IT REALLY WASN’T A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE

It’s Friday. It’s the 13th of the month. I’ve been running a Scottish theme all week here. It’s the eve of an all-English ICA World Cup final. I feel it is appropriate to sabotage the blog.

Today’s offering is the debut 45 by the rather spendid and usually tuneful Idlewild.

Queen of The Troubled Teens was released on Human Condition Records, an Edinburgh-based indie label, but such was the small extent of the distribution that few copies got outside of the city, and as such it is highly sought after by fans (and no, I don’t have a copy; I used villainous methods to get a hold of the songs for today).

Idlewild had played their first shows in early 1996, as teenagers, and they soon earned a reputation for loud, chaotic but energetic shows. It wasn’t until February 1997 that their debut single was released by which time their bass player, Phil Scanlon, had quit to concentrate on his studies and so these three songs are his sole contribution to a band which has now released seven studio albums, three compilations and twenty-three singles in a largely stellar career.

Here’s what Roddy Woomble, lead singer and main songwriter with the band has said this about the debut:-

The thing is that it’s rubbish. I mean, for what it is – when I look back, like I do with fondness at copies of a favourite book or something – musically it’s just a bunch of 19-year-olds. Of course it’s part of the band’s history, but I think things have moved on.

He’s not wrong you know….

mp3 : Idlewild – Queen of The Troubled Teens
mp3 : Idlewild – Faster
mp3 : Idlewild – Self Healer

I can safely predict that these are unlikely to be aired at Simply Thrilled.

JC

SON OF A GUN

The Vaselines are one of the best examples you can find of a band becoming more famous and influential long after they had called it a day.

Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee were romantically entwined when they formed the band in 1986. As they have said on a number of occasions, they knew they weren’t terrifically competent from a technical point of view, but they set out with the intention of the sort of music they enjoyed listening to, heavily influenced by the 60s duets of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, and the likes of The Velvet Underground, Orange Juice and The Jesus and Mary Chain who had all used grit and determination to get things going rather than worry about how perfect their sound was.

They released two EPs on a Glasgow-based independent label which was run and managed by a number of their friends, including Stephen Pastel, as well as recording an album which initially had to be shelved as the label had gone bust, albeit it was later picked up and released on Rough Trade. By the time the album was released in 1989, the band was no more – thoroughly disillusioned by the experience of crap venues, no money, no solid fan base and no media support for what they were doing. Little did they, or indeed anyone know, that their songs had come to the attention of a singer/songwriter from the north-west corner of the States who was determined that the band he fronted would pay homage by covering them when they played live.

Kurt Cobain’s love for The Vaselines brought them to a whole new audience, and more importantly, had critics reassessing things to the extent that a number of them in the UK would claim to have championed them from the outset. Eugene and Frances had become hip names to drop into any conversation….

The EPs and album had sold in such small numbers that they were tough to track down and so Sub Pop chose to reissue their entire 19-song back catalogue in 1992 on a compilation entitled The Way of The Vaselines at the same time as a Edinburgh based indie label issued something similar in the shape of All The Stuff and More, which is the piece of vinyl that I have in the collection.

The three songs that made up the debut EP encapsulate everything that made the band so different from their late 80s peers while also demonstrating how it was difficult for anyone to find a single reference point with which to compare them:-

mp3 : The Vaselines – Son of A Gun
mp3 : The Vaselines – Rory Ride Me Raw
mp3 : The Vaselines – You Think You’re A Man

The irony, of course, is that the lead track has aged magnificently, sounding really fresh and invigorating more than 30 years on, one which has no problem in filling the floor of your average indie/alt disco with even the young ones appreciating its charms.

The other original track is hilarious and shambolic in equal measures….it could be argued that it’s about someone looking forward to climbing aboard a fine looking horse and galloping around some freshly mown fields first thing in the morning…..but that argument holds no truck in Villain Towers. I really don’t know how these real life lovers were to keep straight faces when they sang this one in concert……

The final track demonstrates that the making indie music doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your wicked sense of humour and fun at the door of the studio. Where Orange Juice had often paid tribute to the late 70s/early 80s disco sound, so their descendants tipped their hats to Hi-NRG with a bizarre take on a hit single by the drag queen Divine (which, incidentally , was the first ever success for the production team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman).

