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NOBODY DOES IT BETTER….

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…..than David Gedge when it comes to penning stuff about relationships.

Whether its been with The Wedding Present or Cinerama or The Wedding Present once again, David has written and recorded umpteen (that’s a word I like to use when I don’t know the precise number) songs of quality and distinction about meeting someone, falling for someone, being with someone, wanting someone who is unattainable, and most of all…..how you feel about someone after the love has gone.

He’s written songs from all sorts of perspectives – as someone who is angry, hurt, sad, bemused and even relieved that a relationship has run its course.

But mostly its songs by someone with a broken heart.

Now I daren’t think that all of the songs are autobiographical – if they are, his heart must be in billions of pieces by now. The most amazing thing is that the accompanying tunes never fall into the category of maudlin or dirge-like.

I’ve a mate who once said, “You know, The Wedding Present have only one tune…..but it’s a fucking cracking one at that”

My mate of course had her tongue firmly in her cheek, for there is no argument that David Gedge has proven himself as one of the UK’s best ever word AND tunesmiths.

Here’s one of my favourite examples:-

I heard another voice this morning on the ‘phone
But just the other day I thought you said you slept alone

And yes I knew that laughter, okay, now I see
You wouldn’t even know him if it hadn’t been for me

Sometimes in the fading light
I can’t help thinking back to, well, the way we were

Then I start feeling guilty lying next to her
I know, and it can’t be right

Pretending that it’s you.
You still won’t go away
Pretending that it’s you.
You still won’t go away

If you write again perhaps you shouldn’t send it here
It’s just that I don’t really want your letters to appear

Oh no, I just think she might
Forget I ever said that I’m just being scared

I told her all about you and I don’t think she even cared
I know but it’s not alright

Pretending that it’s you.
You still won’t go away
Pretending that it’s you.
You still won’t go away

And does the thought of leaving him brings you to tears?
I bet you never felt the same about me all those years

Well you know, just what it’s like

Pretending that it’s you.
You still won’t go away
Pretending that it’s you.
You still won’t go away

And then there’s the unnerving and unsettling music that never quite finds a steady rhythm or beat thanks to its constant change in volume and tempo.

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Lovenest

And while I’m here, I may as well let you have a listen to the other three songs which are on the 12” version of this single:-

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Mothers
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Dan Dare
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Fleshworld

As with just about every single the band released around that period in time, there was an unusual choice of song for a cover version. In this case it was Mothers which was originally by Jean Paul Sartre Experience, a rather obscure (to most folk) new wave band from New Zealand.

Enjoy.

IN PRAISE OF URUSEI YATSURA

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I like to think that most of the bands/singers featured on this blog are reasonably well known, as that saves me giving a detailed explanation of who they are (or were, in the event there’s been a break-up). As for today’s lot – well I’m sure the name at least might be familiar to many UK (and Japanese) readers, but less so to my friends across on the other side of the Atlantic. So here’s a little bio of Uruesi Yatsura.

It was back in 1994 that Fergus Lawrie, Graham Kemp, Ian Graham and Elaine Graham decided to form a band. They named it after a hugely popular Japanese comic book – one that has been given its own TV series and video game. The translation from Japanese into English seemingly is not straightforward….the band prefer it to mean ‘Noisy Stars’, but you have to admit that Urusei Yatsura is a far cooler name than Noisy Stars.

Anyway, the band started gigging at loads of small Glasgow venues and quickly gained a reputation for churning out loud guitar-driven short bursts of pop that had more than a hint of Sonic Youth about them.

Like so many others, their fame increased thanks to the support and patronage of John Peel, and following the inevitable session, they grabbed themselves a record deal with indie label Che Records. Between 1995 and 1998, they released eight singles and two albums before Che Records folded after an unfortunate tie-up with Warners went sour.

The fact that Che Records had gone under led to the band disappearing from view for the best part of two years, and it was very late on in 1999 before an EP came out on the Beggars Banquet label, and then in 2000, it was announced the band was setting up its own label in the shape of Oni Records. Two singles and one LP was all that emerged over the next 18 months before they called it a day.

