Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Original 'Almost Blue'

I dedicate this post to a country lawyer living the dream on the continent. Best of luck to Jonny Bottoms and the rest of the Ponderosa Aces as they begin to boot scoot their way across Europe. No, Jonny, 'Almost Blue' probably isn't considered country by your peers, but the original songs might just work for the fellas. Give my best to JC when you see him in Manchester.

Side 1
Hank Williams - "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)?"
Patsy Cline - "Sweet Dreams"
Loretta Lynn - "Success"
The Flying Burrito Bros. - "I'm Your Toy"
Merle Haggard - "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down"
George Jones - "Brown to Blue"

Side 2
George Jones - "Good Year for the Roses"
Charlie Rich - "Sittin' and Thinkin'"
George Jones - "Colour of the Blues"
Emmylou Harris - "Too Far Gone"
Johnny Burnette Rock 'n' Roll Trio - "Honey Hush"
Gram Parsons - "How Much I Lied"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Impending Releases From Elefant's Trunk

All ears should be pointed at Elefant Records right now. Let's start with Tracy Tracy, Paul and Tig. There are a few naysayers in this audience that won't agree, but this fan from way back in the Lazy days thinks the reformation of the Primitives, from "Echoes And Rhymes" to "Spin-O-Rama," has been nothing but a pleasure. That's why my excitement is building for the limited-edition four-song "New Thrills" 10" maxi, out May 5th. "I'll Trust The Wind" and "Squeak 'N' Squawk," the two songs on side 1, are full of the fuzz and fun that will take you back to 1986. On side 2, Paul takes a turn at lead vocals with the pure pop of "Oh Honey Sweet" before the set concludes with the surprising sounds of the genre-bending "Same Stuff." So very pleased the Primitives can still provide "New Thrills."

Thirty-one years after the single "E102," indie legend Duglas T. Stewart is still at it, searching for love in the form of the perfect pop song. Perhaps he's found it this time, somewhere on the new full-length album 'BMX Bandits Forever.' When you think of BMX Bandits, Stewart's current nine-year run on Elefant may not be what immediately springs to mind, but I'm arguing that you can safely set 2012 album 'In Space' next to 'C86' and 'Star Wars.' All I have heard from the new one are the songs below, but if "How Not to Care" is any indication, we are in for quite an experience. Dig out the tissues 'cause this song is a real heart breaker. 'BMX Bandits Forever' is out May 19th, and there are 500 copies up for grabs on beautiful orange vinyl, along with other formats.

Monday, April 17, 2017

And the Hits Just Keep on Comin' for Nez

After a false start last summer, I'm finally finishing up Elvis Costello's autobiography. I always like to have a book going, particularly one about music, and my next read will be Michael Nesmith's 'Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff,' out this week via Crown Archetype. Like other recent biographies from musicians, there is a companion CD. 'Infinite Tuesday: Autobiographical Riffs The Music' came out on Rhino last week. This is the kind of disc that barely scratches the surface, but it's a nice introduction, particularly if you have always wanted to dip your big toe into his '70s country-rock solo work.

I'm sure the book will have plenty of anecdotes around Nesmith's time as a Monkee, and there must be some time devoted to his single mother's brilliant invention of Liquid Paper, but I'm most interested in his ground-breaking later work in television, film and video. His 'PopClips' program more or less paved the way for MTV, and the long-form video 'Elephant Parts' nabbed him the first ever Grammy in that category. Blink and you missed it, but if you're an old timer like me, you may even remember his off-the-wall show 'Television Parts' on NBC too. As the head of Pacific Arts, his contentious legal battle with PBS rivaled the very war Ken Burns chronicled for the network... and got the lawyers choosing sides. There's so much more that makes this Renaissance man a fascinating figure, but I'll add just one more. Nesmith was executive producer of 'Repo Man.' Enough said. I'm buying 'Infinite Tuesday.'

To whet your appetite for the book, here are two from the 1972 album 'And the Hits Just Keep on Comin''. Obviously, no hits on this one, but it's a low-key LP that's beautiful in its simplicity and my personal favorite from Nesmith's entire discography. Think Roddy Frame's 'Surf'. The personnel is limited to Nesmith on guitar and Red Rhodes on pedal steel. In hindsight, I'm surprised RCA let him make it.

"Tomorrow and Me"
"The Upside of Goodbye"

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy (Mitch) Easter!

The tradition continues. On this day, I usually mix it up a bit with Mitch Easter's work as a musician and as a producer and engineer, but the Easter Bunny told me he was feeling pretty basic this holiday. Said he wanted to do the pogo to a Let's Active video. I assumed he only did the hop, but I decided to egg him on with five fine clips. Enjoy the day, everyone.

"Every Word Means No" (from the 1983 EP "afoot")

"Waters Part" (from the 1984 album 'Cypress')

"In Little Ways" (from the 1986 album 'Big Plans for Everybody')

"Every Dog Has His Day" (from the 1988 album 'Every Dog Has His Day') This one has an intro from a cable-access show that's worth the price of admission.

"Easy Does" (recorded at Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, N.C., Aug. 9, 2014... We miss you, Faye!)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 6)

I have pushed the Elvis Brothers on you before, with little success, but I'm going to try again. They're worth it. I have a soft spot for the power-pop trio because they got together while surrounded by the same central Illinois fields where I grew up. Corn, beans and pumpkins do well there, but creativity isn't something that's easily cultivated in those parts, I can tell you.

Although not nearly as popular, I always felt like the Elvis Brothers were our Cheap Trick. Rick, Robin and the boys hailed from Rockford, a gritty town in the northwest corner of the state. Those of us in the center of the state always had a chip on our shoulder when it came to anything north of Interstate 80. So, it stood to reason Cheap Trick would be the bigger deal. Even the band's label signings had similar parallels. Cheap Trick were on the mighty Epic, and the Elvis Brothers were on the smaller sister label Portrait. Cheap Trick had a few years on the Elvis Brothers, but the sound of the Elvis Brothers' first album, 'Movin' Up' from 1983, was similar to Cheap Trick's first couple of albums. That was before Rick's guitar got louder and Robin's hair got bigger. Rolling Stone's review of 'Movin' Up' described the band better than I ever could: "Take Rockpile's loose-as-a-goose barroom stomp-downs, add Cheap Trick's Midwestern hard-pop sensibility and cartoon-character posturing, throw in Squeeze's knack for the modern hook and the Stray Cats' rockabilly-trio configuration, and you'll have some idea of where the Elvis Brothers are coming from."

"It's So Hard"
"Hidden in a Heartbeat"

In 1985, the Elvis Brothers released 'Adventure Time.' To these ears, the songwriting didn't stray too much from the first album, but the sound and their look did. Adrian Belew produced it, and he made everything sound slicker. Everything about 'Adventure Time' seemed, well, of its time, while 'Movin' Up' seemed timeless. Just compare the album covers above and the clothing they are wearing to see my point. If you look closer at the copies of my albums, you'll see that 'Movin' Up' is pretty worn out, while 'Adventure Time' looks brand new. I'm not going to be too hard on the album though. There are some keepers here, but the label chose all the wrong songs for singles and stacked all the best songs on the second half of the album. I think the toned-down "Crosswinds" is about as close as the band got to capturing the magic of the early days on 'Adventure Time.' "Count to Three" may have been a bit out of the band's comfort zone, but I can appreciate an effort that was described at All Music Guide as being "Holland-Dozier-Holland as reinterpreted by the Raspberries."

