NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA (i)

So…. I’m in Toronto and its surroundings this week, having flown over here last Friday and not due home till a week tomorrow (those of you unfortunate enough to be mates on Facebook will already be aware of this).

I’ve come up with a way of covering the next few days with lazy posts, but hopefully in a way that will provide interest.

I suppose I should explain the NOW concept just in case it’s needed….so here’s wiki:-

Now That’s What I Call Music! (often shortened to Now!) is a series of various artists compilation albums released in the United Kingdom and Ireland by Sony Music and Universal Music (Universal/Sony Music) which began in 1983. Spinoff series began for other countries the following year, starting with South Africa, and many other countries worldwide soon followed, expanding into Asia in 1995, then the United States in 1998.

The first Now was featured 30 UK hit singles from that year on a double vinyl LP or cassette. Although the compilation of recent hit songs into a single release was not a new concept (K-tel and Ronco, for example, had been issuing various artists’ compilations for some years), this was the first time that two major record labels had collaborated on such a venture. Virgin agreed to a deal with EMI, which allowed a greater number of major hits to be included (the first album in the series included a total of “eleven number ones” on its sleeve).

The rate of release settled very quickly to three per year: one release around late March/early April, another around late July and a third around late November. Over a hundred “main series” (not including spin-off and special edition) albums have been released to date. The UK series has followed a double-album format throughout the series (many other foreign franchises of the Now! series are only released on one disc), now exploiting the capacity of the CD to include between 40 and 46 tracks over two discs. Since November 2005 (Now That’s What I Call Music! 62), the Now! series have only been released on CD and digital download formats. Previously, the series had been available on vinyl, Cassette and MiniDisc. As these formats declined in popularity, Now releases are no longer issued on them.

The most successful volume to date is 1999’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 44, which has sold 2.3 million copies and remains the biggest selling various artists compilation album in the UK. 2008’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 70 sold 383,002 units in the first week of sales, the biggest ever first week sale of any Now album. Now That’s What I Call Music! 87 holds the achievement for the most tracks in total with 47 tracks

For the most part, the NOW albums have been, for want of a better word, a shit listen, bought in the main by folk who don’t explore much beyond the mainstream fodder. This five-part series over the coming week will hopefully bring some sort of balance.

The words used to describe each of the songs have been lifted from the particular individual ICA in question. There’s a multitude of contributors, but I’ve decided against highlighting who wrote what…..I like to see this, and indeed the entire output of T(n)VV as a collective.

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA….(i)

SIDE A

Complete Control – The Clash (Track 1 from ICA #12)

You’ve got to open any imaginary compilation album with a killer tune…something of an anthem which epitomizes the band or singer being featured….and I can’t think of anything better than this. One of punk rock’s greatest songs, written and recorded in frustration as the penny dropped for the band, and in particular Joe Strummer, that being a fully fledged, ideologically driven punk at the same time as being a core part of the mainstream music industry was an uncomfortable and some would say impossible position. Anger as an energy…..

Dreaming – Blondie (Track 2 from ICA#197)

The band’s drummer, Clem Burke, has always been important to the sound. He’s had to constantly adjust his style to suit whatever genre the band were concentrating on, but there can no arguing that, at heart, he’s just a guy who is at his happiest when he’s allowed to pound away loud and fast, dragging the band along breathlessly in his wake. He’s probably never given as fine a performance as on this hit single from the band’s fourth album, which is fitting given that it seems he came up with the phrase ‘Dreaming Is Free’ around which Debbie constructed the lyric – and I still admire the fact she was able to achieve a rhyming couplet of restaurant and debutante. Genius.

Blue Boy – Orange Juice (Track 3 from ICA#57)

Falling and Laughing may have been the debut but Blue Boy has proven to be the most enduring and enjoyable single from the Postcard era. And surely the greatest song to ever make use of the word ‘gabardine’.

The unexpected appearance of an organ just short of two minutes in adds to the charm of this otherwise noisy and frantic guitar frenzy.

