Today’s wonderful words were typed by Friend of Rachel Worth, the talent behind the much-loved and much missed blog Cathedrals Of Sound (the final posting was May 2013 but you can still enjoy what he had to say by clicking here)
Well this has caused some angst as most of my record collection consists of stuff that I’m convinced should have outsold thriller and be hailed as a work of Sgt Pepper type genius but sold diddly squat and disappeared to find a life only on long forgotten home made compilation tapes or in the darkest corners of the internet
I can’t choose just one so have had to go with 4 bands and 5 songs that should have been massive and played regularly in school assemblies
1. Ballad of the Band – Felt
First up is by surely the ultimate cult band….Felt. Led by Lawrence with a vision of 10 singles and 10 lps in 10 years and then split up. Feted by critics and many of his peers and living in an alternative world where he saw himself as a top pop star with Felt rubbing shoulders with Madonna at the top of the charts, it never really happened as Lawrence was convinced it would. Instrumental lps and songs with long strange titles meant that they never really made it past the indie chart (does such a thing still exist?) and the festive 50.
Their best known song is probably Primitive Painters with the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser sharing vocals, however I’ve gone for a band divorce played out in a 3 min pop song. The departure of long time guitarist Maurice Deebank prompted Ballad of the Band with its lyrical riposte and the swirling Hammond organ turned up high in the mix as an added insult to the guitarist.
Where you been
Aint seen you for weeks
You’ve been hanging out with all those jesus freaks
Where were you
When I wanted to work
You were still in bed
You’re a total jerk
mp3 : Felt – Ballad of The Band
It also has a gorgeous cover.
2. Heavenly Pop Hit – The Chills
Another band built around a maverick , this time New Zealander Martin Phillipps. Not sure if they really count as they had success in their own country , but in the UK gloriously under achieved. The more culty song is probably early single Pink Frost about the death of former band mate. It is a haunting tune with a bit of early Cure thrown in.
However I love Heavenly Pop Hit which does exactly what it says on the tin .. except for the hit bit.
For about a month this single and the lp it came from (submarine bells) were championed by Record Mirror but quickly dumped when they realised they had failed to back a winner … again (always much better than NME or Sounds at spotting a lost cause or backing the wrong horse)
Its a joyous summer sound that you need a big breath to sing along to and ends with a simple offer
It’s a Heavenly Pop Hit
For those who still want it
The last line whispered / mumbled , a sad realisation of what pop would become in x factor wilderness
mp3 : The Chills – Heavenly Pop Hit
It too has a gorgeous cover
3. The Sun It Shines Here / I’ll be Your Surprise – Hurrah!
The exclamation mark is important! Hurrah! were one of the fantastic 4 (alongside The Kane Gang , The Dainties and Prefab Sprout) signed to Kitchenware records. They released a glorious set of jangly guitar singles (brought together in the lp Boxed) before being signed by a major and taking a step too close to rock (leather jackets and supporting U2 included) . The trio benefitted from the fact that all 3 were songwriters and could sing (the quality showed it wasn’t a case of letting Ringo have a go)
The first 4 singles were glorious and the debut double a side remains one of my favourite singles. It may sound like it has been recorded in a cardboard box with broken bass dial and the treble turned too high , but the guitars sparkle with a Byrds sound that at the time seemed fresh and the harmonies are spot on.
I’m not sure how on earth I got hold of a copy of the single (there was no way this made its way into Spalding Boots’ singles rack) so can only think I must have sent away for a copy
Released in 1982 (a year before Hand in Glove), at 15 they felt like my own private cult band
Later solo lps show a spiritual , religious side that has made me look back on some of the earlier lyrics , which at the time would have had me running for the hills (not that we had any hills in the fens), but for a period they seemed like the coolest band going
mp3 : Hurrah! – The Sun It Shines Here
mp3 : Hurrah! – I’ll Be Your Surprise
Fitting in with the style of other Kitchenware releases , it has a great cover
4. Indian by Eg and Alice
From one extreme to the other . Take one ex member of Brother Beyond add an ex bmx champion and model and you shouldn’t really have the makings of a cult single. This also breaks the indie label rule and is so smooth it sails close to the dinner party wind , the kind of soulless soul music that was all over the radio in the late 80s.
Somehow Indian rises above all this, it manages to be haunting and catchy at the same time, with enough going on to keep it out of the bland. It ‘s got a strange kind of emotional punch that can creep up on me when I hear it. If it pops up unawares on shuffle it is one of those songs that sneaks its way into the foreground and means I stop whatever I’m doing to listen and start remembering
Its cult because it is one of those songs that just feel like a lost classic and those that like it love it with a passion. One of the joys of the internet is finding like minded souls, and Indian is one of those acid test singles. When it comes up in conversation , if peole like it (and most who have heard it do) then I’m feel pretty safe with anything they are going to recommend
If it hasn’t washed over you the lp it comes from ,24 Years of Hunger is well trying to get hold of.
Eg is now a songwriter for hire , often with people I cant stand , however he has released 2 solo lps that are full of quirky diamonds
mp3 : Eg and Alice – Indian
The cover is pretty smart too
Apologies for being so greedy , I could go on and on !
Note from JC
Ballad of The Band and its related b-sides was one of the very last postings I ever made at TVV before google pulled the plug on it. Can’t help but agree with Friend of Rachel Worth about it being a classic….as indeed are the other tracks which until now were previously unknown to me.
It could well be that FoRW will be asked to go on and on…..I’ve only, at the moment, got two more weeks of cult classics to go as the inital flurry of e-mails when I started the series has not been followed up with many more over the festive period.
If there’s a flop 45 or 45s you’d like to bring to the attention to the few hundred daily visitors to T(n)VV, then please drop me an e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org