DEMENTED AND THRILLING

Here’s more proof of the impossibility of keeping up with 90%+ of what’s happening in contemporary music.

Until I picked up the C88 box set a few years back, I hadn’t ever heard of or come across King of the Slums.  Here’s what the booklet with the box set had to offer:-

Salford’s King of the Slums hit the ground running with 1986’s extraordinary ‘Spider Psychiatry’ – a demented and thrilling offering that showcased the band’s experimental blend of distorted violin, raw guitar and almost impenetrable vocals.  Contributing a track to a 1987 Debris fanzine flexi ‘Haemophiliacs On Tacks’), they then moved to Play Hard (set up by Dave Haslam and Nathan McGough) for a string of releases, starting with the EP, England’s Finest Hopes, which featured the scratchy and raucous ‘The Pennine Spitter’. (the track included in the C88 box set).

KOS’s uncompromising style left little hope of commercial breakthrough, but tracks such as ‘Fanciable Headcase’ (once performed on TV’s Snub) won them many fans in the North West.

But that’s nowhere near the full story.  Wiki (I know……!!) informs that KOS disbanded in 1991 after the release of their second studio album, Blowzy Weirdos, but that 2009 saw an album of new material credited to (1991) both King of the Slums and Slum Cathedral User, which was the original name of the group. There then followed another period of inactivity before three more albums Manco Diablo (2017), Artgod Dogs (2018) and Encrypted Contemporary Narratives (2020) were issued, while there were also a number of live dates.

Sadly, frontman Charley Keigher died in 2021. I am assuming, although I may well be wrong, that this will be the end of things, musically.

Here’s the song from the C88 box set

mp3: King of The Slums – The Pennine Spitter

JC

A SHORT FOLLOW ON TO YESTERDAY’S MUSINGS

“….if you go into any second-hand or charity stores and have a rummage, then you can pick up physical copies of albums for a lot less than it would cost to download it.”

As I was typing these words, I thought I should come up with an example for you.

Northside were on Factory Records back in the 1990s, and that alone should make their CDs and vinyl a tad more ‘collectable’ than most.  But it’s not the case.

Their third and final single was Take 5.  It’s a more than decent enough song, albeit very much of its era and therefore, understandably, sounds a bit dated, especially on the production side.  It is, however, the sort of song that always puts a smile on my face on the odd occasion it comes up on random shuffle, or indeed I decide to give it a listen when scrolling through the 44,000+ songs on the laptop.

I bought this on CD back in the day.  I think I paid £3 for it…maybe even a little more.  It was worth it as it came with three songs:-

mp3: Northside – Take 5 (12″ version)
mp3: Northside – Take 5 (7″ version)
mp3: Northside – Who’s To Blame (Instrumental)

These days, you can pick it up via Discogs for £1.49, albeit there’s postage on top. But if you happened to wander into any of the shops who have it online at this price, then I’m sure you will get yourself a bargain, especially if you buy a few more CDs during your visit as part of some sort of bundle offer. I would suspect that if you happened upon a copy in a charity shop, it might be as little as 50p or £1. For an artefact that was issued by the seemingly collectable Factory Records…..

Now, if you were looking to pick up digital copies of the songs, and I’m using i-tunes to illustrate, you could only do so as part of a wider Northside compilation album of 21 tracks (£15.99) or you could home in on the three songs and pick them up for 79p each….or £2.37 for the lot.

As I was saying, second-hand CDs nowadays are cheaper than downloads….

JC

THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION IN A PUB QUIZ

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley.

Now, it could be appropriate to any number of given questions, such as ‘What was the biggest selling single in the UK in 2006?’, or perhaps, ‘Which song was instrumental in making a seemingly overnight star of singer/rapper CeeLo Green more than a decade after he first entered a recording studio?’.

The question I was thinking of, given that it involved something truly ground-breaking and historic, is:-

‘Name the first single to top the UK charts on download sales alone?’

I do recall all sorts of doom and gloom merchants predicting that the success of Crazy spelt the end for CDs in the same way as those shiny metal discs had killed off vinyl.  To be fair, it wasn’t an unreasonable assumption to make given the rise of portable and affordable mp3s player and other technologies which would, and indeed did, change the listening habits of music lovers the world over.

I’m not going to get into any sort of discussion or debate as to why vinyl began to make its comeback from about the time Crazy hit the top of the charts, as there’s no single definitive reason.  I can only speak for myself in that I got this blog up and running in September 2006 right on the back of getting my first USB Turntable, courtesy of an anniversary gift from Rachel, and from being encouraged to do so by a few other music bloggers, and in particular Comrade Colin.  Vinyl on the second-hand market was still very cheap, albeit many of the shops were dominated by the sort of stuff that had been chart-fodder it wasn’t always easy to find the sort of stuff I really wanted.  But the growth at the same time of on-line markets, and in particular eBay and Discogs, meant it became easier to track things down at affordable prices.  It’s a totally different world now…..

Will the bubble burst?  It most likely will given it does seem that, for the most part, physical copies of music are bought by older generations and younger folk, having known nothing but digital downloads or streaming sites, will need to get on board in the years and decades to come if the vinyl revival is to be maintained.

It’s a strange old world out there. I didn’t ever see music fans giving up on their CD collections given how much they had spent on these as replacements for vinyl, but if you go into any second-hand or charity stores and have a rummage, then you can pick up physical copies of albums for a lot less than it would cost to download it.

Anyways, enough of my ramblings.

mp3: Gnarls Barkley – Crazy

It’s a great piece of dance/pop music with a real earworm of a tune that I never got bored with.  Oh, and for the record, I never bought this on CD at the time of release. I didn’t have a copy of it in my possession until the time when I began to use my PC to listen to and, ahem, acquire music.  I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it.

 

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Fifty-three: INERTIA CREEPS

It was last August when I pulled out Mezzanine specifically to record Angel so that it could feature in this Monday series.

I make absolutely no apologies for returning to the album again for what was the fourth and final single to be lifted from it.

mp3: Massive Attack – Inertia Creeps

My vinyl copy of Mezzanine is a repressing from 2013, and it is first-class in every possible way.  I hope the sound quality comes across with today’s mp3.  If possible, please play it through a sound system that isn’t just your laptop, CD, phone etc.  This deserves the best speakers in your home.

Thank you

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 40)

We’ve reached 2002.  The Fall have yet another new label, this time it’s Action Records, based out of an indie record store in Preston, Lancashire.

The first studio recording for the label appears as a 7″ and CD single in December 2002 under the heading of The Fall vs 2003. Quite incredibly, given how rarely any of the 45s made into the UK singles charts, this one enters at #64, albeit it drops back down again the following week.

mp3: The Fall – Susan vs. Youthclub
mp3: The Fall – Janet vs Johnny
mp3: The Fall – Susan vs. Youthclub (remix)

The music is made by a five-piece line-up, consisting of MES (vocals), Ben Pritchard (guitar, vocals), Jim Watts (bass, guitar, programming), Dave Milner (drums, vocals, keyboards) and
Elena Poulou (keyboards, vocals).

Worth mentioning that MES and Elena would, in due course, get married and that her eventual 14-year stint in the band (2002-2016) would see her become the third-longest other serving member of The Fall, behind the double legends of Steve Hanley (1979-1998) and Craig Scanlon (1979-1995)

Susan vs. Youthclub is yet another huge shift in direction, soundwise. Yes, there are guitars on it, but it’s very much in the genre of electronica. Janet vs Johnny, a much slower number than usual from The Fall, is quite hypnotic in nature. The remix of the single, which was only made available on the CD version, can be presented as evidence against anyone who tried to claim all songs by The Fall sound the same.

I’ve mentioned before that I had more or less stopped having any interest in The Fall at this point in time, so it would be a few years before I picked up anything at all about this particular single. I have to admit that was my loss, particularly when it comes to the remix version, which is a tremendous listen.

