LAND OF SEX AND GLORY

Aye…..I’ve gone for a post title that might pick up casual passers-by not neccesarily trawling for music.  It’s actually a guest posting from my very dear friend Walter, over in Germany, whose A Few Good Times In My Life is an excellent read.

Hi Jim,

I embrace your offer for a guest contribution on your site in thanks. There are plenty of bands gone by that are worth to remember. As you know I feature a lot of new stuff on my own site but from times to times I grab out a record that is covered with dust and I put it on the turntable with you. Most of the times I feature the band or the singer on the blog. My first thought was to feature The Flys in a guest comment and remembered that I did this almost one year ago.

So I had to decide for another band and found Land Of Sex And Glory. It was a short living band and as far as I know released only a 12-inch mini album back in 1986 called Showdown.

I was searching the internet for more informations but you can find a lot of informations about a Munich based band that is now active with the same name but has nothing to do with the band I am writing about. Also the band’s personal is vanished and can’t be found. So what is their legacy to music? For me one of the best German bands from the mid 80’s playing a stripped down new wave sound with stoic bass lines and a guitar that gets fuzzy at the end of the song. I liked to play this song often when I was DJ-ing in my very younger days. Hope you like it also a little bit.

mp3 : Land of Sex and Glory – Drowning

WALTER

JC adds…..

Walter is right in that there isn’t much info out there.  I went onto Discogs and learned that in 1984 Land of Sex and Glory released a nine-track self-titled cassette which may have been instrumental in them being picked up by Big Store Records, a Geman independent label for whom, in 1986, there was the six-track mini-album mentioned by Walter.  There was also a sole single – (I Always Wanted To Be) Andy Warhol’s Moviestar which was backed with a cover of Ruby Tuesday, which was put out by Big Store in 1988.

Looking at the artwork available on the Discogs site, I’ve been able to work out the band consisted of Martin Popolek (guitar, backing vocals), Berthold Pesch (drums, percussion and vocals) and George Infame (bass and vocals).  The six songs on the mini-album are credited to the band.  The later single was written by George Infame who also designed its sleeve, the reverse of which gave a contact address and telephone number in Munich for Berthold.

 

INSPIRED BY YESTERDAY’S ICA

As I said when I included the original in my stab at a Leonard Cohen ICA just last December:-

Marianne Ihlen was the inspiration for so many of Cohen’s writings, songs and poems alike. They had met in early 1960, when they were both in their mid-20s, on the Greek island of Hydra. They would end up living together for the best part of that decade in Montreal, NYC and Greece. So Long Marianne, like many songs composed by others over the years, deals with a break-up. It is hugely autobiographical and its release in 1967 was a very early indication that Leonard Cohen was a different sort of songwriter and that indeed he was, at heart, a poet.

This doesn’t mope over the ending of a relationship, but instead looks back joyfully over an extended period in which two perfectly matched and compatible people had enjoyed life to the full, the ending caused by Cohen feeling he could not be content in a monogamous relationship. “You left when I told you I was curious / I never told you I was brave”. And not once did he blame her for what she did.

PS : In 2016, Cohen learned that Marianne was dying from leukaemia. He also knew, at this time, that his cancer was likely to result in his death. He was able to compose a final letter which was read to her, by a friend, as she lay on her death-bed.

“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

If that doesn’t bring moisture to your eyes, then there really is no hope for you.

And here’s one of my favourite cover versions of the song….

mp3 : Bill Callahan – So Long Marianne

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #192 : SMOG

A GUEST POSTING by RICHARD

I don’t know why, there’s no reason for it and I can honestly offer no explanation … but for a few weeks every year, I’ll binge listen to Smog. And I mean really binge. A total, all-consuming obsession descends on me for 2 or 3 weeks (normally around February or March). In that time, I’ll fill my ears with Bill Callahan’s wry, dry, baritone and nothing else. There’s no other band or artist I do it with on such a regular basis and, as quickly as the urge comes over me, it passes. It’s happened for the past few years and no doubt it’ll happen again.

