I’ve not written one of these for a while, and a couple if things prompted me to dig out today’s compilation CD.
Firstly, on this week’s edition of The Chain, Alex G suggested a track by All About Eve, which reminded me that I had bought a compilation album entitled CD88 back in 1988 that had a track by them on it.
Secondly, I found that the ever wonderful Cherry Red Records have released a triple CD of Indie tracks from 1988, entitled C88, which, looking at the track-listing has just entered my list of must-get albums at number one.
CD88 was one of a long series of Indie Top 20 albums released by Beechwood Music Ltd which started back in 1987 and ran into the mid-1990s. There’s a pretty wonderful and comprehensive blog which focuses on these albums here.
The albums were released two or three times a year, with the occasional Best of the Year editions thrown in every now and then for good measure. CD88 was one such volume, sort of. For it’s important not to be misled by the title: it’s not a Best of the Indie tracks which were released in 1988, it’s a Best of Indie tracks which was released in 1988. Confused? Let me put it another way: it covers the first five volumes of the Indie Top 20 compilations, which were released in 1987 and 1988.
Here’s what it says on the booklet that accompanies the CD (which, I have found when writing this, also got a vinyl release):
“CD88 is a testament to the vital role played by the independent chart. Many of these hit singles have never been and might never be available on CD elsewhere.
CD88 is a collection of outstanding singles that have since become indie classics, and for many, subsequently served as the springboard from their Independent roots to major label and Gallup chart status.
Each track is chosen from the successful Indie Top 20 compilations, plus four classic tracks previously not included in the series. Indie Top 20 is released every three months to highlight the best of the new singles which have made a high impact on the National Independent Chart.”
It’s funny when you find yourself getting all wistful and nostalgic at the mere mention of the Gallup charts, isn’t it?
Anyway, I was going to just post the songs that I love from this compilation – a Best of the Best, if you will – but, on reflection, have them all, along with their original artwork. Perversely, for an album celebrating the Indie Top 20, there are only nineteen songs on it:
- All About Eve – Our Summer
I’m not a massive fan of All About Eve (the band, not the film, or The Wedding Present track), but this is okay enough, and definitely fits the “before they were famous” mould that defines many of the acts/songs here, for this record reached the giddy heights of #87 in the UK charts in 1987.
2. Cardiacs – Is This The Life
If you’ve ever wondered where Chain Gang regular The Robster got the inspiration for the title of his excellent blog, then look no further.
As well as making me think of Rob, this record always reminds me of my first year at college, when me and my buddies would traipse along to the Student’s Union every other Tuesday to attend “Funk Off”, the Indie Night, and it was here that I first heard this tune.
This was before I started DJing there myself – I wrote about how I started DJ’ing at college, and how the chap who taught me to DJ had introduced me to quite a few records (here) and this is one of them – and one of the resident DJs, Jolly Jim, had played it; generally someone in our gang would be able to tell you what a record was if you didn’t know, but this one drew blank looks from everyone. I couldn’t not know, so I nervously shuffled up to the DJ booth which would soon become practically my second home.
“‘Scuse me mate,” I called to Jim. “What’s this record?”
Jim looked at me with some mixture of surprise and joy; surprise because admitting you didn’t know a record was definitely not considered a cool thing to do at Funk Off, and joy because he was able to impart some wisdom.
So the Cardiacs track was probably the one most responsible for me buying this album in the first place. If you’ve never heard this one before, I urge you to give it a listen (Part 1 of 2).
3. Fields of the Nephilim – Preacher Man
Goths, but Goths By Numbers. Wannabe Eldritches. That’s all I got.
