Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Milking a B-Side From the Pipettes

Here's one that took my fancy for a few minutes back in 2006. That's just about the time we were hit with a gaggle of girl groups, but I thought the Pipettes rose above the fray. First, unlike their '60s predecessors, these ladies were, hmm, how to put it nicely... forward. They sang about one night stands and female bullies without any masking. Underneath all of that pop, putting it plainly, the trio was kind of dirty. Second, they were backed by a terrific band called the Cassettes, led by a mysterious chap called Monster Bobby. He was said to be the puppet master. If so, what a talent! I have seen his name pop up from time to time since then, including working with a favorite of mine, Allo Darlin', but I have half expected his name to be linked to a string of hits. It hasn't happened yet.

When the first full-length album came out in '06, at least in the UK, the girls of the Pipettes were Rosay, Gwenno and RiotBecki. It was one of my favorites that year, and I began searching for B-sides that didn't make the record. "Guess Who Ran Away With the Milkman?" first appeared on the flip side of the "Pull Shapes" vinyl single. It is not only my favorite non-album song by the band, it might actually be my favorite song by them... period. In 2007, the song showed up in America as part of the "Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me" EP.

Speaking of here in America, the Pipettes were positioned to be a big deal in these parts. In early 2007, the ladies played a handful of U.S. shows, including well-received gigs at South by Southwest. For some reason, however, it took more than a year for the album to make it to these shores. When it finally did, the songs had been remixed, and the tracklist had been changed a bit. As someone who owns both versions of 'We Are the Pipettes,' in my humble opinion, the U.S. version was inferior. Even the new album cover was a disappointment.

After that, it all went into the crapper. Female band members came and went. There was another album, but the magic was gone. I wrote this post in the past tense, as if the unit has disbanded, but perhaps the Pipettes are still around. My ears have told me it doesn't matter if they are or not. Here is that fabulous B-side and a live version from one of the Pipettes' appearances at SXSW in 2007. After hearing both takes, I think you will agree Monster Bobby must be quite a studio wizard.

The Pipettes - Guess Who Ran Away With the Milkman? (mp3)
The Pipettes - Guess Who Ran Off With the Milkman? (SXSW) (mp3)

Oh yes, meant to mention that the U.S. title on the 'Kisses' EP was "Guess Who Ran OFF With the Milkman?"

Friday, October 25, 2013

Keeping It Peel: The June Brides Edition

We lost BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel nine years ago today. Thanks to, among many other things, the more than 4,000 recorded "Peel Sessions," his contributions to music will never be forgotten. In his honor I got in touch with one of my favorite Peel Sessions' vets, Phil Wilson of the June Brides, to get a quick word on meeting the man who always had an ear to the ground and a band to tout.

Phil Wilson: As with most sessions, John Peel didn't attend the recording of ours for the show. But we did meet him prior to that: We did the classic thing of going up to Central London and hanging around outside Broadcasting House waiting for John to appear. We probably waited a couple of hours – but he did turn up eventually, and we thrust a copy of our debut single "In the Rain" into his hands. Amazingly, he actually played the song on his show that night, and made this young man's dream of being on the Peel show come true...

I was very proud of the fact that our Peel Session was released very early on by Strange Fruit: John, apparently, personally picked the sessions that he was keen on Strange Fruit releasing: to be one of the first that he chose was amazingly pleasing...

That four-track album released by Strange Fruit in 1987 was very special to me because it was the first record I ever owned by the June Brides. Being born and raised in the cow pastures of Illinois, I had few opportunities to buy those early (and quite rare) singles and EPs. I had read about the band in a UK music magazine and knew without ever actually hearing a note that I would love them. I mean, c'mon, trumpet and viola for God's sake! The point being I couldn't listen to BBC Radio 1 in Middle America, but Peel and his new label, Strange Fruit, still brought the Junies' Oct. 22, 1985 recording thousands of miles to me.

