THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part One : BLUE FOR YOU

A new idea. One that might fly depending on the views and responses from the readership.

From the outset of the blog (which will celebrate quietly its 14th birthday at the end of this month), all the vinyl rips have only been made available at the lowest of quality, i.e 128 kbps, on the basis that anyone who really liked a song that they listened to/downloaded would seek out a better copy, digitally or otherwise. I’m now intending to use each Monday as the day when I’ll move to a higher-res offering, at 320kbps, which is the best I can do via the software which I use with the new turntable.

The idea came to me when I started going back and playing old records and hearing them in a way that I hadn’t for a couple of decades. The various USB turntables that I’ve used to support the blog have been at the budget end of things but that is no longer the case, and I’ve also invested in a decent amp and set of speakers. All in all, it’s made for a listening revolution in Villain Towers and while I’m not wanting to move entirely to the higher quality of vinyl rip, I’ll dip my toe in the water every Monday morning with a classic single from the collection (worth mentioning that my definition of classic might not chime with everyone else’s…….but I’ll come to that at the end of the post.)

I’m starting things off with Paul Haig, and the two sides from a 12″ cut from 1982 issued on the Brussels-based label Les Disques Du Crépuscule. It makes perfect sense to do so given that Paul gave such great support to the old blog a few years back when Google pulled a few posts and songs, with the singer/songwriter, via his manager, offering the opportunity to post an exclusive new track, which later led to a relatively successful mini-campaign to have Paul Haig Day across a number of blogs.

Those heady days of music blogging are long gone for all sorts of reasons but a handful of folk are still hanging around doing things the old way, with every single one of us using our love of music and musicians to spread the word and to hopefully encourage anyone enjoying what they are hearing to spend some money to support the singer/band in question.

mp3: Paul Haig – Blue For You
mp3: Paul Haig – Blue For You (version)

It’s a long way from the sounds of Josef K and there were a few folk who were a bit disgruntled when Paul went down the dance route in the early 80s. I adored this single on its release. I still do today and it sounded immense coming out of the speakers here in Villain Towers. Worth also mentioning in passing that it features Giles and Samantha from Hey! Elastica on backing vocals.

The question though is whether you folk want this to be a regular feature and if so would you be willing to make suggestions as to a particular single or song that you’d like to have made available at the higher res? After all, my thoughts on what make a classic may well differ from yours and, besides, I’ve always taken pride on making TVV as inclusive as possible.

Cheers

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 14)

The Robster writes……

Picture the scene:

It’s Monday, February 19th 1991. Your humble scribe is working for Our Price, at the time the UK’s biggest record store chain. In among the boxes of new releases that day is one particular offering I’d been waiting very eagerly for – R.E.M.’s new single Losing My Religion. I can’t remember if I or someone else unpacked the boxes that day, but I know I had made sure that one copy of each format had been put aside. I so desperately wanted to play it, but R.E.M. were still considered a cult band and not suitable for a busy Monday of new releases, despite most of my colleagues and managers also being fans.

At one point later in the day, I managed to commandeer the CD player and headphones. I squat down behind the counter and played Losing my Religion for the first time. And as I listened, all that enthusiasm drained slowly away. What the hell was this? I mean, I was aware the band was making a more acoustic record akin to the mandolin-led numbers on ‘Green’, but I at least expected a chorus! Didn’t stop me from buying it though. On all formats.

mp3: R.E.M. – Losing My Religion

I played it to death hoping I would warm to it, and I did. But I still didn’t think it would be a hit. I was never one of those fans who didn’t want his favourite band to be successful so I had to share them with other people. No, I wanted R.E.M. to be huge, so I could point at all the others who thought I listened to “weird stuff” and tell them I was right all along! But if R.E.M. were going to be megastars, this wouldn’t be the song to catapult them to that status. I wasn’t the only one to think that.

The band’s label, Warner Bros., was wary about the group’s choice of the song as the album’s first single. Steven Baker (no relation!), vice president of product management at the time, said there were “long, drawn-out discussions” about releasing such an “unconventional track” as the single until the label agreed. The marketing department had similar concerns as did radio programmers. To this day, it’s a mystery how Losing My Religion became the global behemoth that it did.

It started out in life as Peter Buck teaching himself to play mandolin while watching TV. When he listened back to the tapes he made of his attempts “there was a bunch of stuff that was really just me learning how to play mandolin, and then there’s what became ‘Losing My Religion’, and then a whole bunch more of me learning to play the mandolin.” Despite “trying to get away from [writing typical R.E.M] kind of songs”, Buck admitted it was “probably the most typical R.E.M.-sounding song” on the new album. “The verses are the kinds of things R.E.M. uses a lot, going from one minor to another, kind [of] like those Driver 8 chords. You can’t really say anything bad about E minor, A minor, D, and G – I mean, they’re just good chords.”

The original studio take was just Buck, Mills and Berry. Mike Mills found it hard to write a bass line for the song without it sounding derivative, so what was used was apparently influenced by John McVie of Fleetwood Mac. The band felt the song sounded “hollow”, with the high range of Buck’s mandolin set against Mills’ low-end bass. To give it some mid-range, they drafted in former dBs guitarist/vocalist Peter Holsapple to play acoustic guitar. Holsapple remained as an unofficial “fifth member” of the band throughout the recording of the album and subsequent promotional live appearances. Michael Stipe recorded his vocal in a single take, which is quite remarkable when you listen to it.

