MORE OF NOT THE USUAL SORT OF THING YOU FIND ROUND HERE

As mentioned yesterday, the weather, here in Glasgow, was very warm and sunny in the final couple of weeks in the month of June, and I’ve not been in the mood to sit indoors at the keyboard churning out lengthy and analytical pieces with which to bore you rigid.

This is another of the bundle of singles picked up on Discogs a short time ago as part of an effort to save some postage.  As with my pop sensibilities, I’ve never hidden my love for much of the disco music that emerged in my late teens, as these songs were every bit as important as those in the punk/new wave genres on which I was splashing my hard-earned cash from delivering newspapers.

mp3: Earth Wind and Fire with The Emotions – Boogie Wonderland

The copy which arrived in the post had the above cover and seems to be some sort of import from Italy.

This was riding high in the charts in 1979, spending the best part of three months from mid-May to mid-August in the Top 75.  It reached #4. I recall dancing a lot to this that summer and beyond…..

The b-side is disco at its absolute purest…….

mp3: Earth Wind and Fire with The Emotions – Boogie Wonderland (instrumental)

The punk and new wave of 1979 may have ticked all the boxes of the typically angry/frustrated/unfulfilled teenager that I was, for the most part.  But Boogie Wonderland offered some form of escapism, even if it was just within the confines of a far from glamorous church hall.

JC

NOT THE USUAL SORT OF THING YOU FIND ROUND HERE

Those of you who were paying attention last week will be aware this post is now running seven eight days late (it was bumped 24 hours to accommodate the Goon Sax review from yesterday).

The weather, here in Glasgow, was very warm and sunny in the final couple of weeks in the month of June.  As such, I became disinclined to sit indoors at the keyboard churning out lengthy and analytical pieces with which to bore you rigid.  The remainder of this week will reflect that.

I picked up this single on Discogs a short time ago.  It was one of a big bundle of 7″ singles bought in bulk to save a wee bit on postage.  I’ve never hidden my pop sensibilities at any point in time, and this #3 hit from 1984 has long been a favourite:-

mp3: Bananarama – Robert De Niro’s Waiting

As catchy as anything I have in the collection.  But it’s not quite as good as Shy Boy……as recalled around this time last year.

The fact that I now finally own a copy of the single allowed me to discover a really decent b-side:-

mp3: Bananarama – Push!

Feel free to mock.  But if you do so, you’re wrong.

JC

MIRROR II

This blog rarely highlights new or emerging bands, and it’s even rarer that a new album gets some sort of review.  This is on the basis that I don’t think I’m smart or skilled enough to make the sorts of observations needed for such purposes, and besides, I hate putting up an mp3 when a song is new, and it’s hugely important that as many folk as possible make a purchase.

But I’m making an exception today.

Back in 2018/19, it took me four months to review We’re Not Talking, the second album to be released by The Goon Sax, an Australian trio consisting of Louis Foster, James Harrison and Riley Jones.  It was a very impressive effort, one which was a very welcome addition to their debut from 2016, Up To Anything. I concluded that particular review by saying that the trio had come a long way in a short period even though they were not yet out of their teens, and that I thought it would be fascinating to see what came next as they matured and developed as individuals, and as a recording and performing band. My summary was that ‘Perhaps, the onset of their 20s will lead to a genuinely classic album which will stand the test of time.’

And now, as the summer of 2021 continues, The Goon Sax have given us Mirror II, an album recorded last year with the assistance of veteran producer John Parish, best known for his work with PJ Harvey, and which I picked up last Saturday from my local indie record shop here in Glasgow.

The short summary, based on two full listens, is that the new Goon Sax album is different from the previous releases.

Very different.

And it will divide opinion….especially for those who were hoping for a record that would make them nostalgic for indie-pop of the guitar, bass and percussion variety, with twee vocals.

Mirror II opens with In The Stone, Psychic and Tag, three often synth laden efforts that feel aimed squarely at ‘the kids’ rather than the folk attracted to them via the Forster family connection. In The Stone was the track chosen as the preview song a couple of months back. It’s easy to see why:-

And there’s also been a video made for Psychic, which illustrates what I mean about the synth-led sound:-

And just as you settle down expecting more of the same, along comes Temples, a song written and sung by James Harrison in a style that made me think immediately of The Television Personalities with a very off-key vocal delivery. Side 1 concludes with another sharp and jolting turn on the rollercoaster as Louis, again assisted by Riley, takes over on The Chance, a track which has all sorts of indie and pop influences from through the ages running through it.  I’m sure it too will get the video treatment in the fullness of time.

Side 2 opens with Louis now channelling his inner art-school influences, as the near five-minute long Bathwater veers all over the place tempo wise, incorporating sax and guitar solos and lyrics sung in German (there’s his mum’s influence very much to the fore!) before another track for which a video has been made….and this time it sounds as if it wouldn’t be out of place as the slow-down number on a CHVRCHES album:-

Two of the final three tracks belong to James. And this is where I fell for the album in a way that I didn’t anticipate.

Where Louis and Riley’s efforts are polished in a way that makes them tailor-made for daytime radio and for the crucial 16-25 market to fall head-over-feels for, James takes us back to the shambolic indie-pop of the 80s….Carpetry really feels like a tribute to James Kirk‘s efforts with Orange Juice….completely unexpected and one of my musical highlights of the year. But I can see the kids giving this one a miss when they play the album, and no doubt make a sharp exit for the bars when the band do finally make it back to the stage.

He does more of the same with album closer Caterpillars, which, rather bizarrely, is the closest song to anything you’ll come across on the previous two records, sounding to my ears like a Violent Femmes influenced effort. These two songs bookend Till Dawn, the one I initially thought was easily the weakest effort on Mirror II. I’m still not convinced by it, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it suffers from its placing on the album, very much at odds with the songs that come before and after it.

I’m very happy to give the new album by The Goon Sax a huge thumbs-up, although it doesn’t quite form a classic that will stand the test of time.  Mirror II veers off in directions I wasn’t expecting at all, and while I find that encouraging, there’s a few fans of old who won’t be happy.  Having said all that, it’s likely that those who decide they no longer like what they are hearing will be replaced by a larger number of new, and most likely younger fans, for the time being at least.  I wonder what ‘the kids’ would make of these songs from 2016 and 2018:-

mp3: The Goon Sax – Boyfriend
mp3: The Goon Sax – Love Lost
mp3: The Goon Sax – Strange Light

Here’s hoping there’s much more to come in the years ahead.

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Twenty Three : NO MORE HEROES

I went onto Discogs recently to pick up a decent second-hand copy of this #9 chart single from 1977, specifically to have it included in this weekly series where a piece of vinyl is put onto the now year-old turntable and put through a wee bit of chicanery to come out at a higher rip than is normally offered up.

mp3: The Stranglers – No More Heroes

The least you could do is give it a listen…..(at this point author should insert winking emoji…..)

No More Heroes was further evidence that the positively ancient Stranglers weren’t really a punk or new wave band, no matter how much the PR folk at United Artists would like to have you believe.  Yes, the pace and energy of the song had a fair bit in common with their younger contemporaries, but the extended organ solo, courtesy of Dave Greenfield (RIP), brings more than a hint of prog-rock elements to the proceedings, in much the same way as Dave Formula did with the recent offerings from Magazine.

The thing is, it has somehow managed to age much better than many other singles from the era, testament in part to the way the band wrote the song, but also to the production skills of Martin Rushent, who would go on to weave his magic with many others but none more successfully than The Human League and the multi-million selling, Dare.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 5)

The fifth single to be released by The Fall reached the shops in July 1980. It was on Rough Trade Records, which in some ways seemed strange given that Mark E Smith wasn’t a fan of anything to do with London while the business ethos followed by those involved with the record label and the record shop would surely have been something he sneered at quite openly.

It wasn’t their first release for the label with that distinction going to the live album Totale’s Turns (It’s Now or Never) which came out in May 1980.  Here’s how that album has been described:-

Featuring recordings from two grotty northern club dates in late 1979, adulterated with a couple of outtakes, The Fall’s first record for London-based hippy-capitalists Rough Trade was a deliberately shambolic collection.  A loyalty test disguised as an album, Totale’s Turns was a reminder to their new label that The Fall continued to operate entirely on their own terms.

