EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING

I would have been just short of my 8th birthday when South-African musician John Kongos took He’s Gonna Step On You Again into the UK charts in May 1971. I can honestly say that I have no recollection of the record whatsoever and therefore had no idea, until reading about it at the time back in 1991, that Happy Mondays latest single Step On  was a cover.

The two songs are really quite dissimilar and I don’t think may would argue that the Happy Mondays greatly improved on the original. I think the big difference is that the original really does sound of its time while the cover has become genuinely timeless – it does help of course that the production advances over the two decades between them meant that loveable Mancunians could do so much more with the tune but it still doesn’t detract from the fact that they derived a classic.

And yet, the original outperformed the cover – John Kongos got as high as #4 while Happy Mondays stalled at #5 – and it’s likely in pure sales terms that the original did better. What I didn’t know until doing a wee bit of research for this piece is He’s Gonna Step On You Again, according to wiki, is cited in the Guinness Book of Records as being the first song to have used a sample which just goes to show how long that’s been around contrary to popular belief. Having said that, a much later CD reissue of the parent album states it wasn’t a sample but a tape loop of African drumming and so debunked the alleged first.

Also worth mentioning that the Happy Mondays version actually sampled three guitar notes from the original as can be heard easily when you listen to both versions:-

mp3 : John Kongos – He’s Gonna Step On You Again
mp3 : Happy Mondays – Step On

Enjoy.

THE DAY THE BARGAIN HUNTERS COME OUT IN FORCE

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(A shorter version of this originally appeared back on 26 December 2011)

The day after Christmas can sometimes be a bit of an anti-climax. I hope it is not the case with you dear readers.

The folk I feel sorry for are those in the retail sector.  They probably finished at 6pm on Christmas Eve after about three or four weeks in a row without a day off during which time they dealt with customers who were clueless and often rude.  I certainly saw some supermarket check-out staff get a mouthful of abuse because the shop had the temerity to have run out of some foodstuffs and those who left it till the last-minute were disappointed and in some cases angry.

Today, many of those hard-pressed workers will have had to go to their place of employment at stupid o’clock to get their shops and stores ready for those who still think that the best bargains in retail world are to be had on 26 December and so they queue up for hours, often in the miserable cold and wet, and then have a mad dash inside when the doors open.

I guarantee there will be footage on the news later on.

Over here, 26th December is referred to as Boxing Day. Thought I’d find a track with a very tenuous link to the theme of boxing for. It was one of three on a belter of a CD single from 1990:-

mp3 : Happy Mondays – Wrote For Luck (Vince Clarke mix)
mp3 : Happy Mondays – Wrote For Luck (Paul Oakenfold Mix)
mp3 : Happy Mondays and Karl Denver – Lazyitis – one armed boxer

Enjoy.

AND ON THE SIXTH DAY, GOD CREATED MANCHESTER

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I make no apologies (again) for going into the archives over at the old blog for today’s piece.  It was one I stumbled across when searching for Dick Van Dyke’s adventures that were recounted just the other week.  This is from another of my old Sunday Correspondents gang who goes by the name of Cullen Skink.  He didn’t half select some banging tunes……….

If there’s a city outside Scotland whose impact is recurrently felt on The Vinyl Villain, it must be Manchester with its Magazine, Morrissey, New Order

I lived there as a student in the late 80s and early 90s, a period when Manchester gained its reputation for being the centre of the music world.

I was certainly enthralled by the musical heritage. My all-time favourite bands were Buzzcocks and The Fall. Joy Division/New Order too – though I eschewed The Smiths. And I was intoxicated by the contemporary scene: a huge Happy Mondays fan, I followed the Inspiral Carpets for a while, though wasn’t arsed about the Stone Roses

But you can hear all those bands any time, so here are some others that I loved around that time – bands that deserve to be glorified not forgotten. As behoves a VV Sunday Correspondent, let me turn once more to ye olde vinyl…

The Bodines made glorious, glimmering pop music, the pinnacle of 80s indie before syncopated funky-drummer beats took over. There’s a good case to be made for Therese (1987) as the greatest single ever. Certainly it should be on heavy rotation on all music radio.

mp3 : The Bodines – Therese

Laugh‘s funky swagger jumps out of this fantastic single from 1988. It drags you onto the dancefloor and shouts in your ear. They missed the Madchester bus, until they regrouped in time for the second wave as Intastella.

mp3 : Laugh – Time To Lose It

A forgotten music of the time is that loose agglomeration of ugly noiseniks that pointed sharpened sticks at earnest ears. I thought Dub Sex were Manchester’s best, though I wonder if anybody else did…

mp3 : Dub Sex – Swerve

As the Madchester phenomenon peaked, bands were chewed up and spat out as the media trendsetters moved on – to grunge or whatever the next big thing was. But of these second-wave bands, the New Fast Automatic Daffodils meant the world to me, and Big might be my most loved record of the time. As far as I was concerned it was indie-dance crossover on a par with Loaded or Fools Gold.

mp3 : New Fast Automatic Daffodils – Big

To my eternal chagrin I never saw The World Of Twist, though their concerts have become the stuff of legend. I just never imagined it’d be over so quickly – a couple of miraculous singles, a disappointing album, then nothing (and their frontman Tony Ogden died far too young in 2006).

mp3 : World Of Twist – Sons Of The Stage

Oh and while I’m in this mood, we’d better have some Mondays after all…

mp3 : Happy Mondays – Freaky Dancin’ (live)

Don’t sit down……

Cullen Skink, Sunday 25th April 2010

LAZING IN LANZAROTE WEEK : STUFF FROM THE OLD PLACE : FRIDAY

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From July 2008

BETTER THAN W.B YEATS AS A POET?

