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MY ALL TIME TOP 10 SINGLES : HAND IN GLOVE by THE SMITHS

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The position of this song in the chart down at #7 will come as a shock to many regular readers and to those who have known me for many years. There’s at least one mate who tipped it to be #1….

I was fortunate enough to be around when The Smiths first came to prominence. They remain my all-time favourite band, and I don’t think they will ever lose that particular mantle however long I manage to live.

I was present at their first ever gig in Scotland – at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd March 1984. This was a truly astonishing night in a small student-venue that was packed to the rafters. It was very hot, sweaty and tightly-packed and it is probably the nearest I’ve ever came to passing-out at a concert.

The Smiths had not long cracked the Top 20 with their third single What Difference Does It Make?, while their recently-released debut LP had gone Top 10. So they were hardly a secret.

The venue was woefully inadequate for the demand for tickets, and there were dozens of folk outside pleading for the lucky few to sell for way over the cost (which I can’t recall, but was no more than £4 or £5). The level of expectancy was enormous, and the build-up to the band taking the stage bordered on insane hysteria. I’d never experienced anything like it beforehand, and never again since (although the first five minutes down the front of the Morrissey ‘comeback gig’ at the MEN Arena in 2003 came awfully close).

Steven, Johnny, Mike and Andy took to the stage to a crescendo of noise – I was worried that the crowd was so loud that we wouldn’t hear anything above it. The opening notes of Hand In Glove were struck – if anything this only cranked up the atmosphere. The one song that those of us who had been in from the start adored above all else – the song that had been the flop single with the controversial nude male on the sleeve – and the song that seemed more than anything to sum-up what was a truly unique relationship between the band and its fans.

And that is why Hand In Glove is my all time favourite single by my all time favourite band.

And because it is my favourite, I was prepared to pay a fair amount of money to pick up a mint copy of the single on e-bay as a replacement for the one lost all those years ago in Edinburgh. Let’s face it, the b-side, which to my knowledge has never appeared on any subsequent compilation, is every bit as amazing:-

mp3 : The Smiths – Hand In Glove
mp3 : The Smiths – Handsome Devil (live at The Hacienda)

As with The Wedding Present, there would have been multiple entries for The Smiths in this chart were it not for the one single per artist rule that I set. In fact as much as one-quarter of the chart could have been a Morrissey/Marr compilation.

I surprised myself when I identified six other 45s that were even more of a favourite than this.

You’ll soon learn what they are over the coming days, but I suspect that many of you will be beginning to narrow it down pretty accurately.

Enjoy.

MY ALL TIME TOP 10 SINGLES : KENNEDY by THE WEDDING PRESENT

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I came late to The Wedding Present.

I didn’t listen to their early stuff simply because everyone in the press was touting them as the natural successors to the recently disbanded The Smiths, and I just didn’t want to know. I was able to do so, simply because the band got next to no radio play other than late at night, and this was a period of great change in my life when I was never listening to the likes of John Peel.

So, for the best part of four years, my knowledge of the band was restricted to what I read and not what I heard. I do remember being amused that a band from Leeds would release an LP named after the greatest footballer ever to wear the shirt of Manchester United, given the animosity between their fans and those of Leeds United. Still didn’t make me buy it though..

Sometime in 1989, on one Sunday evening, the radio was on as the latest singles chart was being rundown. That was when I first heard a song by The Wedding Present. It was called Kennedy, and it was (as I’ve since discovered from research) a new entry at #33. It was loud, it was frantic, it was joyous and it was something that I immediately fell in love with.

And with that, I became a convert to the church of David Gedge, and I’ve been a faithful member ever since. I’m a regular attendee at the places of worship (ie gigs), and I’ll also contribute as and when required to the coffers (ie records, t-shirts, videos, CDs, etc).

There can’t be all that many indie-bands still going strong 20+ years after their initial formation. OK, so I know that TWP took a short break and turned into Cinerama, and also that for a substantial part of their career they were on major labels such as RCA and Island Records. But you can’t really categorise them as anything other than indie…

There have been 37 singles and 9 original LPs, as well as 15 compilation/live LPs over the years (info correct as at June 2008!!!).

That must be something in the region of 300 songs – and very few of these, even the most obscure of b-sides, have ever been total duffers. They’re also a band with a love for cover versions, with around 50 or so being widely available now thanks to the relatively recent release of all the Peel Sessions in a boxset. And every one of those covers, whether it’s a pop, soul, blues, rock, country or disco classic sounds instinctively like a Wedding Present original.

