FROM THE ARCHIVES – 6 JANUARY 2007

PUT THE NEEDLE INTO YOUR GROOVE

I’ve no football match today, so here’s a bonus posting.

Santa Claus was very very good to me. Mrs Villain scoured e-bay for something unusual, and a box of 7″ singles from Altered Images/Edwyn Collins/Orange Juice ended up coming down the chimney in the old man’s sack. A total of 30 records going back to the Postcard era and containing a few rare gems such as flexidiscs and a Clare Grogan solo single.*

And now that I’ve got my act together and sorted out a replacement stylus for the USB Turntable, I thought I’d share one of the more rare recordings with you.

It’s a very early solo single from 1987 , produced by Robin Guthrie from Cocteau Twins. Like so many songs I end up posting on this blog, it should have been a hit…..but wasn’t.

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Don’t Shilly Shally (Side One)
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – If Ever You’re Ready (Side Two)

The single is on the Elevation label (part of WEA Records) and has the catalogue number ACID4.

*from recollection, the job lot was a little over £30, including postage.  The mania from a vinyl revival was still a couple of years off…..you’d certainly be looking at £100 and upwards nowadays….there were three postcard singles in the bundle along with every 7″, in mint condition, released by Altered Images, including rare picture discs.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #84 : EDWYN COLLINS & RODDY FRAME

It’s a great photo isn’t it? It could be captioned ‘I’ll never be man enough for you’.

Edwyn and Roddy have always been good friends going right back to the Postcard Records era, and Roddy was among the first to offer his services to play in any touring band that Edwyn wanted to put together when he finally ventured out again after his illnesses. Those gigs were memorable for so many reasons, not least hearing Roddy’s effortless takes on the old tunes.

Way back before than, in 1990, the two of them appeared together on stage during one of Roddy’s gigs to promote the release of Stray. It was at the Glasgow Barrowlands in August 1990; I believe that our dear friend Drew from Across The Kitchen Table was present that night. One of their fun-filled and laughter-inducing duelling-guitar collaborations was captured and later made available as a b-side to the CD release of the single Good Morning Britain.

mp3 : Edwyn Collins & Roddy Frame – Consolation Prize

Priceless.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #83 : EDWYN COLLINS

I think I’ve said it all before so I’ll keep things to a minimum today.

But if you need evidence of the impact of Edwyn’s near death experiences, then listen to these two versions of one of his songs; the original dating back to 1997 and the new version featuring on the soundtrack to the documentary film The Possibilities Are Endless (from which the above image is taken) telling the story of his recovery from his illnesses.

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Don’t Shilly Shally (single)
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Don’t Shilly Shally (2014 new recording)

JC

RODDY, EDWYN, MICK AND NORMAN

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It was October 1990 that Roddy Frame last bothered the compilers of the UK singles chart with his bombastic but catchy duet with Mick Jones.  As I mentioned in my ICA effort last August, compiled just after the Boy Wonder had given a tremendous near-homecoming concert at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow, there’s a really lovely piano only version out there, available as a b-side to the 1992 single Dream Sweet Dreams, in which the radio-friendly stomp chart is turned into a thing of beauty.

I had reason recently to dig out the original CD single and I re-discovered that in fact it was a decent release on its own as it contained a slight remix of the album version, two live tracks from a gig at the Barrowlands in August 1990 (one of which on the night was totally unexpected) and a radical remix thanks to Fatboy Slim himself.

mp3 : Aztec Camera and Mick Jones – Good Morning Britain (vocal remix)
mp3 : Roddy Frame and Edwyn Collins – Consolation Prize (live)
mp3 : Aztec Camera and Mick Jones – Good Morning Britain (live)
mp3 : Aztec Camera – Good Morning Britain (remixed by Norman Cook)

The lyric was of course a social commentary on life in the UK under a right-wing Tory government with no prospect of things changing but it was kind of lost in the tune that, with the help of Mick Jones, took Aztec Camera into the charts for that one last time in 1990.  This live version demonstrates just how great a song it is….maybe it is time for it to be dusted down and updated to take account of life under David Cameron…

mp3 : Aztec Camera – Good Morning Britain (live at Ronnie Scott’s)

Enjoy.

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (32)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THURSDAY 10 APRIL 2008

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Now come on…..all of you knew it was only a matter of time before the great man made an appearance….

