Friday, May 30, 2008
We've all got our favourites....great songs that were only ever recorded as B-sides. I'm hoping to feature a few of these over the coming weeks.
This particular offering is more wasted than some. It was put on the reverse of a mix of a single at a time when record companies issued multi-formats in an effort to boost the chart placing.
If you ever see a copy of 'Come Home (Extended Flood Mix)' in a purple sleeve, you'll find this on the reverse. A band at their best.
Sorry about the couple of jumps that come just after the 4 minute mark. Hope it doesn't ruin your listening.
mp3 : James - Fire Away
NO-ONE LEFT A COMMENT BEHIND.....IN FACT IF MEMORY SERVES ME CORRECTLY, I HAD RECEIVED ALL OF 23 HITS BY THE TIME I PUT UP MY SECOND POST A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER....SO THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE SINCE BECOME REGULAR VISITORS.
THE 45 45s AT 45 FEATURE (ANYONE REMEMBER THAT????) RETURNS EARLY NEXT WEEK. THANKS FOR STICKING AROUND DURING THE SEASON OF REPEATS.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
FROM 7th MARCH 2007 ; THE POST WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED 'ALTERNATIVE ADVENTURES IN HI-FI'
There's been an interesting debate over at Song, By Toad about REM albums, and the hoary old chestnut of 'the new stuff ain't as good as the old stuff.'
Everyone's entitled to their opinions, but I can't see beyond the 1996 release New Adventures In Hi-Fi. Although no-one knew it at the time, it was the last release from the classic 4-man REM of Berry, Buck, Mills & Stipe. I've previously posted (in a drunken stupor at the time) my favourite song from the LP - the simply gorgeous Electrolite.
And so for a little change, I thought I'd post a couple of alternative versions of a couple of New Adventures tracks:-
mp3 : REM - New Test Leper (acoustic)
mp3 : REM - Leave (version)
The former is a b-side from the Bittersweet Me single while the latter can be found on the soundtrack to the film A Life Less Ordinary.
Monday, May 26, 2008
FROM FRIDAY 19th JANUARY 2007; THE POST WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED 'THE WORLD WON'T LISTEN'
The man pictured above is Paul Haig. His first band was Josef K. They were brilliant. Nobody bought their records.
He then went solo and released a bucketful of fantastic synth-led pop/dance records that should have been massive. Instead, the world chose to buy the likes of Howard Jones & Nik Kershaw. And surely it wasn't on account of their haircuts as Paul's was far cooler as you can see above.
Later on he worked with the late Billy MacKenzie and the results weren't released for years due to contract wrangles. And when it did come out, hardly anyone bought it.
Basically, more folk should be aware of how talented Mr Haig was, and still is.
Here's a track from his 1985 LP The Warp of Pure Fun which was produced by another ex-Associate, Alan Rankine:-
mp3 : Paul Haig - Big Blue World
You can buy some Paul Haig stuff from this record shop
And here's today's track from the archives. Its from the same era, has the same geography and the same great haircuts. Enjoy
mp3 : Hey! Elastica - Eat Your Heart Out (12" version)
PS : NORMAL SERVICE POST-HOLIDAY SHOULD BE RESTORED IN A COUPLE OF DAYS TIME ....
Saturday, May 24, 2008
It's been a while since I went into the cupboard to find something rare to share with you. After all, that was the original intention behind the blog before I got a bit carried away.
I'm feeling a bit low and miserable just now, so it's a cheery little tune. Hope it finds favour with y'all.
mp3 : The Adventure Babies - Camper Van
Hard to believe that this is on Factory Records. It's from 1991 - FAC 319.
If anyone can supply any detailed info on the band, please feel free to get in touch.
Don't think you can buy this anywhere. So no link to amazon, best try e-bay.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Essie Wilkinson is an indie singer-songwriter born and brought up in London, England, who is now based in New York City. Her first full length record, We Made This Ourselves came out in 2007. And she’s just released her second the Inbetween on the Leaf label (and BaDaBing in the US).
Her sound is slow and measured – ambient if you like – and rather understated. She has a warm, rich voice. “Eavesdrop” is almost too slow. A melancholic track with classically-influenced piano backing and a few background strings. “You” is the stronger track. Accompanied by pluicked guitar, this is a tune that wants to seduce you – “I want to hug and kiss you until it really hurts” indeed! This one bears repeated listening to reveal its all.
Essie Jain - You sharebee
Essie Jain – Eavesdrop sharebee
Essie Jain website
Essie Jain MySpace
Buy product from BaDaBing Records
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Ever since I started this blog in September 2006, I've had a great desire to post a particular song.It was one that came out in 1987, but wasn't widely available due to a copyright ban being slapped on it.
I managed to pick it up a number of years later on a CD, but the problem was that it was one of four tracks that ran together for a time totalling almost 22 minutes.
Today, while musing over things at work, I got that EUREKA!!! moment that made me realise I could actually break the long track down into sections. It was a really easy thing to do, and yet I had been staring at it for months trying to figure it out.And so without any further delay, I give you the song that Abba banned all of 20 years ago.
Enjoy the genius of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty who just a few years later would conquer the UK and many parts of Europe as The KLF.
mp3 : The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu - The Queen and I
The song was on the album, 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?), and samples large portions of Dancing Queen. The recording came to the attention of Abba's management and, after a legal showdown with Abba, the JAMMs' album was forcibly withdrawn from sale.
Drummond and Cauty travelled to Sweden in hope of meeting Abba and coming to some agreement, taking an NME journalist and photographer with them, along with most of the remaining copies of the LP. They failed to meet Abba, so disposed of the copies by burning most of them in a field and throwing the rest overboard on the North Sea ferry trip home.