Losing My Religion became R.E.M.’s biggest hit around the world. In the UK, it only reached #19, but unusually held that position for three straight weeks. The song’s popularity grew the longer it hung around, and years later is one of R.E.M.’s most recognisable songs, probably because of the slew of different live versions that have cropped up on numerous R.E.M. releases ever since. If you’d said that to a 19-year-old Robster squatting behind the Our Price counter he’d have sneered with contempt at such a ridiculous notion!

So, those formats I referred to? Well, the 7”, 12” and standard CD single all included a track entitled Rotary 11, a reference to an old b-side Rotary 10. Like its predecessor, it’s not really worth the effort, being just a daft jazz-tinged instrumental with a surf guitar lead. Of more interest was the extra track on the 12” and CD single, a live version of a Velvet Underground song. Now R.E.M. like the Velvets, as previous renditions of Femme Fatale, There She Goes Again and Pale Blue Eyes demonstrated. After Hours was a song penned by Lou Reed and sung by both Reed and drummer Mo Tucker. R.E.M.’s live version was recorded during the Green Tour in 1989 and first featured on the very highly acclaimed concert movie ‘Tourfilm’. It omits the part of the song Reed sang in the original to keep it short and sweet.

mp3: R.E.M. – Rotary 11
mp3: R.E.M. – After Hours (live)

Also released in the UK was a second CD single, labelled “Collector’s Edition”, in order to make sure people who bought any of the other formats also bought this one, especially as it didn’t hit the shelves until the week after the others! That’s music marketing in the 90s for you.

This CD contained another three songs from the ‘Tourfilm’ soundtrack, namely Stand, Turn You Inside-Out and World Leader Pretend. The originals, of course, all featured on R.E.M.’s previous album ‘Green’, their only other record released by Warner Bros., and clearly aimed to get new fans to buy that one as well!

mp3: R.E.M – Stand (live)
mp3: R.E.M.- Turn You Inside-Out (live)
mp3: R.E.M. – World Leader Pretend (live)*

One final note – Wikipedia lists a second “Collector’s Edition” CD single in the UK, which carried the tagline “Song Of The Year”. However, this was not an official release in the UK, but became available as an import from Europe. Along with the a-side and the 7” b-side, it also contained two other tracks that were released as b-sides in the UK on subsequent singles, so we’ll save them for later.

And one final note – I’m sick to bloody death of Losing My Religion now. I can barely listen to it anymore without wanting to turn it off. A shame, but a symptom of being an uber-fan I think.

The Robster

*JC adds.…..the mp3 provided for World Leader Pretend is not identical as that on the Losing My Religion CD single.  Instead, it’s an extended version which includes the longer introduction where, after the cheering from the previous song has finally died down, Michael Stipe uses a drumstick to hit the side of a chair and recites a few lines from We Live As We Dream, Alone by Gang of Four before the band burst into their own song.  It’s an exceptional performance of what is surely THE stand-out song from Green.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #228 : THE ORCHIDS

It is to my eternal shame that I haven’t really featured The Orchids all that much on the blog.  As this bio demonstrates, they have much in common with musicians in whom I store a great deal:-

Acclaimed Glasgow band The Orchids recorded for cult independent label Sarah Records. Formed in 1987, this prolific yet overlooked five-piece recorded a string of singles as well as three excellent albums, Lyceum (1989), Unholy Soul (1991) and Striving For the Lazy Perfection (1994). Often compared to similarly cerebral pop operators such as Felt, Aztec Camera and Primal Scream, the band split in 1995 at the height of their powers. Most of their records were produced by Ian Carmichael of One Dove.

The band reformed in 2004, and have since released three more albums: Good to be a Stranger (2007), The Lost Star (2010) and Beatitude#9 (2014).

The band passed me by, entirely, back in the 90s. I can offer no explanation other than the first two albums coinciding with a turbulent period in my life and then feeling very old (at the age of 26/27) as the ‘kids’ lost their minds over Sarah Records and the new sound of indie-pop. I do now own all three of those albums, courtesy of them being reissued many years later on CD, complete with a plethora of bonus tracks of singles, b-sides and demo versions. There’s plenty of material to come up with at least two quality ICAs but I’ve just found the task to be beyond me, mainly as I feel something of a fraud having not invested, financially or emotionally, in the band back in the days. For now, here, picked at random, is one of the singles:-

mp3: The Orchids – Something For The Longing

Released with the catalogue number SARAH 29 back in 1990

JC

ALL THE YOUNG DUDES

Stuart Adamson was just a month beyond his 20th birthday when The Skids recorded five tracks for their first session for John Peel.  Even more ridiculous and incredible is the fact that Richard Jobson was still too young to vote or legally buy a drink in a pub, and wouldn’t turn 18 for another five months (mind you, he looked about 25 years old at the time!)

mp3: The Skids – Of One Skin (Peel Session)
mp3: The Skids – Open Sound (Peel Session)
mp3: The Skids – Contusion (Peel Session)
mp3: The Skids – Night and Day (Peel Session)
mp3: The Skids – TV Stars (Peel Session)

It’s also worth noting Of One Skin is the sole track of those aired at this sessionthat would find a place on the band’s debut album when it hit the shops just under a year later, an indication of just how fast things were moving and the ability of the songwriting duo to keep churning out tunes and lyrics. All of the others would be relegated to the status of b-sides, and indeed TV Stars wouldn’t even be honoured with a studio recording, with just a live version appearing on the flip side of Into The Valley.

