THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (10)

A GUEST POSTING by CHAVAL

Cast your minds back a couple of weeks to JC’s celebration of Chinese Bakery, a single which featured a throwaway line about “Bob Dylan on a motorbike”. For Dylan’s 1966 Woodstock crash that released him from the album/tour/voice of his generation treadmill, Haines’s equivalent was that reckless drop off a wall in San Sebastian.

As well as instilling respect for the difference between sand and concrete, Haines’s leg fractures allowed him an interval of reflection. Like some post-Britpop James Stewart in Rear Window, Haines brooded and read, and like Dylan in 1967, unleashed his creativity in several directions, only tangentially connected with the pop marketplace.

By the end of 1995 and drift into 1996, Haines’s career was all over the place. The Auteurs’ best album After Murder Park was in the can but still awaiting release. Baader Meinhof, Haines’s unhinged, brilliant homage to 70s terrorism, was about to baffle critics with its mash-up of crunching retro-funk, dub and lyrics about hijacks. Always ready to muddy the waters, The Auteurs released the Back With The Killer EP, fresh material that took Haines’s lyrical provocations further than ever, albeit expressed very succinctly (the four tracks clock in at a total of just over nine minutes).

mp3: The Auteurs – Unsolved Child Murder is as uncompromising as its title, a dark depiction of an event dragged from the news headlines and given unsettling intimacy, exploring its devastating effect on a suburban family. Haines says it was based on a childhood memory of a local doctor’s family whose child went missing, presumed dead. Haines’s 70s childhood would prove a rich and often disturbing seam of material from this point on.

Haines had covered vaguely similar territory on Daughter Of A Child on Now I’m A Cowboy, but otherwise the only indie-rock point of comparison with regard to subject matter would be The Smiths’ mawkish Suffer Little Children from their first album. Where Morrissey’s lyric is mostly adolescent melodrama, Unsolved Child Murder is a richly detailed and empathetic depiction of tragedy, irrational desperation and a viciously judgmental world, wrapped up in a gorgeously melancholic tune (the EP version is enhanced with a French horn omitted from the album track that appeared later).

Along with the title track of After Murder Park, it showed how far Haines had shifted from the usual lyrical terrain of mid 90s popular music. The band had just finished recording these tracks in Abbey Road when Paul McCartney looked in and amiably asked if he could hear what Luke had been working on. “I politely decline the ex-Beatle’s request,” Haines recalled. “I don’t want him to be the first person to hear these songs; they’re too good for him.”

This startling work merited that kind of pride, but this EP contains another masterpiece:

mp3: The Auteurs – Back With The Killer Again takes the direct route of Lenny Valentino musically, although the atmosphere is distinctly psychotic. In Tim Mitchell’s deranged non-biography of Haines the author suggests the song is about “a man who takes drugs to turn himself into a murderer”, an explanation that may have come directly from Haines. Certainly the lyric offers a disturbing cluster of allusions to nerve gas, bad dope, primed bombs . . .

Those better versed in 70s counter-culture might be able to identify all the references in the line “John got Barrett for the lot, it must have been the Microdot”. All I can offer is that the Microdot happened to be the name of the early 70s gang of underground LSD chemists eventually busted by Operation Julie (as immortalised in the Clash song), who were rumoured to have links with the German terrorists Red Army Faction aka Baader-Meinhof, bringing it all back home to Haines’s reading lists. “A damning, self-mythologising riposte to the current crock that is the UK scene,” is how Haines described the song.

If the other tracks on the EP can’t match the impact of the first two, that’s not to say they are filler.

mp3: The Auteurs – Former Fan continues the murder theme, seemingly from the viewpoint of a Mark Chapman type obsessive whose disenchantment with a former idol turns homicidal. Or it might be a twisted love song, you tell me.

mp3: The Auteurs – Kenneth Anger’s Bad Dream name-checks the underground film-maker (or “pornographer” as Haines somewhat harshly calls him when introducing the song at live shows) and keen disciple of the Satanist Aleister Crowley. Haines’s insatiable cultural curiosity is on display once again, and given a pretty, folk-rock-ish tune.