Jim Wirth, Uncut magazine

Despite being a ramshackle effort in which the band struggled with their sound at venues which were far off the beaten track, playing to a mixture of hostile and bored audience members, the album, retailing at a very cheap price, topped the indie charts on its release, no doubt pleasing Geoff Travis and his cohorts at Rough Trade.  There was, surely, much to anticipate from the first new studio material.

There was, surprise surprise, a line-up change from the line-up which had recorded Fiery Jack and it was a significant one with the 16-year-old Paul Hanley, brother of bassist Steve, coming in on drums to replace the now departed Mike Leigh.  The significance of this change will become increasingly apparent as this series rolls on.

The Fall might have been on a London-based label, but it was Cargo Studios in Rochdale where they assembled on 8 May 1980.  I’ve a number of friends from Rochdale and I have a lot of affection for the town, but it’s a place which, when I first visited it in the mid-90s, had pubs populated by individuals who terrified me, and I thought I’d seen everything growing up in Glasgow.  I can’t begin to imagine how uncomfortable Geoff Travis and his productionn sidekick Mayo Thomson (a Texan who had been part of a 60s avant-garde/psychedelia outfit called Red Krayola) would have been with their surroundings.

No matter what, the results delivered a triumph:-

mp3: The Fall – How I Wrote Elastic Man

It’s another of the country ‘n’ northern classics that were referred to last week by chaval, a phrase which really tickled Jonny over there in Los Angeles.  A cracking tune which is accompanied by one of Smith’s cleverest, funniest and most surreal lyric:-

I’m eternally grateful
To my past influences
But they will not free me
I am not diseased
All the people ask me
How I wrote “Elastic Man”

Life should be full of strangeness
Like a rich painting
But it gets worse day by day
I’m a potential DJ
A creeping wreck
A mental wretch
Everybody asks me
How I wrote “Elastic Man”

His soul hurts though it’s well filled up
The praise received is mentally sent back
Or taken apart
The Observer magazine just about sums him up
E.g. self-satisfied, smug

I’m living a fake
People say, “You are entitled to and great.”
But I haven’t wrote for 90 days
I’ll get a good deal and I’ll go away
Away from the empty brains that ask
How I wrote “Elastic Man”

His last work was “Space Mystery” in the Daily Mail
An article in Leather Thighs
The only thing real is waking and rubbing your eyes

So I’m resigned to bed
I keep bottles and comics stuffed by its head
Fuck it, let the beard grow
I’m too tired
I’ll do it tomorrow
The fridge is sparse
But in the town
They’ll stop me in the shoppes
Verily they’ll track me down
Touch my shoulder and ignore my dumb mission
And sick red faced smile
And they will ask me
And they will ask me
How I wrote “Elastic Man”

And yes, he does sing Plastic Man all the way through……….

The b-side is much more of the same, and as such makes for one of the most enjoyable and enduring of the earliest 45s

mp3: The Fall – City Hobgoblins

The single reached #2 in the Indie Singles chart. Very few people, outside of John Peel, were playing The Fall on the radio, and Rough Trade’s distribution efforts were geared up mainly to the smaller shops across the UK, meaning that anyone relying on the larger retailers and the chain stores would have some trouble finding copies.

Worth also mentioning that, despite being a huge favourite with the fans (or more likely because it was a huge favourite with the fans), How I Wrote Elastic Man was only ever played live at some 20 shows after its release as a single, and never after October 1981. The b-side, on the other hand, was resurrected for tours in 1986 and 1987.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #266: THE REINDEER SECTION

From last fm:

The Reindeer Section was a Scottish indie rock supergroup formed in Glasgow in 2001 by Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, which released albums and gigged in 2001 and 2002. The Reindeer Section grouping was somewhat ad hoc, and so it is uncertain if more will be heard from them. While currently considered defunct, in a 2006 interview with “Times Online” Gary Lightbody did not rule out making a future album,

The Reindeer Section arose – according to Lightbody – out of a chance get-together of musicians at a Lou Barlow gig in Glasgow in 2001, at which Lightbody drunkenly laid down the challenge to others to “make an album together”, to which everyone said “yeah yeah”. Lightbody “went home and next day wrote the album” and later convinced Johnny Davies of Bright Star Recordings to fund a recording session and release the proposed album. The group met over three days of rehearsal and ten days of recording to produce the first album. The album, Y’All Get Scared Now, Ya Hear! was released with a mini tour, the first venue of which was Belfast’s The Limelight venue.

A second album, Son of Evil Reindeer was released ten months after the critical acclaim of the first, with a slightly different line-up. The single, You Are My Joy appeared on US show, Grey’s Anatomy, and on fourth season of US TV series Queer as Folk. The song Cartwheels appeared on “The Second Chance”, an episode of The O.C.. The band’s most recent gig was on 14 December 2002 at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow. The project has never officially split up, but from that time it has been considered in a hiatus.

Artists who contributed to the project so far are::-

From Alfie: Ben Dumville, Lee Gorton and Sam Morris
From Arab Strap: Colin Macpherson, Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat
From Astrid: William Campbell, Charlie Clarke, Neil Payne and Gareth Russell
From Belle & Sebastian: Richard Colburn, Mick Cooke and Bob Kildea
From Cadet: Iain Archer
From Eva: Jenny Reeve and Sarah Roberts
From Idlewild: Roddy Woomble
From Mogwai: John Cummings
From Mull Historical Society: Colin MacIntyre
From Snow Patrol: Gary Lightbody, Mark McClelland and Jonny Quinn
From Teenage Fanclub: Norman Blake
From The Vaselines: Eugene Kelly
and Michael Bannister, Roy Kerr, Paul Fox, Marcus Mackay, Gill Mills and Stacie Sievewright.

My own thoughts are that the project, as a whole, never got close to matching the sum of its parts.  Here’s the closing track of the Son of Evil Reindeer album, with Aidan Moffat on lead vocal:-

mp3: The Reindeer Section – Whodunnit?

It’s a strange one in that while it sort of sounds like a mid-tempo Arab Strap song, it’s not Malcolm Middleton on guitar (although he played on two other songs on the album);  nor were the lyrics penned by Aidan Moffat.  It really does lack a certain chemistry, and that’s the way I feel about the rest of the album.

JC

RIPPING BADGERS CDs (Part 8): OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT

A guest posting by Mr Ed.

(SWC got sent this back in May to pass on for use on the blog, but it got lost/misplaced in the midst of all sorts of distracting stuff….)

When schools reopened after lockdown, I decided, for my sins, to get more involved in the extracurricular activities that the school offered. So for instance, every Tuesday I find myself helping Mr Clarke in training the Year 9 football team. I say help, I stand them with my arms folded in an ill-fitting tracksuit nodding along to everything Mr Clarke says and if I am a good boy I get to say ‘keep it simple, Jones’ during the kickaround in the last ten minutes. Jones then does fifteen stepovers and fires the ball into the top corner. He’s a genius when it comes to football, is Jones.

On the second and fourth Thursdays of the month I have to keep an eye on those in the ‘Stayback Group’ – detention basically. Here I get to sit in a room with surly grumpy teenagers and try to convince them that they should probably do their homework rather than, sniff glue or something (actually none of them sniff glue, I’m not sure if that is even a thing anymore. It was huge when I was at school, solvent abuse, but it’s more crack and legal highs with today’s kids, so I’m told). It’s here that I am actually typing up this document, I’m supposed to be checking coursework on Google Classrooms, but I’ve read twelve almost identical essays on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that I now want to punch Casio or whatever his bloody name is.

Last Friday for them first time, as a favour for Mr Bowen (he paid me four bottles of decent Belgian beer), I monitored the pupils who want to make use of the schools’ music rehearsal rooms.

Its pretty quiet to be honest, there is a piano lesson going on in the smallest rehearsal room, a young lad is playing ‘Chopsticks’ and his bored looking teacher is fluffing up her hair in the mirror at the back of the room. She stops when she sees me looking at them. I feel a bit odd, so I turn away.

In the biggest room there is a quite a decent studio and sound recording lab (they call it a lab, it’s a mixing desk and a few technical bits that I have no idea how to work). In here are four year ten boys with guitars and a drum kit who think they are Green Day or something.

