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A FORGOTTEN VICTIM OF THE BRITPOP WARS

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History shows that Country House by Blur beat Roll With It by Oasis to the #1 spot when both singles were released in the same week in August 1995. It also records that in the immediate aftermath, Oasis won the Britop war as the critics adjudged (What’s The Story) Morning Glory as far superior to The Great Escape, a view backed by the general public if sales were anything to go by.

The sad thing of course is that the initial singles battle was fought with two really inferior bits of music, especially when you consider the quality of the follow-ups, neither of which reached #1 despite deserving to do so.

The next single by Oasis was Wonderwall, released on 30 October and considered by many to be as good a song to stall ay #2 as any, and probably the song most associated with the band all these years later

Blur waited a further two weeks before releasing their follow-up and they went with the one truly outstanding track from the parent LP:-

mp3 : Blur – The Universal

It’s a song filled with melancholy and despair. It’s more or less saying, again, that modern life is rubbish and that there’s little chance of that ever-changing. The tune is haunting and moving while the icing on the cake is the truly magnificent video in which the band paid tribute to A Clockwork Orange, a movie which at the time was still impossible to see in the UK as its director, Stanley Kubrick, had had it withdrawn back in 1972 in response to accusations that the film had encouraged copycat acts of violence (the ban wasn’t lifted until after Kubrick’s death in 1999).

It’s a song which, if truth be told, would have been better served by wither being the lead single off the album or else kept off it entirely and released as a stand alone single once the promotional work for the LP had been completed. That way, it might have got what it deserved and not the miserly #5 chart position from where it quickly drifted away while Wonderwall kept selling and selling during a lengthy stay in the charts right up to and beyond Christmas.

The Universal came in 2xCDs, one of which featured four live recordings from a BBC Radio 1 session in September 1995 as part of the promotion of the parent album.

mp3 : Blur – The Universal (live)
mp3 : Blur – Mrs Robinson’s Quango (live)
mp3 : Blur – It Could Be You (live)
mp3 : Blur – Stereotypes (live)

Enjoy.

THE JAMES SINGLES (19)

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180648bMarch 1994. The record label, as usual, want to promote an album through lifting a further single from it. The band, conscious of the backlash from fans when this had happened before, are against the idea. But where in the past there would have been an irreparable clash between label and band, this time round a compromise was reached.

It was by now an open secret that during the recording sessions for Laid that much more material had been recorded. Indeed, James had hoped that the fruits of those labours, which were for the most part were well-produced recordings of demos and works-in-progress, would have been released alongside Laid in a limited edition form. In the end, it would be in September 1994, a full year after Laid had been released, that the LP Wah Wah was released.

The March 1994 single provided a taster for Wah Wah as one of its two lead tracks was culled from that material along with a track from Laid:-

mp3 : James – Jam J
mp3 : James – Say Something

Unsurprisingly, the radio stations stuck to the tried and tested and it was Say Something which was given all the prominence.  Jam J didn’t at the time, nor today, strike anyone as an obvious single release……

The single was released as a CD and in cassette form with the CD single having two further bits of music:-

mp3 : James – Assassin
mp3 : James – Say Something (new version)

The former was a more than half-decent new track (albeit one which clocked in at under two minutes and whose storyline would no doubt be greeted with horror by the UK tabloids nowadays leading to an immediate ban across the airwaves) while the latter was exactly as it said on the tin and came in at over a minute longer than the version made available for radio play. At least it wasn’t a crazy dance remix….that came via a second CD and a 12″ single.

I never did get round to buying the second CD of Jam J. It was two remixes of the track by Andy Weatherall in his Sabres of Paradise guise, each clocking in at around 17 minutes in length. I have absolutely no doubt that it is top quality material but I balked at the idea of owning a James song clocking in at that length. Nor was I sold on it when reviews indicated that the remix was ambient music with Tim’s vocals more or less removed altogether. Very much an acquired taste.

The single reached #24 in the UK charts. Little did any of us know that it would be three more years before the next James single.

