Friday, May 26, 2017

Turntable Una'whale'able. Come Back Tomorrow

Today marks the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer, and many will be finding their way to the beaches to celebrate. For those of you in my neck of the woods, I would recommend staying far away from Twin Harbors State Park on the Pacific Coast of Washington. There is a rotting 30-foot gray whale on the beach, and the smell is said to be overpowering. What to do? Washington State Parks rangers have decided the best course of action is to let it decay and become food for seagulls and crabs. That will make for a fun summer in those parts, eh? One option not considered was blowing it up like those weirdos to our south did in Oregon back in 1970. Watch this. You won't believe what happened. American ingenuity at its best.

Oh, and state parks officials are reminding people not to take parts of the rotting whale because it's a federal offense. Uh, okay, thanks for the warning. That was close. Happy summer, everyone.



Tens of thousands of songs at my disposal and not one about blowing up whales. Pitiful. This will have to suffice.

Preston School of Industry - Whalebones

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 11)

It's an old story. Girl meets boy at university. That's about as far as you can take the "old story" label. While in Hull, during the first calendar year away from home, Tracey Thorn puts out albums with Marine Girls, Everything But the Girl and as a solo artist. There is a Peel Session and a single of the week in NME with Marine Girls. Don't forget the cover of Melody Maker and interview after interview with all of the music mags. Then there is checking the same publications to see how all of your various entities are being reviewed and moving on the indie chart, even having two slots in the top 10 at the same time! Meanwhile, your partner in Everything But the Girl and in life, Ben Watt, is releasing an album with Robert Wyatt and having his own run with the music magazines. Oh, and there is that whole trying to earn a degree thing.

Sounds a lot like your first year of college, right?

Elvis Costello and Martin Fry reviewed this first single by Everything But the Girl for Radio 1's "Roundtable" program. They, of course, loved it. Thorn remembers in her book 'Bedsit Disco Queen' that the two "threatened to steal the show's copy afterwards." These three songs are miles away from the big sound we heard yesterday on the "Come on Home" 12". The shadowy cover above says it all, really. Guitar and voice that would work perfectly in a smoky downstairs jazz bar. The A-side is Cole Porter's classic. Even U2 couldn't ruin this song (although they gave it a good run!). "Feeling Dizzy" is by Watt, and "On My Mind" is a Thorn composition also recorded by Marine Girls. I'll take this version. More singles from EBTG tomorrow.

"Night and Day"
"Feeling Dizzy"
"On My Mind"

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 10)

In these dark times, the consensus in our blogging community seems to be that the show should and must go on, and I wholeheartedly agree.

As I continue this massive vinyl-ripping project and series, there are some bands that need and deserve more than one post. The need is because there is too much to rip to complete the task in a mere one or two sittings. This brings the blog to a standstill. If I have a huge stack of vinyl by a band, chances are they are very important to me, and I don't like equating a single post by someone minor in the collection, such as Terence Trent D'Arby, with a vital band like today's selection, Everything But the Girl. That means we will need to spend a few days with Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt while I catch up with the vinyl transfers.

Although I didn't keep up with the duo during the '90s, I think I have just about all there is to have by them in the '80s. I fell in love with Thorn's voice when she sang "The Paris Match" for the Style Council in '84. For much of the rest of the decade, I searched high and low for everything I could get my hands on that featured those pipes. For these pages, I'm going to focus on a few of my favorite singles.

Let's begin with this four-track 12" from 1986. "Come on Home," as well as much of the music on 'Baby, the Stars Shine Bright,' was Everything But the Girl going for it. In Thorn's memoir 'Besdit Disco Queen,' she explains the music that was influencing EBTG at the time:

"Our watchwords at the time were Spector, The Shngri-La's and the album Dusty in Memphis. Peter Walsh from The Apartments moved into our flat for a while, and introduced us to Charlie Rich records."

Ben Watt worked tirelessly on string arrangements, and a full orchestra and choir was brought into Abbey Road with Mike Hedges producing. Thorn called it "a grand gesture of a record." When Geoff Travis (their A&R man at the time) visited the studio and heard a finished mix of one of the songs for the first time, he said, "Well, it's very good, but is there possibly a little too much going on in there?" Just what you want to hear after all of that labor, I'm sure.