I knock on the door and ask if they are all ok. They nod, as one of them tunes his guitar. It’s a lovely guitar, but he clearly can’t play it properly. I ask him how long he’s playing – he’s mumbles “couple of years” back at me. I ask them if I can listen, they reluctantly nod. I laugh and say that being in a band is all about being watched by people, and that when they headline Glastonbury they’ll have to be used to it. The drummer clicks his drumsticks together and counts them in, and then when the guitarist screws up the very first bit of the song. The drummer does the same thing all over again.

They are a raw talent. If raw means, woefully out of tune, with no sense of time and rhythm. Which in this case it certainly does. They struggle through a song (Blink 182 I think…hard to tell…) and at the end I applaud, probably more energetically than I should have. I then tell them they are really good, which is a blatant lie, and they know it. They are to music what Ed Sheeran is to writing essays on the use of sarcasm in Romeo and Juliet.

I turn to leave but one of them asks me what type of music I am into, and I stop and say “Oh you know this and that”. I tell them that at the moment I really love an Irish band called The Murder Capital and I mention a Leeds band called Yard Act that SWC has got me into. I get blank looks. I then tell them about the music that is on my phone at this very moment. This happens to be Official Secrets Act, a band from 2009 who released one album called ‘Understanding Electricity’. A rollicking art pop affair that sounds like ‘Babies’ era Pulp and ‘Modern Life’ era Blur with a smidgeon of Talking Heads quirkiness thrown in for good measure. I don’t tell the kids that, though I tell them that they sound a bit like Blur.

Which was a mistake because the boys don’t like Blur. They like punk rock. If punk rocks means Blink 182, Green Day and a bunch of other bands that are too awful to dirty this blog with. I tell them I saw Green Day live at the Reading Festival in 2103 but they weren’t as good as Biffy Clyro. The singer looks at me as if I just slapped him with a haddock and just shakes his head. I leave them to it but make a mental note to bring them a Ramones CD next Friday.

Official Secrets Act hailed from London but formed at Leeds University in 2006. They released one album, ‘Understanding Electricity’ which was largely ignored, despite being actually very good indeed. It spawned three singles:-

So Tomorrow
The Girl from the BBC
Bloodsport

The Girl from the BBC is bloody marvellous but even that is knocked in a cocked hat by the brilliance that is:-

Momentary Sanctuary

Oh and the last thing of note about the band is that one of them is the son of Jim Diamond. I mean, what’s not to love about that. Imagine being sung to at bedtimes but the guy who sang the theme tune to ‘Boon’.

Hi Ho Silver – Jim Diamond

Because it’s a bleeding masterpiece, that’s why.

Mr Ed.

 

THE TRIBUTE TO MUSICAL THEATRE (ACT TWO)

Elaine Paige Can Get to France : (A cool AF tribute to Musical Theatre)

ACT TWO of the guest posting by STEVE McLEAN

I Got Life – Nina Simone (from the musical Hair)

Hair. Again! It’s awesome. The show is a pretty well intended attempt at a counter culture, anti-war musical that got out of control. I believe it was written as it evolved on stage which brings it closest to the high art end of the theatre spectrum.

I’m not gonna take the piss here. This song is out-and-out boss. Another Hair classic that has had the stageyness stripped away to reveal a marvel of the number. Plus she sings ”boobies” out loud in place of the ‘tits’ from the show and for that alone it’s a dream. I only like words for breasts if they can be spelled on a calculator turned upside down.

I Can’t Help Loving That Man – Bjork/Trio Gu (from the musical Show Boat)

So the Show Boat version from the film(s) is much slower and less raunchy. Bjork gives us a rendition more akin to a ‘jazz club standard’. Show Boat the musical has been the subject of much debate over the use of what many feel are derogatory racial slurs in the original text.

It’s worth noting that most of these slurs were changed for the film versions of the 1930s and 1950s and for the stage revivals. Have you ever had an argument with a knuckle dragger who believes that the world is either ‘woke’ or ‘PC gone mad’? Did they mention that ‘you can’t say anything these days’ especially around Christmas about a certain Pogues song? Then you can tell them about the ever evolving Show Boat musical and how what they perceive to be political correctness is just being considerate to the feelings of others AND what they seem to think as ‘these days’ has been going on since at least the 1930s! That’s right the 1930s! So the lefty-woke-mafia haven’t in fact ‘taken over’ in almost 100 years. I digress.

This song may serve as a prototype for Bjork‘s take on Oh So Quiet. She over eggs the pudding slightly, but it does make you yearn for more. It’s time she packed away all the bleeps and boops and loops and did a six-month residency at Ronnie Scott‘s with a piano, drummer and double bass…

I Feel Pretty – Little Richard (from the musical West Side Story)

West Side Story hangs over musicals as template for the good guys / bad guys / bad guys who are good guys and finger clicking. It’s Romeo and Juliet but with the name changed (See! It used to happen all the time. If only The Only Fools and Horses musical had been called ‘We Need To Find A Way To Keep The Christmas Merchandise Deals Now John Sullivan Has Passed Away’…. Dream it and it will happen)

Little Richard was born to sing this song, he makes this into a stomper with his backing singers offering up a call and response. He recorded it for a West Side Story tribute album in 1996 from which he is clearly the stand out contributor. The other really notable song is “Gee Officer Krupke”Salt N Pepa, Def Jef, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, The Jerky Boys & Paul Rodriguez... which surely could have had the acronym of SNPDJLLELTJBAPR. Beware though if you buy the album, the last track is by Phil Collins.

Did You Evah? – Debbie & Iggy (from the musical High Society)

High Society is an adaption of Philadelphia story, but the song first appeared in the musical Du Barry Was a Lady. The story goes that they had all but finished filming and the studio realised that the two stars didn’t have a duet, so Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra were called back to add in this number. To be honest, it’s not a great story. You’d expect a story with Bing and the Chairman to have more martinis, some form of party and Deano ‘n’ Sammy stealing the show again. They can’t all be zingers I guess.

The updated version from Debbie and Iggy really hits the spot. You can tell they’re having a blast, and you can tell they’ve known each other for years. It’s SWELLEGENT!  The song was recorded from an HIV Awareness album called Red, Hot and Blue which took famous Cole Porter songs and reimagined them.  As with the West Side Story album mentioned above, it’s patchy. Sinead O’Connor‘s take on You Do Something to Me is worth your time but you can happily ignore the U2 and Lisa Stansfield contributions. Lisa Stansfield AND U2, can this get any more Chart Show?

Trust In Me – Belly (from the musical The Jungle Book)

The Disney adaption of the Jungle Book is pretty definitive, right? There’s nobody making a case for the straight to VHS versions or the various live action remakes?
This sultry number by Belly (and recently featured on a nifty RSD compilation of B-sides) is possibly the template for the Scarlet Johansson version in the live action remake. This is a pretty timeless take, and it has a swagger with elements of Peter Gunn style cool, yeah I can write the music-y words when I want. It does have a menacing lead guitar that you screams Joe Meek. Disney never sounded so raw (not true, the Black Hole soundtrack is fucking bleak).

Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In- 5th Dimension (From the musical Hair (again!)….

To round us off we’ve come full circle and gone back to Hair. Not just Hair but the song we started with. Let’s be brutally honest, this version of Aquarius is annoying as fuck. I love the 5th Dimension but Jesus this gets on my tits.

BUT!

Once you get over the hippy tedium…  well, to paraphrase Ian Watson of How Does It Feel To Be Loved ‘Let The Sunshine is the reward for getting through Aquarius…’ he was spot on too. That bass line! It’s so big! A psych soul hippy freakout. Play loud and try not to dance. You can’t, can you?

While I was digging around these I came across a load of others. Aside from the two tribute albums mentioned in above, there’s stuff like Siouxsie and The Banshees doing their own take on Trust in Me and Sparks did a great version of Do Ri Mi. There’s enough to do a second list.

But perhaps I’ll write about musical theatre stars who have recorded pop songs that you might not have expected. Did you know that John Barrowman covered Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic? Or that Tim Curry recorded a great version of Baby Love? Elaine Paige made a whole album of Queen Covers?

I know what you’re thinking ‘That sounds fucking shit’ and you’d be right. Seriously, go listen to her version of Radio Gaga and then cut out your short term memory….. But bless her for trying.

