We conclude the letter C with a band I was an obsessive fan of for a relatively short window of time... at least when you consider they have been around for more than 35 years. What got me interested in the Cure was "Let's Go to Bed," a single that came out in 1982 but which I didn't know about until seeing a video for it in the summer of '84. I picked up the brief eight-song compilation 'Japanese Whispers' shortly thereafter, and I was hooked. With the poppy "Let's Go to Bed," "The Walk" and "The Lovecats" highlighting the set, I had little hint of their dark beginnings. I was all caught up with the early stuff by 1985, however, when they released what I think is their best album.
I know there are some die-hard fans of the Cure that read this blog, and this is where I will lose many of them. 'The Head on the Door' is the only album by the Cure I love. Some may ask, "What about 'Disintegration' and 'Wish?'" As I said in the opening, I was an obsessive, but only for a little while. The end of the line for me ended up being 'Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me' and the singles surrounding that album. So, what happened? Well, while I was in high school, the Cure became a thing. They were so big, in fact, a lot of Neanderthals started popping up in classes wearing band T-shirts and such. These dudes were in the same cliques that bullied the weak and called them fags. I don't think Robert Smith would have approved. Unfortunately, this wasn't a case of music bringing people closer together, and I found myself unable to root for the Cure in light of their newfound popularity on this side of the Atlantic.
It's all water under the bridge now, and I really enjoyed pulling out my Cure records this week. Here are a few from around my favorite era. The live versions of "Kyoto Song" and "A Night Like This" are from the B-side of the "Catch" 12" single. They were recorded at Théâtre antique d'Orange in the French countryside in August of 1986. Going back a bit further to, perhaps, my all-time Cure song, here is also a live take of "Charlotte Sometimes" taken from the 1984 album 'Concert.'
And now the musical skeletons really start to come out of the closet. It ain't all C86 and indie pop on the shelves, folks. I have a plethora of commercial-pop records from the early '80s, many which I have already skipped out of sheer embarrassment, but I have decided to include Culture Club because the band has a special place in the heart of someone else in the LTL abode.
There are four singles from Culture Club in my music room, all from either 1982 or 1983, but there are many more Culture Club artifacts around the house, from music to books to aged and worn magazine articles, that belong to Mrs. LTL. She had tried to see Culture Club many times through the years and to meet Boy George at personal appearances and book signings, but she was denied by cancellations of every ilk, from illness to visa issues, each and every time.
In recent years, Culture Club reunited, and I assured her she would see the idols from her youth. Near the end of 2014, the band was scheduled to tour America, but the closest stop from Seattle was going to be Oakland. We threw caution to the wind and bought five airline tickets and booked a couple of rooms for a long weekend in San Francisco. This included a ticket for my mother back in Illinois so she could watch our children during the show. It also meant pulling the kids out of school (good parents, huh?) and many other sacrifices. The day before we were scheduled to fly out the tour was cancelled. Boy George had serious throat issues requiring surgery. We took the trip anyway, but the air of disappointment hung there for Mrs. LTL, particularly on the night of the cancelled show.
In the summer of 2015, Culture Club returned to the Bay Area to play the Greek in Berkeley. Another big trip was out of the question, but the day before the show Mrs. LTL decided to go solo. She cashed in some air miles and bought a ticket on the secondary market. She stayed at a nearby hotel and flew home the next morning with a glow and no regrets.
Of course, after all that, Culture Club returned to America this past summer, and they played at a venue so near our house we could ride bikes there. Although I don't consider myself much of a fan. I figured I owed my wife for the dozens of shows I had dragged her to during our decades together. Everything fell into place. The kids were covered because it happened to coincide with my mother's annual August visit to boot. Mostly, I see sad-sack bands that play sad-sack music to sad-sack kids. My two-sentence review: Even though Culture Club's best days were in the rear-view mirror, I was taken by how much fun everyone was having... on stage and in the crowd. I had forgotten it could be that way.
