This is going to be short because, frankly, there isn't much history to rehash when it comes to Bubblegum Splash. The Salisbury band was only together for a year, and their entire discography was seven songs. Although seemingly a mere footnote, however, they were on the Subway Organisation, and that means Bubblegum Splash had to be something special. Label founder Martin Whitehead knew how to pick 'em, and I hope by the end of this series you agree. Bubblegum Splash is the first of at least seven Subway bands I plan to feature.
Bubblegum Splash can be described as lo-fi garage... really lo-fi... and that's the charm. Nikki, the lead singer, joined Bubblegum Splash when the lads spotted her at a pub in a Jesus and Mary Chain T-shirt. Hardly a resume for fronting a band, but that's mid-'80s indie for you. Nikki wasn't exactly brimming with confidence, and she often sang behind a curtain during practice and turned her back on the audience at gigs. There were shows with the Pastels, Talulah Gosh, Vaselines, Darling Buds and Flatmates. Greats, one and all, and Bubblegum Splash fits in well with this lot.
Today's pick is Subway 13, the "Splashdown" EP from 1987. You'll hear some Shop Assistants and Swell Maps in these four very very quick songs. Marty, credited as the tambourine player on the 7", recalls this set being recorded the day Andy Warhol died. This turned out to be Bubblegum Splash's 15 minutes of fame. "Splashdown" peaked at No. 15 on the indie chart.
I had planned on going all indie pop this week. Today was to be the Broken West, but I should have checked the shelf first. I thought I had debut 'I Can't Go On, I'll Go On," and I do, but on CD. Further research shows it was never released on vinyl. My memory isn't what it used to be, but when it comes to my records, I'm usually a savant. Disturbing. Anyway, in it's place, I give you Bronski Beat, a band I was going to skip but am now quite happy to include. The timing is perfect since I just saw 'Pride,' the 2014 film depicting the 1984 Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign to which Bronski Beat headlined the legendary "Pits and Perverts" fundraising concert.
The band may be named for John Bronski, but Bronski Beat will always be identified by the falsetto vocals of Jimmy Somerville. To my surprise, then, today I'm choosing the first single post Somerville. Bronski Beat will be remembered and revered for "Why?" and "Smalltown Boy," and rightly so. Their messages make them among the most important songs of the era. You'll find none of that with "Hit That Perfect Beat." "Jon Jon" Foster's debut as lead singer is all about having a good time under the disco ball, and it was a massive hit. The extended 12" version featured here is about twice as long as the 7" because, well, your feet would have barely found that beat in three-and-a-half minutes. I only stuck with Bronski Beat for one more single. "C'Mon! C'Mon!" was more good-time fun but too many miles from the days of "Smalltown Boy" for these ears.
I liked just about everything Bristol's the Brilliant Corners put out from 1985 through 1988, and why not? Some have argued the music didn't live up to the fantastic covers and other art work. You can decide that for yourself, but I vehemently disagree. Ah, the jangle, the hooks, the trumpet! The string of consecutive singles that included "Brian Rix," Delilah Sands" and "Teenage" were their peak, and the 1988 album 'Somebody Up There Likes Me' should be on the shelf of every UK indie-pop fan.
Today's pick was the single that succeeded the three above and the song that was a walk up to 1989 long player 'Joy Ride.' There was an ever so slight change in sound that would become even more apparent with the 1990 album 'Hooked.' It happened to many jangle bands about that time. I didn't come along for the band's shift to what some have described as shoegaze. In fact, this 7" of "Why Do You Have To Go Out With Him When You Could Go Out With Me" is as far as I went. There are several reasons for choosing this one:
1. I have already featured "Brian Rix," Delilah Sands" and "Teenage" in the past.
2. This is my favorite cover, barely beating out "Delilah Sands."
3. There is a killer fuzzy guitar solo that reminds me of Another Sunny Day's "You Should All Be Murdered."
4. That beautiful voice you hear harmonizing with David Woodward is the one and only Amelia Fletcher.
5. The length of the 7" is perfect. The version on 'Joy Ride" goes on just a bit.
I hope you like it. Yes, this is the longest title to ever appear on this blog.
