A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend

And so onwards, or rather, backwards, to 1988, or maybe 1989, and to a compilation I picked up on cassette in Cardiff’s legendary Spillers Records.

I wasn’t really in the habit of buying cassettes, so I must have really wanted this, and can only assume that a vinyl or CD copy wasn’t available in the shop on the day I visited.

Also, looking at the track listing, I can’t see anyone on there that I was especially¬†bothered with at the time. Maybe I bought this at around the time that I was just getting into either James or Inspiral Carpets, I dunno.

I suspect that the cover art had more to do with my compulsion to purchase there and then, for in 1988, I was obsessed with all things Smiths-related, and stone the crows if that isn’t either Morrissey or someone trying very hard to look like him right there on the cover:

machestercover2

Often with impulse buys such as these, I would listen to them a couple of times, and invariably decide that there was only one or two songs on them that I was particularly bothered about. However, I think because this was on cassette and therefore not so easy to skip to the next track if I disliked the one that was playing, in the way that it was with the vinyl or CD formats popular at the time, then I listened to it a lot and consequently came to love well over half of the 14 songs on here.

Let’s have a listen to the ones I liked and still like, shall we?

First up, a quirky band with a wacky name which I imagine they hoped, when announced, would elicit a positive response:

The Man From Delmonte – Australia Fair

According to Wikipedia, they were once managed by then-journalist and Frank Sidebottom band member, now-author and screenwriter¬†Jon Ronson. According to Google, there’s a band in Glasgow currently playing cover versions at weddings that is also called The Man From Delmonte. Looking at the photos and their set-lists on their website, I’m fairly confident they are not the same band.

Inspiral Carpets – Joe (Original Version)

This is the version with original singer Stephen Holt on vocals. It’s nowhere near as good as when the band re-recorded it with new singer Tom Hingley a few months later. Still worth¬†a listen, though.

I know nothing about this next lot, other than their name seems to be a place in Netherlands, and that they released an EP called Time Flies, also in 1988. This isn’t on it; it reminds me a little bit of The Bodines’ Therese:

Pepplekade 14 – Uptown

Next up, another band that the internet seems to know nothing about. I’m assuming that the purveyors of this rather heart-felt number are named after the 1970 Dylan album. Or maybe not.

New Morning – Working For A Payroll

On now to a band who I own a few records by, and who I love (one of their singles – not this one – is one of my favourite records ever, and will feature here soon), and who I think had they held it together, could have been a pretty great Indie band of the time. Sadly, by the time they released their debut album in 1989, they seemed to have lost their way a little, and they split in 1990. Guitarist Rob Collins went on to join The Charlatans.

The Waltones – Smile

Next, another track by an artist that I can find very little about on t’internet, although I think I may have located her Twitter. If it is her, she seems to be a clinical psychologist now. The pop world’s loss is the world of science and medicine’s gain. I say loss, because¬†this is rather great:

Penny Priest – Sometimes

And so to a band who a few years later would release a single also called Sometimes. You know who this lot are without any further explanation. As the compilation came out in 1988, this when they were still quite folksy. I had probably heard their marvellous Strip-mine album around the same time; I definitely¬†owned a copy of¬†The Smiths’ version of What’s The World. Either would have been sufficient to¬†prompt me to buy this.

James – Sky is Falling

I’m not sure I knew about Bradford when I bought this. Maybe I did, as Morrissey was waxing lyrical about their gorgeous single Skin Storm around this time, and my record collection from this period of my life is littered with records I bought simply because he had mentioned them in an interview somewhere. (Raymonde, anyone….?)

Bradford – Lust Roulette

Another band who fall into the “could have been massive” category now; their big mistake was signing to a major label. As soon as they did – and, heavens above, had a hit single, how very, very dare they!¬†– their credibility and appeal seemed to vanish. Shame.

The Railway Children – Sunflower Room

I’ve listened to the next song God knows how many times over the years, and always thought the voice reminded me of someone, but have never been able to quite put my finger on it. And then, when writing this and performing the most basic of internet searches, I found out that it’s actually John Bramwell, in pre- I Am Kloot days. I think I’ll spend the rest of my days face-palming myself about that, because now, as I listen to it again, it’s bloody obvious it’s him.

