IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (20)

15,265 days.

That’s how long it has been since the first ever single by a British punk group was released over here.

22 October 1976. It had long been thought the Sex Pistols or The Clash would grab that particular accolade but they were both blindsided by The Damned.

mp3 : The Damned – New Rose

It came out on Stiff Records and it really threw most people. Punk was supposed to be, according to legend, tuneless, aimless and unlistenable. New Rose was none of those, with its catchy chorus, decent enough verses and a lead singer who was easy(ish) on the ear. As Andy Partridge would later say, this is pop – yeah, yeah.

Talking of which, the b-side was a hoot.

mp3 : The Damned – Help!

103 seconds of what most folk thought punk was….tuneless, aimless and unlistenable if you thought the original was a sacred cow.

A first pressing, with the catalogue number STIFF 6, is fairly valuable these days, and a good quality copy will most likely cost you over £100 on the second-hand market.

It was still too much for daytime or commercial radio who barely played it.  And with nobody hearing it, nobody was buying it.  It didn’t break into the Top 75.

Oh, and for what it’s worth…..I reckon The Damned would release better 45s later on.  My own favourite is this.

JC

MORE THAN A NODDING DEBT TO THE MAN IN THE NEW SUNDAY SERIES

It was as recently as last September that I featured The Corn Dollies and their rather excellent debut single Forever Steven courtesy of it being part of the C87 boxset that was issued by Cherry Red Records.  I did comment that the b-side, Be Small Again, was a track that paid more than a nodding debt to Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, and also made reference, via the commentary in the C87 booklet that a later single, Shake, was another that seemed to do the same.

I picked up a second-hand copy of said 7″ single…..

mp3 : The Corn Dollies – Shake

Can’t be denied can it?  Not just the tune but the vocal delivery is almost as if lead singer Steve Musham was auditioning for a part on Stars In Their Eyes…..

Here’s the b-side to that particular single. It could almost pass as a cover version:-

mp3 : The Corn Dollies – Climbing Stairs

Enjoyable stuff nevertheless……

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 1993

Really interesting that Friend of Rachel Worth, whose views and opinions over the years have more often than not been bang-on-the-money, feels that the solo career of Lloyd Cole actually went a bit weird after the release of Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe in 1991.

I certainly concur that the next few years were less than stellar but there would be a subsequent tremendous return to form a few years later as I will hopefully demonstrate in the fullness of time

The commercial failure of the sophomore solo album was a bit of a body low. As I said last week, it’s a tremendous and ambitious record, packed with some of the best songs he’s ever written, but it was very much a case of it being in the wrong place at the wrong time as popular music was going through one of its phases where some sort of new sounds and a movement associated with them was all that mattered. In short, grunge almost killed LC’s career stone dead.

There was no music at all in 1992 and it wasn’t until October 1993 that the new album was released. It was called Bad Vibes which perhaps was Lloyd suggesting he already knew what sort of critical reaction the record was going to provoke…..

I’m thinking back 25 years and recalling that I was bitterly disappointed with the new record, to the extent that I played it three times and put it on the shelf for what I thought would be eternity. I certainly thought that Lloyd’s recording career would soon be over, fully expecting him to be dropped by his companies. Bad Vibes was a million miles away from the Commotions but it was also just about as far again from the first two solo records. It seemed to be a record which was ridiculously over-produced and unplayable in any meaningful sense outside of the studio, with not much to offer in the way of memorable tunes. Sure, there were occasional glimpses of genius in the lyrics, but there were also some banal offerings to match the dullness and clichéd nature of the music emanating from the speakers. All in all, I considered it was a dud.

Nowadays, and with the benefit of having heard a number of the songs played live with much more basic and stripped-back arrangements, I think it’s fair to say that Bad Vibes does have some excellent songs which deserved a better fate than they received in the studio. It would be easy enough to point the finger at producer Adam Peters and mixer Bob Clearmountain but Lloyd has always been a hand-on type of guy in the studio and he would have had a big say in things. I’ve no doubt that the relative failure of the first two solo LPs had led him to again try something different but this was just so far from what I think was his comfort zone that it wasn’t delivered with any real confidence.