Got a plethora of indie pop coming up the rest of the week. Let's begin with a band straight outta Deutschland but with a sound that seems to come from the UK in '86 and Sweden in '96. Brideshead has had two lives. There were a handful of brilliant singles and two albums on a trio of labels between 1995 and 2002... then an eight-year silence. Due to a similar aesthetic, that bleak period without Brideshead was tempered slightly for me by the emergence of Finnish band Cats on Fire, but Brideshead was welcomed back into the fold in 2010 on two of my favorite labels, Shelflife and Dufflecoat, where they have resided ever since. It's rare to return after such a long layoff and actually better earlier efforts, but Brideshead succeeded where so many others failed. Do yourself a favor and pick up their 2015 long player 'Never Grow Up.' It landed at No. 4 on my best of 2015, and I probably sold them short.
Today I have chosen two songs with contrasting tempos from 1998 debut album 'Some People Have All the Fun.' This is a tough one to find on vinyl. It was only available in that format on Japanese label Quince Records, but it's still a fairly easy get on CD via German label Marsh-Marigold. I think you'll hear many bands you know in these songs, such as June Brides and Brilliant Corners, and Martin Nelte's vocals have always reminded me of David Schelzel from the Ocean Blue, especially on the slower numbers.
Off topic a bit, but putting this one together made me think of it. What has happened to Cats on Fire?
The general consensus in our little corner of the blogosphere seems to be we all like Prince well enough but not in a fanatical way. The word "genius" has been bandied about quite a bit too, but most lost track of his music... some a few years ago and others a few decades. To make this a good story, I would separate myself from the pack and go on and on about how I have all 39 of his studio albums and a shelf of rarities to boot. Unfortunately, I'm like most of you. On vinyl I have the double-LP '1999', 'Purple Rain' and two 12" singles from the same era. The last thing I bought by him was the three-disc 'Hits' collection. Seems like only yesterday, but that was 23 years ago! In other words, I'm no authority on Prince. All I can say is I pulled out everything I had by him this weekend, listened to it all, and came away wishing I had done a better job keeping up with his work. I have a feeling I'm not alone in this sentiment.
Here are a few 12" versions of songs Prince had a hand in... one way or another. Sheila E. and Prince wrote and produced the duet "A Love Bizarre" in 1985. It wasn't quite as big as "The Glamorous Life", but it still managed to peak at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. Chaka Khan's cover of "I Feel For You" needs very little introduction. Melle Mel rapping her name over and over has been burned into our brains forever. This would be her biggest hit in a legendary 30-year career and one of the most memorable songs of 1984. Prince gave "Manic Monday" to the Bangles, and the ladies certainly made it sound like one of their own. A lovely piece of pop that went top 5 all around the world in 1986. Many are giving thanks to Prince right now, and I'm betting the following artists are at the head of the line.
The letter B is getting a little long in the teeth. So, I'm going to skip ahead a bit for a quickie. This chap named Peter Bramall was in the power-pop band the Motors for a moment in '77 and part of '78 under the stage name Bram Tchaikovsky. Perhaps you know the song "Airport," a minor hit here in America and a rather major one on their home turf of the UK. Bram Tchaikovsky struck out on his own and released the album 'Strange Man, Changed Man' in 1979. I'm not going to push the album on you, but the one minor hit, "Girl of My Dreams," would just sneak into the Billboard Top 40 and become a power-pop staple on compilations for decades to come... and for good reason. It's perfection. There were two more studio albums after that, but each one was less successful. Bram Tchaikovsky called it a day in 1981.
One question I have always had... if the frontman goes by Bram Tchaikovsky, why isn't this album filed under the letter T? I have always put it in the B section, and that seems to be the correct move. According to my copy of 'The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits,' Bram Tchaikovsky is considered a band name too, and they have it in the Bs.