Johnny Dangerously – Subway Life

And finally, to a band that I have a little story about. At the end of the 1988/89 academic year, I joined the Ents Team at university – aww, who am I kidding, it was a Polytechnic when I was there, changing to a University literally days after I graduated – and began DJ’ing. Often on a Friday night, we would showcase an up-and-coming band, and there would be a DJ in between the acts and then again after they’d all finished. I’d been dropping this next song regularly on the Indie Night I did, and so when the band were booked for one of the Friday night shows, it made sense for me to do the DJ’ing honours. (Plus, I got paid the same as if I did a whole night. Which was nice.)

We had a general rule of thumb that whilst we would play records by bands booked to appear in the future, we wouldn’t play their records on the night, just in case their live performance drew unfavourable comparisons.

So after they’d finished, I made my way to the Ents Office, which doubled up on gig nights as the band’s dressing room. Occasionally, audience members would queue up outside the dressing room door (which was right next to the stage) after the gig and ask if they could come backstage and meet them. Even more occasionally, they agreed.

The only person waiting was my mate Keith, and, since I had an AAA pass (there really wasn’t that many areas that I needed access to, to be honest), I told him to come in. The band were there, towelling themselves down, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, generally winding down.

“Great gig, lads!” I exclaimed.

They looked up, semi-gratefully, nodding, grunting a¬†“Cheers mate” response.

“Shame you didn’t play Janice is Gone,” Keith enthused.

They all stopped what they were doing, turned to stare at him, mouths agape.

“You know Janice is Gone??” one said in an apparent state of shock.

“Yeh,” Keith continued, “Jez’s is always playing it.”

They all looked at me.

“Hello!” I said cheerfully, giving them a wave. “I’m Jez and I play Janice is Gone a lot. Usually goes down pretty well, too.”

I’ve never seen a group of guys look so incredulously excited.

“We’re playing the Students Union in Cardiff tomorrow. Want to come? We’ll stick you on the guest list?”

Keith and I joined them in excited incredulity. Put on the guest list by the band! This was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to these two 19 year old music nerds.

And so the next night, we rocked up to the front of the queue for The Hanging Gardens in Cardiff University’s Students Union,¬†a much bigger venue then the one at our Polytechnic, but where they did much the same thing on a Saturday night as we did on a Friday.

“Hi, we’re on the guest list,” I said to the guy on the door, who got his clipboard out, found our names, and ushered us in. Already this was going brilliantly.

The band came on, and true to their word, played the song, and dedicated it to Keith and I, “their oldest fans”.

Here it is. It really is a cracking little record. The titular Janice¬†is none other than Janice Long, and the song is about¬†when (if I remember correctly) she¬†was forced to leave her Radio 1 show because she was pregnant and unmarried.¬†Generally, mostly, when¬†I’ve played this to people since, they’ve wondered why the band didn’t carry on making songs this good.

The Milltown Brothers – Janice Is Gone

Pretty great, isn’t it? Told you so.

After the gig, Keith and I went backstage again, congratulated the band and thanked them for playing Janice… It had gone down well, so they were pretty chuffed too, and said they’d think about keeping it in the set for a while. They gave us some beer from the rider (which was way more impressive than the one we’d provided them with the¬†night before). After a while we all ventured out into the venue again, where an Indie Disco was in full swing.

I say this like we were part of their gang by now. We felt like we were, but looking back at it now, I can clearly see that we were just following them round, very occasionally exchanging words.

And then it all kicked off. The keyboard player got himself into a conversation, and then a disagreement, and then an argument, and then a fight, with one of the bouncers. The next thing we knew, he, along with the rest of the band, were being escorted from the premises. One of the¬†bouncers looked at Keith and I. “Are you with them?”

“Who? Us??” we replied, butter-wouldn’t-melt expressions magically appearing. “No mate, we’re just students. That’s the band you’ve just thrown out. We were just standing near them.”

He shrugged and walked off.

Many bands on the way up say they can’t get arrested. The Milltown Brothers managed to get themselves chucked out of their own gig.

More soon.

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1990 – 1995 The Lost Indie Years?

