SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter Two)

TAKE 2 : APOLOGIES FOR NOT POSTING THE SONG FIRST TIME ROUND

Do you remember my sister? How many mistakes did she make with those never blinking eyes? I couldn’t work it out. I swear she could read your mind, your life, the depths of your soul at one glance. Maybe she was stripping herself away, saying

“Here I am, this is me
I am yours and everything about me, everything you see…
If only you look hard enough”
I never could

Our life was a pillow-fight. We’d stand there on the quilt, our hands clenched ready. Her with her milky teeth, so late for her age, and a Stanley knife in her hand. she sliced the tires on my bike and I couldn’t forgive her

She went blind at the age of five. We’d stand at the bedroom window and she’d get me to tell her what I saw. I’d describe the houses opposite, the little patch of grass next to the path, the gate with its rotten hinges forever wedged open that dad was always going to fix. She’d stand there quiet for a moment. I thought she was trying to develop the images in her own head. then she’d say:

“I can see little twinkly stars
Like Christmas tree lights in faraway windows
Rings of brightly coloured rocks
Floating around orange and mustard planets”

“I can see huge tiger-striped fishes
Chasing tiny blue and yellow dashes
All tails and fins and bubbles”

I’d look at the grey house opposite, and close the curtains

She burned down the house when she was ten. I was away camping with the scouts. The fireman said she’d been smoking in bed – the old story, I thought. The cat and our mum died in the flames, so dad took us to stay with our aunt in the country. He went back to London to find us a new house. We never saw him again

On her thirteenth birthday she fell down the well in our aunt’s garden and broke her head. She’d been drinking heavily. On her recovery her sight returned. “A fluke of nature,” everyone said. That’s when she said she’d never blink again. I would tell her when she started at me, with her eyes wide and watery, that they reminded me of the well she fell into. She liked this, it made her laugh.

She moved in with a gym teacher when she was fifteen, all muscles he was. He lost his job when it all came out, and couldn’t get another one, not in that kind of small town. Everybody knew every one else’s business. My sister would hold her head high, though. She said she was in love. They were together for five years, until one day he lost his temper. He hit over the back of the neck with his bull-worker. She lost the use of the right side of her body. He got three years and was out in fifteen months. We saw him a while later, he was coaching a non-league football team in a Cornwall seaside town

I don’t think he recognized her. My sister had put on a lot of weight from being in a chair all the time. She’d get me to stick pins and stub out cigarettes in her right hand. She’d laugh like mad because it didn’t hurt. Her left hand was pretty good though. We’d have arm wrestling matches, I’d have to use both arms and she’d still beat me

We buried her when she was 32. Me and my aunt, the vicar, and the man who dug the hole. She said she didn’t want to be cremated and wanted a cheap coffin so the worms could get to her quickly

She said she liked the idea of it, though, I thought it was because of what happened to the cat, and our mum.

mp3 : Tindersticks – My Sister

Originally released on Tindersticks II in 1995. One of the finest examples of a short story set to music. And not for the first or last time by that particular band.

JC

DELIBERATELY LATE

There were many fine tributes paid to David Bowie a few weeks back on the first anniversary of his death and/or what would have been his 70th birthday. Some of the best could be found within the pages of the blogs listed over on the right hand side and knowing this would be the case I decided to hold off paying my own small tribute until now.

Many of the tributes rightly focussed on the incredibly diverse styles adopted by Bowie throughout his stellar career and it was fascinating to read so many lovingly crafted words paying homage to a fan’s favourite song or album. I don’t ever expect to see a David Bowie ICA in the long-running series as it genuinely is impossible to narrow things down to ten tracks to make up the perfect sounding LP. I was tempted to have a go myself and wait with interest what the likes of The Robster and Echorich (among others) would say in response, but in the end I came to my senses.