JC

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #300: SKIDS

I’m going full wiki for the 300th different entry in this alphabetical rundown of singer/bands whose music features on the hard drive.

Skids are a Scottish punk rock and new wave band, formed in Dunfermline in 1977 by Stuart Adamson (guitar, keyboards, percussion and backing vocals), William Simpson (bass guitar and backing vocals), Thomas Kellichan (drums) and Richard Jobson (vocals, guitar and keyboards). Their biggest successes were the 1979 single “Into the Valley” and the 1980 album The Absolute Game. In 2016, the band announced a 40th-anniversary tour of the UK with their original singer Richard Jobson.

Skids played their first gig on 19 August 1977 at the Bellville Hotel in Pilmuir Street, Dunfermline, Scotland. Within six months they had released the Charles EP on the No Bad record label, created by Sandy Muir, a Dunfermline music-shop-owner-turned-manager. The record brought them to the attention of national BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. This led to a local gig supporting The Clash.

Virgin Records then signed up Skids in April 1978.  The singles “Sweet Suburbia” and “The Saints Are Coming” both made commercial inroads, before “Into the Valley” reached the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart in early 1979. The band released their debut studio album, Scared to Dance, the same year.

Skids enjoyed a further year of chart success as “Masquerade” and “Working for the Yankee Dollar” reached the Top 20 in the UK chart.  The latter came from their second album, also released in 1979, Days in Europa, with the record’s production and keyboards by Bill Nelson. Just before recording of the album commenced, Kellichan left the band and was temporarily replaced on drums by Rusty Egan (ex-Rich Kids, then with the band Visage and a New Romantic 1980s dance DJ at the Blitz club).  Egan played on the album and later on the live concert tour of the record. Keyboard player Alistair Moore also temporarily joined the band to perform live with them. Mike Baillie, ex-Insect Bites, was recruited as a permanent band member, taking care of the drums, backing vocals and percussion).

Some of Jobson’s lyrics as well as the album cover caused controversy. It showed an Olympian being crowned with laurels by an Aryan-looking woman, and the lettering was in Gothic script. Some, including DJ John Peel, felt that this glorified Nazi ideology, and it was indeed similar to posters from the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Germany. After the original version of the album had already been released, Canadian record producer Bruce Fairbairn was brought into the project. The original cover and the track “Pros and the Cons” were removed. The sleeve was completely re-designed and the song “Masquerade” added. The album was also remixed and the tracks re-sequenced. This second version was released in 1980.

In February 1980, William Simpson, left and was replaced by Russell Webb (bass guitar, backing vocals, keyboards, percussion, and guitar as a permanent band member and immediately started work on the recording of the band’s third album The Absolute Game, released in 1980 and produced by Mick Glossop. It proved to be the band’s most commercial release, reaching the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart and contained the minor hit single “Circus Games”.  Initial copies of The Absolute Game came with a free limited edition, second album entitled Strength Through Joy, echoing the band’s previous controversial themes. Jobson claims to have got the title from Dirk Bogarde‘s autobiography.

Soon after the release and live concert tour of The Absolute Game Baillie left the band, shortly followed by Adamson (but Adamson did stay around long enough to play on one more song for the next album, Joy, called “Iona”).  Baillie moved back to Scotland to live and Adamson went on to launch his new band, Big Country. This left Jobson and Webb to write and record the band’s fourth and final album Joy. The pair played multiple instruments on the album, and also invited a collection of seventeen musical friends to perform on various tracks with them. Skids dissolved in 1982, with the compilation Fanfare posthumously issued by Virgin. It was a mixture of most of the band’s singles and some B-sides, though it omitted any tracks from the Joy period.

Jobson and Webb then went on to form a new band called The Armoury Show. The group recorded just one album, Waiting for the Floods in 1985 before splitting up. Jobson went on to pursue a solo career as a poet, songwriter, television presenter and as a film director. He released albums on the Belgian record label Les Disques du Crepuscule and on Parlophone Records. Webb later joined Public Image Ltd. in 1992 (but played only on one tour), and is now a video game designer.

In 2007, Richard Jobson, William Simpson and Mike Baillie, along with Bruce Watson (guitar and backing vocals), Jamie Watson (guitar), Brian Jobson (backing vocals) and Jane Button (backing vocals), got together to play three gigs. They were to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the group’s formation and as a final tribute to Stuart Adamson, who had died in 2001. The shows on 4 and 5 July were at Dunfermline’s Glen Pavilion.

Skids returned to the stage on 28 November 2009 as one of the headlining acts in Homecoming Live, a series of gigs held around the SECC complex in Glasgow to celebrate the end of the Year of Homecoming in Scotland. The line-up mirrored the 2007 gigs, with members of The Gospel Truth Choir joining Button on backing vocals for “A Woman in Winter” and “Working for the Yankee Dollar”.

The same line-up performed a concert on 5 March 2010 at the ABC in Glasgow, and lastly a concert on 6 March 2010 at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline . This final concert was to conclude a week of events celebrating the works, past and present, of Richard Jobson as part of The Fifer Festival 2010 on 6 March 2010.

The band undertook another reunion tour in 2017 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their formation. It had a more extensive set of venues than the 2007 reunion, with concerts throughout the UK and Ireland, and headlining the 2017 Rebellion Festival on the final night. The line up included Richard Jobson, Bill Simpson, Mike Baillie, Bruce Watson and Jamie Watson.

In 2018 the album, Burning Cities, was released. It reached number 28 in the UK Albums Chart.

After issuing an acoustic album in 2019, the band (including Big Country’s Bruce and Jamie Watson) returned in 2021 with a covers album called Songs from a Haunted Ballroom. The album was recorded as a tribute to a music venue called the Kinema Ballroom in Dunfermline,(opened in 1938 but now the Kinema Restaurant Global Fusion Buffet) and features covers of tracks by The Clash, The Adverts, Sex Pistols, Magazine and Ultravox as well as re-recordings of their own “The Saints Are Coming” and “Into the Valley”. The band recently announced that a new album of original material will be released before the end of 2022.

mp3: The Skids – Circus Games (single version)

 

JC

RE-REMEMBERING BAUHAUS

So here’s the thing.

After more than 3,300 posts, a good number of which have been kindly submitted by guest contributors, it gets difficult to come up with something of interest that hasn’t been published before.

I was keen to write up something on Bauhaus, but checking through the index indicated I had done something along the lines I had been thinking back in February 2014.

And then I thought to myself.  There may well be some folk who drop by here on a regular basis who weren’t readers back in 2014, and who haven’t had the time or inclination to go through the archives, so what’s the harm in re-posting something?  Doing so allows me to be slightly lazy in that this is just a cut’n’paste job, but the mp3s are again available after many years’ absence, so please feel free to listen and enjoy  – and if it stimulates your brain to the extent that you would like some more, then make sure you either visit a record shop or make some sort of digital purchase.

Bauhaus are one of the many bands of the early 80s era who could lay claim to having a say in the ‘invention’ of goth rock. It’s fair to say that most folk will recall the name of only one member of the four-piece, that of singer Peter Murphy. And yet, the fact is he only became part of the band when the others approached him, not because of his vocal talents, but simply because he had the right look.

There’s no disputing that Murphy was one of those blokes who it was impossible for even the most hetero and red-blooded male to deny was good-looking. Certainly, there were plenty of us who tried hard to capture the image, be it the impeccably prepared hair, the sharp-as-a-razor cheekbones, or the piercing eyes made all the more memorable by the clever application of make-up.

Bauhaus never quite made it the way that so many expected them to. I was surprised to find out that of the 11 singles and 4 EPs released at their peak between 1980 and 1983, only two of them actually cracked the Top 40, and one of these was a cover of Ziggy Stardust (indeed, this was their biggest success hitting #15 in 1982).