STEVE McLEAN

BURNING BADGER’S VINYL – THE (NEARLY) A-Z OF INDIEPOP (Part 4, H, I and J)


A 1991 Manchester Musical Special : H is for Happy Mondays and J is for James

Happy Mondays – Kinky Afro (Factory Records, 1991)
James – How Was It For You (Fontana Records, 1991)

In January 1991 the British Music Industry decided to curate three evenings of live music at Wembley Arena. The evenings were called the Great British Music Weekend and they were designed to showcase the cream of British musical talent. The first two days were dedicated to indie guitars and at the time the line ups were incredible. Thousands of people tried to get tickets, thousands of people failed to get tickets. Me being one of them. I remember Dubstar Chris phoning me at home and telling me that he was going to get tickets and then him phoning the next day and telling me that it had sold out (and it had). Those who couldn’t get tickets, had to make do with the shows being streamed live on Radio 1 FM (as it was called back then).

Day One was the indie dance evening. It was headlined by the emerging champions of the scene, the Happy Mondays, also on the bill were James, The Farm, Northside, Beats International, 808 State and a band called Candyland who were, rumour had it, playing their first ever gig after being personally recommended by Paul Weller. Candyland I think were the only band on the bill who didn’t come from a town or city north of Watford.

If I had got tickets it would have been my first ever concert and I think at the time I would have loved it what with it featuring bands that I was growing to love, bands like James, 808 State and the Happy Mondays. However, I remember the radio broadcast being disappointing – the concerts turned out to be a series of mini gigs with the bands playing for around 15 minutes each and the headliners being pushed to a full 25 minutes.

James (who were second on the bill) I remember played three songs (Stutter, Johnny Yen and Sit Down) and despite the short set the NME called it a ‘triumph’ and stating (correctly) that ‘fairly soon James will be massive’. Indeed in seven months they would be headlining the Reading Festival.

The Mondays were allowed, as headliners to stretch out a bit – and got to play five songs- the first three were ‘Donovan’, ‘Step On’ and ‘Kinky Afro’ and they ended with ‘WFL’ I forget what the fourth one was.

The two records were nestled together in Badgers Box, the James single is an immaculate grey sleeved 12” with ‘James’ printed on the sleeve in a dark blue colour – it has a daisy over the top of the ‘J’ and inside it is a James stencil – so you can spray paint their logo all over the place. I don’t know if this is a standard release or not but the stencil in Badgers record has barely been touched by the look of it. The Mondays one is the standard ‘Kinky Afro’ 12”.

There were a couple of other Mondays records in the box the best of them being this

‘Hallelujah’ (Taken from a 12” version of ‘Madchester Rave On’ EP) –

which is shame because it doesn’t contain the ‘McColl Mix, which I love to bits.
There was a couple of other James records as well – The Green 12” of ‘Come Home’ and a really really battered version of this

What For

I is For Inspiral Carpets

Inspiral Carpets – Find Out Why (Mute Records Taken from ‘Cool As Fuck EP’, 1990)

1991 was also the year in which I went to my first proper music festival. It was the Slough Festival and tickets were if I recall it correctly a bargain at £6. We had decided to go to this one as a warm up for the big one around the corner in Reading. The line-up was very shoegaze heavy with Ride headlining ably supported by bands such as Curve, Slowdive and Chapterhouse. It kind of blew my mind a little bit. It was about six weeks after my 16th birthday and suddenly I was surrounded by thousands of people who liked the same music as I did.

It was around four pm that Dubstar Chris had gone off to buy some chips, and as he looked older than I did, some beer. I decided to stay in the arena and watch what was left of local heroes Thousand Yard Stare’s set. It was at about ten past four that I fell in love with a girl who I never spoke to and whose name I never knew. I say love, it probably, definitely, wasn’t that on reflection, but there I sat for the next twenty five minutes or so just kind of gazing at her.

She was wearing a Cool as Fuck T Shirt, cut off denim shorts and Converse Trainers and I thought she was incredible. She was about twenty metres away from me and I sat there thinking up ways to strike up a conversation with her. All of them were useless because I never did. I willed her friend (Revolver Tshirt, Mani Hat) to get up and wander off to get chips like Chris had done but nope she stayed perfectly still next to her. It wouldn’t have mattered because I still wouldn’t have gone and spoke to her.

At one point I sort of shuffled our stuff a little bit closer to Cool as Fuck Girl (sounds wrong typing that) and her mate and saw her smiling at me. Well smiling in my direction, she might of course been squinting as the sun was in her eyes – that I decided was enough and I stood up, took a deep breath, and took one step and then I heard Chris call my name as he had returned with the food and somehow, four pints of liberally watered down beer.

So I sat back down again. What I should have done is taken two of the pints over to Cool as Fuck Girl (still wrong) and her Revolver Tshirt wearing friend and introduced myself, but when I spun around two minutes later ready to suggest this idea to Chris, they had gone. Never to be seen again.

When I was a kid the ‘Cool as Fuck’ EP was like some sort of indie Holy Grail. It was famous for being as rare as rocking horse shit, yet everyone knew someone who had a copy. I’m pretty sure the Inspiral Carpets sold more Cool As Fuck T Shirts than they did copies of the EP ( a bit like James, who famously sold way more TShirts than they did records for the first eight or nine years of their careers) Of course there were cassette copies of it around, badly recorded ones that themselves were copies of copies.

Badgers copy is in mint condition and tucked right behind it was another fairly rare early Inspirals 12”

Inspiral Carpets – Butterfly – Taken from ‘Trainsurfing EP’ (1989, Cow Records)

SWC

MAMMA MIA……


The weather, here in Glasgow, was very warm and sunny in the final couple of weeks in the month of June.  As such, I was disinclined to sit indoors at the keyboard churning out lengthy and analytical pieces with which to bore you rigid, and instead I came up with a look at some big hit singles which otherwise wouldn’t normally feature.  But then, over the weekend, two e-mails dropped in with stuff for guest postings and by good fortune offered the possibility of four pieces, which is why the remainder of this week will be a JC-free zone.  The big hit singles mini-series will likely be here this time next week.

Oh, and I’m typing this looking out to a sky that is more January than July.  One thing is always certain here in Glasgow and that’s that you can never predict the weather with any certainty.

Here’s my stand-up comedian friend to entertain you:-

Elaine Paige Can Get to France : (A cool AF tribute to Musical Theatre)

ACT ONE of a guest posting by STEVE McLEAN

I love musicals. Musicals are fun. They’re big, loud and pompous, and they’re very accessible for people who don’t usually go to the theatre. There’s one thing that musicals are not and never will be however, and that is cool. Not even the Rocky Horror Show can cut it as cool these days. The RHS is perhaps formerly cool, but the taboo 1970s subject matter has dulled somewhat and while it still maintains a cult status, so does Russ Meyer. Admit it, middle-aged men in ladies underwear is really just a search history that needs clearing.

There’s a naffness that goes hand in hand with show tunes, especially the versions the hit the charts. Artists of the 50s through to the 80s often visited the hit parade belting out something from Cats or Starlight or Spies like Us, The Musical (the last one I made up, but you know, dream it and it will happen). But why should Elaine Paige or Michael Crawford or Philip Schofield have all the drama school fun? You’d forgotten that The Schofe played Joseph and had a top 30 hit with Close Every Door, hadn’t you? I hadn’t. It plagues me to this day.

I’ve assembled a list here of great show tunes being played by acts so cool they’d make Sinatra look like Eugene from Grease….. Elaine Paige can get to France.

Let the Sunshine In – Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity (From the musical Hair)

Gonna start off big. Julie Driscoll, darling of the 1960s R&B Mod set teamed up with Brian Auger and The Trinity to produce one of the most needlessly wordy band names of the decade (no one is buying these records for The Trinity guys, you’re just lying to yourselves) However they also produced a tip-top version of Let The Sunshine In (from Hair). They stripped out all of the pomp to reveal that the song is still a belter without the teeth and tits. It’s a solid keyboard driven jazz psych rocker (I hate myself for that phrase). I’ll speak more about Hair later but for now just lose yourself in this song. It’s all tilted camera zooms, bead necklaces, miniskirts and kinky boots. The keyboard solo kicks backside and Driscoll sings circles around the song too. ‘Sealed with a righteous kiss”

I’ll Never Fall In Love Again – Deacon Blue (from the musical Promises, Promises)

I chose the Deacon Blue version as I feel we don’t hear enough of them these days. Dionne Warwick‘s version is probably my favourite but this works very well slowed down and delivered with the Ricky Ross singing whisper (listen up Stuart Murdoch, it was his first and best..)

