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A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (31)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FRIDAY 11 APRIL 2008

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Now look, its my chart and I’ll have obscure 45s in it if I want to.

The Wild Swans were one of the key bands in the Liverpool Scene that also produced Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and Pete Wylie/Wah! As a band, they were in and out of existence from 1980 to 1986, during which time they recorded a number of BBC sessions but released just one single (released in 1982) and no LP. Then, in 1988, they reformed and finally recorded an album which was disowned almost immediately by all concerned and thus received a limited release…

Talk about perverse…..

Somehow a further album was recorded in 1989 (despite the departure of half of the band), but again to little acclaim. The Wild Swans called it a day shortly afterwards and retreated into cult obscurity.

Revolutionary Spirit/God Forbid was the last single to be released on the legendary label Zoo Records which was run by the equally legendary Bill Drummond. As I mentioned above, it came out in 1982. It was produced by the late Pete De Freitas  who also drums on the record.

I remember hearing both sides of the single on Radio 1 – it was most likely on the John Peel show but I can’t be certain – and then trying to track it down in shops in the coming days. It proved an impossible task. One of my mates did however know someone who had a copy (I think it was a cousin in Liverpool) and he sent us up cassettes of the record.

In those days, maybe it was the sheer obscurity of the songs that helped make it all so special but in all truth they both perfectly capture so much of what was great about the sound of new young Liverpool.  It took me until 1990 to finally got a hold of my own copy of the songs thanks to the purchase of a Zoo compilation which brought together every single the label had released between 1978 and 1982.  It was so good to finally get ‘clean’ copies to listen to.

Lead singer Paul Simpson enjoyed more cult success with his next band, Care, alongside Ian Broudie who would then find fame and fortune with The Lightning Seeds. Much of the distinctive sound of The Wild Swans was down to guitarist Jeremy Kelly and he became part of Lotus Eaters who were one-hit wonders with The First Picture Of You in 1983.

As mentioned above, The Wild Swans did reform in 1988 to release a debut album, and while they still had a hardcore following of fans, their time had come and gone. The music they were now making was part of a different era, and certainly to the ears of this listener, was a disappointment, being nowhere near the class of the debut single, nor have the consistency of the releases by Care.  I have however, since re-assessed things somewhat over the past few decades and have a fair bit of time for much of the later material.  But they never quite matched the majesty of the Zoo single.

Oh and despite the wonders of e-bay and my rekindled interest in vinyl, I have still not yet been able to pick up a reasonably-priced vinyl copy of the single, originally released in February 1982**:-

mp3 : The Wild Swans – Revolutionary Spirit
mp3 : The Wid Swans – God Forbid

** that was back in 2008. I now have a copy in the collection, albeit it’s not in all great condition.

PS : If you’re wondering about the photo that now accompanies this post, its of the fantastically entertaining Dirk from Germany who runs a superb blog called Sexy Loser.

By ‘sheer coincidence’, he also posted Revolutionary Spirit on the day of this original posting and and he couldn’t resist showing off that he has long had a mint vinyl copy of the single……

I’m determined to meet the handsome devil in the flesh one day…..

A GRAND TOTAL OF 9 SINGLES….

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This is some of what Bill Drummond wrote in August 1990 when The Zoo – Uncaged 1978-1982 was released finally bringing together all the various singles and most of the b-sides:-

We had one room up some dark, dirty stairs. We paid six pounds a week rent. We had one phone and an answer machine which we played all our cassettes on. We believed albums were the downfall of GREAT POP MUSIC. Although The Beatles were the greatest group ever, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was a disastrous wrong turn that pop music is yet to recover from.

Big In Japan were a group that I and David (Balfe) had been in. It split in August 1978 and we put out the band’s demos as our first release. We were seem to be ripping off other ex-members. From that point in we were deemed unethical, underhand and undeserved of the ‘premier Liverpool independent label’ reputattion that grew around us.

Other than Expelaires, which was the only other Zoo record not to sell, we made the descision to get involved with a group based on their choice of name alone. We had no idea what sort of nusic Echo & The Bunnymen played before we went in to make their first records.

We fought and quarrelled with the bands, memebers got sacked and others brought in. We drove around the country in David’s Dad’s car with boxes of records, sleeving them and selling them. There was no independent distribution network in 1979.

Due to a lack of finances we signed The Bunnymen and The Teardrops to major labels and took on the role of managers, something we had no idea about. Our plans for the future were to build giant pyramids out of ice, travel space and make movies. We believed The Teardrops and The Bunnymen were the new Beatles and Stones – We were wrong, nothing is ever the new anything.

We burnt out.

But the last single on the label was the greatest.

