A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend #2

So, after last week’s post on compilation albums, Swiss Adam from Bagging Area got in touch to say he had no issues with me writing a few more, since he gets tired of doing series posts very quickly.

I know exactly what he means: every now and then I’ll think of a song I want to write about, think of another song, and then I’m off!…only for it to peter out a couple of weeks later when I can’t think of a third.

In evidence, I give you my “You Couldn’t Get Away With This Nowadays” series. Seemed a great idea at the time. First Post in Series: December 4th 2016. Last Post in Series: January 8th 2017. Total series posts: 3.

Anyway, Swiss’s magnanimous gesture means I can squeeze a few posts out of this, so here’s another one which I bought – yes, bought, not peeled off the front of a magazine like last week’s featured cassette.

Released in 1986, “Purveyors of Taste” was a Creation compilation, seven tracks by bands from the label’s roster, and each one quite magnificent.

Tracks from this album featured regularly on the tapes I used to prepare for the sixth-form common room, which I used to record on my Dad’s stereo, situated in the dining room of the family home. Often, the vinyl I had used would remain there for a few days, and I used to ensure that I left this one at the front of the pile I had brought, because I knew it really annoyed my Mum. Can’t think why:

Various - Purveyors Of Taste

The Bodines – Therese

One of two songs to feature here as well as on the seminal NME “C86”compilation, this is an absolute stone cold classic, a phrase which I will undoubtedly be repeating before this post is done.

Felt – I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You

The first record I ever heard or owned by Felt. In fact, until I bought this album, I don’t think I’d even heard of Lawrence (from Felt); now I own records not just by Felt, but by Lawrence in later guises Denim and Go-Kart Mozart. Knowing Lawrence, there’s doubtless numerous other projects he has been involved in that I’m not aware of. He also looms large in Song Man, a novel by Will Hodgkinson, about, as the cover blurb puts it: “One Man’s Mission to Write the Perfect Pop Song”. Chapter One is called, simply: “Lawrence”, and if you’re going to start trying to write the Perfect Pop Song, then I can think of worse places to start than with Lawrence. (I’m looking at you, Cowell.) You can get the book here if you fancy it (although I’d much rather you bought it from a company that doesn’t avoid paying it’s taxes).

For a good chunk of their history, Felt also featured a keyboard player, called Martin Duffy, who many of you will recognise as being a stalwart of this next lot:

Primal Scream – Velocity Girl

What is left to say about this, the opening track on “C86”, that hasn’t already been said? This is the reason I bought this album (this and The Bodines track); my brother owned “C86” on vinyl, and I wanted to own those two songs all for myself too. Quite simply, it’s perhaps the most perfect 1:22 ever committed to vinyl. A…wait for it…stone cold classic.

The Jasmine Minks – Cold Heart

Although in 1984, the NME named them as one of the eighteen most hopeful bands in Britain (is hopeful the same as promising….?), The Jasmine Minks are one of those bands that, although they released some great stuff, never quite made it. There’s some lovely stuff in their back catalogue, “Cold Heart” being a particular high-point.

Biff Bang Pow! – Love’s Going Out of Fashion

Named after a song by one of Creation boss Alan McGee’s favourite bands, The Creation, and featuring McGee himself on vocals and guitar (and, at one point, Andrew Innes, albeit on a part-time basis, and also of Primal Scream fame), Biff Bang Pow! are another band who, for reasons I’ve never fully understood, especially when you consider McGee’s involvement, never quite made it.

The Weather Prophets – Like Frankie Lymon

As with Felt, my first encounter of a band who I came to love very much. I was completely oblivious that the band had risen from the ashes of The Loft, who of course had made waves in the world of indie records a few years earlier with “Up The Hill and Down The Slope”. Lead singer Pete Astor is still doing the rounds, and I can heartily recommend his 2016 album “Spilt Milk”.

Meat Whiplash – Don’t Slip Up

It’s a shame that this has to be the song to end the album; it’s the only one I’m not overly fond of, and the only band I’ve never really made any effort to get hold of any of their other stuff, which may be great, but since here they seem to me to a band trying their darnedest to sound like Psychocandy-era Jesus & Mary Chain (and not coming anywhere close), I’ve always thought: Why bother when I can just listen to it done properly? At which point Psychocandy gets the dust blown off it one more time.

A couple of bonuses for you, since I’ve mentioned them:

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The Creation – Biff, Bang, Pow

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The Loft – Up The Hill and Down The Slope

And, finally, I’ll try to leave you on a cheery note: just in case you don’t know who poor Frankie ‘dead-on-his-grandmother’s-bathroom-floor-from-a-heroin-overdose-at-the-age- of-25’ Lymon was, here he is:

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Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers – Why Do Fools Fall in Love

More soon.

