Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Band By Any Other Name...

A couple of weeks back Swiss Adam had a post that mentioned the 2006 release 'Zero, A Martin Hannett Story (1977-1991).' After perusing the contents of this rather interesting collection, I started pulling out everything I had with Hannett's fingerprints on it. That's when I realized I had never featured the Names on these pages.

The Belgian band had fit in quite nicely opening for the likes of Simple Minds and Magazine in 1979, but their big break came when frontman Michael Sordinia slipped a copy of their single to Rob Gretton, manager of Joy Division, at their Brussels show in January 1980. Within weeks Tony Wilson was off to Brussels to make a handshake deal to put them on Factory.

In August 1980, the band met Martin Hannett for a one-night session at Strawberry Studios in Manchester to cut the "Nightshift" single. The lads weren't present for Hannett's final mix, and they were pleased but surprised by the result, particularly with the thinner sound of B-side "I Wish I Could Speak Your Language." Factory 29 would be only a minor hit on the UK Indie Chart, peaking at No. 35 in early 1981. Although the Names would work with Hannett again on the "Calcutta" single and 'Swimming' album, on the Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule labels, respectively, this would be as commercially successful as the band would get in the UK.

Here is that single, as well as the pre-mix cassette of the B-side. Which do you prefer, the Hannett mix or the original the band thought was more representative of their sound? This pre-mix was unearthed as a bonus track on the 2000 LTM reissue of 'Swimming.'

I Wish I Could Speak Your Language
I Wish I Could Speak Your Language (original)

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Names are indirectly part of an important piece of Factory lore. The band was to open for A Certain Ratio at the Beach Club in July 1980. A pivotal moment for the band, to be sure, but they were unexpectedly delayed. In their place stepped in the No-Names, a band consisting of Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Steve Morris. Yes, this would mark the debut of New Order.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Summer of Subway: Shop Assistants

Here's the one that started it all. Subway One. The four-song 7" "Shopping Parade EP" from Shop Assistants was released in August 1985 and stuck around on the UK Indie Chart for an impressive 38 weeks, peaking at No. 2. Not at all bad for Martin Whiteheads's little Bristol-based label. Obviously, there was more than one band on Subway inspired by the pioneers and these 10 minutes of fuzz.

Shop Assistants exited Subway right after that, and 1986 would really be their year. The Edinburgh band christened the legendary Scottish label 53rd & 3rd with another No. 2 indie smash ("Somewhere in China"/"Safety Net"), opened the B-side of NME's 'C86' cassette ("It's Up to You" from the "Shopping Parade EP") and signed with the short-lived Chrysalis imprint Blue Guitar. Their self-titled LP was released on Blue Guitar that year, peaking at No. 100 on the UK's album chart. By 1987, it was over for Shop Assistants as we knew it when Alex Taylor left the band for the Motorcycle Boy, also signed to Blue Guitar. There would be a brief two single reunion a few years later (sans Taylor) on Edinburgh's Avalanche Records.

Here is the "Shopping Parade EP" in all of its glory. Two years ago I conducted a poll asking readers for their favorite Subway single. This one took the top prize.

"All Day Long"
"All That Ever Mattered"
"It's Up to You"

So far in the Summer of Subway series:
The Soup Dragons
Rodney Allen
The Rosehips
Korova Milk Bar
The Clouds

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Still can't shake the soundtracks. Like with Wes Anderson, I have this great 20-song mix of songs heard in the films of Noah Baumbach that I find myself listening to on my iPod with regularity. Bowie, Prefab Sprout, OMD, Macca, Suicide, Blondie, the Feelies, the dB's, Harry Nilsson... it's quite a collection. I wanted to share a couple of my favorite musical moments from his 2012 film 'Frances Ha.' Baumbach pays homage to filmmakers of the French New Wave throughout, and that includes the soundtrack. One of the most memorable scenes is when a gleeful Frances runs through the streets of New York to "Modern Love."

In an even better use of music, the financially strapped Frances, in trainwreck mode after learning from a stranger that her best friend is moving to Japan, makes the spontaneous and desperate decision to take a two-day trip to Paris on her credit card. The entire trip is one darkly comical event after another, including seeing 'Puss in Boots' at the cinema out of complete boredom.

