60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #25


Will I Ever Be Inside Of You – Paul Quinn & The Independent Group (1994)

There are just so many reasons as to why this album means so much to me.

You’ll all probably be bored reading my opinion that Paul Quinn is the best vocalist ever to emerge out of Scotland. He’s the great lost voice of a generation, one whose potential, it now seems from the outset, was fated never to be realised.

His legacy isn’t substantial in volume, but quality wise, it’s hard to beat, as was evidenced by the contents of Unadulterated, the lovingly curated limited edition box-set that brought together the two Independent Group albums alongside unreleased live and studio tracks.  It was so tempting to include the box-set in the rundown, but given how limited a release it was (just 300 copies were pressed), I ended up going back to the two studio albums from the 90s and choosing from them.  Oh, and for what it’s worth…..if I had included the box-set in the rundown, it would have come in at #1……

Alan Horne resurrected Postcard Records in 1992, partly to release some old stuff by Orange Juice, but also to give a home to Paul Quinn & The Independent Group.

This truly was a legendary Glasgow ‘supergroup’ – James Kirk (ex Orange Juice), Campbell Owens (ex Aztec Camera), Blair Cowan (ex Lloyd Cole & The Commotions) and Robert Hodgens (ex Bluebells) were just some of the members, with much of the music underpinned by the guitar work of the largely unheralded Mick Slaven who has appeared on stage  over the years with just about everyone who is significant in pop music from Scotland over the past 40 years.

The first album, The Phantom and The Archetypes, came out in 1992.  It’s an excellent album, but one which really benefits from repeated listens rather than having an ability to make an immediate impact.  On the other hand, the second album opens with this:-

mp3: Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Will I Ever Be Inside Of You

The title track.  More than nine minutes long, but there isn’t a single second wasted. The talents of the musicians (who doubled up as the producers) are very much in evidence, but it really does all boil down to that voice, supplemented in this instance by a contribution from one of the country’s leading opera singers of the era.

It sets the scene for a quite extraordinary album, one that, if circumstances had allowed, would be much more than a cult classic.  The tragedy being that, within a short period of time, Paul Quinn would be struck down by a truly debilitating disease that left him unable to perform. There was very little done in the way of promotional activity, and all too soon Alan Horne brought an end to the second incarnation of Postcard Records.

Some of us kept the flame burning in our own ways.  The original version of The Vinyl Villain featured a lot of Paul Quinn, going back to the Jazzateers and Bourgie Bourgie days, as well as the short-lived solo career on Swampland Records in the late 80s.   The postings attracted the attention of a few other fans, but none more so than Rob Fleay, who was in the process of opening, in 2009, the Punk Rock Hotel, a fan site dedicated to the music of Paul Quinn.   We were soon exchanging emails on a frequent basis, and I was always excited when Rob got in touch with news of the latest piece of treasure that he’d unearthed.

I think it is fair to say that Rob’s work was something of a catalyst for the eventual release of Unadulterated, a project on which Alan Horne and Paul Quinn brought him on board as ‘Technician’.   Those of us who are fans owe him a huge thanks.

Will I Ever Be Inside Of You remains a difficult album to track down, although there are some copies, particularly on CD, out there on Discogs and e-bay.    Digital copies can be found here. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #26


Pulp – Different Class (1995)

I’ve a great many CDs, singles and albums alike, from the Britpop era.  Not many of them have really stood the test of time.

Different Class is an album on this list which was down at 40-something when I began musing over things.  It’s not an album I’ve played all that much in recent times despite the fact that I bought a reissued version of it on vinyl a couple of years back – indeed the fact that the actual pressing left a lot to be desired has contributed to how little I’ve played it.

But one glance at the list of songs on the back of the sleeve soon had me moving it a few spots, and then there was the actual ‘fuck it’ moment where the realisation that Different Class is home to something which truly is an anthem for a particular generation.

mp3: Pulp – Common People

Even if the other eleven tracks were unlistenable, there would still a case to be made for this record to be in the Top 60.  It’s the song that turned Jarvis Cocker into a national treasure just a couple of years after being widely regarded as a joke figure by almost every single music writer.

The thing is, almost all the other eleven tracks have a great deal going for them, to the extent that they are very much overshadowed by Common People.  The reason for the use of the word ‘almost’ is that I’d be more than happy never to have to knowingly hear Disco 2000 ever again……it’s a dirge.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #27


Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine – 30 Something (1991)

It’s quite exhausting trying to write about all these albums without feeling as if I’m repeating myself.  I’m sort of taking today off, as what follows is largely an adaptation of some words that were written about this album on the old blog back in 2011 and then repeated on the new version of TVV in 2015, along with a short postscript concerning Rachel (aka Mrs Villain).

February 1991 saw the release of 30 Something on Rough Trade Records. It was at this time that I got my first ever live experience of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine with an incredible performance in the tiny space at Glasgow Tech Students Union (Jacques the Kipper was with me that night). I caught them live again later in 1991 and was once more amazed by the show. They were energetic, lively and hugely entertaining. And in 30 Something, they were promoting what I reckon is one of the best and most overlooked LPs in critics lists – one that has stood the test of time more than 30 years on.

Reputedly costing less than £4000 to record and produce, 30 Something is a masterpiece. From the opening snatched and oh-so accurate dialogue lifted from an episode of Red Dwarf:-

“When You’re younger you can eat what you like, drink what you like and still climb into your 26-inch trousers and zip them closed. But then you reach that age….24, 25…your muscles give up, they wave a little white flag and without any warning at all you’re suddenly a fat bastard” ….

….all the way through to the melancholy and sadness of the closing track, The Final Comedown, there isn’t a wasted moment across its entire 41 minutes.

There’s great passion, energy and humour in the lyrics even when they are dealing with really dark and serious issues such as alcoholism, racism, bullying, domestic violence and depression. There’s a great warning of the perils of consumerism which include the use of a sample of the voice of Joe Strummer and so many attacks on the state of UK society with the have and have-nots thanks to Thatcherism. For me…..it is the most punk of albums with an electronic twist. And as I say, one that today still hasn’t lost its ability to have me jumping around the room like an idiot (even if nowadays I do it in my head rather than in reality….)

mp3: Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine – Bloodsport For All

Also released as a single, that I was sure was a hit….but turns out it only reached #48.  It’s one of Rachel’s all-time favourite bits of music.  One that, when aired at that Barrowlands gig, led to an incident which, again, I’ve mentioned via the blog.

“There we were at a Carter USM gig at Barrowlands, Glasgow in the early 90s – me, Mrs Villain and Jacques the Kipper. Us blokes being experienced moshers felt it was just a bit too crazy with all those young folk being awfully lively down the front, so we were strategically placed just left-of-centre maybe halfway back.

Then the opening notes came through the speakers.


And before the same notes were repeated prior to the crashing guitars, Mrs Villain had gone….right down into the melee. I was gobsmacked.