But I still don’t think they’ve ever bettered the song that first made my ears prick up and listen. Even now, almost 20 years on it remains a live favourite, although David now always follows it up with a slow-tempo number so that the old folk jumping around down the front get their breath back and avoid the risk of a permanent injury. None of us are as young or fit as we once were, and pogo-ing up and down is, at best, achievable for a maximum of 5 minutes at one stretch.

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Kennedy
mp3 : The Wedding Present – One Day All This Will All Be Yours
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Unfaithful
mp3 : The Wedding Present – It’s Not Unusual *

* Yes, the Tom Jones song…..

Incidentally, if this series didn’t have the restriction of one song by one act, there would have been at least another 4 TWP singles right in there…

MY ALL TIME TOP 10 SINGLES : PARTY FEARS TWO by ASSOCIATES

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Dave and The Cat, the two bright lads behind the Jock’n’Roll website came up with the brilliant concept a couple of years back to try and find out what was the best ever Scottish single by asking folk to send in their Top 10s by e-mail.

The idea proved incredibly popular as sad blokes like me sent in lists that made the case for long-forgotten tracks by equally long-forgotten acts. The rules were pretty easy and straightforward – the songs in question had to have been a single and the act had to have been Scottish.

This didn’t stop your humble scribe falling foul of the rules – I was certain that Musette and Drums by The Cocteau Twins had been a single or at the very least part of an EP, and so put it forward within my particular 10. I was completely wrong – it was only ever an LP track, and so I was invited to re-submit.

As for whether an act was Scottish or not, this was entirely down to Dave and The Cat. For instance, Lloyd Cole (born in Derby) was allowed in on the basis that the remainder of the Commotions were Scottish. Rod Stewart (born London) was not allowed in despite most Americans believing he was the most famous Scottish singer on the planet.

Before long, some newspapers and radio stations picked up on what was happening and the boys began to began to be interviewed about things. What seemed to most get the attention of the media was the fact that the song destined to be #1 was wholly unexpected.

I’m not sure if the majority of those who voted in the Jock’n’Roll poll actually chose Party Fears Two as their all time #1 Scottish single. However, I would place a very large wager that maybe as many as 75-80% of voters will have found a spot for it somewhere in their Top 10 thus giving it more than enough votes overall to take the top position.

There’s just something about Associates and Billy MacKenzie that makes people get all nostalgic and proud that they and he came from Scotland. When the band seemingly burst onto the scene out of nowhere in 1982, it was with songs that were genuinely unlike anything else you had ever heard. Even all these years later, the stuff still sounds incredibly vibrant, fresh and unique, and very difficult to categorise. It’s just so much easier to have a listen to the breakthrough single and its b-side (which is a different version from that on the LP Sulk) :-

mp3 : Associates – Party Fears Two
mp3 : Associates – It’s Better This Way

Billy had a mischievous wit and charm that endeared him to his fans. He always seemed to have a twinkle in his eye whenever he was on TV. This was a band that seemingly wanted to put fun back into pop music without diluting its quality. The appearances on Top Of The Pops soon became must see affairs, culminating in one time where Alan Rankine turned up with a chocolate guitar (£2,000 from Harrods) and broke it up into pieces to give to the audience while Billy and the others mimed away trying to avoid getting a fit of the giggles.

And although the band were based out of necessity in London, Billy in particular seemed to love just taking the piss out the capital and talked lovingly of his home country, and in particular his home city of Dundee.

You couldn’t help but like Alan and Billy as people – the fact that they were making incredible music was an amazing bonus.

Having discovered them via the hit singles, it was easy to see by delving into the back catalogue that the poppy stuff wasn’t typical of the band. Where they went from here was always going to be interesting. Sadly, 1982 with its hit singles and the consequent masterpiece LP was the last Associates work that the duo produced.

Alan chose to leave the band but Billy carried on, drafting in other musicians to work alongside.

It’s all too evident more than 25 years later to realise just how integral Alan was to the sound and look of Associates. There was also a particular chemistry between him and Billy that was never ever recaptured in full, despite an awful lot of the post-Sulk recordings being tremendous pieces of work with some amazing vocals from Billy.