"Every 1's a Winner" is interspersed perfectly throughout every scene of the doomed excursion. It's the best use of music in film I have seen this decade. If you haven't seen 'Frances Ha,' get on it. Here is Hot Chocolate from my slightly scratchy 7".

Hot Chocolate - Every 1's a Winner

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Summer of Subway: The Clouds

Another brief but memorable band from Subway's stable of stars. The Clouds were John and Bill Charnley backed by the rhythm section of Andy Brady and Gino Ionta, and they hailed from the indie-pop hotbed of Glasgow. They released a paltry four songs during their existence, but they were all keepers. Subway 12 was the "Tranquil" single, released in late 1987, and like many from this genre and era took its cues from the Byrds and other West Coast psychedelic acts from a generation earlier. The song peaked at No. 13 on the UK Independent Chart in early '88. One of the reasons it is so well known is because Norman Blake pops up on the single. Why wouldn't he? Blake was in bands all over Glasgow in those days.

This is one of those times when, in my opinion, the B-side actually eclipses the better known song. Don't believe me? Give "Get Out of My Dream" a listen below. The 12" had an extra track, "Village Green," and that one is more of your standard Subway fuzz. In other words, it's great. In a nice piece of trivia, the Clouds' only other song appeared on the very first Sha La La flexi (a split with Mighty Mighty) Matt Haynes put out before the days of Sarah Records. In recent years, the Clouds have been remembered fondly, showing up on the 'C87' and 'Scared to Get Happy' box sets, both courtesy of Cherry Red and well worth purchasing.

Get Out of My Dream

Friday, June 21, 2019

Frame Out of Focus But In Top Form

After 10 years of blogging, I'm beginning to run out of pieces in my collection of Aztec Camera that haven't been featured. This stellar 10" EP seems to have slipped through the cracks. "The Crying Scene" was the walk-up single to the 1990 album 'Stray,' and it found a place on this side of the pond, peaking at No. 3 on Billboard's Alternative Chart. The chorus was so damn catchy and the guitar solo so mesmerizing that I didn't mind the guitar during the verses sounding kind of hard rock and not very Roddy to these ears. This version was mixed by Julian Mendelsohn.

"Salvation" is a five-plus minute song from the 'Stray' sessions that didn't make the album. It is probably my favorite B-side outside of the Postcard and 'High Land Hard Rain' eras. If you are wondering about the female vocals, she was not credited and was recalled by Frame years later only as a French intern whose name escaped him. He did, however, say he thought her singing was perfect. The EP concludes with two well-known covers, and the Dylan song was performed live with just Roddy and his guitar. Many of us have grown to almost prefer him on stage this way. After repeated listens, I believe this is the same take found on the 1988 12" of "Working in a Goldmine," recorded at Colston Hall, Bristol, but it isn't credited as such on this record.

As you can see from the photo above, there was a huge poster that came with some editions of the 10", and here is what that looks like. I have never hung up this one, and before today I don't think I had unfolded it in almost 30 years.

The Crying Scene EP
The Crying Scene
True Colors
I Threw It All Away (Live)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Summer of Subway: Korova Milk Bar

If you don't like the fuzz and pop of the Flatmates, the Rosehips or the Chesterf!elds, perhaps today's selection will be your gateway to the sounds of the Subway Organization. Korova Milk Bar doesn't fit easily into the label's aesthetic. Even the sleeve for the album 'Talkings Boring' seems out of place. Why didn't the Terrible Hildas do the artwork like on most Subway releases?

Korova Milk Bar formed in Birmingham on the heels of Surf Drums, a band that released a couple of singles in the mid-'80s on Joe Foster's Kaleidoscope Sound label. You know Foster as Alan McGee's mate and a co-founder of Creation and Rev-Ola. Confession time. Surf Drums get more than a passing mention because I actually like that band more than Korova Milk Bar. They wore their affinity for the Byrds on their sleeves, and even when they didn't sounded oh-so C86. For you trivia buffs, Richard March of Pop Will Eat Itself (which we will hear later in this series) produced their work.

