Home

THE JAMES SINGLES (10)

4 Comments

comehome

Fontana Records wanted to maintain the momentum of finally getting James into the singles charts.  No sooner had How Was It For You? dropped out of the Top 75 then the next single was lined up for release.

But to long-term fans it all appeared a bit of a con as it was a re-release of Come Home which just seven months earlier had been issued by Rough Trade.

Doubly galling was the news that it would again be subject to all sorts of formatting with a 7″ having a pink sleeve with silver writing, a 12″ having a purple sleeve with silver writing, a 12″ live version having a green sleeve with gold writing, a CD that had a sleeve of orange with silver writing and a cassette which was purple/silver.

The difference in this version of Come Home was that is was mixed with the dance floor in mind with uber-producer Flood brought into oversee things.  And for the real hardcore clubbers, the song was also given to Andrew Weatherall to have a go at……….

The results were a completely different sounding James than before and as far away from the Folklore-era Factory days as could be imagined.  But it worked….thanks in part to the quality of Come Home as a song but also the fact that the re-mixes were right out of the top drawer.

This is a single I have in all the vinyl formats, so here goes with the songs:-

mp3 : James – Come Home (Flood Mix)
mp3 : James – Dreaming Up Tomorrow
mp3 : James – Come Home (extended Flood Mix)
mp3 : James – Fire Away (extended mix)
mp3 : James – Stutter (live)
mp3 : James – Come Home (live)
mp3 : James – Gold Mother (remixed by Warp)*
mp3 : James – Come Home (remix by Weatherall)

The live version of Stutter is taken from the same show as provided the tracks for the b-sides of How Was It For You? The live version of Come Home is from a radio session recorded in April 1990. The two new b-sides are among my favourite James songs – indeed Fire Away has the distinction of being the very first song I ever posted over on the old blog back in September 2006.

The remixes? Everyone of them stunning….with a special mention to the Warp remix of the LP’s title track. Totally unexpected and a real joy.

Despite all this, the single only reached #32….but it was one of those ones that sold for weeks and months afterwards in reasonable numbers as those who frequented the clubs looked to pick up the mixes that DJs were playing up and down the country.

Enjoy

* the previous jumpy version of Goldmother has now been replaced with a fresh recording…..

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT…THE F-WORD

6 Comments

f-word

Tim Badger chose the letter F…

Three of my favourite bands start with the letter F – these are The Family Cat, Four Tet and Fucked Up but the rules state that I can’t post the same band twice, so I have to skip over these bands, so this week I have gone for a bit of electronica, a bit of old school indie and what is definitely my favourite song of the year so far. I also know Tim Badger quite well and he mailed me and said, that the ‘F better contain Weekender by Flowered Up, as it’s the best song by a band beginning with ‘F’ ever’. He’s wrong. As usual. That honour goes to I Want to Know what Love Is?  by Foreigner and secretly you all know that I’m right.

Firstly I want you to have a read of something…. Finished laughing…Good. Now swap the word UB40 for the words Fuck Buttons and this story becomes instantly more believable. I would love to read what happened to Anna Webster’s ears after she attended a Fuck Buttons gig. I can see the quote now ‘I left after 45 minutes because my eardrums had exploded and my bottom lip had come loose from the pounding non stop beat’. By the way I love Fuck Buttons and would probably consider it an honour to have my hearing permanently damaged from one of their live shows.

For those of you who don’t know, Fuck Buttons are two piece from Bristol that formed in 2004 and are heavily influenced by Aphex Twin and Mogwai and you will hear that from the sound that they create, a sound that was once described as something akin to the noise made at the end of the world. If this is true then it is perhaps only fair that their music was chosen to feature in the Opening Ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics. Just before the queen jumped out of the chopper with James Bond, if I remember rightly.

