Saturday, February 28, 2009
mp3 : Elastica - Connection
mp3 : Wire - Three Girl Rhumba
mp3 : Elastica - Waking Up
mp3 : The Stranglers - No More Heroes
They didn't even begin to disguise their influences, but I don't think anyone can argue that the self-titled debut LP from 1995 is one of the best and most enduring of the Britpop era. Strangely enough, at a time when all sorts of unforgettable acts had 45s (or more accurately CD singles as vinyl was totally out of fashion) that went high in the charts, none of the four tracks lifted from Elastica went Top 10. The album however, did hit the #1 spot.
By the time the band got over all sorts of personnel problems and released their follow-up LP in 2000, their fan base had moved on to other things and they were more or less ignored. But I reckon they still made great music that owed a debt to so many folk, but at least they acknowledged it this time:-
mp3 : Elastica - How He Wrote Elastica Man
mp3 : The Fall - How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'
Now all that should all get your weekend off to a damn near perfect start.
Friday, February 27, 2009
It was the third to be taken from the much derided LP Maladjusted and the follow-up to the rather appalling Roy's Keen (as featured before in this series).
mp3 : Morrissey - Satan Rejected My Soul
mp3 : Morrissey - Now I Am A Was
mp3 : Morrissey - This Is Not Your Country
The single was in fact the closing track on the LP and surely is one of the greatest song titles ever envisaged with a catchy, sing-a-long tune to boot. It really was much much more deserving than the lowly #39 position in the chart. I really do think that if this had been the lead-off single prior to the release of Maladjusted, it would have been a Top Ten hit, and the subsequent reviews of the LP would have been kinder.
Now I Am A Was really felt as if it was a farewell song from the great man, with its lyric referring to him starting at the top and working his way down.....while This Is Not Your Country is one of the few overtly political songs in his cannon with its observations on life in Northern Ireland. In my humble opinion, one of the best things he has ever written in his whole career.....
It would be almost 7 years until Morrissey released his next single.
Trivia fact. The 7" version did not include This Is Not Your Country, but a limited number of sleeves were printed saying that it did. I saw the misprint on sale on-line the other day for £60.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
This is the latest in the occasional series in which songs from postings past are aired again in response to requests.
Nick Pelomis from Australia came into the confessional box and admitted to being an Altered Images fan....don't worry mate, you're not alone....and said he'd love to hear the one solo single released by Clare Grogan. So, from May 1987, written in conjunction with Davey Henderson (Fire Engines, Win, Nectarine #9):-
mp3 : Clare Grogan - Love Bomb
mp3 : Clare Grogan - I Love The Way You Beg
It didn't bother the charts.....
Adam Mandel asked for this cover of a Leonard Cohen classic:-
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Tower Of Song
Not sure how many of you were aware of the news that came out a month ago that Mick Harvey has recently quit the Bad Seeds, thus bringing to an end a professional relationship with Nick Cave that goes back to 1977.
Read more here.
I reckon he'll be missed.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
That was the strapline of Postcard Records.
Short-lived it may have been, but what a legacy.
Orange Juice signed to Polydor while Aztec Camera went to Rough Trade where the great pop singles kept on coming.
Released in October 1982, this reached #42 in the UK charts. (I know I've already mentioned this single before on TVV but something this good is well worth re-visiting)
mp3 : Orange Juice - I Can't Help Myself
mp3 : Orange Juice - Tongues Begin To Wag
mp3 : Orange Juice - Barbecue
It's the 12" version made available along with the two tracks on the b-side, the first of which has a guest vocal from Paul Quinn.
Released in May 1983, this great piece of work somehow flopped, only reaching #64:-
mp3 : Aztec Camera - Walk Out To Winter
mp3 : Aztec Camera - Set The Killing Free
It's a radical reworking of one of the tracks on debut LP High Land, Hard Rain, one that sometimes I think is a better version while there are other times I prefer the original. The failure of this single to get any higher in the charts, despite a load of promotional work by Roddy and his band ,was one of the main reasons he jumped ship onto the major label of WEA not long after.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I've a real determination to provide daily postings at TVV. However, it's not easy whenever I go on holiday and in recent times I've resorted to posting total repeats from way back. Or I've been lucky enough to get the wonderfully talented ctelblog from Acid Ted make a series of great contributions.
My next extended break comes at the back end of May, but I'm hoping, with the help and support of you lot out there, to do something a little bit different.
For at least the two weeks of my holiday, and slightly longer if there's enough interest, I want to hand over TVV to guest reviewers. So I'm extending an open invitation for scribblings on music....
All I'm looking for are your words on why a singer/group/single/album or piece of music means something to you. You send these to me by e-mail along with details of the song you'd like to accompany the words. If it turns out to be a song that I don't have in the collection, then I'll ask you to also send that over.
I'll then take you e-mail and put it into a posting and arrange for the song to be hosted over at fileden, and before you know it, there will be a few hundred folk reading your words and listening to the song(s) you're highlighting.
Interested? If so, please e-mail me at:-
I hope that enough of you will respond to allow me to put together 31 pieces for the whole of the month of May, and it will be on a first come-first served basis. If you want to highlight your own blog, please feel free to do so. My only proviso is that I won't use any pieces that promote new or unreleased music or suggestions that would involve songs by singers or bands who are well known to use dmca notices to force takedowns.
If no-one bothers coming back to me, then I will fall back on the tried and tested method of re-posts from days of old. Either way, TVV will be published 7 days a week throughout 2009.
Thanks for reading. And thanks, in advance, for helping out.
mp3 : The Pixies - Holiday Song
Monday, February 23, 2009
I wrote about Butcher Boy last November (click here for a reminder) and not only someone from the record company leave behind a nice comment, but at least one reader rushed out and ordered the album I was raving about. Well if you're reading this David, I hope you'll be persuaded to shell out some more of your hard-earned cash in a few minutes time...
Rather than try to wax lyrically about the band and how they came to be, I'll direct to this place, which is info you can find on the webpage of their record label.
The thing is, the band don't play live all that often, so when I heard about a gig in the clubhouse of a bowling club some 25 minutes walk from Villain Towers, I made sure I'd be there. It was a show quite like no other...