There is, as you’d expect, a sense of huge energy to the songs with that very distinctive sound that is can be attributed to the guitar skills of Stuart Adamson.  At the time of the session, The Skids had just the one physical release, the Charles EP on No Bad Records, a label that had been the brainwave of Sandy Muir, the owner of a record shop in the town of Dunfermline.

But there was a real buzz among the London-based music industry that this group of young men, who all hailed from a community reliant economically on coal mining and other blue-collar industries, had a guitar prodigy (Peel had proclaimed Adamson as the Hendrix of the generation) and a punk-poet among its numbers (one with a sense of humour as evidenced by TV Stars), as well as a rhythm section in Tam Kellichan (drums) and Bill Simpson (bass) that was as good as any in the punk/new wave scene.  Just one week after the session, Virgin Records asked them to support Magazine at a gig in Glasgow, following which they signed them to an eight-album deal, something which in due course became something of an albatross around their collective necks and would play its part in the band’s gradual and messy demise within four years.

If time-travel was a genuine concept, and everyone was allowed one wish as part of it, I reckon getting myself along to that gig in 1978 would be high up on my list.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (51)

Kind of beggars belief that it has taken this long to highlight such an outstanding debut single as part of this occasional series

mp3: The Jam – In The City

I’d be lying if I said I can remember this being released on 29 April 1977 and it reaching No. 40 on the UK Singles Chart in May 1977.  I can’t even recall seeing it on Top of The Pops on Thursday 19 May 1977 (when it aired despite being outside the Top 40, sitting that particular week at #45).

Yup…..feel free to cringe at David ‘Kid’ Jensen‘s awful shirt and his half-arsed effort at playing air guitar.

It would actually be a couple more years before I fully cottoned on to The Jam, but when I did, they quickly became my favourite group in my mid-late teenage years as my tastes shifted increasingly towards new wave/post-punk. In The City is a tremendously energetic and exciting debut.

I didn’t, even in 1979 as I became familiar with it, get the comparisons with The Who, a band I only knew from their rather dull mid-70s releases such as Substitute and Who Are You?, or from staple songs of ‘The Golden Hour’ such as My Generation and Pinball Wizard, none of which had the attitude or vibrancy of The Jam. But, in my defence, I had a lot of learning/catching-up to do in years to come.

mp3: The Who – In The City

The b-side of I’m A Boy, their #2 hit from 1966, that had never been included (at that point in time) on any album and despite its relative obscurity, was a track which Paul Weller was clearly very familiar with.

JC

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 39)

I remember as a 16-year old at school back in 1979 getting really excited about all the guitar-led New Wave bands that were springing up and wondering if there might be someone local to hook on to. That’s when I first became aware of Fingerprintz when they were mentioned in a local paper as having signed a deal with Virgin Records (which was a big thing at that time).

But I remember being disappointed to also read in the same article that while the main guys in the band were from just outside Glasgow, they were actually based in London, so there was no point in building up hopes of using a false ID to get along and see them.

One of the DJs on the local commercial radio station was also championing them on his weekly show, and I remember going out and buying their debut single the week it came out. But after that, I lost interest in the band – most certainly because I couldn’t see past The Jam for anyone else in among the football and the hope of landing the elusive serious girlfriend.

My rekindled interest in vinyl has led me, over time, to pick up second-hand copies of all three of the band’s albums released between 1979 and 1981 all of which have some very decent songs although there’s not quite enough throughout to completely hold my attention. The closing track on Distinguished Marks, released in 1980, (and whose sleeve was designed by Peter Saville), is a very much a short story:-

The metropolitan corps
Found a corpse in the middle of the night
And they wrote it down in their blackbooks
By the revolving blue light

The face has no name
The mouth doesn’t speak
He hasn’t shaved or brushed his teeth
For at least a week
Hide and seek

Another typical chore for the cops
They deserve a mention
The dirt from his nails in a plastic bag
Forensic attention

Any distinguishing marks?
Or a great physique?
Has he ever been kissed?
Is he on a missing list?
British, French Arab or Greek?
Ohhh, hide and seek.

mp3: Fingerprintz – Hide and Seek

A short story with a very inconclusive ending. I’ll admit, it’s not entirely satisfactory.

JC

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #261(b) : TRACEY THORN

PART TWO OF A GUEST POSTING by ECHORICH

TRACEY THORN – A COVERS ICA

From the earliest days of Everything But The Girl, Tracey and Ben recorded some astonishing covers of popular and not so well known songs that spoke to them. Their first single, Night And Day, Kid, Time After Time, I Don’t Want To Talk About It, The Only Living Boy in New York, English Rose, are just a few.

As a solo artist, Tracey hasn’t shed away from sharing her take on a rather eclectic series of others’ songs. The majority of her 4th solo album, Tinsel And Lights features 10 covers of songs related to Christmas and Winter. None of her covers are perfunctory or covers by numbers. All of them are imbued with the magic Tracey has as a performer and some, for me, outshine the originals because of that magic.

Here are 10 covers performed by Tracey Thorn from her solo work of the last 13 years that show off that magic.

1. Under The IvyKate Bush Cover – released as a digital single in December of 2014. Just a piano and Tracey with strings filling in on the second verse. The intimacy is intense.

