Friday, April 27, 2018

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

This slice of new wave from 1982 will be like nails on a chalkboard to most of you, but I fell hard for "Images of Heaven" back then, and I enjoyed ripping this 12" single today. I just pulled out my Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits to see where the song peaked. No listing. The mind plays tricks, I guess, but I would have sworn this single was huge. It did see it made the dance club chart. One angle I could use to justify having Godwin on the shelves is that I'm a big fan of David Bowie. Godwin co-wrote "Criminal World" in 1977 with his band Metro, and Bowie covered it on 'Let's Dance'. That would be playing with history, however, since I bought 'Images of Heaven' before I had 'Let's Dance', and most Bowie fans probably aren't all that enamored with "Criminal World" anyway.

If, by chance, you do like Godwin, here's a quick rundown on this four-track 12". This version of "Images of Heaven" is about one-and-a-half minutes longer than the 7", but it's about a minute shorter than the extended version. You'll find the same take on the "Dance Emotions" mini album. The other tracks are not the usual B-side fare. "Torch Song for the Heroine" was Godwin's first solo single, from '81, and is produced by Midge Ure. The flip side has two versions of later single "Emotional Disguise", including an instrumental take. I decided against ripping the instrumental, but if you want to hear it, I'll put it up. Better call security with the clamoring I expect from that offer.

Images of Heaven
Torch Song for the Heroine
Emotional Disguise

One more thing. You know it's the New Romantic period when the clothing designer is listed along with the musicians on the back cover.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

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

Here's a band that's pretty tough to nail down, and I mean that as a compliment. If you followed Vic Godard & Subway Sect from the early days, you were probably into punk. If you caught up with them a little later, you may have pigeonholed them as rockabilly or even swing. The sound that really captured Godard's heart, though, was northern soul, and that happened, surprisingly, all the way back in 1978 when bassist Paul Myers loaned him a stack of 45s. He began writing songs in that vein soon after, but it was three-plus decades before many of them were properly recorded.

In the fall of 2014, the album '1979 Now!' was released on Edwyn Collins' AED label. Alan Horne and Collins had a love affair with the Sect from the very beginning and, of course, Orange Juice recorded Godard's "Holiday Hymn" in the Postcard days. So it's only fitting Collins co-produced this set. Perhaps equally fitting, Myers returned to play bass too. If you don't recognize the drums, that's ex-Pistol Paul Cook. My favorite tracks are his latest stab at "Holiday Hymn" and "Born to Be a Rebel", but this album is quality from beginning to end.

I have only mentioned my love for '1979 Now!' one other time on the blog. As often happens, it fell through the cracks on my best albums list in 2014 because I didn't get it until early 2015. Without question, it would have been in my top 10. You can still pick up this gem over at AED, and I suggest you do. If for some inexplicable reason Godard isn't your bag, at least give it up for that sharp album cover. It's one of the best in my collection.

Holiday Hymn

Monday, April 23, 2018

Reflections on RSD '18

As mentioned last time, I did indeed get up early Saturday to spin the roulette wheel that is Record Store Day. I had not lined up with the other lemmings since 2011. During the in-between years, I either waited until much later in the day to try my luck, or I didn't bother at all. I found going in in the PM worked well for me because most of my wants were records that, frankly, were not the more coveted releases.

Not to be a curmudgeon, but through the years, I grew tired of the whole thing. There was a certain cynicism that sunk in that all of the vultures running into the store when the doors opened were flippers looking to make a fast buck on the backs of real fans that would be tempted to pay big bucks on eBay when they struck out. I'm willing to bet many of you stopped going or never went in the first place for that very reason. Plus, as the saying goes, every day should be record store day, anyway. Well, this year I decided to go because there were four singles I wanted (plus the UK only release I mentioned last time) that I thought might be tough finds by the PM. For those cynics out there, I thought I would give you an update on what RSD felt like these days.

I arrived at my nearest shop about 7:30 for a 9:00 opening. When I pulled up, there were already 50 people lined up in the front, and folks were beginning to snake around the corner of the store. Most of these early risers were sitting on lawn chairs or blankets and sipping coffee from Thermoses. Grizzled veterans. They could also be described as such because I would put the median age at 55. Sure, there were a few millennials, but they were outliers. This surprised me because I assumed the vinyl renaissance was because of the tykes. After standing in line and reflecting, I decided we were a bunch of old guys because most of the RSD releases were catered to us. Most twentysomethings aren't looking for singles by Zeppelin or Jimi. Most of this crew looked like that's exactly why they were there.

