SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 22)

A GUEST POSTING by STRANGEWAYS

If there’s a heaven – and if entrants are welcomed in via song – surely the dreamy and delicate first twenty seconds or so of Heavenly’s Three Star Compartment would herald the arrival of those with an indiepop bent (even if the opening words unfasten a trapdoor to hell).

I’ve known this song for almost twenty-five years, but it was only the other day that it grabbed me in a way it never had previously. A good friend was visiting, and as he shares a love of Heavenly, I stuck the band’s LPs on as we chatted and drank tea. And when the track in question presented itself I realised I’d been overlooking it all this time.

So far, so standard. I imagine lots of unrequited gems eventually catch the ears of even the most seasoned listeners of any given group. But later that day, reading this number’s lyrics knocked my socks off. I remarked as such to my friend. A few days afterwards he suggested offering the song up for this series. I thank him for this idea. Even if you don’t.

In their time, Heavenly endured a heck of a lot of brickbats for ‘being Twee’. Three words: DIE, HEAVENLY, DIE was Melody Maker’s response to this song’s parent LP (1994’s The Decline and Fall of Heavenly). But it’s a fact that for every Lemonhead Boy and Orange Corduroy Dress, this band has form when it comes to tackling the odd heavy topic seldom visited by pop.

The point was made via this blog’s Talulah Gosh ICA, which contained a reference to Itchy Chin, a Heavenly track, also from the ‘94 album, that deals with the issue of manipulation within a relationship: She was taken in/She believed all the things you said were real/Never noticed she was feeling just as you meant her to feel…

Then there’s the Heavenly b-side Hearts and Crosses (1996). It’s a song about date rape and, via the sweetest tune and music, its disturbing words and content are smuggled in like contraband: He held her mouth when she tried to scream/It was all so different from in her dream/He never smiled, he never whispered/He bit her hard, but never kissed her…

On the twee column, admittedly, there’s a wreath-wearing kitten on Decline and Fall’s sleeve. On its reverse, too, the band has been photographed, by one Alison Wonderland, fooling around and playing a board game. But I don’t think these quite merit Melody Maker’s murderous desire, do you?

Anyway. To Three Star Compartment. This particular lyric concentrates on an ex-partner. Nothing original there, of course; that’s long been a pop music pillar. But where this track stands out is in its response to rejection as a badge to be worn: something that’s nurtured and cultivated by the afflicted party. This is best demonstrated in a line early in the chorus: When you’re kissing/But still missing me/It’s because you want to…

It’s a broad notion that Trophy Girlfriend, a blast of a Heavenly single that would emerge a couple of years down the line, took on too: Trying so hard to be what she wanted/Trying to look like she’s a loser…

Rather than relying on well-trodden pop (and indiepop) staples of The One, and of a love that burns both brightly and perpetually, Three Star Compartment faces down such ideas with a jaundiced eye: Can’t you see true romance is dead?/Dead always/So your heart’s broken?/You must be joking…

This is a great song. And it’s so plaintively sung. Also, the coda sounds not unlike Seamonsters-era Wedding Present. But is it a great short story? I think so. Sections of the lyric are conversational. That makes it easy to imagine being sat, amid the clank of cutlery on crockery, eavesdropping on this former couple and the tough love being administered to the half who’s wilfully occupying a space s/he must move on from.

Whoever they were, I hope they worked it out and managed to stay good friends

Three Star Compartment

Don’t ever speak to me again
In that way
I couldn’t care less
If you loved me best
And don’t say that you can love just once
For always
Try to forget all
Storybook drivel
And don’t say you’ll never love again
It’s clichéd
And so deluded
Stop being stupid

‘True love will
Never die’
You don’t think that’s a lie?
When you’re kissing, but still missing me
It’s because you want to
When you’re flirting, but you’re hurting still
It’s because you try to
When you left her, and said I was why
It’s because you lie, so
Kill your dreams and kill your love
I’ve had enough

Don’t tell yourself that I’ll be back any day
Hey you’re just dreaming
I know that feeling And don’t keep on saying “let’s still be friends”
There’s no way
While you’re still hoping
We could be loving
Can’t you see true romance is dead?
Dead always
So your heart’s broken? You must be joking

You think love is
Ceaseless and enduring
Well if that’s so
It’s unceasingly boring

No more always
For ever and repetitious
For ever and repetitious
For ever and repetitious

Musicians:

Amelia Fletcher: Vocals and guitar and OBE
Matthew Fletcher: Drums
Peter Momtchiloff: Guitar
Rob Pursey: Bass
Cathy Rogers: Backing vocals and keyboards and Scrapheap Challenge

And I think the words are by Amelia.

mp3 : Heavenly – Three Star Compartment

Obligatory ‘overdoing it’ section:

Should anyone be interested, this song existed first as a Peel Session version (broadcast 07/05/94). At that point it was called Dumpster, and it offers a few lyrics that were themselves consigned to the dumpster by the time the band recorded the LP version.

After a lot of searching (did you know there’s also a French power-metal band called Heavenly? I sure do) I’ve just found it online – thanks to https://peel.fandom.com/wiki/John_Peel_Wiki – and lovingly extricated it from the entire show.

After hearing this version for the very first time: it’s a faster tempo, I think. Certainly, it’s scratchier. The vocals are delivered more shrilly and stridently too. It is, therefore, absolutely terrific. Unfortunately, I think a middle section is missing from the recording. And it’s in mono. But it’s well worth a listen. Peel himself agreed: “Sounding good, it must be said, actually.”

mp3 : Heavenly – Dumpster (Peel Session)

strangeways

A RE-POST TO BUY MORE TIME (8)

It’s a real cheat this week….a re-post of a guest post of what proved to be an unfinished series.

