I’ll be there for most of this…………..
August 1, 2014
Today’s friend electric probably doesn’t need much of an introduction as I’m guessing most of you will be familiar with his work.
Drew is the very substantial talent who sits Across The Kitchen Table. You never know until you pay a visit just what musical offerings will be on the menu as Drew has the most wide-ranging taste of anyone that I know. The tunes alone are an excuse enough to make you want to be a regular visitor but the sprinkling of fairy dust comes courtesy of the writing which is a combination of social commentary, personal diary, critical analysis and the occasional delve into the memory bank.
I’ve been lucky enough to have hooked up with Drew on a number of occasions, mainly through us being in the audience at gigs over the years. But we’ve also made specific arrangements to meet up outwith said gigs and I’m in the privileged position of having actually sat at the very kitchen table which is pictured at the head of his blog. I can vouch that the boy makes a mean bowl of pasta and also knows exactly the right sort of wines to accompany the food…..
So I’m very proud to say that Drew is more than a Friend Electric but, like many other bloggers that I’ve been lucky enough to have met in the flesh over the past 8 years, a true friend. He is generous to a fault and great company no matter the location, be it a large city centre concert venue or the snug of a small lounge in the small town in which he lives with his wonderful family…his kids are going to grow up with great taste in music and inherit a very fine and quite valuable record/CD collection.
Here’s something I’ve stolen from him, penned back on 7 February 2012:-
Picture the scene, it’s Saturday just before noon, the breakfast dishes are done and the kitchen cleared up. Number one son is away with the better half fucking up packing some poor unfortunate’s shopping in the aid of school funds. Leo is sitting at the “pooter” watching Remembrance Of The Daleks which will keep him engrossed for as long as I let him sit in front of the thing.
So, I find myself at a loose end with nothing to do. Well there is the washing machine to load, the hoovering to be done and a few other things that I could be doing but nothing urgent.
During these rare occasions I retreat to the dinning room and put on something that I have not got round to listening to or something that I haven’t listened to in ages. It will always be on vinyl, as well, it just feels right that when I’ve got the time I sit down and give an album the attention it deserves moving only the once to flip over the vinyl. After which I will go back to whatever mundane tasks need to be done happy in the knowledge that I have just listened to something the way it was intended to be listened to, no skipping, shuffling or repeating.
On Saturday I found myself in a quandry. I had the urge to hear Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues but that would mean playing a cd and this was ‘Vinyl Time’. I decided that as I could not think of anything else I wanted to hear more, I would break the rules this once. I did toy with the idea of playing All Creatures Will Make Merry as this was re-released on lovely red vinyl last year but no, Pissing On Bonfires it had to be.
And for the next thirty eight and a bit minutes I sat on my chair and immersed myself in what is still an amazing listen even after being heard by these ears tons of times. It feels as fresh now as it did when I first purchased it on a whim and waited ages for it to come.
If there are any of you out there that don’t own a copy of this absolute gem get yourself over to Song By Toad pronto and purchase it and as much of the label’s back catalogue as you can afford. Then mibbe one day they will be able to afford to do for Meursault’s debut what they did for the follow up and release it on vinyl which would spare me the dilema of breaking the rules of ‘Vinyl Time’.
The rather sad news emerged the other week that Meursault will soon be no more as Neil Pennycook, the main man in the band and possessor of the finest voice in all of Scotland, wants to branch out into new things and work with other musicians. The band play their final ever gig in Edinburgh later this month. I intend to be there…
July 31, 2014
It’s now coming up to 8 years since I started up TVV during which time many very fine bloggers have come and gone, many of whom now concentrate their efforts on podcasts or other more instant forms of social media.
It has become increasingly rare to find new kids on the blogging block – particularly those who decide to focus in on that punk/new wave era which was so exciting – and so you can imagine how delighted I was to find my way onto For Malcontents Only, particularly given that it is a place which looks back at the scene in and around Glasgow.
This excellent blog kicked off back just 12 months ago. Judging by some of the postings, I’m hazarding a guess that Jamie (I’ve only just learned his name thanks to his e-mail address!) is maybe a couple of years older than me given that he is able to reminisce about gigs in pubs at a time when I was dreaming of being able to shave on a regular basis… or maybe unlike me he didn’t have a baby face and a great fear of knock-backs from bouncers.
