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A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (9)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2008
(and again on 29 October 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the full rundown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(That posting, incredibly, was one that I was able to retrieve from the limited archive acess I had at the old blog. I re-posted it in August 2013.  If you would like to read the full tribute, you can click here).

(I later did an equally lengthy piece on Alan but alas it is lost forever thanks to bastard google acting on dmca notices.)

 

THE CINERAMA SINGLES (8)

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Cinerama slipped out an album in April 2001. It contained no new material and simply brought together the two Peel Sessions from 98 and 99 along with the tracks specialy recorded at Peel Acres and for the DJs 60th birthday party in August 1999. It wasn’t however, seen by fans as a cash-in as there was a demand for the acoustic and live versions in particular as they were quite distinct from the studio recordings.

At the same time, a further single was lifted from the previous year’s LP Disco Valente. This time, it was issued on vinyl which was a first for Scopitones, although there was also a CD single too. But it all came with a twist.

Here’s the CD single:-

mp3 : Cinerama – Superman
mp3 : Cinerama – Starry Eyed
mp3 : Cinerama – Yesterday Once More

The release of Superman rectified what had been a bit of an oversight as it had proven to be the most popular track on the album. But it was really just the vehicle for testing the water with what was the most TWP thing in terms of guitars that Cinerama had done so far. Starry Eyed did hark back to an earlier era (and little did we know prove to be a staging post on the way to TWP coming back into being).

The other track was another brave stab at a cover. David Gedge has never been afraid to cite influences which the indie cognoscenti would turn their noses up at throughout his career. In this instance, he took on and delivered one of the biggest hit singles that had been written and recorded by The Carpenters.

There were more surprises for those who bought the 7″:-

mp3 : Cinerama – Superman (version en Espanol)
mp3 : Cinerama – Dura, Rapida Y Hermosa

The sleevenotes were completely in Spanish which I take it was a nod to the fact that the Madrid-based Elefant Records had issued a single back in 1999 when the band had been unable to do so in the UK due to issues with labels.

The a-side is completely in Spanish….I’ll leave it others to determine if its a decent delivery or not. But it sounds a tad forced to me to get the lyrics to fit the tune.

The b-side is a hybrid…..opening with a live partly-stumbled through recording of Hard, Fast and Beautiful from a gig at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City in October 2000, before seamlessly becoming the Spanish language version.

File under obtuse.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (2)

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As I said last week, much of what will appear in this series will be lifted from wiki .

Here’s what it says:-

Lazy Line Painter Jane was Belle & Sebastian’s second EP, released in 1997 on Jeepster Records. The title track features guest vocalist Monica Queen and was recorded in a church hall. “A Century of Elvis” features bassist Stuart David reading out a story he had written, over music by the band. The backing music from that track was later used on “A Century of Fakers” from 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light.

Pretty feeble stuff as this particular EP deserves a lot more praise. Such as this on-line review from allmusic:-

On their second EP of 1997, Belle & Sebastian delve deeper into ’60s pop, developing a richer, fuller sound, not to mention an actual rock & roll edge. “Lazy Line Painter Jane” has a swirling organ and a thick backbeat, as well as guest vocals from Monica Queen, who duets with Stuart Murdoch. Her voice and the organ come as a shock, but “Lazy Line Painter Jane” reveals itself as one of Belle & Sebastian’s best songs. “You Made Me Forget My Dreams” and “Photo Jenny,” two shining examples of the group’s folk-rock, live up to the high standards of the title track, while “A Century of Elvis” has a lovely, lilting instrumental track (it would later be used for “A Century of Fakers”) that supports a pleasantly surreal story by Stuart David.

It is true – the lead track, which comes in at a shade under six minutes, is one the best B&S songs and much of that is down to the vocal contribution from Ms Queen who, by 1997, was a bit of a veteran of the Glasgow music scene as part of the band Thrum who had enjoyed critical acclaim via releases on Fire Records.  Indeed, just about the loudest cheer of the B&S gigs at Glasgow Barrowlands in December 2010 greeted Monica’s surprise appearance on the stage during the encore.

The EP came with a short story in the sleevenotes:-

Lazy Line Painter Jane prayed for an inspiration that would lift her above the mundanity of midday on a Thursday. She was in a hole, sat with egg and chips, watching buses through the plate glass and easy radio of some old cafe. She was too bashful to pray outright in the cafe, so she pretended to read her fortune at the bottom of her tea cup, and she got what she wanted that way.

The inspiration came along quite soon. It was lucky for her. It had seemed impossible, for her to feel ok, considering the trouble she was in. It seemed impossible, considering the gloominess of that lunchtime.

Jane had never managed to build Thursday into the weekend like some other people did. She didn’t look forward to the weekend anyway. The only good thing about the weekend was that it ushered in the following week. She was a slave to the working week. But she was unemployed.