The extended version of "Come on Home" is a minute longer than the album version and has a lovely prelude. "Draining the Bar," written by Thorn, had to have been influenced by those Rich records. Hearing pedal steel was quite a shock in '86, but I love the song, especially lyrically. For quite a while, you could only get this song on the 7" and 12", but it eventually showed up on the 1992 Japanese import '82-92 Essence And Rare.' There's a nice acoustic version of "Come on Home" on there, too. As for the cover of "I Fall to Pieces," that one was really tough to find until 2012 when 'Baby, the Stars Shine Bright" got the deluxe treatment in 2012. Man, I hate it when my vinyl becomes obsolete.

"Come on Home" (Extended)
"Draining the Bar"
"Come on Home"
"I Fall to Pieces"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Two Great Songs That Sound Great Together (2)

Here's another twofer I used to love to put back to back on mix tapes when I was a lad. It feels like the Nick Lowe-Elvis Costello combinations could be endless, really, but I liked to stack these two songs from 1978 for their slightly eerie atmospheres. One song is decidedly superior to the other, always making Lowe's "No Reason" the build to the masterpiece, but the album it comes from, 'Jesus of Cool,' is impossible to cut up. I couldn't imagine Lowe would make a better album, at least until he released 'The Impossible Bird' in 1994. That's an argument for another day. It's clear these two fellas that have nothing but respect for each other's craft, and each has much to be thankful for because of the other.

Nick Lowe - "No Reason"
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea"

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Single and Album News From the Popguns

With a nearly 20-year wait between albums 'Love Junky' and 'Pop Fiction,' fans of the Popguns were nothing if not patient. These days, however, the band has become downright prolific, churning out indie-pop gems like their halcyon days on Midnight Records. If you have been following along, you have no doubt fallen for the Popguns' charms every step of the way, and the impending single, "So Long," will be no exception. Matinée Recordings will release the digital only single on Friday, and the Popguns' Bandcamp page will also have the song available as a free download for one week only. Excited yet? Maybe this will grab your attention. Although "So Long" is a digital only release, the Popguns have about 20 promo CD singles in their portfolio. Rather than being left to collect dust in an attic somewhere, the singles will be sold on the Bandcamp page beginning Friday. If you're a die-hard fan, log on early. These are sure to move quickly.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to ask guitarist Simon Pickles about the new single. He explains, "'So Long' is basically an indulgence in breeze-pop guitars, multi-layered harmonies and a Lloyd Cole-esque lyric of romantic melancholia about a low-fidelity summer fling. We actually recorded it in summer 2015 but only finished off the album last year before the usual delays before release."

"So Long" is just the beginning. It's the walk-up single to 'Sugar Kisses,' the new album due out June 16, but as Jimmy often does, 'Sugar Kisses' will get an early release date of June 1 exclusively through Matinée Recordings.

Pickles also gives his thoughts on 'Sugar Kisses' and contrasts it with the band's triumphant 2014 comeback release. "I think the album is more raw than 'Pop Fiction,' and "So Long" is probably the lightest tune on it. It features 10 new songs with a pretty big variety and certainly some good old-fashioned, straight down the middle Popguns power pop. We think it's a hell of a lot of fun and we really, really can't wait to play the tunes live." Now I know you're excited.



Related:
Q&A With Simon and Wendy Pickles of the Perfect English Weather
Favorite Albums of 2014
Favorite Songs of 2014
Pull Trigger on New Single From the Popguns
The Popguns Aim High and Hit the Bull's-Eye
Still Waiting For New Popuns? Not for Long
Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 22)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 9)

While having a recent in-depth conversation about records and blogging with Walter and JC, or "the Blogfather," as JC is now known, the Blogfather suddenly paused, looked me square in the eye and said, "You know we aren't normal." He's correct, of course, this music obsession of ours, and having a savant-like talent for recalling when and where I have bought thousands of records may be a case in point. That brings me to the two albums above and a wonderful memory of finding them.

In 1988, at age 18, I took a road trip with my best friend. This was the first time I had ever had an adventure like that, and my heart was filled with excitement at this newfound independence. It was a feeling that could never be replicated. You're only young once. We drove all night and well into the next day to get from the cornfields of Illinois to Austin, Texas. Not a care in the world. Lots of junk food and singalongs to early B-52's as dawn was breaking. We were so punchy by then we actually started to think we sounded good. Our first stop in Austin was to Waterloo Records. The legendary shop lived up to expectations when I heard Dinosaur Jr.'s 'You're Living All Over Me' playing on the sound system.