As you’d imagine, it’s a place heavy with nostalgia but there’s also a tremendous selection of posts concentrating on the here and now. One of the most unique aspects of FMO is that it features interviews with some of the lesser-known artists who were part of the punk/new wave scene and brings their stories bang up to date. In short, it is the sort of blog that I had dreams TVV would look like when I set out all those years ago!!
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about from May when Jamie looked back at a single released on a small Scottish label:-
The Human League: Being Boiled (1978) Fast Product
In a Melody Maker interview back in February 1979, Martyn Ware of The Human League mentioned that the band were more influenced by films than by they were rock, claiming he’d rather see a good film than a good rock band. In the cinema, ‘You’re part of the experience. Whereas, watching a rock band, it’s just some guys up on a stage.’
When a tour (due to take in Edinburgh and Aberdeen) was later announced supporting Talking Heads, it became apparent that The Human League didn’t see themselves as your standard guys up on a stage kinda band.
Their idea for the show was a multimedia extravaganza, utilizing their new synchronization units that meant they could operate slides in sync with each song. The problem with the plan as far as Talking Heads (not exactly backwards looking dinosaurs themselves) were concerned was the fact that while each member of The Human League would be at the gig, rather than being the centre of attention, they would supposedly be in the audience, hopefully discussing the automated events on stage and signing autographs.
The idea got the band dropped from the tour although they wanted to press ahead with the concept and even expand it.
As their manager Bob Last explained to NME: ‘It’s cost us a lot of money to set up and now we have audio-visuals, tape memory banks – in fact, the whole gist of the show – just sitting in boxes and waiting to go.’
Last outlined the potential of the show and spoke of creating a version for discos rather than rock concerts. ‘There are various other avenues to be explored. For example, I think it would be the ideal support for Alien, or a film of that nature.’
After the comparative failure of second album Travelogue, tensions within the band increased; eventually singer Phil Oakey decided that he wanted to sack Ware, Ian Craig Marsh wasn’t keen on the idea and the pair quit and teamed up on a new project to be known as the British Electric Foundation (BEF).
Remaining members Oakey and Philip Adrian Wright retained The Human League name, although they had to be convinced by Bob Last to do so. The music press didn’t see much of a future for a band with only a singer and director of visuals (even if Wright had started playing incidental keyboards). And you could hardly blame them.
Oakey, though, came up with a possible solution to enable a forthcoming European tour to still go ahead. His plan to fill in the gap left by Marsh and Ware revolved largely around the recruitment of two schoolgirls, Suzanne Sulley (17) and Joanne Catherall (18), who he’d spotted on the dancefloor at the Crazy Daisy’s ‘Futurist’ night in Sheffield although he also additionally employed a professional keyboard player, Ian Burden.
Neither girl had any kind of remarkable singing voice and neither was that great at dancing either. If the pair had time-travelled thirty odd years forward and showed up at an X-Factor audition, they would likely be dismissed as no-hopers.
Luckily the pop buying masses of 1981 didn’t require performers with touching ‘backstories’ on Saturday night TV, neither did they require anyone to have been coached by professionals to perform pointless vocal gymnastics or to display a look that had been (supposedly) ‘styled’ to perfection by somebody with no sense of originality or indeed style.
Having seen the new look League on Top of the Pops miming to Sound of the Crowd, the pop buying masses decided they actually liked the caked-on mascara, beauty spots and lippy and the slightly awkward and un-coordinated dance routines. Generally, girls identified with them while boys fancied them.
Joanne and Suzanne soon became the poster girls for synth-pop but Bob Last, in particular, judged the band could be improved further by the addition of one final and vital ingredient, another professional musician, after Ian Burden temporarily left post-tour.
It might have appeared that the ex-guitarist of the retro obsessed Rezillos and the futuristic Human League had little in common bar sharing the same manager but in April 1981, Jo Callis was invited to become a permanent member, the idea being even stranger if you bear in mind Callis’ confession that he had never been near a keyboard in his life.
The first Human League album with the new line-up, Dare was released in October, 1981 and quickly made its way to the top of the UK album charts. By Christmas it had gone platinum in Britain, its number one status equalled by a single that Phil Oakey hadn’t wanted released, Don’t You Want Me – he only agreed finally on the condition that a large colour poster accompanied the 45, otherwise, he felt, fans would feel ripped off by the ‘substandard’ single alone.
