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:
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.
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).
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
I bet you all thought I’d got bored of writing this series already, didn’t you? Well, truth be told I’d decided I would try to go through this list of compilation albums that I’ve bought in the same way as the main theme of this blog (is supposed to), that is in the chronological order in which I bought them. Not that any of you will know what I bought and when, of course, but I have standards, godammit.
But truth be told, I found today’s selection quite tricky to write about, as there seems to be so little info out there on that there interweb thing on a couple of the bands featured.
But what the heck, here goes anyway.
“Take the Subway to Your Suburb” is a ten track sampler released in 1986 for The Subway Organization, an independent record label founded a year earlier in Bristol by Martin Whitehead.
In the mid-1980s, if you were a new jangly guitar indie pop band you needed to be from Manchester so that you could pretend to be friends with The Smiths. If you weren’t, then Bristol was the next best thing, and if you weren’t from there either (or the west country generally), then having some affiliation to the city was essential.
Step forward The Subway Organization. (And yes, it does annoy me they chose to spell it with a Z, since you’re asking.)
Some great bands released records on Subway: Shop Assistants, The Charlottes (I went to school with the guitarist’s brother, name drop fans!), The Groove Farm, Bubblegum Splash!, Rodney Allen (who went on to join The Blue Aeroplanes), and The Soup Dragons (their wonderful 3-track Buzzcocks-sound-a-like “Whole Wide World” 12″ was released on the label).
But none of those feature here. Instead, the ten songs are divided between six bands, four of them (The Chesterfields, The Flatmates, Razorcuts, and Pop Will Eat Itself – when they were still a grebo band, and long before they had discovered the joys of sampling) getting two tracks each, and two bands (The Clouds and The Rosehips) getting one track apiece.
Oh, and just in case none of those names mean anything to you and you want an idea of what they all sound like: think of the bands on Subway’s roster as the less winsome, more shambolic brother to Sarah Records. Hope that clarifies.
I bought the album on the strength of it featuring The Chesterfields, whose “Kettle” album I was, and still am, profoundly in love with (it’s one of those albums that has “stayed with me” since the day I bought it), but this compilation introduced me to the delights of The Flatmates, who I went on to buy several records by (the two songs featured here convinced me that they were the new The Shangri-Las, and nothing I’ve heard since dissuades me from that view), and to a stone cold classic of the jingly-jangly C86-ish genre by The Clouds (a song I consider to be on a par with the blooming wonderful “Therese” by The Bodines, which featured in #2 of this series).
When I used to prepare a new mix-tape to play in the sixth form common room – something which, as I’ve mentioned before, I used to do pretty much every other evening – I would always be annoyed if there was too much silence at the end of one of the cassette sides of the C90, Side One in particular. Leave too much of a gap there, and somebody might stick the radio on instead, and then all of my Side Two handiwork would go unappreciated.
This would often lead to furious rejigging of the running order, a time consuming feat back in those days when you had to re-record them all. Luckily, one of the songs by The Chesterfields on this album is so short (0:54) that it would often feature at the end of Side One of any mix-tape I compiled with such a gap (where either “Velocity Girl” or “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want This Time” didn’t quite fit.)
As with many great record labels – Factory, 4AD – you can tell it’s a Subway record just by looking at it, so distinctive were the designs by The Terrible Hildas, who created the sleeves for much of the label’s output.
I couldn’t decide which songs to post and which to miss out from the ten featured, so I figured, I’d post the lot, especially bearing in mind the brevity of the aforementioned track.
Now, I’ll be honest, most of these are very much “of their time”. Which is precisely why I still love them, 31 years after I first bought this album:
Side One (or, as they put it on the album sleeve: “On One Side of This Record”)
And before any of you write to tell me, yes, I know that at some point or another, in the world of CDs, this album got a make-over and an expanded twenty-two song version was released. I didn’t buy that, I bought this ten track vinyl version. And no, I don’t feel cheated by that.