The fact he’s as low as #32 might surprise some of you, while the fact I’ve gone for a single that isn’t one of his better known may make it a double surprise.

Are you interested enough to learn that Edwyn Collins released about a dozen or so singles in the UK as a solo artist over the best part of 20 years up to 2008? And of these only A Girl Like You bothered the charts. But then again, it bothered the charts all over Europe and beyond (#6 in Australia…), making Edwyn more money for that particular four minutes of work than the rest of his recording career, and indeed his producing career, put together.

So to the majority of people, Edwyn Collins is a something of a one-hit wonder twice over – with Orange Juice and Rip It Up in 1982 and then A Girl Like You in 1994.

I’m not saying all of his solo singles have been instant classics, but it still baffling that he’s only struck gold on one occasion. Another single from the Gorgeous George LP really deserved a much wider audience. It’s long been my view that if something this easy on the ear with such a heartfelt lyric had been given to someone like Robbie Williams to record, then we would have been looking at an instant crowd-pleasing #1……

Having said that, the arrangement from the chart heavyweights would probably have made it unrecognisable from the original….

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – If You Could Love Me

I’ve got both CD 1 and CD 2 of this single as well as a 12″ vinyl version, and between them, they offer up an additional seven songs as ‘b-sides’.

CD1

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – In A Broken Dream
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Hope And Despair
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Insider Dealing

The first of these tracks is a cover version of a song from the 70s, originally released by Python Lee Jackson (with vocal by Rod Stewart). The second is a re-working of the title track of an earlier solo LP by Edwyn. The third is an instrumental clocking in at over 8 mins in length.

CD2

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – If Ever Your Ready
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Come To Your Senses
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – A Girl Like You (Victorian Spaceman Mix)

The first, produced by Bernard Butler, is a misspelling of a track that Edwyn has recorded and released previously. If Ever You’re Ready is also on the LP Hope and Despair, with further different versions available on the b-sides of the singles 50 Shades of Blue and Don’t Shilly Shally. The second is a great track and in my view, wasted as a giveaway on a CD single, while I’m sure you know about the original version of the third…

12″ vinyl

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – If You Could Love Me (M.C. Esher mix)

Somehow I don’t think this will be the last appearance Edwyn makes in my nostalgic and self-indulgent consideration of great 45s.

GOING UNDERGROUND

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A re-post from 4 September 2008

Poems on the Underground was launched in 1986 to bring the art to a wider audience by displaying various poems or stanzas on advertising boards across the London Underground network. Read more about it here.

In early 1995, those in control decided to feature some of the lyrics of an Edwyn Collins song. The genesis of the lines that became so well-known to millions of commuters can be traced back to 1991 when not only did Edwyn’s LP Hellbent On Compromise sell in miserable numbers, but his record label wouldn’t release any singles from it on the basis that they were unlikely to get radio play.

Edwyn’s sound was about as far out of fashion as ever could be imagined. The public had seemingly turned its back on him. He was, in the words of another EC, (Elvis Costello), a man out of time.

He turned primarily to production duties, and most of us who had followed his career from way back now thought his recording days were over. Then, out of the blue, he released what subsequently became his biggest selling LP ever.

Gorgeous George crept out quietly in back in August 1994, on a small Irish label to very little fanfare, and, though many will deny it now, to near silence from the music critics employed by the papers and magazines. A couple of singles were met with just as much indifference.

But there were people out there who got it. One such individual, and I have no idea who, was the person who managed to persuade his or her colleagues to turn some of Edwyn’s lyrics into a poem. Whether they were a fan of Edwyn or not, again I have no idea. Here’s the lyric in its entirety, with the section chosen to go underground highlighted in bold:-

Don’t try so hard to be different,
The cracks are beginning to show
You drift like a cloud through the festival crowd
In a frock coat from Saville Row

You’ve just been to a all-night party
Where I have to admit it takes pluck
To go out on the floor and proclaim ‘What a bore’
In a T-shirt that reads ‘Disco Sucks’

Yes, here he comes, the not-so-young
Pretender to the throne
He’s singing ‘Rag, Momma, Rag,’
Won’t you give that poor dog a bone?

