We have all heard of (or even seen) oddball concert bills, but this is one of my favorites. In the summer of 1983, just as Big Country was becoming a behemoth ("In a Big Country" was released in May), the Lotus Eaters joined them as an opening act on their UK tour. Even though the band hadn't even released a single yet, thanks to a wildly successful stint on John Peel's program, there was already quite a bit of buzz surrounding the Lotus Eaters. In fact, that debut single, "The First Picture of You" was released during the second half of this tour. As I'm sure you're aware, that song was a smash, peaking at No. 15 on the UK chart and becoming the most played song on UK radio in 1983.
This is how Peter Coyle, lead singer of the Lotus Eaters, summed up that tour. This is taken from his official Web site:
"The Lotus Eaters supported Big Country on their UK tour. The Big Country boys were really nice people. There was no bullshit there at all, which I really admire and respect them for. Having said that we were the totally wrong band to support them. They were pure unadulterated male rock and roll. We would go on and I would sit cross legged with sandals singing about the wonders of releasing your feminine side. I was singing about quiet spaces in your soul and the boys in the audience where probably thinking when can we get to the bar and obliterate all knowledge out of our minds. As you could imagine the audience must have thought what the fuck is going on! Is this some weird parallel universe? We are born to pogo not to explore our quiet meditative spaces. Especially some messed up male perception of female space."
This, indeed, may seem like a strange set to play together, but I'm proof that you can like Big Country and the Lotus Eaters. I would love to be able to hop aboard the way-back machine for one of these shows. As for today's picks, the Big Country song is "1000 Stars." Although it is one of the deeper cuts from 'The Crossing,' it has always been one of my favorites. This version is taken from a BBC Radio 1 session, recorded on March 9, 1983. Since I'm assuming you have heard "The First Picture of You" quite a few times, I'm going to go with the Lotus Eaters' followup, released a bit later in '83. It was a very minor hit, but it proved to be the last time the lads even had one of those. You can find it on the band's full-length debut, 'No Sense of Sin.' I highly recommend the Cherry Red reissue. It's a fine album on its own, but there are several bonus tracks, including a very good 12" of "Out on Your Own."
The death of Faye Hunter, original bass player of Mitch Easter's jangle-pop band Let's Active, has hit me harder than I would have expected. Hunter appeared on the group's two earliest works, the EP 'afoot' and the full-length debut 'Cypress.' These were essential albums in my youth, and I have no qualms placing them beside 'Murmur' and 'Stands for Decibels' as the best of that whole Southern-tinged branch of the jangle-pop tree. I think part of the reason I can't shake this glum feeling is because even though I had not listened to or even thought of 'afoot' for ages it came to my mind like a thunderbolt last Friday when I was searching for a record to promote in my classic record recommendation graphic on this blog (see bottom right). Hunter, apparently, took her own life about a day later.
We all have unexplained coincidences like this, I know, but this is one of the stranger instances I have experienced. Here are the two opening songs from 'Cypress.' Rest in peace, Faye. This fine work cements your place in history. You will not be forgotten.
If you haven't visited Nick Lowe's Web site lately, you should check in daily between now and Thursday. There's a special announcement around the bend, and the hints given there and on Yep Roc's page has certainly piqued my interest. As I write this, there are still four people that need to be appear in the above photo that will tell us all, and I assume we will know who each of them are when we see them. Could this possibly be a reunion of one of Lowe's old bands? A couple of other hints from the label have been, simply, the words "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" and something that can be seen on the artwork from the 'Jesus of Cool' cover. Anybody out there have any ideas?
In the meantime, let's listen to a plethora of live "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" performances. This first version is from a show at Toad's Place in New Haven, Conn., circa March 1983. It was a bill he shared with Paul Carrack, and that's the two of them harmonizing together. The second take is from a show when Lowe sat in on bass with Elvis Costello & the Confederates in Tokyo on Nov. 21, 1987. The fellas make it a fine duet. Number three is taken from a 1990 VH1 program called "New Visions." It was hosted by Nile Rodgers, and he sits in with Lowe on this one. I could do this all night (yes, I have quite a few Lowe bootlegs), but let's make it a foursome with the closer from his acoustic set on June 12, 1998 in Austin. The sound quality on this one isn't the best but, Jesus, it's still cool.
If you're a regular visitor to this blog (or scores of others, for that matter), then you have no doubt come across the prolific comment artist known as Echorich. His opinions are always spot on, and yesterday he suggested "Evangeline" by the Icicle Works should have been included on my list of top songs produced by the brilliant Ian Broudie. This has stuck in my craw all day because, actually, I completely agree with his sentiment. Time to come clean. I didn't include it because I have never converted any of my Icicle Works albums to a digital format. That's a mistake I have begun rectifying tonight. So, without further adieu, here is a late addition to my favorite Broudie-produced songs. Thanks for keeping me honest, Echorich.
You know him from Care and the Lightning Seeds (and if you're asking about Big in Japan right now you have my respect), but Ian Broudie is one of those cats whose name seems to pop up around a bevy of other albums in our collections. Off the top of my head, besides working with the likes of Alison Moyet, the Primitives, the Wedding Present, the Three O'Clock, the Icicle Works and the Colourfield, here are are a mere five Broudie-produced efforts I count among my personal favorites. I'm not sure what makes him a great producer, but I think you will agree he has the touch.
