Friday, April 30, 2021

The Pursuit of '80s Power Pop

In 1986, the Pursuit of Happiness had a minor hit in its home country of Canada with "I'm an Adult Now.". A couple of years later, the song was re-recorded and appeared on their debut album, the Todd Rundgren-produced 'Love Junk.' "I'm an Adult Now" beacame part of the regular rotation on MTV's '120 Minutes,' and it peaked at No. 6 on the U.S. Alternative Airplay chart. I was never quite sold on the song. It felt like a novelty or an anthem wannabe, and the tune has aged badly. On the other hand, another single from the album, "She's So Young," was a beauty with a timeless melody.

She's So Young
Speaking of Rundgren, his name has popped up on a couple of my favorite blogs in the last week, here and here. Rundgren's Utopia was the first band I ever saw live. Talk about the time of my life! It was the last day of middle school. Class got out early, and I swam all afternoon with my friends without a care in the world. We listened to a tape of 'Oblivion' on a boom box and talked about girls and music. This was back among the corn fields of Illinois, and we didin't get the likes of Rundgren (or anyone else, really) in our rural part of the state. Even today, I remember the show so vividly. Rundgren wore a beret and shades, and he did the pogo while playing a tiny Casio keyboard held in one of his hands. I wore the latest craze, parachute pants. Shudder.

At the time, I had two Utopia cassettes, 'Oblivion' and 'Adventures in Utopia.' Here's one from the latter, released in 1980. In 2001, a few live performances from the band were released as full albums, including 'Oblivion Tour,' the one I saw in 1983. I'll include a taster from that one too.

Set Me Free
Crybaby (Live)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Spinning the Power-Pop Hits

You don't get a headline like that too often on these pages. Felt like putting together a little mix of classic '70s (and very early '80s) power pop today, but I ended up coming back to songs associated with Phil Seymour again and again. Let's start with his time in Dwight Twilley Band. Dwight and Phil had been friends since their school days in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1974, the band went out to Los Angeles and were signed to Shelter Records within two weeks. Shelter, incidentelly, was co-run by fellow Tulsan Leon Russell. The fellas were told to go into the Leon's Church Studio with an engineer to get acqainted with the equipment. As soon as they got in there, Phil said to Dwight, "Let's record a hit single right now." Right out of the shoot, "I'm on Fire" was the result. It peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1975, and they got to be on American Bandstand to boot. Phil is credited as the drummer, bassist and, of course, he shared those great vocals with Dwight.

I'm on Fire
Seymour remained in Dwight Twilley Band for two albums, charting modestly at No. 138 and No. 70, respectively, before going solo. You can't help but wonder whether the need to go it alone stemmed from the outfit being called Dwight Twilley Band when Seymour had so much do with the outfit. Like Dwight Twilly Band, Seymour had his greatest success with the very first single. The ballad "Precious to Me," from the self-titled debut album, made it to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1981. Through the years, power-pop fans have become more enamored with the rougher and rowdier B-side "Baby It's You." The song often pops up on compilations celebrating the genre.

Precious to Me
Baby It's You

Seymour's first album did fairly well, peaking at No. 64, but wealth and fame did not follow. The follow-up album wasn't as good, frankly, and his label folded soon after due to the death of its founder. He bounced around after that, joining the Textones on drums for a while. In '85, he got sick. Seymour returned to Tulsa and played in local bands until his death in '93 at the age of 41. I can't possibly end the post this way. It's meant to be a celebration of Seymour's work. I'll add that he and Twilley were good friends with Tom Petty, and you can hear Seymour's beautiful voice backing Petty on hits like "American Girl" and "Breakdown."

Perhaps my favorite of Seymour's contributions to the power-pop scene, outside of his first solo album, was his work with 20/20. They were another band from Tulsa. When they saw what Twilley and Seymour were doing in L.A. the fellas headed west as well. They signed to the legendary indie label Bomp! and released this 7" in 1978. Seymour provided some gorgeous harmonies. I'm not saying this is my favorite single in my collection, but it would be in the conversation.

Giving It All
Under the Freeway

Seymour continued to help 20/20 after they signed to CBS offshoot Portrait and released a classic long player in 1979. Although this one was a deep track that was also a B-side to the single "Cheri," with the passage of time, "Yellow Pills" has probably become the band's most well-known song. There is also a popular power-pop fanzine called Yellow Pills, and that has certainly helped with the song's status.