But I left her to it – we hadn’t long drawn up wills leaving all our possessions to one another.

5 and a bit minutes later she came back, drenched in sweat but with the most fantastic grin on her face.”




2003 got underway with the release, in February, of Disco 3,a remix album containing ten tracks, none of which, deliberately, were released as singles. The remainder of the year, musically, proved to be quiet until 17 November, and the release of new material:-


mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Miracles

Those who had felt let down by the tunes on Release would no doubt have found some comfort in the return to electronica, but I’m of the view that it’s not really one I can get excited about. Enough people liked it to ensure it entered the charts at #10, but as was becoming the norm, it very quickly dropped out of sight.

2 x CDs and a 12″ remix single were put on sale.  CD1 had just one other track on it.


mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – We’re The Pet Shop Boys

It’s actually a cover, having been written and recorded originally the previous year by the New York based electronic band My Robot Friend.   Chris and Neil were quite tickled by the idea of a tribute being paid to them in such a way that they chose to do their own version. Sadly, the idea is better than the execution, as the song itself isn’t much to write home about.

CD2 came with an extended version of Miracles, along with a remix by Lemon Jelly.  But there was also a very odd sounding previously unreleased song.


mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Transparent

It has all the attributes of one that Chris came up with, with a load of different influences to the fore.  It also sounds as if it might be him on lead vocal, albeit through a vocoder, or perhaps the duo had sneaked one of their many famous fans to record anonymously.  Turns out it is Neil whose voice has been hugely distorted.

All in all, Miracles and the b-sides proved to make for the least appealing (IMHO) of any PSB single thus far.

One week after the release of Miracles, the compilation album Pop Art : The Hits was issued.  Those of you who are keeping up with the 60 albums at 60 rundown will be aware that I included this at #33 on the basis that it’s impossible not to have it above any studio album given that among its 35 tracks across the standard 2xCD issue, you can find some of the greatest pop singles released by any singer or group in the late 20th century.  There was only one completely new track on Pop Art, and it was no surprise that it was the next single, issued on 29 March 2004.


mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Flamboyant

It was actually a slightly different mix from that included on Pop Art, and is some ten seconds or so shorter in length.   It’s a classic PSB hit single by numbers, one that reached #12 and got them was an increasingly rare appearance on Top of The Pops given how little of their music was now being aired on Radio 1.

2 x CDs and a 12″ remix were all that you could find in the shops, although there was also a limited edition 12″ remix single issued for the European market.  CD2 was filled with remixes, which meant the only new song was a track on CD1.

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today

This probably caught a few folk out as it is very unlike the PSB.  The electric guitar, courtesy of their old mate Johnny Marr, is very much to the fore and there’s a bit of ‘hey hey hey’ backing vocal that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a 60s single. Indeed, although the ex-Smiths man had no hand in writing the tune, it sort of is the template for what would appear on his much later solo albums.  If I was on Jukebox Jury, I’d vote this one a hit…..




From wiki:-

Tom Bauchop (born 1978), best known by his stage name U.N.P.O.C., is a Scottish musician and member of the Fence Collective. He has released two albums on Domino Records, Fifth Column and the limited edition Live at King Tut’s. Fifth Column featured only two musicians: Bauchop, and drummer Stu Bastiman.

From the Domino Records website:-

The mysterious U.N.P.O.C. – affiliate of the Fence Collective, gnostic troubadour – released Fifth Column in 2003.

Fifth Column is a lo-fi production where the sentiment is high; it’s an out of time pop masterpiece. As well as melodic nods to The Kinks, Buddy Holly and The Ronettes, it’s also reminiscent of Roky Erickson’s field recordings and the outsider pop-art of Brian Wilson.

And here’s the full contents of the main page of the U.N.P.O.C. website (which consists of 6 pictures and a few sentences) :-

Hi, I’m Tom. There I am in 2003. This is my website for my band, unpoc, and especially for my 2003 record, Fifth Column. Maybe you’re here from Greece, and heard my song on the 2022 Sky Express TV ad? Hello to you!

Have a little (6-picture) read about unpoc below, if you like.

1/6: Edinburgh, 2001: I had been writing music for a few years.

My musical friends said my latest songs were sounding good, and I should do something with them. So we sent a demo tape to London.

2/6: Domino Records liked the songs. We got things organised and put out a record.

Unpoc means “unable to navigate, probably on course”.

3/6: The album got some nice press reviews, especially in Sweden.

4/6: I was invited over there to play some shows. There we are, in Stockholm.

5/6: One of the songs was used in a film, Hallam Foe (Best Music award, Berlin Film Festival) and also in a cinema advert (Golden Horse Film Festival, Taiwan).

Then it was used in a TV ad campaign in Greece, and got into the Greek Shazam Top 200, peaking at number 7.

6/6: I still write music now, but my Fifth Column songs are my most popular ones.

It’s nice when I meet people who like the album or were at my concerts, so make sure to say hello if you see me.

Bye for now./Tom


I caught U.N.P.O.C. at King Tut’s  as the opening act for James Yorkston in late 2003.  It appears that was when the live CD album was recorded.  I don’t have a copy (and it’s going for nearly £100 on Discogs) but I did enjoy the show so much that I bought a copy of Fifth Column from Tom the same evening.  It’s going for £1.32 on Discogs.

It’s a hugely enjoyable listen.  Here’s the song that was included on the Hallam Foe soundtrack and which seemingly later became a hit in Greece.

mp3:  U.N.P.O.C. – Here On My Own


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #28


The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury (1992)

There’s maybe a subliminal reason as to why the debut album by The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy features so high on the rundown.

It’s all to do with me really being quite late to hip-hop, as mentioned when previously writing about Beastie Boys.  There are very few albums from the genre that were bought at the time of release, and thus they are, under the self-imposed rules, unable to be considered for inclusion.

Jacques the Kipper opened up one of his 1992 mixtapes with this track:-

mp3:  The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy  – Television, The Drug Of The Nation

He handed it to me at work one day.  I played it on the train journey back from Edinburgh to Glasgow.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I played the opening track on the mixtape and then hit rewind so that I could hear it again.  And then I repeated the manoeuvre a couple more times.

The next day, I bought the album on CD, thus making sure in this instance that I was quick to not miss out on what was surely going to be the next sensation within the hip-hop genre.

The album spent just three weeks in the UK charts.  It’s two accompanying singles initially managed just a combined three weeks in the UK charts, all outside the Top 50, albeit a re-released ‘Television’ later in the year would hit #44, but sadly what would surely have been a dynamic appearance on Top of The Pops never happened.

Of course there are ‘better’ and more important/influential hip-hop albums out there, some of which I did buy at the time – for instance Three Feet High and Rising by De La Soul – that haven’t made the rundown, (and apologies if anyone was waiting to see what number it was going to come in at), but Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury was on very heavy rotation throughout the whole of 1992,  and indeed beyond, and when it found its way onto the shortlist, I just found myself looking back to that time and coming to the realisation that the issues which made Michael Franti so angry and frustrated still haven’t gone away; indeed, on the back of Trump’s four years in power, many of them are in even more evidence today than they were more than three decades ago.