I was heavily into Bowie and Talking Heads at the time, still am, in fact, but I had yet to discover Brian Eno's solo work. I bought his first two albums that day. I still can't believe 'Here Come the Warm Jets' and 'Taking Tiger Mountain' are from 1974. Besides Bowie and Roxy Music, I didn't think there was anything else out there from the era except bad AM-radio hits. These albums opened my mind to the possibilities there could be more good music from the early '70s. Here are the opening tracks to both albums. I have to say they both sound pretty good today.

"Needles in the Camel's Eye"
"Burning Airlines Give You So Much More"

Monday, May 15, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 8)

Back in November, one day after the catastrophic election, to be exact, I featured the soundtrack to 'Dance Craze,' an album chock full of gems from ska's second wave. I purposely focused on minor acts like Bad Manners and the Bodysnatchers because I knew the rest of the bands on the album would get their own day in this series. That brings us to the English Beat. My apologies to the rest of the world for "the Donald" and the fact that we here in America call the Beat the English Beat (in that order). It was all to avoid the confusion of having a terrific power-pop band called the Beat here on our shores... Los Angeles to be exact. I don't like them as much as Dave, Roger and the rest, but they are worth a listen.

My vinyl section for the English Beat is nothing special. I have the three studio albums and a couple of singles. Even that sparse collection became obsolete when I invested in the five-disc 'The Complete Beat' box set when it came out in 2012, but I hung on to the wax anyway. I bought the box for the two discs of bonus material that included extended versions, remixes and dub mixes, as well as all three Peel Sessions and a live performance. I had some of that material on vinyl, and that's what we'll listen to today. Here is the "Jeanette" 12" in all of its scratchy glory. Not a big deal to you folks on the other side of the pond, but I only have a couple of pieces of vinyl with the Go-Feet Records imprint, and this is one of them. The English Beat were on I.R.S. over here. The B-side is an extra-long instrumental version of "Rotating Head" made famous on 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.'

"Jeanette" (Extended)
"March of the Swivel Heads" (Extended)

Linear Tracking Lives turns 8 today. I want to thank everyone who has stopped by over the years. I have always said I'll quit doing this when it starts to feel like work. I'm still having fun, and it's because of you. Until tomorrow, then...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dipping Toe Into Sunday Soul

This is something more likely found on the pages of Drew's or CC's blogs, but I was so moved by this song earlier this week it literally made me stop the car when I heard it. On Wednesday, I'm driving home my oldest son from swimming when KEXP here in Seattle spins the finest 10 minutes of music I have ever heard on the radio. The DJ dusts off some Dusty and follows it up with Nancy and Lee. Then, to tout an entire day of music dedicated to soul the station has planned for Friday, they play this...

Lorraine Ellison - "Stay With Me"

Now, I have heard this song many times, but I'm not sure I had really heard it, you know? Her plea got to me in a way it hadn't before, and I could feel the waterworks coming. There's a pretty interesting backstory to "Stay With Me." In 1966, Frank Sinatra cancelled his recording session at the last minute, leaving a 46-piece orchestra with nothing to do. Warner Bros. put in a call to producer and songwriter Jerry Ragovoy to see if he wanted to do anything with them. Ragovoy and writer George David Weiss quickly arranged "Stay With Me" and had the virtually unknown Ellison come down to sing it. Happy accident, indeed. I have read in places it was done in one take. Ellison's delivery produced many wet eyes in the orchestra that day. If you're not careful, you may need a tissue too.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Musical Memories of Glasgow

Nearly a week on, as the blogger that turned out the lights on the wildly successful Scotland summit, I can't help but think this weekend might not quite live up to the last one. I take solace in the friendships that were formed and the memories that will linger forevermore. The visit was perfect in every way, and I can't thank our Glaswegian hosts enough. They even somehow arranged nice weather. Who comes home from Glasgow with a tan? Most of my peers have already written about the weekend better than I ever could, but I thought I had better get a few things on the record before time and retelling blows everything all out of proportion. I mean, how long before Dirk's claim that eight out of 10 girls he saw on Saturday afternoon looked like models becomes 10 out of 10? Here are a few stops along the way that meant a lot to me.

