IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (40)

When I’m penning a bunch of similarly themed posts, such as this consecutive run of Cracking Debut Singles, the occasional lazy shortcut is needed to save time and energy. Here’s a re-post from September 2014, which was Part 110 in the very long-running series entitled ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’

“Some of you might think I’m cheating this week, but with a bit of music that is this exceptional, I’m prepared to bend the rules a bit.

This Mortal Coil are NOT a Scottish band and so shouldn’t really be in this alphabetical series.

This Mortal Coil was a project led by Ivo Watts-Russell, co-founder of the 4AD record label. Although Watts-Russell and John Fryer were technically the only two official members, the band’s recorded output featured a large rotating cast of supporting artists, many of whom were signed to, or otherwise associated with 4AD.

One of the label’s earliest signings was Modern English. In 1983, Watts-Russell suggested that they re-record two of their earliest songs, Sixteen Days and Gathering Dust as a medley on the basis that the band was closing its sets with such a medley and the label owner thought it was strong enough to warrant a re-recording. When Modern English rebuffed the idea, Watts-Russell decided to assemble a group of musicians to undertake the task and a 12″ EP, Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust, resulted from the sessions.

Recorded as a B-side for the EP was a cover of Tim Buckley‘s Song to the Siren, performed solely by Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. Pleased with the results, Watts-Russell decided to make this the A-side of the 7″ single version of the EP.

Cocteau Twins were a Scottish act, and I therefore claiming this version of Song To The Siren as eligible for this series.

mp3 : This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren

A work of genius. Watts-Russell originally wanted it to be a cappella but ended up including what was a one-take of Guthrie, and I quote ‘leaning against the studio wall bored out of his mind playing these chords’.

Fraser’s vocal was also, quite astonishingly, recorded in one take.”

It is utterly sublime and totally overshadows its largely instrumental reverse side:-

mp3 : This Mortal Coil –Sixteen Days (reprise)

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (39)

The job I was holding down in the first few years of the 21st century involved long hours, a fair bit of travelling and a requirement to drop things/change plans at very short notice. I loved it, but the downside was that there wasn’t a great deal of leisure time and it was a period when, for instance, I was going to very few football games as my Saturdays and Sundays were precious.

One of the few ways I was able to keep up with new music was through flopping down on a couch and turning on the television to browse through the video music channels, more often than not settling on MTV2 which was best for the sort of indie/alternative nonsense that was my forte.

It was via this medium that I came across this piece of music:-

mp3 : The Raveonettes – Attack of The Ghost Riders

The video was something to be behold, being a horror/ghost/revenge story, shot entirely in black and white with the two singers/performers looking as if they had just stepped off the catwalk of some fashion show in a top class European city. I had no idea who The Raveonettes were – my hunch was that they were American, mistly likely from either NYC or LA – but I made a mental note to buy something the next time I was in a shop. Of course, nowadays I could just press a few keys into a search engine to find out more and then a few minutes later place an order which would come to my house or place of work within a couple of days, but this was the prehistoric era back in 2002……

It was a huge surprise to learn that The Raveonettes were from Denmark. It was less of a surprise to learn that this was their debut single that had been lifted from a mini-album that had crept out a few months previously. The biggest surprise, however, was seeing that the band were on Columbia Records, one of the largest multi-national labels on the planet, although I should have realised that no small and independent label would have been able to fund the promo video:-

The single was issued on 7” vinyl and on CD. Here’s the various, and all highly enjoyable, b-sides:-

mp3 : The Raveonettes – Rebel Invasion
mp3 : The Raveonettes – Go Girl Go
mp3 : The Raveonettes – Demon’s Fire

The Raveonettes blend of surf/garage/indie proved to be reasonably popular, slightly above mere cult status but never gaining full commercial acceptance. Columbia let them go in 2005 after two albums, but there have been six records since, initially released on the Canadian-based Vice Records and more recently on their own Beat Dies label. There’s been some more than decent stuff over the years, but nothing has ever quite grabbed me in the same way as the debut.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF LUKE HAINES (13)

The Auteurs broke up in the summer of 1996.