Particularly as I’ve subsequently brought the all encompassing double CD ‘The Best of The Subway Organization 1986–1989’, released, somewhat predictably, by the wonderful Cherry Red Records in 2005. Which will feature at a later date, of course.
Last night, The Wedding Present played none of those songs, for what I hope are fairly obvious reasons, but they did play this, which I made sure Rich and I had a hug to on the line “You’re not like anyone I ever met”.
“Sunday, Sunday here again in tidy attire You read the colour supplement, the TV guide…”
Well, you can now add “The Chain” to the list of things to read on a Sunday, although events have rather caught up with me, meaning that it will be a race against the clock for me to get this finished by the end of the day.
We ended The Chain #36 with “Hyperactive!” by Thomas Dolby and the usual request for your suggestions for songs that can be linked to that tune. Let’s see what you came up with.
First, a batch of songs which link to “Hyperactive!” the song, and “Hyperactive!” the physical state, first amongst them being submitted by Rol from My Top Ten:
“‘Hyperactive!’ begins with a psychiatrist asking Dolby to “Tell me about your childhood.” So my first choice is…”
A few weeks ago, Babylotti got in touch to put me on notice that he was looking to suggest a song which he thought it would be impossible for me to locate a copy of. This week is the week he put that into practice:
“Okay so starting off with the Hyperactive link, it reminds me of another 80s songster, Alexei Sayle. He had a hit with ‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?’ (not the link yet) [which is lucky, as it’s featured before, so I’d have had to disqualify it] in the charts at the exact same time as ‘Hyperactive!’, [I’ve checked this, and it is correct: 26/02/84, ‘Hyperactive!’ was at #29 on it’s way down from #17, whilst ‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?’ was at #35 on it’s way to the giddy heights of #15] but in 1982 he released a single as the Albanian World Cup Squad, ‘Albania! Albania!’ (as threatened/promised!). With a chorus quite reminiscent of the Blackadder theme tune, I first heard it on the Anne Nightingale show back then, had been after it ever since.”
One of the rules here at The Chain is that if you suggest a song then you must be able to supply a copy of it in the event that I don’t already own it, or am unable to source it. This has happened 4 or 5 times since we started, and you won’t be surprised to learn than I couldn’t find this one. I had been prepared for this, as Babylotti previously advised me that as far as he was aware, it was only available on one website.
That website, he revealed, was his Soundcloud page. Should be easy enough to find, I thought, typing the words “babylotti” and “soundcloud” into Google. Did it find babylotti’s Soundcloud page? Did it heck. But what it did reveal is that some chap called Rick Shide has been reposting The Chain verbatim for a few months now on something called ‘Inoreader’.
Let’s all give Rick a wave, shall we?
I’m sure you’re all as flattered as I am.
Anyway, to babylotti’s suggestion, which he ended up adding to his own blog, Livin’ Out Rock’n’Roll in order that you can all hear it today. I have to admit, it is pretty funny:
Babylotti then goes off at a bit of tangent, which is fine, as long as it’s justifiable, and his next two suggestions are, linking to “Hyperactive!” via the aforementioned Alexei Sayle record:
“I’ll then stay with the football theme and choose the song from when New Order ruled the world, World in Motion. The greatest football song ever, and that’s coming from a Republic of Ireland supporter…”
Of course, one of the highlights of that record is the rap performed by John Barnes, and let’s be honest, other than that goal against Brazil, it was probably the most impressive thing he ever did in an England shirt.
Caught up on the tube in August last year, Barnes was kind enough to treat his fellow travellers with an impromptu rendition:
“And my last one,” babylotti rounds off, “which always reminds me of Goal of the Month:”
It wasn’t just the song title “Hyperactive!” that was linked to; many others linked to Hyperactive the condition.