There were many albums I went to great lengths to hide from my parents, but this was the top of that heap. For a while there, in my immature 15-year-old brain, I was a punk, but how hardcore could a kid with few wants and no needs be among the cornfields of Illinois? The Crucifucks' self-titled 1984 album, however, was the real deal. There was much to rail against in the midst of the conservative Reagan era, and these fed-up lads from Lansing, Michigan, had a particular penchant for ripping the three Cs... capitalists, Christians and cops. There's no way I understood all of the politics, but I did know this was subversive shit, and the anti-authoritarian non-conformist in me loved their gall and gumption. It was merely a bonus that the music was as intriguing as the message.
If you have never heard the Crucifucks before, what you'll notice from the first note is how good the album sounds. This isn't lo-fi DIY punk recorded in the basement, and you can thank Jello Biafra's legendary label Alternative Tentacles for that, as well as the producer known as Spot. He's famous for working behind the glass of your favorite recordings on SST during the label's heyday. Doc Dart's voice is of the love it or hate it variety. It's shrill, whiny and perfect for this kind of antagonism. He really gets under your skin. The one member of the band you do know is Steve Shelley. After his time with the Crucifucks, he moved on to play drums for Sonic Youth.
Let's listen to all of side A. There is a continuing story playing out before almost every song that pits the band against the local police. They have a show coming up the authorities and media are worried about. Mr. Dart decides to have some fun with the controversy. I think you'll enjoy it. If you are digesting this post at the office, beware. You may take that garbage can in your cubicle and throw it through the window while screaming about "the man."
I feel like I have had two separate lives following Marshall Crenshaw. I discovered him in 1983 with the video for "Whenever You're on My Mind." To this day, it is still my favorite song by him. I bought the sophomore album 'Field Day' with money from my paper route. I was so taken with the songs that I quickly collected a little more cash and bought the self-titled first album later that same week. Before long, I was picking up singles for the B-sides. In other words, I was a fan. Then a funny thing happened. I just stopped. Moved on. I continued to play those first two albums religiously, but I never bought another Crenshaw album for many years.
My malaise for music during much of the '90s has already been well documented on these pages, So, I won't get into all of that again, but one day in 1996 I went to one of those sterile book-music-coffee megastores popular at the time with a few bucks in my pocket. A Crenshaw album on the shelf of new releases caught my eye. I didn't see anything else that day that interested me. With little excitement, I surrendered and bought my first Crenshaw album in 13 years. The sweet sounds of 'Miracle of Science' took me right back to those albums from my youth. In fact, some of the songs were written back then, but that's a story for another day. Point is, it got me on a Crenshaw kick. I began acquiring all of the albums that I missed. There have been a few new releases and an EP subscription series along the way too. Although the music did morph through the years, I have enjoyed every record to varying degrees. I have also taken in many of Crenshaw's live shows the past 20 years. In fact, he's right up there with Elvis Costello and Wilco as my most seen artists.
I root for Crenshaw because I think I would like him. He's the kind of guy I would want to talk about music with while nursing our beers. Crenshaw has an encyclopedic knowledge of many genres, and he has worked with many other artists I admire, such as Graham Maby, Mitch Easter, Don Dixon and his brother Robert, to name but a few. Like Costello, he has helped me discover music from days of yore I would never have found without him. For that, I'm forever grateful.
Today's picks are a little on the rare side... or at least a couple of them used to be before Crenshaw's first album got the deluxe treatment in 2000. From 1982, here is a promo 12" single of "Cynical Girl." Sorry, folks, that song is the same as the album version. The first B-side is a classic made famous by Buddy Holly and recorded by Crenshaw for a show on WPLR in Connecticut. Try to ignore the quintessential DJ voice. The other is simply a non-album track of the highest quality.