The reason I’m telling you this, is that I don’t want to fool anyone into thinking I picked Smog as the subject of my ICA because I’m some kind of obsessive super fan who listens to them constantly. I’m not. If you asked me to name my favourite bands off the top of my head, I very much doubt that Smog would spring immediately to mind. Yet when I stop and think about it, Smog is one of the most consistent acts in my record collection. One that I often overlook but consistently return to.

So if you’re looking to know every last detail about every single song that Bill Callahan has ever put out under that moniker, you’re looking in the wrong place. I’ve simply got enough Smog albums and enjoy them enough to be able to offer a fairly decent introduction to those who don’t.

Besides which, it just kind of seemed like an obvious choice. Without being an actual obvious choice. I could easily have gone with Radiohead or Nick Cave or The Smiths or Suede any other band that I would consider myself a big fan of. But I think most of those have either been done already or most people know enough about them, that an ICA seems a little pointless. Whereas Smog… well Smog don’t seem to get that much of a mention in many places.

As I suspect with most ICAs, picking the actual songs wasn’t as easy as I’d expected. Looking back at the final selection now, I could easily swap out a bunch of the songs and still be happy with it. That’s how good Smog are/is, so seriously, delve deeper if you like what you hear.

But before we get to the music, a little disclaimer…

I started my blog years ago. Back when I was a recently single twenty-something with plenty of spare time on my hands. I updated it regularly and really enjoyed writing about the thing I’d been obsessing over since I heard ‘This Charming Man’ blaring out of my brother’s university room when I went with my parents to collect him one wintery Friday. Then births, deaths and marriages happened (the only reasons to get dressed up, if you’ll allow me to misquote Aidan Moffat slightly) and writing about music just didn’t seem quite so important anymore.

So the dust settled on the blog. I tried occasionally to start it up again but the impetus and motivation wasn’t there. Nor was the time. Not in the way I felt would make it a worthy venture. I can’t tell you how I admire JC and many of you guys reading this now for how you’ve managed to continue where I couldn’t. The commitment it takes is admirable. The quality you maintain is truly impressive. But enough of the gushing… what I’m trying to say is that I haven’t really written about music in such a long time, that I’m not entirely sure I still can. There’s a good chance that this may just descend into a list of songs with little more comment than, ‘I like this because it sounds good’. So don’t go expecting too much in terms of insight or quality. Not from me anyway. The quality is all from Smog.

Oh and in case you don’t know… Smog was essentially a solo project of Bill Callahan. Sometimes with parenthesis, sometimes without. He released 13 albums under that name between 1990 and 2005 (of which I have 8) and since then he’s been releasing records under his real name. Given the deceptively simple, repetitive nature of his music and his deep voice and glib, morose half spoken, semi crooned delivery, it would be easy to label his sound as depressing. Dig deeper and there’s a great deal of complexity and sardonic humour in his writing. Indeed, his lyrics are a wonderful thing to lose yourself in. I hope you enjoy.

SIDE A

The Well (from A River Ain’t Too Much To Love)

The Well is track 3 on its parent album but I’ve always thought it could easily have been an album opener. Indeed, I went through a phase where I included it as the opening track on every mixtape (should that be mix-cd) I made. It’s a track that sets out Smog’s stall from the off. A simple repeated musical refrain that grows and builds and dips and builds again as the protagonist comes across a well deep in the woods. It’s a song that could easily be part of JC’s feature about songs that could be short stories. If you like this, chances are you’ll enjoy the 9 tracks that follow.

Truth Serum (from Supper)

Track 2 is another 7-minute song. And what a doozy it is. A duet of sorts that sounds so gentle and relaxed and unrushed and mesmerising and hazy as it reveals the answers to the big questions of life and love in the way that only drink and drugs usually do.

Dress Sexy At My Funeral (from Dongs Of Sevotion)

As far as songs about eulogies go, this is an oddly romantic one.

Bathysphere (from Wild Love)

For years I was more familiar with Cat Power’s cover than Smog’s original version and honestly it’s a tough call as to which I prefer. With its lo-fi drums and cheap sounding keyboard stabs, this version has a bit of an 80s feel to it as Bill shows how easily and cruelly dreams can be crushed.

I Break Horses (John Peel Session) (from Accumulation:None)

The original studio version of this track isn’t a patch on this version. That one is a mostly solo acoustic affair with Bill singing at a slightly higher register than normal. Compared to this version from a Peel session, it’s frankly a little underwhelming. This version is slower, longer, more morose and utterly, utterly compelling.