Over now to Jules from Music From Magazines. In case you have any issues deciphering Jules’ contributions, as I did this week, please note something he said in a Comments Conversation we had yesterday:
“Please check the time I posted this , music from mags rules are only post in pubs…”
A fine rule, which I may have to bring in as mandatory…
Anyway, here’s Jules’ first suggestion:
“A Hyperactive Thomas can cause many problems, so let’s get it out the system and try Ivor Biggun and….”
Stop right there. Let me just slap one of these labels on this one:
Although, it’s hardly needed, you can pretty much get the gist from the sleeve, the artist (I use that term most misguidedly) and song title:
Ivor Biggun is a the “comic” creation of Doc Cox, who some of you may remember from his stint as one of the co-hosts of consumer show “That’s Life!”, a show spoofed here by the “Not The Nine O’Clock News” team (albeit, in pre-Cox days):
If you ever need to investigate whether there was a link between increased illegal drug use (non-contraceptive) and teenage pregnancies in the 1980s, then you could probably cite this record, for gleefully announcing over a summery, steel drum tune that the lead singer is “drowning in amphetamines” and, even more irresponsibly, that “I don’t care if you get me into trouble”. Yours faithfully, Outraged, Tunbridge Wells.
Finally in this first batch, here’s Alyson from What’s It All About, Alfie? who, like me, went to see ‘T2 Trainspotting’ this week and, like me, bloody loved it. That’s a recommendation, by the way.
“Ian Watkins from the group Steps was always called “H” which was short for Hyperactive – If you’ve ever seen him being interviewed on telly (no I wouldn’t admit to it either) you will know why. The song of theirs that I’m going to choose is…”
That’s not quite what I first thought the “H” stood for, if I’m honest…
Regular visitors to these pages will know that each week one suggestion is crowned “Worst Record of the Week”. Unbelievably, this week that record is not by Steps.
Moving on, and several of you provided links to Mr Dolby himself; here’s Rigid Digit from Stuff & Nonsense with one of them:
“Thomas Dolby was in The Camera Club (a band, not a photographic society) with Bruce Woolley. Bruce Woolley was co-writer (with Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes) of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, the song which epitomises all things 80s (even though it was released in 1979).
Many earholes have agreed that the Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club version is superior.”
The first suggestion we received this week was from The Great Gog, whose nominated track leads us rather nicely into the next batch of similarly-themed-suggestions:
“A fairly straightforward double-link springs to mind immediately. Thomas Dolby was involved in the production of Prefab Sprout’s ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’ album (although duties were shared out on that one). That album just happens to include another song with an exclamation mark at the end of the titles, so “Hey Manhattan!” it is.”
Next up, it’s Martin from New Amusements, who suggests a song by a band who are very dear to me indeed:
“Hyperactive has an exclamation mark at the end. Mid-80s twee-merchants The Chesterfields used to use an inverted exclamation mark as the “i” in their name, so how about ‘Ask Johnny Dee’ by The Chesterfields? Or maybe that should be The Chesterf¡elds…”
Taken from their jingly-jangly guitar lost classic “Kettle”, an album which came out in 1987 on the oft-overlooked Subway Records label; I recently placed it in a “Top 1o albums which have stayed with me” Facebook round-robin thing.
I’d completely forgotten about the ! in their name, and I have to say I’m bloody delighted to have the chance to post a song by them, even if they are very much “of their time”.
Oh but before I do, a clarification from Martin:
“On closer inspection, the exclamation mark in The Chesterfields wasn’t inverted, just normal i.e. The Chesterf!elds.”
Last of the Exclamation Marks now, and another of my suggestions. In all honesty, when the first song linked by the exclamantion mark came in, I thought there would be no way that somebody wouldn’t suggest something by this lot.
If you don’t know this band, but like “House of Jealous Lovers”-era The Rapture, then I’d heartily recommend you give this a spin, if for no other reason than it’s prowling Slits “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”-esque bass line:
Okay, on to other Thomas’s now, and back to The Great Gog:
“Around the time that Mr. Dolby was first active musically, there was another keyboard player called Thomas releasing records, albeit with less commercial success – Thomas Leer. Mr. Leer later went on to be part of Act, who had a minor hit with ‘Snobbery & Decay’.”
