• 60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #15


    The Wedding Present – Seamonsters (1991)

    #15.   Not too bad for an album that nearly didn’t make the cut.   But then again, Take Fountain, the ‘comeback’ album in 2005 from The Wedding Present, would likely have occupied as lofty a position.

    I’ve never shied away from the fact that I was late to The Wedding Present. By 1991, I did have a lot of what they had released, all bought in something of a hurry to make up for being so late – it was hearing Kennedy in a record shop that had finally got me hooked.

    Seamonsters was to be their third studio album, but it was one that I knew was going to be totally different from what had come before, thanks to hearing songs they had played in session for John Peel in October 1990. It was one of those occasions when I later regretted not taping anything at the time- it just wasn’t something I was in the habit of doing – and furthermore this was a period when I wasn’t an avid listener to the show as I wasn’t long after moving into a flat with Rachel, and we were in those first throes of love where you seemed to be constantly joined at the hip – she must have been out visiting some of her friends that night as there would be no other reason as to why I could have been tuning into Radio 1 late in the evening.

    Anyways, the noises which came out of the radio during the latter half of a song called Dalliance seemed to come from a completely different planet.  It very much stayed with me, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it when It was finally put on the next album, which turned out to be May 1991.

    I wrote about Dalliance when I pulled together ICA 7, describing it as a stunning and unexpected wall of sound that took the band to a whole new level in terms of fanbase and out of the realms of mere indie-pop.

    But the very same words could be written about any of the ten tracks on the two sides of the vinyl.  It is up there with as perfect an album as I have in my collection – which is not something I’ll be readily able to claim with some of the remaining 14 in this rundown.

    mp3: The Wedding Present – Heather

    Choosing to work with Steve Albini in a remotely located studio in rural Minnesota was a major gamble on everyone’s part, and it has to be admitted that the experience would lead to the fracturing of relationships and later changes in band personnel.  The musicians clearly suffered quite a bit for their art, but from a purely selfish perspective, I’ll say it was a price well worth paying.

    I’ll make no apologies for foisting two very intense and dark albums on you over consecutive days.   I promise that tomorrow, the start of a new month and the actual one in which I will celebrate my 60th birthday, will have something a bit easier on the soul.



    aka The Vinyl Villain incorporating Sexy Loser

    #020– David Bowie – ‚”Heroes” (RCA Victor Records ’77)


    Dear friends,

    aaah … Berlin, summer of 1977 – an island of fun in a desert of boredom!! No military draft, a vibrant atmosphere, no cold war in sight yet, the Soviets taking real good care of their protégés with a solid wall helping them to keep Western influence at bay! Fun, fun, fun for everyone – and who was there in those golden days, enjoying the big party? Yes, David Bowie and his chum Iggy Pop! On a working holiday, as you would call it these days, with Pop recording ‘Lust For Life’, the album, and Bowie recording, well, ‘”Heroes”’, the album, in the famous Hansa Tonstudios, located a stone’s throw away from the Berlin wall – Köthener Strasse in Kreuzberg actually.

    And this location is of some importance for the story the song tells us: ‘”Heroes”’ was a produced by a chap named Tony Visconti. Also recording in a different part of the studio was Antonia Maaß with The Messengers, some jazz-rock-combo. If you listen closely, you can also hear her singing in the background on ‘”Heroes”’, in fact. Now, every once in a while, Bowie would stop whatever he was doing, and stare out of the studio’s window a bit, thinking whatever pop stars have to think about. And quite often he noticed a couple caressing right at the wall, always at the same place, directly below an East German gun turret. What Bowie couldn’t understand was why on earth – with so many nice and certainly more romantic places within the city – this couple would always meet there: underneath the bloody gun turret, probably with the NVA border guards above them jeering foolishly whenever they kissed!

    Either way, that’s where they used to meet, for reasons only becoming obvious to Bowie a bit later: first the couple was unknown to him, but being a clever bloke, he quickly realized that whenever he saw them kissing down there at the wall, his producer and background singer were always absent. So the famous protagonists which ‘”Heroes”’ tells us about, were – as you will already have gathered – Tony and Antonia. With Tony – surprise, surprise – being married to Mary Hopkin at the time: that’s Mary Hopkin who did the damn awful ‘Those Were The Days’ back in 1968. I’m tempted to say that the sheer abomination of this song, at least in my book, might even justify a bit of betrayal to Mary!

