THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (13)

The Auteurs broke up in the summer of 1996.

A few months later, the Baader Meinhof LP was released, a period of time wonderfully recalled in the pages of Bad Vibes, including the revelation that someone high up in Virgin Records, the parent label of Hut Records with whom Luke Haines had a contract, sent this in a fax to David Boyd, the head of Hut:-

“I would like to remind you that Virgin Records did not sign Luke Haines to make political statements. He is signed as an entertainer.”

In response, Boyd sanctioned a photo call at the Munich Olympic stadium where, in 1972 at the adjacent Games Village, 13 Israeli athletes had been killed after a terrorist attack. Haines really was testing everyone’s patience and understanding.

The Baader Meinhoff album gets mixed reviews in that it was loved and loathed in equal measures, best summed up by UK broadsheet newspaper The Guardian stating that Haines had wasted some of his best music on an impenetrable subject matter. No single is released to accompany it…. but there was a one-sided etched single given away free with vinyl copies of the album:-

mp3 : Baader Meinhof – I’ve Been A Fool For You

1997 proved to be a quiet year, but it was at this point in time that Haines formally hooked up with John Moore and Sarah Nixey to create Black Box Recorder.

Chrysalis Records signed the band, something which Hut Records seemed OK about, and in 1998 there were two flop singles – Child Psychology and England Made Me – before the release of a poorly selling album, also called England Made Me.

At the same time as this was happening, The Auteurs had come back together again….I’m guessing it was to fulfill a contractual obligation for a fourth album, as the reasons aren’t quite ever explained in Post Everything, the second volume of Haines’s memoirs, published in 2011 and covering the period 1997-2005. There are a number of aborted efforts at getting the recording process going, but eventually, from August – October 1998, things take shape.

The crazy thing is that the subsequent results yielded next to no reviews when the LP, How I Learned To Love The Boot Boys, was released in July 1999, but those who were paying attention, rightly recognised it as a masterpiece, such as this from Michael Hubbard in musicOMH, a London-based online magazine:-

If you’re going to be influenced by the music of decades other than the present one then you may as well allow that music to emphasise your own work rather than making your own music emphasise someone else’s.

Bjorn Again are great, no doubt about it – but they emphasise Abba. Who would they be otherwise? It has, in the recent past, been something of a conundrum; lots of ’70s disco music revivalist tripe has been scribed and has spawned comeback careers for everyone from Martha Wash to Burt Reynolds.

All great stuff – I’m sure the ’70s were fun at the time and Boogie Nights was a refreshing film – but really, mes fruits, this is the ’90s. Why live in the past? Why not just learn from it and improve upon it? The case for evolution has not been stronger since Charlie D popped his clogs and finally we have, in the shape of Luke Haines, a man prepared to lead the fightback.

Haines last graced the Albums shelves with his side project, Black Box Recorder’s England Made Me, which I loved immediately. The atmospherics of that record are transferred to How I Learned To Love The Bootboys and given some spices to further improve the flavour. Haines claims this record to be twelve singles; “maybe not twelve hits”, says the nihilist, but we see – and hear – what he means immediately.

At once a personal album (1967 was the year Haines first looked upon the world) and a fusion of myriad styles (Asti Spumante and Your Gang Our Gang, for instance), there are tracks that remind one of everything from The Sex Pistols to Ziggy Stardust, Gary Numan to Blur, yet I suspect that this eclectic record conjures different bands for each listener, depending on what they’ve heard before. Haines refines Numan’s atmospherics, he plays Johnny Rotten subtlely, he uses one or two Bluresque riffs rather than songloads and everything somehow works. In fact, in works bloody brilliantly.

Although every one of these songs shrieks CLASS!!! at the eardrums, stand-out tracks must surely be Asti Spumante, Your Gang Our Gang, Johnny and the Hurricanes, The Rubettes and title track How I Learned to Love the Bootboys. If you don’t yet own this album then you are missing out. Go buy.

In recent years, more writers haved belatedly heaped praise on the album, especially when it was reissued in 2014 as a 3xCD expanded edition in which the original 12 tracks were joined by an album of b-sides and rarities, along with a live album from November 1999, recorded at the London School of Economics, on the occasion of The Auteurs final UK gig.

