THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (7)

Chaval told the story last week of how The Auteurs sought to bounce back from the disappointment of a close-run thing with the 1993 Mercury Prize by recording and releasing an astonishing and surreal single that stalled at #41.  He also highlighted just how good the b-sides were, all of which bore well for the release of the next album.

Prior to that, we were treated to another advance single.  As was all the rage at the time, there were multiple formats – 2 x 7″ singles or 2 x CD singles offering up different choices for b-sides, with either a white or black picture sleeve.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Chinese Bakery

This was another triumphant and superb piece of music, opening with a melancholic vocal and cello refering to someone from uptown going downtown to where the brokers and dealers socialise…and then the bass and guitars kick in with a fair amount of ferociousness.    At any other time other than April 1994, this would have been given all sorts of column inches in the music press as the next essential element in how British indie pop music should be developing…..except that it was released about a month after Blur had experienced their first Top 10 hit with Girls & Boys and in the same week as the debut single by a new band called Oasis.  Oh, and Suede were still riding high although there were rumours that Bernard Butler wasn’t entirely happy with his lot.  In short, the media had enough to keep themselves occupied with concerning themselves about the views of Luke Haines.

Chinese Bakery stalled at #42.  It was a tough one to take.

The white 7″ and CD single offered up two more outstanding cuts as b-sides, with the latter seeming to be a title for a Haines Manifesto :-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Government Bookstore
mp3 : The Auteurs – Everything You Say Will Destroy You

The black CD offered up one new acoustic song and an acoustic version of the new single:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Modern History (acoustic)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Chinese Bakery (acoustic)

The following month, the album Now I’m A Cowboy hit the shops. Eleven biting, sarcastic, knowing and occasionally angry/resigned pieces of music, including the most recent two singles and a full band version of Modern History. It got rave reviews but it just didn’t really connect with the buying public, albeit it went Top 20 on the week of release. The problem was that it went down really quickly and the record label bosses despaired that it didn’t have any songs to compete with the happy-go-lucky stuff that was coming out of other parts of London and from Manchester. As Haines would relect many years later in Bad Vibes:-

Blur release their annoying Parklife album at approximately the same time as Now I’m A Cowboy. It sells 46 billion copies in Swindon alone and the world changes forever. From this point on anything that sells less than 46 billion is deemed a resounding failure. We are now on a different trajectory.

The coming weeks will show just how very different a trajectory was deliberately chosen……

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (6)

A GUEST POSTING by CHAVAL

When you miss out on a major prize, the correct way to behave is the magnanimous nod at the victors, a half-raised glass to toast their success and a cultivated air of being above such trifling matters.

Luke Haines didn’t opt for that route. Shortly after learning that New Wave had failed to win the 1993 Mercury Music Prize by one vote, Haines could be found at the table of winners Suede.

“What I mean to say is ‘Well done’,” he recalled in his peerless memoir Bad Vibes, “What I actually say is ‘Give me my fucking money now’. With menace.” Suede are tolerant of such behaviour but ugly scenes ensue. Haines isn’t proud. “I have achieved optimum inebriation and am acting like a peasant.”

The Mercury Prize debacle put a line under the baroque, bohemian swoon of New Wave and ushered in a toughened-up Auteurs, disdainful of the cheery bonhomie of the nascent Britpop movement (exemplified at the time by one of Haines’s many betes noirs, The Boo Radleys). The immediate results are a coruscating single that sounds like nothing that has gone before.

The November 1993 release of Lenny Valentino might have confounded fans who were expecting more of the arch, Kinksian New Wave stuff. Instead they got an up-tempo two-minute searing guitar assault with a very strange lyric about the soul of 60s angry comic Lenny Bruce being transferred into the body of early 20th-century movie heartthrob Rudolph Valentino.

mp3: The Autuers – Lenny Valentino

It wasn’t really the stuff of jaunty Britpop chart success and breakfast radio ubiquity, but Radio One put it on their A-list and it came very close to being a genuine hit, stalling at number 41.

The CD B-sides are excellent and essential, Car Crazy being a call-back to the New Wave sound, a cello-driven queasy ballad and an early addition to the canon of Haines road songs. Vacant Lot has a cryptic lyric with a hefty hint of the menace that was to characterise future Auteurs work.

mp3: The Autuers – Car Crazy
mp3: The Auteurs – Vacant Lot

The CD single also included the supposed 12” mix of Lenny Valentino, which is about seven seconds longer and not hugely different.

mp3: The Auteurs – Lenny Valentino 12″ mix

The 7” vinyl single offered an alternative B-side, a strumming and strings obscurity later available on the completists’ CD compilation Luke Haines Is Dead.

mp3: The Auteurs – Disneyworld

Residents of the continent were treated to a double A-side single, combining Lenny V with a Francophile track from the imminent new album Now I’m A Cowboy, of which more next week . . .

mp3: The Auteurs – New French Girlfriend

chaval

JC adds……

It’s a genuine thrill to have chaval come on board for this….and I echo every word he says about Lenny Valentino and its various b-sides.