A READER NEEDS YOUR HELP…

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Hello JC,

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for many hours of music listening and informative post reading over the years. I’ve been using HypeMachine (as MrPharmacist) for what is now getting close to ten years, and you have always been my favourite blogger.

Apologies for never actually commenting on your posts, like many others out there just happy to consume, although wishing I had the drive to apply myself to a similar task.

The reason for this correspondence after all this time. I have a track that I have been listening to for over twenty years now and the tape is pretty much warn out…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kt9I8SjiiLc

I have never been able to ID it. I heard a chill out DJ play it once in a Manchester bar in about 1992 but can’t remember who he said it was. I’m pretty sure they were once on Granada local TV news as well. Could you give it a listen? One Dove meets Cocteau Twins, or it might have just been cash-in Ibiza ambience!

PS. A recently considered top 12 lps from Feb that say something to me about my life as press ganged into on facebook…

1. Belle & Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
2. The Cure – Pornography
3. The Smiths – Meat is Murder
4. Echo and the Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here
5. Conflict – The Ungovernable Force
6. Various – Dance Craze (Specials et al)
7. Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
8. The Fall – Bend Sinister
9. Elbow – Leaders Of The Free World
10. LFO – Frequencies
11. Metronomy – English Riviera
12. Happy Mondays – Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)

Thanks again for all your posts,

All the best,

Sid – DrSidders – Mr. Pharmacist

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So please dear readers, click on the above youtube link and have a listen.  If you’re able to identify the tune then please share the knowledge with us.

And looking at Sid’s list of 12 albums gives me an excuse to feature  a song from the set I aired at the Strangeways night last Saturday

mp3 : The Smiths – Vicar In A Tutu

Dedicated to this very fine chap who came along dressed perfectly as the said vicar…….

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Other pics, including some of me doing my best to add a touch of John Peel-esque farce* to the night have also been posted on t’internet.  Here’s an example:-

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Quick PS

I ventured along the other night, with Aldo, to see Young Marble Giants at Stereo in Glasgow.  It seemingly was the first time the band had ever played in my home city.

For those of you who don’t know, this is a band which released just one album and a couple of EPs back in 1980 and 1981. The music is quite minimalist and on the quiet side and the songs are on the short side.

So much could have gone wrong at this gig.  Stereo was packed to the rafters so there was probably about 300 folk in the basement space. It was hot and it was sticky.

The band took to the stage at around 8.50 and played a note-perfect set for 50 minutes.  The audience paid rapt attention.  It was the first time I’d ever been at a pop/rock gig where the audience behaved as if it was a classical performance and didn’t speak as the band were playing and furthermore didn’t speak when the band members were talking in-between songs.  Nor did anyone go up to the bar and order drinks and so causing the staff to clank glass or cans or make the till bleep away.  This was all about 300 fans coming along to experience live music in its purest sense and it was quite magical.

So if you were part of that particular audience, a big thank you from this particular fan for making the occasion so wonderful.  It was also very clear that the band really appreciated things….

mp3 : Young Marble Giants – Wurlitzer Jukebox
mp3 : Young Marble Giants – Eating Noddemix

Enjoy

* where the great man occasionally played a record at the wrong speed, I managed to press play on two songs at the same time on the laptop causing all sorts of confusion for a few seconds…….

 

COVERING MARC BOLAN & T-REX

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Don’t know what prompted me to think about this, but I realised not too long ago that I’ve quite a number of Marc Bolan & T Rex cover versions in the collection, most of them having been released as b-sides on various singles. As I’m feeling a bit lazy today, I thought I’d just gather a bunch of them together and offer them up for y0ur listening pleasure:-

mp3 : Department S – Solid Gold Easy Action
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Slider
mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Life’s A Gas
mp3 : Altered Images – Jeepster
mp3 : Morrissey – Cosmic Dancer (live)
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Children of The Revolution
mp3 : Placebo – 20th Century Boy

I was the oldest of three boys in my family and therefore didn’t really have anyone to offer guidance on who or what was cool when I was young.  I always imagined that if I had had an older sister then the walls of her bedroom would hve been covered in Bolan paraphenalia and that his songs would be blaring all constantly….just as they did round at my best mate’s house with his two older sisters!

mp3 : T Rex – I Love To Boogie

Enjoy

THE BEST BAND IN THE WORLD IN 1979

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I mentioned a box set by The Clash the other day.  One of the few other box sets I own is Direction, Reaction, Creation which is a 5-disc released in 1996 and offering more than 100 tracks by The Jam.