The a-side of these may well be aired at some point during Simply Thrilled….if not the inaugural night, then I’m certainly going to have it on a playlist in next time around.

JC

CITIZEN(S) KANE

Here’s a single which is kind of like a skeleton in my closet in that I don’t admit to many folk that I like it; indeed it is one I rarely play given nowadays given that I’ve never transferred it or anything else by the band onto the i-pod or i-phone.

Just as I’m finding it really hard to listen to anything involving Morrissey, so it has been for some 30 years with Hue and Cry. For those of you who perhaps aren’t familiar with the group, (which I imagine will be the case with almost all the non-UK readers), it is basically a duo, formed by brother Pat Kane (vocals) and Greg Kane (everything else!) in the mid-80s.

After a debut single in 1986 on a small Glasgow-based independent label, they came to the attention of Virgin Records who signed them to a subsidiary label Circa for whom there was immediate success which was sustained for a few years with a number of chart singles and two albums which went Top 20. They were incredibly popular in Scotland, emerging at a time when a number of others acts across the country were embracing that late 80s big-sounding production with big vocals and big social statements to match, selling out much bigger venues up here than anywhere else.

It soon became apparent that Pat Kane was never going to be content with being a mere pop star.

He made use of his fame to promote himself as something of an intellectual, penning newspaper columns and appearing on television programmes in which he never shied away from airing what he considered to be left-wing credentials. He was also a very strong advocate for independence for Scotland and, to be fair, his arguments and viewpoints did make for interesting reading, gaining more than enough traction to ensure his success when he stood in an election in 1990 for the post of Rector at Glasgow University, which in effect is the highest office that can be held by a non-academic person at that particular seat of learning.

There was seemingly nothing on which Pat Kane didn’t have an opinion, and there was seemingly nothing on which his opinion was wrong. I don’t think I was alone in growing very bored of him very quickly, switching the telly over any time he appeared and completely by-passing any articles I came across in any newspapers. There was an arrogance about him that jarred and, looking back, it is clear to see that he was one of the first ‘champagne socialists’ who would rise to power in later years, albeit at the UK level of politics rather than in Scotland.

All of this made it tough to enjoy his music anymore, but to compound things, he and Greg announced that having enjoyed the rewards from two hit albums they were now going to embrace their lifelong love of jazz, which was my cue to bail out entirely.

Hue and Cry are still on the go today and Pat Kane still has something of a profile as a journalist and political activist but I continue to pay no attention.

But….and this came from looking deep for stuff that might go down well at the Simply Thrilled night(s)….there’s no denying that the duo did write and record an absolute belter of a radio-friendly tune back in 1987:-

mp3 : Hue and Cry – Labour of Love

This was the second single lifted from the debut album and it climbed all the way to #6 in the UK charts. It’s big, bold and brassy with a defiant message. Yes, it could be interpreted as a break-up song with someone telling their other half that the love they had endured for seven years was now over; but let’s not kid ourselves – this was very much an open letter to a right-wing government which was causing havoc to so many communities, including many in and around where the Kane brothers had been brought up. If Billy Bragg had penned this lyric, we’d be still celebrating it as genuine classic.

Here’s yer ballad found on the b-side:-

mp3 : Hue and Cry – Widescreen

JC

SIMPLY THRILLED

So here’s the thing……..

Three top blokes – Robert, Hugh and Carlo – for a decade have been promoting a club night in Glasgow called Strangeways. I’ve written about it before, and indeed chronicled my experience of being given an amazing opportunity to do a guest slot at one of the nights.