Their third album Slow Focus was released last year and a brief hiatus whilst Ben Power from the band worked on his Blanck Mass side project (also excellent and worthy of your attention). It certainly didn’t disappoint and featured heavily in the end of year music polls that we all find so interesting. I don’t think there is anyone out there right now doing anything as adventurous and as aurally stimulating as Fuck Buttons. In the past they have used old Casio keyboards, power tools and karaoke machines to make music with, who does that! Their sound is difficult to categorise, they make sensual exhilarating and majestic music, lets put it that way. The track I’ve posted The Red Wing starts with a simple percussion beat and then they just add layers and layers to it – you can almost see the percussion shrinking away in the background to a tiny pinprick. Once they described their name as ‘Playful and Abrasive’, that describes the music perfectly.

mp3 : Fuck Buttons – The Red Wing

It’s difficult to follow Fuck Buttons with anything but let’s try some old school indie. I first heard How Do I Exist? by The Frank and Walters when I walking to local shop when I lived in Plumstead.  Regular readers will recall that I was burgled whilst living there and to be honest I didn’t much like the place. I used to get CDs sent to me all the time, my job was to review them and hope so paper published what I thought of them.  I’d been into The Franks when I was younger, but had kind of ignored anything released after the terrible After All record.

So I was sceptical – I’d even pre written the review, ‘It’s the Frank and Walters. Buy something else instead, you won’t regret it’ or something equally rubbish I think I’d written. Then on a stroll down the road to buy some biscuits, listening to a cassette on a Walkman, it came on. A gorgeous string inspired tear stained wonder of a record and then you remembered, that The Franks made great records, records that if you put them all together would soundtrack a very good summer (apart from After All, that is terrible). ‘How Can I Exist?’ is as close to perfection as the Franks ever managed it is bursting with more truly heartfelt emotion than most bands ever manage in their careers, yet it avoids sounding pompous or overblown. It makes me wonder how on earth they managed to fall off the radar when they made records as great as this.

mp3 : The Frank and Walters – How Can I Exist?

Talking of great records, a few weeks ago Future Islands released Seasons (Waiting on You), which is right now holding firm as the best record I have heard this year.  Yup better than Happy by Pharrell Williams.

Just after the release of their fourth album Singles the bad were invited on to the Letterman Show and there they played ‘Seasons’ and delivered a performance so staggering, so jaw droppingly fucking magnificent that all of a sudden a big secret had been let out of the bag.  Put ‘Future Islands Letterman’ into a search engine and you will understand.

Take the singer – Here is this guy with sensible clothes on, a receding hairline and dancing like he is at a wedding and he is delivering absolute pop perfection on a TV PROGRAMME  that doesn’t happen and he doesn’t give a wet one in a spacesuit how uncool he looks because after that we will all look him, dance like him and pretend we can sing like him. He knows that they are destined for big massive epic things, the thing is, he could be you or me (well the chaps among us). What does it sound like? Reader, this is the best song New Order never wrote. If Barney Sumner wrote this in 1987 we would still be talking about it to this day. That’s what it sounds like.

mp3 : Future Islands – Seasons

Next week its the turn of Q,

Oh and I was joking about Foreigner.

S-WC

SIMPLY THRILLED : THE PREPOSTEROUS STORY OF POSTCARD RECORDS by SIMON GODDARD

6 Comments

6a00d83451cbb069e201a73d8f3697970d

All three previous books on pop music written by Simon Goddard have been a delight to read and so I was bursting with excitement and anticipation approaching the release of his endeavours to tell the story of Postcard Records .
As someone who is old-fashioned enough to still want to walk into a shop to buy things rather than go on-line, I set out on a tour of book stores across Glasgow on the supposed day of publication only to find none had been delivered, although very helpfully I was informed some book and record shops were expecting copies in time for Record Store Day on Saturday 19 April.

Sadly, this didn’t prove to be the case.  I could have gone to a personal appearance by the author the following day and picked up a copy but couldn’t reschedule pre-arranged plans.  On Easter Monday the shops were closed, and come Tuesday and Wednesday I was too busy with work to find time to get into the city centre shops.  Thankfully, the late night openings on Thursday allowed me to take care of things. All that pent-up energy waiting to see what was behind the wonderfully designed cover led me to read the first few pages on the train home rather than do the usual thing of getting lost in music.

