Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Holy Moly


I've worked out how to upload cassette music to the computer and yes, yes, yes I know loads of you boffins know how to already, but I worked it out myself and I did it like Robinson Crusoe on a zero budget and using only materials I had readily available (a not-quite-busted-as-it-turns-out tape deck, a stereo cable and the free Audacity software - thanks Crash for the prompt) and I'm mighty pleased with myself, so there.

Naturally in the spirit of these things I have chosen to upload first 1) the worst quality home tape recordings I can possibly find (from our old Letrasetted friend above) but also 2) two tracks I've never seen anywhere else but have mentioned here before - PLUS! one mystery record I would dearly like your help in identifying. Mentioning no names, but anyone with a lot of Studio One era rocksteady may prove especially useful re. the latter.

The two groovy tracks are from this lost toasting reggae duo's 20th October 1982 Peel Session...

Laurel And Hardy - 'Toast One Quick' (1982)
Laurel And Hardy - 'Tell Her Sey Me Sorry' (1982)

(and not a lonesome pine in sight).

The mystery track has now been identified (by Simon) and is...

Ray Martell - 'She Caught The Train' (1970)

The race, companeros, is on.

[And yes, I made a cover for this tape by skillfully doctoring a Tears For Fears album ad in Smash Hits. If you look carefully you can see a bit of one for 'Architecture & Morality' showing through from behind].

The 90s CD Singles Rummage # 3 - Sugar

The 4th single from the legendary ex-Husker Du singer/guitarist Bob Mould's 90s outfit, released in early 1993 and as fine a screed of grown up powerpop as you could possibly rip a wishbone for (c).

This is, apparently, the 4 Track Limited Digipak Edition (gasp!) featuring three Radio One session recordings, including a rougher take on the title song and a tune in 'Where Diamonds Are Haloes' written by bassist Dave Barbe which I have always loved in a way and for reasons I cannot quite explain (he can't really sing) . It might be something to do with having seen them do it live at about this time - a memorable highpoint in the most righteously furious but uplifting noisefest by a three-piece I had witnessed since The Jam.

May I suggest you play 'Change Your Mind' at top volume and several times over, screaming 'knickers' to the neighbours, for life is short?

Sugar - 'If I Can't Change Your Mind' (1992)
Sugar - 'The Slim' (Radio One session 24.08.92)
Sugar - 'If I Can't Change Your Mind' (Radio One session 24.08.92)
Sugar - 'Where Diamonds Are Haloes' (Radio One session 24.08.92)

[Do I play it now? The lead track, oh yes. 'The Slim' - er, no.]

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's Never Just You


Unless I am very much mistaken, you will not have a clue who this lot are - and neither did I until about 10:30 last night. And yet I have loved a song of theirs for more than 25 years.

Let me explain.

The song is on this....

...This is a tape I made from a John Peel show in October 1982 when I was 17 years old (do you like my Letrasetting?)
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The song is a gently-bleeping electronica thingy with latin percussive bits and a woman repeating the words 'Achilles is an only child' over and over - a sort of Young Marble Giants goes to Rio via Paris St Germain. It's infuriatingly catchy, works its way into your brain, and for two and a half decades the identity of the artist has eluded me; I cut out Peelie saying who it was (I know, I know, but we did that); I assumed it was called 'Achile' (bad recording); I never succeeded in finding it.

Well, when the tape rose to the top of the pile in my rummage last week I determined to have another go at tracking the song and artist down. This time I Googled 'achilles is an only child song' which against all odds led me to this (thank you Jaime) which wonder upon wonders led me to this, which miracle upon miracles was a still live link. And halle-bloody-lujah, the EP it's from was recently re-released. How fab is all that?

"Oh yeah, Antena yeah, haven't you heard o' them? Way ahead of their time proto-Balearic French indie electronica mate; check out the Joakin remix..."

I'm only telling you because I knew you'd understand.

Antena - 'Achilles' (1982)

[Thank you Jon at Little Hits (now here), the interwebby in general - and dear old Peelie (natch)]

The 90s CD Singles Rummage # 2 - The Charlatans


The Charlatans fourth single, released in February 1991 and a shining example of the 90s indie CD single as old-fashioned 60s-style EP - none of the tracks here had appeared on the previous autumn's Some Friendly album (which I had bought with a limited edition white pvc outer sleeve - oo-er) and none of them were duds.

They were good The Charlatans - they certainly got some surfing in on the swell that first 'baggy' and then Britpop sent onto these shores, but they always seemed slightly apart from the Select Magazine hype; a bit less obvious, a bit more arty/funky, and all the better for that. And they're still around too.

