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BUZZCOCKS SINGLES 77-80 (Part 5)

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I was really sure that Love You More was a much bigger hit than #34. I think it’s the fact that it hung around in the Top 50 for a while that leads to that conclusion but its chart run was 41,34,35,35,60,53 and so yup, mid-30s it was.

What it did do was get the band their first all-important appearance on Top of The Pops in July 1978 thus instantly making their name and sound recognisable to millions more people overnight. Which sort of set them up for the rest of the year. In the meantime, enjoy the magic of the 1min 45 second pop single and its rather spendid b-side:-

mp3 : Buzzcocks – Love You More
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Noise Annoys

Till next time.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #42 : BROKEN RECORDS

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Ever since around 2007, there’s been an increasing move in Scottish music towards music that blends indie with traditional folk. There’s a fair few bands out there who churn it to varying degrees of quality, looking for those magic moments that capture the imagination of the wider public. One of the things about these bands are that they tend to capture a certain kind of magic on stage – it’s partly to do with the racket they make getting a response from the audience (there’s usually at least six and up to a dozen members in your typical indie-folk band) and partly to do with some of the tunes tending to hit certain emotional buttons (happy/sad alike) when you’re pissed at a show.

The problem is however, it rarely translates all that well to the recording studio, no matter how talented the musicians or how much of a genius is occupying the producer’s chair.

Broken Records started out as a three-piece in Edinburgh in 2007 but soon had expanded to seven members. They gigged relentlessly, working up a reputation as a more than decent live act. They released a number of low-key singles on small labels before inking a deal with 4AD in 2009.

There’s been two albums in the intervening period which, to my ears, just haven’t captured the spirit and energy long associated with them on a hot and sweaty stage. But I do have the debut LP on the shelf and this is from it:-

mp3 : Broken Records – If The News Makes You Sad, Then Don’t Watch It

It’s a re-working of their very first single.

Enjoy.

EVERYONE’S YOUR FRIEND IN NEW YORK CITY (2)

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A GUEST POSTING FROM ECHORICH &

JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

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I’m A Stranger Here Myself

JTFL writes…………

Echorich kicked off this series with a stellar set aptly titled “Coming of Age in NYC.” It was a great survey of the music banging out of the downtown scene that inspired us, performed by our local heroes from the city. This time out it’s a collection of songs about NYC by artists from much farther afield. Natives are proud of the city and we love how people from other places are so taken with it, so impressed by it, and how they see it in so many different ways. This set presents a few of our favorite alien perspectives.

1. Statue of Liberty – XTC

JTFL: TVV readers may remember my fondness for Swindon’s finest (see ICAs 26 and 79). Here the boys serve up a bouncy post-punk tribute to Lady Liberty, who’s been welcoming foreigners to the Big Apple since 1886 from her star-shaped plinth in the harbor. This was the early incarnation of the band, and maybe their first great single. Energy, pace, melody and something clever to say — everything you need to get around town.

ER: I approached XTC from the middle with Drums And Wires and backwards educated myself quickly. White Music fit right in with the emerging New Pop music coming from the likes of Costello, Squeeze, and dare I say even The Police. I remember hearing Statue Of Liberty occasionally on WNYU College Radio even into the early 80’s. I always thought that the Statue Andy is singing about might just be a hooker, or maybe just some latent teenage sexual angst set to music.

2. New Amsterdam – Elvis Costello

JTFL: “A bewildered lad, alone in New York, except for his rhyming dictionary,” sez Elvis’s liner notes. I like the trademark wordplay but I especially love the imagery of an exiled soul, alone with his thoughts down by the docks surrounding the island. People forget that Manhattan is only two miles wide; you’re almost always in view of the East River or the Hudson on the west side. Couldn’t tell you if the docks look like Liverpool or not. One of the few songs on an EC & the Attractions LP on which Elvis played all the instruments himself.

ER: New Amsterdam is one of my all time favorite Costello track and Get Happy! is far and away my favorite EC+A album. Listened to as a New Yorker, New Amsterdam sounded like another world altogether. Alienation can come in many forms – physical and emotional.