The cherry on top of the cake is their take on the Dead Kennedys classic.  They actually got to perform a version of it on UK television.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #29


Echo and The Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here (1981)

I’m kidding myself on if I really believe that the next 28 albums in this rundown are really less favoured than Heaven Up Here.  I’m typing these words a few weeks after putting the final list together.  I’m typing up each piece in reverse order, and I surprised and indeed shocked myself when I realised it was now time to witter on about Echo and The Bunnymen‘s second LP.  I did look up and down the list of what’s still to come and contemplated shifting it up a few places, but I told myself that I had to stay disciplined and stick with what was decided back at the end of February.

1981 proved to be the band’s breakout year.   A Promise brought their first Top 20 single and Heaven Up Here went Top 10 in the album charts.  Their media exposure was greater than ever, although it would still be a few more years before Mac graced the cover of Smash Hits and found his face pinned to the walls of thousands of impressionable teenagers.

Nope.  The Bunnymen were among those that were vying for the mantle of the band best placed to grab the affections of the raincoat-wearing brigade who were still reeling from the shock of Ian Curtis‘s suicide and for whom music was a very serious business.   It wasn’t quite my profile, as can be illustrated by my increasing love for synth-pop that very year, but there is no doubt that this was the album that made me really sit up and take notice that the latest Fab 4 from Liverpool were genuine contenders.

I’ve written before that listening to the album’s two opening tracks – Show of Strength and With A Hip – felt at the time to be as powerful and immediate an opening one-two punch as anything I had in my growing record collection. More than 40 years on, and I still believe it is up there.  The third track isn’t too shabby either:-

mp3: Echo and The Bunnymen – Over The Wall

The fade in and slow build-up perhaps tricks listeners into thinking it’s a comedown and non-event after the opening two songs, but the catchiness of the simple, almost nursery-rhyme-like chorus, allied with Will, Les and Pete‘s combined attacks on your aural senses gives way to a realisation that you’re listening to gothic atmospheric rock at its very finest.

The big hit singles would come later on in the band’s career.  They would also, in the shape of Ocean Rain in 1984, make another genuinely sensational album that came close to making this rundown.  But as I suggested yesterday when talking about Tindersticks, the more mood and atmosphere that can be brought to an album, the better.  Heaven Up Here, from its sleeve to the contents of its grooves, is packed with both.



aka The Vinyl Villain incorporating Sexy Loser

#017– The Creamers – ‚I Think I’m Gonna Be Sick’ (Fierce Recordings ’89)


Hello friends,

as you might already have gathered, quite a lot of the singles which I chose for this series, the ones I consider to be amongst the best ones ever issued, I first heard on John Peel’s Music. Now, even if not all of you have followed Peel as religiously as I have done, you will surely know that his musical tastes often were somewhat, let’s say, difficult to accept by the average listener. ‘Obscure’ was a word which didn’t exist in his vocabulary, but it surely existed for record companies/distributors/importers … consequently it wasn’t always that easy to get hold of specific records, at least not in the German diaspora where I grew up.

The thing is: there seems to be a linear ratio between the obscurity of a record – or a band – in the 80s and the lack of information about it/them on the internet as per today. You would imagine every bloody little thing to be available online by now, but this is not always the case, I found.

Today’s band, The Creamers, are a suitable example: I wish I were able to tell you more about them, apart from the fact that by now they are being considered as one of the best “second wave” LA/West Coast punk bands of the 80’s and 90’s. Comparable to The Lazy Cowgirls (in fact the bassist and the drummer eventually became Cowgirls), but with the distinction of a great female vocalist (Leesa) and female guitarists (Rosa and Judy).

These days you take this for granted, of course, but in 1989 “girls on guitar”, especially in the punk scene, by and large still were an anomaly … perhaps this is why The Creamers blew me away the way they did. This and the music, of course, them churning out their brand of Ramones style gut-whirling, ear-rupturing brand of punk rock was just unbelievable!

So, it might come as a bit of a surprise, that my choice for today (again a B-Side: what is wrong with me?) is a little more melodic perhaps, although not lacking at all in toughness:




mp3:  The Creamers – I Think I’m Gonna Be Sick

The band went through many changes and put out many more records, but this single – and the album it came from (‘Love, Honor & Obey’) is always what I think of when I think of The Creamers. A great band and if you love old school punk rock with scalding female vocals, this one’s for you!

And if it was, well, that’s what the comment section is for!




60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #30


Tindersticks – Tindersticks (1995)

I mentioned yesterday that it was relatively easy to home in on a particular Prefab Sprout album for this most personal of charts.   Today’s, on the other hand, was a real dilemma. So many options.

The debut album, also confusingly known as Tindersticks, that was released in 1993.

A live CD recorded at the  Bloomsbury Theatre in London in 1995.

Two later live CDs from 2001, available only to begin with on the merchandise stalls at shows – one recorded during a four-day residency in Brussels and the other from a single show in Lisbon – were also thought about long and hard, as too was the studio album Curtains from 1997.

What I can say is that the golden era for Tindersticks was in the 90s and early 00s before they imploded and half of the original members left.

But it’s the 1995 studio album, often referred to as Tindersticks (II) to distinguish from the debut, which is coming in at #30 to start off the second half of the rundown.

I know this was issued on vinyl, with a free 7″ single thrown in for good measure, but I’ve always regarded it as a CD release.   Sixteen tracks, on which you can hear cellos, trumpets, saxophones, French horns, trombones, violins, violas and cellos, in addition to the standard drums, bass, guitars and keyboards, spread out over 71 minutes, and almost always underpinned by the crooning of Stuart A. Staples.

mp3 : Tindersticks – Tiny Tears

I had to put the song in at this particular point of the today’s post or else I’d have spent a few hours listening to the album over and over, constantly changing my mind as to what my favourite part of it is.  Tiny Tears must sit very close to the top of any list of the most compellingly beautiful songs about troubled and failing relationships.

One contemporary reviewer described the album as an awesome triumph of mood and atmosphere, and given that I’m very partial to both of these, it can be no surprise to find it so high up on this rundown.

But there’s still another 29 to go. And this is where it begins to get really tough in terms of ranking them.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #31


Steve McQueen- Prefab Sprout (1985)

There were some singers or bands whose collective bodies of works were analysed in a forensic fashion before a particular album was put forward for consideration in this rundown.  Prefab Sprout weren’t one of them.

I do have a fair bit of time for a number of their other LPs, but Steve McQueen really stands many heads and sets of shoulders above the others.   It’s responsible for a piece of history in the ICA series in that Side A is identical to Side A of ICA #51, which I pulled together back in November 2015.  With your permission, here’s a cut’n’paste of what I said back then.