By 8:30, I estimated the line to be around 300. It was overcast and cold, and I stood there shivering and wondering whether this was all worth it. I continued to people watch. Everyone seemed much happier and more excited than I was. There were many couples, which was another surprise. The first real warning sign that my cynical nature was founded came when I heard a male-female duo behind me plotting strategy. One said to the other, "I'll pick up two copies of that one, and you'll get two copies too." Friggin' flippers. By 8:55, the chairs had been put way, and the line had tightened considerably. So much so that I was now at least in front of the store instead of along the side of it. Seeing the door made me feel a whole lot better.

I've heard there are stores that only let a certain number of customers in at a time. As shoppers leave, new customers take their place. I was not at one of those shops. At 9:02, the doors were unlocked and every person in that line pushed their way into the store like a tsunami, pouring in and filling every available inch of floor space. The left side of the store had a couple of folding tables put up for the RSD albums that started with letter A-H. The middle of the store had I-P. The right side had Q-Z. The 7" records were on a tiny table in the back.

My four wants were as follows: David Bowie - "Let's Dance (Full-Length Demo)" 12", Chris Bell - "I Am the Cosmos" 7" with gatefold sleeve and liner notes by Chris Stamey, Nico - "I'm Not Sayin'" 7" with gatefold sleeve on white vinyl, and Frank Wilson - "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" 7" on purple vinyl. The Bowie 12" was No. 4 on my list of four, but I thought it might be the first to go. I pushed my arm through a mess of people crowded around the table and grabbed it as someone thumbed through the box. I made my way to the 7" section and was shocked twice over. First, none of the 300 strong were looking at them. Not one. Second, 7" singles were housed in a shoe-sized box. Clearly, this store got the shaft or the employees nabbed everything before the doors opened. I found my three wants in seconds, and there was only one copy Wilson and Nico. There were two copies of Bell. As I walked away, there were a couple of guys behind me ready to look at the singles. I was lucky enough to have had the table to myself.

There were four registers open at the counter with no wait. My purchases were put into a really nice burlap RSD album bag full of swag I could appreciate. Buttons, CD and photo promos and the like. I squeezed through the aggressive crowd with my bounty and made my way to the door. I did enjoy seeing one guy look at me with his jaw open as if it ask, "You're done?" When I got outside, I exhaled and looked at the time on my phone as tardy customers literally ran around me and pushed themselves into the door. 9:07. I was in and out in five minutes. The scene inside was savage, but it was like the seas had parted just for me. I got everything I wanted... quickly, easily and priced decently.

In the past 24 hours, I have monitored eBay and other markets. Yes, the flippers have been busy. For example, the numerous Nico singles up for sale on eBay are priced between $25 and $42 before shipping, and some of those shipping prices are ridiculous. One bastard in the UK is charging $27 for shipping the 7" to America. C'mon, man. Isn't it enough you've already nearly quadrupled the price I paid for it on Saturday before shipping? Disgusting. To sum up, everything I hated about RSD at the beginning of the decade is as evident as ever, and it has left a bad taste. I think I just got lucky this year. I will need to be tempted by several interesting releases before I would even consider doing it again. Of course, that's what I said in 2011.

Chris Bell - You and Your Sister (Country Version)
Chris Bell - You and Your Sister (Acoustic Version)

Friday, April 20, 2018

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

This is where it all began for me with the Go-Betweens. I was 16 when 'Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express' came out. I heard "Spring Rain". That was it. I ran to this otherwise terrible national-chain shop to pick it up. They didn't have it... but wait... there was a copy on cassette. As you can see above, I must have been champing at the bit because I bought it on the inferior format. Obviously, that wasn't good enough because I got it on vinyl later that year. I fell for the Aussies hard, and picked up what I could. Remember, this was 1986. Even though they were on Beggars Banquet, the band was a hard get among the cornfields of Illinois.