It also came with lavish packaging and a great booklet which contained summary details of the band’s live performances.  That’s where I’m able to see that, having just got myself at the age 16 to get into the habit of getting to see as many live performances as possible at the Glasgow Apollo (I was still too young to see bands play in pubs or sttudent unions), that I caught The Jam for the first time on Saturday 8 December 1979 during their extensive UK tour to promote Setting Sons (29 gigs in 34 days).  I would also catch the band on the four subsequent times they played the venue before they broke up in 1982.

My love for the band had been re-ignited by the LP All Mod Cons.  I had bought and enjoyed In The City but having been bitterly disappointed by follow-up The Modern World had, in that teenage way where it is so easy to discard something or someone, decided I didn’t really like The Jam.

All Mod Cons was released in November 1978.  But it was during 1979 that The Jam really began to establish themselves as my favourite band on account of an astonishing run of singles:-.

First up in March was this:-

mp3 : The Jam – Strange Town
mp3 : The Jam – The Butterfly Collector

There can be no argument that this was and remains an incredible piece of plastic. The A-side is powerful and fast while the B-side is slow and hanting….but both contain really sad and moving lyrics. The A-side being the tale of someone lost, lonely and alienated having been lured to the capital by the bright lights and promises of streets paved with gold, while the B-side is sorry and lurid tale of a groupie whose best days are behind her, but not that she has cottoned onto that fact. It’s worth remembering that Paul Weller was a musician very much in love with a long-term girlfriend and this was his response to the sorts of offers that seemingly most famous young rock musicians get while they are out on tour.

That #15 hit was followed up in August with this:-

mp3 : The Jam – When You’re Young
mp3 : The Jam – Smithers-Jones

An anthem of and for disaffected youth backed with a bitter tale of middle-aged failure. Is it any wonder that so many discerning teenagers in particular latched onto The Jam and proclaimed them as the greatest, most exciting and most relevant band ever? I was 16 years of age when this single was released…and it just seemed to be the story of my whole existence. And as for the b-side…it was a throwback to some of the earlier and well-received Jam singles as it gave space to Bruce Foxton to sing one of his songs, and this I would argue was his finest in all his time with the band. I was 16 years of age when this b-side was released…and it just seemed to be a well-timed warning not to throw my lot in with any old corporation.

That #17 hit was followed up in December with this:-

mp3 : The Jam – The Eton Rifles
mp3 : The Jam – See-Saw

Personally, I thought the last of them was the weakest of the three, but it did give the band their first Top 10 single at the ninth attempt. Oh and every single afterwards (with the exception of the import-only That’s Entertainment) would also go Top 10.

And it was the NME Single Of The Year for 1979.

At the time of release, many thought that Paul Weller had written an autobiographical song, but in fact it was inspired by a happening from the previous year.

A ‘Right to Work’ march had gone through the town of Slough, an event that wasn’t universally received locally – particularly by a group of well-heeled scholars from the nearby Eton College. The marchers were jeered and ridiculed by the scholars which then developed into a situation of a stand-off between the two sides.

Some of the marchers from an organised far-left political party then led a charge into the scholars and a series of stand-up fights ensued…unfortunately many of the marchers got a kicking as the posh boys from Eton turned out to be younger, fitter and more than capable of looking after themselves. Reports indicated that those who had instigated the fight were the first to flee the scene when they realised they were going to get a hiding, thus some of Weller’s most scathing lines:-

” What a catalyst you turned out to be
Loaded the guns then you run off home for your tea
Left me standing like a guilty schoolboy.”

Paul Weller celebrated his 21st birthday in the calendar year of 1979.  He was an astonishingly prodigious talent.