A Bacharach & David standard, it was written for the musical Promises, Promises (Neil Simon) which was an adaption of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. When people complain that ‘everything gets made into a musical these days’ remind them it has always happened but they at least had the decency to change the titles. If this was still in practice then the forthcoming Back to the Future musical might be called Time Traveling, Mum Shagging Teenager from Suburbia. (Dream it and it will happen).

I Got Rhythm – Brian Wilson (from the musical Girl Crazy)

Brian turns this finger clicker into a sweet surfing number and it really suits the song. The best version is probably Fozzie and Rolf from the Muppets but this is up there.

It’s from the Gershwin show Girl Crazy which in these modern times is probably both sexist and a mental health micro aggression but back on the 1930s it was mainly about working on a ranch that employed showgirls… showGIRLS working a ranch? That’s CRAZY! And boom!  We have a title.

The musical has been filmed a couple times with notable story changes. The most peculiar seems to be a version featuring Herman’s Hermits, Sam Sham and the Pharaohs and Liberace that was re-titled ‘When Boys Meets Girls’ which seems a lot less exciting.

Send in the Clowns – Grace Jones (from the musical A Little Night Music)

Just admit that you know this tune best from a Simpsons episode, you god damned fucking heathen. Seriously though Krusty the Klown makes a fine mockery of the 1970s US TV special that carried on until the 1990s before people realised it was just orchestra karaoke.

It’s from the show A Little Night Music which I’ve not seen but the best I can work out it’s a creepy story about some kind of Bill Wyman / Mandy Smith relationship.
There’s some side show with a jealous son and horny housekeeper. It sounds like a fucking Benny Hill episode.

This song itself sure is beautiful but let’s be honest, the Judy Collins or Sinatra or Streisand versions are dreary as fuck. Grace Jones kicks the song in the balls and sticks some cracking 80s synths on it. I don’t think Jones ever gets enough credit for how big her voice can be. The song is great showcase for her talents.

You’re The One That I Want – The Beautiful South (from the musical Grease)

Okay, I’m busting my cool remit here. Everyone loved the Housemartins but people had split opinions on the BS. There were those that felt they so-so and those that thought they were just okay.. This, however, is a welcome change from their 1995 One-Eff-Em fodder. It has a real sinister vibe to it. Maybe it’s just the strings but it just feels like one of them has the other in a basement chained to the wall….

The song is from Grease. I’m not going to talk about Grease, we all know it’s fucking awesome. Anyone who doesn’t think Grease is awesome is fucking liar. The whole shebang is cracking from the off. The Barry Gibb penned / Frankie Valli sung opening number, the greasy rockers, the awesome cars, Rizzo being the true star over Sandy and fan theories about it taking place in the afterlife. The ending is a bit creepy though with a terrible message to young girls to start smoking and dress in a catsuit of you want boys to like you.

Grease 2 is also awesome, some would say a far superior film. By some I mean me.

September Song – Lou Reed (from the musical Knickerbocker Holiday)

I can’t tell you much about this show but from wiki it seems like a disaster capitalist’s wet dream. The show makes a comparison of FDR’s New Deal policies to Fascism. Replace the FDR stuff with masks or vaccines or whatever some wankenstain on Twitter is banging on about and it could be right up to date. Seriously, is there anything that whack-jobs don’t equate to fascism….? Apart from actual fascism which they seem to love. This show sounds like the Daily Mail comments section set to music which has given me a great idea for my next Edinburgh Fringe show.  I digress….

It’s usually quite a slow number but Lou rocks it up and then talks over it (like he does with pretty much everything he recorded after 1978).

A much more faithful version of the tune was used as the theme tune to the sitcom May to December, which was yet again about a young woman in a relationship with an old man. At some point we have to start asking questions about these songs. One of the questions certainly isn’t ‘How can I get in on this?’ no siree bob.

END OF ACT ONE.

PATRONS ARE ASKED TO RETURN TO THEIR SEATS AFTER THE INTERVAL OF 48 HOURS FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE SHOW.

STEVE McLEAN

 

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Twenty Two : THE AMERICAN

Well, it is nearest Monday to the 4th of July.

mp3: Simple Minds – The American (12″ version)

The band’s official website advises that The American was written in a back of a van while driving through the East Coast of America in March 1981 and was first played live during the same tour. It was inspired by the bright colours of an exhibition of modern American art that Jim Kerr had visited.

It has a fairly abstract lyric:-

Here comes the shake,
The speed-decade wake.
I see you wake,
Shake,
Fit on those overalls,
What do you know about this world anyway?

I see a man,
With an airfield plan.
I caught a boy fall out of the sky.
What do you know about this world anyway?

Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Amer-American,
In collective fame.
Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Amer-American,
Nassau club day.
Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Amer-American,
Across a curved earth,
In collective fame.
Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Amer-American,
The eventful work-outs,
Nassau club days.

Here comes the flag,
I’m walking in the black.

Every time you touch this place,
It feels like sin.
Every time the handshake starts,
The face draws thin.
What do you know about this world anyway?

Here comes the sun,
The american sun,
In here the sun shines so bright,
Eyes blind.
What do you know about this world anyway?

Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Amer-American,
The eventful workouts,
Nassau club days.

Here comes the flag.
Hand-shake.
This world…..

The 12″ version really gives space to Derek Forbes on bass and Mick MacNeil on keyboards to demonstrate their talents, and yet the tune was largely written by guitarist Charlie Burchill. It flopped to #59 on its release in May 1981, but at that point in time was the band’s most successful single.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 4)

This series, certainly for now, is only looking at the singles that were released by The Fall.  As mentioned last Sunday, Rowche Rumble had been recorded in June 1979, and it wouldn’t be long before they were all back in a studio to record enough material for a new album; but prior to that, there were gigs to be played, mostly in north-west England, including one at the Factory Club in Manchester on Friday 20 July, where the support was another up and coming band, this time from the Liverpool area.  It must have been a good one if you’d been there that night and also saw Echo & The Bunnymen…..

Dragnet was recorded over the course of three days in Cargo Studios, Rochdale at the beginning of August 1979. Despite making a substantial contribution to the b-side of the previous single in the same location just some eight weeks previously, Yvonne Pawlett was no longer part of the group who were now getting on with things as a five-piece.  And almost no sooner were the Dragnet sessions over that Mark E Smith (vocals, keyboards), Marc Riley (guitar, keyboards, vocals) Craig Scanlon (guitar), Steve Hanley (bass, vocals) and Mike Leigh (drums, percussion) were reconvening in Foel Studios, in Welshpool, in October 1979 for a session that would result in the three songs that made up the band’s next single, which came out in January 1980.

mp3: The Fall – Fiery Jack

One of many songs over the years in which MES adopted a character to spit forth a lyric, one which he would say was based largely on someone he had worked beside during his time as a clerk at the Manchester Shipping Docks, but in a contemporary interview said:-

“One of the points of “Fiery Jack” is ageism. People go round and think they’re smart when they’re 21 but these old guys you see have been doing it for years and a lot of them have more guts than these kids will ever have. It’s like the skinheads throwing cans, they know fuck all. I know twenty times more than them and I could knock them over in a pub if I wanted to. Everybody’s as good as each other, there is no tough fighter, there is no ‘young’ thing, everybody’s as good as each other. Everybody KNOWS that, but everybody keeps living it out and it makes me sick…in a mystical way, Fiery Jack is the sort of guy I can see myself as in twenty years..”

It’s also a song in which MES attacks left-wing politics, and although he could claim in this instance it was because he was in character, it wouldn’t be too long before he would do so himself in interviews, very much putting him at odds with almost all of his contemporaries, unafraid to hold unpopular or contrary views.

Musically, it chugs along at a fair rate, like an early Johnny Cash tune being played at 100mph, making it one of the more immediately danceable of the early songs. It’s also unusual in that it lasts the best part of five minutes in an era of the short, sharp and immediate 45. I need to be honest and admit that it passed me by totally at the time, and it wouldn’t be until 1983 that I would become familiar with it, thanks to a flatmate having a copy of the single. I fell for it, however, in a big way, and it remains one of my favourite Fall tracks of them all.