First of all, you had to get your name on a list beforehand (which I did thanks to Comrade Colin) and on arrival you paid as much or as little as you liked as an entry fee. I threw £5 into the Tupperware Box.
There was no warm-up act. Instead an incredibly eclectic mix of music was played through the speakers at a volume that was just enough for you to enjoy yet still hold conversations with the folk you were sitting at your table with. Then at just after 9.30, we got to see a old edition of Top Of The Pops in its entirety....one introduced by David Jensen and John Peel.
Sad man that I am, I've since checked which particular edition it was (I could find out from the fact that the #1 single - Is There Something I Should Know by Duran Duran was a new entry) - and it turned out was the one that featured the chart for the week ending 26th March 1983). The reason this particular edition being shown pre-gig was this:-
Orange Juice performed Rip It Up (#9 in the chart that week up from #10)
Big Country performed Fields Of Fire (#31 up from #34)
and......oh be still my beating heart........
Altered Images performed Don't Talk To Me About Love (#12 up from #36).
Clare rarely looked more gorgeous than she did that night.....as you can see for yourself.
But back to what I really want to write about....
When Butcher Boy took to the stage (well....stood in a space in front of us with just the drummer on a very small stage), the first thing I noticed was just many of them there are. Eight performers in total, including a cellist and someone on viola as well as the drums/lead guitar/rhythm guitar/bass/keyboards (oh and during the night other instruments such as a mellotron would be utilised). I thought it was going to be an unholy racket.
I couldnt have been more wrong.
Over the next 45 minutes or so, these eight supremely talented musicians had my total attention as they delivered an outstanding and very distinctive 14-song set.
Much of my love for the band centres around the vocal delivery of John Blain Hunt - there's hints of Bryan Ferry, Lloyd Cole, Stuart Staples and even the great Paul Quinn in his singing. He didn't disappoint, but it was the way that the others performed that brought out just how good a voice he actually has.
Everyone played at the perfect volume so that the instruments you were supposed to hear at a particular point in time were the ones that your ears picked up. Nobody ever indulged in any solos, preferring instead to create a blend of melodies and harmonies that left this particular listener in awe of being in the presence of such aural beauty.
I didn't know more than half of the songs as they were taken from forthcoming LP React Or Die which hits the shops in April, but that didn't stop me deciding on first listen that they were instant classics. Of the songs that I did know from debut LP Profit In Your Poetry, I was left astonished that they sounded better live than they did on record....something I thought would have been a near impossibility.
It was all over just too soon. No encores, but as John himself told me afterwards (yup, I couldn't help but make a beeline for him right at the end to say thank you), it was a show that was going so well that the two songs they had in reserve were incorporated into the main set. I also learned that the rehearsal for the show was the first time Butcher Boy had played outside of a studio environment in 16 months, and I thought to myself just how mind-blowing their shows would be if they were full-time musicians doing this for a living....and then I realised it was probably the fact that they do perform so rarely together that makes the performances so special....and fresh-sounding.
It was a night when the folk performing seemed to have as much fun, pleasure and enjoyment as the 120 or so folk lucky enough to have been in the audience.
Afterwards, a DJ played a great set of tunes - mostly indie, but not exclusively, and mostly drawn from the 80s, but again not exclusively. Myself and Comrade Colin and many others danced and danced and danced and danced again, only pausing to take in liquid to stem the sweat and only stopping when the house lights came on at 12.15am.
Than I walked home happy in the knowledge that I had again been so lucky to have been part of something so special and also realising that if I had never taking up this blogging lark, I'd have missed out on it.
Now here's a couple of snippets.
I mentioned that the new LP hits the shops in April. Technically that's true, but the record label is already making it available via mail order for just £10. Click here and buy it.
Oh and if you live in the London area, the band are coming your way next month. On Saturday 14th March they are playing at a venue called Jamm. More details can be found at the Butcher Boy myspace site, where you'll also find some songs to listen to, including these:-
mp3 : Butcher Boy - Profit In Your Poetry
mp3 : Butcher Boy - Carve A Pattern
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Appearances can be soooooooooooo deceptive.
The band was indeed officially only six-strong in the early days. The seventh bloke to join Madness wouldn't do until after this single was released, although up until then he had been part of their live shows as backing vocalist and dancer. And indeed would play a huge part in making this single so bloody popular:-
mp3 : Madness - One Step Beyond
It's a cover of a song by Prince Buster, a Jamaican ska artist who had enjoyed success back in the 60s. Madness had already paid tribute to him with their debut single The Prince before making sure he got a whole lot of royalties with their follow-up which reached #7 in November 1979.
The key difference between the original and this loving tribute is the addition of the spoken-word intro:-
Don't watch that, watch this!
This is the heavy heavy monster sound
The nuttiest sound around
So if you've come in off the street
And you're beginning to feel the heat
Well listen Buster
You better start to move your feet
To the rockinest, rock-steady beat
One step beyond!
Performed by Chas Smash and copied by kids in playgrounds all over the UK. With a wonderfully entertaining video to boot, this is the song really got Madness noticed and before long they cemented a place as one of the great British singles acts of the late 20th Century.
Just under a year later, Madness would release a truly astonishing single that remains my particular favourite. A soap-opera in just under three minutes. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy and girl shag...baby gets created. Parents of the boy and girl react with anger and horror...and completely ostracise their own offspring.
Their crime wasn't to become unexpected parents. Their crime was to create a mixed-race baby...
mp3 : Madness - Embarrassment
Based on a true story. The teenage sister of saxophonist Lee Thomson had a black boyfriend and became pregnant only to find much of her family shunning her. The real life story turns out to have had a happy ending, with the family seeing sense after the baby girl was born. I'm guessing the existence of the song also played its part....
* turns out I can't count......and its actually Part 8
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Joe McClaine is just nine years old, but thanks to the Brain Impulse Galvanoscope Record And Transfer (BIG RAT) machine invented by his father, he can be given the skills, knowledge and experience of anyone on earth.
Joe's adventures take him all over the world, foiling international terrorists, helping besieged royals and recovering missing nuclear weapons.