"Count to Three'

When Portrait folded in 1986, the Elvis Brothers did as well. In 1992, out of nowhere, the trio returned for one more album on indie label Recession. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. 'Now Hear This' may very well be the best of the three albums. I'm not sure many heard it, but I remain hopeful it will be discovered and appreciated someday. That one is on CD, and we will listen to it another day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Wobbly Feeling

As I mentioned last time, the family got a few days in SoCal last week. We get down there about once a year, and it's a great spot for us because we all have our favorite places to go. Mine has always been Wombleton Records in L.A.'s Highland Park neighborhood. I found out about the shop in a most interesting way. Back in 2012, while in Edinburgh, I popped into many record shops. I asked David, the owner of a terrific music and book shop at Leith Walk called Elvis Shakespeare, if he had a particular 12" single by Close Lobsters I had been seeking for years. He told me he didn't have it or very many records like it because these two American chaps had recently been in and had cleaned him out. He said the lads had their own shop in Los Angeles, and they were traveling all over the UK looking for finds to stock the store. He gave me their card, and I made it a point to look up the shop when I got back. My love affair with Wombleton was born.

Ian, the owner, has made multiple trips to Scotland, Germany, Holland and many other places around the world looking for rare first-edition vinyl, most of it seemingly catered just for me. No filler. No reissues. He has brought back 50,000 LPs and 20,000 7" singles in the past six-and-a-half years. While Ian is traveling the globe looking for records, his pal Elden minds the store. He is passionate and knowledgeable about every record in in the bins. That might not be so rare for a counter jockey, but his friendliness certainly is. The shop itself looks like the sitting room of a home in the UK, right down to the wallpaper and furniture. You will never find a cozier place to buy records. To sum it up, there isn't another record shop like it in America, and I have always been more than happy to go to Disneyland (for the kids) and outlet shopping at Desert Hills (for the Mrs.) knowing I will get my hour at Wombleton.

Here's where this tale takes a turn. It's over. With zero fanfare and nary an announcement, I discovered Wombleton has closed its doors. I feel like I have lost a friend. What happened? I have found an article in L.A. Weekly with some quotes from Ian that sheds some light on Wombleton's demise. I have written about this shop a time or two, and I have always made it clear the records are expensive. Of course they were. You can't travel the world and select each record by hand, pack them, ship them by boat and get them through customs and pay all of those fees without passing on all of that to the customer. These were not records you could find on a store shelf anywhere else over here, and it was worth paying the prices. What Ian told L.A. Weekly I found more interesting was his sources were depleting. A record he used to find abroad for £6 was now costing him £30. It's obvious a business model like that can't be sustained, but the depletion factor is far more depressing than just this one store closing. My family will continue our treks to the L.A. area, I'm sure, but it just got a little less fun for me.

How do I honor Wombleton today? I'll spin what I have bought there on past trips. What else can I do? Off the top of my head, I know I picked up records by the Hit Parade, Orange Juice, Josef K, the Go-Betweens, Rosehips, Wolfhounds, Sugargliders, the Wedding Present, Soup Dragons, Mighty Mighty, Strawberry Switchblade and Hurrah! Nice hauls, one and all. Let's listen to a few songs and ponder what happened to the stock that was still in the bins when Ian shuttered the place.

I'm thinking of you today, too, Swede. As a former shop owner, I'm sure this doesn't bring back pleasant memories.

The Go-Betweens - "Spring Rain"
The Hit Parade - "Forever"
Hurrah! - "Who'd Have Thought?"

Sunday, April 9, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 5)

Just back from some fun in the sun with the kids during their spring break. Never needed vitamin D so badly. I ripped this translucent gold 10" before I left but ran out of time to post. You may remember Elastica's single "Stutter" making an appearance here before, back in 2015 during my countdown of favorite songs from the '90s, but that was before I had the proper equipment to transfer the B-sides.

On the previous post, "Stutter" generated quite a bit of debate about how much is too much to lift from musical forefathers. For a little taste, C said, "I couldn't believe how much it made me think of Wire when I first heard it." I reminded her Wire thought the same thing... and a settlement was reached. Friend of Rachel Worth had a great line: "Don't mind bands wearing their influences on their sleeve but as a whole suit?" He vaguely remembered a song by Elastica that was awfully close to something by the Stranglers. I was pretty sure it was the riff in "Waking Up" resembling "No More Heroes." Yes, the Stranglers got paid for that one too.

I have been irked many times by bands that have crossed that line, but I have shrugged my shoulders and accepted blatant swipes just as often. When is it acceptable? For starters, give credit where credit is due. When you're caught, don't act shocked and tell us you've never heard of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers before, for example. Now on with the 10" inch of "Stutter." Pilferers or not, I loved Elastica, Sadly, as Echorich said in the comments last time, "Never felt Elastica/Justine Frischmann ever lived up to their potential." What's the old proverb? Oh, yes. "The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long."

Side 1
"Rockunroll" (Peel Session, first broadcast Sept. 18, 1993)

Side 2
"2:1" (BBC Evening Session, first broadcast April 18, 1994)
"Annie" (Peel Session, first broadcast Sept. 18, 1993)

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Kinks and Kinda Nice Turns at the Kinks

Here's another post inspired by something I read on another blog. Last weekend, our pal CC at Charity Chic Music wrote about a couple of 'State of Confusion'-era singles from the Kinks, and it was so nice to hear those songs -- lo these many years -- that I have done almost nothing but listen to the band in an obsessive manner ever since. Here are a couple I can't seem to get out of my head, along with a couple of covers that, at the very least, hold up to the originals. Some of you may even go a step further, but I can't quite bring myself to type those words.

"Stop Your Sobbing" is an early song written by Ray Davies for the self-titled debut album in 1964. It's not much like "You Really Got Me" and their other raucous singles of the period. In fact, it has more in common with radio hits from the late '50s, but most rock 'n' roll bands were forced to fill out albums with popular covers from yesteryear anyway. It just so happens this song was an original. For the record, less than half of the album contained songs written by Davies. What draws me to "Stop Your Sobbing" are the vocals. Ray's pleas to his girlfriend are dramatic for the listener... even if they don't seem to have worked with the girlfriend. Pretenders did a fine cover of the song for their debut single in 1980, and it's interesting to hear a female deliver the lines. As we all know, the cover led to an appearance in the charts and a relationship between Ray and Chrissie Hynde.

The Kinks - "Stop Your Sobbing"
Pretenders - "Stop Your Sobbing"

"David Watts" opened the terrific 1967 album 'Something Else' and also appeared as the B-side to the "Autumn Almanac" single. For most of my youth, I wondered, who is this mysterious David Watts? Is he real? Why does everyone want to be him? It wasn't until Ray's biography 'X-Ray' that the puzzle pieces fell into place and I realized "why all the girls in the neighbourhood try to go out with David Watts" but none of them succeed. Certainly a fascinating fella in rock lore. The Jam covered this one and released it as one half of a double A-side single with "'A' Bomb In Wardour Street" in 1978. Truly an inspired walk up to 'All Mod Cons,' especially considering Bruce Foxton was the one who took lead vocals.

The Kinks - "David Watts"
The Jam - "David Watts"

I can't stop. One more. Let's remember Chuck Berry with a previously unreleased take of "Too Much Monkey Business" that first appeared as a bonus track on the Kinks' debut album reissue in 1998. It's even more frantic than the version that showed up on the album in '64. Hold on tight! The Kinks know how to treat a cover too.

"Too Much Monkey Business" (Unreleased Alternate Take)

Update: We have an interesting comment string going on here (see below). CC, thanks to our friend JC, here is your perfect post. Drew, my apologies. For the rest of you, what do think of this cover? This is a tough one for me. It doesn't get much better than "Victoria" and "Waterloo Sunset." Not sure if I want them covered, you know?