A few months later, the Baader Meinhof LP was released, a period of time wonderfully recalled in the pages of Bad Vibes, including the revelation that someone high up in Virgin Records, the parent label of Hut Records with whom Luke Haines had a contract, sent this in a fax to David Boyd, the head of Hut:-

“I would like to remind you that Virgin Records did not sign Luke Haines to make political statements. He is signed as an entertainer.”

In response, Boyd sanctioned a photo call at the Munich Olympic stadium where, in 1972 at the adjacent Games Village, 13 Israeli athletes had been killed after a terrorist attack. Haines really was testing everyone’s patience and understanding.

The Baader Meinhoff album gets mixed reviews in that it was loved and loathed in equal measures, best summed up by UK broadsheet newspaper The Guardian stating that Haines had wasted some of his best music on an impenetrable subject matter. No single is released to accompany it…. but there was a one-sided etched single given away free with vinyl copies of the album:-

mp3 : Baader Meinhof – I’ve Been A Fool For You

1997 proved to be a quiet year, but it was at this point in time that Haines formally hooked up with John Moore and Sarah Nixey to create Black Box Recorder.

Chrysalis Records signed the band, something which Hut Records seemed OK about, and in 1998 there were two flop singles – Child Psychology and England Made Me – before the release of a poorly selling album, also called England Made Me.

At the same time as this was happening, The Auteurs had come back together again….I’m guessing it was to fulfill a contractual obligation for a fourth album, as the reasons aren’t quite ever explained in Post Everything, the second volume of Haines’s memoirs, published in 2011 and covering the period 1997-2005. There are a number of aborted efforts at getting the recording process going, but eventually, from August – October 1998, things take shape.

The crazy thing is that the subsequent results yielded next to no reviews when the LP, How I Learned To Love The Boot Boys, was released in July 1999, but those who were paying attention, rightly recognised it as a masterpiece, such as this from Michael Hubbard in musicOMH, a London-based online magazine:-

If you’re going to be influenced by the music of decades other than the present one then you may as well allow that music to emphasise your own work rather than making your own music emphasise someone else’s.

Bjorn Again are great, no doubt about it – but they emphasise Abba. Who would they be otherwise? It has, in the recent past, been something of a conundrum; lots of ’70s disco music revivalist tripe has been scribed and has spawned comeback careers for everyone from Martha Wash to Burt Reynolds.

All great stuff – I’m sure the ’70s were fun at the time and Boogie Nights was a refreshing film – but really, mes fruits, this is the ’90s. Why live in the past? Why not just learn from it and improve upon it? The case for evolution has not been stronger since Charlie D popped his clogs and finally we have, in the shape of Luke Haines, a man prepared to lead the fightback.

Haines last graced the Albums shelves with his side project, Black Box Recorder’s England Made Me, which I loved immediately. The atmospherics of that record are transferred to How I Learned To Love The Bootboys and given some spices to further improve the flavour. Haines claims this record to be twelve singles; “maybe not twelve hits”, says the nihilist, but we see – and hear – what he means immediately.

At once a personal album (1967 was the year Haines first looked upon the world) and a fusion of myriad styles (Asti Spumante and Your Gang Our Gang, for instance), there are tracks that remind one of everything from The Sex Pistols to Ziggy Stardust, Gary Numan to Blur, yet I suspect that this eclectic record conjures different bands for each listener, depending on what they’ve heard before. Haines refines Numan’s atmospherics, he plays Johnny Rotten subtlely, he uses one or two Bluresque riffs rather than songloads and everything somehow works. In fact, in works bloody brilliantly.

Although every one of these songs shrieks CLASS!!! at the eardrums, stand-out tracks must surely be Asti Spumante, Your Gang Our Gang, Johnny and the Hurricanes, The Rubettes and title track How I Learned to Love the Bootboys. If you don’t yet own this album then you are missing out. Go buy.

