BONUS POST : A REVIEW OF ‘ENGLAND IS MINE’

WARNING : Negative words alert!!!!!

What follows won’t really come as a surprise to those of you who are in the unfortunate position of being able to read my Facebook posts.

Within 15 minutes of the credits rolling on England Is Mine, I was back on the train home to Glasgow. The original plan had been to head along to a post-screening reception that Mr John Greer had kindly arranged access to, but I felt I was a bit casually dressed for such a grand occasion and besides, if I had to bow to the decorum expected of such events, I’d needed to have lied through gritted teeth about my views on the film if asked by anyone involved in its making.

Instead I got to work on an instant review as the train headed west. And here’s what I typed.

“Sorry to say, but I thought the film was a real let down. The script, or lack of one, was a shocker. Anyone who went along tonight with no idea of the backstory would have been bemused and not really been able to follow it.

Morrissey was portrayed mainly as a one-dimensional character, with just one short scene with Linder showing any sense of warm humour. The world of work is populated by one-dimensional characters lifted straight from sit-com casting central; nobody understands our would be poet/writer/singer, especially his male colleagues and his boss, while his one female colleague just wants to get inside his y-fronts.

Oh and it constantly rains in Manchester too……

Soundtrack was enjoyable mind you.”

Leaving aside that I repeated the phrase ‘one-dimensional’, it’s not too shabby an instant reaction. A few other folk I know were also at the showing and some of them also gave fairly quick reactions via social media and it’s fair to say they didn’t agree with me.

The first two or three lengthy on-line reviews that followed a few hours later were also quite scathing although later opinions tended to be more favourable and offered various degrees of praise. As far as I can see, however, nobody has come out and said it’s a masterpiece.

Reflecting on things almost 24 hours on and the word I didn’t use in the Facebook review was ‘boring’ because that would have been what I’d have said if I was asked for a one-word reaction. If allowed a second word, it would have been ‘cliched’.

The truth of the matter is that Morrissey, from the ages of 17-24, didn’t lead a particularly exciting life and so a film biopic will always be on a hiding to nothing. The main issue for me was the poor quality of the script, but as was explained in one review, this stemmed from the screenwriters’ inability to quote anything that Morrissey was known to have said in real life for fear of being sued given the whole venture was unauthorised. As such, the few decent lines were given to other characters and Jack Lowden, in the role of our protagonist, has to rely on facial expressions and mannerisms to convince us of the depth of his character (and to be fair, he does a reasonable job). The best performance in the film comes from Jessica Brown Findlay in the role of Linder Sterling, but this is perhaps down to the fact that enough is known about the real life Linder to appreciate that the actress delivers an accurate and sympathetic portrayal of someone who, in real life, is an interesting personality in her own right.

My biggest problem was the way the other supporting characters came across. It was as if the director and scriptwriter had watched The Office and decided that the male characters who worked at the Inland Revenue alongside Morrissey should be as Brent-esque & co as possible. Maybe that was what they were really like in the late 70s but it was really dreadful, unfunny and predictable – as too were the scenes in which our hero finds himself on an enforced date with his flirtatious female colleague.

Much has been written about the influence that Morrissey’s mother had on him growing up, but for all but one scene they barely acknowledge one another. There is also little made of Morrissey’s alleged rapier-like wit that seemingly got him noticed on the Manchester scene – for 80% of the movie he is mostly an incoherent, bumbling individual bar the occasional exchange with Linder, but all of a sudden, after he has come off prescribed anti-depressant medication, only in the final 15 minutes of the movie, in which has also smartened up his dress sense and gotten a fashionable haircut, do the barbed comments start to flow.

The most pathetic scene, however, was when our hero, having had his genius denied just once too often for his liking, goes all Incredible Hulk on us and destroys his previously cave-like bedroom where everything was in a particular place for a particular purpose. Oh, and don’t get me started on Johnny Marr being straight out of the cast of the UK edition of Shameless…….

I don’t like to be negative on this little corner of the internet, but having already posted how excited I was to be going along to the premiere, I don’t think I can avoid sharing these thoughts with you.