2. Come On Home To MeLee Hazelwood cover – a track from Love And Its Opposite, it’s a duet with Jens Lekman. Lekman’s baritone adds to the darkness of the song arrangement.

3. Kings CrossPet Shop Boys cover – originally a bonus track on the iTunes version of Out Of The Woods and was initially slated for inclusion, but cut due to running time of the album. It was released as a stand-alone single in December of 2007 with a Hot Chip Remix and a thank you to Neil Tennant who Tracey states motivated her to record a new solo album after 25 years. Tracey softly presents the song with pastoral addition of English horn and respect to the simplicity of the PSB original. I hold this version as an equal to a song I think is certainly among Pet Shop Boys best.

4. Sister WinterSufjan Stevens cover – a Christmas single released on Ben’s Strange Feeling label for Christmas 2010, it would reappear on the Tinsel and Lights album two years later. Tracey approaches the track with a simpler arrangement and a bit more focus on the vocals.

5. Get Around To ItArthur Russell cover – released as a track on Out Of The Woods. The most eclectic track on Tracey’s wonderfully eclectic 2007 solo album, she and producer Ewan Pearson play up all of the wonderful mutant disco sounds so familiar to fans of Russell and the Sleeping Bag Records label. It’s a joy filled musical romp.

6. Smoke And MirrorsMagnetic Fields cover – b-side to the Raise The Roof single. Where the original is all cool, dark, synth-folk and very knowing, Tracey brings a much more feminine, yet still knowing feel to her interpretation.

7. Hard Candy Christmas Dolly Parton cover – released as a track on Tinsel and Lights. A song I had never heard before and approaching it as a cover is a bit difficult. Popularized by Dolly, but also recorded by Cyndi Lauper, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Reba McIntyre, it’s a bit of a modern Christmas standard that no one really deviates from as written by singer/songwriter Carol Hall. But Tracey captures a quiet, lonely Christmas in her version that sounds so much like an EBTG song, no least of all because husband Ben contributed to some very familiar-sounding electric piano.

8. Night TimeThe XX cover – released on the Night Time EP. Originally chosen to be included on a covers compilation of The XX songs at the invitation of the band, the project fell through, but Tracey with Ben assisting still recorded the track with producer Ewan Pearson. Again there is some EBTG DNA in their version of the song that really works.

9. Snow in SunScritti Politti cover – released as a track on Tinsel and Lights. Another very contemporary cover by Tracey, the original can be found on the wonderful 2006 Scritti Politti album White Bread Black Beer. Tracey smartly doesn’t attempt anything too far from the perfection of the original here, instead paying homage to Green’s own reading of the song.

10. You Are A LoverThe Unbending Trees cover – released on Love And Its Opposite. From Strange Feeling stablemates The Unbending Trees, Tracey give a much more approachable, I might say less suicidal sounding, outing here, making it a more subtle form of torch song.

ECHORICH

JC adds……

Any excuse to offer up a Jens Lekman track on which Tracey provides a co-vocal.  From the album Life Will See You Now

mp3: Jens Lekman – Hotwire The Ferris Wire

and here’s the remix mentioned above:-

mp3: Tracey Thorn – King’s Cross (Hot Chip remix)

Huge thanks to Echorich for this incredible effort and for sending me down a Tracey Thorn cul-de-sac for a couple of days after I pulled all the track together….and above all else, for introducing me to that astonishing cover of King’ s Cross, a release I wasn’t previously aware of.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #261(a) : TRACEY THORN

A TWO-PART GUEST POSTING by ECHORICH

I’ve been quite loud and proud about my love for all things Everything But The Girl over the years. So many things make their work stand out for me, not the least of which is the very individual sound of Tracey Thorn’s vocals. Like a very fine wine they have become more complex with age, but at the same time they are quite ageless. They mark for me the sound of an age which is now almost 40 years strong.

Tracey is a singular lyricist, a brilliant writer – you can’t go wrong with any of her books, and keen social commentator with her regular contributions to the New Statesman.

After Everything But The Girl ‘closed shop’ with the release of their final album, Temperamental, in 1999, she took time to be a mum, raise a family, catch up on life away from the world of recording and touring. But by 2006 her focus was back on music. Her first solo album in almost 25 years, Out Of The Woods, would be filled with collaborations with writers, producers, mixers, but no credited input from husband Ben Watt. It is a diverse and engaging album, with tracks ranging from electronic ballads to dance floor fillers, ambient chillers and pop.

The follow up album, Love And It’s Opposite, found her working with electronica producer Ewan Pearson and creating an album focused on getting older, relationships and navigating life. In comparison, to the previous release, the synths are toned down and a more minimalist approach shines through. This manages to give even more power and nuance to the beauty of Tracey’s vocals. There are hints of earlier EBTG songs and approaches, but there isn’a a song that feels like it’s treading past waters.

Never to be pigeonholed as predictable, Tracey chose to release a Christmas/Holiday/Winter themed album for her fourth solo effort. It is is an album filled with nontraditional choices, covers of songs by White Stripes, Sufjan Stevens, The Magnetic Fields, Green Gartside, Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell among them. You get an instant reminder of just how strong and familiar Tracey’s work has been over the years, as these songs seem to fit right in to her wheelhouse with no need to grease the gears. Importantly, Tinsel and Lights sees the return of husband Ben Watt on guitar and piano throughout the album. But most importantly there are two new tracks from Tracey to round out the collection. For me, one has become among my favorites of all her songs.