Co-written by Callis, Oakey and Wright, the ‘substandard’ single went on to become one of the UK’s biggest ever selling songs*, the British Christmas number one of 1981 and also later an American #1 too and a worldwide smash.
And here I finally get round to the Scottish independent labels part of the post. Due to the success of Don’t You Want Me, the first ever Human League single, Being Boiled, which had been originally released during the summer of 1978 on Bob Last’s Edinburgh based Fast Product label, was made available again and this time entered the top ten of the singles charts, where it should have been first time around. For me it’s a much better record than Don’t You Want Me. See what you think:
And if anybody is wondering, this is only the first of a number of entries in this series looking at Fast Product, so I will get round to writing more on the actual label in the future. Honestly.
* It even re-entered the charts here a couple of months ago after being taken up by Aberdeen fans in the run up to their team winning the Scottish League Cup.
I’ve never met Jamie…not knowingly anyway…..but there’s no doubt that over the past 35 years, we have been in the same place at the same time on many an occasion…we might even have nodded to one another in passing and noot realised!!
The last of this particular Friends Electric series will be tomorrow. TVV should, all being well, begin to return to normal next week.
July 30, 2014
If yesterday’s friend electric can provide 500 reasons why the 80s didn’t suck, then today’s featured blogger extraordinaire can give you 500,000 reasons why club music is the dog’s bollocks…
Ctel, the brains and driving force behind the legendary blog Acid Ted is one of the real inspirations for what I do. There’s a whole load of reasons for that, and those of you who have been on this journey with me since back in September 2006 will know many of those reasons why.
Back in February 2010, when it looked as if Ctel he was giving up on blogging I typed:-
“Now I can’t claim to be a huge lover of the dance genre that was championed over at Acid Ted, but I made sure I went in on a very regular basis and read all that was said if only to learn a lot more about acts and music that was often alien to me.
It was actually almost impossible to keep up with ctel’s prodigious output – sometimes he could produce six postings over a 24 hour period. He began his A-Z of the genre on Thursday 14th February 2008. Two years to the day afterwards, he completed his epic task and laid down his keyboard.
Ctel is a long time friend of TVV. He has posted here on a reasonably regular basis and not just when I’ve been away on holiday and given him the run of the place – I will always be in his debt for him stepping in to keep the blog going during a spell when I ran into some difficulties with my hardware crashing at home, all the while keeping Acid Ted ticking over as well.”
Little did I know that within a few months, I was to experience a personal and sudden tragedy when my young brother died in a car crash…without any prompting, Ctel again took over my blog for an extended period and elicited some astonishing pieces from many people as my internet friends rallied round in my hours of need. I can never thank him enough for that incredible gesture….and its the loss of those particular postings when google pulled the plug on the original blog just over a year ago that really angered and upset me.
I was lucky enough to meet the great man in the flesh a few years back when we shared brunch in London one Sunday morning when I was down there for a weekend break. He was tremendous company and we spent the time dissecting music, politics, sport and life in general; if anyone passing by looked across or listened in they must have thought we had been mates for decades and that the brunch was some sort of ritual we carried out on a regular basis such was the flow of chat and the sheer joy we took being in each other’s company. I’m hoping to be down in the capital for a few days later in the year and fingers crossed we will again meet up.
I had planned to feature some dance music to go with the post but instead I’m turning to another band who meant so much to both of us when we were of that age when going along to gigs was the be-all and end-all.
Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine came out of seemingly nowhere to become bona fide chart stars in the early 90s. Much of their meteoric rise can be attributed to the energy and vibrancy of their live shows, all of which got off to the most perfect of starts thanks to the deployment of an MC called Jon’Fat’ Beast.
Sadly, Jon Beast passed away a few days ago, but the extent to which he was an essential part of Carter USM, as well as wider the role he played in the music scene in London, can be seen from this piece in one of the major UK newspapers:-
“Tributes were paid today to Jon “Fat” Beast, the music promoter who was best known as the warm-up act for indie pop band Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine.
Fans and friends pledged nearly £5,000 to an internet appeal to raise money for his family following his death aged 51.
