Saturday, February 7, 2015

B-Sides That Leave You Without Words

I haven't updated the blog for a few days because I'm working on a countdown that has proven to be more time consuming than I expected. If you're a regular reader, you may know I don't look back on the '90s with much love. Many of my favorite bands from my youth were calling it quits, and movements like grunge and Britpop, for the most part, weren't doing it for me. Living in the relative isolation of rural Japan for a couple of years before the Internet age, followed by five years at a demanding job, contributed to my musical malaise. A couple of weeks ago I had a post about the High Llamas that really got me thinking about the music that found its way to me during that lost decade. So, I began compiling a list of favorite tracks. Surprisingly, even with self-imposed rules like one track per artist, before I knew it I had about 150 candidates. That's too many. So, I'm in the process of whittling it down to 90 or 100 songs, and I hope to have it ready next week... warts and all. Seems it will have quite a different feel than the '80s UK indie hits list I launched about this time a year ago.

In the meantime, I'm still on my Terry Hall kick. Here are a couple of very loosely related B-sides from an era I enjoy much more than the '90s. In their early days, Hall saw something in Bananarama, and he invited the trio to work on the Fun Boy Three's "T'ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)." FB3 returned the favor a year later on Bananarama's "Really Saying Something." Both were big hits. "Give Us Back Our Cheap Fares" is the flip side to "Really Saying Something." The instrumental was written by Bananarama and Vaughan Toulouse of Department S. To these ears, it sounds like it would have made a fine B-side to the Specials' "Ghost Town." Of course, with "Why?" and "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" on the 12" of "Ghost Town," I don't think any of us are complaining.

Now let's go back to the record that started it all for the 2 Tone label. In 1979, the Specials (called the Special AKA at that moment) split a 7" with the Selecter. The unforgettable "Gangsters" was on one side, and the instrumental "The Selecter," by Neol Davies and drummer John Bradbury of the Specials, was on the other. In case you're wondering about the timeline, Pauline Black would join Davies' band a few months after the release of this single. I'm not sure where this song stands among the 2 Tone faithful, but I have always loved it. Unlike "Cheap Fares," no scratchy record this time. I'm taking it from the excellent 1993 two-disc set 'The 2 Tone Collection: A Checkered Past.'

Give Us Back Our Cheap Fares
The Selecter


The Swede said...

I really liked Bananarama for the first year or so and 'Aie a Mwana' in particular was rarely off the deck at the shop. Their stuff pales next to The Selecter though and this still sounds terrific.

Scott said...

Being a huge fan of a list I am fair looking forward to your rundown Brian. Similiar to yourself I lost a bit of interest in music for a while in the 90's but looking back now there was still some great music being made.

george said...

Another list Brian? Sounds like a damned fine idea. What is it about middle-aged men and lists? The "Fares" singles reminds me of just how many political-protest songs there were in the 1980s. In that decade I remember many councils in England tried to have a policy of cheap fares to encourage the use of public transport. This was declared illegal in London, for example.

Brian said...

Swede, Sounds like I stuck with them just a tad longer than you did, Who would have guessed then those ladies would produce slick No. 1 hits all around the world just a few short years later.

We old-timers do love our lists, don't we? Good point about protest songs from that period. One more reason why this song would have fit in quite well with "Ghost Town." Oh, and George, I'm still checking in with your blog every day, but I can't seem to get my comments to stick again. I have tried on my phone and laptop to no avail. Obviously, it's just me as you're still getting plenty of involvement from others. Grr.

I'm finding I probably didn't dislike the '90s quite as much I thought. I just didn't have the time to dig as deep as when I was a kid, unfortunately. My displeasure with the industry probably had more to do with the changes in "indie" and the way the majors had to ruin a good thing by getting involved. They finally figured out it was a good place to make a buck... and it all became tainted. In 2000, for a myriad of reasons I'm sure will come up during the countdown, I found my musical mojo again... or maybe it was the industry that did. Either way, I have never had a problem discovering new music after that dark period.

george said...

Brian, re comments, are you logged in to your google account before posting? I find that I have to have my google account opened before I can post a comment