The song therefore is quite rare, and it's a really early example of sampling, and I reckon it is a work of genius. In fact, it's as much a work of art as anything that you'll find hanging overpriced in a gallery by the likes of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin or Douglas Gordon or any other eminent modern artist. Anyone care to disagree???
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
FROM 5th DECEMBER 2006; THE POST WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED 'THEY JUMP-STARTED MY SERATONIN'
(With big thanks to Mike from Manic Pop Thrills for the photos.)
Glasgow ABC - Monday 4th December 2006. The last gig for Arab Strap. Why not let a real writer describe it??
The Arab Strap live experience has taken a wayward road since the small-town raver's elegy of The First Big Weekend saw them stumble into mass consciousness, Guinness adverts and a litany of bad sex, broken hearts and terminal romance.
From humble beginnings at a works canteen quiz to this farewell tour which, to the deadpan amusement of singer Aidan Moffat, has seen them "booked into places we've never even been to before", the past decade of one-night stands has seen them deliver the shambolic and dabble with the epic before getting very good indeed at what they do. And they said it would never last.
Now they're finally bowing out and, unlike the roll-call of love-lorn chancers who populate their songs, there's no mess, no huff. Nobody's marching off in front. Nobody's perturbed or disturbed by the other's past. Moffat and guitarist Malcolm Middleton aren't likely to be unduly bothered by the company the other keeps. It's not as if it's like having a girlfriend, after all. Ah, girlfriends.
Whether ex, current or possible, it's the irrationally clingy mind games and the pains of being taken for granted that have proved enough not just to drive a man to drink, but to pen a few verses too.
It ends, as it must, with an acoustic encore, Moffat as personably dignified as a diplomat, Middleton happy to surrender the limelight by perching himself on a knee-high stool and just getting on with it. The audience – as ever, with a healthy percentage of women – sings along: "Another sniff of romance I'll forget/We promised to ourselves before we came out/ We'd do something we'd regret".
It's funny, and not at all girlfriend-recalling ironic, but tonight's the first time you realise just how much Arab Strap don't actually sound like anyone else. Or, as future residents of Falkirk nursing homes will proudly put it: "Moffat and Middleton? They made Lennon and McCartney look like a pair of numpties." Cheers, then.
Those were the words used by award-winning author Gordon Legge in reviewing the gig in Edinburgh last Friday. Every word is just as valid for last night.
A quite magnificent show and a quite magnificent occasion.
Joy and hysteria as the balloons came down during The First Big Weekend, but more than anything, the memories of the acoustic encore will endure for a long long time:-
Here We Go / Loch Leven / Blood / Amor Veneris / Packs Of Three/Soaps
And then the last song that Arab Strap ever played:-
mp3 : Arab Strap - The Shy Retirer (acoustic version)
Sunday, May 18, 2008
One of yesterday's posts featured a hero taking a French song and recording it in English. One of today's posts features another hero taking an English song and recording it in French.
If I have a regret about this blog, it's the fact that I wasn't running it when I went along to see The Wedding Present earlier this year. It was immense.
Similar to Lloyd Cole last week, the set was balanced with songs from right through the band's very extensive recording career. The highlight was, without question. 'Kennedy' from Bizarro. I would bet that at least 200 middle-aged men - many of whom no longer fitted the t-shirts they were wearing, would have woken up the next morning wondering why they ached in places they hadn't ached in for many a year. Well it's your own fault for thinking it was 1989 all over again.
Everyone got a bonus at the end of the night. Dave made his way to the merchandising stall and signed everything put his way. I've now got aposter from the gig, with his scrawl, on the wall in my office at work.
I'm not ashamed to say I did buy a t-shirt that fits me....the man knows his market - there were more XL t-shirts on sale than I'd seen anywhere else. I wore it to The Young Knives gig the other week - someone came up and asked if the t-shirt was a wedding present or whether I was someone's wedding present. It's sad when the youth of today are so ignorant of their heritage.
I don't think there's been a somgwriter in my time who has been able to capture so many emotions in so many different ways. If you read my good friend W.A Fading's posting of the other day, you'll see that a Dave Gedge song reduced him to tears in a cafe. He can get you that way. He can also make you smile a great deal. And don't get me started about some of the inspirational cover versions he's done over the years. Nor how good and hugely underated Cinerama were.
The three songs I'm offering up cover different phases of The Wedding Present - and given they were much loved by John Peel (only The Fall recorded more Peel Sessions), I had to include a session version - one that improves on the original. And....my favourite record of 2005 is also here. Who needs new music when one of your favourite bands reforms and releases an absolute belter of an album?
mp3 : Cadeau De Mariage - Pourquoi Es Tu Devenue Si Raisonnable?
Saturday, May 17, 2008
After all the good taste that is 45 45s @ 45, some more of those dirty little musical secrets we all have. None of that post-modern "guilty pleasures" nonsense.
Next up, bootlegs, mash-ups, call them what you will. I love 'em. Regarded as all a bit 2003 but can still be a fruitful source of great tunes. Taking the backing from one track and adding the vocal from another is technically easier now than ever. It is also a part of the mainstream production process - see Kanye West's Daft Punk sampling hit as an example.
Go Home Productions - Ray of Gob
Friday, May 16, 2008
It's three different songs with the same song name.
mp3 : Cinerama - Superman
mp3 : R.E.M. - Superman
mp3 : Eminem - Superman
Taken respectively from Disco Volante, Life's Rich Pageant (bonus tracks) and The Eminem Show.
All available for purchase here.
I used to think the golfer Seve Ballesteros was a real-life Superman. But old age and a bad back have proved to be his personal kryptonite.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sorry to say Toad, but the title of the posting does not refer to Kylie's arse......