January 2007 was the 10th anniversary of the death of Billy Mackenzie, and I paid a long tribute to the man in the pages of this blog. At the time, I said his legacy is a volume of work that has highs and lows, albeit one that is dominated by that 1982/83 era of Sulk. Even if that had been the only LP he had ever made, Billy would still be a legend in pop music. I stand by that statement……

2013 Update

I’ve since been fortunate enough to get myself along to Little League, the club nights organised by John Hunt of Butcher Boy and quite often he brings the five hours of his perfectly constructed set-list to an end with Party Fears Two.  It always fills the floor and it’s quite clear that it is regarded by many whose tastes go beyond mere X-Factor and karaoke type acts as being the greatest and most original single ever to have come out of Scotland.

I’ve also since picked up a 12″ version of the single:-

mp3 : Associates – Party Fears Two (12″ version)

MY ALL TIME TOP 10 SINGLES : SUNKISSED by FRIENDS AGAIN

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With apologies to readers of old….

Back in 2008 over at the old place I put together something called 45 45s at 45 in which I listed, in some detail, my all time favourite singles culminating in the #1 being revealed on the day of my 45th birthday. The only rules were that I had to have bought the single on its release and that each act was restricted to a sole appearance in the rundown

I recently went back and had a look at the series and decided that, five and bit years on, the Top 10 hasn’t changed at all. There have been some great 45s released in recent years but they’ve said nothing to me about my life and so haven’t cracked the higher echelons of my personal chart. And so, for the next 2 weeks, partly to allow me to put up a bundle of advance postings while I’m really really busy at work and getting home so late that I’m unable to do much with the blog, I’m re-posting the Top 10 in its entirety.

Which means I must also offer a huge apology to fans of the South-West correspondent as his series goes on hold for 2 weeks….but believe me, his comeback post is an absolute belter.

Anyways as I was saying:-

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I spent four years of my life at University at the start of the 80s. I suppose I did what I was supposed to do in that I ended up with a degree that got me into meaningful employment, but I also was able, to use the ad man’s phrase, live life to the max and broaden my horizons in many aspects of life. Including music.

The band that I most associate with those happy days are in the chart at #10.

Friends Again weren’t around for all that long, forming in 1982 and breaking-up in 1984, having released just a handful of singles and one LP, and never making the breakthrough that so many fans and indeed their major record label expected.

I first came across the band when they played a gig at the Students Union at Strathclyde University. I was immediately grabbed by the sound of the band, and in particular the guitar playing of James Grant and the talents of Paul McGeechan on keyboards. And then there was front-man and vocalist Chris Thompson – cool as fuck was the phrase that came to mind, with a vocal style that was a cross between Motherwell and Memphis. Stuart Kerr on drums and Neil Cunningham on bass were a more than half-decent rhythm section too.

Before long, I was tracking down their singles, as indeed seemed to be just about everyone else I socialised with. Their initial single, Honey At The Core, was released on a local label, and sold in more than enough quantities to entice Phonogram Records to offer the band a deal.

Those of us who had seen the band a few times were delighted with the song chosen for the second single, Sunkissed, as it was always the highlight of the live set. It surely wouldn’t be too long before the boys were regulars on Top of The Pops….

But it flopped. As did a third single called State of Art.

All three singles had been more or less produced by the band themselves, and Phonogram decided that it needed to bring in someone who had a track record in the production stakes. So the boys were teamed up with Bob Sargeant who had worked with the likes of The Beat and Haircut 100, and went to work on the debut LP. The label also brought in Tom Verlaine ex- main man of legendary US art-rockers Television to work with the boys, while also allowing them to produce some stuff themselves. It was all a bit of a recipe for disaster as it turns out…

The early singles and the live performances showed Friends Again as a band who could throw in all sorts of music into the mix and sound fresh. There was some jingly-jangly stuff so reminiscent of the Postcard bands, there was a bit of funk/soul, there were more than a fair amount of country/folk songs with acoustic guitars, and of course there was a bunch of hugely dynamic and catch pop-songs that had so enticed the record label.

Sadly, the LP which emerged blinking into the bright sunlight – Trapped and Unwrapped – spectacularly failed to capture all of this. In this case, it is very easy enough to put the blame on the record label. Three of the twelve songs on the LP were vastly inferior re-recordings – Honey At The Core and Sunkissed, as well as Lucky Star (originally the b-side to Honey At The Core). Many of the other songs, loved and adored in the live setting, seemed stripped of their vitality. The acoustic songs were the only ones that escaped unscathed – proof that this was a record that was quite literally, over-produced. There was even a horn section deployed on some of the songs…

There is no doubt the band were bitterly upset at what was foisted on the record-buying public. Two further singles taken directly from the LP also flopped (the highest chart position reached was a very lowly #60), so the label, in desperation, re-released a remixed version of one of the earlier singles. It also flopped.

