Replenishing the Vinyl

When I was younger, I was a serious vinyl junkie, much to my mother’s annoyance.

Every spare penny went on two things:

  1. records, and
  2. the bus fare into town and back so I could buy records.

And every time I returned home, square plastic bag clutched in my sweaty little hand, I would race upstairs to listen to my latest purchases, oblivious to my Mum’s calls after me that “money burns a hole in your pocket”.

Well, something happened this week which, when she reads this, will lead her to tut, roll her eyes and mutter how she was right and how nothing has changed.

I’ll explain. Wednesday evening, I’ve finished work and am waiting to catch the bus home. Just next to my bus stop is a charity shop which has fairly recently opened. I’ve no idea what charity it supports; I rarely check the benefactors of such establishments, just in case its one that I don’t like. You know, one of those notorious bad charities.

Anyway, the shop has closed but the shutters aren’t down yet so I thought I’d do a bit of window shopping. Truth is, I’ve done this quite a lot at this shop recently, ever since the chap who sits on the desk opposite me (also a vinyl junkie, also a lover of trawling round charity shops in the hope of unearthing a bargain) waltzed back into work after lunch, gleefully clutching a hardback copy “Alan Partridge: Nomad” that he’d picked up for £2.00 there.

The book shelves are quite close to the window, and with a bit of squinting you can make out some of the titles: Dan Brown, Dan Brown, Russell Brand, Dan Brown. The usual selections one finds donated to charity stores.

But underneath that, I spied a new addition to the Entertainment Section: a plastic container full of vinyl, and there, right at the front, a copy of “Now That’s What I Call Music Vol II”. I determined that I would return there the following day to investigate further.

Thursday lunchtime. I’ve been out visiting one of the schools in the Borough and have caught the bus back to the office. I say the office, but actually I swung by the charity shop in question en route. (S’ok, it was my lunch break.)

The 80s compilation album was there, priced up at £3.75. Reasonable, I thought, as long as the vinyl itself was in good nick. I slipped both discs from their inner sleeves (reassuringly, the previous owner had placed them with the opening facing upwards so the vinyl couldn’t roll out or attract dust), held them both up to the light from the window and examined them. A tad dusty, but not warped and no obvious scratches or blemishes. I decided to buy it. As I turned to approach the counter, I glanced down at the plastic container, and there, now, after I had liberated “…Vol II”, at the front was….

“Now That’s What I Call Music”.

The first volume. They didn’t call it “Now That’s What I Call Music Vol I” for much the same reason, I imagine, as the First World War wasn’t called that at the time: they didn’t know there was going to be Second one.

I knelt down again, pulled that one from the container. And behind it was “Vol III”. And “Vol IV”. And “Vol V”. And “Vol VI”. And “Vol VIII”. And “Vol IX”. And “Vol X”. And “Vol XI”. And “Vol XIV”. And “Vol XVI”. That’s 12 volumes, all in pretty good nick, all, bar Vols I & II, priced at just £1.10 each.

Five minutes later, I left the shop, just over £18.00 poorer, but immeasurably happier. So, what if it’s two weeks until payday, I don’t need to eat every day.

At work, one of the girls asked me what I’d bought. She’s quite a lot younger than me, so I showed her, but started off by saying “You’re probably not old enough to remember these…”, meaning when the “Now…” series started. “Oh, I remember those,” she said. “My Dad used to own some records.” Bubble of joy duly punctured.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times how much I enjoy watching the reruns of old 80s editions of Top of the Pops on BBC4, as they bring back so many memories and the same is true of these albums, the first couple being from roughly the period those repeats are no now. Although, perversely, I didn’t buy a single one of them back in the day. (I say perversely, but I know exactly why I didn’t: Quo don’t appear for the first time until Vol VIII. Had they featured earlier/more frequently, the teenage me would have undoubtedly been unable to resist. And to save you checking, yes Vol VIII was amongst the ones I bought.)

So I thought I’d spread some 80s joy today, and every now and again on a Saturday morning, picking my favourite track(s) from each side of each one that I picked up.

Volume I was released in 1983, and the compilers of the album have made my task somewhat easier by picking two tracks by Kajagoogoo (no thanks) and, one by former Kajagoogoo singer Limahl (by far the worst record on here, and given the inclusion of UB40 – also twice – that’s really saying something. Bop bop shoo be doo wah.) Seriously, breaking the golden rule of mix-tapes and compilations by featuring the same artist more than once really didn’t bode well for this series of releases, but here we are, 24 years later, and they’re still going.

