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CHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND COMPETITION : FINAL CALL FOR ENTRIES

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21 years of the most important and influential label ever to come out of Scotland and I’m marking it by dipping into my pocket to spend £50 at the Chemikal Undergound Records online shop with the selections being made and shipped to one lucky T(n)VV reader, no matter where they live.

All you have to do is answer a question – and even if you don’t know the answer immediately you’ll find it available after a quick look on the Chem website.

Q : Which two musicians make up the band Aloha Hawaii?

Send your answer to thevinylvillain@hotmail.co.uk

But be quick about it as entries close at midnight tonight (UK time). The winner will be drawn out of a hat by none other than Stewart Henderson, MD of Chem and of course the bass player with The Delgados back in the days.

And to help you along, I’ve been compiling some Chem playlists and featuring them here. This is the third and last of them:-

You can also download it:-

mp3 : Radio 236 – Chem Underground (Vol 3)

Here’s a list of the songs that make up this particular mix:-

Father’s Eyes – De Rosa
Foxtrot Vandals – Zoey Van Goey
Any Way I Can – Rick Redbeard
The Actress – The Delgados
The First Big Weekend – Arab Strap
Leave You Wanting More – Sluts Of Trust
The Copper Top – Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat
Exits – Aereogramme
Look After Your Wife – Lord Cut Glass
Oh Yeah…You Look Quite Nice – Mother & The Addicts
A-Z And Back Again – Magoo
Trouble – Adrian Crowley

And here’s a promo of one of the above songs:-

Good luck

THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE TUNE ON LEAP YEAR MONDAY

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mp3 : Billy Bragg – Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards (live at the Barbican)

I know it’s a lazy posting, but I’m only contracted to provide a blog post 365 days per year. Consider yourselves fortunate.

Besides, there’s a bonus posting appearing later on.

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (8)

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033052e7bfbd234c9e2abdaa5f2cca0fDisc 8 is English Civil War.

The end of year polls in 1978 had been good to The Clash.  They were still seen as being a band for the people, not willing to compromise or sell-out with the continued non-appearances on the likes of Top of The Pops to promote singles being held up as a particular example.

It was also known that they weren’t keen for singles to be lifted off albums, and indeed the decision by CBS to issue Remote Control off the debut LP had caused huge friction.  But there was hardly an eyebrow raised in surprise when it was revealed that a second single was to be culled from Give Em Enough Rope a full three months after the LP had been released.  Part of this was down to the band not making a fuss – indeed it seemed as if they wanted it released as they felt it was important to bring as much attention as possible to their fears and concerns around the growing rise of a neo-Nazi right-wing in the UK.

English Civil War was a loud and very punky track with a tune that was taken from an old marching song dating back to the American Civil War.  Joe’s new lyrics to the jaunty tune drew attention to the fact that if the rise of the right continued in the way it was threatening to then it would be up those who cared most to fight against it in the streets.  And as if to really drive the message home, the lyrics were printed on the rear of the single which had as its front cover, a still lifted from the animated version of Animal Farm as its front cover.

mp3 : The Clash – English Civil War

The fact that the band could their message across in graphic and musical fashions allayed any overriding concerns that fans were being ripped off – and besides, Joe told everyone that they would make it up to everyone in a special way with the next single.

The b-side was a punky cover of an old reggae tune recorded by The Maytals in 1969 and which came to wider attention when it was included on the soundtrack of the movie The Harder They Come:-

mp3 : The Clash – Pressure Drop

It reached #25 in the singles chart, which was an outstanding achievement for a song that most fans would already have owned. The essay in the booklet is a good one….

ENGLISH CIVIL WAR : Released 23 February 1979 : #25 in the UK singles chart

I bought Give ‘Em Enough Rope in the record department of Rumblelows in Northwich. I’d bought Sandanista a few weeks before, and I was at that stage where you want to hear everything you can. The first three tracks just blew me away – Safe European Home, Tommy Gun and English Civil War. I’d never heard a record which sounded so big and powerful. 

I love English Civil War. It’s a marching song. The intro is all on one chord, then Strummer just screams “Alright!”.  At  14, it sounded fucking incredible – all-guns-blazing rock’n’roll. I’d go round to my mate’s house and put it on and we’d all jump around the bedroom.  It’s the sound of the last gang in town arriving through the speakers.

I think the lyrics are adapted from an old American Civil War song.  I remember singing along to ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again’ but I never really knew what it was about. I just knew it must be about standing up for what you believe in. It really fired up my imagination. Looking back, dancing around that bedroom with my mates to English Civil war was my first experience of finding a community through music, outside of school.  They were a gang, and so were we.

