A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend #4

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:

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  1. 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:

spillers-2

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.

More soon.

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A Goth Steps From The Dry-Ice…

Something different this week. A while ago, my older brother, who kindly follows the inane toss I splurge onto these pages, emailed me something he had written which he thought would be good to include here. I agreed, but told him it needed polishing. (There has to be some semblance of quality control, otherwise what I do would become devalued, reduced to the drunken ramblings of a man trying to justify his own self-being in the world of almost-modern pop culture. Which it obviously is.)

In other words, for one week only, I get to live out my Smash Hits fantasy and be “The Ed”.

What follows is the result.

If nothing else, you will note that being a facetious bastard runs in the family.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post, a Freephone number will appear at the end. (No it won’t – The Ed)

So first: an apology. This is not being written by Jezbionic himself.

It has been hinted in the mainstream press that due to an overdose of artificial colourings mixed with imported vodka he was stuck in a Glastonbury based “Groundhog Day” and is currently sat explaining to Betty Ford why Super Furries really aren’t a figment of his drug fuelled imagination. Whether that’s true or not I can’t possibly comment, but I can tell you he has asked me, his older brother, to stand in for one blog only.

As such I need to make a very clear opening statement: this edition only contains one reference to Status Quo (the one you just read, which is required to get past the editorial censoring committee) (Tick! You’re in – Ed). If you only normally read this blog for three chord wonderment save yourself the time and stop reading now. Not to be judgemental or anything, but maybe the time saved would be well spent looking at some of your life choices? Just a thought.

The other point I need to make before I start is that I am in total agreement with Russell Brand, that although it would be very simple to use Google to check the facts as I write them, that would break my concentration and lead to me becoming a simple minded fool looking at cute videos of kittens and what not, so accept this as a stream of consciousness article and save any of your bile for when my ickle bruvva’s back next week.

My own musical beginnings were nothing out of the ordinary. I grew up in rural Cambridgeshire, with the normal early eighties hormonally challenged male obsessions with heavy metal: Purple, Zep and a little Sabbath. Your standard occultism stuff, nothing unusual, to that point.

A post ‘O’ levels summer spent picking blueberries in Michigan broadened my musical horizons somewhat, leading me to discover the Go-Gos (I only found out years later they scored cool points as mates with the Fun Boy Three, trading songs and what not), Rick Springfield (again, unknown to me at the time, as uncool as the Go-Gos were cool, a General Hospital soap actor turned manufactured pop star, but I still think Red Hot and Blue Love rocks) and Def Leppard (I make no excuses: when God cuts your drummers arm off to shut you up maybe you should just accept that you’re shite?)

But still, no real indication that music was in any way an important part of my life. Aged sixteen I joined Her Majesty’s esteemed Royal Air Force and began my ritual brainwashing, during which it was made abundantly clear to us that music was just something to keep time while you’re marching, and that white heterosexuality was the only acceptable human state. The fact that we all believed this without question, whilst moonwalking to Michael Jackson and PWAH!ing to Frankie Goes to Hollywood while we polished our shirts and ironed our socks at two in the morning ready for a dawn kit inspection is sign of just how good a job the brain washing did.

Within a year though, things had started to change. Come the end of the working week I would carefully remove my well formed beret, take off the boots (you could see your own reflection in the toecaps), and hang my immaculately ironed number two uniform in my solitary locker.

Once they were all removed I would start the rebirthing process: a little eyeliner here, maybe a dab of black nail polish there. Definitely hairspray, up to a can at a time.

ST-ST-ST-STUDIO LINE FROM L’OREAL, FIXING GEL:STRONG HOLD! *

Weekend uniform no less strict than the weekday one:

  • trousers, very black, very tight
  • blouse, old woman’s (Evans loyalty card monopolised): large, white, flouncy as possible
  • winkle pickers, black (obviously) pointy (obviously), as many buckles as possible (er…helloo…??)
  • wide brimmed black hat (optional, but hell yeah)

Like Clark Kent slipping into something more comfortable in a New York phone box, I had changed from a crab** to a Goth……

What, you may ask yourselves, could cause such a once in a lifetime change in such a short time?

Sometimes the smallest thing can change a life, the one snowball thrown at a mountain that starts a (Rose of) avalanche.***

My butterfly flapping its wings in the rainforest moment was a simple mix tape. Nothing more, nothing less, but it changed my life, for better or worse, forever.