As careers go, it was pretty reasonable. Over the course of 7 years, there were three LPs, the best part of a dozen 45s/EPs and a handful of other releases on compilation LPs as well as a one-off 45 with one Urusei Yatsura track b/w a track by The Delgados. They toured extensively, either as headliners or as main support to the likes of Garbage and Super Furry Animals.

In terms of commercial success, just the one single cracked the charts – it hit #40 for one week in February 1998.

But these words and stats don’t do real justice to Urusei Yatsura. They were largely an out and out pop band with a sound that was influenced by so many others but yet somehow seemed distinctive. I’ve already mentioned Sonic Youth in terms of the guitars….but there was also a hint of Pavement in respect of weird lyrics…there was glam-rock as evidenced by the Glitter Band style chants….there was the buzz and feedback of the Jesus & Mary Chain…..and still they could sound as melodic and delightful as Teenage Fanclub. And at a time when Glasgow was being dominated by the whimsy of the likes of Belle and Sebastian, it was great to have your ears occasionally assaulted…
Having given them such a great build-up, I hope you do find these tracks to your satisfaction:-

mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Hello Tiger (Peel Session)
mp3 : Uruesi Yatsura – Kewpies Like Watermelons
mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Phasers On Stun
mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Strategic Hamlets

If you like what you hear, you can probably track down the back catalogue on e-bay. I particularly recommend the 1998 LP, Slain by Urusei Yatsura.

Enjoy.

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (17)

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One month after the release of Confessions Of A Pop Group, a second single was lifted from it. It was in fact a four-track EP, with the songs made available in 7″,12″ and CD format, albeit the versions on each of them were identical.

It was known as the 1234 EP and consisted of a rather forgettable track from the new album, an even more forgettable* piece of latino jazz for a new b-side, a just about bearable remix of what many were now fondly recalling as being the career highlight and a Mick Talbot instrumental which on the record is attributed to an imaginary group called The Mixed Companions. It’s saying a lot about the quality of the EP that the instrumental is the highlight….always thought it would make a great theme tune for some sort of daytime telly show….

mp3 : The Style Council – How She Threw It All Away
mp3 : The Style Council – Love The First Time
mp3 : The Style Council – Long Hot Summer (Tom Mix)
mp3 : The Style Council – I Do Like To Be B-Side The A-Side

It didn’t bother the higher echelons of the charts, hitting #41. And that, for many people, was expected to be the end of The Style Council.

Dee C Lee had just had a baby and there was no prospect of them touring. The record label were far from happy having been delivered two sub-par and poor selling LPs in a row. The media were totally against Paul Weller with the word pretentious now being applied more and more.  Indeed in late 1988 there were press reports that the band had broken up but these were vehemently denied.  But that wasn’t quite the case and the two singles from 1989 will wrap up the series in one sitting next week..

*personal opinion!!  There are many fine people with excellent taste in music who swear by this particular period in the history of TSC….

JOHN LYDON’S EARLIER DANCE COLLABORATION

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Prompted by the Leftfield/Lydon appearance in the 45 45s at 45 re-cap……

Afrika Bambaataa was one of the pioneers of hip hop, coming to prominence in the late 70s as one of the new breed of young black DJs that were being acknowledged as doing things to music that were every bit as evolutionary and revolutionary as the white boys and girls had with the onset of punk and new wave.

The underground nature of hip hop began to go mainstream in the early 80s and Bambaataa was one of the first to land a recording deal but having experienced little success outwith hip-hop/dance fans he began to look for ways to have his music crossover into other genres. And thus Timezone was formed in 1983 with the idea that Bambaataa would work with different musicians on a one-off basis.

The first Timezone single was with a group of German musicians called Wunderwerke to which Rusty Egan (ex-Skids and Visage) also contributed. The following year, Bambaataa got together with Bill Laswell who some have made a strong case for being the best ever and most versatile bass player, and between them they approached John Lydon to add a vocal to the next single. It was a quick in-and-out of the studio effort with Lydon reporting later he had taken a little over four hours to record his part.

World Destruction was the nearest Timezone ever got to success, reaching #44 in the UK singles charts in early 1985. I bought a copy of the 12″ on the back of the video being aired on The Tube on Channel 4, attracted in part to its catchy tune but also by its strident anti-war message. It really is quite hard to imagine now, how a little over 30 years ago, we were on edge that one or more of our political leaders would press the nuclear button.

