Let's wrap up Dexys Midnight Runners with a couple of more B-sides and some surprises. In 1981, between 'Searching for the Young Soul Rebels' and 'Too-Rye-Aye,' there were a couple of one-off singles with a revamped lineup I rank among the band's best. One of the A-sides, "Plan B," would be re-recorded later for 'Too-Rye-Ay' (with still more roster changes). The B-side to "Show Me," the other single during this period, was a short stripped-down affair with only an organ/piano and the voice of Kevin Rowland. That song, "Soon," would become the intro for the new version of "Plan B" on 'Too-Rye-Ay.' Clear as mud, innit?
By this time, Rowland was striving for perfection. Some say his ego had gotten the best of him. There would be no more words with the press. He expressed his thoughts on the band through an insert included with "Show Me." Do yourself a favor and click on the image below. It's really something to behold. Rowland sounds more like a cult leader than a lead singer, but that unit sure bought what he was selling. The horns played as hard and loud as they possibly could until their lips bled.
Skipping ahead past the 1985 album 'Don't Stand Me Down' for just a moment, in 1986, there would be a 7" release for the theme song to a BBC TV series called "Brush Strokes." "Because of You" would be the last single under the name Dexys Midnight Runners until "She Got a Wiggle" came out as a digital single in 2012. The B-side was a pretty traditional Irish song from 150 years earlier, "Kathleen Mavourneen." For any American Civil War buffs out there, you may know this song because it was very popular in the 1860s and is often used in documentaries on the period. The song is an early clue Rowland was always interested in doing an album like the 2016 release 'Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul.'
For third album 'Don't Stand Me Down,' Rowland's plan was to have no singles. This was to be his magnum opus, and he wanted the LP to stand on its own and be played in its entirety, front to back. The album took forever to record, and it cost much more than the label ever envisioned. It was selling very poorly and, after six weeks on store shelves, a four-plus minute single version of a 12-plus minute song was sloppily cobbled together. It didn't help. I have a 12" promo single of "This Is What She's Like" with a short version of the song and the even shorter single version. If you have heard the album version, then you know the single was a travesty. Some of the best sections of the song were completely removed. Also on the 12" B-side is album track "One of Those Things." I love this album. Although it was ignored at the time, in recent years, it has been re-evaluated by many and given its proper due. Seems like that's how it works for geniuses.
There's just no way I can put up these inferior versions and leave it at that. What if there is someone out there hearing "This Is What She's Like" for the first time? If so, skip those other two and go straight to the album version. Then, when you fall in love with the song, listen to the 20-plus minute live version from the 2014 album 'Nowhere is Home." This quadruple album is one of the most expensive records I have bought in recent years. Completely worth it, but I was a little disappointed in the quality of the vinyl... as you will hear. This song is so lengthy it takes up all of side eight of the album
I'm going to skip ahead just a bit from last post and hit the B-sides from the 'Too-Rye-Ay' era. If you were an early fan of 'Searching for the Young Soul Rebels,' you might have felt let down by this metamorphosis in the sound and look of Dexys Midnight Runners. Trouble is, in the UK alone, in terms of sales, you would have been outnumbered about 5 to 1 as 'Too-Rye-Aye' was an absolute smash. In 1982, it was the UK's No. 11 selling album, and the band's success even crossed the pond as the single "Come on Eileen" made it to No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, that single cemented Dexys Midnight Runners as one-hit wonders in America. Sometimes, the label fits, and the charts don't lie, but man, do I hate it in this case. There is so much more to love.
If the aesthetics of donkey jackets to track suits to dungarees made your eyes spin, and the sounds of horn-heavy soul with just a hint of punk attitude morphing into banjo, fiddle and accordion hurt your delicate ears, then stick around. The third and final post on Dexys Midnight Runners will feature yet another reinvention to business suits, preppy pastel plaids and laid-back ramblings that, although brilliant, didn't stand a chance.
I was a child of the '80s and, as such, had an infatuation with the 12" single. To this day there is something so simple and so beautiful about holding a 7" single, but the lure of two B-sides was often too much back then. If you're pressed for time, I highly recommend the cover of MFSB's "T.S.O.P." and the live version of the one-off hit single "Show Me."