For example, in '87, I remember finding 'Tallulah' in the import bin of the record store in the nearest college town. For some inexplicable reason it was the German release on Rebel Rec. That more or less sums up the hodgepodge that is the Go-Betweens on my shelf. Used 12" singles, cassettes, imports from strange lands and, sadly, more CDs than vinyl. If you put all of the formats together, I can claim to have all of their long players, but I was still so tempted to get that 'G Stands For Go-Betweens' box Domino put out in 2015. It wasn't because of all the extras either. I liked the idea of all that Go-Betweens in one smart set. I suppose I liked the idea of buying something new from the Go-Betweens too. I had it in my hands, but I couldn't pull the trigger. Regret? Yes, a little, but seeing all of these records spread across the floor just now is a smile as I think about all of those trips to the shops as a lad.

For today's selections, I'm going to stick with my first love, the 'Liberty Belle' era. I have the two singles from that album on 12", and the flip sides are far from the usual B-side fare. At time of release, the best part was these were non-album tracks. These days, "The Wrong Road" is probably my favorite song on 'Liberty Belle', and this early version shows it was special from the beginning. It's nice to hear Tracey Thorn sing with Robert on "Head Full of Steam" too. I had no idea Robert and Lindy had been such good friends with Ben and Tracey back then until I read Tracey's book.

Spring Rain
The Life At Hand
Little Joe

Head Full of Steam (Remix)
Don't Let Him Come Back
The Wrong Road (Early Version)

Tomorrow is Record Store Day, and I'm actually going this year. One record I really want, however, is being sold only in the UK. If any of my friends from across the pond plan to stop into a shop tomorrow and need an American only release, I would love to make a deal. This is the 7" I'm seeking:

The Hit Parade - Happy World

Drop me a line at if you would like to work something out. I'll do my best to pick up your wants. That is all.

Friday, April 13, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Parts 6-8)

Girls! Girls! Girls! We've got a threefer today, but not quite all of them are from the ladies. Let's start with something from 2009. 'Album' from Girls came in as my No. 2 long player on this blog's first year-end list. Sometimes these countdowns can come back to embarrass us all these years later. Not in this case. I still listen to this one and the follow-up EP "Broken Dreams Club" with regularity. The next album, 'Father, Son, Holy Ghost', had a few bright spots but felt like a letdown overall, and I haven't taken to Christopher Owens' solo material either. Even if there isn't another "Lust for Life" or "Laura" on the horizon, I thank Owens for getting me back in the indie scene during this blog's infancy... and for making me think of Wreckless Eric again.

Lust for Life

I thought I could settle with having Cherry Red's 2009 CD reissue of this classic from 1981, but then I saw a pristine vinyl copy earlier this year on that jaunt to Portland. Ooh, so tempting. Did it come with the limited edition "pleasure bag" of two postcards, a sticker and a pleasure symbol stencil? It sure did, and that clinched it. I paid the big bucks and never looked back. Still love that delivery, Jo! Here's the band's final single as well as a little trivia: That's Thomas Dolby on synthesizer.

Fast Boyfriends

I don't keep a various artists section in my vinyl collection. So you'll find the 1984 Rhino compilation 'The Girls Can't Help It' in the Gs. When I picked this one up, I only knew a couple of the bands that were featured, but there turned out to be a number of gems. My favorite is "Even Try" by L.A.-based band On the Air. Think Bangles on their first E.P. Bliss. I knew the Pandoras from Kim Shattuck's time with the band, but this song is from just before she joined. It will take you back to the garage in 1966. Sophisticated Boom Boom was an all-girl group from Glasgow that reminds me just a bit of early Altered Images when Clare and the clan were still being influenced by Siouxsie and the Banshees. The girls of Sophisticated Boom Boom would go back to the drawing board, get serious and call themselves His Latest Flame. I took quite a liking to them. Kudos to Rhino for finding them early.

Sophisticated Boom Boom - The Only One
On the Air - Even Try
The Pandoras - You Lie

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Special Beats From the Ol' Stereo

Tired. That's how some of you might describe my stereo. Every component, save for Wharfedale speakers bought this decade, have been with me since the 1980s. Truth is, I love my stereo, and I wouldn't trade any part of it. We've been through a lot together. Besides, every once in a while, I hear something blast through those Wharfedales that seems to bring those old components to life and, for a moment anyway, I can't imagine a better sounding stereo in existence. In my last post, I featured General Public. That, of course, got me on an (English) Beat kick all weekend, and I would argue the 1982 album 'English Beat Service' might be the best sounding album in my entire collection. Clean, crisp, and those horns pop like no other. Yes, I actually danced.

