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BUZZCOCKS SINGLES 77-80 (Part 1)

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I’ve gone for Buzzcocks to be the next band in the lookback at the singles set of series. Not only are the songs for the most part rather spoecial, but many of the sleeves were among the best designs of the post-punk era.

In the beginning was this.

Spiral Scratch is an EP and the debut release by English punk rock band Buzzcocks. It was released on 29 January 1977, and was the first punk record to be self-released (that is, without the support of an existing record label). It is the third record ever released by a British punk band (preceded only by The Damned’s “New Rose” and the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.”). The EP is the only Buzzcocks studio release to feature original singer Howard Devoto, who left shortly after its release to form one of the first post-punk bands, Magazine.

When reissued in 1979, it reached number 31 in the UK Singles Chart.

According to Devoto, “It took three hours to record the tracks, with another two for mixing.” Produced by Martin Hannett (credited as “Martin Zero”), the music was roughly recorded, insistently repetitive and energetic.

The band had to borrow £500 from their friends and families to pay for the record’s production and manufacture. The EP was released 29 January 1977 on their own New Hormones label. The disc quickly sold out its initial run of 1,000 copies, and went on to sell 16,000 copies, initially by mail order, but also with the help of the Manchester branch of music chain store Virgin but also with the help of the Manchester branch of music chain store Virgin, whose manager took some copies and persuaded other regional branch managers to follow suit.

mp3 : Buzzcocks – Breakdown
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Time’s Up
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Boredom
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Friends Of Mine

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #38 : BMX BANDITS

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I’m doing a direct lift from a posting last December.

Duglas T Stewart is the nearest thing we have in Scotland to a King of Indie Pop. I can do no better than steal these wonderful words penned by Michael Pederson for The Skinny back in 2012:-

Duglas T. Stewart is the founder of BMX Bandits; a pop spokesman for love, magic and fairytales. Whilst BMX Bandits have shared members with many brilliant Glasgow bands (such as Teenage Fanclub, The Vaselines and The Soup Dragons), Duglas T. Stewart has been the effulgent yellow yolk that’s spanned it all. Kurt Cobain claimed on a New York radio show that if he could be in any other band it would be BMX Bandits… and, well, flocks of us convincingly concur.

And if you need more on his band, this the bio from their own website:-

BMX Bandits were formed in 1985 by songwriter and lead vocalist Duglas T Stewart out of the ashes of The Pretty Flowers, a short-lived group that featured Stewart alongside Frances McKee (The Vaselines), Sean Dickson (The Soup Dragons) and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub).

Their songs mix melodic qualities and humour with, at times, raw and heartbreaking pathos. Stewart has written many of the group’s works solo including ‘Your Class’, ‘The Sailor’s Song’ and ‘Doorways’ but also has collaborated with many of the other members. Stewart’s most regular songwriting partners have been Francis Macdonald, Norman Blake and, more recently, David Scott of The Pearlfishers and original Bandits lead guitarist Jim McCulloch.

Starting with the exuberant E102 in 1986, BMX Bandits released a series of singles on Stephen Pastels’ 53rd & 3rd label, where they were label mates with The Vaselines and Beat Happening. Later they joined Alan McGee’s Creation Records. BMX Bandits released three albums on Creation. The group’s most celebrated song is the autobiographical ‘Serious Drugs’, recorded in 1991 but not released until 1993.

Stewart split with his long term musical partner Francis Macdonald in 2005 but 2006 saw a new wave of live concert activity and the release of My Chain. Stewart’s writing on the album was compared to Brian Wilson, Michel Legrand, Ennio Morricone and even Alan Bennett. The line up was expanded by the arrival of Stewart’s friend David Scott and new female vocalist Rachel Allison. The follow-up, 2007’s Bee Stings, was influenced by classic girl group pop plus the mellow A & M sound of the late 1960s and early 70s.

The band’s most recent album release BMX Bandits In Space (Elefant Records in 2012) was hailed by some critics as their most accomplished release so far, “a stunning, brilliant and beautiful album”. A highly acclaimed feature-length documentary called Serious Drugs – Duglas and the Music of BMX Bandits was premiered in Glasgow in 2011, followed by a series of international festival screening and a DVD release.

The line-up of the group continues to be ever changing with the latest addition to the line up being multi-instrumentalist Chloe Philip (pictured above). Despite all the changes in personnel the heart and soul of the group remains the same, an extended musical family led by the inimitable Duglas.