Instead, I thought I’d settle for posting a song that I’m rather fond of along with a reasonably rare cover version taken straight from my vinyl copy (albeit I’m willing to admit it is far removed from being one of the essential Tindersticks recordings).

mp3 : David Bowie – Kooks
mp3 : Tindersticks – Kooks

The well-known story behind its composition back in 1971 is that Bowie wanted to write a song especially for his new-born son, one which would capture his feelings of excitement and nervousness about becoming a dad. It seemingly ended up being a pastiche of the sort of songs Neil Young was writing and recording at that time for the simple reason that Bowie was listening to the great Canadian when he learned his son had been born. Now I appreciate that very few folk would say that Kooks is one of his greatest compositions in the grand scheme of things but there’s just something very touching about the lyric that over the years must have put smiles on the faces of many new sets of parents.

Enjoy.

SOMETHING RARE AND LONG DELETED

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Another from the old blog…..and a fine way to kick off the month in which I will at some point turn 53 years of age.

Coliseu Dos Recrios de Lisboa was an official bootleg released by Tindersticks, limited to 2500 copies and sold only via the merchandise on offer at a UK tour in 2002. It is of course nowadays a hard to find album, and you will require to pay a bit more than the £12 it cost back in the day.

Here’s the sleeve notes in their entirety:-

Following the release of “Can our love…” and the soundtrack album “Trouble every day” October 2001 saw us embark on our most ambitious live project to date : touring europe (19 dates) playing each concert with a local string orchestra, meeting on the day, rehearsing in the afternoon and performing with them that evening.

After 10 dates we found ourselves in Berlin without our drummer Al (returning home due to illness). As there was never any question of replacing him we made the daunting decision to continue the tour, rebuilding the set and sound as we went along. The Berlin concert that night was fraught, but by the time we arrived in Lisbon (October 31st, the last night) we had gained something new and unexpected: a turning point that will resonate in our music for years to come.

We would like to thank our section leaders : Lucy, Calina, Rob, Sarah & Andy without whose energy and enthusiasm we would have been floundering. our management : Dave B & Harry and our crew : David, Stewart, Anthony, Mark, Robin & Oscar for holding everything together.

A version of “Running Wild” appears on this recording, it was performed for the first time that night in Berlin and evolved on stage across the next 8 concerts, a “finished” version closes our sixth studio album “Waiting for the Moon”.

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I adore this whole LP. I think many of you will too.

mp3 : Tindersticks – My Autumns Done Come
mp3 : Tindersticks – Dying Slowly
mp3 : Tindersticks – Kathleen
mp3 : Tindersticks – Buried Bones
mp3 : Tindersticks – Desperate Man
mp3 : Tindersticks – Her
mp3 : Tindersticks – She’s Gone
mp3 : Tindersticks – Bathtime
mp3 : Tindersticks – Running Wild
mp3 : Tindersticks – Sleepy Song
mp3 : Tindersticks – El Diablo En El Ojo
mp3 : Tindersticks – Drunk Tank
mp3 : Tindersticks – Raindrops
mp3 : Tindersticks – Cherry Blossoms

Enjoy

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #48 : TINDERSTICKS

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I’ve decided to take on another huge challenge with today’s Imaginary Compilation as it features one of my all-time favourite bands whose recordings go back more than 20 years and encompass nine studio albums, six official live albums, four film soundtracks, a double CD of BBC sessions and almost 30 singles/EPs, most of which contain music only released in that format. Welcome to the wonderful world of Tindersticks.

The band’s career and output can be broken up into three distinct periods. The first takes in the material from when they first appeared on the scene in 1993 through to the end of 1997 during which there had been three albums (two of them doubles) and 15 singles/EPs the majority of which had been recorded for UK specialist indie label This Way Up. These recordings were expansive and very rich in nature utilising a wide range of instruments and relying on complex and often fascinating and unexpected arrangements.

The second period covers 1999 -2005 in which three albums would be released featuring music that, while still lush in nature, was increasingly influenced by elements of soul and jazz. On record, these songs didn’t quite grab your attention as much as the early material but they really came alive in the live setting and along with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, with whom in many ways there are comparisons, they were the most fascinating and powerful live band of that era and it’s no surprise that the official bootlegs released from that particular period are among the best things the band have ever put out on the marketplace.