It was a strange introduction in that a short but informative prologue told the tragic story of Louis Wain, the Victorian and Edwardian era artist whose drumming cat became the symbol adopted by Postcard.  It’s only a short journey from the city centre to my home…just enough time to read the seven-page prologue and whet my appetite for what was to follow.

Over the course of the next two nights, interspersed by a particularly tiring and troublesome day at the office, I devoured the remaining 240 pages of the book.  And I woke up on Saturday morning feeling a bit iffy and sick as if I’d eaten something that was a bit off.

It pains me to say it but Simply Thrilled : The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records was a bit of a let-down. I’m not saying it’s a badly written or boring book – far from it – but the sense of excitement and anticipation of the chase of getting my hands on a copy was far greater than what I felt as I turned its pages.

The fault lies with the way the author has gone about the task.  The publicity material churned out by the publishers says:-

“This is the preposterous true story of Postcard Records, the renegade label which, with its mad DIY ethic, kickstarted the 1980s’ indie music revolution. From its riotous punk origins to the intertwining sagas of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and cult heroes Josef K, this is how they took on and triumphed over the London ‘music biz’ big boys, against all odds. Acclaimed music writer Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone involved in the making of the legend of Postcard Records. The result is a giddy farce involving backstabbing, ‘Arthur Atrocious’, gluttony, heartbreak, ‘Disco Harry’, cheap speed, ‘Janice Fuck’, disillusion, Victorian lunatics and knickerbocker glories. But it’s also the story of creating something beautiful from nothing, against all the odds.”

Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone and has seemingly taken everything they said at face value and published it.  He himself knows such an approach is risky – in the foreword to the book he says what follows is a fairy-tale and not a documentary. He admits that many people’s recollections contradicted one another while others were distorted for what could be any of a number of reasons.

So what we get is a book which feels too much of an in-joke in which the main protagonists tell the story as they want it to be remembered and which, understandably, puts them in the best possible light.  This book isn’t really the story of Postcard Records – it’s more the like one of those projects in which people are asked to give their memories of a time and a place – in this instance Glasgow in the late 70s and early 80s – for a talented writer to record for posterity. I do admire the tenacity of the author in getting the notoriously reclusive Alan Horne, the brains behind the whole Postcard venture, to speak to him in such depth.

It’s quite clear that Simon and Alan spent countless hours together and there can be no argument that the mogul has a treasure-chest of wonderful anecdotes, many of which are embellished throughout the book.  But such is the size of the shadow cast by Alan Horne that I can’t help but feel that the story would have been better told as an authorized biography of his life and times rather than having others come in and say completely contradictory things and so confuse matters.

In terms of the music, the main focus is on Orange Juice and Josef K which is fair enough given that between them they accounted for around three-quarters of the material released on the label.  And while the chapter on the Go-Betweens is one of the most enjoyable in the book  – Glasgow must have seemed like a strange and alien planet to Grant McLennan and Robert Foster – the dearth of material on Aztec Camera is a bitter disappointment.  They don’t feature until well into the book and there’s not actually all that much said about them.

It’s almost as if this version of the story of Postcard comes to a crashing halt at the time Orange Juice decamped to a major label and Josef K called it quits in the aftermath of one disastrous gig too many in a Glasgow discotheque in August 1981. It certainly reads to me that Roddy Frame was signed to the label only because it allowed it to boast of having a 16-year old wunderkid on the books rather than the label owner actually liking his music.  As such, it is no real surprise that Alan Horne makes no real effort to make a star out of Roddy.

Simon Goddard admits he has written a preposterous tale which means he hasn’t been able to come up with the definitive story of Postcard Records. And therein lies my disappointment in his latest book. In saying all of this, I am glad I bought Simply Thrilled.   It has a number of  very funny and outrageous tales although whether they are true or not is another matter.

