50 Ways To Prove I’m Rubbish #11

I can’t put this one off any longer.

I really was very late to succumb to the charms of The Smiths.

In fact, I only just caught them before their little bubble burst and *pooft* they were gone.

The first record by The Smiths that I bought was 1987’s Sheila Take a Bow, and it was probably the most important record I ever bought in my life.

For it was only then that I nailed my colours to the mast. I thought I loved the Quo – and I did love them, I really did, and still do (to a point) – but The Smiths were the first band who I loved that I felt actually meant something.

I mentioned in a post earlier this week, that it was my (now) 50 year old buddy Richard, who I met at sixth form, who opened my eyes to The Smiths, when he played me There is a Light That Never Goes Out in his bedroom one day. The next day, I went out and bought The World Won’t Listen, and my world changed.

It was one of those moments when you look back at a band’s previous singles and wonder how on earth you had managed to so grossly misjudge them.

Of course, How Soon Is Now? is a masterpiece! How did I not notice how wonderful William, It Was Really Nothing was at the time? How had I heard Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now and not seen past the gladioli and faux misery to embrace the gloriously juxtapositioned upbeat guitar work and the fact that here was a band singing to me and about me?

The epiphany could have come slightly earlier, I suppose, when my cousin played me Panic, video recorded off Top of the Pops. I chose to ignore her.

Ho hum.

In the late 1980s, I did something I’d never done before and never did again: I bought a record advertised in the ads at the back of the NME. Wrote a cheque and posted it off to some anonymous PO Box.

Sure, it was a US import version rather than the UK original on the Rough Trade label, but by then it was a record I simply had to own.

This one:

The Smiths – This Charming Man

And the reason I paid (quite a lot) for that US import was because back then, in the late 1980s, before the advent of the internet where I could have just downloaded them, before all the reissuing, repackaging, repackaging (not a typo, a reference; you’ll get it, I think) had happened, this was the only way to own these two magnificent songs, which were not on any album at the time:

The Smiths – Jeane

The Smiths – Wonderful Woman

NB: My mother’s name is Jean. Put these two song titles together, knock off an ‘e’ (not a clubbing reference on this occasion) and although at the time I was a rebellious, obnoxious twat of a teenager, that’s her described.

Happy Father’s Day, Mum. (You won’t like any of these songs.)

More soon.

Barbarism Begins at Home

When I was fifteen (or maybe sixteen), I made some very dodgy life choices.

I dyed my hair blond, then black, the two dyes mixed, resulting in it going purple.

I bought, and frequently wore of my own volition, a pair of jeans which had a tartan print on them.

I got my ears pierced. Both of them.

I even bought a record by Bruce Willis.

Thankfully the internet didn’t exist, so I didn’t get groomed and persuaded to go off to Syria, live with IS, bear a child. Although given the aforementioned track record I wouldn’t want to rule out the possibility of much of that happening.

If anyone wishes to haul me over the coals, prosecute me for my crimes against fashion, or against the ears, then so be it.

But I would remain a British citizen, a luxury which was ruthlessly stripped from Shamima Begum this week.

Let’s be clear: I am in no way condoning her actions, or her apparent lack of remorse.

But she was just fifteen, young, vulnerable, and ultimately exploited.

So for Home Secretary Sajid Javid to strip her of her British citizenship and try and palm her off on another country, where she has never lived, has no links to, no history with, is outrageous.

It’s the action of a man posturing as a tough guy, positioning himself as a potential leader of the Conservative party.

Shamima was radicalised here, in the UK. In Bethnall Green. London. We should be letting her back in – and of course letting her feel the full force of our justice system for any crimes she may have committed.

And at the very least, maybe we can learn from what happened to her, and try to prevent it happening again.

She’s our problem. She’s our mess to clear up.

I’m sure Morrissey would love the fact I’m posting this in association with the above:

barbarism

The Smiths – Barbarism Begins At Home

More soon.