Anyway, front and cover art is below, so you can have fun guessing which tracks I’ve picked, deciding which you’d have picked, and trying to remember what the significance of the pig was:

FrontBack

Heaven 17 – Temptation

(Surely their finest moment…?)

Rock Steady Crew – Hey You (Rock Steady Crew)

(I love this. It was going to feature on my motivational Monday morning series sooner or later, but I can’t resist the…erm…temptation to post it here.)

Human League – Fascination

(They were just brilliant back then, weren’t they? Then he cut (the other side of) his hair and they went off the boil.)

Tracey Ullman – They Don’t Know

(It’s nowhere near as great as the original, but it least it has Kirsty on it, performing the “Baby!” at the end of the musical bridge, as Ullman couldn’t hit the note.)

Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence

(That record taught me a lot when I was a teenager…)

Madness – The Sun And The Rain

(If I’m pushed, that’s probably my favourite record by The Nutty Boys. But, I don’t understand why people call them The Nutty Boys. It takes longer to both say and type than Madness does.)

That’ll do you.

More soon.

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Replenishing The Vinyl

Following on from last week’s post about Voice of the Beehive, we move back to 1964 and the first solo album by probably the most famous beehive wearer, marginally ahead of Amy Winehouse and Peggy Bundy.

I speak, of course, of Dusty Springfield.

‘A Girl Called Dusty’ is very much a showcase album; recorded shortly after The Springfields had split, and after, but oddly not featuring, her debut hit “I Only Want To Be With You”, it contains a mixture of pop songs, and marks her first collaboration with legendary song-writing duos Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

Here’s the pick of them:

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Dusty Springfield – You Don’t Own Me

Dusty Springfield – When the Lovelight Starts Shining Thru His Eyes

Dusty Springfield – Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa

Dusty Springfield – Will You Love Me Tomorrow

Dusty Springfield – Wishin’ and Hopin’

More soon.

Replenishing The Vinyl

It appears to be Saturday morning again, which makes it time to have a peek at what vinyl I’ve bought recently.

Today: a debut album from 1988 by a band who achieved some modicum of success with it, releasing five singles (and re-releasing a further two). I’d bought their second single on 12″ the first time it was released (in 1987, when it wasn’t a hit), and managed to give my smug “yeah, I bought that the first time it was out” an airing for the first time when it got re-released (in 1988, when it was).

Centre-stage were Tracey Bryn and Melissa Brooke Belland (you have to be careful how you write and pronounce that) who became better know as Tracey and Melissa Beehive, and there was Woody from Madness on drums.

I speak, of course, of Voice of the Beehive, and here’s some songs from “Let It Bee”:

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Voice Of The Beehive – Just A City

Voice of the Beehive – I Say Nothing

Voice of the Beehive – I Walk the Earth

Voice of the Beehive – Don’t Call Me Baby

Voice Of The Beehive – Man In The Moon

Listening back to those, I don’t think they’ve aged all that badly at all, really.

As a special little treat (although you may disagree), here’s Tracey and Melissa covering Johnny Cash, from one of those typically patchy tribute albums that were all the rage once upon a time:

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Tracey and Melissa Beehive – Five Feet High And Risin’

More soon.

Replenishing the Vinyl

Morning all.

A couple of weeks ago, in my occasional series where I feature compilation albums I picked up when I was a teenager making mix-tapes to please my peers in the sixth form common room, I featured an album called “Take The Subway To Your Suburb” which included, amongst a host of jingly-jangly indie-popsters, some proto-Pop Will Eat Itself, when they were still in their grebo mode.

Today’s vinyl selection is by a band who slotted into the same scene, but unlike the Poppies, they failed to move with the times, released one album (on Dave Balfe and Andy Ross’ Food Records, better known for fathering early Blur releases, amongst others) but were dropped by the label in 1989. They did release a further album, which I’ve never heard, but lack of commercial success meant their days were numbered.

I saw this lot once, in my first year of college, before I got involved in the Entertainments Committee (you should not take it from that that I wouldn’t have booked them when I did get involved); they were pretty good, good enough to make we wait until the end of their set before going to the Gents. High praise indeed.

