AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #205 : ELECTRONIC

WE DON’T NEED TO ARGUE, WE JUST NEED EACH OTHER

An Electronic ICA

An abridged potted history.

Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner first worked together when the man from The Smiths/The The contributed guitar to Atom Rock/Triangle, a single on Factory Records by Quando Quango which the man from New Order was co-producing.

Five years on and the increasing tensions within New Order led to Bernard contemplating a solo record but instead he called on Johnny and they came up with the idea of Electronic, thinking of issuing instrumental house music for clubs via white labels only. Next thing you know, they’re talking to Neil Tennant and found that he was interested in helping out…but with his distinctive vocal delivery, there was no chance of anonymity.

First single Getting Away With It was released in 1989, going to #12 in the UK charts but more importantly in terms of the developement of the band, it was a hit in the USA and led to them being invited to support Depeche Mode on a stadium tour in 1990.

By the following year, the initial ideas had crystalized into a self-titled debut LP which really showcased their talents and abilities, with a largely upbeat package, from which two more chart singles – Get The Message and Feel Every Beat were lifted. It was an album filled with catchy melodies and choruses, with plenty for fans of the old bands to acknowledge and love.

They then went off and did things with their bands, getting back together in 1992 for Disappointed, a single which again utilised Neil Tennant.

The next burst of activity was in 1996/97 with the album Raise the Pressure (which spawned three hit singles) and then 1999 saw the release of Twisted Tenderness, an album which they made as a more conventional 4-piece band thanks to contributions from Jimi Goodwin of Doves and Ged Lynch of Black Grape on bass and drums respectively.

Three albums worth of top-class material has made for a few tough choices for this ICA….it’s packed with singles but that’s because the boys and their record labels (Factory for album #1 and Parlophone thereafter) knew what would sound huge blasting out of the radio.

SIDE A

1. Getting Away With It

The debut. One reviewer said “It’s nothing shocking, nothing that surprising, it’s just that every time you think you’re tired of it you can’t help flipping back the stylus to catch that chorus”. And that’s what makes it such a work of genius and a timeless piece of art.

2. Tighten Up

The third track on the debut album. One reviewer said “..the devastating marriage of Smiths guitars and New Order technology that nervously excited fans the globe over were anticipating from Electronic. Imagine a sublime splicing of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and ‘Dream Attack’, then multiply by 12” Indeed.

3. Forbidden City

The comeback 45 in 1996…quite different in sound to what had come before with Johnny very much recreating the guitar sounds of his first band at a time when his old mucker’s solo career was in a bit of disarray after the panning given to Southpaw Grammar. It felt like a two-fingered salute in many ways…and it sounded sublime.

4. Lucky Bag

The b-side to the debut single….and the only time that they came close to realising the initial idea of Italian house music. It’s unlike any other Electronic track, and while I won’t make any claims about it being among their ten best, it just seems to fit into the ICA at this stage quite perfectly. Little-known fact…Lucky Bag was used, for a couple of years, as the theme tune for a weekly showing of Scottish football highlights on the BBC.

5. Get The Message

From the debut album and the long-awaited follow-up single to Getting Away With It. It’s been said that Johnny was reluctant to layer multiple guitar parts as he was really unsure of recreating old stuff when he was so keen to move on, but persuaded otherwise by Bernard for which we should all be hugely grateful. Backing vocals are courtesy of Denise Johnson, probably best known for her work with Primal Scream

SIDE B

1. Disappointed (7″ mix)

The involvement of Neil Tennant in the early days led to the inevitable christening of Electronic as a super-group, which was used in a derogatory way by those who didn’t like them. This was the stand alone single from 1996 and in reaching #6, gave them their biggest UK hit. I’m thinking most casual listeners just thought it was a Pet Shop Boys effort.

2. Vivid (radio edit)

If, more than occasionally, the songs were reminiscent of the other bands they were all involved in, then there’s little doubt that the lead-off single from Twisted Tenderness is more than a nod to The The, with Jonny hitting the harmonica early doors. Again, not necessarily one of their best ten songs, but important to have it in an ICA to demonstrate what it was all about.

3. Idiot Country two

The original Idiot Country provided an adrenalin-filled rush to open the debut album….a couple of years later, it was given the remix treatment with some added dialogue and backing vocals as well as an extra 80-odd seconds. It was provided as the b-side to Disappointed and went some way to lessening the pain of paying £4 for a CD single!

4. Gangster

Track six on the debut album and the one which provides a reminder of Technique, the last truly indispensable album ever released by New Order, complete with a lyric in which Bernard makes a number of torturous rhymes.