Following on the heels of Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, JOE 90 marked yet another triumph for producer Gerry Anderson. In classic Anderson syle, the show featured incredible machines, fast-paced action and ahead-of-their-time special effects.
In the the 70s, any kid who was unlucky enough to need to wear really old-fashioned NHS-style spectacles, was inevitably given the nickname of Joe 90.
Which leads me to introduce two Joes from the 90s:-
mp3 : Inspiral Carpets - Joe
mp3 : PJ Harvey - Joe
The PJ Harvey track is taken from her astonishing and remarkable debut LP Dry, released in 1991. At the time Peej had an image of a ball-breaking rock chick, with her quite short hair who wore no make-up and everyday clothes. It was a few years later that she transformed herself into drop-dead gorgeous rock chick with the flowing locks, ruby red lipstick and a body she would show off in the flimsiest of outfits. I only say this because I recall not long after the debut LP appeared, she did a semi-nude photo-shoot in one of the music papers, and the following week there were all sorts of letters from blokes saying how 'ugly birds shouldn't be encouraged to get their kit off.' I bet if she did the same today, the paper's circulation would increase ten-fold.
The Inspiral Carpets single was released in 1995 and was the last before the band split up (they later reformed for a while in 2003). Thankfully, none of the band, to the best of my knowledge, have ever got their kit off in public.
Friday, February 20, 2009
You're the one for me, fatty
You're the one I really, really love
And I will stay
Promise you'll say
If I'm in your way
All over Battersea
and some despair
Repeated umpteen times with the occasional Buddy Holly impressions(a-hey) thrown in for padding.
It preceeded the album by three weeks and had me a bit worried about how it was all going to turn out. As it was, Fatty was one of the poorest tracks on the LP and was soon a candidate for frequent use of the skip button on the CD player.
Sometimes disappointing singles get rescued by decent tracks on the b-side, but sadly these efforts are quite forgettable.
mp3 : Morrissey - You're The One For Me, Fatty
mp3 : Morrissey - Pashernate Love
mp3 : Morrissey - There Speaks A True Friend
At least the cover was a cracker.....another Linder Sterling photo taken at a concert in Chicago in 1991.
But my opinions weren't shared by the general public....it was a single that climbed higher in the charts than any of those taken from Kill Uncle, hitting #19 in July 1992.
Having said that, looking at the great man doing so many interviews this week to promote his new LP, maybe all of us should sing it back to him at the forthcoming concerts........
Thursday, February 19, 2009
This one took 8 days, which is a bit longer than the others which arrived after 24 and 48 hours. Rather disappointingly from a blogging perspective, the act in question isn't one of the old guard who hate modernity....and the post that has been taken down is one of the very few that have been written at TVV in praise of an emerging act.
So ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls....be careful if you're going to rave about The Airborne Toxic Event cos you could be the next one to get the dreaded notice.
Sorry to all of you who took the time to leave behind comments to the posting....they too have gone forever.
Here's a little something for the dmca creeps.
mp3 : The Wannadies - Piss On You
I don't see him all that often as he lives in Florida with his wife and two kids (one of whom is in fact 'the face of The Vinyl Villain on the right hand side'), but I know he has a read of this nonsense almost every day.
Stevie's taste in music isn't as diverse as mine, but I'd like to think he has picked up on a bunch of new stuff by listening to the mp3s posted here....
But today, I'll play safe and play some 80s Scottish pop that I know he'll love:-
mp3 : Big Country - Fields Of Fire
mp3 : Hipsway - The Honeythief
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - Jennifer She Said
mp3 : Love & Money - Strange Kind Of Love
Happy Birthday Bro'. And Happy Listening one and all.
PS : Happy Birthday Mr John Greer of North Berwick, East Lothian. This time next year we'll get all nostalgic about you....
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Back in the late 1990s, I was in a job that involved the occasional bit of overseas travel. To those of you who don't ever have to do that for a living it might sound like a great way of life, but believe me, aside from the excitement of arriving somewhere for the first time and enjoying, if you're lucky, a bit of sightseeing, the joys of being far away from home for a few days isn't any fun.
It was in 1997 that I went on what proved to be my furthest ever jaunt, to Kuala Lumper in Malaysia to accompany my boss who was giving the keynote speech to a conference of civic leaders - I was there partly as the bag-carrier and organiser, but I was also around to make any last-minute changes to the speech and presentation. I have three abiding memories of the trip.
Firstly, it was very very hot and humid with the most amazing bursts of thunder and lightning I ever imagine I will see.
Secondly, as someone who is not a fan of any sort of exotic food, my participation in a 16-course banquet held in honour of the boss was torture of the worst kind - I was pretty ill for 48 hours afterwards but still had to be seen in and around the conference venue and elsewhere at all times. I made sure I knew where the nearest toilet was.
Thirdly, I heard Moaner by Underworld for the first ever time.
I was having real problems sleeping during the trip, and in the middle of one night I found myself tuned into MTV Asia. It was a station dominated by all sorts of American rock'n'roll stadium acts, particularly Guns'n'Roses who seemed to be on every other song. Then out of the blue came a video that seemed to be a soundtrack to the latest Batman movie - a throbbing, thumping, grinding, intense and manic bit of music that got louder and louder and hugely intense....and just when it seemed to be hitting some sort of ecstatic peak it disappeared without warning, leaving no trace at all of its presence. I was hooked and promised myself that if I ever got back in one piece, I'd immediately track down the song so I'd have one happy abiding memory from it.
This proved to be far more difficult than I imagined as the only way to get hold of it was to buy a single on expensive import or shell out for the soundtrack LP to Batman & Robin. In the end I did the latter. And while it is a soundtrack that I have never played in its entirety (too many things on it that were a total turn-off), the Underworld track became a huge favourite.
Coming in at more than 10 minutes in length, it was of course much longer than the version that I had heard back in Malaysia, but that didn't bother me in the slightest. However, if the truth be told, for a long while I could really only listen to the opening six and a bit minutes up to the part that I so remembered from that first time....the ecstatic point where the vocal screams 'down to the waterfront.' I used to put the track on every C90 compilation of that era but I always hit the stop button right at that moment....but as time has marched on and the full song has found its way on to the i-pod I've learned to love every single note.