A friend of mine, who is a much more successful writer than I (because he’s better at it than I am) recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post (see? Already you know he’s waaay more successful and better than lil ole me pottering away here on my lil ole blog) where he wrote about…well, as the title of this post suggests, songs from that post Madchester, pre-Britpop age, which, if you were to believe most writers, was a time that was awash with shoegazers and floppy fringes on this side of the pond, plaid shirts and grunge greaseball cuts on the other, and not much else.

As we all know, the British shoegaze movement was effectively brought down by the friendly-fire of grunge, which in turn, through a democratic process of negotiation and peaceful protest, was superseded, on these shores anyhow, by Britpop (sorry Brett, Damon, Jarvis: that’s what we’re all calling it.)

But¬†whilst shoegaze and grunge¬†were certainly the musical trends of choice for your self-respecting Indie kid at the time, there was other stuff knocking around which didn’t really fit into either category, which seem to have been lost in the midst of time and which, well, you need to know about. This is the thrust of his article.

Oh go on then, here’s his article: Ten Early 90s Indie Songs That Say It All

All of what I will post in this section would have cropped up anyway at some point, sooner or later, here, but this gives me a little focus.

So, in no particular order:

something-happens-hello-hello-hello-hello-hello-petrol-virgin.jpg10. “Hello Hello Hello Hello Hello (Petrol)” – Something Happens!

I’m using the Chart Show circa 1990 definition of Indie here, which means¬†I may be stretching the definition of “indie” with this one, but let’s face it, the definition of Indie has been somewhat woolly ever since PWL came on the scene.¬†I’d even extend that to Mute Records too, who I used to begrudge occupying places in the Indie Chart and inevitably being played. Both those labels clogged up what we could have seen at lunchtime on a Saturday around this time, with their Kylie and Erasure pop hits respectively. Grrr.

Anyway, it was via The Chart Show that this song came to my attention, and I still think it’s rather fine. Pop, yes. Terrible haircuts, yes. But still a bloody fine pop tune that gets these old bones a-twitching whenever I hear it, which is of course, whenever I play it, because nobody else ever does.

Watch the video here.

The+Bridewell+Taxis+Honesty+4675559. “Honesty” – The Bridewell Taxis

Words cannot describe how much I love this song. When I went home from college, I would try to record or watch a show called “Intermission”. On ITV, at about 3am, and introduced by a news presenter who had clearly pissed somebody off so much that they made him stay up to link this show in,¬†Intermission was a vital crib guide for me as the resident Indie DJ at my¬†Student Union.¬†There were several acts I found through this show, The Bridewell Taxis being one of them. For some reason I thought they were from Bristol, until someone pointed out to me that Bridewell is in Leeds. Ho hum. Geography is not a strong point.

Anyway, “Honesty” is¬†a weird combination of slightly jangly guitars, over a brass band, with a skinhead singing. Sleaford Mods, eat your hearts out.

Actually, I do have some words that describe it: fucking glorious.

Watch the video here.

hqdefault¬†8.¬†“Tired” – BOB. A record so obscure, even the internet seems to deny it’s existence. Ok, it’s formulaic. Ok, it’s Madchester bandwagon-jumping. But it’s not that different to Mock Turtles “Can U Dig It”, now is it? And I bet you like that. Suck it up.

There is no video to watch here.

family7. “Remember What It Is That You Love” – The Family Cat

Obviously, had it come out in the 90s I’d have picked their Tom Verlaine single, but since I’m prevented from picking¬†from that, hoisted by my own petard, I offer you this little gem from 1990.

The Family Cat are truly one of the great lost indie bands, and also one of the unluckiest, financially. I saw them play in Cardiff Uni Great Hall around this time and their merchandise was their logo, a play on the fact it was a UK tour by the Family Cat, so the letters FCUK were prominent. Does that look familiar to anyone? Yes indeed: nobody thought to trademark that, so French Connection steamed in and stole it (sorry, I mean came up with the original concept of using it) for their FC:UK range. Bugger.

This song also has a special meaning for me, as we used to do a cover of it in the band I was in at college, but more of that at a later date.

Watch the video here.

R-3026665-1312317000_jpeg6.¬†“Which Way Should I Jump?” – The Milltown Brothers

If ever a band flirted with the idea of being properly famous, in a “sounds a bit like R.E.M.” kinda way, it was this lot. Live, they were a very tight prospect, and I won’t bang on too much about them here now because I have a couple of stories to tell in my normal thread. But suffice it to say, their “Slinky” album is an absolute blinder, and if you ever happen to be nosing through a second hand store and spot it, grab it. As you can tell from this track, it’s accomplished and fully rounded pop at its best.