There are, in my opinion, two tracks that have more than stood the test of time, and I’ve dug the bits of vinyl out of the cupboard. Possibly the greatest nine-minute long single of all time:-

mp3 : Bauhaus – Bela Legosi’s Dead

I don’t have the original 1979 release but one from a couple of years later that has this fascinating little number on the b-side:-

mp3 : Bauhaus – Boys/Dark Entries (demo)

A close second in my personal Bauhaus chart is this:-

mp3 : Bauhaus – Kick In The Eye

The song had in fact been issued as a single in 1981 but had stalled at #59. On the back of the Ziggy success, the record label gave it a re-release on the Searching for Satori EP, but still the public wouldn’t bite, and it only reached a disappointing #45. And yet…..I could have sworn it was a huge hit…it was one of those songs that inevitably filled the floor of any student disco I was at. Here’s yer other tracks, which by turn are surprising (i.e. not the sort of song you’d associate with miserable goths) and weird (i.e. unlistenable shite…..but feel free to differ)

mp3 : Bauhaus – Harry
mp3 : Bauhaus – Earwax

Oh, and I forgot…..I’m also quite fond of giving this a listen every now and again, but I’ve only got a copy via a CD compilation:-

mp3 : Bauhaus – Lagartija Nick

Enjoy!!”

I really do hope you enjoy what’s on offer today, as there’s every chance I’ll be delving into the TVV archives in the coming weeks and months.  Nobody minds, do they? Oh, and if there’s anything in particular that any reader would like to see given a re-post, feel free to drop me an email : thevinylvillain@hotmail.co.uk

Oh, and it would be remiss of me not to also point you in the direction of ICA#223, submitted in August 2019, by Middle Aged Man.

 

JC

FAC 1 : POSTER 40 x 30″ by Peter Saville

I mentioned a while back that I’d so thoroughly enjoyed my visit last year to the Use Hearing Protection exhibition, to the extent that I came away from it with a box set containing facsimile editions of the first 10 numbered Factory items.  I also promised that I’d make a return to the contents of the box set for future postings.  Today sees me begin the process.

FAC 1 is a poster.  Here’s the opening para from the booklet in the box set.

The Russell Club was a West Indian nightclub on the fringe of the infamous Hulme Crescents, a bleak high rise development condemned as the worst social housing stock in Europe.  In May 1978 Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus initiated their own Factory night to promote ‘the next music’ generally, and management proteges The Durutti Column in particular.  Talented art student Peter Saville was paid £20 to design a poster, but delivered it only after the first of the initial four Factory nights had taken place.

All the activity at the Factory nights would lead to the establishment of the record label, and indeed, all that followed over many years.  In due course, Wilson made the suggestion that the first record should carry the catalogue number of FAC 1, but Saville objected, arguing that the poster, although not originally designed with a catalogue number in mind, should be deemed as FAC 1.  And so, by accident rather than design (pardon the pun), the Factory numbering system was born, which is why so many of the early artefacts were not vinyl records.

I’ll be turning my attention further to The Durutti Column, Cabaret Voltaire, The Tiller Boys and Joy Division in coming features.  Both Big in Japan and Jilted John have been on the blog before, so it seems appropriate to feature the other band who were part of the line-up at those four initial gigs.

Here’s a bio, courtesy of a post in October 2006 on the now defunct blog, Lost Bands of the New Wave Era:-

Manchester, England’s Manicured Noise formed in 1978, but the very early days of the band remain a mystery. Given their name by prime Manchester scenester Linder, the group peddled a form of spiky and angular jazz/punk. Jeff Noon, acclaimed sci-fi, cyberpunk writer (“Vurt”, “Nymphomation”) was an early member of the group, adding to the group’s retro-futurist edge. Inspired by Television, Talking Heads, August Darnell‘s Machine, French Soundtracks and Disco Chic along with a nod to Northern Soul and Moroder, the band cut a singular groove. Early hours inspiration from 70’s cop and Kung-Fu soundtracks were incorporated, a good 10 years or more before Massive Attack and Portishead did the same. In doing so, Manicured Noise created a sound that’s still difficult to pin down.

Guitarist and later period frontman Steven Walsh was an ex member of the Flowers of Romance, pre-Pistols vehicle for Sid Vicious, and various members of the Slits and Banshees. Steven brought an experimental and funky ethos to the band.

“Faith” (Pre/Charisma, 1980) was acclaimed on release, its Northern backbeat acknowledging the Manchester debt. A BBC session followed. Then, nothing. As Steven Walsh suggests: “Had we stayed together that little bit longer, who knows what might have been?”

It turns out there were two singles released on Pre Records back in 1980, and I’ve managed to track down both of them:-

mp3: Manicured Noise – Faith
mp3: Manicured Noise – Freetime

mp3: Manicured Noise – Metronome
mp3: Manicured Noise – Moscow 1980

None of it is ground-breaking, but I reckon it’s all worth a few minutes of your time.

Next up in the series will be the first vinyl issued by Factory.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #310: COCTEAU TWINS (2)

It was back in October 2018 that Swedish Herring Accident offered up an ICA (#195) by Cocteau Twins.

It was incredibly well received, with all sorts of complimentary comments left behind, including observations on the decision by SHA to:-

“….steer away from some of the more dissonant early stuff – not because it isn’t great, but because I wanted to create an album with a single sound, rather than a variety pack compilation. An album that captures the unmistakable mellifluous Cocteau Twins sensation that hovers between fluffy and deeply meaningful.”

The track list was:-

SIDE 1

Lazy Calm
Love’s Easy Tears
Carolyn’s Fingers
In Our Angelhood
Lorelei

SIDE 2

Bluebeard
Sultitan Itan
Heaven or Las Vegas
Pur
A Kissed-Our Red Floatboat

Echorich, as part of his contribution in the comments section said:-

What keeps me from attempting compiling a CT ICA has always been just how difficult I find it to discuss the many different sounds of the band and then express how I feel about them. Cocteau Twins were the definition of complex and discussing them is the same…

I fully agree with our esteemed friend from Florida, via NYC. As such, I’m not going to offer too much in the way of words today, other than some basic factual info, and hope that this stab at an ICA, with ten completely different tracks, finds as much favour with you all as the original.  I make no apologies that much of its content come from what I consider their most imperial phase, from 82-84.

SIDE A

1. Hazel (Peel Session)

Hazel was originally recorded as part of the 12″ release of the Peppermint Pig EP (1983) the last of the material to feature original bassist Will Heggie.  The EP was produced by Alan Rankine who had not long taken his leave of Associates, and while there was a fair bit of advance excitement about the partnership, the results left Robin Guthrie and Liz Fraser quite deflated.

The interesting thing is that around the same time as they had been in the studio, the trio recorded what was their second Peel Session, choosing to perform a completely different take on Hazel, one that is about 90 seconds longer and, unusually for any Peel Session track by any singer or band, features a fade-in intro.  It would later be included on an extended version of the debut album, Garlands, when it was first issued on CD in the late 80s.

2. Ivo

The opening track from Treasure (1984), an album much loved by fans and critics, but one which Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde in particular have been quite scathing of in subsequent years.  And therein is the dilemma at the very heart of the complexity referred to above by Echorich….an album lauded by almost everyone except those involved in its creative side.  I wouldn’t want to argue with Robin or Simon….I’d just sit in awe that I was in their company, politely nodding my head, while under my breath I’d be whispering to myself that they were wrong.

3. Squeeze-Wax

From Four-Calendar Cafe (1993).   In which Cocteau Twins make a song that would sit just about perfectly on an album by The Sundays.

4. Pearly-Dewdrops Drop

I wrote about this song on the blog last May, describing it as perhaps the most extraordinary piece of music to have ever come out of Scotland and become a hit single when it reached #29 in May 1984. There’s nothing else to addd.

5. Song To The Siren

Is it cheating to include this? I don’t think so.  It may have been released by 4AD as a recording by This Mortal Coil in September 1983, but we all know that this haunting, mesmerising and beguiling take on a song originally written and recorded by Tim Buckley, is really Robin and Liz at the very peak of their powers.