And despite the title of this posting, I can also say that I've never had the opportunity to properly dance to the track (i.e, in a club). Yes, i've jumped around an empty flat with nobody watching, and I've also lain on a beach throwing my arms above my head while singing along, much to the distress of other holidaymakers who are concerned why a lunatic has been allowed onto an otherwise tranquil Caribbean island.
And given I'm now nearer 50 than 40, I guess I never will get that dance. One of life's few regrets y'know....
mp3 : Underworld - Moaner (album version)
Looking up info on the song it turnd out that it was released as a single in Germany and the USA with four different versions - 'short', 'album', 'relentless legs' and 'long' - with the version on the soundtrack being 'album.' Just over a year later later, it was included on the LP Beaucoup Fish as the closing track - the version being 'long' (confusingly, the 'long' version is in fact shorter than either the 'album' or 'relentless legs versions.').
This post is dedicated to my dear friends Ctelblog from Acid Ted and Drew from Across The Kitchen Table. If only I had got to know them a few years ago....they would have known where to take me to make my Underworld ambition come true.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
But neither of us will ever forget Valentine's Night 2009.
Regular readers will know I've long been hopelessly devoted to Howard and the boys in Magazine. Along with Johnny Cash, they were the act I most regretted never taking the opportunity to go see live. And after almost 30 years since their break-up, I had long given up hope.....
And just like buses when you've been hanging around waiting impatiently for an eternity, two of the damn things come along together - in other words, having made all the arrangements to go to the hometown show in Manchester on Saturday 14th, I got an 11th hour opportunity to also go along to the Glasgow show on Monday 16th.
Both turned out to be quite special, although what I saw in Glasgow was an identical set-list and an almost identical set of spoken intros by Howard Devoto. If it hadn't been for Dave Formula being hatless in Glasgow, the whole thing could have easily been a facsimilie. Soundwise, the Manchester show triumphed, but I reckon this was as much to do with the poor acoustics in The Glasgow Academy (I know from reading some initial reviews of the home town gig that some fans were critical of the acoustics at their Academy - believe me they are infinitely better than the similarly named venue 220 miles north....for one thing, I heard some great backing vocals in Manchester, last night they were totally lost)
Don't get me wrong....I'm not saying the Glasgow gig was anything less than stunning.....I was the one who was spoiled by seeing them in a superior location in front of an ecstatic and adoring home crowd.
As I mentioned, it was identical set-lists in the same running order. Much of the set was as anticipated in terms of fan favourites and songs that have appeared on various 'Best Of' collections released by a desperate record company over the past 25 years. But equally, there were some real unexpected gems and oddities drawn from obscure b-sides and long-forgotten LP tracks to keep the hardcore fans happy and the casual fans bewildered.
It was of course, just 4/5 of the classic Magazine line-up with Howard Devoto on lyrics, Barry Adamson on bass, Dave Formula on keyboards and John Doyle on drums. Taking the place of the late and great John McGeogh on guitar was Norman Fisher-Jones (aka Noko), formerly Howard's sidekick in Luxuria. Praise has to be heaped on Noko, for he did a fantastic job when he really was on a hiding to nothing.....
The band were on tremendous form, playing with a passion and an energy that belies their years (the average age must be nearer 60 than 50....). Howard's vocals were much better than any of us I think could dare have ever imagined....maybe the fact he hasn't sung on stage that often in recent years has protected his throat and thus allowed him to sound so good. Barry's bass playing was a joy to behold, especially on some of the real up-tempo numbers where, working in tandem with John, he drove the songs on at a frantic pace yet remaining cool and controlled and making it look effortless. Dave's keyboard playing??? I think he might have hit a bum note....or maybe two....over the course of each night....but that was probably deliberate (or is it just my ears at my age?) Anyway, every Magazine fan knows how important his contribution to the sound has been over the years, and live, his playing was every bit as soulful, poppy and progressive as you would expect depending on the song.
If I had a grumble, it would be that a few of my own personal favourites didn't make the set-list, but what was played more than made up for it:-
Intro - The Thin Air (taped..not live)
The Light Pours Out of Me
The Great Beautician/The Honeymoon Killers
Because You're Frightened
You Never Knew Me
Rhythm of Cruelty
I Want To Burn Again
A Song from Under the Floorboards
Twenty Years Ago/Definitive Gaze
Shot By Both Sides
Thank You (Falentinme Be Mice Elf Again)
I Love You You Big Dummy
Too many highlights to mention, and not a dull moment in a 90-minute set. But the sheer joy of the opening drum-beats on Saturday as I realised after all these years I was really seeing the band in the flesh will live with me until I no longer have the required grey matter in my brain....and even then I still reckon I'll get unexpected flashbacks.
On this basis, I have to advise any reader who might not be sure if the fact that one of their all time favourite bands of old have recently reformed and hit the road for a final payday before its time to pull on the slippers and puff on the pipe that its well worth taking a gamble on going along.
Magazine didn't disappoint - they surpassed every one of my hopes and expectations.
I am one very very happy chappy right now. I think you get the message.
mp3 : Magazine - Permafrost (live)*
mp3 : Magazine - A Song From Under The Floorboards (live)*
*Recorded at Melbourne Festival Hall, 6th September 1980.
PS : A review of the Glasgow gig from Mike of Manic Pop Thrills is here.
Monday, February 16, 2009
But by 1984, she was mostly forgotten. She had released a handful of singles in the 70s, but there was a gap of 14 years from 1969 - 1983 between albums. I said mostly forgotten, for the fact was a young emerging vocal talent called Steven Patrick Morrissey and his sidekick guitarist called Johnny Marr carried torches for her.
So much so that in April 1984, they hit upon the idea of re-releasing the debut single by The Smiths, only with Sandie singing lead vocal. This took Hand In Glove into the charts and got Sandie back on Top of the Pops for the first time in 15 years. It was a memorable performance in which the three members of the band paid tribute to her by playing barefoot - just the way Sandie had done in her prime. Sandie, to her credit, did a more than passing resemblance to a live Morrissey performance by falling to the floor and writhing around in ecstasy...