5. Feel Every Beat (7″ mix)

A five-minute version of this closes the debut album and tempting as it was to use that here, I have to bow to the remixing skills of Stephen Hague who chops about a minute off the original and helps deliver something which captures perfectly what Jonny and Bernard wanted Electronic to sound like and what they wanted a band to be….’we don’t need to argue, we just need each other’

JC

 

WHEN BARNEY MET JOHNNY AND THEY TEAMED UP WITH NEIL (remixed)

As a way of background, I’d like to refer you to this posting from back in October 2013.

Not too long ago I picked up the 12″ vinyl remix of the single with the catalogue number Fac 257r. There’s three different versions of the single (two of which are more clubby and likely to be of interest to Swiss Adam, among others) and another excellent mix of the house-style instrumental that was on the b-side of the ‘proper’ single:-

mp3 : Electronic – Getting Away With It (vocal remix)
mp3 : Electronic – Getting Away With It (nude mix)
mp3 : Electronic – Lucky Bag (Miami edit)
mp3 : Electronic – Getting Away With It (original version)

The first two of the remixes are the work of Mike Pickering and Graeme Park and seem quite typical of the sort of work they were doing back in 1989.

JC

TRIPLY DISAPPOINTED

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Three different songs that share the same title:-

mp3 : Electronic – Disappointed
mp3 : Morrissey – Disappointed (live)
mp3 : P.I.L. – Disappointed

The first of these the biggest ever hit single for the supergroup, reaching #6 in 1992. The middle track was originally the b-side to Everyday Is Like Sunday but- the live version I’ve shoved up today is from the flip of the 12″ of Pregnant For The Last Time. The final track is the 12″ version of a 1989 single that barely scraped the Top 40.

The Three Johns (Lydon, Marr and McGeogh) along with Moz, Barney and Neil in one posting? Now THAT’S what I call music…..

Oh and the photo used to illustrate the posting was taken moments after my team, Raith Rovers, had won a cup final with a goal two minutes from the end of extra time back in 2014. The look of disappointment and indeed despair on the faces of the opposition players is quite plain to see…..

 

A CLOSE COUSIN TO YESTERDAY’S SONGS

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It was just over a year after the relase of  Phobia by Flowered Up that this track became known:-

mp3 : Electronic – Feel Every Beat

The combined talents of Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr, made Electronic a highly listenable band, coming to  prominence with the hit single Getting Away With It (featuring a co-vocal from Neil Tennant) in late 1989. However,  the next hit, Get The Message didn’t appear for some 15 months.

The self-titled debut LP hit the shops in April 1991 to near universal critical acclaim along with enough sales to propel it to #2 in the album charts. Factory Records must have been confident of getting the band a third successive Top 20 single when they released a remixed version of Feel Every Beat in September 1991. Regarded by many as the strongest track on the album with its mix of dance/house/indie rock appealing to a very wide audience, it was put out on vinyl in 7″ and 12″ form as well as on CD single with two top-notch previously unreleased tracks  to supplement the remixes, all of which have something to offer:-

mp3 : Electronic – Feel Every Beat (7″ remix)
mp3 : Electronic – Feel Every Beat (12″ Remix)
mp3 : Electronic – Feel Every Beat (Dub Mix)
mp3 : Electronic – Feel Every Beat (DNA Mix)
mp3 : Electronic – Second To None
mp3 : Electronic – Lean To The Inside

One of the few lyrics ever to be explained by Bernard, Feel Every Beat registers his disgust at the criminalisation of rave culture in the UK over some of Johnny’s finest guitar work. But to the bemusement of all involved, it got no higher than #39. It deserved much better.

Enjoy

MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (9)

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Today’s friend electric is Phil Spector. No, not the one in the photo above, but the one from Ayrshire in Scotland who is responsible for Plain Or Pan, a blog which describes itself as being ‘outdated music for outdated people’, in which case I am very happy to be outdated.

Phil is another whose breadth and depth of knowledge of all things musical is quite astounding. He’s another of those incredibly talented writers who make things look very easy. It’s also a blog which you can never quite predict what is coming next…

Once again, there were so many things I wanted to steal and post here, but in the end I’ve only gone back a few months to a post put together when the news that Johnny Marr had broken his hand emerged:-

It’s All Right Marr, I’m Only Bleeding

March 20, 2014

I got my first real six string when I was 16. Bought it second hand from a wee guitar shop in Irvine that disappeared the day after I paid my £30 for it. The guy who ran it was never seen again. About 2 days later, indulging in a spot of fat-fingered She Sells Sanctuary riffing, the pick-up gave me an electric shock and a temporary Sid Vicious haircut. That guitar was a right temperamental block of wood, but I loved it. I played it till my fingers bled. To paraphrase even further, it was the Summer of ’89. That’s when I realised I’d never be Johnny Marr.