The Kinks - "Victoria"
The Fall - "Victoria"

Update No. 2: Nicely done, JTFL. Haven't listened to 'Kojak Variety' in ages. You might remember Elvis Costello recorded most of the songs for that album many years before they saw the light of day. When I saw him in the summer of '91, I believe he thought the release was imminent. The band spent much of the show playing covers, many of them obscure to his fans, including "Hidden Charms," "Strange," "Everybody's Crying Mercy" and "Bama Lama Bama Loo," all of which appeared on the album four years later. There were many puzzled and disappointed faces in the crowd that night, but I was not one of them.

Update 3: Good call by Rol. From Kirsty MacColl's 1989 album 'Kites,' here is her take on "Days" too. Kirsty, you are missed.

The Kinks - "Days"
Elvis Costello - "Days"
Kirsty MacColl - "Days"

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nick and Dave Channel Phil and Don

In 1979 and 1980, Rockpile were on fire. Dave, Nick, Billy and Terry followed up albums 'Repeat When Necessary' and 'Labour of Lust' with 'Seconds of Pleasure,' the only official release under the Rockpile name. If you bought 'Seconds of Pleasure' early on, the album included the bonus four-song 7" "Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds Sing the Everly Brothers." All four lo-fi numbers were done with care and affection, and you can really feel the love for the Everlys in these performances.

Nick and Dave opened with the melancholy prison ballad "Take a Message to Mary," but they really got your toes tapping by the flip side. "Poor Jenny" has always been one of my all-time favorites. In 1959, Phil and Don burned through this thing like their lives depended on it. Did Nick and Dave find the energy to pull this one off? I think they did. "When Will I Be Loved?" is all about the harmonies, and the voices from both of these duos melt into each other beautifully.

It would be many years before I loved two voices together as much as Nick and Dave singing the Everly Brothers. I considered asking you to guess, but that's too cruel. When I discovered Mark Olson and Gary Louris singing together on the Jayhawks' album 'Hollywood Town Hall,' I knew I was listening to something special.

The Everly Brothers - "Take a Message to Mary"
The Everly Brothers - "Poor Jenny"
The Everly Brothers - "When Will I Be Loved?"

Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds - "Take a Message to Mary"
Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds - "Poor Jenny"
Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds - "When Will I Be Loved?"

Thursday, March 23, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 4)

It's probably not the best sign when your favorite song from an artist was penned by another, but that's the position I find myself in with Dave Edmunds. Elvis Costello said he gave "Girls Talk" to Edmunds "in a moment of drunken bravado," and we should all be thankful for his cockiness. The next time you have a free evening, do yourself a favor and play both of Rockpile's albums from 1979, Nick Lowe's 'Labour of Lust' and Edmunds' 'Repeat When Necessary,' back to back. Lowe, Edmunds Billy Bremner and Terry Williams were a hell of a unit. From the Edmunds' section, here are the three singles from 'Repeat When Necessary,' covers one and all. I'll have another treat featuring Edmunds and Lowe and a couple of famous siblings next time.

"Girls Talk"
"Crawling From the Wreckage"
"Queen of Hearts"

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Goin' Bananas for VU Covers

While catching up on posts over the weekend, I was deeply drawn into Drew's appreciation for 'The Velvet Underground & Nico.' As we continue to celebrate the album's importance in rock history 50 years after it flopped, I thought of the bevy of bands through the generations that have been influenced by the 11 songs on the album. Here are a few from the '80s who dared to put their own spins on perfection.

Strawberry Switchblade - "Sunday Morning"
("Since Yesterday" 12" B-side)

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "I'm Waiting For The Man"
("Messages" 10" B-side)

Tracey Thorn - "Femme Fatale"
(from 'A Distant Shore')

Echo & the Bunnymen - "Run Run Run (Live)"
(from 'Crystal Days' box set)

R.E.M. - "There She Goes Again"
("Radio Free Europe" B-side, 1983 version)

The Primitives - "I'll Be Your Mirror"
("Sick of It" 12" B-side)

Slightly off the topic of 'The Velvet Underground & Nico,', but I can't resist playing my favorite VU cover. Probably helps that I love the original to bits.

The Feelies - "What Goes On"
(from 'Only Life')

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Name Like No Other

Actually, Brian is a name like any other, and that's exactly why Ken Sweeney named his band something so mundane. It worked for the Smiths, after all. JC's inclusion of Brian in his excellent mix of Irish bands on St. Patrick's Day inspired me to pull the 1992 album 'Understand' and 1999 album 'Big Trouble' off the shelf on the weekend for the first time in a good long while. My recollection of 'Understand' was timeless sad-sack music of the highest order. If anything, I was even more struck by its beauty this time around. "Understand" has always been my go-to song, but I just got this one stuck in my head. It was a single that went nowhere in 1991:

"You Don't Want a Boyfriend"

The EP "Planes" followed 'Understand,' and Sweeney thought it was his best piece of work. Its failure hit the artist hard, and he disappeared for several years. When he reemerged with 'Big Trouble' at the end of the decade, the shift in sound was a shock to some of Brian's veteran followers, but it had a beat you could dance to, and there were new fans after "Turn Your Lights On" was BBC Radio One Single Of The Week. There was success on Irish radio and a nomination for Irish Single Of The Year at the Irish Music Awards as well. The overall feeling, though, was Brian was better at music for the melancholy, and Sweeney must have agreed because he never recorded as Brian again. Here are a couple from 'Big Trouble.'

"Turn Your Lights On"
"Right Through Tuesday"

I have spent the last few days catching up with my favorite blogs, and I'll be back next time with another post inspired by a post I read.

Friday, March 17, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 3)

Still not 100 percent but on the mend. Thanks for your patience. Hopefully, you'll consider this second post on Echo & the Bunnymen worth the very long wait. Let's start with a rousing rendition of "Crocodiles" from the four-song live EP "Shine So Hard." This was recorded at Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, Derbyshire, on Jan. 17, 1981, and released in April that year. This turned out to be the band's first UK Top 40 single. I have had this one since I was a kid, and the show had always been built up in my mind as an all-timer because I didn't see the video of the performance until about 20 years after I found the 12". Have to say, when I saw it, I wasn't disappointed. Anyone out there one of the 500 that received the video as a thank you for attending the show?

"Crocodiles" (Live)

Now here is a performance that's not just legendary in my mind. Echo & the Bunnymen's show at the Royal Albert Hall on July 18, 1983, pops up all over the band's discography, and this live and very long take on early single "Do It Clean" can be found in several places, including the excellent self-titled mini album from 1983 and as a B-side to "The Killing Moon" 12". If you have never seen this show in its entirety, do yourself a favor and dig it up on the 'Net today. If I had a time machine, this is where I would take it to see them. Hard to believe now, but in the early days of MTV, when they didn't have many videos, this one used to show up in the rotation from time to time, and that's where I first saw clips of this show. Lots of improvisation and odes to rock (and funk!) from an earlier age on this one.

"Do It Clean" (Live)

I don't want "The Killing Moon" to be my favorite song by Echo & the Bunnymen because, well, it's just so typical, but it's too good not to give the tune its proper due. Just try to ignore the fact it appears in auto adverts. Haunting and beautiful. OK, Rol, buddy, here is my all-time favorite 12"... all nine minutes and 12 seconds of it. Hope I have convinced you this is a great extended version.

"The Killing Moon (All Night Version)"

Here is a live version of the song I had not pulled off the shelf for a while, but it was music to my ears a couple of weeks ago when I was ripping what I had from the lads. This is a B-side from the 1984 12" of "Seven Seas." There are four songs on the single recorded at Liverpool Cathedral for the program "Play at Home" on British station Channel 4.