SIDE B

1. When Mama Was Moth

Head Over Heels (1983) was recorded after Will Heggie left, but before Simon Raymonde joined.  It is my favourite Cocteau Twins album, and this is its opening track. I associate it with so many different and incredibly happy events of that particular time in my life, not least taking the decision to move out of the parental home as I started the third year at University, and finding myself sharing a flat with two of the most knowledgable music fans you could ever wish to know.  It was through the expensive stereo of one of those flatmates that I first heard the album and that experience will stay with me forever….at long last I ‘got’ Cocteau Twins.

2. Iceblink Luck

Seven years later and the sound of Cocteau Twins is quite different on Heaven Or Las Vegas (1990), an album that is as outstanding as Head Over Heels, but in so many different ways.  I’ve read somewhere that it borders on radio-friendly, and while that might be the case these days with the proliferation of digital radio stations catering for all sorts of tastes, you would have been hard pushed in 1990, outside of evening broadcasts on Radio 1, to ever hear anything coming out of your radio here in the UK.   Iceblink Luck fills the floor when it gets aired at the indie-disco myself and Aldo have been known to frequent.

3. Feathers Oar-Blades

Right back to the early days.  The opening track on the Lullabies EP, released in late 1982, just a few weeks after debut album Garlands.  I truly understand the thinking behind SHA’s original ICA, and he did curate something quite special and memorable, but concentrating on creating an album with a single-sound meant he ‘disqualified’ himself from considering a song such as this.  The opening few notes of this remind me of Associates early period, which is probably why folk thought it would be a good idea to being in Alan Rankine on production duties.

4. Pandora

Another from Treasure (1984).   This isn’t among my all-time favourites by Cocteau Twins, but I really needed the ICA to have a complete contrast between what came before this and what follows and closes things.

5. Musette and Drums

If told that I could only ever hear one more track by Cocteau Twins before their music was denied to me for all time, it would be the closing track from Head Over Heels.  Don’t ask me to explain or justify myself…..it’s the way of my world.

Looking back at the list of songs, I’m happy with what I’ve come up, especially as there were some from SHA that I’d likely have made room for.  But there are so many I regret not including.

JC

 

MIXING POP AND POLITICS (AGAIN)

The news headline and coverage from Ukraine these past few weeks have been heartbreaking.   After one particular grim bulletin, I was thinking that I should somehow use the blog to reference the war, but it just felt as if I was being tactless.   The images of carnage made me think of the poster which inspired this:-

mp3: Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

Nicky Wire‘s words backed by James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore‘s music.

Incredible and indeed mind-blowing fact.  This ode to the idealism of Welsh volunteers who joined the left-wing International Brigades fighting for the Spanish Republic against Franco’s military rebels, was hi-jacked by the far-right British National Party in 2009 for use as part of its campaign against what it described as the violence, hatred, fragmentation and despair happening in London as a result of multiculturalism. Click here for more background, where you’ll also be relieved and happy to read that immediate action was taken to have the song removed.

I bought one of the two CDs that the single was issued on back in 1998. It was the one with two remixes:-

mp3: Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next (Massive Attack Remix)
mp3: Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next (David Holmes Remix)

The remixes are exactly along the lines of what you’d expect from those involved.  The Holmes mix is epic, coming in at over ten minutes in length.

Thank you for reading and listening today.

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Fifty-two: WISHING…

I’ve mentioned previously that A Flock of Seagulls proved to be the worst headline band it’s ever been my misfortune to see.

Here’s the thing.   I saw one of their singles in a charity shop a while back going for 25p.  I decided to buy it and give it a listen.  Turns out that while it is ridiculously derivative of its time, it is also a cracking synth-pop mid-tempo tune:-

mp3: A Flock of Seagulls – Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)

Before placing it on the turntable, I couldn’t quite work out if I actually knew it or not.  I thought the song title was familiar, but I couldn’t come up with a tune, chorus or lyric.  But that all changed within a few seconds of the needle hitting the groove.  Memories of actually dancing to it came flashing back…..

I still had to look things up for the info, details and facts.

It was released as a single in October 1982, climbing all the way to #10.  It would also be included on the album Listen, which was released in April 1983.

The version on offer today is ripped straight from the 7″ vinyl.  If you don’t like it, then be grateful that I didn’t seek out the album version, as it is about a minute and a half longer. And be truly thankful that the 12″ version wasn’t on offer in the charity shop as it comes in at a whopping nine plus minutes, and I’m guessing had all sorts of the electronic beeps and blips that were the fashion back in 1982.

But if you do like it, then I am simply pleased, as usual, to be of some use.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 39)

I wasn’t entirely sure about including this in the series, but given it is on 7″ vinyl, albeit in very limited numbers, I’ll use it to take the story forward.

2000.  The Fall line-up that had recorded The Marshall Suite, from which Touch Sensitive and F-oldin Money had been lifted as singles, stayed together for the writing and recording of The Unutterable, a CD-only album that received a decent amount of positive press.  It was issued by Eagle Records, yet another new label for the band to spend some time with, albeit the album proved to be the only original release. Looking at the history of Eagle Records on Discogs reveals a distinct lack of singles, and none were taken from The Unutterable.

2001. The line-up was no more, either through decisions to quit or having been sacked.  It’s a real state of flux, and out of the chaos emerges a 7″ single, but only available if you happen to subscribe to Flitwick Records, a little-known English label.

mp3: The Fall – Rude (All The Time)
mp3: The Fall – I Wake Up In The City

The on-line info(as well as printed on the sleeve) reveals that the musicians involved were MES (vocals), Ed Blaney (guitar, vocals), Jim Watts (guitar, bass) and Spencer Birtwistle (drums), although only MES and Blaney were involved on the a-side, in terms of writing and performing. Other on-line info reveals that Rude (All The Time) was originally recorded by Blaney’s band Trigger Happy in 1996.

It’s a very peculiar a-side, just Blaney on acoustic guitar and MES offering up some sort of vocal.  The b-side is much more of what you might expect, albeit there’s a fairly lo-fi, fuzzy production over which MES does his thing.  Enough fans liked I Wake Up In The City to vote it in at #30 in the Peel Festive Fifty of 2001.

The other thing which is strange is that Ed Blaney was never officially a member of The Fall, and he’s more often referred to as a ‘contributor’ on this 7″ and Are You Missing Winner?, the album released later in 2001, but from which no singles were lifted. Given that ‘Winner’ is regularly cited as possibly the worst Fall studio album of all time, this might well be a blessing.

Oh, and further information gleamed from various sources indicates that Blaney was, for a long time, a close friend of MES, taking on managerial responsibilities for the band for a period of time, while 2008 saw the release of Smith and Blaney, an album’s worth of material which, I think is is fair to say, was critically savaged on release.

Only 500 copies of the 7″ single were pressed up and given away.  The asking price on Discogs is £275.  To really confuse things, a later single on EP would be released in 2005, with the title Rude (All The Time) – I’ll deal with that in a few weeks time, but in the meantime will just say the EP was a CD only release and the track Rude (All The Time) wasn’t on it….

JC

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #299: SISTER VANILLA

From wiki:-

Linda Reid, better known by her stage name Sister Vanilla, is a Scottish singer-songwriter. She is the younger sister of The Jesus and Mary Chain core members, Jim and William Reid.

Linda was born in 1971 in East Kilbride, Scotland. Despite being only a schoolgirl during the early breakthrough of her brothers’ band The Jesus and Mary Chain in mid-1980s, she eventually became a vocalist, contributing to the track “Mo Tucker” on the band’s album Munki in 1998.  She also accompanied the band while touring for the record. Following the band’s demise less than a year later, Jim and William proposed recording an album with her. The sessions took place over the next several years, with the album being partly home recorded at Linda’s flat and partly recorded at Reid brothers’ studio, The Drugstore. The Reid siblings were joined by Stephen Pastel of the Pastels and former The Jesus and Mary Chain guitarist Ben Lurie.

