CHARGED PARTICLES…..HERE’S JONNY!!!!!! (3)

THE GUEST SERIES FROM JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

I believe it’s TVV pal Jacques the Kipper who sometimes rolls his eyes at our, er, nostalgic appreciation of bands gone by. I’m guilty of that — I did contribute an ICA about Spoon, who are still active, but the first ones I wrote were about XTC and the Stranglers, bands that began in the 1970’s. So here are a handful of contemporary charged particles just so’s you don’t get the impression that I’m not paying attention to what’s happening musically these days.

Ascension: Gorillaz

Migration: Bonobo

Stimulation: Preoccupations

Tesselation: Mild High Club

Calcination : JLin

 JTFL

FROM THIRTY YEARS AGO (1)

With apologies for this very late amendment to today’s post.

Many thanks for such kind words in the comment section following the ICA on The Skids. For those of you who are new or newish to this corner of the internet, yesterday’s posting was the 1,500th on The (New) Vinyl Villain which came into being in July 2013.  Prior to that, there was The Vinyl Villain which came into existence in September 2006 before being brutally murdered at the hands of google almost seven years on after 2,278 posts, many of which were quality contributions from guests all around the world.

I still find it hard to come to terms with what happened when google shut down the old blog without any sort of advance warning on the grounds that my corner of cyberspace was impinging on the ability of singers and bands to make an honest living.  The most galling thing about it all was that millions of words expressing love and appreciation for songs were consigned to the dustbin without any consideration of their worth.

So…. the next landmark round these parts will be post # 1,722 – the 4,000th post all told.  I’d love it to be a guest post if anyone is up for it (looking like the turn of the year or thereabouts at the current rate of things).

OK….that’s enough of the nostalgia and self-congratulations. Here’s the latest lot of inane meanderings………

………..A while back I finally got round to picking up C87, a 3xCD box set released last year by Cherry Red Records, a 74-track compilation of material that was released across different indie labels in 1987.  As with so many of these things, the quality is a bit hit’n’miss, although for the most part it is very enjoyable, and given that this was a year when I more or less switched off from music then there’s a lot of things I’m discovering for the first time.

The CD86 series was one of the most popular ever run on this blog and so I’m going to follow it up, belatedly, with an occasional series featuring songs from C87 but on the proviso that the singer or band will be making a debut here.

First up is Track 24 on CD1. Here’s what the info booklet says:-

Borrowing their name from an Incredible String Band album, Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters comprised singer Emily Green, guitarist Sandy Fleming and twelve-string guitarist Gordon Dawson. The band signed to Dan Treacey’s Dreamworld label in 1986 and set about recording their debut with the help of Phil King and drummer John Wills (both ex Servants).

‘Love Is Blue’ captured the band’s unashamedly ’60s-styled sound, as did one of the B-sides, Treacey’s short garage punk ditty ‘Don’t Ask My Name’. A self-titled mini-album appeared in 1987 (on Constrictor) followed by Trash Mantra (produced by Dan). 1989’s The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters, released on Voxx, assembled their Dreamworld recordings, before Emily went off to record with Swedish act Boy Omega.

mp3 : Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters – Don’t Ask My Name

I’ve managed to track down the A-side of the single:-

mp3 : Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters – Love Is Blue

JC

 

POST #1500 : IT’S CO-WRITTEN BY JOHN PEEL : ICA # 128 : THE SKIDS

So here we are. Post number 1500 since the blog was raised from the dead after being killed off by Google.

A huge thanks to all of you out there for the amazing support you’ve given, and a special word to those of you who have contributed guest postings, offered comments or just encouraged me through some nice e-mails. I wouldn’t be motivated to do all this if wasn’t for the fact it is being enjoyed and responded to so positively each and every day.

I was going to mark it with a look at a Northern Soul single but that plan fell through as it was featured recently over at Brian’s place. So I’m turning to Plan B with an ICA from The Skids, one of the best bands to emerge out of the post-punk era.

