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)


drew said...

I am ashamed to say that I no less than I should about Strawberry Switchblade so looking forward to this Brian.

I once had the chance to see them and the Pastels playing at an anti Trident demo in the Kelvinhall in Glasgow. June 1st 1985 but the weather was so good I spent most of my time in the park trying to get off with a frightfully posh girl from Suffolk and trying to persuade older people to get us a carryoot from the offie just up from the Kelvinhall. Ah, the stupidity of youth

Brian said...

Ooh, Pastels and Strawberry Switchblade! Sounds like Drew's hierarchy of needs may have gotten the better of you on that evening. Pretty sure we learned in school girls come before music (and just after breathing) on the pyramid at that age. Probably still do, actually, but I imagine in hindsight you would rather be able to brag about seeing the Pastels in '85.

JC said...

it's just a gorgeous piece of music.