3. You Said Something – PJ Harvey

JTFL: This songs captures EXACTLY the vibe of the city at night. There’s not a lot of open space on the ground so it’s common to find yourself up on a roof — my years there were filled with rooftop parties, conversations, fights, trysts and general reflecting. PJ starts out in Brooklyn at 1 in the morning (not sure where she can “see five bridges” — at most she’d be able to see the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and maybe the Queensborough bridges). She gets wistful about her far off homeland, wonders how she arrived in this remarkable place, and drifts with a lover up to the eighth floor of an apartment across the river. Along the way she discovers something important. Perambulant assignations, going where the city will take her. Beautiful.

ER: I come from what are derided by Manhattanites as one of the outer boroughs – Queens in my case. If you lived, worked and played in Manhattan you took a very possessive stance on being a true New Yorker, but the real beauty of New York is to see Manhattan from across the East River in either Queens or Brooklyn. It’s like having a front row seat at an amazing panoramic film. Just watching the lights come on in Manhattan at night you get a sense of the buzz that’s beginning to come from the streets and out of the bars and clubs and restaurants. But if you take the time to cross the East River to Brooklyn or Queens or the Harlem River to Da Bronx, you will find that same twi-night hum that builds into a sort of roar. This is why Doo Wop comes from the streets of Da Bronx and Brooklyn, why Queens gave birth to a Latin Music scene that has been vibrant and colorful for decades and kids could go from practicing 3 chord guitar songs in garages to global recognition via small, dirty Lower East Side Clubs.

4. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues (with Kirsty MacColl)

JTFL: NYC has a deep Irish heritage. St. Patrick’s Day is always a good time, whether you stick around for the parade or not. There used to be a Blarney Stone on every second corner where they sold little glasses of Rheingold for fifty cents (and sometimes corned beef and cabbage if anyone could be bothered to clean the steam table). I knew a guy that tended bar in one of these Irish dives, gathering material for his hopeful career as a writer. I came in one day and asked if he got anything good. He told me he had just now broken up a fight between Bruce and Robert, two decrepit regulars who’d stepped straight out of a James Joyce story. Turns out the pair came to blows over what day of the week it was. “And they were both wrong,” said my friend the bartender. The Pogues and the late Ms. MacColl make the city their own on this classic.

ER: There is no Christmas without Fairytale of New York. While I would never consider myself a big Pogues fan, I am a huge Kirsty MacColl fan and this was just a pairing made in heaven. There will never be another like her and Kirsty is the only one who could put Shane McGowan in his place. Part of growing up in NYC was finding your way to your first bar – for points it was all about how young you could claim to have been when you had your first drink in a bar to be precise – 15 here, by the way… More often than not either the hardest or easiest place to get that first, illicit drink was going to be a neighborhood Irish bar (or “pub” if the place REALLY traded on the Celtic connection.) My first Irish bar was Mullaney’s Bar in Queens. I can remember that the jukebox in that place had every Irish drinking song you could imagine, a few stray Folk songs, Sinatra and Elvis. It was more curiosity piece than an active jukebox. There always seemed to be a Mets game on or Hockey on the the TV.

5. New York Morning – Elbow

JTFL: I’d forgotten all about Elbow, truth be told, until a recent guest post by S-WC found its way onto this blog. It led me to catch up on the band which in turn led to the discovery of this gem. And just like PJ nailed the city at night, Elbow captures the feeling of waking up in the big city, full of promise and possibility: “Oh my God New York can talk/Somewhere in all that talk is all the answers/Everybody owns the great ideas/And it feels like there’s a big one round the corner”.

ER: I can’t profess to be much of an Elbow fan. They seem to wear their Peter Gabriel influence on their sleeve most of the time. New York Morning does carry some really important truths in it. New York is a land of dreams achieved and missed, a place where everyone has a great idea and the opportunity to make it real. But what makes NYC function are the men and women toiling to keep it running.