They played Glasgow a few weeks back as part of a 40th Anniversary Tour. I didn’t get along as I was otherwise very happily occupied with the visit of Dirk, Walter, Adam and the afore-mentioned Brian along with meeting up with and enjoying the company of Drew (whom it was gave me the Northern Soul 45 that I was intending to feature today), CC, Aldo, Strangeways and Comrade Colin. But a couple of other friends went along to The Skids, and come Monday reported that it had been outstanding; seemingly Richard Jobson still has it in spades while the band, consisting of Bill Simpson (bass), Mike Baillie (drums) and the father and son combo of Bruce and Jamie Watson on guitar, delivered a blisteringly loud and perfectly paced set that also paid fitting tribute to the contributions of the late Stuart Adamson.

The thing is, just after The Skids broke up in 1982, a compilation LP entitled Fanfare was released by Virgin Records and its 12 tracks (six on each side of the vinyl) is quite tough to better. So Fanfare is your ICA today for nothing else other than the fact it also came with these liner notes composed by John Peel…and so I can claim he’s written something for this blog!

John Peel writes….

“Richard Jolson (vocals)
Alexander Plode (guitar)
Stuart Adamson (guitar)
Thomas Bomb (drums)

Yes, Jolson. This, according to a mimeographed sheet from No Bad Records of Dunfermline, was the original line-up of the Skids. The anonymous writer of this press release, which accompanied the first Skids single, was of the view that the band was ‘destined for the top’, and he was almost right. To quote further from his thoughtful paragraphs, the Skids were ‘causing a substantial “BUZZ”,’ and this time he was spot on. This was early 1978 and for some months Scottish fanzines had been noising abroad the excellence of Messrs. Jolson, Plode, Adamson and Bomb, remarking that they had moved beyond the confines of pure punk and were evolving into something entirely of their own devising, something that was, or so it was hinted, identifiably Scottish.

Thus it was that when No Bad NB1, ‘Reasons’, ‘Test Tube Babies’, and ‘Charles’, reached the sink-pits and stews of London, the Skids already enjoyed the first murmurings of a reputation, and when the band followed the record south they must have hoped for an enthusiastic reception. Back home they had been heard on Radio Forth, for Heaven’s sake, and had supported the Stranglers in Edinburgh, and when they clambered on stage in a Stoke Newington pub they must have been disappointed at the mute, incurious glances of the few regulars which greeted them. Happily, my old brave ones, this performance was enough to win the Skids an outing on Radio 1 and a subsequent approach from Virgin Records.

The rest, I am tempted to say, is history.

First out of the Virgin gate was ‘Sweet Suburbia’. ‘This white vinyl record has a weird gimmick’, warned the company’s effervescent promotions department mysteriously, adding ‘You’ll like it’.

Consumers did, but only a bit, as the record pounced on the number 70 spot in the charts but then fell away into nothingness. ‘The Saints Are Coming’ improved on this, clawing its way as high as 48.

Next on our turntables was ‘Into The Valley’, released in February 1979, which reached the top ten, although the truly discerning preferred the reverse, ‘TV Stars’, assuredly the only record to date to bring together in song the stars of ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Crossroads’ along with Kenny Dalglish, the greatest living Scotsman, and this typist.

There were further hit singles, stirring LPs, and it wasn’t too long before the music weeklies, having come to terms that Richard Jolson was really Richard Jobson, spotted that he was also a likeable, gregarious, and highly quotable chap. ‘Jobbo’, as we had to learn to call him, has never been backward at coming forward, and he took to this notoriety with definite enthusiasm, using it to his own advantage and diversing into poetry and the theatre.

After the Skids third LP, ‘The Absolute Game’, Stuart Adamson, by now a highly individual guitarist, resigned his commission, leaving Richard, brother to Meadowbank Thistle’s goal-hungry striker, John Jobson, to soldier on with bassist Russell Webb.

On the stage, amid locker-room gossip that he never simulated anything, no siree, Richard was to be spotted spending evenings lying on top of the celebrated ingenue, Honey Bane, and he could be observed at artistic soirees declaiming his and other folks’ poems in a firm and manly voice. Contemporary with this arts-lab activity Richard was working with Russell on ‘Joy’, an LP in which they ferreted back into Scottish history and culture. Despite a warm review from the Guardian, reaction to ‘Joy’ was pretty frosty and shortly after release the Skids were no more.