There was a three-year sabbatical and by the time they returned in 2008 it was with a much-changed line-up which, in my opinion, has suffered from the loss of key musicians and contributors. They might still carry the name Tindersticks but it just isn’t the same.

All of this preamble has a purpose in that I feelvery  strongly that to do any real justice to Tindersticks compilations there would need to be three volumes. But for now I’ll go for Volume 1 covering that initial burst of activity and reserve the right to come back with more later on.

One final bit of explanation. Tindersticks emerged at a time when I was fully embracing CDs and while they did put their albums out on vinyl I’ve always felt their releases were written and recorded to max out the 70-odd minutes available on a standard CD. So that’s what this compilation is going to do. But it’s strictly a one-off.

1. El Diablo En El Ojo (Mark Radcliffe Session version, March 1995)

As if it wasn’t audacious enough to announce yourselves to the world with a double album debut, the band decided that the follow-up should follow the same format – even to the extent that, like its predecessor, it would simply be entitled ‘Tindersticks’. Most fans and critics add the II at the end to differentiate.

The opening track was a bit of a curveball as, by not employing the vocal delivery of Stewart Staples they forewent one of their most distinguished and distinctive parts of their sound. Instead it was the talents of multi-instrumentalist Dickon Hinchcliffe which delivered this creepy lyric over a tune that begins in an eerily quiet fashion and builds up in a way in which the strings, keys, guitars, drums and horns all join in on what might appear to be a freeform style but in fact is a fantastically arranged piece of music. It set the tone for what I feel was the band’s best and most enduring album.

But the version they recorded for Mark Radcliffe – who incidentally was the DJ who more than anyone else brought them to the attention of a wider public in the UK – and which was aired just a month before the LP was released is even more powerful and captures the band at their best with Staples and Hinchcliffe sharing vocal duties and additional musicians on trumpet, french horn and vibraphone addding to the magnificent cacophony.

2. A Night In (Tindersticks II, 1995)

This is the second track on Tindersticks II and as such I’m always waiting for it to come on straight on the back of El Diablo; it feels such a natural and perfect fit that it has to slot in at this point in the compilation . Lyrically, this packs one heck of a punch as our selfish protagonist knows what he’s about to do is so wrong and cannot ever be justified, but while he has a guilt complex it’s not enough to lead him to apologise. The tune hits the listener just as hard.

3. Her (Peel Session version, April 1993)

A song of two halves, the first involving an acoustic guitar being played in the style of a classically trained musician as far removed from pop or indie music as can be imagined with the second half cranking right up thanks to a Duane Eddy style driving it along at a frantic but magnificently controlled pace. I’ve gone for the Peel Session, while it loses the horns that appear on the albume vesrion, offers an energy and vibrancy that lifts it to a higher level.

4. Jism (from Tindersticks, 1993)

If this was a real album that was whizzing around the CD player then as the last notes of Her faded out I would be looking to lock myself into a world of my own where I would not want to be disturbed for the next six or so minutes.

Jism is a song like no other in my entire collection in that I feel I always have to, and indeed want to, give it my 100% concentration while it is playing.  On one occasion, it came up on random shuffle while I was waiting patiently on a train to take me to work but I was so transfixed that I looked around at its end and realised my fellow passengers had boarded and departed without me realising.  I get completely lost in it every single time….the downside being however, that if it does pop up on shuffle and I have to concentrate on something else then I have to hit the fast forward button to the next song. Please don’t ask me to put into words why this is as I don’t have the vocabulary to do my feelings justice. The fact that the lyric comes from the viewpoint of a psychopath who isn’t the least bit concerned about using domestic violence only adds to the power and emotion of what I consider to be one of the most outstanding few minutes of music ever written.

5. Bathtime (single version, 1997)

Now it’s time to take to the dancefloor and lose yourself in a different way. Yup, this lot have made records that you can shake your shoulders and all other parts of your anatomy to as can be testified by anyone who comes along to the Little League nights in Glasgow as our genial host John Hunt gives Bathtime a very welcome spin almost every time we gather. The original version was on the LP Curtains released in June 1997 but was given a slight remix for its release as a single a few weeks later. Indie dance music rarely sounds this classy.

