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TO CUT A LONG STORY SHORT….

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…. this is a cracking bit of pop music.

mp3 : Spandau Ballet – The Freeze

While making my way through Mad World (see yesterday’s posting),  I got to the chapter on Spandau Ballet which sadly concentrated on the slushy hit single True as it is the song they are best known for over in the States.  But reading it did lead me to dig out my copy of the band’s debut LP Journeys to Glory and give it a spin for the first time in gawd knows how many years. Which is where I realised just how great a song The Freeze is.

It was the second single lifted from the LP, reaching #17 back in early 1981.

The band did of course go onto to become one of the most dull and bland outfits of the 80s and a song like The Freeze is a long way removed from the sort of sounds they are more associated with.  I reckon that if they had broken up on the back of the debut LP then many a modern day hipster would be proclaiming it, and especially this track, as one of the great influencing records of the era.

I can recall a remix version of this song getting played a lot in the sorts of Glasgow discos that I frequented among other great electronic-pop tracks of the day by the likes of OMD, Soft Cell, Simple Minds, Heaven 17, Yazoo, Associates, Human League and Magazine. Turns out it was the b-side of the 12″ and I’ve managed to procure a copy via fishing around on t’internet:-

mp3 : Spandau Ballet – The Freeze (version)

Enjoy.

MAD WORLD

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One of the 45s featured in the regular Saturday series on great Scottish singles was this:-

mp3 : April Showers – Abandon Ship

Released to almost complete indifference in 1984, it really is one of the great lost singles of the era.  April Showers was a short-lived Glaswegian pop duo comprising Jonathan Bernstein and Beatrice Colin.

I’m a huge fan of this song. It was the only piece of music the band got round to releasing (other than the b-side!!) . Today is probably now the fifth time I’ve made it available as an mp3 over the past eight years. I was amazed that a few weeks ago the very same Jonathan Bernstein dropped me an e-mail, thanking me for the kind words and asking if I’d be interested in having a read of a book that he had co-authored and which was due for publication in the UK later in the year.

How could I say no?

The 300+ page book in question is called Mad World : An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that defined the 1980s. And it’s very very good……

Jonathan moved to Los Angeles quite a few years ago and is nowadays more widely known thanks to his exploits as a movie screenwriter, author an occasional contributor to magazines and newspapers.  For this particular project he has  hooked up with Lori Majewski, herself a successful music and entertainment writer.

Th authors were inspired to write the book came about after they both read an interview with a well-known 80s musician from the UK in which he had discussed the inspiration, writing and recording of the song, as well as its reception and place in pop history.  If it could be done for this particular song then why not for others which had made such an impact on them as music fans?

Each of the 36 individual chapters begins with an introductory paragraph which puts the artist and song into a broader context – where and how they fit with the rest of the 80s and perhaps any enduring influence they have had on music all these years later. Each of the authors then offer very short pieces expressing their own views on the song or the artist before the pages are turned over to those who matter most – the musicians. This is where the excellent writing skills and styles of the authors shine through – all of the interviews were carried out face-to-face or by e-mail in the classic Q&A style, but they appear on paper as superbly written monologues.

This leads to a consistently entertaining read – no single musician comes across as a pretentious prat nor do the authors leave anyone hanging out to dry (although it should be pointed out that some of the tales highlight how different musicians in the same band see things from different perspectives and you have to draw your own conclusion as to which is the truth and which version is fabricated…..)

It is a book written initially for an American market and so the songs and bands featured will have had to enjoyed a bit of success over there for it to make commercial sense. As such, there’s a number of songs in the book that I am no fan of – and a couple that I’ve never even heard of – but at no time did I feel like ever skipping any of the chapters.

The title is also a wee bit misleading for the songs featured were released between 1978 and 1985, an era which the authors unashamedly say was the Last Golden Age Of Pop. So there’s a lot of great music from the decade missing from the book but those of you with a bent towards great indie or electronic pop will particularly enjoy the chapters on New Order, ABC, Echo & The Bunnymen, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, The Normal, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Joy Division, OMD and The Smiths among many others.

What I particularly enjoyed was the authors abilities to look at the 80s in a way which is warts and all and come to the conclusion that it was a time far preferable to nowadays when any semblance of individuality is ridiculed on TV ‘talent’ shows or is then removed by such bland, dull and ultra safe production values designed to appeal to the biggest common denominator.