Do you recognize the address 185 West Princes Street? Flat 2/R of the rather nondescript building was home to Alan Horne's Postcard Records. JC and I stopped there on Sunday night just as the sun was setting for the evening and on the entire trip. As I stood there thinking about Edwyn, Roddy, Paul and Malcolm passing in and out of that doorway with the world on a string, I was struck by how there was nothing on the building to mark what had occurred there in 1980 and '81. This should be a landmark with some kind of signage on the second floor on the outer facade. Everything happened on the second floor, and the distance from the ground may keep sticky-fingered fans from stealing the plaque. This project is a labor of love I'm seriously considering.

On Saturday night, I heard JC tell Strangeways I'm a Glaswegian at heart. It's true. Scotland is my favorite place on earth. Why? Three reasons. The people. The music. The climate. Not necessarily in that order. That's why my chance meetings with pop stars was so exciting. Many of my favorite labels and bands call Scotland home, and they have always seemed so far away. Running into any of them on the street or in a pub seemed so unlikely to me, but it's different in Glasgow. Everyone seems to know each other and is so approachable and friendly.

As you can see above, I met a Bluebell. That's Ken McCluskey. Fortunately, I met him fairly early in the day and was still coherent enough to tell him about discovering the Bluebells through the self-titled EP Sire put out in North America in 1983. If I had seen him just a couple of hours earlier, he would have seen a 12" extended version of "Cath" under my arm, one of several purchases made at Missing. Would have loved to have had him sign it. You might notice Ken is sporting an Electric Honey T-shirt. Ken co-runs the famous in-house label of Glasgow Kelvin College, and JC and I both picked up their latest release, 'Any Joy' by Pronto Mama.

One thing quickly learned in Glasgow was you never walk by a pub... you walk through it. Upon our very next pub stop after meeting a Blubell, JC introduced me to David MacGregor of Kid Canaveral. I had the privilege of telling the frontman I literally listen to him every single day. "Good Morning" from the 2010 debut album 'Shouting at Wildlife' is the song that wakes me up. Try it some time. Great way to start the day. David gave me a vinyl copy of the album, which I'm holding in the above photo. When he handed it to me, I let him know when I visited Scotland for the first time in 2012 the first thing I did when I got off the plane was pick up 'Shouting at Wildlife' on CD at the now defunct Avalanche Records in Edinburgh.

On Saturday morning, I hoped to right a wrong from five years ago. Many of you know my story of visiting Stephen Pastel's record shop called Monorail. I went in to buy the first album from Veronica Falls, and it just so happened to be the very album Stephen put on as I was approaching the counter. I handed him the album I wanted to to buy, and he smiled when he saw it. It was the perfect opening for me to introduce myself and tell him what an honor it was to meet him. Maybe even talk to him about his music. I froze. Not a single word was passed during the transaction, and I have been filled with regret ever since.

When our gang arrived on Saturday, it appeared Stephen wasn't there. I was a little disappointed but excited to thumb through the racks. Just about the time I hit the letter T, I looked up from the records to see Stephen saunter in. I nearly jumped out of my shoes. Then I had a quick check of my pals having a cup of tea in the next room. They had been watching me the whole time, and I guess my reaction lived up to expectations because they were all smiles. Happy to report I didn't freeze this time. Stephen complimented me on picking up 'Paperback Ghosts' from Comet Gain, and I was able to tell what his contributions to music meant to me. Weight lifted.

Just outside of Monorail, the bloggers reconvened for tea. Out of nowhere, the Glasgow contingent began passing out gifts to the out-of-towners. It felt like Christmas. There were Postcard T-shirts (one I didn't already have!), personally chosen 7" Northern Soul singles from Drew of Across the Kitchen Table (based on our past positive comments on his blog), the new Butcher Boy 7" and either a music book or CD. Why? Hmm, didn't think to ask. Too busy bug-eyed over my signed copy of Close Lobsters' 'Firestation Towers' set from JC. On Sunday, he shared the story of how he pulled off the feat, and it's quite an involved tale that will be told another time, but I will say I was rolling when he said, "So I was standing outside my house waiting for a Close Lobster, as you do..." All in all, I didn't spend all that much time in record shops. Yet, I came home with a bounty that included five LPs, two CDs, eight 7" singles, three 12" singles and one 10" EP, many of them gifted to me by pals or pop stars. Surreal. The music should make for a plethora of future posts.