And in the interest of balance, if anyone wants to offer a more positive review, I’d be very happy to post it.

Any excuse mind you to post the song from which the film title is taken:-

mp3 : The Smiths – Still Ill

JC

30, 20, 10 (Part 1)

Something new that I’m going to try to do on the 1st day of each month (or as close to the 1st if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday). And that’s bring the songs that were #1 in the UK Indie Charts 30, 20 and 10 years ago to the day. Unless they are pish and only qualified for the Indie charts thanks to a distribution quirk. So here we go with 1 May 1987, 1997 and 2007 respectively.

mp3 : The Smiths – Sheila Take A Bow (Rough Trade)
R. Kelly – I Believe I Can Fly (Jive Records)
mp3 : Arctic Monkeys – Brianstorm (Domino Records)

I’m actually quite pleased about it being these three. The Smiths and Arctic Monkeys are two of the biggest and best known bands who can be thought of as classic indie – i.e. guitar based bands on small, independently owned labels. R Kelly on the other hand shows up how ludicrous the chart was for a good number of years.

Inclusion on the indie chart was always about distribution. Initially, the record needed to be delivered by a distribution service that was independent of the four major record companies: EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group and the genre of music was irrelevant. The major labels however got round this by setting up subsidiary labels and outsourcing the shipping of those singles to smaller distribution services. Thus a single that was part of the soundtrack to a Hollywood film and which had enough clout to pick up 3 Grammy Awards thanks to it being on Atlantic Records in the USA, was eligible to take the #1 slot in a chart that it really shouldn’t have been any part of.

It took until June 2009 to close this loophole when the industry altered the rules so that in addition to distribution criteria a single was only eligible for the Indie Chart is it was on a label that was at least fifty per cent owned by an entity that was not one of the main four record companies.

I’m sure this intended regular feature will throw up some howlers as time moves on, particularly in the 90s and 00s.

Oh and I meant to add that I was astounded that the Arctic Monkeys had a #1 on the chart as long as ten years ago from what was their second LP. I never thought they had been around that long. It’s a belter of a single too.

And as I just happen to own some vinyl, here’s the b-sides from the 12″ release in 1987 and the 10″ release in 2007:-

mp3 : The Smiths – Is It Really So Strange?
mp3 : The Smiths – Sweet and Tender Hooligan
mp3 : Arctic Monkeys – If You Found This It’s Probably Too Late
mp3 : Arctic Monkeys – Temptation Greets Like A Naughty Friend
mp3 : Arctic Monkeys – What If You Were Right The First Time?

Temptation features a cameo vocal contribution from the wonderful Dizzee Rascal.

JC

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (7)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2008

(and again on 31 October 2013)

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The position of this song in the chart will come as a shock to many regular readers and to those who have known me for many years. There’s at least one mate who tipped it to be #1….

I was fortunate enough to be around when The Smiths first came to prominence. They remain my all-time favourite band, and I don’t think they will ever lose that particular mantle however long I manage to live.

I was present at their first ever gig in Scotland – at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd March 1984. This was a truly astonishing night in a small student-venue that was packed to the rafters. It was very hot, sweaty and tightly-packed and it is probably the nearest I’ve ever came to passing-out at a concert.

The Smiths had not long cracked the Top 20 with their third single What Difference Does It Make?, while their recently-released debut LP had gone Top 10. So they were hardly a secret.

The venue was woefully inadequate for the demand for tickets, and there were dozens of folk outside pleading for the lucky few to sell for way over the cost (which I can’t recall, but was no more than £4 or £5). The level of expectancy was enormous, and the build-up to the band taking the stage bordered on insane hysteria. I’d never experienced anything like it beforehand, and never again since (although the first five minutes down the front of the Morrissey ‘comeback gig’ at the MEN Arena in 2003 came awfully close).

Steven, Johnny, Mike and Andy took to the stage to a crescendo of noise – I was worried that the crowd was so loud that we wouldn’t hear anything above it. The opening notes of Hand In Glove were struck – if anything this only cranked up the atmosphere. The one song that those of us who had been in from the start adored above all else – the song that had been the flop single with the controversial nude male on the sleeve – and the song that seemed more than anything to sum-up what was a truly unique relationship between the band and its fans.