The Clash weren’t just a brilliant rock’n’roll band. they made me realise it was possible to live out my dreams.

Tim Burgess,  The Charlatans

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (23)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON WEDNESDAY 23 APRIL 2008

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Now you might not believe this, but it is true.

When I was typing out the words and thoughts to accompany the song that made #24 on this chart, I couldn’t remember what it was that had made #23.

But it turns out to be the 1978 song I had in my mind when I was wittering on about scratchy guitars, a tune that made you leap around and sweat profusely while joining in on a chorus to die for and all in the space of something lasting less than 2mins 30 secs in length. (OK….the song is actually 2 mins 43 seconds in length)

Do I really need to say anything else?

mp3 : Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)?
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Just Lust

Some stats. The single was released in September 1978. That means it’s more than 37 years of age!!!!! (Go back the other way and its unimaginable that in 1979 there would be anyone raving about a ‘minor’ hit song from 1941.)

It was the band’s biggest hit, reaching #12 in the charts.

I’m actually at a loss to work out how Ever Fallen In Love? is only at #23 in the rundown.

I suppose its because I think there are 22 singles better than it…..but even I’m having doubts.

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #064 : THE STRANGLERS

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A GUEST POSTING FROM JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

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What to make of The Stranglers? The band came to prominence during the first wave of UK punk, but didn’t exactly fit the ‘young, loud and snotty’ mold. Drummer Jet Black adopted a suitable moniker, but he was nearly 40 when the band started releasing records. Singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell held a university degree in biochemistry and did research in Sweden towards a Ph.D. Bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel was a classically trained guitarist. And what the hell was Dave Greenfield doing onstage behind a fucking Hammond organ? Old, educated, musically adept—plus a Dylan-era keyboard into the mix—no wonder Johnny Rotten sneered them off as “hippies with short hair.”

Live, the band were tremendous, if unfriendly and antagonistic. Burnel was a menacing figure—a muscular black belt lurching around as if he’d jump offstage at a moment’s notice to kick some ass. He had a great sound: a Fender Precision with the tone knob dimed, played with a pick directly over the bridge. This gives the bottom end a nasty growl that typified the ‘Gers early recordings. (Example: ‘Dead Ringer’ from No More Heroes.) Black was an unflashy but perfect time-keeper, comparable to, say, the Bunnymen’s Pete De Freitas. Cornwell did the talking for the band, what little there was. True to punk form he didn’t play extended guitar solos. Untrue to punk form, his songs were filled with tight, well-arranged vocal harmonies. Greenfield’s organ, it must be admitted, provided a signature musicality that distinguished the band from their contemporaries. I always thought he was kind of a prat, though, because in concerts he’d sit a full pint prominently atop his keyboard which he’d ignore until it was time for a complicated organ bit. Then he’d reach for the glass and take a pull to show off that he could play the hard part one-handed. Loser.

The Stranglers got off to a great start: their first five albums all were top 10 UK hits; three went gold and one platinum. They weren’t slowed down by Cornwell’s imprisonment for a drug bust, the whole band’s jailing for inciting a riot in Paris, or repeated accusations of misogyny and violence (Burnel infamously socked Jon Savage during an interview). They began the 80’s as an established post-punk act. Their sound grew more complex, and the group began to experiment with longer tunes with odd time signatures. In fact, their biggest ever single, 1982’s ‘Golden Brown’, is written in waltz time. The song made it all the way to number 2, and was only kept out of the top spot by The Jam’s ‘Town Called Malice’.

The band continued to make great records until…they stopped making great records. I can’t explain it. For no apparent reason, Stranglers music got weaker, sappier, more commercial but less appealing. The energy and aggression dissolved. “European Female”, from the 1983 LP Feline, was the last top 10 single the band wrote. It was also the first song on their new label, Epic. Later songs that did manage to chart couldn’t come close to the quality of the band’s earlier album tracks, or even b-sides. Cornwell hung around for 3 subsequent LPs, then bailed after 1990’s unmemorable 10. Unbelievably, the Stranglers are still a going concern—Wikipedia tells us they’ve released another 7 studio LPs and are actively touring, albeit without Black (now in his late 70’s).

This imaginary compilation focuses on the band’s tenure with United Artists and EMI, from 1977 to 1982. It goes chronologically, taking a song from each of the band’s albums on those labels, with some non-album tracks and a couple of tunes from the later Epic albums for the sake of completion. If I was just picking favorites I might not have made it out of the 70’s. And I’m completely discounting anything the band did after Cornwell left. (The Doors released a couple of albums after Jim Morrison’s death; post-Cornwell Stranglers merit the same level of attention.) So, without further adieu…

1. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

The band’s first single, from 1977’s Rattus Norvegicus. This is the quintessential Stranglers song: if you don’t like this track you can pretty much skip the rest. Melodic, snarled vocals, tight harmonies, punchy drums, driven by the bass and the ever-present swirling Hammond—this is the band’s blueprint.