There have been a couple of spin-offs from Strangeways in which I’ve had some involvement – most recently being the Mixtape Nights – but now things are going to a slightly different, higher and really exciting level. Best if I let Robert explain:-

“It’s a round world

While it turns things go in cycles, we presented our much cherished Strangeways night for almost ten years, and we loved every night.

Putting our hearts and souls into every one with the eternal hope that you guys would love them too.

And you came back time and again, dancing and singing until you drifted off into the night, it was happy, happy times.

We decided it was time to close the doors on Strangeways this year while it was still a popular night and leave on a high. But we couldn’t just waltz off into the sunset, naw.

Time for something new and the sounds of Northern Britain are calling you, Scotland’s music needs celebrated and celebrated loudly! It’s colourful, diverse, inventive, quite frankly it’s brilliant and we want to get you dancing once more.

So say hello to ‘Simply Thrilled’ our first night will be back at the fantastic Admiral once more on the 28th of July.

And here’s the dust jacket : Simply Thrilled: Glasgow’s new club night for Songs from Northern Britain and Beyond The mission? To celebrate all that’s great about alternative Scottish music – as well as some terrific bands from beyond. With a playlist that reads like a roadmap of Scotland, Simply Thrilled will be thumbing an A-to-Z of everything from the Associates to The Zephyrs. So expect to hear Glaswegian heroes including The Pastels, Franz Ferdinand, The Royal We and Teenage Fanclub – plus the sounds of the Chemikal Underground: Mogwai, The Delgados and Bis. And, celebrating another groundbreaking label, listen out for Postcard’s Orange Juice, Josef K and Aztec Camera. Need more? Here’s more: Arab Strap, Belle and Sebastian, BMX Bandits, Bossy Love, Camera Obscura, Cocteau Twins, Frightened Rabbit, Lloyd Cole, JAMC, Primal Scream, Simple Minds, The Soup Dragons, Snow Patrol, Young Fathers… And with a glut of newer names like Sacred Paws, Teen Canteen, Spinning Coin, Modern Studies, Happy Meals, Apostille and Hairband

There’s even a wee video trailer to cast your eyes over.

Here’s the thing. The intrepid trio have invited me to join them on a regular basis. And I’m simply thrilled, honeys.

These guys really do know what they are doing and they really play to their individual and collective strengths. Robert and Hugh in particular know how to crank things up at just the right moments in an evening to take the atmosphere to new levels. I can only hope that my own contributions, in whatever shape they take and whatever hour(s) of the evening they occur, maintain that level of quality.

And to celebrate all of this, I’m going to have a short series which celebrates some of the best in Scottish music. Not sure just how often the pieces will appear as they will be built in around the ongoing stuff like the 2018 ICA World Cup, the guest postings, Charged Particles and other inane ramblings that I have in the pipeline. There’ll even be an ICA from a Scottish act which I wrote a few weeks back but never quite manage to slot in.

For today, I’ve pulled out this double-pack single which was posted on the old blog but is one which I can’t trace via my search of what archives have survived.

Oblivious had been released by Rough Trade in January 1983 and reached a reasonably respectable #47 in the charts. The album High Land, Hard Rain had come out a few months later to huge critical acclaim and the band had enjoyed a very successful summer promoting it out on the road. There was a feeling that Oblivious could benefit from a re-release which duly happened in November 1983, with a new sleeve and bolstered also by a limited edition double-pack release to entice those of us who had bought the 45 first time around.

mp3 : Aztec Camera – Oblivious
mp3 : Aztec Camera – Orchid Girl
mp3 : Aztec Camera – Back On Board (live)
mp3 : Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters (live)

The live renditions were from a gig at El Mocambo in Toronto on 11 May 1983 which had been broadcast by a local radio station. No apologies for the fact the mp3s pop and crackle a bit….I’ve played them a lot over the years.

The marketing campaign for the re-release was a success, taking the song into the Top 20, and providing a very fresh-faced and excited Roddy Frame with his first appearance on Top of The Pops.

More Simply Thrilled induced nostalgia coming your way tomorrow.

JC