It was turning into a dull and routine Friday at work in mid-November, counting down the hours till the freedom of the weekend arrived, when this text from Aldo flashed up on the phone:-
“You going to the Weddoes tonight? Only just noticed they were playing.”
I too, hadn’t picked up they were in town, despite the fact it had been included within a couple of previous e-mails sent out to everybody of the TWP/Cinerama mailing lists. Luckily, there were a small number of tickets still available and six hours later, along with Mrs Villain, the three of us made our way inside The Classic Grand, a former porn cinema long ago converted into a music venue.
The band were on tour for the 30th anniversary of Bizarro and the promise was that the songs from that album would be aired alongside some other old favourities and a few new songs. The venue was mobbed….Aldo at the age of 39 was within the 3% minority of those aged under 45. I caught up with a few old friends who I had an inkling would be there, including Robert and Carlo from the Simply Thrilled Team, and Drew from Across the Kitchen Table fame, who was there with his other half, L.
You only need to take a glance at the set-list to see the sort of night we were treated to:-
Don’t Give Up Without a Fight
Don’t Touch That Dial
Deer Caught in the Headlights
A Song From Under the Floorboards
What Have I Said Now?
California was a lovely way to open the night, but the place truly erupted with the opening notes of the song which opens Bizarro:-
It is still hard to believe that the band weren’t entirely happy with the way the song had turned out after their initial stint in the studio, but then again, as I’ve only recently discovered from reading published and on-line material, the band were, certainly in the early days, just about consistently critical of the recorded versions of their songs, taking the view that they lacked a certain energy or excitement in comparison to how they were played live.
Kennedy had been the only single lifted from the album and while it had taken the band into the Top 40, its peak of #33 had been a bit disappointing to RCA, the major label to which the band had recently signed. There was always a wish to have a second single but the band persuaded all concerned that everyone’s interests would be better served if they could go back into the studio and have another go at Brassneck, this time with the irrepressible Steve Albini in the producer’s chair (albeit his preference is to be referred to as the audio engineer).
He trimmed down the track by about thirty seconds while beefing up, (to put it mildly), the arrangement with a few of his specialities including what many have referred to as the sound of a distressed beached whale during an instrumental break (something he would make huge use of later on when he worked with the band on Seamonsters (1991).
This one went Top 30…..an improvement on last time out but still a bit too low for the liking of the bosses. The continued failure of the band to really make a dent in the charts led to the situation in 1992 when the band released a single on the first Monday of each month, only to have it deleted within a matter of days, meaning there would be enough sales to propel the 45 into the charts for one week only – it was something of a mixed success but it did lead to Come Play With Me giving them their one and only Top 10 success in May 1992.
The relative success of Brassneck did, however, provide the band their first ever appearance on Top of The Pops. It wasn’t the most memorable of performances, explained in later years by David Gedge:-
“I wasn’t pissed off and I was just following an old tradition established by some of my heroes… those punk bands who didn’t take Top Of The Pops seriously and who took the mickey out of the whole ‘miming’ thing. I started doing it during the TV rehearsals, fully expecting a producer or director to tell me to stop messing about but no one did. So with each run-through it became a little more… extreme. The Brassneck video was the inspiration for the Top Of The Pops performance, actually, with the band looking bored and oblivious to the frantic, theatrical performance art going on around us. The two things aren’t that dissimilar…”
The re-recorded single was released on 7”, 12”, cassette and CD, with another three tracks on offer, all recorded with Albini on engineering duties:-
The first two are Gedge originals, while the last of them is a cover of an early Pavement song, with all of them featuring heavily over the years in any lists of favourite songs drawn up by TWP fans.
Brassneck itself is one of the best and most enduring numbers the band ever recorded, as epitomised by its reception that evening in Glasgow – only the cheers after Kennedy and Take Me! were louder, and the latter was mostly to do with it signifying the end of the show as TWP, for those who don’t know, never do encores…..
It’s a song that shouldn’t really be mucked about with, but fair play to Mr Gedge in that he selected it as one that should be given the this treatment for a one-off live set he performed in 2009 with the BBC Big Band. Click here if you dare…..