6. Chelsea Hotel – Lloyd Cole

JTFL: REM recorded ‘First We Take Manhattan’ for the Leonard Cohen tribute album “I’m Your Fan”. But this song from the same LP gets the nod because of its references to the Chelsea, an inimitable city landmark. Home to writers (Dylan Thomas, Burroughs, Sartre), artists (Oldenberg, Mapplethorpe, de Kooning), and countless musicians (Dylan, Lynott, Nico etc). Sid killed Nancy in Room 100. Warhol films were shot there. The Chelsea is on 23rd between 7th and 8th Avenues; I lived on 23rd between 9th and 10th for six years, so I passed it on a daily basis. My sister lived there for a couple of months after some itinerant globetrotting. The lobby was filled with masterpieces by long time resident Larry Rivers and many others who often had to pay their rent with art when they had no cash. The friendly owner, Stanley, never booted anyone out so it was great place to meet someone downtown, or just kick back on a comfy couch surrounded by priceless treasures. Nice version of a NYC song written by a Canadian and performed by a Brit.

ER: Mic drop Jonny – with just a bit of VU feedback…

7. New York City – Cub

JTFL: New York can be a heavy place, what with all the history and money and violence and drugs and Socioeconomic Inequities and everything. But it’s also FUN, immensely FUN, and if you can’t have a good time in New York you’re in a very sorry state. This super-light pop song by Vancouver trio Cub dances around town without a care in the world. It’s all about how much fun it is to come to the city to see the sights and just hang out. (It’s also where this series got its name.) There’s an adorable video that accompanies this song, too. I love the tight girly harmonies. When the band sings “everything looks beautiful when you’re young and pretty” I think about my daughter, already a native after just a month. She sends me texts and photos of what she and her friends are getting up to in the city. I always text back, “have fun, sunshine” but I’m always thinking “I wish I were you.”

ER: Having just gotten back from a short trip to NYC to see The Bunnymen slay the crowd, I can tell you that it is absolutely impossible to get the City out of this New Yorker. Getting out of Laguardia Airport on a sunny, humid and hot Sunday afternoon, I just breathed a huge sigh and smiled all the way to the bus that would take me to the subway into Manhattan. Once in the city, it was like a kid being let into a candy store before all the others. I just kept looking up at the tops of buildings and across the avenues filled with people rushing in that certain New Yorker way from point A to point B. I just jumped into step with the crowd and was on my way.

8. Red Angel Dragnet – The Clash

JTFL: Many Clash fans follow this blog and I bet a few are wondering why this tune and not ‘Gates of the West’? I’ll tell you why: New York doesn’t have a south side. Chicago does; not NYC. I always found Mick Jones singing about “Southside Sue” really pretentious. That was 1978. By the time the band were recording Combat Rock at the end of 1981, they were living at the Iroquois Hotel, two blocks off Times Square. They were deep into the NY scene, having triumphed during their two-week residence at Bonds the previous summer. The “red angels” in the song are The Guardian Angels, a citizens watch group formed in 1979 to help keep the city safe. Strummer was now sporting a mohawk, just like vigilante Travis Bickle in ‘Taxi Driver’, whose lines are repeated in the song by the band’s MC, Kosmo Vinyl. But the Clash weren’t singing about keeping the streets safe from criminals; the song recounts the shooting of one of the Guardian Angels by a Newark police officer. Over here in the states there’s been an epidemic of cops shooting unarmed civilians, usually people of color. Seems like it happens every other day and underlies the increasingly prominent Black Lives Matter movement. Goes to show how on point The Clash were 35 years ago.

ER: Ok, nothing to add here except that this is one of two songs I heard the band listening back to at Electric Lady Studios on a winter afternoon when Kosmo invited a few of us in from the cold. I told Paul Simonon one night in 82 walking from NBC studios after their appearance on Saturday Night Live that I love his bass on this song and he said “one take mate!” Don Letts chimed in walking up behind us “Tell another one Paul…” Magic.

9. New York, New York – Ryan Adams

JTFL: I don’t know if folks overseas are familiar with Ryan Adams. Over here people seem to either love him or hate him. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other but I do love this song. And Mr. Adams’ love for NYC seems genuine. The dude gets around, covering ground from the summer in Alphabet City to the winter on the upper west side. Plus he pronounces “Houston” correctly, which deserves some props.