Let's move ahead one year to the 'Field Day' era. The 'U.S. Remix' EP is a curious collection that only die-hard fans would probably have any interest in... and maybe not even then. Through the years, Crenshaw himself has expressed a dislike for it. The A-side contains three songs from 'Field Day' that were mixed and edited by John Luong. Although the '80s flourishes are not as blatant as many songs were treated when remixed during this period, it is quite a deviation from Steve Lillywhite's vision on the album. Some have been quite hard on ol' Steve for his production when compared to Crenshaw's debut. Personally, I think 'Field Day' is perfect. Side A of this EP ends with a live cover of "Little Sister" taken from Crenshaw's appearance on "The King Biscuit Flower Hour" circa Dec. 2, 1983. Side B is "For Her Love" with more '80s production and an additional 1:11 of playing time.
The sticker on the front box of this five-album set tells you all you need to know, which is good because the sparse packaging tells nothing else other than the artist names and the 119 song titles. Still, can't complain too much. Not every single is a winner, but when I break up Creation's 300 or so singles into sets of 50, there is no other lot I like more than this first group from the summer of 1983 to early 1988... Jasmine Minks, the Pastels, Weather Prophets, Felt, Phil Wilson, the House of Love, the Bodines, Primal Scream, Biff Bang Pow! and the list goes on and on. At some point I'm going to go back and do this right with an in-depth series, but for now, let's listen to a few of my favorite top-notch singles from bands I don't plan to feature further down the line in this vinyl collection series. Enjoy CRELP100. In case you were wondering, these five volumes were also sold separately as CRELP 101-105.
There is one footnote on the bottom of each album cover that sums up the label and the man behind it. Probably won't surprise you. It reads... Creation Records acknowledges the following: Dan Treacy, Joseph Foster, Edward Ball, Bobby Gillespie, Jeff Barrett, Jerry Thackray, The Living Room bands and clientele and absolutely no one else.
This one goes back 32 years to the infancy of my record collection, and holding the cover of the Cramps' 1984 album 'Bad Music for Bad People' today instantly took me back to my carefree early high-school days. I had a pal with a terrific stereo in his beat-up Fiat, and we loved to play this compilation of rockabilly voodoo very loudly over and over again.
Now, I know we have some die-hard fans out there. So, while you're listening to, perhaps, my favorite cover from Lux Interior and Poison Ivy, let me know your go-to song. That only gives you two minutes, however, and I'm reminded this song always made for a great ending to mix tapes, especially if you could time that last cymbal crash just as the cassette was concluding. I'm also wondering, dear readers, if you are from the UK and beyond, did you have this compilation? Many years after I bought 'Bad Music for Bad People,' I learned of the eerily similar 1983 UK release '...Off the Bone.' I have to say with the inclusion of "Surfin' Bird" and a few other additional nuggets, you chaps over there got the better end of the deal.
I had planned to present this one as my annual "Happy Mitch Easter!" post on Easter Sunday, but I didn't get it ripped in time. Anyway, it's a nice way to crank up the turntable after a more than two-week hiatus. This album combines two great loves, my hero Mr. Easter and indie-pop label the Subway Organization. Cowboy and Spin Girl were the boy-girl duo of Donna Esposito and Frank Bednash. A few of you out there may remember Esposito from her days with New York power-pop outfit the Cyclones, whose 1981 song "You're So Cool" was an underground hit along the Northeast Corridor. If you were wise enough to pick up Kevinpat's 'Hoboken to Athens' mix earlier this year, go listen to this song right now. I'll wait.