RIP keyboard player Rob Collins, who contributed so much to the band's early sound - killed in a car crash in 1996 aged just 31.

The Charlatans - 'Over Rising' (1991)
The Charlatans - 'Way Up There' (1991)
The Charlatans - 'Happen To Die' (1991)
The Charlatans - 'Opportunity Three' (1991)

[Do I play it now? Occasionally - and it always sounds good]

Saturday, January 26, 2008

And The 90s Revival Continues...


I was biding time in HMV with the girlies this afternoon while Mrs H looked at moisturisers or something in the 'House Of Fraser' next door when this came on. It was a bit of a moment. If they were playing it, they must be promoting a reissue or greatest hits or something but nevermind - it sounded great. A part of me quite misses Intelligent Grunge...

(They didn't have the China Crisis greatest hits I went in for...)

Smashing Pumpkins - 'Today' (1993)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Meanwhile...



'He will blast off tonight' eh love?

Well fine, but just watch where you're waving that lightsaber or you'll have someone's eye out.

Ronco Goes Punk

Well, kind of. I have long enjoyed this very Friday 1980 compilation of punk, post-punk, new wave and chart pop from the legendary label, mostly I think because it brought together a whole bunch of good stuff from the time, and back then not many LPs did. I am certain it was never hip, since 1) by 1980 the cognoscenti had long moved on from this sort of thing 2) there are one or two very strange things on it that don't belong here at all (The Nick Straker Band - 'A Walk In The Park' ??) 3) it's on bloody Ronco for chrissakes!!! I mean, Live At The Roxy '77* it ain't, but nuts to all that, I love it.

Where else until the majors started knocking out all those retro new wave compos in the noughties can you find The Skids 'Circus Games', Magazine's 'Sweetheart Contract', The Members 'Sound Of The Suburbs' and The Sex Pistols 'Pretty Vacant' all in one place? It's got Gary Numan on it doing 'We Are Glass' and some John Foxx too! And isn't the cover hilarious? Yeah, well street there Ronco.

Pah! For a fifteen year old in a sleepy seaside town with a red bulb in his bedroom, it was the bollocks. And in many ways for a 42 year old in a leafy corner of South West London, it still is.

Track I loved most then - Magazine, easily (hadn't heard it before). Track I love most now -Magazine, easily (have heard it a thousand times).

The full track listing here. And for your delectation today...

Magazine - 'Sweetheart Contract' (1980)

Public Image Ltd - 'Public Image' (1978)

XTC - 'Making Plans For Nigel' (1979)

[*actually Live At The Roxy '77 is rubbish].

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The 90s CD Singles Rummage # 1 - Blur

Blur's second single (after the little known 'She's So High') from April 1991 - now worth £25 if you believe this excellent fansite, though personally, as Arthur C. Clarke used to say on Mysterious World, 'I remain sceptical'. Great cover isn't it?

Easy to forget how sniffy the music press were about Blur early on - the view was almost that they were a novelty act, the sound-of-the-moment, not built to last, but this was a big UK chart hit (number 8!) that even a few jaded hacks from the inkies had to admit was quite good.

I saw them that autumn on one of those multi-band NME jamborees and against all expectations they were fast, tight, funny, spunky and punky and thoroughly ripped the place up.

Picking your way through the rather dated 'baggy' arrangements on this now you can hear prototypes of much of what was to come - strong guitar-propelled melodies, the Ray Davies influence on 'Mr Briggs' (and a bit of Syd Barrett on 'Other Way'), the woozy psychedelia of 'Inertia', the mockney pop-thrash of 'I'm All Over'. It all holds up pretty well I think.

Produced by that nice Mr. Stephen Street, who'd done such a splendid job for Mrs Morrissey's boy....

Blur - 'There's No Other Way' (1991)
Blur - 'Inertia' (1991)
Blur - 'Mr.Briggs' (1991)
Blur - 'I'm All Over' (1991)
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[Do I play it now? No, but it was good to dust it off]

Monday, January 21, 2008

Small Bricks


A flat day today - nothing doing and rain in the air finally breaking through at 5pm. Monday into the bargain. Nothing to be done tonight but chop a chilli, some garlic, spring onion, shallots and fresh basil, shove it in the wok, pile in the saffron, fish stock, seafood, rice and cook up that risotto - it always makes me feel better. Accompaniments to this cooking - a glass of London Pride, a bit of Nina, the daughters playing with my 1970s Lego on the floor.