For the next 5 years, Tracey concentrated on writing two acclaimed books – Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up And Tried To Be A Pop Star and Naked At The Albert Hall, raising her teen son and twins girls along with Ben, and representing my generation in her commentary column in the New Statesman. During this break she did find time to score the soundtrack to independent film director Carol Morely’s 2015 release, The Falling.

2017 found Tracey in the studio, again with producer Ewan Pearson in tow, to make an album that is as wonderfully feminist as it is personal, Record. Record sees the synthesizers and keyboards make a comeback in a big way. Most songs are all synth with the exception of an occasional bass, guitar, drum or string instrument finding their way in the mix. Tracey manages to take the idea of Girl Power and turn it into Woman Power, focusing on the battles, losses and triumphs of being a woman in the 21st Century.

This ICA is a compilation in two halves. I knew I was going to stretch the concept, once again, beyond 10 tracks and offer a Baker’s Dozen. But in trying to narrow down those 13 tracks I began doubting I could really be satisfied with my choices. In the end, I am presenting an ICA focused solely on songs written by Tracey from solo albums 2 – 5 and a second, accompanying ICA of Tracey’s recording of other songwriters work. I hope you will allow my indulgence, but I came to the realization there wasn’t going to be any other way for me to proceed.

TRACEY THORN – An ICA for a New Millennium

1. It’s All True – Escort Extended Remix (12” Single) – Released a month prior to Out Of The Woods, the song was given to a few remixers to have a go with. Escort, a “Nu Disco” band from Brooklyn bring their indie disco ethics to the albums lead single. Its mid-tempo and the electro grooves give it a feeling of early 80s NYC to these ears.

2. Long White Dress (Love And Its Opposite) – Tracey’s vocals are strikingly intimate, as if we are hearing her thoughts more than vocals. The music is spare – a guitar reminiscent of EBTG’s Idlewild period, simple melody and drum brush work is all the song really needs.

3. Grand Canyon (Out Of The Woods) – It would be easy to just let the gentler, singer-songwriter side of Tracey take over this ICA, but that’s far from all that I love about her. Grand Canyon is a pulsing dance floor beast, where Tracey leads the proceedings, but also allows her vocals to become part of the mix. Everybody loves you here – is the song’s refrain…Indeed.

4. Dancefloor (Record) – An instant classic from Record, Dancefloor is deep, rubbery and unapologetic in its celebration of “me.” Good Time, Shame, Golden Years and Let The Music Play are where her mind, soul, and body are and she is reveling in the abandon.

5. Hands Up To The Ceiling (Out Of The Woods) – A contemplative song that looks back at the past – one filled with missed opportunities, vanished expectations and reality. There is a beautiful longing in Tracey’s voice as she tries to reach back to a time that was filled with promise.

6. Why Does The Wind? (Love And Its Opposite) – One of the album’s uptempo tracks, shows off just how complimentary Tracey’s vocals are when they meet up with a good beat. What I love about the song is that it feels like three songs in one, giving it much more credit than just a dance floor number.

7. Smoke (Record) – my choice for JC’s ‘Some Songs Are Great Short Stories.’ It’s the simplest of melodies, you might say it really doesn’t carry much melody at all. The lyrics tell of the life lived by a couple, but also the feeling of belonging or finding a way to belong.

8. Hormones (Love And Its Opposite) – a bit of Indie-Pop here and thoughts on confronting the next generation, especially when they are your own kids.

9. Easy (Out Of The Woods) – Echoing some of the sounds and beats that made EBTG’s penultimate album Walking Wounded so magnificent, Easy is about knowing how bad someone might be for you, still pursuing them and knowing it won’t last, all because it’s just that easy.

10. Queen (Record) – the album’s teaser track, but not released as a single. The 80s flow easily from the song. Had it been released in say ’83 or ’84, MTV would have been all over this song, but the subject matter is far from the shiny, the world is your oyster feel of those days gone by. Queen is a great example of how Tracey can slip right into a character and start exploring.

11. Raise The Roof (Out Of The Woods) – Certainly one of my favorite tracks that Tracey has ever sung, Raise The Roof is all about realizing the clock is ticking and it’s time to take a chance and find love. It’s a funky mid-tempo, almost bossa nova track that build and builds with Tracey’s vocals. I have to recommend the remixes of Raise The Roof, in particular Richard Norris and Erol Alkan’s Beyond The Wizards Sleeve Re-Animation.

12. Sister (Record) – Sister is a Tracey Thorn Tour De Force! It is a no punches pulled ode to Womanhood. Over a rolling bass and percussion, counterpointed by a stabbing, repetitive guitar riff, Tracey, along with the assistance of Corrine Bailey Rae and Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint, draws a line in the sand, daring anyone to cross it and threaten her/womanhood’s right to be strong and independent. It is the album’s stand out track as well as one of the top tracks of 2018. It swirls in and out of you and spins around you until the last fading notes. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on Andrew Weatherall’s Remix and Dub mix. You won’t be disappointed.

13. Joy (Tinsel And Lights) – Finally, one of the two new tracks that appeared on Tracey’s 4th solo effort. It is one of the most touching and tender songs of Tracey’s song canon. Reflecting life at the end of the year and leading up to Christmas and the New Year, it is a call to rejuvenation and strength in the face of the coming unknown. The final verse tugs at my heartstrings every time I hear it…take a listen.