As someone who has already touted spin-offs the Blue Ox Babes and the Bureau in this series, it probably won't surprise you it will take a few days to rip all of my records by Dexys Midnight Runners. That means multiple posts for you, but what to do? Since you probably know the first three albums and the singles forwards and backwards, I thought I might concentrate on some inspired B-sides. Many of the flips didn't make it onto the LPs and, especially early on, the band had a knack for putting its stamp on some fabulous soul covers. Today, let's stick with the B-sides surrounding the 1980 debut album, 'Searching for the Young Soul Rebels.' Dexys is an all-timer for me, and I have been wanting to do an ICA on them for ages over at JC's place. Once I get everything transferred, no more excuses. More from Kevin and a revamped lineup next time.
"I'm Just Looking" ("Dance Stance" 7", 1979) The only one of this lot that isn't a cover and that showed up on an LP. This single peaked at No. 40 in the UK. "Dance Stance," of course, would be tweaked and become album opener "Burn It Down" on 'Soul Rebels.'
"Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache" ("Geno" 7", 1980) In the UK, the Bandwagon had a No. 4 hit with this one in 1968. You can't blame the virtually unknown American group for moving to London after this one.
"The Horse" (There, There My Dear" 7", 1980) A song that instantly takes me back to being a nine year old watching the hometown high school basketball team with my father during their best season in school history. The school's band played this one every game, often more than once. This was released as a single by Cliff Nobles in 1968. The A-side was called "Love Is All Right" and had vocals. The B-side was the same song without vocals and dubbed "The Horse." The flip side was the hit, peaking at No. 2. So lead singer Nobles didn't actually appear on the hit. The great horn section of session musicians, straight outta Philly, would later be known as MFSB. Kevin Rowland must have liked those cats because he would cover them again with "T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)" a couple of years later. Interestingly, "Grazin' in the Grass" is the song that kept "The Horse" from the top spot. Dexys covered that song in 2016 on 'Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul.'
"One Way Love" ("Keep It Part Two (Inferiority Part One)" 7", 1980) This was first recorded by the Drifters, but Dexys Midnight Runners were obviously going after the sound of the hit version by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. The horns of Bennett's band were known to be a big influence during this early period.
"Soul Finger" ("Plan B" 7", 1981) Dexys Midnight Runners were heavily into Stax Records during the 'Soul Rebels' era, and the Bar-Kays were a great band to emulate. The story of these talented Memphis studio musicians is a sad one as most of the members died in the same plane crash that took Otis Redding's life. Dexys stays true to the original version, save for kids yelling "soul finger" and Big Jim Paterson's epic trombone solo.
Apologies for the long layoff between posts, but the awful year that was 2016 had one more kick in the pants before saying so long. It's been a rough couple of weeks that included flying back to Illinois for a funeral that became funerals, followed by a nasty illness that picked off family members one by one. All of this meant forgoing some traditions here at LTL I normally anticipate and enjoy. There was no celebrating Mike Nesmith's birthday on Dec. 30. More importantly, for the first time since 1990, I didn't watch Big Country's New Year's Eve show from Barrowland, circa 1983, complete with post. Finally, I never got to compile my favorite albums of 2016. I know the last thing most of you want to do one week into 2017 is see another list, but please indulge me. I like to be able to look back on these things and see what I was into at the time. For example, just today I saw the Balconies had my No. 5 album in 2009. Had completely forgot about that one. OK, real quick like...
The High Llamas - 'Here Come the Rattling Trees' Five years was a long time to wait for this one. Some fine moments, but not quite up to the standards of the rest of Sean O'
The Monkees - 'Good Times!' Produced by Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger and with songs written by a stable of stars including Rivers Cuomo and Andy Partridge. Could have been (should have been) a nightmare, but it really is a good time.
The Monochrome Set - 'Cosmonaut' Heroes from my youth with two great albums the past two years. Didn't see that coming.
The Top 10 10. Le SuperHomard - 'Maple Key' French band keeps the spirit of Stereolab alive.
9. Charles Bradley - 'Changes' Nobody lays it all out there like Mr. Bradley. Respect.
8. David Bowie - 'Blackstar' His best? No, but there are moments I would put right up there.
7. Community Radio - 'Look Now You're Cursed' If you love indie pop, better tune in to this one. The first of three on this list from Australia.
6. The Holiday Crowd - 'The Holiday Crowd' Thinking we may have similar record collections. Orange Juice are all over this one.
5. Real Numbers - 'Wordless Wonder' Slumberland band reminds me of Expert Alterations. They were No. 5 last year.
4. Chook Race - 'Around the House' The Swede wrote me five months ago... " I don't think an album could be any more 'you', without having your full name emblazoned across the cover in fluorescent ink." You were so right. Thanks for the recommendation.