The band was very obviously despondent about the ways things had turned out – live shows became less dynamic and they seemed to be going through the motions. The buzz surrounding them had also gone, and where venues had once been packed, they were now half-empty.

I was at the last gig that Friends Again played, although I didn’t know it at the time. It was at a very small students’ union at Bell College in Hamilton, a town some 12 miles south-east of Glasgow, and not that far from where the band members had grown up. It was another lacklustre affair, not helped by a lack of chemistry on stage. Here was a band seriously pissed off with life and seemingly with one another. It might even have been the following day that Friends Again broke up…

James Grant and Paul McGeechan quickly went on to form pop/soul act Love and Money , while Stuart Kerr was soon on TOTP as the stickman in the first version of Texas with their massive hit I Don’t Want A Lover. Neil Cunningham went into artiste management.

Chris Thompson to all intent and purposes became a solo act under the name The Bathers, and ploughed a lone furrow akin to the softer side of Friends Again to much critical acclaim but little commercial success. Interestingly enough, when Love and Money also failed to really hit the big-time, James Grant embarked on a solo-career that was based on acoustic folk/country songs…

There are many hundreds if not thousands of bands with a story that is similar to that of Friends Again. They quickly get a local following that is hyped a little, they soon sign a deal with the devil and then are discarded when success isn’t immediate.

For years, the recordings by Friends Again were very difficult to get – it was mostly just vinyl as Trapped and Unwrapped initially had a limited CD release. And if it was available, it tended to be second-hand, or on import and expensive. But back in 2007 it was given a budget re-release, with the bonus that it contained the original recordings of Honey At The Core and Sunkissed instead of the re-recorded versions which means it’s bit easier to get a hold of the song that is #10 in the rundown:-

mp3 : Friends Again – Sunkissed

And for a bit of fun, here’s the b-side and the 12” extended version as well:-

mp3 : Friends Again – Dealing In Silver
mp3 : Friends Again – Sunkissed (12″)

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 46-50)

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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 or more at a time from the archives..

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(46) Endgames – We Feel Good (Future’s Looking Fine)  b/w Darkness : Mercury Records 7″ (1982)

Read more about Endgames here.

 

(47) Finley Quaye – Your Love Gets Sweeter (The Abbey Road Version) b/w Your Love Gets Sweeter (Album Version) b/w  Everybody Knows b/w Le Saint Des Delinquents : Epic Records : CD Single (1998)

Read more about Finley Quaye here

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(48) Fire Engines –  Big Gold Dream b/w New Thing In Cartons b/w Sympathetic Anaesthetic :  Pop Aural 12″ single (1981)

Read more about Fire Engines here

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(49) Foil – Reviver Gene b/w Sedate Me 13th Hour Recordings CD single (1997)

This is where I get pissed off that the old blog was so unceremoniously removed.  While I can get sight of, and cut’n’paste maybe around one-third of the old posts, it turns out that the ones that mean so much are the ones I can’t track down.  So it is with the original words that accompanied the posting on 14 January 2013.  Words penned by Hugh Duggie, the fromt man of Foil and a dear friend of Jacques the Kipper.

Instead you’ll need to make do with this:-

Foil were a guitar-pop band from West Lothian, Scotland; Their original lineup featured vocalist/guitarist Hugh Duggie, guitarist Colin McInally, bassist Shug Anderson, and drummer Jim Anderson. The group played its first gig at London’s Underworld in February 1996 and were immediately signed by 13th Hour, releasing the single “Reviver Gene” in July; however, the song did not really receive much airplay until its re-release in November 1997. The group’s debut album, Spread It All Around, was released in January 1998. In mid-2000, Foil issued follow-up LP Never Get Hip and broke up not long afterwards.

PS : It’s the November re-release that’s been posted. Cracking indie-rock single that has huge American influences…

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(50) Franz Ferdinand – Darts Of Pleasure b/w Van Tango b/w  Shopping For Blood : Domino CD single (2003)

I still love this debut single.  The b-sides are also hugely enjoyable and less commercial than the stuff that brought them success.

Parts  51-55 next Saturday…..