Linda debuted her album, Little Pop Rock in 2005 through Japanese P-Vine record label. It was released under the alias “Sister Vanilla”, which was a nickname given to her by her brothers during their childhood. Embraced by critics and fans as “a pop-wise, slightly sunnier variation on the band’s signature sound”, the record was reissued by Scottish label Chemikal Underground in 2007.

And here’s what Chem have to say about things:-

A long time in the making, Little Pop Rock pre-dated the Mary Chain reunion shows and was essentially recorded in stages at a time when Jim and William were not on speaking terms.

Nevertheless, the finished album is a triumph – recalling the earlier days of the seminal band and highlighting their uncanny knack of marrying timeless pop with effortless cool. It’s far too easy and wholly inappropriate to undersell Linda’s contribution to this album though: it’s her breezy vocals that lend a lightness and a charming ‘girl/boy pop’ angle to the whole affair, not to mention her lyrics which easily sit alongside the offerings from her venerated siblings.

Judge for yourself:-

mp3: Sister Vanilla – Can’t Stop The Rock

JC

A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW….

I really wasn’t sure how to approach today’s posting on the back of the exploits of the guest hosts these past few days.  I’ve chosen to keep things really short and, for nostalgia’s sake, to bring out the old logo one more time.

Here’s De La Soul with something a bit obvious as my way of saying thanks to the Three Masketeers for three very enjoyable and enlightening days:-

mp3: De La Soul – The Magic Number

Ah, feck it.   It’s unlikely the trio will be coming together for something of that magnitude again, so it’s time for the big reveal:-

Don Diego de la Vega (aka Zorro) – flimflanfan
Kathy Kane (aka Batwoman) – strangeways
Eustache Duager (aka The Man In The Iron Mask) – me

JC

UNDER THE BRIDGE

With age comes beauty. This beauty was well worth the wait.

To state that the influence of Sarah Records continues to resonate would be somewhat of an understatement. Only the foolhardy, or terminally biased, would argue otherwise.

Throughout a particularly respectable life span in pop’s spotlight, Sarah Records (1987 – 1995) was loved and derided – probably in equal measure – as it ploughed its own path; ignoring the naysayers. It’s legacy, much like Postcard Records before it, sees copies of rare releases change hands for hundreds of pounds to fans keen to indulge themselves in the authentic sound of the twee revolution.

In celebration of the attitude and music released by Sarah Records, Skep Wax release the fourteen track LP, Under The Bridge. I like to think that the LP title suggests that a lot of water has passed ‘Under The Bridge’ since these, once label mates, came back together to create this remarkable tribute. You could be forgiven for thinking that the bands involved have been inactive throughout the intervening years, however many have continued to release under their original names, some have morphed into new bands and others continue to play live.

Lovingly cuddled by Luxembourg Signal’s dream pop grandeur to The Wake’s dream pop raggedness, these 14 tracks tell an updated, unfolding story of a disparate music scene from bygone days; its naivety, its defiance and its enduring influence that cast a net far beyond the indifferent, suffocating term of ridicule, ‘twee’.

Under The Bridge waves a warm welcoming hello to fans past and to fans present, for they are legion. It offers an engaging smile to the curious and to those unfamiliar. It sticks a forceful two fingers in the face of historical detractors, cemented in their self-imposed limitations.

Make no mistake. Under The Bridge is an exemplary exercise in genre defiance.

Imagine, if you will, placing this gorgeous vinyl on your turntable only to be immersed in: hazy psychedelic pictures painted by Miles Davis; authentic 60s pop in the vein of Francoise Hardy; the sound of Television and Magazine in a post-match punk / new wave fisticuffs showdown – non-innocent bystanders include the Fire Engines; bristling fuzz-jangle that makes you yearn for The Shop Assistants and Strawberry Story; a suave, 80s pop-nod that wouldn’t sound out of place nestled within The Pet Shop Boys’ cosmopolitan playbook; the brutal noise and blissful echoes of Swervedriver, Slowdive and 14 Iced Bears; the caustic and oft-times riff-induced, Stiff Little Fingers; reverb-drenched vocal harmonies that lift you skywards ever hopeful and reminiscent of Lush; a wigged-out, space-drone that pulses with nostalgia – akin to Loop and Spacemen 3; an acoustic, Smiths-like, instrumental trip that drips like vegan honey – sophisticated in its charm and twisted Girl Group sounds that ooze the incandescent joy of a twenty-first century Shangri-Las.

We think we can dispense with the dismissive and lazy “Twee? C86? It all sounds the same” nonsense. Can’t we? Many of the bands, once disgruntled with the Twee / C86 definition, have come to embrace the term, reclaim it in much the same way as many fans did in the midst of time with their Tweecore call to arms of Twee As Fuck. Whatever the Twee / C86 movement or scene was, it was never one sound. If anyone was to listen to a collection of songs from this scene and claim they all sounded the same we’ll counter-claim that they hadn’t actually listened. With so many bands involved, and so many personalities and egos in those bands, it could never be one sound. Not ever.

We had heard only a few tracks from the album when Ian Key at Louder Than War noted in his review of the LP

“Under The Bridge is a pop gem. Some are punk rock, some are indiepop, others are dreamy swirls of fuzz. Some are gentle, some are full of rage, but all of them are defiantly sensitive, literate and full of DIY spirit.”

Having now heard the LP in its entirety, we’d be fools to disagree.

Sarah Records and Skep Wax artists and bands would, we imagine, acknowledge at least some of the above influences on their own musical journeys and will, we hope, agree that in turn they have influenced such movements as: Riot Grrrl, Shoegaze, Grunge, Britpop and Indiepop. Certainly, bands from all of the above scenes have, at one time, cited Sarah bands as influences.

The scene, whatever you want to call that scene, had and continues to have its feet firmly planted in a punk DIY spirit. Under the Bridge is a welcome addition to that hallowed, defiant tradition.

It’s a wonderful collection of pop music for those discerning enough to listen.

It’s available on 12” vinyl (including 16-page booklet) and CD, or it can be downloaded directly, all fromSkep Wax at:

https://ndrthebridge.bandcamp.com/releases

The 12” vinyl and CD can also be purchased from your local record shop.

The Three Masketeers

THE THREE MASKETEERS MEET BETH ARZY

JC writes:-

Today, the blog is devoted to the continued adventures of The Three Masketeers.

Having, successfully I would argue, come up with a definitive 12-track ICA looking at the career of Amelia Fletcher, our swashbuckling trio of Don Diego de la Vega, Eustache Duager and Kathy Kane, have set out on a quest to obtain an exclusive interview with another stalwart of the scene that was so wrongly labelled and maligned as ‘twee’ by the UK music press.

The next four paragraphs should, I feel, be read out loud, using the range and timbre of an esteemed narrator of your choice…..I’m personally going for Stephen Fry.

SF: Sarah Records. An indie-label from Bristol, England with a distinctive, influential and rich legacy. It existed between 1987 and 1995, offering up exactly 100 releases, the vast majority being 7″ singles, all of which attract silly money on the second-hand market.

The Three Musketeers are of the view that many of the musicians most closely associated with Sarah are still making wonderful pop music. If you don’t believe them, then I respectfully suggest that you take yourself in the direction of Under The Bridge, a compilation album being issued by Skep Wax Records which is due to be released this coming Friday, on 17 March 2022. (https://www.skepwax.com/ndrthebridge)

It could be said that it’s a reunion of sorts. The album is made up of fourteen entirely new songs. Six of them are by bands who are still going all these years later. The remaining eight are by bands where different line-ups have evolved over time. Some musicians will be featuring with more than one band.