“Were the artists ridiculous? Was the music overproduced? Was the influence of Bowie ubiquitous to the point of being suffocating? Guilty on all accounts. But it was also an era of imagination, vaulting ambition and incredibly memorable songs.

Mock and ridicule the excesses of the 80s if you want, but don’t try and deny that the stars of the era had personality. They may have been pretentious, pompous and absurd, but it was their own pretension, pomposity and absurdity. They didn’t have to bow their heads and nervously wait for the approval of a jaded record executive on a judging panel. Love or hate them they were their own glorious creations.”

The other great strength of the book is the diverse backgrounds of the two authors.

Majewski is an American who was a teenage music fan in the period concerned with an undiminished passion and love for the likes of Duran Duran and Adam Ant but a huge appreciation of what makes a great indie song – she’s the contributor who likes The Smiths and is not ashamed to admit that she knew nothing of Joy Division until she checked out the original version of the song covered by Paul Young; Bernstein is Scottish, older and, thanks to April Showers, a participant in the era. He claims he is too sour by nature, too uptight and suspicious of emotion to declare himself a fan of anybody, but this enables him to take a dispassionate approach to each singer or band and articulate just how he feels they are worthy of a place in the book – except in the chapter on The Smiths where he simply says ‘Not A Fan’.  But I’m willing to forgive this for all of his other contributions – in particular his words on Simple Minds – where he captures perfectly how all of us who had grown up with them in Glasgow were feeling as they took the USA by storm.

Together they have cooked-up a really good read. One which can be enjoyed in bite-size chunks or devoured ferociously in a single serving….either way it won’t come back on you and leave feeling queasy. Indeed, I suspect it will leave you longing for further servings.

Mad World has been well received by critics and fans alike since its publication in the States back in April. UK readers can pick pre-order copies on-line in advance of its release date next week on Monday 1 September from when It will hopefully be available in all good book stores.

Here’s one of the songs featured in the book in its full extended nine minute plus glory:-

mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon (all night version)

Enjoy

MAD WORLD by LORI MAJEWSKI and JONATHAN BERNSTEIN

Published by Abrams & Chronicle Books

320 pages : RRP : £12.99

 

HANG THE DJ

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From wiki:-

In 2007, the song was re-composed as “Stop Me” with additional lyrics from the song “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes by British DJ Mark Ronson using the voice of Daniel Merriweather as the lead. Merriweather admitted in an interview with The Guardian that he was not very familiar with “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One” before he recorded Mark Ronson’s revised version. He explained: “Mark said, ‘I want you to sing on this – it’s my favourite Smiths song,’ so I listened to it. I’d heard it once before, but I was never a Smiths fan. But I thought it was beautiful.”

The song was later released as a single on 2 April 2007 on Columbia Records with the shortened name “Stop Me”, and featured on the compilation album Version. The music video, released at the same time as the song, features a man who finds a pair of trainers that control him and force him to run along the motorway near the Blackwall Tunnel. This version was released in the United Kingdom. The international version featured people crying animated tears, causing some small floods. Live versions such as Mark Ronson / Stu Zender featuring Merriweather—”Stop Me” (Conan O’Brien, NBC, 12 July 2007) have been televised, among others (BBC Radio 1, Jimmy Kimmel Live!).

The single reached number two in the UK Singles Chart, number one in the UK Download Chart and gained considerable praise and reference, as well as controversy from loyal Smiths fans despite its chart success being the highest ever UK chart position for a Smiths song.

The music review site ThisisfakeDIY gave the single a 5-star rating, citing that its popularity stemmed from its abstraction from a typical Smiths song, resembling a “sweeping, orchestral pop song with horns to boot … soulful, evocative vocals … a stirring mix”. This song was number 80 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Songs of 2007.

It received a mixed review from musicOMH reviewer, Jenny Cole who remarked that the notion of “discoing up a Smiths track” was a “travesty”, and queried that “Morrissey would no doubt hate the idea of someone who has previously worked with Christina Aguilera and Robbie Williams” re-composing his songs. However, despite such reservations, the reviewer remarked that despite its composition “in a mad way it works … Electronic, cheery and danceable, it’s really not half bad” but that the addition of The Supremes to the song was “just mad”.

