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TELL ME WHEN THE FUN BEGINS

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Oh, how we can giggle now at the picture sleeves, but did Edwyn Collins ever think his rig-out of jacket, collar and tie, red shorts, white socks and brogues were remotely hip? Or even fey???

Postcard Records had come and gone, but the wish of its founder Alan Horne that all the bands should find fame and fortune with major labels seemed set to come true.

Orange Juice had signed to Polydor Records, but we were all delighted to see that the debut single still had the word POSTCARD printed above the Polydor symbol and indeed the famous drumming kitten was also very prominent on both the sleeve and label. Edwyn, James, Stephen and David hadn’t sold out after all……

But what’s this…a song written by Green/Mitchell/Hodges? Have they recorded a cover or is it some sort of writing team attached to their new home??

mp3 : Orange Juice – L.O.V.E…love

OK, I quickly learned that it was a cover of a song by Al Green, but being the uber-indie post-punk 18 year-old, I didn’t know that at the time (in fact I wasn’t really aware who Al Green was given he’d barely had a hit in the UK).

I wasn’t sure what to make of this record at the time. In fact I was a bit disappointed with it in many ways as it seemed awfully polished. It even had horns on it when all I wanted was guitars. Thankfully, as I aged, so did my tastes improve and while I still won’t place it in all time Top 20 of OJ songs, I do tap my feet, nod my head from side to side and croon along whenever it plays.

Tell you something though, the b-side was an instant smash:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Intuition Told Me (Pt 2)

What wasn’t there to love about a song that contained the lines?

Please, please
Tell me when the fun begins
Please, please
As soon as you stop your whining Jim

And I whined a lot in those days. Still do in fact. And I’m happy to confess that Intuition Told Me (Pt 2) is still a song that I rank among the Top 2 the band ever recorded……and the best one that Edwyn ever wrote for them.

Polydor had high hopes for Orange Juice. I’m guess they were staggered by the fact that it stuck at #65 in the charts on its release in October 1981.

Oh, the sleeves above? The camp one is the 7″ and the other is the 12″. What do you mean you need a better explanation than that??

Here’s the instrumental that was available on the 12″:-

mp3: Orange Juice – Moscow

This was a re-recorded and more polished version of the song that was originally put on the b-side of Falling and Laughing.  It was, at the time, a much sought-after piece of music and one of the reasons I bought the 12″ in the first place!!

NEXT YEAR’S NOSTALGIA FEST (Part 14 of 48)

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There’s a few of the CD86 bands still on the go today but most of them are doing so on the back of having broken up but subsequently reforming for love or money.

Today’s lot are an exception.

The Hit Parade formed in 1984 and while there was a nine-year hiatus between 1994 and 2003, they never ever officially called it a day and are still going strong 31 years on and their story is genuinely fascinating. The band consists of Raymond Watts, Matthew Moffatt and Julian Henry. and part of the reason they have never been commercially successful is down to the fact that all three have enjoyed huge success in other careers – Watts as a musician in Germany with harder-edged goth/rock acts, Henry as one of the UK’s leading lights in PR/media/marketing while Moffatt runs his own film lighting company.

Their first six singles, all recorded on their own JSH label, were released between June 1984 and April 1987.  All of them are no highly collectible and all of them received rave reviews in the UK music papers thanks to them being three-minute jangly dancey indie-pop. The singles were compiled onto an LP in June 1988 entitled With Love From The Hit Parade.

In 1991 the band would release material on three labels – Vinyl Japan and Sarah Records in addition to their own imprint .  By 1994, Julian Henry was working alongside Harvey Williams (who was  mentioned in last week’s feature on Another Sunny Day) while the band were out-of-the-blue enjoying chart success in Japan with a song called Hello Hannah Hello, a track only ever available as an LP track in the UK.

Then came the hiatus – the period coinciding with Henry’s meteoric rise to fame in the PR industry – before in 2003 the re-establishment of JSH Records since when the band had released one single in each of 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2011 and LPs in 2006, 2012 and 2014.

I’m ashamed to say that I know next to nothing about The Hit Parade and the only things I have in the collection are via compilation albums.  So if any T(n)VV reader wants to contribute something more substantial and meaningful than this cut’n’paste effort of mine, then please be my guest.