Things are a bit hectic over here just now and I don't have a lot of time to try and come up with something inventive or relevant for your enjoyment. So instead, here's a photo I took the other week when Mrs V was over and we did some touristy things.
And here's a rather obvious but fantastic tune to go with it:-
mp3 : The Stone Roses - Waterfall
Thanks to all of you for leaving such nice comments after the last posting. Such words will always mean far more than any mention in any newspaper or other media outlet.....
Oh and since I mentioned her earlier:-
mp3 : Kylie Minogue - Love At First Sight
I'm away for a lie-down now.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Even within NWOBHM, Tygers of Pan Tang were a bit wussy and a bit preening. The band, which came from Whitley Bay in the North-East of England, formed in 1978. The name of the band derives from an elite group of chaos-worshipping warriors in Michael Moorcock's Elric stories called the Tigers of Pan Tang.
Monday, May 12, 2008
It's a glorious autumnal day in my home city.
It's mornings like this that make me think I don't really want to live anywhere else.
After the New Order-fest of the past week, I am now trying to resume something of a normal service. Time for an appropriate cover version from a few years ago.
mp3 : Sunday Morning - James
This can be found on the Lose Control single of 1990. I love how Tim Booth throws in loads of Velvet Underground song titles as the tune reaches a crescendo. Fabulous.
It's probably only on e-bay that you'll be able to purchase this song. It was also a track on Heaven & Hell, a now difficult to find tribute album to The Velvet Underground.
I also want to dedicate a second song this morning to W A Fading. His was a truly astounding blog which was very nearly no more. But he has decided to begin all over again. I, for one, am truly thankful.
mp3 : Take Care Of Yourself - Edwyn Collins
Taken from Hellbent On Compromise that was released in 1990. A record that is long-deleted, you can still find it, sometimes brand-new, in cyberspace right here.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Friday, May 09, 2008
In terms of a world-wide audience, its probably the best-known of all of the 45s (so far). Its certainly got the most identifiable opening notes (that is unless you get confused with Call It What You Want by Credit To The Nation which sampled the intro).
First time I heard this was as the opening song on a cassette made up by Jacques the Kipper. It was a time when every six weeks or so, we would thrust a tape into each others hands along with set of cryptic clues for each song, and challenge the other, not just to identify the track, but also offer a few observations.
His clue for the opening song was ‘Vodka’. Sheer genius if you ask me…..the boy should have become a copywriter with an advertising agency.
But back to the song...
It’s about as far removed as you could ever imagine from the twee stuff that I listened to so much over the previous decade, and it could almost be classified as the dreaded stadium rock. And yet...
There’s just something very special and outstanding about Smells Like Teen Spirit that is difficult to pinpoint. I can’t argue that it’s anything unlike you’d ever heard before, given that it has a riff that is very similar (some say identical) to More Than A Feeling by 70s soft-rockers Boston. Nor is there a case to be made that the vocals are completely different from other folk given that Kurt Cobain’s style of quiet/shout/quiet/shout was something you heard from Black Francis on many Pixies songs. And yet...
The song did seem to arrive like a bolt out of the blue. Yes, there had been some coverage in the UK music papers about some sort of scene based around the city of Seattle, but how many times before had we read about a scene in Chicago, New York, LA, San Francisco or any other American city that had petered out before it crossed the Atlantic. But then Nirvana came across to the UK to promote Nevermind. There was a live appearance on an early evening chat-show on Channel 4 hosted by Jonathan Ross. He introduced the band who went straight into a heavy-metal riff, and then Kurt took over on a completely indecipherable lyric that was a low-moan or a scream...
In the middle of the tune, he sang the words, 'Just Because You’re Paranoid Don’t Mean That They’re After You'. Then he started screaming again. The song finished in a flurry of feedback not seen in any TV studio since the heyday of Jesus And Mary Chain, before the drums were kicked over and the band stormed off to muted applause and a bemused chat show host who had his finger in his ear. Jonathan Ross than, in a brilliant piece of improvisation said ‘That was Nirvana – doing a song that none of us were expecting. They’ve asked me to mention that they are available for children’s parties and bar mitzvahs...’
It was a truly astonishing piece of TV, and the most ‘punk’ thing I had seen in years, and I knew right then that Nirvana were the genuine article. (The song they played was Territorial Pissings). It was the sort of thing that won’t happen nowadays as prime-time TV live shows are no longer really live and bands won’t behave in that way for fear of upsetting the label bosses.
Of course it all went badly wrong almost immediately, and the band nowadays seem to be loved and admired more for the dead rock star syndrome rather than anything else. The fact that it all ended before there could be any critical backlash or before they fell out of fashion, means that there are very few reasons why music historians and commentators can ever make critical comments about Nirvana, other than be horrified at some of the copy-cat acts that came in their wake. But that’s just nonsensical - you never read anyone blaming The Beatles for every single four-piece band that’s walked the planet since 1963 do you?
mp3 : Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
mp3 : Nirvana - Drain You
mp3 : Nirvana - Even In His Youth
mp3 : Nirvana - Aneurysm
I never did get to see the band live on stage. Mrs Villain and myself had tickets for a Glasgow gig that never happened as Kurt Cobain committed suicide shortly beforehand. I immediately went back in for my refund, but Mrs V kept her ticket as a momento. Seems she was the clever one as she could probably get far more than its face value if she was to put it on e-bay...
Oh and I've posted the promo for the single over at The Video Villain, but I've also tracked down the Jonathan Ross clip as well. Even if you're no fan of the band, it's worth having a look just to see how fresh-faced he was back in 1991. And check out his hair, as well as the ad-libbing (turns out I didn't repeat it 100% word-for-word, but I wasn't far off). Just click here.
Incidentally, this will be the last posting on the chart for a few weeks, as another holiday in far-off places beckons. The 45 45s at 45 rundown will recommence in early June.