In recent years, more writers haved belatedly heaped praise on the album, especially when it was reissued in 2014 as a 3xCD expanded edition in which the original 12 tracks were joined by an album of b-sides and rarities, along with a live album from November 1999, recorded at the London School of Economics, on the occasion of The Auteurs final UK gig.

There was one single taken from the album, complete with two new b-sides  All three tracks are very listenable:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – The Rubettes
mp3 : The Auteurs – Get Wrecked At Home
mp3 : The Auteurs – Breaking Up

The a-side featured backing vocals from John Moore and Sarah Nixey, thus providing a neat bridge between what had just come to pass and what would prove, the following year, to be the commercial high point of Luke Haines as an entertainer.

I’ve previously said that Black Box Recorder wouldn’t feature as part of this series, and I’m keeping it that way. The series will continue, running through early into the new year, with this idiosyncratic look at the solo career of Luke Haines, very little of which has seen the release of singles or EPs, but something in the region of 12 albums. You’ll be pleased to learn that chaval will be lending his talents to this venture…..

JC

PS : I might be away oh holiday just now, but I was reliably informed that an old friend was intending to come out of the woodwork today.  If my intel is good, then clicking here should do the trick.

 

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #191 : LONG FIN KILLIE

From wiki:-

Long Fin Killie was a Scottish experimental rock/post-rock band, which released three albums and several EPs on the British avant-rock label Too Pure in the 1990s.

Long Fin Killie’s core line-up consisted of Luke Sutherland (vocals, violin, guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, saxophone, hammer dulcimer, thumb piano, etc.), Colin Greig (electric and upright bass), David Turner (drums/percussion), and Philip Cameron (electric guitar). Sutherland had previously been in a band called Fenn, based in Glasgow, who played many support gigs, including Ride and Catherine Wheel. Their name was taken from a family of ornamental freshwater fishes known as killifishes, noted for their interesting drought survival and reproductive habits.

The members were all highly trained, enabling them to create complex, atypical music which usually featured hypnotically-bowed violins/celli, jazz-influenced drumming, and meandering ambient passages. Allmusic cited them as having “staggering levels of musicianly talent”.Vocalist Luke Sutherland often delivered his cryptic, highly literate lyrics in an androgynous falsetto voice.

Their debut EP Buttergut was released in 1994, with debut album Houdini following the next year. The band’s sound, though diverse, was influenced by the likes of dream pop mainstays A R Kane, Cocteau Twins, and Slowdive, 1970s German krautrock groups like Can, and labelmates Moonshake, Pram and Laika. Mark E. Smith of The Fall contributed “guest rants” to the song “The Heads of Dead Surfers,” which appeared in 1995 on the EP of the same name, as well as on Houdini. (Listeners to British DJ John Peel’s radio show voted this the No. 10 best song of 1995 in the “Festive Fifty” list of that year.) LFK toured America in 1995 with the band Medicine; a split EP was released to promote it.

The band received widespread critical acclaim, but little to no radio play, though they did tour on the 1996 edition of Lollapalooza as part of its “second stage,” in support of their 1996 second LP Valentino. While driving from Sweden to Norway in late 1996, the band’s tour bus was involved in a major accident on a patch of ice, causing Sutherland to suffer a collapsed lung, broken ribs and collar bone, and other injuries. He began writing his first novel while recuperating from the crash. In 1997, Turner was replaced by Kenny McEwan on drums. Subsequent album Amelia (1998) featured songs of shorter lengths and more conventional structures, but it proved to be their last. The group disbanded shortly afterwards, to little mainstream notice, in 1998 or 1999.

All I have in the collection are the four tracks from the Hands and Lips EP, that was released in 1996.  Here’s the title track:-

mp3 : Long Fin Killie – Hand and Lips

I have picked up at some point, from another blog, the track that made it to the Peel Festive Fifty of 1995.  It’s rather  unusual:-

mp3 : Long Fin Killie and Mark E. Smith – The Heads of Dead Surfers

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (38)

“After The Sugarcubes, I guess I had a mixture of liberation and fear. It had been obvious for a while in the band that I had different tastes than the rest. That’s fair enough – there’s no such thing as correct taste. I wrote the melody for “Human Behaviour” as a kid. A lot of the melodies on Debut I wrote as a teenager and put aside because I was in punk bands and they weren’t punk. The lyric is almost like a child’s point of view….”

