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A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (11)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FRIDAY 9 MAY 2008

(and featured again in this form on 4 March 2015)

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Is this the song in my self-indulgent rundown that stands out like a sore-thumb?

In terms of a world-wide audience, it’s probably the best-known of all of the 45s (so far). It’s certainly got the most identifiable opening notes (that is unless you get confused with Call It What You Want by Credit To The Nation which sampled the intro).

First time I heard this was as the opening song on a cassette made up by Jacques the Kipper. It was a time when every six weeks or so, we would thrust a tape into each others hands along with set of cryptic clues for each song, and challenge the other, not just to identify the track, but also offer a few observations.

His clue for the opening song was ‘Vodka’. Sheer genius if you ask me…..the boy should have become a copywriter with an advertising agency.

But back to the song…

It’s about as far removed as you could ever imagine from the twee stuff that I listened to so much over the previous decade, and it could almost be classified as the dreaded stadium rock. And yet…

There’s just something very special and outstanding about Smells Like Teen Spirit that is difficult to pinpoint. I can’t argue that it’s anything unlike you’d ever heard before, given that it has a riff that is very similar (some say identical) to More Than A Feeling by 70s soft-rockers Boston. Nor is there a case to be made that the vocals are completely different from other folk given that Kurt Cobain’s style of quiet/shout/quiet/shout was something you heard from Black Francis on many Pixies songs. And yet…

The song did seem to arrive like a bolt out of the blue. Yes, there had been some coverage in the UK music papers about some sort of scene based around the city of Seattle, but how many times before had we read about a scene in Chicago, New York, LA, San Francisco or any other American city that had petered out before it crossed the Atlantic. But then Nirvana came across to the UK to promote Nevermind. There was a live appearance on an early evening chat-show on Channel 4 hosted by Jonathan Ross. He introduced the band who went straight into a heavy-metal riff, and then Kurt took over on a completely indecipherable lyric that was a low-moan or a scream…

In the middle of the tune, he sang the words,Just Because You’re Paranoid Don’t Mean That They’re After You’. Then he started screaming again. The song finished in a flurry of feedback not seen in any TV studio since the heyday of Jesus And Mary Chain, before the drums were kicked over and the band stormed off to muted applause and a bemused chat show host who had his finger in his ear. Jonathan Ross than, in a brilliant piece of improvisation said ‘That was Nirvana – doing a song that none of us were expecting. They’ve asked me to mention that they are available for children’s parties and bar mitzvahs…’

It was a truly astonishing piece of TV, and the most ‘punk’ thing I had seen in years, and I knew right then that Nirvana were the genuine article. (The song they played was Territorial Pissings). It was the sort of thing that won’t happen nowadays as prime-time TV live shows are no longer really live and bands won’t behave in that way for fear of upsetting the label bosses.

Of course it all went badly wrong almost immediately, and the band nowadays seem to be loved and admired more for the dead rock star syndrome rather than anything else. The fact that it all ended before there could be any critical backlash or before they fell out of fashion, means that there are very few reasons why music historians and commentators can ever make critical comments about Nirvana, other than be horrified at some of the copy-cat acts that came in their wake. But that’s just nonsensical – you never read anyone blaming The Beatles for every single four-piece band that’s walked the planet since 1963 do you?

mp3 : Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
mp3 : Nirvana – Drain You
mp3 : Nirvana – Even In His Youth
mp3 : Nirvana – Aneurysm

I never did get to see the band live on stage. Mrs Villain and myself had tickets for a Glasgow gig that never happened as Kurt Cobain committed suicide shortly beforehand. I immediately went back in for my refund, but Mrs V kept her ticket as a memento. Seems she was the clever one as she could probably get far more than its face value if she was to put it on e-bay…

Oh I’ve  tracked down the Jonathan Ross clip as well. Even if you’re no fan of the band, it’s worth having a look just to see how fresh-faced he was back in 1991. And check out his hair, as well as the ad-libbing (turns out I didn’t repeat it 100% word-for-word, but I wasn’t far off).

Enjoy

SOME SONGS JUST NEVER DATE

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The opening few notes of this must be among the most recognisable of all time:-

mp3 : Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

I can still recall the very first time I ever heard this.  It was the opening song on a cassette made up by Jacques the Kipper. It was a time when every six weeks or so, we would thrust a tape into each others hands along with set of cryptic clues for each song, and challenge the other, not just to identify the track, but also offer a few observations.

His clue for the opening song was ‘Vodka’. Sheer genius if you ask me…..the boy should have become a copywriter with an advertising agency.

I loved the song then and I love it still.  I put it at #11 in my all time 45s rundown back in 2008 and it would still feature just as highly if I was to re-run that exercise today. ( much of the rest of this posting is adapted from that particular piece over at the old blog with a few additions)

This song is  about as far removed as you could ever imagine from the jingly-jangly stuff that I listened to so much over the previous decade, and it could almost be classified as the dreaded stadium rock. And yet….