ER: Ryan Adams was a breath of fresh air at the turn of the Millennium. Sure, he has a sort of Gram Parsons Country/Rock background, but he fell headfirst into New York CIty once he arrived. Along with Jesse Malins he has kept alive a certain poet/folk/rock brand that seems to manage to thrive in NYC.

10. What New York Used To Be – The Kills

JTFL: New York changes really rapidly and it’s easy to get nostalgic about how things were. CBGB’s is now a John Varvatos store. The Meat Packing bays off 7th Avenue, where you’d see cleaver-wielding butchers in white smocks pushing bloody racks of steers, was replaced by an Apple Store and Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen boutiques. Chinatown swarmed across Delancey and shrunk Little Italy. You can even walk down Avenue D after dark! There’s a great website called evgrieve.com where people write in to reminisce and lament that the east village was totally usurped by yuppies. The Kills have no patience for that whining — they just want to get on with it. Either that or get run over because, love it or loathe it, NYC’s still FAST.

ER: I have to agree, New York thrives on its ability to create a kind of personal nostalgia for people, but the city is a living breathing organism that seems to shed its skin like a reptile every decade or so. But part of the excitement about NYC is anticipating what comes next.

Bonus Track: New York Skiffle – Half Man Half Biscuit

JTFL: The Sex Pistols took it to the Dolls in their song “New York”, and Johnny Thunders returned the insult with his track “London Boys”. But HMHB spoof both scenes on this tune. Smart New Yorkers, like smart folks everywhere, know not to take themselves too seriously. For those of us that sometimes forget, this song’s a friendly reminder to cut the crap.

ER: Every time I’ve heard this track I think, damn, John Lennon would have covered that, he would have had to.

Postscript from JTFL:-

The quintessential NYC song by any foreigner is “Shattered” by the Rolling Stones. It’s also got the best lyric: “Go ahead — Bite the Big Apple!” It’s not included here because Echorich and I resolved to limit our posts to music that fits within the parameters of this blog. Plenty of other places on the ‘net to listen to classic rock and read about major label bands. I also sometimes get the sense that liking the Stones may be a bit uncool. But I’m 53 and by definition uncool, so I don’t give a crap what’s cool or not. If I had to pick a single song, by anyone, that sounds like NYC, it would be this one.

JC adds……

Postings like these that make me realise just how lucky I am that there are talented people willing to make the time and expend the energy on being part of this little corner of the internet.  So many of the guest postings are infinitely superior to what you’ll pay good money for out in magazine-world.

Delighted too, that I’m able to publish on a day when the Blue Jays take on those damn Yankees in a vital end-of season series over the next four days….made extra special by the fact that I’m going to be in the stadium watching it all unfold.

Oh, and I couldn’t let JTFL’s postscript just hang there:-

mp3 : Rolling Stones – Shattered

Enjoy.

 

HOLIDAY HYMNS

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jays-ball

So at long last, I’m just about set to fly over to Toronto for a short break. Flight leaves tomorrow morning.

The idea came up about five or six weeks ago when the Blue Jays were top of their division and set to have a shot at winning the World Series for the first time since 1993. Only problem is that since I booked the flights the team has gone into near freefall and are barely clinging on for a one-game stab at making it into the playoffs where they will no doubt come a cropper on current form. But still, it’ll be worth it even if the games aren’t going to be as enjoyable or critical as I’d hoped as being in a packed Rogers Centre on a baseball night is one of the greatest of sporting expereiences. And besides, beyond the baseball I’m going to spend time with a lot of very dear friends.

Here’s the last of the 1-hour mixes that I’ve put together for the flight. The rest have gone up as bonus postings but this one is the main and indeed only attraction on the blog today

mp3 : Various – Let’s Play Ball

Smash Hits – Kid Canaveral
The Life of Riley – Lightning Seeds
Waiting For The Winter – The Popguns
Young Adult Friction – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Foxheads – The Close Lobsters
Permanent Past Tense – Butcher Boy
Our Lips Are Sealed  – Fun Boy Three
It Happens – Primal Scream
When All’s Well – Evertything But The Girl
Jeane – The Smiths
Definitive Gaze – Magazine
Higher Grounds – Cats On Fire
Hitten – Those Dancing Days
C.R.E.E.P. – The Fall
The House Jack Kerouac Built – The Go-Betweens
Falling and Laughing – Orange Juice
Freakscene – Dinosaur Jr.
Dance Me In – Sons & Daughters
Deceptacon – Le Tigre

Inspired in the main by nights spent dancing at Little League in Glasgow with many of the above songs being aired regularly at these now six-monthly nights.

