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A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (40)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MONDAY 31 MARCH 2008
(also resurrected and featured on 21 April 2014)

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There’s a terrific little song from the late Ian Dury called Their Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards in which a number of folk from the entertainment industry are given a loving name check. I’d like to think that if anyone was around willing to update the song, they would have a go at including the name of Andy Partridge.

He is of course best known as the guitarist and main songwriter for XTC. However, he’s also recorded songs under a string of aliases and worked with dozens of other acts either as producer, songwriter or performer. Away from music, he’s been an agony-aunt on a Radio 1 show, a panelist on quiz shows and he’s written a series of comedy sketches that have appeared on television in the UK. Oh and in doing some more research, I learned that he’s also had an uncredited one-off appearance as a cricket commentator in the cartoon series Family Guy.

Not bad for a guy who suffered from such appalling stage-fright that he insisted his band give up touring just as they were becoming famous – a decision which in all likelihood cost them a place at the top table of the very best of British pop groups as the opportunities to grow the fan base was limited to radio and the odd TV appearance.

And yet it may have been the ability to concentrate entirely on studio output rather than a live sound that made XTC so special to so many people as they released one excellent album after another over a fifteen-year period up to the early 1990s. And every album produced at least one humdinger of a single, even if many of them failed to trouble the higher echelons of the charts.

They first came to prominence in late 1979 with Making Plans For Nigel, a song on which the lead vocals were taken by bassist Colin Moulding, thus leading many newcomers to thinking that he and not Partridge was the main driving force behind XTC. The two follow-up singles in the early months of 1980, Ten Feet Tall and Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down were Partridge compositions and vocals, but both flopped. At this point in time, it would have been fair to think that the band could have quietly faded away having enjoyed their brief flirt with fame.

But later that year came the release of the LP Black Sea, a truly stunning and wonderful piece of work of which just about any of the 11 tracks could have been a hit single. In the end, four singles were released by Virgin Records, of which the biggest hit was, at long-last, a Partridge number – Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me)

With no tours to concern them, the band were soon back at work in the studio with Partridge promising that the next LP would be the one they would be best remembered for. The first taste of what was to come appeared in January 1982, with the release of the single Senses Working Overtime, which went Top 10. The LP followed a month later. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to Partridge’s pre-release claims.

Maybe the problem was that it was a double LP which was a bit of a rarity in the post-punk days (London Calling notwithstanding), with some songs stretching out to over six minutes in length, which again was unusual for the period in question. The follow-up singles Ball and Chain, and No Thugs In Our House also flopped.

Never slow to cash in on one of their acts having some time in the limelight, Virgin Records put out Waxworks, a collection of singles spanning 1977-1982 just in time for the Xmas market.

The band then recorded and released the LPs Mummer in 1983, The Big Express in 1984 and Skylarking in 1986 to little or no fanfare. But 1987 saw another upturn in their fortunes with the song Dear God, which began life as a b-side but was later resurrected as a single (shades of The Smiths and How Soon Is Now?). This period coincided with MTV in America picking up on the band, and the 1989 Double LP Oranges and Lemons, as well the singles King For A Day and The Loving sold as well as anything in their career.

Another double LP, Nonsuch, was released in 1992 at which point in time the band fell out with Virgin Records. As a consequence, it would take until 1999 before the next XTC album came out, although the intervening period was filled with yet more collections of hits and rarities.

I’m a big fan of just about any of the singles XTC released between 1977 and 1992. They were lyrically clever and the tunes were more often than not different from most of the pop fodder that was kicking around. Neither did the band didn’t stick with one particular sound throughout that period in time.

You should have spotted from the picture that accompanies this post that the song I most like is :-

mp3 : XTC – Senses Working Overtime

I love the really quiet acoustic opening and the gradual build-up in tempo and sound all the way to Andy Partridge calling out 1-2-3-4-5 and then the infectious chorus. There’s just so much to enjoy in this song with all sorts of instrumentation going on in the background. It’s fantastically produced and it has aged magnificently. I dare you to listen and not sing-along. I’m almost disappointed in myself that it only reached #40 in this particular rundown….

Three b-sides to enjoy:-

mp3 : XTC – Egyptian Solution
mp3 : XTC – Blame The Weather
mp3 : XTC – Tissue Tigers

THE JAM SINGLES (14)

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We have now reached 16 October 1981 and the band’s fourteenth single.  And the first since I had fallen head over heels with them that left me disappointed.