Remember Me – British Sea Power (Track 4 from ICA#61)

If you needed proof that British Sea Power are actually fantastic, then this their first proper single emphatically proves the argument. ‘Remember Me’ has the possibly the most urgent, compelling and exciting opening to a record that I have heard. There must be a full 90 seconds of pounding drums, guitars and seaside sound effects before you even hear a single word uttered. A swirling psychedelic fury filled bastard of a song, a song according to my blogging partner swc, that is so good is sounded like Joy Division had reformed.

Levi Stubbs’ Tears – Billy Bragg (Track 5 from ICA#37)

“The sort a war takes away
And when there wasn’t a war he left anyway”

Everyone accepts that Billy isn’t the greatest singer in the world, but it’s the very basic, fragile and uncertain nature of his delivery that makes this so effective a song. See also, in a similar theme, the very moving Valentine’s Day Is Over from Worker’s Playtime or the Peel Sessions album.

SIDE B

Kennedy – The Wedding Present (Track 6 from ICA#7)

This is an immense piece of music that still sounds incredibly fresh more than a quarter of a century on. There is nothing more that needs to be said.

Let’s Fall In Love And Run Away From Here – Ballboy (Track 7 from ICA#177)

Perhaps this my favourite ballboy tune. Here, I said it! Then again this might change in five minutes, as it did for a thousand times within the last two decades. It’s the opening track to ‘The Royal Theatre’ from 2004 and it proves what JC said in his wisdom in the first ballboy ICA: “Every one of the band’s EPs and albums opens with a truly memorable number”. This is but one of those, if you ask me …

In Between Days – The Cure (Track 8 from ICA#157)

Another track that is truly wonderful and for years and years was the ring tone on my phone for whenever Mrs Badger phoned me. It’s just one of those songs that I will never tire of hearing.

Blue Monday – New Order (Track 9 from ICA#20)

This song was in and out of this imaginary album on at least ten occasions. I had settled on the running order for 9 out of the 10 tracks but just couldn’t make my mind up on what to put in as the penultimate track on Side 2.

Contenders included the 7″ version of Temptation, Love Less, Your Silent Face, the album version of Sub-Culture, As It Is When It Was, Cries and Whispers, 1963, Bizarre Love Triangle and Vanishing Point. But it is impossible to ignore the claims of what was and still is one of the most groundbreaking bits of music that has ever been recorded.

I had a short-term relationship in the summer of 1983 with a girl I had met on the dance floor of Strathclyde University Students Union. I was a regular at that venue but this girl wasn’t, and after a couple of dates it was clear things weren’t really going to work out, not least because our musical tastes were so different. She was real disco diva who had only gone to the Student Union to keep a friend company but had taken a shine to me on account of my constant dancing and she assumed I was someone who would have been happy going along to any club or venue. But I’ll always remember that she was an even bigger fan of Blue Monday than I was which says all you need to know about the crossover appeal of this piece of music. It is a genuine classic.

Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (Track 10 from ICA #45)

A number one single. A big emotional number one single – Skinner went for that deliberately and nailed it. The chorus sounds like Coldplay but like Coldplay sung by your mate, because it needed to. The devil is the detail – “She brings her hands up towards where my hands rested. She wraps her fingers round mine with the softness she’s blessed with. She peels away my fingers, looks at me and then gestures By pushin’ my hand away to my chest, from hers”. Brilliant, poignant, brutally honest. At the time I hated it, then I listened to it, and then I listened to again.

We struggled, I’ll be honest. Technically there are three singles on the first side and three on the second side. The two remixes don’t count as far as I am concerned. The Run the Road remix is an inspired choice and one I had forgotten about. Of the five Badger chose I had four on my list of Ten. He had three of my five.

By Skinner’s own admission Original Pirate Material is the “day in the life of a geezer” yet amongst the bitter-sweet, inner city anecdotes of drugs, violence, playing computer games, trips to the garage and going clubbing, there is a tender sweet message that is so compulsive. Look – don’t just download this stuff, check out Original Pirate Material you won’t regret it for one second.

ENDS

MAYDAY, MAYDAY?? NOT AROUND THESE PARTS…….

