Completely and Utterly

Other than a couple of people being rather kind about my shirt, this has been a pretty great week.

Before I go any further, I should stress that I am not sponsored by the app I’m about to big up. Although, I’d be willing to listen to offers, obviously.

I have the Songkick app on my phone. For those of you unfamiliar with it – and I would imagine most of you use it, so I’m probably just talking to myself now – it’s an app which scans your phone for all of your music, and then whenever an artiste that you have songs by announces a gig in your area, it tells you. You can then buy tickets through the app, or it will guide you to reputable websites that are selling them.

On Thursday lunchtime, I got an alert from Songkick which genuinely made me rub my eyes in disbelief. This one:

Whu-what???

As far as I knew, until I got that alert, The Chesterfields had split way back in 1989.

Ok, I imagine many of you are shrugging your shoulders and saying “Who?” right now.

But I knew of at least one person who’d be interested: my old mate Richie.

Richie has popped up quite a lot on these pages recently, indeed it was he who first introduced me to this band back in 1988.

I sent him a DM on Twitter, asking what he was doing on September 20th. When he said he was doing nothing, I broke the news to him and told him I would sort tickets come payday. But Richie, wisely, wouldn’t wait and a few minutes later he sent me a message telling me he’d bought us tickets, and that this was my 50th birthday present.

What a guy.

Moments later still, giddy with excitement, he announced the news to some indifference to the world of Twitter:

He never swears. He must be excited.

And here’s why: back in his bedroom when we were at sixth form together Richie introduced me to the world of jingly jangly indie pop. I’ve mentioned this before: in one afternoon he made me fall in love with The Smiths, The Wedding Present, Billy Bragg, and The Chesterfields.

Of those, it was The Chesterfields who we felt were “ours”. Nobody else seemed to know them, despite me including them on pretty much every mixtape I lovingly compiled for our sixth form common room thereafter – partly because I bloody loved them, but also because their songs were generally super-short and therefore just perfect for squeezing on to the end of one side of a C90.

Their seminal debut album is called Kettle and, if you love jingly-jangly late-80s guitar pop I’d imagine you’re already familiar with it, but if not, then here’s some of my favourite songs from it (I’ve omitted their most well-known (the term is relative) track Ask Johnny Dee as it’s featured a couple of times here before):

The Chesterfields – Nose Out of Joint

The Chesterfields – Two Girls and a Treehouse

The Chesterfields – Shame About the Rain

The Chesterfields – Everything a Boy Could Ever Need

The Chesterfields – Kiss Me Stupid

The Chesterfields – Thumb

The Chesterfields – The Boy Who Sold His Suitcase

The Chesterfields – Completely and Utterly

I’ll be honest, I could easily have posted the whole album – there’s even an Orange Juice cover on there, a gentle nod to their influences – but where’s the fun in laying everything out on a plate for you? I’m such a tease.

A few years later, I was browsing the racks of a record shop in Haverfordwest, west Wales when I stumbled upon a copy of their second album, Crocodile Tears. I say ‘second album’, technically it’s their third, for there was a compilation of singles and B-sides – Westward Ho! – released in between the two, but compilations don’t count as proper albums in my book – they’re a taster, an appetite whetter, an introduction point.

Of course, I snaffled it up; the sound is more polished but there’s still plenty of pop gems to be found there.

The opening track (the first one posted in this next batch) must have really struck a chord with me, bemoaning as it does the trend of the time of using classic records in jeans adverts. It contains the wonderful rhyming couplet “Instead of peace and revolution, we’ve got AIDS and Whitney Houston”. Anyone who has ever read one of my S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs) posts will realise I have not one ounce of originality in me.

The Chesterfields – Lunchtime for the Wild Youth

The Chesterfields – Alison Wait

The Chesterfields – When It All Comes Down

The Chesterfields – Let It Go

The Chesterfields – Twintown

The Chesterfields – Goodbye Goodbye

Such was there development and their knack for writing catchy, witty, pithy pop tunes, they should have gone on to be massive, or have at least one bloody hit, but alas no. The time for clever jangly guitar pop had passed. One more album followed, and then that was it.

Earlier this morning, I returned to the Songkick app to update my status with regards to this gig. You have the option to mark the gig in question to show you are either Interested or Going.

And only then did I notice who the support acts are: Rodney Allen (who was briefly a member of The Chesterfields before jumping ship to join the Blue Aeroplanes) and…it was at this point I had to catch my breath…The Waltones.

Again, a shrug of indifference from most of you, I imagine, but The Waltones have popped up a few times on these pages, and I usually mention that they are responsible for a song which is one of my favourite pop songs ever, but which I’ve never posted (I don’t think).

Until now.

The Waltones – She Looks Right Through Me

Like Richie, I am giddy with excitement.

I’ll try not to turn into one of those annoying people who countdown to an event by announcing how many sleeps it is til it happens, but I can’t promise anything.

More soon.

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A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend

Sometimes I’m shocked at how long it is since I wrote a post in a certain series.

Bar tagging it into my post when Buzzcocks legend Pete Shelley died in December 2018, it’s over a year since I did one of these.

So, here’s a compilation album from 1988, which I bought because it contained sixteen songs by four bands, two by each band.

I already owned and absolutely loved, songs by two of the bands (The Raw Herbs and The Waltones), knew of the third band (The Corn Dollies) but knew nothing by them at the time, and knew nothing of the fourth band (The Rain) although I now wonder if it’s the pre-Oasis incarnation that I’ve read about.

Anyway, here’s all the songs on Edge of the Road: a Medium Cool Sampler:

Edge

The Raw Herbs – The Storm

The Raw Herbs – At My Funeral

The Waltones – The British Disease

The Waltones – Bold

If I may interject for a moment: The Waltones should have been massive. I’ve not even posted my favourite song by them (we’ll save that for another day, but if you know them, you’ll probably already know which song I mean), but they wrote ace jangly pop songs with smart lyrics, such as those in Bold, a song which compares one’s amorous feelings to a popular brand of washing powder.

“Take a look at my heart, it’s a bluey-white you’ll like” is just drop-dead brilliance in my book.

Where were we? Oh yes, I really like the next featured band, who also should have been huge:

The Corn Dollies – Mouthful Of Brains

The Corn Dollies – What Do I Ever

And then there’s this lot:

The Rain – Seven Red Apples

The Rain – Dry The Rain

I expect if anyone can, then Walter from the ever-wonderful A Few Good Times in My Life will be able to resolve my “is it/isn’t it?” quandary about The Rain/Oasis (I don’t think it is, but….) ……no pressure!

More soon.

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.