I didn’t quite understand at the time that it was impossible for any musician or and to maintain incredibly high standards in their career and that at some point in time there has to be a dip in quality.  It would happen in due course with almost every other band that sustained any sort of lengthy career without a break but as this was the first time I’d seen it happen to one off mine I just didn’t get it….

In addition to fourteen singles The Jam had also released up to this point five studio LPs and all in a little over four years during which time they had toured almost non-stop on those occasions when they weren’t in the studio.  And Paul Weller had barely passed his 23rd birthday….

mp3 : The Jam – Absolute Beginners
mp3 : The Jam – Tales From The Riverbank

I much preferred the b-side but still thought it inferior to many earlier b-sides and album tracks that were unknown to the wider public.   Little did any of us know at the time that the band were going through a bit of a crisis at the time in terms of future musical directions that would only become apparent over the next twelve months….

The first alternative version today again comes from the Studio B15 live show on 25 October 1981.  This time you have to tolerate 17 seconds of jingles and DJ waffle before the song kicks in

mp3 : The Jam – Absolute Beginners (BBC live version)

and then sadly, there’s more waffle from the DJ in the closing few seconds.

From the same show, and again spoiled somewhat by chat at the start and end:-

mp3 : The Jam – Tales From The Riverbank (BBC live version)

The band would play both songs at the Golders Green gig at the end of December 1981:-

mp3 : The Jam – Absolute Beginners (live)
mp3 : The Jam – Tales From The Riverbank (live)

And finally…..a version recorded in November 1981 and issued the following year as a flexidisc to fan club members (and no, I never did sign up and join….for some reason or other I never did that with any singer or band that I liked)

mp3 : The Jam – Tales From The Riverbank (flexidisc version)

Oh and I almost forgot to mention. The single did reach #4 on its original release and then #83 when it was part of the batch of 1983 re-releases.

Enjoy

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT..WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (31)

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The Shoebox of Delights – #3
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Sometime Always

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It is nearly Easter 1994 and it is the day of my driving test. I am shitting it – I have no idea why I am doing my test – I can’t parallel park, my three point turn is more like a seventeen point turn and whilst practising bay parking in my Grandad’s Ford Escort I have hit a wall and a shopping trolley. The shopping trolley wasn’t even in the bay that I was reversing into. I am so going to fail. To make this worse it’s raining, in fact it’s absolutely effing it down.

I sit in my Grandads car waiting to go in – he looks at me and says “you’ll be fine, its easy” – he was a man of few words my grandad – he told me once that when he passed his driving test in 1963 that all he had to do was drive between two cones and the reverse back through and stick an arm out of the window. Because of this he was a lousy driver, I mean him no disrespect when I say that there an undiscovered tribes in the Amazon with no comprehension of cars, roads, traffic cones or clutch control that could drive better than him. In the thirty years he’d been driving, I think he’d changed gear correctly about twice, you could hear him coming down the road because of the load crunch of gears when he slowed down from third to second. He also refused to drive on motorways so it took literally for ever to get to some places, but he’d never had an accident, I mean he’d caused several thousand, but that’s not the point – right?

He switched the radio on – I think he wanted to get the result of the 1230 race at Doncaster – but instead he got rock music. I’d changed the channel whilst reverse parking in the car park at Tesco earlier in the day. The song that came on was ‘Happy when it Rains’ by Jesus and Mary Chain. I look out the window as the rain lashes down on the car. For the first and only time, I hear my Grandad say the F word followed by the words ‘load’ ‘of’ ‘noisy’ and ‘rubbish’. Then I hear the familiar sound of static and then the radio station he wanted. His sudden outburst had strangely relaxed me and I burst out laughing. I’d better get inside I said. “I’ll wait here, you’ll only be five minutes” he said utterly convinced that I was doing the same test as him. Although I still think I would fail that. As I get the door I see him rip up a small betting slip that he taken out of his blazer pockets (incidentally what is it with old chaps and blazers…?), I always wanted to hear his explanation to my Nan as to where her housekeeping money had gone.

Remarkably I passed. For the only time in my life – I managed to do a parallel park without driving backwards and forwards twenty times to get the angle right. My three point was exactly that. My emergency stop was so good it sent the instructors clipboard flying into his lap. I even did an additional emergency stop when the tractor appeared out of nowhere – this was a built up area in the middle of the Medway Towns, I have no idea what the tractor was doing there.

As I drove back into the test centre – “just park anywhere” the instructor says. I deliberately park next to Grandad’s car and give him a wave as I do so. He is asleep. Of course he is. I once found a hip flask full of whiskey in his glove box whilst looking for a pen. He always said it was for medicinal purposes.