You see, just because I took the Queen’s shilling at sixteen, not all my friends did. My mate Rob stayed in Cambridgeshire, seeking out all the great wonders of the world to be found at the sixth form in Stanground. (I am reliably informed by a pretty reliable source (i.e. Rob himself) that Rob didn’t go to Stanground, he went to 6th form at Orton Longueville, where all the cool kids went – Ed) That meant that through him I was only three steps removed form the PleasureHeads, of whom my only other recollection is an NME article which described the fact that the lead singer was seen removing a pair of leather trousers to change into his stage gear (more of them later – Ed). At the time I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I still struggle to think of anything cooler now, to be honest.

So Rob got a copy of a mix tape from a PleasureHead, and I got a copy from Rob. Simple as.

On that one C60 were the songs that I still hear in my head every day now:

birthday

 The Birthday Party – Release the Bats

The_Jesus_And_Mary_Chain_-_Upside_Down_(Single)

 The Jesus & Mary Chain – Upside Down

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The Sisters of Mercy – Adrenochrome

Bauhaus_ziggy_stardust Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

(far better than the Bowie original, sorry David), and

P1010755_edited

 You Weren’t Born, You Were Created – by someone (The Playn Jayn – Ed) I don’t remember (You’re welcome – Ed)

and who never did anything else again, because basically, once you reach the heady heights of the mixtape, what else is there to aim for?

From that one mixtape can be traced all the important things that happened to me for years to come: accidentally reverse crowdsurfing onto stage with the Soup Dragons (pre-“I’m Free”, when they were good and sounded like the Buzzcocks – Ed); having breakfast on more than one occasion with the drummer from Pop will Eat Itself (he was “friends” with my then girlfriend’s sister whenever they played in Aylesbury) (CLANG! – Ed); singing Republican anti-English songs at multiple Pogues gigs whenever Shane proved that the drunken Irishman act really wasn’t an act; right through to being one of only twelve people in the mosh pit at an early Oasis gig in Zeebrugge, while several thousand Belgian and Dutch had a nice schmoke and waited for Schimple Mindsch to come on, which led Liam to turn off all the amps half way through “I Am the Walrus” and stomp off stage in a huff (taking Helena Christiansen with him, which I can’t help thinking may have counted as an ulterior motive for not playing an encore)

Epilogue: I’m writing this whilst sat on a beach in Goa. I tell you this not to boast that I’m in Goa (I live in Bangalore, and to Bengalurians and Mumbaisters, Goa is just a short low cost flight away: think Marbella in the sub-continent. If you think Marbella is cool ask the Quo fans to scoot up, you need to spend some time considering your life choices). I say this merely because Goa is probably one of the least Goth influenced places on the planet, so you may think that Goth is something I once was, something I grew out of. Not so. There’s not a day that goes past without the voices in my head singing some eighties Leeds-influenced goth classic. Occasionally when it rains (and it’s currently mid-monsoon season, so it rains a lot, and I’m happy when it rains) I think of:

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 The Cult – Rain

or possibly

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 The Jesus & Mary Chain – “Happy When It Rains”

But on at least six days a week my internal soundtrack is of the rain, the rain, the LA rain, the sky is black and the sun don’t shine. There are 13 million people living in Bangalore, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe I’m the only one with that particular soundtrack to the city. I have the Rose of Avalanche, and Rob’s mix tape to thank for all of that.

And may you all live for a thousand years with the blessings of the Buddha upon you.

Footnote

*If you recognise this as one of the adverts placed between the tracks on the first (and thankfully only) album by Sigue Sigue Sputnik, then well done, you win a place in the darkened room with the Quo fans to have a good long think about what you’ve achieved with your life. (That’s three pops now. I’m not inviting you round again – Ed)

**A Crab is a derogatory term in the UK Armed Forces for a member of the RAF, as supposedly we all marched sideways. My first draft of this had me changing from a caterpillar to a goth, which made less sense but pleased me in an “I am an egg man” kind of way. Feel free to self edit as you see fit, I don’t have any preciousness about this writing, once it’s on the page I don’t want it to feel trapped, I want it to continue to grow, like a semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower

***Originally this was the more Praustian explanation of throwing pebbles at a mountain to start a landslide, his Jezship the editor thought the Rose of Avalanche gag was worth including. I’ll let you, dear readers, make up your own simple minds, like elementary penguins, singing Hare Krishna. (Seriously, you should’ve read the first draft. Praustian my arse – Ed)

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The Rose of Avalanche – Velveteen

Helena, call us a cab, dear…..

(Pssst: You have to say “More soon” at the end of the post)

Oh yeh. More soon.