"The Killing Moon" (Live)

Running out of juice. Let's go out with one that seems universally revered. Maybe even George will like it. I dedicate this one to pals Friend of Rachel Worth and JC. As JC said in the comments last time... "lay down thy raincoat and grooooove."

"Never Stop (Discotheque)"

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 2)

At one time it would have taken days to rip all of my vinyl by Echo & the Bunnymen, but they are one of those bands deemed so vital that in 1988, when I caved and finally bought a CD player, I immediately traded in the first five albums on vinyl for the fancy format. What an idiot. At least I had the foresight to save the EPs, singles and other vinyl pieces not found on CD at the time. Of course, in 2001, the four-disc box set 'Crystal Days 1979-1999' made most of the vinyl I had left obsolete. Still, I couldn't help myself, and I bought the collection anyway. At least I learned from my mistake in '88 and kept the vinyl I had left this time.

These boys deserve more than one day in this series. I'll be back next time with a few more nuggets. In the meantime, here are some favorites from three 12" singles. "Silver (Tidal)" is a beautiful piece from the 'Ocean Rain' era. What I like most about this one and the other extended mixes from this period is there are absolutely no additional '80s bells and whistles so popular in 1984. The first two minutes of this version is so lush and full of orchestral flourishes that I don't think someone new to the band would even guess the song came from that decade.

"Bring on the Dancing Horses" was written for the film 'Pretty in Pink' and released as a new single to make the band's 1985 compilation 'Songs to Learn and Sing' a little more provocative. If you're a regular around here, you know how much I hate when a band sticks a brand-new song or two on a best-of package. The new songs often seem out of place next to the hits, and it's nothing but a cash grab to take advantage of fans that already have all the old songs. Thankfully, these were the days when you could just pick up the physical single.

Although "Lips Like Sugar" didn't chart here in America, I feel like this one got quite a bit of play on MTV and radio. The addition of the 12" mix on 'Just Say Yes,' the first volume of Sire's compilation series, also gave many kids their first listen of the band. Unlike "Silver (Tidal)," this extended mix has a few of those '80s touches, but I love it anyway. If anyone out there wants to really go back to the dance floor of your youth, there is a dub version on the flip side. Not my cup of tea, but I would be happy to send it along to anyone who wants it. "Rollercoaster" is a non-album B-side worthy of a listen. That song can also be found on the "People Are Strange" single issued a year later.

"Silver (Tidal)"
"Bring on the Dancing Horses (Extended Mix)"
"Lips Like Sugar (12" Mix)"

Saturday, March 4, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 1)

Forgoing the obvious hits (or hit, depending on where you reside) for a favorite from Australia's the Easybeats. They had some great songs in 1965 and 1966, but I think the lads misplaced their compass after that. The Easybeats were, first and foremost, a rock band, and much of their work veered into soft schmaltz in the latter part of the decade. It's not surprising that by 1969 the Easybeats had called it quits. There were exceptions during those less rewarding years, and this is one of them.

"Falling Off the Edge of the World" was a 1967 single of little commercial consequence. In fact, it didn't chart anywhere, but I have always found it to be a dramatic heartbreaker that mixed the band's harder and softer sides to perfection. I was not alone. Lou Reed played this one every night on the jukebox at Max's Kansas City, telling legendary rock writer Lilian Roxon it was "one of the most beautiful ballads ever made." Here's a bit of the lyrics. Clearly, this storyteller is in a dark place. More from the rather slim letter E next time.

The love that was in your smile
When I married you isn't there now,
And even the children see
That you don't look respectable now

Falling off the edge of the world
Seeing you with him
If I let you win I die

You dragged out the soul in me
And you clawed and you twisted it 'round
But I still feel love for you
Though my face has been ground to the ground

"Falling Off the Edge of the World"

Friday, March 3, 2017

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (Update)

Three years ago today I began counting down my 50 favorite singles from the golden age of UK indie. That was, by far, the most fun I have had during my nearly eight years of blogging, and it turned out to be, by far, the most popular series ever attempted here. In fact, chances are fairly high you found this place during that countdown. You might be interested to learn the list has been quite fluid in the three years since I first compiled it.

Sometime during 2014 I made a reverse chronological order playlist of the songs on my iPod, and I don't think a week has gone by that I haven't listened to at least a few songs from it. The many pitfalls of creating a countdown like this, in print for all eternity, is you realize from time to time you have forgotten a gem. This actually happened to me with two songs during the unveiling, but it was too late to correct the problem. I did rectify it on my iPod. Then there was the realization I had picked the wrong song from an artist. Sometimes I went with a less obvious choice because I didn't want to pick the big hit, such as "Love Will Tear Us Apart," when in my heart I knew I loved that song more than "Transmission." Then there are the earworms. Occasionally, I would get obsessed with a song and stick it in the Top 50 playlist for a while, only to see it leave again a month later. Off the top of my head, that happened with songs by the Higsons, the Woodentops, the Nivens, the Au Pairs, Carmel and at least a half dozen more.

On this anniversary, I thought I would give a peek at the list in its current form. There are seven artists that weren't on the countdown three years ago. Obviously, that means seven got the boot. There are also five bands that were on the original list but are now represented by a different song. A few of the bands moved up... a few moved down. All in all, though, about three-fourths of the list hasn't changed. A quick reminder of the rules. One song per band. Must have been a charting indie single from the '80s. Must have been from the UK. No Sugarcubes, Triffids or Minutemen, even though they were on the chart. I imagine always being a seeker of new music, but these are the songs that make that exercise laborious. There are only so many minutes in the day, and I always want to come back to this booty.

Top 50 UK Indie Hits: 1980-89

Note: Links are to new additions to the countdown. Songs in bold represent bands that were on the original countdown but are now represented by a different song.

50. Phil Wilson - Waiting for a Change
49. Primal Scream - Crystal Crescent
48. Wire - Eardrum Buzz
47. McCarthy - The Well of Loneliness
46. The Jasmine Minks - Cold Heart
45. Hurrah! - Who'd Have Thought
44. The Sea Urchins - Pristine Christine
43. The Primitives - Stop Killing Me
42. The Wake - Talk About the Past
41. The Wolfhounds - The Anti-Midas Touch (Entry Date: Nov. 1, 1986, Peak: No. 6)
40. Razorcuts - Sorry to Embarrass You
39. 14 Iced Bears - Come Get Me (May 14, 1988, No. 15)
38. The Lightning Seeds - Pure
37. Shop Assistants - Safety Net
36. The Pastels - Comin' Through
35. The Brilliant Corners - Delilah Sands
34. The Loft - Why Does the Rain
33. The Teardrop Explodes - Treason (It's Just a Story)
32. The Pale Fountains - (There's Always) Something on My Mind
31. Talulah Gosh - Talulah Gosh
30. Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding
29. Fire Engines - Big Gold Dream
28. The Waterboys - A Girl Called Johnny
27. The Monochrome Set - The Jet Set Junta
26. The Rosehips - Room In Your Heart (May 16, 1987, No. 9)
25. The Icicle Works - Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)
24. The Popguns - Landslide (May 6, 1989, No. 20)
23. Josef K - It's Kinda Funny
22. Prefab Sprout - Lions in My Own Garden (Exit Someone)
21. Yazoo - Nobody's Diary
20. The Orchids - I've Got a Habit
19. Girls at Our Best! - Getting Nowhere Fast (April 12, 1980, No. 9)
18. The Field Mice - Sensitive
17. The Weather Prophets - Almost Prayed (June 7, 1986, No. 3)
16. Miaow - When It All Comes Down (Feb. 28, 1987, No. 5)
15. The Chesterf!elds - Completely & Utterly
14. Mighty Mighty - Throwaway
13. The Flatmates - I Could Be in Heven
12. Another Sunny Day - You Should all Be Murdered
11. Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
10. Orange Juice - Poor Old Soul
9. Scritti Politti - Asylums in Jerusalem
8. New Order - True Faith
7. The Wedding Present - My Favourite Dress
6. The Bodines - Therese
5. Close Lobsters - Going to Heaven to See If It Rains
4. The Smiths - This Charming Man
3. The Wild Swans - Revolutionary Spirit
2. Aztec Camera - Just Like Gold
1. The June Brides – Every Conversation