The instructor looks at me – and he says “ I know you from somewhere”. Shit. I think. He looks at my name on his pad. Shit, I think again, I have just remembered where I know this bloke from. In all the worry about having the test, I realised that I have barely given the guy a look. He lives next door to Our Price Girl. I curse my luck – I mean what are the chances of that? I have met him twice. The first time was at a barbecue at her house for her Dad’s 45th birthday about eighteen months ago. The second time was when he caught me nipping out the backdoor at 6.30am as I was late for my morning job at a newsagents. That was three days ago. I know. I know.

I had no idea he was a driving test examiner. I thought he was a copper.

It took me about a week to phone her after the Green Day incident, I had tickets to see Pavement in London at the Town and Country Club – the girl I was intended to take – let’s call her Levellers Girl – couldn’t come – and I was going to give the ticket to mate, but changed my mind – or rather my loins changed it for me. So I asked Our Price Girl. She said yes straight away.

The gig was on the last day of February and it snowed. We spent most of the train ride up talking and then we danced (me badly, her gracefully, wonderfully) to our/my favourite band and spent the train ride home doing things on trains that were if it rush hour would have got us arrested (leaning out window, smoking that sort of thing). So we were back together. Sort of. It wasn’t official . Hence me sneaking out the back door, pants in hand at 6.30am. For now.

“Are you Dave’s son?” the voice said next to me, shaking me out of my (pleasant) memory. Now, my Dad is called Dave – so I said yes. “ I think I played football with him. Was he a goalkeeper?”. My dad played in goal for Gillingham – briefly – I’ll add – he gave it up because he preferred smoking to training – true story. Yes, I said again. That’s his dad sitting asleep in that car over there. “Frank” he said. Yes, I said, struggling to comprehend what the fuck was happening. Our Price Girl’s next door neighbour knows my entire family – how, what,why?

He embraced my Grandad like a long lost uncle. It was weird. I never asked him if he was Our Price Girl’s neighbour – I mean he definitely was – and as it happens I only went to her house once more and I didn’t leave through the back door.

Our Price Girl bought me this CD – as a late birthday present, it came out on July 1994, just before their new album ‘Stoned and Dethroned’. We’d spent a week on the Norfolk Broads and she bought it from a branch of Our Price in Norwich.

mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Sometimes Always
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – The Perfect Crime
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Little Stars
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Drop Re-Recorded

I played it constantly – she told me that the song reminded her of me and her particularly the ‘You ran away’ bit. I can sort of see what she meant. Exactly two weeks later, we were over. Again.

S-WC

JC adds…

a belated image to round off this piece.  It’s based on Dirk thinking out loud in the comments section and Badgerman later confirming something……
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As close as you’ll get to a photo of Our Price Girl.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #46 : DAFT PUNK

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An Imaginary Compilation – Daft Punk 

Written by guest contributor Aidan Baker

JC – your blog is wonderful, the range and variety of the music is terrific and a lot of it is new to me – just recently, there was a piece about Asian Dub Foundation, brilliant band, one I had never checked out before. It’s this that makes it so compulsive. I’ve been reading T(n)VV for about three years, having been sent a link by a friend of mine. I’m into all forms of music, but I’ve never contributed, I’ve never commented but I’ve downloaded so much from the site – I thought it might be time to offer something back – An Imaginary Compilation on my favourite band of all time – Daft Punk

First a history lesson. In 1992, the members of Daft Punk and one of fellow French music pioneers formed a band called Darlin’ – they signed to Stereolab’s label and even supported them a couple of times. Then came a review from Melody Maker which called them ‘Daft Punky Thrash’ – and Darlin’ immediately disbanded. Liking the term, the guys ditched the Phoenix chap and formed a new band – called Daft Punk.

They have been a band which have always pushed boundaries musically, their debut record ‘Homework’ drew heavily from the Chicago house scene. Their second record ‘Discovery’ was warmer and more emotional and has several nods to the 70s soul scene and even samples Barry Manilow on one track. Then ‘One More Time’ dropped and the world went Daft Punk crazy.

The third record ‘Human After All’ was panned but it is an excellent record full of massive tunes like ‘Technologic’. It plays on the robot angle more heavily – ‘Robot Rock’ for instance. However the love for Daft Punk was dropping, so sensing the public’s mood, Daft Punk vanished. Then they returned a few years later and teamed up with Pharrell Williams and released the biggest record in years  – ‘Get Lucky’. A record that is not that different from ‘One More Time’ just more reliant on Nile Rodgers than Will.i.am perhaps. The album that followed ‘Random Access Memories’ is easily the best record of this decade, although I think that will probably be controversial.