There was one single taken from the album, complete with two new b-sides  All three tracks are very listenable:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – The Rubettes
mp3 : The Auteurs – Get Wrecked At Home
mp3 : The Auteurs – Breaking Up

The a-side featured backing vocals from John Moore and Sarah Nixey, thus providing a neat bridge between what had just come to pass and what would prove, the following year, to be the commercial high point of Luke Haines as an entertainer.

I’ve previously said that Black Box Recorder wouldn’t feature as part of this series, and I’m keeping it that way. The series will continue, running through early into the new year, with this idiosyncratic look at the solo career of Luke Haines, very little of which has seen the release of singles or EPs, but something in the region of 12 albums. You’ll be pleased to learn that chaval will be lending his talents to this venture…..

JC

PS : I might be away oh holiday just now, but I was reliably informed that an old friend was intending to come out of the woodwork today.  If my intel is good, then clicking here should do the trick.

 

 

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (12)

After Murder Park entered the album charts at #33, dropping down the following week to #52 before disappearing altogether. Sales are disappointing and Luke Haines decides to call a band meeting and to inform everyone that once all the touring commitments are over, firstly to the USA and then Europe, there will be no more Auteurs.

The front man was already planning his next move which was to take up the offer from the record label to work up the idea of a Baader Meinhof album, but there was to be one last hurrah for the band via the release of an EP about which one critic would later say ‘proved to be one the best things Haines has ever released… and probably the most miserable.’

Kids Issue features four songs, two of which, the title track and A New Life A New Family, hadn’t previously seen light of day.  They were all taken from a John Peel session, recorded on 20 February and broadcast on 8 March 1996, just a week after the release of the new album and just as it was falling out of the charts.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Kids Issue (Peel Session)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Buddha (Peel Session)
mp3 : The Auteurs – A New Life A New Family (session)
mp3 : The Auteurs – After Murder Park (session)

Confession time.

Until getting things underway on this series, I had no idea whatsoever that this EP even existed. Wiki states that it reached #163 in the charts….I had no idea that the singles chart went so deep (or least it did in 1996)….which probably equates to sales of about 1,000 (which is a complete guess on my part!).

I did know the songs from their inclusion on a 3xCD retrospective Luke Haines Is Dead that was released in in 2005 but I’ve now managed to pick up a second-hand copy of the actual EP.  These four songs are an absolute delight, and it is hard to reconcile them with the fact that they were recorded at a time when the band was about to give up the ghost………..well, for now anyway, as will be explained in Part 13 of this series which will be here at the same time next Sunday on this very same channel.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (11)

Previously on The Singular Adventure of Luke Haines:-

“It was April 1995 before he was in any sort of shape to return to the studio, where he took the songs he had been writing while recuperating and teamed up with Steve Albini, the producer best known from his work with Nirvana, It took just 13 days to finish work on the new album, which was given the title After Murder Park, and it was presented to the record label in May 1995. For one reason after another, its release is consistently delayed and it doesn’t see light of day until 1 March 1996. But that’s a story for another day”

We have now reached ‘another day’, via last week’s wonderful guest contribution from chaval with his thoughts on the masterful Back With The Killer EP.

It took just six weeks for Hut Records to issue the next 45 by The Auteurs, the all-important track to fully showcase the forthcoming album recorded so many months previously with Steve Albini. It came in at just over two minutes in length; it featured a swear word in the second line amidst a lyric that seemed to make little, if indeed any, sense; the responsibility for the promo video was handed to an up-and coming director named Chris Cunningham whose ideas  bordered on the surreal; and it had a title that, in the event of a war breaking out or some sort of aeronautical disaster incurring, faced an automatic radio ban:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Light Aircraft on Fire

I really didn’t like this single when I first heard it, thinking it was the final nail in the coffin for The Auteurs and indeed for Luke Haines himself. It’s a hard-edged, rockier sort of sound, which to be fair, should have been anticipated given who was in the producer’s chair, miles away from the chamber/baroque-pop that had been such an attraction in the early days. It was only when I read Bad Vibes more than a decade later did it hit me that Haines had come to the conclusion he was both unable and unwilling to play the game in terms of being a pop star, with things like the broken ankles from the fall that had brought a previous tour to an end and the release of the Baader Meinhof single being clear signs that he wanted someone to drive the stake through the heart of his band.