    So, that’s the story behind ‘”Heroes”’, friends. As far as I’m concerned, by and large everything else that could be said about this song has already been said elsewhere. Apart from the fact that all of the inverted commas above, which most surely you have been wondering about all the time, are there for a sense: the idea behind them was to create some ironic distance to the rather romantic and/or pathetic lyrics. So there you are …:




    mp3:  David Bowie – “Heroes”

    And before you think: “Ah, no need to download this – I know it by heart!” … no, probably you don’t! Why? Because this is the radio-friendly 7” version, which you don’t hear all too often. Perhaps you have never even heard it, who knows, I mean: does radio-friendlyness still exist in the days of internet at all? Either way, this version here is cut down from 6:07 minutes to 3:32 minutes, which gives quite a new feeling to a song so well known. One of my all time favorites, this, in all of its versions!




  • 60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #16


    Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Let Love In (1994)

    From the days when Nick Cave albums were greeted, in the main, by shrugs of indifference and the accompanying tours were played in regular sized venues with tickets very much at the affordable end of the scale.

    I’m not going to use this occasion to say that the old days were the best, or that I begrudge the success that has come his way in more recent times.   I’ve had a few chats with Adam from Bagging Area about Nick Cave, and I really understand why the releases of the past few albums have been so meaningful in terms of dealing with loss and grief in ways very few of us will ever experience, but my own preferences date back to the days before The Guardian and other broadsheet papers discovered there was lots to look into and analyse every time a Bad Seeds album was released.  The tide began to turn with The Boatman’s Call in 1997, but the use of much of his music in the TV series Peaky Blinders (2013-2022) took it to a level none of us who had followed him from way back could ever have imagined.

    This whole 60 albums thing has been an exercise in nostalgia and has provoked all sorts of memories of the different occasions when records were bought, videos/performances were watched on TV (and often recorded onto VHS tapes), shapes were thrown on dance floors and sweat was worked up at gigs.   The Bad Seeds have brought immense amounts of pleasure at various halls in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London over an extended period of time, as their collective musicianship, no matter who happens to have been asked to come along for the ride on any particular tour, has been second to none.  But I can’t ever see myself going to the 12,000 capacity or outdoor venues to see them….if it does turn out that the Usher Hall, Edinburgh gig in November 2013 was the last time, then it will have been one of the best, thanks in part to the great Barry Adamson being part of the Bad Seeds on the Push The Sky Away tour.

    This was another band in which a number of releases were considered for inclusion in the rundown.  But I’ve always edged towards thinking that Let Love In is his true masterpiece.

    In some places, it delivers a very menacing sound, over which Cave delivers some of his best gothic poetry.  At other times, there are love songs, some of which are straight forward, while others are downright creepy.  There’s a lot of dark and self-deprecating humour on the album, the sort that really only becomes apparent after a few listens. It also has this:-

    mp3:  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand

    For decades, one of the most loved songs in the entire back catalogue.  It was played on most tours and, without exception, rapturously received.  One of the hidden gems, so to speak. These days, thanks to its association with the antics of the fictional Shelby family, it is now, without any shadow of a doubt, the best known of all his songs.   It is one of many highlights of an outstanding album.

    I remember reading a review of Let Love In at the time, and one particular phrase jumped out at me.  I’ve done a bit of digging, and it turns out it was penned/typed by Phil Sutcliffe for Q Magazine in May 1994.

    “If Leonard Cohen made Iggy Pop pregnant, he’d give birth to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.”



  • 60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #17


    Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)

    It’s often said that any singer or band’s debut album, no matter how long the ensuing career proves to be, is their best and most enduring.  It’s a case that can be backed up by the fact that a fair number of the records in this countdown were debuts.

    The thing is, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions would later release two more hugely enjoyable albums post-debut.  Lloyd Cole as a solo artist, is just about to release his 13th solo record, while there was also one further album under the name of Lloyd Cole and The Negatives.   While a couple of the solo releases have been a tad on the experimental or lo-fi side, all of them have much to offer, as hopefully highlighted by various posts on this blog over the years.

    But, and given the fact that many of the songs have, to popular acclaim, been kept in the live sets over the past almost 40 years, there is no doubt that Lloyd’s devoted fans are near universal in the view that Rattlesnakes is his very best.