And he’s wondering why we can’t connect
When he’s sworn to us that he’s totally wrecked
On the rustic charm that he affects
On a public schoolboy whim

With a raggle taggle plastic gypsy
Robert Zimmerframe
With a synthesized accordian
A-scramblin‘ up my brain

With a fiddle-dee–dee, a fiddle on high
Excuse me folks while I kiss the sky
Or at any rate give it one more try
Before I die. Before I die

The overrated hit the stage
Overpaid and over here
And their idea of counter-culture’s
Momma’s charge account at Sears

And they’re wondering why we can’t connect
With the ritual of the trashed guitar
One more paltry empty gesture
The ashes of a burned out star

Yes here they come, both old and young
A contact low or high
The gathering of the tribes descending
Vultures from a caustic sky

The rotting carcass of July
An ugly sun hung out to dry
Your gorgeous hippy dreams are dying
Your frazzled brains are putrifying

Repackaged, sold and sanitized
The devil’s music exorcised
You live, you die, you lie, you lie, you die
Perpetuate the lie
Just to perpetuate the lie

Yes yes yes it’s the Summer Festival
The truly detestable Summer Festival

Too often this lyric has been taken as an outright attack on American musicians – and in particular grunge music, which for the previous three or four years had been so dominant.

But read it closely…..the sarcasm about grunge comes AFTER an earlier dose of the famous Collins wit had been deployed on the new age travellers who were roaming the country and causing all sorts of chaos. I’m sure it wasn’t that Edwyn hated the concept of the traditional travellers – it was more the case that he, like many others, despised the posh kids who thought it would be such wonderful fun to be a rebel for a short while…..before going off to their guaranteed job in the city with a friend of daddy….

And then at the end, with typical Collins mischief just after he’s delivered a guitar solo that raawwwwwkkkkksssss, it’s all brought together at one big open-air gathering where our Edwyn’s least favourite musicians will find their perfect audience…..

A true genius at work if you want my opinion.

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – The Campaign For Real Rock

Oh….and the picture that illustrates this posting??? That’s one of my proudest possessions.

In mid 1995, the re-released single A Girl Like You went massive the world over, and Edwyn went on tour. He played a great homecoming gig at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow. Among the merchandise on sale were a handful of the London Underground billboards that were printed but not used on the trains – signed by the great man himself. And given the tragic circumstances which have since then left Edwyn incapable of reproducing his pre-illnesses signature, you’ll understand why this particular artefact will always have a special place in Villain Towers.

Happy Listening.

READ IT IN BOOKS : GRACE MAXWELL/EDWYN COLLINS

 

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Dear Readers.

Please indulge me with this one.  I’m putting up this re-post from July 2009. I’m doing so because today marks the 10th anniversary of the day that Edwyn Collins collapsed at home after a stroke.

The original posting fills in the details……………..

 

After reading this compelling 310 pages, I was left with quite a number of impressions, one being that I couldn’t possibly cope with being married to Grace Maxwell. She herself acknowledges that she is a nagging, dominating, sharp-tongued and single-minded individual who has difficulty ever admitting that she ever gets something wrong. But one thing is for sure…..if she wasn’t like that, her partner would most likely be dead, or at best locked away from the world, dependant on specialist round-the-clock treatment. So without any question at all, Edwyn Collins is very blessed to have Grace Maxwell by his side…

Falling and Laughing – The Restoration of Edwyn Collins is a truly astonishing and eye-opening book. It’s also a very very frightening bit of work, and not the sort of thing you really want to be reading if someone close to you is lying ill in hospital with a life-threatening condition.

I’m sure most regular TVV readers are familiar with the basic facts, but here’s a quick resume of what I knew before picking up the hardback.

In February 2005, Edwyn Collins suffered a stroke which left him seriously ill in a London hospital. He was in a coma and required major brain surgery to stop internal bleeding which threatened to kill him. His recovery was hampered by him contracting MRSA, but in the fullness of time, he got back home, and thanks to some fantastic TLC from his partner Grace, their son Will and many other members of his family and his close friends, not to mention many hours of therapeutic treatment, he made a remarkable recovery which allowed him to get back on stage again in late 2007 and to then go on tour in the summer of 2008.

If only it had been that simple……

Opening with a very short prologue that asks the reader to imagine you not having any more thoughts, the book then looks back at the early part of Edwyn’s career with Orange Juice and the circumstances which brought him and Grace together for the first time in 1980, leading to them deciding to live together some five years later. From the outset, Grace was an essential part of Team Edwyn – she was his full-time manager before they got together as a couple, and she shared his woes and worries as he went out of fashion post-Orange Juice but never ever giving up on his immense talent, even when his records were selling to almost no-one.