Brushing aside with a contemptuous snort all the usual stuff about legacies of fine music, the great sadness in the demise of this most admirable of bands lies, for me, in that in his search for a Celtic identity and sound, Richard Jobson (nee Jolson) overlooked the fact that it was precisely these elements that distinguished the Skids from the post-punk herd in the first place.

If you don’t believe me, listen again.”

John Peel

And now….here’s my own inconsequential words on each song….

Side A

1. Into The Valley

One of my favourite singles of all time. Still puts a smile on my face every time those first few distinctive notes are played. Richard Jobson has stated that the indecipherable lyrics are about the recruitment of Scottish youths into the army and more specifically about a friend who had been killed on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland. I prefer to think that it is actually a tribute to High Valleyfield (aka The Valley), a former mining village just outside of Dunfermline whose residents have long endured a reputation for hard living.

2. Working For The Yankee Dollar

The band’s sixth single and their final Top 20 hit (not that anyone knew that at the time).

Days in Europa, the band’s second album had confused me a bit. It wasn’t remotely like the debut and while it contained a few were moments that I really liked, it wasn’t an easy listen.  It wasn’t helped by the fact that its closing track was in fact the opening track played backwards with a highly serious semi-spoken Jobson vocal that made no sense, even when read from the sheet provided with the LP.

There was a bit of a backlash to the album, partly from the sound that producer Bill Nelson has delivered, but also from the fact that sleeve was alleged to have incorporated artwork associated with Nazism. Virgin Records quickly announced that the LP was going to be remixed and re-released within a new sleeve.  The first signs of the remix was a totally different and beefier take on Working For The Yankee Dollar.  I loved how much better it sounded, particularly the guitar work from Stuart Adamson, so much so that for about two weeks I thought it was the greatest record ever written. Bear in mind I was just 16-and-a-bit- years of age and my tastes, like my hormones, were all over the place.  My tastes have evolved somewhat but I still think this is a great piece of work.

3. Sweet Suburbia

The debut single for Virgin Records in September 1978 and which, true to the punk ethos, was kept off the debut LP. As Peel reminds us, it only hit #70 when it was worthy of so much more. The lyrics of the final verse, from about 1:45 to 1:57 are priceless…

Birth and birth and birth and birth and birth
Live and live and live and live and live
Mate and mate and mate and mate and mate
Die and die and die and die and die

4. A Woman In Winter

There were only 18 months between Into The Valley and A Woman In Winter, and yet the latter sounds as if it is a band who are five or ten years down the road in their career such is the quantum leap in sound and ambition. The title of this song would also be the name of a movie directed by Richard Jobson in 2006 – footage from which would be used as the basis for the promo video for the Arab Strap single Speed-Date.

5. Masquerade

The prompt follow-up to Into The Valley was surprisingly not lifted from the debut LP as the band were already well on their way to the follow-up LP by which time they had lost a drummer. It’s maybe not quite their finest moment and it hasn’t dated too well, but it still has that great one-word shouty chorus to get the juices flowing.

6. The Saints Are Coming

It doesn’t matter that U2 and Green Day got their paws on this many years later with their versions raising monies for victims of Hurricane Katrina (the song was chosen partly for its lyric about storms and drowning and partly because the NFL team in New Orleans are The Saints).

This is a belter of a new wave anthem. An absolute belter. If the band had recorded this and then broke up without anything else seeing the light of day, it would be high up on the list of cult hits.

Side B

1. Animation

The re-mixing of Days In Europa LP also saw the release of the updated version of Animation which was regarded as one of the strongest songs to emerge from the process.  To the surprise of many, including this fan, it stalled at #56so becoming the first flop single in a long while.

2. Out Of Town

Lifted from the third LP The Absolute Game, this really had the potential to be a great radio-friendly single but the band insisted on more experimental and less typical cuts being lifted as 45s.

