AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #135 : LIGHTNING SEEDS

My initial thought when contemplating an ICA featuring Ian Broudie was to come up with something on which he was only involved on the production side and not as a performer. But given that he’s done so around 50 albums and numerous singles over the years, I decided that would be a task for when I had a bit more spare time. I’ve gone for the more straightforward task of a 10-track LP, consisting of his output as Lightning Seeds with a bonus EP thrown in featuring his other bands. I make no apologies for the poppy and hits-laden nature of this ICA as the man has given us some memorable tunes over the years.

Side One

1. Pure (1989 single and Cloudcuckooland LP, 1990)

After the best part of a decade of being in the shadows, either as a producer going by the name of Kingbird or as guitarist in a band under his own name, Ian Broudie gained a higher profile after his debut single crashed into the UK Top 20 in the summer of 1989; what I hadn’t realised until looking it up is that Pure also went Top 40 on the Billboard Chart in America.

It’s a wonderful love song, set to the happiest and upbeat of pop tunes on which just one man performs. I recall seeing the promo video for this and being blown away with the realisation that Kingbird actually had a voice that perfectly matched the music he had been so involved with previously. Kind of like Dave Grohl years later coming out from behind the Nirvana drum kit and leading the Foo Fighters to rock stardom….totally unexpected but so natural.

2. Change  (Jollification LP, 1994 and single in 1995)

Jollification was the third and ultimately most successful Lightning Seeds studio album, hitting #12 in the UK and spawning four hit singles, the second of which was Change. As with just about everything that band has ever released, the key to its ability to get into your head and stay there is in the production with guitars, keyboard and percussion blending perfectly. It is an album packed with pop gems with this particular track demonstrating that you don’t need a big hooky, sing-a-long chorus to be a hit. It actually provided the band with their best ever chart performance with an original song or outside the Three Lions collaborations with Skinner and Baddiel.

3. You Showed Me (Dizzy Heights LP, 1996 and single in 1997)

Lightning Seeds weren’t afraid to offer up cover versions, often as b-sides to singles. Sometimes these covers weren’t very good, but on other occasions they were very innovative and entertaining. The fourth and final single from the Dizzy Heights LP was originally conceived as such a b-side featuring a song composed by Jim McGuinn and Gene Clark of The Byrds that was later a hit for The Turtles in 1968. But having worked some studio magic with loops and samplers, and giving it something akin to a trip-hop treatment, it was decided to include it instead on the album where it was particularly singled out for praise among reviewers.

Most of the time, any fourth single to be lifted from an album sinks without much trace, often just sweeping up all the spare b-sides/live recordings that are lying around, but I this instance it gave the band a Top 10 hit. And deservedly so.

4. Sense (from LP of the same name and single in 1992)

This was featured on the blog just a few weeks ago, the 12” single having a strange and unusual sleeve and three top-notch b-sides. As I said at the time, both it, and its predecessor single deserved much better chart performance than they experienced; they certainly have aged better than many of the other singles by other bands from that era but looking back, they suffered from being released at a time when grunge and rock were very much in fashion and pop had been elbowed unceremoniously to the side.

5. Life’s Too Short (1999 single and Tilt LP)

The fifth LP is one that is worth looking back at with the benefit of hindsight. Ian Broudie was now a household name thanks to the success of the Three Lions single that had celebrated England hosting Euro 96 when football ‘came home’ and again in a re-recorded version to celebrate the 1998 World Cup. A ‘Best Of…’ album had gone multi-platinum and the band was also enjoying positive reviews of the live shows. But the frontman wasn’t happy – success didn’t sit well with him and it would later be revealed that his personal life was unravelling somewhat.

The new album, Tilt, was a departure from the norm and was more geared towards electronica and dance music while the lyrics were less generically upbeat than previous. There was an element of self-loathing about them and there was an overtly political effort bemoaning the treatment of sacked dockers in his home city of Liverpool. The reviews were mixed, with some comparing the record to the likes of New Order and Pet Shop Boys but others expressing disappointment in comparison to previous records. The end result was the band didn’t do much in the way of high-profile promotion which meant this more than decent single has been sort of lost in the midst’s of time. Not long after the release of Tilt, Ian Broudie called time on his recording career.

Side Two

1. The Life Of Riley (1992 single and Sense LP)

‘The Life of Riley’ is a phrase that dates back to the early years of the 20th century, becoming popular in songs and literature to represent someone who was living a happy, contended, stress-free existence without having to work hard for such an outcome. Ian Broudie, at the tail end of the same century, took the phrase and turned into a song that didn’t stray too far from the original sentiments but was cleverly worded as a tribute to his new-born son who had been christened Riley.