This is a music blog, and that's what I focused on here. If you were part of the summit, you know music may have brought us together, but that's not really what our time together was all about. It was the camaraderie. It was the culture. It was the shitty third-tier Scottish football. It was the drinking. Let me repeat. It was the drinking. It was toasting our blogging friends, guest writers and brilliant commenters that couldn't be with us. It was the stories. It was tightening the binds that were already there. Even though many of us had never met before, we were all already old friends... and it felt like it. I, for one, can't wait for the second summit.


The Bluebells - "Some Sweet Day"
Kid Canaveral - "Good Morning"
The Pastels - "Not Unloved"
Close Lobsters - "Let's Make Some Plans"

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 7)

Back from the blogging summit in Scotland, and there is much to say, which I will do in the next day or two. In the meantime, let's return to the vinyl-ripping series that's been on hiatus for about three weeks.

For the first seven years of this blog, I never brought up Emily. I must be making up for lost time because this is the third time in the past eight months, including the passing mention on the post I did just before leaving for Scotland. Emily had a relatively quiet run from 1987 to 1989 and is best known for the four-song "Irony" EP, the 50th release by Creation. Through the years, I have grown to believe there might have been a better record. In 1989, the band briefly joined Esurient Communications, the short-lived label founded by Kevin Pearce from the legendary Hungry Beat fanzine. If Esurient rings a bell, then you were most likely an indie kid really into Jasmine Minks, the Claim or Hellfire Sermons.

Emily's contribution to the label was the "Stumble" 7". The song begins with the soft acoustic sound fans had come to expect, but before long, there is a keyboard, bold percussion and... a flute! There's saxophone too. Yikes! Could have been (and should have been) a disaster, but the dramatic build and tension it creates completely works. Ollie Jackson's vocal delivery contributes to the success of the the song in the same way Lawrence's voice is such a factor in the best songs by Felt. The single can go for $50 or more, but the always dependable German label Firestation resurrected the song on a brilliant double-album retrospective last year. Highly recommended.

"Stumble"

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Remember... This Is Fun!

About to begin the trek to Scotland to meet our blogging mates, and I couldn't be more excited. Thus, things will be quiet on these pages until early next week. I leave you with a gem from that land perhaps you haven't heard before.

If you recall Remember Fun at all, it's probably for the 1987 song "Hey Hey Hate" on Matt Haynes' pre-Sarah flexi label Sha-la-la.. a real keeper of a split 7" shared with Emily. A song on a charity album and another on a comp from Egg Records followed, but that's about it. They have been compared to Close Lobsters and Church Grims, but that's probably a bit lazy and comes down to geography in one case and a shared label (and geography) with the other. Their moniker may make you think of some manufactured boy band, but I promise you this is indie pop at its best... bitter words about life unfulfilled masked by cheery jangle.

In 2001, Jimmy, the fearless leader of Matinée Recordings, unearthed a handful of unreleased songs from the fellas, and each turned out to be better than the next. The following song is thought to be from 1989. To all of my pals making the journey to Glasgow in the coming days, no matter how you get there, be safe. See you soon. This is going to be fun! If this one is to your liking, spend the $4 and pick it up here.

Remember Fun - "Train Journeys"

Monday, May 1, 2017

Two Great Songs That Sound Great Together

Ever since Echorich and others celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Clash's debut album, I have been stuck in the late '70s. Stuck isn't the right word since I'm happy to be here. I recently assembled a mix of songs from 1977-1979 that shares one thing in common with the dozens of other '70s mixes that have come before it. I always have these two songs back to back. Sounds like they were separated at birth. We should prepare for a plethora of posts celebrating the big 4-0 for many of the best albums in your collection. These next few years are going to be packed with 'em.

Eddie & the Hot Rods - "Do Anything You Wanna Do" (1977)
The Records - "Starry Eyes" (1978)

Friday, April 28, 2017

One More From a Wondermint

If you have found your way here today from JC's bellwether blog the (new) vinyl villain, here's a bonus to accompany the imaginary compilation album featuring the work of L.A. power-pop band Wondermints. Maybe it should be called a hidden track since the song is a rare one even among die-hard fans.

If you have followed the solo career of Brian Wilson, then you no doubt know about 'Sweet Insanity,' the follow-up album to Wilson's self-titled solo debut. The long player was to be released in 1991 but was shelved and never got a proper release. There are, of course, bootleg versions, and many Wilson aficionados like myself have mixed feelings about the songs. I think part of it comes down to not being able to shake knowing Dr. Eugene Landy was right there in the studio with him writing lyrics and playing bad cop, but that's a story for another day. This post is supposed to be about Wondermints.