There were two singles lifted from the album and these are as good an example as the 1993 songs somehow managing to be instantly recognisable as Lloyd Cole, but not in a way in which you’d perhaps expect or indeed enjoy:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – So You’d Like To Save The World
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Morning Is Broken

Interesting that Lloyd himself has said of this album:-

To be honest, I really didn’t know what I wanted to make with Bad Vibes, but this didn’t worry me. I was simply trying to make a record which would surprise people. I thought that was written into my job description. To start with, both Adam and I were fairly gung-ho about this, but after months of work together I think we gave into the inevitable truth – my voice and my songs are pretty easily recongisable the moment the singing starts, no matter what.

I’m inclined to agree with those final few words, but it still was a shock to hear such plodding and ill-conceived arrangements at the time.

There were a number of b-sides recorded…one of which harked back to something more akin to previous straight forward pop sounds and thus probably left off the album for that very reason:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Radio City Music Hall

It was also interesting that, having sort of hit a wall with the recording and mixing process for Bad Vibes, Lloyd felt he’d be better recording some Marc Bolan and Lou Reed covers for the extra tracks on the singles. He’s since said this is what he wished Bad Vibes had sounded more :-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Slider
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Vicious

I’m not convinced that an album of songs akin to these would have impressed me any more than what had been issued on Bad Vibes.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #122 : H2O

The onset of the ICA World Cup earlier in the year saw this long-running/never-ending series shift away from the regular Saturday slot, and when I reached The Gyres in April, I thought it would make sense to ice it for a while and come back fresh with the first singer or band with the letter ‘H’.

H2O were just about one-hit wonders. A pop band from Glasgow, formed out of the ashes of a punk band, they hit payola in May 1983 with the synth driven and Vince Clarke-influenced I Dream To Sleep which spent three months in the chart and reached #17. A follow-up single, Just Outside Of Heaven scraped into the Top 40, but a debut album and two further 45s lifted from it sold poorly and within two years the band had broken up.

The singer, Ian Donaldson, embarked firstly on a solo career and then was part of other groups later on in which he was backed by ex-members of Big Country and Simple Minds, but with no real commercial success. He’s solo again and released a new album earlier this year.

H2O have occasionally popped up across the Glasgow scene over the years, with many fondly remembering the single….but don’t count me among them as I found it just too electro-twee for my liking at the time, and still do. Oh and it has an annoying Spandau Ballet type sax bit too…..

mp3 : H2O – Dream To Sleep

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (19)

Hadn’t realised that it’s been well over two months since the last part of this occasiona series….how time flies when there’s an ICA World Cup to worry about.

I’m not sure everyone, or indeed anyone, will agree with me what I’ve come up with today.

The flop debut single from May 1977 recorded and released before Andy Summers was part of The Police. It also has the distinction of being the only 45 that they would release not to be the work of Sting. This was a Stewart Copeland number, while its b-side was also his, in conunction with his brother Ian.

I mentioned when I put together the ICA for The Police that the band quickly disowned the 45 on the basis that it was recorded before they had even played live. It’s also the case that original guitarist Henry Padovani (pictured above on the right looking a bit like Ian Dury) was so nervous about being in the studio that his guitar solo was all he could manage and  Copeland had to play the other guitar parts as well as the drums.

It was released on Illegal Records in 1977 and sold dismally, even by the standards of punk songs on small labels.  It would be re-released in a different sleeve in 1979 when the band were enjoying chart success via A&M Records, and would sell enough copies to reach the Top 50.

I think I’m inclined to include it in the series, not so much for it being a ‘cracking’ debut single, but mainly as it proved to be so different from their records that would go on to dominate pop charts across the planet just a few years later.

mp3 : The Police – Fall Out
mp3 : The Police – Nothing Achieving

JC

30, 20, 10 (Part 16)

Those of you who have any interset in this series might recall that the indie charts in May 1988 were topped by an act which made a living out of sampling.  Three months on, they reached the pinnacle again, but this one is much trickier to recall in comparion to ‘Theme…’ :-

1 August 1988 : S’Express – Superfly Guy

Ten years on and a cover of a Womack and Womack song was #1 in the indie charts.

1 August 1998 : Lovestation – Teardrops

I’d never heard this till a few minutes ago.  It came out on a specialist dance label  – Fresh Records.  I include it under duress as it’s quite ghastly.

1 August 2008 : mp3 : Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris  – Dance Wiv Me

It was the middle of a seven week stay at the top of the chart….which means it will be featuing again next month…..except that I’m now killing the series.  It’s been a long time coming but this, the least ‘indie’ of the near 2,000 posts on this blog, has delivered the fatal blow.

JC