Here’s a wee one-hour labour of love for you all.

mp3 : Various – It’s Officially Summer

Tracklist

I Just Wanna Dance – Say Sue Me
At The Indie Disco – The Divine Comedy
Make Time For Love – The Goon Sax
Sometimes – James
Fruitier Than Thou – James Kirk
Let’s Make Out – Dream Wife
Blood – Editors
Totnes Bickering Fair – Half Man Half Biscuit
I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me – Echobelly
Flaming Sword – Care
The View From The Afternoon – Arctic Monkeys
Attack of The Ghost Riders – The Ravonettes
Jennifer She Said – Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
Shake Your Rump – Beastie Boys
Parks and Recreation – Emma Pollock
It’s A Gas – The Wedding Present
Hey!Luciani – The Fall
She Bangs The Drums – The Stone Roses
The First Big Weekend of 2016 – Arab Strap

JC

A COMPANION PIECE TO YESTERDAY’S POSTING

February 2019 was something of a poignant month. Comrade Colin wrote brilliantly and eloquently about the death, at the age of 64, of Mark Hollis. I’d like to now say a few words about Peter Tork and Beatrice Colin, both of whom also left us last month.

Peter Tork was one-quarter of The Monkees, a band without whom I’d unlikely have developed such an affection for great, guitar-based pop music. The TV show seemed to be on BBC1 during the children’s hour all the time in the 70s, a show which I would get to watch just after getting home from school and before my mum would get in from her long shift in the factory to make us something to eat. The Monkees were, to my young mind, a magical and fun group of people to be around. It made for great TV with what seemed to be a perfect blend of slapstick comedy and drama, soundtracked by songs which, by the third or fourth time you’d heard them, were embedded in your brain, but in a very good way. Of course I had no idea that so much of it was manufactured and that the songs were the work of others who weren’t ever going to appear on-screen but to be honest, that didn’t matter and I wouldn’t have cared in any event. I just wanted my four heroes to come good and play us out with a great song…which they always did.

I’d be a liar if I said Peter was my favourite Monkee….that honour was bestowed on Micky Dolenz as he made me laugh more than the others and the songs he sang on seemed to be the best. But I loved watching all four of them, and the news of Peter’s death made me recall happy memories of very olden days while providing a sad reminder that I’m now constantly losing people who in some shape or form shaped me, directly or indirectly, into who and what I am today.

mp3 : The Monkees – (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone

Beatrice Colin didn’t have anything like the impact on the music scene as Peter Tork – indeed very few people will actually associate her with the genre. Readers of old, however, will know that she was one half of the very short-live band April Showers who emerged out of Glasgow in 1984 – the other half was David Bernstein. (co-author of a very fine book which was reviewed back in 2014)

There was just the one single, but it was absolutely glorious and one of my favourites from the era:-

mp3 : April Showers – Abandon Ship

Beatrice was ages with me and I happened to be in her company a couple of times, but only as part of a larger social group in a city centre pub. She was the girlfriend of James Grant who, by complete coincidence, was featured on the blog just last Saturday.

She seemed a lovely, down-to-earth person and not the slightest bit big-headed or boastful about the fact she had made a pop record (which to me, at the time) was the be-all and end-all.

But pop music was not be her forte and while she remained on its fringes as a backing vocalist in studios and on stage – including stints with Love and Money – (and as I’ve since learned with a band of her own called Pale Fire, she began to carve out a career in journalism and writing, initially penning reviews and features for newspapers and magazines. Such was her talent for writing that, by her mid-30s, she was a published novelist and playwright. In later years, she would expand her horizons even further with a move into academia as a lecturer in Creative Writing. Her tragically young death at the age of 55, came after a long battle against ovarian cancer and has left a significant hole in the cultural life of my home city.

Thoughts are with her husband, children and close friends who will be missing her so much.

JC

A hastily added PS….

The above words were pulled together a few days in advance of the very sad news of the passing of Keith Flint.

There will be many tributes across the internet today on top of those which appeared throughout yesterday.  I’ll simply take a few words from a Facebook posting by a London-based friend of mine, the comedian Steve McLean:-

You know what I really loved about The Prodigy?

Almost everybody liked them. 

Back when people had very firm music camps that they stayed in, everyone would be enticed out with The Prodigy.  You were as likely to hear them played at The Underworld as you were at The Ministry.  Even before their heavier guitar sampling tunes too, everyone loved Charly and Out of Space – The Prodigy let you dance with all your mates regardless of your snobbery.