And it was only in listening to the track alongside the others that would appear on After Murder Park on its release a month or so later, did it make some sort of sense why Light Aircraft on Fire had been selected as a single – the other tracks were even less commercial sounding, although many of them bordered on genius, albeit from the mind of a complex individual. It was a long way removed from country houses, cigarettes and alcohol and the lives of common people. The fact that the album had titles such as Unsolved Child Murder, New Brat In Town, Tombstone (in which he dreams of blowing up the hotel of choice for the Britpop cognoscenti) and Dead Sea Navigators are all you need to know, not forgetting a wonderfully powerful version of an old b-side, Everything You Say Will Destroy You.

The reviews were again reasonably positive, with one or two being astute enough to suggest that Haines had things in common with the newly revitalised Radiohead and that songs on After Murder Park would not have sounded out of place on The Bends.

But that was all for the future. The most disappointing thing from the release of the new single was that the b-sides felt like the b-sides, which seemed a first in respect of The Auteurs (albeit the demo showed promise!):-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Buddha (4-track band demo)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Car Crash
mp3 : The Auteurs – X-Boogie Man

All told, it was no real surprise that the single failed to crack the Top 50.

Tune in next week for another instalment is this tale of the top of the flops.

JC

PS : Video bonus

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (10)

A GUEST POSTING by CHAVAL

Cast your minds back a couple of weeks to JC’s celebration of Chinese Bakery, a single which featured a throwaway line about “Bob Dylan on a motorbike”. For Dylan’s 1966 Woodstock crash that released him from the album/tour/voice of his generation treadmill, Haines’s equivalent was that reckless drop off a wall in San Sebastian.

As well as instilling respect for the difference between sand and concrete, Haines’s leg fractures allowed him an interval of reflection. Like some post-Britpop James Stewart in Rear Window, Haines brooded and read, and like Dylan in 1967, unleashed his creativity in several directions, only tangentially connected with the pop marketplace.

By the end of 1995 and drift into 1996, Haines’s career was all over the place. The Auteurs’ best album After Murder Park was in the can but still awaiting release. Baader Meinhof, Haines’s unhinged, brilliant homage to 70s terrorism, was about to baffle critics with its mash-up of crunching retro-funk, dub and lyrics about hijacks. Always ready to muddy the waters, The Auteurs released the Back With The Killer EP, fresh material that took Haines’s lyrical provocations further than ever, albeit expressed very succinctly (the four tracks clock in at a total of just over nine minutes).

mp3: The Auteurs – Unsolved Child Murder is as uncompromising as its title, a dark depiction of an event dragged from the news headlines and given unsettling intimacy, exploring its devastating effect on a suburban family. Haines says it was based on a childhood memory of a local doctor’s family whose child went missing, presumed dead. Haines’s 70s childhood would prove a rich and often disturbing seam of material from this point on.

Haines had covered vaguely similar territory on Daughter Of A Child on Now I’m A Cowboy, but otherwise the only indie-rock point of comparison with regard to subject matter would be The Smiths’ mawkish Suffer Little Children from their first album. Where Morrissey’s lyric is mostly adolescent melodrama, Unsolved Child Murder is a richly detailed and empathetic depiction of tragedy, irrational desperation and a viciously judgmental world, wrapped up in a gorgeously melancholic tune (the EP version is enhanced with a French horn omitted from the album track that appeared later).

Along with the title track of After Murder Park, it showed how far Haines had shifted from the usual lyrical terrain of mid 90s popular music. The band had just finished recording these tracks in Abbey Road when Paul McCartney looked in and amiably asked if he could hear what Luke had been working on. “I politely decline the ex-Beatle’s request,” Haines recalled. “I don’t want him to be the first person to hear these songs; they’re too good for him.”

This startling work merited that kind of pride, but this EP contains another masterpiece:

mp3: The Auteurs – Back With The Killer Again takes the direct route of Lenny Valentino musically, although the atmosphere is distinctly psychotic. In Tim Mitchell’s deranged non-biography of Haines the author suggests the song is about “a man who takes drugs to turn himself into a murderer”, an explanation that may have come directly from Haines. Certainly the lyric offers a disturbing cluster of allusions to nerve gas, bad dope, primed bombs . . .

Those better versed in 70s counter-culture might be able to identify all the references in the line “John got Barrett for the lot, it must have been the Microdot”. All I can offer is that the Microdot happened to be the name of the early 70s gang of underground LSD chemists eventually busted by Operation Julie (as immortalised in the Clash song), who were rumoured to have links with the German terrorists Red Army Faction aka Baader-Meinhof, bringing it all back home to Haines’s reading lists. “A damning, self-mythologising riposte to the current crock that is the UK scene,” is how Haines described the song.