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve either see Duglas in the flesh, either on stage with his band or more often than not as part of the audience watching singers and bands do their stuff. He’s always been one to champion new and emerging musicians and I imagine many of them get a big kick when he sidles over to them and offers his sage advice. Everyone with any interest at all in the music scene in Scotland knows, respects and loves Duglas T Stewart. Long may he reign.

mp3 : BMX Bandits – Little Hands

A single from 1993, released on Creation Records.

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #87 : HUSKER DU

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A GUEST POSTING FROM SWISS ADAM

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Husker Du ‘You Gotta Keep Hanging On’ (An Imaginary Compilation Album)

Husker Du are arguably the most essential band that came out of the USA’s independent punk scene. They wrote the most open, affecting and human songs of that scene, blazed the trail for groups going from an indie (SST) to a major and were determined not to be hemmed in by U.S. hardcore punk’s rules.

They had two natural songwriters, Bob Mould and Grant Hart, who took tunes and cues from the 60’s and married them with punk’s energy, filtered through a wall of distortion pedals and fired themselves into the air, eventually splitting up in horrible circumstances. Like The Smiths, whose story can become overshadowed by the breakup and the court case, Husker Du need to be remembered for their songs and their impact, not for Bob and Grant’s fallout and the ending.

You don’t go to Husker Du for laughs or light relief- what you get is a searing, white light focus on, excuse me here please, the human condition. Bob and Grant both wrote lyrics that were conversational and economic, their hearts on their sleeves, about the real world and the internal emotional world. In a sometimes very masculine world (both 80s America and the punk scene) both writers were grappling with their sexuality (Bob is gay, Grant is bi) and it comes through in their songs. Bob’s guitar playing is a wave of shards of notes and chords, splintering and shattering out of the speakers. Like The Smiths (again) people who cast that band as miserable were missing the point. Husker Du were often an intense listen, sometimes an uneasy listen, but the energy of the music, the tunes coming through the noise, the honesty and empathy of the words and the singing and the direct emotional impact of the tunes hit home hard.

Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton met at college and the surrounding band scene in Minneapolis, formed a trio quickly and slotted into the growing underground scene of gigs, fanzines and community in Reagan’s America. They then burst out of Minneapolis and the hardcore scene, criss-crossing the States touring and recording.

Early singles like Statues show they’d been listening to British post-punk and the album Land Speed Record is a ferocious rush through umpteen songs in two sides of vinyl. By 1983’s Metal Circus they were rejecting hardcore’s conformity lyrically (see Real World) and musically (see It’s Not Funny Anymore and Diane) but could still strip paint where needed.

The big breakthrough came with 1984’s Zen Arcade, a double album and a concept album to the horror of the purist hardcore, recorded and mixed in just 85 hours. Incredibly prolific by this point they followed Zen Arcade with two further albums within the next year, both absolute highpoints and both released in 1985, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig. You can’t go wrong with either.

Sonically Flip Your Wig is a kinder on the ears. New Day Rising was the last one produced by SST’s in house producer Spot and was recently described by Bob Mould as sounding like a man pressure washing a metal shed. Thin, brittle and trebly. On Flip Your Wig they produced themselves, and Bob had changed guitar pedal, to create a clearer and more accessible sound but no less passionate or committed.

Following this they signed to Warner Brothers and put out 1986’s Candy Apple Grey and then 1987’s Warehouse: Songs and Stories (another double album). Candy Apple Grey is where along with REM alternative rock gets invented- acoustic guitars and organ are added to a slower tempo and introspection. Warehouse is the sound of a band splitting up- it has some good songs, a couple of great ones, but by this point Bob and Grant were at loggerheads, Bob pulling rank and insisting that his songs took up 55% of the album. Drugs and whatever else took their toll, especially on Grant. On the eve of a 1987 tour manager David Savoy took his own life. Bob cancelled some shows without Grant’s knowledge. Everyone walked away not long after.

Picking just ten songs is difficult. In Husker Du tradition this should really be a double and I thought about a ten track Bob Mould Husker Du compilation and a ten track Grant Hart one but that’s just falling into the trap they fell into themselves. I’m sure there’ll be people who would pick a different ten and on another day I might too. It’s testament to the sheer quality and quantity of the group’s back catalogue. So to songs like Real World, New Day Rising, Sorry Somehow, Ice Cold Ice, You Can Live At Home, Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill, Never Talking To You Again, Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely, Too Far Down and I Apologise…. I apologise. Another day, another ICA.