Yellow Pills

Friday, April 23, 2021

Martin Followed Masterpiece With Masterpiece

Whether with Cleaners From Venus, Stray Trolleys, the Brotherhood of Lizards or as a solo artist, Martin Newell has never let me down. A trademark of his recordings are their lo-fi sound, which is part of the charm, but they always have a great melody and a brilliant turn of phrase. I don't know about you, but I have found those qualities will trump production values just about every time. In the early to mid-'90s, Newell took a different approach to a couple of solo albums where the influence of his producers are felt and the pop is, dare I say it, downright accessible. The first, 'The Greatest Living Englishman,' is considered by many to be his masterpiece. Newell's pal, producer Andy Partridge, is all over 'Englishman,' and if you like Lennon/McCartney circa '66, this is where you would want to start with his work. I grabbed the reissue in 2018 and hoped the lesser-known followup would get the same treatment.

Since 'The Greatest Living Englishman' has been called his 'Sgt. Pepper,' Newell had a little fun by calling his next LP 'The Off White Album.' (The back cover with a browning apple was a nice touch too.) Partridge may have hung around a bit, but the producing duties went to musician, journalist, writer and all-around Renaissance man Louis Philippe. I could go on an on about the Frenchman -- he has been a firm favorite of mine since his days as the heart and soul of the él label -- but all you really need to know on this page is he is a disciple of Brian Wilson, a genius with writing and arranging strings and quite an aficionado on the organ. You'll get plenty of those elements on 'The Off White Album,' along with some guitar (and quite an impression of Cream-era Clapton) from Dave Gregory of XTC. Philippe and Gregory must have gotten on like gangbusters because they would go on to work together quite a bit, but I digress, again. All of this gives 'The Off White Album' a radically different sound and feel than 'The Greatest Living Englishman,' but the high standard set by its predecessor is right there. Here's my favorite song from Newell's most sophisticated album...

Captured Tracks, the label that not only reissued 'The Greatest Living Englishman' but most of Newell's discography, has come to the rescue again with 'The Off White Album.' This one came out a few weeks ago, and it has rarely left my turntable since then. The white vinyl (What else could it be?) sounds great, particularly Newell's vocals and that string quartet. My only criticism, and it's very slight, is Newell's liner notes aren't nearly as entertaining as the novella-like description accompanying its earlier incarnation. Don't let that put you off. You're going to want to grab this one. Here's a clip making the rounds from the upcoming documentary 'The Jangling Man: The Martin Newell Story' expected out later this year. It's sure to whet your appetite.

In '95, here's how Newell concluded his thoughts on how 'The Off White Album' would be received. Let's give him the last word.

Not a bad collection of songs, all in all. I suppose some people will like them and some won't but it's only pop music so I hardly think they're going to change the world. And all the rock mags in the U.K. will ignore it or damn me with faint praise. And people in my village will say, "That sounds nearly like a real record Martin." Or if they're more sophisticated they'll say, "Is it generally available?" Then I'll sigh and say, "No, but I'll be selling it off a barrow in the high street." Then boring bastards will come up to me in the pub and tell me what's wrong with it. Then obsessive females will write me strange letters telling me that we were made for each other. And if it doesn't set the world alight, all my rivals will smile smugly and despise me. But if it is a huge success, they'll all say it was luck and hate me even more. And all this time I'll just be writing and doing a spot of gardening and occasionally writing a letter to the local paper about seeing the first goat of autumn. And I suppose eventually I'll do another record...

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Three-Minute Eggs

I'm going to stick with the label samplers a while longer. Today's selection is not one where I go back to its initial release. I did not know about Egg Records, straight out of Glasgow, when label founder Jim Kavanagh began releasing records in 1988. Eight releases later, in 1991, it was all over, and I had missed the festivities completely.

Around the turn of the century, I began reading about this mysterious indie-pop label and wished I could get my hands on some product. My wish was granted a short time later when Kavanagh began putting out the once vinyl only relics on CDs. From 2003 to 2007, he released a bevy of band compilations and label samplers, and that's when I picked up 'Souvenirs From Egg Records,' a whopping 27-track gift from the heavens featuring 15 bands, mostly from Scotland, but a couple from Australia and Canada too. Among the treats Kavanagh assembled during this period were collected singles from the early years of Even As We Speak, a new album co-release from the Bats, a re-release of Baby Lemonade's legendary 1987 songs on Sha La La and Narodnik and many more.