Later in their career they headlined both Download and Creamfields. Has there ever been another band that could do that?

RIP Keith Flint.

53 AND COUNTING…..

It’s become something of a tradition to use the 19 February posting to wish my wee brother, SC, a happy birthday.  This year, I’ll give him a New Romantics EP to remind him of the time when, as a teenager, he went about dressed a wee bit silly.  Only wish I had a photo from that era to share with you…..

mp3 : Duran Duran – Planet Earth
mp3 : Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This
mp3 : Visage – Fade To Grey
mp3 : Spandau Ballet – To Cut A Long Story Short

Incidentally, there was a song intended for this post but which I’ve pulled so that it can feature on its own tomorrow.

JC

PS : The lady holding SC is our mum, who herself turned 80 just a couple of weeks back.  And who can hold her drink and party harder than either of us!

NOT HAD ONE OF THESE FOR A WHILE….

mp3 : Various – The Fourteen of February

aka Songs of Love from me to you

Track Listing

There’s A Girl In The Corner – Robert Smith
I/m Not Here – The Twilight Sad
Thieves Like Us – New Order
Party In The Dark – Mogwai
Alex Discord – Port Sulphur
Trees and Flowers – Strawberry Switchblade
F.U.U. – Dream Wife (feat. Fever Dream)
Lazy Day (version) – The Boo Radleys
Eject (over zealous mix) – Senser
The Rubettes – The Auteurs
Sparky’s Dream – Teenage Fanclub
Jack In Titanic – Bodega
Emotional Haircut – LCD Soundsystem
Fresher Than the Sweetness in Water – Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci

Oh and there’s also a hidden track at the very end to take it all way up to 59:59.

Sets things up for something of a crazy weekend….young brother is flying over from Florida for a four-day stay (and isn’t he in for a massive shock to his system with the near 30 degree Centigrade drop in temperature), as we have a family bash to celebrate mum’s 80th birthday.  I’ve also got the Rovers on Saturday where I’ll be playing the pre-match tunes and talking gibberish in between catching up with a mate who is coming up from England to watch it.

Happy Listening

JC

ROUNDING UP 2018 : FROM OUR SWEDISH CORRESPONDENT

A GUEST POSTING by MARTIN ELLIOTT

Hi Jim,

Happy New Year and all the best for 2019!

I thought, why not round off 2018 with another Swedish EP for TVV?… It was another great year for new music to surface – also in Sweden. For accessibility I’ll stay, piu o meno, with tracks sung in English although it was a great year for music in Swedish. And I decided not to include Robyn as I assume most of you have had issues avoiding her return – the 2 singles released so far are in my opinion the two best tracks anyway so I won’t bore you with any of those here.

11 pm side

1. Henric De La Cour – Kowalski Was Here.

Former front figure of Swedish indie rockers Yvonne has gone all (goth)synth and on Gimme Daggers, his third solo album, the pieces fell into place. I believe he has some of the early New Order records at home. Did I see arms in the air?

2. ionnalee – Not Human.

Brought up in my home town she started out as indie rocker Jonna Lee, transmorphed into electronic audiovisual artist iamamiwhoami and in 2018 she moved into electronic (dance) artist ionnalee, releasing the magnificent album Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten. Excellent live as well. She’s potentially the secret child of Kate Bush and Bernard Sumner.

3. Junior Brielle – Love.

A mix of Swedish and some English but I’m pretty sure this can take you all to the dance floor anyway!. Two brothers from the grim north, placing The Strokes‘ drummer in the lime light for 3 minutes. All that you ever want for your indie disco night: New Order synths, a steady beat, nice breaks, witty lyrics (the chorus goes You can always lie to yourself, but never lie to me) and some falsetto singing. Their first singles I disregarded as petty copies of now disbanded Swedish icons Kent, but second half of 2018 saw the release of a string of tracks taking that sound above and beyond their influence and into my heart.

