Saturday, August 29, 2020

From Duncan's Parcel of Pop (Part 1)

By far, the most rewarding aspect of doing this blog for 11-plus years has been the relationships cultivated from a simple comment or email from a fellow blogger or reader. One such pal is Duncan, a British expat that resides in New Zealand. He dropped a comment back in June, and the conversation about all kinds of music has continued throughout the summer. Great fun during a season of isolation. Duncan sent me some records, duplicates he had from his youth. I have returned the favor by securing him a copy of 'C86 and All That.'

The treasures found inside the box turned out to be more than just wax. There were old clippings from music papers, press photos and fanzines. It has felt like Christmas morning around here. I thought it would be fun to go through the parcel together, have a listen and even get perspective from the sender himself. Today's selection is Sha La La split flexi 005, featuring the Sea Urchins and the Orchids. Take it away, Duncan...

If one single artifact epitomises for me the whole 1985 to 1987 underground explosion of music, fashion, fanzines, clubs and friendships that would later became known as "C86", it would be this. At the time of its release in the late spring of '87, it seemed like the final word; a style and an attitude pushed to its ultimate conclusion; the culmination of a period of rapid development that began (appropriately enough) with "Something Going On" and which led us through the twin peaks of "It Happens" in '85 and "I'll Still Be There" in '86.

I first heard a preview of "Summershine" tucked away at the end of a compilation tape sent to me by Pete Williams, who later included the flexi in his groundbreaking Searching For the Young Soul Rebels fanzine. It amazes me that 33 years later, I can still experience that same rush of adrenaline and euphoria when I place this flimsy piece of plastic on the turntable as I did back then as an excitable 16 year old. For this song is a pure rush from the start to the finish of its three minutes and fifty-three seconds. One of THE great expressions of what it felt like to be a teenager; of that uncontainable overflowing of hopes, dreams, energy, doubts, fears and hormones; of the nights we spent "philosophising the rest of our lives", and of daring to dream that "we just might".

In many respects this was the first Sarah release in all but name. And looking back, that was significant. The end of a particular moment in British underground music culture, and the beginning of something quite different. Both the Sea Urchins and (especially) The Orchids would each go on to make better records during the time at Sarah, but for me, this flexi remains a high point of mid-eighties independent pop music...

My apologies for not ripping these songs for you today. My laptop is on the fritz, and it appears to be serious. I will have to take it in for the repair at some point, but I can't be without it right now. As you know, Sha La La flexis came with a few different fanzines, and Duncan threw in a fanzine that featured the above flexi...

What a lineup! Every band written about in Turn! is one I dearly love, and the writer's passion (mostly a chap from Yeovil named Graeme) and devil-may-care attitude really comes through in every shambolic article. Most of the bands were interviewed too. One of my favorite questions was to Andrew from Scotland's own Remember Fun. Don't forget, this is '87. Q: "Is Rod Stewart really the Loch Ness Monster in his spare time?" A: "That's a fair theory. When Rod's swimming on his back, his nose bares an uncanny resemblance to those murky photos of Nessie. Mind you, to be fair to Nessie, I don't think she'd perform in South Africa. Don't forget, Rod's one of you sassenachs." There are pages upon pages of this stuff.

Thanks, Duncan. You have brought me one flexi closer to my dream of having all the Sha La La flexis.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Forty Years Ago This Week...

Here's another one of those dates and places I would plug into my time machine... if I had one. August 23, 1980. Just outside of Toronto. The Heatwave Festival was rife with issues. The Clash backed out. Promotion wasn't up to snuff. Thousands were ushered in for free during the evening hours while many had forked over 20 bucks. Backers lost big. I don't care about any of that. Rockpile. The B-52's. Pretenders. Talking Heads. Elvis Costello and the Attractions. All in one spot. And this is 1980. Think about it. The B-52's are playing the first album and trying out new music from 'Wild Planet.' Pretenders still have their original lineup. Costello makes his only North American appearance in '80 and on and on. Costello and Co. were given the coveted prime time spot, but can you imagine having to follow Talking Heads? Among my many Costello bootlegs I have a so-so copy of the Heatwave appearance. Here's a sampling. Close your eyes, listen and imagine...

Accidents Will Happen
High Fidelity
Lipstick Vogue
You Belong to Me
Mystery Dance

Monday, August 17, 2020

Another Trip Through the Hype Machine 2004-06

Sorry for the long interlude. It couldn't be helped. I have been catching up with my favorite blogs today and can't help but notice a theme emerging. The consensus is the new blogger platform sucks. Since this post is my first go around with the, ahem, improvements, I'll keep this brief while trying to figure this thing out. Last time, we had a good ol' time evaluating a bevy of bands the online community hyped around 15 years ago. Here is another from a long list I have in my head.

L.A. band the Little Ones had a moment in the fall of 2006 with the release of the "Sing Song" EP. Bloggers embraced them and media outlets like KEXP and NPR touted them as well. I received a promo through the job I had at the time. The press release that came along with it said they were, "a joyous amalgam of wire-thin guitars, handclaps, Motown rhythms, the exuberance of The Go! Team and the cosmic wonder of The Flaming Lips." There wasn't always time to listen to these freebies, but the producer's name caught my eye. I knew David Newton from the Mighty Lemon Drops and had read somewhere he had been making a name for himself in Cali behind the glass.

When I pulled out this EP a couple of weeks ago, I only recognized one song title from days of yore and was quite sure this disc had not been played since 2006. Listening to "Lovers Who Uncover," however, was a ray of sunshine then and remains one today. The Little Ones were compared at the time to the Shins and newbies Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. There is nothing wrong with that, but no other song on "Sing Song" has captured my heart like "Lovers Who Uncover," and those other bands have quite a few memorable songs I find myself singing in my head from time to time. I lean towards saying the Little Ones didn't live up to the hype, but how many well-known bands out there never give us a song as good as this one? I'm including a clip of a remix done by Crystal Castles that seems to be more popular than the original.

I had in mind to do a couple of more bands today, but this new blogger tool has proved to be a more than formidable opponent. Hopefully, it will go better next time.