In the meantime, there will be a few other bits and bobs appearing on these pages between now and then starting on Monday and then every other day.......there's been a bit of Blue Peter in as far as 'and here's one I prepared earlier' to keep things ticking over....
Here’s the rundown of the chart so far – the artists likely to appear in the Top 10 should be getting a bit obvious. Feel free to speculate…I might give a prize to the first person to get them all.
No, tell you what, I will give prizes to those who come closest....
11. Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
12. Massive Attack - Protection
13. The Go-Betweens – Man O’ Sand To Girl O’ Sea
14. Simple Minds - Love Song
15. The Jam - Going Underground
16. Pixies - Monkey Gone To Heaven
17. Arab Strap - Here We Go
18. The Specials - Ghost Town
19. Leftfield/Lydon - Open Up
20. The Police - Can't Stand Losing You
21. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Do You Love Me?
22. The Skids - Into The Valley
23. Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen In Love?
24. Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies)
25. Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees
26. Sons & Daughters - Johnny Cash
27. Bronski Beat - Smalltown Boy
28. Scritti Politti - Faithless
29. Underworld - Born Slippy (Nuxx)
30. Trashcan Sinatras - Obscurity Knocks
31. Wild Swans - Revolutionary Spirit
32. Edwyn Collins - If You Could Love Me
33. Arctic Monkeys - When The Sun Goes Down
34. Pet Shop Boys - Heart
35. Blur - For Tomorrow
36. Maximo Park - Graffiti
37. Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - Stupid Thing
38. Martin Stephenson & The Daintees - Crocodile Cryer
39. The Style Council – Long Hot Summer
40. XTC – Senses Working Overtime
41. Oasis – Wonderwall
42. Joe Jackson – Is She Really….?
43. Frightened Rabbit – Be Less Rude/The Greys
44. Soft Cell – Bedsitter
45. Pulp – Common People
Thursday, May 08, 2008
I’ve loads of Tracey Thorn records, dating back to her time with The Marine Girls, as a solo artist and of course with Everything But The Girl.
But she has never sounded better than on this:-
mp3 : Massive Attack – Protection (LP version)
No point in me repeating what I’ve said previously about dance acts/dance music and how I’m not well-enough qualified to comment with much conviction.
But somehow I’ve never really regarded Massive Attack as a dance-band – particularly when thinking about their best singles. If the one song per artist rule in this chart didn’t exist, then Teardrop would be in here. Both songs are equally gorgeous, haunting, unique and unforgettable. But in my mind, Tracey shades it over Elizabeth Fraser.
I think its because Protection is one of the best lyrics ever recorded by a female artist - its full of conviction, passion, love and strength without ever falling into the trap of being soppy or maudlin.
There was also a brilliant and imaginative video made for Protection. It’s right here, just where you would expect it to be.
This latest performance was merely good rather than exceptional. And even then, it only got as high as good rather than average because of the closing number.
The big problem last night at Oran Mor was the sound, for the boys struggled all night to get it right - and almost every other song had one or other of them signalling frantically to the desk for something to be turned up or down. Now I've no idea why this might be as I'm no expert, but I'm wondering if it all stemmed from one of the support bands.....
I arrived at the venue too late to see Y'All Is Fantasy Island, but in time to catch Ross Clark. I'd previously seen Ross play as support at the LP launch, and again he was reasonably entertaining with a selection of songs played by him on a semi-acoustic backed by a drummer, although he was later joined on stage by a violinist, a trumpeter and someone else on something resembling a mandolin. Some of his songs were stronger than others, but at no point during his 30-odd minutes on stage did I look at my watch out of boredom.
I can't say the same about the main support act who are a Canadian lot called The Tom Fun Orchestra. There were nine of them - drummer, bassist, two electric guitarists, one semi-acoustic guitarist, a banjo player, a trumpeter, a violinist and an accordion player crammed onto the stage. They all had an air of confidence and swagger about them as they struck up their opening notes which only seemed to get stronger as their 40 minute set went on. I say seemed as quite honestly, I gave up after three songs and went out for some fresh air as the stuff was just an appalling racket - the Pogues on speed is how to try and describe the sound, while they dressed in a 'look at me, I'm wacky' sort of way. Simply appalling. And god only knows what they did to the sound engineers with the nine of them competing for attention.....
Frightened Rabbit were due on at 10.30, but due to the complexity of setting things up for the support and also the fact they overran, meant it was 10.50 before they came on and I think the initial body language of the boys indicated it wasn't going to be the greatest of nights. They looked tired and sluggish and a bit pissed-off. Maybe even nervous, but certainly a lot different from the previous three times I'd seen them.
The set again drew largely from Midnight Organ Fight, and it was noticeable that many of the crowd now know the songs as there were a few sing-a-long moments. It was equally noticeable too that a quite a few folk were seeing the band for the first time - perhaps curious to find out what all the fuss in blogland and magazine world is all about - and I'm pretty sure that some of them went home disappointed.
After a 12-song set, the band briefly left the stage beforeScott Hutchison came back on alone with just an acoustic guitar. Those of us who had seen the band before knew we were in for a huge treat with a rare live airing of the sublime Poke, and much of the venue descended into a revered silence. But not all of the venue......
So there's a man and his guitar alone on stage baring his very soul for his art and quite a number of ignorant fuckers are standing at the bar holding conversations while trying to sneak a quick last pint in before throwing out time. Totally appalling behaviour, and it almost ruined the night entirely.
But the cavalry arrived in the shape of Grant, David and Andy as they launched into an incredibly angry and fiery version of The Greys that segued perfectly into a violent version of Square 9. This was more like the Frightened Rabbit I'd been lucky enough to see before, and know that I will see again. I went home with a smile on my face after all.....