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 23)

Concluding the letter D with yet another UK legend discovered through the 'That Summer!' soundtrack. After hearing "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" and "What a Waste" as a wide-eyed 13 year old, I immediately ran out and bought a cutout of 'New Boots and Panties!!' for a couple of bucks. Wise investment. I found out where Essex, Billericay, Plaistow and other exotic locales (to a kid from the cornfields of Illinois) were located. Inexplicably, I learned who Gene Vincent was from Dury. You could call him a punk rocker, a singer (seriously, listen to "Sweet Gene Vincent") a poet and about a dozen other creative occupations, but I think entertainer is the most apt description. Dury used lots of filthy language to tell dirty stories, and what immature boy isn't going to be attracted to that?

"Sweet Gene Vincent"

I remember once prank calling a friend with the opening of "Plaistow Patricia." When he said "hello," I held up the receiver to the stereo speaker as Dury spat out "assholes, bastards, fucking cunts and pricks." We snickered like a couple of 13 year olds, because we were, until I turned around and saw my father standing in the doorway. For a moment, he looked like he was going to blow his stack. Then he exhaled in defeat. "Better not letter your mother hear that," Dad mumbled as he walked away. By that point in my childhood, I think I had worn him down.

I only own one other album by Dury, and it was the perfect companion to 'New Boots and Panties!!' 'Jukebox Dury' was the compilation Stiff America released in 1981, and it's packed with several must-have singles not on that 1977 album, including "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick"and "Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3." Still, the best songs on "Jukebox Dury" came from 'New Boots and Pamties!!' The Streets and others would go on to have big hits with this spoken-word approach to song, but I think Dury did it best...

"Razzle in My Pocket"

This post is well timed because Mrs. LTL and I celebrated the 30th anniversary of our first date yesterday. Makes us sound old, but I should add we were in high school. This didn't happen on our first date, but a couple of weeks later we were in the car on the way to a movie. Dury's "Blackmail Man" came on the mix tape I was playing. About 30 seconds in, Mrs. LTL asked, "What's this guy have against black mailmen?" I have told that one before, but it never gets old. To the best of my knowledge, Dury never had a problem with minorities working for the postal service.

"Blackmail Man"

Saturday, February 25, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 22)

To keep things moving during this colossal vinyl-ripping project, I often just take a favorite song or two from an album. Not today. Double album 'Valuable Passages' (FACT 164) by the Durutti Column is a compilation from 1986 that gathers songs from albums, singles and EPs on Factory Records from 1980-1986. It has been much too long since I have spent time with this collection, and I'm struck today by how there is simply nobody like the Durutti Column on my shelf. Those in the know understand the genius of Vini Reilly, but I feel an awesome responsibility to represent his work well here because there are bound to be those who stop by who have never heard a note.

I'm tempted to start with one of the early pieces produced by Martin Hannett but have opted for Reilly's tribute to fallen comrade Ian Curtis. From second album 'LC,' here is "The Missing Boy." 'LC' was recorded in five hours on a four track and mixed at a studio in two hours. Now that's DIY and a good day's work. Many of Reilly's most well known and revered works are instrumentals, but this song shows his timid vocals can be effective and quite moving.

"The Missing Boy"

By 1983 and 1984, Reilly's compositions had become complex and flamboyant affairs complete with strings, brass, woodwinds and massive percussion. Fourth album 'Without Mercy' is best described as neo-classical and, I imagine, a shock to fans of Factory at the time. The two sides of the album were simply titled "Without Mercy I" and "Without Mercy II." Better to spend less time trying to describe it and just let you get to it.

"Without Mercy" (Stanzas 4 to 7)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What the Kids Are Listening to Today (Part 1)

I so enjoyed doing that recent post on my 10-year-old son's burgeoning record collection that I have decided to make it an occasional series. Now, obviously, after learning his first three records were by the Monkees, the Beach Boys and the Vince Guaraldi Trio, you know the name of this series is a stab at humor.

His fourth purchase continues the trend of repelling his peers. Lil' T, as he will be known on these pages from now on, plays the clarinet with the kind of passion that fills me with envy. So, I wasn't surprised when he spotted this beat up but interesting set of six 7" singles on a shelf at a little used book store the other day. Benny Goodman's 'Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert' is full of fantastic performances by legends like Harry James, Gene Krupa and, a favorite of mine, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. This edition came out in 1950, and I have a strong suspicion Lil' T's box set really is more than 65 years old. It just has that look, sound, feel and even smell, you know? Still, not bad for $2.

Lil' T's review: "I like these little records. They play a lot better on my record player. And it's nice to listen to songs without words sometimes."

Well, perhaps we'll get more on the music next time. Thanks for classing up the joint, son. One more warning, folks. Records don't get much scratchier than this one, but what a song!

"Sing Sing Sing" (Live)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Power-Pop Potluck

A tip of the cap to Manufactured Recordings. Last week, the label reissued a whole mess o' power pop that had not been in the vinyl bins for more than 30 years. Let's start with Manikins. The double long player 'From Broadway to Blazes' gathers just about everything you would ever need out of this Perth, Australia, band from 1971 to 1981. Hard and rough around the edges, their music reminds me of Eddie and the Hot Rods, Undertones, the Only Ones and a slew of other bands coming out of the UK in the late '70s. Even if you never heard Manikins before, this collection somehow manages to take you back.

Now on to more traditional power pop. Smart Remarks wore their influences on their sleeves, but what influences they were! You'll spot the sounds of Paul Collins' Beat, The Records and, especially, Dirty Looks. Remember them? How a trio from Staten Island ended up on Stiff Records must be an interesting tale, but that's a story for another day. This trio from Bordentown, New Jersey, had an all too brief recording career, just one memorable single and the five-track EP 'Seriously Speaking,' but it's all here on 'Foreign Fields: 1982-1984.' If you're scratching your head and wondering where you might have heard Smart Remarks before, perhaps you saw them open for the Replacements, Ramones, Joan Jett or Haircut 100 back in the day.

Let's stay in the Garden State for the best and probably best known of the bunch. The Modulators' 1984 album 'Tomorrow's Coming' is a must for any power-pop fan, and this reissue has a bevy of bonus tracks, including demos and the singles that preceded the LP. I'm not going to bother with influences because bands of this ilk should have been trying to emulate the sound of the Modulators, not the other way around. This is just sublime. Now for some trivia. Did you know Rob Roth, the owner of Vintage Vinyl in Fords, New Jersey, one of the best record stores in the world, was once a member of the Modulators? His label was original issuer of the early singles and this album too. It's only February, but come December I bet 'Tomorrow's Coming' will be vying for my reissue of the year.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 21)

Here's the one that put Flying Nun on the map all over the world. 'The Dunedin Double,' as it's known, is a four-sided 50-minute EP featuring four early signings from the legendary label. All four bands, the Chills, Sneaky Feelings, the Stone and the Verlaines, hailed from Dunedin, New Zealand, thus the name of the EP, and the term "Dunedin Sound" was born out of this compilation from 1982. Lo-fi. Jangly. Perfect.