3. The Goon Sax - 'Up to Anything' My in was Robert Forster's teenage son, but I ended up liking James Harrison's songs just as much. I suspect if I was 30 years younger this would be my album of the year.
2. The Perfect English Weather - 'Isobar Blues' Wendy and Simon Pickles of the Popguns turn it down just a little bit and end up rivaling their best work.
1. Pete Astor - 'Spilt Milk' Indie-pop icon returns to his roots with help from James Hoare of dearly missed Veronica Falls. By far my most played album in 2016.
These three wise men came bearing gifts in 1983. Were these guys mummers? Here was the press release Virgin Records put out about 11 days before the 7" hit the shelves. They gave us all a little hint of their identities with the opening line from "Twelve Days of Christmas."
Three Wise Men turn up on Virgin, not Mary, but Records
"On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree... "
Yes, Virgin enters into the festive spirit with this seasonal offering, ‘Thanks for Christmas’ by The Three Wise Men. The song was penned by well-known writing team Kaspar/Melchior/Balthazar, the Far East's answer to Holland/Dozier/Holland. Production was by The Three Wise Men and the Good Lord himself. (released Nov 21st Virgin VS642)
Not surprisingly, the release hits the decks shrouded in mystery, intrigue and much speculation. The ‘What's On In Bethlehem’-style sleeve may well proclaim ‘The Three Wise Men’, but this non-de-plume cunningly conceals the identity of one of Virgin's top pop groups! Not that we're telling you which band. Could it be Culture Club, Human League, Heaven 17, China Crisis or even Slapp Happy? Over to you! Just good clean Virgin fun to keep you guessing right into the New Year. It's certainly countdown to Christmas party time. Cheers!
November 10th 1983
There is no way anybody could have mistaken this trio for Culture Club, Human League, Heaven 17 or China Crisis. Hope this one brightens your holiday. My sincerest wishes to you for a happy Christmas.
When you're an old guy like me, hanging on to the past like a washed-up small-town prom king, reissues are as at least as important as the new releases. Fortunately, it was another banner year for this fogey. There were a few fantastic box sets from Cherry Red, particularly if you were a fan of indie pop, punk or shoegaze, but there is no doubt my favorite label for looking back goes to Firestation Records. I picked up eight obscure and jangly reissues from the German label this year. Four of them made this list, and three just missed the cut. Apologies to Spy, Emily and the Man Upstairs.
There are two bands here that had blowout reissues campaigns in 2016. Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet had three albums released with bonus tracks via Yep Roc, and Crowded House had a whopping seven albums get the deluxe-edition treatment. I love them all, but for the purposes of this list, I chose one favorite from each of them. You'll notice there is a tie for the top spot. I decided to go that way because the best song I heard this year was "Wonderful Lie" by Glasgow's the Hardy Boys, but I just couldn't bring myself to give a brilliant but measly four-song 12" from '89 the gold medal when every other spot on the list is at least a full album (or more).
A few of these bands may be new to you. Where I could, I linked to an order page that might give you more information about the album. Also, just past the list, you can find a few songs to stream. As always, I would love to hear what reissues you fancied this year, too.
Yes, 2016 was awful, but you wouldn't know by this list. Most years, I end up with a top 25 or 30, but I could have come up with a Festive 50 quite easily. I settled on a solid 40 filled with C86 vets (Wolfhounds, Close Lobsters) and those who are keeping that sound alive (Real Numbers, the Holiday Crowd). There are surprising comebacks (Lush, the Seashells, the Monkees), fresh projects (Simon and Wendy Pickles as the Perfect English Weather and Yves Altana of Chameleons/Patrick Fitzgerald of Kitchens of Distinction as Oskar's Drum) and a couple of tough goodbyes (Allo Darlin' and David Bowie). This list proves Australia is indie-pop central right now (the Goon Sax, Chook Race, Community Radio), and Shelflife Records is label of the year. That's enough. Let's get to the music. I'll conclude with this: I never would have thought a Black Sabbath cover could end up on a list like this, let alone in my top 5!
That headline didn't quite roll off the tongue like I thought it would. Apologies to Phil are in order, but not just from me. For at least three weeks now we have been subjected to contemporary pop stars making a mockery of our favorite holiday songs. I could go on and on, but I'll keep the Christmas crankiness to a single lump of coal. Nobody, and I mean nobody, should attempt "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." It was done to perfection in 1963. The rest of you lot are wasting precious time and resources.