I guess that Daft Punk have been pushing boundaries since before they were even Daft Punk and I know that some of you will hate this, particularly the inclusion of ‘Get Lucky’ but here is my Imaginary Compilation for them.

Side One

Make Love (from Human After All, 2005)

As I said early, ‘Human After All’ was commercial and critically panned, it only took six weeks to record and is apparently ‘pure improvisation’. Most of the critics at the time said that it sounded ‘cheap’. ‘Make Love’ sounds like it was included on the album by mistake – I love the way it fades in and out and seem shorter than it is. The barely audible lyric –‘make love’ repeated over again, then the slow motion guitar and that lovely low murmuring piano.

Digital Love (from Discovery, 2001)

On this track Daft Punk took the chorus to heart and made their own dreams come true. The story behind the album ‘Discovery’ is that Daft Punk were trying to make an album that transported the listener back to a young age, about that feeling you get when you listen to music, different music, as a child, before you worry about being judged for liking something. ‘Digital Love’ does that better than anything else on the album.

Rollin & Scratchin (from Homework, 1997)

A song best described as an aural battery. A song that squeals away so much that it almost tortures you. The complete other side of Daft Punk, an acid house frenzy that sounds like the noise you get if you mess around with the AM settings on your old wireless radios. It is a sound that can also be heard in the next track…

Contact (from Random Access Memories, 2013)

I love the sample at the start of this. There is a simple beat and then an astronaut talking about the ‘bright object’ that ‘rotating because its flashing’ and then the final bit ‘there’s something out there’. So not only have Daft Punk released the greatest record of the last ten years or so, they have also managed to convince NASA to let them use a transcript from Apollo 17 (incidentally NASA say that the astronaut was referring to a discarded rocket). The song itself is a bit like a star exploding – a synthesizer that spins faster and faster that creates a noise so intense that actually you look forward to the song breaking and fizzling out to a close.

Giorgio By Moroder (from Random Access Memories, 2013)

To some, listening to disco and electro pop pioneer Giorgio Moroder relates his early life experience and music inspirations over nine minutes of zooming space funk complete with piano solos and strings and ‘clicks’ is probably not their idea of a good time. To me, it is utterly utterly essential. Damn Fine.

Side Two

Harder Better Faster Stronger (from Discovery, 2001)

I find it quite upsetting to think that there will be a generation of people who heard ‘Harder, Better, faster, Stronger’ first on Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’ and didn’t know it was a Daft Punk song. That needs rectifying. I was at Glastonbury when Yeezus started with it and I just wanted to Daft Punk to come out and say ‘SURPRISE’ – and then that Frankenstein vocal and that jittery cymbal crash in.

Around The World (from Homework, 1997)

Even though it’s ridiculous, “Around The World” goes hard. Its one hell of a record – That bass line heard that heavily borrows from Chic’s “Good Times”. That occasional sweep of a jet taking off. The mummies and skeletons and synchronized swimmers in the music video, and ultimately a melody focused on the repetition of the phrase “around the world” (up to 144 times in the original) all underline a track so effective in its simplicity and just pure Daft Punk.

Da Funk (from Homework, 1997)

Staying with the First Album – watch the video – its insane – but it is the best way to get to grips with the track. A guy trying to do the normal things, like buy books, get on a bus but can’t. Not because of the animatronic dog mask but because of the massive stereo that won’t stop playing. Is it a dream? – the alarm clock at the end suggests that, but again, this is a track held together by one simple infectious riff. The first Daft Punk I heard and I was hooked from then.

Get Lucky (from Random Access Memories, 2013)

The first million selling record of the decade I think. A record that is so good I can remember where I was when I first heard it. For me, Nile Rodgers makes it with that genre humping technique that he has that never gets tired. Pharrell has never sounded better either, and even manages that line about cruising to legend of the phoenix without chuckling. It was about three minutes in to this that I decided that Daft Punk were my favourite band ever.

One More Time (from Discovery, 2001)

I’ll end with perhaps Daft Punks most iconic moment. The late great Romanthony sings his way through this infectious slice of brilliance. His voice sounds perfect over the throb of that beat. ‘One More Time’ is utterly irresistible. As it states throughout it ‘We’re gonna celebrate all night’ – who can say no to that. Totally wonderful right down to the church bells that end it.

mp3 : Daft Punk – Make Love
mp3 : Daft Punk – Digital Love
mp3 : Daft Punk – Rollin’ & Scratchin’
mp3 : Daft Punk – Contact
mp3 : Daft Punk – Giorgio by Moroder
mp3 : Daft Punk – Harder Better Faster Stronger
mp3 : Daft Punk – Around The World
mp3 : Daft Punk – Da Funk
mp3 : Daft Punk – Get Lucky
mp3 : Daft Punk – One More Time

AIDAN 

MUSIC OF QUALITY AND DISTINCTION ???

