Sunday Morning Coming Down

No normal post this week; I’ve been staring at the list of records I bought in 1984 trying to seek inspiration, but have not, as yet, been able to come up with anything of interest to say about any of them. Also, I didn’t have a drink last night. I’m sure these two things aren’t related.

So, it’s Sunday morning, and all is well with the world: the weather was glorious yesterday, the Football season has started here in the UK (with a loss for Spurs, but you can’t have everything), and England have just absolutely tonked the Aussies for the second match in succession to regain the Ashes – and if there is a better sight in sport than the look of shock and delight on Stuart Broad’s face when Ben Stokes takes that amazing catch then I’m yet to see it. I could watch that clip on a loop for a very long time before I started to get bored of it.

So anyway, I thought since the weather is threatening to be rather fine again today, I’d make this week’s Sunday Morning selection have a summery feel to them:

Betty-Boo-Let-Me-Take-You-T-105702

Betty Boo – Let Me Take You There To say Alison Clarkson (for it is she) has had a mixed career in pop music is an understatement: originally a member of hip-hop group She Rockers, she toured The States supporting Public Enemy, and had an all-too brief solo career under the alter-ego of Betty Boo, releasing the rather wonderful “Hey DJ (I Can’t Dance)” The Beatmasters, the second video for which launched her uber-foxy Betty Boop meets Barbarella image, followed by the killer tracks “Doin’ The Do” and best of all “Where Are You Baby?“, which if you don’t like, you are officially dead inside.  Betty Boo’s short lived time on pop’s shelf of wanted goods ended as suddenly as it began around the time “Let Me Take You There” came out, when she was accused of miming at a gig in, if memory serves me right, Australia. Later cited as the influence behind the Spice Girls, she wrote “Pure and Simple”, which was recorded by Hear’Say, winners of the reality show Popstars, the fore-runner to the X-Factor, and the video for which appears to show the band lighting their own farts. She’s also written for Girls Aloud (“Love Bomb” apparently. Nope, me neither), Louise, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and…er…The Tweenies, as well as making the frankly rather odd “WigWam” with Blur’s Alex James, a song which has not improved with age. She’s also provided guest vocals on a record by The Feeling so…y’know…a career with as many highs as lows, I think it’s a fair to say.

Like it? Buy it here.

Don_Henley_-_Boys_of_Summer_cover

Don Henley – The Boys of Summer

In the mid-1980s, it seemed there were former members of The Eagles everywhere; Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On” was featured on the sound track to Beverley Hills Cop, Don Henley released this corker and…erm….does anyone even know who the other members of The Eagles were…?

Like it? Buy it here.

614qh14ECnL

John Denver – Sunshine On My Shoulders

A typically schmaltzy offering on which the Milky Bar Kid lookalike and country music’s most famous pilot (well, now ex-pilot, actually….) advises us that “Sunshine on my shoulders always gets me high”. On one of his more famous records, which bizarrely got embroiled in the whole Tipper Gore/Judas Priest/DMCA court case back in the 90s, he describes getting a “Rocky Mountain High“. One suspects Denver thinks “getting high” is the same as “being happy”. Either that or he had a phenomenal dealer.

Like it? Buy it here.

Sundays-Summertime-97565

The Sundays – Summertime

I’m not going to talk too much about these late-80s/early-90s indie jingle-janglers and John Peels’ Festive 50 toppers (though not with this song) as they’ll feature later elsewhere on this blog. Calling a song Summertime leads to an almost inevitable comparison to the Gershwin-written Ella Fitzgerald classic (see?) and it would be wrong to do so (sorry!) for The Sundays’ Summertime is a) a completely different song, and b) simply wonderful in its own sweet way.

Like it? Buy it here.

Weezer_-_Green_Album

Weezer – Island In the Sun

If have a theory about Weezer and it is this: you only need to bother listening to their albums with a colour in the title. Check out the evidence: Blue Album – includes Buddy Holly and Undone (The Sweater Song); Green Album – contains Hash Pipe and Island In the Sun; Red Album – includes Pork and Beans

Now ask yourself: what other Weezer singles are worth listening to?

Like it? Buy it here.

Advertisements

From Leeds With Love

I have just realised that I had already posted the last songs I discussed in this theme. I really need to pay attention more. I can’t even use the excuse that I was drunk when I wrote it, as it was a “school night” (although I probably was sozzled when I posted them the first time).

Anyway: noted. Apologies. Must try harder.

Most of you will be aware that in 1992, The Wedding Present embarked on a mission to release one 7″ single per month, the A-side being a new composition, the B-side a cover version. Each single was released on the first day of the month and, if memory serves, deleted again one week later.