Sneaky Feelings is a particular favorite of mine, second only to the Clean of Flying Nun's stable of stars, and I plan a separate post on them later in this vinyl-ripping series. For many years, 'The Dunedin Double' was out of print and ridiculously priced at secondary marketplaces. Thanks to a joint partnership with Captured Tracks, many of Flying Nun's albums are on store shelves again, including this vital title.

The Chills - "Kaleidoscope World"
Sneaky Feelings - "Pity's Sake"
The Stones - "Down and Around"
The Verlaines - "Angela"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spiral Stairs Pounds the Pavement Again

I can't help but root for Spiral Stairs. Even though he co-founded Pavement, he never seemed to get the cred of his famous mate, Stephen Malkmus. I was a big fan of Stairs' post-Pavement band, Preston School of Industry, and PSOI's first full-length album, 'All This Sounds Gas,' still garners a gaggle of plays in this house some 15 years later. At the time of release, reviews were lukewarm at best. Again, I felt like it was because he was being compared to Malkmus. Admittedly, Malkmus' first solo album, released about six months earlier, was great, but so was 'All This Sounds Gas.'

One of Mrs. LTL's all-time favorite shows was seeing PSOI in 2001 at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. We were one of about 50 that saw them that night, and Stairs seemed so approachable that we had a little chat with him after the show. We thanked him for the effort and had a good laugh about his Robert Smith imitation in the music video for "Falling Away," which had just been released. That song was a mighty accessible piece of pop and quite different from the rest of the expansive twang of 'All This Sounds Gas.' It had hit written all over it, but as often happens, the masses missed it.

There have only been a couple of albums since then. I didn't think followup 'Monsoon' was quite as good, but I imagine it might have sold a little better since they had played for bigger audiences as openers for Wilco, one of the hottest bands at that time, prior to that release. Five more years would pass before Stairs would release another album, this time as Spiral Stairs, not Preston School of Industry. This was around the time Pavement would briefly reunite and tour to support a best-of package. I'm afraid the latest from Stairs may have been lost in all of that love for Pavement.

That's it. No new music from Stairs for the past eight years... that is until March 24 when 'Doris and the Daggers' hits the shelves. Quite a bit has happened to Stairs since we last heard from him, and that is reflected in the music. He's lived abroad, lost friends and become a father. So expect the songs to be more personal, emotional and confessional. I'm not usually one to quote from press releases, but I was pretty excited to read Stairs say, "The lyrics definitely have a more traditional 'songwriter' feel. I'm getting older, and the music I'm listening to is often more story-based. I love Paul Kelly, the Australian singer-songwriter – he's a great storyteller. I think I was trying to channel some of that, and people like Lloyd Cole, songwriters more from the Dylan school of honesty." Here's the first release from 'Doris and the Daggers,' with help from Jason Lytle of Grandaddy. Stairs has a slew of dates on the west coast in the spring. Catch him if you can.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 20)

Between the years when he briefly fronted the original lineup of Duran Duran (or Duran Fucking Duran, as they are known by many in these parts) and formed the Lilac Time with his brother Nick, Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy composed a couple of dance-floor classics that scored quite well on the UK charts and got plenty of spins in the clubs on this side of the Atlantic too.

During that era, one song Duffy couldn't seem to get out of his system was "Kiss Me." To the best of my knowledge, he recorded, released or reissued this song at least four times in the '80s. When it comes to this genre, I'm no expert, but having just listened to two takes from this 12" Caroline put out in 1986, I don't think he bettered the original. This post may vie for my shortest, but I have no recollection of buying this record and am quite sure it hasn't been played since I was in high school three decades ago.

"Kiss Me" (1983 Version)
"Kiss Me" (1985 Version)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day... or Not

I try to keep an open mind about these things. If you're smiling today, go with the optimistic power pop of the underrated Elvis Brothers. If you're down and want to stay there, opt for the legendary Chet Baker. It's not really supposed to be so sad, but it sure is when Chet delivers it. No matter which song you choose, you're gonna get a hell of a listen.

The Elvis Brothers - "Valentine"
Chet Baker - "My Funny Valentine"

Friday, February 10, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 19)

No draining the swamp here. From N'awlins, the land of red beans, slot machines and voodoo queens, the doctor is in. I just featured the double album a couple of years ago, but this is where I find myself in the series, and I can't bring myself to skip it. The title on the front cover reveals everything you need to know about this relic. It's an in-studio FM radio broadcast for WLIR in Hempstead, NY, circa 1973, starring Dr. John and the Rampart Street Symphony Orchestra (as named by Professor Longhair). Funky, tight and out of sight. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

"Mess Around"

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cover Me Impressed: 'Porpoise Song'

In recent days, we have had a ton of trippy music in our little corner of the blogging community, haven't we? Well, today's selection will continue the groovy theme. We got my youngest his first record player for Christmas. As you can see above, calling it a turntable might be a stretch, but it's a fine introduction for a 10 year old. He has three albums in his collection so far. One is this compilation picture disc by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Last week we found a really interesting used album of hits by the Beach Boys that came out in 1975 and focused specifically on the Brother Records years. His favorite, though, is a new compilation Rhino put out called 'Monkees Forever.'

To my delight, one tune he plays over and over is "Porpoise Song." It's a Goffin-King composition from the Monkees' 1968 film 'Head.' His obsession has afforded me the pleasure to play for him the excellent cover by one of my all-time favorites, Wondermints. The fellas recorded this one for their all-covers album from 1996 called 'Wonderful World of Wondermints.' The album initially came out only in Japan, and I paid a pretty penny for it back in the day, but I believe it has been reissued domestically at least once since then.

The Monkees - "Porpoise Song"
Wondermints - "Porpoise Song"

If you can spare a moment, give this demo by Carole King a listen, too. It's a rough recording, but I just love it. Goffin-King wrote about a dozen songs for the Monkees, and the demos I have heard are real gems. Somebody needs to clean them up and release them as an album. I know I would be the first in line.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Robyn Returns... and With a Band!

Take a deep breath, Swede. We got our first listen at a song from Robyn Hitchcock's upcoming album earlier this week. If I counted correctly, the self-titled LP, out April 21 from the fine folks at Yep Roc, will be his 22nd as a solo artist. Interesting that 35 years after 'Black Snake Diamond Röle,' Hitchcock goes the self-titled route.

Here's what we know so far. The album was recorded in Hitchcock's adopted hometown of Nashville at Brendan Benson's Readymade Studios. Benson is a power-pop hero to many, and his role as producer should excite Hitchcock's fans too. Now, don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed his last album, 'The Man Upstairs,' but it's good to hear him backed by a band again. Many of the roster are from Music City, including guitarist Annie McCue, bassist Jon Estes and drummer Jon Radford. Backing vocals are provided by old friends like Emma Swift, Grant Lee Phillips, Gillian Welch and Pat Sansone.

So, about that first song. Here's what Hitchcock has to say about "I Want to Tell You About What I Want." Here's a guy that will make you stop and listen.

"The original title of the song was 'My Vision Of World Empathy.' Either we will eventually become extinct and be replaced by cats with articulated thumbs who have evolved the way apes slowly evolved into us, or we will become empathic and mildly telepathic — people like Donald Trump won't happen because biologically no human will be born with that lack of empathy. We will become a species that isn't capable of bullying because we can feel what we're doing to other people. There is obviously some evolutionary step between the human and the angel that needs to take place. Maybe when we have enough suffering credits, our DNA will go, 'Right! Here we go! Homo angelicus — it can read your mind, it's compassionate, it can levitate and it's a great lover! It shares its fish sticks with you and flies you back in time to see The Velvet Underground!' That is what we need to become." -- Robyn Hitchcock

Thursday, February 2, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 18)

I have written about my fascination with local indie-pop scenes around the UK in the late '80s, such as Barry Newman booking bands at the Norwich Arts Centre and releasing music on his own Wilde Club Records. In the past couple of years, I have been researching another such pocket around Newcastle. This cat named Stephen Joyce used to book bands at long-gone venue the Broken Doll. He booked My Bloody Valentine, McCarthy and many others, but with an eye for talent a little lower on the bill, such as Edinburgh's The Holidaymakers and locals like Nivens. He got a hold of both of them and released a split flexi along with a fanzine, calling the entire endeavor Woosh. What followed was a brief but memorable run of ten 7" singles, all but three of them flexis.

