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AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #66 : PAUL QUINN

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This is another one of those compilations that, on the face of it, should be easy to pull together. After all, Paul Quinn never achieved anything more than cult status and his career was cruelly cut short by a degenerative illness. But, as is always the case when it involves a real favourite, the very notion of limiting it to ten songs turns into a tortuous exercise.

It was also very tempting to go for things in a chronological order as that would have supported an effort at plotting Paul’s career in some detail, but I just love this man’s voice so much that I stuck to the principle of trying to create the perfect album.

Here’s a link to what was eligible for consideration, compiled with great care by the Proprietor of The Punk Rock Hotel. I decided immediately that unless Paul was on lead or at least co-lead vocal then I wouldn’t look to include it. I’m lucky enough to have just about everything which is on that list, including some of the unreleased material, but some of the quality is a bit on the ropey side and not having the professional tools to clean things up or improve them then these too had to be ruled out. But having said all of that, it would have been difficult in the end for any of the ten songs included today to have been displaced….

Oh and in case anyone is wondering why there’s a slew of records from 84/85 and then nothing till ’92…..the contract which Paul signed in the 80s precluded him being able to appear on any other label for a certain number of years.  Criminal.

SIDE A

1. Will I Ever Be Inside Of You? (album track by Paul Quinn & The Independent Group, 1994)

Even if this had been the only song that the great man had ever been part of then his legendary status would have been sealed.

The opening track of the band’s second and final LP may extend to over nine minutes in length but there isn’t a single second of waste or excess. The Independent Group were ridiculously talented but then again what else would you expect when it was made up of some of the greatest musicians to ever have come out of Scotland at any time in our history, never mind that short period in the aftermath of punk and when a certain type of indie music gained a foothold. Add in lush orchestration and a contribution from one our then leading opera singers and you have a recipe for something unique and unforgettable.

2. Pale Blue Eyes (12” single by Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins, 1984)

Paul and Edwyn were great friends and Alan Horne was determined that somehow he could get them working together. In 1984, Orange Juice had finally imploded and Edwyn was in the throes of establishing himself as a solo artist and Paul had just quit Bourgie Bourgie before the debut album was finished. The conditions for the perfect storm were completed by London Records deciding to give Alan a wad of money to operate a new label which he christened Swamplands. This stunning cover of a Velvet Underground number was the first release on the new label. It’s ridiculous that it failed to garner much radio support and subsequently flopped, especially when you think just how much dross was dominating the charts that year.

3. The Damage Is Done (album track by Paul Quinn & The Independent Group, 1992)

Legend has it that Alan Horne resurrected Postcard in 1992 for the sole reason of putting out records featuring Paul Quinn. It’s certainly the case that The Phantom & The Archetypes was the first release on the label in more than eleven years and the excitement among those of us of a certain age in Glasgow was palpable when news emerged that the band would include James Kirk, Campbell Owens, Bobby Bluebell and Blair Cowan with Edwyn Collins also involved via the production desk. The end result however, turned out to be a lot different from what was imagined as it was not in the least bit indie nor was it any point jangly.

Indeed, a lot of the album sounds on initial listens as if it has been delivered by a Las Vegas lounge band – the sort of music that you hear in the background of a suitably noir or cult crime thriller – not all that attention grabbing except for the velvet-like vocal delivery.  Perhaps the point wasn’t to allow the music to dominate at any point but after repeated listens, things start to dawn and there’s a gradual appreciation of the nuances of the instrumentation, with Cowan’s keyboards in particular proving to be at the heart of the material, albeit beautifully buried deep in a masterful production. This is one of the best examples of what I’m rabbiting on about.

4. Breaking Point (12” single by Bourgie Bourgie, 1984)

The opening burst of cello will grab you and look to get you hooked immediately. If that doesn’t work, then surely you won’t be able to resist the voice.

This was my personal introduction to Paul Quinn as a lead vocalist in his own right (I’d first heard him on Barbecue which was a b-side to the 12” of I Can’t Help Myself by Orange Juice). In all truth I was as excited by the fact that Bourgie Bourgie was going to have a number of ex-Jazzateers in its line-up as I felt they were one the great ‘lost’ Scottish bands of the era. (If you don’t have a copy of their 1983 self-titled debut album on Rough Trade then I can only recommend you track down a copy – there’s a few out there at not too stupid a price.) But once I heard that voice I was smitten.