Nina Simone - 'I Loves You Porgy' (1958)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Not Very Punk



So I figured I'd slip this in on a Saturday while no-one's looking.

It's 1982 - but never mind the 3 million unemployed: Shakatak have got Big Hair, a beardy synth bloke and a pianist inventing Jazz Funk Lite.

Is it me or does the woman on the left look a bit like Ruby Wax?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Barking

This lot have come up twice in Comments now, so I have taken it as a Sign. You may consider it your Friday bonus.
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I still want to hear about the albums you bought only on cassette, and how long the pesky things lasted (see Gazza Numoid below). Any thoughts on coloured lightbulbs in teenage bedrooms also welcome. I tried a blue one once - created a rather morgue-like ambiance.
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Bow Wow Wow - 'C30, C60, C90 Go!' (1980)

Praying To The Alien

We were talking in the last post's Comments about The Lost Albums we bought on pre-recorded cassettes; shoddily assembled from pisspoor quality raw materials these never lasted - but sometimes you wanted an album so badly in a place you had no record player or sometimes your smalltown record shop's tape selection was so superior to its LP selection you bought one anyway, and of course later had to face the grim but inevitable consequences (wonky playback, stuttering rewind and 8 metres of untangleable spaghetti in your tape heads).

I bought this album on tape and spent many a late night listening to it in bed with my headphones on and a red lightbulb screwed in my bedsite lamp for that louche after hours ambiance (it's hard to buy red lightbulbs now; in the Seventies I think they used to sell them to go in 'coal effect' electric fires).

I loved it. But the tape died.

I missed the strange, dark, post-apocalyptic Philip K. Dick world carved out in those paranoid android lyrics and grim guitar-spattered synth riffs for a bit. But hey, there was The Big Wheels Of Motown to listen to; I moved on.

But here's the deal. Last year I downloaded the lot again from emusic; and thirty years later it still sounds great.

I know he ripped off Blade Runner and Low-era Bowie/Eno and I know he became a Cessna-flying Dave Lee Travis type country estate owning Tory-voting old bore in later years but seriously, listen to these again loud and thrill to the cold, sneery, on-the-cusp-of-post-punk-and-synthpop edginess that 78/9 era Numan/Army had.

Tubeway Army - 'Machman' (1979)
Tubeway Army - 'It Must Have Been Years' (1979)
Tubeway Army - 'Down In The Park' (1979)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Old Tapes

Aren't old tapes great? I spent a very happy hour or two last night rummaging through boxes of the buggers I'd shoved ages ago in corners of my wardrobe and it's as lovely and addictive a thing to do as flicking through old photographs; lovelier than browsing old vinyl really because tapes are mostly things you made and in my case most of the music on them is stuff I do not otherwise have, lifted 15, 20 or 25 (!) years ago from the kindly-loaned records of friends and girlfriends and public libraries, or off of the radio; or they are my own compilation tapes, or compilation tapes made for me by mates, all quite splendid, aural snapshots of past times.

My proper hi-fi tape deck died in a squall of bad noise a year ago but I pinched the cheap cassette player we bought for the girls to listen to bedtime stories on last night and played away and was a happy, happy soul.

A little frustratingly, but almost by definition, I can't upload the stuff that's on them here (I know it's easy to do with the right kit - I just haven't got the right kit): it's a shame, because I really would like to post some songs from The Bible, The Railway Children, The Mighty Lemon Drops, Pale Saints, Kingmaker, Manchester North Of England, Bob Mould's 'Black Sheets Of Rain' and the toasting duo Laurel & Hardy's 1982 Peel session. Not to mention a couple of gems from Small Welsh Stevie's Bob Dylan bootleg collection which he generously allowed me to copy and which despite the endless record company rummaging through Bob's trash cans (the Zimmerbins?) remain unreleased.

I'd spare you the endless recordings of me 'DJing' on Hospital Radio Nine, I promise.

*sigh* Never mind.

Here's one that leapt gorgeously out at me from a mix tape, that I do have on the computer.

Shop Assistants - 'Safety Net' (1986)
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It's the 90s CD singles rummage next - can I stand the excitement?

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Words Had All Been Spoken

"And, yes, of course it was prejudice that had stopped me from listening to Jackson Browne. He wasn't a punk. He had a funny pudding-bowl haircut that wasn't very rock 'n' roll. He wrote 'Take It Easy', at a time when I didn't want to take it easy. And suddenly, there I was, aged forty-plus, lapping it all up....the best songs are simply beautiful, and beauty is a rare commodity, especially in pop music, so after a while anything that stops you from embracing it comes to seem self-injurious" - Nick Hornby, 31 Songs
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"I've always been a huge Jackson Browne fan; that's just something I can't really shake off" - Bobby Wratten, The Field Mice/Trembling Blue Stars.

