Prompted, I think, by my post about Bowie earlier today, here’s an absolute classic, topped and tailed by Mr Ravenscroft Snr.
To be honest, it’s not the greatest sound quality, so apologies for that. But any day when this, or any of the other songs I have on my iPod (other MP3 players are available blah blah blah) which he introduces, pops up on random shuffle, is a day briefly illuminated, before I realise I’ll never hear him say new things again.
A couple of weeks ago, prompted by a post on this thread, a friend and regular reader (hello!) got in touch with me to a) ask how I felt about foreign language cover versions, and b) suggest one to feature here.
Well, this isn’t her suggestion (which will feature at some point), but it is definitely an answer:
Regular readers will know that I do a thread of cover versions that The Wedding Present have done, and there is of course an EP (again, which will feature here at some point) of a Peel Session that exists where they perform a host of cover versions in a Ukranian style. This though is from the band formed by Pete Solowka (or Grapper, or “Take it away, Grapper!” as he was more commonly known in his Wedding Present days) after he had been booted out of left the band shortly after the completion of their “Seamonsters” album, around 1991.
Anyway, this is the original, but you already knew that, right?
When you get to my age, barely a week goes by without me getting yet another reminder of just how old and decrepit I’ve become. I suppose I should be grateful; the alternative is much grimmer.
It also makes me wonder: what in today’s popular culture will be celebrated in 20 years time? The day we all saw that picture of Kim Kardashian’s arse? The moment Justin Bieber changed his haircut? The day Zayn left One Direction? (it was him that left, right?)
As if having to deal with the fact that this year it will be 30 years since The Smiths released “The Queen Is Dead” wasn’t enough for me to cope with, I now have to deal with the fact that it is twenty years since Trainspotting (the movie, not the book, that was even longer ago) was released.
For many, this was their first introduction to the genius that is Danny Boyle, the director. Personally, I was working in a video shop in Cardiff between 1994 and 1996 (I really used my degree to its full potential) so had seen, and loved, Boyle’s directorial debut, “Shallow Grave” and so was already aware of his visionary genius.
Trainspotting though took him to another level entirely.
Based on the Irvine Welsh book, it tells the story of Renton (Ewen MacGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Begbie (Robert Carlyle), Diane (Kelly MacDonald) and Tommy (Kevin McKidd), their battles with addiction to heroin (Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, Tommy) or alcohol/violence (Begbie), a battle that at least one would lose (no spoilers here), and those that surviveds’ attempts to break free by engineering a drug deal which would enable their freedom once and for all.
Watching it back, there are so many iconic moments, from the opening sequence:
to Spud’s speed-fuelled interview:
to the infamous Begbie bar scene:
to the “Worst Toilet in Scotland”:
Of course, there was much hysteria in the press about this film, this squalid film, that glorified drug abuse (it doesn’t, it really, really doesn’t) and how young impressionable folks would doubtless see it and be unable to resist embarking on a downward spiral of drug abuse and ultimately death. All total bollocks, of course.
But, for me, there was one other thing about Trainspotting that got me hooked: the soundtrack. You could tell that each record that featured had been chosen, or commissioned, with great care: the breadth and depth of the movie’s soundtrack (which got released over two albums) was simply staggering, taking in established records and placing them next to newer Britpop-y tunes (it was 1996, after all) and managing to totally capture the zeitgeist (whatever that means).
This was a turning point for me: it wasn’t until I saw Trainspotting that I appreciated that dance and indie music could co-exist in my own personal musical CV. Until now, I rarely gave dance music the time of day, but such was my love of the film I simply had no choice. Particularly, this one:
Danny Boyle has gone on to bigger and brighter things: he won an Oscar in 2008 for Best Picture and Best Director (and another six) for “Slumdog Millionaire”, and orchestrated the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (I bought the 3-DVD boxset of the Olympics, and have never watched anything other than the 1st one which contains the opening ceremony). In the run-up, I was firmly in the “we’re going to fuck this up aren’t we?” camp, didn’t even watch it live, but when I did I was entranced; it was a thing of such patriotic beauty it is one of the very few things that make me feel proud to be British.
Here it is, in all its glory:
This led (and rightly so – it is, simply, astounding) to him being offered a knighthood which he earns extra bonus cool points by declining.
