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NEXT YEAR’S NOSTALGIA FEST (Part 19 of 48)

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stephenpastel

Here’s an unlikely confession from a Glasgow-based indie kid…….

…………..I don’t own all that much by The Pastels.

They’ve been part of the local music scene since I was a teenager with their first recordings seeing the light of day back in 1982.  I suppose my problem was that I didn’t take an instant shine to many of the early records and the first few times I caught them live, either as a headline or support act, I was rather underwhelmed.

But looking back now I can see and appreciate just how much of an influence they have had, not just on the local music scene, but on the growth and development of indie music over the past 30+ years.

They must have been one of the most experienced bands to be associated with the C86 movement as by that time they had released a number of singles on various labels including Rough Trade and Creation and by the year in question were on Glass Records for whom they would record their debut LP that was recorded in 86 and released in early 87.  The track on CD86 came from the debut album but it had also been released back in October 1984 as a b-side on a single released on Creation:-

mp3 : The Pastels – Baby Honey

A fantastic song extending to almost seven minutes in length it is actually the last song on CD 2 and so brings the 48-track compilation to an end.  For those who associate The Pastels with tweeness it must come as a bit of a shock as it, to all intent and purposes, rocks out a fair bit.

Anyways, as has been my practice with this series to try to track down any recordings associated with the track on the compilation album then here’s the other two songs on the 1984 single:-

mp3 : The Pastels – A Million Tears
mp3 : The Pastels – Surprise Me

A Million Tears is a fantastic piece of music and while I’m not so enamoured by Surprise Me I take it that a certain Jarvis Cocker listened to it more than a few times and came to be heavily influenced.

Finally…..if anyone ever wants to ever bump into Stephen McRobbie (nee Pastel) you can do so by dropping into Monorail Music in Glasgow where you’ll find him, as owner, behind the counter. His store is something to treasure and has become my first port of call for new music on the few occasions that I buy it!

Enjoy

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #13 : ARAB STRAP

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I said more than enough yesterday.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Gilded (live at King Tut’s, Glasgow on 16 October 1996)

Wish I’d been there.

Originally recorded for the b-side of the debut single.  As you’ll hear from the introduction, this was the very first gig the band played but already there were folk who knew all the words!!

The boys have since admitted they were far from sober when they took to the stage.  But at least their nerves had been steadied…

 

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #13 – ARAB STRAP

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I know this effort will not get anything like the same attention as #11 in the series for the simple fact that there are far more fans out there with a knowledge of and an opinion on The Clash than there are when it comes to Arab Strap.  But for me, this narrowing down to just ten tracks was every bit as impossible a task and one that I will complete and immediately look at it and feel I want to make a change.

The reason for turning to this particular band today is quite simply down to the fact that they are due to feature in tomorrow’s Saturday series and I was stumped as to which song and from which era to plump for.  So I decided it would be best to have a go at the imaginary compilation LP and then add something else in for the Saturday series.

Arab Strap are probably my favourite Scottish band of all time, although The Twilight Sad are vying for that top spot.  It’s probably only the fact that Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton continue to produce so much in the way of outstanding post-Strap material that keeps their former band at the top of that particular chart.

They released six albums between 1996 and 2005 along with a dozen or so 45s/EPs, one live album, a number of limited edition pressings and finally an end of career compilation followed by a box set.  Of all of these, only the live album (as so often with many bands) proved to be a bit of a letdown coming nowhere close to capturing how good they could be on stage.

Their material offers much from a musical point of view. There were nods to indie, dance and techno in much of the material as well as Middleton displaying an incredible talent for all forms of guitar playing from melancholy acoustic string-plucking right through to axework worthy of the rock gods he grew up worshipping.  Lyrically there was and still hasn’t been anything quite like them with Moffat using his distinctive Central Scotland brogue to half-speak and half-sing what seemed like highly personal tales of a drug and drink fueled existence that all too often ended in pain, misery and regret.  And there was never any thought given to cleaning up the langage….this was music set to discussions you would have with your mates in a pub or at the football….it was authentically working class and it was more authentically Scottish than anything I had ever heard before.