From Late For The Sky (1974)

Jackson Browne - 'Late For The Sky'
Jackson Browne - 'The Late Show'

From Jackson Browne (aka Saturate Before Using) (1972)

Jackson Browne - 'From Silver Lake'

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Dear Robin...

...hope you don't mind me writing, it's just - you came up in Comments and...and...I'm still searchin' Robin, I'm still searchin'..."

A Million Miles Away

There was a time of Fridays when we were too old to attend the 2nd and 3rd years' school disco, too young to help run it and too small to successfully sneak into the pub, and this was the time of Fridays when me and my mate Marty went to each others' houses and played records.

We'd listen to music together with an intensity we only ever now listen with alone, lubricated only by the couple of cans of beer our Dads had left us cheerily as they exited with our mothers to do whatever parents did in small provincial towns on Friday nights.

These were the writing-lyrics-out-in-school-jotters and designing-band-logo years, when we looked into songwords for our truths, our manifestos and our epigrams. And if Paul Morley dismissed our heroes for writing 'sixth-form poetry' well that was fine - we'd be in the sixth form next year anyhow.

We dug Tamla Motown, sharp guitars and 'making a stand against the world' (for which read 'not much liking' the world of nice little bungalows, suburban cul-de-sacs, Conservative Clubs and the Daily Mail); a little synthpop was OK too.

A year or two later the pub jukebox would soundtrack our Fridays and the alcohol consumption would rise in pints as we sat in big groups in the lounge bar. Then College would scatter us and it'd never be quite the same again.

But for now there was just the two of us, the Courage Light Ale and the little room at the top of house filling with sound.

The place I love is a million miles away
It’s too far for the eye to see
Still it’s me at least, and you can't come there
No one is allowed at all

The Jam - 'The Place I Love' (1978)

Excuse me, I must now have a little cry.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chained Melodies

I'm sure we're none of us fans of the corporate megastore on principle but I can't help but feel that the management buy out at Virgin has acted as a motivational fillip for the people behind the counters, who seem in some places at least to have been transformed into groovily genuine smiley types, perhaps at the promise of increased bonuses or profit share or maybe just because all the grumpy ones got fired. The young lady who serviced me in Oxford Street last week could not have been more accommodating and my needs, as I'm sure you can imagine, were far from pedestrian.

So hurrah for Snazzi, or whatever they're called. They've given me the thinnest of excuses I need to post these gems at last.

The Buzzcocks - 'Why She's A Girl From The Chainstore' (1980)
The Freshies - 'I'm In Love With A Girl On A Certain Manchester Megastore Check Out Desk' (1980)

Did you ever fall in love with an assistant in a record shop? And was your love requited?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

You Can't Get The Parts

This morning our TV went pfft! in the middle of the always inciteful GMTV news hour and the screen went blank; the little 'start up' light flashed distressedly instead of 'starting up' and a nasty smell like your dodgy Scalextric transformer of old came out the back.

Probably a component worth 75p has fused.

But I know what this means. It means I will go to a TV repair shop, if I can find one, and they will come around and look at it and breath in sharply and ask me how long I've had it and say, well, it'll cost £90 plus VAT for the parts plus the £80 call out charge and then there's the labour and do you know what mate it's probably not worth your while repairing it because next month you'll find something else will blow and let's face it you can get one of them new flatscreen jobs for under £500 in Currys.

*sigh* And my already bloated credit card will be asked to ingest still more debt.

Why does nothing get repaired anymore whilst at the same time we are hectored incessantly by those in power about the need to re-use and recycle and told that our complacent days as a throwaway society must surely end if we care at all about this beautiful planet on which we live?

It'll be me next.

"Thing is love, the brain's started to go and the physical dexterity's not what it was - I could patch him up for you and he might last a bit longer but to be honest you'd be better off with one of them new flatstomached models down at the gym. Shall I see if I can order you one...?"

Delgados - 'Pull The Wires From The Wall' (1998)

Monday, January 07, 2008

On Cold Winter Mornings


I have no specific reason for posting this, perhaps thankfully given its subject matter, but it got played when I was spending my Christmas vouchers in a record shop last week and I was reminded of what a tremendous, tremendous song it is.

Someone out there reading this might not yet have heard it - so it's for you.

