Peterborough, So Much to Answer For

One of my oldest (by which I mean long-serving) and bestest most lovely friends, whose influence on my musical tastes will be documented here soon enough (maybe even in 2016!), has managed to gazump me by sending me both Christmas and New Year best wishes before I sent them to him. Which, frankly, just makes me look slack.

What’s a guy to do? Dedicate a post to him, here that’s what.

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The Long Blondes – Peterborough

Oh go on then, seeing as it’s you:

Oh, and this:

Love ya, Blanty. I can never thank you enough.

More soon.

 

Late Night Stargazing

Another resurrected thread.

From their much maligned “Up” album, which many say marks the start of R.E.M.’s downward trajectory. Sure, their high points were behind them by now, but we can only say that with the benefit of hindsight. For on this album, and all of the subsequent ones, bad though the albums may be (by which I mean, not as good as those they released at their absolute peak), there’s always at least one song, often more, which gleams through the silt, showing what they were still capable of.

In football terms, “Up” would be described as a “transitional period”, since it was the first release after founder member Bill Berry quit. That’s what happens when you collapse on stage from a ruptured brain aneurysm:  you suddenly become less keen on playing live.

What the remaining members seemed to do next was to turn to new technologies to try and cover up for his absence, and on the whole this tactic doesn’t really work.

But that’s not really all that obvious on today’s choice, the utterly gorgeous:

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R.E.M. – Suspicion

They knew what they were doing when they shot the video, though. Simple, stripped back, beautiful.

More soon.

 

 

 

How Not To Do a Cover Version

Just for shits and giggles, a new (very) occasional thread allowing you to listen to a few covers which fall squarely into the “Fine as a sound check, but why would you do this, and then release it to the general public?” category.

No further explanation is needed.

Here’s the ground-breaking hip-hop original:

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De La Soul – The Magic Number

And here’s…..Embrace’s version (yes THAT Embrace):

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Embrace – 3 is a Magic Number

I’m cringing behind a cushion. Is it safe to come out yet?

They actually do the three times table in that, don’t they? Jesus fuck that’s awful. Were they pitching to get on Sesame Street, do you reckon?

Let me just make it clear: this was voluntarily released on their Greatest Hits album. That’s how good their actual hits were.

Coldplay have a lot to answer for.

No promises, but hopefully something less ball-squeezingly awful next time.

Reassuring catch-phrase time: More soon.

 

 

How To Do a Cover Version

See? Already I am keeping to my New Year’s Resolution to revive and reinvigorate some old threads which I previously dropped.

So, here we go – a cover version which is better than the original.

There’s a lot to love about Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series, apart from the fact he was dying as he recorded them. (By which I don’t mean I love the fact he was dying, I mean the fact that he managed to record all of them despite his ill-health).

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this you’re probably not an idiot who needs to have the American Recordings series explained to you. And if you do, then go Google it.

My father is a massive Johnny Cash fan, and one of the oh-so-many things I love about the American Recordings series is that I can suggest to him with a straight face that he listens to more records by Beck, Nick Lowe, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and Nick Cave, to name but a few of the artistes Johnny covered in this final flourish. Not that he ever would, mind. And so, to save him the effort, some of the covers Johnny did, and the originals, will feature here at some point.

So here’s the first. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ The Mercy Seat finds us in typical gloomy Cave territory, telling the story of a convicted killer stepping into the chair and his thought process as he does so, his stubborn resistance and defiance, and his ultimate crumbling admission. Cheerful it is not. Visceral and harrowing it definitely is:

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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Mercy Seat

Now, Nick Cave is clearly one bad-assed mofo, but put next to Cash’s version, with his history of playing gigs in Folsom and San Quentin prisons and the rapturous applause his anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian odes received then, well…can you imagine the thunderous applause his take on this would have received, had he been able to play it to those inmates?

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Johnny Cash – The Mercy Seat

No idea what I’m talking about re: Folsom Prison? Get your laughing gear round this:

Anyway, for my money, Cash’s version triumphs, as do so many of his takes in the American Recordings sessions.

No contest. 1-0 to the Cash.

More soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Apropos of Nothing

Well, not quite of nothing.

As I walked into work on New Year’s Eve (yes, some of us had to work in that bit in the middle), my ipod decided to give me the following almost six-minutes of perfection:

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New Order – True Faith

And here’s the video:

When this came out, dunderhead that I am, I never noticed that all the slapping of faces is perfectly in time with the rhythm of the record.

Videos where the visuals are synced to the music, but otherwise seem to bear no relation to it, reminds me of one of the greatest videos ever made, directed by Michel Gondry, he of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” fame.