If, like me, you have had it with the same old same old from Mariah, Taylor and the lot, then I bring you glad tidings. From the "City of Angels" comes Rat Fancy, the latest member of HHBTM's stable of stars, with a truly original holiday song that's destined to become part of your festive season for years to come. "You Stole My Xmas Sweater" is all hand claps, head bobs and betrayal. In other words, indie pop at its best. It's being offered for free on their Bandcamp page here, but if the mood should strike, don't be afraid to toss a few shekels in the cup. 'Tis the season, you know.
Let's say good riddance to this less than stellar year already and look forward to a 2017 full of new music from the likes of Rat Fancy. HHBTM has announced debut EP "Suck A Lemon" is on the docket.
Can you say you're not that big of a fan if a band released 19 singles between 1981 and 1987 and you have 18 of them? No, I suppose not. Well, then, I guess my days as a Depeche Mode denier are over. I believe Depeche Mode have only graced these pages two or three times in seven-and-a-half years, and I'm sure one of those stories must have been bobbing my head to a cassette of 'Catching Up With Depeche Mode' in my mom's Chevy Caprice station wagon the day I got my driver's license. That was 30-plus years ago, and I still have it. Can you imagine how awful it must sound?
Mrs. LTL likes Depeche Mode, but we come at it from different eras. I enjoy the simplicity of the early years. She likes the arena rock. Ooh, that's low. Forget I said that. We have both volumes of the singles collections on CD, '81-'85 and '86-'98. More than once, going out the door, she's yelled, "bring the Depeche Mode," meaning the one from the later years, but she didn't specify, did she? It only takes about two seconds of that synth opening from "Dreaming of Me" for her to realize her mistake. Of course, if you knew my wife, you would know it really is my mistake. Here's one from the 'Black Celebration' era. That's getting close to the end for me. The band was pretty dark by this time, but this song is downright optimistic.
Now for something from the psychedelic side of C86. The Dentists caught my eye 30 years ago for a silly reason. I liked the name of the album from which today's song was taken. I had no idea at the time 'Some People Are On The Pitch They Think It's All Over It Is Now' was a reference to Kenneth Wolstenholme's famous call at the 1966 World Cup. Hmm, I can't seem to recall who won that one. Take it easy. I'm kidding. You take notice when you're a kid and see titles like "She Dazzled Me With Basil," "Writhing on the Shagpile" and, of course, "Where's My Chicken, You Bastard?" from the brilliantly named 'You and Your Bloody Oranges' EP. You need to see the cover to appreciate it. Here you go.
I didn't follow the Dentists at all after 1987 or so, but the name Bob Collins from the band has continually popped up on other projects through the years, and the Dentists even garnered quite a respectable following here in America around the early '90s. I bring all of this up because Collins released an album under his own name last year I did hear, and it turned out to be a brilliant piece of indie pop. Give it a listen here. Now on to "I Had an Excellent Dream," a standout from the Dentists' debut album. To these ears, it owes much to "For Your Love" from the Yardbirds, particularly the background vocals, but that's not a bad sound to emulate.
What a surprise... more jangle from Scotland! You never would have guessed. If you have a problem with "jangle" to describe del Amitri, then the band's self-titled debut album from 1985 must have eluded you. It's like nothing else the lads ever did, and it's also the only piece of plastic you will find by them on my shelf. Sometimes one is enough. Perfect from the first note to the last. Apparently, Chrysalis didn't feel the same way. One album in, the label dumped them..
A long trip to America followed, and del Amitri returned with a new look, a new sound and another major-label deal. Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid, but they didn't need me. The sophomore album. 'Waking Hours,' was a smash. For me, it's a familiar tale of going against the grain to be repeated over and over in this series.
As you listen to these, you're bound to be reminded of favorites like early Aztec Camera and 'Swoon'-era Prefab Sprout. For you younger readers out there (and is there any chance of that?), think Cats on Fire. The singles were "Hammering Heart" and "Sticks and Stones Girl," but the following two have been my go-to songs for decades, particularly "Deceive Yourself." I dedicate this one to Friend of Rachel Worth. He waxed poetic about this album quite a few times at his old blog, Cathedral of Sound, and he did it far better than I ever could.
If you're lucky enough to say goodbye to Allo Darlin' at one of the band's final shows this weekend in London, don't forget your old pal Brian. Please pick me up a copy of their 7" swan song, "Hymn on the 45". That is all.
All mp3s posted at LTL! are to highlight music you should buy... right now. Sure, give it a listen, but then run to your nearest indie record shop and pay up. Mp3s are linked for a limited time. Rants and raves to email@example.com.