And so, without further delay, here’s what I’ve come up with for today’s imaginary compilation LP:-

Side A

1. Packs Of Three (from the album Philophobia, released in May 1998)

“It was the biggest cock you’ve ever seen
But you’ve no idea where that cock has been
You said you were careful – you never were with me
I heard you did it four times
But johnnies come in packs of three”

Has there ever been such a  shocking and heart-wrenchingly opening few lines to any song as to this opening number to the band’s second LP?  If so, please enlighten me….

The lyric is so powerful that it initially distracts you from the wonderfully understated guitar work going on in the background and then, for that final emotional punch in the guts for the final minute and a half the melancholic cello kicks in……

2. The Shy Retirer (from the album Monday at The Hug & Pint, released in April 2003)

The opening track from the band’s fifth album set to a tune that is worthy of being classified as an indie-disco classic – it’s the sort of thing you could imagine appearing on a Belle & Sebastian or indeed a Go-Betweens record although while Stuart Murdoch/Robert Forster/Grant McLennan (RIP) have written many a fine and poetic song about the pain of unrequited love they never quite got to the nitty-gritty in the way that Aidan Moffat does in this instance.

Everyone involved knew that this song deserved a much wider audience than one of its lines with its stark lyric would have allowed and so a radio edit was put together and issued as the lead track on an EP but it didn’t chart.

3. The First Big Weekend (single, released in September 1996)

This is the song with which Arab Strap announced themselves and is, in effect, a true short story of what a group of close friends got up to over the course of a long weekend from a Thursday afternoon through to a Monday afternoon, set to a tune driven by an acoustic guitar and a drum machine.

I can actually pinpoint the weekend in question – Thursday 13 to Monday 17 June 1996 – with the big clue being the reference to this big international football match on the Saturday afternoon. I can vouch that the weekend in question was ridiculously hot and sunny and I spent it in St Andrews with a group of mates getting drunk and playing golf and of course watching that very football match.

As much as I enjoyed myself that big weekend, there’s no doubt the packed few days of canteen quizzes, Glasgow night clubs, chatting up girls, getting high and drunk, coming down and starting all over again with an interlude of watching an episodes of The Simpsons was much more fun. But then again, on the eve of my 33rd birthday my crazy days were over…

It actually turns out that the debut LP, The Week Never Starts Round Here, was already finished but Chemikal Underground suggested a single to precede it would be a useful tool. It was written over a morning and recorded the same afternoon.  It was very quickly picked up by John Peel and Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 1 and indeed would go onto be voted as #2 in the 1996 Festive Fifty.

4. Don’t Ask Me To Dance (from the album The Last Romance, released in October 2005)

From the first of the band’s songs to one of the last and it perfectly demonstrates just how much their sound evolved, developed and matured over the decade they were together.  It’s an album that has far more of a rock element than any of their others and the closing minute and a half enables Malcolm Middleton to demonstrate his guitar god credentials.

Nobody knew at the time that the band had decided to call it a day on the back of their sixth album and certainly none of their fans would have anticipated that both would go on and have successful solo careers, but the hints of what the seemingly lesser-appreciated/valued member of the duo was going to be capable of in the coming years can be heard on this and many other songs on what is a hugely underrated record.

5. I Saw You (Peel Session, recorded in March 1997)

I find it astonishing that the boys never released this until they had called it a day.  It’s a song that was part of many of their early live shows but given its fast tempo and rocking tune it didn’t fit in all that well with the material that would eventually find its way onto Philophobia in 1998.  And so the Peel Session was the only time it was ever recorded and it eventually saw the light of day on the Ten Years of Tears! compilation released in 2006.

Arab Strap had a great relationship with John Peel. As mentioned earlier, the debut single featured highly in the Festive Fifty and it was no surprise that early the following year they had a debut Peel session.  One of the other tracks they recorded was a re-worked version of The First Big Weekend with the lyrics re-written to document the trip to London to do the session. on which Stuart Murdoch and Chris Geddes of Belle & Sebastian also performed.

