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A POLITICAL PROTEST SONG

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The 1980s was a decade when pop and politics were mixed like no other, certainly here in the UK.

The threat of a nuclear holocaust, the miners’ strike, the struggle for democracy in South Africa, homophobia, the efforts to bring an end to the Iron Curtain, famine in Africa, the worries around the growth of a fascist state in the UK, the ever-increasing gaps in living standards between those who had and those who hadn’t, the Falklands War, the UK riots and the ‘greed is best’ ethos were common subject matters in pop music during the Thatcher-era which began and ended just either side of the 80s.

There’s loads of great and memorable songs from that era, none more so than Nelson Mandela which helped take a decades-old campaign to places it hadn’t been before or Ghost Town which perfectly captured the grim despair that many parts of the UK felt as the full effects of laissez-faire capitalism took a firm grip.

In 1989, Kirsty MacColl slipped out a tremendously jaunty sounding single whose lyrics encapsulate much of what the previous decade had been all about:-

I thought of you when they closed down the school
And the hospital too
Did they think that you were better?
They were wrong
You had so many friends
They all left you in the end
‘Cause they couldn’t take the patter

And I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again
Women and men united by a struggle
Going down
You’ve got to walk into the water
With your sister and your daughter
In this free world

If I wore your shades could I share your point of view?
Could I make you feel better?
Paint a picture, write a letter?
Well I know what you’re saying
But I see the things you do
And it’s much too dangerous
To get closer to you

But I will see you baby when the clans rise again
Women and men united by the struggle
Going down
With a pocketful of plastic
Like a dollar on elastic
In this free world
I wouldn’t tell you if I didn’t care

I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again
Women and men united by the struggle
And the ghettos are full of Mercedes Benz
And you’d never hurt a friend
Who wouldn’t tell you

It’s cold and it’s going to get colder
You may not get much older
You’re much too scared of living
And to die is a reliable exit
So you push it and you test it
With Thunderbird and Rivin

I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again
Women and men united by the struggle
In this free world baby
Got to take it got to grab it
Got to get it up and shag it
In this free world

Going down
You’ve got to get into the water
Like a lamb goes to the slaughter
In this free world baby
Going down
With a pocketful of plastic
Like a dollar on elastic
In this free world
I wouldn’t tell you if I didn’t care

Sadly, the single didn’t crack the charts and so has become one of the many forgotten political protest songs of the era:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Free World

The 12″ of this had an exceptional cover version:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby

Johnny Marr himself contributed guitar to this particular recording and in doing so, combined with Kirsty’s tremendous vocal delivery, has made this a rare instance of when the fresh take was better than the original.

The final track was this:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Closer to God?

I really wish the record bosses had made this a double-A side of Free World and You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby for I’m certain there would have been more airplay and sales.  And who knows, there might even have been a wonderful post-Smiths appearance for Johnny on Top of the Pops.

Enjoy!!

PS : I’d like to invite T(n)VV readers to contribute their own favourite or memorable political protest songs along with a few lines of explanation with the idea of starting up a new series.  If you fancy joining in, please send it over to thevinylvillain@hotmail.co.uk

Cheers.

AZTEC CAMERA ON POSTCARD

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Roddy Frame was born in January 1964.  Before he was able to be legally served in the pubs of his hometown of East Kilbride, he had written, recorded and released two astonishingly good singles on Postcard Records.

From March 1981:-

mp3 : Aztec Camera – Just Like Gold

mp3 : Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters

From July 1981:-

mp3 : Aztec Camera – Mattress Of Wire

mp3 : Aztec Camera – Lost Outside The Tunnel

It’s hard to imagine how stressful it must have been for Roddy, given his incredibly young age, to deal with the strains and anxieties at the demise of his record label.  His move to Rough Trade brought a debut LP and three further outstanding but flop singles in Pillar To Post, Oblivious and Walk Out To Winter.  Where he should have been all over the charts and filling the top venues across the country, he seemed doomed to indie cult-status and a continued circuit of student unions.  The threat of moving to a major spurred on Rough Trade as a second release of Oblivious finally got the boy wonder onto Top of The Pops in late 1983 by which time he was a veteran at 19 years of age.