She was doubtful whether she even deserved her Thursday gift. She had done a lot of swearing and shouting during her period. She almost felt guilty to take up the baton and run. But run she did. Straight to the cathedral graveyard. She took her idea straight through the cathedral graves and out, over the wall at the other end. She found herself in the East End of the city.

She took the inspiration and ran. It filled her like a playground balloon. Now she wasn’t treading on any toes. Jane’s agenda was clear. She just felt like running. To forget her joblessness and her hopelessness. Stripped of her present care, her skin was translucent, and she travelled fast and light over grass and stone precincts. She ran past lines of traffic into quiet streets where her breath and fast steps were the only sound she could hear. Stripped of her present care. And her guilt at being lazy.

Jane pretended she was making indie-rock videos as she tore through the East End. She thought herself quite magnificent, and caused only two minor disturbences as she went. She stopped running when she reached the river.

That was lovely. Reaching the river. A sudden wilderness of wasteland and trees. She may have been a bit worried if it wasn’t for the oxygen pumping in her head, acting like a drug. There was a path, dancing with industrial mayflys, constructed with an air of municipal grants. She followed it, ducking under flyovers, flying over traveller’s caravans. She ran past long curves of ash and alder. She ran until she flopped down in a bus shelter. The rain came on. She had run out of rock video fodder.

She waited in the bus shelter for a while. She had reached the main street of a town that was not part of the city at all. She had reached the provinces, and as such, the youth of the town flirted and taunted with an unaffected provincial air. Casuals drank QC. They put on a show for her, but they never challenged her directly. She was grateful they didn?t pick on her strangeness. Her inspiration had flagged, and she didn?t know how she could handle them by herself.

They went away, to be replaced by the town’s thinking girl’s talent. He smoked a regal cigarette, and paced around a little. Jane couldn’t decide if he was waiting for a bus, or if he had just come out because the rain had stopped. But she liked the sound his segs made on the wet pavement. And she admired him for his quiff. It was the biggest quiff that small town beatings would allow for. He sat down in the shelter. He obliged her by staring at her boots, and rubbing his forhead feverishly. He sat for the length of his cigarette and then went off, leaving Painter Jane alone.

She drank up the peace because she knew that she would be back in her house by fall of night. In the city, a dozen things would be vying for her attention simultaneously. She thought it was around six, but in fact it was nearer nine. She pulled her knees close to her chest. Her jogging bottoms smelled of pollen. She waited for the bus to take her back to the city. As she waited, she thought about how she had got her name, and what she was going to do about it.

Quite.

You can see now why the band were accused of being pretentious to the point of annoying. Just as well the music was so good.

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Lazy Line Painter Jane
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – You Made Me Forget My Dreams
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Photo Jenny
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – A Century Of Elvis

The EP almost hit the big time.  It entered the UK charts at #41 on 9 August 1997, dropping down to #70 the following week. And that’s without much radio play to accompany the EP.

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (10)

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All of the Top 10 singles had appeared on the blog before.  I was tempted just to post links back to those postings but having come this far with another look at the 2008 rundown, I thought I’d stick with it.

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TUESDAY 3 JUNE 2008

(and again on 28 October 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mp3 : Friends Again – Sunkissed

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

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

Turns out, that having been more widely available in 2008 when I first put the chart together, the album is once again a bit on the rare side as it is out of print.  Second-hand market is the best way….

 

BONUS POST FOR THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND

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I’ve messed about a bit with some tunes and come up with this:-

mp3 : JC presents – The One Hour Indie Disco

Confession time. It actually lasts 63 mins and 39 seconds, but in my defence, the crowdfilling last tune commences before the hour is up, so everyone’s dancing as the empty and not so empty glasses are cleared from the tables.

I think it works well if you download it and give it the full listen. Equally, you could skip through the songs you don’t like:-

LET’S MAKE THIS PRECIOUS (Dexy’s Midnight Runners)
ASK JOHNNY DEE (Chesterfields)
ONCE IN A LIFETIME (Talking Heads)
WALKABOUT (Sugarcubes)
LENNY VALENTINO (Auteurs)
PING PONG (Stereolab)
TRIPLE TROUBLE (Beastie Boys)
SHADY LANE (Pavement)
HEY LUCIANI (Fall)
LAST OF THE FAMOUS INTERNATIONAL PLAYBOYS (Morrissey)
CRASH (Primitives)
THIS LOVE IS FUCKING RIGHT (Pains Of Being Pure At Heart)
FOXHEADS (Close Lobsters)
IT’S A GAS (Wedding Present)
TAKE THE SKINHEADS BOWLING (Camper Van Beethoven)
BLUE BOY (Orange Juice)
GIGANTIC (Pixies)
LE PASTIE DE LA BOURGEOISIE (Belle & Sebastian)
OBSCURITY KNOCKS (Trashcan Sinatras)
CEREMONY (New Order)

 

THE £20 CHALLENGE (Week Six)

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Tim Badger writes…..