I’ve always loved Johnny Marr. In The Smiths, he wrote an obscene number of brilliant, inventive tunes. Lazy writers would go on about his ‘chiming‘, ‘jangly’ guitar sound, but there was far more to his arsenal than that. There was always, even in the Smiths’ most tender moments a bite to his guitar. He could fingerpick. He could play inventive chord patterns. He could fingerpick and play an inventive chord pattern underneath it at the same time. With 10 fingers sounding like 25. ‘Like Lieber and Stoller piano lines playing alongside the guitar‘, to misquote him from the early days in The Smiths. Then there were the open tunings, the Nashville tunings, the hitting strings with knives to get the desired effect. He reinvented the wheel.

Johnny was (and probably still is) my idol. Even though he dyes his hair. And runs over 50 miles for fun each and every week.

Slightly on the wrong side of cocky (and so would you be if mercurial quicksilver tunes like those fell off your fingers and onto the fretboard as effortlessly as a bride’s knickers), he’s not much older than me, yet he’s done a ridiculous amount of music. Previous posts on here have gone on at length about all the non-Smiths stuff he’s done. There’s literally hundreds of things he’s been involved in. Not always up there with the vintage riffing of yore, but always fresh-sounding and never anything less than interesting. Clearly, he’s the guitarists’ guitarist, the one they call when they need a bit of magic sprinkled on top.

Last week when he broke his hand, my first thought was, “I wonder if I can play ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ better than him now?“

Probably not, is most definitely the answer. One of my favourite non-Smiths Johnny moments is on Electronic‘s Forbidden City, from the patchy Raise The Pressure LP released in (gulp) 1996.

mp3 : Electronic – Forbidden City

It runs the whole gamut of Johnny’s guitar attack. A heady rush of major and minor chords played on an acoustic guitar here and electric guitars there, Johnny picking his trademark arpeggios atop some mid-paced strumming. He plays terrific little 2-string run-downs and fills between the singing that are concise and snappy and perfect. On the chorus he lets the right notes ring out at the right times. In a lesser pair of hands, it all might sound a wee bit lumpen. But Johnny knows just how to make his guitar sparkle and sing. By the middle eight, he’s flung in a backwards bit and dooked the whole lot in a bath of feedback before coming back to the song in a ringing, shimmering blaze of glory. The whole track is, of course, carried along brilliantly by a Bernard vocal that recalls New Order at their uplifting, melancholic best. And I believe that’s Kraftwerk’s Karl Bartos on drums as well. What’s not to like?

johnny-marr-bang

In a typically Marresque coda to all of this, Johnny’s broken hand was put into a special sling that’ll allow him to perform his day job without compromise. Broken hand or not, no-one plays guitar like Johnny.

Told you this guy was good…….

More Friends Electric tomorrow.

FROM THE SOUTH WEST CORRESPONDENT….

cds-in-murfie-box

The Return of the Box

Some time ago, whilst sitting in a transport café just outside the drab Kent market town of Sittingbourne two friends and I set upon a challenge.

It was six in the morning, we hadn’t slept that much and we were awaiting our greasy spoon fry up, John (full English), me (veggie version, no egg) and Adrian (Mushroom, Egg, Tomatoes and Toast). We were talking about music, primarily New Order, and John likes to think of himself as a New Order oracle, he claimed right then and then to be able to list more singles and albums by the band along with Joy Division, Revenge, Monaco, The Other Two and Electronic than the rest of us.

We went to the counter and asked for three pencils and three sheets of paper, and we gave ourselves five minutes or until breakfast arrived, the winner got a free breakfast. Four minutes later breakfast arrived – so we put our pencils down, and ate up. Then we totted up the correct answers, I was last, in fact last by some distance, if it was Spiritualized, Spectrum and Spacemen 3 I would have won, but it wasn’t.

Adrian scored one more than John – and John demanded a recount and verification (at this point the truckers in the café were starting to get fed up with the manky students in the café disturbing their breakfasts). I was appointed judge and went through the lists –they were largely the same, both had missed the classic New Order single Run 2 which even I had got , but when it come to the end, Adrian had listed an Electronic single called For You and that was the difference between the two of them.