ECHORICH

JC adds……

Our learned scribe isn’t wrong about the remixes he refers to in its text.

mp3: Tracey Thorn – Raise The Roof (Beyond The Wizards Sleeve Re-Animation)
mp3: Tracey Thorn – Sister (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
mp3: Tracey Thorn – Sister (Andrew Weatherall Dub)

Part 2 of this ICA will appear tomorrow.

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 13)

As I mentioned last week, the ultra-poppy Stand did not give R.E.M. the super-sized global hit the record company had no doubt been hoping for, despite being released twice. Strange, then, that the most political single the band had put out to date – released in-between the two Stands – saw the band crack the UK Top 40 for the very first time.

mp3: R.E.M. – Orange Crush

Orange Crush had already topped the US Mainstream Rock charts (based on radio plays) for a record-breaking 8 weeks. It saw a physical release on this side of the pond in May 1989 and had by far the biggest impact of any track they’d put out to date. It was also one of their most frenetic. Opening with the rapid machine-gun effect of guitar and drums, the song tackles the controversial use of the chemical nerve gas Agent Orange by the US in Vietnam. Stipe often preluded the song on the Green Tour by dedicating it to the flag of the USA before singing the US Army’s tagline “Be all that you can be in the army.”

mp3: R.E.M. – Orange Crush (live from ‘Tourfilm’)

Rising all the way to number 28 in the UK, it saw the band make their debut on the flagship chart TV show Top of The Pops, where Stipe, with long plaited ponytail, mimed with a megaphone, a prop he used during the Green Tour to sing the chorus of Turn You Inside-Out. In fact, the megaphone was a protest at being forced to lip-synch rather than sing live. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

For the benefit of those overseas or not old enough – Top Of The Pops was one of the tackiest shows on TV, yet at its peak, it was THE show to be on if you had a single out. Usually appearing on it guaranteed an increase in sales and a higher chart position the following week. It was presented by BBC Radio 1 DJs, most of whom were utterly cringe-worthy and shockingly unknowledgeable. Occasionally, if we were really lucky, we might get John Peel, Janice Long or Tommy Vance fronting the show. Unfortunately, on the night R.E.M. appeared, they had Mark Goodier (who had an OK evening show at one time) and someone else I can’t even remember the name of. At the (premature) end of R.E.M.’s performance, nameless bloke, thinking he was being all clever and witty, commented: “Especially nice on a hot day – Orange Crush.” The song was about chemical warfare and this pillock thought it was about a soft drink. Legend has it the band were so upset at the comment, they refused to go on the show again (though they were coaxed back in 1995).

(JC adds…..I did a bit of detective work on this as the pillock was certainly not a TOTP regular and therefore not a Radio 1 DJ. It seems it was Simon Parkin, a continuity announcer with Children’s BBC, a service which broadcast on BBC1 on school days, between 4 and 5.30pm, as he was an occasional guest presenter of TOTP alongside Mark Goodier during 1989).

Unusually, Orange Crush had decent b-sides. Both covers, the 7” featured a version of Suicide’s Ghost Rider, while the 12” included a wonderful take on Syd Barrett’s Dark Globe. Both songs had been played live during encores of some shows throughout 1988 and also made it regularly into the Green Tour sets.

mp3: R.E.M. – Ghost Rider
mp3: R.E.M. – Dark Globe

Stand and Orange Crush were the only tracks put out as singles in the UK. In the States, they had Pop Song 89 and Get Up (the latter of which was a real highlight of ‘Green’). A promo of Turn You Inside-Out was also released in the US and Spain.

The Robster

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #227 : ORANGE JUICE

It remains the holy grail.  I know I’ll never own a copy – a fact confirmed a few years ago when I learned that even Edwyn Collins doesn’t have one in his collection, and both of us being canny Scotsmen will not entertain the asking price nowadays.

mp3: Orange Juice – Falling And Laughing (Postcard Records 80-1)

The fact everyone involved was appalled by the shamateurish way it ended up being recorded, with the loud bass drum pedal far too much to the fore, only adds to its charm.

Forty years ago?   Jings, crivvens, help ma boab!*

JC

*a phrase beloved of a cartoon character in a Scottish newspaper.  It is an exclamation of surprise, bewilderment and a gentle, playful cry for help all rolled into one saying. (I’ve added that to save Jonny asking what the hell it means….)

A REPEAT POSTING….WITH NO APOLOGIES

4 April 2014

A LOT OF THE FOLK PICTURED ON THIS SLEEVE WILL BE GRANDPARENTS NOW…

There are loads of stats that can be thrown about from today’s offering.

– in February 1981, this became just the second EP ever to reach #1 in the UK singles charts; the first had been back in 1976 when greek crooner Demis Roussos took his Phenomenon EP to the top of the hit parade

Too Much Too Young became the first live track to reach #1 in more than 9 years; the previous occasion had been Chuck Berry with My-Ding-A-Ling

– at 2:04, the lead track was the shortest #1 throughout the 80s

– the five tracks on the EP had ten different composers

Terry Hall‘s dad was in the audience for the Coventry gig at which the b-side was recorded; this was the first time he’s seen The Specials perform in concert (the two songs on the a-side were from a separate gig in London)

——-

The thing was, back in 2014, the mp3s put up were of appalling quality with all sorts of hisses and crackles.  The fact I’ve now picked up a better copy gives me the excuse to re-post the music.

mp3 : The Specials – Too Much Too Young (live)
mp3 : The Specials – Guns Of Navarone (live)
mp3 : The Specials – Skinhead Symphony (live)*

* features Longshot Kick The Bucket, Liquidator and Skinhead Moonstomp

I feel it is only right that I should close with the two comments which were contributed to the original post, as one is smart/witty and the other is educational.