Man, I miss the thrill of the hunt. These days, all of those hard-to-find singles, EPs and even the BBC appearances can be found on the double CD 'Every Conversation: The Story of the June Brides & Phil Wilson.' Here is a little listen to get you to click "add to cart." You don't even have to get up. Thanks again to Phil Wilson. I imagine the feeling you had when Peel played your single was very close to how I felt this week when I got a reply from you. Oh, and in case you missed it, Wilson and the June Brides have been recording again.

The June Brides - Waiting For a Change (Peel Session) (mp3)

More on Keeping It Peel

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another 'Pristine Christine' I Can't Have

I have to accept this is a song I will never own as a proper 7". A legendary piece from the psychedelic branch of the C86 tree, "Pristine Christine" was the very first single on Sarah Records and one of a handful of songs the Sea Urchins ever released. I actually prefer the band's next single, "Solace" (Sarah 008), but the record snob in me would rather possess Sarah 001. I check ebay and the like from time to time, but the endeavor always ends in disappointment and disgust. For example, there is one for sale right now, and with five-plus days to go, the eighth bid has already pushed the asking price to $174.63 plus shipping from the UK. Gadzooks!

Fortunately, the song has popped up on a couple of more affordable compilations, such as 'CD86.' So, we can all enjoy it right now... even if we can't hold the valuable piece of vinyl in our hot little hands. Incidentally, you can also get "Solace" on the excellent 'Scared to Get Happy,' released by Cherry Red. So far, that's my runaway leader for box set of the year.

I'm curious. What are your most elusive records?

The Sea Urchins - Pristine Christine (mp3)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sweet and Hoffs Cover the '80s

It was a year ago I mentioned the terrific news that Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet were working on a third volume of 'Under the Covers,' and this time they would be taking on tunes from the '80s. Well, the date is set and just around the corner. Here is a quick look at the final tracklist for Nov. 12 release. Like the first two volumes, grr, there are bonus tracks on iTunes.

'Under the Covers, Vol. 3' Tracklist:
1. Sitting Still (R.E.M.)
2. Girls Talk (Dave Edmunds via Elvis Costello)
3. Big Brown Eyes (The dB's)
4. Kid (Pretenders)
5. Free Fallin' (Tom Petty)
6. Save It For Later (The English Beat)
7. They Don't Know (Kirsty MacColl)
8. The Bulrushes (The Bongos)
9. Our Lips Are Sealed (The Go-Go's)
10. How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths)
11. More Than This (Roxy Music)
12. Towers of London (XTC)
13. Killing Moon (Echo and the Bunnymen)
14. Trouble (Lindsey Buckingham)
Bonus Tracks on iTunes Deluxe Version:
Train in Vain (The Clash)
You're My Favorite Waste of Time (Marshall Crenshaw)
I Would Die 4 U (Prince)

Outside of maybe the Petty and Buckingham songs, I think it's an inspired list. OK, the pick from the Smiths is kind of obvious, but I have to admit I'm curious about how it will sound. One of my favorites here is "They Don't Know." If you're an American, you may recall the smash hit by Tracey Ullman from 1983. It's a bit poppier than MacColl's original (which, by the way, was released in the summer of '79, not in the '80s, hmm), but both takes are fantastic. Kirsty, what can I say? You are missed. Hey, wait a minute, wasn't the Edmunds' version of "Girls Talk" released in '79 as well? Oh, who cares...

Kirsty MacColl - They Don't Know (mp3) (Buy)
Tracey Ullman - They Don't Know (mp3) (Buy)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cover Me Impressed: 'Ever Fallen in Love'

First, let me thank Echorich and Luca for schooling me on all things Terry Hall in the comments section of my last post. Perhaps I shouldn't write things like 'Virgins and Philistines' is his only vital post-Specials album when I haven't actually listened to 'Home' or his record with David A. Stewart. Nothing like a good hunt, and I'll be tracking those down as soon as possible. Now, on with the countdown.