It was well and good to have these reissues, but I continued to keep an eye out for opportunities to buy those original Egg releases on vinyl. I came across Egg 002 recently when a friend of mine put it up for sale. 'A Lighthouse in the Desert' is a four-song sampler featuring some of my favorite Egg bands. "Mr. Watt Said" has appeared on these pages before (in the summer of 2017), but I don't think you will mind hearing it again one bit... especially if you like the June Brides. This is my absolute favorite song on Egg, just beating out "Meet the Lovely Jenny Brown" by the Bachelor Pad. Three of the four acts have had a recent resurgence of interest thanks to compilations by Emotional Response Records (The Bachelor Pad) and Firestation Records (The Church Grims and Remember Fun). These are highly recommended purchases. Even the Prayers have popped up on Cherry Red compilations ('C88' and 'C89').

Clearly, Kavanagh's place in indie-pop history is secure, but my hope is someday his headquarters at 17 Prince Edward Street is thought of in the same way as 185 West Princes Street is when it comes to another legendary Glasgow-based label.

'A Lighthouse in the Desert' (Egg 002, 1989)

Side A
The Prayers - Puppet Clouds
The Church Grims - Mr. Watt Said

Side B
The Bachelor Pad - Silly Girl
Remember Fun - Cold Inside

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy (Mitch) Easter!

I have two annual traditions here at LTL. One is Big Country's 1983 New Year's Eve concert highlighted each Dec. 31st. The other is songs written, produced, recorded or performed by the great Mitch Easter you'll find on these pages every Easter. As this blog nears its 12th birthday, I would say I have picked the carcass of that Big Country show clean. When it comes, to the work of Mr. Easter, however, I never seem to want for material. After all, one look at Discogs shows his production credits alone at 248. Enjoy another basket of goodies featuring the work of our hero.

Let's go way way back to 1976 when Easter was in Sneakers with the likes of Chris Stamey and Will Rigby. These are from the self-titled six-song 7" EP played at 33 1/3. No, the material doesn't quite live up to what Stamey and Rigby would do in the dB's or what Easter would come up with in Let's Active, but there is a spark that will make you realize they were all heading in the right direction.

Love's Like a Cuban Crisis

Talking of Let's Active, we can't let the holiday go by without something from Mitch, Faye and Sara. This one is from the 1984 album 'Cypress' and features Faye on lead vocals. Rest in peace, Ms. Hunter. Interesting to note Don Dixon was co-producer with the band on 'Cypress' and the engineer on the release by Sneakers above. Like Easter's, his name seems to show up all over the place in my record collection.

Blue Line

Now for something from that long list of production credits. Easter worked extensively with Cali power-pop band Game Theory. The 1985 album 'Real Nighttime' was the band's second and the first with Easter behind the glass. I would rank it right up there with 'Lolita Nation' as their best. Scott Miller, the genius behind the band, worked with Easter almost exclusvely as his producer for the next decade as he moved from Game Theory in the '80s to the Loud Family in the '90s. Until next Easter, here's one from 'Real Nighttime.'


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Edge of the Road

Another day, another pivotal label sampler from my youth. Once or twice a year I dig around online with the hope I'll discover someone has stepped up to the plate and released a compilation featuring all the work by the Raw Herbs. I strike out every time. I have had this discussion with Mister Prime, reader and occasional Nottingham correspondent, and we can picture the release so vividly. It's perfection, really. One beautiful piece of wax featuring all four singles and two songs from the sampler featuring today...

Side A
1. Old Joe
2. That's How It Is
3. She's a Nurse But She's Alright
4. So Wired
5. Don't Bury Me Yet
6. I'm Falling

Side B
7. In My Bones
8. The Storm
9. At My Funeral
10. The Second Time
11. He's Blown In
12. You and Me Again

If you want to get fancy, put it out on CD as well and include the rumored album that was completed and shelved. Then have an interview with Andy Wake, founder of Medium Cool Records, in the booklet filled with photos and reminiscences from the band. All of this is a pipe dream. First, I think Cherry Red owns the Medium Cool catalog. There was a double-disc retrospecive of the label planned, but that was about 15 years ago. Other than occasional songs popping up on Cherry Red comps (such as 'C88,' for one example), nothing. Then there is this sad piece of news. I somehow missed that Wake passed away. Must have been at least a year ago, maybe longer. I didn't know him, but his label has always meant a lot to me. Medium Cool had very early releases from the Siddeleys and the Popguns, for cryin' out loud!