And that is why Hand In Glove is my all time favourite single by my all time favourite band.

And because it is my favourite, I was prepared to pay a fair amount of money to pick up a mint copy of the single on e-bay as a replacement for the one lost all those years ago in Edinburgh. Let’s face it, the b-side, which to my knowledge has never appeared on any subsequent compilation, is every bit as amazing:-

mp3 : The Smiths – Hand In Glove
mp3 : The Smiths – Handsome Devil (live at The Hacienda)

As with The Wedding Present, there would have been multiple entries for The Smiths in this chart were it not for the one single per artist rule that I set. In fact as much as one-quarter of the chart could have been a Morrissey/Marr compilation.

I surprised myself when I identified six other 45s that were even more of a favourite than this.

You’ll soon learn what they are over the coming days, but I suspect that many of you will be beginning to narrow it down pretty accurately.

 

BONUS POSTING : OCD EPs : #2 : THE SMITHS

A GUEST POSTING FROM DAVE GLICKMAN

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For the second OCD EP, I have chosen The Smiths. Maybe I went a bit overboard with the foreshadowing in the previous installment, but I’ll leave that type of literary analysis to future generations of academics who choose to study the golden age of indie music blogging.

A much more challenging task to narrow things down this time, as over the years, quite a bit of previously unreleased material has been “leaked” on the internet – a couple sets of recordings from the aborted Troy Tate sessions for the debut album, unreleased BBC radio sessions, and various demos, outtakes and alternative versions of songs spanning the lifetime of the band. Everything in my Smiths’ library is generally accessible on the internet, so if you are hoping for A Matter of Opinion or the complete version of I Want a Boy for My Birthday, then I am sorry to disappoint you. For the most part, in what follows, I’ve chosen to focus on what I find interesting, not necessarily most enjoyable or better than the official released versions.

Side One

1. Accept Yourself (Troy Tate alternate vocal and piano version)

In his book “The Songs That Saved Your Life,” Simon Goddard mentions two different versions of Accept Yourself from the Troy Tate debut album sessions. Of this second version we have here, he says:

“…the second version being particularly impressive with its staccato rock ‘n’ roll piano punches during the pre-chorus breakdowns, Morrissey’s doubled vocal and some enlivening falsetto shrieks.”

There is certainly something to the piano work that could have found its way into later versions, but obviously didn’t. As for the alternative vocals, I suspect everyone involved was comfortable moving in a different direction.

2. The Queen Is Dead (original unedited version)

To be consistent with the overall theme of this EP, I should really put the trumpet version of Frankly, Mr. Shankly here. However, while unique, I just don’t find it that interesting a listen. So instead, here is the complete, high octane version of TQID, before the decision was made to trim it down a bit for the album. It’s all the greatness you’ve come to expect from the song, with 17% more free!

Side Two

3. Never Had No One Ever (studio outtake)

It’s not that I don’t like the album version of this song, it’s just that I Know It’s Over is a very tough act to follow. However, when I first heard this version with the extended trumpet solo and Morrissey’s moans and laughing, it was a complete revelation. There was a bluesy lounge song hidden there all this time just waiting to get out. This is one case where I think the alternative version (fully worked up) might actually have worked well in place of the official album track.

4. Sheila Take A Bow (original John Porter version)

I don’t really have anything to add to Analog Loyalist’s notes from when this track originally leaked:

“One of the more famous episodes in Smiths session history, this song was originally produced by John Porter, signed, sealed and delivered, ready to go. Then for whatever reason the band had a rethink, decamped to another studio with Stephen Street, and re-recorded the song (sampling some of Porter’s guitar work in the process, to save time – which miffed Porter, understandably, since they never asked for permission).

This original version is much more jangly, with Porter on emulated sitar, while the final Street take is all T.Rex‘ed out. Marr’s zingy guitars are all over the stereo field and it’s really a wonderful recording. It’s almost as if Porter knew this was the last time he’d be working with the band (it was), so he had Marr lay down 30 times more guitars than normal as a parting gift.”