This one is for my pal Ian over at Uncle E's Musical Nightmares. It would be easy to poke a little fun at him for waxing poetic about the country that gave us Bieber and Nickelback (see link above), but I just can't do it. Why? Turns out we have a mutual love for the greatest show to ever hit the airwaves... SCTV. This song is from Bob and Doug McKenzie's 'The Great White North' LP, circa 1981. What a smash! "Take Off" made it all the way to No. 16 on Billboard's singles chart. Geddy Lee has never had a bigger hit. Jokes aside, Uncle E, I thought your post was touching.
And just for the hell of it, here is my personal list of the best reoccurring characters from SCTV. I cheated a bit by grouping some together so I could cram on a few more.
Top 15 Reoccurring SCTV Characters
1. Dr. Tongue and Woody Tobias Jr. as Bruno
2. Johnny LaRue
3. Bob and Doug McKenzie
4. Sammy Maudlin, Bobby Bittman and William B. Williams
5. The Shmenges
6. Count Floyd
7. Jackie Rogers Jr.
8. Irving Cohen
9. Juul Haalmeyer Dancers
10. Lin Ye Tang
11. Tex and Edna Boil
13. Guy Caballero
14. Mel Slirrup
15. Gerry Todd
Dialing up a real beauty from 1986 today. 'Electric Café' isn't Kraftwerk's best album, not by a long shot, but it still has a few fine moments, including the somewhat eerie 'The Telephone Call.' I use "eerie" because my first listen to this one was seeing the somewhat ominous three minute 50 second video on MTV, and it still pops in my head when I pull out the vinyl. You can check it out below. This was a huge hit in dance clubs on both sides of the Atlantic, and even I have a recollection of hitting the floor when I heard the telephone operator say we were disconnected. This is a roughly eight minute 12 second remix from a three-song maxi single that includes a German version of the song and "House Phone." So, the remix is only about 10 seconds longer than the album version, but there are plenty of differences. Incidentally, that's Karl Bartos singing. It's the one time he has ever taken lead-vocal duties.
I apologize in advance for the little skip at the one minute 19 second mark. That doesn't come up on my regular turntable, but my USB one is a piece of junk.
Now that the dust has settled, it's time to ask some tough questions: What are your thoughts on Kim Deal leaving Pixies? Should the band call it quits? Do you like "Bagboy," the new song? Are you excited about the prospect of a new album? Does the addition of the Muffs' Kim Shattuck sit well with you?
"Bagboy" didn't do much for me, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't welcome more new recordings. Without Deal, however, I'm not sure how it doesn't become a Frank Black album. Of course, by the time 'Trompe Le Monde' came along that was pretty much what we were getting anyway. If you had the pleasure of seeing Pixies during the multiple-year 'Doolittle' reunion tour, then you know just how important Deal's presence is on stage.
Deal can't really be replaced, but the addition of Shattuck is an intriguing one. She already has experience working with the band, and her songwriting could be quite an asset if she became a permanent member of the band. If you're familiar with the Muffs, then you know she has quite a punk-rock sensibility, and I put her scream up against anybody in the genre.
I was aware of Shattuck when she was a member of the Pandoras, but I became a real fan when the self-titled debut album of the Muffs came out in 1993. If you're aware of "the summer of George" episode of 'Seinfeld,' all I can say is that the summer of '93 was kind of like that for me. I had just graduated from college. My girlfriend (the future Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives!) moved to Japan, and I was to meet up with her there in the fall. In the meantime, I moved back home with my parents and worked at the local record store. Most days I got up at dawn and played golf until around 10:00. Then I would coast into the shop and work until dinner... made by my mother, of course. This was one last effort at delaying adulthood, and it was glorious. Anyway, I played the hell out of four new albums while working all day at the shop that summer. They were: Maria McKee's 'You've Got to Sin to Get Saved,' Matthew Sweet's 'Altered Beast,' Buzzcocks' 'Trade Test Transmissions' and, you guessed it, 'The Muffs.'
Cranking the debut album to the frowns of not-so-adventurous customers back in the cow pastures of Illinois is still a big smile 20 years later. So, although I don't think that first one is the band's best (my vote would be for 'Blonder and Blonder'), today I give you three fine moments from 'The Muffs.' Turn it up!
When China Crisis was around, my knowledge of the band was quite limited. I have vivid memories of seeing the video for "Working With Fire and Steel" very late at night when my town first got MTV in 1983. All of those synthesizers were right up my alley. I believe it was the closest the lads would ever come to a hit here in America. It peaked at No. 27 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Although I really liked it, I didn't buy the album. The scratch from my paper route afforded me the luxury of about two records a month (maybe three, if I didn't go to the movies). It didn't make the cut, but I never forgot the song. Years passed before I heard another song by them. Again, it was due to MTV. In 1986, I saw a video for "Arizona Sky" on a new program I was obsessed with called '120 Minutes.' I was pretty heavily into post-punk bands at the time, and the song didn't do much for me. Still, it reminded me how much I liked 'Fire and Steel' as a youngster, and I told myself if I ever saw the single I would pick up that "oldie."
Quite some time later I did find the four-song "Working With Fire and Steel" 12" maxi, and that's where you'll find this mix. This was my first China Crisis purchase, but it wasn't my last. From time to time, while digging through budget bins, I would come across the band's work. A buck here, a buck there, and now I have most of the band's '80s output. It took decades, but I think I might be a fan.
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.