6. Travelling Light (from Tindersticks II, 1995)

The country and western genre tends to specialise in the sort of duet where the man sings a few verses about the state of his mind and behaviours and then his woman responds with a ‘well that ain’t quite how I see it buster’. This fabulous little number, which was also released as a single, would fit that mould perfectly.  Stuart Staples, while acknowledging he has some problems to overcome thinks he’s doing fine as he has an easy approach to life but his other half, in the shape of guest singer Carla Togerson from The Walkabouts patiently but wearily tells us that he is in fact a total fantasist and indeed by the end there is a realisation that she is about to walk out of his life forever. I often think that this is the revenge song from the woman who was on the end of the treatment dished out in Jism….

7. She’s Gone (from Tindersticks II, 1995)

……while this is the sad sounding song that brings it home to the psychopath that he’s on his own.

8. Snowy In F# Minor (from Tindersticks II, 1995)

A short, bouncy little number which I assume is written in the key of F-Sharp Minor. Its insertion here is deliberately designed to turn the mood a bit more jovial as we reach the midpoint of the CD…..but don’t worry as normal service will quickly be resumed.

9. Marbles (from Tindersticks , 1993)

As I’ve often said, you never forget your first time and Marbles was my introduction to the band.

I had been reading a lot about them in the press in 1993 especially when they featured in a lot of end of year polls. If I had been in the habit of listening to Mark Radcliffe or John Peel on Radio 1 then I’d have got to hear their music but this was an era when I was travelling a lot to back and forth between Edinburgh, keeping my sanity with compilation tapes, and thus not really having the inclination to listen to music at nights after I got home.

In early 94 I bought a newly released CD entitled NME Singles of the Week 1993 which compiled 18 of the song that had been given that accolade by the paper in that calendar year. I knew and liked about half of the tracks beforehand and quickly fell for the charms of many of the others….but in particular track 6 which was this very strange yet intriguing sounding song. I spent months trying to decipher the half-sung, half-spoken lyrics but failed miserably thanks to getting immersed in the haunting music and eventually gave up. I was now hooked, and in the coming years would try to gather every available recording and see the band anytime they came to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

10. Kathleen (single 1994)

The best covers tend to be those where a band take a song and make it sound like one of their own. The only way I could tell that Kathleen wasn’t one of their own was the fact that the writing credit was to someone who wasn’t in the band, but I’ll be honest and say that at the time I had no idea who Townes van Zandt was or the fact that his own original recording of the song was wonderful to listen to. But the Tindersticks version is majestic in all ways and gives an indication as to why so many film directors in the 90s were keen to have them write and perform soundtracks.

11. Tiny Tears (from Nenette et Boni soundtrack, 1996)

If there’s a list out there of the most compellingly beautiful songs about troubled and failing relationships then I would think this would sit at its head or at least be very close to the top of the pile. Those of you not totally familiar with the band but who are fans of top quality television might well recognise it as it was used to accompany Tony Soprano’s complete and utter nervous meltdown in Episode 12 of the first series of one of the greatest series ever made. There’s a number of versions of this songs kicking around various live albums as well as two BBC session efforts, all of which would fit in perfectly as this point in the imaginary compilation. This however is my favourite thanks to the sparse opening which really lets you appreciate just how great a singer the band have while the orchestral arrangment that comes in just after the three minute mark is just perfection. And don’t get me started on how wonderfully it all comes to an end…

12. City Sickness (from Tindersticks, 1993)

Once again it’s time to get yourself on the dancefloor and shake your stuff. This was initially released as a single in September 1993 just a couple of months prior to the debut double album. The single use of the f-word towards the end of the song would have stopped it getting any airplay, but then again I’m sure producers would also have been scared to suggest to their presenters that they play a 45 which tells the tale of a man masturbating to block out the memory of a failed relationship. The band’s unwillingness to compromise can be seen from the fact that they never recorded it for a Peel or Radcliffe session at the BBC as the rules of the day would have meant either a bleep-out or a word change.