 

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (5)


I finished last week’s post with mention of Luke Haines incredulous reaction to him and James Banbury, on cello, selling out a gig in Paris in February 1993.  One of the tracks from the show, Staying Power, has been included as a b-side of the 10″ version of How Could I Be Wrong, but such was the quality of the performance that Hut Records tried to drum up more interest in The Auteurs with the pressing of a 7″ single, consisting of live renditions of four more songs, all of which had appeared on New Wave.

The Live Acoustic EP wasn’t put out for general sale via shops, but instead seems to have been available, on request, by return mail. I’m not sure if it the release was widely publicised – I certainly don’t have a physical copy despite being an obvious member of the target audience. Having said that, the fact it is available for as little as £3 on Discogs would indicate a fair number were sent out and that it’s not too rare an artefact.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Housebreaker (live, 1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Junk Shop Clothes (live, 1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Star Struck (live, 1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Home Again (live, 1993)

All these years later, you’ll find that the Luke Haines of 2019 plays shows in which it is just him and an acoustic guitar, and on the odd occasion you might get to hear one or more of the above tracks.

Worth mentioning that the venue was the Passage Du Nord Ouest, one of the most famous and historic music halls in the city which actually closed down in 1996, but re-opened as a theatre in 2008.

Tune in next Sunday for a guest contribution as part of this series.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (4)

The second official single saw the light of day in May 1993.

Despite being one of the best 45s of the era, it was a monumental flop, not getting close to the Top 75.

mp3 : The Auteurs – How Could I Be Wrong

I’ve mentioned before how I’m a total sucker for cellos on pop singles, so you can see why I have such a love for this one.  Indeed, it was this song, more than any of the other early releases, that got me interested in The Auteurs. I still find it hard to believe that daytime radio weren’t remotely interested in playing it.

The single was made available on CD as well as two vinyl versions – 10″ and 12″.

There were two new songs made available as b-sides:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – High Diving Horses
mp3 : The Auteurs – Wedding Day

These are decent enough songs. maybe not quite as strong as the previous b-sides, but they were far from mere throwaway efforts.

The 10″ version of the single was a limited edition effort and it also offered up a live version of Staying Power (a b-side of debut single Showgirl) as recorded at a gig in Paris in February 1993.  Sadly, I don’t have a copy….

Worth mentioning that the Paris gig is mentioned quite extensively in Bad Vibes, the first of what have so far been two hugely enjoyable autobiographical volumes written by Luke Haines:-

“Early February and Paris is calling me. France is a country where English rock groups traditionally sell jack shit, and so despite all the press attention in the UK weeklies, no one at the record company has particularly high expectations. Then something happens.  The French press add two and two together and come up with 12. You see the album’s called New Wave – which translates as Nouvelle Vague. The band is called The Auteurs. Auteur theory, Cahiers du Cinema, ah, it all makes sense, a band of English Francophiles. Hell, the singer’s name even means Luke Hatred. The second most touted band in Great Britain seem to have French art house leanings.

“The Cellist, Manager Tony Beard and I fly to Paris to test the water with an acoustic gig at the Passage Nord Ouest…a Bohemian venue close to the Gard du Nord station. (The low-key acoustic promotional gig is a sure sign that the record company thinks the artist is going to tank, so keep the costs down and that’s your lot. Ta very much).

“There’s some kind of movie premiere at a cinema a few hundred yards from the venue and they’re queuing round the block for a glimpse of Gerard Depardieu.  Then it hits me.  The punters aren’t here to worship the old French idol; they’re queuing to get a glimpse of the new one.  C’est moi.  The tiny 250-capacity venue sold out in minutes. We could have filled it three or four times over. The gig is a revelation. The French existentialists listen in religious reverance. The New Wave songs deconstruct perfectly with acoustic guitar and cello.  The audience lap it up, surrendering themselves to abandon at the end of each song. Four standing ovations later and I’m back in the dressing room.”

I’ll return to this very gig in next week’s instalment……

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (3)

I ended last week’s posting with the words “There were a number of really strong candidates for the next official single, the one that would, from the marketing perspective, hopefully get the band onto Top of The Pops and lead to increased sales of the album, thanks to more folk become aware of what they were capable of. Except……”

……The Auteurs got sidetracked by an invitation to be part of the Rough Trade Singles Club, whose mission was to save the 7″ singles by offering subscribers a one-off record every four weeks, recorded by artists ranging from the talented but unknown to the highly collectable.

The first release had been in October 1991.  The Auteurs would be the fifteenth in February 1993 .  There would, in the end, be 47 such pieces of plastic before the venture folded.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Housebreaker (acoustic version)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Valet Parking (acoustic version)

Both songs had originally featured on New Wave and the first of them must have been one of the tracks that Hut had been eyeing-up for themselves as a 45, albeit the lyric was maybe a tad dark and pessimistic.

The limited nature of this release meant it had no chance of taking the band into the charts.  Maybe the next time?

JC

PS……delighted to announce that I’ll be getting some assistance with this series as chaval has accepted an invite to contribute the occasional guest posting, starting in a few weeks time.