There’s just something very special and outstanding about Smells Like Teen Spirit that is difficult to pinpoint. I can’t argue that it’s anything unlike you’d ever heard before, given that it has a riff that is very similar (some say identical) to More Than A Feeling by 70s soft-rockers Boston. Nor is there a case to be made that the vocals are completely different from other folk given that Kurt Cobain’s style of quiet/shout/quiet/shout was something you heard from Black Francis on many Pixies songs. And yet…

The song did seem to arrive like a bolt out of the blue. Yes, there had been some coverage in the UK music papers about some sort of scene based around the city of Seattle, but how many times before had we read about a scene in Chicago, New York, LA, San Francisco or any other American city that had petered out before it crossed the Atlantic. But then Nirvana came across to the UK to promote Nevermind. There was a live appearance on an early evening chat-show on Channel 4 hosted by Jonathan Ross. He introduced the band who went straight into a heavy-metal riff, and then Kurt took over on a completely indecipherable lyric that was a low-moan or a scream…

In the middle of the tune, he sang the words, ‘Just Because You’re Paranoid Don’t Mean That They’re After You’. Then he started screaming again. The song finished in a flurry of feedback not seen in any TV studio since the heyday of Jesus And Mary Chain, before the drums were kicked over and the band stormed off to muted applause and a bemused chat show host who had his finger in his ear. Jonathan Ross than, in a brilliant piece of improvisation said ‘That was Nirvana – doing a song that none of us were expecting. They’ve asked me to mention that they are available for children’s parties and bar mitzvahs…’

It was a truly astonishing piece of TV, and the most ‘punk’ thing I had seen in years, and I knew right then that Nirvana were the genuine article. (The song they played was Territorial Pissings). It was the sort of thing that won’t happen nowadays as prime-time TV live shows are no longer really live and bands won’t behave in that way for fear of upsetting the label bosses.

Of course it all went badly wrong almost immediately, and the band nowadays seem to be loved and admired more for the dead rock star syndrome rather than anything else. The fact that it all ended before there could be any critical backlash or before they fell out of fashion, means that there are very few reasons why music historians and commentators can ever make critical comments about Nirvana, other than be horrified at some of the copy-cat acts that came in their wake. But that’s just nonsensical – you never read anyone blaming The Beatles for every single four-piece band that’s walked the planet since 1963 do you?

Here’s the other tracks on the CD single:-

mp3 : Nirvana – Drain You
mp3 : Nirvana – Even In His Youth
mp3 : Nirvana – Aneurysm

The back of the single provides details of a promotional tour in 1991:-

November 26 : Bradford University
November 27 : Birmingham Hummingbird
November 28 : Sheffield University
November 29 : Edinburgh Calton Studios
November 30 : Glasgow QMU
December 2 : Newcastle Mayfair
December 3 : Nottingham Rock City
December 4 : Manchester Academy
December 5 : London Kilburn National Ballroom
December 9 : Belfast Conor Hall
December 10 : Dublin McGonagle’s

A few thousand people struck gold with tickets on that tour.

I never did get to see the band live on stage. Mrs Villain and myself had tickets for a Glasgow gig that never happened.1_9dd166a5f6b0d3ce81e3ebee11e5c6f8

It was initially cancelled as Kurt Cobain had been unwell and was re-scheduled for later in the year but as we all know, the singer committed suicide on 6 April 1994.  The £12 was obviously needed for something else as I  immediately went back in for my refund, but Mrs V kept her ticket as a memento. Seems she was the clever one as she would get far more than its face value if she was to put it on e-bay.

(Incidentally, that’s not an image of Mrs V’s ticket…just one I lifted from the internet)

 

YET ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : RADIO FRIENDLY UNIT (NON) SHIFTER

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Goodbye-Mr-Mackenzie-The-Rattler---1st-109258

(Originally posted on the old blog on 11 April 2009)

All that talk the other day of Paul Haig got me thinking of other great songs to come out of Edinburgh. And right away, this piece of magic from 1986 sprung to mind:-

mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – The Rattler

Goodbye Mr Mackenzie actually formed in Bathgate, which is a small town some 15 miles or so west of the capital, and their first single in 1984 was recorded (as The Mackenzies) on the record label of a local further education college.

This follow-up single was put out on the Glasgow-based Precious Organisation, which was the home to the soon chart-conquering Wet Wet Wet, but despite a lot of support from local radio stations across central Scotland (with one of the lines changed to avoid references to eating beavers), it flopped. There continued to be a real buzz about Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – this was a time when Scottish acts like Deacon Blue, Hue & Cry and the afore mentioned Wets were hugely popular and GMM were lumped in with all of them – so it was hardly a surprise that they ended up signing to a major label, in this case Capitol Records, in early 1988.

The first couple of singles flopped, and so band and label decided to release a re-recorded version of The Rattler which hit #37 in the UK charts in 1989.  Debut LP, Good Deeds And Dirty Rags, did make the Top 30 a few months later, but a fourth single from the album sold poorly.

While some of the songs were as radio-friendly and catchy as many of their Scottish contemporaries, GMM never quite took off as expected – this was probably down to the fact that live they were quite a different proposition.

For instance, the lead guitarist was a huge bear of a man who was once part of a local punk outfit (and still looked as if that’s where he’d rather be) and there was a strange gothic-looking girl on keyboards and backing vocals, and you could never accuse them of being cuddly and photogenic…

With no real sustainable success, the record label lost interest, and while the band soldiered on for a few more years, they ended up as a mere footnote, albeit one that left us four LPs, about a dozen 45s/EPs and a couple of live recordings.

After they broke up, the gothic backing singer went onto find real fame and fortune :-

mp3 : Garbage – Queer

Yup, it was Shirley Manson who used to stand at the back of the stage with GMM, and before long she was a huge star the world over as lead singer in the band put together by Butch Vig, previously best-known as producer of Nevermind, the breakthrough album by Nirvana…..with whom Big John Duncan, the guitarist with GMM, occasionally played live.

It’s a small world y’know….

mp3 : Nirvana – Radio Friendly Unit Shifter

My copy of the 1986 single is well worn out, and the mp3 of The Rattler is taken from a CD compilation that gathers up all sorts of indie songs from that year, but I have managed to salvage one of the b-sides:-

mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – Candlestick Park

Enjoy