A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend

Been a while since I wrote one of these, but the news this week that there will no longer be a print version of the NME has spurred me into life.

I can’t really shed a tear for the NME moving to an online presence only; I haven’t read it for fifteen years or so, certainly haven’t bought it since Emo was a thing, and have never managed to pick up a free copy outside a tube station in London.

I did, however, purchase it semi-religiously from the late 1980s until the very late 1990s. Just like everyone has a Dr Who that is “theirs”, who resonates with their youth, so it is with the NME. I wish I could say that I bought it when Danny Baker et al were the scribes in residence, but my time involved the likes of Andrew Collins, Stuart Maconie, Stephen Dalton, Tom Hibbert, David Quantick, Barbara Ellen, Mary Anne Hobbs and Steve Lamacq. Looking at that list explains why I listen to BBC 6Music so much these days.

The NME was renowned for attaching the occasional cassette to the front cover; regrettably I was too late to grab a copy of the seminal C86 tape at the time, however I did go and purchase today’s selection, which was released in 1988 in conjunction with, and to raise funds for, Childline, a free 24-hour counselling service for children.

The Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father was released to mark the 21st anniversary of the original release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, and as I’m typing this, it seems just unbelievable that another thirty years have passed since then.

The idea was this: get current bands to record cover versions of every track on the album. And so it was that the tribute album was born.

As with many albums of this sort, it’s patchy to say the least. But here’s the tracks I like the most from it. And that one by Wet Wet Wet, which I include purely because it was released as a double ‘A’ side with Billy Bragg’s cover on the other side, which led to Simon Bates having to say on Top of the Pops, after the Wetx3s had mimed their smiley asses off, the following words: “That’s number one, and the other side is number one as well. Here’s Billy Bragg.”

Billy Bragg at #1 in the UK Charts. The stuff that dreams are made of.

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Wet Wet Wet – With A Little Help From My Friends

The Wedding Present with Amelia Fletcher – Getting Better

Billy Bragg with Cara Tivey – She’s Leaving Home

Frank Sidebottom – Being For Benefit Of Mr. Kite

Sonic Youth – Within You Without You

Michelle Shocked – Lovely Rita

The Triffids – Good Morning Good Morning

The Fall – A Day In The Life

A few years later, I was travelling somewhere (I forget where) with a friend who was a massive Beatles fan. He had asked me to put together a mix-tape for the journey, which for reasons that escape me now, I gave to him in advance of our trip to listen to. I included The Fall track, which he took exception to.

“Who the hell is that murdering A Day In The Life?”, he asked before I had clicked the seatbelt into place.

I looked at him, baffled, bemused.

“It’s The Fall. Obviously. It’s obviously The Fall. And they’ve not murdered it. They’ve Fall’ed it.”

I wonder if, after Mark E Smith’s death in January, he is claiming to have listened to The Fall since the late 80s. I know he occasionally reads this, so I’ll report back.

More soon.

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