“The early 80s was a great time to be a follower of new music in the north-east of England. Indeed with bands such as Hurrah, The Kane Gang, Prefab Sprout and Martin Stephenson & The Daintees all on the Newcastle-based Kitchenware Records, there was a scene that wasn’t that far removed from Glasgow and Postcard Records of just a few years previous.

It was Prefab Sprout who turned out to be the most commercially successful of the acts, thanks in the main to the songwriting and tunesmith talents of Paddy McAloon, but also to the marketing men who pushed hard until the elusive breakthrough hit emerged.

The band came to prominence in 1982 with a couple of singles that were hits on the indie-chart, as well as a 1984 LP Swoon (short for ‘Songs Written Out Of Necessity’) that was well received by the critics.

By now, although the records were still coming out on the Kitchenware label, Prefab Sprout had the might of CBS Records behind them, and the band was pushed into the studio with a big-name producer for an album that was intended to be released in 1985.

There were many who predicted a disaster. McAloon was a fairly shy, laid-back individual who was seemingly being put under immense pressure to deliver something that justified the large contract signed with the major label. There was also the fact that despite Prefab Sprout being a band known for melodic, acoustic-based songs, the producer was the electronic pioneer and chart-act Thomas Dolby, and no-one could imagine any chemistry between the two.

Against all the odds, a masterpiece emerged.

The first hint we all got was the release of a single – When Love Breaks Down – which kept all the majesty and magnificence of a McAloon tune but had some beautiful bits added courtesy of keyboards that were clearly the work of Dolby. Despite this, the radio stations didn’t really pick up on it, and the single failed to trouble the charts.

The album came out soon after. It had the strange title of Steve McQueen.

I thought at the time it was bloody marvellous. And I still do and I will argue long into the night and right through the next day after the sun has come up that Side 1 is perfect; the CBS record bosses obviously thought so too, choosing to release four of the six songs as singles.

Except for the opening and closing tracks, it is not an album to get up and dance to. Instead, it is one to wake up with on a Saturday or Sunday morning if you’ve had a memorable time the night before and take great joy in life itself.”

mp3:  Prefab Sprout – Moving The River

Opening track of Side B of the album and not included on that old ICA.  Paddy McAloon surely is, a truly gifted kid.




I recently went to three totally contrasting gigs in six nights, all of them brilliant in their own way that it’s impossible to say what was the best.

First up, Yard Act gave us one of those nights at the Barrowlands that makes you think that it could very well be the best venue on the planet, such is the way an enthusiastic audience gets committed and involved.  This action photo of frontman James Smith has been pinched from elsewhere.


Three days later, almost 36 musicians/singers were on the stage of the Armadillo, again in Glasgow, for an orchestral show by James marking 40 years of the band being together.  Old hits done in new ways, obscure b-sides and deep cuts from the back catalogue, mostly delivered in a slow-mid tempo for a seated audience, was a different kind of magic.  There was a pre-gig announcement asking audience members not to take photos or record anything via their phones, one that I was happy to comply with.

Finally, and this was last Wednesday night, I nipped down on the train to Manchester and then stayed overnight after seeing Steve Mason do his thing in front of maybe 450-500 people.  His new album, ‘Brothers and Sisters’ is proving to be one of THE releases of 2023, and this time round there was very little chat other than to say thanks after each song, but he was in great voice and his touring band/backing singers didn’t miss a beat. Utterly professional beyond belief, and throwing in some Beta Band and King Biscuit Time songs just added to the occasion.

mp3:  Yard Act – The Overload
mp3:  Steve Mason – The People Say

Be Opened By The Wonderful is the title of the double album being released by James on 9 June.  It’ll consist of 19 songs (vinyl) and 20 songs (CD) that have been reimagined and re-recorded with an orchestra and choir.  Here’s one that’s been offered up as a preview.

Next up for me is a trip down to Leeds to see Spare Snare, while great seats have been purchased for John Cooper Clarke‘s visit to Glasgow this coming Sunday.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #32


Head Over Heels – Cocteau Twins (1983)

Second successive part of this rundown day in which I’m going to cheat.

Decided to ask Chat GPT, “Why is Head Over Heels by the Cocteau Twins such a great album?”  The reply was immediate….

As an AI language model, I do not have subjective opinions or personal preferences, but I can provide you with some objective information about the Cocteau Twins and their album “Head Over Heels”.

“Head Over Heels” is the second studio album by the Scottish rock band Cocteau Twins, released in 1983. It is often considered a breakthrough album for the band and one of their most influential works. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Ethereal sound: The Cocteau Twins are known for their unique sound, characterized by Elizabeth Fraser‘s haunting vocals, Robin Guthrie‘s atmospheric guitar work, and Simon Raymonde‘s melodic basslines. “Head Over Heels” showcases this sound in its purest form, creating a dreamlike atmosphere that transports the listener to another world.
  2. Experimental approach: The Cocteau Twins were not afraid to push boundaries and experiment with their sound. “Head Over Heels” features unconventional song structures, otherworldly lyrics, and a mix of electronic and acoustic instruments, creating a truly unique listening experience.
  3. Influence on shoegaze and dream pop: The Cocteau Twins were one of the pioneers of the shoegaze and dream pop genres, and “Head Over Heels” is a prime example of their influence. The album’s ethereal sound and unconventional approach inspired countless artists in the years to come.
  4. Critical acclaim: “Head Over Heels” received widespread critical acclaim upon its release and is still considered one of the Cocteau Twins’ best albums. It has been praised for its otherworldly atmosphere, experimental approach, and hauntingly beautiful sound.

In summary, “Head Over Heels” is a great album because of its ethereal sound, experimental approach, influence on shoegaze and dream pop, and critical acclaim.

That’s all fair enough, but it doesn’t really capture the real ‘wow’ factor upon its release in October 1983.   The debut album, Garlands (July 1982) and the first EP, Lullabies (October 1982), had brought attention to a group who were a bit different but whom I was a little bit sceptical of, based on seeing them live in April that same year when they opened for The Fall at show in Glasgow.  The second EP, Peppermint Pig (April 1983) was very much a step forward, but the quantum leap came with Head Over Heels, quickly followed up the following month with the Sunburst and Snowblind EP.

My first exposure to the album was via the flatmate who has been previously mentioned in this series.  The sounds coming from his expensive stereo system were astonishing, almost unworldly at times.  When I bought my own copy a few days later and played it on my cheap stereo, it sounded good, but not as majestic as it did on the equipment sitting in the bedroom through the wall.  It was then that I vowed to save to get myself a bigger, better and more powerful set-up, which I achieved some nine months later, thanks to the generosity of my parents on the occasion of my 21st birthday….and I’ve always made sure, ever since, that my equipment, whether for vinyl and/or CDs, has been decent but affordable.

mp3:  Cocteau Twins – Musette and Drums

Still my all-time favourite Cocteau Twins song, by the proverbial country mile.




