Thursday, December 31, 2020

NYE With Big Country

Another New Year's Eve is upon us. As I always do at this time, I will spend the evening getting drunk on nostalgia and partying like it's 1983. Yes, it's time to pull out my DVD of Big Country's legendary New Year's Eve show at Barrowland.
I'll hit the play button at exactly 11:31PM, and the bells will toll at midnight right along with the show, about four minutes into "The Storm." Stuart and the lads will welcome the Dundonald & Dysart Pipe Band to the stage for the most Scottish moment you'll ever see at a rock concert. For a moment, I'll be filled with the same excitement I felt as a fresh-faced 14 year old watching the spectacle on MTV. Then I'll pop a cork, raise a toast to 2021 with Mrs. LTL and watch the rest of the songs from 'The Crossing.' We will no doubt reminisce about our own adventure to see a reformed Big Country at Barrowland in 2012. No, not quite the same as the show we will be watching from the sofa, but it's the closest we will ever get to this time-machine moment.
I imagine your plans will be a little bit different. No matter how you celebrate tonight, and I know this is a particularly tough one, just remember better times are ahead. Happy New Year! Take care. Stuart's words were never more apt: Stay alive!

The Storm
Dundonald & Dysart Pipe Band Sequence
In a Big Country/Auld Lang Syne
Interview with Stuart Adamson about NYE show

Monday, December 28, 2020

Favorite Albums of 2020

Sorry, but this is going to be a humbug moment. As you can see in the photo above, there are quite a few CDs on my pile of 2020 albums (about 50/50 this year). There are a few reasons for this, and at least one of them is unique to 2020 in that I bought so many records online and paid a small fortune in some cases to get them shipped. If I have to spend more than the price of an album itself in shipping costs, then I would rather pay $10-$15 for a CD than, say, $35 for a piece of vinyl.

This is a plea to the powers that be. I would almost accept the high prices for vinyl if I was guaranteed a nice crisp sound when I put it on the turntable. Too many times in the past couple of years I have received vinyl that sounds just terrible. Surface noise, pops, warps and inferior transfers seem so commonplace now I often don't want to take the risk and go the CD route instead. It's no fun to put on a new record and feel anxiety as the first chords come on... will it be alright? This should be my favorite moment of the day. Oh, and don't feel like colored vinyl is needed on my account. I don't care.

I'll save my gripes about dinged covers and bent corners for another time. That's often a postal service issue, and I know I will eventually get back to the shops when I can see the product before I buy it. All I'm asking for is more quality control when it comes to the vinyl, please. Now back to our regularly scheduled program. As mentioned on my list of favorite songs, lost albums seeing the light of day for the first time in 2020 are elgible.

1. Even as We Speak - 'Adelphi'
My favorite album six months ago is my favorite today. I was certain of this when I did my list of favorite songs last week and off the top of my head came up with a half-dozen candidates from this LP. Quality.

2. The Muldoons - 'Made for Each Other'
From the ashes of the Church Grims, one of my favorite Scottish jangle bands, arose, well, a more sophisticated Scottish jangle band... and they didn't forget the trumpet!

3. Dead Famous People - 'Harry'
Dons Savage has quite the pedigree. Her band was on Flying Nun and Billy Bragg's Utility Records. She sang lead on Saint Etienne's cover of "Kiss and Make Up" and background on The Chills' "Heavenly Pop Song." After raising son Harry, she returns with a stunning debut LP.

4. Close Lobsters - 'Post Neo Anti: Arte Povera in the Forest of Symbols'
My only beef is side 2 came from previously released EPs. The album takes you right back to 'Foxheads' as if the last three decades never happened.

5. Jetstream Pony - 'Jetstream Pony'
Indie heroes Beth Arzy and Shaun Charman are no strangers on these pages. This band had my No. 7 song in 2017, No. 1 song in 2018 and No. 1 song in 2019. Yes, you could say a good showing for their debut long player was inevitable. They kept their top-10 streak alive on my list of favorite songs this year too.