One of those making multiple appearances is Beth Arzy, thanks to her being part of The Luxembourg Signal and Jetstream Pony. Beth has very generously given of her time to talk to The Three Masketeers about her many years as a musician and her involvement with Under The Bridge.

TTM : Hi Beth. A huge thanks for agreeing to chat with us and allowing the conversation to be shared with the readers of The Vinyl Villain blog. Many of the readers and regular contributors to this little corner of the internet will may only know vaguely of your name and the bands you’ve been part of over many years, so if you don’t mind, a couple of quick questions about yourself and how you became a musician

First of all, where did you grow up?

Beth: Hi – Thank you for the questions! Growing up I was bounced around a lot between Florida and California in the USA., but I’ve now been in London, England for the past 22 years.

TTM: When growing up what bands were your favourites and which most helped shape your love of music?

Beth: My first favourites (aged 5 onwards) were The Monkees, Helen Reddy, Glenn Campbell, The Bugaloos and The Wombles. Then I was kind of into Olivia Newton John and Kenny Rogers when I was 10, then as a pre-teen fell hard for Nik Kershaw and Duran Duran.

When I was around 15 I heard my first Jesus and Mary Chain song and that was it, the next few years were all about Bauhaus, The Jam and The Jesus and Mary Chain and the rest was history. Love of tambourine = The Monkees, love of fuzzy guitars = JAMC, love of moody synths = DD.

TTM: Your first band was Aberdeen, whose initial 7″ EPs, ‘Byron’ (1994) and ‘Fireworks’ (1995) are part of the Sarah Records discography. How did it come about that a band from California came to the attention of a record label based more than 5,000 miles away?

Beth: Sarah Records came to my attention when a friend in California, (Brandt), would have house parties and showcase all his recent Parasol Records acquisitions.

Parasol was a mail order record shop run by an amazing human called Angie Heaton who was also an epic musician. You’d ring up and Angie would just talk for hours about all the latest indie-pop singles and Brandt would buy most of them and play them for us; most of them being on Sarah Records.

TTM: LTM Recordings issued ‘What Do I Wish For Now?’ an Aberdeen retrospective album in 2006. It is a bit intriguing that one of the reviews described you as sounding like a mix of Galaxie 500 and Trembling Blue Stars, especially given the fact that you joined the latter band at the turn of the century, and played with them until they called it a day in 2010.  What are your favourite memories and highlights of those ten years?

Beth: Running into Martin Freeman at a record shop was pretty cool. Oh, you mean in relation to Trembling Blue Stars?!!

The whole decade was a highlight! Getting to make music with people who were essentially The Field Mice is an all-time high! Getting to sing with Bobby Wratten and Anne Mari Davies is beyond an honour.

TTM: These days, you are involved with a multitude of bands, but in particular The Luxembourg Signal, which you formed in 2014 mostly with American friends, and also Jetstream Pony, who are based in the south of England and got together a few years later. I think it’s fair to say that you’ve worked with some incredibly talented folk right across the music business, so would you mind sharing a few words about some of them?

Beth: I think we formed Jetstream Pony in 2017 but that seems a long time ago now! I’d happily talk all day about the two bands I’m most involved in these days.

The Luxembourg Signal has Johnny Joyner who writes the music and was in the later incarnation of Aberdeen as was our drummer Brian Espinosa.

Brian’s wife Kelly Davis is also in the band, playing guitar, along with our friend Daniel Kumiega on bass, and Betsy Moyer who I sing with – she is the better voice on the records – and the line-up is completed by my long-suffering best mate Ginny Pitchford on keyboards.

For Jetstream Pony, Shaun Charman (guitars and backing vocals) writes most of the music and I write most of the lyrics, as well as playing keyboards and providing the lead vocals, but everyone does a little of everything. Shaun was the original drummer for The Wedding Present and still mates with the Gedgester, so we get to do nice things with them. Shaun and Kerry Boetcher (bass and backing vocals) were in a band together a long time ago called Turbocat, and we have two alternating drummers who are both EPIC – Tony Bryant who used to be in The Popguns and Hannes Müller who is in The BV’s.

Oh, Shaun was also in The Popguns at one point! What was the question again?!!!!

TTF: Thinking back to how and when it all started in California in the early 90s, did you ever imagine that, the best part of thirty years on, you and so many of your contemporaries would still be making great pop music, culminating in you being such an important part of the release of Under The Bridge, especially given the fact that The Luxembourg Signal have the all-important task of opening up the record with ‘Travel Through Midnight’?

Beth: Mates, I didn’t even think I’d be alive 30 years on! I know what you mean though, the opportunities just get better and better and the people I now call friends were heroes of my adolescence. I’m very lucky!

I still get butterflies in my tummy when I think that Amelia Fletcher even knows who I am, let alone that Jetstream Pony has played with Catenary Wires and Swansea Sound. *blush* And Rob. Sorry Rob. Rob too.

I think Travel Through Midnight is a great opening song for Under The Bridge. Betsy’s vocals are so transcendental, and the song just lets you know… this compilation is going to be something special!

TTF: Finally, there are a couple of all-day events in Bristol and London next month to support the release of the compilation. What are you most looking forward to from playing at those shows?

Beth: We (Jetstream Pony) get to play with some seriously great bands; bands I used to lie in my room when I was in my early 20s and listen to in California.

We are on the bill alongside The Catenary Wires, Secret Shine, St Christopher, The Orchids, Soundwire (ex-The Sweetest Ache) and Useless Users (Ex – Action Painting/current Secret Shine) at The Thunderbolt in Bristol on Saturday 23 April, and then a day later on we are in London at The Amersham Arms, playing again with The Orchids, Secret Shine, St Christopher, The Catenary Wires, and Sepia Sound (Paul from Blueboy).  My old body can’t keep up with all the good times ahead!

TTF : Again, thank you so much, Beth, for giving so freely and generously of your time. It has been an absolute pleasure.

We agree that Travel Through Midnight is the perfect opener for the compilation album and sets the scene perfectly for something, which, as you say, is something special. We’re delighted that JC is giving us a third day on the blog tomorrow, specifically to offer up a review of Under The Bridge, but we will sign off today with some songs in which you’ve been involved with over the years.

Aberdeen – Byron
Trembling Blue Stars – Helen Reddy
The Luxembourg Signal – Distant Drive
Jetstream Pony – Self-Destruct Reality

The Three Masketeers

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #309: AMELIA FLETCHER

JC writes……

This is another first for the blog. It’s one I’m particularly excited about for all sorts of reasons that I won’t dwell on just now for fear of giving too much away.

The blog, for the next three days, is being taken over by The Three Masketeers, a trio of allegedly mysterious indie-pop aficionados whose obvious love and affection for the music and the musicians who make said music, will surely help to brighten up your days and perhaps introduce you to some songs you may otherwise not be familiar with.

There will be three separate but interlinked pieces, beginning with an ICA, followed by an exclusive interview, and rounded off on Thursday by a review of a soon-to-be-released album.

So, I’m off on a holiday (of sorts) till Friday, but in the meantime, you can find yourselves in the very capable hands of Don Diego de la Vega, Eustache Duager and Kathy Kane.

AMELIA FLETCHER GOES FORTH: A GUEST ICA by THE THREE MASKETEERS

A number of contributors to this blog have previously claimed that narrowing things down when pulling together an ICA is a near-impossible task. Having spent hours agonising over how to distil the output of Amelia Fletcher into a single, albeit wholly imaginary piece of 12” vinyl, we can confirm this to be the case.

This one contains 12 songs. As you’ll see from the specially created album sleeve, it encompasses a career which started in 1986 and continues still to provide great joy and delight in 2022. It’s not a chronological ICA, but it does start with one of the earliest songs on which Amelia took centre stage, and ends with something from a very unexpected but wonderful album released at the tail end of last year.