There were two b-sides:-

mp3: The Fall – 2nd Dark Age
mp3: The Fall – Psykick Dancehall #2

The former is just a couple of minutes long and, on first listen, doesn’t have all that much going for it. Its real significance is that buried in the lyric towards the end is a reference to Roman Totale XVII, another character creation from the mind of MES, and to whom he would return on quite a few occasions in future years.

The latter is a new and more lo-fi version of the track that had opened Dragnet, complete with some amended, almost free-flowing lyrics. It’s not seen by most folk as an improvement on the original.

Fiery Jack was, again, issued by Step Forward Records. It didn’t chart.  The next single would be the band’s first effort for one of the best known indie labels of them all.  I’ll hopefully see you next Sunday for that one.

Oh, and for those of you waiting impatiently for a contribution by the mighty Drew some Sunday, please be assured that it will be coming…..he’s been awfully busy with work in recent weeks and has just gone off for a well-earned holiday, in the UK, with the family.  But he’s been happy enough to give me a thumbs-up on all the features I’ve penned thus far, including today’s.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #265: RANDOLPH’S LEAP

From the band’s website:-

Randolph’s Leap are a Glasgow-based musical project ranging from a solo act to an eight-piece band. Nairn-born Adam Ross and friends have been making pop music for unpopular people since 2010.

Randolph’s Leap began releasing music via DIY labels in 2010. Their first full album release came in 2014 when Lost Map unveiled Clumsy Knot, an engrossing patchwork of jubilant brass-filled chamber pop and tender low-key folk. This was followed up in 2016 with Cowardly Deeds on Olive Grove Records, a noisy full-band album recorded in a remote farmhouse, while 2018 brought Worryingly Okay, a return to the fuzzy, lo-fi folksinger style of Adam’s most early recordings. Adam has also recently toured Scotland, providing music for ‘The Isle of Love’, a successful 5-star reviewed theatre show inspired by lyrics from the band’s extensive back catalogue.

2020 saw Adam cement his reputation as one of Scotland’s most prolific songwriters, releasing over 40 home-recorded songs via Bandcamp and Patreon as a creative response to Covid-19 restrictions. He also released an album of country-pop music under the pseudonym A.R. Pinewood.

Recent years have seen the band curate a series of sell-out music and comedy events in Glasgow titled ‘I Can’t Dance To This Music’, record repeat sessions on BBC 6Music and perform across the UK, including as tour support for James Yorkston (Domino Records) and Canadian band The Burning Hell.

I’ve been lucky enough to catch Randolph’s Leap in the live setting on many an occasion, back in the pre-COVID days when gigs were allowed, and can honestly say that I’ve never come away feeling less than euphoric, such is the energy and talent on show.  I’ve mentioned them previously a few times on the blog – you can go read all the past articles by clicking on this link (also available direct via the ‘Categories’ section) and as you’ll likely have worked out, I’ve most of the back catalogue on either vinyl or CD, including much of the DIY material from the early days. I’ve long thought about pulling together an ICA.  It’s something I’ll likely get round to at some point, unless there’s any other fans out there who fancy giving it a go.

mp3: Randolph’s Leap – Up In Smoke

In the meantime, the above track was the one chosen to preview the most recent album, Spirit Level, which came out back in February on Fika Recordings, and which subsequently sold so well that a re-press is currently in hand for anyone wanting to pick it up on vinyl.

 

JC

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : VERSION 2.0

Album: Version 2.0 – Garbage
Review: Uncut, June 1998
Author: David Stubbs

“THERE ARE surprisingly few bands like Garbage, bands operating in that shadowy, uncertain zone between the flesh of rock and the metal of techno. They’re all but alone in stepping into the breach left by the demise of The Cure and The Banshees. That their debut album sold three million copies suggests that there’s a hunger for what they’re doing in a time when the gap between rock’s Luddite traddism and techno’s bleep and booster extremism has never been greater.

Version 2.0 is, as its software-orientated title suggests, an upgrading of essentially the same model as the first album. It’s just a bit more of everything – just that bit smoother, rougher, harder, cooler, warmer, more efficient, more fucked up.

‘Temptation Waits’, the opener, with its whiplash backbeat and matt black exteriors, sets the tone – like some PVC panther, Shirley Manson establishes the character she maintains throughout the album, taunting, sensual, predatory, desperate, self-loathing, nasty.

Interestingly, in real life Shirley Manson is a very nice individual with a sensible and balanced attitude towards the stardom she never expected, who carries herself as if unaware of her Barbie-goth looks.

When she sings/breathes, “Watch my temper / I go mental / I try to be gentle”, the fact she’s only playing the role of a disturbed cyberbitch doesn’t make her “bogus” – rather, this is a perfect, controlled simulation, well-scripted, well-acted, whose psychological accuracy is underpinned by the electro-morphing shifts and turns in the man-made fabric of the sound. This is virtual emotional authenticity.

Garbage actually work with conventional rock structures of verse, middle and chorus – ‘Special’ is a great hunk of turbo-charged janglepop that could have been made any time in the last 20 years. It’s the way Steve Marker, Duke Erikson and Butch Vig (collectively responsible for the instruments, samples and loops) turn these songs inside out, shift from colour to black and white, cave them in at key moments of epiphany and crisis on the likes of ‘Medication’ and ‘Sleep Together’ that gives them the jarring detail, the full-bore impact lacking in straight grunge for all its sweat and hoarse platitudes.

Or take ‘Push It’, the single, loosely incorporating the chant from The Beach Boys‘ ‘Don’t Worry Baby’. The sense of plunging into the sexual unknown is exacerbated by the physical plunge the sound seems to take as if right down into the troubled recesses of Shirley Manson’s brain, midway through.

This is a plastic, contrived album made largely on fake instruments using studio trickery.

I heartily recommend it.”

JC adds…….

The emergence of Garbage via the eponymous debut album in 1995 was timely, certainly here in the UK, as it offered something just that little different and edgier from the many, admittedly excellent ‘Britpop’ albums released that year.

Three years later and the musical landscape had changed quite substantially in a way that, looking back now all these years later, was as important and as welcome as the sort of revolution of the punk/new wave era. There were comedown records offered by the likes of Pulp and Massive Attack, there were innovative and imaginative albums by Beastie Boys, Beck and The Beta Band, there was some proof that Scotland was continuing to punch above its weight as Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian and Idlewild all released what would prove to be some of their most enduring records, while our cousins in Wales had a stellar year thanks to Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

In the midst of all this, Garbage released a second album, one which, as David Stubbs makes clear, wasn’t all that different from the multi-million selling debut except for the fact it managed to sound ‘smoother, rougher, harder, cooler, warmer, more efficient, more fucked up.’  Strangely enough, Version 2.0 reached #1 here in the UK where the debut had only managed to hit #6, but when all things were added up in due course, it sold fewer copies.  It was almost as if the fans of the debut had rushed out to buy the new effort, only to find that it being a bit more fucked-up meant it didn’t get too many listens.  Even today, it’s a CD (it was never released on vinyl until the 20th Anniversary) that you will come across regularly in charity and second-hand shops, with the record-buying public willing to decree it as landfill.  Just three years later, the sales of the third album would be less than 20% of the debut.

Maybe it’s the fact that so many weren’t able to stomach the contents of Version 2.0 that the music snob in me gravitates to it more than the debut.  Or maybe it’s just that it’s an excellent and enduring collection of songs, even if one of them seems to stray too close for comfort at times to Shania Twain territory:-

mp3: Garbage – Wicked Ways

But the PJ Harvey tribute elsewhere more than compensates:-

mp3: Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid

One of four hit singles from the album, with this being the best-known:-

mp3: Garbage – Push It

One thing worth recalling is that Garbage, were by now considered to be just the right side of mainstream to be offered the opportunity to perform the theme song to the next James Bond film, one that was released in 1999:-

mp3: Garbage – The World Is Not Enough

Composed by David Arnold, with lyrics by Don Black who was a veteran of the Bond themes, it was a real shock to those of us expecting something akin to the first two albums, being a real throwback to the sort of classic Bond themes tunes I had grown up with, whether watching them on TV or later, in the company of my dad at the cinema.  The review in Melody Maker was incredibly sniffy:-

“You know what this sounds like before you hear it. If the people in charge want Garbage, then why not let them do what Garbage do?”