When Surf Drums dissolved, Ann-Marie Taylor, Colin Packwood and Paul Tibbits joined Martin Whitehead's stable of stars as Korova Milk Bar. It was as if the band had hopped into a time machine set for 1981. The jangle was gone, and the post-punk sounds of the Sound and Echo and the Bunnymen were in its place. Korova Milk Bar had two releases for Subway, long player 'Talkings Boring' (SUBORG 13) and 12" single "Do It Again" (Subway 25T), both released in 1989. In the early '90s, there would be three more singles for the mighty Chapter 22 label, home to the likes of Mighty Mighty and the aforementioned Pop Will Eat Itself. One more connection to PWEI to mention, and this one seems most important. Annie Taylor and Richard March tied the knot. Ain't love grand? Here's the opener from 'Talkings Boring.'

Something Missing

Bonus: Here is a B-side from Surf Drums, circa 1987.

All There Is

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Soundtrack Week: Valley Girl

Here's another movie from my youth with stellar songs featured, many of which never made it onto the soundtrack. Here's the short version. In 1983, to promote 'Valley Girl,' there was a tiny six-song EP put out by Roadshow Records. That's the one pictured above. You got Josie Cotton, the Plimsouls, Sparks and Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo. Actually, that's not bad. At least the bands that physically appeared in the movie, the Plimsouls and Josie Cotton, made the cut.

Later that year, Epic put out a nine-song version of the soundtrack that was pulled almost immediately due to legal problems for using Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" In 1984, Columbia offshoot Avatar Communications gave it a shot with the same songs sans Culture Club. At any rate, with about 40 songs being used in the film, these are paltry attempts to say the least.

In 1994, Rhino released a 15-song collection, followed by a 16-song second volume a year later. The label dug deep. The Plimsouls and Josie Cotton each got a trio of songs, and it was great see B-squad acts with important songs in the movie, such as the Flirts, Felony, Payola$ and Pat Travers' Black Pearl, take their rightful places on the soundtrack. The downside, and it's a biggie, was no artwork from the film was used. Calling these album covers cheesy was an understatement.

It would take 20 more years beyond the Rhino releases, but a label finally got it right... almost. I'll get to that "almost" in a sec. Japanese label Nippon (which is Japanese for Japan, silly name), went the double-album route with a 25-song collection on either black or white vinyl. They used the artwork from that original EP too. Obviously, songs were missing, but it was a pretty good roundup. The problem was the label hadn't crossed all of their Ts on the paperwork. Once again, 'Valley Girl' was quickly pulled over legal tangles with the use of some of the songs. You can't even buy a copy on Discogs. Bummer. To the max. There may be even more versions of this soundtrack not mentioned here, such as promos, etc., but you get the idea. Lots of swings and misses.

A quick word on the film. Awesome. Totally awesome. I still pull out my VHS copy to this day. When one thinks of the use of a song by the Psychedelic Furs in an '80s movie, that awful sax-laden remake of a once great song, "Pretty in Pink," is the first to spring in the minds of most. Not me. Set to the music of "Love My Way," I think this is one of the most romantic scenes ever.

So many songs to choose from today. I'll go with the two bands that show up in the film. Hollywood vs. the Valley. Sleazy club vs. prim prom. Peter Case looks so cool during "A Million Miles Away" in this clip.

Josie Cotton
Johnny, Are You Queer?
He Could Be the One
School is In

The Plimsouls
A Million Miles Away
Everywhere at Once
Oldest Story in the World

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Soundtrack Week: Mix From Wes Anderson Films

I couldn't decide which of Wes Anderson's films to feature. 'Rushmore.' It had to be 'Rushmore.' Then I thought of contrasting the whimsical early scores of Mark Mothersbaugh with the more mature work of composer Alexandre Desplat in his later films instead. Then my mind raced to featuring just the Kinks. Anderson's music supervisor, Randall Poster, has said the 'Rushmore' soundtrack was first conceptualized as all Kinks. One of Ray Davies' songs ultimately made it into the film, and three more from the pride of Muswell Hill appeared in 'The Darjeeling Limited.'