Here’s the really decent song that appears on CD86:-

mp3 : The Hit Parade – You Didn’t Love Me Then

It was the band’s fourth single and was released in 1985 with this as the b-side:-

mp3 : The Hit Parade – Huevos Mexicanos

Enjoy

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #9 : ALTERED IMAGES

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They began as a post-punk band championed by John Peel and Siousxie Sioux but within a relatively short period of time their move into pure pop music saw them conquer the singles charts before all of a sudden they fell spectacularly out of fashion and breaking up before the lead singer had reached her 22nd birthday after which she moved into acting.

I loved Altered Images.  They were great fun.  And Clare Grogan was, and still is, gorgeous.

The band were mere teenagers when they formed in 1979.  Their first two  singles were released to almost complete indifference in early 1981 but seemingly out of nowhere Happy Birthday hit the #2 spot in the UK on its release in August 1981.  Over the next nine months, they were rarely out of the singles charts thanks to the success of I Could Be Happy and See Those Eyes with Clare’s ‘little-girl on helium’ vocals and persona making them stand out just that bit more than most.

The age-old issue of failing to deliver a decent follow-up LP to the debut in 1982 was a setback and led to two-fifths of the band leaving on less than amicable terms and a whole change in direction in both sound and look. Vveteran producer Mike Chapman was brought in to bring a more polished and mature sound while Clare turned overnight into an Audrey Hepburn lookalike.  It did bring initial success through the outstanding 45 Don’t Talk To Me About Love but it wasn’t sustainable and before 1983 was out the band were no more.

I am proud of the fact that I own every one of the band’s eleven singles in 7″ and 12″ form along with a couple of picture discs having picked them up as a ‘job lot’ on ebay almost ten years ago.  It is tempting to put together a series featuring every single one of those 45s but I fear my love for the band won’t be as well felt among the T(n)VV readership.  But here’s one song that I think will go down well.  It’s the b-side to a November 1981 hit single (the afore-mentioned I Could be Happy) and it illustrates just how much in debt they were to the Banshees and their ilk with the early material:-

mp3 : Altered Images – Insects

Enjoy

SEND ME A LULLABY

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The Cure have released 41 singles going back to Killing An Arab in 1978 right through to The Perfect Boy exactly 30 years later. But I would never have guessed that Lullaby was the one that performed the best in the UK singles chart when it crawled its way up to #5 in 1989.

I would have put a fair amount of money that The Lovecats was the holder of that title, but it only scratched its way to #7 in 1983, although I’m guessing that in terms of actual sales it in fact outsold Lullaby.

And even if you told me that the biggest success wasn’t The Lovecats, I’d have then placed whatever was left of my cash on Friday I’m In Love, but this only swooned its way to #6 in 1992.

So the best performing 45 turns out to be the one about the creepy and haunting tale of an eight-legged creature that frightened Robert Smith is in his nightmares as a youngster. Or, is in fact the song, as has been suggested in some places, really about drug addiction and dependency but written in such a way that it gets past the censors at the BBC for the all important airplay?

Either way, I think its one of the most inventive arrangements to feature on any record by The Cure, and once more I’ve dug out the 12″ single from the cupboard for you all to enjoy once more along with two rather decent b-sides:-

mp3 : The Cure – Lullaby (extended mix)
mp3 : The Cure – Babble
mp3 : The Cure – Out Of Mind

Enjoy

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #10 – LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS

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This should have been a relatively easy task.  After all, there are only 3 LPs and 9 singles (all of which were on a studio LP) in the career of Lloyd Cole & The Commotions meaning there were just a little over forty songs to be whipped into the shape of a ten-track imaginary vinyl album.

The problem however, was to not just find the best songs but to segue them into what I consider to be the perfect running order.  The other factor being that the band and the record label were astute at identifying the singles and this compilation was in early danger of just being a collection of 45s for the most part.

In the end, I have selected not my favorite ten tracks but the ten that I feel would make up a perfect album.  Here goes:-

Side One

1. My Bag

In a sense this song is very unrepresentative of the band’s output but it is such a cracking bit of music that it is impossible to ignore.  The intention here is to kick things off with a ridiculously uptempo dance number where the beat is what matters rather than the lyrics.

I was actually going to start things off with the Dancing Mix of this song which extends to over six minutes in length but to be honest, and despite Lawrence Donegan making you think, via his bass playing, that you could easily be listening to something that could be from Michael Jackson in his classic era before he went all crazy on us, the mix has dated appallingly – particularly the drums – while the idea of burying the guitar during the chorus is just so wrong.

