I’m Not To Keen On Mondays

Here we go, here we go, here we go. Football, football, football.

I’m not getting carried away, of course. Disappointment is just round the corner.

In the run up to the World Cup, the History Channel showed a load of football related documentaries, including one which I absolutely love: One Night in Turin.

It’s a truly spectacular documentary, explaining where England was back in 1990, with football hooliganism prominent and ID cards mooted. Plus, it’s narrated by Gary Oldman, which gives it a bit of gravitas.

We all know how it ends, of course; Chris Waddle blazes his penalty over the bar, but there’s a really wonderful few moments after that, as the camera tracks him, and you see the German captain Lothar Matth√§us come and console him not once, but twice.

And the film has a great soundtrack too, cherry-picked from songs which were popular and/or cool back in 1990.

As you watch it, the tunes keep coming and they take you back as much as the footage does.

And then, suddenly, this morning’s tune clang clang clangs its way in, and I have the biggest, stupidest grin on my face. Because that’s what this record does to me. And to you, probably.

I said that yesterday’s Late Night Stargazing post featured one of the greatest records ever made; turns out I’m posting another one today. I’m not sure how long I can keepy this up for. (No, you’re right, that doesn’t quite work, does it?).

Incoming.

Kennedy Front

The Wedding Present – Kennedy

More soon.

Advertisements

loudQUIETloud

Mention the above phrase, and those wise old sages amongst you will see it as a Pixies reference.

Some may see it as a Nirvana reference, but since Kurt Cobain often cited Pixies as an influence, it’s not unreasonable to assume that when his records did the whole loudQUIETloud thing, as they often did, there was a hat being tipped in their direction.

And no, the emphasis isn’t all wrong in me/us/them referring to loudQUIETloud; the very point of it is that sandwiched between loud sections, the quiet(er) moments stand out for their oasis-like (no, not them) idyllic calm and beauty.

But in 1991 one band took it a step further: quietVERYLOUDINDEEDnomorequietbits.

Step forward The Wedding Present and the first single from the Steve Albini produced Seamonsters album.

It’s hard to communicate quite the impact this made on hearing it¬†for the first time. The¬†lyrical bent is as one had come to expect¬†from Wedding Present stalwart David Gedge, although rather than the protagonist being unloved or dumped as had generally been the case previously, now the subject of the song is one half of an illicit affair.

And musically: well, it starts as a slightly low-key, stripped down sound, in much the same way as¬†Blur would succesfully adapt on their 1997 Blur album. There are no trademark break-neck jangly guitars a la ¬†‘Shatner’ on display here.

And then.

And then it just fucking explodes into a sheer wall of noise: an angry, seething, frustrated, unfettered, raging wall of sound, the exact opposite of that which Phil Spector tried to do in the 60s, but no less exquisite for it.

If you’re listening to this on your headphones, I recommend you either turn the volume up or down, depending on your proclivities, around the 2:18¬†mark, because it’s at 2:20 that the fireworks start:

THE_WEDDING_PRESENT_DALLIANCE-113464

The Wedding Present – Dalliance

Genuis. No other word for it.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Did I mention that I love The Wedding Present?

They’re without doubt the band I’ve seen more than any other since I first saw them way back in 1988, and now I manage to go see them at least once a year.

A couple of years ago, I caught them performing the album that tonight’s song is from –¬†1994’s Watusi – which is an¬†often-overlooked gem in my book.

For those of you who think they’re a bit of a one-trick pony I urge you to listen to this and see just how utterly wrong you are:

R-678827-1146765141_jpeg

The Wedding Present – Spangle

Just plain heart-achingly gorgeous.

More soon.

A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend

Been a while since I wrote one of these, but the news this week that there will no longer be a print version of the NME has spurred me into life.

I can’t really shed a tear for the NME moving to an online presence only; I haven’t read it for fifteen years or so, certainly haven’t bought it since Emo was a thing, and have never managed to pick up a free copy outside a tube station in London.

I did, however, purchase it semi-religiously from the late 1980s until the very late 1990s. Just like everyone has a Dr Who that¬†is “theirs”, who resonates with their youth, so it is with the NME. I wish I could say that I bought it when Danny Baker et al were the scribes in residence, but my time involved the likes of Andrew Collins, Stuart Maconie, Stephen Dalton, Tom Hibbert, David Quantick, Barbara Ellen,¬†Mary Anne Hobbs¬†and Steve Lamacq. Looking at that list explains why I listen to BBC 6Music so much these days.

The NME was renowned for attaching the occasional cassette to the front cover; regrettably I was too late to grab a copy of the seminal C86 tape at the time, however I did go and purchase today’s selection, which was released in 1988 in conjunction with, and to raise funds for, Childline, a free 24-hour counselling service for children.

The Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father was released to mark the 21st anniversary of the original release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, and as I’m typing this, it seems just unbelievable that another thirty years have passed since then.

The idea was this: get current bands to record cover versions of every track on the album. And so it was that the tribute album was born.

As with many albums of this sort, it’s patchy to say the least. But here’s the tracks I like the most from it. And that one by Wet Wet Wet, which I include purely because it was released as a double ‘A’ side with Billy Bragg’s cover on the other side, which led to Simon Bates¬†having to say on Top of the Pops, after the Wetx3s¬†had mimed their smiley asses off, the following words: “That’s number one, and the other side is number one as well.¬†Here’s Billy Bragg.”

Billy Bragg at #1 in the UK Charts. The stuff that dreams are made of.