Worth also noting the classy and crisp production courtesy of the then little known Kingbird, aka Ian Broudie, whose work with so many bands in Liverpool and then later in his guise as Lightning Seeds has lit up many an indie disco over the past 30 plus years

5. Change Of Attitude (12” b-side by Bourgie Bourgie, 1984)

The follow-up single was Careless which is a decent enough stab at making a lush pop single in a style that was all the rage for a short while in the 80s – again it enjoyed a fine production courtesy of Mike Hedges who was usually found working alongside the Banshees, Cure or Associates for the most part. But to my ears, it’s the eight minutes plus on the b-side of the 12” which gives an indication of just how different and influential a band Bourgie Bourgie could have been if they hadn’t messily imploded after just two singles.  Having said that, I’ve no doubt MCA Records would have baulked if the rest of their output turned out this way. Production duties courtesy of Stephen Lironi who had done so much to shift the sound of latter day Altered Images.

SIDE B

1. Stupid Thing (single by Paul Quinn & The Independent Group, 1993)

Even if this had been the only song that the great man had ever been part of then his legendary status would have been sealed.

The lead track on the single that came between the two albums.

I’d even make a case that it is the greatest ever single in the history of Postcard Records (but I’d likely withdraw it when provided with the counter argument of Blueboy….but it’s a close run thing).

I’d even make the case that the two other tracks on the single – Passing Thought and a cover of Superstar – make this the greatest 3-track single in all of history (and then immediately withdraw it when provided with the counter argument of William/How Soon Is Now/Please Please Please….not quite such a close run thing).

I can’t think of anything else to add. It’s an impossible task with mere words to do this song justice.

2. Punk Rock Hotel (album track by Paul Quinn & The Independent Group, 1992)

The strength of this ICA is the voice, but here’s a track in which the other members of the Independent Group are allowed to shine and there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had from the guitar solo which comes courtesy of James Kirk. Or it might well be the work of Robert Hodgens. I can’t say for sure as the sleeve notes have the two of them down as guitarists but don’t indicate who played what part on each track.

Punk Rock Hotel is of course the name taken for the tremendous fan site dedicated to Paul Quinn. It’s inclusion here on the ICA is as much of a tip of the hat to the Proprietor as anything else. But it does fit in well at this juncture.

3. Passing Thought (album track by Paul Quinn & The Independent Group, 1994)

Each of Stupid Thing and Passing Thought were re-recorded for inclusion on the subsequent album a year later. It was a worthwhile exercise as some of the band personnel had changed and in particular the addition of the very talented Mick Slaven added a new dimension, certainly on the very few occasions that they were ever able to play live. This newer version is lusher and at times more menacing sounding than the original and demonstrates that there was lot more to Blair Cowan’s keyboard skills than he’s generally been given credit for going back to his time as a Commotion.

4. Louise Louise (radio session, 1984)

As mentioned earlier, Paul worked with Orange Juice providing a lead vocal on a b-side and backing vocal on other tracks such as Mud In Your Eye and Rip It Up (it’s his very distinctive wail that you hear as the hit single goes into its outro phase). It was no real surprise during the time that he and Edwyn worked as a duo that their material would include OJ songs but the only recording that has survived in any decent shape or form is from a session recorded for BBC Radio 1 back in 1984 and broadcast by Richard Skinner.

Louise Louise is one of the oldest OJ songs, dating back to the Postcard era but not given an official release until the second Polydor LP. It features some fantastic guitar work but suffers a bit from a rather fragile almost twee vocal partly as it was on the edge of Edwyn’s vocal range. No such issues with Paul who somehow pulls off the trick of maintaining the beautiful sentiments of the song despite a delivery that is the polar opposite of Edwyn’s.

Obscure fact – guitar on this track is played by Craig Gannon, ex-Aztec Camera and ex-Smith.

5. Tiger Tiger (single by Paul Quinn & the Nectarine No.9, 1995)

Following Fire Engines and Win, 90s Postcard signing Nectarine No.9 became the third of the great groups to be fronted by Davey Henderson.

I’m guessing it would have been Alan Horne’s idea to have Paul Quinn link up with them. The first result of the fruits of their collective labours was Tiger Tiger, a cover of a song by Head, a band who had briefly shone in the 80s without ever getting beyond cult status.

Worth noting that one of the members of Head was Garth Sager who had first come to notice with post-punk outfit The Pop Group in the late 70s; by 1995, Sager was a member of……The Nectarine No.9!!!

It was the lead track on a 4-song CD entitled Pregnant With Possibilities Vol.1 which was really a Postcard sampler. Whether it was always going to be a one-off collaboration or there were further irons in the fire, nobody other than Paul and Alan can truly say as this turned out to be the last time the great man performed a lead vocal of any sort as the sad news came not long after that he had been struck down by a debilitating illness that would subsequently be revealed as MS.

It’s a song that has always filled me with sadness. I don’t think anyone realised that it would be Paul’s final release and even when word came out that he was ill there was always hope that somehow he’d be well enough to sing again. No such luck.