3. T.V. Stars and 4. Of One Skin (live)

Track 3 on Side B is one of the greatest and funniest b-sides ever recorded. This wasit as captured at the Marquee in London on 1 November 1978. It is still played live in the current shows although many of the names have been updated to make it more contemporary. But the chorus remains “Albert Tatlock”. Overseas and younger readers can click here to find out more about our Albert….

It segues straight into another live track, this time from the Hammersmith Odeon show in London on 20 October 1980 as part of the tour to promote The Absolute Game.

Of One Skin was originally a b-side to The Saints Are Coming as well as bring on the debut LP Scared To Dance; it was a real joy that this was included on Fanfare and to be honest was one of the main reasons I bought it back in the day.

5. Charade and 6. Circus Games

Once again, the decision was taken to weld these two tracks with no gap between them.

I remember being disappointed by Charade on its release as it felt a bit of a con to follow up a 45 entitled Masquerade with one that had a similar sounding word. It’s still my least favourite single of theirs and probably wouldn’t have made the cut in a standard ICA.

Circus Games was the lead single off The Absolute Game and the last time the band would crack the UK Top 40 singles chart in July 1980.

I don’t know why, but this song caused quite an emotional reaction within my then 17-year old self. Maybe it was the use of the kids choir on backing vocals; maybe it was that the lyric seemed to convey a really sad and epic tale although I couldn’t quite work out what it was meant to be about; or maybe it was just that the guitar playing, which seemed to come from a totally different place than any of my other heroes of the day, just got into my brain and caused a reaction I wasn’t expecting. One of their most enduring songs and a perfect way to end the ICA. Except….

BONUS E.P.

1. Charles
2. Reasons
3. Test-Tube Babies

The three-track debut on No Bad Records, recorded in October 1977 and released in February 1978; and as John Peel reminds us above, attributed to Richard Jolson on vocals; this is a different version of Charles than that which would appear on Scared To Dance a few months later.

Here’s to the next 1500 postings, hopefully.

JC

 

A VALUABLE, BUT RATHER FLAT, FOLLOW-UP TO THE CLASSIC DEBUT

One of the most sought-after artefacts in the history of indie-pop is the debut single by The Sea Urchins, released in August 1987.

Not only is Pristine Christine a ridiculously good piece of music, it is also the single with which Sarah Records was launched. I said a bit more when I featured the single back in 2014 pointing out at the time that the sole copy up for sale had an asking price of more than £300. The growing market in vinyl over recent years has increased the asking price – there are currently four available on Discogs as I type this and the going rate is now £450. That’s the sort of price that Falling and Laughing, the very rare first single on Postcard Records was going for a few years ago – you can now expect to pay as much as £700.

You could always look to pick up The Sea Urchins second single, the eighth 45 to be released on Sarah.

mp3 : The Sea Urchins – Solace

The six members of the band were hardly prolific. It was a full ten months after Pristine Christine before Solace reached the shops. And listening to it nowadays, it hardly seems worth bothering about. It’s distinctly average fayre and doesn’t come close to matching the majesty of the debut….indeed it’s the sort of indistinct near-tuneless effort that dogged a lot of now thankfully forgotten bands who emerged out of the C86 scene. Although I will conceded there’s a decent guitar solo of about 25 seconds length some two-thirds of the way through the song.

The b-side isn’t anything to write home about either; the annoying sound of twee:-

mp3 : The Sea Urchins – Please Rain Fall

Will still cost you upwards of £40 for a copy mind you.

JC

I ADMIT IT….IT WAS THE COVER VERSION I HEARD FIRST

I’ve said before that I didn’t really latch on properly to The Wedding Present until I heard Kennedy being played ay high volume in a record shop. But after that, it was enjoyable going back and listening to the earlier material.

I really liked the song Getting Nowhere Fast, one of their previous b-sides on a 12″ single and included on the CD of George Best, and was intrigued when I spotted, from the fact that it wasn’t a David Gedge composition, that it was a cover version. But the names ‘Alan, Evans, Swift, Oldroyd’ meant nothing to me and in the pre-internet days couldn’t readily be looked up.

