Thursday, November 29, 2018

Polka Dots and Moonbeams

I finally caught 'Teenage Superstars,' the brilliant follow-up to 'Big Gold Dream,' and even though there was no music to go along with the in-depth interviews on Glasgow's indie scene of the '80s and '90s, I found the documentary at least as interesting as the look at labels Fast Product and Postcard Records in its predecessor. Watching Rose McDowall's input lit a fire under me, and I have spent the past couple of days ripping all of my vinyl from Strawberry Switchblade.

It would be easy to stick to the really early material to make it seem like I only liked the cool stuff that had more in common with the Velvet Underground than the drivel the pop charts were churning in the early '80s, but that wouldn't be honest. I bought into the hits too. We will, however, start with one of the more accepted songs... according to the music intelligentsia. "Trees and Flowers" was the band's first A-side and Jill Bryson's admission she suffers from agoraphobia:

Can't you see
I get so frightened
No-one else seems frightened
Only me, only me

There are some pretty impressive names associated with this single on both sides of the glass, including Bill Drummond, David Balfe, Will Sargeant and Roddy Frame, but Kate St. John and her oboe is the real standout among some other interesting instrumentation, including the French horn. Do yourself a favor and follow the "Just Music" B-side with St. John's work on the the Dream Academy's instrumental version of "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want." These two songs back to back are pure bliss. As for the 1982 demo, this was when they were a female four piece, and their sound has more of a post-punk feel. As for the extended mix, you know my weakness for 12" singles. I have read in places the band had little or nothing to do with the extended versions that appeared on the 1985 Japanese release called 'The 12" Album.' This is the best of the lot.

For you trivia lovers, "Trees and Flowers" featured at No. 47 on John Peel's 1983 Festive 50.

Trees and Flowers (1982 demo)
Trees and Flowers (1983 single)
Trees and Flowers (Just Music) (1983 B-side)
Trees and Flowers (extended mix)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Got Me By the Short Hairs

As we are wrapping up a wonderful four-day holiday weekend, I'm filled with dread at the thought of the 6:00 alarm bell tomorrow. Waking up this morning to 'My Long-Haired Life,' the 1996 album from Marti Jones,' however, was a mellow contrast to the start of this day. I saw Jones at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., on this tour, and even 22 years later I remember her putting on a good show as the opener for Marshall Crenshaw. Her husband, the legendary Don Dixon, was on guitar. I think Jones' best albums are the ones that mix her originals with inspired covers. You'll find songs by Nick Lowe, Aimee Mann and Otis Redding on 'My Long-Haired Life,' but this one from Squeeze sounded the best this morning as I was stretched out in my own bed.

Black Coffee in Bed

Jones is also quite an accomplished painter, and this is her work on the cover above. It depicts a big change in her life when she cut her own locks and became a new mother. Here's my favorite of the Dixon/Jones compositions.

It's Not What I Want

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Just What You Always Wanted

I was checking out some clips of Soft Cell's "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" 40th anniversary farewell show from September and was tickled to see Mari Wilson performing a duet of "Last Chance" with Marc Almond. I haven't followed Wilson's career with the same passion of uber fan Post-Punk Monk, but I do adore her early work, particularly during the Compact Organization era. Here's the extended mix of her smash (well, not here in America, but you folks across the Atlantic will know it), as well as one of my favorite B-sides. Please excuse the scratchiness of my 12", but this is among the first dozen or so pieces of vinyl from my collection. As for the B-side of the 1980 single "Love Man," I'm opting for a cleaner sound from the highly recommended 2016 double-disc comp of female indie pioneers titled 'Sharon Signs to Cherry Red.'

Mari Wilson - Just What I Always Wanted (12")
Mari Wilson With the Imaginations - If That's What You Want

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday's Not-So-Long Song

Here's a nod and a wink to my blogging pals and their inspiring series of long songs each Monday. I have a whole room chock full of three-minute pop songs but not nearly enough long tunes to play along... that is, unless I start pulling out my '80s 12" singles. That would certainly put a damper on what is already the most depressing day of the week. Here's one you know quite well in its seven-minute form. It won't surprise you to know this version didn't make it on Joe Strummer's '001' compilation that came out earlier this year. I opted for the relatively inexpensive two-CD set of that one, and I will probably end up regretting that choice. What can I say? My list of record wants is a mile long.

For you Strummer completists out there, it might interest you to know the U.S. version of this 12" came with a dub and instrumental version of "Love Kills" that doesn't seem to be on the UK version. Not sure how it happened, but this silly Yank somehow ended up with the UK version.

Love Kills (Extended Mix)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Dusted Off and Visible Again

I found myself in one of those YouTube rabbit holes the other night, and a wonderful and relatively recent clip of Pauline Murray performing "Dream Sequence" unplugged popped up. That immediately took me to the shelves to pull out 'Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls.'

This came out a couple of years before my time, but I understand it was a hit in the UK, reaching No. 25 on the album chart in 1980. I, however, was an ocean away, and I bought it later in the decade without ever hearing a note or even knowing the name Pauline Murray. Her previous group, the punk band Penetration, had not been on my radar either. What attracted me to it was the cover. Remember when we used to see an album in the bins and take a risk like that? I miss that mystery, but at the vinyl prices these days, I'm not going to complain too much about Soundcloud and the like. Uh-oh, here comes a tangent. Focus, Brian, focus.

There was a Factory look to the image and, sure enough, the cover was credited to two giants, photographer/designer Trevor Key and graphic designer Peter Saville. It didn't hurt to see Martin Hannet's name on there as producer and band member too. As you can see, Vini Reilly was part of the Invisible Girls as well, but I had not discovered the charms of the Durutti Column just yet.

All these years later, I enjoyed listening to the album this week more than I thought I would, but "Dream Sequence" remains a level above the rest. I don't know if I completely buy into this description from Melody Maker, but I do wish I had said it. They called it "an exciting new area of electronic pop where Motown meets the modern world." Rolls off the tongue.

Dream Sequence