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While over in Toronto recently, I had the good fortune to pick a near-mint copy of Music of Quality and Distinction for the equivalent of £2.50.  I’ve long had a cassette-copy of the album but this would be the first time for me on vinyl.

The album was attributed to British Electric Foundation (B.E.F.) who, in effect, were Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, the two blokes who had been booted out of The Human League but would go on to enjoy huge success with Heaven 17.

Penthouse and Pavement had been a hit album for their band in 1981 and their label Virgin Records afforded them the luxury of a vanity project that was recorded and released in 1982.  The idea was to bring in a series of guest artists to perform cover versions in a style that would be mainly akin to the Heaven 17 style.  The choice of guests raised a few eyebrows.

Side A

1. Tina Turner – Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)

Back in 1982, Tina Turner was considered a washed-up, 40-something singer whose best days were long behind her; indeed she was without a record deal at the time. The B.E.F. boys knew differently and brought her in to provide the lung power for a tremendous version of a song that had originally been a hit for The Temptations in 1970. It was a blend of the B.E.F. synth sound and the pop/funk/jazz contributions of Beggar & Co (whose members contributed greatly to the recording of many songs on the album). Record bosses sat up and took notice and Tina was soon on the roster of Capitol Records for whom she became a top-selling pop artist for much of the decade during which she never came near to recording anything as great as the B.E.F. track

2. Billy Mackenzie – The Secret Life of Arabia

It was the inclusion of Billy Mackenzie that got me to buy the cassette back in 1982. This was his typically OTT take on the closing track of Heroes, the David Bowie album released in 1977 and it is driven along by a great contribution from Beggar & Co guitarist Nevil ‘Breeze’ McKreith. A real highlight of Side One which is just as well given what follows….

3. Paul Jones – There’s A Ghost In My House

The former lead singer of Manfred Mann was better known as an actor back in 1982, although many of his appearances were in stage musicals, and he hadn’t bothered the charts in over a decade. This cover version of the R.Dean Taylor hit single is flat and uninspiring but it may well have given Mark E Smith an idea or two as the instrumentation isn’t a million miles away from the version we could release five years later.

4. Paula Yates – These Boots Were Made For Walking

The album was released just a matter of months before Paula Yates became a household name thanks to her being one of the main presenters of the music show The Tube which aired on the newly launched Channel 4 in the UK. At the point she had gone into the recording studio, she was best known as the girlfriend of Bob Geldof and as a columnist for the weekly rock/pop paper Record Mirror. This infectiously camp cover of the Nancy Sinatra smash from 1966 sounds as if it was great fun to make but Yates’s talents don’t stretch to lead vocals.

5. Gary Glitter – Suspicious Minds

Given how the glam-rock king’s life has turned out, this has the look and feel of a sick in-joke. But of course, the seedy revelations about Glitter wouldn’t be revealed for many more years and so it made commercial sense in 1982 to bring him and his band into the studio and have a go at an Elvis Presley classic given that The Glitter Band were making a great living at the time performing in student unions up and down the country.

Side B

1. Bernie Nolan – You Keep Me Hanging On

The B.E.F. boys were thumbing their noses at the critics with this one. The singer was known for being the lead vocalist with the sickly sweet Nolan Sisters whose inoffensive but deadly dreary brand of vocal pop had been part of the mainstay of variety television in the UK while punk/new wave was gaining a foothold and yet freed from the shackles of her sisters and the moguls who managed them, she delivers a decent take on The Supremes #1 hit from 1966.

2. Glenn Gregory – Witchita Lineman

Maybe they ran out of guests or maybe they felt that their mate from Heaven 17 was as good as anyone for the electronic take on the country song made famous by Glen Campbell in 1968. To be fair, he nails it.