Jacques the Kipper says:
April 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I can see Ellen Degeneres at the back on the left…

Peerless.

Stevo Kifaru says:
April 12, 2014 at 9:24 pm

And ironically/coincidentally the three live tracks on the b-side of this E.P. were recorded at Coventry Tiffany’s where the previous (and first-ever live recording to hit the U.K top spot) No1 My Ding-a-ling was also recorded, albeit the venue was called the Locarno then….

That’ll be The Locarno which is namechecked by Terry Hall in this stunning b-side:-

mp3: The Specials – Friday Night, Saturday Morning

JC

TRANSFORMER

Transformer, the second solo album by Lou Reed was released in November 1972 and is nowadays considered a classic, being voted at reasonably high positions in all sorts of polls. Rolling Stone magazine has it just inside the Top 200 in its list of greatest albums of all time (#194 back in 2012), but it’s fair to say that the original reviewer wasn’t fully convinced:-

Nick Tosches, January 4,1973

A real cockteaser, this album. That great cover: Lou and those burned-out eyes staring out in grim black and white beneath a haze of gold spray paint, and on the back, ace berdache Ernie Thormahlen posing in archetypal butch, complete with cartoon erectile bulge, short hair, motorcycle cap, and pack of Luckies up his T-shirt sleeve, and then again resplendent in high heels, panty hose, rouge, mascara, and long ebony locks; the title with all its connotations of finality and electromagnetic perversity. Your preternatural instincts tell you it’s all there, but all you’re given is glint, flash and frottage.

Lou Reed is probably a genius. During his days as singer/songwriter/guitarist with the Velvet Underground, he was responsible for some of the most amazing stuff ever to be etched in vinyl; all those great, grinding, abrasive songs about ambivalence, bonecrushers, Asthmador, toxic psychosis and getting dicked, stuff like “Venus in Furs,” “Heroin,” “Lady Godiva’s Operation,” “Sister Ray,” “White Light/White Heat,” and those wonderful cottonmouth lullabies like “Candy Says” and “Pale Blue Eyes.” His first solo album, Lou Reed, was a bit of a disappointment in light of his work with the Velvets. Reed himself was somewhat dissatisfied with it.

Between that album and this one came the ascendancy of David Bowie, a man who had been more than peripherally influenced by the cinematic lyrics and sexual warpage of the Velvet Underground. Lou Reed, in turn, was drawn to Bowie’s music. Bowie included Velvet tunes such as “Waiting for the Man” and “White Light/White Heat” in his stage repertoire; Reed, last summer, made his first English appearance with Bowie. Now, on Transformer, Bowie is Reed’s producer.

David Bowie’s show biz pansexuality has been more than a minor catalyst in Lou Reed’s emergence from the closet here. Sure, homosexuality was always an inherent aspect of the Velvet Underground’s ominous and smutsome music, but it was always a pushy, amoral and aggressive kind of sexuality. God knows rock & roll could use, along with a few other things, some good faggot energy, but, with some notable exceptions, the sexuality that Reed proffers on Transformer is timid and flaccid.

“Make Up,” a tune about putting on make-up and coming “out of the closets/out on the street,” is as corny and innocuous as “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story. There’s no energy, no assertion. It isn’t decadent, it isn’t perverse, it isn’t rock & roll, it’s just a stereotypical image of the faggot-as-sissy traipsing around and lisping about effeminacy.

“Goodnight Ladies” is another cliche about the lonely Saturday nights, the perfumed decadence and the wistful sipping of mixed drinks at closing time.

“New York Telephone Conversation” is a cutesy poke at New York pop-sphere gossip and small talk, as if anyone possibly gave two shits about it in the first place.

Perhaps the worst of the batch, “Perfect Day” is a soft lilter about spending a wonderful day drinking Sangria in the park with his girlfriend, about how it made him feel so normal, so good. Wunnerful, wunnerful, wunnerful.

And then there’s the good stuff. Real good stuff. “Vicious” is almost abrasive enough and the lyrics are great: “Vicious/You want me to hit you with a stick/When I watch you come/Baby, I just wanna run far away/When I see you walkin’ down the street/I step on your hands and I mangle your feet/Oh, baby, you’re so vicious/Why don’t you swallow razor blades/Do you think I’m some kinda gay blade?” It’s the best song he’s done since the days of the Velvet Underground, the kind of song he can do best (his voice has practically no range).

“Walk on the Wild Side” is another winner, a laid-back, seedy pullulator in the tradition of “Pale Blue Eyes,” the song is about various New York notables and their ramiform homo adventures, punctuated eerily by the phrases “walk on the wild side” and “and the colored girls go ‘toot-ta-doo, too-ta-doo.’” Great images of hustling, defensive blowjobs and someone shaving his legs while hitchhiking 1500 miles from Miami to New York that fade into a baritone sax coda.

“Hangin’ ‘Round” and “Satellite of Love” are the two remaining quality cuts, songs where the sexuality is protopathic rather than superficial.