Here’s the video.

R-2368056-1342997977-5799_jpeg5. “When Lucy’s Down” – Kingmaker

If ever a band flirted with the idea of being properly famous, in a “sounds a bit like The Wonder Stuff” kinda way, it was this lot. Probably not helped by the fact they had a lead singer called “Loz” who looked like just the kind of speccy twat student that Paul Calf was railing against at the time. Kingmaker were once touted as the next big thing, but it never really happened for them, although they had their 15 minutes of fame via their Top 20 hit “10 Years Asleep“, which you remember, right?

Watch the video here.

MI0002147560¬†4.”On The Ropes” – The Wonder Stuff

And since I’ve mentioned The Stuffies, here they are in person. By 1993, their 15 minutes were up. They were a much misconstrued bunch, the Stuffies. They found fame, finally, via “Size of a Cow” and that “Dizzy” allegiance with Vic & Bob, and as a result they were wrongly viewed as a novelty band, or a new Nutty Boys. Think the public perception of The Darkness, without the obviously innuendo-laden Christmas hit,¬†and you get the idea. Miles’s choice of chequered suit probably didn’t help. Their post fame album, “Construction for the Modern Idiot” is a favourite of mine, intriguing in much the same way as Pulp’s “This is Hardcore” album does. This is the sound of a band enjoying¬†the spotlight of fame, but recoiling from it¬†at the same time.

And as with Pulp several years later, there’s a change in sound. Gone are the oh-so-clever titles, (almost) gone is the fiddly-folk feel, the violins now supplementing rather than driving their sound. ¬†It seems that they had it all, and found that after all those years of trying, they didn’t want what they got. This is one angry band, who reached the heights of fame and fortune and found it distasteful, bitter to the touch.

Watch the video here.

UltraVividScene_SpecialOne_ep¬†3. “Special One” – Ultra Vivid Scene

Let’s be honest, Kim Deal was every Indie Kid’s favourite four tissue fantasy. Much as we all loved the Pixies, there isn’t one guy who loved them that doesn’t wish her vocals featured just a little more than they did. So¬†to have her pop up on this jingly-jangly left over from 1990 was manna from the heavens. Up until this, Ultra Vivid Scene were just another 4AD band ploughing a lonely furrow. But this¬†totally gorgeous tune¬†still gives me goose-bumps 25 years later (Jesus, I’m old….)

Watch the video here.

the-candy-skins-wembley-ep¬†2. “Wembley” – The Candyskins

If ever there was an example of a band not missing the boat, but turning up for the boat too early and then going home again because the boat wasn’t ready, it’s this. This came out in 1993; had they popped it out in 1996, when Euro 96 was gripping the country, then this would have been a sure-fire Top 10’er. As it is, they¬†languish not so much in the “Where Are They Now?” pile, as the “Sorry, who??” pile.

Watch the video here.

Paris-Angels-All-On-You-Perfum-310324¬†1. “Perfume (All on You)” – Paris Angels

Okay, so their name has an added significance after the events of the other week, and it could be argued that this record sits firmly in the Madchester camp, but it’s definitely a lost classic, and even though this list hasn’t been in any kind of order, if it was, then this would be Number 1.

I used to have an mp3 of John Peel announcing this in his Festive Fifty, explaining how his son would be very happy it had made it, and if I still had that mp3, I’d post it now. No greater sun shines into your life then when you hear Peelie espousing about a record. And knowing his son is 6Music’s Tom Ravenscroft makes you feel that with all of the horrors going on in the world, everything will be okay, cos Peelie’s still watching over us.

Anyway, what can I say about this record that you don’t already know? Nothing: it’s the most perfect almalgamation of indie pop and indie dance ever committed to vinyl, and they should have had the commercial success that bands like, say, oh¬†I don’t know,¬†The Soup Dragons had.

But no. While The Soup Dragons hit the Top 2 with their godawful cover of what was a perfectly average Stones record in the first place, this wonderful, wonderful record only grazed the dizzy heights of number 55. Justice? Pah.

Here’s the more indie-sounding video.

More soon.