2. No More Heroes

Title track from the second LP, also released in 1977. The band were considered a pretty scary bunch, but I always thought their stance was a tongue in cheek act, and that there was a sense of humor behind the angry stares. Dunno, a band that rhymes “heroes” with “Shakespearoes” never struck me as one that took itself too seriously.

3. 5 Minutes

A non-album single from 1978. Lead vocals on this one by Burnel, with nasty lyrics about rape, knives and revenge. (Okay, maybe there was something to the violence accusations, but it’s still a great tune.) At this point, the band still had more good songs than could fit onto their albums.

4. Tank

Leadoff track from 1978’s Black and White LP. Also a b-side to a free single given away with the UK version of the album. (The A-side was a cover of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune ‘Walk On By’, a hit for Dionne Warwick in 1964.) Everyone had a song they played before going out for the night, and this was mine. Never mind that it’s about how much fun it would be to drive around in a tank, or the corny artillery explosions—that’s what teenage kicks are all about!

5. The Raven

Another title track, this one from 1979. By now the band is stretching out and flexing their musical muscles; it’s over 5 minutes long and the vocals don’t kick in for a full minute. Atypically for the band, Cornwell gets in a lot of guitar work—some very interesting figures on his battered Telecaster. The song and album loosely implies Norse mythology, and is a precursor of sorts for the group’s subsequent concept LPs.

6. Just Like Nothing On Earth

And the first concept album would be 1981’s The Gospel According to the Meninblack. To be charitable, it was an interesting diversion from their previous work. To be honest, it was half-baked unintelligible sci-fi conspiracy nonsense about some wack-ass alien visitation that influenced Christianity. Okay. No one really got whatever the boys had in mind, but this is a fun song that features all the band’s strengths, with a few weirdo elements (pitched up vocals, mostly) tossed in.

7. Golden Brown

The favorite of many a Stranglers fan. Is it about heroin or a woman? Both, according to Cornwell, who wrote the lyrics. Originally released on 1981’s La Folie, another concept album theoretically about love or, literally, the madness of love. Very few pop songs to compare this one to, by anyone. Still beautiful and unique today.

8. Strange Little Girl

The follow up to ‘Golden Brown’ was actually one of the band’s earliest songs. Stranglers were leaving EMI and owed them a single, so they offered this track, a demo of which EMI had ironically rejected in 1974. Co-written by Hans Warmling, a friend of Cornwell’s from his student days in Sweden and an original member of the band. EMI put it out as a single and as part of a compilation album titled The Collection 1977-1982. Many Strangler’s fans’ own ICAs would likely be drawn from that same collection.

9. Skin Deep

By the time of 1984’s Aural Sculpture, Stranglers’ second LP for Epic, the band could still produce a good single or two, but the rest of the album was filler. It was a toss up between this one and ‘No Mercy’, the other album single. This one has the nicer vocal melody, but either represents which way the band was limping along. (You might have notice I passed right by 1983’s underwhelming Feline without stopping.)

10. Always The Sun

Arguably, this is the last ‘good’ Stranglers tune. Leadoff track and single from the band’s 1986 LP Dreamtime. It’s okay, I guess, but not a patch on tracks from the first 4 LPs that are much better. ‘Goodbye Toulouse’, ‘Nuclear Device’, ‘English Towns’, ‘Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’ all come to mind. Most discouraging (for me anyway) is the once terrifying Burnel playing a muted pump bass throughout, as if the band hired in Adam Clayton for the session. Dreamtime was followed by 1990’s 10, which featured a boring cover version of the 1966 Farfisa number ‘96 Tears’ by ? and the Mysterians as a single, and nothing more of note.

Bonus Tracks

Straighten Out

1977 B-side of the UK-only ‘Something Better Change’ 7”.  Also released as the b-side to the ‘Choosey Susie’ single given away free with Stranglers IV, a compilation LP made for the US market of tracks from The Raven (which didn’t get a US release) and some earlier songs.

Sverige (Jag Är Insnöad På Östfronten)

Swedish release of ‘Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front)’ from Black and White.

N’emmenes Pas Harry

French release of ‘Don’t Bring Harry’, another reference to Heroin, from The Raven.

Old Codger

A weirdo track appearing on the ‘Walk On By’ single. Features some geezer called George Melly and harmonica from Lew Lewis, of Eddie & the Hot Rods, who went on to record on Sandanista! tracks ‘Version City’ and ‘Look Here’.