The EP reached number 45 (says Wikipedia, Haines’s memory says 48), a commercial disappointment in the hit-crazed climate of Britpop, but undeniably a remarkable achievement considering the artistic reach and lyrical ambition.

chaval

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (9)

This is where things start to get just a bit messy when it comes to getting these releases in the right order in terms of chronology…I’m going by the info contained in one of my go-to-books, namely ‘The Great Indie Discography’, written by Martin Strong, published in 2003, and consisting of more than 1,000 pages. It’s slightly at variance with how Luke Haines lays things out in Bad Vibes, but that may well be down to him keeping the narrative flowing in terms of music rather than jumping back and forth.

So….Chinese Bakery had stalled at #42 in April 1994 while the album Now I’m A Cowboy released the following month, reached #27, which was higher than had been achieved by New Wave but was a sore one for Luke Haines given the success being enjoyed by many other acts whom he regarded as second-rate.

Last week focussed on one of his responses, in the shape of the The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq EP. The release of that EP coincided with a period in which he was incapacitated – both ankles badly broken and the right heel smashed to smithereens, sustained after he jumped down off a 15-foot wall onto concrete after a gig in San Sebastian in northern Spain. His defence was that he had gone slighly crazy mid-tour and had decided to make the jump on the basis that if he landed unscathed, the tour, which was still to go Italy, France and Japan, would continue…and that he thought he would landing on soft sand.

It was April 1995 before he was in any sort of shape to return to the studio, where he took the songs he had been writing while recuperating and teamed up with Steve Albini, the producer best known from his work with Nirvana, It took just 13 days to finish work on the new album, which was given the title After Murder Park, and it was presented to the record label in May 1995. For one reason after another, its release is consistently delayed and it doesn’t see light of day until 1 March 1996. But that’s a story for another day.

Not long after finishing work with Albini, The Auteurs return to the studio and begin work on some new songs that would, as it turns out, see the light of day as an EP before the next album is released. But that too is another story for another day….(and I’m delighted to say that chaval will be the one to tell that story)

The next physical release to feature Luke Haines proves to be a 7″ single in which neither his nor his band’s name actually features. It came about because Luke Haines and his great mate Phil Vinall, who had produced the first two albums by The Auteurs, were bored and restless, and over a weekend they went into a studio to have a bit of fun, trying to match music to a lyric or two that Haines had pulled together about his latest fascination, a left-wing terrorist gang that had become famous/infamous in the 1970s.

The results were presented to his manager, who dismissed it as being uncommercial. They went next to David Boyd, the boss of Hut Records who had long regarded Haines as a maverick genius. His response on hearing it was to give the green light for a 7″ single release, just a few weeks in advance of the new EP by The Auteurs, and at the same time signal his support for the concept to be worked up into a full album.

Luke Haines is ecstatic:-

mp3 : Baader Meinhoff – Baader Meinhoff
mp3 : Baader Meinhoff – Meet Me At The Airport

To nobody’s surprise, the single doesn’t do anything much in the way of sales, but the unusual marketing campaign, which consisted of sending journalists a copy of the single along with a photocopy of a page from a booklet that described in detail how best to construct a nail bomb, did get column inches….the music press knew exactly who was behind the stunt…

JC

BONUS POSTING : ESPECIALLY FOR ECHORICH : A FURTHER SINGULAR ADVENTURE OF LUKE HAINES

Echorich is an incredibly valued member of the TVV community, and when I picked up this comment just a few minutes ago, I really had to respons in the only way possible:-

All the songs that surround the release of Now I’m A Cowboy are what I go back to when listening to The Auteurs. There is so many songs that remind me of the sounds I heard growing up on music from the Downtown NYC music scene. Bits of Johnny Thunders, lots of Television, but filtered through what was then current music tropes. I think back and wonder how legendary The Auteurs might have been if they were around playing CBGB’s in ’76 or ’77.

Not sure if you will include this, but my favorite track from Now I’m A Cowboy, Underground Movies, was only released as a single in either France or Germany. I can’t believe it wasn’t release EVERYWHERE as an album single. Listening to it again today reminds me of how engaging and timeless it is. It also contains one of the best lyrics I have ever heard –
Four weeks later in April
I took her to the doctors
Said, “I’ve no prescription
For compromised solution” – MAGIC!

I hadn’t intended to feature it in the series as, to the best of my knowledge, it was only a CD promo single in France, a country where The Auteurs were highly popular, even more so than they were in the UK. But for Echorich, and also reflecting that two different mixes (more rock orientated and radio-friendly!!) had been made available:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Underground Movies (alternative version)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Brainchild (alternative version)

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (8)

October 1994.