OK, the production values have dated the tune somewhat, but this is a hugely important record as it was one of the first to fuse hip-hop with electro and rock elements and pave the way for acts like the Beastie Boys to find fame and fortune.

There were two versions of the single made available on the 12″. The largely instrumental alt version at the time felt truly ground-breaking with its use of spoken word samples.

mp3 : Timezone – World Destruction
mp3 : Timezone – World Destruction (alt version)

Enjoy

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (12)

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The+Clash+The+Call+Up+165860Disc 12 is The Call Up.

It was just a three-month wait for the next single.  But for many people it was the first hint of the band being a disappointment.  It’s not that The Call Up is a bad single, but it just felt, when set against the run of 45s in recent times, to be a tad less than essential. It also fell back to the sort of chart positions that the earlier singles, barely scraping into the Top 40. It was only years later that we’d recognise it as a partial template for the sound of Big Audio Dynamite

It’s clearly an anti-war song, or more precisely, an anti-Army/military service song urging those 18-25 year olds who were, thanks to a new bill passing through the US Congress, facing a requirement to register themselves under a system where circumstances could lead to them having to carry out service in ‘defence’ of their country.  The sentiments were very noble given it was only a decade after Vietnam where, as a later hit song would remind us, the average age of a casualty had been 19.

The b-side was another song with an anti-war message, highlighting the fear of a nuclear holocaust….a situation that was growing ever more likely with the impending elevation of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

Both sides also indicated how America and its way of life was becoming more interesting as subject matters in terms of songwriting to Joe Strummer and Mick Jones.  Things had really moved on from the London-centric debut LP just three years earlier where it was deemed acceptable to be bored with the USA.  Some journalists actually used that as a stick with which to metaphorically beat the band around the head with. Again.

mp3 : The Clash – The Call Up
mp3 : The Clash – Stop The World

It was originally released only in the UK on 7″ vinyl, but the following year  a cracking instrumental remix of the song was made available on a 12″ single released in the USA, and given that the author of the accompanying essay in the box set makes reference to that (and to a later single in this series), it makes sense to feature it here:-

mp3 : The Clash – The Cool Out

THE CALL UP  : Released 21 November 1980 : #40 in the UK singles chart

‘The Cool Out’ is a mix of ‘The Call Up’ and is really important because they show the versatility The Clash went for in terms of incorporating different kinds of music. The thing about The Clash that stood out is they were massive fans of music themselves, they were always looking for what was happening, what was coming up from the street. They took what was new and hadn’t broken through, mixed it with something accessible and made it The Clash.

They changed music completely by showing they can take a band with bass and guitars and drums to a whole new place.  You can take Chic or rap or whatever and mix it.  They were probably hanging out in clubs and discos in New York at the time. Those mixes still influence a lot of bands now. It took the fear away of gay disco music, back then I guess you were either a rock’n’roll band or disco was for women.  Most bands would have feared this type of music but not The Clash.

My all-time favourite single by The Clash was ‘Rock The Casbah’ because I was convinced they were singing “Sharleen don’t like it”.  Later, I used to book into hotels as Janie Jones until someone rumbled me.

Sharleen Spiteri, Texas

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (19)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TUESDAY 29 APRIL 2008

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I could look to re-write history and say that Sex Pistols were the band that opened up my eyes and ears and changed me forever.

But in all honesty, I was really too young at 13 to get a grip on what was happening in 1976 and 1977. And besides, I was still more interested in playing football in those years than I was in listening to music. You can also factor in that it wasn’t until 1978 when I got a paper-round that I was able to have enough money to properly indulge in buying records rather them home-taping them straight from the radio onto my portable cassette player. And I had no guilt that all the inner-sleeves of LPs at that time came with the warning ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music’, complete with its logo of a skull and crossbones superimposed over a cassette tape.

So, although I soon grew to love the Pistols, I wasn’t in the vanguard of punk, and I can’t legitimately put any of their singles into this chart on the rules I set out for myself in terms of buying the song as and when it first came out.