It is also a reminder that the Glasgow of the late 70s and early 80s was not the greatest place in the world if you dared to be different and a bit of a dreamer.  It was a conservative city in its outlook and its attitudes and all too often those traits made it a dangerous and frightening place for flamboyant and confrontational characters like Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins.

The book ends at the point in time when Alan Horne  gets the opportunity to set up Swamplands as part of the London Records empire.  How that came about is one of the best and loveliest stories in the entire book….but to say anything more would be to spoil things.

I think I can however, get away with quoting, in full, the afterword:- “So when is your book ending? Just with Postcard? Those were sort of my normal years compared to what came after.  Seriously, the real nuttiness was when I went down to London.  That’s a whole different soap opera of insanity there. Another story. God! That’s a whole other book…”   – ALAN HORNE Here’s hoping.

It’s not that long since I posted all of the Postcard singles on the blog, so today I’ll link in a few alternative takes, all inspired by the book:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Felicity (flexi version)

(recorded April 1979 at an Edinburgh concert on a low-fi cassette by Malcolm Ross; made available on flexidisc with copies of Falling & Laughing as well as various fanzines)

mp3 : Josef K – Heaven Sent

(recorded for a Peel session in June 1981; given a posthumous release as a single in 1987 by which time Paul Haig had re-recorded it in a completely different style at the outset of his solo career. Oh and the tune is also near-identical to that of Turn Away as appears on the Orange Juice LP Rip It Up)

mp3 : Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters (NME Version)

(different mix from the Postcard b-side; made available on C81, a mail order cassette from the NME)

mp3 : Go-Betweens – Your Turn, My Turn

(a song Grant and Robert offered to Postcard for release as a second single on the label but which was turned down flat by Alan Horne)

Enjoy.

THE MOZ SINGLES (Part 7)

1 Comment

suedehead

Released in February 1988, a matter of months after The Smiths had split-up, Suedehead was not only adored by fans but critically acclaimed in the press – unlike many subsequent singles and LPs.

The music on the single, and its additional tracks, was written by Stephen Street, who up to that point in time was known only as a record producer. Street also played bass guitar on the record. Lead guitar duties (as well as keyboards) were undertaken by Vini Reilly, better known as the brains and talent behind cult Factory Records act The Durutti Column, while the drums were pounded by session musician Andrew Paresi (his previous best-known work was with 80s UK pop act Bucks Fizz).

Such is the craft in particular of the hugely talented Reilly that Suedehead could very easily pass as a single by The Smiths, and there’s no doubt that this contributed enormously to Morrissey’s debut single reaching #5 in the UK singles charts – a position much higher than any single released by his former band. (It remained his biggest chart hit in terms of any single until 2004)

The initial critical acclaim continued over the coming weeks and months thanks to the release of debut LP Viva Hate, which also had a number of songs that sounded as if they were the work of his former band. However, some journalists, and indeed fans, took Morrissey to task over some of the lyrical content and subject matters of songs on Viva Hate, and I reckon its fair to say that he was never so widely regarded and loved ever again.

But getting back to Suedehead……It’s a single that still sounds great 26 years after its release, and that’s down to the combination of Morrissey singing as well as he’s ever done, the fact that Vini Reilly chose in effect to pay tribute to Johnny Marr and indeed the musical and production skills of Stephen Street.

If ever Morrissey had any doubts about the break-up of The Smiths, these would surely have been swept aside by the reaction to this single and indeed the b-sides (from the vinyl anyway) which are also among the most popular solo recordings in what is now a very lengthy career. Indeed there are some who say it all went downhill from here…..

mp3 : Morrissey – Suedehead
mp3 : Morrissey – I Know Very Well How I Got My Name
mp3 : Morrissey – Hairdresser On Fire
mp3 : Morrissey – Oh Well, I’ll Never Learn

The first 3 songs are on the 12″ version of the single but the last was exclusive to the CD single.