SIDE B

I Could Drive Forever (from Knock Knock)

This is the first Smog song I ever heard. It came on a free CD with Uncut magazine and sounded so other worldly compared to the sort of indie bands I was listening to at the time. A song about escaping that doesn’t sound like you’ll ever escape what you’re trying to escaping.

Blood Red Bird (from Red Apple Falls)

This is one of those songs where I couldn’t really tell you what it’s about or why I love it but it’s a fucking great song. While it doesn’t really go anywhere, it takes you all sorts of places.

Butterflies Drowned In Wine (from Supper)

A chugging insistent track with probably my favourite Smog title ever. It feels like a skewed version of a blues track that switches to a gentle country lilt before hitting you again with it’s chug-chug rhythm.

Permanent Smile (from Dongs Of Sevotion)

Is this a prayer? A cry of despair? A meditation on death? Probably all of the above and more. Musically it leans on a Spector-esque drum beat that’s been slowed to a funereal pace and sprinkled with a twinkly piano and jingly guitar.

I Feel Like The Mother Of The World (from A River Ain’t Too Much To Love)

An anti-war song that’s trying it’s hardest not to be an anti-war song. In today’s world, its message feels ever more prescient and necessary. ‘Just stop fighting’ indeed.

RICHARD

JC adds……Richard was one of the guys I turned to a great deal in the very early days of the original blog for help, advice and the occasional piece of support.  I’ve long been a fan of his writing and am genuinely thrilled that he’s made this superb contribution to the ICA series.  I’ve long wanted to feature Dress Sexy At My Funeral round these parts, so thanks amigo.

BONUS POST : RIGHT HERE (A FILM REVIEW)

I attempted to get an ambitious new series underway a few months back in that it was to involve a lengthy look back at the career of The Go-Betweens via separate chapters in Robert Forster’s excellent autobiography, Grant and I. The series stalled, not through any lack of enthusiasm on my part, but simply that I really couldn’t do the series justice as all too soon I had run out of superlatives for the contents of the book and the songs of the band.

I fully intend at some point in the future to have an extended look at the band, and indeed the solo careers of the two principal songwriters, most likely via a long-running Sunday series, although I’ve also been thinking that I might devote an entire month to the subject matter….

In the meantime, I wanted to reflect on Right Here, a documentary which premiered at the Sydney Film Festival as far back as June 2017 but which has, for various logistical and financial reasons, taken until now to get a cinema airing around these parts.

I went along to the Glasgow Film Theatre for the early evening showing just last Friday, accompanied by Rachel aka Mrs Villain. We unexpectedly bumped into our old friend Comrade Colin in the cinema café – I say unexpectedly but then again, the Comrade is as huge a fan of the band as myself and so it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that he was also going to be in the audience. The surprise though was that he had been to the earlier matinée showing just a couple of hours previously but was so taken by the work that he wanted to have a second and immediate viewing on the back of him posting these words on social media:-

“I’d seen this brilliant Go-Betweens documentary, ‘Right Here’ (Dir : Kriv Stenders), before, via a questionable WWW link, but I still wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact of watching this on the big screen, with a proper sound system. There were moments of pure joy, utter elation and dark humour, but also tears, sadness and anger, especially when hearing from Lindy and Amanda on life after ’16 Lovers Lane’. And, well, the ending that we all know is inevitable. Grant’s tragic death at the age of 48.

“The film is an incredible monument to a story, or rather, a set of competing narratives and ego performances, about yet another band would should have and could have. And they did, in a way, and against all the fucking odds. But they did this very much in their own way, to their own tune. That striped sunlight sound lives on but only in the records we have in our collections (“The Go-Betweens were…” run the final credits). Lindy’s still clearly mad about Robert, but also mad *with* Robert. Heartbreaking. Grant is missed by all, especially Amanda. And Robert too of course, his best friend, his muse.