Reed himself says he thinks the album’s great. I don’t think it’s nearly as good as he’s capable of doing. He seems to have the abilities to come up with some really dangerous, powerful music, stuff that people like Jagger and Bowie have only rubbed knees with. He should forget this artsyfartsy kind of homo stuff and just go in there with a bad hangover and start blaring out his visions of lunar assfuck. That’d be really nice.

——-

I think it’s fair to say there would be an outraged reaction if this was a newly released album and this was a contemporary review.  It’s quietly satisfying that we have come along way since 1973.

I’m way too young to remember Transformer, but as I mentioned previously, I have very vivid memories of Walk On The Wild Side, albeit I didn’t, as a ten-year old, buy the single.

It’s been a long long time since I listened to Transformer in its entirety….probably in the region of 35 years since my student days.  I don’t have a CD copy but Mrs Villain does own a vinyl copy that she bought in 1973 (it was the Bowie/Ronson connections that clinched it for her teenage self) and so, with my purchase of a decent turntable and amp a short time ago, it was given a spin.

Tosche’s review highlighted that four songs were classics.  He’s spot on about Vicious – it is still, after all these years, a tremendous song, and must be up there with the best opening tracks of any album in the history of pop music (the old blog had that as a regular feature and I’m often tempted to resurrect it).  Walk On The Wild Side is one of the most memorable tunes ever written and recorded.  Satellite of Love has stood the test of time but I’d argue that Hangin’ ‘Round has lost much of its initial impact from the fact that the tune became something of a template for years to come, but a template that later singers and bands were able to improve.

Of some the songs that Tosche finds unappealing, I find myself nodding in agreement but not for the vindictive and homophobic reasons he’s used in his review.

Goodnight Ladies might well have been fun to write and record, but its jazz persona offers a tune and style that does nothing for me.

He’s right about Perfect Day.  It’s a run-of-the-mill soppy ballad that far too many folk have tried to say, over the years (particularly after its inclusion in the film Trainspotting) that it has a deeper meaning around drug addiction.

He’s also right about New York Telephone Conversation and even if it is a song that does find favour, credit has to be given for the catty putdown that nobody really gave a toss about such whispering and gossip in the first place.

But he’s way wrong that Make Up has no energy and isn’t assertive nor rock’n’roll seems to simply highlight that he was let down by a lack of aggressive energy as it is a song full of assertion while being decadent and, in the early 70s, perverse in a way that would have shocked the majority of people.

The review makes no mention of three other songs – Andy’s Chest, Wagon Wheel and I’m So Free – but it is interesting to note that many later reviews that are available online, written when the album was reissued or when it was a significant anniversary, rarely mention the tracks either.  I actually like the first two but the third of them just jars as a sub-standard throwaway that when I heard it again had an opening that reminded me of Parklife by Blur.

If I was asked to come up with a one-word review of Transformer, it would be ‘patchy’.  There are some bits of magic that are offset by a bits of whimsy that are easily disposable and a number of bog-standard numbers. It’s one that I was never driven to own although I do fully get why it is seen by many as such an important album in the history of pop music, but I look on it in the same way as other ‘important or influential albums’ by The Beatles or Led Zepellin or The Beach Boys or Pink Floyd or Bruce Springsteen.

Feel free to take the mic and argue the toss.

Oh, and before I go, ripped from the vinyl bought by Rachel back in the day, well before the big hit single:-

mp3: Lou Reed – Vicious
mp3: Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side
mp3: Lou Reed – Make Up

JC

FAC 272

Blue Monday is probably the best-known of all the songs ever released on Factory Records. Love Will Tear Us Apart might have a counter-claim on that statement and it could well be a photo-finish at the line. I reckon the Happy Mondays take on a John Kongos song from 1970 would be the other track on the 1-2-3 podium.

I’ve featured the song before, posting the album version. I’ve been doing a bit of Discogs shopping in recent weeks, picking up a few bits’n’bobs to complete some holes in the vinyl collection that will enable a few more posts to be worked up over the next few weeks. As ever, many of the sellers offer combined postage rates when you add a few more bits of desired rather than essential vinyl, which is why I came to pick up a copy of the 12″ version of FAC272, with its two very enjoyable extended mixes:-

mp3: Happy Mondays – Step On (Stuff It In Mix) (5:53)
mp3: Happy Mondays – Step On (One Louder Mix) (6:03)

It’s a song in which over-familiarity and too much radio exposure hasn’t spoiled it for me.

JC

DID YOU KNOW?????…..

….that the single version of Oblivious is five seconds shorter than the version which opens up High Land, Hard Rain?

mp3: Aztec Camera – Oblivious (single version)

The difference is just after the two-minute mark. The lovely, almost flamenco style of guitar playing has an additional bar on the album version. Something I only picked up when I pulled out the 12″ copy of the single for the first time in years to have a listen on the new turntable.

mp3: Aztec Camera – Oblivious

The single, in its 7″, 12″ and its later re-released form (with a different sleeve) contains one of the greatest of Roddy Frame‘s love songs on the b-side

mp3: Aztec Camera – Orchid Girl

The other track wouldn’t have been out of place on the parent album either (and indeed, like Orchid Girl, was added when it was eventually issued on CD):-

mp3: Aztec Camera – Haywire

I will never tire of telling folk that Roddy Frame was just a few months past his 19th birthday when High Land, Hard Rain hit the shops in April 1983. It will always be very near the top of my all-time favourite albums by a Scottish singer or band – indeed there are days when I think it might well be my actual favourite.

JC