MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (2)

LTL_logo_5

The internet has made the world a much smaller place….and it has also made it easy to realise that there are kindred spirits out there, often in the most surprising of places!

Today’s friend electric is Brian who is the mastermind behind Linear Track Lives. I know that many of you have been keeping up with Brian, especially in recent months when he has been putting together an excellent Top 50 of UK indie hits 1980-89 featuring dozens of sings that you’d also find here on TVV, so you don’t really need to be told that he has a great taste in music and he is a damn fine chronicler of the indie scene.

But I can also vouch that Brian, together with Mrs Linear Lives, are a lovely couple having had the very good fortune to meet up with them a few years ago when they travelled all the way from Seattle to Glasgow just to fulfil one of Brian’s lifelong ambitions which was to catch Big Country play a gig at the Barrowlands Ballroom in my home city. The enthusiasm and passion he brings to his blog is clear for all to see but believe me, it is miniscule compared to the real-life enthusiasm and passion for indie music….here’s a man who would happily spend his entire life browsing around dusty second-hand vinyl stores and making visits to legendary venues and landmarks in whatever town or city he found himself. Let’s put it this way….if we went on Mastermind he would make his specialist subject ‘obscure b-sides of 80s indie music’ and he’d get 100% correct with no passes.

Brian tends to write short and snappy pieces, very often of a factual nature but when he does turn his mind to more in-depth stuff then it’s all to easy to see his fandom comes with a great writing talent as this example from August 2012 demonstrates:-

The blog has been pretty quiet this month because I have been doing a bit of traveling with the family. The good news is, along the way, I got to hit two legendary record shops worthy of mention.

The first, the cozy Vintage Vinyl in Evanston, Ill., is an old haunt I have returned to several times since my college years there two decades ago. Back then, my pockets were full of lint, and this not a store for the poor. For the most part, all I could do was dream. Even now, with a shekel or two in the piggy bank, I still can’t waltz out with much of a stack. There are no bargain bins, and I have never bought even a 12″ single for less than $15 to $20. The most absurd price for an album I saw this time around was $100 for ‘The Sound of The Hit Parade.’ Still, if you can get past the dollar signs, the selection is a real head turner.

You can find every imaginable genre, including a very impressive selection of ’60s rock, but the real treasures are unearthed in the UK-heavy punk/new wave section. Just to give you a taste, there aren’t too many spots in the U.S.A. that would even have an Associates section, let alone one with 18 pieces of vinyl, as I witnessed on a recent Friday afternoon. I picked up a few gems, including a handful Lloyd Cole 12″ singles that have eluded me for many years.

For a terrific mention of Vintage Vinyl from a real writer, read this piece from the great Dave Eggers that appeared in the Guardian back in ’06.

The second shop I visited this month was one I heard about in a most unusual way. Back in February, during my trip to Scotland, I was looking for the works of several local bands at Elvis Shakespeare in Edinburgh. As you may have guessed from its name, it was equal parts record and book store. I struck up a conversation with the owner and asked about the likes of Close Lobsters, Altered Images and others. He was out of virtually everything I desired. He explained he usually had what I was looking for but there were these two Americans that recently came in and cleaned him out. He said they fly over to the UK a few times a year and hit dozens of record shops, including his, to stock their own store back in Los Angeles. I took all of the info on this mystery store and hoped for a reason to be in SoCal.

Perusing the stacks at Wombleton Records made me anxious and giddy all at once. There were so many albums I had always wanted. There were so many more I had read about but had never actually seen before. Like Vintage Vinyl, the prices are out of my league. Since these fellas go to Europe, handpick the albums, hire a customs agent to take care of the bureaucracy and ship them to America, you can sort of understand why the Sounds’ first album, for example, was $60.

Other than the prices, just about everything else at Wombleton is wonderful. It’s an intimate and fantastically decorated shop. It’s — more or less — all vinyl, and the real hard-to-find albums are given their own section. I have never seen so much C86 in my life, and I didn’t see a single reissue. These were very old but well taken care of originals. And, oh, the 7″ singles! At one point I had six from Postcard in my hand… even though I knew I would never be able to afford them all. It just felt good to hold them. When the dust settled, I got a Hit Parade 7″ on Sarah, Orange Juice’s “Poor Old Soul” and Josef K’s ‘The Only Fun in Town,’ both on Postcard, a few rare Go-Betweens albums and an old favorite from Strawberry Switchblade. Seriously, if money was no object, I could have spent thousands of dollars. The scary thing is, according to the owner, his stock was low. They will be hitting the UK again next month. I hope I can find another excuse to head to Cali.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag (dancing mix)
mp3 : Josef K – The Angle