After reading about Wake, it seemed appropriate to put on 'Edge of the Road.' Four bands, eight songs. All great. Here's a taste. Rest in peace, Mr. Wake. Now, c'mon, Cherry Red. If you really do own these gems, don't sit on them. There is an audience for this stuff. I promise.

The Raw Herbs - At My Funeral
The Waltones - Bold
The Corn Dollies - Mouthful Of Brains
The Rain - Dry The Rain

Friday, March 19, 2021

Red Sleeping Beauty Returns With a Buddy

Talk about two great tastes that go great together. Stockholm-based band Red Sleeping Beauty has teamed up with Mary Wyer from Sydney outfit Even As We Speak to produce one of the all-time great guest appearances in indie-pop history. Wyer's voice belongs in the same conversation as Wendy Pickles', Beth Arzy's and Amelia Fletcher's as the genre's most beautiful, and she sounds perfect here backed by the trio's vintage drum machines and synthesizers.

"Second Time" is the first single from Red Sleeping Beauty's fifth album, expected later this year, and you can pick up the song at Matinée Recordings and streaming outlets everywhere. While we wait patiently for this one to fill the floor of your favorite club, and it surely will someday, I have it on good authority the kitchen makes a fine spot to shuffle your feet. Click below. Give it a go. It's the best you'll feel all day. "And let's try it all a second time, let's fall in love for real this time..."

Thursday, March 4, 2021

In Love With These Times

Well, no, not these times. Let's go back to 1989. Lately, we have had a lot of chatter on these pages and in the comments about Flying Nun, and that has had me thinking about one of my favorite label samplers from my youth. The legendary 'Dunedin Double' was before my time, but another one of Flying Nun's comps came out at exactly the right time to reel in this impressionable very late teen. If a label sampler is worth its salt, when the dust settles you have picked up at least a few new albums and started following a couple of bands you stick with for the rest of your days. 'In Love With These Times' was that type of album for me. It wouldn't be long before I went back to get the 'Dunedin Double' either, but that's a tale for another day.

Three of the four bands on the 'Dunedin Double' were still going strong seven years after that release and appeared on 'In Love With These Times.' That would be the Chills, Sneaky Feelings and the Verlaines. (Who could have guessed all three of those bands would have new albums two decades into the 21st century?!?) The original version of 'In Love With These Times' featured 13 bands on vinyl and a whopping 19 bands on CD. I have the vinyl, which is cool, but in hindsight, CD would have been better because Dead Famous People would have been on my shelf much earlier. 'In Love With These Times' has been reissued a couple of times, including once as a 13-track CD edition that accompanied Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd's 2016 autobiography of the same name. I haven't read this book, but I couldn't resist ordering it earlier this evening.

Here are a few from 'In Love With These Times.' This song from the Chills appeared on the 1987 album 'Brave Words.' I know there is at least one reader who really like this album. He even uses a song title from the album for his online moniker. Look Blue Go Purple sure knows how to get their jangle on. If you don't have the band's comp 'Still Bewitched,' pick this one up right away. This song from Sneaky Feelings is two minutes of off-kilter pop that sounds so very Flying Nun to the ears of this Yank. Apologies for not picking something from the Bats, Snapper and all of the other bands on this sampler. They are all certainly worthy.

The Chills - Rain
Look Blue Go Purple - Cactus Cat
Sneaky Feelings - Trouble With Kay

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Reissues and Represses on the Radar

I don't know about you, but being an old guy, I try to recapture moments from my youth by buying records from that simpler time. That's why my annual list of best reissues is always at least as long as the one featuring new releases. If you're an indie-pop fan of a certain age, perhaps there is something below here for you. Some of these are just coming out, and others are just around the corner. Let's start with a quick rundown of the represses.
Hands down my favorite release from last year was 'Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983​-​1987,' and the vinyl edition sold out very quickly. Captured Tracks has come to the rescue with a black-vinyl repress that should arrive in March. If you missed it the first time around, preorder now.

Spinout Nuggets sold out of the "If Not Now, When?" b/w "Yellow Pills" singles by Jetstream Pony last year, but the the label is now offering the 7" in a new shade of green. That one should be available as of yesterday.