I, of course, bought every one on the day of release. Still own them all. One day they will be worth a fortune. Maybe. Fingers crossed. (Searches t’internet for a contact number for “Cash in the Attic”)

Anyway, what this gives me is plenty of songs to post, so here’s January’s:

the-wedding-present-blue-eyes-rca

The Wedding Present – Cattle and Cane

and

Go-Betweens-Before-Hollywoo1

The Go-Betweens – Cattle and Cane

Like them? Then Go buy them here and here

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I can’t be arsed with numbering these any more. Doesn’t really matter, does it?

Here’s some more swoony Sunday morning fodder:

71AEqjquaqL__SL1300_

“Halah” – Mazzy Star

Is there a voice more perfectly gorgeous in the whole wide world than Hope Sandoval’s? I think not. If only there was a way I could contrast it with, say, a former junkie Glaswegian. Oh wait, there is…

Jesus--Mary-Chain-Sometimes-Always-38197

“Sometimes Always” – The Jesus & Mary Chain

…which of course, like it or not, is just an indie version of this:

The_Beautiful_South_-_A_Little_Time

“A Little Time ” – The Beautiful South

I feel the need to make up for posting that last one. So here, have this:

Echo--The-Bunnymen-Seven-Seas-373603

“Seven Seas” – Echo & The Bunnymen

I’ll always remember chatting to one of the “cool kids” at school who liked cool music (i.e. not Quo) about music whilst we were waiting for the bus, and he extolled the virtues of that one. My response, an attempt to ingratiate myself, was to talk about the lead singer fire-eating on Top of the Pops. Because I thought he meant this. Oh, the shame.

So allow me to finish, with one of the most beautiful records ever made, oft copied but never bettered:

tim-hardin-reason-to-believe-polydor

“Reason to Believe” – Tim Hardin

More soon.

1983 Polished Off

DVCGWRCH3-Finish-Shot

Back to 1983 it is then, which is where I left off talking about the records I bought as I was growing up.

I turned 14 in September 1983, and earlier that year, spurred on by my Quo obsession, and sick of either playing air-guitar or pretending to play a tennis racquet, I’d got my first two guitars; one an acoustic I’d persuaded my parents to buy me, the other a red electric Gibson Flying V copy (by which I mean cheap, £55.00 if memory serves me right) not unlike the one above. Mine, of course, did not bear the Gibson insignia, it was called something like Ribson or Gibton. Shortly afterwards, my great grandmother passed away (not from the shock of me buying such a ludicrously shaped electric guitar, I hasten to add), and she left me a modest amount of money in her will: enough to buy a Fender amp, which I considered was decent compensation for the sudden loss of the Crunchie bar she gave me every Saturday when we went to visit her.

And so I proceeded to attempt to learn to play the damned things. Soon I had those three chords learned (the Quo-umverate, as I believe they’re known), and started to look around for some new things to try and learn.

Around the same time, I had started going to the Dance, actually just a disco, which was held once a month in the hall of the secondary school I attended. These were open to the public, although it was predominantly attended by school kids, had a licensed bar which was manned by one teacher and a couple of civilians. The teacher was there solely to make sure none of the school kids got served.

Our task each month time was to try and get served at the bar, which meant queuing at the opposite end of the bar to the one the teacher was serving at. I got lucky here, for I didn’t have any lessons with the teacher in question (he taught Maths to the brainy kids, which counted me…er..right out), so he had no idea who I was and regularly served me, despite the fact I looked nowhere near 18. (I say I got lucky; what this invariably meant was that it was I who was sent to the bar by my mates who did have him as their teacher).

Apart from my missions to the bar, I was your typical adolescent wall-flower, spending the entire night sitting to the side of the dance-floor, only venturing on to head-bang (that’s right ladies, form an orderly queue!) when they played the same three rock songs they played every month: “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, “Whole Lotta Rosie” by AC/DC (by the way, isn’t that the least AC/DC audience you’ve ever seen…?), “Down Down” by Status Quo. That was generally enough, and I was ready to stop by the end of the third song, often believing I had felt my brain move inside my head and bash against the side of my skull. Which would explain a lot.

Occasionally, they would play a fourth one, usually “Layla” by Derek & The Dominoes, although not the long version. (A year or so earlier, we had been on a school holiday for a fortnight to the Butlins holiday camp in sunny Barry Island, South Wales. At a disco there, this was the only song my mates and I ventured onto the dance floor for, only to be told off by a redcoat for head-banging to it. Apparently such activity was banned. We sloped off in a strop to the cinema to watch Pete’s Dragon instead.)