There were a couple of big names in the indie world that stopped by Woosh with a song, such as the Groove Farm and the Pooh Sticks, but it was Nivens that gave Joyce's label its brightest moment. Woosh 005, "Yesterday," peaked at No. 13 on the indie chart in early 1989. I have slowly begun to collect these 10 singles from Woosh, and I thought we could give Woosh 002 a listen since I keep this split flexi in the D section for the Driscolls. I featured my favorite song by the band a couple of years ago, and this one isn't quite up to the level of "Girl I Want You Back," but still a fine listen. "Father's Name Is Dad" is the Driscolls' first release, and it has that feel, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a cover from Fire, a late '60s band that was pretty trippy, to say the least. As mentioned earlier, this is a flexi. So please give me a pass on the pops and scratches. I like the song by Strawberry Story even more. Expect them to show up at some point.

"Father's Name Is Dad"

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 17)

The Dream Academy may not be for everyone, but I thought they were just swell, particularly the first two albums and related singles. Let's listen to a couple of my favorites from the period. From the self-titled debut, here is "The Edge of Forever." This was the followup to the worldwide smash "Life in a Northern Town." This one didn't bother the charts, but I think you'll find the song a real charmer. The first take is from the album. The second version, titled "Poised On The Edge Of Forever," feels a bit like a demo and can be found on the flip side of the "Life in a Northern Town" 12" single. Through the years, I have grown to like it almost as much as its polished successor. You lose some of that gorgeous instrumentation, but on the plus side, you also lose the saxophone solo. That instrument didn't bother me one bit in 1985, but it makes me cringe now.

"The Edge of Forever"
"Poised on the Edge of Forever"

I can't let a post on the Dream Academy pass without including non-album single "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want." The cover of the Morrissey/Marr classic didn't even get a proper release here in America, but the instrumental version (available on the 12") more than got its due in the summer of '86 when the song was used (with nary a word of dialogue) in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.'

The famous scene shot at the Art Institute of Chicago has been a favorite in this house for a number of personal reasons, and it was a big moment for my then art-obsessed six-year-old when we walked into the hallowed halls of the museum in 2011. He has a giant coffee-table book of the permanent works featured there, and he used to take out his crayons and try to make his own versions of the paintings, particularly Van Gogh's "The Bedroom," Picasso's "The Old Guitarist" and Cassatt's "The Child's Bath." His favorite, though, was Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," and he took one of his renderings to the museum to compare it to the real thing... a moment I'll never forget. A moment I would like to forget: About 15 minutes later he left another work of art all over the floor in front of Chagall's famous "American Windows." We called it "Breakfast."

Here are both versions of the Dream Academy's "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want." I'll take the instrumental every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

"Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want"
"Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" (Instrumental)

Friday, January 27, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 16)

Surprised I was able tally six pieces of plastic from Thomas Dolby, three LPs, two 12" singles and one 7" single. Wouldn't be totally honest if I said I hadn't played any of them for 30 years because about five years back my little ones were taken by "She Blinded Me With Science" after our local Public Broadcasting Corporation station used the song to advertise the show "Sid the Science Kid." I was spinning the extended remix for them for a while before they grew out of the song and Sid's program. Otherwise, yep, I don't think the rest of the lot has been played since the '80s. When I think of Dolby now, the first thing that comes to mind is as the producer of many of Prefab Sprout's best moments, but here is a very minor hit I played to death when I was 12 years old. Listening to it now, I honestly can't tell if it's awfully good or just plain awful. Nostalgia is clouding my senses. I'm sure you'll let me know. Where is George when you need him?

"Europa and the Pirate Twins"

Thursday, January 26, 2017

New Music For the Middle Aged

I mean no offense with that headline... I'm one of 'em! The albums have been few and far between, five in roughly 36 years, but the Feelies have been nothing but quality every time out. The followup to the excellent 2011 album 'Here Before' is about to hit the shelves (With language like that, I must be old!) via Bar/None Records, and the first two songs we have the privilege of hearing are oh-so Feelies. That album cover is vintage Feelies too. 'In Between' is out on Feb. 27.

Ray Davies is such a treasure. Oops, make that SIR Ray Davies. The freshly knighted musician has a new studio album coming out for the first time in almost a decade. Big news made even bigger by the fact he's backed by another one of my favorites, the Jayhawks. When greats come together, it doesn't always work, but I have a good feeling about 'Americana,' out April 21 on Legacy. Davies has been inspired by the country and its culture for many years, as readers of his most recent biography, 'Americana: The Kinks, the Riff, the Road: The Story,' are well aware. If you haven't read Davies' two biographies, wait no longer. 'X-Ray,' chronicling the early years, is probably the most intriguing music biography I have ever read. Got off track a bit. Let's get back to the new music. Here's "Poetry."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 15)

I wish I was celebrating the solo work of Chris Difford with this post. Unfortunately, I don't have any of those albums on vinyl. I'll have the same problem when I get to the letter T and want to talk up the talents of Glenn Tilbrook... all CD. What I do have in the D section is the self-titled album by Difford & Tilbrook (as well as a 12" single), and it's pure pop worth remembering.

Many call 'Difford & Tilbrook' the lost Squeeze album. To these ears, though, there was a grown-up sophistication to these songs not prevalent on 1982 album 'Sweets From a Stranger,' the last before Squeeze (temporarily) broke up. I think 1984 album 'Difford & Tilbrook' was the bridge between the old sound we all loved and the darker atmosphere to come on reunion album 'Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti' in 1985. I'm not sure how much we owe to producer Tony Visconti for 'Difford & Tilbrook,' but it wouldn't surprise me if it was a lot.

I was looking up the charts today to see how 'Difford & Tilbrook' and the singles from the album fared. I remembered seeing the video for first single "Love's Crashing Waves" a few times in the summer of '84 (when I was watching MTV every waking moment). So I was a bit surprised when I didn't find it anywhere on the Billboard Hot 100. "Love's Crashing Waves" did a little better in the UK, but still peaked at a somewhat anemic No. 57. It deserved a better fate. Let's give the 12" extended remix an airing. There aren't too many of those mid-'80s remix flourishes that sound so bad today. The other song is a non-album B-side with a country tinge. I didn't really remember hearing the song before today, but it's not at all bad for a flip side.

"Love's Crashing Waves" (Extended Remix)
"Within These Walls of Without You"

Thursday, January 19, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 14)

I discovered a minor alphabetizing error on the shelves the other day, but I was already engrossed in those posts on Dexys Midnight Runners. Well, I'm sure you were asking yourselves, "what happened to Devo?" Uh, maybe not, but they are going to get their due anyway, and I love everything they did through 'Oh, No! It's Devo' in 1982. Here are a couple of extended versions from what is often described as their "dark" album. Whatever. To these ears, "That's Good" is a terrific piece of pop that deserved a much better fate than No. 102 on the singles chart.