Before his 20th birthday, he signed with a major label…..and while he would go on to write, record and release some wonderfully crafted songs over the next thirty years, there’s just something that says he never quite captured the magic of those Postcard Records.

It’s worth pointing out that the two b-sides were later re-recorded for inclusion on High Land, Hard Rain the debut LP on Rough Trade but that the a-sides were untouched and have become reasonably sought after among fans and collectors of all things Postcard.

Enjoy!!

31 LONG HOT SUMMERS AGO…..SIGH!

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This incredible weather we’ve had in the UK  this past month took me back to the release of these songs.

mp3 : The Style Council – Long Hot Summer

mp3 : The Style Council – Party Chambers

mp3 : The Style Council – The Paris Match

mp3 : The Style Council – Le Depart

mp3 : The Style Council – Long Hot Summer (extended version)

Paul Weller’s decision to break up The Jam was totally vindicated with the success of this EP.  Released in August 1983 in the middle of an extended heatwave, it hitting #3 in the UK charts meant it became the backdrop to what, looking back, was the most ridiculously carefree and easy time as I moved out of the family home and into my first student flat at the age of 20.

There were three of us sharing digs. Two of us had a blast as we had passed all our exams.  Long walks around the open spaces of Glasgow with camera in hand, we were the most pretentious folk you could dread bumping into but at the time we were oblivious to it all.  Chatting away loudly and super-confidently about our favourite bands, books, TV programmes and who really was the most attractive female on campus meant the days flew in.  The third flatmate was miserable as he had to pass two re-sits before he would be allowed to continue with his course – the Long Hot Summer of 1983 really did pass him by.

This was also the time when I underwent a huge musical education as one of the flatmates, being a bit richer than anyone I had known up to this point in my life, had a record collection that would have been the envy of everyone but John Peel. For the next 12 months I would immerse myself in all his old and current records buying not all that much myself but building up the most enormous collection of cassettes…..the problem of course came 12 months later when as flatmates we went our separate ways…..panic buying was the only solution for me!

Thirty one years on and I look back lovingly at my student summers….it’s a huge contrast to nowadays with so many young folk now having to find seasonal work to help pay off the debts being run up and of course worrying about what sort of job they’re going to eventually graduate into.  It’s frightening to think that the UK has best educated and over-qualified retail assistants in civilisation.

I digress.  Apologies.

Long Hot Summer is a timeless classic. I will have no dissenting voices on that……and isn’t it incredible just how similar in looks the cyclist Bradley Wiggins is to the sunglasses wearing Paul Weller of 1983??

Enjoy!!

FINALLY….SOMETHING THAT WASN’T ON THE OLD BLOG!

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With apologies that it has taken five posts to have some entirely new material not ripped off from TVV.

This trio of tracks by Everything But The Girl from 1985 have a Sunday morning sort of feel to them.  The single is the closing track from the Love Not Money LP and the follow-up to what were two outstanding but flop 45s – Native Land and When All’s Well.

Unsurprisingly for a song that doesn’t have a chorus to speak of and whose main narrative has a child begging outside a church at Christmas time it didn’t get a great deal of radio play and inevitably it failed to crack the Top 75. Released at a time when many left-leaning pop stars were venting their anger about various government policies via their songs, the sentiment behind making it a single are noble but it was sadly always doomed to failure.

mp3 : Everything But The Girl – Angel

There’s a couple of lovely songs tucked away on the b-side.  It’s back to the classic, adorable early days of EBTG with just Ben Watt on guitar or piano and so giving Tracey Thorn all the room available for her wonderful voice to come over:-

mp3 : Everything But The Girl – Pigeons In The Attic Room

mp3 : Everything But The Girl – Charmless Callous Ways

The former is so tinged with the sound of sad country that it sounds like a Pasty Cline cover while the latter is a wonderful reminder of their version of The Paris Match that appeared on the debut album of The Style Council.  They really are two superb songs that are over all too quickly with a combined running time of three and half minutes.