OK, the "impressed" in the headline might be a bit strong. I wrote about my love of the soundtrack to the film 'Something Wild' back in 2010, but I came across this record in my collection the other day and realized I didn't include this song in the post. Perhaps it's because I have never been sure whether I like it or not. I got the 12" back in '86 because I was a big Buzzcocks fan. Ultimately, I felt there are some songs you just don't mess with, and "Ever Fallen in Love" fell into that category.

Today was my first listen to it in many years, and I have to admit I liked it a little better. I miss the manic feel of the original, but I think the lads in FYC did their best to make it their own. And, hey, they must be fans. I'm sure Mr. Shelley didn't mind the payday either. What do you think? Did FYC do a good job covering a classic? Contrary to the cover above being chock full of 'Something Wild' imagery, this six-plus minute extended version, co-produced by Jerry Harrison and the band, didn't actually appear on the soundtrack. That was the 7", which was quite a bit shorter than even the album version.

Fine Young Cannibals - Ever Fallen in Love (Extended Version) (mp3)

Oh, and for the record, FYC's cover of "Suspicious Minds" would be in the running for Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives' all-time favorite cover. I can't tell you how many times I have been subjected to that one the past quarter century.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Double Your Pleasure With the Colour Field

X, Madness, Talk Talk, Fishbone, TMBG, Tin Machine, Talulah Gosh... here's another in a long line of bands with songs to match their monikers. After the Specials and Fun Boy Three, Terry Hall formed the Colour Field with a couple of fellas from 2-Tone vets the Swinging Cats. "The Colour Field" was the group's first single, released in 1984, and the song was a great introduction to the lush work found on their debut album, 'Virgins & Philistines,' in 1985. It's the only essential post-Specials album by Hall, and I still listen to it quite often. If you disagree with that point, feel free to let me know.

Here is the extended 12" of that first single. It's only about a minute longer than the version found on the original release of 'Virgins & Philistines,' but it's really good. These days you can get both takes on the Cherry Red reissue of the album. Here is a rip from my aging 12" vinyl.

The Colour Field - The Colour Field (Extended Version) (mp3)

Does anyone else hear a little of Echo & the Bunnymen's "The Cutter" in there somewhere?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Take Me to the Associates

Most fans would agree the band's best moment was the A-side of 'Sulk' in 1982 (OK, a few might go back even further than that), but I hope we can all agree there were still a few memorable moments even after Alan Rankine left and Billy Mackenzie continued under the Associates' moniker. Here's one from '85 I rather liked... even if the listening public didn't go for it. The non-album single completely failed to chart, and there wouldn't be another single until the "Heart of Glass" cover in '88. I really liked that one too.

The first take below is from a really cool five-song 10" that included three live songs recorded at Ronnie Scott's. Sure, it's a little scratchy, but c'mon, the vinyl is 28 years old. The differences found in the 12" are subtle and restrained for a mid-'80s extended mix, but I think you'll enjoy an extra two minutes from the late great Scotsman.

Associates - Take Me to the Girl (mp3)
Associates - Take Me to the Girl (12" Mix) (mp3)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Curtain Call: The Teardrop Explodes From '81

More horns! First, let me come clean. I do not own the priceless piece of vinyl shown above. Man, I sure wish I did. This live take of "Sleeping Gas" first appeared as the B-side to the "Tiny Children" 12" single. I have it as a bonus track from my version of 'Kilimanjaro.' There are six extra songs tacked on the end of my record, taken from the Japanese mini album 'Kirimanjalo.' The studio version of "Sleeping Gas" was the brilliant debut single from the band's days on Zoo Records. The live version was recorded Dec. 22, 1981 at Liverpool's Pyramid Club, where the place was dubbed Club Zoo. The band set up residence there during this time... playing twice a day! Yes, this is another time-machine moment for me. Julian Cope and the lads were known for "wilder" shows, and this nearly 10-minute rendition illustrates the point beautifully. You can buy the three-disc deluxe edition of 'Kilimanjaro' here.

The Teardrop Explodes - Sleeping Gas (Live) (mp3)