’ll get enough inspiration from other things to make it just a regular rather than strictly weekly thing.  Oh, and I reserve the right to put up a song that has previously appeared on the blog, but I’ll only do so if the last time was more than five years ago.

Jamie Wednesday have featured before.  Back in 2014 when the song Vote For Love was used to commemorate the day when the people of Scotland took part in a referendum on whether we wanted to declare our independence and break away from the rest of the United Kingdom.  The vote was 55-45 saying ‘No’, but it’s looking likely that a second referendum will be called in the next couple of years, with all the indications of a different result.  But that’s not for the here and now.  It’s all about what was said about Jamie Wednesday in the booklet accompanying the C88 box set issued by Cherry Red Records in 2019.

Now a fascinating footnote in the pre-history of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Jamie Wednesday were born as a five-piece in 1984 in Streatham, South London, hinged around singers James Morrison (guitar) and Leslie Carter (bass).  Like Half Man Half Biscuit and Pop Will Eat Itself (whose name, coincidentally, came from an NME quote about Jamie Wednesday), the band laced their theatrical, horns-and-guitar pop with humour, evinced on two EPs across 1985/1986 for Pink Records, Vote For Love and We Three Kings Of Orient Aren’t.  When Jamie Wednesday dissolved, Morrisson and Carter fulfilled a gig a duo and, reinvented as Jim Bob and Fruitbat, Carter USM were born; meanwhile, drummer Dean Leggett joined BOB.

We Three Kings.….was issued on 7″ and 12″. Copies of the former go for £20 on Discogs, while the latter will see you needing to part with £30.  I’ve not got either Jamie Wednesday single on vinyl, and haven’t been tempted to shell out.  A mate has both of them on 12″and a few years I borrowed them and it’s from his vinyl that you’re able to have a listen to, and perhaps enjoy, the b-sides:-

mp3: Jamie Wednesday – We Three Kings Of Orient Aren’t
mp3: Jamie Wednesday – I Think I’ll Throw A Party For Myself
mp3: Jamie Wednesday – Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

I think it’s fair to say that the music, while made by people common to the two bands, is a fair bit removed from the manic, sample-filled, noise associated with Carter USM.

JC

SOMETHING SAID EARLIER (1)

Another new series/feature.  It’s one in which I’ll be reaching back into an old ICA and pulling out some words that were written at the time about a particular track.  It’ll not always be one of my own efforts that I’ll dip into, which means we will, every now and again, get to enjoy some musings from our late and much-love friend, Tim Badger.  In fact, I’ve lined up one of his for the second airing of this feature.

But that’s for the future.  Things are kicking off with ICA 95, published on 18 November 2016.  I said this:-

This sounds like Paul Quinn on vocals. I think that has a lot to do with why I love this band so much. It’s just an outstanding piece of music that I want to sing along with every single fucking time. And then go apeshit crazy on the dance floor for its concluding instrumental section. This would be very high up in any updated 55 45s at 55 listing in a couple of years time (not that I’m going to inflict that on you).

mp3: The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

It’s their fifth studio album, High Violet, and was made available for download prior to the album’s release via the band’s website on March 24, 2010. It was later released on limited edition 7″ vinyl, with this otherwise unavailable b-side:-

mp3: The National – Sin-Eaters

It’s a decent enough b-side, but I’m not sure if I’d have elbowed anything off High Violet to find room for it.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #304: THE BLUE NILE

‘We just sculpted away together’

The Blue Nile – an imaginary compilation album

A GUEST POSTING by COMRADE COLIN

The thing about The Blue Nile, it is true, they are either in your blood or they aren’t. Everyone finds their own way to this band, somehow, whether it is to adore them or ignore them. Our resident host, JC, is very much in the latter camp, for reasons I’ve never fully understood, but fully respect. And this is, of course, the sheer joy of music… the varied responses we have to the sounds we hear, the stories we are told by the musicians we hold dear to us. For myself, the music and the words of Paul Buchanan, P.J. Moore and Robert Bell are almost part of my DNA now. I couldn’t walk away from their music even if I wanted to. It is a life soundtrack, to be sure.

This is a much-delayed ICA. I’ve had the ten tracks in my mind, in my ears, for quite a while now, ever since I first mentioned to JC that I might scribble some notes about The Blue Nile and what a ‘top ten’ might look like for an imaginary compilation album. The final selections were put together as a Spotify playlist, going around my head when out walking in Glasgow, usually from east to west and back again. For this is also true, the geography, the people, the places of this city feature prominently in the patterns and themes The Blue Nile make (I will not say ‘soundscapes’). Paul Buchanan, as the lyricist and singer of the band, is an observer of fine details, of small moments, of feelings that we all notice. He trusts in the little things, because they matter. The delay in sending this memo to JC, in part, is due to my own reluctance to share and let it go, wondering how he will react. He can be pithy, to be diplomatic, about the bands he just doesn’t see value in.