 

 

 

 

Late Night Stargazing

On the back of airing some of his recent rather unpalatable views, I’ve read several articles where the question has been posited: should Morrissey’s statements lead those who loved The Smiths should now take a long, hard look at themselves?

It’s a no-brainer for me. I’ve always tried hard to divorce an artist’s political viewpoints from the art that they make, as long as those political ideas don’t encroach into their art.

Let me give you an example. David Hockney is, undeniably, a very fine artist. And politically, I had thought his views broadly chimed. He declined a knighthood in 1990, something which almost always earns extra kudos points in my book. But then in 2017, he redesigned the masthead for The Sun newspaper, albeit for just one edition. To my mind, that’s an endorsement of the rag and all of that has been printed in it. Suddenly, I view his work with a little more suspicion.

As for Morrissey and The Smiths; well, you can look at the lyrics he wrote when he was in The Smiths and compare it to those he has composed in his solo career, and for me it’s very difficult to make a case that his lyricism hasn’t been in decline for quite some time now.

But look at some of lyrics from The Smiths days, and I’m still struck with just how achingly beautiful, evocative, poignant they could be.

Tonight’s song is one of those; they released two versions of this song – an acoustic version which appeared on Hatful of Hollow, and an electric version which pops up on the B-side of the What Difference Does it Make? single.

I’ve plumped for the acoustic version, albeit the 2011 version remastered by Johnny Marr. I don’t usually like to highlight specific lyrics, but these lines get me every time:

“When you cycled by, here began all my dreams

The saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

And you never knew how much I really liked you

Because I never even told you

Oh and I meant to.”

R-382135-1154695050_jpeg

The Smiths – Back To The Old House

More soon.

I Won’t Share You

I’ve spent much of the last couple of days watching the televised games from the 3rd round of the FA Cup (and avoiding the cricket, of course).

The 3rd round is where the Premiership team get involved, and on Friday night, that involved watching Liverpool v Everton, and one particular banner that the camera focussed in on caught my eye.

I wasn’t sharp enough to take a photo of it, but there it was, a red banner with a picture of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on it, along with the words:

“The drive
And the dreams inside
This is my time.”

How nice it was, I thought, that tribal and regional hostilities could be laid to rest and a fan from Liverpool could quote the final song, on the final (proper) album, by one of, if not the greatest, bands from Manchester, even if they didn’t realise that’s what they’d done:

Front Cover

The Smiths – I Won’t Share You

More, of a very different nature, soon.

Reissue! Repackage! Repackage!

“Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra track (and a tacky badge)”

Part of me wants to disapprove of the latest reissued, remastered version of The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead.

But I really can’t.

Listening to the 3 discs (1: the album remastered, 2: demos and “previously unheard” material, 3: Live in Boston, much better than “Rank”) is like falling in love with the band all over again.

I think they missed a trick by leaving the brass – yes, the brass – off of the final version of “Never Had Nobody Ever” though:

cover

The Smiths – Never Had No One Ever (Demo)

Ordinarily, I’d not endorse something like this, but, frankly (Mr Shankly) this is a must own for fans.

Go get.

More soon.

How to Do a Cover Version

If ever there was a post that would earn me my second ever Take Down notice, this is it.

But then again, I’ve basically said that Bill Wyman is a paedophile on these pages before and nobody batted an eyelid, so maybe I’ll be okay.

In 1958, The Staple Singers released a record called “This May Be The Last Time”, and it went like this:

the-staple-singers-this-may-be-my-last-time-sharp

The Staple Singers – This May Be My Last Time

But that’s not the original version; it can’t be, because that came out in 1958, and I’ve tracked down a recording from five years earlier, which appeared on this album:

MI0002073212

The Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama – This Could Be The Last Time

“My”…”the”…okay the title may be ever so slightly different, but it’s the same song, right?

And that’s fine, they’re both utterly great versions.