I still maintain that Midnight Organ Fight is as good a record as has been released in 2008 and that the band are the best to come out of Scotland in a very long time. But last night they seemed to slightly mis-fire, but only when judged against the very high standards that they themselves had set from previous nights I'd seen them.
Still cant wait to see them on stage again later in the year.
The Modern Leper/I Feel Better/Be Less Rude/Good Arms vs Bad Arms/Fast Blood/Heads Roll Off/Old, Old Fashioned/Music Now/Backwards Walk/The Twist/Go-Go Girls/Keep Yourself Warm/Poke/The Greys/Square 9.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
The answer is that the follow-up single just means an awful lot more to me.
It was at the age of 20 that I finally moved out from underneath my parents’ protection and branched out to a place of my own. It was a student residency flat on campus in Glasgow City Centre. It was a two-bedroom job, complete with kitchen, toilet and shower. I had the single room, while my two flatmates shared a larger space. The rent for each of us was £510 – for a full year including the summer months.
I had a reasonable record collection, but one of my other flatmates had a collection that I reckon was probably only second to that of John Peel (for instance, he had every single that had come out on Postcard Records). It was a time when my musical tastes broadened more than ever before, thanks to hearing some old stuff for the first time, but also on account of new and emerging bands throughout the early and mid 80s. This was where I first learned about, among others, The Go-Betweens.
The location of the flat was incredible, a mere stone’s throw from the student union where we seemed to spend most of our free time. We’d spend hours every weekend getting ready to go out, taking turns to play some of our favourite songs, often dissecting the lyrics and melodies in a way that seemed very important and meaningful.
Every Friday and Saturday, the set-lists for going out would change, but there was one single from October 1983 that always seemed to get played – as indeed was the b-side:-
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Man O’ Sand To Girl O’ Sea
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – This Girl, Black Girl
Robert Forster’s manic delivery of the line ‘I feel so sure about our love I’ve wrote a song about us breaking up’ is one of the finest moments in pop history. As is the chorus that isn’t a chorus – ‘I want you baaaaaack.’ And don’t get me started in the great backing vocals.
There’s also a little footnote to this particular single that also helped it clinch selection ahead of Cattle and Cane.
This was another 7” which was ‘lost’ in Edinburgh all those years ago, although I did still have copies of the songs on a double compilation LP called 1978-1990. However, by the the early part of this century, it was all CDs or digital and I just couldn't get my hands on a copy of the b-side.
But....there came a day when, after much humming and hawing, I plucked up the courage to ask a bloke called Colin who at the time had a great blog called Let’s Kiss And Make Up that had previously featured The Go-Betweens if he could post an mp3 of This Girl, Black Girl. He willingly obliged.
Colin also later replied to other e-mails from me in which I asked for advice in setting up my own blog - and without fail he was always courteous, charming, witty and hugely supportive, especially in the very early days when I was unsure of what I was doing and terrified that I was out of my depth, making a fool of myself and wasting my time.
So if there's a song from this rundown that I'd like to dedicate to anyone, then its this particular track.
Thanks comrade. I'm proud to call you a mate.
Footage of the band is here.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Your humble scribe and his long-term musical buddy have very diverse opinions on Simple Minds. Our solution is just to agree to disagree. Maybe it’s something to do with where I was born and bred.
Nowadays, there are all sorts of great venues dotted around the city centre of Glasgow and beyond for bands to pitch up and play. But 30 years ago, it was either the Apollo or a mere handful of pubs – all of whom had a strict door policy. The local evening paper would carry adverts every week for 5 or 6 venues (The Dial Inn and The Burns Howff are two that I seem to recall), but every week it would be the same 5 or 6 acts that appeared – and all of them had long hair and wore either cheese-cloth shirts and flares or tight fitting t-shirts and leather trousers. In short, it was a scene dominated by really awful pub-rock and acts who wanted to be the new Led Zeppelin.
In the pre-Postcard era, it was Simple Minds who stood out from that crowd, for they didn’t rely on loud guitars, screaming vocals and pounding drums – they had a keyboard player!! Someone at school said that they weren’t a new band at all, but instead just the latest line-up of a Glasgow punk act called Johnny And The Self Abusers (astonishing as it may seem, this turned out to be true!!)
The band started to get some local media attention and songs were being played on the local commercial radio station. Then they were signed by a major record label and you could buy their single and LPs in all the local shops. Many of us rushed out and bought these records, and many of us found ourselves bemused.
The first three albums by the band saw a mixture of a few easily-accessible pop tunes, but they were buried among a lot of stuff that seemed to verge on the dreaded and awful prog-rock. Nowadays, its easy to look back and see the influences were in fact more European-orientated acts like Kraftwerk and Can, but here in Glasgow very little was known about such bands. The band had afew early stand out tracks - in particular the singles Life In A Day and Chelsea Girl, as well as one particularly infectious track in I Travel that made you want to get on the dance floor and shake your hips. Were discos the real future for Simple Minds??
In 1981, the band moved to Virgin Records who had something of a decent track record making a success of slightly off-kilter new wave bands such as Magazine, XTC, PiL and The Skids. The first release was an LP called Sons and Fascination, the initial copies of which came with a bonus LP called Sister Feelings’ Call (the latter would eventually be released as a stand-alone record).
It was still very much a mix of the pop and the prog, but the pop was pretty sensational. And the prog was somehow different (we would later come to recognise much of it as trance….). The pop meanwhile was aimed very much at the dance floor, but not with a disco beat. It was very similar to records that were coming out of Sheffield by a band called The Human League, and looking back we can see it was the start of a new era and new style of synth-pop that brought us bands such as New Order and Depeche Mode.