At the end of 2019, Dolly Mixture got the reissue treatment twice with 'Demonstration Tapes' and 'Other Music.' Both, of course, disappeared immediately. 'Demonstration Tapes' has popped up again in the same double-vinyl format and with the same "new" cover. You can find it in a few places, including Monorail in Glasgow. Absolutely essential material covering 1979-1983.

On to the reissues. The Clean are one of my favorite bands from Flying Nun, and Merge Records has done an outstanding job releasing their music (both new and old) to Americans for nearly two decades. (I don't mean to slight Captured Tracks. Their reissue of 'Vehicle' in 2013 was perfection.) Merge is at it again with vinyl versions of the 1996 album 'Unknown Country' and 2009 album 'Mister Pop.' One listen to "In The Dreamlife U Need A Rubber Soul" from 'Mister Pop' will have you realizing if this indeed turns out to be their last long player, they did not go out with a whimper. These two LPs hit the shelves March 26, and there are some good bundle deals directly from the label.

Firestation Records continues to mine pop gems from indie's golden age. I was so pleased last year when the Church Grims, one of my favorite bands from Glasgow's Egg Records, got a good going over by the German label. Lightning is about to strike twice in one place because there will be a retrospective from another Egg band I adore, the jangly Remember Fun. 'Contentment' comes our way April 16 as a vinyl 14-track edition or 18 tracks on CD. I had no idea there were that many songs from Remember Fun in existence. Everything I do have will be there, including the songs on the "Train Journeys" EP Matinée Recordings put out in 2001, the song the band did in 1987 on the Sha La La split flexi they shared with Emily, as well as the song that appeared on the Egg sampler "A Lighthouse in the Desert" in 1989. I'm looking forward to the two live songs the most because I have never heard Remember Fun on stage before. I'm also betting the demo for "Cold Inside" is going to be something special. Preorders are being accepted now.

If you love your copy of the Loft's compilation 'Magpie Eyes 1982-1985' but always wished for more, get happy because Cherry Red has blown it out to two discs and 30 tracks with 'Ghost Trains & Country Lanes – Studio, Stage And Sessions 1984-2005.' Don't worry, the Creation recordings are there. Other highlights include 10 songs recorded at the Living Room on June 8, 1984, a Janice Long session from later that same year (she did love them so!), unreleased songs from 2005 (yes, 2005!) and a Gideon Coe session with the reunited band in 2015. At a great price like this, there is no reason to wait. You know you're getting this one. Preorder here.

Last Night From Glasgow is on quite a roll, and that includes their reissue arm Past Night From Glasgow. After they release 'Star Wars' from BMX Bandits (covered on these pages earlier in the month) comes 'I've Seen Everything' from Trashcan Sinatras. The 1993 album, originally released by the excellent Go! Discs, will come out on a variety of colored vinyl, but the shades are going quickly. Even though this one doesn't come out until September, you should jump all over this one. LNFG says this album is selling faster than any one in their history. For you die hards, there is also a book available. 'The Perfect Reminder' is chock full of interviews and photos from the band, fans and others.

Even though I already have it on vinyl and on CD with bonus tracks, this one will be tough to resist. The always reliable Optic Nerve Recordings have announced the reissue of 'Pleasure' by Girls at Our Best! The double album (yellow/magenta colored vinyl disc 1 and turquoise/magenta disc 2) includes the original tracks plus singles and B-sides housed in a gatefold sleeve. The inner sleeves have lyrics, photos and an interview by The Mouth Magazine. You may recall back in 1981 the first 10,000 copies included a "pleasure bag" containing two postcards, sticker and stencil. Optic Nerve ups the ante with four postcards, two stickers, stencil, reproduction tour poster, reproduction promo posters for the “Go For Gold” and “Politics"/"It's Fashion” singles, press photo and press flyer. That's just the physical stuff. Don't forget Judy Evans. When it comes to fronting a band, she's right up there with Debbie Haynes in my book. I know I'm going to break down and get this one. Might as well just hit the preorder button right now.

I have a few more suggestions, but I'm running out of gas. I'll try to pick it up again next week. In the meantime, save your shekels.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A Story Untold for Years: One Year in the Life of the Jasmine Minks

As excitement builds around two impending releases, our pal from New Zealand returns to give us a lesson on one of his favorite bands from the golden age of indie pop. The floor is yours, Duncan...

Following Brian's recent post on Precious Recordings of London, I was inspired to write something about two further forthcoming releases on the label. These are EPs of two radio sessions from either end of 1986 by a group that is very close to my heart: the Jasmine Minks.