“This is simply one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen about a band that are ingrained into my fabric and DNA. A band who had no hits. A story about a band in the middle. 10/10”

He’s quite right you know……

Relationships were essential to the band moving in the direction that it did between 1977 and 1989 and complicated, ever-shifting relationships at that. It’s testament to the skills of the director that he elicits really positive contributions from all past members, clearly proud of the contributions they made to that initial run of albums, while also enabling them to vent what, in many cases, appear to be pent-up anger and frustrations at how they were, to all intent and purposes, cast aside by Grant and Robert. The Comrade has already given his take on Lindy Morrison and Amanda Brown, but there’s also some very telling testimonies, particularly from ex-bass players Robert Vickers and John Willsteed and, on reflection afterwards, also from early drummer Tim Mustapha, who was cast aside in a way which really did give an early indication of what would remain an almost undetectable ruthlessness on the parts of the two main principals.

The documentary has benefited immensely from the 10 year gap between Grant’s death, by heart attack, and the filming getting underway. It’s a period in which Robert has been able to reflect fully on things, including him exorcising a number of demons through the writing of his book. I think it’s also enabled him to come to understand that, on occasions, some of both his and Grants’ behaviour and their attitudes towards their band colleagues were less than stellar and any offered excuses centring around the temperaments of creative geniuses don’t really wash. There’s certainly a sense of lingering regret in a number of his contributions, particularly towards the end of the film, very much in contrast with the first hour or so in which there is a real and deserved celebration of the band’s legacy, wonderful contributions from a diverse range of talking heads including musicians such as Mick Harvey, Lloyd Cole and David McClymont, friends and family such as Sally McLennan, Clinton Walker (a well-known and highly regarded cultural figure in Australia who almost steals the show) and Damian Nelson, and those involved with the band professionally such as Bob Johnson and Roger Grierson. Oh, and the archive footage of videos, TV appearances and still photographs is an absolute joy….as, of course is the music which is constantly in the background or the forefront of many scenes.

I’ll just echo the Comrade – Right Here is simply one of the best and most all-round satisfying music documentaries I’ve ever seen. Informative, engaging, entertaining (there were many moments which resulted in a smile or a laugh, often when Clinton Walker was offering his thoughts) and ultimately very moving with it abundantly clear that Grant is still missed each and every day. It also made me more determined than ever to get myself to Australia, ideally to catch Robert play a solo show in Brisbane.

mp3 : Go Betweens – Right Here

JC

HE’S A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY…..

A GUEST POSTING by JOHNNY BOTTOMS

Those of you who might be new(ish) to this little corner of the internet might like to have a read at this post from February 2017 and then this post from May 2017 to get the back story…..

Greetings, Jim.

A little while back you asked for an Aces update. So as not to bore you to tears I’ll try to sum up everything that’s happened since our fateful April 2017 meeting in Manchester, bullet-point style:

The England trip was truly amazing and we got a nice write up about it when we got home: https://www.ocweekly.com/whats-it-like-for-an-outlaw-country-band-touring-the-uk-8099980/

* We started recording an album in fall of 2017
* In October Hoss reluctantly left the band for family reasons
* Marty Beal, formerly of the Lisa Marr Experiment, agreed to join the band as lead guitarist
* The album was mixed and mastered earlier this year
* We planned to self-release the record and did all the photo shoots, cover art and graphics etc.
* To our surprise we were contacted by At The Helm Records, a UK label, who said they wanted to release it for us overseas
* At The Helm is the home of Ags Connelly, whom you may remember opened for us in England
* This pushed the release of the album to early 2019
* We are excited about the label’s interest because we are hoping they’ll bring us back for another tour
* The album will be titled No Particular Way
* The first single, ‘Come Around’, has just been released and is available on iTunes, CD Baby and similar digital sites!

So, at long last, new Ponderosa Aces music is available and a lot more is coming soon. ‘Come Around’ marks the first time I’ve been in the studio for 30 years.

Johnny Bottoms

JC adds….

Johnny also provided a copy of the new single and said that he didn’t mind if it was posted on the blog to download for a while, but that he really wanted to encourage folks to buy the single independently. As he points out, the band aren’t going to make any money from record sales but the big hope is that if enough people download it may convince the label to bring them back for another UK tour.

So….no link from me except to here and here where it can be downloaded.  I’ve done so already and it’s a mighty fine sounding tune.  Please find it in your hearts to spend 99p or 99 cents or whatever your currency is!