Side B

1. Love Detective (single, released in January 2001)

The band also used a fair bit of piano and keyboards to great effect on many of their songs, particularly in the second half of their career and this #66 hit single (and subsequent track on the LP The Red Thread) is a very fine example.   It’s also another frighteningly imaginative lyric in which Aidan recounts to a friend almost breathlessly over the telephone how his world has crashed around him after he broke into the box where his girlfriend keeps some secret things including a personal diary.

2. Here We Go (single, released in March 1998)

I didn’t pick up on Arab Strap until well after the debut LP had caught on and so this was the first thing of theirs I ever bought on its release and which I helped get to #48 in the singles chart (the highest position any of the singles ever reached).  This is a song that I listed at #17 in my 45 45s at 45 rundown back in 2008 and if I was to repeat the exercise today it would still feature so highly in any rundown.  I’m sure we’ve all been in this place at some point in our lives – sitting or standing looking at the other half of your relationship and wondering just what it is that has led to the two of you temporarily hating the sight of one another…..

3. I Would’ve Liked Me A Lot Last Night (from the album Philophobia, released in May 1998)

The second successive track lifted from Philophobia, one of the most brutally warts’n’all albums ever recorded with equally brutal warts’n’all artwork with a painting of a naked woman (Aidan Moffat’s girlfriend) on the front sleeve and a painting of a naked man (Aidan Moffat) on the back of the sleeve.

The word philophobia  is defined as “the abnormal, persistent and unwarranted fear of falling in love or emotional attachment; the risk is usually when a person has confronted any emotional turmoil relating to love in the past but can also be chronic phobia”

I’m guessing that those who suffer from philophobia will also have a huge degree of self-loathing.  If so, they would instantly relate to this incredibly sad and moving tale.

While it true that the 66 minutes that make up the record is never a comfortable listen it is also a work that manages to hold your attention all the way throughout.  It is the sort of record that really could only be made by people in their mid-20s as the subsequent decades of experiences would make them far better equipped to deal with the situations they are facing and the lyrics wouldn’t flow so easily.  But take yourself back to your teenage years and the decade that follows and I’m sure, having listened to Philophobia, that you will ne recalling all sorts of sordid and embarrassing memories and episodes.  It’s way cheaper than a psychiatrist.

4. Cherubs (single, released in August 1999)

Having enjoyed a load of critical success in the wake of Philophobia the band were the subject of a few offers to tempt them away from Chemikal Underground, one of which was accepted.

Go! Beat Records was the dance offshoot of Go! Discs one of the great indie labels of the 80s although by the time Arab Strap signed for them it was just another arm of the Universal Music Group.  Arab Strap had a thoroughly miserable time of it at the new label and within 18 months, after one album and one EP, they were knocking on the door at Chemikal who had no hesitation in taking them back with no hard feelings whatsoever.

If there was one good thing to come out of the time at Go! Beat it was this, the lead track on the EP the video of which I recall seeing on nationwide terrestrial television which would I reckon have been the first and possibly one time that happened in the band’s history.  It’s a fine blend of a punchy upbeat drum machine, fine strumming and a rinky-dinky keyboard behind a minimalist and faintly optimistic lyric. Yes, that’s right an optimistic lyric….of sorts.

5. There Is No Ending (from the album The Last Romance, released in October 2005)

The closing track on the closing album.  After dozens of songs that dealt with teenage and 20-something angst here’s one that celebrates love lasting forever until you grow old.

For a band that had to face up to so many accusations of being latent miserablists this is an extraordinary way to sign off and it captures Aidan Moffat for what I think he is – romantic at heart.  For the most part in the Arab Strap canon he’s been a sad and depressed romantic all too often seeking solace in the comfort of the bottle or from the drugs cabinet but now at last he’s happy and looking forward to the future and he wants the world to know it.

A joyous and wonderful anthem to finish things off.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Packs Of Three
mp3 : Arab Strap – The Shy Retirer
mp3 : Arab Strap – The First Big Weekend
mp3 : Arab Strap – Don’t Ask Me To Dance
mp3 : Arab Strap – I Saw You
mp3 : Arab Strap – Love Detective
mp3 : Arab Strap – Here We Go
mp3 : Arab Strap – I Would’ve Liked Me A Lot Last Night
mp3 : Arab Strap – Cherubs
mp3 : Arab Strap – There Is No Ending (7″single version)

That’s almost twelve hours since I typed the first word of this piece.  I’m away for a lie-down.

UNASHAMEDLY STOLEN FROM A FRIEND

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Brian over at Linear Track Lives! is one of the most consistently inventive and entertaining bloggers out there.  He is currently in the middle of a rundown of his Top 100 songs from the 90s and he’s already delivered some cracking surprises including this at #58:-

“There is something about the way frontman Kurt Wagner delivers words in that Tennessee drawl that takes me back to listening to my relatives spinning yarns at reunions back in the sticks of Illinois as a youngin’. Everything was just a little slower and a little simpler. Even when Wagner’s tales are filled with melancholy, I still find the music comforting. Perhaps I also like Lambchop because I think this would have been a group my father and I might have actually agreed on.

As for today’s pick, this is the second and last song on the countdown with the dreaded f-dash-dash-dash word (as Ralphie would say) in the title. If you only know Lambchop’s more recent work, you might find the tempo of this one quite surprising. “Your Fucking Sunny Day” most assuredly doesn’t sound like it was sung from a rocking chair. It comes from the band’s third album, ‘Thriller.’ That’s a little self-deprecating humor from a group that produced two earlier albums with few sales to show for it. On the off-chance this song might have received some airplay, there was a clean version called “Your Sucking Funny Day,” which is a smile, but I don’t think Merge or anyone else needed to worry too much about such things.

mp3 : Lambchop – Your Fucking Sunny Day

It’s also one of my favourite Lambchop songs – they were a band I was going to include in last week’s series in as much that I have quite a few of their albums but nowhere near the whole back catalogue. I’m particularly fond of the LP Nixon which was released in 2000 and is packed with great tunes with this being the track that would be edited back by a minute and released as a single. The album version is superior:-

mp3 : Lambchop – Up With People

Two years later the band followed up Nixon with Is A Woman with initial copies of the CD having a bonus disc that included a hugely inspired and genius cover version:-

mp3 : Lambchop – This Corrosion

For those of you who may not be familiar with the original, well it is considered by many to be THE greatest goth anthem of all time.  All 11 minutes of it.  Get those shoulders shaking:-

mp3 : Sisters of Mercy – This Corrosion (12″ version)

And finally, the Lambchop take on a punk classic:-

mp3 : Lambchop – (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

Enjoy y’all.

N/O/C/E/K

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A wee treat for fans of The Twilight Sad.

Back in early 2012 the band released their third studio album. No One Can Ever Know was a work that shocked and stunned a lot of folk with a very clear move away from the ‘wall of sound’ guitars that had dominated the previous LPs into something that was heavily reliant on a dark and moody synth sound.  It was an album that I adored on its release with my appreciation heightened by a spellbinding performance in the confines of the Grand Ole Opry in Glasgow, a venue that 99.99% of the time caters for country music and Americana.

Later in the year the band went that bit further with the experimentation by authorising the release of No One Can Ever Know : The Remixes which was, as the name suggests a collection of remixes of songs from the album, many of which were quite experimental and more likely to appeal to fan of those doing the remixing than those who had gone nuts for the first two Twilight Sad LPs. Me?  I’m very happy to be counted in as a fan of the remix effort although I was a little disappointed that it was primarily the same songs that got the treatment with the nine tracks comprising three versions of Sick and two each of Nil, Not Sleeping and Alphabet.

But for diehard fans there was even more to come thanks to the existence of No One Can Ever Know : Tour EP which the band made available as a digital download when you placed an order through their online store or, as in my fortunate case, as one of 300 physical copies put on sale at the merchandise stall when the band went out on the road. It’s actually something the band are very good at in terms of rewarding loyal fans – over the year I’ve picked up a some limited edition mementos including CDs and prints.

The Tour EP offered up one entirely new song (in demo form), three new slowed-down versions* of tracks from the parent album and two songs otherwise only available on hard to get limited edition singles:-

mp3 : The Twilight Sad – Idiots (demo)
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – Alphabet (alternate version)
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – Not Sleeping (alternate version)
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – Untitled #67
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – Another Bed (alternate version)
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – A Million Ignorants

(* and in the case of Alphabet, a heart-wrenchingly beautiful rendition that is my favourite version of the song)

I’ve also discovered a cracking fan site devoted to the band. You can visit by clicking here on the new link I’ve put up on the right hand side of the blog.

Enjoy

THE ALTERED IMAGES SINGLES (3)

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The third Altered Images single was due to be released in September 1981 just in advance of the as yet unnamed debut album.  It must have been a nervy time for all concerned both within the band and at the label given how poorly the first two singles had sold, especially as there was a consensus that those were probably their best and catchiest songs.

Steve Severin had completed his production duties at Rockfield Studios in Wales but there was a nagging doubt that the resultant music wasn’t ever going to transform well to daytime radio and so alternative names were banded about with Martin Rushent emerging as the first choice.

He was someone who had enjoyed a fair degree of success in the post-punk era working in the producer’s chair for the likes of The Stranglers, Generation X and Buzzcocks.  But it was his work on Dare by The Human League that had taken things to a whole new level and so, perhaps as a final roll of the dice by Epic Records, he was asked to take over the reins of a new song called Happy Birthday in the hope that something a bit more pop-orientated would result.

The track was worked on at a studio in Berkshire and the results certainly pleased the record label who decided it would be issued in 7″ and 12″ form with the latter featuring an extended dance mix.  Not only that, and despite every other track on the proposed LP being the work of Severin, it was decided also to name the album after the third single. No pressure then.

It looked initially as if the idea wouldn’t bear fruit as the single crawled into the charts at a very lowly #63.  But unlike Dead Pop Stars which had dropped out of the charts immediately, there was a modest increase in sales in week two that saw it climb to #48.  Week three saw the band crack the Top 40 and so become eligible for increased daytime airplay and more importantly appearances on Top of the Pops.  Six weeks after its release, Happy Birthday hit the #2 spot in the singles chart, a position it held for three weeks. It was unable to initially dislodge It’s My Party by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin and then it was leapfrogged by The Police and Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. While I’m sure it was disappointing not to quite grab #1 the chart performance of Happy Birthday, especially given what had happened with the first two singles, has to be regarded as a triumph.

All told, Happy Birthday would spend more than four months in the Top 75 – it was still in the charts when the band’s fourth single was released in December 1981 and indeed just as it appeared to be ready to drop out Happy Birthday jumped back up the charts again thanks to end of year sales at Christmas time.

I remember at the time initially loving this song but, as so often happens when something hangs around the chart and daytime radio for what seems like an eternity, I got sick of hearing it and longed for the days when the band were a well-kept secret.  But as time has passed, I fully acknowledge and recognise that the breakthrough hit was a fabulous moment in pop music:-

mp3 : Altered Images – Happy Birthday
mp3 : Altered Images – So We Go Whispering

The b-side was self-produced and its dark and rather haunting tune, highly reminiscent of The Cure, would have been a bit of shock to those who had been attracted to the band by the lighter side of pop music on the a-side.

As mentioned, the 12″ came with an extended dance mix together with an additional track:-

mp3 : Altered Images – Happy Birthday (dance mix)
mp3 : Altered Images – Jeepster

The latter, again self-produced, is a more than passable stab at what had been a hit single for T Rex back in 1971/72 when the various members of Altered Images would have been young kids.