Apologies for the gap between posts, but it takes a spell to rip all of the vinyl from David Bowie. When Bowie passed away, I didn't write about him at all. Frankly, everyone else was, and many were doing it better than I ever could. With time comes healing. So, I hope we can have a little fun with this one. I wondered, what could I bring to the table that would delight a few but disgust the flock? The '80s output, of course, and I'm not talking about "Ashes to Ashes," "Fashion" or any other nugget from 'Scary Monsters' either. I'm talking about the much maligned era from about "Cat People" through the 'Never Let Me Down' long player.
'Never Let Me Down'
I know what you're thinking. Wow, I knew it was bad, but then when you see it all spread out like that... it's worse than I even remember. My rebuttal: Hey, at least even I drew the line at 'Labyrinth'! OK, now I'll try to explain myself. My first Bowie album was 'Let's Dance.' I had taped the title track off the radio and played it over and over on my boom box while shooting baskets in the driveway as a wide-eyed 13 year old. The only time I had ever consciously heard a song by him before that was when I saw "Boys Keep Swinging" on a late-night video program. It scared the b-Jesus out of me. "Let's Dance" was different. It was accessible... which was at least some of the reason why die-hard fans hated it. If I had been a few years older, I would have felt the same way.
Anyway, I started snatching up the singles and, eventually, the album. It wasn't long before I bought my first older album, a cassette of 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.' At nearly the same time, I rode my bike all the way to my town's Kmart and found a new-release compilation called 'Fame and Fashion.' The packaging was atrocious, but I was on my way. Even though I haven't played them for decades, I still keep these two early purchases around because they meant so much to me. They were my road map to the music of '70s Bowie, and I eventually got all of his back catalog.
Meanwhile, Bowie continued to produce new music. When Julien Temple's 20-minute short film 'Jazzin' for Blue Jean' premiered on MTV in 1984, I came down with a mysterious one-day illness so I could stay home from school the following day and watch it over and over again. It turned out I wasn't quite as enamored with 'Tonight' as I was with 'Let's Dance,' but it did have what would turn out to be my second-favorite Bowie song from the '80s. I still love it to this day.
In time, I grew to understand why so many disliked '80s Bowie. There is a lot there to pan, but I didn't feel that way while I was living it. Today, I still like 'Let's Dance' more than anyone else reading this will understand. All I can say in my defense is that this is where I climbed aboard. There are other songs I loved then that I still love now. In case you're curious, the 12" of "Absolute Beginners" is my favorite, and I listen to it often. There are others... the 12" of "Cat People" from '82, the remix of "Shake It" on the flip side of the "China Girl" 12".... I could go on, but my attempts at persuasion will be futile. That's OK. We have plenty of other music from his vast catalog where we agree.
Bow Wow Wow is probably not the first band you think of when considering Malcolm McLaren's managerial achievements, nor should it be, but I had a soft spot for the band in a singles sort of way. In fact, in much the same way I whittled down my records from the Boomtown Rats (see Friday's post), these days I'm only left with a best-of collection and this one 12". Most of my old Bow Wow Wow wouldn't have helped this series today anyway because they were on tape. The band was closely identified with the cassette crowd, and I obliged.
If you're one that marks the success of a band in sales, then Bow Wow Wow were big in the UK but nothing more than a one-hit wonder here in America, and I use that term loosely because although their cover of "I Want Candy" seemed like a smash (due to large amounts of air time on music-video programs), the song only got to No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100. Yet, I think it's fair to say "I Want Candy" was and still is one of the most immediately identifiable songs of the era. It has been used in more movies, television shows and commercials than just about anything from 1982. McLaren did a masterful job of assembling this band from early defectors of Adam and the Ants, and the choice of Annabella Lwin to front the whole thing was a masterstroke of business acumen.
Even though most Americans never heard UK hits like "Do You Wanna Hold Me" and "Go Wild in the Country," I think most music fans knew Bow Wow Wow anyway. Why? The controversial cover above certainly had at least something to do with it. Not only was it used for the single "Go Wild in the Country," but in America and Canada the same cover art was used for 'The Last Of The Mohicans,' the popular EP featuring "I Want Candy." I know that was the first record I bought by them, and I remember burying it under a couple of other purchases in case my parents asked me what I picked up that day. The slightly more mature me discussing the depiction of a naked underage Annabella feels icky today, but let's remember she was actually three or four years older than me. I think my eyes may have burned a hole in the cover as much as I stared at it as a young teen. That's enough of that. Let's listen to the 12" of "Go Wild in the Country." It clocks in at more than two minutes longer than the 7".