From Sunday 3 July 2011…..and the words of my very dear friend, Comrade Colin.

THE STORY OF SARAH (Issue 2)

TO A SIGH, AND GOODBYE

‘Amelia Fletcher never meant anything to me…’

Los Campesinos! – ‘The International Tweexcore Underground’ (2007)

Well, fuck those Cardiff Uni kids, really. Even though, I am sure, tongues were firmly in cheeks and all that… but, no one says that about Amelia. Except Amelia. Ok, so, I did say last Sunday that I was going to jump around a bit in terms of the back catalogue, just to try and ensure this run through All Things Sarah was not completely boring or predictable. And so it is we fast forward a wee bit to Sarah 30.

This incredibly sweet two track 7″ single was released in 1990 by the Oxford band Heavenly (featuring the wonderful talents of the aforementioned Amelia Fletcher, on vocals and guitar). This single, the first of quite a few releases they had on the Sarah label, was, in terms of the ‘feel’ of the record and the jangly sounds that came from deep within the black grooves, a very similar affair to the previous band that had featured the collective talents of all of those in Heavenly: namely, Amelia, her wee brother Mathew (on drums, RIP…), Peter Momtchiloff (guitars) and Rob Pursey (bass) – and the name of that former band was, big drum-roll, Talulah Gosh! (who were so engulfed in a sugary haze that when you played them all your front teeth fell out – fact).

Heavenly, to my mind, were the perfect Sarah band, and not just because of their history as Talulah Gosh or the fact they clearly hearted The Pastels. They just seem to capture the essence of what Sarah was all about; the guitars, the lyrics, the look and the love for, well, love. And, yes, in the beginning, the Heavenly view of love was a wide-eyed and hopeful vision of love, for sure, but what’s wrong with that, exactly? Oh, also worth mentioning is the fact that the ‘A’ side is relatively epic for a Sarah single – over 5 minutes long – but it holds together brilliantly and has a great run-out in the closing few minutes, building and building into a crashing finale. Lovely stuff.

So, yes, if you ever get the chance to spin discs at an indie-disco, this would be a perfect inclusion in the playlist. It’s just a beautiful record, really, and you should play it loud for best effect. Sigh. I used to love it when records instructed you to ‘play it loud’, often in capital letters as well. MP3’s tend not to say anything much, except ‘remix the fuck out of me, please’.

mp3 : Heavenly – I fell in love last night (5.19)

Comrade Colin

MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (4)

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Most bloggers are blokes…..its an undeniable fact. But some of the best and most enthusiastic bloggers are from the fairer sex as perfectly demonstrated by today’s Friend Electric.

Last week’s posting from Matthew highlighted that some bloggers had subsequently been able, through their talents, to carve out some sort of career in mainstream journalism and the talents and brains behind Last Year’s Girl is a fine example of this.

It’s probably easier just to cut’n’paste from the ‘About’ section of what should more accurately be described as a website rather than a blog:-

According to Wikipedia, that first port of call for general knowledge and pub quiz answers in the information age, the term “blog” was first coined in 1999. Curiously that’s when I began blogging myself, although I’d never have given those early teen-angst fuelled online diaries so lofty a title. My blogging is as old as blogging! That’s actually pretty neat.

I’m 31 and still can’t walk in heels. Apparently, this is actually due to being born with flat feet and not, as I previously suspected, because I’m not graceful. I live in Glasgow, in the west of Scotland; with a boy I met on Myspace, two rambunctious kittens called Scooter and The Big Man and our monkey companion Moriarty. We got married in 2010, which was hilarious.

I describe myself as a journalist by profession because every time I’ve considered doing something else I’ve realised that I’d still have to blog about it when I got home. At the moment I’m using my Masters in the subject alongside my law degree, writing content for the online news resource of a top UK law firm. After hours I write for all sorts – generally on music – such as national arts site The Arts Desk, The Herald and Is This Music?

My friend Tyler once described me as having “Clarkson Syndrome: she hates everything.” He meant it as a compliment, which is fine because I took it as one. I think that tells you everything you need to know about my personality.

I adopted Last Year’s Girl as an online handle in 2003, when Jesse Malin sang it at me from the stage in King Tut’s (it’s a lyric from his song “TKO”). I’ve blogged here on my own domain since 2005: mostly about music, media law and overpriced make-up. Big hugs to my Web Hedgehog for tech support and things.

Oh, and you can call me Lis, and email me ; lisamarie@pixlet.net.

Last Year’s Girl is actually a bit like a quality on-line newspaper – you click on the home page and you are immediately given the option of visiting a load of sections as well as the chance to listen to Last Year’s Girl Radio. It’s not simply about music either….the current headings as I look at the page include What’s On Glasgow, Feminism, Fashion and #team14; the latter is primarily about the cultural programme which is supporting the staging of the 2014 Commonwealth Games here in Glasgow (an event which my day job is very heavily linked to and why July is such a busy month).

There’s also a section where Lis highlights gigs she has either been to or is looking forward to – one visit there and you will soon see that we have a habit of bumping into one another at music venues on a regular basis.

Last Year’s Girl comes very highly recommended and is written by one of the nicest and most affectionate people on the planet and who in recent weeks has even gotten herself on a new locally, based television studio as a reviewer. Maybe it won’t be too long till she’s famous to a wider audience – she deserves it.

These tunes are for you Lis:-

mp3 : Heavenly – Atta Girl
mp3 : Camera Obscura – Modern Girl
mp3 : BMX Bandits – The Next Girl
mp3 : Aztec Camera – Orchid Girl