4. Red Mecca – What Is Coming.

File under darkwave. Red Mecca is, or rather was, the duo of Jan Strandquist (formerly keyboards in 80’s post punk/new wave band Brända Barn (Burnt Children)) and young vocalist Frida Madeleine. Unfortunately Frida decided to leave after the excellent 2018 album I See Darkness In You for personal reasons. The mix of Jan’s long history in Swedish alternative music scene and Frida’s enchanting voice was a wonderful cocktail. The band continues with new vocalist Susanne and have released their first single after Frida’s departure. I have still to be truly convinced, we’ll see if they show up here in a year or not.

4 am side

1. Lykke Li – So Sad So Sexy.

She’s back four years after the monumental hit remix of No Rest For The Wicked featuring A$AP Rocky with a break-up album. So she’s become a mother and split up since last album, but she hasn’t lost her talent – just using it to get all her sorrow out of her system. Not angry, she understands how the world turns, but she needs to get history out of her mind.

2. Nina Kinert – Chapped Lips.

The album Romantic, 8 years after her PC war-game inspired last album, saw Nina Kinert churn out exactly what she said – a very romantic, ballad laden synth-pop album. And in my eyes the crown jewel is this wonderful duet with Future Island‘s Sam Herring. Some lyrical similarities with a Smiths track when you think about it.

3. Grant – Waterline.

Grant, after Cary Grant, is 25 year old Caroline who puts all of her bullied, torn and tormented youth into her debut album In Bloom. At times just a bit too much, but in Waterline she gets it all in the right places. The song about am in the end not committed suicide is very personal. I saw her performing this solo on a piano placed on a ramp just over the surface in the middle of a swimming pool in August – it was pure magic.

Bonus track:

Little Jinder – London Calling (live radio session).

Probably this will put some of you off, a lot…. I have to say London Calling is one of my all time fave tracks in its original version, so I was mildly said sceptical when I found this on YT. But as I do very much enjoy the teeny but intelligent pop Little Jinder does (only understandable for Swedish speaking) I gave it a listen, and she has actually been able to do something completely different of the song, turning it to her own. Give it a chance, live by the river.

In the same session she did a version of her own track Goldwing with a short but kind of nice homage to Joy Division. Also on YT.

Little Jinder – Goldwing

A fantastic 2019 to all of you, your faithful Swedish correspondent.

Martin

FROM THE ARCHIVES – 5 JANUARY 2008

HATS OFF TO THE BUSKERS

I don’t know if the ongoing slump in record/CD sales is being mirrored similarly in the circulation figures of music papers and magazines.

Nowadays I’ll only buy something if there’s the promise of a decent-length article on someone I particularly admire. Failing that, I’ll grab a hold of a magazine or two to take away on holiday just in case there turns out to be a hellishly long flight delay and the battery on the i-pod decides to give up the good fight.

Every now and again I will hand over a few pounds if the CD that’s attached to the cover is of any interest. I rarely give a second glance to a CD that is a round-up of tracks from recent LP releases, but I’ll admit to being a sucker when a special effort is made to produce a tribute CD. I did the other month with an edition of Uncut which comes with Like A Hurricane – A Tribute to Neil Young.

I mention this as a rather rambling intro to what today’s songs are all about.

A few years ago, mid- 2003 to be precise, I actually bought two copies of a particular edition of Uncut, simply because they had two separate CDs entitled White Riot – A Tribute to The Clash, featuring a total of 32 singers and bands doing cover versions of the songs of Strummer/Jones (and Simonen and Headon).

Like most tribute albums, some of the offerings turned out to be half-decent, and one or two I would even go as far as to say are truly inspired. Others are just insipid, while others are plain weird.

Most annoying of all however, is the fact that a couple of them are what I would class as lazy – covers which note for note and beat for beat are far too similar to the original.

Some of the songs were taken from other tribute LPs or were a gathering together of b-sides or album tracks, while some turned out to be exclusive recordings previously unavailable before (or indeed since). And while I would never dream of claiming that any of them were superior to the original recordings, there’s some of them been given space on the above mentioned i-pod.

Things like these:-

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – 1977
mp3 : The National – Clampdown
mp3 : Josh Rouse – Straight To Hell
mp3 : Pete Wylie – Stay Free

Incidentally, the last of the above was recorded live at a tiny pub in Haddington, East Lothian at a gig that I’m sure a mate of mine was at. If you’re reading this Mr Greer, be sure to tell us all if that was indeed the case.

JC