SIDE A

1. Talulah Gosh – Talulah Gosh (1987)

The blame for all what follows could, allegedly, be pinned on the fact that The Pastels provided their fans with wonderful badges back in the day. Amelia Fletcher and Elizabeth Price happened to strike up a conversation with one another at a gig in a small venue in Oxford in 1985 thanks to them wearing such badges.

They soon formed Talulah Gosh, a five-piece band and in 1986 signed to the Edinburgh-based 53rd & 3rd Records, finding themselves at the forefront of a scene that was soon labelled as ‘twee’ by the UK music press. The fact that Amelia called herself ‘Marigold’, while Elizabeth went by the name of ‘Pebbles’ and that early songs included Pastels Badge and Beatnik Boy, perhaps gives an idea of the sense of fun and mischief involved.

Elizabeth took leave of the band before the year came to an end, and was replaced by Eithne Farry as co-vocalist and on tambourine, with her first contributions being on this, the band’s third single release in May 1987. It is, quite simply, the greatest mission statement in all of indie-pop history. (Eustache Dauger)

2. Heavenly – She Says (1991)

It was awfully difficult to choose just one Heavenly song for this ICA, and in the end a bit of a personal curveball won the day.

She Says is from 1991, but isn’t on the original Heavenly Vs. Satan LP of that year. In fact, this 7” single came out not on Sarah Records of Bristol at all, but on K of Olympia (capital, no less, of Washington state).

A curveball? Simply because I’ve only recently truly fallen for She Says’ jittering, twitchy charm. It’s a less immediate prospect than other Heavenly singles – debut I Fell In Love Last Night (1990), its follow-up Our Love Is Heavenly (1991) or the likes of the more robust P.U.N.K. Girl and Atta Girl, both from 1993. But She Says’ spine of recurring doo-doo-doos, angel-class harmonies from Amelia and Cathy Rogers, plus a construction that’s almost located in the quiet/loud arena won the day.

Fancy a look at an amusing video of the band gadding around, in the indiepop style? (Kathy Kane)

3. Sportique – How Many Times….? (2002)

To paraphrase Anthony Strutt, “Sportique isn’t really a group. It is an underground indie supergroup…”

Amelia contributed to Sportique from the second LP onwards. Founded by ex-members of The Television Personalities and the Razorcuts, How Many Times…? sounds kitsch, anachronistic and just a wee bit shouty. I love it! With its throbbing bass, stabbing guitar and swirling, psychedelic keyboard charging towards that pleading vocal refrain… “how many times will I ask the same question…”  A gem.  (Don Diego De La Vega)

4. Marine Research – Bad Dreams (Peel Session, 1999)

Taken from Marine Research’s solitary Peel session (broadcast 18 May 1999), Bad Dreams is notable in employing a call-and-response device featuring Amelia and David Gedge – whose own Wedding Present and Cinerama ventures pop up often on this blog.

By lending a vocal Gedge was of course returning a favour, Amelia having guested on the Weddoes’ debut album George Best way back in 1987 (as well as supplying backing vocals and shrills to the band’s 1988 Beatles cover Getting Better).

Bad Dreams pits Gedge’s dialled-down delivery against Amelia’s zappier replies. The effect, and the lyrical content – fixated on the somewhat lost under-achieving male and the smart, successful female – magics up a picture of an indie odd couple: a contrasting pair of soulmates kind of doomed to be life partners despite it all.

Amelia has often advanced less-travelled takes on relationships, sometimes skewering male excess and manipulation, as well as traditional gender roles and assumptions. Continuing that theme – one demonstrated by previous band Heavenly in songs including Hearts And Crosses, Itchy Chin and Sperm Meets Egg, So What? – Bad Dreams casts the female as the empowered, positive breadwinner.

The file offered here is taken directly from the Peel broadcast. It’s topped and tailed with the DJ’s comments, including an endearingly unnecessary grammatical correction. (Kathy Kane)

5. Catenary Wires – Face On The Rail Line (2021)

Although Catenary Wires formed in 2014. It was 2016 before I became acquainted. Stripped down at this early stage to a duo, with long time musical, and life partner, Rob Pursey, Intravenous wafted like a wonderful breath of the freshest air. It is gorgeous.

I’m sure that some of you will appreciate that when someone asks you to name your favourite song by a particular band your answer may not be a straightforward as the questioner hoped. I zigged. I zagged. I hummed. I hawed and eventually decided upon Face On The Rail Line, recorded with a full band, and reminds me, in some ways, of Take Me Home, Country Roads which then diverges and soars leaving me to hit repeat. Hit repeat! Hit repeat!!  (Don Diego De La Vega)

6. The Pooh Sticks – Who Loves You (1991)

Following a big, confident, swaggering intro, Who Loves You (its title devoid of question-mark) swiftly switches to matters indiepop via a shift in pace and Amelia Fletcher’s brightly-delivered opening lines. Head Pooh Stick Hue Williams takes on the bulk of the rest of the song, prior to a closing – this time duetting- reprise of the intro. This bouncing 1991 single is from the Pooh Sticks’ excellent Great White Wonder LP on the Cheree label and is loads of fun.

A bit of personal indulgence if that’s OK: this song, and the LP it’s from, is forever connected with what will be coyly referred to as the Amelia Fletcher Converse Vandalism Incident – an infraction that, allegedly, took place in Edinburgh in July of 1991. (Kathy Kane)

SIDE B

1. Heavenly – I Fell In Love Last Night (1990)

Talulah Gosh called it a day in 1988. Three-fifths of its members when that day was called went on to form Heavenly, whose membership was augmented by Rob Pursey, an original member of Talulah Gosh but who had left very early on. Yup, the same Rob Pursey mentioned by my dear friend Don Diego at Track 5 on Side A of this ICA.

Heavenly signed to Sarah Records, and over the course of seven years would release four albums and seven singles (eight, if you count a split 7” released with bis in 1996).

I Fell In Love Last Night was the debut. A melodic and upbeat number about the break-up of a relationship, with more than a passing nod to the harmonies of 60s girl groups. It has featured previously on this blog, in a guest post written by the imperious Comrade Colin. He put it far better than I’m capable of doing:-

“Heavenly…..were the perfect Sarah band, and not just because of their history as Talulah Gosh or the fact they clearly hearted The Pastels. They just seem to capture the essence of what Sarah was all about; the guitars, the lyrics, the look and the love for, well, love. And, yes, in the beginning, the Heavenly view of love was a wide-eyed and hopeful vision of love, for sure, but what’s wrong with that, exactly? Oh, also worth mentioning is the fact that the ‘A’ side is relatively epic for a Sarah single – over 5 minutes long – but it holds together brilliantly and has a great run-out in the closing few minutes, building and building into a crashing finale. Lovely stuff.” (Eustache Dauger)

2. Catenary Wires – Mirrorball (2021)

It somehow feels natural that a song about falling out of love should be followed immediately with something from the other side of the coin.

The setting is a seemingly appalling, 80s-theme night in which the music is dominated, for the most part, by chart fodder. The wishes of those with, shall we snootily say a more refined taste, are very much along the lines of hanging the DJ. And yet, amidst the noise, chaos, drunkenness and bedlam, something quite magical happens.

A lovely wee video was made for this one. You’re a heartless bastard if this doesn’t put a smile on your face.

Oh, and coming up next, something which shows that even back in the day, the indie-kids loved their disco dancing. (Eustache Dauger)

3. Amelia Fletcher – Wrap My Arms Around Him (1991)

Wrap My Arms Around Him appears on the 1991 single/ep Can You Keep A Secret? The first time I played the EP I genuinely felt a parting of the ways. This wasn’t Talulah Gosh. This wasn’t Heavenly. What was it exactly? Initially, the opening track Can You Keep A Secret? was just too close to PWL for my liking, with those upfront keyboard ‘stabs’. Then came Wrap My Arms Around Him… still a sense of unease. However, on each track I did enjoy the vocals.