And PiL were an act that were close to being included but in the end could only come in somewhere in the 50s.

But you can’t keep a good man down for too long, and so John Lydon makes his appearance at #19 with what I think is among the greatest dance records ever made.

You will have gathered by now that I’m no expert on dance music – I leave that to friends like ctelblog who has the most incredible blog over at Acid Ted.

And I’m not going to kid on that the song made me go out and buy all sorts of similar stuff – dance music remains something that I will dip in and out of rather than spend lots of time on.

I didn’t know too much about Leftfield until this 1993 collaboration but my love for this single led me to buying their CD of the time and discovering to my great delight that it also contained a collaboration with the great and hugely underrated Toni Halliday of Curve.

The CD confirmed a number of my prejudices about the dance genre – while some of the stuff was among the personal highlights of 1993, there was just too much that I failed to get, and so it became a CD that was ideal for the skip function.

I don’t think Lydon has ever delivered a better vocal in his life. I know that when he was a young punk 17 years earlier he did insist his musical influences were hugely varied from prog-rock to reggae and all parts in-between, but I don’t think any of us could ever have imagined him doing something quite like this:-

mp3 : Leftfield/Lydon – Open Up (vocal edit)

Can anyone really listen to this and resist the urge to jump around like a mentalist?

Now this is the one time on the chart that I’m going to cheat a little. Instead of offering up the other tracks from the single (which are basically just remixes)*, I’m posting the track with Toni Halliday that I mentioned a few paras back. It’s a song that if it hadn’t been for Lydon would have been a contender for my chart:-

mp3 : Leftfield (featuring Toni Halliday) – Original

Oh well, back to the more predictable stuff for the remainder of the rundown.

*subsequently posted on the blog and available here.

AS OWNED ON VINYL, CD AND CASSETTE

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technique_posterThere is someone I know who thinks New Order should have disbanded in around 1985 as the music they have made since then has betrayed everything that Joy Division stood for.  Despite holding such strident and unacceptable views, he remains a dear friend…and besides it gives us one more thing to fight over when we are drunk.

Me?  I’ve never hidden from the view that it took until 1989 for their masterpiece to emerge….and while there has been the occasional nugget of gold since then, I’d have been happy if this had been their last ever record.

It’s worth recalling that the release of Brotherhood in 1986 had disappointed many fans. It was, in the main, a lacklustre affair and indeed was shown up as such when the compilation LP Substance was issued the following year. The one hope was that the Greatest Hits package featured two amazing new songs – True Faith and 1963, the former a wonderful dance track driven largely by Steve & Hooky and the latter a gorgeous pop number with Barney at last penning lyrics which made sense and had a semblance of a story line.

But post-Substance, the band seemingly disappeared off the radar and some folk (including your humble scribe) thought we’d seen the last of them.

In the days before t’internet, you had to rely on the music papers for news/info on your favourite bands. One week, I read a snippet that New Order had gone to Ibiza to record a new LP. Months passed. Nothing. More months passed. Still nothing. and I assumed that somehow I had missed the news that the band had broken up.

Then, out of the blue in late 1988, a single was released. It was called Fine Time and it was really quite different from anything else they had ever previously released being, for the most part an instrumental, and which was very clearly aimed at the dance market. And I loved it.

The album kind of sneaked out in January 1989. Little did we know that the low-key release was down to Factory Records lack of cash to give it the usual big marketing/advertising push. It came out when Britain is at its most cold, miserable and wet. But this album made you forget all that.

It was everything that fulfilled the promise of True Faith/1963. There were immense dance numbers, there were songs of love, joy and happiness, and there were songs about having your heart broken into many pieces. Every song could have been a single. No that’s not true. Every song could have been a #1 single.

Thankfully, the album did sell in reasonable quantities, but not enough to arrest Factory’s eventual decline into receivership/administration. It did however lead to New Order being asked to take the sound of Technique into the football world when they penned the England Squad’s 1990 World Cup Anthem, World In Motion, which finally gave the band the #1 hit they had been chasing for a few years.

Here’s three of the lesser known songs from the album:-

mp3 : New Order – Love Less
mp3 : New Order – Mr Disco
mp3 : New Order – Vanishing Point

Enjoy.

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