“You are lucky” SWC tells me in the pub as he gives me this weeks CD. “I took my daughter to the zoo the other day and we picked the CD from the Hospicare music shop on the way back”. I didn’t know how this made me lucky so I took a deep breath and asked “Why does that make me lucky?” At this point I haven’t opened the bag, there is a pint of Otter Bright sitting in front of me and that is far more important.

“Well, I gave her three choices, three debut album choices handpicked by me. The first CD was a remastered version of the debut longplayer by Rod Stewart ‘An Old Raincoat Won’t Let You Down’, which features such timeless Rod classics such as ‘Street Fighting Man (not his), Handbags and Gladrags (erm, not his) and ‘Dirty Old Town’ (erm again…)’ . The second was the debut album ‘Much Love’ by long forgotten soul princess Shola Ama – who I have also confused with ex Newcastle show pony Shola Amoebi – both are a bit shit to be honest, its easily done. She had her biggest hit with a cover version of the Turkey Richards staple ‘You Might Need Somebody’ “– he is trying to funny he means Turley Richards obviously.

I take a huge gulp of the Otter and glance at the bag in front of me. I’m hoping that its not Shola Ama – not only for the sake of my ears but for the sake of your ears too. SWC has been looking to up the ante since I let Mrs Badger buy last weeks CD, although she let him off the hook lightly because after she had given him Simon & Garfunkel she revealed to me later that night she nearly bought him his very own copy of ‘Picture Book’ by Simply Red – and was going to annoy him even more by putting it inside a copy of ‘Showbiz’ by Muse. SWC knows Muse quite well or rather his wife does – Mrs SWC went to school with at least two of them and one of their wives and last year they went to a birthday party at a huge castle on Dartmoor that the band had hired for the night. Weirdly he doesn’t really enjoy their music as much as I do. When Muse played a homecoming gig at Teignmouth a few years back, SWC was the most miserable person to have a backstage pass. I have a photo of him chatting to celebrity fat bloke Chris Moyles – or rather Moyles is doing the talking, SWC is doing the ‘Get the fuck away from me look’. To perfection. SWC denied even knowing who he was.

mp3 : Muse – Sober

I’m digressing.

“So what was the third debut album?” I ask him, hoping its not ‘The Party Album’ by the Vengaboys.

“This is why you were lucky. At the zoo we sat in the garden and had a small picnic. Whilst we were there my bag got shat on. By a peacock.”

I get a strange look from the bloke across the pub as I have just sprayed what’s left of my otter over the table – you know when you laugh and drink at the same time and what you were drinking comes out your nose. Well that happened. I recover myself just as SWC is picking up the bag.

Turns out it was a bag his wife bought him for his last birthday. I call it his man bag. Anyway…

“So in my hand I had the debut album by Starsailor….

mp3 : Starsailor – Alcoholic

…….when she saw this’

He handed me the CD. “And said look Daddy ‘Bloody Sodding Peacock’ and it had to be that”. He smiled and laughed. I laughed too as its good to hear that Toddler SWC has as good a grasp of English swearing as her daddy.

Its ‘Expecting to Fly” by The Bluetones. An album which has a peacock spreading its wings on the cover and it’s a rather wonderful choice. Again this was an album that I have heard and have probably owned a copy of on cassette – I certainly recognised all the tracks – but have never actually owned properly.

It has several brilliant tracks on it – here are a collection of them

mp3 : The Bluetones – Bluetonic
mp3 : The Bluetones – Cut Some Rug
mp3 : The Bluetones – Slight Return

And perhaps best of the bunch

mp3 : The Bluetones – Putting Out Fires

Here is the skinny

Bought Hospicare South West Music Shop, Exeter

Price £2

Left £9

Beats Rod Stewart any day of the week. Just.

Tim.

HOW REMISS OF ME NEVER TO HAVE POSTED THIS BEFORE

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I clicked on The Sundays over at the index on the right hand side of t’blog and discovered that each of the previous two postings had featured the rather splendid dreamy-pop song which is Summertime. Can’t believe that I hadn’t mentioned this before:-

mp3 : The Sundays – Can’t Be Sure

As debuts go, it really is up there with the best of them and proved so popular that it was voted #1 in the 1989 Peel Festive 50 and reached #45 in the UK charts which night not seem all that great but was actually a very good position for most singles released on Rough Trade Records. It has the catalogue number RTT 218 if you’re remotely interested.

One of the b-sides also appeared on the debut LP, Reading Writing and Arithmetic:-

mp3 : The Sundays – I Kicked A Boy

But there’s a real gem tucked away on the 12″. It sounds as if Harriet Wheeler is being backed by messrs Joyce, Marr and Rourke…..

mp3 : The Sundays – Don’t Tell Your Mother

Bloody marvellous.

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