2. Rattlesnakes

This is also aimed at keeping listeners on the dance floor, albeit we are now moving into indietracks territory and away from funk/disco.  One of the band’s earliest and best-loved songs, the name-dropping of Eve Marie Saint and Simone de Beauvoir were proof that Mr Cole was a cut above the norm when it came to songwriting.

3. Brand New Friend (long version)

There were many who ridiculed Lloyd for the amount of aforementioned name dropping on the debut album and I’m convinced that the introduction of Jesus into the opening line of the first track off the second LP was him thumbing his nose or flicking the Vs at said critics. This is such a wonderful piece of pop music and it has aged as beautifully and smoothly as a classic malt whisky.  This version is taken from the 12″ single release.

4.  Perfect Skin

It seems strange to have this tucked away in the middle of the album.  The debut single that announced the arrival of a great new band and the opening track of what turned out to be a flawless debut album.  In any other circumstances this would be a stick on for Side One, Track One but as I explained above, I feel the opening of this compilation is best served by My Bag.

This really is an astounding song and the fact that the band did not seek to extend or alter it for the 12″ release of the 45 proves their belief that they obtained sublime perfection at just over three minutes (which makes it a total mystery as to why a total abomination of an extended mix was put on the 12″ of My Bag…. a single I paid 50p for in a charity shop and still felt that I’d been ripped off!!)

5. Forest Fire (extended version)

It would have been so easy for the band to insist that the 45s should all be uptempo numbers and so stand a better chance of daytime radio airings and a high placement in the charts.  The decision to make the second-ever single a slow-tempo ballad with a long outro via a guitar solo was brave and which ultimately backfired as it stalled at #41.

Proof that the lyrics didn’t need name to be dropped in to make the listener sit up and go ‘wow’.  I was madly in love in 1984 and Lloyd perfectly captured how I felt about the woman in question and how she felt about me.  This, together with You’re The Best Thing by The Style Council, always make me think of her and wonder how her life turned out after our very messy and prolonged break-up.  We never ever imagined it that way, maybe we should have paid more attention to the first song on the second side of this LP…

Side Two

1.  Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

“It’s about being so in love there’s only one way to go – if you get so happy then you’re ready to be heartbroken”.

Lloyd Cole talking to the NME in 1984.  Wise words that, as I said, I should have heeded.

2.  Mister Malcontent

The other day when looking back at Mainstream, I described this song as the Commotions by numbers. This was not intended as an insult….indeed I was trying to achieve the exact opposite.

This is one of THE greatest ‘tracks only ever released on an LP’ of all time (see Age of Consent by New Order as another example).  Friend of Rachel Worth in a comment left behind recently described the version of Mister Malcontent played on the 20th anniversary tour of Rattlesnakes as ‘storming’, a description that was 110% spot-on – bizarre that the best song on the nights turned out not to be on the LP that was being commemorated.  Proof that the Commotions were an incredibly talented group of musicians and not merely a backing band for a talented wordsmith out front.

3.  Big Snake

A mysterious and uneasy lyric.  If taken literally then it appears to condone incest, so I’m sure this is not the case. One alternative explanation, and this would be borne out from some of the material on subsequent solo albums on which he also adopted a third-person narrative, is that this is a song about a man who has hired a prostitute to act out a fantasy.  Either way it is unsettling and creepy….and in most cases would be so disturbing as to border on the unlistenable.  But, the unsettling and uneasy tale gets an equally unsettling and uneasy tune topped off with a wonderful backing lyric from Tracey Thorn.  It’s a million miles away from walking in the pouring rain with Jesus and Jane…..

4.  Four Flights Up

Anyone who ever says Lloyd Cole is just a pretentious and po-faced song writer should be tied to a chair and made to listen to this humorous track from the debut LP.  And it comes with a jaunty, sea-shanty type of tune that makes you want to dance at the indie-disco.

5.  Perfect Blue (alt mix)

I’m killing myself here.  The original version that closed Easy Pieces is a great bit of music.  This alternative version was made available for a compilation LP that was released post-breakup and isn’t as good.  But it is still a strong enough track to close off this particularly imaginary compilation.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag 
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Brand New Friend (long version)
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Forest Fire (extended version)
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Mister Malcontent
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Big Snake
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Four Flights Up
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Blue (alt mix)

Enjoy.

I’ll have a look at the extensive solo career over the coming weeks and months.