A few years ago I was unemployed and living in Cheltenham. My brother, God love him, rang me at some unseemly hour for a chat and to try and bolster my battered spirits. But I was distracted, watching a countdown on TV of the greatest music videos ever (! probably) and this came on. As he’d never had the pleasure of seeing it, I tried, unsuccessfully I think, to describe it to him.

Well, here you go bruv, consider that rectified.

There isn’t a train journey that I’ve been on since I first saw this that I haven’t put my earphones in, pressed play, and gazed out of the window, willing the world to fall into time with whatever I’m listening to. It never happens. Which just makes this even more magnificent.

A simple idea, perfectly executed.

 

Enjoy:

More soon.

 

 

 

1985 and all that – another Interlude

Hello. So, I took a few days off. Frankly I was all shagged out from posting every day over Christmas and needed to recover. I have no idea how the more successful, popular bloggers manage it, but there you go.

Anyway, I made a New Year’s Resolution. Actually, I made several, most of which relate to me losing weight in an effort to be less repulsive to members of the opposite sex, but some of which relate to this place.

I’m really quite proud of what I’ve written here in my first full year of blogging, and so I’ve decided to up the ante a bit. Old strands will be resurrected, I have a few new ideas for posts, and an overall idea of what I want this blog to be. But all in good time.

The other thing I have resolved to do is to try a bit harder with the main theme of this blog, that is, for those who haven’t read my mission statement, to discuss every record I ever bought in chronological order, a la “High Fidelity”.

I left you in the middle of 1985, and that’s where we are now.

By the mid-80s, I have developed a love of visiting The Cresset in Peterborough. This is basically a large village hall masquerading as a venue, but which every first Saturday of the month held a record fair, 50p entry.

The first time I went, I just found myself wandering round not really knowing where to start. There was so much stuff! Mostly a lot of piss-poor quality bootleg cassettes of gigs, which much as they may have boasted about being of “soundboard quality” I was never taken in by.

No, I was more interested in unearthing a gem, a lost b-side that the vendor had no idea of the value of. Unfortunately, Record Fairs are not like your average car boot sale or flea market as featured on “Flog It! or “Bargain Hunt”. These stalls are presided over by predominantly middle-aged men who know exactly how much everything the purvey is worth.

The first time I went, I came away empty-handed. But the second time, having changed my philosophy to “buy anything you like that you don’t already own, or anything you like in a different format to what you already have”. I picked up a couple of corkers.

First up, a 7″ which for my money has the best sax solo since Baker Street and makes Steve Norman out of Spandau Ballet sound like a high street busker:

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Hazel O’Connor – Will You?

This a song which always reminds me of Top of The Pops, at a time where they must have made some upper management decision to make the performances more theatrical. With “Will You?” I have a distinct memory of Hazel performing this on a stage made up to look like a café, with just her on stage, sitting on a chair, next to a table with two cups on it, as per the song.

Of course, I’ve not been able to find this, but here’s a clip of one of her Top of the Pops performances of the song, not quite as theatrical, but the green shoots are there (beware: this clip contains an introduction by Simon Bates):

What I’m getting at is that at the time Top of the Pops seemed to be going through something of a renaissance. Not quite gone were the “something for the Dads” routines of Pan’s People or Legs & Co or whatever they were called at the time. No. What tended to happen instead was that dancers were now incorporated into the artiste’s performance rather being used as visuals for an act that couldn’t be there, or were just a bit too big to grace the studio with their presence. These were the days before MTV and before the music video had really caught on, remember.

Perhaps the greatest example of what I’m chuffing on about is this, Adam Ant’s rather brilliant “Goody Two Shoes”, where he seems to have the run of the whole TOTP studio, dancers and all, and four – count ’em! – stages to gyrate on.

He was cool as, wasn’t he? There’s even a bit of that where he decides he can’t even be bothered to mouth the words, and he still looks fantastic.

Anyway, the second 7″ I bought that day was this, a song by a band I have already waxed lyrical about on these pages, and which I already owned on vinyl via The Best of Blondie compilation album. But the inner nerd in me had been awakened, the completist woken from its slumber, and as soon as I saw the little pink sleeve I knew I had to own it:

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Blondie – Call Me

And just to round things off nicely, an extra special Welcome to 2016 treat: a mix by New York DJ legend and Ali G lookie-likie Armand Van Helden which features the 12″ version of Call Me as its opening track. Since he explains the idea behind it at the start of the mix, I’ll shut up:

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Armand Van Helden – New York: A Mix Odyssey

More soon.