Then one night, the DJ played a record I’d never heard before, and which, these days, is viewed as a cheesy party record. I was blissfully unaware of its reputation, loved it so much I went into town the next day and found myself a copy on 7″. I don’t think I’ve heard this for about 25 years or so, and gave it a spin for the first time in all those years when I was writing this. It’s nowhere near as bad as it’s commonly perceived to be, or as I remembered, for that matter. Judge for yourself:

jeff-beck-hi-ho-silver-lining-emielectrola-columbia Jeff Beck – Hi Ho Silver Lining

Soon this was added to my guitar repertoire. I decided that maybe learning some other older songs would serve me well – all the Teach Yourself to Play Guitar books I’d bought (anyone who has heard me play, will not be in the slightest bit surprised to learn I’m entirely self taught) were crammed with songs by The Beatles and The Stones and many, many more (as the adverts used to say) – and so I scouted around for some more.

Quite how I ended up buying the next single, is, therefore totally beyond me.

10cc – I’m Not In Love is not exactly a record known for being choc-a-bloc full of chunky guitar riffs for me to get my teeth into. But this was the next record to find it’s way onto my turntable, nonetheless. What it is known for is being is a wonderful study of a broken heart and of denial, which may well be why it struck a chord with this thirteen/fourteen year old who found himself utterly ignored by members of the opposite sex.

The other clue as to how it ended up in my possession is the label the copy I bought it on: Old Gold. Sadly, I can’t find any pictures of the actual copy on said label, but here’s one of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s “Fire” which might jog a few memories:

fire532_edited

Look familiar?

In the late 70s/early 80s, branches of Woolworths and W H Smiths had rack upon rack of these, and thinking about it, I suppose it was our version of finding songs on the internet. Need to find a certain record, but don’t want to shell out for a whole album? Then the song could be yours on Old Gold, for the price of a bus fare into town, followed by a good hour or so’s solid rummaging through the racks, and then the cost of the single itself (£1.99, I think).

Flicking through those racks of re-issued songs on the Old Gold label was my practice ground, where I learned the correct stance for vinyl perusal (legs apart, back bent, fingers working the top of each record, eyes focused on the disc label, for the sleeves themselves were uniform, and the exposed label was the only way to identity the song contained on the grooves within.)

The next record I bought was also on the Old Gold label, and I found out some years later that it was actually the UK’s Number One single on the day I was born. It was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”

The reason I bought this was down to one film, a film I still love to this day, and which as I write this I find myself suddenly filled with the urge to dig out my DVD copy of and give it another watch.

Yes, I’m talking ’bout “An American Werewolf in London”.

Now I could’ve sworn that “Bad Moon Rising” accompanied the first transformation scene in it, but I guess not: that honour goes to some song adopted by a football team whose supporters turn their back on the pitch when their team scores, just as I turned my back on them two years earlier.

You don’t need me to tell you that John Landis, who directed the movie, subsequently, and as a direct result, was hired to make possibly the most famous pop video in history: Thriller. (PS – assuming you get the same advert at the start, Now 91 looks shit, doesn’t it?)

You also don’t need me to tell you the other reason why “American Werewolf…”  had such a profound effect on this virginal thirteen year old. I give you two words: Jenny. Agutter.

When I was a younger man, the presence of Ms Agutter in the credits meant two things: firstly, it would probably (but not always) be a sign of quality; secondly, it would definitely have at least one scene I would get embarrassed watching in the presence of my parents. (see also: “Walkabout” and “Logan’s Run”, which I rather Freudianly mis-spelled as “Logan’s Rub” when I first wrote this part).

By the way, American Werewolf’s scene to make me blush in front of my parents but engage in a very different activity when alone with just me, the video recorder and the pause button, was accompanied by this.

Nowadays, of course, spotting Ms Agutter’s names in the credits means you’ve fallen asleep on the settee, dribbled all over the cushions but managed to dodge having to sit through “Call The Midwife” when visiting your parents. Oh, how the times have changed.

So: chords for two new songs learned. Next up was a single which was actually in the charts at the time. Featuring Maggie Reilly, who I had always assumed was famous for being in Steeleye Span or the like, but who it seems is most famous for appearing on

Moonlight_Shadow_(Mike_Oldfield) Mike Oldfield’s Moonlight Shadow.