Here goes…..

Eight Miles High – a 1984 single and a cover of 60s group The Byrds, this is essential Husker Du. A searing acid-punk guitar tour de force, Bob tears ferociously through the chords and vocals, Greg and Grant blasting their way through the rhythm. The breakdown section alone is worth the price of entry. This is the cover version against which all other covers must be judged.

Celebrated Summer – one of Bob’s key tunes from New Day Rising, a look back at the summers of youth and the pain that doing so brings and the questioning it provokes. The breakdown and ending with the finger picking on a 12 string acoustic shows them breaking out of the hardcore scene and moving elsewhere.

Something I Learned Today – Zen Arcade’s opener. Double pace drum and bass intro and then whoosh, we’re off. Bob’s lyrics discuss growing up and trust in people (or lack of it).

Green Eyes – from Flip Your Wig, a Grant Hart love song. Grant Hart, a songwriting, singing drummer who grew his hair long, wore love beads and tie dye and drummed barefoot wrote some beautiful love songs.

Makes No Sense At All – a 1985 single and Flip Your Wig track and an out and out pop song. Bob Mould always had melodies buried beneath the noise. More and more the melodies began to break out.

It’s Not Funny Anymore – on Metal Circus Husker Du were making a statement. A seven song ep, with plenty of throat-shredding singing and finger-slicing playing, but here the tempo slows a little, the verse-chorus is potentially radio friendly and Grant shows his pop song influences. For this compilation it was a real toss up between this and Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely, Grant’s kiss off to an ex. It’s Not Funny Makes It because it’s earlier.

Turn On The News – another Grant Hart song, from Zen Arcade this time. A single piano note, a sound collage from the radio and TV news, and then three chords on distorted guitar, Grant bewailing the news cycle and its effects on people.

Divide and Conquer – a Bob Mould masterpiece from Flip Your Wig. The guitar riff is a killer. The band are right on it. The lyrics skewer government, phone tapping, the politics of division and globalisation.

Pink Turns To Blue – another Zen Arcade highlight, recorded in one take. Grant Hart sings of a girl’s drug addiction and subsequent overdose, as pink turns to blue.

Keep Hanging On – there are so many songs I could or maybe should have closed this album with but this one always hits me right there. From Flip You Wig, buried away towards the end of side 2, the guitars are deliciously distorted, Greg’s bass builds, the drums thump and Grant sings his heart out. His voice sounds like he is just about hanging on but ultimately this is uplifting, life affirming stuff.

Only angels have wings, girl
And poets have all the words
The earth belongs to the two of us
And the sky belongs to the birds

You’ve given me so much happiness
That I’ll wrap up and give you this song
You gotta grab it with both hands
You gotta keep hanging on’

SWISS ADAM

LET’S GO TO THE OTHER EXTREME TODAY

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I’ve subjected you to a couple of songs these past two days that have extended out to ridiculous amounts of time.  I’ll make it up to y’all by delving into the i-tunes and finding some really short stuff with the qualification that they need to be full songs and not just extracts. Oh and they also need to be of quality:-

mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Vatican Broadside
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Old Mother Reagan

Both clock in at just 30 seconds.

mp3 : Wire – Brazil

You’ll need your full powers of concentration to get through its 40 seconds.

mp3 : Elastica – Annie
mp3 : Talulah Gosh – Break Your Face
mp3 : The Style Council – Mick’s Blessings
mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Let Her Go Into The Darkness
mp3 : The Vaccines – Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra)

All at less than 80 seconds.

Enjoy.

AND HERE WAS ME THINKING IT WAS ACTUALLY A CHART HIT….

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If you thought yesterday’s ten minutes plus was an epic, you ain’t seen (or heard) nothing yet.

Unlike Marquee Moon, I can clearly recall hearing Chase by Giorgio Moroder getting played on Radio 1 back in 1979. It was, again, something quite distinctive and catchy, and seemed to be a very strange choice of music for a film theme which, to mt ears back in those days, seemed to be the reserve of classical composers only.

Giorgio Moroder had come to the attention of the wider public over the previous year thanks to his collaborations with Donna Summer who had taken the unofficial title of Queen of Disco thanks to string of hits, the best known of which was I Feel Love. It was something akin to that very track that Alan Parker, the director of Midnight Express, wanted to have appear throughout the film, and so he approached Moroder to ask if he’d compose something for him. And while most of us had the Italian pigeon-holed as a disco hit maker, those in the know were aware that he’d been making music since as far back as 1965 and was a real talent capable of turning his hand to most things.