6. Strawberry Generation - 'Afloat'
The Providence band blossomed this year with a stellar EP and LP on Sunday Records. This is sunny indie pop best described as the edgy side of twee. Often when a boy and a girl share lead vocal duties, my allegiance tends to eventually favor the female, but I have enjoyed both Luk and Val at the microphone. Comparisons have been made to Alvvays and Say Sue Me, but the former has more synths and the latter is harder. I'll go with later Pains of Being Pure at Heart when Kip got all poppy.

7. Dropkick - 'The Scenic Route'
They're a little bit country (early Jayhawks) and a little bit rock 'n' roll (Teenage Fanclub around 'Songs From Northern Britain') and have somehow improved upon 2018 album 'Longwave...' and that's saying a lot.

8. The Apartments - 'In and Out of the Light'
I confessed on these pages I didn't know much about Peter Milton Walsh or the Apartments until a couple of years ago when I read Robert Forster's 'Grant & I.' That book lit a fire under me, and I have been making up for lost time. If you are already a fan, you no doubt understand a trip with Walsh is going to be beautiful, emotional and, by its conclusion, exhausting but highly rewarding. This is a true album best heard from beginning to end.

9. Exploding Flowers - 'Stumbling Blocks'
When the Beautiful Sound signed these guys this year, their sound was described in the press release as follows: "...[J]angle pop that touches on 70's-era Chilton/Twilley, mid-80's 'Splash Of Colour' scene and the early Creation sound, New Zealand guitar pop of The Chills & The Bats, hints of the Australian label Summershine Records, L.A.'s Paisley Underground, and 90's noise pop all perfectly mutated, and swirled into their own modern day hook-filled racket." I can't do any better than that.

10. The Luxembourg Signal - 'The Long Now'
Beth Arzy strikes again (on my lists this year with Jetstream Pony and the Treasures of Mexico 7")! The Luxembourg Signal are seasoned vets on this countdown and continue to satisfy with their lush and fuzzy dreampop. On the darkness scale, their third album is in the middle between the poppy debut and the somewhat bleak but beautiful 'Blue Field.' Perfect production makes this (along with 'Adelphi') the best sounding album on the list.

And the rest...

11. Candy Opera - 'The Patron Saint of Heartache'
12. Basic Plumbing - 'Keeping Up Appearances'
13. Lisa Mychols & SUPER 8 - 'Lisa Mychols & SUPER 8'
14. Bob - 'You Can Stop That For a Start'
15. Wolfhounds - 'Electric Music'
16. Whyte Horses - 'Hard Times'
17. The Proctors - 'Summer Lane'
18. The Beths - 'Jump Rope Gazers'
19. Supercrush - 'SODO Pop'
20. Gary Olson - 'Gary Olson'
21. Andy Bell - 'The View From Halfway Down'
22. Nah - 'Nah...'
23. The Bell Streets - 'Monument'
24. A Girl Called Eddy - 'Been Around'
25. X - 'Alphabetland'
26. The Bats - 'Foothills'
27. The Stroppies - 'Look Alive!'
28. Lunchbox - 'After School Special'
29. Smokescreens - 'A Strange Dream'
30. Ezrat - 'Carousel'
31. The Just Joans - 'The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of The Just Joans'
32. Easy - 'Radical Innocence'
33. The Proper Ornaments - 'Mission Bells'
34. Davey Woodward and the Winter Orphans - 'Love & Optimism'
35. BOAT - 'Tread Lightly'
36. Various Artists - 'Somewhere in England: A Sunday Records Tribute to They Go Boom!!'
37. Peel Dream Magazine - 'Agitprop Alterna'
38. Paul McCartney - 'III'
39. The Psychedelic Furs - 'Made of Rain'
40. (tie) Mt. Doubt - 'Doubtlands'
40. (tie) The Flatmates - 'The Flatmates'

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Have a Merry (Allo Darlin') Christmas

I know there are a few scrooges out there that don't care for holiday music. I get it. The same handful of tired songs heard over and over again gets on my nerves too. If you know where to look, however, I also think there are plenty of original tunes and takes to keep you in a festive mood. I have made it a tradition to pick up a holiday title every Christmas for as long as I can remember. Given my age, at this point, you can guess I have a pretty decent collection. This year's find nearly had me jumping up and down in the shop when I came across it a few months ago. I'm a huge fan of Allo Darlin'. In fact, along with the School, I would say they are probably my favorite band of the last decade. It was a very sad day when Allo Darlin' called it quits.

