I’ve not been very good with the whole blogging thing in recent weeks….especially keeping up with the wonderful comments left behind here after each post…..and I’ve not visited many old friends for far too long. Not sure when things will get back to normal, but I’ve a couple of hours tonight to catch-up on a few things with T(n)VV.

Delighted to see some love for Popscene and it’s b-sides. I’m a big fan of Blur…they are an act I’ve long wanted to do an ICA on but there’s too much to choose from. I have had an e-mail offer for an ICA from a regular reader which I’ve accepted so there’s something to look forward to.

The Robster said this earlier today….

Popscene was not the hit the band or label thought/hoped it would be. They were gutted. It was planned for the second album, along with the follow-up single Never Clever, but when Popscene bombed, they scrapped plans for Never Clever’s release. After the second album was rejected by the label (who wanted it to include some “hits”), the band decided Popscene should left off altogether in a bit of a strop. “We thought if you bastards didn’t want it then [when put out as a single], then you’re not getting it now.” Since then they’ve held true to that outlook and never released it again, despite many believing it to be one of their finest moments. Never Clever remains an obscurity…

That may well be the case….but it hasn’t stopped me all that often before.

mp3 : Blur – Never Clever

Enjoy. It’s a belter of a tune.





Back in 1992, I bought a 12” single from a clearance/bargain bin in a record shop in Edinburgh for 99p. It was by Blur, and at the time all that I knew about them, as I was going through a phase of not buying music papers or magazines, was that I had quite enjoyed There’s No Other Way, their hit single from a few months previously.

The single I purchased that day was called Popscene.

Years pass, and this bit of vinyl has now become a lot more valuable. While it did reach No.32 in the charts, it was a record that was deleted shortly afterwards, never to appear again. It wasn’t included on the 1993 LP Modern Life Is Rubbish, nor was it included on the CD of the Greatest Hits package that Blur released in 2000. Bizarrely enough, it did appear on the Greatest Hits DVD, and it was played live on the Greatest Hits tour when the set-list consisted of all the singles played in the sequence they were released.

Incidentally, I was at the Edinburgh gig of that tour which was the opening night of the Corn Exchange venue. It was a strange one – aside from hating the layout and acoustic of that venue (a view I hold to this very day), it was odd knowing precisely which song the band was going to launch into next. It took away all of the anticipation of wondering about what may or may not be on the set-list that night.

But back to Popscene.

I’ve no idea why the band have made it so difficult to get a copy of this record. Perhaps it’s their way of rewarding all the long-term fans who were around prior to the success of ‘Modern Life’ and the phenomena that was Parklife. If I did want to flog it, I could ask for £20-£25 as a minimum…not a huge amount of money but not bad for something out of the bargain bin.

As for the song itself, I think it’s one of the band’s best. It was more frantic and less poppy than the stuff that had featured on the debut album and was an indication of the sort of sounds that would come out on the next LP, which I still reckon was one of the best released in the 1990s.

mp3 : Blur – Popscene

Three tracks were on the b-side, all of which are well worth a listen:-

mp3 : Blur – I’m Fine
mp3 : Blur – Mace
mp3 : Blur – Garden Central

I’m Fine could fit on either of the band’s first two albums in that it is sort of baggy sounding in places but it’s hinting also at the more classic pop material that would appear on Modern Life Is Rubbish.

Mace is perhaps let down a little bit by a less than stellar vocal – it’s almost as if the band has come up with a slightly out-of-kilter tune that Damon Albarn at that point in his career wasn’t entirely comfortable with….but once the hits eventually came, he would prove to have no such problems. It’s a song that wouldn’t have felt out of place on 13 a few years later.

Garden Central is a real curio….clocking in at the best part of six minutes in length. It’s an instrumental and very much displays the talents of Graham Coxon. It’s the sort of tune that I’ve long thought coule be taken and mixed to within an inch of its life to make a great dance number.

Maybe Blur weren’t as lauded as the likes of Suede or Oasis for the quality of their b-sides, but there’s no doubting they were always willing to offer something a wee bit different.

And I’m just saying….if anyone fancies it….there hasn’t yet been a Blur ICA (I don’t expect Drew to make the offer mind you……)



30, 20, 10 (Part 6)

The latest installment in the monthly series looking back at the songs which were #1 in the indie charts on the first day of the month 30, 20 and 10 years ago.

Last month I threatened to call a premature halt to this series if it continued to throw up anomalies such as Elvis Presley gaining top spot in September 2007.  So what do we have this time round?

1 October 1987 : mp3 : M/A/R/R/S/ – Pump Up The Volume

Absolute class.  A bona-fide indie-hit and indeed regular chart hit, giving 4AD a hugely unexpected and welcome injection of cash.