Your Monday heartstarter.

-----

It's 1 o'clock on a Friday morning
I'm trying to keep my back from the wall
The prophets and their bombs have had another success
And I'm wondering why we bother at all

And I think of you on cold winter mornings
Darling, they remind me of when we were at school
Nothing really mattered when you called out my name
In fact, nothing really mattered at all

And I think about how long it will take them to blow us away
But I won't get me down,
I'm just thankful to be facing the day
'Cos days don't get you far when you're gone

It's five o clock on a Friday morning
One hundred telephones shake and ring
And one of them's from someone who knew you.......

And I still think of you on cold winter mornings
Darling they'll still remind me of when we were at school
When they could never have persuaded me that lives like yours
Were in the hands of these erroneous fools

And to those of you who moan your lives through one day to the next
Well let them take you next.
Cos you live and be thankful you're here
See it could be you tomorrow or next year.

Guillemots - 'Trains To Brazil' (2006)
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[from this]

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Get The Funk 'n' 201st Post In Here!

Hey! I can't let the post double-century go by without a celebration of your staying power as much as mine. Older readers may remember we once had a regular 'Get The Funk In Here' feature hereabouts of a Friday, and with Saturday arguably an even funkier night of the week I thought I'd dust the old concept down for another spin as a way of thanking you all for the good times we've shared. *weep*.

I was going to do this as a zip but when I tested it, it looked like it'd take about an hour to download, so mindful that you'd probably rather be getting yourself outside of a large glass of Saturday night Chardonnay and unzipping your Significant Other instead of a bunch of mp3 files, I've gone for the usual track by track approach.

The recommended running order is as listed.

Make lurve not war. And play loud.

Curtis Mayfield - 'Back To The World' (1973)
Shuggie Otis - 'Sweet Thang' (1974)
Ramp - 'Daylight' (1977)
Terry Callier - 'What Color Is Love?' (1972)
Curtis Mayfield - 'Can't Say Nothing' (1973)

Peace, out.

Dx

Friday, January 04, 2008

PS: We Are Borg

For reasons best known (and perhaps kept) to themselves, Colin and the lovely people over at Fun & Heartbreak have arksed me to be a part of their Collective, and since all the sci-fi I have ever seen tells me that Resistance Is Futile I have smilingly consented. Heaven knows where it's all heading, to hell in a handcart I shouldn't wonder, but - still - there's already a nice pile of good music building...(and some people have a few things to say...).
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Oh blast! This was my 200th post!! What a waste!!!

Six Satsumas And Some Disco

Did you buy LPs when you were a young teenager? I didn't; they were too expensive and for grown-ups. I bought singles, and sometimes when I couldn't even afford to buy them new, I bought them secondhand - at Ronnie's in Torquay Market, just across from the shoe repair bar and along from the fruit and veg. To this day I associate the indoor market smell of cabbage-leaf rubbish and fresh-produce cardboard boxes with groovy new wave, pop and disco singles; at Ronnie's you even came away with them in brown paper bags, like apples and pears.

This was a Ronnie's purchase (25p I think) and I have always loved it - it's very Friday night to me, conjuring up a glamorous urban landscape of all-night dancing and neon lights reflecting off shiny car roofs. And it's got those electronic percussion things that go 'boo!' on it too (they were all over records by 1982 but not so common in 1978).

I can't for the life of me see why this track's on the first of Sean Rowley's Guilty Pleasures compilations. As I've written here before, I think the guilty pleasure is a dubious concept anyhow, but even if you accept the premise that some records are too 'uncool' to admit liking but addictive anyhow, I hardly think this belongs in the category with 'The Pina Colada Song'. And I bet you didn't know Julian Marshall (keyboards) went on to be in The Flying 'Money (That's What I Want)' Lizards?

Anyway, this song was everywhere in the summer of 1978, a big hit in the UK and US, and perhaps it'll transport you back to those heady days if you play it tonight. Those electro crashes and 'boos!' work beautifully with sound-responsive disco lights, and may I suggest a bit of 'Oliver's Army' to follow, by contrast? 1978-9 was all about contrasts.

Marshall Hain - 'Dancing In The City' (1978)

[According to the interweb, Ronnie's is still going in Torquay market - they sell CDs now, of course]

Thursday, January 03, 2008

For The Time Being


"Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes -
Some have got broken - and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week -
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted - quite unsuccessfully -
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all"

- W.H Auden 'For The Time Being - A Christmas Oratorio' (1944)

[And will there be music again? Tomorrow, for the first Friday in 2008? I should think so...]