3. Sandie Shaw – Anyone Who Had A Heart

I’m guessing the boys were desperate to have a go at what had been the biggest selling single by a female singer in the UK in the 60s and thought there would be more than a hint of irony by having it covered a ‘rival’ of the singer who had enjoyed the hit. The song had been a smash for Cilla Black in 1964 and all these years later, she was a huge television personality and presenter in the UK while Sandie Shaw, considered by the vast majority to have been the better singer of the two languished in almost complete obscurity. In doing so, they ‘re-discovered’ Sandie a full two years before Morrissey and The Smiths persuaded her to cover Hand In Glove……

4. Glenn Gregory – Perfect Day

In years to come, there would be many more cover versions of this Lou Reed number. It doesn’t deviate too much from the sombre and slow pace of the original and indeed, if it wasn’t for the fact that karaoke hadn’t really taken off in the UK back 1982, you’d be tempted to think Glenn was singing over a high-quality karaoke type instrumentation. I still, more than thirty years on, haven’t made up my mind if this is a cover is genius or ghastly. But it’s probably somewhere in between.

5. Billy Mackenzie – It’s Over

Forget anything else that went before now. This track on its own made the album worthy of release. Billy with the backing of great keyboards and all sorts of instrumentation including violins, cellos, french horns, harps and timpani drums. Oh and there’s a little bit of guitar work from the legendary Hank Marvin mixed in as well….Roy Orbison himself gave the big thumbs-up to this incredible recording.

mp3 : Tina Turner – Ball Of Confusion
mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – The Secret Life Of Arabia
mp3 : Paul Jones – There’s A Ghost In My House
mp3 : Paula Yates – These Boots Are Made For Walking
mp3 : Gary Glitter – Suspicious Minds
mp3 : Bernie Nolan – You Keep Me Hanging On
mp3 : Glenn Gregory – Witchita Lineman
mp3 : Sandie Shaw – Anyone Who Had A Heart
mp3 : Glenn Gregory – Perfect Day
mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – It’s Over

The album made #25 in the UK charts so it more than washed its face.

Enjoy.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #45 : THE STREETS

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Just Two Guys Messing Around: An Imaginary Compilation (of sorts)

Part 6 by S-WC

The tenth song on the way back down to Devon was by a band called Ought, a Canadian band that sound like a cross between Television and Talking Heads and they are utterly wonderful. The song playing is ‘Habit’ and it is so majestic, that when it finishes Badger and I completely forget that we should be paying attention to what the next song is.

“That is such a brilliant song”, Badger says.  I agree and we spent what we thought are the next few minutes or so discussing Canada – a place that we have both been to – and both love. Badger states his love from Vancouver, where as I state that the skiing in Banff, Canada is better than anywhere else in the world (not that I have skied all over the world). Something which I have debated noisily at length over several glasses of gluhwein with several close Austrian friends around 3000 metres up in the Alps. Then we discuss Canadian bands, Arcade Fire, Wintersleep, Metz and my favourite Fucked Up.

We are getting close to a services on the M6 and decide that we need a cuppa, as we pull in the closing bars of ‘Karmacoma’ by Massive Attack fades away. ‘Oh’ says the Badger, what was the 11th song, was it Massive Attack?’ Massive Attack are one of his favourite bands, he is something of an authority on them. If that is even possible.  Massive Attack was song 16. We’d not been listening for 6 songs. I remember hearing ‘Elevation’ by U2 (which is on the safe playlist) and hope it wasn’t the 11th track. We skipped back 15th was Merchandise, 14th The Beta Band, 13th U2, 12th The Shamen (that would have been seriously hard work) and 11th was ‘Blinded by the Lights’ by The Streets. We look at each other and laugh.

Several years ago, Badger, me and our significant others went to see The Streets at the Great Hall in Exeter. It was for the tour for ‘The Hardest Way to Make A Living’. They were shit. In fact I would go as far to say it was one of the worst performances by a band in the history of live music. I saw The Stone Roses at Reading 1996, I cringed when Ian Brown opened his mouth and the mating call of a seal came out instead of song lyrics and then the stand in guitarist said “Put your hands in the air”. It was worst than that.

About eight minutes after the gig finished as we sat in the car feeling thoroughly ripped off and cheated – I stated that “I would never ever buy anything by The Streets again”’. Everyone agreed. We spent the next half an hour driving home and the twenty-minute post gig cuppa in Badger’s house slagging off Mike Skinner and his chirpy geezerish banter.

For what its worth, I have never bought anything by The Streets again and I don’t intend to. What I will say is that their debut album is a revelation, it’s astonishing, lyrically brilliant and probably one of the most original and groundbreaking albums released between in the last fifteen years. It really is.

In the years to come and if you are lucky enough to be asked what it was like being young at the start of the century – you could do a lot worse than just play who ever asked you Original Pirate Material because it’s utter genius.

If I was feeling lazy (and Badger agrees with me) then our Imaginary Compilation would simply feature that album, and let’s face it, they never topped it, but this series don’t work like that does it.