Enjoy!!

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Parts 1-5)

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Back on 8 October 2011, I started a series called ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’.  The aim was to feature one 45 or CD single by a Scottish singer or band with the proviso that the 45 or CD single was in the collection. I had got to Part 60-something and as far as Kid Canaveral when the rug was pulled out from under TVV.

I’ll catch up soon enough by featuring 5 at a time from the archives..

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(1) Aberfeldy : Vegetarian Restaurant b/w What You Do : Rough Trade 7″ (2003)

Read more about Aberfeldy here

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(2) Aerogramme – Barriers b/w Dissolve : Chemikal Underground 7″ (2007)

Read more about Aerogramme here

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(3) Aidan Moffat and The Best-Ofs – Knock On The Wall Of Your Womb b/w Aidan Moffat – The Lavender Blue Dress : Chemikal Underground 7″ (2009)

The single is a complete re-working of Lullaby For Unborn Child from the How To Get To Heaven From Scotland album and features the Mansionhouse Ensemble (which is basically Alun Woodward aka Lord Cut Glass and ex-member of The Delgados).

The cover of this limited 7″ (500 copies all told) features an image courtesy of Leonardo Da Vinci while the back of the sleeve has a photo of Aidan in shock on the floor of the delivery room during the birth of his son.

The B-Side is again a bit different – a childrens’ story.

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(4) Alan Rankine – The World Begins To Look Her Age b/w Can You Believe Everything I See? : Virgin 7″ (1987)

Read more about Alan Rankine here

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(5) Aloha Hawaii – Towns On The Moon b/w I’ve Been Bad For Years and Years b/w Untitled Third Track : Chemikal Underground 10″ (2008)

This is what the record label said upon its release:-

The brainchild of our very own Aidan Moffat and Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, Aloha Hawaii will, according to the two protagonists themselves, be bringing you random releases of sonic experimentalism as and when they can be arsed. I’ll leave it to their self-penned press release to explain exactly where they’re coming from with this…

Aloha Hawaii is the result of at least a decade of (often drunken) planning that has finally come to some form of fruition: to record any kind of sounds that please our four ears whenever we have the time, inspiration and enthusiasm. There is no game-plan, no style, no genre; anything that makes us smile will make it onto our records, which will take the form of sporadic, vinyl-only singles to be released on any record label willing to accommodate us over the next year or two. The first label to support our efforts will be our good friends, Chemikal Underground, who release the 10″ single Towns On The Moon b/w I’ve Been Bad For Years And Years on September 8th 2008.

There will be no digital formats whatsoever.
This could be a statement about the cheapening of an art-form in a world of disposable download culture or it could simply mean that we’re interminably old-fashioned and hopelessly out of date. We also reserve the right to change our minds.

These five are a bit of a mixed bag and are meant to reflect the series’ aim to have lesser known stuff posted.  I will say however, that if you’re not familiar with it, I recommend you give the Aereogramme single a listen as it’s an absolute belter.

Enjoy!!

COVER VERSIONS AND B-SIDES : TRIFFIDS, CARTER USM & JAMES

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(I’M CLEARLY STILL NAVIGATING MY WAY ROUND WORDPRESS……I HAVE NO IDEA WHY THE POST AS WRITTEN BELOW DIDN’T GO UP AS PLANNED AT 6AM THIS MORNING…..)

I mentioned yesterday that the one of the hopes in starting the blog was to give folks the opportunity to listen to some cracking b-sides that were difficult to find in a digital format.  That and to offer up some unusual cover versions as that’s a genre I’m a bit of a sucker for.

Today’s posting is another that draws on the September/October 2006 TVV archives, offering said b-sides and covers as well as being what was asked for by a couple of folk who left behind comments  as this is a place where the public gets what the public wants…..

As I said all those years ago, an awful lot of bands (and singer/songwriters) are fond of recording songs made famous by other people. Most of the times, there is a distinct failure to improve on the original version, or even more sadly, the cover version is pretty much indistinguishable from the original version.