As I entered the Gents, there was Keith, my housemate, washing his hands at the sink, which meant that Allie, a girl from Bristol who wore polka dot skirts that he was moderately obsessed with, was in the venue somewhere.

“What did you think of them lot?” he asked (he was from Yorkshire, hence the poor grammar).

I positioned myself at the urinal, my back to the rest of the room.

“Yeh, I thought they were alright,” I said. “Though I have reservations about any band that has a song called ‘I Don’t Want That Pint Of Blood’.”

At which point, the lead singer of the band crashed out of one of the cubicles.

“That’s not what it’s fucking called,” he slurred at me, pulled his leather jacket down taut, assumed rock star status and strutted out to meet his slightly more approving (and female) public.

And he was right, it’s not.

I may have misheard one of them, but they had some great song titles tucked under their belts.

Here’s some tunes from that Food release album I mentioned earlier:

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Crazyhead – I Don’t Want That Kind Of Love

Crazyhead – Time Has Taken It’s Toll On You

 (that one has a key change at the end that would make Westlife fall off their stools)

Crazyhead – Have Love, Will Travel

Crazyhead – What Gives You The Idea That You’re So Amazing, Baby?

They haven’t dated all that well, but blimey I’ve loved hearing those again.

More soon.

 

Replenishing the Vinyl

More from my vinyl collection this morning, which is in a constant state of revitalisation after the inexplicable loss of large chunks from it.

This morning’s choice is a Greatest Hits album that I only ever owned on cassette back in the day, but have recently picked up on vinyl, in a lovely gatefold cover.

Released in 1986, it features the singles released by Roxy Music and some of lead singer Bryan Ferry’s solo stuff.

I’ve decided to focus just on the Roxy Music tracks, one from each side of the record. And there’s a reason for that.

The songs feature, pretty much, in chronological order on the album, with the notable exception of their only UK #1 single, a cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy“, which rounds the compilation off, although it wasn’t their last single.

 In their pomp, Roxy Music were considered trendsetters, with their arty, cool take on glam pop, but as the years went by, and the band’s line-up changed – most importantly when Brian Eno left – so their sound changed too; they became more polished and the songs seemed to become slower, often still quite wonderful, but nothing which came close to anything released in their heyday.

By way of evidence:

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Roxy Music – Virginia Plain

Roxy Music – Street Life

Roxy Music – Over You

Roxy Music – More Than This

More soon.

Replenishing the Vinyl

There’s only really one place to go this morning.

A couple of months ago, I picked up a couple of albums by the now late, always great, Glen Campbell.

One claimed to be “Wichita Lineman”, but isn’t; it’s a cash-in compilation album which has it’s moments, obviously.

The other is his 1977 album “Southern Nights”, the title track written by Allen Toussaint, an artist I knew of but nothing by until I went to see Billy Bragg and Joe Henry last year, and Henry waxed lyrical about him and performed one of his songs (“Freedom of the Stallion”, in case you’re interested). I’m currently investigating his rather large back catalogue.

But I digress: “Southern Nights” may not be one of his better known records, but the title track was a US #1 – his last, I believe – and has some other gems on it; a couple of songs written by Jimmy Webb (of course), a Neil Diamond cover and a certain Brian Wilson composition which will be familiar to you all, particularly if you’ve cast an eye over this week’s returned series The Chain.

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Glen Campbell – Early Morning Song

Glen Campbell – This is Sarah’s Song

Glen Campbell – Sunflower

Glen Campbell – Southern Nights

Glen Campbell – God Only Knows

More soon.

Replenishing the Vinyl

I was beginning to worry that I might run out of material to feature in this series; it’s been a while since I actually bought any vinyl and I was down to maybe four or five albums that I hadn’t already written about, and at least two of those were total impulse buys which I’d rather not admit to having purchased (but will – it would hardly be in the spirit of the whole “no such thing as a guilty pleasure” ethos I try to cultivate here were I not to write about what has rightly been described by friends as “any old crap I’ve bought”).

See, the vinyl I crave is not pristine new releases, but old records, donated to charity shops, ideally by the spouse of someone who recently died rather than by someone who just fell out of love with the records in question. But the only charity shops round where I live – and there are absolutely no actual record shops within walking distance at all – tend to have either no vinyl at all, or a pile of James Last albums, the aural equivalent of the mountain of copies of The Da Vinci Files piling up in charity shops across the country.