“The problem with these Imaginary Compilations” Badger says as we make our way back down the M6 as Bjork’s ‘One Day’ starts up, “is that I always end up making them very singles heavy. My Pulp one had seven singles, my Pavement one had six and I think even your Death In Vegas one has six on it”. He’s right, it did. “What we need to do is restrict it to two singles per side”. But it’s The Streets I say, we’ll struggle to find any decent non singles from their second and third albums and the rest of their back catalogue. I said that I was struggling to think of ten of their songs that I actually liked. “Yeah, me too” he said. Sleigh Bells have come on. I love Sleigh Bells.

As Badger said so eloquently in his Orwells piece, we have compiled a side each for these. My selection is Side One and I’m lucky because I get the pick of all the available Streets tracks. I only have to pick five – and that is straightforward.

Side One

Turn the Page (From Original Pirate Material)

Some people might say that starting your debut album with a track of such epic proportions is a bit of bold statement. But I remember listening to this – sitting in a car park in Okehampton – and getting goosebumps and not wanting to get out the car. I just wanted the track to go and on.

Prangin’ Out (From The Hardest Way to Make A Living)

In which Mike Skinner serves up a feast of straight-talking self-loathing and anxiety, which centres around a hook of such druggy intensity you’d have to be a straight laced Mormon or something not get the shivers.

Let’s Push Things Forward (From Original Pirate Material)

This sees Skinner in typical clear-eyed, determined mood. The tunes sorrowful sax and the dour, one-finger, repetitive rhythm is in contrast to Skinner’s ebullience, “this ain’t the down, it’s the up-beat“ he insists, refusing to be sucked down into complacency and defeatism like the haters who bellyache a lot but never do a lot.

Your Song (Elton John Cover)

My father in law is a massive Elton fan – a few months I was driving him to the airport and this came on the stereo. He couldn’t believe it. He said that it was the best version he had ever heard of the song other than Elton’s. That in itself is enough to warrant inclusion.

Weak Become Heroes (From Original Pirate Material)

The Streets best moments were I think when they were at their most sensitive, somewhere in this song – I forget where – Skinner states that “It’s easy, no one blames you, it’s that world out there that’s fucked!… you’re no less of a person and if God exists he still loves you, just remember that”. That is bloody marvellous.

Side Two

Has It Come to This? (Single Mix)

“The music’s a gift from the man on high, the lord and his children”.

The song that gave you the idea that The Streets were probably going to be incredible. To take a track like this and stick firmly in the Top 20 was quite something. It came at a time when ‘Garage’ was becoming big in the UK – and this has that garage echo to it, but ultimately it sounds nothing like garage was supposed to – I mean this was good. I love the way Skinner sounds isolated in it. It is a splendid record

Fit but You Know it (MC Version) (From Run the Road II)

A markedly different version of the original which strips out all of the original apart from that Only Fools and Horses style tune over it – then the world of grime rap over it – the best bit – when Lady Sovereign comes on and socks it to the boys. Makes a terrible song, pretty good actually.

Blinded By The Lights (From A Grand Don’t Come For Free)

Perhaps the obvious sequel to ‘Weak Become Heroes’ – you can see the same dancefloor and the same buzzing Skinner pressed up against that backdrop of beats and synths. Just another night in the life of a geezer – you feel his pain when he moans about the queue at the bar or the lack of phone reception. However there are darker forces at play here as that trip turns nasty and into a drugged up bout of severe paranoia. “Swear Simone’s kissing Dan,” observes Skinner when he finally tracks down his girlfriend and best mate. Then the high kicks back in, the tempo picks up and our storyteller is so mashed by the end of the night that he forgets about his girlfriend with the simple exclamation, “This is fucking amazing.” Absolutely right.

Stay Positive (From Original Pirate Material)

Quite simply this track contains some the hardest, realest moments ever recorded, across any genre of music. It’s a story of a fuck up, one that frightens everyone because it could happen to us all. The story of how easy it is to fall into this, to give up, to lose your drive and stop writing, stop trying, stop fighting and just sink. The end part where the viewpoints are flipped is just stunning. And that is why them being shit live later was SO irritating.

Dry Your Eyes (From A Grand Don’t Come For Free)

A number one single. A big emotional number one single – Skinner went for that deliberately and nailed it. The chorus sounds like Coldplay but like Coldplay sung by your mate, because it needed to. The devil is the detail – “She brings her hands up towards where my hands rested. She wraps her fingers round mine with the softness she’s blessed with. She peels away my fingers, looks at me and then gestures By pushin’ my hand away to my chest, from hers”. Brilliant, poignant, brutally honest. At the time I hated it, then I listened to it, and then I listened to again.