For those of you who own the Japanese version of the band's self-titled debut on Fastcut Records from 2010, finding the EP "Merry Christmas from Allo, Darlin" is no great shakes because it was included as a bonus disc. Still, it's cool to have the separate sleeve and CD from the original. This is very early Allo Darlin', 2008, to be exact. So early that the band was still using a comma between Allo and Darlin' in their name. So early, in fact, Elizabeth Morris was going by Elizabeth Darling, fresh off of her brief stint as the Darlings. She shares time on the CD with Allo Darlin' drummer Mike Collins on glockenspiel, bass and background vocals. It is described on the back cover as a lo-fi Christmas record, and it is, as the miniscule contrast between "S P A C E Christmas" recorded in the studio and at home illustrates. Like all Allo Darlin' recordings, it's still a charmer.

S P A C E Christmas
Will You Please Spend New Year's Eve With Me?
Baby, It's Cold Outside
Wannadies Christmas
S P A C E Christmas (Demo Version)

While we are back in 2008, let's check out a little bit more of Elizabeth before Allo Darlin' hit the big time. If it isn't already obvious, I have had a little crush since seeing her in the video for "Do You Want A Boyfriend?" when she was in Tender Trap more than a decade ago...

I still owe you a list of my favorite albums for 2020. I'm tardy, but it's on the way. Happy holidays, everyone, and thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Favorite Reissues of 2020

Music is what got me through this miserable year. To be more specific, in many cases, it was the music from my youth that soothed me. Hell, even much of the new music I bought sounds like it came from my youth, but we'll get to those later. For now, let's listen to the literal old stuff. First, a quick rundown of the reissues I wish I had picked up but didn't because they were either too expensive or sold out too quickly. That would include mammoth box sets by Prince, Pylon and the Divine Comedy. All three have been heralded, and I will probably regret not picking them up for years to come.
One of my resolutions this year was to avoid reissues if I already owned all or nearly all of the material already. In many instances, I failed, but I did manage to stay away from amazing releases from the Chills, Lou Reed, the Specials, Bob Mould, Razorcuts and McCarthy for that reason. I can't tell you how difficult that was. I had to tell myself over and over it was okay to stick with my old CD even though it was finally out on vinyl. As I have said before on these pages, it's a sickness, but even I realize it's ridiculous to pay $36 for 'Submarine Bells.'
I decided to cap this list at 30 (although I cheated a bit by having more than one title in a few places). In case you're curious, the last two out were the 'Elektrafied - The Elektra Years 1979-1982' box by power-pop band Shoes and "Dubs" 10" from the Specials. I was pleasntly surprised to find vinyl was still the majority on this list. I'm not sure that will be the case when I get to new releases. More on that subject next time too. I usually try to give a brief explanation of each with the list, but I'm pressed for time this year. Where I could, I have linked to pages that should help with questions and how to buy (if not already sold out). Happy listening.