13. (Tonight) Are You Trying To Fall In Love Again? (from Curtains, 1997)

The title can mislead you into thinking this will be a downbeat and gloomy number when in fact it is one of the jauntiest and uplifting tunes the band have put down with a fabulous strings thrown in for your aural pleasure.  It’s inclusion at this juncture in the compilation is to set-up the final wonderful 1-2 combination………………….

14. A Marriage Made In Heaven (from Donkeys 92-97 : a compilation of rare recordings)

In March 1993, the band had released a limited edition 7” single which featured Niki Sin from Huggy Bear on joint vocals. It told the tale of a doomed love affair between a singer and an actress.

He (the singer) believes the attraction was all down to the emotion and power of his voice and can’t understand what has gone while she (the actress) thinks it hilarious that he fell for her when all the while she was just again performing a role. It’s a more than decent song but the re-make in 1997 complete with full orchestral input and a vocal contribution from Isabella Rosellini is the definitive version as her fragile and edgy delivery really bringing home the point that our singer is just a stupid romantic fool.

15. Raindrops (live in Lisbon, 2001)

I wrote in some depth about Raindrops in November 2014 saying that it was a contender for the saddest song ever written. It’s a heart breaking and emotional extension of a subject matter covered many a time in song – your baby doesn’t love you any more, it’s over.

The original version was on the debut LP but this version came from an amazing gig at the end of a short but incredibly ambitious European tour in 2001 involving 19 dates playing each concert with a local string orchestra, meeting on the day, rehearsing in the afternoon and performing with them in the evening. After 10 dates, the band found themselves in Berlin without a drummer who had needed to return to the UK having fallen seriously ill. And while there wasn’t ever a question of replacing him, Tindersticks took the brave decision to continue the tour, rebuilding the set and sound as they went along. They admit that the Berlin concert was fraught and difficult – but by the time they got to the final night of the tour in Lisbon on 31st October, they knew they had gained something new and that some of the songs with the new arrangements could never be bettered.

mp3 : Tindersticks – El Diablo En El Ojo
mp3 : Tindersticks – A Night In
mp3 : Tindersticks – Her
mp3 : Tindersticks – Jism
mp3 : Tindersticks – Bathtime
mp3 : Tindersticks – Travelling Light
mp3 : Tindersticks – She’s Gone
mp3 : Tindersticks – Snowy in F# Minor
mp3 : Tindersticks – Marbles
mp3 : Tindersticks – Kathleen
mp3 : Tindersticks – Tiny Tears
mp3 : Tindersticks – City Sickness
mp3 : Tindersticks – (Tonight) Are You Trying To Fall In Love Again?
mp3 : Tindersticks – A Marriage Made In Heaven
mp3 : Tindersticks – Raindrops (live in Lisbon)

Please remember that I’m not claiming these are the best 15 songs written and recorded in that initial six-year period but instead it represents what I think makes a more than decent compilation CD that will never have you reaching for the fast forward button.

Enjoy

IT WAS CHRISTMAS EVE BABE, IN THE…..

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mp3 : Tindersticks – Drunk Tank

Don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m well fed-up with hearing the same old festive-related songs in every single shop I go into as I search for the perfect last-minute gift for Mrs Villain. Consider this my equivalent of the dirty protest.

But tune in tomorrow for what has become the traditional 25th December posting on TVV (and no looking back to previous years to spoil it….)

Hope Santa is good to you all.

(Lifted from the posting of 24 December 2009)

YET ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTINGS : THE DEATH OF ALL ROMANCE

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Surely a contender for one of the saddest songs ever written??

mp3 : Tindersticks – Raindrops

Silence is here again
Silence is here again tonight
Will the love ever come back?
Will the love ever come back?
I know I’ve been pushing you away
I know it’s been going on for days
Those awkward little things
So endearing
Those awkward little things
Wear on me

See, what we got here is a tired love
What we got here is a lazy love
It mooches around the house
Can’t wait to go out
What it needs, it just grabs
It never asks
We sit and watch the divide widen
We sit and listen to our hearts crumble
With our only chance to jump
Neither of us had the guts
Maybe we’re just too proud
To say it out loud