Replenishing The Vinyl

As a skint teenager, trying to sneak out of the house with a bag of vinyl that I considered to be surplus to requirements tucked under my arm and which I intended to sell, I encountered my Dad, who gave me some advice.

I’ve passed on this advice before on these pages, but it was a long time ago, so I don’t think there’s any harm in my sharing it again.

“Don’t sell your records,” he said, “you’ll regret it.”

Of course, skint teenager who thought he knew best that I was, I took absolutely no notice whatsoever, went into town and sold them.

Aand then, about three weeks later, went back into town and bought most of them back again, having realised he was totally right.

You’d think I’d have learned a valuable lesson that day, right? Wrong.

Fast forward ten years or so. It is the summer of 1996, as Bryan Adams dyslexically almost said, I’m living in Cardiff, and I want to go to the pub and watch England playing in Euro ’96. (Fear not, my Scottish friends, I wasn’t going to watch that game, so I shan’t be mentioning it.)

No, I was going to watch England play Spain in the quarter finals (that’s the knock-out stage, after Scotland had already gone home). Problem was, I was broke.

So I looked around the house I shared with my then-girlfriend, trying to find something which was definitely mine that I could flog off for enough money to buy a couple of pints and a packet of fags. And of course, pretty much the only thing I owned was a load of vinyl. So I picked out a few that I thought might be worth a couple of quid, and decided to take one along which in my opinion might be a little bit more valuable.

By the time I got to Kelly’s Records, upstairs in Cardiff’s Indoor Market, and got the attention of one of the blokes who worked there, I had, of course, completely forgotten about the inclusion the more valuable one, and took £15.00 for the lot.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when, with money burning a hole in my pocket again, I had gone back to Kelly’s Records to spend what I hoped to be a happy and productive afternoon flicking through their racks, that I realised my mistake. And I only realised then because they had it on display, with a price tag of £65.00 on it.

The record in question was The Pretenders’ “The Singles”, a Greatest Hits compilation (of course). And the reason it was priced at £65.00 was that it had been signed by Chrissie Hynde.

I should stress that, just as I’ve never met The Bluebells who had signed my recently purchased copy of their “Sisters” album I featured last week, so have I also never met Chrissie Hynde. I’d picked this up on a shopping expedition down to That London a few years earlier with a mate from Sixth Form; Chrissie had clearly been in a day or so beforehand for a signing session, and they hadn’t managed to shift them all. I was happy to help.

As with many compilation albums I bought when I was a kid, I used it as a guide as to which (proper) album I would buy next. After one listen, this was a no-brainer, and my next purchase – which I recently found was no longer amongst my vinyl collection and so I got myself a replacement copy – was their 1984 release “Learning to Crawl”.

I mention all of this today, because The Pretenders were the opening act on The Other Stage at Glastonbury yesterday. This is becoming a tradition (it’s probably been the case for a long time, but I only noticed it recently), where a well established and much-loved act kicks proceedings off. Last year, it was James, the year before, The Charlatans.

And this year, that honour fell to The Pretenders; highlights were on BBC4 last night, and Chrissie seemed in pretty good form.

So, here’s one of my favourite tunes from that album, the opening track, and it’s an absolute barn-stormer:

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The Pretenders – Middle of the Road

More soon.

Glastonbury, So Much to Answer For

It certainly hasn’t escaped my attention, but I bet you haven’t even noticed, that Glastonbury officially starts on Friday and I am not there.

I mention this because the last time I went, two years ago, it was the Wednesday before it officially kicks off that I arrived.

Actually, I arrived late on the Tuesday night, but you’re not permitted onsite before Wednesday morning, so I, along with the group of folks I was camping with, only one of whom I’d met before, had met in one of the fields doubling up as a car park, like some weird dogging jamboree where everyone had arrived thoroughly prepared to get drunk to dull the pain of what was about to happen.

From there, we set off to join the impressively and annoyingly big queue for the gates.

And there we remained until early Wednesday morning, when the gates opened and what had been a reasonably orderly queue transformed into a mad free for all scrum to get inside.

Once inside, our group reconvened at our chosen spot for camping, and we all set about constructing our living quarters for the next few nights.

Although the gates had opened at 9am (I think), it was mid-day before we reached this spot, and, just like today, it was a gloriously hot and sunny day:

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Noel Coward – Mad Dogs and Englishmen

By around 1pm, my tent was up, my mattress fully inflated, the contents of my rucksack strewn across the floor of my tent to make any potential thieves think someone had beaten them to it, and so it was at this point, with sweat dripping from every pore, that I decided now would be the moment to demonstrate to my new found buddies just what I do better than anything else in the world.