Looking back on what I wrote, I wonder if TVV’s audience realizes just how unnoticed The Stranglers were in the US. Despite their massive UK and European success, only Dreamtime charted in the States, barely making a scratch at number 172. None of their singles charted at all. To this day, I never once heard a Stranglers song on the radio.

JTFL

mp3 : The Stranglers – (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
mp3 : The Stranglers – No More Heroes
mp3 : The Stranglers – 5 Minutes
mp3 : The Stranglers – Tank
mp3 : The Stranglers – The Raven
mp3 : The Stranglers – Just Like Nothing On Earth
mp3 : The Stranglers – Golden Brown
mp3 : The Stranglers – Strange Little Girl
mp3 : The Stranglers – Skin Deep
mp3 : The Stranglers – Always The Sun

mp3 : The Stranglers – Straighten Out
mp3 : The Stranglers – Sverige (Jag Är Insnöad På Östfronten)
mp3 : The Stranglers – N’emmenes Pas Harry
mp3 : The Stranglers – Old Codger

Enjoy.

CHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND COMPETITION : IMPORTANT INFO

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There’s been a great level of interest in the competition to win £50 of merchandise from the on-line shop of Chemikal Underground and I’m thrilled, honoured, delighted and excited by the fact that company MD and ex-Delgado, Stewart Henderson, has agreed to make the draw next week.

BUT…..some of you may have submitted an entry but not, as yet, have been put into the hat.

I’ve learned from three different folk over the past 48 hours that e-mails which had been sent to the hotmail address at various times haven’t reached me. I’ve no idea how widespread the problem was – the original emails were never re-directed to spam and none of them had content that would have caused an issue. Indeed, one of them was from someone entering the competition who I happened to bump into the other day. I mentioned that I was surprised he hadn’t entered only be told he had!

(one of the other missing e-mails I now know about was from Italy offering something for use on the blog while the other was someone responding to an e-mail I had sent them….so there’s no obvious rhyme or reason as to why things weren’t getting through)

The thing is, everyone whose name I’ve already put in the hat will have received a reply e-mail from me by now.

If however, you have sent in an e-mail with the answer to the question asking for the names of the members of Aloha Hawaii but haven’t yet heard back from me, then please, please, please re-submit as and when you’re able and certainly no later than 29 February as that is the closing date.

Cheers folks

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (12)

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There was a great deal of hype and expectation around the film adaptation of Absolute Beginners. The first piece of music to be released was the title track, courtesy of David Bowie, which was a #2 hit in April 1986. The film makers said this was just the first of many great bits of music that would make up the soundtrack, pointing out that there were to be new and original compositions by various singers and bands, including The Style Council.

Being a fanatic, I bought the soundtrack on its release as I thought it would be the only way to get my hands on this new TSC song. I was disappointed to find that it was just a new version of the track Everything To Lose that had been on the LP Our Favourite Shop and I felt as if I’d been ripped off as the album was quite expensive at the time of its release with no discounts on offer from any of the chain stores.

I was even more disappointed when two weeks later the track was released as a 45, in both 7″ and 12″ form with a new track available on the b-side. I didn’t buy it at the time but have since picked up a decent enough second-hand copy of the 12″ from which these are taken:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Have You Ever Had It Blue (uncut version)
mp3 : The Style Council – Gave You Ever Had It Blue (cut version)
mp3 : The Style Council – Mr Cool’s Dream

Thankfully, the new song turned out to be a bog standard Mick Talbot instrumental, so I didn’t really miss out on much.

The single reached #14 in the singles chart which was, at that point, the poorest showing by any 45 attributed to The Style Council.

Incidentally, the version which appears on the LP soundtrack is longer still than either of the versions on the single:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Have You Ever Had It Blue (soundtrack version)

While here’s the original from which the single was adapted:-

mp3 : The Style Council – With Everything To Lose

EXCEPT………………

it isn’t as proved by a great bit of detection work by Craig McAllister the blogger behind Plain Or Pan? (and author of the PJ Harvey ICA on these pages just 72 hours ago)

In a posting last December entitled The Steal Council, our Craig demonstrated that debut single Speak Like A Child was awfully similar to a track called Surrender To The Rhythm by 70s pop/rock band Brinsley Schwarz.

mp3 : Brinsley Schwarz – Surrender To The Rhythm

He then pointed out that Have You Ever Had It Blue had an awful lot in common with this…..

mp3 : Harper & Rowe – The Dweller

This dates back to 1967 and is, to quote Craig, a more obscure part of sunshine pop.

His full rather playful piece over at Plain or Pan? can be read here.

Enjoy.

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