Oh and the cover star is a very intense (and thin) Morrissey from a photo taken at a London gig by The Smiths back in 1986.

Finally,  here’s a cover version which you will either love or loath:-

mp3 : Vini Reilly – Hairdresser On Fire

Rumour has it that Morrissey, on hearing this, decided on the spot to end his working relationship with Vini….

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 90)

Leave a comment

R-2377760-1280503590

OK…..it wasn’t really a single release.  But it’s an excuse to feature Paul Quinn for a fourth successive Saturday.

It’s simply a posting of the four tracks that made up the Pregnant With Possibilities EP released on the revived Postcard Records back in 1995, (catalogue number DUBH 952CD).

mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Nectarine No.9 – Tiger Tiger
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Will I Ever Be Inside Of You
mp3 : Jock Scot & The Nectarine No.9 – Just Another Fucked-Up Little Druggy On The Scene
mp3 : Jock Scot – Grunge Girl Groan

The mighty Quinn’s final release is to be found on this EP, which hit the shops after the release of the two LPs with the Independent Group. In fact, I know that mine was bought from Avalanche Records in Glasgow on 26 June 1995 and it cost me £3.99 as there’s an annoying bar code sticker on the back of the sleeve that I don’t want to remove for fear of damage…

Some of you might not know much about the other artists who feature on the EP.

I’ve cribbed this bio about Jock Scot from elsewhere, as it captures him just about perfectly and also gives you some info about The Nectarine No.9:-

Born 21 September 1952. Leith, Edinburgh.

Jock began his career in the music industry as a renowned supplier of “good vibes”, providing his services to entertainers as diverse as Ian Dury and The Blockheads, The Clash, Blondie, Talking Heads, B52s, Taj Mahal, Dr. Feelgood, Rip Rig and Panic, Neneh Cherry, Viv Stanshall and Wreckless Eric. He rarely let them down, and when he did it was in spectacular fashion.

After waking up in a broom cupboard at the end of a particularly arduous tour, he settled in London at the time the west London scene was wakening up again, centered around a pub in Portobello Road, the Warwick Castle. It was here that Jock started reading his poems to the public, where they were loved by both speed-crazed street sweepers and landed gentry.

Thousands of readings later, in 1993, his first book, “Where Is My Heroine?” was printed and rapidly sold out. It was also around this time he made his first excursions to vinyl and cd, renewing an old acquaintance with Davey Henderson, who he had known from the Edinburgh days, when Henderson was fronting the Fire Engines.

Their first recorded collaboration was on “Going Off Someone” – a track on Henderson’s new band, The Nectarine No.9′s first Postcard e.p., “Unloaded For You”. Subsequently, Scot appeared on their second album “Saint Jack”, and on a Postcard sampler ep, “Pregnant With Possibilities.

The logical outcome was a full length album – “My Personal Culloden”, which was released in May 1997, followed by the release of his first single “Tape Your Head On”, a cover version of a song which originally appeared on his musical cohorts, The Nectarine No.9′s “Saint Jack” album.

I know since then that Jock has released some more material, including 2006′s The Caledonian Blues, recorded with Gareth Sager (ex The Pop Group and Rip, Rig & Panic).

As mentioned above Davey Henderson has been a legendary part of the music scene in Scotland for nigh on three decades. Given his own vocal talents don’t feature on the EP, I thought it only fair to offer up my own favourite Nectarine No.9 song:-

mp3 : The Nectarine No.9 – Don’t Worry Babe, You’re Not The Only One Awake

Enjoy

COMMERCIAL SUICIDE

1 Comment

pulp-this-is-hardcore-111119

After waiting well over a decade to enjoy commercial success, it was a bit of a shock when Pulp embarked on such a high-profile and deliberate fall from grace with their next LP.

