YET ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : RADIO FRIENDLY UNIT (NON) SHIFTER

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(Originally posted on the old blog on 11 April 2009)

All that talk the other day of Paul Haig got me thinking of other great songs to come out of Edinburgh. And right away, this piece of magic from 1986 sprung to mind:-

mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – The Rattler

Goodbye Mr Mackenzie actually formed in Bathgate, which is a small town some 15 miles or so west of the capital, and their first single in 1984 was recorded (as The Mackenzies) on the record label of a local further education college.

This follow-up single was put out on the Glasgow-based Precious Organisation, which was the home to the soon chart-conquering Wet Wet Wet, but despite a lot of support from local radio stations across central Scotland (with one of the lines changed to avoid references to eating beavers), it flopped. There continued to be a real buzz about Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – this was a time when Scottish acts like Deacon Blue, Hue & Cry and the afore mentioned Wets were hugely popular and GMM were lumped in with all of them – so it was hardly a surprise that they ended up signing to a major label, in this case Capitol Records, in early 1988.

The first couple of singles flopped, and so band and label decided to release a re-recorded version of The Rattler which hit #37 in the UK charts in 1989.  Debut LP, Good Deeds And Dirty Rags, did make the Top 30 a few months later, but a fourth single from the album sold poorly.

While some of the songs were as radio-friendly and catchy as many of their Scottish contemporaries, GMM never quite took off as expected – this was probably down to the fact that live they were quite a different proposition.

For instance, the lead guitarist was a huge bear of a man who was once part of a local punk outfit (and still looked as if that’s where he’d rather be) and there was a strange gothic-looking girl on keyboards and backing vocals, and you could never accuse them of being cuddly and photogenic…

With no real sustainable success, the record label lost interest, and while the band soldiered on for a few more years, they ended up as a mere footnote, albeit one that left us four LPs, about a dozen 45s/EPs and a couple of live recordings.

After they broke up, the gothic backing singer went onto find real fame and fortune :-

mp3 : Garbage – Queer

Yup, it was Shirley Manson who used to stand at the back of the stage with GMM, and before long she was a huge star the world over as lead singer in the band put together by Butch Vig, previously best-known as producer of Nevermind, the breakthrough album by Nirvana…..with whom Big John Duncan, the guitarist with GMM, occasionally played live.

It’s a small world y’know….

mp3 : Nirvana – Radio Friendly Unit Shifter

My copy of the 1986 single is well worn out, and the mp3 of The Rattler is taken from a CD compilation that gathers up all sorts of indie songs from that year, but I have managed to salvage one of the b-sides:-

mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – Candlestick Park

Enjoy

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Parts 56 – 60)

Back on 8 October 2011, I started a series called ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’.  The aim was to feature one 45 or CD single by a Scottish singer or band with the proviso that the 45 or CD single was in the collection. I had got to Part 60-something and as far as Kid Canaveral when the rug was pulled out from under TVV.

I’ll catch up soon enough by featuring 5 or more at a time from the archives..

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(56) Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie – The Rattler b/w Here Comes Deacon Brodie : Capitol Records 7″ single (1989)

Read more about Goodbye Mr Mackenzie here

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(57) Hey! Elastica – Eat Your Heart out b/w Clay Hips (1st Movement)  : Virgin Records 12″ single (1982)

From Edinburgh and part of the glorious age of Scottish pop that rode on the back of the critical acclaim afforded to the likes of Orange Juice.  Not everyone’s cup of tea but I loved them.  And discovered many years later that so did my good mate Jacques the Kipper.

Four criminally ignored singles and one LP before Virgin cut their losses and dropped the band.  Hugely energetic and entertaining live, if not, it must be admitted, the most accomplished.  This is the debut single

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(58) His Latest Flame – America Blue b/w  Tongue Tied :  London Records 7″ single (1989)

Formed in the mid 80s in Glasgow and regarded by many as the nearest we ever got to The Bangles, albeit many of the records had a political kick to them.  The early singles were on Go! Discs but the latter material, including their only LP, was issued via London Records.  Tricia Reid has a mighty fine voice……..

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(59) Idlewild – No Emotion b/w Lookin’ For A Love b/w No Emotion (Caucasian Dub – Trance Mix) : Sequel Records 2 x 7″ singles (2007)

Read more about Idlewild here.

Deliberate choice to go with a later lesser-known single, partly for the b-sides of a Neil Young cover and a weird-as-fuck dance effort

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(60) Jack Butler – Velvet Prose b/w Candles b/w He Got No Game! : Whimsical Records CD single (2006)

Hailing from Stirling (a town in Central Scotland about equidistant from Glasgow and Edinburgh), Jack Butler are a four-piece consisting of Liam Kelly (vocals and guitar), Chris Lowdon (guitar), Allan Conry (bass) and Greg Moodie (drums).

Their debut LP Fit The Paradigm was released in April 2009 to a fair bit of excitement around these parts, and not only among the blogging community as one of the biggest selling tabloid daily newspapers gave the release excellent reviews and tipped the band for stardom.

I don’t own a copy of the album which I regret, certainly based on this two-person review:-

T: Wow, this sounds like Robert Smith on a crateful of speed.

N: Umm, well that’s left our readers with absolutely nothing from which to draw.

T: Ummm, what about leaving them with the image of Robert Smith on a crateful of speed?

N: I guess that’s one image I briefly toyed with, but to no avail, as Robert is now really getting too old to be toying with speed, let alone a crateful. Let me start, Jack Butler, a four piece from Stirling and described as “one of the freshest bands in Scotland” not forgetting to add “at the moment”, as they have a hell of a lot of competition here, take Aztec Camera (the most immediate reference), Trash Can Sinatras, or maybe Orange Juice. But one thing’s for sure, these guys are not excusing their harking back to post-punk 80’s vibe and who could blame them?

T: They sound like a train has crashed through your ceiling and is driving around your walls flashing disco lights while all the nightporters and commuters dive out of the carriages and do little dances around your bed. Which is great when they’re nice looking totty but not so good when they’re heifers. Most of the time though, they’re pretty damn attractive.

N: And this is the over-riding thought this band conjure up?

T: Yep. 9/10

The thing is, it had been the best part of three years previous since I had picked up a copy of their debut single having heard it on a blog and in the absence of anything else ever appearing in the shops I had assumed that they had gone through the ‘release a single and break-up’ routine. I certainly never picked up on the fact that an LP was out there….but then I’ve never been great at keeping up with developments as they happen.

Anyways….back to the 2006 debut. and I remember thinking that it was an absolute belter. Lead track Velvet Prose did have a wee bit of the standard indie-pop sound that was all over the charts at the time but I was more taken by the two b-sides which took me back a fair bit to some of the best bits of the 80s. Candles seems influenced by the early Zoo Records stuff of the Teardrop Explodes and the Bunnymen with the angular guitar work found on Josef K songs. But it’s He Got No Game! which is by far the standout – it sounds as if the Associates have reformed…..yup, it’s that good.

It’s a real pity it took so long for the LP hit the shops as I reckon based on these three songs Jack Butler could have gained a bit of momentum and gone on to carve a niche for themselves in the Scottish pop pantheon.

Parts  61 -65 next Saturday…..