1 October 1997 : mp3 : Blur – M.O.R.

The fourth song from the album 13 to hit #1 in the indie charts that year.  It’s easy to forget just how much was riding on that album given how much of a panning that The Great Escape had endured two years previously.

1 October 2007 : Jack Penate : Second, Minute or Hour

I mentioned Jack Penate back in July. I’ve no wish to go over old ground.

Two out of three….the series lives to fight another day!



30, 20, 10 (Part 3)

The latest installment in the monthly series looking back at the songs which were #1 in the indie charts on the first day of the month 30, 20 and 10 years ago.

Thus far, it has shown decent enough stuff (for the most part) in 87 and 07 while demonstrating that 97 was a year in which the major labels took dross to the top of the indie charts thanks to the exploitation of a loophole around distribution.  R. Kelly and The Rembrandts cannot, by any definition, be classed as ‘indie’.  Third time lucky perhaps?

1 July 1987 : mp3 : The Soup Dragons – Can’t Take No More

The band’s fifth release and their first, and indeed only 45, to take the top spot in this chart. It was probably helped a bit by the fact it was released in three different vinyl formats – 7″, 12″ and a live 12″ , the latter which included a rather appalling version of Purple Haze.  It’s all a long way removed from the baggy/dance stuff that took them into the proper charts a couple of years down the line.

1 July 1997 : mp3 : Blur : On Your Own

Food Records by this time were completely owned by EMI and so Blur were only eligible for the chart via that loophole referred to above.  It’s actually one of my favourite tracks of theirs from that era – it’s since been said by Damon Albarn that it was one of the first tunes he wrote with Gorillaz in mind. It climbed as high as #5 in the UK singles chart, again helped by the fact that it was released on 7″ vinyl and well as 2xCD singles with a number of b-sided that had all been recorded live at John Peel‘s home studio at Peel Acres and broadcast on his show on  8 May 1997. Here’s some bonuses for you to celebrate this series featuring that very set:-

mp3 : Blur – Popscene (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – Song 2 (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – Chinese Bombs (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – Movin’ On (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – M.O.R. (live at Peel Acres)
mp3 : Blur – On Your Own (live at Peel Acres)

And now, especially for those of you who like the electronic sort of stuff:-

mp3 : Blur – On Your Own (Walter Wall Mix)

It’s a 15 minute remix courtesy of William Orbit.

1 July 2007 : mp3 : Jack Penate – Torn On The Platform

I was working in Canada ten years ago and hearing this makes me glad of that. This is my first exposure to this particular singer/songwriter.

He was on XL Recordings which that same year also released albums by Radiohead and M.I.A. I’m guessing it was the late teens/festival goers who took him to the top of this chart and to #7 in the UK singles chart. Wiki tells me he was popular in 2006/07 but his second LP in 2009 sort of sunk without trace. His fifteen minutes of fame had come and gone.




The Blur v Oasis ‘war’ of 1995 had swung one way then the other. The Essex band were declared the initial winners thanks to Country House beating Roll With It to the #1 spot but before long the Gallagher Bros had captured the hearts and wallets of a nation once they heard Wonderwall.

Come 1997 a new and different sounding Blur emerged. The fun-loving Britpop band had gone to be replaced by an altogether more serious sounding lot. There was an edge to the lyrics, but much more impressively, there was also an edge to the music. Above all else, where Oasis had seemingly stood still and simply wanted to regurgitate the songs that were the cash-cows, Blur challenged their fans to keep on loving them.

The Comeback single was released on 20 January 1997.

mp3 : Blur – Beetlebum

Was it a dig at Liam & Noel with their never-ending fixation on The Beatles? That’s what it sounded like first time round. It was one of those tracks that sounded OK on the radio but not one that would instantly stick in your brain. But it was popular enough to reach #1, only the second time this had happened to Blur after the afore-mentioned Country House (strangely enough it would be the last #1 single they ever had).

But it wasn’t until around three weeks later that I really appreciated Beetlebum for being a truly great song. I bought the new album, called Blur, and gave it a listen. The lead single was the opening track and as I was impatient, I hit the skip button to listen to everything else afterwards. After about eight songs I realised I owned a CD that was a bit special so I stopped there and there and went back to the beginning. And listened properly to Beetlebum. It sounded so much better played loud on the stereo than it did on the radio…the talents of Graham Coxon, Dave Rowntree and Alex James really shone through…and Damon Albarn provided a great reminder of how good a singer he was. Forget the fact that Oasis were now in a different league to Blur in terms of popularity and record sales…..this was the sound of the most important British band of their era coming good yet again.