Finally, after wrestling with this for several days, I threw up my hands and obsessed over which song would be chosen from each of Anderson's films for a little mix ('The Grand Budapest Hotel' being the exception. I don't have that one.). For the record, I'll take Mothersbaugh over the critically acclaimed Desplat every time. Some film goers don't like Anderson. Self-indulgent, they say. I'm not in that camp. His incredible attention to detail always leaves me in awe... the color schemes, the costumes, the sets, the fonts, the stories. I can't wait for Anderson's next adventure, 'The French Dispatch, expected out early next year.

Love - Alone Again Or (from 'Bottle Rocket')
The Kinks - Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl (from 'Rushmore')
Nico - These Days (from 'The Royal Tenenbaums')
Scott Walker - 30 Century Man (from 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou')
Peter Sarstedt - Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) (from 'The Darjeeling Limited')
The Beach Boys - Heroes and Villains (from 'Fantastic Mr. Fox')
Françoise Hardy - Le Temps De L'Amour (from 'Moonrise Kingdom')
Kaoru Watanabe - Taiko Drumming (from 'Isle of Dogs')

Bonus: A Brief Mix of Music From Mark Mothersbaugh
Snowflake Music (from 'Bottle Rocket' and 'Rushmore')
Hardest Geometry Problem in the World (from 'Rushmore')
Mothersbaugh's Canon (from 'The Royal Tenenbaums')
Ping Island/Lightning Strike Rescue Op (from 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou')

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Summer of Subway: The Rosehips

After last week's obscurity, I felt like I owed it to you to pull out one of the real stars of the Subway Organization. Although the band's entire output on the label came down to merely two singles and appearances on two compilations, in my humble opinion, only the Flatmates best the Rosehips in sheer listening enjoyment.

The Rosehips hailed from the from the mysterious sounding Stoke-on-Trent, well, mysterious to a Yank, anyway. Could I have another band from there in the entire music room? A quick look at the map shows it's about halfway between Manchester and Birmingham, but by the sound of them, I would have guessed they were from Glasgow. The Rosehips sound an awful lot like Shop Assistants, and that's because they were enamored with the Scots and Subway alums. What a racket they make!

By my count, the Rosehips recorded 13 songs for Subway, and each one seems louder and faster than the next. Most of them clock in at well under two minutes too, but they do pack a punch. Would make for a pretty short show, though, wouldn't it? Yoland's vocals are not for everyone, but her high-pitched appeals on lost love and betrayal fighting for air over all that fuzz is music to my ears. One of my all-time favorite opening lines to a song is from the A-side of their first single... "Rented a room in your heart / but the rent was too much and the room fell apart."

"Room in Your Heart" is their hit, peaking at No. 9 on the indie chart. Follow-up "I Shouldn't Have To Say" didn't quite match it commercially or artistically (but is still quite good in its own right), and the 80-second song flamed out at No. 28. Both of those singles came out in 1987, and just like that, they were finished at Subway. There would be one more vital release, albeit with an altered roster, on a band member's own Chaotic Brilliance label. The Rosehips called it a day in 1989. In 1992, a 7" on animal cruelty was released "posthumously."

There are two Subway-era songs missing from my collection. If anybody out there has "Loophole" and "All Mine" from the "I Shouldn't Have To Say" 12", I would be much obliged if you sent them along. Otherwise, here's everything else. Happy listening.

From the "Room in Your Heart" 12" (Subway 10T)
Room in Your Heart
Middle of Next Week
Thrilled to Bits
So Naive
Just Another Girl
Dead End

From the "I Shouldn't Have to Say" 7" (Subway 16)
I Shouldn't Have to Say
Wastin' My Time
Sad as Sunday

From the 'Take the Subway to Your Suburb' compilation (SUBORG 1)
The Last Light

From the 'Surfin' in the Subway' compilation (SUBORG 4)
Something Happened
Sad as Sunday (see the "I Shouldn't Have to Say" single above.)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Soundtrack Week: Something Wild

The soundtrack of Jonathan Demme's excellent 1986 film 'Something Wild' has always felt like an opportunity lost. There are nearly 50 songs heard in the 114-minute story, but only 10 appear on the album. This is not a critical assessment of the collection, but nobody is going to suggest these are the 10 best songs or even the 10 most critical to the tale. In fact, "Temptation" is heard for less than five seconds as a convertible passes the house of Lulu's mother. It feels like Demme just liked New Order and threw them in there so they could be on the soundtrack. How would you like to have the power to do that?