The piece of music composed in line with Parker’s wishes was, to give its full title, Chase (Theme From Midnight Express), released as a single in  early 1979 on the back of the popular and critical response to the film which picked up a number of awards across the world, despite some saying that the portrayal of Turkey and the people who lived there bordered on racism.

Chase was released in 7″ and 12″ format and played at 45 rpm.  The former lasted 3:30 while the latter lasted 8:26 and was identical to the LP version.  However, a later single-sided version was issued to play at 33 1/3 rpm, which allowed the music to stretch out to a shade over 13 minutes.

Now as the title of the post indicates, I was sure this was a chart hit but it peaked at just #48 in March 1979.  It certainly got a lot of air play at the time but this didn’t lead to any huge amount of sales.  Here’s the full monty:-

mp3 : Giorgio Moroder – Chase

Enjoy

 

AND HERE WAS ME ALWAYS THINKING IT WAS JUST A CULT HIT….

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I don’t think I ever heard Marquee Moon by Television until around 1983 when it was played at one of the downstairs alt-disco at Strathclyde Students Union.  I recall it being one that the cool kids got up and danced to as well as some of the longer-haired hippy types who normally hung around in the hope of some Lynard Skynard or Blue Oyster Cult to which they could play along on air guitar.  That it attracted such a diverse group of dancers was of interest and of course it sounded great blasting out of the speakers.

I know I didn’t ever own a copy of the song until the late 90s when I bought a CD copy of the album of the same name.  It was a song up until then I’d only ever had on a hissy compilation C90 tape that a mate had put together for me back in the mid 80s and I was delighted at long last to have a decent quality copy to enjoy.

It came up on random shuffle the other day and prompted the idea of a posting.  That’s when my little bit of background research revealed that it had come out as a 7″ single in April 1977, entered the charts at #35, dropped out to #41 the week after, climbed back in again to #30 in week three before falling down to #40 and then totally out of the Top 50 after five weeks.  At just a shade under ten minutes in length, it was cut into two parts for the 7″ single and radio play – Part 1 being 3:13 and Part 2 being 6:45.  I’m thinking my hippy colleagues at the student union, if they owned a copy of the 7″, played Part 2 to death…..

In fact the original issue of the single was in 12″ format, which would have been one of the first of its type as it was around ’77 that the 12″ singles, primarily to extend disco numbers, really took off.  Wiki explains that the first 25,000 copies were on 12″ with a stereo version of the song on one side and a mono version on the other and only later copies were made as 7″ singles.

It’s an extraordinary piece of music and it’s quite hard to get your head around the fact that it’s almost 40 years old. It’s a song as the dance floor of the early 80s indicated is one that the post-punks and the guitar purists would like to each claim as their own and there’s not too many tunes out there can do that.  What is clear is that it had a huge influence on the playing and recording of many emerging bands and artists, not least Talking Heads and Elvis Costello

mp3 : Television – Marquee Moon

That’s the full 10:40 version for you folks.

Enjoy.

 

 

BONUS POSTING : A FEW SONGS

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Just under five weeks till I take the trip aross the Atlantic to meet up with some Canadian buddies.  Preparing for the trip with a few new 1-hour compilations for the plane journey. This one, coming in at spot on 59 minutes, was compiled yesterday.

mp3 : Various – Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon

Done so with a touch of a hangover…..but then again it’s not every weekend your football team wins its derby match and stays top of the league.

The Search For Cherry Red – Jonathan Fire*Eater
The Drowners – Suede
I Was A Teenage Armchair Honved Fan – Half Man Half Biscuit
California Uber Alles – Dead Kennedys
Tears In Your Cup – Cats On Fire
What Do You Want From Me? – Monaco
Milkshake – Kelis
Hanging With Howard Marks – Super Furry Animals
King Kunta – Kendrick Lamar
Plenty – The Woodentops
Israel – Siouxie & The Banshees
This Corrosion  – Sisters Of Mercy
Geno – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Rattlesnakes – Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
Electricity – OMD
Hand In Glove – The Smiths

Enjoy. And download till your heart is full….

(Please note, just in case there’s kids around, there’s fair bit of swearing on the Kendrick Lamar track)

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