Of course, it’s all subjective. You could be a huge fan of someone and regard any attempt at a cover version as sacrilege. But I prefer to try and be open-minded about it.

I’ll willingly admit to being a fan of the Pet Shop Boys. They have consistently put out fantastic records over the past three decades – and have often been at the cutting-edge of change, whether on vinyl or CD or in the visual aspects of being a pop star.

But there’s a few great versions of their songs that have been recorded….including these two versions of Rent.

The Triffids were from Australia. They formed in 1979 but were unheralded outside their native land for quite a few years. A handful of singles and EPs pre-dated their first LP in 1983. They soon moved to Europe, and throughout the 80s released critically lauded record after critically lauded record without ever gaining any commercial success. The band broke up in 1989 and the music industry was a sadder place. It got even sadder in 1999 when the band’s lead singer and creative force, David McComb, died just three years after undergoing a heart transplant.

Their cover version was recorded in September 1988 for a BBC Radio 1 session and made available as the b-side to the single Bury Me Deep In Love:-

mp3 : The Triffids – Rent

Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine burst onto the scene at the end of the 80s, and for maybe four years could do no wrong. Their first three records sold well and concert tours sold-out pretty quickly. But as the band’s lyrics got a bit darker and the tunes less radio-friendly, the fans, and to a certain extent the critical acclaim, faded away. Jim Bob and Fruitbat finally called it a day in 1997. As when The Triffids broke up, the music business was a far sadder place.*

*since the original 2006 post, the boys have had the occasional get together again and while the music business is still a sad fucked-up place, Carter gigs do help make things seem better.

Their cover version was a b-side ob the 12″ of the 1990 single Rubbish:-

mp3 : Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine – Rent

While I’m on the subject of b-sides, this was the very first song ever featured on TVV:-

mp3 : James – Fire Away

We’ve all got our favourites….great songs that were only ever recorded as B-sides. This particular offering is more wasted than some. It was put on the reverse of a mix of a single at a time when record companies issued multi-formats in an effort to boost the chart placing. If you ever see a copy of  Come Home (Extended Flood Mix)  in a purple sleeve, you’ll find Fire Away as the b-side. It’s a pulsating effort that’s difficult note to dance to. I should also mention that the mp3 made available with this posting is one made earlier today and I’ve eliminated the skips and jumps from the previous recording (I’ve a better turntable than I had in 2006).

Just a few weeks later, another James b-side was featured, and this was a cover (and some!)

It came from the single Lose Control in 1990 and I particularly love how Tim Booth throws in loads of Velvet Underground song titles as the tune reaches a crescendo. Fabulous.

mp3 : James – Sunday Morning

I thought I’d finish with something that wasn’t part of the posts back in 2006 and that’s the other track The Triffids recorded for the BBC Radio 1 session.

mp3 : The Triffids – Int0 The Groove

And you can dance…..for inspiration.

ENJOY!!

AS SEEN OVER AT THE OLD PLACE…SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2006

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I’m thinking that I’d like to get the new place looking a wee bit more like the old place before I get right back into the swing of things and so for the next few weeks I’m going to have fresh posts along with making use of use Pip’s brilliant suggestion to access an archiving service and pick and mix some of the old material in a chronological fashion.

TVV had just the single post in September 2006 and twenty five in October 2006 as I dipped my toe tentatively into the world of blogging.  These earliest posts  demonstrate what I was hoping to achieve, which was to bring to the attention of those interested some songs that were often unavailable elsewhere thanks to them being obscure b-sides or different mixes on 12″ vinyl.  The inspiration for starting something came from reading what other great people were doing (most of whom have since given up blogging for one reason or another) while the push came from Mrs Villain buying me a turntable that allowed vinyl to be ripped to mp3.  I think she sometimes regrets what she did as I now spend more time at the PC than I do with her…..