Silence is here again tonight
Silence is here again tonight

In 2001, Tindersticks embarked on a hugely ambitious tour involving 19 dates across Europe, playing each concert with a local string orchestra, meeting on the day, rehearsing in the afternoon and performing with them in the evening,

After 10 dates, the band found themselves in Berlin without a drummer who had needed to return to the UK having fallen seriously ill. And while there wasnt ever a question of replacing hime, they took the brave decision to continue the tour, rebuilding the set and sound as they went along. They admit that the Berlin concert was fraught and difficult – but by the time they got to the final night of the tour in Lisbon on 31st October, they believed they had gained something new and unexpected turning point that would resonate in their music for years to come.

mp3 : Tindersticks – Raindrops (live in Lisbon, October 2001)

Simply stunning.

NME SINGLES OF THE WEEK 1993

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Back in the days when we had a number of music weeklies in the UK, it was something of an accolade for a band if their latest recording was nominated as ‘Single Of The Week’ in either Melody Maker, NME or Sounds. Indeed, it wasn’t uncommon for some of the major labels to subsequently take out adverts in the general press boasting of such an achievement.

And such was the interest in records awarded the status, that for a short while, one major record label, RCA, thought it worthwhile to take out a license and produce an end of the year compilation entitled NME Singles of the Week. And plucked from the shelf for inspection under the T(n)VV microscope is the offering from 1993.

I reckon this particular effort is a pretty fair reflection of the year, containing 18 songs across different musical genres, and not just a collection of indie-guitar bands that were and continue to be the staple fayre of the paper for many years.

Arrested Development : Tennessee
Belly : Gepetto (remix)
Senser : The Key
Madder Rose : Madder Rose
One Dove : White Love
Tindersticks : Marbles
Credit To The Nation : Call It What You Want
Utah Saints : Believe In Me
Swervedriver : Duel
Bjork : Venus As A Boy (edit)
Elastica : Stutter
Spiritualized : Good Times
Smashing Pumpkins : Cherub Rock
Apache Indian : Movin’ On Special
PJ Harvey : 50ft Queenie
Sugar : Tilted
Grant Lee Buffalo : America Snoring
Leftfield/Lydon : Open Up (vocal edit)

This is actually a compilation CD that even after all these years, I’m more than happy to put on and listen to all the way through. I remember when I bought this in early 1994. I was 30 years of age, and thinking to myself that my days of trying to keep up with the changing scenes in music were drawing to an end, and before long I would be drifting off to Radio 2 and live concerts where I would be insisting on a seat throughout. No more sweaty nights at the Barrowlands, no more mosh-pits, no more seeking out bands before they were famous….and no more vinyl records. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again.

The changes in how we all consume music over the past twenty years has quite a lot to do with it. The fact that I can sit at a PC and get tickets for gigs in demand rather than queue up in the cold, the growth of the internet, mp3s and downloading, the amount of video music channels on satellite TV and, above all else, the i-pod, means I have easy access to music more than ever before. Oh, and it helps that for whatever reason, I’ve a gene in my system that will not let me sit back and say ‘new music is crap and not as good as in my day’ . In other words, I’m refusing to turn into my dad……

Returning back to NME Singles of The Week 1993, I think there’s something for everyone in the compilation. The one thing I will be eternally grateful for is that it was my introduction to Tindersticks, a band that I have been slavishly devoted to ever since, and one of the few that I have specifically gone down to London for a gig…..twice in fact.

And there’s a few other long-term favourites in there as well.

I’m almost tempted to make the whole CD available for downloads, but I need to try and be sensible about things. So on the basis that a normal LP plays at 33 1/3 rpm, I’ll go for 6 songs as one-third of the CD:-

mp3 : Senser – The Key
mp3 : One Dove – White Love
mp3 : Tindersticks – Marbles
mp3 : Credit To The Nation – Call It What You Want
mp3 : Grant Lee Buffalo – America Snoring
mp3 : Leftfield/Lydon – Open Up

Enjoy