At this point in time I only knew of Sandie Shaw as someone who used to get played on the radio when I was a really young kid. I assumed she was a fair age, and so was surprised to learn that she was just 37 years old when her comeback began.....
Aiming squarely for the same market that adored The Smiths, two singles, both cover versions were released in 1986, with the b-sides being straight tributes to Morrissey and then Marr. But while they were given much critical acclaim, neither single, nor a subsequent LP released in 1988, sold well.
As you can see from the above cover, there was also a 12" single released containing four songs recorded for the Janice Long show on BBC Radio 1. While I knew of the existence of this record, I never owned a copy of it. And I still don't.....but I received a really nice e-mail from Jason Ruff who lives in Lyon, France (but formerly of Brighton, UK) which talked about some great old songs from the 80s, and the upshot was that he sent over some mp3 files and artwork.
Most importantly, he also said yes when I asked if I could share it with TVV readers:-
mp3 : Sandie Shaw - Frederick
mp3 : Sandie Shaw - Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?
mp3 : Sandie Shaw - Steven (You Don't Eat Meat)
mp3 : Sandie Shaw - Girl Don't Come
Note the plethora of great musicians who played on this session....
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Each of these singles were radio-friendly classics, with wonderful b-sides, all packaged in hugely distinctive covers that looked great when you flicked through them in the square box that I'm sure every 15/16 year old kept their precious bits of plastic in - mine were black or red and were bought in Woolworths (R.I.P.)
The seventh of these was the only one that didn't feature a lead vocal from mainman Pete Shelley, instead being the responsibility of lead guitarist Steve Diggle. In some ways it has become single that most folk have forgotten about. It wasn't a massive hit - it only reached #32, thus breaking a run of three successive Top 30 placings that went back to Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have) the previous September. Sadly, despite Buzzcocks releasing another three singles later in 1979 and in 1980, this was the last time they would ever have their name read out on the Sunday evening countdown.
mp3 : Buzzcocks - Harmony In My Head
mp3 : Buzzcocks - Something's Gone Wrong Again
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I'm lucky enough to be spending the evening in the company of Mrs Villain on a nice romantic date at the Manchester Academy watching the hometown comeback gig of Magazine.
Our tickets were purchased when the gigs were initially announced as London and Manchester only. I was a bit pissed-off when a Glasgow gig was later added, and to be honest I did think about selling the Manchester tickets and going local instead.
But then I thought about how some fans will fly thousands of miles to come and see the likes of Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame in their home towns just to experience something pretty unique, and realised that a round trip of just over 400 miles isn't all that onerous a task. Especially as we can throw in an overnight stay with friends we haven't seen for a while. (It turns out that thanks to a late call-off by one of Conmrade Colin's friends that I'll also be at the Glasgow gig next Monday).
Not sure how its all going to turn out tonight, but its a gig I never ever thought I'd see, and I'm kind of tense about it all, praying that I wont be let down. Maybe I'm right to be nervous now.....
Anyway, here's a couple of covers, one of which I hope gets an airing this evening. Wonder if yiou can guess which one I have in mind:-
mp3 : Magazine - Boredom (Peel Session)
mp3 : Magazine - Goldfinger
Friday, February 13, 2009
But given that earlier this week saw the release of the first single from the latest album, I've instead gone back to the last time a single and LP were so eagerly anticipated.
Given how many records he has released over the past 5 years, not to mention the number of times he has toured the UK (often playing towns and venues that are never visited by minor singers or bands far less someone of his stature), it is sort of easy to forget that there were no new Morrissey music released between 1997 and 2004 - a period of time that was well in excess of his career with the Smiths.
The disappointment of Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted (although I don't think the latter is as poor an LP as is often perceived), combined with the fact that only one of the last ten singles had ever cracked the Top 20 led many to write off Morrissey once and for all. He had been signed and dropped by a number of labels in the 90s and it looked as if his recording days were over.
But this period of inactivity at the end of the 20th Century coincided with many writers and journalists getting all nostalgic and acknowledging his importance to pop music, mostly in partnership with Johnny Marr. It also coincided with a fresh interest in indie-music as it came back into vogue one more time, and many of the singers and songwriters now being profiled in magazines, newspapers and within these new-fangled things called blogs started namechecking Morrissey all the time.
In 2002, he undertook a three-month long world tour, partly as a reminder that he still existed, but mainly to air a number of new songs that he had written over the past five years in the hope that some label would come in with an offer that wasn't insulting. The tour got a lot of positive publicity, with many reviewers commenting that much of the new stuff sounded as good as anything he'd ever released and many alos wrote that they hoped these would see the light of day on a forthcoming record.
It was also noted that many of the new songs had a contemporary feel to them - ie indie-pop - that would find favour with a brand new audience, many of whom hadn't been born when The Smiths formed and to who Morrissey was a mysterious figure that loads of their mums, dads, aunties and uncles held in high esteem.
I first heard the comeback single courtesy of MTV2. I wasn't actually paying all that much attention at the time when the first notes were struck - I was reading the sports section of a newspaper - but then I realised that this was a voice with which I was very familiar. The focus of my attention immediately shifted.....
I was stunned. At long last, Morrissey sounded important again. Here was a single that was wasn't all that different from the sounds being churned out by the popstars of the moment, but his presence on it - his vocal delivery, his charisma within that video, his ability to come up with a great singalong chorus without it being something dumb - made it something truly special.
The other great trick was that we were getting to see the video some 4 weeks before the actual single was available in the shops, so that with every showing and listening, we realised how exceptional a song it was, especially compared to recent Morrissey songs. Some old fans might have bought the single out of habit, but many more came back to Morrissey for the first time in a over a decade, and along with an army of new fans bought it because it was something worth owning.
And despite it getting very little support from Radio 1 in the UK, the comeback single entered the UK charts at #3 which was easily the highest position in his entire career. If this single had been a stinker and a flop, then I guess Morrissey would have had no option but to retire from music, so in many ways, this was probably the most important record of his career:-
mp3 : Morrissey - Irish Blood, English Heart
mp3 : Morrissey - It's Hard To Walk Tall When You're Small
mp3 : Morrissey - Munich Air Disaster 1958
mp3 : Morrissey - The Never Played Symphonies
What initially struck me when I bought the two CD singles was that the other songs were actually more than half-decent tracks and that in being able to issue them as mere b-sides, Morrissey must have great confidence in the dozen or so that he was going to issue on his comeback LP, You Are The Quarry.