Here’s all yer b-side of the single. Warning…there’s a reason they didn’t end up on the LP…..

mp3 : Blur – All Your Life
mp3 : Blur – A Spell (For Money)
mp3 : Blur – Woodpigeon Song
mp3 : Blur – Dancehall
mp3 : Blur – Beetlebum (Mario Caldato Jr Mix)


THE £20 CHALLENGE (Week Seven)


SWC writes…..

This week has been crazy. Exeter has been taken over by Radio 1 and it is bedlam. Badger and I have both been asked to work on the Saturday on site at Powderham Castle. This might sound exciting but it really isn’t. The office where I am sitting, I say office, I mean portacabin, has a view of the back of the urinals from one side and a ‘burrito stall’ from the other. I am not sure which smells worse. The place is over run by people who have never been to a festival or music event before. People who are complaining that you get precisely no change from a tenner from the bar when you order two bottles of pear cider. People who do not normally drink in the afternoon, and in the heat, people who are moaning that there is no big screen TV to watch the rugby.  We also ran out of toilet paper around an hour ago. Its ok – I’ve spied a copy of the Sun which I am reserving for any ‘emergencies’.

And then there is the music. Sigh

Saturday headliners are Mumford and Sons, I’ve seen one of them walking about back here in the ‘enclosure’ wearing a fedora and sporting a beard that looks like he has wrestled a cat and stuck it to his face. They are joined on the bill by the likes of Meghan Traynor (no me neither), Nick Jonas and an act called Sigma who to make matters worse have promised that they will be joined on stage by horse faced professional stupid person Paloma Faith and wanky professional tax dodgers Take That for their brand of watered down pop rave. Its torment. The one saving grace if you can call it that is Jake Bugg, he’s alright, if you like watching a teenager pretend to be Ian McCulloch. Which I do. So there.  Actually his set was pretty good – I watched it later on telly.

The ‘New Music’ tent is marginally better, you do at least get Chrvches, and Tame Impala which should be pretty good and I have scheduled my break in order to watch both. I have also just seen Spring King on the Introducing Stage who were amazing and if you haven’t heard them yet I urge you all to check them out as soon as you can.

mp3 : Spring King – City

To top all this, Badger has just swung by my office – he is one of the lucky ones who has been allowed backstage into the VIP area. He said that it is full of journalists trying to interview Gary Barlow – not that good – but they have flushing toilets, fresh fruit and free water back there. I have a warm bottle of Volvic, a banana that looks like it’s been smuggled anally from the Dominican Republic and a sandwich that looks like it has been trodden on by the crowd on the way back from watching the earlier performance by Sigma and Take That. Anyway, Badger has swung by with this weeks CD.

“I thought you’d be bored so I thought I’d drop this by for you to listen to”.

He’s right I have been bored, so bored that I have just finished counting that there are 73 screws and 19 bolts holding this portacabin together. When the bass from the nearby whirly-gig roundabout throbs the whole places vibrates.

“I got it from the Teignmouth branch of ‘British Heart Foundation’ price £2, I must go, I’m needed to drive Meaghan Traynor to Exeter Airport at four pm.”

This is a true story. Badger drove a pop starlet to the airport on Saturday. He has barely mentioned it.

I open the bag that Badger has left on the desk. It has a note stuck to it which in true Badger style is written in green ink. He does this all the time when he thinks he is being clever. The note reads ‘Another Greatest Hits CD to add to your growing collection’. It is the ‘Best of Blur’. It is the 2xCD set – but in true charity shop style, CD2 appears to be missing. Genius.

The other day I bought Badger’s next CD (from the Rowcroft shop in Totnes) – or I thought I did – it was a copy of the debut album by Rage Against the Machine – only to get it home and find out that it was copied version of the sleeve and inside was an burnt CD of American nu metal fucktards Korn – never has the sound of case crushing underneath wellington boot sounded so refreshing.

I’m not a big Blur fan. However I’ll say this for them, they were incredibly consistent. It is rather ‘Parklife’ heavy for my liking and their best album ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ is woefully under represented here – with ‘Popscene’ and ‘Chemical World’ omitted but the rubbish ‘For Tomorrow’ included.

The thing that used to annoy me about Blur the most was their singer Damon Albarn – his mockney Cockney Cheeky chappie persona annoyed me to the point of violent swearing. I find ‘Country House’ difficult to listen to – the use of the word ‘Jackanory’ to describe how things are going for instance – its just too fake. I also used to live near a bloke who looked like Damon – and then spent all his time and money on perfecting this – and in the mornings when I left for work I use to see him walking to the train station – and it always put me in a bad mood.

Although today, it is cheese making, mates with Dave Cameron, bassist Alex James that annoys me more – no idea why.