A little bit of background as it’s something I was very much unaware of.  This is all from the ‘History’ section of the Pet Shop Boys official website.

On 6th February 6 2002, the Pet Shop Boys begin a brief tour of English colleges. “We’d never done it before so I thought it would be a laugh,” says Chris. “The original idea was based on Paul McCartney and Wings just upping off and playing universities during the lunch break and stuff. It just seemed like a nice way to play lots of songs off the new album. And also to get a band together.”

Neil plays guitar, Chris plays keyboards are there are two other guitarists and a percussionist onstage. “It was really good having a band – noisy,” says Chris. “It was quite interesting because the Pet Shop Boys have never presented themselves as being musicians before on stage, with the exception of when we played at the ICA in 1984,” says Neil. “We’ve always presented ourselves within a visual context on stage, which has been what we’ve become well-known for, and all of a sudden we thought it would be quite interesting to present ourselves as musicians.”

At one concert, in Middlesborough, they encore with a version of Eddie and the Hot Rods’ “Do Anything You Wanna Do”. The tour is completed by a one-off date in Cologne, Germany, on February 16.


On 16th March, they  record a live concert for BBC Radio 2 with their live band, playing a shortened version of their college tour set. Two days later, a new single is released.

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Home And Dry

It is interesting that the BBC, and indeed Chris and Neil, now saw their natural home as being Radio 2 and not Radio 1, which is the station aimed at younger listeners with its playlists, certainly during the day, concentrating on the current chart hits. 

This is not meant as an insult, but Home and Dry is a perfect Radio 2 song and PSB were very much an ideal Radio 2 group.  The station is the most listened-to in the UK, and its DJs have the task of broadcasting a very wide range of content, including hits from bygone eras. 

It’s a song that it is very hard to date as there are all sorts of 80s influences on it, but it has the crisp production standards of the 21st century. It got to #14 on the singles chart, which is a decent performance, given that a move to Radio 2 tends to come at a time when singers/groups are now seen as being more about their albums and live shows.

2 x CDs and a DVD version were put on sale.  CD1 had the single plus two new tracks


mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Sexy Northerner
mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Always

The former is yet another superb b-side, full of humour and delivered with a knowing wink. Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty must surely have given this a listen and been proud that their influences were still very much to the fore.

The latter, while not as outstanding as Sexy Northerner, is one that would have raised hopes for the quality of the next studio album, given it was ‘deemed’ only good enough as an additional track on the lead single.  It’s another wonderful Radio 2 record, with a hint just after the three-minute mark of the same synthetic trumpet blast that was found on West End Girls.

There was one ‘new’ track included on CD2.


mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Break 4 Love

Here’s an edit from wiki.

Break 4 Love is a song written, produced and recorded by Vaughan Mason, the principal member of American house music group Raze, the song’s original credited performer. The song, the group’s only significant US hit, featured vocals by Keith Thompson and Vaughan Mason, as well as sexual sound samples by Erique Dial. The single peaked at number 28 on the UK Singles Chart and topped the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart in 1988. It is still considered a classic of the early house music genre.

In 2001, Break 4 Love was covered by Peter Rauhofer (an Austrian-American DJ/remixer who passed away in 2013)  and Pet Shop Boys, released under the name “Peter Rauhofer + Pet Shop Boys = The Collaboration”. The single was not released in the United Kingdom but was a B-side to CD 2 of their single, “Home and Dry”.

It’s maybe a reminder to their long-term fans that, while they may have gone out on tour in the UK with some guitars to the fore, house/club/dance music was still very much in the DNA of the Pet Shop Boys. 

A few weeks later, on 1 April, the eighth studio album hit the shops. 

Release was a significant departure from the norm, and I now get why they went out on that type of tour at the start of 2002.  It’s not a club or dance album, and was perhaps the duo’s way of staving off any sense of stagnation, or maybe their way of suggesting that they were intending to grow old with a touch of grace and style.  Neil was approaching his 48th birthday, while Chris was almost 43 – no age at all in the grand scheme of things but it was now more than 20 years since they had started working together.

Release, and this is not meant as an insult, is a perfect Radio 2 album, helped by the fact that DJs could talk about the fact that Johnny Marr had added his guitar-playing skills to mlost of its songs.  Sales, however, proved to be disappointing – the album did enter the charts at #7, but then disappeared from the Top 100 within four weeks.  It took until July 2002 before a second single was taken from it.


mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – I Get Along (single edit)

This slow, piano-led single was as far removed from the ‘atypical’ Pet Shop Boys singles as can be imagined.  The version released as a single shaved about the best part of two minutes off the album version, but still came in at over minutes long.  Those who just wanted to dance must have listened and wondered ‘WTF’?  I’m not a fan. It entered the charts at #18, but was back out of them again within two more weeks, the shortest stay thus far of any PSB 45.

Again, 2 x CDs and a DVD version were put on sale.  CD1 had the single plus two new tracks, both recorded at the same time as the sessions for Release, but held back with the intention of being extra songs on any singles. CD2  had some live songs as the additional tracks.


mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Searching For The Face Of Jesus
mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Between Two Islands

Given what I’ve written above about the album, neither of these should come as a surprise.

The year would end with another first, one that would have been unimaginable when they were releasing banger after banger.  The duo recorded a session for John Peel on 2 October that was broadcast on 10 October.

Peel references the fact that London was slated as the next single, but it never materialised. 




One of two songs from on the hard drive.   This one’s a demo, as provided on Disc 3 of the Big Gold Dreams box set.

mp3: The Twinsets – Out Of Fashion (demo – recorded 1982)

Here’s the blurb.

Based around the vocal harmonies of sisters Gaye and Rachel Bell, Edinburgh’s The Twinsets gave a punky edge to cocktail bar swing-time covers.  Also recorded during one of their John Peel sessions, this demo version of Johnny Green and lyricist Edward Heyman’s jazz standard had been Bing Crosby’s first hit in 1931 before numerous versions being recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Frank Sinatra. 

In August 2018, the Bell sisters reunited onstage for two songs as part of Since Yesterday, a concert at the Edinburgh International Festival to celebrate the lost female voices of Scottish pop.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #33


Pop Art (The Hits) – Pet Shop Boys (2003)

OK.  It’s a cheat.

I’m copping out of choosing a particular album by Pet Shop Boys in favour of Pop Art (The Hits), a 3xCD release in a box from 2003.

The small sticker on the front of the box says:-

Special Limited Edition Triple CD features 45 remastered tracks including West End Girls, It’s A Sin, What Have I Done To Deserve This?, Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money), Se a vide e, Go West plus 2 new songs, Miracles and Flamboyant.  Includes bonus 10 track remixes CD.

I’m currently featuring all the Pet Shop Boys singles every Sunday, so there really isn’t any need to outline why this collection is appearing in the rundown.  It’s utterly joyous, and with the fall in prices for CDs in recent years, it can be picked up for a lot less than I paid for it back in 2003.