4. Danielle Dax – Cat-House
This, on the other hand, is another absolute belter of a forgotten track. Although, having said that, a few years ago, Hel and I DJ’d a couple of times at the now defunct Mucky Pup bar in Islington. I happened to be there on a night when we weren’t playing, and was staggered when the DJ played this, partly because I was annoyed that I hadn’t played it the week before, but mostly because I genuinely didn’t think anyone else remembered it, much less did I expect to meet anyone else who did. As it played, I spoke to the DJ, commending him on his choice. He looked at me with an air of bafflement. “You know this record??” he asked. Oh yes. If you’ve never heard this one before, I urge you to give it a listen (Part 2 of 2).
5. Crazyhead – Baby Turpentine
This lot cropped up on my Replenishing the Vinyl series a couple of weeks ago, and The Robster left a comment about how this was his favourite track by them. Mine too, mate, mine too.
6. The Wedding Present – Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm
In the late 1980s, no Indie compilation worth it’s salt was without a track by The Wedding Present, a band who I still love to this day, as I have mentioned many, many times on these pages. This is one of their greatest (early) singles. Take it away, Grapper!
7. The Soup Dragons – Hang Ten!
Ditto: The Soup Dragons, whilst they were still in their playful pop mode, as they were here. Many happy memories of pogoing around the Students Union dancefloor to this one.
8. The Rose of Avalanche – Velveteen
Not really my cup of tea, this one, though it’s one of my brother’s favourites, so at least he’ll get chance to hear it again.
9. Half Man Half Biscuit – Dickie Davies Eyes
Any excuse to blow the dust of this one.
10. Michelle Shocked – Fog Town
Thankfully, the version lifted from The Texas Campfire Tapes, rather than the (nowhere near as good) rock version which crops up as a bonus track on Short Sharp Shocked.
11. The Chesterfields – Ask Johnny Dee
My old mate Rich got in touch after I last posted a track by this lot to tell me that this tune reminded him of when we were kids listening to records in my bedroom. I’m not sure there’s a finer definition of late 80s jangly indie pop than that.
12. Wire – Kidney Bingos
I’d never heard of Wire before I picked this CD up, but this is great. Not as great as similar period Eardrum Buzz and nowhere near as good as their earlier stuff, but a bad Wire record is still a pretty good Wire record in my book.
13. Bradford – Skin Storm
This lot were, not least because of the blessing they received from one Steven Patrick Morrissey, once tipped to be the next big thing, but it never happened for them. Mostly because every other record of there’s seemed to sound almost exactly like this, but not as good.
14. Sweet Honey In The Rock – Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto
Perhaps the surprise inclusion on this compilation. Nowadays, this would doubtless attract sneery comments about diversity targets being met, but that would detract from the fact that this is a brave and beautiful political record, latterly covered by Billy Bragg.
15. A Certain Ratio – Mickey Way (The Candy Bar)
Manchester legends, who I’ve never really got into for some reason. My loss, I’d imagine. And having just listened to that for the first time in god knows how many years, it is pretty ace.
16. Ciccone Youth – Into The Groovy
A side project of the Sonic Youth gang, plus Firehose and Minutemen member Mike Watt and J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr, taken from a tongue in cheek tribute to Madonna which I’m not going to name as I have a sneaky feeling that if I did, it might crop up again on these pages quite soon….
17. The Beloved – Forever Dancing
From before they became successful, one listen to this will tell you why commercial success eluded them for another year or so.
18. The Shamen – Jesus Loves Amerika
The sound of another band, soon to be quite large indeed, still honing their musical sound. The deliberate mis-spelling of America is, I suspect, making a point still relevant today.
19. Pop Will Eat Itself – There Is No Love Between Us Anymore
Taken from Box Frenzy, their first album where they stepped away from their grebo sound and started using samplers.
One last thing before I go: this compilation holds a special place in my heart, for it was the first record of many that I ever bought in the oldest record shop in the world, Cardiff’s “Spillers Records”, a store which became a regular haunt for me over the following twenty years. It’s moved premises since I last lived in Cardiff, but this is how I remember it:
Now that’s a proper record shop. And now I’m getting all wistful and nostalgic again.
You can read about it here, or, better still, go here and spend a few quid to keep them going.