A slightly shorter edited version (where the lyrics start at the first verse) was released to mainstream radio in October 2007. A remix by Kissy Sell Out features on Ministry of Sound 2008 compilation The Annual. Trance DJ Paul Oakenfold also remixed the song exclusively for his 2007 compilation album Greatest Hits & Remixes. After the win and performance of Ronson at the 2008 edition of the Brit Awards, “Stop Me” climbed as high as number 31 on the iTunes Top 100 and re-entered the UK Top 75 Singles chart at number 51. The song featured prominently in the opening scenes of the premiere of the second half of Nip/Tuck’s fifth season. The song featured on the 2013 show reel for Seattle-based b-boy crew, Art of Movement, uploaded by Korean-American singer and member of the crew, Jay Park.

The single also includes a cover version of Queens of the Stone Age’s “No One Knows” with vocals by Domino Kirke.

mp3 : Mark Ronson – Stop Me feat Daniel Merriweather
mp3 : Mark Ronson – Stop Me feat Daniel Merriweather (A Chicken Lips Malfunction)
mp3 : Mark Ronson – Stop Me feat Daniel Merriweather (Dirty South Remix)
mp3 : Mark Ronson – No One Knows feat. Domino

I actually think, having listened to the QoTSA cover that Moz and Johnny actually got off lightly.

FEET DON’T FAIL ME NOW

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I was very pleasantly surprised when I returned the Fun Lovin’ Criminal CD singles to their place on the shelves to discover right next to them was a sole CD single by Funkadelic.

I have no recollection of buying this…the sticker on the from says £1.99 and it was released as a 4-track single in 1996 on Charly Records.

I know what I bought it..it was a replacement in effect for the original 7″ version that I used to own. That’s right…in the middle of going crazy for punk/new wave I was still willing to hand over money for some great disco music. OK, One Nation Under A Groove is more funk than disco, but to the untutored ears of a 14-15 year old back then anything with a great bass line that forced the hips to be gyrated was disco. And it didn’t suck.

The single that I used to own had, from memory, Parts 1 and 2 on either side. I’m also sure it was just the extended full length version spliced into two just to make if fit into a 7″ bit of black vinyl. Here’s the first two tracks on the CD single:-

mp3 : Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove (Original Radio Version)
mp3 : Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove (Original Full Length Version)

So I think I’m on safe ground to say that the former would have been Part 1 of my 1978 single and the latter the LP version.

I have no idea why the single was re-released in 1996. Perhaps it was used in some sort of TV advert that has made no impact on me but maybe it was just that some smart-ass DJ thought it was time to give this 70s classic a 90s makeover as there were two ’96 versions on the CD. Which brings me to these abominations:-

mp3 : Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove ’96 (The Craig Nathan Nation Mix)
mp3 : Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove ’96 (The K.D. Radio Edit)

I’d never played this until a few minutes ago when I decided to put the single onto the blog – as I say I had no idea I had it in the collection. I will never play them again. They have already been deleted from the tens of thousands of mp3s on the PC. Possibly one of the biggest abominations of a great song ever inflicted on mankind. Talking of which….tune into tomorrow as I’ve now got a nice lead into something I’ve been meaning to post for the past six months but could never quite bring myself to inflict upon y’all.

THE TARANTINO EFFECT

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Fun Lovin’ Criminals first came to prominence on the back of a single which sampled dialogue from Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction:-

mp3 : Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Scooby Snacks

Both films had been huge hits, turning a previously unknown scriptwriter and director called Quentin Tarantino into the hottest name in Hollywood. Notwithstanding that the radio versions had to be heavily edited, it was a great ploy by FLC to incorporate the dialogue into a hip hop/rock/pop hybrid that was made catchy thanks to a guitar riff (also sampled!!).

It’s perhaps debatable whether or not FLC would have gotten any sort of prominence without Scooby Snacks as much of their other material at the time was no different or better than other similar acts who were fusing hip hop and rock. What it did do however, was give a platform to frontman Huey Morgan, whose natural wit, charm and sense of humour and easy-going interview technique saw him become a regular on many a TV chat/entertainment show here in the UK. That and the fact that the band gigged relentlessly across Europe, particularly becoming a mainstay of the outdoor festival circuit (where pissed-up audiences would have a great time dancing and singing along to Scooby Snacks) saw the band gain a decent following without ever becoming truly big stars.

One of the things that some folk found enduring was the easy-listening style of the cover versions they occasionally threw out there along with what they themselves described as the ‘schmoove’ versions of their own songs. I was never all that convinced but I’ll leave it you dear listeners to see what you think of these:-

mp3 : Fun Lovin’ Criminals – The Summer Wind
mp3 : Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Scooby Snacks (Schmoove Version)

The former is a 60s number made popular by Frank Sinatra.  What makes the FLC version of interest to the things that normally feature on this blog is the guest vocal from Ian McCulloch.