Nobody anticipated the sounds that Björk would bring to the party with her first solo material after The Sugarcubes had called it a day. There was a fair chance that it would be a touch different from the music she had made over the years with her band, but surely it was still going to be indie-schmindie with the emphasis still being on a traditional line-up of a guitar, bass and drum, with a flavouring of keyboards……so it was something of a shock to the system to hear this:-

mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour

The single was released in June 1993. My first recollection of hearing it would have been at least a month later when I was browsing in a record shop I was known to frequent on a very regular basis (although to be more accurate, it should have been called a CD shop as about 90% of the stock was in that format), when my ears picked up that Björk was singing over what seemed to be an experimental trip-hop outfit. I hung around for a bit and found myself intrigued and enjoying the music, although I still wasn’t sure what was going on and whether it was a new record or was it something on which the chanteuse was guesting. A chat with the sales folk established that what was playing was an album, appropriately called Debut, which was the new material from Björk. I mentioned that I was a fan of her former band but was told that this was nothing like the old stuff, but in a good way. I was also, very kindly, offered the chance to take the CD home with me for free, on the proviso that I would return it after the weekend if I didn’t like it or pay for it the next time I dropped in. The cash was handed over a few days later………

I think I would have struggled if I had heard Human Behaviour in isolation – I certainly wouldn’t have forked out the money for what would have been an expensive single. It’s not the most commercial sounding piece of music and was from a genre of which I knew very little, albeit the stuff I had managed to pick up, such as Massive Attack, was finding favour…..but deep down, I was still an indie-boy at heart. It was only hearing it in the wider context of the album and taking the time to luxuriate in all that was coming out of the speakers that I was able to realise just how special the debut solo single had been.

Here’s the mixes that were made available on the 12″/CD singles:-

mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour (Speedy J. Close To Human Mix)
mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour (Underworld Mix)
mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour (Dom T. Mix)
mp3 : Björk – Human Behaviour (Bassheads Edit)

All are at least six-and-a-bit minutes in length. The Underworld mix extends to over 12 minutes. They are all worthy of your considered attention.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (37)

Today’s cracking debut single is one with a difference in that it proved to be the only single recorded by the act in question. It’s also one where the b-side subsequently became much better known than the a-side.

mp3 : The Normal – T.V.O.D.
mp3 : The Normal – Warm Leatherette

I’m sure the vast majority will know the backstory, but please, indulge me anayway.

The Normal was the performing name adopted by Daniel Miller in 1978 and under which he wrote, recorded, produced and distributed a 7” single that were quite unlike anything else happening at that time across UK music. The two songs were hugely influenced by the novel Crash, written by J.G. Ballard in 1973, with Miller being inspired to compose minimalist electronica to be played on what is today described as a ‘limited and quirky little synth’.

Daniel Miller never thought of himself as a musician, so it can be no real surprise that other than a 1980 live LP that was recorded in conjunction with Robert Rental (a Scots-born pioneer of electronica), there was never any other product from The Normal. Miller’s energies went into Mute Records, the label he had established to release the single, using its proceeds to run it as a full-time professional operation, primarily as a home for other experimental electronica artists and bands. The fact that he would discover Depeche Mode in 1980 changed forever his life, and the route the label was pursuing.

Huge credit has to go to Daniel Miller for the fact he stayed true to his principles as the money began to flow into the label, still seeking out and giving a home to acts that others shied away from on the basis of them being far from commercial and/or confrontational. It’s worth pondering just how different the music landscape in the UK would have looked in the 80s and beyond if The Normal’s one-off single hadn’t been issued and been enough of a success to allow its composer to fulfill his ambitions of an involvement in the industry.