Oldfield was famous for a few things: for his Tubular Bells album which, I’m sure you know, was the first ever release on the Virgin label and which set Richard Branson up for a life-time of twatting around in hot-air balloons, running rubbish railway services and paying Usain Bolt and David Tennant to pretend to be his friends in TV adverts; for his Christmas hit “In Dulce Jubilo”, and for “Portsmouth” – not one that might tickle your memory glands, that, but one which has been burned onto my psyche ever since we did Country Dancing at Junior School and I made a complete arse of myself attempting to do-si-do with Vanessa Simpson, who I had a massive crush on, crush turning out to be quite literally the appropriate phrase, as I trod on her feet countless times until she asked to be allowed to change partner.

Ahem. But I’m over that now.

Oldfield had also re-recorded the Blue Peter theme tune (it’s not a great quality that link, but it’s worth a watch, if only to see the masterful interview techniques on display from Simon Groom, who is probably more famous for a possibly unintentional live innuendo and for corpsing live on-air, which I can’t find a link for). (NB – Any mention of Blue Peter reminds me of this, and no, it’s not an elephant having a shit in the studio.)

So that’s a few riffers and one fiddly guitar solo learned, what next?

Amongst the singles I still have, are two by the same band, with very battered sleeves. They are:

Gimme_All_Your_Lovin Gimme All Your Lovin’

and

ZZ-Top-Sharp-Dressed-Man-546769 Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top.

Ha ha! There’s three of them, and two have really long beards, and the one who doesn’t is called Frank Beard!! Brilliant!!! Hands up who’s utterly tired of that factoid being wheeled out whenever ZZ Top are mentioned?

image

Thought so.

And hands up, who likes me? You utter, utter bastards.

I’d like to say that my purchase of the these two ZZ Top records was because I thought they were fine examples of Texan-boogie rock (I did, and still do really like them; no Guilty Pleasures, remember?), but in reality, it was because their videos contained what I believe the red-tops refer to as “bikini-clad lovelies”. I was 13, shallow and untouched downstairs, gimme a break. To show how I’ve grown up, I’m not going to post a link to them here. Plus I did resist the urge to buy the other single from the album, “Legs” which threw any pretension of not being about a bunch of middle-aged men ogling younger women out of the window.

Which kind of neatly leads me on to my first female popstar crush, albeit with ages reversed, who I think I mentioned in passing quite a while ago: Debbie Harry.

For it was in 1983 that I bought “The Best of Blondie”, an album that I still own on vinyl to this day (and on CD for that matter. And MP3.) I’ve mentioned before how I used to buy Best of albums as a way into a band (I realise I am not unique in this, I don’t think I’ve done anything particularly smart there) and such was the case with this purchase.

01d67cddb8c6450e0c9ed0886f8918f8

My vinyl copy came with the above as a poster; I had no idea who Andy Warhol was at this point, or why he was BAD, but I still dutifully stuck the poster to my wall (no, with blu-tac, don’t be disgusting). The album remained on my turntable almost non-stop for several months, even after I’d learned to play as many as I could on my guitar.

Here’s one song which I wasn’t all that fussed on originally, but which I think now is probably my favourite Blondie song, and which probably explains my love of a good bracket (as you’ve probably noticed):

Blondie_-_The_Best_Of_Blondie  “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear”

I suppose I should do one of those Like It? But It here things, right? Okay then.

In the words of Columbo: “Just one more thing before I go.” I recently bought myself a new turntable, and I’m going through the laborious process of a) trying to track down copies of all the vinyl I used to own and buying them again, and b) buying some other stuff on vinyl too. As well as this, I’ve decided to buy a few of the albums my one-year-older-than-he-was-a-week-ago-brother owned and which I used to borrow whenever I had chance. My vinyl purchases may yet develop into a new series here (once I’ve stopped buying all the old Quo albums. Again.), but in the meantime, here’s one from an album he bought (a Best Of album, you’ll note. Must be a family trait) and which, as far as I know, has never been released on CD, so I feel less bad about posting this:

910rcMvWnrL__SX425_ “19th Nervous Breakdown”

More soon.

From Leeds With Love #1

Before we get back to business, another new feature. (Yes, I am stalling a bit)

I’ve mentioned them a couple of times in passing recently, but Leeds’ The Wedding Present are one of my favourite ever bands; if Super Furry Animals are not, as I’ve previously proclaimed, the band that I’ve seen live most often, then that honour must go to David Gedge and co.

One of the reasons I love them is not just because of their own, self-penned songs, but also for the wealth of songs they have introduced me to by other acts  – and not in a “I really must go and buy the new single by Raymonde/Ludus/insert-any-number-of-bands-here because Morrissey was apparently (but not definitely) seen at one of their gigs” kind of way (although I have shelled out for plenty of records on that basis) but in a more straight forward way: by doing a cover version.