We struggled, I’ll be honest. Technically there are three singles on the first side and three on the second side. The two remixes don’t count as far as I am concerned. The Run the Road remix is an inspired choice and one I had forgotten about. Of the five Badger chose I had four on my list of Ten. He had three of my five.

By Skinner’s own admission Original Pirate Material is the “day in the life of a geezer” yet amongst the bitter-sweet, inner city anecdotes of drugs, violence, playing computer games, trips to the garage and going clubbing, there is a tender sweet message that is so compulsive. Look – don’t just download this stuff, check out Original Pirate Material you won’t regret it for one second.

mp3 : The Streets – Turn The Page
mp3 : The Streets – Prangin’ Out
mp3 : The Streets – Let’s Push Things Forward
mp3 : The Streets – Your Song
mp3 : The Streets – Weak Become Heroes
mp3 : The Streets – Has It Come To This? (single mix)
mp3 : The Streets – Fit But You Know It (MC Version)
mp3 : The Streets – Blinded By The Lights
mp3 : The Streets – Stay Positive
mp3 : The Streets – Dry Your Eyes

S-WC

JC adds…..

“What I will say is that their debut album is a revelation, it’s astonishing, lyrically brilliant and probably one of the most original and groundbreaking albums released between in the last fifteen years. It really is.”

Hear hear……………..

Oh and just to demonstrate that the Coldplay observation isn’t too far off the mark:-

mp3 : The Streets (feat Chris Martin) – Dry Your Eyes

Enjoy.

NEXT YEAR’S NOSTALGIA FEST (Part 40 of 48)

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Most of those featured on CD86 were relatively new acts but today’s lot were an exception.

mp3 : The Television Personalities – Paradise Estate

It was as far back as 1979 when The Television Personalities released their debut single and by 1986 they were veterans of the indie music scene with eight singles and four albums to their name.  By that time every original member of the band with the exception of singer/songwriter Dan Treacy had come and gone with the band (as such) really just being a vehicle for Treacy’s fairly unique outpourings which offered observations on culture and society over music that was influenced by new wave, psychedelia and pure pop among others.

It would actually take a book to explain the history of this lot in any meaningful detail so I’m not going to even try. Instead, I will offer this fan site as being as good a place as any to spend time reading and learning.

Paradise Estate, the song featured on CD86 was, the b-side of A Sense of Belonging, a single released on Rough Trade back in early 1983.  Lyrically, noth tracks were far from cheery numbers housed in a sleeve that had a photograph of the face of a young child who had been beaten and battered.

The reverse of the sleeve indicated that the songs were from an LP called The Painted Word….

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…..but such was the unease at the label over the way the single had been marketed that the band was dropped.  It would take another eighteen months before the album came out on Illuminated Records….which folded soon after.

That whole period sort of summed up Dan Treacy’s relationship with the music industry. He was determined to do things his way and compromise wasn’t a word ever associated with him, By 1985 he was so frustrated that he set up Dreamworld Records to take as much control of the whole process as possible for his own band but also to sign up those bands and singers he felt were worthy.  In the end, running the label proved to be so time-consuming that there was next to no new material from him over the next three years and it was only after Dreamworld Records folded that The Television Personalities became active again. The 90s proved to be very productive in terms of output up until 1996 when things just suddenly and unexpectedly ground to a halt.  It seemed as if the addiction issues had finally caught up with Dan Treacy….

In truth, the next ten years were a very dark time.  He was jailed a number of times for shoplifting to feed his drug habit and in-between jail time he lived rough or in hostels.  It was during his fourth and final prison stretch that he got a wake-up call after reading internet rumours that he was dead and he resolved to try to pick his life back up again which he did by getting involved in music again, initially through DJing and then performing and recording after receiving an offer from Lawrence Bell, the MD of Domino Records.  It helped that the new hot band of the day – Arctic Monkeys – were dropping Dan’s name in interviews as an influence.

The comeback began in earnest in 2006 and new material appeared at regular intervals up to September 2011.

The following month Dan Treacy needed emergency treatment to deal with a blood clot to his brain; he was saved by the neurosurgeons but he was left with long-term damage.  There has never been any official announcement but I think it is fair to say we are very unlikely to hear any new material again.

His is a story waiting on a film adaptation……………………

Here’s the A- side of the single. It is utterly brilliant.

mp3 : The Television Personalities – A Sense Of Belonging

I’d be grateful if any fan of the band was willing to take some time and put together an imaginary compilation for the on-going series…….

 

 

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