It was to be some time before I learned that the original had been by a Leeds band called Girls At Our Best, released in 1980. Even when furnished with that information, I was still none the wiser. Eventually I got to hear the original, via someone putting it on a cassette for me, and fell for its charms. By this time however, it was impossible to track down a copy and it would take until the digital age before I got a decent version without any lo-fi hissing.

Girls At Our Best were Judy Evans (vocals), Jez Alan (guitar), Terry Swift (bass) and Chris Oldroyd (drums) and who formed in 1979 out of two other Leeds bands, S.O.S and The Butterflies.

Getting Nowhere Fast was their debut effort, self-financed and released in April 1980 on their own label Record Records following which Rough Trade put out a second single entitled Politics in November 1980. The drummer then left the band just as they signed to Happy Birthday Records for whom there were two singles and an album, Pleasure, in 1981. The band had enough of a following for the album to reach #60 in the charts but I just can’t recall it or them at all.

According to my big book of indie songs, there was a further single in May 1982 entitled Heaven and released on God Records but there’s no listing on Discogs which means it must be very rare indeed. The band split not long after but with interest in them again on the back of the TWP cover, Strange Fruit in May 1987 would release a Peel Sessions EP that had been broadcast in February 1981.

Here’s the two sides of the debut single:-

mp3 : Girls At Our Best – Getting Nowhere Fast
mp3 : Girls At Our Best – Warm Girls

And here’s the cover, originally on the b-side of the 12″ of Anyone Can Make A Mistake:-

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Getting Nowhere Fast

JC

THE XTC SINGLES (Part 15)

The third and final single released from English Settlement didn’t get anywhere near the charts. It’s a song with a sound that harks back a little while to the  Black Sea era and was slightly at odds with the more acoustic and gentle material on the current album. But then again, its a tune totally befitting the tale of a nasty right-wing hooligan activist and a family who wouldn’t be out-of-place on Respectable Street:-

mp3 : XTC – No Thugs In Our House

Only released as a 7″ single, it came with elaborate packaging with the sleeve opening to form a theatre while you could utilise cartoon characters to re-enact the song lyrics which were re-produced in full on the reverse, along with to whom each line was attributed, in what was described as “No Thugs In Our House: A musical in three acts by XTC.”

You’ll also be able to make out from the back of the sleeve that three songs were made available on the b-side of the single:-

mp3 : XTC – Chain of Command
mp3 : XTC – Limelight
mp3 : XTC – Over Rusty Water

You’ll also see that the first two tracks were from the free single given away with the first pressings of Drums and Wires and therefore would already be well-known and likely owned by most long-standing fans.  The last track is an ambient instrumental lasting less than 90 seconds and is, again, very much for completists.

Maybe the fact that so little of the music was new contributed to the fact that the single sold poorly.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #79 : DUMB INSTRUMENT

A touch of good fortune with the timing this week with this post falling on the weekend on the 2017 Eden Festival which takes place on the south-west of Scotland. One of the acts performing is Dumb Instrument and there’s a great bio provided on the featival website as you will now see:-

Dumb Instrument are like a pair of old shoes that you can’t throw out because they’re just too damn comfortable. It doesn’t matter how old or smelly we get, we just keep sticking around doing a sterling job. The band formed in 2006 when songwriter and composer Tom Murray was offered a slot at T in The Park Festival on the strength of 3 songs which we had written and released earlier that year. Unaware that Tom was a one man band, and had brought his tracks to life with samples or session musicians, he quickly pulled together a band of ‘real musicians’ to play the gig which much to his delight met with fantastic reviews. What appeared to be a one-off gig led to the band appearing on BBC2’s ‘The Music Show’ soon afterwards and the band decided to stay on with Tom and a fully formed Dumb Instrument was born. Over the subsequent years they have performed over 300 gigs around the UK everywhere from someone’s living room to large festivals.

The band have co-written and released 2 albums, 8 EP’s and 2 singles. Early in Dumb Instruments career they were signed by an independent record label through which they released their first single ‘Songs Ya Bass Vol 1’. Tom Murrays lyrically gritty (often tragically funny) song writing style was rewarded shortly afterwards with the song ‘Reverse The Hearse’ (taken from the single) being chosen as Scotland’s Burnsong award winner of 2007. This resulted in the band performing live at the BBC studios for the first time.