Still, it’s hard to argue with the material that made it to this record. The early not quite shoegaze shine of ‘She’s So High’ the bouncy dance cross over of ‘Girls and Boys’ and the newbie (at the time) ‘Music is My Radar’ to pick three excellent tracks.

mp3 : Blur – She’s So High
mp3 : Blur – Girls And Boys
mp3 : Blur – The Universal
mp3 : Blur – Music Is My Radar

It’s a good album – if you own no Blur albums – its worth checking out, but it’s definitely not good enough to joining my list of Greatest Hits Albums worth buying.

So here is the skinny

Bought from Teignmouth British Heart Foundation

Price £2

Left £7

Weeks left 3




The first time I can ever recall Blur was seeing their video for early single There’s No Other Way on TV and more than anything else it was made memorable by the lead singer’s truly awful bowl-style haircut. The song was no more than a standard bit of indie-pop of its time that sounded pleasant enough on the radio and gave the kids something to shuffle around to on the dance-floor. That was early 1991.

The band then disappeared off my radar and I thought nothing more of them. Then about a year later, I picked up a 12” single of theirs in a bargain-bin for 99p. It was called Popscene and it was a radical departure away from the previous single that I had known about – it was fast and dynamic with a horn section blaring away in the background and quite unlike anything else being released at that time.

Again its hard for younger readers to imagine that music fans were once completely dependant on the likes of the NME every week or Q magazine every month to keep abreast of what was happening. All I could gleam was that Blur were trying to crack America without any degree of success, and Food Records were threatening to drop them. Then I read that their second LP had been delayed, partly because sessions with Andy Partridge hadn’t worked out.

In May 1993, they released the song that I’ve selected at #35:-

mp3 : Blur – For Tomorrow

I didn’t actually buy this single – it was a time when I had stopped buying vinyl, and wasn’t prepared to be ripped off at £3/£4 for a CD single when the album would soon be available at £10-£12. So I wasn’t someone who contributed to it reaching the giddy heights of #15.

I listened a lot to the LP Modern Life Is Rubbish, and felt sorry for Blur that the success they craved and deserved continually seemed out of reach. It was a fantastically inventive LP, not unlike so many others by XTC which was hugely ironic given the sessions with Andy Partridge had been ditched in favour of working with Stephen Street of The Smiths/Morrissey fame.

But then out of seemingly nowhere monthly glossies in particular began to take an interest in the band. The fact they were articulating an argument against grunge, which was just about everywhere at the time, struck a chord with a number of emerging young journalists looking to hitch their star to a different wagon. Thus the seeds of Britpop were sewn…

The attention given to the band became justified with the release in 1994 of the single Girls And Boys, a celebration/parody of the particularly British style of hedonism known as an Club 18-30 Holiday which gave the band a Top 5 success and further platforms to slag off the influence of America on British music. Other singers and bands started doing the same – and if you want a perfect example, just check out the song The Campaign For Real Rock by Edwyn Collins – one of his finest ever recordings, and one whose lyrics became part of a series called Poems On The Underground (one of my most treasured possessions is one of the posters from the underground signed by Edwyn…tune in next Monday for more on this!!).

Blur released the LP Parklife in 1994 and went mega. Then they went head-to-head with Oasis for supremacy, and while the single Country House won the initial battle, The LP The Great Escape lost them the war.

The band went off and re-invented themselves yet again. Comeback single Beetlebum struck a chord with many, although I always found it a bit too-Beatlesque to be wholly enjoyable. Then came ‘Whoo-Hooooo. When I Feel Heavy Metal…’

Song 2 is something I will never tire of, and would probably have been the single of choice from Blur, except for one small fact.

Back in May 1994, just before Girls and Boys/Parklife took the band to new heights, myself and Mrs Villain went to see Blur at a now demolished venue called the Plaza in Glasgow. It was an old-fashioned dance hall, and not widely used by touring acts. It was one of those magical gigs where the band hit a high on the first song of the night and never let the momentum drop. The highlight however was For Tomorrow which everyone was now beginning to realise should have been a classic that hung around the charts for months, only we were all too busy either shoe-gazing or listening to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.

It was a genuine hairs on the back of the neck moment….and that’s why For Tomorrow got the nod over Song 2.

The irony of Somg 2 is that it became huge in the States thanks in part to its adoption by so many sports franchises as music to accompany clips played on large screens in baseball, basketball, ice hockey and American football stadia. It was maybe as well that no-one dug too deep to find the anti-American sentiments that were being expressed just a few years earlier…

Blur haven’t officially broken up. Damon has enjoyed great success with his spin-off bands, Graham has become a bit of a cult act with his solo LPs, Alex has written a book, and Dave…..well he seems to be enjoying himself in his own techie-driven world.

We might yet see another album from them in due course. Or maybe not.*

*   that was a real sitting-on the fence prediction back in 2008 wasn’t it?????