1. Various Artists - 'Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983 - 1987'
2. The Bluebells - 'Sisters' (Monorail Edition)
3. Various Artists - Optic Sevens 2.0
4. The Bachelor Pad - 'All Hash and Cock' and "Meet the Lovely Jenny Brown"
5. Robert Forster - 'Danger in the Past' and 'Calling From a Country Phone'
6. Kirsty MacColl - 'Other People’s Hearts'
7. The Church Grims - 'Yankee Mags'
8. The Primitives - 'Bloom! The Full Story 1985-1992'
9. Heavenly - 'A Bout De Heavenly: The Singles'
10. Wilco - 'Summerteeth'
11. East Village - 'Hotrod Hotel'
12. The Haywains - 'The Haywains Have Left The Building!'
13. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - 'Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Rendition Was In)'
14. The Times - "Red With Purple Flashes"
15. The Monochrome Set - 'Little Noises 1990-1995'
16. BMX Bandits - 'C86'
17. Love Tractor - 'Love Tractor'
18. Hangman's Beautiful Daughters - 'Smashed Full of Wonder'
19. Joy Division - "Transmission," "Atmosphere" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
20. Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks - 'Orange Crate Art'
21. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. - 'The Land Of Pure Imagination'
22. Pretenders - 'Live! At The Paradise Theater, Boston, 1980'
23. The Pale Fountains - 'Longshot for Your Love'
24. The Lucksmiths - 'A Good Kind of Nervous'
25. The Friday Club - 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning'
26. Marshall Crenshaw - 'Miracle of Science'
27. The Distractions - 'Nobody's Perfect'
28. The Pale Saints - 'The Comforts of Madness'
29. The Revillos - 'Stratoplay'
30. The Wee Cherubs - 'The Merry Makers'

Friday, December 18, 2020

A Festive 50: Favorite Songs and EPs of 2020

The photo above is a sample of singles and EPs on this list, as well as a couple of LPs that featured a song or two I liked but won't make the cut on my countdown of favorite albums. Some years it's tough to keep the songs/EPs list at 50. Other years I scrape a bit to round it out. In 2020, it was the former, and I had to leave off some great tunes from the likes of Peter Hall, Pauline Murray, Helen Love, BOAT, A Girl Called Eddy, Helen Love, Spinning Coin, the Just Joans, Flatmates, the Bell Streets, Red Sleeping Beauty, Swansea Sound, Secret Shine ("Ember" was the odd one out at No. 51), the Psychedelic Furs, Real Estate, the Verlaines... well, you get the point.

A quick reminder on the rules: A couple of these songs debuted in various ways before this year but appeared on 2020 albums. I consider these fair game. As usual, one slot per band. Songs from lost albums that have never been given a proper release are eligible (such as from Bob and the Proctors). You will notice Lisa Mychols & SUPER 8 have two songs at No. 12. I'm cheating a little there. These are tracks one and two from an album that are fine on their own but work much better listened to back to back. What did you like this year? What did I miss? Rants and raves in the comments, please. It's a great way to discover new music. These should keep you busy while I assemble my albums and reissues lists. Hope to have those up early next week. Thank you for listening.

1. The Muldoons - "In Love Again"
2. Even As We Speak - "Forgiving"
3. The Treasures of Mexico - "Heart Shaped Clock"
4. Close Lobsters - "All Compasses Go Wild"
5. Jetstream Pony - "It's Fine"
6. The Claim - "Spring Turns to Winter"
7. Strawberry Generation - "Lying to Lauren"
8. Gary Olson - "Giovanna Please"
9. Candy Opera - "These Days Are Ours"
10. Dropkick - "Feeling Never Goes Away"
11. Basic Plumbing - "As You Disappear"
12. Lisa Mychols & SUPER 8 - "What Will Be?" and "Trip & Ellie's Music Factory"
13. Pale Lights - "You and I"
14. Nah... - "Finger on the Map"
15. X - "Alphabetland"
16. King Creosote - "Cath"
17. Whyte Horses - "Ça Plane Pour Moi"
18. Andy Bell - "Love Comes in Waves"
19. Dead Famous People - "Looking at Girls"
20. Green Gartside - "Wishing Well"
21. The Apartments - "Pocketful of Sunshine"
22. Northern Portrait - "At Attention"
23. The Luxembourg Signal - "Mourning Moon"
24. The Beths - "Jump-Rope Gazers"
25. Nick Lowe - "Lay It on Me Baby"
26. Seablite - "High-Rise Mannequins EP"
27. Pretenders - "The Buzz"
28. The Bats - "Warwick"
29. Strawberry Whiplash - "Press 4 for Love"
30. Jeanines - "Things Change EP"
31. Exploding Flowers - "Stumbling Blocks"
32. Lunchbox - "Over Way Too Soon"
33. Stuart Moxham & Louis Philippe - "Tide Away"
34. Sleuth - "Flowers"
35. The Umbrellas - "Maritime E.P."
36. The Proper Ornaments - "Purple Heart"
37. Bob - "Telepathy"
38. Wolfhounds - "Can't See the Light"
39. The Lickerish Quartet - "Fadoodle"
40. Peel Dream Magazine - "Pill"
41. Supercrush - "Get It Right"
42. Smokescreens - "Fork in the Road"
43. Royal Landscaping Society - "Frost"
44. The Proctors - "These Ember Days"
45. Ezrat - "Loud Sounds"
46. Davey Woodward and the Winter Orphans - "Occupy This Space"
47. European Sun - "Favourite Day"
48. The Stroppies - "Look Alive"
49. Elvis Costello - "No Flag"
50. The Jayhawks - "This Forgotten Town"