Twenty five years on, and Riley Broudie is part of Lightning Seeds, appearing on stage alongside his dad. It must be a strange feeling to perform a song written specifically for him.

It’s a tremendous pop record that, as I mentioned in passing when featuring Sense on Side 1 of this ICA, deserved to be a much bigger hit than it was. The dream-like remixed version that was put on the 12” b-side of Sense is also well worth your time.

2. Lucky You (1994 single and Jollification LP)

Ian Broudie had enjoyed working with Terry Hall over an extended period of time, going back to producing The Colourfield as far back as 1984. In the early 90s, they co-wrote a number of songs for the Sense LP, including the title track, that was purloined for Home, the first solo album Terry Hall released under his own name in 1994. An album that was produced by…..yup…..Ian Broudie and which featured songs co-written with the likes of Craig Gannon, Andy Partridge, Nick Heyward and Damon Albarn.

And while they were in the studio making this solo LP, Broudie and Hall found time to compose this classic Lightning Seeds single, the one that would be the first lifted from Jollification that took the band back into the Top 20 for the first time since the debut single.

3. Sweet Dreams (Cloudcuckooland LP)

Joy and All I Want, the two follow-up singles to Pure flopped badly and so it did initially seem as if Lightning Seeds would be one-hit wonders.  I don’t think there would have been a three-year delay till the next chart success if this tuneful and catchy number had been picked out as a 45.

4. Marvellous (7″)  (Jollification LP, 1994 and single in 1995)

There’s a lot of clichés in the lyrics to this single but thanks, again, to an excellent production that drives it along at an incessant and enjoyable beat, is a song to be enjoyed and not endured. A good solid, somewhat atypical Lightning Seeds 45 that doesn’t get aired these days as some of the others but I for one always appreciate any surprise appearance on i-pod shuffle.

5. I Still Feel The Same (Four Winds LP, 2010)

As mentioned in the blurb on Side 1, Lightning Seeds broke up in 1999 after the release of Tilt. The next Ian Broudie LP release turned out to be a solo effort, Tales Told (2004) and it surprised quite a few thanks to it being a stripped-back, almost folk-like effort quite unlike anything he’d done before.

Five years on and Lightning Seeds were reincarnated and a sixth album, Four Winds, was released. It turned out to be more akin to the solo effort than the 90s output and wasn’t all that well received. The few press interviews given at the time indicated that it was a tough record to make as Ian had dealt with some tragic family circumstances in the first decade of the new century that had led to him re-evaluating a lot of things.

Again, using hindsight, Four Winds was an album that was packaged wrong and should really have been a solo release. Attaching the badge of Lightning Seeds led listeners to expect the upbeat happy stuff that the band had been so adept at churning out at the height of their fame. It’s full of songs that are quite forlorn and that lyrically seem quite bitter about what life has become, but then, out of the blue, the LP closes with I Still Feel The Same, a song that recalls the joyous aspects of being a singer and performer and while there are pangs of regret that perhaps he didn’t change the world, there’s a quiet satisfaction about what has been achieved in a lifetime of work .

There hasn’t been a studio album since, but given that Lightning Seeds are now part of what is a very well-established and lucrative nostalgia circuit, and indeed they co-headlined a festival not too far from Edinburgh a few weeks ago, so it would seem that Ian Broudie, having coming to terms with his pop legacy and revelling in the fact he is still giving pleasure to so many all these years later. It’s not too shabby an outcome is it?

BONUS EP

1. Big In Japan – Suicide A Go Go
2. Original Mirrors – Boys Cry
3. Bette Bright and The Illuminations – Hello, I Am Your Heart
4. Care – Whatever Possessed You

Tempting as it was to just feature Care on the bonus EP, here’s some pre-Lightning Seeds stuff that acts as a reminder of the diversity of the bands that Ian Broudie was part of.

JC

A RATHER UNUSUAL SLEEVE

The Lightning Seeds released their sophomore album Sense in April 1992. The first single lifted from the LP had been The Life of Riley which, for a pop song of such quality, disappointingly stalled at #28.

The label decided that the follow-up should be the title track of the LP, a song that Ian Broudie had co-written with Terry Hall. Again, it was another 45 tailor-made for radio play and to further boost sales it was decided that the 12″ version should not only contain a wonderfully dreamy remix of the previous single but two very fine cover versions, one of which saw Ian’s new band tackle a song by his old band while the other was a rather gorgeous piano ballad. Oh, and a gimmick was thrown in too, with the sleeve having a special strip that was sensitive to heat and when warmed in any way would reveal the word ‘Sense’ as if by magic. It worked too…although it was useful to remember to remove the actual record from the sleeve in advance so that you didn’t do it any damage.