Carter lead singer Jim Bob, told The Independent that the former MC had been ill for some time and was understood to have been suffering from septicaemia.
“He didn’t have any money and he had been in and out of hospital for the past few years. We got a message a couple of days ago that he was quite seriously ill then pretty much a day later we found out he had died,” he said.
Beast was a much loved feature at Carter gigs before which he would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him and he traded insults back.
But before that he had run the highly influential Timebox club at the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town, north London.
In the mid-1980s it was one of the most important venues of the then thriving indie live scene celebrated as a place that would give unsigned or even unheard acts the opportunity to perform in London.
Among those that played there were Voice of the Beehive, Half Man Half Biscuit, Jesus Jones, Pop Will Eat Itself and Carter USM.
“We met him when we played there, and he was doing the lights as well as running the club. For some reason he had his own microphone and he used to heckle us from the stage,” recalled the singer, now an author whose latest novel, The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81, is written under the name J.B Morrison.
“He was a very lovable character,” he said. “He asked us to come on tour but we said no and he just turned up. The audiences really liked him,” he added. “When we reformed in 2007 he came back for those shows. He was a handful. He was so enthusiastic about everything all of the time but he was genuinely lovely,” he added.
Carter are due to play their last ever shows in November which sold out in a matter of minutes. These are now expected to include a tribute to the former warm-up man.”
These are for ctel and all Carter fans:-
More Friends Electric tomorrow
July 29, 2014
Today’s Friend Electric is Uncle E. His blog is a real labour of love. It’s called 500 Reasons Why The 80s Didn’t Suck. He set out on this expedition back in September 2012:-
“Let’s for a moment forget about the poofy hair, Reagan and Thatcher and the threat of nuclear annihilation, parachute pants and Eddie Murphy movies. This blog will concern itself with the music of the decade, much of which was wonderful and groundbreaking, as opposed to popular thought which has skewed opinion to remember the 80’s as the worst decade EVER of popular music.
This blog will focus on dispelling that notion by highlighting 500 musical reasons why the ‘80’s categorically did not suck. I lived through the ‘80’s so I should know, and although I made some pretty terrible choices a good majority of the bands and albums remain relevant and enjoyable even today. I didn’t listen to top 40 radio then and I don’t now, so a lot of the stuff that was played back then on that medium won’t be a focus here. No, I’d like to attempt to point you in the direction left of the dial; those albums and bands that were played at underground clubs, the forgotten gems that took research and word of mouth to discover. Trial and error baby, trial and error. These were the days before the internet, kiddies, and when you found a cool band or an album back then you owned it and shared it with your peers. You poured over the latest issues of the NME and Melody Maker (imports for me, of course) and more often that not went by the style of the LP cover or gut impulse, or sometimes both.
The music I focused on back then was new wave, post punk and punk, genres that are really now just considered ‘alternative’. I remember making wildly weird and off-kilter mix tapes up the yin-yang, an art form that has sadly died out with the advent of file sharing and MP3’s. Gang Of Four sat comfortably next to New Order and The Cure, which segued into the Dead Kennedys, NOMEANSNO and Black Flag, followed by OMD, the Psychedelic Furs and early Simple Minds. The bands back then, the early ‘80’s, were trying everything out as there was no template. The Pistols and the Ramones and The Clash blew the old blueprint up a few years prior and these new upstarts, inspired by the DIY ethics of the former, created something totally fresh, totally weird and totally cool in the wake.
I reckon there are at least 500 reasons I can give here why the music of the 1980’s didn’t suck, and I’ll be counting down from that number with the next post. It’s time to dispel the horribly misguided notion that the music from the 1980’s was the worst ever. I’m not quite sure it was the best, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. I hope you all chime in from time to time and give me your feedback. And while I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on the music of the ‘80’s I am certainly not arrogant enough to think I know it all. If there is a band or an album that you think I should know about, let me know in the comments section. If I can turn a few of you on to something then all the better.
Thanks for reading. We’re gonna have some fun! Also, as a side note: any of you who want to contribute via a guest post, I’d welcome it in a heartbeat. Just email me or leave a comment you’d like to do so and we’ll make it happen.”
The above words will, I’m sure, chime with many TVV readers – especially those sentences about mix tapes. Happy memories of spending at least 10 hours at a time trying to out the perfect 90 minutes together to help me get through the sheer awfulness and tedium of the daily Glasgow – Edinburgh commute.