I thought it would be an idea to kick off 2015 with each of the nine singles in turn:-

Cage 001

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mp3 : Big In Japan – Nothing Special
mp3 : Big In Japan – Cindy and The Barbi Dolls
mp3 : Big In Japan – Suicide A Go Go
mp3 : Big In Japan – Taxi

Cage 002

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mp3 : Those Naughty Lumps – Iggy Pop’s Jacket
mp3 : Those Naughty Lumps – Pure and Innocent

Cage 003

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mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Sleeping Gas
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Camera Camera
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Kirkby Workers Dream Fades

Cage 004

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mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – The Pictures On My Wall
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Read It In Books

Cage 005

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mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Bouncing Babies
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – All I Am Is Loving You

Cage 006

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mp3 : Lori & The Chameleons – Touch
mp3 : Lori & The Chameleons – Love On The Ganges

Cage 007

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mp3 : Expelaires – To See You
mp3 : Expelaires – Frequency

Cage 008

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mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Treason (It’s Just A Story)
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Read It In Books

Cage 009

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mp3 : The Wild Swans – Revolutionary Spirit
mp3 : The Wild Swans – God Forbid

The last of these singles was on 12″ vinyl while the rest were all 7″. And Bill D is of course spot-on in his assessment that Cage 009 was the greatest of the lot. (I know my dear friend Dirk from Sexy Loser thinks so…..)

Happy New Year Folks

PETE DE FREITAS : AN APPRECIATION

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I received a really nice e-mail the other day from Scott who asked if it would be possible to re-post something from the old blog.

It was a piece from 14 June 2009 and it’s title can be found in the first line……

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I cannot believe it was all of 20 years ago…..but it is.

14th June 1989 when the life of Peter Louis Vincent de Freitas ended as the result of a motorcycle accident.

He was 27 years of age. And he was the first dead pop star I ever shed a tear for.

Born in 1961 in Trinidad, Pete de Freitas was a bit of a posh boy, educated at a famous Roman Catholic public school near Bath, England, and while he was far from dim, he was never keen on pursing an academic career. So by the age of 19, he was living in London, sharing digs with another lad from his old school, and both of them dreaming of forming a band.

Pete’s flatmate had a big brother who was involved in the music industry, part of an ever-growing new scene on Liverpool. That big brother and his close mate started staying overnight at Pete’s place whenever any of the bands they were involved with played in London. Pete would sometimes go along to the gigs, which is what he did one August night in 1979.

Pete’s flatmate’s brother was David Balfe, and his mate was Bill Drummond. The band they took Pete to see at the YMCA on Tottenham Court Road was Echo & The Bunnymen – a three-piece act backed by a drum machine. The drum machine was in fact ‘Echo’, the humans were ‘The Bunnymen’ – Ian McCulloch (vocals), Les Pattinson (bass) and Will Sargeant (guitar)

The band were getting a lot of attention, but it was widely felt that they would sound a lot better with a real drummer. Within 12 months of seeing them for the first time, Pete had that gig, just in time for the recording of the band’s second single, but their first for a major label.

From 1980 – 1986, Echo & The Bunnymen were one of the most entertaining bands on the entire planet. All four band members contributed to the songwriting, which showed in the magnificently tight unit that was the guitarist, bassist and drummer, while up front they had a hugely charismatic singer who was not slow in offering his opinions on any subject under the sun. They attracted a huge following, many of whom dressed in identical clothes and wore their hair in the same way as their idols. They enjoyed Top 30 success with seven of their singles, but it was their LPs which found them at their best, all four of them going Top 10.

Live, they were truly electrifying, with shows that stretched out for well over two hours featuring not just the hits, but great and unusual versions of album tracks as well as a handful of covers from many of their own influences.

Many people associated with the band, not least their larger than life manager and the frontman had predicted massive things for the 1984 LP Ocean Rain. And while it sold in impressive numbers, it didn’t conquer the world….

The band began to drift apart in some ways. First of all, McCulloch recorded a solo single. The others started producing and appearing on records by other bands. And in 1986, Pete de Freitas left the band.

Along with two members of the Bunnymen road crew, he took himself off to the USA to form The Sex Gods. The idea was to take the money he had made from his time as a Bunnyman, head off to places like New York, New Orleans and Jamaica, filming themselves as they went along living a truly hedonistic life. It was a bender to end all benders.

There were drunken rows, drug busts, near fatal car crashes amidst the chaos. Later on Pete de Freitas would admit he was going insane. He was eventually brought back to the UK by Bill Drummond.

He was temporarily replaced as the drummer, but the rest of the band soon realised how much they needed him, and he was allowed to re-join.

Echo & The Bunnymen released an album in 1987 called The Game – this time with very little hyperbole, and although it went to #4 in the UK charts, critical reaction was lukewarm. This time it was singer Ian McCulloch who decided that enough was enough, and he quit in 1988, intent on the solo career.

The other three decided to keep going, on the basis that having failed to really crack America with Mac at the helm, they could maybe succeed with someone different, unlikely as it might seem. The new recruit was Noel Burke, ex-frontman of St Vitus Dance….and someone who sort of looked and sounded like Mac….

The new line up were in rehearsals in Liverpool in June 1989, and Pete de Freitas was on his way there when he crashed his motorcycle on a back road near Rugely in Staffordshire. As I mentioned earlier, he was just 27 years old.