The world-wide success of the single A Girl Like You in 1994/95 changed everything, setting them, and new son Will, up for life in terms of financial security. It also gave Edwyn the opportunity to make and produce music as and when he liked from the comfort of his own and much-in-demand studio. By early 2005. life seemed quite uncomplicated. Edwyn was 45 years of age, an elder and much respected statesman in music, still recording new songs but under no pressure to come up with the hits. Indeed there was a great deal of satisfaction with the new songs recently recorded and about to go into the post-production for a new LP which would be followed by the inevitable tour and other promotional work.

But then Grace came home on at around 7pm on the night of Sunday 20th February 2005 after picking up her car that had been left a friend’s house after a party she and Edwyn had attended the night before – and discovered him lying semi-conscious and distressed on the living room floor….

Much of the book deals with the next few months as Edwyn tries to battle back from the stroke. Grace writes with a directness and clarity that is utterly refreshing, and she is never over-dramatic about events. She gives a great deal of praise to the medical and nursing staff involved in saving Edwyn’s life, but without ever making them appear as saints. At the same time, she also paints a very distressing picture of a medical system that contributes more to a crisis than it does resolve it.

Grace was fortunate in having some immediate family members who work in medicine, and so she could often talk to someone and try to get an alternative view. Grace was also able to devote 100% of her own energy to be with Edwyn over an extended period of time – a luxury very rarely afforded to most wives/husbands/partners. If she had been in a position where she had taken all the medical opinions totally at face value, and had been unable to spend as much time by Edwyn’s side in the very early days, it is quite likely that everyone would have given up the fight…but they battled through all the obstacles and barriers placed in their way, and slowly his recovery began.

But just as Edwyn was about to be moved out of general care into a specialist unit where his therapy would be intense, there was a setback that made the original stroke seem a bit like a pleasant Sunday stroll in the sunshine round – the contraction of the superbug MRSA. What follows really is the stuff of nightmares……

I’m not spoiling anything by revealing that in the fullness of time, Edwyn faced up to and defeated death for a second time. His rehabilitation is covered in great depth and compassion. Grace doesn’t hide from the fact that this was an immense strain on her and Will and describes some unpleasant family exchanges with an admirable honesty that brought a lump to the throat of this particular reader. I’m sure most of us by now have been in difficult circumstances when someone close is being treated for an illness, and reading many of Grace’s lines brought back a lot of memories of watching loved ones painfully tear themselves up trying to work out what course of action is the best way forward.

As a long-time fan of Edwyn Collins, I would love to have discovered that his recovery turned out to be a smooth and straight-forward process, with him taking his medicine and undergoing his therapy without complaint or giving anyone any cause for concern, and indeed Grace could have easily painted such a rosy picture with very few of us being any the wiser. That she doesn’t is testament to just how good a book this is, and helps the reader gain a much better understanding of just how remarkable it is that Edwyn has the ability nowadays to take to the stage and entertain us.

Having been lucky enough to see him perform three times over the past 12 months I thought that Edwyn – not withstanding the very clear mobility and speech difficulties he still has – was almost completely rehabilitated. Grace’s book reminds everyone that there is still a long way to go. It also reminds us that what Edwyn and so many others close to him have achieved over the past couple of years is quite miraculous – but it has all been through grit, graft and guts, not to mention a lot of Grace.

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Graciously
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Let Me Put My Arms Around You

Postscript

The intervening five and half years since the book was first published have again been nothing short of miraculous.  Edwyn has continued to defy the odds with more new, critically acclaimed music and live shows that are always joyous celebrations of the fact he is still alive.  One of the best was last summer when he played a Spiegeltent in Glasgow Green as part of a cultural event associated with the 2014 Commonwealth Games.  The place was jammed packed with fans of all ages and the reception Edwyn received as he took to the stage was heartfelt, vocal and lengthy.  The set we were treated to was one of the best I’ve ever been privileged to witness….and all the while I found myself standing right next to Grace Maxwell who was having as great a time as the rest of us.

The story of Edwyn’s efforts to rebuild his life has also now been captured on film and while it is often a very strange and ‘arty’ piece of work, I do recommend if you get the chance to view The Possibilities Are Endless which was released in 2014.

JC