Tomorrow’s posting and those for the weekend are in place and then come Monday there will be a week of repeat postings dug up from the old blog courtesy of ctel/Acid Ted.

Oh and if you can, please drop in next Thursday for a scheduled bonus posting of some significance.

See you all soon.  Let’s Go Blue Jays.

 

EVEN IF THEY ARE REMEMBERED FOR ONLY ONE SONG….

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The Only Ones, consisting of Peter Perrett (vocals, guitar), John Perry (lead guitar, keyboards), Mike Kellie (drums) and Alan Mair (bass) released their debut single in June 1977. They disbanded in March 1981 after a career that had seen six singles (seven if you count that one was given a re-release) and three albums. None of the singles charted while the first two albums reached #56 and #42 respectively in May 78 and March 79.

It wouldn’t normally be the sort of stats that get you noticed far less fondly remembered. Except for the fact that this was one of the singles:-

mp3 : The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet

It had passed me by on its first release in April 78 and again in August 78 when CBS Records, convinced of its quality, tried again. I wouldn’t have heard it until 1981/82 when I began frequenting the Strathclyde University Students Union where the song was a staple of the alternative downstairs disco, sometimes airing two or even three times a night s each of the DJs doing a stint would give it a spin. Once heard, never forgotten and for most folk it was instant love. By now the record had been long deleted so I never got my hands on a physical copy of it, but in due course a few years later it would be included on a new wave type compilation and so at last I could play something other than the version I had on hissy cassette tape.

It’s an astonishingly good piece of music. It’s damn near the most perfect ever guitar-pop song, in terms of the tune, the playing, the doom-laden verses and the ridiculously catchy sing-a-long chorus. Don’t even bother trying to argue otherwise as you’re wrong.

I’ve dug out, from other sources and sadly not the original vinyl, the b-sides to the two releases of the single:-

mp3 : The Only Ones – Special View
mp3 : The Only Ones – As My Wife Says

Enjoy.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #91 : R.E.M.

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IT’S CRAZY WHAT YOU COULD’VE HAD

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I’ve not done all that many ICAs in recent times, preferring to leave such posts to guest contributors. Those of you who have taken the time to submit an ICA will know just how time-consuming an exercise it is, not just in getting your thoughts down on paper but having the pleasure of listening again to the back catalogue of a singer or band in the effort to find that perfect running order knowing fine well you’ll probably change your mind within a few minutes of hitting the send button.

I have the same dilemma and find that if I get myself immersed in an ICA I struggle to come up with the required daily postings to keep this place ticking over, but given that next week will see a series of guest postings while I’m off enjoying myself in Toronto I have no excuses but to have another go. But I’ll make it easy for myself by going for R.E.M.

Actually, thanks to a slight sleight of hand I have made it much easier than it should be. Those of you who recall The Fall ICA from August 2015 will know that I restricted myself to selecting only from singles released in the UK. Today, I’m restricting myself to album tracks that weren’t released in the UK as a 45…..and they had to come from an album on which Bill Berry featured………which in turn meant 10 studio LPs released between 1983 and 1986……….which led me to go with one from each of them (with one exception)

Believe me, without these bye-laws for this ICA I’d still have been writing the piece come this time next year. So here is what I’ve called It’s Crazy What You Could Have Had.

Side A

1. Begin The Begin (from Lifes Rich Pageant, 1986)

This ICA opens with the opening track from the band’s fourth studio LP which, looking back, can be seen as taking the first serious steps away from being a cult indie/college band towards world domination within five years. The album tackled a range of political and ecological issues and its release seemed to coincide with Michael Stipe finally getting comfortable with the idea of the front man being seen by so many, fans and media alike, as the spokesperson albeit he was often singing lyrics penned by one of the other members – such was the joy of having all compositions attributed to Berry-Buck-Mills-Stipe.