5. Girlfriend In A Coma (early take)

It’s the Bob Marley version.

Dave

FIVE YEARS AGO THIS VERY DAY….

Funeral-Flowers

…..my best mate died after a two-year battle against leukaemia.  It was on Tuesday 12 April 2011. He was 46 years old. One of the things I did at the time was indicate that I was going to take a short break from blogging as I was physically and emotionally frazzled.

A few days later, I got an email from ctel, who as you know is responsible for the Acid Ted blog, telling me there had been more than 40 messages of sympathy left behind in the comments section and that this had inspired him to want to keep the then Vinyl Villain blog going during this difficult period for me.  (He had details of my log in and passwords as he had in the past stepped in with some emergency postings on a number of occasions when I’d unexpectedly been left with access to a PC or laptop).

Ctel put up the following:-

I only just read JC’s post about his best friend’s death from leukaemia and that he won’t be blogging until the end of this month. I’ve also read the comments on the post. But I thought that we could do more to show support.

I’d like anyone reading to send me a post and an accompanying track on the theme of happiness or sadness. Can be a song that gets you through sad times or one that shares the joy.

He gave details of how to get in touch with him before kicking things off by posting up a song he had dedicated to me on the day of my late brother’s funeral some nine months earlier (he had died in a car accident at the age of 43):-

mp3 : Orbital – Belfast/Wasted

I still can’t listen to this without getting a lump in my throat.  It’s an extraordinarily powerful and intense piece of music.

Over the next 30 days or so, the blog resounded to guest postings from all corners of the globe.  I would love to have been able to reproduce them once again, but the archives to which I have access are missing some six or seven of that particular series and it wouldn’t be right to only feature those that haven’t disappeared completely into cyberspace.

Google’s actions in destroying the old blog were unforgivable for a lot of reasons, but none more so for the fact that so many heartfelt words and sentiments are lost forever.

That so many did contribute has made me determined to have whatever blog(s) I’m involved in be as inclusive as possible, which is why I’m so proud of the fact that many of you have contributed an ICA.  But please, don’t feel you have to be restricted to that series….contributions on all matters are willingly accepted.

In the meantime, I’ll have a quiet reflection about my mate – I don’t think a single day has gone by in the past five years that I haven’t thought of him – but I’ll also take time to again appreciate everyone I’ve had contact with thanks to this blog.

My mate incidentally, was a professional footballer. With shite taste in music.  He couldn’t bear just about anything I listened to. This one particularly annoyed him:-

mp3 : The Smiths – This Charming Man

Cheers folks

 

FOOLS IN LOVE (APRIL AND OTHERWISE)

MSTT

This is loosely adapted and then expanded from a post over at the old place back in February 2010.

One of the minor reasons I ever started a blog was to bring attention to otherwise unavailable or difficult to find very fine records that had only ever been placed on the b-sides of long-deleted singles and while there is a growing tendency for album re-issues to bring together such tracks and label them ‘bonus’, nothing beat finding bits of vinyl with the crackly old originals.

One of the songs I really loved from my old vinyl days but had missed for many a year was Goodbye Joe, originally recorded as a b-side to a 1979 single :-

mp3 : The Monochrome Set – Goodbye Joe

It begins as if it is a live track, and one that is of poor sound quality at that. You can hear some crowd sing-a-long at the outset in what is clearly a small venue, then some cheering as a guitar as struck. After just under 50 seconds, lead singer Bid utters the words ‘Let’s Have Some Decorum’ and suddenly we switch to a quite gorgeous and moving studio track.

It’s about watching a film performance of this bloke here in case you were wondering.

Oh and for the record, the song was later recorded by Tracey Thorn, and again was consigned to obscurity on a 1982 b-side :-

mp3 : Tracey Thorn – Goodbye Joe

The original posting also featured the A-sides of the singles which, in Tracey’s case was also a beautiful piece of music:-

mp3 : Tracey Thorn – Plain Sailing

In the Feb 2010 posting I mentioned in passing how both of Tracey’s songs had featured heavily on compilation tapes in the era of 82/83/84 as a way to demonstrate to would-be girlfriends that I really did have a sensitive side but it never ever worked all that well. Seems I wasn’t alone in that failing as my good mate Dirk from Sexy Loser left behind the comment:-

“Yeah, mate: those tapes, ey?! I only wish I still would own a few of the dozens of them I made up back then with all my passion, heart and soul … instead I gave them away to girls who didn’t give a fuck. Literally.”