Tony Wilson once made the claim that Shaun Ryder was a better poet than William Butler Yeats, and that in the fullness of time, he’d come to be regarded every much as talented a genius as Mozart.

I’m sure my dear friend Greer, who, in addition to making fabulous weekly contributions to the Contrast Podcast, writes an equally fabulous poetry blog called A Sweet Unrest, would be horrified at such a comparison, but I do suspect Tony’s tongue, and not for the first time, was parked right into his cheek.

Having said that, the opening four lines to Kinky Afro, in which a dad directly addresses his young offspring, are as good as any representation of misogynist and unreconstructed man I’ve ever read in my life:-

Son, I’m 30
I only went with your mother cos she’s dirty
And I don’t have a decent bone in me
What you get is just what you see, yeah.

And as much as I love Kinky Afro, not just for the lyrics but the catchy tune that immediately makes me want to get off my backside and dance, there is no better Happy Mondays song than the opening track to their 1989 LP, Bummed:-

mp3 : Happy Mondays – Wrote For Luck

A truly astonishing bit of music, and the only thing that stopped it making the 45 45s at 45 rundown the other month was that I missed out on it when it originally appeared as a single. I only heard it a couple of months afterwards courtesy of it being included on a compilation tape made up for me by my old friend Jacques the Kipper (older readers might remember that JtK often left comments in the early days of TVV…he’s now too busy being a modern dad to stop by and say hi…..)

But having missed out first time around, I made sure I picked up the single when it was given the remix treatment and re-released a few months later. And as much as I love the original, produced to perfection by Martin Hannett, there are days when I prefer one or other of these mixes:-

mp3 : Happy Mondays – W.F.L. (the Vince Clarke Mix)
mp3 : Happy Mondays – W.F.L. (Think About The Future)

Vince Clarke is of course, the electro-pop superstar who had made the Top 10 with four different acts – Depeche Mode, The Assembly, Yazoo and Erasure – as well as releasing a single with the mighty Paul Quinn.

Think About The Future was a mix made by an up and coming DJ and mixer called Paul Oakenfold, who went on to become one of the biggest phenomena of the 90s – maybe ctelblog at Acid Ted can fill us all in properly….

Anyways, the inspiration for this posting is merely that on the train to work yesterday morning, feeling a bit low as I was going to be stuck indoors on one of the few warm and dry days we’ve had in Glasgow this past month or so, the original version of Wrote For Luck came round on shuffle on the i-pod.

Instant happiness without the need to ingest drugs or alcohol.

Oh and I got up from my seat, stood near the exit door and did a little dance (in my head it was a big dance – all Bez moves and shapes – but in reality I only sort of moved my head from side to side and tried hard not to sing along in case I scared the passengers).

Maybe Tony was slightly wrong about Shaun’s poetic abilities, but alongside his brother and his mates in the band, you can’t argue against the claim that he was one helluva songwriter…..

2013 Update

Shaun Ryder has since come to the attention of a much wider audience thanks to his exploits in the 2010 TV reality series ‘I’m A Celebrity….Get Me Out Of Here!’.  His autobiography. Twisting My Melon, was the published to great critical acclaim in 2011, acclaim that was entirely justified.

mp3 : Happy Mondays – Kinky Afro

Enjoy.

“HONESTLY, I ALWAYS KNEW IT WAS A CLASSIC…”

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In November 1988, FAC 220 was unveiled to the world and just about every review in the UK weeklies and monthlies panned it.  Fourteen months later, it was high-up on all the lists of ‘Best Album of the 80s’ in the same publications….a classic example of why you should make your own mind up about music and not just go with what’s being written or said by the influential commentators.

It’s no real surprise though that Bummed got such a poor reception and not just because it was quite different from anything else which had come beforehand and there weren’t many reference points to go by.  There was a bit of a backlash at the time against Factory Records and some were getting fed up of with the never-ending proclamations from Tony Wilson. So when he said that Shaun Ryder was a poet who deserved to be looked upon in the same light as Keats and that Happy Mondays, along with a number of other Manchester bands, were making something distinctive and history-making that would see a perfect marriage of club and indie music, those in the media, particularly in London, just sneered.

I’m not going to make any huge claims on Bummed being one of the best records ever – after all it didn’t find its way into the recent Top 50 albums rundown over at TVV – but there are some songs on it which remain staggeringly brilliant more than a quarter of a century on.  Particularly this:-

mp3 : Happy Mondays – Wrote For Luck

Years after helping to make stars of Joy Division and New Order, the production genius of Martin Hannett comes to the fore as he throws the kitchen sink at the songs and proves that sometimes the drugs do work….and yet it was a couple of cleaner, less murky remixes which gave birth to Madchester as prophesied by Tony Wilson:-

mp3 : Happy Mondays – W.F.L. (the Vince Clark Mix)

mp3 : Happy Mondays – W.F.L. – Think About The Future (the Paul Oakenfold Mix)

As available on the single FACD 232.

Club classics both of them to go alongside the original version which surely has a place on every indie-disco playlist.

Enjoy!!