Begin The Begin has always been a band favourite, being played extensively at gigs and long after most of the other songs from the IRS years had been dropped to accommodate the ones the arena and stadium audiences had paid good money to hear – y’know, the 19 singles lifted from the first four albums from the 90s which have come to define the band in the eyes and to the ears of so many. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – and indeed if I hadn’t imposed bye-laws for the ICA many of those 19 singles (and indeed a number of the earlier 45s) would have made the cut. But I would still, no matter what, have opened up the ICA with what Stipe has described as an act of ‘personal, political activism’. It was the right note to strike at exactly the right time in history.

2. Driver 8 (from Fables Of The Reconstruction, 1985)

One of the hardest things in pulling together any ICA is getting the best possible running order. I know some contributors have dodged this simply by putting it together in chronological order which, after all, is what many record labels do when compiling a ‘Best of’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ effort. By deciding not to feature any of the singles – most of which would fall into the upbeat and catchy categories – this particular ICA is not the most commercial release that would ever be put together. But in my mind, it’s always important to start things off in a way that appeals most to a casual listener to draw them into listening to the rest of the record. It’s a common approach as can be evidenced by so many albums opening with singles as the first two tracks on Side A.

Driver 8 is a cracking example of very early listenable and danceable R.E.M. and its inclusion here is only possible as it wasn’t released as a single in the UK.

3. New Test Leper (live acoustic version) (from New Adventures In Hi-Fi, 1996)

New Adventures In Hi-Fi is a wild beast of an album.  It’s way longer than anything else the band had done before or indeed have released since. It was as if it had been recorded specifically to cater for a CD release, coming in at just under the maximum length permissible under that format. It has its flaws, as indeed would just about any 14-song LP no matter who released it, and yet it is probably my favourite album by the band. Maybe that’s down to it marking the end of an era with Berry moving on at its conclusion, and yes, I too found it hard to reconcile that it all happened 20 years ago. But by any account it is incredibly bold and ambitious LP in its aims, including of course the fact it was recorded in many parts during soundchecks for the arena gigs in the world tour to support the release of Monster.

New Test Leper is a sad and haunting song with its meaning open to various interpretations. Is it told by someone with an obvious physical deformity or someone whose lifestyle has led to be a mental breakdown or debilitating illness? I’ve always taken it as being from the viewpoint of someone with AIDS trying their best to explain to an unsympathetic and non-listening world that their illness neither makes them a bad person nor a threat to anyone.

The version included here is one of the b-sides to Bittersweet Me; it demonstrates just how good they were at picking up their instruments and belting out a tune (although belting isn’t quite what they do in this instance)

4. World Leader Pretend (from Green, 1988)

For highly personal reasons, this is up there among my all-time favourite songs by anyone, far less by R.E.M.

Let’s just say that it gave me inner strength and self-belief at a time when I was going through a lot of turmoil, not really sure if I had the ability to break out of a relationship in which I found myself trapped. There’s also an amazing live performance captured on Tourfilm in which the song’s opening is amended to namecheck a song by Gang of Four. (see bonus footage below)

5. Country Feedback (from Out Of Time, 1991)

The LP which spent 109 weeks on American album charts, including two separate spells at #1 spot; it also was part of the UK album charts for 183 weeks (that’s nearly 3 ½ years FFS!!) with just a single week at #1.

It has many outstanding tracks including this, named simply to describe its music – country rock (with pedal-steel guitar) and some feedback thrown in. It’s a rambling, slighty insane lyric which has since been claimed as coming from a single-take in the studio in which Stipe had only some prompt words written down on a piece of paper with much of it being improvised. If this is the case, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, it is simply as extraordinary a song as has ever been written and recorded.