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Catching Up on 2019 (Part 3)

I thought I would follow the two previous posts featuring a reissue and and two albums that should have made my best-of lists in 2019 with something that would have rated highly on my favorite songs/EPs of 2019... if only I had picked it up sooner. I became aware of Toronto-based jangle-pop band Ducks Unlimited through my pal Howard at IndiePopSavedMyLife. He did not miss giving this outfit accolades on his year-end list, and I made a note to keep an eye out for "Get Bleak," a four-song EP Spanish label Bobo Integral released near the end of the year. (With bands like Dropkick, Blue Jeans and Ezrat on the roster, Bobo Integral really deserves a post of their own, but I'm getting off topic.)

Well, needless to say, I didn't get to too many shops in 2020, but I did find the 7" at my lone trip to Jigsaw Records this year. You'll hear a lot of Flying Nun and Sarah in their songs that do indeed cover the bleakness of life while sounding anything but. These are the only songs we have in the brief career of Ducks Unlimited, but they have whet my appetite for more. Here's a song about the new expensive condos consuming their hometown. This works well for those of us who live in and around Seattle too. Anyone remember the '80s new-wave band of the same name?

Gleaming Spires

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Catching Up on 2019 (Part 2)

Going to be a quick one today but wanted to tout a couple of albums I purchased in 2020 that most certainly would have been on my year-end list for 2019 if only I had picked them up sooner. Both of these bands can be summed up in one word... class.

First up is James Clarke Five. The Liverpudlian Clarke (not his real name) has had this incarnation since 2003, but he has been making music for decades. Perhaps you remember "Kardomah Cafe" when he fronted the Cherry Boys. I have to admit, this year was my first foray into his vast library, and that's because 'ParlourSounds' came out on Canadian label the Beautiful Music. I'm always willing to take a punt on any of their stable of stars, and this album turned out to be the most rewarding risk I have ever taken with the outfit. 'ParlorSounds' will take you back to the '60s, sometimes swingin', sometimes mod, sometimes baroque but always right on the mark. I can't recommend this album enough.

James Clarke Five - 'ParlourSounds'

In a coincidence, I have just seen my pal JC at the (new) Vinyl Villain is featuring this next band on this very day. That happens from time to time. If you know JC's true identity, this is not the only coincidence on this page, but I'll leave you to figure the other one out. Please visit his place to fill in the blanks about David Scott and one of Glasgow's most underrated bands, the Pearlfishers. Until this year, I always felt 2007 album 'Up With the Larks' was their best, but the gorgeous and lush 'Love & Other Hopeless Things' is the one I would direct you to now, especially if you can appreciate a little Burt Bacharach. There will be lots of banter in these parts about the best music that has come out this year, but if you missed these two albums from 2019, you need to go back and fill the holes.

The Pearlfishers - "Love & Other Hopeless Things"

Friday, December 11, 2020

Catching Up on 2019 (Part 1)

As I wait for a few records to come in from overseas before tackling my best-of lists for 2020, I'm going to spend a few posts highlighting a handful from 2019 that should have been on my countdowns last year but didn't get purchased until 2020. Here's one that would have ranked high on my reissues list.