Still, we’ll always have these and the others that didn’t make the cut….

mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Will I Ever Be Inside Of You?
mp3 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins – Pale Blue Eyes (12″)
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – The Damage Is Done
mp3 : Bourgie Bourgie – Breaking Point (12″)
mp3 : Bourgie Bourgie – Change Of Attitude (12″)

mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Stupid Thing (single version)
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Punk Rock Hotel
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Passing Thought (album version)
mp3 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins – Louise Louise
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Nectarine No.9 – Tiger Tiger

Sigh.

A BRAND NEW PAUL QUINN AND EDWYN COLLINS SONG!!

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It was almost 30 years ago that BBC Radio 1 recorded and then broadcast a session from Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins on the Richard Skinner Show. The session was recorded on 5th August 1984 and broadcast on 20th August 1984.

Up until the other day, the only copies of the session kicking around were descended from homemade cassettes where those smart enough had listened with their fingers poised over the pause button. As you can imagine the quality of the recordings weren’t great not helped by the deterioration of the actual tape over the years.

As I said….up until the other day…..for hasn’t the wonderful and amazing and worth every penny of the license fee BBC not just gone and re-broadcast the session in magical digital quality on 6 Music.

Not only that, but the search of the archives and tapes uncovered a song that hadn’t gone out as part of the 20th August broadcast. Talk about finding lost treasure……….

I’ve learned all this thanks to an e-mail from the Proprietor of The Punk Rock Hotel, a man who more than any keeps the flame burning on behalf of who I consider to be the greatest Scottish vocal talent of my generation.

The musicians involved in the session were:-

Paul Quinn – vocals/keyboards
Edwyn Collins – guitar/backing vocals
Chris Bell – drums
Craig Gannon – guitar
Paul Heard – bass

The four songs that were originally broadcast consisted of two Quinn/Collins compositions (including a song that was subsequently released under Paul’s name only as Edwyn had contractual issues preventing him being formally recognised) and two cover versions (one of this Mike Nesmith song while the other had previously been recorded by Orange Juice).

The fifth and previously never heard song was another cover – of this Bee Gees song dating back to 1968.

So without any further delay:-

mp3 : Paul Quinn/Edwyn Collins – Different Drum
mp3 : Paul Quinn/Edwyn Collins – Ain’t That Always The Way
mp3 : Paul Quinn/Edwyn Collins – It Had To Happen
mp3 : Paul Quinn/Edwyn Collins – Louise, Louise
mp3 : Paul Quinn/Edwyn Collins – I Started A Joke

Ah…….but here’s a really peculiar and mysterious thing that is bemusing both myself and The Proprietor……

The versions of Different Drum and Ain’t That Always The Way that went out on 6 Music the other night do not appear to be those originally broadcast back in 1984.

The cassette copy from back in the day quite clearly has someone playing harmonica on these two tracks and this is an instrument absent from the cleaned up and digitized versions.  It is also worth noting that on the hissy cassette version of Different Drum you hear Richard Skinner introducing the song and the band….so that was clearly the version broadcast in 1984….and as I say it is completely different from that broadcast in 2015.  Have a listen to realise I’m not just gibbering:-

mp3 : Paul Quinn/Edwyn Collins – Different Drum (cassette recording)
mp3 : Paul Quinn/Edwyn Collins – Ain’t That Always The Way (cassette recording)

Peculiar??? Most certainly……………

But notwithstanding this mystery, what an absolute pleasure it is to hear the clarity of these updated recordings and of course the fact that 31 years on, there is a new Paul Quinn/Edwyn Collins song to enjoy.

I’m not sure if anything else released in the rest of 2015 will excite me this much.

THE MAGIC OF MUSIC

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I’m sure most of you will be familiar with the memorable and imaginative video where Christopher Walken is sitting slumped and tired in a chair in the foyer of a hotel only to be shaken from his slumbers by the music that is Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim.  Next thing you know he is tap-dancing and flying his way through the hotel with the biggest grin on his face….and then as the song ends he finds himself sitting back in his chair with the same tired look on his face as a few minutes earlier.

The tap-dancing and aerial acrobatics were of course all in his mind – it was his imagination running away as the magic of music took his mind off whatever had been troubling or tiring him and made him ecstatically happy for a few short minutes. If it wasn’t for my self-imposed policy of not posting anything from youtube I’d have it embedded at this juncture of this post.

The point is….I had my own Christopher Walken moment on the way to work yesterday.

I was sitting on the train yesterday morning, tired and worried a bit about how much I have on my plate just now and also still trying to think what to do next with the blog feeling grateful that S-WC had come up with the goods.  I’ve the music on shuffle hoping that I might get inspired but all the songs seem to be stuff I’ve written about before or else aren’t all that worthy of spending time writing about.