In the meantime here’s something with an apt title from the band’s back catalogue:-

mp3 : The Ponderosa Aces – Play The Game

JC

LET’S ALL MEET UP ON THE POST 2000

The original Vinyl Villain musical extravaganza was born on 30 September 2006 and in a little under seven years managed to feature somewhere in the region of 2,500 posts before it was cast out into t’internet wilderness by the evil people at blogger.com.

The (new) Vinyl Villain was born on the day the old blog died – 24 July 2013 and today marks it’s 2,000th posting.

A lot of those have come from the brains of many friends and guest writers, a situation which has given me great pleasure over the years. It’s the guest postings together with the contributions which come through the comments section that make me determined to keep things going, particularly on the increasing number of occasions when the inspiration seems to be a long way away or I’ve a general feeling of fatigue or fed-upness about it all.

Thank you so much friends, comrades, amigos and compadres.

I had a great chat with Drew a few weeks back….I’ve been so wrapped up in issues of my own that I’ve failed to keep up with the blogging activities of my friends over recent times and had totally missed that he had temporarily brought things to a halt over at his place, although it’s great to see he’s slowly getting back into the groove.  I’m not going to go into huge detail about what we talked about, suffice to say we both felt a lot better after a couple of hours. We also agreed a particular photo should be used to illustrate the 2,000th post on T(n)VV on the basis that it brought me to a stop when I saw it on the streets of Galway a few months ago….and also that he laughed when I showed him it as we jointly imagined the theatre show was really about Mark E Smith (RIP) going to Cape Town and trying to recruit local kids for his band now that he’d burned his bridges with every single indie musician in the UK.

We also agreed this should be the song for today:-

mp3 : The Fall – Lost In Music

Not sure if I’ll get to 3,000 posts….but rest assured I will be back tomorrow.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF PAUL HAIG (Part 1)

I’ve decided that Paul Haig should be the next subject for the Sunday singles series. I realise that many of you won’t be that bothered over the next few weeks and months given that he’s far from a household name and indeed could almost be the perfect definition of a cult artist; but I’m a huge fan and feel that his body of solo work, now stretching back the best part of 40 years in which he has continually tinkered and altered his sound, is very worthy of being put under the spotlight.

Paul first came to prominence as the lead vocalist of Josef K, one of the four bands to release material on Postcard Records. They split up in August 1981 and it is fair to say that, like many others, their legacy and impact was only fully realised many years after when the next generation of musicians began to name check them as key influences. His solo career began almost immediately,  but not in any straightforward fashion, signing to a Belgian-based label – Les Disques Du Crepuscule – while opting to also adopt the moniker Rhythm of Life Organisation (RoL) under which he intended to release experimental material, much of which would be far removed from the post-punk, angular guitar sounds associated with his former band.

Indeed, it was as RoL that the first solo 45 was issued, and not on the label to which he had signed.

mp3 : RoL – Soon

Ok….the pedants among you might argue this is NOT a Paul Haig solo record, given that the credits are:-

Stephen Harrison : voice, guitar & lyrics
Paul Haig : other instruments & voice

But it’s an important staging post for what would follow in the succeeding years which is why I’m using it to open the new series.

Soon was issued jointly via Rational Records and Rhythm of Life Records and given two catalogue numbers – RATE 6 and RHYTHM 1 (these things were really important to those of us smitten by how Factory Records were keeping stock of the things they were involved in). Rational was a short-lived label, owned and run by Allan Campbell, who had been the manager of Josef K and would remain a key player in the Edinburgh music scene for a long while to come.  The label would release eight pieces of plastic all told, including the follow-up by RoL, a double-sided single entitled Uncle Sam/Portrait of Heart, both written and performed by the late Sebastian Horsley with Paul’s role restricted to keyboards, bass and second guitar; as such I’m not intending to include it in the series.

Here’s yer b-side of Soon, and it isn’t a cover:-

mp3 : RoL – Summertime

Boths songs are a tad on the light side, very pop-orientated with a sound that wouldn’t have been out of place a short while later on Zoo Records, the label which would launch the careers of so many 80s musicians in Liverpool.

JC