That brings me to today's question. No, I'm not going to ask about stereo components. That's a blog of a different stripe. What I want to know is, do you have a special record that seems to sound just a bit better than all of the rest when you play it on your stereo? If a new friend came over and you wanted to show off a bit, what would you put on the platter? Mine would be 'Special Beat Service'.

Sole Salvation

Thursday, April 5, 2018

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

Some of these G selections are pretty damned good... -- George

I'm thinking here's where I might lose our old pal. Hang in there, George. There are a couple of more from letter G that just may strike your fancy.

The plan was to cover Game Theory today, but I featured a song by them on (Mitch) Easter. Moving on, you know the world is unjust when the Beat, or the English Beat, as we say here in America, never had a hit on these shores, but General Public cracked the Billboard Top 40 twice. I can't think about the English Beat and its spawn without comparing them to the Specials and what their roster was doing in the mid-'80s. I definitely veered towards what Terry Hall was doing then, but the record collection doesn't lie. I do have a whole mess of singles and both '80s albums from Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling's band too.

As you may know, in General Public's infancy, Mick Jones was a member, and I can't help but wonder how much influence he had on debut album 'All the Rage'. His name appears on the sleeve, and it is thought he played guitar on many of the songs, including the singles "Tenderness" and "Never You Done That", arguably the best moments on the LP. Regardless, the rest of the band, with member of Dexys Midnight Runners and the Specials pitching in, were very good. What's clear to these ears is follow-up album 'Hand to Mouth', with an altered lineup, was a big drop in quality.

I found out just today there was another American hit single (a cover of "I'll Take You There") in 1994 and a third album in 1995. That's when I was in Japan. Completely missed it. Anybody heard that one? Here are some 12" mixes... mostly from 1984. "General Public" is much more political than pop. The instrumental "Dishwasher" sounds a bit like Big Audio Dynamite, but that might just be a coincidence. I can't find anything that says Jones was involved. The lone inclusion from 'Hand to Mouth' is "Too Much or Nothing". Not a favorite but probably their best from that album.

General Public (Longer)
Dishwasher (Longer)
Tenderness (Special Dance Mix)
Never You Done That (Special Dance Mix)
Too Much or Nothing (Dance Radio Edit)

Monday, April 2, 2018


Ah, the Monday after a holiday weekend. After a few days of ignoring the papers, I woke up today to news stories chock full of politics as usual. I need to listen to something to break through the malaise. Here's one from the 2010 debut album by the Westfield Mining Disaster. This is where I would explain I was a big fan of the Haywains back in the day, and I rejoiced when about a decade after their demise Paul Towler started up this jangly outfit with more than just a touch of left-leaning country and soul. All of that is true, but the Westfield Mining Disaster has since disbanded and the Haywains have since reunited. There has been more rejoicing as the new stuff by the Haywains is really good. We'll get to some of that soon when I get to the next letter in my vinyl-ripping series. In the meantime, here's something to get us off our bottoms and into the streets. This album, 'Big Ideas From Small Places', came out on Cider City Records, a label co-run by Jeremy Hunt of the Haywains. Highly recommended.

Greedy Bastards, Save Your Souls!

Towler and Co. had a wry sense of humor too. I recalled an interview the Westfield Mining Disaster did with a BBC affiliate several years ago, and I just dug it up. Here's a snippet:

What is your most memorable gig so far?
Wembley. OK, so that's the Dog & Duck in Wembley, but it still counts doesn't it?

Where would you most like to play?
We hear there's a new place just up the road from the Dog & Duck in Wembley.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy (Mitch) Easter!

For the seventh consecutive Easter, we celebrate all things Mitch. Most of today's picks feature him as producer, but Mitch played on most of these songs too. Of course, Easter wouldn't be Easter without one from his old band Let's Active as well. I like to dig up something new from Easter for my record collection each year, and this time around it's Big Troubles. I bought 'Romantic Comedy' a year ago without ever hearing a note but with complete faith in a band signed by Slumberland. I was not disappointed. I hope Mr. Bunny left you a little something in your basket. If not, enjoy these sweet pieces of indie pop.

Game Theory - Waltz the Halls Always ('Real Nighttime' LP, 1985)
Let's Active - In Little Ways ('Big Plans for Everybody' LP, 1986)
Cowboy and Spin Girl - Set the World on Fire (self-titled LP, 1988)
The Someloves - Melt ('Something or Other' LP, 1989)
Big Troubles - She Smiles for Pictures ('Romantic Comedy' LP, 2011)