JC

PS…..the reason the b-side became better known?

 

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (36)

I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating.

One of my fondest live experiences was a gig played by Queen at Ingliston in Edinburgh in 1982.

Don’t rush to judge me on the basis of that sentence as I went along purely to see the support act which was The Teardrop Explodes. The booking agent either had a sick sense of humour or hated Queen fans, or both.

Julian Cope took to the stage to a barrage of abuse, the intensity of which I’ve rarely witnessed, but he was ready for it and up for the fight. He continually taunted the crowd and the band (which was more or less session musicians as The Teardrop Explodes had more or less imploded by this point in time) treated everyone to some real obscurities. My favourite moment was when St Julian said “Here’s the one of mine that I’m sure you all know and love’ and as fans roared in expectation of hearing Reward, he launched into an acoustic and quiet version of Use Me, the b-side to Treason, and sung it in French!

It had been just three years earlier that The Teardrop Explodes came onto the scene, one of a number of Liverpool-based acts who were on Zoo Records, a venture formed and fronted by Bill Drummond who also seemed to have a role in each of the acts on the label, either as a performer or manager.

The debut consisted of a three-track 7” single:-

mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Sleeping Gas
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Camera Camera
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Kirkby Workers Dream Fades

It was a fine way with which to announce yourself and it would receive the biggest compliment imaginable in that Tony Wilson, who generally took an immediate and pathological dislike to anything that emerged out of Liverpool, gave it high praise. There was also some favourable coverage in the music papers with a number of journalists predicting that the band, and label mates Echo & The Bunnymen, stood on the cusp of greatness with long and successful careers inevitable.

Like many other acts who were attached to small labels at that particular time, the production values are basic and far from polished, but there’s certainly a noticeable spark about the music while there’s enough intrigue in the lyrics, certainly on the a-side, to make the most causal listener sit up and take notice.

Zoo Records eventually wound up and The Teardrop Explodes landed a contract with Phonogram Records, resulting in two very fine albums in Kilimanjaro (October 1980) and Wilder (December 1981), with three singles also hitting the Top 30. Indeed, the debut is one that has aged magnificently and is up there with the finest of all albums from the decade in which it was released. A re-recorded and more polished version of that early Zoo single was included:-

mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Sleeping Gas (album version)

I’ll finish off with a lift from a piece that appeared in The Guardian back in 2010 when a 30th Anniversary edition of Kilimanjaro was reviewed:-

The 30th anniversary reissue recently spurred one heritage-rock magazine to ask the band’s former frontman Julian Cope if he would ever return to writing pop music. It seems a fair enough query given Kilimanjaro’s success: it spawned a top 10 hit in Reward, spent 35 weeks on the charts and displayed such commercial promise that both U2 and Duran Duran apparently considered the Teardrop Explodes their only real competition. You might also feel compelled to ask in light of Cope’s latter- day musical output. That variously includes an hour-long homage to the late Princess of Wales called She-Diana; a live recording of his “proto-metal” band Brain Donor; and Spades & Hoes & Plows, a self-styled “masterpiece of agrarian doom-clod-plod” that features Cope accompanying singer David Wrench on “Mellotron and 26-inch marching bass drum”, and culminates in an 18-minute instrumental inspired by a series of road-toll protests in 19th-century Wales. Alas, Helyntion Beca (The Rebecca Riots) seems to have been overlooked by the programmers of the Radio 1 playlist, a fate that also befell such other recent Cope numbers as All the Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers….(Will Realise the Minute They Die That They Were Suckers).

Actually, Cope told the magazine, he’d just written a pop song, inspired by the mid-60s baroque style of the Left Banke, a band not so wildly removed from the kind of influences that powered Kilimanjaro – the blasting brass arrangements of Forever Changes-era Love, the Seeds’ reedy garage rock, the sunshine pop of the Turtles. “It’s called,” he added, “The Cunts Can Fuck Off.”

He’d obviously been listening to early Jesus and Mary Chain

JC