Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 38)

38. "Stutter"
Artist: Elastica
Year: 1993

"Connection" is the one that connected with American masses in the fall of '94, but I was in Japan and, thankfully, missed all of the hype. I had discovered Elastica a year earlier thanks to a new and very special person in my life. For those of you who grew up listening to John Peel, 1993 is going to seem pretty late in the game to have found the legendary BBC DJ. I, of course, knew of him from the Strange Fruit releases of Peel Sessions, but for many of us on this side of the pond, the man was a mysterious figure. He was so often spoken of with reverence by our favorite bands. Yet, we had never actually heard Peel speak passionately about, say, his love for the Undertones. We would find out about his favorite bands through music magazines and other avenues. During my time abroad, I didn't have satellite television, nor did I mind a bit. My goal was always immersion and assimilation. I did miss having news from the west, however, and I eventually got a shortwave radio. It never occurred to me this would be my chance to listen to Peel, but he had a 30-minute program on BBC World Service that played weekly. Sure beat "Alf," "Little House on the Prairie" and "Doogie Howser, M.D.," the only English-language shows that popped up on my TV.

Peel introduced me to "Stutter" on the first program I ever heard him host. Loud, sloppy and an all-around wonderful two minutes of fun. Elastica's debut single was on Steve Lamacq's Deceptive Records. The song was written by Justine Frischmann, girlfriend of Blur's Damon Albarn and formerly of Suede when they were in their infancy. It was said to be about a certain problem fellas get in the sack when they have had one too many. "Stutter" didn't chart in 1993, but it did come in at No. 38 on Peel's Festive 50. Hardly a consolation prize in my book. There must have been quite a bit of buzz about Elastica by the time the self-titled debut album came out in 1995 because in America it came out on Geffen. It shot to No. 1 in the UK, and it didn't do half bad in my home country, peaking at No. 66. "Stutter" got another go on radio, and this time it did chart. I picked up a wonderful gold 10" of the song that Geffen put out at the time that included songs from a 1993 BBC radio session.

As I mentioned earlier, I had no idea how big Elastica had become during my time overseas. I got my first taste during television coverage of the '96 Olympics in Atlanta. I must have heard those opening chords of "Connection" on an oft-repeated Budweiser commercial about a hundred times. I loved that song before the ad, but I have yet to recover from that saturation. Otherwise, perhaps "Connection" would have grabbed this spot on the countdown.

16 comments:

The Swede said...

Fascinating to hear how you almost accidentally bumped into Peel and what an immediate impact he had on you. For many of us in the UK, he was just always there. I remember a group of us doing terrible impersonations of his voice in the school playground back in the early 1970's, before I could even really understand the music he was playing. The fact that he read a couple of Marc Bolan's children's stories on early Tyrannosaurus Rex LP's probably helped though. Great post.

C said...

I was just thinking the same as The Swede, how interesting it is to read about your introductions to Peel, being in another place. His radio show was such a huge part of my teenage years, and his musical influence on me immeasurable, so it's always good to read about his impact on those overseas too.
And Elastica's Stutter - great choice, I love this - I couldn't believe how much it made me think of Wire when I first heard it.

george said...

I'm with you Brian, listening to Peel later in life, and certainly not as a teenager, unlike the above 2. The Elastica album is a great choice, short, snappy,memorable pop songs.

Echorich said...

Never felt Elastica/Justine Frishmann ever lived up to their potential. But then did anyone in "Britpop?" Stutter is 90's Punk Pop through and through.

Brian said...

C,
Good ear! Many have said this sounds like Wire. In fact, Wire said it sounded like Wire. I believe there was a settlement.

The Swede,
I feel very fortunate to have had a couple of years tuning in to Peel. So many of us in America never had the chance.

George,
I know how much Peel meant to so many in the UK and around the world. I'm particularly impressed by how many, like you and Dirk, taped the programs. Great to have now, isn't it?

Echorich,
That first album was a pretty nice listen from beginning to end, but that was about it. Almost anything else I play by them are bootlegs, radio sessions and the like from very early on. Short life but sweet.

friend of rachel worth said...

Okay going to be the lone voice , don't mind bands wearing their influences in their sleeve but as a whole suit?

Brian said...

FORW,
I bet you are not alone. I have certainly shared your sentiment about songs on other blogs through the years. I don't know why we are ok with bands stepping over the line in some instances while it bugs us other times. Elastica didn't bother me. If I had been as big a Wire fan then as I am now, perhaps I would have felt different. It's all a pretty interesting topic.

C said...

Just to add... when I first heard it on release and couldn't believe how much it sounded like Wire I really objected to it! Couldn't get past that... I was quite huffy about it!
It was only a while later that, hearing so many influences in so many things everywhere, that I just rolled with it. So I like Stutter for itself, and seeing as I loved Wire circa Pink Flag, then liking Stutter also makes sense. At least with a female vocal it's different enough. Does that all make sense?!

Brian said...

Sure it does, C. Completely with you... and what a record, that Pink Flag!

kevinpat said...

Whew!! Loved this band and this album from which "Stutter" came. Where it comes from and who it sounds like doesn't matter to me. I just like it, in fact some of Courtney Barnett's stuff sounds like Elastica to me. And yes, I do like Wire, but I can like both. Can't I? "Stutter" plays well with "Seether" from Veruca Salt, Throwing Muses "Shimmer" and my favorite of 'em all Belly's "Super-Connected" (backed by Matthew Sweet's "Superdeformed") (although "Someone To Pull the Trigger" is my fave Sweet thing….) Hahahahaha. Thanks Brian for the post!!

Brian said...

I hope you can like both, kevinpat. I think most of us on this string are with you on these two. You have dropped some great names here, my friend. I'll let you in on some top secret countdown info. One of the artists you named is in my top 20. Another is on my first 10 out list. That's all I can share right now. This comment will self destruct in five seconds...

friend of rachel worth said...

I guess my point with elastica is not just stutter , but other songs on the LP are too close to other post punk tunes, there is another one where I cant believe the stranglers haven't sued. Having said all that the LP is still better than 99% of other stuff at the time

Brian said...

FORW,
I believe you're thinking of Waking Up sounding a lot like No More Heroes. Pretty sure there was a settlement in that case too.

kevinpat said...

Hmm Brian you piqued my interest real bad. Guess I'll have to stay tuned, eh?

Echorich said...

In the end, it's not hard to understand how music from the initial Post Punk Era would inform some of the early 90's bands - Britpop or otherwise. The connection isn't that hard to understand - artists with older brothers or sisters, etc. What I love is how many young bands today, another 20 or more years later, get branded with "influenced by....Magazine, Bunnymen, Stranglers, Chameleons...and when you see them interviewed they barely know who the interviewer is talking about. It actually makes me feel good about music if new bands can come to find a sound that can be referenced from music that's 30-35 yrs ago yet have no conscious knowledge of that sound to call it influential.

Scott said...

We were very fortunate here in the UK to grow up with Peel. So many of my favourite music was first heard on the great man's radio shows. I never really had that much of an issue with Elastica's wholesale copying of Wire and The Stranglers amongst others. Everything comes from something in the past, they were just more blatant about it than others and they done it well. Apparently they were also Peel's favourite live band.