Uncle E has counted down to reason 353. Most of his reasons are very sound although there will be a few which raise eyebrows with, for example, reason 421 featuring an LP by Queen. What is especially enjoyable is the succinct style on offer – just a few short sharp sentences to define what he believes makes a great record. Another bonus is the layout and indexing system so that if, for example, you click on New Order you will find they are responsible for reasons 492, 398, 394 and 371
Alongside the various reasons you will also enjoy some very well argued posts offering his thoughts, views and opinions on various aspects of music and musicians. Those of you who aren’t fond of U2 might enjoy his critique of the band. Just click here.
I agree with a lot but not all of the reasons outlined so far by Uncle E. I was looking for an excuse to feature this lot….so here’s reason #461 Why the 80s didn’t suck:-
“Holy crap, was there a better pure pop band in the 1980′s than Squeeze? Me thinks not. I love everything they did up to East Side Story. Even the debut had it’s moments, and everything after fell apart. In the middle you have this little masterpiece, Squeeze’s strongest and most catchiest songs conveniently compiled on one little piece of plastic. Pulling Mussels, Another Nail In My Heart, If I Didn’t Love You, Vicky Verky, the list just goes on, man! If you track it down the ‘deluxe edition’ is really quite worth it for the concert alone, and the b-sides and other stuff is pretty essential as well. If all you have is the single disk “Singles” (which is fantastic, by the way), you’re cheating yourself out of some terrific tunes. Overall, the best album by Squeeze, no contest.”
July 28, 2014
I didn’t build in any time over the weekend to catch up with the blog. Big bundle of emails needing dealt with as well as postings to keep things going this next few days. Will try and get back on track by tomorrow.
In the meantime feel free to listen and dance to this classic:-
mp3 : Stereolab – French Disko
Here’s something special happening in Glasgow this coming Saturday:-
I’ll be there all day from about 2pm after taking part in a golf tournament (how very rock’n’roll).
July 27, 2014
A bit of a historical moment this July 1991 single as it marked the first release featuring the then relatively unknown Boz Boorer – the one consistent member of the Morrissey entourage over the past 23 years.
The song was a new one that hadn’t featured on Kill Uncle or any of the singles taken from that LP released just four months earlier. But it was one that had been written in conjunction with Mark Nevin who had been so heavily involved in the LP…
It’s a single that I was very impressed with on its release. It was a more than passable move to a rockabilly sound completely different from anything Morrissey had done before. My only grumble is that over the next few years, the rockabilly sound proved to be just about the only way this band could play live and too many of the gigs and tours in the early part of the 90s were a letdown….
But I digress…for this series is really only about looking at the single, and as I mentioned above, it was one I liked on release and one that I still have a soft spot for even now all these years later.
The other tracks on the CD single (for it was in that format I originally bought the single although I now also have a 12″ copy as well) were a strange mix of a cover, a live cover and a live version of a song that had previously been a b-side…..
The single only reached #25 in the charts, marginally higher than the two efforts taken from Kill Uncle, but a bit of a let down given it was a new song altogether.
Skin Storm had originally been recorded by Bradford, a band much-lauded by Morrissey, who had in fact been the support act at the (in) famous Wolverhampton gig in December 1988. Despite the great man’s endorsement, the band never really amounted to much beyond a cult. Here’s the original version:-
mp3 : Bradford – Skin Storm
The live cover version is of a song that, courtesy of Mrs Villain, can be found inside the cupboard in its original release on vinyl from away back in 1971 when she was a teenager with a big crush on Marc Bolan and Mickey Finn and bought all their records at the time…..and here’s a rip from that LP, Electric Warrior:-
mp3 : T Rex – Cosmic Dancer
She clearly took great care of her records……
Incidentally it says on the back of the sleeve of Electric Warrior:-
“This stereo record can be played on mono reproducers provided either a compatible or stereo cartridge wired for mono is fitted. Recent equipment may already be fitted with a suitable cartridge. If in doubt, consult your dealer.”
A reminder that in those days, you tended to buy records from specialist music shops, most of which existed primarily to sell electrical luxuries such as record players, transistor radios and stereograms with vinyl being just a small section over in the corner with a separate counter.