Oasis go top 10 with their new single Cigarettes & Alcohol.  But the chart isn’t quite Britpop crazy just yet.  The Top 5 slots are held by Take That, Pato Banton, Whigfield, Bon Jovi and Cyndi Lauper.  Elsewhere, singles by Madonna, Elton John, Wet Wet Wet, Boyz II Men, Gloria Estefan, Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey, R Kelly and East 17 are riding high.  It’s not a vintage week and Luke Haines is probably very glad not being asked by his label to compete.

But in the absence of a third single from Now I’m A Cowboy, he comes up with an idea to get The Auteurs noticed in a completely different market place.  And Hut Records go for it.

Here’s wiki:-

The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq is a remix EP from British intelligent dance music producer μ-Ziq (a.k.a. Mike Paradinas). It was released October 1994, on Hut Records in the UK then released as μ-Ziq vs. the Auteurs on Astralwerks in the US during February 1995. μ-Ziq remixes tracks from the “Now I’m a Cowboy” album by The Auteurs, about which in his memoir Bad Vibes, singer Luke Haines claimed this album to be his version of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music —that it was deliberately unlistenable and mocking the critics who gave it great reviews.

μ-Ziq at this point was still very much an underground name, whose work was incredibly experimental (in later years he would come to the fore as one of the pioneers of mixing electronic music with drum’n’bass and creating a different sort of sound for clubbers). His work with The Auteurs was the first time he has been commissioned by a mainstream label, and I’ve no doubt that he was selected specifically by Luke Haines for his uncompromising approach to the project. Judge for yourself:-

mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Lenny Valentino 3 (8:09)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Daughter of A Child (6:10)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Chinese Bakery (4:51)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Underground Movies (4:40)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Lenny Valentino 1 (12:27)
mp3 : The Auteurs vs. μ-Ziq – Lenny Valentino 2 (8:50)

I’ve put the times in of each track….you’ll see that the two-minute masterpiece that was Lenny Valentino got stretched out a fair bit.  I can’t imagine the EP got any plays on BBC Radio 1………

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (7)

Chaval told the story last week of how The Auteurs sought to bounce back from the disappointment of a close-run thing with the 1993 Mercury Prize by recording and releasing an astonishing and surreal single that stalled at #41.  He also highlighted just how good the b-sides were, all of which bore well for the release of the next album.

Prior to that, we were treated to another advance single.  As was all the rage at the time, there were multiple formats – 2 x 7″ singles or 2 x CD singles offering up different choices for b-sides, with either a white or black picture sleeve.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Chinese Bakery

This was another triumphant and superb piece of music, opening with a melancholic vocal and cello refering to someone from uptown going downtown to where the brokers and dealers socialise…and then the bass and guitars kick in with a fair amount of ferociousness.    At any other time other than April 1994, this would have been given all sorts of column inches in the music press as the next essential element in how British indie pop music should be developing…..except that it was released about a month after Blur had experienced their first Top 10 hit with Girls & Boys and in the same week as the debut single by a new band called Oasis.  Oh, and Suede were still riding high although there were rumours that Bernard Butler wasn’t entirely happy with his lot.  In short, the media had enough to keep themselves occupied with concerning themselves about the views of Luke Haines.

Chinese Bakery stalled at #42.  It was a tough one to take.

The white 7″ and CD single offered up two more outstanding cuts as b-sides, with the latter seeming to be a title for a Haines Manifesto :-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Government Bookstore
mp3 : The Auteurs – Everything You Say Will Destroy You

The black CD offered up one new acoustic song and an acoustic version of the new single:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – Modern History (acoustic)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Chinese Bakery (acoustic)

The following month, the album Now I’m A Cowboy hit the shops. Eleven biting, sarcastic, knowing and occasionally angry/resigned pieces of music, including the most recent two singles and a full band version of Modern History. It got rave reviews but it just didn’t really connect with the buying public, albeit it went Top 20 on the week of release. The problem was that it went down really quickly and the record label bosses despaired that it didn’t have any songs to compete with the happy-go-lucky stuff that was coming out of other parts of London and from Manchester. As Haines would relect many years later in Bad Vibes:-

Blur release their annoying Parklife album at approximately the same time as Now I’m A Cowboy. It sells 46 billion copies in Swindon alone and the world changes forever. From this point on anything that sells less than 46 billion is deemed a resounding failure. We are now on a different trajectory.