The first time I heard the single that I'm picked at #14 was at a Glasgow city centre disco where ‘alternative’ nights of sorts were held on Sunday evenings. Something came on with a long and attention-grabbing pulsating intro. Then came a vocal that sounded awfully familiar….that can’t be Jim Kerr...surely not....
It was only after it had finished, when I went over to the DJ’s booth to ask, did I find out that it was the forthcoming record by Simple Minds. The DJ had been given an advance copy to try out at the ‘alt’ evening. I’m sure it was played on at least two more occasions that night and filled the (admittedly small) floor each time.
Love Song turned out to be the biggest success for the band up to that point. Before long, the band were aiming for pop success at the expense of everything else, and by the mid 80s they had succeeded, thanks to a world-wide hit with Don’t You Forget About Me. They were now, without any shadow of a doubt, stadium rockers of the corporate kind – hugely popular with the masses. They had even started writing songs such as Waterfront which became the unofficial sing-a-long anthem for Glasgow for a short while. All this might have made the boys rich and popular, but it also made them mundane, mediocre and meaningless.
It was now embarrassing to actually admit you were once a fan. And in some folks eyes, that is still the case.
But I’ll always stand by the majesty of the turn of the 80s decade Simple Minds……
mp3 : Simple Minds - Love Song (extended)
mp3 : Simple Minds - This Earth That You Walk Upon
Footage is over at The Video Villain.
Bonus song from the punk era:-
mp3 : Johnny And The Self Abusers - Saints and Sinners*
* also the name of a legendary Glasgow venue. It would later change ownership and name and become King Tut's Wah Wah Hut.
Monday, May 05, 2008
This was the first band that I ever got infatuated with. They were the first band that I ever queued up for tickets overnight, lying on a cold and wet Glasgow pavement in a sleeping bag.
The minute the record shop opened on the day the band released a new single or LP, I was waiting to go in and buy it. My part of the bedroom wall in the room that I shared with my brothers was covered in posters of The Jam.
On day when I saw a friend’s wall had all the picture sleeves from the singles stuck to his bedroom wall, I went home and did the same. My shrine to Buckler, Foxton and Weller had to be better than that of anyone else I knew.
The break-up of the band didn’t send me into a sulk. Instead, I thought this was a chance to watch and enjoy each of their new bands and wait for the inevitable reunion (got that last bit spectacularly wrong, didn’t I???)
Even when The Style Council broke up and interest in The Jam was at a low, I could still be relied to keep talking about them to anyone who was interested. I think it was 1992 when myself and a mate were 40% of the audience at a theatre-show at the Edinburgh Fringe, all about the story behind the formation, success and break-up of The Jam. The other 60% in the audience were Sean Hughes, Phil Jupitus and some mate of theirs who probably worked for Channel 4 or the BBC...
No other band gave me such agony choosing which single to select for inclusion in the run-down. It could easily have been In The City which introduced me to them at an early stage. Or Down In the Tube Station At Midnight, a song that on release I thought would always be my favourite record of all time. Just as equally, Strange Town and When You’re Young are singles that mean so much to me – often because with The Jam, the B-sides were just as good as the single, and this was very much the case with The Butterfly Collector and Smithers-Jones respectively.
In the end, after much agonising, I’ve gone for Going Underground, and I’ve done so because it was the song that allowed me to say, to the watching world and all those who had cast dispersions on the band, YOU WERE WRONG, AND ALL THE TIME I WAS RIGHT.
In 1980, singles didn’t enter the charts at the #1 position. Instead, they came in somewhere in the 20s and that got you onto Top of the Pops. The single would sell well on the back of this TV appearance, would climb a few places and then again the following week into the Top 10. The second TOTP appearance would follow, and if it was different enough from the first one and Radio 1 was still playing it, then the Top 5 and a chance at #1 would follow. It was always a 3-4 week cycle to hit the top slot.
Going Underground broke all the rules of the game. It flew in at #1 and stayed there for three weeks.
Critics of the band said it only did this as the initial copies of the single came with a limited edition live EP, and thus fans rushed out and bought it immediately. The fact that The Jam would repeat the straight in at #1 on two more occasions soon disproved that theory.
Going Underground is my favourite Jam single for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it proved that in March 1980, The Jam were by far and away the biggest and most popular band in the UK - despite which, the band still managed to make long-time fans feel they were still something special.
Secondly, it was an attack on the Thatcher government’s policy of increased spending on nuclear weapons, and as a member of CND (weren’t we all in those days), this song seemed significant in spreading the word to a wide audience.
Thirdly, the B-side was another brilliant Jam song. So brilliant, it was originally intended as a double-A release, only the printing press got it wrong. Allegedly.
Finally, it did in fact come with a great live EP which didn’t bleep-out the swear words on The Modern World……
mp3 : The Jam – Going Underground
mp3 : The Jam – Dreams Of Children
mp3 : The Jam – Away From The Numbers (live)
mp3 : The Jam – The Modern World (live)
mp3 : The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (live)
This was another single that I lost in the Edinburgh flit. But it was one that I chased up on e-bay not long after I got the USB Turntable and re-kindled the interest in vinyl.
So why only #15 in this rundown? Well, its just too good to be at #16 or lower.....
The converted bingo hall that is the Carling Academy continues to be a poor venue in terms of sound. Nick's vocals were very high in the mix at the expense of some of the other instruments (particularly the keyboards and whenever Warren Ellis played strings).
Secondly, some of the material from Dig Lazarus Dig!!! was slightly disappointing. As ever with Nick when he goes out on a tour, he drew heavily on the newest LP for much of the set.
But....against those criticisms has to be balanced the fact that the Bad Seeds were once again truly awesome in their playing, and that Nick, by sticking largely to vocals and/or guitar was very much in his element as the front man.