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Can You Forgive Her (Rollo Mix)

Originally found on CD1 when the single was released in June 1993, it was included as Track 1 of the Mix disc within the box.




Welcome back to the second part of my recent sit down with Jan Burnett, frontman of Dundee-formed Spare Snare, whose 12th studio album, The Brutal will be released on 12 May 2023.

You’ll have gathered from yesterday’s posting that Spare Snare are not your run-of-the-mill band.   The fact that all six members give priority to their family and work lives means any musical activities have to be planned out well in advance, something which was very much to the fore when it came to writing, rehearsing and recording The Brutal.

Spare Snare have long had the habit of developing new material by getting together in  the space where recording is taking place, and working on the songs in an organic way but things had to be different this time around as a result of them engaging Steve Albini to come over to Scotland for a week to sprinkle his fairy dust on the music in an Edinburgh studio owned and run by Rod Jones of Idlewild.

This meant that the band had to do a lot of advance work on the new songs, and so they would get together, either in evenings or at weekends on at least a weekly basis in rehearsal spaces in Dundee. This involved Jan travelling the 80 miles, often by public transport, from Glasgow where he has, for many years, lived and worked.  It was all part of a process whereby the new songs would more well beyond the state of being mere demos by the time they went into the studio.

The connection with Albini didn’t come purely by chance.   A few years ago, funding was obtained from the government agency Creative Scotland to have him come over in February 2018 to deliver a workshop for engineers/producers, after which he would work with Spare Snare over a number of days in the studio owned and run by Chemikal Underground Records.   Partly due to the time constraints, the band elected to pick out 10 tracks from their back catalogue that they felt would benefit most from Albini’s way of working and signature sound.

The project was an overwhelming success.  All those involved in the workshop were delighted with the way it was delivered and the time in the studio led to the release of Sounds, recorded by Steve Albini,  later in the year by Chute Records.  There was a great deal of critical acclaim for the new record, especially in the way that a number of long-time fan favourites had been re-imagined, and the vinyl edition very quickly sold out, leading later on to arrangements being put in place for Past Night From Glasgow to give it a re-press, complete with new artwork, in 2021.

mp3: Spare Snare – We Are The Snare (Sounds version)

Albini took his leave of Scotland, saying that he had loved the experience, and he’d certainly be up for working with Spare Snare again in the future.   Chats got underway and progress began to be made, only for things to almost derail because of COVID and the restrictions placed on travelling.  Jan worked tirelessly to keep the channels of communication open, as well as making plans and arrangements to raise the finance required for such a venture, with the aim being to have a new album of entirely new material recorded to mark the band’s 30th anniversary.

Everything did manage to fall into place and the recording sessions took place in October 2022.  The exactness of it all also meant that aspirations to incorporate brass into some of the songs could be realised, with both Terry Edwards (The Higsons, Gallon Drunk, Tindersticks etc.) and Gary Barnacle (The Clash, The Ruts, Soft Cell etc)  putting time in their diaries to come up from London to Edinburgh to play as guests.

Jan told a great story in our interview about how he came to first meet Gary;  Jan’s not one for name-dropping or the showbiz life, but he was invited to Dave Ball of Soft Cell’s 60th birthday party, during which he found himself chatting to Gary and getting on really well to the extent that he later sent him a copy of Sounds with a request that he come up to the studio when Albini flew in, one that Gary had no hesitation in accepting.

I was really surprised to learn that despite Terry and Gary both being on hundreds of records over the past 40 years or so, they had never previously met, far less worked together, so new ground is being broken on this new album.

There’s an incredible sense of pride from Jan when he talks about The Brutal.  The fact that, after so many years of working in a particular way, Spare Snare adapted comfortably to a whole new process which proved to be hugely enjoyable, both in terms of the rehearsals and the time in the studio, speaks volumes about their abilities as musicians and the fact they are very much a group of friends going back decades.

That sense of pride extends to all the band members.  Most Spare Snare records are released in a low-key manner, partly as the time constraints on everyone really restricts how much can be delivered in the way of promotional activities.  This time around, the release of the album is going to be accompanied by a week-long tour of venues in England, with Scottish dates later on at weekends.   There’s a real desire and willingness to get the album out to as wide a crowd as possible, with a collective belief that it is as strong a collection of tunes as any they have ever delivered.

So…..what is the TVV verdict on The Brutal?

In a year when there have already been a number of genuinely exciting new albums from, among others, HiFi Sean and David McAlmont, Robert Forster, Steve Mason, Gorillaz, and Everything But The Girl (and no doubt many more that I haven’t yet picked up on), the latest record from Spare Snare is a standout.

It’s a compact effort, with its ten tracks coming in at around 35 minutes all told.  I played it with a pre-conceived idea of what an Albini-engineered album was likely to sound like based on listening and enjoying his work with The Wedding Present, Pixies, The Breeders, PJ Harvey and so on, but found myself really appreciating how different and diverse things sounded on this occasion.  I really shouldn’t have been caught out in that way given that Albini is far removed from being a one-trick pony, having worked with, among others, The Auteurs, Low, Cinerama and Jarvis Cocker, none of whom relied extensively or exclusively on guitars to make great albums.

Jan had told me a while back that Terry Edwards and Gary Barnacle were only going to be in the studio on one of the five days in which recordings were taking place, and so I was anticipating their contributions to be quite minimal.  It was a very pleasant surprise to hear them playing on at least half of the album, and on every occasion fitting in perfectly with all that was going on around them, a real testament to the way the album had been engineered, produced and mixed.

But please, don’t be under the impression that the brilliance of this record is down solely to the magician behind the desk.

Far from it.

Spare Snare have very much upped their game on this occasion. As I outlined earlier, they took a different approach in the advance planning for this album, working and preparing harder than ever before. By the time they went into the studio, they knew they had a set of very strong songs, their first new material since the release of Unicorn in 2018; by the time they came out of the studio a week later, they had very much risen to the occasion and, to this particular set of ears, delivered the performance of a lifetime.

In summary, they nailed it.

Thus far, I’ve only listened to a digital copy of The Brutal.  The vinyl will be with me shortly, and I know that it is going to be given repeated spins over the summer months and beyond till I reach the stage where I’m 100% aware of every note and every pause for breath along the way.  It’s an album I don’t ever imagine I’ll grow tired of with each listen.

Here’s 100-odd seconds of magic from it:-

As mentioned above, Spare Snare are hitting the road to promote the album’s release.


North Shields, Sheffield, Leeds, Trowbridge, Brighton and London from Monday to Saturday next week.   The fact that they all have to return to work immediately after means that the Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow shows all have to be at weekends.

I’m heading down, with Rachel, to catch the show at Wharf Chambers in Leeds next Wednesday night.  I’ll let you all know, in due course, how it turned out.