John sighed and said that he forgotten about it because it was rubbish. His grapes were sour all the way home.  When we got home Adrian popped round my house and gave me this CD, he’d bought it in Woolworths two days previously for 49p – hadn’t even played it. I did play it, it’s not rubbish. It’s very pleasant indeed.

mp3 : Electronic – For You

‘For You’ was in fact the second single off of the second Electronic album, Raise the Pressure, an album which I have never heard. The single peaked at Number 16 in the UK Chart. It is well worth the price of a greasy fry up in a truckers café in Kent (about £2.99 in 1996).

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I remember getting this particular CD sent to me because it came with a promotional gun and me and my mate Chris drove around Maidstone taking pot shots at chavs with it all afternoon.

mp3 : Cable – Whisper Firing Line

Having re-read that sentence, I should make it clear – it was a water pistol, and not a very good one, as it leaked. The fun was spoiled when we squirted a big bloke and then got stuck in traffic, (Inbetweeners Bus Wankers Style) and he threatened to hit us.

Cable were from Derby and were big favourites of John Peel they released three albums in the late 90s and this was taken from their second album When Animals Attack.

They are by far the greatest band to have ever come out of Derby (come on name another one!) and probably the only one to have had their music feature on a Sprite advert (‘Freeze The Atlantic’).  Whisper Firing Line is a good example of the kind of thing Cable did on each of their three albums, I’d recommend the first two Cable albums – I’ve not heard the third, but by and large, this is decent garage rock with a nod towards the punk rock of American labels such as Blast First and Dischord. The B Side comes with a nice little cover version of the Stevie Winwood song Can’t Find My Way Home which as it’s a cover version gets an obligatory posting.

mp3 : Cable – Can’t Find My Way Home

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Getting a bit more obscure now, I can’t find much more out about Heave, I know that this single came from an album called Scaramanga which I remember being quite good, it has long since vanished from the shelves of my house though.

mp3 : Heave – Pig Pretty

They had an earlier single Suna which is terrific – kind of art rock in an Earl Brutus meets Wire kind of way (there was a cover of 12XU as the B Side). The band featured a female model and keyboardist Sharon Mew who later went on to be in Elastica. Heave I think split up around 1997.

That is it.

More next week folks

S-WC

 

PS from JC

This is about as close as we will be getting to a random shuffle series as S-WC digs into his long-lost box of CDs from back in the day, pulls them out three at a time and writes some fine words about each of them. I genuinely had no idea whan I did yesterday’s posting on Wire that his scheduled piece, which has been sitting unread in my inbox since 29 May, also mentioned that very fine band.

Just to say that S-WC will next week feature on the Monday, a day earlier than normal.  Tune in and all will be revealed why…………

THE NEW ORDER SPIN-OFFS

neworder1989

The period after the release of Technique in 1989  was a strange time for New OrderFactory Records and the Hacienda had major financial problems that unsettled the band.  Barney was enjoying himself far more alongside Johnny Marr in Electronic, while Hooky was living his dreams of all-out leather-clad rock-star in Revenge.  Gillian & Steven would even go onto record stuff on  their own as the tongue-in cheek named The Other Two.

Some of the results of the spin-off projects would not have been out-of-place in any New Order discography. Well, maybe not too much of the Revenge output – but this, taken from the appallingly named Gun World Porn EP was better than OK.

mp3 : Revenge – Cloud Nine

I know from reading other blogs over the years that Electronic has long divided fans of New Order and The Smiths alike.  For what it’s worth, I thought the early singles and 1st album were magnificent and that some of the later stuff was more than reasonable, if a bit patchy.  Electronic might not have toured very much, but I’m happy to say that I did get to see them at the Glasgow Barrowlands in late 1991 and it is a concert that remains a very happy memory. To be able to watch two of my favourite musicians perform on stage together at close quarters was a real treat. I also think that Johnny’s influence led to Barney becoming a more outgoing performer in the 90s with New Order…..but then again, other influences (ahem) may have also played a part.

A particular favourite track of mine is an instrumental which in places reminds me of the Low Life era and also makes me wonder just what direction Johnny would have tried to taken his original band had they either not split up or indeed Morrissey had come crawling back asking them to reform (which wasn’t entirely out of the question on the early 90s)/  I don’t think however, that Morrissey would have come up with any decent lyrics for the funk/disco style his former best pal was turning out.

mp3 : Electronic – Freewill

But of all the records the band members released in other guises, there is  one almost flawless piece of electronic pop that should have been snapped up by all New Order fans:-

mp3 : The Other Two – Tasty Fish (12″)

Sadly, this stalled at #41 in the UK charts and denied them what would I’m sure would have been a great appearance on Top of The Pops.

Enjoy