Saturday, October 26, 2019

As the Servants Neared Retirement...

I hope everyone has been enjoying JC's Sunday series on the Auteurs. You will find only 'New Wave' and 'Now I'm A Cowboy' on my shelf, meaning things are about to get really interesting for me at the (new) Vinyl Villain as we move beyond that era. Being a fan of '80s indie pop, it probably won't surprise you my interest in Luke Haines has more to do with his connection to the Servants than the Auteurs, Black Box Recorder or his vast solo work. Even I realize this is ludicrous since his time with that band was so brief and, let's face it, the Servants were much more the vehicle for the brilliant David Westlake.

If you know the Servants at all, chances are your in was either hearing "Transparent" on NME's 'C86' comp or picking up the singles "She's Always Hiding" and "The Sun, A Small Star," both minor indie-chart hits in 1986, peaking at No. 25 and No. 47, respectively. Through the years, it's "The Sun, A Small Star" that has become the band's signature tune, appearing on comps and even getting a 7" reissue last year on Optic Nerve Recordings. The point I'm trying to get around to is Haines didn't appear on any of those recordings. He didn't come around until after the band's lengthy recording hiatus ended in 1989. One footnote: Westlake did release a largely ignored solo album put out on Creation in 1987.

Here is Westlake and Haines together. This 1989 single was done for Dave Barker's Glass Records in both two-track 7" and four-song 12" forms. Glass didn't have many releases, but the bands they did work with during this period were epic, the Pastels, Jazz Butcher and Apartments being among the best of the bunch. Barker would shutter Glass shortly after this one and revamp as the excellent but also short-lived Seminal Twang label in the early '90s, but here I go on another tangent. Let's listen to the "It's My Turn" single in its entirety.

It's My Turn
Faithful to 3 Lovers
Do or Be Done

In 1990, the Servants would release a single and the 'Disinterest' album for Paperhouse. As Haines wrote in the liner notes for another of the band's releases, the label was just that, disinterested, as they had all their eggs in the Teenage Fanclub basket at the time. There was another album after 'Disinterest' with quite a different sound that upon completion Westlake and Haines felt would probably get shelved. They were so right. 'Small Time' finally saw the light of day two decades later via Cherry Red. Haines called it the Servants' best album, adding that "it's a strange and wonderful thing, and we're lucky that it is now in the world." Here's one from 'Small Time.'

Everybody Has a Dream

Thursday, October 24, 2019

When a Shangri-La Emerged From the Shadows

The other day our pal Drew had a fun read on finding a Red Bird comp in the most unlikely of places... and on vinyl to boot. That, of course, got me listening to the Shangri-Las and then on to one of my favorite albums from this century. With the exception of a couple of very brief on-stage reunions, Mary Weiss had been out of the spotlight since the Shangri-Las called it quits in 1968.

In 2007, seemingly out of nowhere, Mary teamed up with Memphis garage rockers Reigning Sound for 'Dangerous Game.' The album's best songs were composed by uber fan and Reigning Sound frontman Greg Cartwright, and he turned out to be the perfect partner to bring Mary back to us. Here were the two singles... a blend of organ-heavy mid-'60s power pop, drama and modern flourishes. As for Mary, she was in great voice. A dozen years later, I'm still hoping for another comeback.

Don't Come Back
Stop and Think It Over

While we're here, how about something from the Shangri-Las? Written and produced by the legendary Shadow Morton and appearing on the iconic Red Bird label, here's a No. 18 hit from 1964 that appeared on 'Leader of the Pack.'

Give Him a Great Big Kiss

Monday, October 21, 2019

How Come You're Such A Hit With The Boys?

I professed my love for the Go-Go's on these pages last year, and I was pleasantly surprised I wasn't raked over the coals. This post is certain to test your kindness, but I pulled out these 12" singles on Saturday night and danced like a teenager. Well, at least until I got winded. Perhaps I should have gone with the 7" versions.

Belinda Carlisle got the attention, but Jane Wiedlin was my Go-Go. "Rush Hour" was her one solo smash, cracking the Top 10 in 1988. Five years earlier, "Cool Places" was the lead single from Sparks' album 'Outer Space.' During the Go-Go's heyday, Jane's involvement helped propel this one to No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100, Sparks' highest ever charting position for a single before or since. Even with Sparks here for a little legitimacy, I realize these two singles are fluff of the highest order. I just don't care. C'mon, go with it. A good time will be had.

Cool Places (Long Mix)
Rush Hour (Extended Remix)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

...And a Partridge That Was Practically Free

I have been spending all kinds of time with the new four-song EP 'Planet England' from heroes Robyn Hitchcock and Andy Partridge, and that also has me exploring the recesses of the Partridge discography. Those twists and turns brought me to "It'll End in Tears," the second of three singles from the Lilac Time's 1990 album '& Love for All.'

Partridge produced much of the lush long player with help from John Leckie. Until about a year ago I had nothing from the Lilac Time and only a 12" single from Stephen Duffy's "Tin Tin" days... well, outside of the sublime "She Loves Me" from the 'Some Kind of Wonderful' soundtrack. That all changed while thumbing through a bin of singles with no clue what I was about to find. Jackpot! Obviously, someone had come in recently with a stack of Duffy's work, and they were all $1 each. Sure, they were a little scratchy, but I took the lot with no regrets. It was one of those moments those of us with a passion for digging in a record store never forgets. Do you hear any of Partridge's flourishes in this one? I do. '& Love for All' is a gem I wish I had discovered about a quarter century earlier.

It'll End in Tears