None of which, however, led to any huge sales and the single stalled at #31 despite, as I mentioned earlier, having four songs of genuine quality:-

mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Sense
mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Flaming Sword
mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Hang On To A Dream
mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – The Life of Riley (remix)

A sunny foursome which seem appropriate for this time of year.

JC

THIS IS A VERY VERY VERY FINE POP RECORD

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Ian Broudie was a big part of the Liverpool new wave scene in the late 1970s. A member of Big in Japan (which also featured Holly Johnson and Bill Drummond) he then formed The Original Mirrors in the early ’80s, and was credited as a member of Bette Bright and the Illuminations on their lone album from 1981.

In 1983, he formed the band Care with vocalist Paul Simpson and the duo released three outstanding singles before breaking up. Though he was a busy writer, performer and session musician through the 1980s, Broudie was much more well-known a producer, working with Echo and The Bunnymen, The Icicle Works, The Colourfield, The Pale Fountains and The Fall amongst many others, often using the pseudonym Kingbird”.

In 1989, Broudie began recording alone under the name The Lightning Seeds – he has since said it was an experiment to see if he could cut it as a muso – and in this guise as a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer, he would achieve much success beginning with this wonderful debut single:-

mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Pure

A #16 hit in the UK, the two follow-up singles from debut LP Cloudcuckooland failed abysmally and like most folk, I reckoned that could very well have been the end of The Lightning Seeds. But two years later, he/they returned and hit the Top 30 with Sense and for much of the rest of the decade became chart regulars, picking up lots of new fans in particular after the huge success of Three Lions, the official anthem of the England football side for the Euro 96 championships.

Some of the later material might have been bigger hits, but I don’t think there was ever anything better than that debut single. Here’s the excellent b-sides from the 12″ copy that’s been sitting in the cupboard all these years after I picked it up for 99p in a bargain bin in Woolworth’s.

mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Fools
mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – God Help Them

Enjoy.

MORE CULT CLASSICS…

Care

I mentioned them in passing just 48 hours ago and couldn’t resist the temptation to re-tell the story.

Care was primarily a coming together of Ian Broudie and Paul Simpson.

The former is best known as the man behind The Lightning Seeds, but he’s been part of the music scene in his native Liverpool since the late 70s, initially as part of the new wave band Big In Japan (who also featured Holly Johnson who found fame with Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Bill Drummond, likewise with The KLF).

I remember hearing their debut single one evening on either the David Jensen or Janice Long show on Radio 1 and being knocked out by what was then a pretty unusual and distinctive mix of acoustic guitars and synthesisers. I tracked the record down the following day.

It was on a major label – Arista Records. The production team was Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley who at the time were probably the biggest name producers in the UK. But despite considerable airplay in the evenings, it didn’t make the then crucial A-list at Radio 1 and the single faded into obscurity.

The follow-up single was a Kingbird production, which was one of the names that Broudie used. It also flopped.

Single number three did the same, despite at least one TV promo slot on the Oxford Road Show (I know this as I still have the clip on VHS tape).

Care then broke up in the summer of 1984 without bothering to release their debut album which only then saw the light of day in 1997 as a CD entitled Diamonds & Emeralds. The band were referred to as Care featuring Ian Brodie.

The cash-in was of course completely cynical as it came hot on the heels of The Lightning Seeds biggest success with the football anthem Three Lions that was adopted by the supporters of England during their hosting of Euro 96.

But if a small handful of those who were new to Broudie’s talents were drawn to this album by association, they would hopefully have found much to enjoy.

And here are the afore-mentioned three singles in the order that they were released:-

mp3 : Care – My Boyish Days (drink to me)
mp3 : Care – Flaming Sword
mp3 : Care – Whatever Possessed You

The first two are the 12″ versions.

Flaming Sword was later re-recorded om 1992 by The Lightning Seeds as the b-side to their Top 40 single Sense. And here it is:-

mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Flaming Sword

Not much difference you’ll find which shows either the 1983 recording was ahead of its time or the 1992 recording was immediately retro. Whatever. I just think its a great pop song that should have been a massive hit.

Oh and if any of you out there have a 12″ copy of Whatever Possessed You and would like it to go to a good home alongside many other pieces of vinyl, then I’d be delighted to offer said home….

Enjoy!!