In March 1992, years before their first album and many more years before they would meet Wilson and begin working with him, Darian Sahanaja and Nick Walusko of Wondermints were messing about with a four-track Tascam 246 cassette recorder. With help from Nick, Darian covered the 'Sweet Insanity' song "Do You Have Any Regrets?" In 1997, after Wondermints had started gaining traction, French label Pop The Balloon released the song as a 7" single. Darian slowed the tempo a bit, and even though this was on a four-track, I'll take his production over Wilson's take every time. Darian did, however, show us the bones of a great song were there.

Brian Wilson - "Do You Have Any Regrets?"
Darian - "Do You Have Any Regrets?"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Great Ear of Jonathan Demme

When I heard filmmaker Jonathan Demme passed away, my first thoughts weren't about blockbuster films like 'Philadelphia' and 'Silence of the Lambs.' I thought about his passion for music. Demme clearly had a thing for Talking Heads, New Order, Robyn Hitchcock and the Feelies. That made him one of us, didn't it? Obviously, there was 'Stop Making Sense,' arguably one of the most important concert films in a generation, but don't forget his work behind the camera on memorable music videos like "A Perfect Kiss" by New Order and "Away" by the Feelies. You may remember the New Jersey group also had a terrific turn as the Willies, the fictional band that performed at the high school reunion during Demme's 1986 film 'Something Wild.' I showed this clip not too long ago, but it's worth another look.



Although the Feelies as the Willies didn't appear on the soundtrack to 'Something Wild' (what a shame!), it has been an album I have had for more than 30 years now, and one that I pull out often. In fact, I pulled it out today in Demme's honor. Here is the song that opens the film.

David Byrne With Celia Cruz - "Loco de Amor (Crazy for Love)"

One of Demme's most interesting uses of music in a feature was for the 2008 film 'Rachel Getting Married.' To call this one a drama is an understatement. It's a difficult watch but one that's worth the 113-minute investment. Rather than a traditional film score, all of the music was performed by musicians on-screen in nearly every scene, messing about in the background. Robyn Hitchcock and his pals were in the film as the band that performed at the wedding. Sounds crazy, but the music, or lack of music in some cases, was very effective. This song was in 'Rachel Getting Married' and would show up on Hitchcock's 2009 album 'Goodnight Oslo' too.

Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 - "Up To Our Nex"

Rest in peace, Mr. Demme. You made the world a world a better place. Wherever you are, I hope they have a great record collection.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How Was Your Lunch?

If you sat at your cubicle and stared at a computer screen while nibbling at a bologna sandwich housed on a brown-paper bag doubling as a plate (obviously, I have never done that before!), you might find this post depressing. As for the rest you, I hope you can be happy for me.

The Wedding Present are in town, and they gave a free lunch-time performance at the studios of Seattle radio station KEXP. It was an all-too-brief performance that filled the 12-12:30 slot, but it was an intimate and interesting way to see the Weddoes for the very first time... ever. Yes, you read that correctly. That was a lot of noise at noon for the 75 or so that showed up, and highlights included "Rachel", my favorite from latest album 'Going, Going...', "End Credits", from previous album 'Valentina', and the following from the band's 1992 singles series. This one nearly left my ears bleeding. I have never heard four people make such a racket.

"Flying Saucer"

I'm no shutterbug, and I'm not one to have the camera phone out at a show, but I managed a couple of photos of Gedge and Co. during the soundcheck and after the last song (see below). Not sure even lobster on the French Riviera could top today's lunch. KEXP usually archives these performances. If this one shows up, I'll be sure to post it.

Soundcheck

Band With KEXP DJ

Equipment Stage Left

Monday, April 24, 2017

Was '88 Great? Better Than I Remember

We should have seen this coming. A couple of years ago, to mark the 30th anniversary of NME's legendary 'C86' cassette, reissue royals Cherry Red Records released a deluxe edition of the tape, first on CD and later on vinyl. A year later, the label got creative and cashed in on the enormous popularity of the reissue by asking the simple question, what if NME had curated a 'C87'? The three-disc box set was great fun and popular enough to now imagine a wonderful world where a 'C88' also existed.

It's easy to say "enough is enough," but then you look at the tracklist and realize it was a very good year for indie pop. Clare and Matt were getting their feet wet at Sarah. Alan was on fire over at Creation. The best indie label of all time, Martin's Subway Organization, was peaking. Stephen's 53rd & 3rd was wrapping up. How could this compilation not be cool? Preorder 'C88' for a June 30th release.