And then in 1965, this got to #1 in the UK Charts:

the_rolling_stones-the_last_time_s_1

The Rolling Stones – The Last Time

Well, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, there’s some different lyrics thrown in, but that’s no problem, the Stones are proud of their blues and gospel roots, so they obviously credited – or the very least part credited – the original artists, right?

the-rolling-stones-the-last-time-decca

Oh. Bit awkward.

It wasn’t until 2003 that Keith Richards decided to set the record straight: “We came up with ‘The Last Time’, which was basically re-adapting a traditional gospel song that had been sung by the Staple Singers, but luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time.”

Hmmm.

Let’s take another look at that single sleeve again. There’s another name that leaps out, isn’t there? Andrew Loog Oldham.

Oldham was The Stones’ manager (I can heartily recommend his autobiography “Stoned”, by the way, but I’ve not read the pip-squeezing other two “2Stoned” and “Rolling Stoned”) and producer, and creator of this:

MI0000666342

The Andrew Oldham Orchestra – The Last Time

Hang on just one moment, though. Something about that rings a few bells too, doesn’t it?

From this:

51QJqNU9ihL

The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

As a result of a fairly infamous legal battle, centred around the alleged plagiarism by lead Verve-ist Richard Ashcroft, Jagger and Richards were added to that as co-composers, so they got their slice of the pie.

Which, given the above, is a bit rich, really, isn’t it, dear reader?

Mind you, Ashcroft really should have known better. It’s not like Jagger and Richards didn’t have form for that sort of behaviour…..For back in 1991 this record met a similar fate:

After The Watershed Front

Carter USM – After The Watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way)

…which borrowed heftily from this:

the-rolling-stones-lets-spend-the-night-together-decca-4

The Rolling Stones – Ruby Tuesday

Ah, plagiarism. As some anniversary or another of this album’s release is almost upon us, it seems appropriate for me to sign off with this:

2015TheSmiths_TheQueenIsDead_Press_030815-1

The Smiths – Cemetry Gates

More litigious nonsense soon.

Replenishing the Vinyl

There’s a reason this series is called what it is. I may have mentioned it before, if so, forgive me and skip on a couple of paragraphs whilst I run over it one more time.

Between 2008, when I moved to London, and 2012, when I moved into the flat I live in now, I lived in a shared house.

The living room housed all my music, CD and vinyl, along with a battered old stereo with a turntable and CD decks on which you could play whatever tickled your fancy.

Truth be told, the vinyl got played less than rarely, and so it was that it wasn’t until I moved into my new (current) flat that I realised the turntable no longer functioned.

Fast forward a couple of years: I have bought a new turntable, connected it up to my amp and speakers and decided that the first record I’m going to play is something by The Smiths.

This has become something of a tradition of mine; whenever I has moved home – which happened a lot, I now realise, looking back – the first thing I would do in my new pad was set up the stereo and play a record by my favourite band.

Except – where had all my Smiths album gone? And…wait…and my Wedding Present albums? And my R.E.M. albums? And my Billy Bragg albums?? And oh gosh, so much more.

All gone, and I have no idea who could have taken them. There are suspects, but nothing I can prove. But whoever took them knew what they were doing: it was like someone had worked out which records I treasured dearly and then taken them.

So when I say that I’m replenishing the vinyl, I’m actually trying to buy the records I lost, and if I get a few other bargains along the way, then fair enough, I’m owed that break.

But the thing is (Part One), I’m kinda nerdy picky about replacing the stuff I lost: for example, all of The Smiths records were the original prints on the Rough Trade label, so if I’m going to buy them again, that’s what I want, not any of the poxy re-releases.

Thing is (Part 2), the original Rough Trade releases of The Smiths records are quite expensive to replace. But I have managed to track down two so far.

And here’s a song from the first, from their debut album that I dedicate to whoever has my records:

The-Smiths-The-Smiths

The Smiths – You’ve Got Everything Now

Thieving bastards.

More soon.