    It’s an album very much of its time and place.  Glasgow in 1983/4 seemed to be the most amazing place to live, with its musical scene seemingly scaling all sorts of new and exciting heights.   Every gig seemed to be packed with A&R reps coming up from London in the hope of finding ‘the next big thing.’   The big bands came and played the Apollo, but there were also so many other fantastic venues such as Tiffany’s, Night Moves and The Plaza, while the student unions at Glasgow and Strathclyde University, Glasgow Art School and Glasgow School of Art were also very much part of the ‘indie’ touring circuit.  There were also an increasing number of modern city centre pubs that were far removed from the traditional boozers in which anyone could drop in and spot an established or aspiring musician, actor, painter, poet or comedian, with the Rock Garden and Nico’s being near the top of such lists.

    Lloyd Cole and his band were a big part of the buzz.  The frontman, although not from the city, was at one of its universities.  Copies of some demos were in circulation and it was apparent that the frontman had somehow found Glasgow’s best guitarist and keyboard players and persuaded them to join his band, while he’s recruited a rhythm section that wasn’t shabby. We were only a couple of years removed from the Postcard era and the enthusiastic amateurism that had been involved in the early recordings, but The Commotions, and many of their peers in the city, were now ensuring .professionalism and skilled playing was very much to the fore.

    The strange thing is…..the songs weren’t huge commercial successes.  Debut single Perfect Skin reached #26, but the two follow-ups didn’t hit the Top 40.  The album did spend four months or so in the charts between October 84 and February 85, but mostly at the lower end.

    And yet, everyone I knew seemed to own a copy of the vinyl.  Like a few other acts who have already been in this rundown, along with others still to feature, this was a band for the student population, or the 80s bedsit generation as it has been dubbed – and of which I am a proud card-carrying member.

    It’s all too easy to get nostalgic about the past, but I wouldn’t swap my era for any other.  And I’m certainly incredibly happy that my student years of 81-85, and in particular the last two when I was living in shared accommodation with friends, coincided with such a high point in the city’s musical history.  Rattlesnakes was the soundtrack to so much of what went on, and as such, it’ll always be one of my favourite albums until the day I take my final breath.

    mp3:  Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Charlotte Street


  • PET SHOP BOYS SINGLES (Part Nineteen)


    2009 opened up with the Pet Shop Boys being given the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Brit Awards, and invited to perform at the close of the ceremony.  

    A month later, on 16 March 2009, a new single is released.


    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Love etc.

    A jaunty and upbeat number that was co-written with Xenomania, an English-based songwriting and production team that has been part of countless pop hits since their breakthrough with Girls Aloud back in 2002.

    It has a poppy sing-a-long chorus and was just the latest example of PSB going off in a direction that nobody really expected.  I’m not convinced it’s their finest ever moment, but there’s no disputing that it’s one of those that would get an audience clapping along to. But there’s a sense that this is one more akin to the disposable pop market, and maybe that’s as much to do with the co-writers rather than Neil and Chris. 

    If the hope had been to deliver a major return to the singles charts, and let’s not forget the Brits Award appearance a few weeks earlier would have offered a higher profile than they had enjoyed for a few years, then it didn’t pay off.  It entered at #14 and disappeared within three weeks….I’m guessing Radio 1 proved to be immune from its charms.

    It was issued across a range of formats, including  a CD single, a CD remix single, an iTunes single and an iTunes EP. Oh, and a 7″ picture disk as the an early indication that a vinyl revival was on its way.

    CD single

    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Gin and Jag

    This is one of those songs which benefits from repeated listens.   It might initially feel like a bit of a downbeat plodder, but the nature of the music really does match the nature of the lyric.   It’s one of those that could, ostensibly, work well in the great short stories series. It’s worth explaining that Gin and Jag is a bit of slang, most often used to have a dig at upper-middle class people from the south of England whose lifestyles centre around ostentatious displays of wealth.

    Don’t stare at the setting sun
    and say youth is wasted on the young
    Don’t stare at the setting sun
    and say youth is wasted on the young

    Pour another gin, love
    and go easy on the tonic
    Tonight I’m in a frisky mood
    I’m going supersonic

    Boredom deplores a vacuum
    A sentiment I applaud
    There’s a lot of room at the inn tonight
    but I trust you won’t be bored

    This is quite a view, you must admit
    some would pay the earth
    Be careful with that decanter, dear
    Do you know how much it’s worth?

    I made a pile and got out quick
    I never got a gong
    for services rendered but it’s not a case
    of where did it all go wrong?