I remember that as being a genuine ‘splutter the tea all over the monitor’ moment when I read it. Still makes me smile………

And while I’m here, I just can’t resist:-

mp3 : The Style Council – The Paris Match (LP version)

Days of skinny-ribbed hooped t-shirts, a headful of perfectly coiffured hair and a devil-may-care attitude to life that I thought would last forever. How the fuck has Johnny Marr changed so little since those days???????

mp3 : The Smiths – Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

Sigh.

A READER NEEDS YOUR HELP…

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Hello JC,

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for many hours of music listening and informative post reading over the years. I’ve been using HypeMachine (as MrPharmacist) for what is now getting close to ten years, and you have always been my favourite blogger.

Apologies for never actually commenting on your posts, like many others out there just happy to consume, although wishing I had the drive to apply myself to a similar task.

The reason for this correspondence after all this time. I have a track that I have been listening to for over twenty years now and the tape is pretty much warn out…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kt9I8SjiiLc

I have never been able to ID it. I heard a chill out DJ play it once in a Manchester bar in about 1992 but can’t remember who he said it was. I’m pretty sure they were once on Granada local TV news as well. Could you give it a listen? One Dove meets Cocteau Twins, or it might have just been cash-in Ibiza ambience!

PS. A recently considered top 12 lps from Feb that say something to me about my life as press ganged into on facebook…

1. Belle & Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
2. The Cure – Pornography
3. The Smiths – Meat is Murder
4. Echo and the Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here
5. Conflict – The Ungovernable Force
6. Various – Dance Craze (Specials et al)
7. Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
8. The Fall – Bend Sinister
9. Elbow – Leaders Of The Free World
10. LFO – Frequencies
11. Metronomy – English Riviera
12. Happy Mondays – Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)

Thanks again for all your posts,

All the best,

Sid – DrSidders – Mr. Pharmacist

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So please dear readers, click on the above youtube link and have a listen.  If you’re able to identify the tune then please share the knowledge with us.

And looking at Sid’s list of 12 albums gives me an excuse to feature  a song from the set I aired at the Strangeways night last Saturday

mp3 : The Smiths – Vicar In A Tutu

Dedicated to this very fine chap who came along dressed perfectly as the said vicar…….

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Other pics, including some of me doing my best to add a touch of John Peel-esque farce* to the night have also been posted on t’internet.  Here’s an example:-

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Quick PS

I ventured along the other night, with Aldo, to see Young Marble Giants at Stereo in Glasgow.  It seemingly was the first time the band had ever played in my home city.

For those of you who don’t know, this is a band which released just one album and a couple of EPs back in 1980 and 1981. The music is quite minimalist and on the quiet side and the songs are on the short side.

So much could have gone wrong at this gig.  Stereo was packed to the rafters so there was probably about 300 folk in the basement space. It was hot and it was sticky.

The band took to the stage at around 8.50 and played a note-perfect set for 50 minutes.  The audience paid rapt attention.  It was the first time I’d ever been at a pop/rock gig where the audience behaved as if it was a classical performance and didn’t speak as the band were playing and furthermore didn’t speak when the band members were talking in-between songs.  Nor did anyone go up to the bar and order drinks and so causing the staff to clank glass or cans or make the till bleep away.  This was all about 300 fans coming along to experience live music in its purest sense and it was quite magical.

So if you were part of that particular audience, a big thank you from this particular fan for making the occasion so wonderful.  It was also very clear that the band really appreciated things….

mp3 : Young Marble Giants – Wurlitzer Jukebox
mp3 : Young Marble Giants – Eating Noddemix

Enjoy

* where the great man occasionally played a record at the wrong speed, I managed to press play on two songs at the same time on the laptop causing all sorts of confusion for a few seconds…….