More Friends Electric tomorrow

SIMPLY THRILLED : THE PREPOSTEROUS STORY OF POSTCARD RECORDS by SIMON GODDARD

6a00d83451cbb069e201a73d8f3697970d

All three previous books on pop music written by Simon Goddard have been a delight to read and so I was bursting with excitement and anticipation approaching the release of his endeavours to tell the story of Postcard Records .
As someone who is old-fashioned enough to still want to walk into a shop to buy things rather than go on-line, I set out on a tour of book stores across Glasgow on the supposed day of publication only to find none had been delivered, although very helpfully I was informed some book and record shops were expecting copies in time for Record Store Day on Saturday 19 April.

Sadly, this didn’t prove to be the case.  I could have gone to a personal appearance by the author the following day and picked up a copy but couldn’t reschedule pre-arranged plans.  On Easter Monday the shops were closed, and come Tuesday and Wednesday I was too busy with work to find time to get into the city centre shops.  Thankfully, the late night openings on Thursday allowed me to take care of things. All that pent-up energy waiting to see what was behind the wonderfully designed cover led me to read the first few pages on the train home rather than do the usual thing of getting lost in music.

It was a strange introduction in that a short but informative prologue told the tragic story of Louis Wain, the Victorian and Edwardian era artist whose drumming cat became the symbol adopted by Postcard.  It’s only a short journey from the city centre to my home…just enough time to read the seven-page prologue and whet my appetite for what was to follow.

Over the course of the next two nights, interspersed by a particularly tiring and troublesome day at the office, I devoured the remaining 240 pages of the book.  And I woke up on Saturday morning feeling a bit iffy and sick as if I’d eaten something that was a bit off.

It pains me to say it but Simply Thrilled : The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records was a bit of a let-down. I’m not saying it’s a badly written or boring book – far from it – but the sense of excitement and anticipation of the chase of getting my hands on a copy was far greater than what I felt as I turned its pages.

The fault lies with the way the author has gone about the task.  The publicity material churned out by the publishers says:-

“This is the preposterous true story of Postcard Records, the renegade label which, with its mad DIY ethic, kickstarted the 1980s’ indie music revolution. From its riotous punk origins to the intertwining sagas of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and cult heroes Josef K, this is how they took on and triumphed over the London ‘music biz’ big boys, against all odds. Acclaimed music writer Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone involved in the making of the legend of Postcard Records. The result is a giddy farce involving backstabbing, ‘Arthur Atrocious’, gluttony, heartbreak, ‘Disco Harry’, cheap speed, ‘Janice Fuck’, disillusion, Victorian lunatics and knickerbocker glories. But it’s also the story of creating something beautiful from nothing, against all the odds.”

Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone and has seemingly taken everything they said at face value and published it.  He himself knows such an approach is risky – in the foreword to the book he says what follows is a fairy-tale and not a documentary. He admits that many people’s recollections contradicted one another while others were distorted for what could be any of a number of reasons.

So what we get is a book which feels too much of an in-joke in which the main protagonists tell the story as they want it to be remembered and which, understandably, puts them in the best possible light.  This book isn’t really the story of Postcard Records – it’s more the like one of those projects in which people are asked to give their memories of a time and a place – in this instance Glasgow in the late 70s and early 80s – for a talented writer to record for posterity. I do admire the tenacity of the author in getting the notoriously reclusive Alan Horne, the brains behind the whole Postcard venture, to speak to him in such depth.

It’s quite clear that Simon and Alan spent countless hours together and there can be no argument that the mogul has a treasure-chest of wonderful anecdotes, many of which are embellished throughout the book.  But such is the size of the shadow cast by Alan Horne that I can’t help but feel that the story would have been better told as an authorized biography of his life and times rather than having others come in and say completely contradictory things and so confuse matters.

In terms of the music, the main focus is on Orange Juice and Josef K which is fair enough given that between them they accounted for around three-quarters of the material released on the label.  And while the chapter on the Go-Betweens is one of the most enjoyable in the book  – Glasgow must have seemed like a strange and alien planet to Grant McLennan and Robert Foster – the dearth of material on Aztec Camera is a bitter disappointment.  They don’t feature until well into the book and there’s not actually all that much said about them.

It’s almost as if this version of the story of Postcard comes to a crashing halt at the time Orange Juice decamped to a major label and Josef K called it quits in the aftermath of one disastrous gig too many in a Glasgow discotheque in August 1981. It certainly reads to me that Roddy Frame was signed to the label only because it allowed it to boast of having a 16-year old wunderkid on the books rather than the label owner actually liking his music.  As such, it is no real surprise that Alan Horne makes no real effort to make a star out of Roddy.