THE MOZ SINGLES (32)

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When I started out on this quest a few years ago on the old blog  to review every UK single released by Morrissey, I didn’t have all of them in the collection – some 95% of them perhaps, but not all of them. I thought it would be a simple enough task to track down those that were missing.

Wrong.

This one proved a bit awkward unless, at the time  I was prepared to pay over £40 for a copy. (It’s come down in price over the past 5 or so years but would still set you back around £20)

Although I’m a fan of I Just Want To See The Boy Happy (trombone playing on a Morrissey record??? Hurrah!!!) , it was the fourth single lifted from Ringleader of The Tormentors and as far as I was aware, the b-sides only had live versions of old songs. It also was released not long before Xmas 2006 and I’m no different from anyone else in wanting to having other priorities for my pennies and pounds at that time of year. It was sheer stupidity that caused me to overlook the fact that a previously unreleased song was on the CD single…here was me only looking at the two versions of the vinyl.

The three different formats, combined with the new song, and a couple of the best live recordings he’s shoved out, helped generate enough sales to take the single to a more than respectable #16 in the UK charts. But in January 2007, the record label made one final effort to get in some cash with a 12″ picture disc, limited to 1,000 copies, with all the tracks on the different formats brought together. And when I began this series, I was determined to track down an affordable copy of the single, which I did thanks to a seller from Germany.

mp3 : Morrissey – I Just Want To See The Boy Happy
mp3 : Morrissey – Sweetie-Pie
mp3 : Morrissey – I Want The One I Can’t Have (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – Speedway (live)
mp3 : Morrissey – Late Night, Maudlin Street (live)

The previously unreleased song, Sweetie-Pie, is a rather strange-sounding but entrancing track which I reckon should have been included on the LP just because it is so different from the majority of songs he was releasing at the time.

I really do like this version of Speedway, which I reckon is one of the best songs he’s recorded at any point in his career, solo or with his old band, while the performance of Late Night, Maudlin Street is also more than passable (and non-fans can take heart from the fact its a couple of minutes shorter than the original studio version).

I will not pass comment however, on the cover of the song by The Smiths.

All three live tracks were lifted from shows at the Royal Albert Hall in September 2002. These were at a time when he was without any sort of record contract and are reckoned by many to be among some of the best he’s ever played as he was determined to show the London media luvvies that he was still worth writing and talking about……it worked as he was back with a vengeance less than a year later.

As with so many of the other releases at this time, the sleeve photos were taken by celebrated Italian fashion photographer Fabio Lovino.

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 113)

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There will be some, possibly the vast majority of you, looking at the sleeve of single #113 in this series and thinking that I’m having a laugh or taking the piss.

Not at all.

I saw Travis a few times in Glasgow as they made their way up the ladder of the music world. They were an enjoyable indie-rock band who all seemed to be decent guys and nobody would begrudge them having some success. They were best-known for a long time as a band who rehearsed in the daytime in the upstairs part of a famous Glasgow city centre pub that has been a favourite of mine ever since I could legally drink.

They got two big breaks. Firstly, they were taken on as support act to Oasis for an arena tour where their performances were tight, quick and consistent in contrast to what the Mancunians were doing as they showed the first signs of what would be a gradual decline in quality from their first two albums.

Secondly, they got themselves onto the Festival circuit during one of the most miserable summers in living memory and their new song Why Does It Always Rain On Me? became the sing-a-long anthem for the masses and took Travis to a whole new level.

I happen to think that Writing To Reach You is a lovely little song. Yes, it owes an awful lot to Wonderwall by the aforementioned Oasis which in itself is a classic pop song. And I know that in many people’s eyes the rise of Travis led to the later emergence of the likes of Coldplay and Keane but that’s more to do with the music industry than the band itself.

mp3 : Travis – Writing To Reach You
mp3 : Travis – Green Behind The Ears
mp3 : Travis – Only Molly Knows

The single, which reached #14 in the UK charts, was released in March 1999, a couple of months prior to the LP The Man Who which would go on to win the BRIT Award for best album.

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