This is a double dedication. George, good luck with the planting this weekend. I'm sure you'll really love some Sting after hours in the field. Ha! Seriously, though, Stewart is an animal on this one. I also send this one out to Walter. I know he loves his German television.
In related news, George, beware of nutty thieves. According to the Los Angeles Times, in California, sophisticated crime syndicates have set up elaborate plots to steal truckloads of nuts from farmers. They have stolen millions of dollars worth of crops already... and that's no shell game.
Also see the handiwork of pals Swiss Adam and CC. Nice job, fellas.
"She's So Modern" was my first foray into the Boomtown Rats, and it came via the 'That Summer!' soundtrack. Yes, I'm going on about that album again. Now, I don't want to give the impression I bought 'That Summer!' when it came out in 1979. I would have been 9 years old. I picked it up at the impressionable age of 13, and like all good compilations, I took to most of the bands and began spending all of my paper-route money buying up their albums. At one time in my life I had several pieces of plastic from the Rats, but through the years, I have sold off almost all of them. Today, I'm left with the 1978 album 'A Tonic For the Troops' and the followup 'The Fine Art of Surfacing.' I have no regrets with the sell off. "She's So Modern" was the first single I heard, and I never liked another one as much. There aren't many better ways to spend the next three minutes. Go on... give it a go. Ooooh, yeah!
I was a fan of Book of Love for about five minutes in 1985. The photo above shows the band's first two singles, and they are of the 12" variety. These are it for me. By the time their first album came out in 1986, I was on to other things. When you listen to them, it becomes immediately clear why. By the middle '80s they already sounded dated. These two A-sides scream 1982 to me, and that's probably why I was attracted to them in the first place. Well, that and the fact they were on Sire, but by 1986, New Order was just about the only band with a heavy synth sound that was working for me.
The one question I always ponder when I hear Book of Love is just how it's possible they could be from rough-and-tumble Philadelphia, the very same city that pushed glam rockers Cinderella and the mandolin-playing Hooters on an unsuspecting public at the same time. You never would have guessed Book of Love could be from anywhere other than the other side of the pond.
Their sound may be soft, but I have to give the band props for taking on issues. They sang about the AIDS epidemic and a girl-likes-boy-boy-likes-boy relationship triangle. Pretty heady stuff for the era. As you would have guessed, Book of Love did very well on the U.S. dance chart, and "Boy" was even remixed and re-released as a single in 2001 to coincide with the release of a hits collection. The song raced to No. 1 on the dance chart 16 years after it was first released. I had no idea about that before today.
Note: Mrs. LTL is in Germany, and we have been using Skype. In order to do this, I have had to mess with many audio and video settings, as well as disable quite a bit in Audacity, the software I use to rip my vinyl. What a pain in my bottom. I'm not 100 percent certain I have everything back to the way I did before. If today's recording sounds different than previous offerings, please let me know. Now I get to change it all back so we can chat in a couple of hours. Ain't technology great?
This year has really sucked, but at this moment it feels as if the dark clouds are dissipating. What is there to smile about? Just listen...
Yes, that's new music from my beloved Close Lobsters. We only had to wait two years this time, and that's a blink of an eye in lobster years. This is when I would normally fawn over "Under London Skies", but what's the point? Surely you already know I think this band is valedictorian of the class of 'C86', and I freely admit when it comes to the pride of Paisley I'm an unapologetic sycophant. Fortunately, they haven't made me look like an idiot yet. I will say the line "this is the London of the Clash" made me raise my fist in the air moments ago. Nice touch, fellas.
Preorder the 'Desire and Signs EP' from Shelflife Records for a June 3 release. Early orders of the 7" will be on gold vinyl. The digital download also features "Wander Epic Parts I & II", "Wander Epic Part III" and an alternate mix of "Under London Skies".
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.