The album ‘Nobody Know’s What It’s Like To Be Me’ followed in 2008 which met with more music industry recognition. Following live sessions on XFM Scotland and BBC Radio Scotland the band made it onto BBC Radio 1 for the first time with track ‘The Exterminating Angels’ played by Vic Galloway.

The focal point of a Dumb Instrument song is most definitely the lyric, with diverse subject matter negotiated in each record, from wheelie bin theft to mortality. Stylistically the band weave hints of disco, ragtime, gypsy or even latin through the lyric and, in a live playing sense, the band will take to the stage as an 8 piece.

Recently Dumb Instrument won ‘The Billy Kelly Song Writing Award’, which has enabled the band to release their most recent album ‘The Silent Beard’. The single ‘Suffering From Scottishness’ taken from the album has helped to popularise the band further after having been adopted by the Scottish referendum’s YES campaign amongst others. Last year the band played numerous radio session’s including 2 BBC sessions one of which was live from Potterow on Janice Forsyth’s Culture Studio as part of the BBC’s Edinburgh Festival coverage. Dumb Instrument finished the summer in style by headlining the Verb Tent at last years Belladrum Festival in Inverness. The band have recently started releasing a new EP on the first day of each month.

———————

They were the band at which myself and Comrade Colin first finally met up in January 2008.

If you’ll indulge me, here’s the story as posted before on the this and the old blog:-

Dumb Instrument will always have a special place in my heart for it was their gig on 3 January 2008 at the 13th Note in Glasgow that I finally met Comrade Colin in the flesh. The bloke who had been the single-biggest inspiration for me starting up a blog has invited me alongs to catch a live set from an act he had included the song ‘Reverse The Hearse’ in his best of run-down for 1997. As I blogged this next day….

“To be honest, I was initially more excited about finally, after all this time, hooking up with Colin (previous attempts to meet and blether had fallen through) than the gig itself. I’m delighted to reveal ladies and gentlemen, that Colin is indeed a true comrade in arms – every bit as witty, erudite, charming and entertaining in the flesh as he is in print – and I reckon we would have been quite happy just sitting in the bar talking about all sorts of things (but mostly music).”

The gig also turned out to be a hugely enjoyable event and I bought this single on the night.

Dumb Instrument describe their output as ‘Jakey Rock’ – and state that it fuses the ideals of ‘Jakeys’ and ‘Rock’ into one nice genre which is accessible to all.

Overseas readers might wonder what ‘jakey’ means. Well, it’s a bit of Scottish slang which has two meanings – it is used to describe a down and out homeless person or alternatively a particular type of alcoholic – one who is found wandering the streets drinking anything (including methylated spirits) to put him/her in severe state of inebriation. Oh and they’re often of course also a down and out and/or homeless.

While jakey-rock might sound unappealing, it is most certainly not the case. The band consists of keyboardist Mikey Grant, bassist Kieron Campbell and vocalist Tom Murray.

Without being at all disparaging to the others, it is Tom Murray who holds most attention. He doesn’t sing or rant like a scary drunk. He has a really sweet almost angelic voice. His lyrics are just astonishing. I don’t mean it as an insult to say that he is more a poet than a songwriter – each songs unfolds like a short story. Visually, he looks like a cross between a son of Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne and a cousin of Scotland’s other great bearded bard – Aiden Moffat.

A few years later I lost my young brother and then my best mate within a short period of time. My other great cyber-mate, ctel, stepped in and took over the blog on both occasions and there were some amazing guest posts which really meant so much to me at a time of sorrow. Sadly, most of those posts have been lost forever thanks to the bastards at google. Comrade Colin’s contribution was Reverse The Hearse by Dumb Instrument. He knew it would make me smile….

I’ve previously featured Reverse The Hearse so today I’ll go for a song from the debut LP that made it onto Radio 1:-

mp3 : Dumb Instrument – The Exterminating Angels

JC