His confidence wasn't misplaced, as it is a very fine recording, ....but I'll argue that it could have been a truly great album if some of the tracks that he kept back as b-sides (four singles were eventually issued) had replaced some of the less memorable tunes on the album.
But that's Morrissey for you.....he never really does things the easy way. Long may he reign over us.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I bought Regina on 12" when it was released back in 1989 as I thought that would be the way to get the most unusual version of the song - i.e. sung in Icelandic. What I wasn't aware of until about five years later when I heard the song played in a pub I was sitting in was that the double-pack 7" had two other versions under the title Propeller vs Jet. I was kicking myself thinking that my chance to ever own something that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the solo stuff Bjork was releasing had gone forever.
But being given a USB turntable got me collecting vinyl again after the best part of 15 years....and as I said earlier, I picked it up in the most unexpected of places.
And so, for the first time in TVV history, here's four versions of the same songs in the one sitting. I'll apologise if you really don't like lobster......
mp3 : The Sugarcubes - Regina
mp3 : The Sugarcubes - Regina (Icelandic vocal)
mp3 : The Sugarcubes - Regina (Propeller vs Jet Part 1)
mp3 : The Sugarcubes - Regina (Propeller vs Jet Part 2)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Not that I'll claim to own all that many of their records on CD or vinyl, and I reckon this 1993 offering was the first to find its way into the collection.
It was a joint single with Credit To The Nation, which was in fact a teenage UK hip-hop singer called Matty Hanson aka DJ Fusion with two backing dancers. They had come to the fore earlier in the year thanks to the chart success of Call It What You Want, a single which sampled Smells Like Teen Spirit....something which got many in the press who worshipped Nirvana all hot and bothered under the collar.
This anti-fascism single, released at a time when right-wing politicians were rearing their ugly heads all over Europe, reached the Top 75 despite a lack of support from radio stations. Different versions of the b-sides can be found on their own separate albums:-
mp3 : Chumbawamba & Credit To The Nation - Enough Is Enough
mp3 : Chumbawamba & Credit To The Nation - Hear No Bullshit (On Fire Mix)
mp3 : Chumbawamba & Credit To The Nation - The Day The Nazi Died (1993 mix)
And here's the video (which I had never seen before having a search for it two minutes ago):-
Happy Listening, and viewing.
Monday, February 09, 2009
The first time I ever heard anything by the band was in early 1984 when Whistle Test, the BBC2 music show, closed an edition with the first airing of their debut single Dr Mabuse. Until that point, all I knew was that they were on ZTT, were labelmates of Frankie Goes To Hollywood (who were then the biggest band in the UK) and were being championed by Paul Morley, a journalist who many think is a tosser, but who I think is one of the best writers I've ever come across.
So, I recorded the video onto a VHS tape....and watched it again and again and again over the next few weeks. I of course rushed out and bought the debut single, helping it on its way to a Top 30 placing.
But just as quickly as they had burst on to the scene, they disappeared. History now informs us that ZTT were so overwhelmed by the success of FGTH that all other acts on their roster had to take a back seat for the best part of a year. So when I read in April 1985 that Propaganda were going to release their follow-up single more than a year after Dr Mabuse, I was more than intrigued.
That single was called Duel, a lovely bit of electro-pop that fitted in just perfectly with so many of the other musicians I was developing a love for, and in particular Pet Shop Boys. There was also something quite erotic about the vocal delivery of Claudia Brucken, but visually it was the other female in the band - Susanne Freytag - who really did it for me. The band actually were on UK telly quite a bit around the time of Duel, including a couple of live songs that were aired on the above-mentioned Whistle Test during which they proved, as a live act, they could cut it, albeit there were backing tapes involved.
But Propaganda were victims of an FGTH backlash with many music journalists questioning just how much of the success of them and ZTT was down to the production skills of Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson and the hype-skills of Paul Morley rather than any talents the musicians might have.
So it was a skeptical world that greeted the July 1985 release of A Secret Wish, the debut LP by Propaganda. I remember one Sunday evening that veteran Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale played the full 9 minutes of the instrumental opening track, Dream Within A Dream, and thinking that it was just gorgeous. It reminded me of a number of the early 80s instrumentals that Simple Minds had released as b-sides, only they had been taken forward and given a bigger and cleaner production....so I was gobsmacked to tune into the show next week and hear Annie read out a number of angry letters from listeners who had been appalled that some much of the previous show had been given over to such a 'dreadful dirge.'
That's when I knew Propaganda could never win over the great British public. Too arty for some, too plastic for others and too clever by half for the rest. Oh and of course they were German.....
I still love that debut LP. I even fell for the marketing scam and bought a remixed version of it that appeared some six months later, although to be fair, it was a decent enough record on its own. I even bought at least one ZTT compilation LP just to pick up yet another different version of a Propaganda song. But by the time the band got round to releasing their second LP in 1990, I was no longer interested. It coincided with a short time when music wasn't that important in my life....
There's a really interesting wikipedia article on Propaganda that's well worth a read. I was surprised to learn that they're still going strong. Click here for more.
Rather than pull something down from the debut LP, I thought I'd go into the cupboard and dig out some vinyl, and the 12" single of Duel which became their biggest-selling hit, reaching #21 in the UK charts:-
mp3 : Propaganda - Duel (bittersweet version)
mp3 : Propaganda - Jewel (cut rough mix)
Oh and here's some visuals to jog your memory, three clips that make up a 20-minute mini-concert that went out on The Tube on Channel 4 :-
Happy Listening and viewing.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
In the meantime, I've switched the affected files to an alternative provider. Sorry for any inconvenience this might be causing.
In 1978, her single Wuthering Heights, topped the singles charts for four weeks. This meant Kate became the first woman to reach #1 with a self-written song. What made the feat truly astonishing was that it was her debut, and she was just 19 years of age.