At the bare minimum, the Feelies should have been on the soundtrack with "Loveless Love." That's the ominous song you hear as Ray makes his first appearance on screen. Of course, proper recordings of the Feelies (as the Willies at the high school reunion) covering "I'm a Believer" and "Fame" would take the listener back to the most memorable scenes in the movie. Demme got John Cale and Laurie Anderson to contribute to the score, but there isn't even a snippet of their work on the soundtrack. Songs by Big Audio Dynamite, X and many others would have been icing on the cake, but the absence of "Spring Rain" was the most painful. I didn't know who performed the mysterious song that grabbed my heart, and it took quite a bit of investigative work in the pre-Internet age before I discovered it was the Go-Betweens. A year later, the Aussies would be my favorite band.

Enough of the negativity. Let's get to what is on the soundtrack. Demme reunites with David Byrne for the first time since the concert film 'Stop Making Sense' for a great opener. I love how the song takes us from scenes of New York and transitions to a boom box in the neighborhood where Charles Driggs is eating lunch. For fans of Oingo Boingo and New Order, listeners get unique mixes of songs for which they are well known. Another Talking Head, Jerry Harrison, has the perfect song for the road trip back to New York as Ray tails Lulu and Charlie to Stony Brook. Other artists on the soundtrack include, Fine Young Cannibals, UB40, Steve Jones, Sister Carol and Jimmy Cliff.

David Byrne With Celia Cruz - Loco De Amor (Crazy For Love)
Oingo Boingo - Not My Slave
New Order - Temptation
Jerry Harrison - Man With a Gun

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Soundtrack Week: Brazil

I have somewhat randomly chosen seven soundtracks from the shelf for a perusal. A few of them haven't been listened to for years, but some soundtracks don't need to be played often because through the decades they become part of our DNA. Composer Michael Kamen's wonderful score for Terry Gilliam's 1985 film 'Brazil' falls into that category. There was a time in my late teens I probably would have said this dystopian tale was my favorite film. It's funny, dark, weird, brilliant and in some ways not too terribly far off from what the world has become. Well, except for the ducts.

Central Services/The Office
Sam Lowry's 1st Dream/Brazil (Vocal by Kate Bush)

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Summer of Subway: Rodney Allen

Now we come to one of the more obscure artists on the Subway roster. I had trouble even tracking down a suitable photo. Outside of a compilation, Rodney Allen was the first with a proper release for the label. The 'Happysad' LP (SUBORG 2) came out in 1987 often sounding like a less political Billy Bragg... just Allen and his guitar. The five-song "Circle Line" EP (SUBORG 18) followed in 1988. My trusty copy of 'Indy Hits: The Complete U.K. Independent Charts 1980-1989' reveals neither release made the countdown. Being rarer finds on Subway has done wonders for his solo releases on the secondary market, and both garner big bucks today. About the time of "Circle Line," Allen landed with Subway band the Chesterf!ields, replacing guitarist Brendan Holden for a few minutes, and then he took off for the Blue Aeroplanes from roughly 1988 to 1995.

That's about all I have, folks. Of the 15 artists that appeared in some way on Subway, Allen is, by far, the one I know the least about. For today's selection, I go back to his appearance on SUBORG 4, the excellent 'Surfin' in the Subway' compilation. This is the album where I cut my teeth with the label. It includes appearances by all of my favorites, including the Flatmates, the Chesterf!elds, the Rosehips, Razorcuts, Bubblegum Splash and more. A must have for any self-respecting indie-pop-fan. If you know there is more to Allen's story, feel free to fill in the blanks in the comments section. I'm far from an authority on this bloke.

Cupid's Bow

Update: By request, I'm adding Circle Line too.