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (2)

Thanks for the positive feedback after Part 1.  I wasn’t entirely sure if looking at the career of Luke Haines would be of much appeal, but there’s certainly enough there to keep it going for a bit.

The Auteurs released their debut album in February 1993.

New Wave contained 12 tracks and was issued on vinyl, cassette and CD. The majority of folk would likely have gone for the CD version as the format was now very popular thanks to dramatic and regular reductions in the price of the technology on which the discs had to be played and everyone with an opinion was now declaring that vinyl was on its deathbed.

Those who went for the vinyl can be smug as copies these days are fetching decent sums via the second-hand market, especially if you have the version that came with a bonus 7” single:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – She Might Take A Train
mp3 : The Auteurs – Subculture (They Can’t Find Him)

The latter of the these tracks could also be found on the CD, but only if you were clever/patient enough to wait for a little over 20 seconds after the album had seemingly come to an end as it was a ‘hidden’ track. The former, however, was only available via the free 7” single, a situation that remained unaltered until 2005 when a 3xCD compilation was issued.

New Wave was a well-received album in terms of the music critics and the increasing number of fans being attracted to the band. Reviews were almost universally positive, with many comparing Haines favourably with the likes of Morrissey and Ray Davies as a result of his ability to make wry and humorous observations of everyday life in England. There was very much a playful dark tone to many of the songs, cleverly disguised by some ridiculously catchy guitar-orientated songs, beautifully underpinned by the use of the cello. The album would make it to the shortlist of the recently established Mercury Prize which sought to identify the ‘best’ LP released by a British act in a given year (the first award in 1992 went to Primal Scream for ScreamadelicaThe Auteurs lost out narrowly in 93 to Suede’s self-title debut effort).

For once, the critics were right as New Wave is an astonishingly good and incredibly confident debut. There’s not a duff moment throughout its 40-plus minutes; furthermore, the inclusion of both songs on the bonus 7” would not have diminished the overall quality.  Subculture, in particular, is something of a stand-out.

There were a number of really strong candidates for the next official single, the one that would, from the marketing perspective, hopefully get the band onto Top of The Pops and lead to increased sales of the album as the general public become more aware of what The Auteurs were capable of.  Except……………..(ah, you’ll just have to come back and visit next Sunday!)

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (1)

I’ve decided that The Auteurs should be the next act for the Sunday singles rundown, followed by some Luke Haines solo 45s. I won’t be including The Servants or Black Box Recorder, both of which were very fine bands that had Haines in the line-up, on the basis that he was part of a collective rather than the main focus of attention. Another side-project, in the shape of Baader Meinhof, will almost certainly feature…..

For those of you who aren’t immediately familiar with this bona-fide maverick genius of the UK music scene, I’ll use the opening post in the series to set the scene.

Luke Haines was born in London on 7 October 1967. Like many other talented musicians, he tried getting a band going, on more than one occasion, while he was still at school. But it took until he was almost out of his teens before he found himself in a studio when he contributed guitar and piano to the six tracks on the debut solo album released by David Westlake, who was the frontman of indie band The Servants, whose first two singles had been well received by the music press and had found favour with John Peel.

Haines then officially joined The Servants in 1987, appearing on two excellent albums – Disinterest (1990) and Small Time (1991) – although the latter wasn’t actually given a commercial release until 2012 and only after the former had been cited by Mojo magazine, in December 2011, as one of the greatest British indie records of all time. The failure to obtain a contemporary release for Small Time led to the break-up of The Servants at which point Luke Haines made his move to front his own band.

It wasn’t actually meant to turn out that way, judging by an interview Haines gave in 2016 in which he revealed he had wanted to make a solo record but realised he needed a band to play the songs live. He enlisted his girlfriend Alice Readman on bass and his friend Glenn Collins on drums, playing gigs in all the small venues that made up the scene in London and at which you would inevitably find one or more journalists looking to ‘discover’ the next big thing to write up.

There was something of a fuss about the band, to the extent that they were able to go into a studio as an unsigned band and put together a debut album, safe in the knowledge that their management were conducting a bidding war which was won by the relatively new Hut Records, an indie label that was in fact wholly owned and bankrolled by Virgin Records.

The first single was released in late 1992, on 12” vinyl and CD:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Showgirl
mp3 : The Auteurs – Staying Power
mp3 : The Auteurs – Glad To Be Gone

Showgirl is a very fine debut, one which benefits immensely from the use of the cello, played by James Banbury who would, in due course, become a full-time member of the band. It is, looking back, quite a strange selection for the debut 45 in that it wasn’t really commercial enough to ensure widespread radio play, but it was one which would still enable the muso journalists fans to talk up the band and their potential, pointing out that that they were a cut-above and totally different from so many of their peers making music for indie labels. Yes, there were guitars and there was a distinctly English-type vocal delivery, but the subject matter was off-kilter and distinctly un-rock’n’roll. It very much worked as an appetizer for the release the following month of the debut album…..

Also worth mentioning that the two b-sides are well worth a listen with The Auteurs, akin to Suede (the band the media most often linked them to) wanting to offer up quality tracks on each single so that they would be enjoyed and treasured by fans.

JC