Side B

1. Pretty Persuasion (from Reckoning, 1984)

One of the band’s earliest songs and to many involved from the outset a bit of a surprise omission from their debut album, albeit it was soon earmarked for its follow-up. Another of the upbeat numbers that made their sound so attractive to the college radio networks which played such a major part in breaking the band. This could have easily been a single and indeed there’s every likelihood that if either of So, Central Rain or (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville had somehow charted then IRS would have rush-released this as a cash-in. It’s still astonishing to realise that the two singles were flops but then again, if they had propelled the band into the spotlight it would have been well before they were truly ready and would in all likelihood led to them breaking up before they realised their full potential.

2. Disturbance At The Heron House (from Document, 1987)

The LP in which the world began to really pay attention thanks to it spawning a Top 10 single (and the most misunderstood wedding song of all time!!)

It’s an album in which the singles are by far the strongest and most enduring songs, albeit they are a long way removed from the R.E.M. that early fans raved about and obsessed over.

Here’s a song that kind of harks back to the older material in sound and complexity but which opens with what seems to be a blatant rip-off of Born In The USA. On the surface, it sounds like another agitprop number expressing concern about the politics and politicians dominating the American landscape at the time. But there’s another really intriguing explanation that I came across on the internet a while back:-

“According to (Stipe) it was a song about how Athens was being promoted as the new “it” scene for music due to the popularity of themselves and other bands such as the B-52’s coming in to fashion. This of course led to a lot of musicians and bands, or “grunts and hirelings” as the song labels them, coming to Athens to try and make it big and claiming it as their own. Much like Seattle in the early 90’s.

These “followers of chaos out of control” were obviously distasteful to the real and authentic Athenian musicians who had worked hard to build their careers only to have these “monkeys” imitating (aping) their style and pretending to be from Athens. Apparently a music magazine was doing a cover story on the Athens scene and as a cover shot for the issue there was a picture of all these so-called Athens bands gathered at a local monument “they’re meeting at the monument” which seemingly did not include any of the authentic Athens bands at the time. This, of course, sickened and infuriated Michael and company and so they wrote this bitterly scathing song to describe the event.

When given this context it is indeed one of the most straight forward songs he has written and the line “when feeding time has come and gone, they’ll lose their hearts and head for home” is one of the most delicious F.U.’s that has ever been delivered in a song.”

Make of that what you will………………

3. First We Take Manhattan (b-side to Drive, from Automatic For The People, 1992)

The LP that spawned six singles and sold 18 million copies worldwide. The LP packed with strings-laden or piano-led ballads. The LP with a song that later spawned a Hollywood movie starring one of the most famous American comedy actors to emerge in the late 20th century.

Let’s be frank…..there’s not really all that much left when you exclude the singles; the remaining tracks do include ballads and political rants but they just aren’t in the A-list of R.E.M. songs. Nor did I feel they fitted in well at any point of this ICA. So I’ve gone for this cover version – originally recorded for the tribute album I’m Your Fan – and then included as a b-side to the lead single off Automatic For The People. The band have always been great at acknowledging their heroes and influences with cover versions, many of which sadly often appear a bit lacklustre and half-hearted….almost as if the band don’t consider they can bring anything new or better to the song. But that’s not the case in this rockist take on a Leonard Cohen number….

4. Let Me In (from Monster, 1994)

The LP that caught everyone out. As far removed from the smash-hit Automatic as could be imagined and chock-full of loud and often distorted guitars with lyrics that veer from angry to bemused to creepy to scary to scared. It’s an album that was dismissed by many at the time and yet it is one that in many places has stood the test of time and still maintains the ability to surprise all these years later.

Let Me In is Stipe’s heartfelt and ultimately futile plea to his good friend Kurt Cobain with the lyric based on one of their final phone calls before the Nirvana frontman committed suicide.

5. Perfect Circle (from Murmur, 1983)

A song that so perfectly captures so much of what made R.E.M. so special in so many different ways. Always had this down as being the one to close any ICA, even one which included the singles.

So there you have it. My first ICA in a long while and one that putting together could have been an impossible task without me bringing a few one-off rules into place.

The links can be downloaded individually. I’ve also made the two sides of the ICA available.

Side A

Side B

Enjoy.