Years later, Les Pattinson in an interview with a music magazine said that he still thought of Pete every day. At his funeral, the three remaining original Bunnymen cried their eyes out….albeit McCulloch could not bring himself to speak to Pattinson and Sergeant for what he considered a betrayal in replacing him as singer.

I remember reading about Pete’s death in a newspaper the next day. My eyes welled up and my throat tightened. The man who I thought was the coolest man on planet pop was no more.

Quite a few years earlier, not far from my school, I had seen a motorcycle accident when the unfortunate rider was hit by a bus whose driver couldn’t have seen him. It was an incident that I hadn’t thought about much since, but it was the vision that flashed before my eyes as I read the paper, and it was something that gave me some sleepless nights over the next few weeks. Even as I type this, I can see that accident from over 30 years ago….all triggered off by the premature and sad death of a pop star.

You’ll see from the photo above that Pete was a good-looking man. He was someone who just about everyone I ever went out with during my years at University would admit to fancying. When you heard about the way he lived his life, you just wanted to be him.

He was only two years older than me. And while I have had a great and memorable almost 46 years on this planet, there’s still a part of me that wishes that I had lived his life for just one day…as long as that day wasn’t June 14th 1989.

R.I.P. Pete de Freitas. I still think of you every time one of your songs comes on my i-pod….

mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – All My Colours
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Nocturnal Me
mp3 : The Wild Swans – Revolutionary Spirit
mp3 : The Colourfield – Take
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Do It Clean (live – 1983)

Footnote

There were a lot of really nice comments left behind after the piece appeared, many of them thanking me for such a heartfelt tribute.

A few months later I received the most wonderful e-mail from Pete’s daughter. Lucie-Marie de Freitas was a very young girl when her father died, of an age before she could develop any memories of him.

Her e-mail explained that the treasure trove of songs, articles and videos have helped her learn so much about her father and the incredible impact he had in his short time on earth. She thought it was remarkable and moving that so many people still remembered him after all those years and she thanked me for the tribute I had made.

Talk about leaving me speechless.

 

SHARE YOUR FAVOURITE CULT CLASSIC……

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Another start to what might turn into a regular series….but that will depend on you dear readers!

I want to invite contributions on your favourite cult single(s). I’ll leave the definition as wise as possible  but ideally it should be a 45  that was released on an indie-label, from a band or singer who never enjoyed mainstream success and is a piece of music that in a parallel universe would have been a smash hit and made a fortune for the composer and/or performer(s).

All you have to do is put together a few paras and if possible, a link to where I can get a hold of the song to make it available to listen to on T(n)VV just in case it is one that I don’t have in my vinyl/CD collection.  You can put your name to the contribution or you can make it anonymous.  I am hoping this will capture enough of your imaginations to get the ball rolling on a lengthy series of postings that I would aim to feature on Sundays, the one day a week that I currently don’t have any postings.  The e-mail details are on the right hand side of the blog.

I want to get things rolling with a single from 1982.  It came out on the short lived Zoo Records which had been established in Liverpool principally as a vehicle for Bill Drummond to release songs by his band Big In Japan.  Revolutionary Spirit b/w God Forbid was the final 45 released on Zoo and came with the catalogue number Cage 009. It was released on 12″ vinyl only

The Wild Swans were based around the talents of Paul Simpson (vocals) ,  Jeremy Kelly (guitar),  Ged Quinn (keyboards), James Weston (bass) and Justin Stavely (drums).  One of Paul’s mates was  Pete de Freitas of Echo & the Bunnymen who was so taken by the band that he paid for the recording of this single.  He also, under the alias of Louis Vincent (which were his middle names) ended up producing the record and drumming on it after the original drummer left the band (as did the original bass player).

It’s an incredible piece of music, packed with all sorts of sounds and influences that dominated indie music in the early 80s with a production that owes something to the wall of sound associated with Phil Spector.  Despite Zoo Records folding not long after the single was issued (which in all likelihood contributed to the near-impossibility of finding it in any record shop outside of Merseyside), the band were asked to do sessions for different DJs on Radio 1.

Artistic differences soon led to a split – Kelly and Quinn would find a small amount of success with The Lotus Eaters who hit the Top 20 with The First Picture Of You while Simpson would team up with the then relatively unknown Ian Broudie to form Care, a band that released three fantastic but flop singles (all of which are candidates for inclusion in any series on cult singles) before calling it a day.

Kelly, Quinn and Simpson would later reform as a MkII version of The Wild Swans in the second half of the 80s, again to some critical acclaim but little commercial success, although the band members have since said the production was disappointing and more what the record label wanted than they did as musicians.  But then again when you’ve recorded something as majestic and memorable as this, everything else is bound to be a bit of a letdown:-

mp3 : The Wild Swans – Revolutionary Spirit

mp3 : The Wild Swans – God Forbid

So….if any of you want to share your thoughts and memories of a cult single (and no, that doesn’t mean I want a piece on She Sells Sanctuary), then feel free to drop me a line.