The fact speak for themselves – flop albums in 1983, 1987 and 1992 before gaining a degree of popularity in 1994 with His’n’Hers. And then it was 1995 and the release of Different Class which eventually sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK alone – a quite astonishing feat for a band who up until that point had only ever had two Top 40 singles/EPs in their career.

While it is true that Different Class rode in on the tails of the Britpop era that saw pop music become fashionable again and part of everyday culture, it doesn’t detract from the fact that it is a cracking piece of work (albeit not as cracking as His’n’Hers in my humble opinion).

But all was not well in Pulp-land. When they went back into the studio to begin work on the new LP, with all the hopes and expectations of not only the record label but also an adoring public, there was nothing happening. Jarvis Cocker couldn’t come up with any words or tunes, and even more crucially, guitarist, violinist and key member of the band Russell Senior decided to leave.

The band eventually managed to record new material, and the first thing to emerge was the single Help The Aged in November 1997 which was about as far removed from the chant-a-long songs which had led to so many folk embracing the band. At this stage, it might still have been regarded as a one-off Cocker-like prank to choose the most awkward and difficult of the new songs to be the lead-off single, but it became clear in March 1998 with the release of the next single that Pulp were going to lose a lot of mainstream fans and not get many new recruits to replace them:-

mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore
mp3 : Pulp – Ladies’ Man
mp3 : Pulp – The Professional
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (end of the line remix)

This was difficult and uncompromising stuff of the highest or lowest order, depending on your point of view. But it’s too easy to dismiss it as a song about porn…it could easily be interpreted as Jarvis using sex and sexual imagery to attack anyone in power, whether it be the captains of industry in the likes of film, music or newspaper or indeed on politicians who had, for a while, gotten off on Britpop only to walk away when the musicians started dishing out the criticism.

But whatever the intentions behind the song, it remains one of the bleakest and yet most brilliantly subversive bits of music ever to have been played on the radio, climbing to #12 in the UK charts. Hell, it even managed an appearance on Top Of The Pops.

The b-sides were hugely uncompromising and self-mocking and then to top all of that, CD2 had some astonishing remixes to further confuse everyone:-

mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (4 hero remix)
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (Swedish Erotica remix)
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (Stock, Hausen & Walkman’s remix)

Enjoy. I certainly do.

A SECOND CONSECUTIVE APPEARANCE FOR THIS FRENCH CHANTEUSE

2 Comments

R-3242-1299403710

From wiki:-

Air is a music duo from Versailles, France, consisting of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel.

Air’s sound is often referred to as electronica; their form of electronic music was influenced by the synthesizer sounds of the 1970s such as Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, and Francis Lai. Other influences include psychedelic and progressive rock pioneers Pink Floyd; film composer Ennio Morricone; krautrockers Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk; early pioneers of the eurodance electronica subgenre Space; Jean-Jacques Perrey and Claude Perraudin (although there are some echoes of dance music styles in the production); French crooner Serge Gainsbourg (Histoire de Melody Nelson, for example); and soft rock duo The Carpenters (Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, originally by progressive rock band Klaatu for example).

The thing is, if I was to read all of that before hearing any of the music I’d be expecting something bloody awful and unlistenable to the point of being up its own arse. And yet, this 1998 single is pretty irresistible:-

mp3 : Air – Sexy Boy (radio edit)

It was #13 hit here in the UK which remains the highest-placing they’ve managed to achieve. There were three remixes made available:-

mp3 : Air – Sexy Boy (Sex Kino Mix)
mp3 : Air – Sexy Boy (Cassius Radio Mix)
mp3 : Air – Sexy Boy (Etienne de Crecy et Les Flower Pistols Remix)

The first of these is by Beck Hansen, and as you’d expect, is quite idiosyncratic. The others are by well-known French DJs/performers.

There’s one more track available on the single:-

mp3 : Air (avec Francoise Hardy) – Jeanne

That’s two in a row for Ms Hardy following on from yesterday’s appearance with Blur. This song is one that she has been given a writing credit for alongside messrs Godin and Dunckel. It’s quite tasty….

Older Entries