Still, charity shops haven’t politely requested that kind, generous donors refrain from giving any more James Last albums, as some have with Dan Brown’s most famous drivel.

What I mean to say is that there’s not exactly a wealth of sources to satisfy my craving. I could travel a little, sure, but then I begrudge having to fork out the cost of getting a bus to wherever, with no guarantee of a successful plunder.

Which is odd, because my main source of vinyl purchases is now via ebay, where I constantly find myself thinking I’ll bid on something, and then see the extortionate postage charges. What are they doing, gift-wrapping and hand-delivering it to me??

But still, I picked up a couple of reasonably priced albums this week, which I’m just waiting for the postman to try and squeeze through my letterbox, or for the folks who live downstairs from me to hide the “We Missed You Card” he’ll leave (At the bottom of the stairs is a pile of pizza flyers, junk mail, and letters addressed to people who used to live in the building, but have since moved on and not left a forwarding address. The property management agents used to take them with them when they did their routine inspections of the flats, but they seem to have given up on that notion of helpfulness. The other day, I decided to have a quick shuftie through the pile and found something addressed to me, which turned out to be my ticket to go and see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds in September. Would it have killed the people in the flat below me to spot my name on the envelope and put it aside, rather than tossing it onto the pile of recyclable garbage?)

Ahem. But I digress.

The albums I’ve recently purchased have not yet arrived, so here’s one that I bought shortly after I got my new turntable. An album I didn’t own when I was a kid, though I seem to remember my brother had a copy on tape, which I think he got from our friends until we got to Secondary School, Michael and Peter.

We didn’t fall out with them or anything, they just went to a different Secondary School to us, so we just kind of lost touch..made new friends…you know how it is.

We had spent many summer evenings cruising round the village we lived in on our bikes. One of them had a Chopper (not an innuendo) which made them the subject of much jealousy from the other kids in the village. When we weren’t doing that, we whiled away the long summer holidays by ordering pizzas to be delivered to the house opposite theirs then watching from behind the curtains as the frustrated delivery guy arrived, (this was before you could type a number into your phone to find the identity of the caller; hell, this was before mobile phones and Caller IDs) or flicking through the phonebook and prank-calling people (“Hello? Is that Mr Rabbitt? We’ve got your order of 200 hundred weight of carrots here, when are you going to collect them?). I seem to remember us once just dialling a random number and pretending that a homicidal axe-wielding maniac had got into the house. Because that’s what you’d do if that ever happened: dial a random eleven digit number, rather than a simple three digit one, like 999.

And they had some cool records, namely by today’s artist, and I also remember them owning Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Two Tribes” on 12″. But none of these were by the Quo, so, whilst I rather enjoyed them, there was no way I’d be wasting my pocket money on them.

Until now.

I bought this album a while ago, forgetting that it’s not actually that good. Rolling Stone magazine featured it in a list entitled “20 Terrible Debut Albums by Great Artists” and they have a bit of a point, to be honest.

So my apologies if you’ve just read all the above to find that out.

“Dirk Wears White Sox” by Adam & The Ants is not a great album. I’m featuring it here for two reasons: firstly, because if you listen really hard to some of the tracks, you can just about hear the ideas forming that went on to make Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee, Gary Tibbs – and Adam, of course – massive pop stars a couple of years later; and secondly, because there used to be a rather excellent blog called “Dirk Wears White Sox”, now sadly no more, which I must have raided so much stuff from when it was up an running. It’s been gone for at least ten years now, I reckon, and I never got chance to say thank you to whoever it was that used to write it. Every now and then I do a quick Google search, just in case it’s been resurrected, but no. So anyway, if you happen to be reading this: thanks. You were great.

So here’s a band on the verge of greatness. Although, you wouldn’t really know it from this, bar the drumming on two of the tracks do hint at what was to follow:

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Adam & The Ants – Cartrouble

Adam & The Ants – Friends

Adam & The Ants – Kick!

Adam & The Ants – Physical

No “Kings of the Wild Frontier” here, clearly Mr Ant had decided that brevity in respect of titles was the key to success.

It was rumoured that he was asked if he was sure this was wise, to which he replied “Sure? I’m adamant!”, but this has never been confirmed.

I’m here all week.

By which I mean: More soon.