This was a singer who was quite unlike any other in the late 70s. Very few women were involved in punk or new wave, although that was to change quite quickly. If you heard a woman singing on the radio, is was usually on a disco track or some sort of sugary ballad. OK , I'm generalising as there were also some reggae-style singles that had female vocals, but like punk/new wave, these were few and far between.
Kate Bush had a vocal style all of her own - and it was one that divided the nation. I loved the fact that you couldn't always make out the lyrics unless you really listened closely (or bought the albums in which case you got a lyric sheet). I loved how the records sounded - it was, thinking back, the first time that I appreciated how records had to be produced and arranged rather than just someone shouting into a microphone while strumming a guitar.
And most of all, for these things were important to a hormonally-charged teenager, I loved the way she looked. But I'm not that shallow folks.....if the music had been awful, I wouldnt have given her any attention. Honest.
Its hard to imagine nowadays when so many artists seems to take ages from one album to the next, but Kate Bush released two LPs in 1978. The Kick Inside was her debut, and it hit the shops in February. By late-October, Lionheart had been issued. This was all down to the fact that her label, EMI Records, knowing that Kate had already written over 50 songs that were in demo form, put pressure on her to quickly follow up the initial success.
The first single from the LP also came out in 1978, but Hammer Horror was a flop, failing to reach the Top 40. In a rare show of sense, EMI waited a few months and allowed Kate herself to have a big say in what would be the follow-up, and in March 1979, this began to be heard regularly on daytime radio:-
mp3 : Kate Bush - Wow
It was quite a daring single for its time. In an era when 'pain in the ass' was a lyric that wasn't allowed on radio, Kate got away with 'he's too busy hitting the vaseline' as part of a song that was sympathetic to homosexual actors unable to get the lead roles as they weren't macho enough. There wasn't much made of the subject matter at the time, but I'm guessing that if a 21st century female singer-songwriters was to do something similar, you can bet that one of her myriad of publicists would have the fact running in every tabloid in the land in the hope of creating a hype....
Sorry to say that I'm unable to bring you the b-side, Fullhouse, as this was another single that I lost in the mid 80s.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
After an early self-financed single, they were snapped up by Alan Horne to what would become the legendary Postcard Records label, for who they released four singles between August 1980 and May 1981. They also recorded the only LP released on the first incarnation of the label.
By early 1982, the band had broken up. Lead singer Paul Haig went on to a solo career with much critical but little commercial success, while guitarist Malcolm Ross would crack the charts with both Orange Juice and Aztec Camera (both of whom were also Postcard acts), as well as a solo career and bit-parts in all sorts of Scottish-based groups.
Josef K have never really had the proper recognition they deserve. At the outset, many expected them to be the biggest success for Postcard, but as history shows, of the four bands who ever recorded for the label (Go Betweens also had one single issued back in 1980), they are the least well-known and the only one never to have mainstream chart success.
Sound-wise, they mixed post-punk guitars with a disco beat, but most of the time they seemed a bit more edgier and serious than Orange Juice. But have a listen to this, their second single for Postcard and realise just how similar the bands could sound at times:-
Thinking back, I don't really think Josef K were all that bothered about success. At a period when their Postcard buddies were being courted by major labels, they turned their back on it all. Well, at least Paul Haig did, preferring to put out records by the band on an obscure Belgian-based label to whom he would later sign a solo deal. Malcolm Ross on the other hand, who along with Roddy Frame is probably the most influential Scottish-based guitarist of the era (and yes, I would put them above the late, great Stuart Adamson), was able to make significant contributions to great pop records.
The sleeves pictured above are two singles from 1981. One was released on Postcard, while the other on the afore-mentioned Les Disques Du Crepuscule.
mp3 : Josef K - Chance Meeting
mp3 : Josef K - Pictures (Of Cindy)
mp3 : Josef K - Sorry For Laughing
mp3 : Josef K - Revelation
Oh and given that I've not shoved up any cover versions in this recent nostalgia-fest, let me offer this from 1985:-
mp3 : Propaganda - Sorry For Laughing
I've been meaning to do a posting on Propaganda for a while now, but somehow haven't got round to it. Sometime this year I'll manage it.
Friday, February 06, 2009
The Smiths had made their chart breakthrough in early November 1983 when This Charming Man hit #25. About a month later, after the single had dropped out of the Top 40, a 12" remix suddenly appeared.
The remix was by a New York DJ called Francois Kevorkian, and the original intention was for it to be a limited edition cut available only for USA-based club DJs. Legend has it however, that Geoff Travis, boss of Rough Trade Records, liked it so much that he gave the mix a release in the UK, much to the disgust of Morrissey who called on fans not to buy it.
But of course, given that such fans were consuming everything that this amazing new band was doing, we ignored him.
Incidentally, Geoff Travis has since said that the band were not initially against the idea of the remix being made available, and has hinted that Morrissey deliberately engineered a row in the press to create some more publicity. But then again, given that Morrissey has often said since then that he despised dance music, and that he also later wrote a scathing lyric about Geoff Travis (Frankly Mr Shankly), then its difficult to know who to believe.
But I reckon that given the musical tastes of the other members of The Smiths, they would have approved of this version, and may even have occasionally had a little dance to it when the singer had his back turned:-
mp3 : The Smiths - This Charming Man (New York) (Vocal)
mp3 : The Smiths - This Charming Man (New York) (Instrumental)
Thursday, February 05, 2009
This dates from 1989, when his records were shamefully selling to no-one but hardcore fans. The toucan on the sleeve is an Edwyn Collins drawing. The single can also be found on Hope & Despair, one of the great lost albums of the 80s.
mp3 : Edwyn Collins - Coffee Table Song
mp3 : Edwyn Collins - Judas In Blue Jeans
mp3 : Edwyn Collins - Out There
Judas In Blue Jeans is another example of Edwyn's caustic wit and sarcasm about life at a time when so many inferior musicians were enjoying chart success as his own career floundered. Out There is a short instrumental, one that is crying out for some sort of vocal from the mighty Paul Quinn, unavailable on anything other than this 12" single.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
But if the truth be told, there was a two-year spell back in my early teens when I picked up the clarinet and tried to be part of the school orchestra. Now anyone who has played that instrument will know just how shocking it can sound when its done badly - the unexpected bum note that shrieks and squeals and has all the local dogs howling at the moon. I must have driven my mum, dad and two young brothers demented at times - especially living in a house that was far from the biggest and with walls that were paper-thin.