I don't care one lick who gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I did smile when I heard the Zombies were going to be inducted in 2019. If I ran the show, they would have been a charter member, but I digress. To celebrate and capitalize on the event, label Varese Sarabande pushed out 'The Complete Studio Recordings,' a 5LP box set done on 180-gram black vinyl. When it came out, I felt the price was a little high. I was rewarded for my patience. As with all "complete studio recordings," there are songs missing, such as the covers of "Road Runner" and "Sticks and Stones," but the label did come pretty close to living up to the billing

'The Complete Studio Recordings' was made for the American market. At about the same time as this release, Demon Records took care of the UK market with a similar box called 'In the Beginnng.' Weird name for a collection that encompasses the band's entire life span, isn't it? The differences between the two boxes seem to be mostly (but not completely) aesthetic. The box for 'In the Beginning' isn't as nice to look at, but the UK box does have colored vinyl... if you're into that sort of thing. Die-hard fans that have both boxes give a slight edge to 'In the Beginning' because it has a cheaper price tag, but 'The Complete Studio Recordings' does have extensive liner notes from the great Andrew Sandoval that goes with two of the LPs, and that's what sold me on this box. Also, it's nice to have the original album covers on the previously released albums. I'm not a big fan of specially-themed covers (such as 'The Early Years') found on 'In the Beginning.'

Sandoval's notes are particularly important on the fifth LP, 'Oddities & Extras, since these are the songs that need introductions. It's a plus to have some historical context to go along with 'R.I.P.' as well since this is an album that sat on the shelf from 1960 to 2000. If you're a fan, the other three albums, particularly 'Odessey & Oracle' need no introduction. The vinyl on 'The Complete Studio Recordings' sound crisp, and the remastering has had few online complainers. The Decca years are in mono, and 'Odessey' and 'R.I.P.' are in stereo.

If you're happy with your copy of the 1997 CD box 'Zombie Heaven,' you may find both of these boxes a wasted opportunity, but for those of us who pray at the altar of vinyl, both 'The Complete Studio Recordings' and 'In the Beginning' have been welcome additions to the Zombies' canon. Here's a demo that appears on 'Oddities & Extras.' "A Love That Never Was" was recorded in late 1966 just as the band was moving to CBS and the making of 'Odessey & Oracle.' "As Sandoval says, "Although it would never be included on any of their proper albums or singles, it was a song that deserved a better fate." Back next time with a couple of missed albums from 2019.

A Love That Never Was

Sunday, December 6, 2020

From Duncan's Parcel of Pop (Part 7)

Although not all of these are on the beloved label, a little deeper dig into my special delivery from New Zealand brings me to a bunch of bands that spent at least a little time on the Subway Organization. A couple of these records have been covered here before, but they are certainly worth a repeat. Let's start with Subway's most successful alum. Duncan's feelings on the Soup Dragons mirror my own. Take it away, Duncan...

As a 15/16 year old, was there a more fun band to listen to and go see in 1986 than the Soup Dragons (well, okay, Talulah Gosh, but they came along a bit later)? The Soup Dragons were the second group I saw live: The Garage club, October 1986. They were explosive! A week later I saw the Smiths and it was a long, tedious yawn...

So what did we care if the older and wiser heads, and the cynics in the music press, responded with a world weary sneer of "duh, Buzzcocks"? Wasn't it grand to discover a band who (along with the Bodines) were almost as young as we were, and who definitely DID NOT reminisce about seeing the White Riot tour in their interviews?

I know the precise time and place I first heard the Soup Dragons: 22 April 1986 on John Peel's show, when I taped their first radio session. And then through that summer I collected tapes of their excellent "You Have Some Too" demo, their "lost e.p.", a Janice Long session and a brilliant live tape at Dingwalls club. I loved that first set of songs they had: "Too Shy To Say"! "Aha, Experience"! "Same Old Story"! "Spilt Milk"! "The Label Said Not"! "Lindy's Realised"! "Make My Day"! "Learning to Fall"! "Quite Content"! I loved the unorthodox song structures, the witty words and the sheer bravado and energy of the music.

It's difficult now not to feel cynical and dismissive of the Soup Dragons. Has there been a more egregious example of careerism and shameless bandwagon jumping? But they left us with a brace of classic singles before things started going horribly wrong, and for that we should be very grateful.