The coming weeks will show just how very different a trajectory was deliberately chosen……

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (6)

A GUEST POSTING by CHAVAL

When you miss out on a major prize, the correct way to behave is the magnanimous nod at the victors, a half-raised glass to toast their success and a cultivated air of being above such trifling matters.

Luke Haines didn’t opt for that route. Shortly after learning that New Wave had failed to win the 1993 Mercury Music Prize by one vote, Haines could be found at the table of winners Suede.

“What I mean to say is ‘Well done’,” he recalled in his peerless memoir Bad Vibes, “What I actually say is ‘Give me my fucking money now’. With menace.” Suede are tolerant of such behaviour but ugly scenes ensue. Haines isn’t proud. “I have achieved optimum inebriation and am acting like a peasant.”

The Mercury Prize debacle put a line under the baroque, bohemian swoon of New Wave and ushered in a toughened-up Auteurs, disdainful of the cheery bonhomie of the nascent Britpop movement (exemplified at the time by one of Haines’s many betes noirs, The Boo Radleys). The immediate results are a coruscating single that sounds like nothing that has gone before.

The November 1993 release of Lenny Valentino might have confounded fans who were expecting more of the arch, Kinksian New Wave stuff. Instead they got an up-tempo two-minute searing guitar assault with a very strange lyric about the soul of 60s angry comic Lenny Bruce being transferred into the body of early 20th-century movie heartthrob Rudolph Valentino.

mp3: The Autuers – Lenny Valentino

It wasn’t really the stuff of jaunty Britpop chart success and breakfast radio ubiquity, but Radio One put it on their A-list and it came very close to being a genuine hit, stalling at number 41.

The CD B-sides are excellent and essential, Car Crazy being a call-back to the New Wave sound, a cello-driven queasy ballad and an early addition to the canon of Haines road songs. Vacant Lot has a cryptic lyric with a hefty hint of the menace that was to characterise future Auteurs work.

mp3: The Autuers – Car Crazy
mp3: The Auteurs – Vacant Lot

The CD single also included the supposed 12” mix of Lenny Valentino, which is about seven seconds longer and not hugely different.

mp3: The Auteurs – Lenny Valentino 12″ mix

The 7” vinyl single offered an alternative B-side, a strumming and strings obscurity later available on the completists’ CD compilation Luke Haines Is Dead.

mp3: The Auteurs – Disneyworld

Residents of the continent were treated to a double A-side single, combining Lenny V with a Francophile track from the imminent new album Now I’m A Cowboy, of which more next week . . .

mp3: The Auteurs – New French Girlfriend

chaval

JC adds……

It’s a genuine thrill to have chaval come on board for this….and I echo every word he says about Lenny Valentino and its various b-sides.

 

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (5)


I finished last week’s post with mention of Luke Haines incredulous reaction to him and James Banbury, on cello, selling out a gig in Paris in February 1993.  One of the tracks from the show, Staying Power, has been included as a b-side of the 10″ version of How Could I Be Wrong, but such was the quality of the performance that Hut Records tried to drum up more interest in The Auteurs with the pressing of a 7″ single, consisting of live renditions of four more songs, all of which had appeared on New Wave.

The Live Acoustic EP wasn’t put out for general sale via shops, but instead seems to have been available, on request, by return mail. I’m not sure if it the release was widely publicised – I certainly don’t have a physical copy despite being an obvious member of the target audience. Having said that, the fact it is available for as little as £3 on Discogs would indicate a fair number were sent out and that it’s not too rare an artefact.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Housebreaker (live, 1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Junk Shop Clothes (live, 1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Star Struck (live, 1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Home Again (live, 1993)

All these years later, you’ll find that the Luke Haines of 2019 plays shows in which it is just him and an acoustic guitar, and on the odd occasion you might get to hear one or more of the above tracks.

Worth mentioning that the venue was the Passage Du Nord Ouest, one of the most famous and historic music halls in the city which actually closed down in 1996, but re-opened as a theatre in 2008.

Tune in next Sunday for a guest contribution as part of this series.

JC