Or maybe let them stretch themselves a bit, proving they were happy to allow lead singer Shirley to briefly imagine herself as Bassey and not Manson.

JC

FUNNY HOW

I suppose it’s all to do with when they emerged and the sort of music they released, but I had always thought Airhead were a Madchester act, but instead they were formed hundreds of miles to the south, in Maidstone in Kent.

They started out  as The Apples, consisting of Mike Wallis (vocals), Steve Marshall (keyboards), Ben Kestevan (bass) and Sam Kestevan (drums). In due course, they were picked up by Korova Records (an indie backed by Warner Brothers) but prior to recording and releasing anything, the changed their name to Jefferson Airhead, seemingly in an attempt to provoke a reaction from the management/estate of the former American band…..

There were two singles, in early 1991, prior to them responding to the threat of a lawsuit, neither of which did anything.  Gaining a little press exposure from the further enforced change of name to Airhead, their next single was a decent enough whimsical effort, in a Frank and Walters sort of way, that reached #57, and which back in the day was included on a compilation C90 cassette compiled for me by Jacques the Kipper:-

mp3: Airhead – Funny How

Just prior to Christmas, a fourth single was released, and this time the boys made the Top 40:-

mp3: Airhead – Counting Sheep

The debut album, Boing!, followed in January 1992, and while it went Top 30, a further single later in the year stalled at #50.

That was it as far as the major label went, but Airhead went on to make one further EP, on indie label Mother Tongue, in May 1993 before giving it all up and becoming a very small footnote in musical history.

JC

BURNING BADGER’S VINYL – THE (NEARLY) A-Z OF INDIEPOP (Part 3, D, E and F)

D is for DAISY CHAINSAW

Daisy Chainsaw – Love Your Money (Taken from Love Sick Pleasure EP, Deva Records, 1991)

Hands up if any of you can remember a single song by Daisy Chainsaw that isn’t their Top 30 denting surprise hit ‘Love Your Money’….I’ll wait….Nope, me neither. I mean they definitely had other songs, their debut album went into the Top 75, which back in 1991, before Britpop and well before bands could release an album on the Soundcloud before being signed, that was quite an achievement.

For a short period in 1991, Daisy Chainsaw were pretty much everywhere. Largely because of ‘Love Your Money’ which became something of an albatross for the band. The band were lead by Katie Jane Garside whose on stage performances gained the band far more attention than their music did.

Katie would wander onto stage often drinking from a baby’s bottle, she would be dressed in an old gown which would be dirty and ripped and she would spend most of the gig throwing herself either into the crowd or rolling around on the stage floor, she occasionally cut herself on stage aswell. She would also quite often talk nonsense in interviews. So it wasn’t long before mental illness rumours started.

The media loved them however, (the NME, as ever, invented a genre for them, ‘Banshee Pop’ and PJ Harvey was also very briefly lumped in that genre with them), and ‘Love Your Money’ propelled the band into the spotlight, a spotlight that perhaps they weren’t ready for. They appeared on The Word, at the height of its granny snogging, controversy baiting, Mary Whitehouse annoying brilliance and their performance it an absolute riot (you can watch it on YouTube – it might have even been the week after Nirvana almost destroyed the set ).

Superstardom was beckoning with its bony finger as Katie Jane twists and contorts herself in front of the camera like a deranged rag doll (which was definitely the look she was going for) but then….well if Daisy Chainsaw’s career was a line graph and ‘Love Your Money’ was the high pointy bit then the rest of it is the steep downhill bit.

It’s weird how Daisy Chainsaw never quite matched the raucous, shambolic brilliance of ‘Love Your Money’ and its even weirder how their singer Katie Jane Garside was never a far bigger star than she (briefly) was. Although it has to be said mental illness probably paid as much a part of that than anything else. In 1993, two years after the success of ‘Love Your Money’ – which saw the band spent nearly all that time on the road touring with the likes of Mudhoney, Hole and {shudder} Sheep on Drugs, Katie Jane walked away from the band – and pretty much vanished from sight. She was barely seen for six years.

Then in 2000 a new band called queenadreena appeared and the singer wore a ripped dirty gown and liked to stage dive….

There were one other D in the box – not as good as Daisy Chainsaw though.

Depeche Mode – It’s No Good

which does pretty much what it says on the tin

E is for EMF

EMF – Unbelievable (1990, Parlophone)

This is probably the most battered 12” in Badger’s collection. The vinyl is scratched, and it jumps around two minutes in as well. It doesn’t really matter to be honest because I already own it, but its such a great record that I can’t ignore it.

‘Unbelievable’ reached the Top 5 in the UK (and Number 1 in the USA) when it was released way back in 1990, making the record more than 30 years old now. If that doesn’t make you feel old then I have no idea what will. I was 15 when this came out, and for a while I genuinely thought it was one of the greatest things I had ever heard.

Then again, when I was 15 I was infatuated with the girl who sat next me in GCSE physics. Instead of listening to my teacher Mr Watson drone on about whatever it was he was droning on about (I can literally remember not a single thing from GCSE physics) I used to write little notes to this girl, lets call her Lindsay, who used to write ‘Shut Up’ or ‘I’m trying to Listen’ underneath them. I must have asked her out four or five times in about a month, and she always said no. At a party towards the end of the year, I tried and failed again and was told that ‘I wasn’t her type’.

Anyway, I looked her up on social media the other day. Found out that she went on to go to Trinity College, Cambridge, has stood for election for the Conservative Party (beaten by a Liberal Democrat, ha ha ha) and is now married to a millionaire hedge fund manager. He may have a million quid spare, but I bet that he doesn’t own two copies of ‘Unbelieveable’ by EMF on 12”.

There were two other records from bands starting with E that were worthy of your attention:-

Echobelly – Great Things (Taken from ‘On’)
Echo and the Bunnymen – Bring on the Dancing Horses (Taken from ‘Songs to Learn and Sing’)

F is for Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters – This Is A Call (1995, Capitol Records)

Another great record that evokes wonderful memories. In this case Saturday Night at the 1995 Reading Festival. One of those nights where you really had to be there – I was there, but I wasn’t ‘there’ there. If that makes sense.

I mean, I tried to be ‘there’ there. I’d got ‘there’ early. I stood near the back and watched Echobelly (see above) play to a slightly more than half full tent. As brilliant as Echobelly were they were never a second on the bill at Reading type of band. Besides they were on at the same time as Paul Weller who was even more popular than ever due to the incredible success of his ‘Stanley Road’ album, so they stood no chance.

I was there early of course for the debut UK gig by Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters who had already laid the groundworks for world domination by going Top Ten with their first two UK singles, and frankly they were the most talked about band of the weekend.

About three minutes before the end of Echobelly’ set people start to drift in. Then a few more and then a load more. There is about a 30-minute wait before the Foo Fighters. It looks like everyone had the same idea – get there early.

15 minutes to go, you can just about move. My position at the near the back had become slightly squashed against a pillar right at the back. To my left a girl has just started to climb another pillar. To my right a couple of hairy arsed blokes start pushing their way to through, beer is being thrown across the tent.

5 minutes to go, the crowd is stretching back outside the tent and into the field behind it. I’ve been pushed back again and now find myself about fifteen feet from the tent and unable to see a bloody thing, Chris the bloke I was with has long since vanished (he later told me he went to watch Bjork) and I turn round as the cheers and yelling start, people next me push forward. Its looks seriously dangerous in there now. I shrug, it’s only a band I tell the bloke next to me as he pushes forward and I decide to leave, eventually I end up in the comedy tent having a right old chortle to Gerry Sadowitz.

There was one other record by a band starting with F in the box, tucked away right at the back. It’s a belter too:-

Fatboy Slim – The Rockerfeller Skank

SWC

TYPICAL GIRLS

This debut single, from September 1979, now goes for fairly decent sums of money on the second-hand market, in the region of £30 upwards.  I’ll be very honest and admit that I’ve never owned a copy, nor for many years did I ever want to, for the simple reason that the 16-year-old me didn’t ‘get’ The Slits.  As I’ve grown older, and my musical tastes have developed/matured, I can now see it for the truly astonishing and ground-breaking effort it was, as nobody was making music like this back in the day.