Plus.....the songs chosen from the back catalogue were truly stunning. In particular, Tupelo, Let Love In, Papa Won't Leave You Henry and Hard On For Love. It would have been worth the admission price for those four songs along....along with the inevitable crowd-pleasing closing rendition of Stagger Lee.
Full set list was:-
1. Night Of The Lotus Eaters
2. Dig Lazarus, Dig !!!
4. Today's Lesson
5. Red Right Hand
6. Midnight Man
7. Let Love In
9. Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl)
11. Jesus Of The Moon
12. The Ship Song
13. We Call Upon The Author
14. Papa Wont Leave You Henry
15. More News From Nowhere
16. The Lyre Of Orpheus
17. Hard On For Love
18. Into My Arms
19. Wanted Man
20. Stagger Lee
It was a show that stretched out into 2 hours - and simply flew in.
That's the 8th or maybe 9th time I've seen Nick Cave on stage, and he never ceases to astound me. I'm just sorry his next trip here is to play on a stage in front of a muddy field in August. I don't do festivals me.....
Sunday, May 04, 2008
I thought I'd be lazy today and go for a selection of b-sides that should be of some interest to folk. The fact that I'm including something by The Smiths should mean I get a few casual visitors courtesy of The Hype Machine and Elbo. So, if you're such a person, a big hello and welcome to the pages of The Vinyl Villain. Feel free to say something nice or nasty in the comments section.
But I'll start with something from my home city, featuring a band that have been a bit quiet of late but are expected to bring out some new songs later this year. The first time I caught wind of Franz Ferdinand was in 2003, but not at any of their now famous shows/parties in disused buildings across Glasgow - I'm far too obscure and unhip to find out about things like that. No, it was during a bout of insomnia when a video for their debut single came on MTV2 at something like 3am. I went out and bought the single the next day, but found that I much preferred the b-side which reminded me an awful lot of The Fall in terms of the tune and even the way Alex Kopranos delivered his nonsense lyrics:-
mp3 : Franz Ferdinand - Shopping For Blood
Next up is one of the best b-sides ever written. It dates from 1995 and at the time Oasis seemingly could do no wrong. Every single that they released on CD had 4 tracks, and at least one, if not more, was always as strong as the track that was getting played to death on the radio. The first time I actually heard this particular song was when they played it live on The White Room, a music programme on Channel 4 that was hosted by Mark Radcliffe, and recorded in the boys' home city of Manchester. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who believed I was listening to a future #1 single and was later stunned to learn that it had been tucked away as track#3 on the next single. What a waste, as the late, great Ian Dury might have said:-
mp3 : Oasis - Acquiesce
OK, casual visitors, here's the bit you've scrolled down for ignoring all the rest. I'm staying in Manchester but going back to 1987 to what was a sad point in time. By now The Smiths had broken up, and the final few singles were released to little fanfare. What once had been something every fan looked forward to with the chance to hear new Morrissey/Marr compositions on the b-sides had turned into a bit of a chore, with Rough Trade having to depends on live tracks, or in this case, versions of old songs recorded in session for John Peel. But to be fair, these tracks, found on the reverse of Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me, ain't bad at all:-
mp3 : The Smiths - Rusholme Ruffians (Peel Session)
mp3 : The Smiths - Nowhere Fast (Peel Session)
And finally, its a short hop from down the M62 from Manchester to Liverpool for the final offering. All the way back to 1983 to when Echo & The Bunnymen where at the height of their powers for a different version of a song that was originally on the LP Porcupine, this turned up on the b-side of the 12" of Never Stop, and is, in my humble opinion, a superior version than the original, and it's about a minute longer to boot:-
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen - Heads Will Roll (Summer Version)
Oh and dont worry if you think that last mp3 isnt working.....there's a long fade-in before the song starts.
And that's yer lot for today. Tune in tomorrow for the latest instalment in the 45 45s at 45 series with the song (and its b-sides) that I've selected at #15. Oh and there might also be a gig review as I'm off with the missus to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds tonight.
Ciao for now.
Friday, May 02, 2008
Monkey Gone To Heaven by The Pixies only reached #60 in the UK charts in March 1989, so it was very much an acquired taste. It was my ownership of the 12” single which helped cement my friendship with new work colleague Jacques the Kipper – I happened to mention in the pub one evening not long after he started in the office that it was one of my favourite bits of vinyl, and that’s when we started talking about bands and music. And we haven’t stopped 19 years later...
The late 80s weren’t great for me in terms of keeping up with music. No. let me rephrase that – the late 80s weren’t great for me in terms of keeping up with anything.
The student years from 81-85 and the first few years of paid employment were a period of hedonism and a slightly unorthodox lifestyle. Particularly the first two years of employment where I had some money in my pocket. To coin a phrase from Paul Weller, I found myself in a strange town. It was called Edinburgh.
For three years I lived in a series of rented flats (one of which involved a moonlit flit and the loss of some 500 7” singles as recounted elsewhere in this rundown), with a great crowd of friends centred around unemployed actors and performers. Oh a psycho air-stewardess from Canada as a flatmate who once threatened to cut the throat of my wee brother – but that’s another story.
But I got bored with all of this – especially as I seemed to be the only one in the crowd with any money, and the late nights and long drinking sessions were taking a toll on me. That and the boss beginning to run out of patience. So I settled myself down with a steady girlfriend who I married in the Summer of 1988 after a whirlwind romance. Someone whose interest in music was virtually non-existent…..but I felt the change was what I wanted. It was time to put the toys of my youth away forever.
Within a matter of weeks, I was bored rigid. I missed my old mates and my old lifestyle. I missed going to gigs and listening to Radio 1 after 8pm of an evening. It was all soap operas and detective shows in my household. I was in danger of growing old before my time.
I wasn’t reading music papers, and I wasn’t buying anything. I put the turntable and amp under the stairs.