“My second choice,” continues Badger, “is ‘Thomas the Fib’ by much missed dancey jazz pioneers Red Snapper from their excellent ‘Prince Blimey’ album. Prince Blimey being the bastard son of Prince William and Katie Price from their ill advised affair of 2001. That was exposed by the Daily Mirror after Wills was seen leaving a kebab shop at 3 in the morning and letting himself into the back door of Price’s Penge Maisonette.” [Can we insert the word ‘allegedly’ in that at least once and preferably several times please? – Legal Ed]
Right, you know who this week’s instalment of The Chain is missing? George, that’s who. Up you step, George:
“From Thomas (Dolby) to the diminutive Tommy, which could lead to any number of tracks from a double by The Who, but won’t, but does lead to Eric Clapton who performed Eyesight to the Blind in the film Tommy (I went with my mum to see that film).. Sonny Boy Williams (the second one) does the original”
I’m assuming it’s the original version that you want:
Now, remember earlier that Jules revealed that he only ever posts when in the pub? Here’s another one from him, which he submitted after I had asked what on earth he was dribbling on about in two of his other suggestions (one of which i still don’t understand):
“St Thomas supported Lambchop at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth some years back, as the encore started we had to go to get the last ferry home. And the song a cover of The Stranglers “(Get a) Grip (of Yourself)’.”
Some admin, from me: the St Thomas referred to does not imply that Thomas Dolby has received some kind ecclesiastical sanctity; it is the performing name of one Thomas Hansen. Also, the cover isn’t by St Thomas, it’s by Lambchop, a live version of which appears on their “Rainer on my Parade” album, but I’m posting the studio version.
Some admin from Jules: “This [choice] is not a reference to my previous ‘I’m a Wanker’ suggestion.”
Two more categories to go now, and unsurprisingly, many of you linked to Thomas Dolby’s surname, and the technical side of sound reproduction.
I’ll let Martin explain:
“Dolby, as anyone of a certain vintage (i.e. all of us) knows, is the de facto tape hiss reduction technology. Dolby-B was most common. Dolby-C less so – better hiss reduction but too much loss of treble. Dolby-S came knocking just as tape succumbed to burning your own CDs instead, but it was brilliant! Especially if recording on a good quality metal tape (TDK MA90 or, better still, Sony Metal-XR)… sorry, turning into a hi-fi geek. The suggestion. So for me, Dolby makes me think “S” and hence, unfortunately, S-Express and ‘Theme From S-Express’. Not something I’m desperate to hear again…”
Long-term readers will know that some time ago I ran a very short-lived thread about the samples used on certain records, and ran one post which looked at exactly this tune. You can read it again here (not sure if the links are still active, let me know if not).
Before we go any further, a suggestion of a different sort. As mentioned earlier, one of the rules here is that we don’t play the same tune twice (unless the first time it was played it was because it featuring in The Official Chain, rather than being suggested by one of us). When you leave your Comment/Suggestion, you should have the option of ticking a little box which lets you know if anyone replies to your Comment – please tick this, for in the event of me being unable to source the song, or in case I need you to clarify your suggestion, or, as happened here, you suggested something that had already featured, it makes it a lot easier for me to get in touch with you. Thanks.
So, back to Rigid Digit:
“Spinal Tap reference time:
When discussing the failure of their new album (‘Smell The Glove’), Jeanine Pettibone (David St Hubbins’ girlfriend) stated that the problem with the album was that “You can’t do Heavy Metal in DOBLY”
Suggested track: ‘Stonehenge’.”