News has come out over the past twelve months that work has started on “Porno”, the sequel to Trainspotting. Having read the book, I cannot wait for the day I get to queue up at the local multiplex and legitimately ask for “a single to watch Porno please”.
As always, not Apropos of Nothing at all, but prompted by the mention of Alex Chilton, I cannot resist but post this (again, it seems) from his pre-Big Star days in The Box Tops, and to my mind one of the finest 01:55 ever committed to vinyl:
So, when I was writing Friday Night’s Music Club, I realised that somehow I had managed to avoid posting anything by Teenage Fanclub and vowed to rectify that. And here we are.
I first came across their version of this song on a cassette that was given away free with the NME, a celebration of Glastonbury that included live performances by acts playing at the mother of all festivals. So, this, then, is from their 1993 appearance:
Ah, but we can’t leave it there, I’m afraid. See, bands do many a live cover version, and I’ve kind of made it my rule not to include them in this thread – the cover version has to have had a commercial release to qualify for posting here. I have standards, see.
Lucky for me then, that The Fannies released their version as a limited edition 7″ single back in 1992:
Many years ago, a drummer friend of mine asked me if I’d seen Top of the Pops the night before. I had, and he went on to moan about a band on that had been he thought sounded derivative and bland. After much pressing, it turned out he was talking about this:
My skin-twatting buddy may have won the argument – for an argument there was, once we had established he was slagging off Teenage Fanclub – had he been able to name the band that he felt they were derivative of.
(It turned out that what had prompted this outburst was the fact that, at his request, I’d gone to see the band he played in doing a gig at the legendary Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff a few nights beforehand. Because he knew I was a bit of a music nerd, and had some experience of being in and booking bands -all of which is to come in the main thread of this blog, when I finally get my arse in gear to write it again, by the way – he had asked me to come along, watch them and then provide an honest opinion on them. He had approached me minutes after coming off stage, asked me what I thought; my critique began with the words: “Do you want me to be honest, or nice?” His displeasure at The Fannies TOTP appearance had been fuelled by the need to be told they were better than a band which was attaining commercial success; unlucky for him, he picked the wrong band to use as an example. His band split up about a week later. No need to thank me, all part of the service.)
We all know, of course, that the members of Teenage Fanclub love Big Star, and all fans of Teenage Fanclub love Big Star too, and frankly we don’t care if they sound like them – that’s (one of the many reasons) why we love them.
Free Again is not, however, a Big Star cover – it’s a track by Big Star mainstay Alex Chilton. His version is, I would say, a little more Gram Parsons than Big Star.
If anything good at all has come from the death of David Bowie, then it has been that I – and doubtless many others – have spent the last couple of months revisiting his material, or in the case of today’s post, discovering new stuff he did.
VH1 was a music channel which was supposed to act as an alternative to the more youth-orientated MTV (this was, of course, back in the days when MTV used to play nothing but music videos, rather than the never-ending stream of reality TV shows it splurges out these days).
And whilst MTV had their “Unplugged” show, VH1 had “Storytellers”. The concept was both similar and simple: established artists were invited to play some songs from their back catalogue in front of a live studio audience, and in between songs regale them with anecdotes about the song and how it came into being.
In 1999, it was Bowie’s turn, and the results can be found on the CD release that finally got released 10 years later. It’s fair to say that Bowie takes the story-telling aspect of the show rather seriously, as you can tell from the version of “Rebel Rebel” that he gives here, even if that does mean the actual performance of the song, well I wouldn’t say it suffers exactly…:
But, since I mentioned in the same post that it was not a million miles away from Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, and since I’m feeling generous tonight, it only seems right that I give you that to listen to as well.
Barry Adamson not only played bass with Magazine, he also was a temporary member of Buzzcocks, as well as working on both Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley’s solo projects, appearing on the first two albums by Visage, playing with both The Birthday Party and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and remixing Grinderman, Depeche Mode and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. He’s also contributed to the soundtracks of David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” and Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers”.
But it’s to 1996 we go for today’s tune, and to his “Oedipus Schmoedipus” album, which featured in the “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” book, and specifically to this groovy little number, which features, and was co-written by, your actual Jarvis Cocker: