As regular readers will know, I love a good cover version.
Up the stakes: Give me a good cover version of a great 70s sitcom written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and I’m practically immobile with joy.
It turns out Snuff can help me – and you – out this morning.
See, it turns out they have not just released their seminal Flibbiddydibbiddydob, with its thrash versions of TV adverts (Bran Flakes, Shake’n’Vac): they’ve also released the similarly daft-titled Potatoes And Melons At Wholesale Prices Straight From the Lock Up which has this on it. If you listen closely to the backing vocals, there appears to be an inadvertent (I assume) celebration of The Chuckle Brothers thrown in for good measure:
Here’s three words I never thought I’d type: Dubstar are back!
You remember Dubstar, right? Had a couple of successful Britpop-era electronica pop records: Stars, Everywhere, Not So Manic Now and a really rather great cover of Billy Bragg’s St Swithin’s Day? Yes, that Dubstar.
When I say they’re back, they actually resurfaced in 2018, released an album called One which totally passed me by.
But now they’re back! Back! BACK! with a new album of mostly new material called Two.
I’m always a little wary of bands returning: I genuinely can’t think of a single band who has reformed and released records of the same standard as they did first time around. Don’t give me Take That as an answer, I’ll be dealing with them some other time.
I’ve not really given Two anything more than a cursory listen yet – it sounds just fine on first listen – so I may be wrong and this is the triumphant return one hopes for.
But it does include, as a final track, a cover version which is a pretty bold selection:
I have many different versions of R.E.M. performing that Bill Berry composition live, but on most of them something is not quite right – either Stipe’s lead vocal or Mike Mills’ backing vocal is just a little bit off.
This is the best the version I have, recorded for VH1’s Storytellers show, after Berry had left. Not only is it pretty much perfect, it includes Stipe saying “Hi Bill!” towards the end, an acknowledgement of the songsmith on this one:
It’s been a pretty shitty week for celebrity deaths, as it goes.
For not only did we lose Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode and Ray Liotta, a fine actor best know for his starring role in Goodfellas – one of the greatest gangster movies ever made – we also lost Cathal Coughlan.
Cathal is best known for a) having an often mis-pronounced name, and b) being the lead singer of both Microdisney and Fatima Mansions.
Microdisney’s Crooked Mile album, whilst disliked by their hard-core fans as being a bit too light and accessible, is a keystone record in my musical development. When my old buddy Richie first played me The Smiths, Billy Bragg and The Chesterfields, said Microdisney album was also popped onto the turntable.
I see what the die-hard fans mean, because I find their earlier stuff impenetrable, and by comparison the songs on Crooked Mile a near-perfect mix of pop sensibilities and challenging lyrics.
Having just discovered them, I was sad when Microdisney split up, but delighted when one day, watching the much missed SNUB TV, this popped up:
As I said on Twitter when I read of his passing, nobody did righteous fury and anger better than Cathal, and here’s a prime example, a record I *coughs* acquired on white label back when I was a DJ at college, and which has never left my collection since. Whoever nicked all my Smiths albums and 12″s (amongst other things) didn’t know what they left behind; with it’s description handwritten in pencil it’s priceless to me:
And it shouldn’t be forgotten that Fatima Mansions had a top ten hit (in the same way as Billy Bragg had a #1, riding on the coat-tails of Wet Wet Wet), acting as the flip on the double A-side of the Manics cover of the M.A.S.H. theme tune, with their irreverently fucked-up version of a record which massively outstayed its welcome in the #1 slot:
It is exactly a year to the day since I last posted anything in this series, which was supposed to be me picking 50 acts that I hated when I first heard them, but now rather like.
The idea was to post all 50 before my 50th birthday.
Later this year, I turn 53, which tells you all you need to know about how good I am at hitting self-set targets.
I’m prompted into this one by the news of the very sad death of Andy Fletcher, founding member of Depeche Mode.
Now, back in the early 1980s when they first emerged, Depeche Mode were the very antithesis of all that I loved: they played keyboards and nothing but electronica, I still, stupidly (and it took me a long time to shake this off) wanted “proper” music, by which I meant “songs with guitars on them”.
But I noticed them, how could you not? From the playful pop riff of Just Can’t Get Enough to the S&M overtones of Master & Servant, I knew they were there. But not for me.
At the time, I’d never heard a record so dark, so scathing. I remember poring over the lyrics printed on Smash Hits and being blown away that somebody would write about such a subject. Years later, it occurs to me that the first verse is She’s Leaving Home, rewritten as a suicide note.
But did I buy it? Nope.
The years progressed, and the band continued to release dark and moody electronica, such as this absolute beauty:
Still I resisted, until the Greatest Hits albums came out, a mix of wonderfully upbeat pop singles, becoming increasingly dark and menacing, which I finally succumbed to and admitted I needed some DMs in my life.
RIP Andy Fletcher. Sorry I didn’t buy your brilliant, ground-breaking records sooner.
I’m not sure how we got here, but get we here we did.
It’s Friday! And that can mean only one thing: fish and chip supper!
Okay, let’s try that again.
It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for the latest chunk of reconstituted tuneage that is Vol 4.2 of the Friday Night Music Club!
As with last week’s instalment, this is the mammoth Vol 4 broken down into easy-to-swallow, hour long pieces, only with the running order tweaked – some songs added, some taken away, some just moved – from when the long mix made its appearance here back in April 2021, albeit via a link to Soundcloud.
You know the drill by now: any skips or jumps are down to the mixing software; any mis-timed mixes are down to me; all record selections are, of course, mine.
Oh, and a cursory look down the track-listing will tell you that this one needs one of these slapped on it:
I haven’t posted one of these for a couple of weeks, for the very simple reason that I couldn’t think of anything suitable to post.
And then this came on my iTunes shuffle, and it struck me that whilst it isn’t exactly in the rousing “up-and-at-’em” category that usually features here, it does offer a much-needed ray of optimism at the start of another working week:
This is Lost Dog Street Band from their 2021 album The Magnolia Sessions, which is a series of albums released on the Anti-Corp label, all named The Magnolia Sessions, all by different artists.
Here’s how Anti-Corp describe the project on their website: ‘A series of live recordings by artists we love, in the elements. All recordings were performed in the moment. No overdubs. No “studio magic”. Just pure distilled talent.’
And here’s how Lost Dog Street Band describe their addition to the series on their website: “On a humid Summer evening, Benjamin Tod and Ashley Mae stood beneath a large Magnolia tree behind the Anti-Corp/Black Matter Mastering HQ and recorded some songs…Recorded live May 25th 2021 at approximately 8pm, on a hot 88 degree Nashville evening.”
This is so good, the crickets chirruping in the background are practically performing the rhythm track:
I’d say there are four things that Tracey Ullman is known for here in the UK:
Being a very funny comedian;
Having a very busy 1980s where, in reverse order, she had her own TV show in the States in the late 80s which gave birth to The Simpsons;
Appearing in Three of a Kind, a sketch show in the UK in the mid-80s, in which she starred with Lenny Henry an David Copperfield (not that one);
Having a brief but wonderful pop career in the early 80s, which included 3 Top 10 and a further 2 Top 40 hits in the UK.
It is of course the pop career we’ll be looking at this morning. And just in case you’re already turning your nose up and thinking “novelty hits” well…you’d be partly right, for all of her hits were cover versions.
But these were novelty hits with some artistic weight behind them, for they were released on the legendary Stiff Records label, home at some point or another to such luminaries as Nick Lowe, The Damned, Lene Lovich, Wreckless Eric, Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Devo, Madness, The Pogues, The Belle Stars, and, most importantly, Kirsty MacColl.
MacColl actually wrote the title track for Ullman’s debut album, You Broke My Heart in 17 Places:
I mean, it’s got early Kirsty written all over it, hasn’t it?
The first of her hits was a cover of an old Irma Thomas tune, written by Jackie DeShannon and Sharon Sheeley, and was probably the least well-known as a cover when it was released in March 1983, peaking at #4 in the UK charts:
I have two things to say about that; firstly, when she first released that, it was called Break-A-Way rather than Breakaway; and secondly, if you’re of a similar vintage to me, and if your brain is wired the same way as mine (and heaven help you if it is) then you too will have seen the word Breakaway and immediately thought of this, and are now feeling a bit peckish:
But I digress.
You may have noticed a recurring theme when looking at Ullman’s album and single sleeve; Ullman dressing up in various guises. This is something which she carried over into her videos; here she is in the Breakaway promo, where, when not dressed as a go-go dancer with an array of beehive hair-do’s, she demonstrates the art of singing into a hairbrush:
This is entirely in keeping with Ullman’s background, for truth be told she very much stumbled into her pop career: “One day, I was at my hairdresser,” she once recalled, “and Dave Robinson’s [head of Stiff Records] wife Rosemary leant over and said, ‘Do you want to make a record?’… I went, ‘Yeah I want to make a record.’ I would have tried anything.”
Before she embarked upon her brief life as a popstar, she had won a full scholarship to the Italia Conti Academy at the age of twelve, attended a dance audition at sixteen, which resulted in her landing a contract with a German ballet company for a revival of Gigi in Berlin, then joined Second Generation dance troupe on her return to the UK, before branching out into musical theatre where she was cast in numerous West End musicals, such as Grease, and The Rocky Horror Show.
Now, if you thought having written the title track of Ullman’s first album, that Kirsty McColl’s work here was done, then you’d be very much mistaken, for the second single was a cover of Kirsty’s ruddy marvellous They Don’t Know, which reached #2 in the UK charts in September 1983.
Rumour has it that Ullman was unable to hit the high “Baby!” after the instrumental break, so Kirsty had to do it. It certainly sounds like her…:
Probably one of my favourite records ever, that. It’s certainly in the Top 10.
The video for Ullman’s version not only gave her further opportunity to dress up and show both her acting and dancing chops, it started a trend which she continued through her next few singles: the celebrity guest appearance.
Wait for it…..:
Single number three from the album was a cover of Doris Day’s Move Over Darling; released in December 1983, it peaked at #8 in the UK:
There were more guest appearances in Ullman’s video:
I should end this here, but the next single from the follow-up album You Caught Me Out is worth mentioning. Not because it was her final Top 20 hit (it wasn’t – it peaked at #23; the next single Sunglasses got to #18 and that was the last time Ullman bothered the Top 40)…