I’m a bit embarrassed at the quality of the early postings – I really was nervous about the whole thing and wondered if there were folk out there who were interested and it showed with a lack of conviction in the writing.  But I was happy when I realised that the mp3s were being downloaded  and even more thrilled when the comments began to appear.  Sad man that I was, I remember spending hours analysing every single hit made on TVV and being amazed that folk were reading it from PCs in America, mainland Europe, Japan, Australia, South Africa as well as the UK which made up the bulk of the traffic very early on.

Here’s who got covered in September/October 2006:-

29 September : James

1 October : Lloyd Cole

2 October : Hey! Elastica

3 October : A House/David Kitt

4 October : Julian Cope

5 October : The Triffids/Carter USM (part one of a series looking at covers)

7 October : The Jam

9 October : Albert Hammond Jr/Half Man Half Biscuit/The Beta Band

10 October : Billy Bragg/Arab Strap

11 October : The Pale Fountains

12 October : Jonathan Richman

14 October : Poppy Factory

15 – 21 October “New Order Week”

22 October : James/Edwyn Collins

23 October : The Young Knives/The Grates/The View (first ever gig review!)

24 October : The Bible

25 October : Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

26 October : Lloyd Cole (gig review)

26 October : AKA The Fox (first plug for a new band….it was for a workmate!)

31 October : Happy 43rd Birthday to Johnny Marr (first mention of The Smiths!)

I thought some of you might be interested in the post from 9 October :-

LIFE SOMETIMES IMITATES ART YOU KNOW

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I’ve never been stopped and surveyed on my favourite ever movie scene. If I was, there’s every chance I’d go for something from ‘High Fidelity’You know the one…when Rob (played by John Cusick) insists he can sell a certain number of copies of a Beta Band EP when it gets played in the shop.

Well……….earlier today I was in Fopp in Glasgow city centre, idly passing away a spare 30 minutes. I was enjoying the sounds coming out of the speakers, but hadn’t a clue who it was. I was determined not to fall into the trap of asking the bloke behind the counter – I’m terrified I’m going to be a victim of some spectacular piss-take by someone who is lucky enough to have a job in a good record shop.

As it is, Fopp is one of those stores that displays what is being played at any point in time – so I didn’t have to ask. And it turned out, much to my surprise, to be ‘Yours To Keep’, the debut LP of Albert Hammond Jr that was released just today. And I bought it. And I don’t care if me doing so resulted in Fopp’s equivalent of Rob being smug with his colleagues…..

Why was I surprised?

For one, it sounds nothing like The Strokes.

For two, Albert has a voice that can hold a tune (I don’t think he supplies backing vocals when his band play live).

For three, it is consistently very good – unlike his band’s last two offerings.

And for four – there’s whistling on one of the songs!

I’ve now played the album right the way through a couple of times at home, and it is every bit as enjoyable as it was in the shop a few hours ago.

mp3 : Albert Hammond Jr – Hard To Live In The City

Albert’s old man – who unsurprisingly is Albert Hammond Snr – is a famous musician and singer/songwriter in his own right (but you all probably knew that already). However, he even pre-dates an old codger like me, and I can’t post any of his tunes for your enjoyment.But I can offer this from 1986 –

mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Albert Hammond Bootleg

As first brought to the attention of the world on ‘The Trumpton Riots EP’

Oh and for the hell of it, the superb song that was in the scene in High Fidelity-

mp3 : The Beta Band – Dry The Rain

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I’ll keep plugging away at re-building the links etc over the coming days. Before you know it, TVV will be but a memory and T(n)VV the place to hang out!

Being serious for a moment…..yesterday was a sore one.  I was fighting back the tears at times thinking of what had been lost.  But I feel a lot better as I can find much of the old material and will find ways of bringing back to its new rightful home.

It was also hugely uplifting to see so many messages of support in the comments section and at many other blogs – with a particular word of thanks to Drew at Across The Kitchen Table Thanks folks for all your kind words  and encouragement.

PS : If by chance you’d like to see a re-post on any of the above mentioned artists or bands from Sep/Oct 2006…(are there any Poppy Factory fans out there?)….. just leave a comment or drop me a line…..

Enjoy!! (I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll be using a new sign off stolen from Dirk at Sexy Loser…….)

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