I very much associate the clarinet with jazz and be-bop, and whether my failure to master the instrument is instrumental in my views I'm unable to say.....but I cannot abide either of those musical genres. If I hear a clarinet on a record, I'll immediately lose all interest.
Except in this case.
Back in 1981, Non Stop Erotic Cabaret, the debut album by Soft Cell was rarely off my turntable. There was just something so perfect about the tunes and lyrics that appealed to a 17/18 year-old who was so desperately trying to find the secret of happiness, whether it was through sex, dancing, drinking or breaking away from the confines of what was admittedly a happy family home. Indeed, it was probably the cautionary tales of the loneliness of bedsitland as described by Marc Almond and Dave Ball that kept me at home until I was in my 20s....
Last year, I put Bedsitter into my list of all time favourite 45s, and at the time, I said it was as much for the fact that it was the single that stopped anyone labelling Soft Cell as a one-hit wonder with a cover. But in all truth, it was the third single, the closing track on the LP that has always been my favourite and the one that was heart-breakingly beautiful....especially to someone who just couldn't quite land the girl of his dreams.
As with the previous Soft Cell singles, I bought this on 12" vinyl. And I was gobsmacked when I played it for the first time to hear that the opening three and a bit minutes were dominated by a clarinet solo. My initial reaction was one of horror....I thought the song had been ruined.
But after maybe two or three more listens, I quickly realised that this solo by Dave Tofani was indeed a perfect addition to the song, making even it more of a heart-wrenching story that would bring a tear to any eye.
If this song had been around when I was learning the clarinet, then there's every chance I would have stuck at it a bit longer in an effort to master that solo.....so I suppose we should be grateful that I wasn't born 10 years later.
mp3 : Soft Cell - Say Hello, Wave Goodbye (12 inch version)
And, as ever, Soft Cell didn't short-change their fans with the b-sides on the 12" singles, with a an amazing version of Fun City, recorded live in a Leeds recording studio:-
mp3 : Soft Cell - Fun City (12 inch version)
I'm playing this version of Say Hello, Wave Goodbye as I type this, and I had forgotten just how glorious the second appearance of the clarinet is....it comes about three-quarters of the way through, just before Marc sings his last few choruses......
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
And for only the second ever time in all of them, a complete album is available to listen to.
One Man Clapping is a live album, released in March 1989. It had been recorded over two nights the previous November in Bath. So what?
Well, the fact is that James at the time were in dire financial difficulties, so much so that without this record they would in all likelihood have broken-up. The move away from from Factory Records some five years earlier onto the major label with Sire had been an unmitigated disaster.
The debut album hadn't sold well, largely because the label thought it uncommercial and refused to give it any meaningful promotions budget. The band decided to swallow their pride and make a more radio-friendly second LP, only to find to their horror that the record label more or less rejected it - it was given a release more than a year later, again with next to no promotion. It was fair to say the relationship had broken down, and James manufactured their escape.
But that left them with no record deal and no incentive for touring, although their fan base remained loyal. The boys were reduced to taking part in medical experiments at a Manchester hospital to pay the rent, when they come up with the idea of recording a low-cost live album which would not only make them some money, but also showcase their new songs to other labels. But how could they get the money to pay for the recording of such an album?
Believe it or not, it was a bank manager who came to their rescue - one Colin Cook of the St. Anne's Square, Manchester branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland - with a loan of £12,000. He did so after he'd gone along to see the band play live after they had put in the request for the loan.
The LP was a critical success, and its aims of making some money and getting the band back in the spotlight were achieved.
Only around 10,000 copies of One Man Clapping were made available. The cassette and vinyl versions have 12 songs on them, but the CD version has 13 songs (in 1989, vinyl was still more popular than CDs, so in all likelihood, the extra track was included in the hope that the more loyal fans would buy both versions).
I've only the vinyl version, but it's one that has a proud place on the shelf. I picked it up second hand some two years ago not long after starting the blog, and I always wanted to make it available on some sort of special occasion.
And today seems to be as good as any.
mp3 : James - Chain Mail
mp3 : James - Sandman (Hup-Springs)
mp3 : James - Whoops
mp3 : James - Riders
mp3 : James - Leaking
mp3 : James - Why So Close
mp3 : James - Johnny Yen
mp3 : James - Scarecrow
mp3 : James - Are You Ready
mp3 : James - Really Hard
mp3 : James - Burned
mp3 : James - Stutter
One Man Clapping was released on One Man Records, which in effect was an imprint of Rough Trade - the sleeve notes give a very big thank you to Geoff Travis.
Indeed, Travis went even further in terms of saving the band by giving them a contract with his indie label which had really made its fame and fortune a few years earlier with The Smiths - only to see James walk away after a couple of singles so they could have another stab at stardom with a major, in this case Fontana.
The rest, as they say, is history.
There's quite a few who say James were at their very best in the era of One Man Clapping, but I think that's a bit of indie-snobbery talking. Some of their very best songs lay ahead of them, and while the rise to stardom did result in some hugely over-produced stuff that changed dramatically the way the band sounded within a handful of years, I don't think anyone who watched just how much of a struggle those first 6 or 7 years were for all concerned could grudge them the success. If you can't be bothered to listen to all of this album and want a recommendation for just one song, then how about I steal some words from Stuart Maconie and his book Folklore : The Official History of James:-
The album's highlight is its least well-known track, Burned, a new song written in the aftermath of the Sire debacle. The lyric is a defiant denunciation of the music business.
"If you don't look cool, they won't look at you
But if your image is strong, any song will do
They think that the wrapping's the gift....
All we want is an empty throne
I feel I've been burned
But I won't let it show
My beliefs are all shaken
I'm lost in the grief at the state I'm in
Seen too much goodness chewed up by money men
If God exists she should make us king..."
And God it seemed was listening and yes, she was planning to make them, if not king, then certainly minor archdukes of the business they were so bitter about.
More tough to find things tomorrow.