To quell my unease, I convinced myself that Wrap My Arms Around Him sounded rather like the much-vaunted new kid on the block St. Etienne, particularly Kiss And Make Up (Sarah Cracknell version), which is perhaps unsurprising as it’s a ‘re-imagining’ of Let’s Kiss And Make Up, a song by Amelia’s Sarah Records label mates, The Field Mice.

It took no time at all for me to love this uplifting ep.  While there has been a bit of an internal bun-fight in choosing a favourite, regular plays put my choice of Wrap My Arms Around him in little doubt.

Of the EP Amelia has said “…I wanted to be a disco diva, in the Yazz or Lisa Stansfield mould.” (Don Diego De La Vega)

4. Marine Research – Hopefulness To Hopelessness (1999)

Marine Research was a short-lived vehicle for Amelia, lasting depending on who you believe, between eighteen months and two years (1997 – 1999). It’s my own personal view that the band members were more driven during this period as they played live (even making trips to the USA), recorded radio sessions – some of which were filmed – and played live radio sessions, within what is a short timescale. The opening lyrical salvo suggests Amelia wasn’t quite done with her diva inclinations…

“I still want to have a chart hit
Go to pop parties
I still want to go to Paris in the spring
I still want to get my hair cut
Just like Jean Seberg”

Hopefulness To Hopelessness. A song about hope and defiance driven by a pulsing bass. (Don Diego De La Vega)

5. Tender Trap – Do You Want A Boyfriend? (2010)

So sweet that even the top-brand toothpastes struggle, prepare for rhymed references to Walking In The Rain and the Jesus And Mary Chain as Amelia and co. – ‘co.’ being fellow Trappers Katrina Dixon, Elizabeth Morris, John Stanley and, of course, Rob Pursey (whose presence decorates all of this ICA) ponder the track’s title query.

The song’s as out-and-out joyous as the likes of Talulah Gosh’s Bringing Up Baby or Over And Over by Heavenly, and that’s a tone assisted by a fun video of the band playfully interpreting the single’s theme. That said, a perhaps-darker response to its query is hinted at via the lines:-

“I bought new clothes and played guitars
I even changed my hair
But I don’t really see what I’m doing for me”  (Kathy Kane)

6. Swansea Sound – Corporate Indie Band (2021)

A new band full of familiar old faces and one of those rare positive things to emerge from the lockdown situations associated with the efforts to suppress the COVID outbreak.

Rob Pursey has just written a new song that he feels is just too fast and frantic for Catenary Wires. He decides to fire it off to head Pooh Stick Hue Williams.

Hue declares that he loves it. He re-records the vocal, from a cupboard in his house in Wales, returning it to Rob who is with Amelia in their home in Kent. Before long, work gets underway on a second song, using a similar process where the musicians don’t actually meet up in person.

The decision is taken to release the two songs as a mail-order limited edition cassette single. They get played on BBC Radio 6 Music and the cassette sells out quickly, and, almost by accident rather than design, Swansea Sound comes into being as a fully-fledged and active band.

With the addition of Ian Button on drums, and some guest vocals from The Crystal Furs, an indie-trio from Portland, Oregon, an album’s worth of material emerges, and is issued at the end of 2021 by Skep Wax Records, earning a recommendation as an ideal Christmas gift by this blog’s esteemed and urbane host, JC. (Eustache Dauger)

JC adds……

I know I said I was going to shut up for a few days, but just like the Four Tops, Gene, and Edwyn Collins….I Can’t Help Myself.

A huge thanks to The Three Masketeers for a delightful edition to the ICA canon. As mentioned at the outset, they will remain in charge of TVV for the next couple of days, and there’s more treats on the way in the shape of an interview with someone involved with Sarah Records back in the day, followed by an album review.

Hopefully, you’ll all tune in for those.

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Fifty-one: GET THE MESSAGE

This is my sneaky attempt at rescuing what has been an ignored new series, in which I take something written within an ICA and repost it. Maybe offering up the song as a high-quality vinyl rip will help matters.

mp3: Electronic – Get The Message

From ICA 205, February 2019:-

The long-awaited follow-up single to Getting Away With It. It’s been said that Johnny Marr was reluctant to layer multiple guitar parts as he was really unsure of recreating old stuff when he was so keen to move on, but persuaded otherwise by Bernard Sumner for which we should all be hugely grateful. Backing vocals are courtesy of (the late) Denise Johnson, probably best known for her work with Primal Scream.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 38)

August 1999, and the decision was taken to release a second single from The Marshall Suite.  By this time, I’d lost interest in The Fall, and it was only reignited about a decade later when I started blogging and discovering that there were a few fans out there who had stuck by them.  I’ll keep the series going, but it really will be minimal stuff in terms of offering up thoughts and observations, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll track down all the b-sides.

mp3: The Fall – F-‘oldin Money

In a press interview just a few months earlier, MES had said:-

“F-‘oldin’ Money” [also on the new record], that’s half a cover; it’s based on a piece of rockabilly from around 1955. I can’t even find the publisher or whether the bloke’s alive or anything. I don’t like to just lift things; I’ve always been against that.”

The song was written by Tommy Blake, whose compositions over the years had been covered by George Jones and Johnny Cash, among others.  He also did land himself a recording contract with Sun Records but without ever achieving a hit single under his own steam.  I’m not convinced MES was telling the truth in saying he knew nothing about Blake, and indeed given how he lived his life, I think MES was attracted to him, in that he suffered from alcoholism throughout the majority of his life and at the age of 54, was murdered by his third wife over marital disputes on Christmas Eve in 1985.

The single was issued on 2 x CDs, offering up four different versions/remixes of songs that could be found on The Marshall Suite:-

mp3: The Fall – This Perfect Day (new version)
mp3: The Fall – Birthday Song (new mix)
mp3: The Fall – The REAL Life of The Crying Marshall (new version)
mp3: The Fall – Tom Ragazzi (new mix)

Tom Ragazzi is a new mix of the track Anecdotes + Anecdotes In B.

This Perfect Day is another cover. The original vocal take on The Marshall Suite isn’t too bad, but this new version is an abomination.  Here’s the original, a tremendous hit single back in 1977 by Australian punk band, The Saints:-

mp3: The Saints – This Perfect Day

F-‘oldin Money didn’t do much in the singles chart, stalling at #93

JC

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #298: SISTER JOHN

Today’s bio is taken from the band’s Facebook page:-

Sister John are four multi-instrumentalists from Glasgow, formed around the songwriting of Amanda McKeown.

Released in September 2017, their debut album ‘Returned From Sea‘ was described as The sound the Velvet Underground would make if Lou Reed wrote for Vashti Bunyan instead of Nico” and “One of the minor triumphs of 2017, a gorgeous, sparse record”

Their much anticipated eponymous second album was released in January 2019. Pushing forward their ‘lo-fi lush’ sound, ‘Sister John’ added strut and swagger to the folk-infused soundscapes and layered harmonies of ‘Returned From Sea’. Described as “The Beatles jamming with John Cale”, ‘Sister John’ received widespread play across BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio 6 Music.

Their third long player “I Am By Day” was released on 30th July 2021 by Last Night From Glasgow (LNFG)

Sister John are Amanda McKeown, Jonathan Lilley, Sophie Pragnell, and Heather Phillips.

As a subscriber to LNFG, I’ve vinyl copies of all three albums by Sister John, and I have to admit that I have fallen for their charms, particularly enjoying things when I’ve needed to, or wanted to, slow things right down.

I’m guessing that, for the vast majority of you, this will be your introduction to Sister John.  I thought that it would therefore be worthwhile to post one song from each of the three albums, and should you find yourself enjoying and liking what you hear, then perhaps you might be tempted to place an order with LNFG for some vinyl.

mp3: Sister John – Thinner Air (from Returned From Sea)
mp3: Sister John – I’m The One (from Sister John)
mp3: Sister John – How Can I Keep It Alive (from I Am By Day)

Click here to be taken to the Sister John page at LNFG.

JC