    When we chatted on the internet
    I was looking for more than a friend
    In my day I was quite a catch
    I wish you’d seen me then

    Young and single, free and easy
    handsome in my prime
    “Grab it while you can” is my advice
    Don’t waste your bloody time

    Never married, no kids that I know of
    Didn’t want a litter
    Might have been a mistake, I admit
    but you don’t want to end up bitter

    Yes, I had a few golden years
    Times I won’t forget
    But don’t write me off as an old has-been
    It’s not all over yet

    I know my taste isn’t everyone’s
    I’m a little too Gin and Jag
    If you don’t want to give it a go tonight
    you may as well pack your bag

    When we chatted on the internet
    I was looking for more than a friend
    In my day I was quite a catch
    I wish you’d seen me then

    Don’t stare at the setting sun
    and say youth is wasted on the young
    Don’t stare at the setting sun
    and say youth is wasted on the young

    iTunes single

    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – We’re All Criminals Now

    Another deceptively good b-side, and IMHO, far superior to the actual single, offering a commentary on the increased used of CCTV surveillance within everyday life.

    Just a week later, the tenth studio album, Yes, was released.   Coming it at #4, it delivered their best chart position since Bilingual back in 1996, but as was very much the case these days, didn’t hang around for too long and was outside the Top 100 after five weeks.


    The second single to be lifted from Yes was released on 1 June 2009

    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Did You See Me Coming?

    Yup…..that’s Johnny Marr on guitar again to offer his assistance as the duo again a chase of summer pop perfection.   Fair play to everyone for keeping things going after all these years, but this is the sort of song that just washes over me.   As I said a couple of weeks back, this is a period of time in which I wasn’t giving much attention to PSB, and while there’s been a couple of b-sides that have made me sit up all these years later, I don’t think I really missed out on things.

    Bear with me on how this one was released.

    CD 1 with two songs.  CD maxi-single with three songs. 12″ vinyl. Three (yup, count them!!!) digital bundles with different mixes as additional songs, along with the opportunity to enjoy the Pet Shop Boys Brit Awards Medley as had been performed earlier in the year.  All told, there were three new tracks that hadn’t featured on Yes.

    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – After The Event
    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – The Former Enfant Terrible
    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Up and Down

    What I like about these three as a collective is that they are all very obviously PSB songs, but they are all quite different in style, tempo and delivery.  The duo clearly still cared about their craft and showed no signs of wanting to reach the stage where any old rubbish would do for b-sides, and while some of the CDs and digital bundles did go very heavily on the remix side of things, there was much to be gained from seeking out the b-sides, and fair play to them for bringing them altogether on a later compilation.

    There was one final bit of product before the year was out.


    Christmas was released on 14 December.  It was a five-track EP consisting of a new version of a track previously released as a fan club single in 1997, a new version of a song lifted from Very, a cover of a song by Madness, a remix of the cover and a medley involving one of their old hits with a more recent one by Coldplay.

    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas (new version)
    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – All Over The Word (new version)
    mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – My Girl

    The most interesting thing is that if you weren’t aware of the original, you’d very much be thinking My Girl was a PSB original.

    The Christmas EP entered the charts at #40.  Not that we knew it at the time, but it proved to be the last PSB single/EP to get into the Top 40.

    I suppose I better:-

    mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Viva La Vida/Domino Dancing

    I’m saying nothing.





    From wiki :-

    The Unwinding Hours were a Scottish alternative rock band formed in 2008 by former Aereogramme members Craig B. and Iain Cook. The band released their self-titled debut album on 15 February 2010 and Afterlives in 2012, as well as several tour/live EPs.

    The duo announced their project in August 2009 with the following statement: “We used to play in a band called Aereogramme. That may or may not matter to you. Just thought I’d mention it”

    The band made their live debut at Celtic Connections in January 2010, performing at Chemikal Underground‘s “15th Anniversary” concert. They played their first headlining show to a sold-out crowd in Stereo, Glasgow, on 5 March, opening with the words “We are The Unwinding Hours. And we’re going to start with the end”, before playing the closing track from their debut album. For some of their gigs, the base duo of The Unwinding Hours added musicians Graeme Smillie (guitar), Brendan Smith (keyboards) and Jonny Scott (drums).

    The band has not been active since 2013, with Iain Cook focusing on Chvrches and Craig B. releasing solo material as A Mote of Dust.

    Here’s the opening track from Afterlives

    mp3: The Unwinding Hours – Break