Enjoy

A HEARTFELT APPEAL TO ALL T(n)VV READERS

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SW-C has been in touch seeking some help in a crucially important aspect of his life from the esteemed readers of T(n)VV.

I would ask that you all back his heartfelt appeal.  I’ve kicked things off with a PS…..

Ipod Fridays

Working in an open plan office has its draw backs. The main one, other than the people, is the radio. In my office ours is stuck to Radio 2 – which was the station of choice following the dramatic vote that we had some weeks back. Classic FM was second so it’s not all bad. I usually plug into my Ipod and drown out the nonsense dribbling out of Ken Bruce’s mouth, however about six weeks ago our hipster manager had an idea. Ipod Friday.

The concept was that every Friday morning, the radio would be replaced by someone in the office’s Ipod – they would then have no more than three hours to play anything that they wanted to the rest of the office (whether they chose to listen or not). It is supposed to stimulate debate, teamwork and camaraderie. At first people were horrified, largely because they can’t live without hearing Popmaster every sodding day. But then the first Ipod Friday occurred.

It fell to David, a quiet fifty something, to produce the first playlist, and that morning we listened to three hours of top-notch Northern Soul and it was wonderful. From then on, people in the office started to look forward to Ipod Fridays, the week after David was Marie, she produced two hours of mostly decent Britpop and then ruined it by playing thirty minutes of Paloma Faith. I’ve barely spoken to her since. Next up A young guy called Matt, played three hours of electronica including Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada, which was cool. After that it tailed off, the music has got a bit ‘mumsy’ lots of George Ezra singing about ‘catching the train to Australia’ (what you on about you trumpet faced fool?) a bit of Sam Smith and Coldplay, obviously.

On May 29th its my turn. So I have roughly two weeks to produce a set list for the rest of the office and to be honest I am a bit stuck. I kind of want to do a theme but kind of want to just stick the Ipod on random for three hours and see what happens.

Some of the themes that I have looked at include: –

1. Music that has featured in a film.

There is an almost endless list of these, even if I listed my favourite forty films of the last thirty years or so I could probably produce a pretty cool set list.

mp3 : Magnet – Willow’s Song

and I imagine that for some of the males reading this song will provide you with some happy memories. I should also state that the only version I have is from a chilled out mix CD so it might end abruptly, if anyone has the full version I’d love a copy.

2.  Cover versions only

Just last week I was listening to an old Maximo Park album and this came on it – a cover version of the Julie Cruise classic that I really didn’t remember being there. I’ve said before that I love a good cover version, so could easily work my way through three hours worth.

mp3 : Maximo Park – Falling

3.  My Favourite Tracks of 2015

Miniskirt by Braids is I think the best track released this year, it is a track that I heard in a shop in Exeter about two months ago, I was waiting for a sandwich, and had to ask the guy serving what it was. I went home and downloaded it straight away. Saying that the latest single from Girls Names ‘Zero Triptych’ is just as awesome.

mp3 : Braids – Miniskirt

4.  Tracks from the Forty Albums you should hear before I am forty.

This is a list I started at my now defunct (and never to be resurrected) blog When You Can’t Remember Anything, I got to Number 32, but I did produce the full list and a Spotify Set list of it, so I could cheat and use that.

mp3 : Four Tet – She Moves She

5. A Random List of about forty tunes

Starting with this……

mp3 : Death Grips – Beware

So have readers any other ideas – any suggestions gratefully received and if anyone is interested I’ll post the full set list when I have compiled it.

Thanks for Reading

S-WC

PS from JC

Given the recent general election results down in England where a great many people voted for the Tories on the basis that they couldn’t bear to see any sort of coalition that would give power or a platform to the Scottish National Party (SNP), I’d propose a set list entitled ‘Honestly…..Scotland isn’t too bad’ and have forty tunes from singers/bands who are entirely from that little corner of planet earth. Hell, I’d even be prepared to compile something myself!!

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