A MORE THAN REASONABLE DEBUT OFFERING

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The first time I heard Echobelly was back in 1993 via a compilation tape put together by Jacques the Kipper. I was immediately knocked out. It was as if a cracking Smiths tribute band (with added didgeridoo!!) was being fronted by the winner of a Debbie Harry soundalike contest.

mp3 : Echobelly – Bellyache

I immediately set out to track down the debut which wasn’t easy as it was on a  small London indie label – Pandemonium Records – but thankfully the label would re-issue it as an EP in January 1994 with the other three songs all being more than half-decent as well:-

mp3 : Echobelly – Sleeping Hitler
mp3 : Echobelly – Give Her A Gun
mp3 : Echobelly – I Don’t Belong Here

Seems I wasn’t alone in falling for its charms as the band then experienced a bit of a bidding war and they eventually signed to a subsidiary of Epic Records, and enjoyed a hugely successful two-year spell in which they would have two Top 10 LPs and a handful of hit singles.

The mainstays of Echobelly were a bit of an odd couple. Vocalist Sonya Madan was born in India but raised in a strict environment in England (so much so that she didn’t attend her first rock gig until she was at college) while guitarist Glenn Johansson was a Swede whose previous work had including editing porno mags…

Their writing partnership however, worked a treat with many of their songs combining catchy indie pop and intelligent and thought-provoking lyrics that addressed many social issues.  Their biggest hit addressed prostitution and homelessness:-

mp3 : Echobelly – King Of The Kerb

A series of health and legal issues in 1996 halted momentum and although the band returned with a third LP in late 1997, the Britpop-bubble with which they had been lumped in had burst and Echobelly soon became a mere footnote in indie pop history which is a real pity as they were more than half-decent but I don’t think they ever quite matched the brilliance of the debut single.

Enjoy

THIS WAS STUCK TO THE FRONT PAGE OF A MAGAZINE (7)

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Uncut was launched in May 1997 and is still going strong(ish) today albeit it isn’t selling as many issues as it once did – circulation dropped by more than one-third between 2007 and 2013 but it still shifts in excess of 50,000 copies each month.

Although now almost exclusively devoted to music, the magazine initially a chunk of its content devoted to films, TV and books and made no secret that the audience it was catering for was 25-45 year olds. Each month the magazine includes a free CD. The one featured today is from the March 2002 edition. It was plucked at random from a pile sitting on a pile on the floor – at least this one had been opened and listened to. Far too often I’ve taken the CD from a monthly magazine and having looked at who was included and nor bothered with it.

The sub-title to this CD was 17-track to the month’s best music. That didn’t mean however, that it was all new material on the CD as the magazine was more than happy to include tracks from albums that had been newly reissued or remastered – which was certainly the case on a number of these

mp3 : Teenage Fanclub & Jad Fair – Crush On You
mp3 : The Sound – Judgement
mp3 : Eileen Rose – Good Man
mp3 : Ian Dury & The Blockheads – The Ballad of the Sulphate Strangler
mp3 : The Arlenes – Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone
mp3 : Joey Ramone – Maria Bartiromo
mp3 : Willard Grant Conspiracy & Telefunk – Grun Grun
mp3 : Brian Wilson – Love & Mercy (live)
mp3 : Departure Lounge – King Kong Frown
mp3 : Cornershop – Heavy Soup
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Jonny Teardrop
mp3 : Giant Sand – Red Right Hand
mp3 : Morrissey – Late Night, Maudlin Street
mp3 : Free – Fire & Water (live)
mp3 : John Matthias – Three Cord Trick
mp3 : 1 Giant Leap – Racing Away
mp3 : The Rat Pack – Me and My Shadow (live)

My previous comments about free compilation CDs with music papers/magazines never really working out completely are well illustrated here. I may be a fan of some of the acts featured here, but I just never want to listen to anything by Free, even if it was deemed a live classic from when the band were at the peak of their powers back in 1970.

Few things worth mentioning:-

Red Right Hand is a very decent cover of the Nick Cave song
Teenage Club and Jad Fair sound as if they were tailor made for one another
Country/American aficionados are well look after with Eileen Rose, The Arlenes and Willard Grant Conspiracy (warning….the song from the last of these is strange!!)
1 Giant Leap was a concept in which a UK electronica duo (Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman) travelled the world and recorded vocals and music by numerous artists. The song on this particular CD features Horace Andy, Grant Lee Philips, Koalin Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut…..

I’m sure there really is something for everyone on this CD but don’t shoot the messenger for some of the unadulterated pish.

Enjoy

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