Have a kip.

I reckon if you asked any of that gang their thoughts on me by the end of the weekend, they would probably say: “Sleeps a lot.”

And they’d be right, and I’d be rightly proud.

But on this occasion, I had made one fatal error; I crawled into my tent, flopped down on my back, and lay with my feet and lower parts of my legs sticking out. It would create an amusing image for any passers-by, I thought.

When I awoke an hour or so later, my legs and feet were, of course, very sunburned, making any attempts to walk for the rest of the weekend an unpleasant and painful chore.

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Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun

I soldiered on, of course. Aided by lots of tactical snoozes throughout the weekend with my legs safely covered.

More soon.

Bye, Bye, Bri

win_2

We haven’t quite reached losses to the same extent as in 2016, but there have been a few television personalities from my childhood who have passed on recently. Not content with taking original Batman Adam West and Blue Peter legend John Noakes from us recently, I was saddened to hear the news of Brian Cant’s passing this week.

Cant will be best remembered as the voice of animated 60s & 70s childrens’ shows Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley, and were it not for him we would probably never had two classic songs, both of which reference said shows.

So, to quote: ‘Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?’

That’s right, kiddies, a couple of songs by Half Man Half Biscuit:

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Half Man Half Biscuit – The Trumpton Riots

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Half Man Half Biscuit – Time Flies By (When You’re The Driver of a Train)

Cant was also a stalwart of Play School and, for the slightly older kids, Play Away. Looking back now, Play Away featured a whole host of presenters who went on to bigger and, some might say, better things: Julie Covington, Tony Robinson, Anita Dobson, Jeremy Irons. But it’s Cant that I always remember from those shows.

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Morten & Cohen – Play Away Theme

And yes, I really did already own that.

Cant himself managed to have himself a bona fide hit in the UK, kind of, when a sample of his voice was used on this Lemon Jelly tune:

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Lemon Jelly – Nice Weather for Ducks

Not exactly topical, given the heatwave we’re having at the moment, and I do hope I haven’t jinxed the weather for those travelling to Glastonbury this weekend…

Me? Jealous?? Noooo……

More soon.

Footnote: Alex G informs me that isn’t Brian Cant at all on the Lemon Jelly tune, I’ve checked and he’s quite right. It’s Enn Reitel. My apologies. That’ll teach me to write these on the hoof posts without researching them first. Still, nice to hear it again…. 

Footnote Part Two: Also by way of the Comments, C of Sun Dried Sparrows fame asked if I’d seen “that short clip of him [Cant, not Reitel] for Orbital’s The Altogether”? I hadn’t but have now:

And now you have too.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

A couple of months ago, I wrote that I had heard a rumour that my favourite Country star of all time, Kris Kristofferson, was going to play the Legends Slot on the Sunday at Glastonbury.

Although I didn’t say so at the time, I feared for him a little; when I saw him about ten years ago in Bristol, it was just him and an acoustic guitar, and I felt that were he to perform in the same style at Glasto, with no backing band, he would probably be dwarfed by the occasion.

Factor in his memory loss problems, and you can understand where I’m coming from.

His memory loss is interesting, not just because it gives my Dad the opportunity to tell his story about the time he saw Kristofferson play a few years ago, and had to prompt him with one of the lines to “Sunday Morning Coming Down”. (“Someone frying chicken!” he called from the audience, as the Country star faltered).

See, for years, doctors had been telling Kristofferson that his increasingly debilitating memory loss was due to either Alzheimer’s or to dementia brought on by blows to the head from the boxing, football and rugby of youth.

Then, in 2016, a doctor decided to test Kristofferson for Lyme disease; it came back positive. His wife believes he picked it up from a tick as he crawled around the forest floor in Vermont making a movie.  He gave up his Alzheimer’s and depression pills and went through three weeks of Lyme-disease treatment and now is, well, he may not be perfectly healthy, but his memory is as good as any 80 year old has the right to expect it to be.

As it turned out, the rumours I had heard were incorrect; he is playing Glastonbury but not the Sunday Legend slot. Instead, he’s appearing on the Pyramid Stage on Friday afternoon, right after First Aid Kit. It’s a good slot for a Country star to play: I saw Willie Nelson play at pretty much the same time back in 2010 and he was incredible.

In case you’re interested, The Sunday Legend slot at Glastonbury this year is being filled by Chic (and for that matter, Barry Gibb is on right before them). That, weather permitting, is going to be one heck of a party.

Anyway, back to Kristofferson. Here’s a couple of tracks from a favourite KK album of mine, 1971’s “The Silver Tongued Devil & I”; one I would think you will all know, and one which, much to the delight of some of my regular readers, includes a gravel-voiced spoken word intro:

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Kris Kristofferson – The Pilgrim Chapter 33

Kris Kristofferson – Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)

Oh, and Happy Father’s Day to this old chap:

The Man Contented

 

Like father, like son(s).