If the other tracks on the EP can’t match the impact of the first two, that’s not to say they are filler.

mp3: The Auteurs – Former Fan continues the murder theme, seemingly from the viewpoint of a Mark Chapman type obsessive whose disenchantment with a former idol turns homicidal. Or it might be a twisted love song, you tell me.

mp3: The Auteurs – Kenneth Anger’s Bad Dream name-checks the underground film-maker (or “pornographer” as Haines somewhat harshly calls him when introducing the song at live shows) and keen disciple of the Satanist Aleister Crowley. Haines’s insatiable cultural curiosity is on display once again, and given a pretty, folk-rock-ish tune.

The EP reached number 45 (says Wikipedia, Haines’s memory says 48), a commercial disappointment in the hit-crazed climate of Britpop, but undeniably a remarkable achievement considering the artistic reach and lyrical ambition.

chaval

BONUS POSTING : ESPECIALLY FOR ECHORICH : A FURTHER SINGULAR ADVENTURE OF LUKE HAINES

Echorich is an incredibly valued member of the TVV community, and when I picked up this comment just a few minutes ago, I really had to respons in the only way possible:-

All the songs that surround the release of Now I’m A Cowboy are what I go back to when listening to The Auteurs. There is so many songs that remind me of the sounds I heard growing up on music from the Downtown NYC music scene. Bits of Johnny Thunders, lots of Television, but filtered through what was then current music tropes. I think back and wonder how legendary The Auteurs might have been if they were around playing CBGB’s in ’76 or ’77.

Not sure if you will include this, but my favorite track from Now I’m A Cowboy, Underground Movies, was only released as a single in either France or Germany. I can’t believe it wasn’t release EVERYWHERE as an album single. Listening to it again today reminds me of how engaging and timeless it is. It also contains one of the best lyrics I have ever heard –
Four weeks later in April
I took her to the doctors
Said, “I’ve no prescription
For compromised solution” – MAGIC!

I hadn’t intended to feature it in the series as, to the best of my knowledge, it was only a CD promo single in France, a country where The Auteurs were highly popular, even more so than they were in the UK. But for Echorich, and also reflecting that two different mixes (more rock orientated and radio-friendly!!) had been made available:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Underground Movies (alternative version)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Brainchild (alternative version)

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (8)

October 1994.

Oasis go top 10 with their new single Cigarettes & Alcohol.  But the chart isn’t quite Britpop crazy just yet.  The Top 5 slots are held by Take That, Pato Banton, Whigfield, Bon Jovi and Cyndi Lauper.  Elsewhere, singles by Madonna, Elton John, Wet Wet Wet, Boyz II Men, Gloria Estefan, Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey, R Kelly and East 17 are riding high.  It’s not a vintage week and Luke Haines is probably very glad not being asked by his label to compete.

But in the absence of a third single from Now I’m A Cowboy, he comes up with an idea to get The Auteurs noticed in a completely different market place.  And Hut Records go for it.

Here’s wiki:-

The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq is a remix EP from British intelligent dance music producer μ-Ziq (a.k.a. Mike Paradinas). It was released October 1994, on Hut Records in the UK then released as μ-Ziq vs. the Auteurs on Astralwerks in the US during February 1995. μ-Ziq remixes tracks from the “Now I’m a Cowboy” album by The Auteurs, about which in his memoir Bad Vibes, singer Luke Haines claimed this album to be his version of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music —that it was deliberately unlistenable and mocking the critics who gave it great reviews.

μ-Ziq at this point was still very much an underground name, whose work was incredibly experimental (in later years he would come to the fore as one of the pioneers of mixing electronic music with drum’n’bass and creating a different sort of sound for clubbers). His work with The Auteurs was the first time he has been commissioned by a mainstream label, and I’ve no doubt that he was selected specifically by Luke Haines for his uncompromising approach to the project. Judge for yourself:-

mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Lenny Valentino 3 (8:09)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Daughter of A Child (6:10)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Chinese Bakery (4:51)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Underground Movies (4:40)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Lenny Valentino 1 (12:27)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Lenny Valentino 2 (8:50)

I’ve put the times in of each track….you’ll see that the two-minute masterpiece that was Lenny Valentino got stretched out a fair bit.  I can’t imagine the EP got any plays on BBC Radio 1………

JC

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