I understand Easter's relationship with Cowboy and Spin Girl because he played bass with the Cyclones for a while, but how a band based in the NYC area ended up releasing an album with the very British Bristol label is a head scratcher. This is especially true when you hear the music. Subway is known for the jangle and fuzz of Shop Assistants, the Chesterf!elds, Bubblegum Splash, the Flatmates, the Rosehips, Razorcuts and the like (all of which will feature in this series). The songs written and sung by Esposito have a little C86 to them, but Bednash's songs are straight-up power pop. As much as I adore Subway, I can't help but think this album would have been a perfect fit on a label like Bomp! If anyone out there knows if the band had a Subway connection beyond just sending them a tape, let me know. Side one was self produced in New York. Side two was produced by Easter at his legendary Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Cowboy and Spin Girl may not have lasted long, but Esposito and Bednash continued to record quality power-pop records, first as Toothpaste 2000 and more recently as Mas Rapido. For your listening pleasure, here is the Easter-produced side of the 1988 album 'Cowboy and Spin Girl' in its entirety.
If you're not a baseball fan, you'll just have to trust me. That headline is a good thing. Mrs. LTL knows I'm homesick for Chicago and, in particular, the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, the home of my beloved Chicago Cubs. This current crop of Cubs is the best squad in my lifetime, and I sat down in front of the television this weekend with, dare I say it, optimism. This could finally be the year the Boys in Blue... never mind. I can't bring myself to say it. Anyway, the Cubs did well in their first two playoff games, and I want to thank Mrs. LTL for making these games extra special. On Friday afternoon, I received two deliveries from Chicago institutions 2,000 miles away. One was from Giordano's Pizza, and the other was from Eli's Cheesecake. Thanks to my wife's loving gestures, I couldn't have enjoyed these games any better if I had been sitting behind the dugout. I have one more pizza I'm saving for the World Series, and I have enough cheesecake for a slice each game the rest of the playoffs. What can I say? I'm blessed.
Forgive me. Obviously, this has little to do with music, but I'm just beaming tonight. Believe it or not, I do have plenty of Cubs moments on vinyl. I also understand you could care less. Please indulge me. Here are a few quick highlights from the 1971 album 'Jack Brickhouse Presents Great Moments in Cubs Baseball' and other jewels from the collection. When I listen to it I think about the fact when the album was recorded the Cubs hadn't won a World Series in 63 years. Little did the late broadcaster Brickhouse know we would still be waiting to win it all 45 years later.
Having your blog pulled by the powers that be is, by far, the worst-case scenario for those of us who choose this medium to talk about music. So, I don't want to say what has happened to me compares to that nightmare, but I have had a bad run. The operating system on my laptop simply stopped working. Thus, the laptop stopped working. For more than a week now, I have been scrambling to make repairs and retrieve everything stored on the hard drive. That includes the music I have been ripping from my vinyl since the beginning of the year. I have found the whole ordeal quite depressing, and there have been days when I have ignored the whole thing and watched baseball instead. So, that's why you haven't heard from me in a while.
As of today, the new operating system has been loaded and most of the hard drive is back. What's still missing are all of the applications, and there are many, and that means the software I use for ripping vinyl isn't on here right now. While I'm putting the final touches on fixing this fiasco, I thought I would spend a couple of posts touting some recent releases that have my attention.
Let's hit the floor with two bands separated by an ocean but joined by a love for vintage synthesizers and dance music from the '80s and '90s. First up is Le SuperHomard, straight outta France and distributed by my pal Chris at Seattle's Jigsaw Records. You'll hear lots of Stereolab and Saint Etienne, but I also detect a bit of Sean O'Hagan's electronic side. There isn't a duff note on 'MapleKey,' and this one is sure to make my best of the year list come December. Here is my favorite from the album.
Kurt Feldman is a New Yorker who you might know from his days with the Depreciation Guild and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but don't expect his project Ice Choir to sound like those bands. As the opening notes of the song below illustrate, Feldman's pure heart must have fallen for When in Rome's "The Promise" in his youth, and I bet he has a thing for middle '80s Scritti Politti too. In fact, his vocals will have you thinking of Green Gartside in the most perfect way. Shelflife has already gone through their limited stock of 'Designs in Rhythm' on blue vinyl, but I see that Jigsaw still has some copies. Quality.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.