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ALVIN LIVES (IN LEEDS)

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This is one of my own….but it was inspired by an idea and contribution from a reader.

Just the other week I featured the cover of Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) by The Wedding Present.  A comment from The Robster informed me that this was the band’s second take on that particular song as it had first been aired on an LP called Alvin Lives (In Leeds) : Anti Poll Tax Trax which, as the title suggests, was aimed at raising funds to help those campaigning against a particularly unpopular piece of government legislation.

Released in 1990, it consists of 12 indie acts doing cover versions.  As is often the case with a record like this, the output it is a bit hit and miss but what is quite astonishing is the sheer cheesiness of some of the choices:-

Tracklist 

Lush – Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep
Five Thirty – My Sweet Lord
Cud – Bohemian Rhapsody
The Popguns – Bye Bye Baby
Crocodile Ride – I Feel Love
Robyn Hitchcock – Kung Fu Fighting
Corn Dollies – Le Freak
The Wedding Present – Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)
The Close Lobsters – Float On
14 Iced Bears – Summer Nights
The Siddeleys – Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)
The Perfect Disaster – Wanderin’ Star

It’s a bunch of huge hits from the 70s and  I kind of got the feeling that having been asked to be part of what was a worthy cause and then told they had to come up with a cover of a well-known record from the 70s, most of them then tried to think what could be the most ridiculous departure from the norm.

Special mention must be made of Cud.  They’ve taken one of the sacred cows of pomp rock and ripped the total pish out of it.  All the words and a semblance of the tune do appear to be in place but they bash the whole thing out in a little under three minutes:-

mp3 : Cud – Bohemian Rhapsody

Anyone can see (and hear), nothing really matters to them.

Elsewhere, the song taken on by Lush is more akin to a nursery rhyme but yet somehow in their hands it works as indie-pop with meaningless lyrics while Robyn Hitchock and his mates become human beatboxes on a crazy take of a novelty song:-:-

mp3 : Lush – Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep
mp3 : Robyn Hitchcock – Kung Fu Fighting

As you’d expect, the Weddoes do their usual fine job (and it is marginally different than the version recorded with Steve Albini and made available on the 3 Songs EP) while  I was also quite taken by some parts of Le Freak in which The Corn Dollies occasionally do a fine tribute to Gang Of Four:-

mp3 : The Corn Dollies – Le Freak

There were a few disappointments, none more so than The Close Lobsters whose take on what I’ve thought was always an appalling song somehow made me long for the original although the biggest waste of vinyl has to go to Five Thirty for what is a pointless re-tread of the George Harrison hit.

When this LP was mentioned in the comments, my dear mate Dirk from Sexy Loser professed his love for this track:-

mp3 : The Siddeleys – Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)

It’s one that didn’t jump out on first hearing but I’ve persisted and now fallen for its charms.

In summary, Alvin Lives (In Leeds) is, like so many other projects of this nature, a mixed-bag, but I was delighted to have been given the opportunity to learn about it after all these years.  Hope those of you who aren’t familiar with the versions featured today will appreciate them.

Thanks Robster.

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT…WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (15)

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A tale of love lost this week…..

Remember a couple of weeks back I mentioned the cute girl from Our Price in Chatham. Well her favourite band was Cud or The Cud Band as she affectionately called them. I have her to thank for introducing me to their music. Once, in a pub in Camden Town (that’s in London folks) we were waiting to go and see Cud at the old Town and Country Club, and ‘Changes’ by Sugar came on. This features on Sugar’s seminal ‘Copper Blue’ album and I happened to say that for me Copper Blue was the greatest record of the last five years (it was 1993 I think, so better than ‘Nevermind (which it is), better than ‘Debut’ (which it isn’t) and better than the just released ‘Asquarius’ by Cud (which it definitely without question is). An argument ensued, there and then and I am pretty sure that is the only time I have been dumped for ‘musical differences’.

Cud formed in 1987, when legend has it the four friends found a drum set in a skip and then gained other instruments. They had recorded their first Peel Session before releasing a record. All seemed perfect. They signed to the indie label Imaginary and they released their first two records ‘When in Rome, Kill Me’ and ‘Leggy Mambo’ and gained a fairly big following. Then they signed to A&M records and that is where it went wrong. Their first major label album was ‘Asquarius’.

Now don’t get me wrong, Cud are, or at least were, a fine band. They have some tremendous records, ‘Robinson Cruesoe’ for example is a wonderful few minutes of indie pop not bettered by many at the time and ‘Purple Love Balloon’ is in my opinion a record that should be in everybodys record collection (a song which started life as a B Side before getting a single release of its own).

mp3 : Cud – Purple Love Balloon

Before the age of ‘Asquarius’ (see what I did there, I’m wasted in the civil service I tell you, wasted) heralded Cud’s finest moments, they were quirky, very indie and one of those ‘cult status’ bands. To some (see above) ‘Leggy Mambo’ is one of the great lost records of our generation. The singles ‘Robinson Cruesoe’ and ‘Magic’ both failed to hit the Top 75. Although in fairness ‘Robinson Cruesoe’ deserved better.

‘Asquarius’ gave them moderate success, ‘Rich and Strange’ went Top 30 and the rerecorded B Side ‘Purple Love Balloon’ followed it but A&M wanted more. Cud didn’t look like pop stars, and no amount of soft focus press releases could change the fact that singer Carl Puttnam was not that much of a looker (although others would disagree, see above, sigh).

That night in Camden Cud were supported by The Family Cat, a much better band, and they were stacks better live than Cud. Cud had turned it a Vegas act, (something which I stated in the argument which continued on the train home, it didn’t help). Flooding the room with purple balloons with ‘Love’ emblazoned on them had for me killed the band, I don’t really do gimmicks and that to me was a gimmick, Our Price Girl loved it and actually punched a man on the tube who burst her Love Balloon (it wasn’t me). It shouted ‘Look at us’ when they should have been pleading ‘Listen to us’. Then again, maybe I am just bitter?

This song is taken from ‘Showbiz’ the follow up to Asquarius, which flopped. This was the lead single and to be honest was better than most of the last album. Bit more raw and less polished.

mp3 : Cud – Neurotica

JC adds

S-WC’s tale is a sad reminder again of how things can go wrong so quickly for a young, promising and highly listenable band once they find themselves signed to a major record label.  It always seems to be the case that the label bosses immediately want to shorn  all the things that made such bands so promising and exciting in the first place.  I’m still bitter 30 years later about what happened to Friends Again when Phonorgam got their hands on them….