R-501843-1303761043_jpeg

Wet Wet Wet – With A Little Help From My Friends

The Wedding Present with Amelia Fletcher – Getting Better

Billy Bragg with Cara Tivey – She’s Leaving Home

Frank Sidebottom – Being For Benefit Of Mr. Kite

Sonic Youth – Within You Without You

Michelle Shocked – Lovely Rita

The Triffids – Good Morning Good Morning

The Fall – A Day In The Life

A few years later, I was travelling somewhere (I forget where) with a friend who was a massive Beatles fan. He had asked me to put together a mix-tape for the journey, which for reasons that escape me now, I gave to him in advance of our trip to listen to. I included The Fall track, which he took exception to.

“Who the hell is that murdering A Day In The Life?”, he asked before I had clicked the seatbelt into place.

I looked at him, baffled, bemused.

“It’s The Fall. Obviously. It’s obviously The Fall. And they’ve not murdered it. They’ve Fall’ed it.”

I wonder if, after Mark E Smith’s death in January, he is claiming to have listened to The Fall since the late 80s. I know he occasionally reads this, so I’ll report back.

More soon.

Definitely Not Something and Nothing

Following on from the last post (in an effort to make it look like I plan the shizzle I post here), there are two events from 2017 which stand out for me, and both involve the same person.

I’m not going to bang on about it again, but in November my old mate Rich and I went to see the Mighty Spurs play – and thrash – the Galacticos of Real Madrid. Seeing Ronaldo look even more pissed off than he must have done when they unveiled that bust of him was glorious.

And back in June – on his (Rich’s, not Ronaldo’s) birthday – we went and relived our youth, watching The Wedding Present perform their iconic “George Best” album, a record over which our friendship was first forged, a long, long¬†time ago.

Both of those nights will live long in the memory, partly because they were great nights, but mostly because I got to share both of them with my old mate of thirty years (and counting).

So, here’s something from that album, one that doesn’t usually get played, but one which I love (but then I love every song on it, so that’s no great accolade…):

theweddingpresent

The Wedding Present – Something and Nothing

Bring on the “Tommy” tour!

More soon.

The A Word

I was genuinely pleased to see the return for a second series this week of BBC drama The A Word.

I really enjoyed the first series which I had watched for one simple reason: Christopher Eccleston. 

Eccleston is an actor I could watch endlessly; I’ve never seen him be in anything bad, and I’ve never seen him be bad in anything.

And before you ask, my admiration for him pre-dates his brief stint as Dr Who. It even pre-dates his appearances in Danny Boyle directed movies like Shallow Grave and 28 Days Later.

Although actually, the source of my admiration for Eccleston comes from the same year as Shallow Grave, 1994, but I didn’t watch that until after I’d seen – and because I had seen – Cracker.

Cracker was a rarity in my book: a compelling, well-acted, well-scripted drama on ITV; I can’t think of a single drama they have shown which comes anywhere close to how good that show was in it’s first and second series. Much of that was down to the writing, by Jimmy McGovern; as with Eccleston, to this day, I try to watch anything which has his name attached to it.

The show also introduced me to a couple of other actors that I still try to catch as often as possible: John Simm, Samantha Morton and Robert Carlyle.

In fact, Carlyle plays a large part in the reason I loved this show.

Spoiler alert.

One of the reasons Cracker left a massive impression on me was the shocking, death of Eccleston’s character, DCI David Bilborough, at the hands of Carlyle’s Albie Kinsella, in the first story of the second series, “To Be a Somebody”.

This was something I had never seen before: a main character brutally, unexpectedly, killed off. Other TV shows have since followed suit (although I’ve never watched it, Spooks springs to mind). And if you think about it, that’s drama reflecting real life; when people die young, or in the line of duty, you generally don’t expect it, so the loss is a bolt from the blue, an absolute shock.

But I digress. When I saw that Eccleston was going to be in the first series of The A Word, I knew I was going to have to watch it.

The A Word is about Joe,  a young boy on the autistic spectrum, and the effect that his condition (and other things) has on his extended family.

Joe finds it difficult to engage with people, but he finds it very easy to engage with music; he has a pair of headphones permanently attached to him, can quote the year each song he listens to was released, who it was by, etc, and often the bulk of his conversation is focused on song titles and lyrics of his favourite songs.

And joy of joys, he has bloody great taste in music. Here’s three songs which featured heavily in the first series:

R-572878-1453367613-3389_jpeg

The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet

And – don’t knock this one, it’s bloody great, if not quite in the same league as the two it’s sandwiched between here:

WILL_YOUNG_LEAVE+RIGHT+NOW-264777

Will Young – Leave Right Now

And, since I haven’t posted it for a while, and it remains one of the greatest (indie) records ever:

Wedding-Present-Kennedy-240157

The Wedding Present – Kennedy

The entire first series is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer, should you be so inclined.

Or, some kind soul has compiled a playlist of all the songs which featured in Series 1 over on YouTube, which you can have a look at here.

So, could the second series match the very high standards it had set itself in the first series?

Oh, yes.

Here’s what the music over the first scene was:

R-401887-1380522058-9336_jpeg

Buzzcocks – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays

Promising.

And then, a little later, gloriously, this:

the-wedding-present-brassneck-rca

The Wedding Present – Brassneck

Note: not the album version, but the Steve Albini produced single version. Class.

So anyway, if you enjoy the sort of stuff I post here, give The A Word a look. You might even quite like the drama aspect, but if you don’t, you’ll love the soundtrack.

And if Joe isn’t writing his own music blog by the time Series 3 comes around, I’ll be very disappointed.

Either way, that should have got your weekend off to a decent enough start.

I’m tempted, as the series progresses, to feature all the great songs that feature in the show. We’ll see (if I can be arsed).

In other words: More soon.

A Mix-Tape Maker‚Äôs 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 Рa Best of the Best, if you will Рbut, 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:

cd88

  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.