Then….there’s a little bit of flamenco guitar that I know lasts precisely 56 seconds for it is the intro to a song which is one of my favourites from one of my favourite bands.

I smile.

And just like Christopher Walken, I am shaken from my slumbers.  The next two and half minutes of music have me imagining that I am running up and down the crowded carriage grabbing  fellow passengers and getting them to dance with me; that I am singing the lyrics at the top of my voice and that when the trumpet solo comes I should be blasting it out as the train staff put down their ticket checking machines and join in on percussion. Such is the power of this:-

mp3 : Tindersticks – Her

It’s from the band’s debut release – a double album – back in 1993.  It’s just one of a number of stunning bits of music that Tindersticks recorded with their first six albums after which the band broke-up.  The reformed line-up a few years later saw only around half of the members get together and while it’s been decent enough in places, the music since has seemed less special.

As Her bounced around my head I knew I had a blog piece ready to go with the Christopher Walken comparison. But one thing that was different is that as my happy song came to an end, the next track on random play began.  The smile didn’t leave my face as it revealed itself as one of the greatest cover versions of all time and a track which was part of the  recent Saturday singles series.

mp3 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins – Pale Blue Eyes

I came to work feeling a lot better, switched on the PC and typed all the words you’ve just read.

Enjoy

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 88)

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Pale Blue Eyes was released back in 1969 by The Velvet Underground. It very quickly became a favourite of buskers and would-be-rock-stars the world over and has since been given the cover treatment by countless bands and artists. If you don’t believe me, google in the words ‘Pale Blue Eyes – cover versions’ and see the results for yourself.

Just about all of the versions I’ve ever heard more or less stick faithfully to the tone and delivery of that of the original – but no doubt there is a drum’n’bass or house style out there somewhere just to prove me wrong.

In August 1984 Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins released their version as the first release on a label called Swamplands, the boss of which was none other than Alan Horne, the genius behind Postcard Records. The label was funded entirely as a subsidiary of London Records which itself was part of the multi-national Decca Records.

Here’s the 7″ and 12″ versions as well as the b-sides:-

mp3 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins – Pale Blue Eyes (7″)
mp3 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins – Pale Blue Eyes (12″)
mp3 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins – Burro
mp3 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins – Pale Blue Eyes (Western Version)

Alan Horne had huge hopes for this record, believing it would catapult Swamplands and ll its acts to fame and fortune. It got no higher than #72 in the UK charts.

In the end, just six singles were released on the label, none of which sold well, before London pulled the plug on the venture.

SWP1 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins – Pale Blue Eyes
SWP3 : James King & The Lonewolves – The Angels Know
SWP4 : Memphis – You Supply The Roses
SWP5 : Win – Unamerican Broadcasting
SWP6 : Paul Quinn – Ain’t That Always The Way
SWP8 : Win – You’ve Got The Power

Only Win would remain on the parent label….but that’s a story for another day.

COWBOY MOUTHS

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If you thought that the best cowboy/country and western songs date back to the golden era of Johnny Cash or the chart blazing hits of the likes of Glen Campbell or Kenny Rogers, then I provide the following as evidence that 1985 had a wonderful example:-

mp3 : Paul Quinn – Ain’t That Always The Way

The follow-up single to Paul and Edwyn’s majestic cover of Pale Blue Eyes, this single on Swamplands Records ended up being credited as a solo recording due to contractual issues Edwyn had at the time.  Despite the single receiving positive reviews in a number of the weekly papers, as well as the teen-orientated mag Smash Hits, it sold poorly and got nowhere near the charts.

Four years later, the song’s composer provided his own take on it, although by making it a b-side on a 12″ single which sold even fewer copies than the Swamplands effort, it too is not the easiest to track down:-

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Ain’t That Always The Way

My previous musings on this song over at the old place led to a reader sending me an e-mail with an attachment that contained something quite special.  The audio quality is far from perfect but I’m very proud to have a copy of a version recorded for an early evening show on Radio 1. Worth noting the added harmonica which makes the song sound like a close cousin of What Presence?! and the fact that this recording pre-dates, by quite some months, the release of the song as a 45:-

mp3 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins – Ain’t That Always The Way (Richard Skinner Session)

I’ve also since got my hands on the demo version of the song which was made available on an NME compilation cassette:-

mp3 : Paul Quinn – Ain’t That Always The Way (demo)

Finally.  Another wonderful reader once sent me a bundle of home made compilation CDs to listen to and enjoy.  Basing his selections on the sort of material I was going on about on the blog, one of the many excellent songs was this very lovely cover:-

mp3 : Secret Goldfish – Ain’t That Always The Way

There’s more postings about Secret Goldfish coming your way soon.

Enjoy