One day, instead of waiting at the stop for 20 minutes for the next bus home, I popped into a well known city centre record shop. Within minutes, a sound was blaring from the speakers which was unlike anything I had ever heard before. A great guitar riff, big powerful drumming and a whiny vocal that was part-spoken, part-sung and part-screamed. And was that some cellos there at the end? Surely not...
The song needed to be bought. So, it was up to the counter to ask the bloke behind the counter who and what was that? The answer, of course, was Monkey Gone To Heaven by The Pixies.
I had no idea who he was talking about. But I bought the single. The first bit of vinyl in at least 9 months since my wedding day. And then went home and pulled out the turntable and amp from under the stairs…
Within a year, I had moved out of the marital home. A few months later I was living with a woman called Rachel, who became my second wife - you may have seen her referred to here and there as Mrs Villain. Crucially, Rachel liked a lot of the music that I loved and was all for going out to gigs rather than get hooked on Eastenders and Taggart. She’s still like that all these years later.
This record is astonishing in its ambition. A long long time before it became fashionable to do so, it was giving warnings about global warming and the destruction of the environment. It had an orchestral part at a time when most bands were beginning again to strip things back to basics. It was a song that sounded indie, but was as far away from the fey and whimsy sound normally associated with the genre as you could imagine. It was a song that could even find favour with the rock fans who got hooked entirely on the solos and performances. It had a vocal that so screamed at you from the speakers, that you feared for the damage being done to the throat of the lead singer.
In short, The Pixies had more or less invented grunge...
mp3 : The Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven
mp3 : The Pixies – Manta Ray
mp3 : The Pixies – Weird At My School
mp3 : The Pixies – Dancing The Manta Ray
As I mentioned at the outset, it was a flop, reaching only #60 in the singles chart. But it was #1 single of 1989 in Melody Maker, #5 in Rolling Stone, #22 in NME and #24 in Village Voice.
The video, as well as live BBC TV appearance from 1989, are over here.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
There is a town called Falkirk that is situated almost exactly halfway between Scotland’s two main cities. It is home to around 33,000 people which makes it the 20th largest settlement in Scotland (you would be surprised to find just how small in global terms our towns and cities are).
It is fairly typical Central Scotland town in that it was formerly heavily dependant on heavy industry and engineering, much of which has disappeared in the last three or four decades. Nowadays, many of the local population take the commuter train west to Glasgow or east to Edinburgh for employment.
I think it’s not unfair to say that Falkirk is the sort of town where folk grow up and usually look to move elsewhere when they can.
And yet it is a town that has produced some incredibly talented folk over the past two decades in particular. A couple of my favourite authors Gordon Legge and Alan Bissett hail from the town – both fill their books with ordinary and recognisable characters who are often besotted with music, football, cars, drugs and alcohol. (Sadly, Gordon Legge last wrote a book in 1998, but Alan Bissett is still going strong and his website is here)
One of my favourite bands (now sadle no more), consisting of Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton, hail from Falkirk. They were of course Arab Strap, a pair who filled their songs with recognisable characters who are often besotted with….well if the truth be told, sex and drugs.
The odds of a town such as Falkirk producing so many great artists in such a short timescale must be pretty high. There’s nothing in the town that immediately grabs you as being inspirational – it’s a very ordinary, almost dull place. And yet each of these writers and musicians have taken their surroundings and produced narratives that grab your attention from the outset and keep hold of it until the last sentence on the last page or last note is struck on the single or album.
Arab Strap have often been accused of having been latent miserablists. Aidan Moffat as the principal songwriter has, by some folk, been labelled as misogynist. The evidence seems to be a lot of the songs are about failed relationships and that the protagonist often blames his other half for what happens rather than look at his own faults. He's no misogynist, just a hopeless sad romantic....there's no other explanation for song titles like The Girl I Loved Before I Fucked and Meanwhile, At The Bar, A Drunkard Muses. And have a listen to Where We Left Our Love if you still have doubts.
Aidan Moffat is probably the most unique songwriter to come out of Scotland in my lifetime. The characters in his songs are more often than not angst-ridden, lacking in self-belief, riddled with doubts and always in fear of failure. Almost all of his songs could be filmed as a short story. And when you dig a little bit below the surface, you will often find some fantastic examples of humour in his writing.
What makes the band so special however is that Malcolm Middleton was able to take these brilliant bits of narrative and set them to music that was equally as ground-breaking and imaginative.
(And before anyone pulls me up about how I’ve suggested the labour in the band was divided, I’m well aware that sometimes Aidan wrote music as well, and that Malcolm did contribute some lyrics.)
It's true that Arab Strap are a bit of an acquired taste. But I think they were fantastic over the ten years they were together, and their break-up was a sad day for Scottish music. But at least we have the consolation of them both performing as solo artists now.
This single was released on the Glasgow-based label Chemikal Underground in 1998. It can also be found on the truly astonishing and jaw-dropping LP Philophobia, whose cover features drawings of a nude Aidan Moffat and his then girlfriend.
mp3 : Arab Strap - Here We Go
mp3 : Arab Strap - Trippy
As Trippy is more than 12 minutes in length, complete with its big acid-house style dance track middle section, I've put it on sharebee to save bandwith.
The great video for Here We Go can be viewed over here.
PS : A big thank you to everyone who dropped by over the past month. A combination of regular posts plus the Edwyn & Billy video clips saw TVV register in excess of 15,000 hits which is by far the biggest in any month since I started this thing off.
Now the purpose of mentioning this is not to boast about numbers (a lesson taught to me by the wonderful Liz), but simply to mention that I have a concern that such numbers might put some pressure on the paid-for and easy-to-access bandwith now and again, and if that ever happens, please let me know so that I can switch hosts as and when required.