Oh and I nearly forgot……

OCD EPs : #4 : JOE STRUMMER : ‘THE WILDERNESS YEARS’

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A GUEST POSTING FROM DAVE MARTIN

joe-wicker-chair1

My ICA of Joe Strummer was deliberately split into two parts, not just in the spirit of a vinyl compilation, but also in recognition that post Clash, Joe’s musical career had two mainstream parts, with the self-titled ‘Wilderness Years’ making a span of ten years from around 1989 onwards. During this time, due to label wrangles, the only music being released was mostly on soundtrack albums, and that is if there was a release at all. This OCD ep tips a toe into the pool of music which Joe recorded during this decade.

1 Afro Cuban Be-Bop – Joe Strummer & The Astro Physicians

From the soundtrack of the Aki Kaurismäki 1990 movie “I Hired A Contract Killer” which Joe also appeared in. The only official release of this track I can find from the original date is a Finnish promo single which was released in limited numbers. This is a pity, as this is one of those charming songs Joe did where you don’t know what to expect, and when you hear it, it’s not what you were expecting. The actual recording was quite rushed, as Joe was producing The Pogues Hell’s Ditch album at the same time, and these guys are the Astro Physicians on this recording. Thankfully, this track eventually saw a proper release on ‘Just Look Them In The Eye’, a five disc Pogues compilation which is well worth seeking out, not just for this track, but for so many more.

2 Pouring Rain – Joe Strummer

Although appearing on the unreleased soundtrack of 1993’s “When Pigs Fly”, this song actually dates back to the dying days of The Clash Mark II, a live version of which can be heard on “The Future Is Unwritten”. This song is sometimes referred to as a ‘lost classic’ in the Clash canyon, although to be perfectly honest it isn’t quite that, although it does stand head and shoulders above all of ‘Cut The Crap’ with the exception, perhaps, of ‘This Is England’. It’s hard to tell if the lyrics are autobiographical, but “the sun won’t shine my way again, lucky moon was on the wane, oh I’ll never see a star again, in the pouring, pouring rain,” seems to be telling a story which is every bit as worth investigation as the film it was eventually used in.

3 Generations – Electric Dog House

Taken from the album ‘Generations 1: A Punk Look at Human Rights’, Electric Doghouse was a short lived band which included Seggs from the Ruts and Rat Scabies from…, come on, you know! The plan for the band came about when Rat and Joe were working on “Grosse Point Blank” and had attended a Ministry gig in the presence of Timothy Leary. It’s hard to believe that this track, recorded ‘live’ in the studio, was ever intended as the beginning of a long term plan, but more as the expression of a few individuals who’d been in the same circles for years and had come together with mutual feelings. However, as Rat admitted, it “never did pass go.”

4 MacDougal Street Blues – Jack Kerouac and Joe Strummer

From an album called ‘Kicks Joy Darkness’ which has been in and out of press, this is a Joe Strummer demo over a Jack Kerouac spoken poem. The musical merit may be questioned by some, but the adventure should not be missed. This track also begs the question, ‘Which punk rocker has recorded with two beat poets?’, as Allen Ginsberg is another Joe has worked with. Of course, Ginsberg was alive when he appeared on Combat Rock, and the feel of this track is that Jack and Joe are in completely different places, both time and location.

5 War Cry – Joe Strummer

John Cusack had asked Joe to score and pick the songs for the soundtrack of ‘Grosse Point Blanc’, and this is the one track which was eventually released from the original score, albeit on the GPB 2 soundtrack album. The remaining tracks are, so far, and as far as can be seen, unreleased, but ‘War Cry’ serves to show a way forward in the midst of a soundtrack featuring music from the 80s for the main part. Richard Norris worked with Joe on the soundtrack score, and also co-wrote and produced ‘Yalla Yalla’ and ‘Sandpaper Blues’ for the subsequent Mescaleros album ‘Rock Art and the X-Ray Style’ and it is impossible to miss his (uncredited) contribution to this track.

All in all, I believe this is an ep of fairly obscure Joe Strummer material recorded during The Wilderness Years which helps to bridge the gap between his more involved periods in the general music scene. As a fan of him, I find it hard to be objective over the question of whether the obscure releases or the uncommercial sounds of the time make this small body of music inaccessible to most people, although it is certainly worthy of a listen.

DAVE

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