The Brutal should be available, certainly in the UK, from your local independent record store as from Friday 12 May.  It can also be ordered from this bandcamp site, along with many other great items from the back catalogue.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #34


Boat To Bolivia – Martin Stephenson and The Daintees (1986)

It was the power of the cathode ray that brought Martin Stephenson and The Daintees to my attention.

Whistle Test on BBC 2.  It proved to be love at first sight and sound. Martin played a lively but short instrumental on an acoustic guitar. The tune was called A Tribute to The Late Rev Gary Davis. I’ll confess I had no idea who the tribute was aimed at.

He then changed his guitar as it was time to play a second song alongside his band, The Daintees.  It was at this point he discovered his guitar strap wasn’t fastened properly as he almost dropped the precious instrument. He gave a sheepish look at the camera, said ‘God Bless’ into his microphone, before strumming the opening notes of Crocodile Cryer.

I was so taken by the song that I went out the next day and bought the album it was included on.  Boat To Bolivia turned out to be their debut long-player.  With a matter of months, I had to go out and buy a new copy of the album as I had played it so often, usually in a drunken but enthusiastic stupor, that I often dropped the stylus and caused havoc. Late 1986 was not a particularly easy time in my life….

Boat To Bolivia is a wonderful listen.   There’s a real breadth of musical influences across its eleven tracks*, and many of Martin’s lyrics are incredibly personal –  miscarriages that his mum had suffered and his sister’s lesbianism are among the subject matters – but they also come laced with gentle humour and affection associated with those who come from the working class communities of the north-east of England.

*the title song Boat To Bolivia wasn’t included in the original album, but was added to later pressings.

Over the course of the next six years, during which I went through all sorts of turmoil in my life (all of it self-inflicted!!),  the one constant was the music of The Daintees.  They were a hard-working band, constantly recording and touring, and so the opportunities to see them play live were numerous.  And they never disappointed.  Well, maybe once, but that occasion in itself is a story.  Any of their first three studio albums would have found a place in this rundown, but in all honesty, the debut is the one that not only has stood the test of time, but continues to be one that never fails to blow away any dark clouds that may be circling above my head.

mp3:  Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – Look Down, Look Down

Martin Stephenson is still making excellent roots-based music as a solo artist, as well as occasionally getting the old band back together and performing.He never seems to stand still as all the news from this, the official website reveals.




TVV and T(n)VV have been on the go for almost 17 years, but today’s bonus post marks a first.

A few weeks back, I had the immense pleasure of chatting for more than an hour in a Glasgow coffee shop with Jan Burnett, the frontman of Spare Snare, all of which was recorded for the purposes of me then pulling something together for the blog.  Such was the extent of the chat that I’ve decided to break the piece into two parts, the first of which will cover more general areas, while I’ll return tomorrow to look specifically at the recording, release and promotion of the band’s new album, The Brutal.

The upcoming release of the new album marks the 30th Anniversary of Spare Snare. It all began back in 1992 in Jan’s bedroom in Dundee, the fourth-largest city in Scotland, where he wrote and recorded his initial songs, releasing them later on his own record label, Chute Records.   The debut 45 was picked up by the American-based Prospective Records and Jan was soon on the receiving end of an invitation to tour America and play at a music seminar in New York at the tail end of 1994.

Spare Snare quickly became a four-piece band with the addition of three more Dundee musicians – Alan Cormack, Barry Gibson and Paul Esposito – and after the tour was over they accepted an invitation to record a session for John Peel in January 1995.  The following month, the band recorded a debut album, Live At Home, on eight-track, again for release on Chute Records here in the UK and by Prospective Records in the USA.  The album was received very positively and the band was invited onto the bill for the Reading Festival in 1995 where six songs from their set were recorded and broadcasted by Peel, within 20 minutes of them leaving the stage, as part of the Radio 1 coverage of the event.  The year was rounded off by one of the songs from the debut album being voted in at #32 by the listeners of Peel’s show in the Festive Fifty rundown:-

mp3: Spare Snare – Bugs

“I’m not very good at showing off in terms of how great we are, cos I don’t do that.  I’d rather people found us, whether at gigs or through the records.” – Jan Burnett, in conversation with JC, March 2023.

Those words are very much at the heart of why Spare Snare are probably Scotland’s best-kept secret.   Thirty years in the business, with a back catalogue of eleven studio albums that have been augmented by compilations and, if Discogs is 100% accurate, a further twenty-four singles/EPs across a diverse range of indie labels, including che and Deceptive.

It’s really an impossible task to suggest where anyone new to Spare Snare should start, but probably the most comprehensive oversight of their work can be found on a release from 2021.

The Complete BBC Radio Sessions 1995-2018 contains 42 tracks, sourced from three John Peel sessions (1995, 1998 and 2001), two Marc Riley sessions (2009 and 2018), along with numerous sessions and live recordings for BBC Radio Scotland which were broadcast in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2004 and 2018.

mp3: Spare Snare – I Am God (Marc Riley Session, 2018)

It is also where you will find their take on Amazing Grace which was aired in 2007 during  ‘Good Morning Sunday with Aled Jones’, a show in which the former teenage chorister turned presenter/broadcaster mixed music and discussions about religious and ethical issues with faith representatives.

mp3: Spare Snare – Amazing Grace

One of the most fascinating things about the box set is that it enables listeners to appreciate how much the band evolved over the years.  It would have been so easy just to take what had brought them to attention in 1995 and gone down a path of churning out variants on a similar theme in the years that followed.  Things have been kept fresh and the musicians have never fallen into any sort of rut.

Here’s a link to where you can pick up a copy.

Jan is, quite rightly, incredibly proud of all that Spare Snare have done over the past 30 years.  While the band was very much the be-all and end-all in the early years, it inevitably reached a stage where being full-time musicians wasn’t a viable option.  The current line-up of Spare Snare is six-strong, with Jan, Alan and Barry still involved as they were back in the mid-90s, while Graham Ogston and Adam Lockhart have been part of things for around 20 years, with Michael Lambert being the relative newcomer, although he’s been known to the rest of the band for around a decade, so it’s accurate to describe the six-piece as being close friends with one another.  It’s now very much a situation where family and work lives take priority, and a great deal of forward planning is involved when it comes to band activities.

Our chat was wide-ranging and space doesn’t allow me to cover everything, even across a two-part feature.   I learned that Jan has always been astute in his workings with the music industry.  The band has never had a manager, but he was still able to negotiate a position where the full copyright issues came back to him after a relatively short period of time, unlike the situation most new and emerging bands find themselves in.  It’s also been one of the factors that has helped ensure the longevity of Spare Snare, where more or less everything can be done in-house, including the distribution of any new music.  Costs are kept down, and the band members are never under pressure to tour/perform to pay off any sort of debts.  Looking at it as an outsider, there really is much to admire about the way Jan and his friends have navigated their way through the business over the past 30 years.