Here's the title track from the "Hang-Ten" EP, as well as one from slightly earlier Duncan mentioned really digging. We'll take a pass on "I'm Free."

"Quite Content"

This review above was also planted in the parcel, and it makes for a nice segue to our next band. The night in question is Feb. 15, 1986, at Brixton Old White Horse, and the triple bill of Shop Assistants, 1000 Violins and the Soup Dragons, the latter making their London debut. As it is penned by the legendary Adrian Thrills, the piece is well worth your time. He has a tangent about John Peel's use of the label "shambolic" while calling Shop Assistants "the best band in Scotland." Yep, this one will take you back. Click and read. I'll wait. After some online digging, I found the show poster too. Thrills says this was not the best night to see the Shoppies, but I still wish I could have been there for this trio of bands.

"I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You" was the walk-up single to the band's lone LP. "Looking Back," the non-album B-side, wasn't widely available on anything but this single until 'Shop Assistants' was reissued on CD in 1997 on Overground and Cherry Red in 2008. You won't spend a better minute and 45 seconds today. Many believe the album, released on Chrysalis' Blue Guitar label, didn't really hold up to the classic 7" releases that preceded it. If there was a drop off, it was a slight one.

I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You
Looking Back

Through my exchanges with Duncan, it has become clear Martin Whitehead is one of his heroes. Here's Duncan discussing his brushes with the prince of indie-pop.

I owe a huge personal debt of gratitude to Martin Whitehead, the Subway Organisation owner. Not only did he release some mighty fine records (including the "Shopping Parade" EP and "Sorry To Embarrass You" 12" -- two of the greatest singles ever released), he was also generous enough with his time to write me some brilliant letters and send me some much treasured tapes that introduced me to the likes of Josef K, Fire Engines, Modern Lovers and Swell Maps. I was lucky enough to see one of his Subway showcase gigs in 1987 at the Nottingham Old Vic: Razorcuts, Chesterf!elds, Flatmates, and that is a brilliant memory. But before all that, he also wrote a great fanzine called 'The Underground', which just happens to be the first fanzine I ever read. Just take a look at this 'Underground Hit List' to see what great taste Martin had.

The fourth issue of 'The Underground' came with a free flexi containing my favourite tracks by two of the Subway bands: "Home Again" by Shop Assistants, and a simply superb early version of "Nose Out of Joint" by the Chesterf!elds. This version is much slower than the one that appears on the 'Kettle' LP, and the lead guitar is beautifully distorted and overamped (think "Blueboy"). The solo that plays out the song is one of my all-time favourites. I loved these two songs so much that I even designed my own sleeve for the flexi disc!
I know Brian is the world's biggest Subway fan, so I'll leave him to talk about the other records in the pop parcel. I'll just sign off with a big thank you to Martin Whitehead -- you are a legend!

Well, if I'm such a big fan, why don't I have this flexi? Duncan's description of this version of "Nose Out of Joint" has me scouring Discogs. Gotta have it. If you are a regular reader, you may remember during my Summer of Subway series last year I mentioned how although I'm set with Subway releases from the Groove Farm I only had a smattering of music they released on the band's own Raving Pop Blast! Records. I have been trying to rectify that, particulalry during the era when the Groove Farm was on both labels simultaneously. Duncan has done his part by including the "Only The Most Ignorant Gutless Sheep-Brained Poltroon Can Deny Them Now" EP from 1987. What a racket! These are four of the loudest tracks in my collection. Don't believe me? Give this one a listen...

In the Summertime

Let's close with one from my favorite Subway band. I have already played "Shimmer" a time or two through the years. Here is the B-side of the 7" instead. Okay, you got me. I played this one in 2017. When you have been doing this for more than 11 years, you are bound to repeat yourself. I want to thank Duncan again for the records and for throwing in his two cents on the music. He is putting down the pen, but believe it or not, there are at least a few more treasures in the box worthy of a mention. I'll post them from time to time and gush about how lucky I am to have a pal in New Zealand.

On My Mind