Simon Goddard admits he has written a preposterous tale which means he hasn’t been able to come up with the definitive story of Postcard Records. And therein lies my disappointment in his latest book. In saying all of this, I am glad I bought Simply Thrilled.   It has a number of  very funny and outrageous tales although whether they are true or not is another matter.

It is also a reminder that the Glasgow of the late 70s and early 80s was not the greatest place in the world if you dared to be different and a bit of a dreamer.  It was a conservative city in its outlook and its attitudes and all too often those traits made it a dangerous and frightening place for flamboyant and confrontational characters like Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins.

The book ends at the point in time when Alan Horne  gets the opportunity to set up Swamplands as part of the London Records empire.  How that came about is one of the best and loveliest stories in the entire book….but to say anything more would be to spoil things.

I think I can however, get away with quoting, in full, the afterword:- “So when is your book ending? Just with Postcard? Those were sort of my normal years compared to what came after.  Seriously, the real nuttiness was when I went down to London.  That’s a whole different soap opera of insanity there. Another story. God! That’s a whole other book…”   – ALAN HORNE Here’s hoping.

It’s not that long since I posted all of the Postcard singles on the blog, so today I’ll link in a few alternative takes, all inspired by the book:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Felicity (flexi version)

(recorded April 1979 at an Edinburgh concert on a low-fi cassette by Malcolm Ross; made available on flexidisc with copies of Falling & Laughing as well as various fanzines)

mp3 : Josef K – Heaven Sent

(recorded for a Peel session in June 1981; given a posthumous release as a single in 1987 by which time Paul Haig had re-recorded it in a completely different style at the outset of his solo career. Oh and the tune is also near-identical to that of Turn Away as appears on the Orange Juice LP Rip It Up)

mp3 : Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters (NME Version)

(different mix from the Postcard b-side; made available on C81, a mail order cassette from the NME)

mp3 : Go-Betweens – Your Turn, My Turn

(a song Grant and Robert offered to Postcard for release as a second single on the label but which was turned down flat by Alan Horne)

Enjoy.

THEY WERE ON POSTCARD RECORDS (2)

6066588

It may have been based in Glasgow and is probably best known for Orange Juice.  But the band which released the most material on Postcard actually came from Edinburgh:-

mp3 : Josef K – Radio Drill Time
mp3 : Josef K – Crazy To Exist
(Postcard 80-3 : September 1980)

mp3 : Josef K – It’s Kinda Funny
mp3 : Josef K – Final Request
(Postcard 80-5 : December 1980)

mp3 : Josef K – Sorry For Laughing
mp3 : Josef K – Revelation
(Released on Crepuscule under license
TWI023/Postcard 81-4 : April 1981)

mp3 : Josef K – Chance Meeting
mp3 : Josef K – Pictures (of Cindy)
(Postcard 81-5 : May 1981)

And of course, Josef K were the only act who ever had an LP released via the original Postcard label when The Only Fun In Town hit the shops in July 1981 with the catalogue number 81-7.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Parts 66-68)

In which I finally catch up with all the entries in this long-running series……

R-461007-1335398434

(66) Josef K – Chance Meeting b/w Pictures : Postcard Records 7″ (1981)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you David Weddell, Malcolm Ross, Paul Haig and Ronnie Torrance.  Collectively known as Josef K.  All you need to know can be found in here. It’s a fantastic website.

R-41134-1301460792

(67) The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – Whitney Joins The J.A.Ms : KLF Communications 12″ (1987)

OK. The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are not completely Scottish. But one half of them is and as far as I’m concerned that’s good enough for this 1987 one sided single to be included in this long-running alphabetical series. Plenty more to come before we reach Zoey Van Goey ………..  Happy to accept that this track has not dated all that well but also willing to argue that it was ground-breaking in its day.

R-3067745-1314194930

(68) Kid Canaveral – Couldn’t Dance b/w Teenage Fanclub Song : Straight To Video Records (2008)

Kid Canaveral are an alternative pop group based in Edinburgh, and the indiepop poster children of the Fence Records roster. The band – David MacGregor (Guitars & Voice), Kate Lazda (Guitars & Voice), Rose McConnachie (Bass Guitar & Voice) and Scott McMaster (Drumkit) – formed in St Andrews, and after releasing their debut 7″ single ‘Smash Hits’ on their own label Straight to Video Records in 2007, they self-released a further 4 singles, an EP and their debut album Shouting at Wildlife, before signing to Fence Records in 2011.

Tune in next week for Part 69.