Over the years, The Wedding Present have provided me with a veritable smörgåsbord of cover versions to chow down on; in my late teens/early twenties, when I was at the peak of my completest obsessive record buying mania, these would mostly crop up on semi-obscure various artist compilation albums, which ticked many boxes.

Box One: I owned a brand new Wedding Present cover version which was, generally unavailable elsewhere at the time, and which nobody else I knew had a copy of. Tick!

Box Two: Often I would not have heard of the artiste who had done the original version, which led me to seek out their records. Tick! Tick!

Box Three: There would be at least 9 other tracks on the album by bands I’d never heard of before either. Generally 8 of them were so awful I made a conscious decision to swerve any other records by them, a fact made easy by just how terrible they were. But that 9th one…often a gem. Often, but not always. Okay, often is too generous a word. Sometimes. Sometimes is better. Tick! Tick! Tick!

So, I thought I’d start a new feature where I let you hear the original version alongside that of The Wedding Present – a compare and contrast, if you will. I expect there to be a 2,000 word essay discussing each version on my desk first thing in the morning.

You will see as this series of posts unfolds that a Wedding Present cover version is an indicator of a record which was class in the first place, a seal of approval, if you will. But where to start? The choices are many.

As I write this, it is my brother’s birthday. At least it is where I am; he currently lives and works in India (which is handy, as it’d be a hell of a commute if he didn’t), and in India it is already The Day After My Brother’s Birthday.

As regular readers will remember, my brother’s own record collection had an enormous effect on my own when we were growing up, so to mark both of these facts, today’s post seemed to be an ideal place to kick off from.

The Kindness of Strangers was released in 1988 to raise money for the Save the Children charity. As you will see from the album sleeve, that 1 great Wedding Present cover version : 9 utter duffers ratio is apparent here. I can’t say I listened to the rest of them more than once, if that.

51xwHFZMaPL

The Wedding Present – Happy Birthday

(Like it? Buy it here) (actually, I can only find The Kindness of Strangers on ebay, so the link is to not to that but to The Wedding Present’s “Complete Peel Sessions” box set instead. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only other place you can purchase this track)

and

Altered-Images-Happy-Birthday-Da-45933

Altered Images – Happy Birthday (You don’t really need me to tell you about this, do you???)

(Like it? Buy it here)

Happy Birthday, bruv!

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I seem to be in the mood (i.e. hungover) for a few more of these mellow Sunday Morning tunes, so indulge me and allow me to share a few more.

51SpDozZ6KL

Love’s Been Good To Me

Johnny Cash covered this one on his wonderful Rick Rubin produced American Recordings series, and his version is top-notch of course. But for my money, you can’t beat Ol’ Blue Eyes’ version. And any mention of Frank always makes me think of the much over-looked Fast Show character you can find here at 09.08. The whole episode is worth a watch if you have time; Series 3 is when Whitehouse, Higson, Thompson et al were at their absolute peak, in my book.

Like it? Go buy it here.

ib550140

Leaving New York

From their absolute dog of an album “Around The Sun”, the opening track and frankly, you can eject the CD as soon as you’ve listened to this one. (Do people still play CDs..?) Archetypal R.E.M., it’s all gorgeous harmonies and backing vocals to die for. As I mentioned in a previous post, when I used to share a flat with Heledd (although I don’t think I actually mentioned her name. Consider that rectified. And hello Hel!), our Fridays would often involve a playlist I had prepared. Apart from laughing at my attempts to sing along to “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It”, Hel is not a big fan of Stipe, Buck, Mills (and Berry), but this tune caught her ear, and as a result cropped up regularly post-playlist when we were both in “a bit pissed and ready for a sing-song” mode. Right after we’d played Max Boyce, usually. Many songs remind me of many people, but as a result of those Friday nights, this song more than any other reminds me of Hel. She doesn’t own it, yet she totally owns it. Cheers!

Like it? Go buy it here

Cowboy_Junkies-The_Trinity_Session_(album_cover)

Sweet Jane

A Lou Reed cover, as you no doubt know, and if you ever want an example of a song being re-worked so far it almost sounds like a completely different song, this is it. Better than the original, in my opinion. There. I’ve said it.

Like it? Go buy it here

talking_book

I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be For Ever)

Taken from the first Stevie Wonder album I ever bought, and as the premise behind me writing this blog stems from the book High Fidelity (see Introduction, Explanation, Justification for my mission statement), it seems appropriate that I get things back on track by posting the song which is played over the end credits of the film adaptation of the novel.

Like it? Go buy it here.

More soon.