The biggest thing to emerge from the chat was the passion that Jan has for music, going way back to before he picked up any instrument or wrote out some lyrics. He talked about his working-class parents being totally into music, but never having enough disposable income to build up any sort of collection of vinyl. Their love was to go to gigs at the Caird Hall in Dundee, to which Jan began to be taken from 1974 onwards on the basis that a ticket was cheaper than paying a babysitter.   He talked about seeing the big pop acts of the day such as David Essex and the Bay City Rollers, and later on being taken to see Dr Feelgood and Elvis Costello & The Attractions among many others – always up in the balcony as the seats were cheaper, and it was safer for a young kid to be; he’s in no doubt that this very early exposure to live music was the thing which ignited the lifelong passion.

He was just the right age for to immerse himself in the explosion in synth music at the start of the 80s.  Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Soft Cell were among his first loves, and it was the former’s connection with Factory Records that led him to New Order/Joy Division and then going back into the post-punk era.    All of these influences were at the forefront of the earliest bedroom recordings.  He’s a self-taught musician/performer/writer, someone who has never learned to read music (something, as he pointed out, he has in common with OMD), who has just been happy to pick things up and improve as he’s gone along, acknowledging fully the vital and contributions of everyone who has ever been part of Spare Snare over the years.

He’s become a self-confessed collector/hoarder of music, someone whose collection of albums and CDs now sits at around 15,000 in number across all sorts of genres, although his real passion remains towards electronica rather than guitar-based music.

Knowing all this, I ended the interview by asking Jan to curate his ‘Fantasy Festival’.   My idea was that Spare Snare would play as headliners, and that five other bands/musicians would support in the role as special guests – I thought it was a variation on the ‘Dream Dinner Party Guests’ that you often see in magazines/newspaper features.  The only proviso was that the musicians/bands had to be alive…..

After much thought, he offered the following.  Iggy Pop, R.E.M., New Order (preferably with Hooky), Soft Cell and Pet Shop Boys.   The man certainly has great taste.

You might wonder why I’ve gone into such detail and gone off at tangents today.  But all of this backstory fits into the way Spare Snare have gone about recording the new album, working for a week in an Edinburgh studio with Steve Albini, and having a couple of high-profile guest musicians join them to play on the record. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for Part Two.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #35 is


Empires and Dance – Simple Minds (1980)

Here’s where I begin to wonder if I’m boring you with repetition in this rundown.

I don’t think any of the albums featured thus far will have raised any eyebrows, and I’m sure that none of the remaining 34 will be the least bit surprising.  But that’s the problem of having been churning out the blog for what is now coming up for 17 years – I’ve probably said all I really need to say, or indeed want to say, on so many records, groups or singers. But here’s something a bit different about one of the best-known groups to ever emerge out of Glasgow.

I’ve never hidden my love for early-era Simple Minds, right up to New Gold Dream, and some of what would appear on 1984’s Sparkle In The Rain.  Not too long ago, I had a long chat with a good friend who is somewhere around 10 years younger than me.  His earliest memories of the band is Once Upon A Time, the 1985 ‘stadium-rock’ effort that took Simple Minds to a bigger audience, at the cost of leaving behind the sounds that had made them an essential part of the post-punk era.  He is firmly of the belief that songs such as Alive and Kicking, All The Things She Said and Sanctify Yourself are their greatest songs.  He maintains this view, and it’s one I admire, as he has gone into the back catalogue and is also someone who is not afraid to champion great music from many eras that are alien to him.

I, of course, disagree with him.  In the strongest possible terms!  But, as I’ve said many times in many places, musical taste is very much a personal thing and there’s not really a right or wrong answer when it all comes down to it.

The odds on anyone out there on Planet Earth coming up with the same 60 albums as will be found in this rundown will be astronomical.  Indeed, I think it’s nigh on impossible.  Empires and Dance might feature on a few lists, but there’s plenty folk out there who, if any Simple Minds record was to feature, would offer up something else. And fair play to them.

This is a record that should have been massive, except that the record company made a mess of things.  And in particular, one song suffered really badly:-

mp3: Simple Minds – I Travel

I’ve said before, (see what I was saying at the beginning of this post!!!!), that it’s a cross between disco-stomping Giorgio Moroder and early experimental Roxy Music, but played at 100mph, coming with an almighty punch in which every member of the band played/sang as if their very future existence depended on it.   The remainder of the album goes to corners and places that not many people in Glasgow were aware of back in 1980. It’s an album that has aged quite spectacularly, with folk as diverse as James Dean Bradfield, John Foxx and Julian Cope among the many who have given it the highest possible praise.

But as my mate would say, it’s not a patch on Once Upon A Time……..



aka The Vinyl Villain incorporating Sexy Loser

#016– The Cramps – ‚Blue Moon Baby’ (Big Beat Records ’78)


Hello friends,

It occurred to me that this series isn’t really in favor of our carbon footprint, is it? I mean, we flew to Australia for The Church, headed back to England for The Clash … and now we proceed to the States for The Cramps. Then again, let’s be honest: by and large we don’t care all too much in real life, do we, so why should we care here and now?!

Furthermore, The Cramps are worth it! Let’s face it: they were – without a shadow of a doubt – the scariest band on the planet! Why? Well, because they really lived it—it wasn’t just about being cool or rebellious, but about going through life by your own rules. Loads of weirdos made garage rock that sounded like the stuff the Cramps cranked out, but only the Cramps made being creepy goth freaks an entire lifestyle. And if you ever had the chance to see them on stage, you will know what I mean – their sets were meant the way they were presented, there was no false demand for attention!

Within their career The Cramps released numerous brilliant records and amongst those were quite a lot of equally brilliant 7” singles. It would in fact be a hard task indeed to number those down to one and decide for this one to be the best of the lot. But I have one advantage: from their beginnings, The Cramps occasionally covered their favourite songs from the 50’s, perhaps most notably The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird”, put out as a 7” in 1978. And somehow I have always been very fond indeed of these old tunes, at least when having been modified to impact strength by Lux and Ivy!

But “Surfin’ Bird” wasn’t the only cover the Cramps released. They also put their own spin on “The Way I Walk” by Jack Scott, punctuating the verses with shrieks to give it some B-movie flavor. Other songs they covered include Jimmy Stewart‘s “Rock on the Moon,” Dwight Pullen‘s “Sunglasses After Dark,” Elvis Presley‘s “Jailhouse Rock,” the Sonics“Strychnine,” and Little Willie John‘s “Fever.” None of which I chose though today.

No, my favourite is this, friends:



mp3:  The Cramps – Blue Moon Baby

The original was written and performed by David Fatalsky, or, as you and I know him better, Dave “Diddle” Day, in April 1957. And again, I went for a B-Side, the B-Side of “Can Your Pussy Do The Dog” from 1985, the A-Side being absolutely ace as well …. so better let’s finish for today before I think all of the above over and change my mind about my song choice ….

See you soon, take care, all the best, enjoy, etc.