Which we’ve had before (#32). So, in the absence of a response from Rigid to my request for an alternative suggestion, I’ve, er, plumped for this one:
A joint suggestion now, for The Swede of Unthought of, though, somehow nominated a tune that was on my not-so-shortlist, which he very graciously said he’d step aside and let me nominate. However, a better idea, I think is if we jointly suggest this and then both have another go at a snake related tune.
Over to you then, Swede:
“As George so rightly pointed out the Dolby system was developed in part to reduce tape hiss. Another thing that hisses is of course a snake, so let’s have ‘The Snake’ by Al Wilson.”
Nope, that’s not the worst record of the week either.
Some of you knew that Thomas Dolby was heavily involved in the development of ringtones; Rigid Digit says that he “…invented the Nokia Ring Tone (cue oversized mobile phone a la Trigger Happy TV: “HELLO!, I’m on the Internet. It’s very boring (mostly, but there are some places worth visiting – honest!)”
In case the reference to oversized mobile phones means nothing to you, Rigid refers to this:
..which prompted babylotti to pipe up:
“You’d almost want to go with Mario Piu’s Library there, it samples Dom Joly’s favourite phrase.”
Quite an uninspring bit of cover art, that, isn’t it. Let me see if I can find a more appropriate library related picture…
Ah yes, this seems about right:
Anyway, where were we? Ringtones, that’s where. And here’s Alex G from We Will Have Salad with, without even the merest shadow of a doubt, the Worst Recod of the Week, by a country mile:
“Thomas Dolby went on to basically invent polyphonic ringtones. I therefore suggest this week’s worst record, ‘Axel F’ by Crazy Frog, on the grounds that it’s Thomas Dolby’s fault. I dimly recall there were some further, possibly even worse, follow-ups, but I think Axel F will suffice to remind us of the evil that Thomas Dolby has visited upon the world. His crimes must never be forgotten.”
It’s alright for you lot, you don’t have to listen to it, like I do when I check the copy I *ahem* aquired is clear and has uploaded okay.
Crazy Frog – Axel F
I once berated a guy I worked with for having that as his ringtone.
As I mentioned when Alex posted that, the one redeeming feature of that record is, if my memory serves, that it stopped Coldplay from getting their first ever number one single.
“Thomas Dolby had the look of a mad scientist and indeed did ‘She Blinded Me With Science’. So, ‘The Scientist’ please – not the Coldplay original but rather the Willie Nelson cover. If you can only find the original please don’t bother.”
Always a pleasure to deny Coldplay twice in one post.
Just two more suggestions to go now; penultimately, back to The Robster:
“The quirky scientist Dr Magnus Pyke guested on another of Thomas Dolby’s hits ‘She Blinded Me With Science’. In his Wikipedia entry, it claims one of the many books he’s written is ‘Tricky and Portishead and Other Stonehead Bristol Sounds of the Future.’ I have seen references of this come up occasionally in other places, but have never actually managed to track down any credible suggestion that such a book even exists. However, it’s a fantastic thought that Dr Pyke would have written such a thing, so I’m also going to suggest some things links with my other suggestion: Tricky’s cover of XTC’s ‘Dear God’.”
Which would be where we’d leave it, but one last peek into the pub to see what Jules has been up to leads to something about him being too old to be in a fight, about Donald Trump, an admission that the one suggestion I still don’t follow “…still makes not a lot sense…”, that I should “…ignore previous drunken ramblings…” and most pertinently that “…I needed some Billy Bragg…”
So, as a one off, while I’m not at all sure how this links to the source record, I’ll assume that somewhere there is a link buried deep in Jules inner psyche, play it, and leave it at that. It is rather fine, as relevant today as when Woody Guthrie first penned the lyrics:
Here’s some Bonus Points for The Great Gog for proving Meat Loaf right when he sang “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”.
And here’s a request for your suggestions for songs which link to “Bonny” by Prefab Sprout, along with a brief description of the link, via the Comments Section down below, in time for next Sunday’s edition (by which I mean, by Saturday night, please!)