WHEN BARNEY MET JOHNNY AND THEY TEAMED UP WITH NEIL

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Proof that supergroups sometimes do work:-

mp3 : Electronic – Getting Away With It

The debut single. Hugely anticipated on release it didn’t disappoint.  Reviews were almost universally and deservedly positive:-

NME  :  “The most complete pop record of the week, by an infinite margin… A lovely airy melody drifts in and out of the song; gently weighted with obtuse, lovelorn one-liners… The record somehow manages to be much more than the sum of its parts and stubbornly refuses to give up its element of mystery”

Sounds :  “It’s nothing shocking, nothing that surprising, it’s just that every time you think you’re tired of it you can’t help flipping back the stylus to catch that chorus”.

Over the next decade or so, Electronic would write and record some brilliant dance music with some of the best guitar work that Johnny Marr ever laid down.  But they never again got as close again to the sound of Italian House that was all the rage for a while at the end of the 80s.

The orchestral arrangement came courtesy of Anne Dudley of The Art Of Noise, the full effect of which can be heard on the extended version:-

mp3 : Electronic – Getting Away With It (Extended)

The b-side is total house music and was for a number of years uses as the theme tune for a football highlights programme here in Scotland:-

mp3 : Electronic – Lucky Bag

A #12 hit in the UK, I’d guess that out with New Order this may well have been the biggest selling single ever released on Factory.

Enjoy

BLUE JEANS AND CHINOS; COKE, PEPSI AND OREOS (Part 2)

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Lazy post today.  Words straight from wiki:-

Jonathan Fire*Eater was a New York City-based indie rock band originally from Washington DC. The line-up was Stewart Lupton (vocals), Tom Frank (bass), Paul Maroon (guitar and pedal steel), Matt Barrick (drums), and Walter Martin (organs, keyboards). 

Jonathan Fire*Eater was formed from a childhood band called The Ignobles. All the members of Jonathan Fire*Eater attended high school at the D.C. private school St. Albans School. Lupton, Martin, and Barrick formed the Ignobles in junior high school. Maroon joined as the guitarist and Ryan Cheney signed on as the vocalist. Lupton played bass. In 1993, the members went to college, mostly in New York City, and Jonathan Fire*Eater was formed with Cheney departing and later joining The Ruby Dare and Lupton taking over vocal duties. St. Albans alum Tom Frank joined as a new bassist.

In 1995, they released their eponymous debut on Tucson, Arizona’s Third World Underground Records, which featured “The Silver Surfer”, “Romans & Barbarians”, “Christmas Time, Halloween”, and other tracks. Later that year, a self-titled EP on PCP established their reputation with the frenetic tracks “The Public Hanging of a Movie Star” and “When Prince Was a Kid”.

In 1996, the five-song mini-album Tremble Under Boom Lights was released by the Medicine label, featuring well-produced offers like “The Search for Cherry Red” and “Give Me Daughters”. Reviews were positive, with Allmusic.com describing Tremble as “a ferocious record” despite its “minor flaws.” By this time, the band was receiving considerable media and industry attention. They were courted by Calvin Klein to model and opened for Brit Pop stars Pulp and Blur. As Lupton said in a 1996 New York Times Magazine profile, “Right now the record companies are sort of circling like vultures.”

In early 1997, Jonathan Fire*Eater signed with David Geffen’s nascent DreamWorks music label. Their major label debut, Wolf Songs for Lambs, was released by DreamWorks in 1997 to tepid critical response. Not long after the album’s release, tensions between Lupton and the other members and a general wariness of mainstream success led to the band’s breakup. They played their last show at the Central Park bandshell on July 28, 1998.

Jonathan Fire*Eater was called “most hyped young group that nobody has ever heard of,”

Maroon, Barrick, and Martin later went on to form The Walkmen and Lupton has pursued his music career through his band The Childballads, who put out their debut album in January 2007. The latter has toured with Cat Power and the Kills. In 2009 he released an EP in a new band, The Beatin’s, which he formed with Carole Wagner Greenwood. Entitled “A Little Give And Take,” the limited edition vinyl included Lupton’s poetry and the duo’s art and writing. Tom Frank pursued a career in journalism as T.A. Frank.

Me ?  Well I’ve got a copy of Tremble Under Boom Lights and then a later single entitled When The Curtain Calls For You. There’s some half-decent tunes to be found.  I’m fond of these in particular:-

mp3 : Jonathan Fire*Eater – The Search For Cherry Red

mp3 : Jonathan Fire*Eater – Give Me Daughters

mp3 : Jonathan Fire*Eater – When Prince Was A Kid

Enjoy

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