DISC ONE:
1. ON TAPE – The Pooh Sticks
2. ELEPHANT STONE (7" Version) – The Stone Roses
3. WHERE DO YOU GO (Flexi Version) – The Popguns
4. (WILL NOBODY SAVE) LOUISE – The Man From Delmonte
5. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? (Molesworth Version) - The Charlottes
6. THE THINGS YOU WANT – The Snapdragons
7. A SHELTERED LIFE – Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
8. ONE SUMMER – Moss Poles
9. LIES – Bridewell Taxis
10. DEFY THE LAW – The Orchids
11. HAPPY LIKE YESTERDAY – The Groovy Little Numbers
12. JULIE CHRISTIE – The Driscolls
13. HIGH – Choo Choo Train
14. CREMATION TOWN – The Poppyheads
15. TATTERED, TANGLED AND TORN - Bradford
16. SO HAPPY TO BE ALIVE – Thrilled Skinny
17. SISTER GOODBYE – The Prayers
18. ANORAK CITY – Another Sunny Day
19. SHE'S GONE – The Train Set
20. BARNOON HILL – Pacific
21. FOREVER HOLIDAY (Ediesta Version) – Blow-Up
22. MARY'S GARDEN – The Mock Turtles
23. THE PENNINE SPITTER – King Of The Slums
24. COLOURS AND SHAPES (Demo) – Pale Saints
25. THE BALLAD OF JET HARRIS – Apple Boutique

DISC TWO:

1. THE HILL – The House Of Love
2. DYING FOR IT – The Vaselines
3. KIRSTY – Bob
4. SLACK TIME – Cud
5. PLEASE RAIN FALL – The Sea Urchins
6. SHAME ON YOU – The Darling Buds
7. PRIZE – Kitchens Of Distinction
8. TOO MANY SHADOWS– The Heart Throbs
9. DO IT FOR FUN – The Bachelor Pad
10. THEY FELL FOR WORDS LIKE LOVE – Hangman's Beautiful Daughters
11. GIVING WAY TO TRAINS – Murrumbidgee Whalers
12. WHAT’S GOING DOWN – The Shamen
13. HEAVEN KNOWS – The Flatmates
14. SPELL IT OUT – The Waltones
15. MRS SUSAN SPENCE – The Wilderness Children
16. YESTERDAY – The Nivens
17. REAL WORLD – Baby Lemonade
18. VILLAGE GREEN – The Clouds
19. FIRE ESCAPE – Rote Kapelle
20. MAD DOGS – Emily
21. THE 18:10 TO YEOVIL JUNCTION – Bubblegum Splash
22. MICHAEL FUREY – Metro Trinity
23. THEME FROM COW – Inspiral Carpets

DISC THREE:

1. SUN, SEA, SAND – The Revolving Paint Dream
2. SURFAROUND – The Fizzbombs
3. PLASTER SAINT – The Church Grims
4. CRUSH THE FLOWERS (Demo) – The Wake
5. SUNSHINE THUGGERY – The Siddeleys
6. CLEAR - Whirl
7. A MILLION ZILLION MILES - Annie & The Aeroplanes
8. YOU OPENED UP MY EYES - Fat Tulips
9. CINCINNATI – Holidaymakers
10. THE CAMERA LOVES ME – Would-Be-Goods
11. ANYWHERE BUT HOME – The Caretaker Race
12. WHO WORKS THE WEATHER – The Great Leap Forward
13. CUBANS IN THE BLUEFIELDS – East Village
14. BYTHESEA ROAD – The Haywains
15. THE OLD ROAD OUT OF TOWN (12" Mix) – The Wishing Stones
16. SHAKE – The Corn Dollies
17. LAND OF GOLD – Bluetrain
18. THE SUN SLID DOWN BEHIND THE TOWER – Reserve
19. APPLE OF MY EYE - Remember Fun
20. MORNING O'GRADY - Yeah Jazz
21. DON'T BURY ME YET – The Raw Herbs
22. CURRY CRAZY - Bad Dream Fancy Dress
23. ON MY WAY – The Claim
24. GLASTONBURY - Rodney Allen





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."

"Crosswinds"
"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
"Stutter"
"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)"
"Rollercoaster"

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