"That's Good" (Extended Version)
"Speed Racer" (Extended Version)

Of course, by the time 'Oh, No! It's Devo' came out, we already knew the fellas didn't care all that much about commercial success. In 1980, when they were faced with "Whip It" becoming a surprise No. 14 hit, the downside was a legion of new listeners that didn't really get the band. The response was "Through Being Cool," a single that not only conveyed their feelings perfectly but had the added bonus of capturing the sound of the early days. Bottom line, though, "Whip It" was (and still is) a song that deserved those accolades. Here is a live version recorded in San Francisco on Aug. 16, 1980. You can find the following two songs on 'Dev-O Live,' a six-song EP originally recorded for "The King Biscuit Flower Hour." If you can't find it on vinyl, this EP and another show from the same period were combined and reissued in 1999 on inferior formats.

"Freedom of Choice Theme Song"/"Whip It" (Live)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Wedding Present Delivers in Derby

Nottingham correspondent MisterPrime makes a triumphant return to tell us about seeing the Wedding Present last month. I'm particularly interested in his review of the proceedings because I will be witnessing the same 85-minute set when Gedge and Co. cross the Atlantic this spring. Unlike the seasoned author, this will be my first time to ever see the Weddoes, and I'm pretty damn excited. Take it away, MisterPrime...

The Wedding Present
The Venue
Derby, 7th December 2016

"We had all these guitars and we just thrashed away at it..." -- David Gedge, 1992

The Wedding Present last night in Derby was a pretty good gig all told, what with it being the ten millionth time I've been to see them and everything. Actually, I did start doing some research, and it turns out it's not nearly so many times as I might think, though it's well into double figures, which isn't so bad considering they called it a day for about 10 years in the mid-'90s, and I never saw Cinerama live. I got a bit bogged down to be honest trying to find evidence that they played at the University Refectory in Leeds in the late '80s as it was one place I was sure I'd seen them that the gig-list on the Scopitones' Web site seemed to have missed out, and I was all triumphant when I found a ticket in an old scrapbook until I went back to find it there clear as day on the 'Net all along (not that I was going to send them an email or anything, oh no, I'm not that sad, ahem...! And anyway I'm sure they played there twice! At least!)

I even enjoyed the whole bus-train-finding-a-venue-I've-not-been-too-before adventure of it all. I liked the venue too (apart from the fact that it is itself called 'The Venue', which I find strangely annoying) -- which is in an interesting if not strictly salubrious-feeling part of the City and seems to specialise in wedding receptions, tribute bands and obscure '80s and '90s comebacks (Toploader, anyone...!?). It had a bit of a Working Men's Club feel, with its ticket table in the hall and big long bar against one wall, whilst the room itself was big and slightly industrial, but the sound quality and view of the stage were excellent.

The Wedding Present themselves were in fine fettle, and Mr. Gedge has certainly got the hang by now of putting together a set list that balances the requirements of the fans with the need -- presumably -- to keep things fresh and interesting for himself and the band. Opening with a slightly unexpected (by me at least) "Give My Love To Kevin", there was an interesting mix of old and new: Some of "the hits" but not all (that's "Brassneck", then, but no "Kennedy"), the odd obscurity ("Mothers", anyone? A "Dalliance" b-side if I'm not mistaken) and even a surprisingly jaunty, bright take on "Go Out And Get 'Em Boy" -- a song which first graced a Weddoes' gig a few years even before I did! It was actually the newest songs and the oldest that seemed the most committed and muscular; presumably the band have been rehearsing the 'George Best'-era material ahead of next year's '30th Anniversary' gigs -- though, despite Gedge's assertions that those will be the last ever outings for these particular tunes, it seems a bit unlikely that he'll never be tempted to play "My Favourite Dress" again. It was a storming version of that particular fan favourite that climaxed this gig (albeit three songs from the end, though the timing did work well for those of us with a train to catch) -- there was barely a dry eye in the house.

It often seemed as if Gedge spent much of the '90s trying to exorcise his early-indie guitar demons in favour of something he deemed more "pop" when many fans just wanted more and more frantic strumathons. In a 1992 fanzine interview I was involved in he referred to 'George Best' as "absolutely dreadful" and, in retrospect, I imagine plans were already afoot to storm the charts with his 'Hit Parade' project -- a logical "pop"-step that led in turn to Cinerama and the eventual breakup of the original Wedding Present lineup. My point is it seems as if it is only recently that all of these earlier strands have been rewoven finally into a more integrated, mature pop sound. There's a lovely, sprightly take on "Something and Nothing" (actually recorded in October 2007) on the new 'Marc Riley Sessions' album that demonstrates this perfectly, and it's just the kind of confident fluid approach that makes the shows these days a joy to attend.

Thanks, MisterPrime. I was going to save this one until later in my vinyl-ripping series, but it seems appropriate to pull it out now. This was a 7" Mrs. LTL gave me for Christmas. What a gal!

"Go Out and Get 'Em Boy"

More Reviews From MisterPrime
Allo Darlin'

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 13)

Let's wrap up Dexys Midnight Runners with a couple of more B-sides and some surprises. In 1981, between 'Searching for the Young Soul Rebels' and 'Too-Rye-Aye,' there were a couple of one-off singles with a revamped lineup I rank among the band's best. One of the A-sides, "Plan B," would be re-recorded later for 'Too-Rye-Ay' (with still more roster changes). The B-side to "Show Me," the other single during this period, was a short stripped-down affair with only an organ/piano and the voice of Kevin Rowland. That song, "Soon," would become the intro for the new version of "Plan B" on 'Too-Rye-Ay.' Clear as mud, innit?


By this time, Rowland was striving for perfection. Some say his ego had gotten the best of him. There would be no more words with the press. He expressed his thoughts on the band through an insert included with "Show Me." Do yourself a favor and click on the image below. It's really something to behold. Rowland sounds more like a cult leader than a lead singer, but that unit sure bought what he was selling. The horns played as hard and loud as they possibly could until their lips bled.

Skipping ahead past the 1985 album 'Don't Stand Me Down' for just a moment, in 1986, there would be a 7" release for the theme song to a BBC TV series called "Brush Strokes." "Because of You" would be the last single under the name Dexys Midnight Runners until "She Got a Wiggle" came out as a digital single in 2012. The B-side was a pretty traditional Irish song from 150 years earlier, "Kathleen Mavourneen." For any American Civil War buffs out there, you may know this song because it was very popular in the 1860s and is often used in documentaries on the period. The song is an early clue Rowland was always interested in doing an album like the 2016 release 'Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul.'

"Kathleen Mavourneen"

For third album 'Don't Stand Me Down,' Rowland's plan was to have no singles. This was to be his magnum opus, and he wanted the LP to stand on its own and be played in its entirety, front to back. The album took forever to record, and it cost much more than the label ever envisioned. It was selling very poorly and, after six weeks on store shelves, a four-plus minute single version of a 12-plus minute song was sloppily cobbled together. It didn't help. I have a 12" promo single of "This Is What She's Like" with a short version of the song and the even shorter single version. If you have heard the album version, then you know the single was a travesty. Some of the best sections of the song were completely removed. Also on the 12" B-side is album track "One of Those Things." I love this album. Although it was ignored at the time, in recent years, it has been re-evaluated by many and given its proper due. Seems like that's how it works for geniuses.

"This Is What She's Like" (Edit) (4:25)
"This Is What She's Like" (6:10)
"One of Those Things"

There's just no way I can put up these inferior versions and leave it at that. What if there is someone out there hearing "This Is What She's Like" for the first time? If so, skip those other two and go straight to the album version. Then, when you fall in love with the song, listen to the 20-plus minute live version from the 2014 album 'Nowhere is Home." This quadruple album is one of the most expensive records I have bought in recent years. Completely worth it, but I was a little disappointed in the quality of the vinyl... as you will hear. This song is so lengthy it takes up all of side eight of the album.

"This Is What She's Like" (Album Version) (12:28)
"This Is What She's Like" (Live) (21:50)