The latter was the b-side to yet another easy-going cover:-

mp3 : Fun Lovin Criminals – I’m Not In Love

Enjoy…if only for the fact this is an unusual posting at this joint.

THE MOZ SINGLES (Part 24)

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Today’s offering is the third single lifted from the 2006 LP Ringleader of The Tormentors.

Morrissey was riding the crest of a critical wave on back of the album as well as gaining loads of kudos for a UK tour that had taken him to loads of smaller venues in towns that rarely attracted any decent live gigs (e.g. Greenock, Grimsby, Halifax, Whitehaven, Blackburn, Truro, Cheltenham, King’s Lynn). The goodwill extended to his fans who bought enough copies of the single to take it to #17 in the charts.

I was personally surprised that this was released as a single. I’m not arguing that it’s a dull or boring song, but it wasn’t one of the stand-out tracks on the LP by any stretch of the imagination. The opening 20 seconds or so remind of songs by T Rex and Oasis, and I suppose I can never really get those thoughts out of my head as it unravels itself over the next three and a bit minutes…but it is, on reflection, the sort of track that would sound reasonable enough when coming over the radio airwaves.

mp3 : Morrissey – In The Future When All’s Well
mp3 : Morrissey – I’ll Never Be Anybody’s Hero Now (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – To Me You Are A Work Of Art (live)

The two live tracks are Ringleader tracks that were recorded on Sunday 28th May 2006 at the London Palladium on what was the last night the UK tour (Morrissey, in a tribute to an old TV variety show had played three Sunday Nights at The London Palladium during May). They’re actually quite good versions of the tracks…..Morrissey is in very good voice while his backing band stick to faithful reproductions….

There was also one new track is one that I think deserved a place on the album itself rather than being thrown away on a b-side….but then again this outstanding tribute to the French fashion designer is probably the reason so many of us bought the actual single:-

mp3 : Morrissey – Christian Dior

Oh and I also love the sleeve on this one. I’m sure I had a jacket exactly like that when I was about 12 years of age….and I certainly would have had an ice cream like that when I was that age….

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 105)

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From wiki:-

Spirea X were an alternative rock band from Glasgow, Scotland, formed by Primal Scream founding member Jim Beattie in 1990.

After six years in the band, Jim Beattie left Primal Scream in 1988.

Two years later he formed Spirea X, the name taken from a Primal Scream b-side (an instrumental track that he had written), announcing “We’re going to do it…by having better songs, better melodies, better arrangements, better everything. By sheer force of ideas”.

The band’s first demo prompted 4AD to sign them, their first release eagerly anticipated, with BBC 2’s Snub TV featuring an interview with them and a couple of live tracks before they had released a single. The band’s original bass player and guitarist (The McGovern brothers) soon left, with guitarist Robert forming cult underground Glasgow indie punk band Dresden and his bass playing brother Tony becoming a well established member of Glasgow band Texas. Jamie O’Donnell and Thomas McGurk joining Beattie, his girlfriend Judith Boyle, and Andy Kerr in 1991.

Debut EP Chlorine Dream was released in April 1991, the title track inspired by the life of Brian Jones. This was followed up by “Speed Reaction” and the album Fireblade Skies (the name taken from a volume of Arthur Rimbaud’s poetry), both in 1991. Fireblade Skies met with positive critical reaction, Lime Lizard’s Nick Terry stating: “If Jim Beattie’s last longplaying endeavour, Primal Scream’s Sonic Flower Groove, was a thoroughly flawed masterpiece, he’s found his groove with Fireblade Skies”.

Beattie was known for his self-confidence, verging on arrogance, once proclaiming himself to be God, and stating “David Icke is my bestest friend”, later saying “Yeah, I thought I was God before, but now I feel more like Jesus”. Beattie rejected comparisons with other bands of the era, stating “I don’t think we fit in anywhere, really”, and “I don’t think we’re egotistical like Ride are. I don’t need to be egotistical, because I’ve got the music to back it up”.

The band was subsequently reduced to a duo of Beattie and Boyle, and were dropped by 4AD in 1992, the band splitting the following year.

Beattie and Boyle resurfaced in 1994 with a new band, Adventures in Stereo.

This, if you haven’t heard it before, is a cracking single with two hugely enjoyable b-sides:-

mp3 : Spirea X – Chlorine Dream
mp3 : Spirea X – Spirea Rising
mp3 : Spirea X – Risk

Enjoy

 

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