This is true, everyone finds their own way to this band. It is worth repeating. The tiny, stolen moments you remember, in a fuzzy and distant haze now. One moment for me was when I first heard ‘Tinseltown in the rain’ in a student union bar in Paisley in 1988 and being unable to stop myself heading to the dance floor. Even as a committed goth, I just couldn’t resist the lure of that bassline. It just sounded so big and full of itself, all of it. Another moment was playing ‘From a late night train’ on a Sony Walkman loop after yet another doomed romance, heading back on the West Coast line from Glasgow from London in 1991. The despair and sadness was all too real, you sometimes need to dive deep into a song like that, just to survive. Then there was a fateful New Year early morning, back in 2007, drinking champagne from the bottle, spinning around the room, reflecting on the reality of the line “just separate chairs in separate rooms” from ‘Family Life’. You know it is time to flee, to accept a divorced defeat.

It is a part of you. The Blue Nile, you see, are a life as a soundtrack, the details and the moments you will come to remember.

The methodological design for this ICA, a bit like the one I authored for Talk Talk a few years ago, is to keep it simple: stick to the albums, keep it to ten tracks. With only four studio albums to choose from, I’ve decided to pick 3 tracks each from ‘A Walk Across the Rooftops’ (1984) and ‘Hats’ (1989), with a further 2 tracks each from ‘Peace at Last’ (1996) and ‘High’ (2004). This seems fair, although I was seriously tempted to include two of my favourite non-album tracks, ‘Regret’ and ‘Wish me Well’. Why make it even harder though?

This is also true, you will all have your own ideas on what tracks to include or sideline, how the running order should be. Below, I will include a short justification for each track. To those of you who know these moments, this music, well, you will appreciate the impossibility of this task. I beg your forgiveness. To those of you who know little of The Blue Nile, I would just ask you to take an hour or so and listen closely, perhaps late at night with headphones attached. Just try to welcome the space and the details, the moments and the feelings that are created here. You will either adore them or ignore them, but make of it what you will, it is your choice.

Side A:

A walk across the rooftops

A rather obvious beginning, track 1 of side A on the first album ‘A Walk Across the Rooftops’. The early promise of what would follow. The bassline, the electronics, a vocal that stretches out. A show of faith from Linn. It still feels like the start of a new day, or the end of a long night… ‘I leave the redstone building’.

The downtown lights

Although it might be argued that ‘Tinseltown in the Rain’ is The Blue Nile defined, I’d make the case for this track playing that role. A headline single from the second album, ‘Hats’, it captures those nervous and fleeting moments from an initial night out. Plaintive, but hopeful. The dichotomies clearly mean something, looking over… ‘chimney tops and rooftops’.

The day of our lives

A leap forward to the final album, ‘High’, and how it begins. Track 1 of side A. Some incredible electronics from P. J. Moore and a matured, observed outlook on a life lived in reverse. A metropolitan statement of where you are, what’s around us. The search for… ‘an ordinary miracle, you and me’.

From a late night train

Back to ‘Hats’ for the perfect example of what Paul Buchanan’s lyrics and a piano can conjure up. A quiet layer of sympathetic synths and a solitary trumpet offer some accompaniment. The heartbreak spacing and the four-minute sparseness make this a uniquely haunting and sad song, trying not to let go… ‘I know it’s over, but I love you so’.

She saw the world

A complete change in tempo, if not mood, a track taken from the ‘American album’ as it was known, ‘Peace at Last’. For this stage in the journey, it seemed to be about settlement, adulthood, accepting the facts of middle age. And yet, there is that underlying sense of discomfort and unease… ‘it feels like a movie’.

Side B:

Tinseltown in the rain

A track like this… I mean, how could it not be included? A big opening for side B, running to 6 minutes in length. Back to the debut album, it feels like a timeless journey across the city. A love letter to Glasgow? Perhaps it is. Those soaring synths give it a skyline drama, the bassline rooting it to the landed Clyde geography. We all have a version of tinseltown… ‘a place to always feel this way’.

God bless you kid

The American album, ‘Peace at Last’, and the final record, ‘High’, deserve far more attention than they usually tend to receive from fans of The Blue Nile. This song is a case in point, featuring some of Paul Buchanan’s finest lyrics, I’d suggest. The influences shine through, via the Midwest and the South, but we retain our ordinary lives… ‘it feels like Memphis, after Elvis, there’s nothing going on’.

Easter parade

As with ‘From a late night train’, this is a song that is born of vocal, piano and so much texture and space. There is a fine wash over of hidden synths. The piano keystrokes meet the author’s hesitant breaths, matching the gradual intonation that is dared. There is a fragility here that is like a fine china waiting to be broken. Just a beautiful serenade from the debut album, ‘a city perfect in every detail’.

Family life

A song from ‘Peace at Last’ that is almost impossible to listen to if you have the memories and scars of a broken family, a painful divorce, the end of something unique. Every word is there for a reason. I saw the band perform this live one time, at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, and even Paul Buchanan had to wipe tears from his eyes at the end. It’s about the fine details that appear in the images, again… ‘silver on the window, like the bike I once had at home in the yard’.

Let’s go out tonight

The perfect ending, I think, for this ICA. Back to a delicate track from ‘Hats’ that showcases the vocal range of Paul Buchanan. Some of those notes you wonder if he will make. But he does. An arrangement that, yet again, let’s the vocals take centre stage. A beautiful guitar part, a reflection on issues of communication, misunderstanding, trying to find hope… ‘I know a place, where everything’s alright…’.

COMRADE COLIN