I’ll use the booklet in the 4xCD boxset, Make More Noise : Women In Independent Music 1977-1987, which was issued by Cherry Red Records last year, to tell the backstory:-

Formed in London from the wreckage of The Flowers of Romance and The Castrators, The Slits brought together Ari Up, Palmolive, Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt and quickly found favour on the punk circuit, sharing a particular affinity with The Clash, with who they toured on several occasions.  Despite many fans feeling the group diluted their raw, energetic early sound in pursuit of success with their Dennis Bovell produced debut album ‘Cut’, the truth was the group simply began to expand their horizons at a rate difficult to follow.

Drawing from reggae, dub and world music, they pursued a chaotic path to early 1982, including a semi-bootleg album of demos and home recordings (risky stuff for major label artists at the time) and an attempt to recapture the band’s spirit on ‘Return Of The Giant Slits’ in 1981.  But the magic was gone by 1982 and the group disbanded, although occasional revivals and reunions peppered the 2000s until Ari Up’s unfortunate death in October 2010.

The above story doesn’t mention that Ari Up was just 14 years old when she formed The Slits in 1976, having grown up in a musical family, with both her parents involved in the industry in her home country of Germany.  Ari came with her mother Nora to live in England at a young age, and her mother would in the late 70s, become the girlfriend and eventually the wife of John Lydon.  Nor does it mention that Palmolive left the band at an early stage, being replaced on drums by Peter Clarke, aka Budgie, who would later be a long-standing member of Siouxsie & The Banshees.

All of which I’ve added just to show the various links that The Slits had to the punk/new wave pioneers, and I have long been annoyed with myself for taking so many years to appreciate what they did.

mp3: The Slits – Typical Girls

The b-side of the debut single was an audacious cover version, and if anything, it was hearing this and thinking it was an absolute monstrosity which put me off the band.

mp3: The Slits – I Heard It Through The Grapevine

And again, to be fully honest, while it has grown on me, I’m still not fully with it.

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Twenty One : DEFINITIVE GAZE

Once again Taking my inspiration from The Robster‘s great new series on the imaginary 7″ singles from R.E.M albums, I’m offering up as today’s high quality vinyl rip what could have been a double-sided single back in 1978.

Magazine cracked the charts in January 1978 with debut 45, Shot By Both Sides.  The debut album, Real Life, was then, and remains today, an astounding listen, with at least two more of its tracks being more than capable of being hit singles.  The only problem was that back in those days very few bands wanted to ever release more than one 45 from an album, which led to the rather less revered, but previously unreleased Touch and Go, being the follow-up some five months later.

Imagine how different things would have turned out if the band and Virgin Records had issued these:-

mp3: Magazine – Definitive Gaze
mp3: Magazine – The Light Pours Out Of Me

Two songs offering wonderful examples of how Magazine, while made up of amazing individual musicians and a very distinct vocalist, really was the sum of their talents.

JC

THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING NEW SERIES FOR SUNDAYS (Part 3)

The time immediately after the second single was filled with touring as well as the recording and release of the debut album, Live At The Witch Trials, in March 1979, after which The Fall convened at Cargo Studios in Rochdale, less than ten miles north-east of Manchester, to begin work on a new 45.

The same five musicians as who had recorded It’s The New Thing/Various Times stayed together for the debut album.

But by 11 June 1979, it was again all change, with Karl Burns and Martin Bramah taking their leave (temporarily, as it turned out), with the newcomers being Mike Leigh (drums), Craig Scanlon (guitars) and Steve Hanley (bass), meaning that the band was now six-strong with Marc Riley moving from bass to guitar, while Mark E Smith and Yvonne Pawlett remained as vocal and keyboards, respectively.

It’s worth recalling just how young all the members of this line-up of The Fall were at the time of this recording – Smith (22), Scanlon (19), Hanley (20), Riley (17), Pawlett (20) and Leigh (24) – which goes some way perhaps to explaining the energy they were all able to bring to things, as well as the inexperience and immaturity to cope with any adversity…..of which there was plenty!

It was also the case that Riley, Scanlon and Hanley had played together in a band prior to Riley joining The Fall, and this, albeit limited experience, certainly helped drive the band along superbly for a spell, not least with the new 45:-

mp3: The Fall – Rowche Rumble

One of the most instantly recognisable of the band’s early tunes. It opens with some pounding drums, over which MES begins his rant about drug addiction via prescription pills, and it’s only after some 25 seconds that the rest of the band join in, playing as if their very existence depended on them delivering a top-notch performance (and let’s face it, given MES’s trigger-happy finger, there’s every chance that a sub-standard effort would see one or more of them get the bullet). It quickly turns into the most majestic cacophony, perfectly designed for body-slamming down at the front of the live audiences, albeit it never stood a chance of getting any radio play outside the usual suspect of John Peel Esq.

The b-side offers a real contrast, a meandering middle-paced tune that starts off quite conventionally, until Pawlett adds a deliberately out-of-key and out-of-tune piano line which then really goes on to dominate things as Smith sings about things he’s seen, including the madness in his area.  He also manages to fit in a self-deprecating reference

“Can’t remember who I’ve sacked, just stupid faces looking bad
The madness in my area

mp3: The Fall – In My Area

It’s really, all things told, one for the devotees rather than anyone seeking an easy route into the wonderful and frightening world of The Fall.

It was, again, issued by Step Forward Records. It didn’t chart.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #264: THE QUESTIONS

From wiki:-

The Questions were a Scottish pop band, active during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

They formed in the summer of 1977 at St. Augustine’s High School in Edinburgh and performed their first gig in December of that year at St. Margaret’s Church Hall in Davidson’s Mains, a suburb of Edinburgh.

The following year, they sent a demo tape of rehearsals to Bruce Findlay of Bruce’s Records Shop, which led to signing a recording contract with Zoom Records in Edinburgh in 1978. The band’s first single was “Some Other Guy” backed with “Rock & Roll Ain’t Dead” (August 1978).

“I Can’t Get Over You” b/w “Answers” followed in January 1979. The band subsequently left school in June 1980 and came to the attention of Paul Weller with “Get Away From it All”, a track that was never officially released. The band supported The Jam at the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre on the first of many occasions in October 1980, and signed to Weller’s fledgling Respond Records in 1981. The Questions contributed three songs to Respond’s Love the Reason album – “Work and Play”, “Building on a Strong Foundation” and “Give It Up Girl”. They also contributed to the track “Mama Never Told Me” with Tracie Young as Tracie & The Questions.

Many tours, TV appearances and singles followed, including “Work and Play”, “Tear Soup” and “Price You Pay”. In 1983, band members Paul Barry and John Robinson penned the Top 10 hit “The House That Jack Built” for fellow Respond Records label mate Tracie Young. They would go on to write three additional songs – “I Can’t Hold on Till Summer”, “Moving Together” and “What Did I Hear You Say” – for Young’s debut LP, Far From the Hurting Kind.

In 1984, Belief, the band’s only full-length album was finally released. “Tuesday Sunshine” and “A Month of Sundays” were released as singles.

The album did not sell well, and the band played its final concert on 30 November 1984, at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, London.

After a twelve-year wait, Belief was issued on CD by the Japanese label Trattoria Records. The re-issue included the album’s original eleven songs, plus eight previously unreleased tracks”

I would have seen The Questions on a number of occasions.  I remember, as I so often was with the supports for The Jam, being distinctly underwhelmed and unimpressed, but I now realise that was more out of impatience from wanting Weller, Foxton and Buckler to take to the stage.  The Questions were a decent enough band in terms of what they wrote and recorded, and one of their singles did reach #46 in February 1984:-

mp3: The Questions – Tuesday Sunshine

Tucked away on the b-side was their own, and in my opinion, vastly superior version of Tracie’s hit single:-

mp3: The Questions – The House That Jack Built

Fun fact.  Paul Barry would eventually find fame and fortune many years later, after moving to America, as a songwriter of some note, including #1 hit singles for Cher and Enrique Iglesias.  It’s a long way removed from the lukewarm receptions at the Glasgow Apollo and Edinburgh Playhouse.

JC