More soon.

A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend

Strum

Compilation albums seem to be cropping up all over the place at the moment; over at Bagging Area yesterday, Swiss Adam posted three great ones released by Creation, and readers of the Comments section here may have noticed that Martin (who I assume is the same Martin who writes the New Amusements blog – if it isn’t enjoy the free plug anyway!) popped up last week to offer a suggestion – a correct one, as it turns out – about where the acoustic version of The Wedding Present’s “Give My Love to Kevin” I’d posted first appeared.

Now it looks like Swiss might be making a series out of this, so I’ll not step on his toes (not just yet, anyway, although I will probably return to this once his series has finished to post any that I bought but which didn’t feature over at his place), but I will get in early with a couple of songs from the cassette that Martin correctly identified.

When I was in the upper at sixth form, as I think I’ve probably mentioned before, I used to prepare a new mix-tape to play in the common room if not every night, then every other night, much to the annoyance of my parents who had this strange idea that I’d somehow be better off spending my time doing my homework. So, with limited funds available to me, the occasional purchase of a compilation album was a necessity, even better were I to pick up a free one with the NME or some other music mag.

Such was the case with “Strum + Drum”, a cassette which came free with “Underground” magazine. Released in April 1988, I don’t recall ever buying another copy of the magazine either before or afterwards. So what made me but this copy, I hear you ask? Well, for a start it had The Flatmates, of whom I was, and still am, very fond, on the front cover. Also, and I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention, but it had a free cassette stuck to the front.

Other than the aforementioned “Give My Love…” it had a few other songs that I loved. Here’s the track listing in full:

Drum

The Raw Herbs – She’s A Nurse

This is an absolute “lost” classic, although it did reappear on 2013’s mammoth 4-disc compilation “Scared to Get Happy”, although it was titled “She’s a Nurse But She’s Alright”. If you like that, then I would heartily recommend that you pop over to Brian’s place Linear Tracking Lives! and give your ears a treat by giving The Waltones tracks he posted recently a listen.

Miaow! – Belle Vue

Coincidentally, Brian has also posted some stuff by Miaow recently. It’s at this point that I wonder if whoever was responsible for the design of the Strum + Drum cassette knew what they were doing, for I’ve never seen Miaow written with the exclamation mark anywhere else, but there you go, that’s how it’s credited, so that’s what we’ll call them too.

Anyway, Miaow! sound not unlike early Stereolab on this one, so if that’s your bag, give it a listen.

A few months ago, I mentioned that I wasn’t particularly familiar with The Go-Betweens, and, aware that many of my blogging peers revered them, had asked for some suggestions as to where to start investigating their back catalogue (which they duly provided, thanks to you all by the way). You can probably hear the sound of me slapping my forehead and kicking myself when I realised I’ve had this track in my collection since 1988. Doh!

The Go-Betweens – Karen

And finally:

Alex Chilton – No Sex

In 1988, I had no idea who Alex Chilton was, and was not overly fond of this track. However, when I later learned Chilton had cut his teeth in The Box Tops and, of course, Big Star, being the revisionist sycophant I am, I revisited this and decided it was…only okay. Let’s just say it’s not his finest moment.

Although this does give me the excuse to post what I think is one of his finest moments, this, from 1967:

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The Box Tops – The Letter

And it also gives me the chance to post this clip of them performing on “Upbeat” in 1967; I love this clip because Chilton is trying so desperately hard to seem mean and moody but just can’t keep it up, in much the same way that keyboards player John Evans makes no real effort to keep up the pretence that they’re not miming:

Incredible to think that Chilton was just sixteen years old when that was recorded.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Over the past few weeks in the build up to the General Election, and occasionally before that, I’ve written posts about current affairs and posted a song which seemed vaguely fitting to accompany the piece.

I am conscious that some might construe a song I’m posting as an illustration of my thoughts, or even as a joke.

Which is why, after the events in London at the end of the week, the song I had lined up for tonight’s post suddenly took on a new meaning and seemed a very distasteful record to post, even though I had no intention of writing about the horrific tragedy that was Grenfell Tower. Yet.

So I have scrapped the intended song, in favour of the one which immediately precedes it on the same album. If you’re familiar with Underworld’s “Dubnobasswithmyheadman”, then you’ll know exactly which song has been bumped and why.

This is the version from the 2014 remastered release, a throbbing, pulsating classic:

Underworld – Dubnobasswithmyheadman

Underworld – Dark & Long (Remastered)

More soon.