Firstly, a bit of history. Of the batch of new groups emerging in and around Alan McGee's Living Room club in 1983/4, there were three that really stood out: the Loft, the June Brides and the Jasmine Minks. Over the next couple of years they released between them some truly exceptional singles: "Up the Hill And Down The Slope", "Every Conversation", "Where The Traffic Goes". But by the beginning of 1986, the Loft had disintegrated, and the other two groups faced what would prove to be a pivotal year. And while the June Brides didn't survive, the Minks came out of it stronger than ever.

After the rush and the roar of their first two singles and LP, the Minks had gone to ground in early 1985 to regroup and reassess. They emerged with a whole new set of songs, and a tougher and more focused attitude and direction. I have a couple of live tapes from the spring of 1985, and the level of anger, energy and intensity on display is almost scary. This was a band clearly on a mission.

Around this time, they decided to release a statement 7" EP: four brand new songs recorded quickly and unleashed on the world in the style of "Spiral Scratch". This would be a document of the time, and provide a stepping-off point for the next stage in their development. It would also be a self-referential and deliberately perverse two fingers up and goodbye to the scene they had helped kick-start:

"Do you remember how we used to take the piss out of every shitty sound that sounds just like this?"

Sadly, Alan McGee was to step in and fuck it all up (not for the first or last time in the Minks' career), and what emerged was a watered down facsimile of the original vision, released months too late. I still hope that someday one of the more discerning labels like Optic Nerve will release this 7" EP as it was always intended: "Forces Network", "What's Happening", "Black and Blue", "World's No Place".

Meanwhile the Minks had moved on, refining and developing their new set of songs, a process that was supercharged by the arrival of school friend and self taught trumpet player, Derek Christie. So, as McGee released old Minks material under the guise of the new (the excellent "Cold Heart" had been recorded two years earlier for their debut LP), the new five-piece incarnation of the band recorded a session for John Peel show in February 1986 which is featured on the first of the upcoming Precious EPs.

Their new sound came as a shock. The songs were soulful, introspective and sophisticated. The trumpet and the ensemble playing provided a new depth and subtlety. These aren't songs that grab you by the throat like "Think!" or "What's Happening" -- they take time to reveal their manifold delights. The four tracks on the EP include two real gems; Adam's :Ballad of Johnny Eye" and Jim's "Cry For A Man". These are songs that exude a great deal of sadness and melancholy, but which are offset by genuine passion and fire. You really need to hear them!

"The rain falls down the windowpane, trickling like tears
Her secret eyes, a silent sob, a story untold for years."

Later in the year, the new LP came out. Once again, McGee had interfered, and what should have been a classic release was compromised and reduced. The intended title track, Jim's gloriously soulful "We All Have to Grow Up Sometime" was shamefully omitted. Other crucial tracks ("Got Me Wrong" and an exhilarating trumpet-driven new version of "Forces Network") were consigned to the "Cold Heart" 12" and replaced with songs recorded years earlier. But despite this, the LP still contains tracks of great beauty and power: "Choice", "Painting/Arguing", "Like You", "Ballad of Johnny Eye" and "Cry For A Man" are all simply stunning and should be part of any self-respecting record collection.

The other release of the time to compare was the June Brides' similarly excellent "This Town" EP. Both shared a newfound level of confidence and song writing depth. Sadly, they also shared a fate of poor sales and a criminal lack of interest and support from the music press. So while newer, lesser bands found fame via the 'C86' cassette, The June Brides and the Jasmine Minks were sidelined. It must have been heartbreaking to see your greatest work being ignored like this. Unsurprisingly, the June Brides called it a day, and the Minks fell apart, with both Adam and Derek leaving the group. It was hard to imagine the band continuing without singer, songwriter and founder Adam Sanderson.

It took another old-school friend to travel down to Somer's Town to once again reignite and refocus the Minks; this time in the shape of guitarist Walter Duncan. Suitably fired-up, Jim Shepherd quickly penned a whole new revolutionary set of songs. The second of the Precious EPs is a Janice Long session from November '86, showcasing three of these new songs for the first time, along with a spirited run through of the perennial Minks' standard "Where The Traffic Goes". The session includes an early version of perhaps the Minks' most famous and most loved song, "Cut Me Deep". If any single song sums up the spirit and attitude of the band, it is this one. Written by Jim in response to Adam leaving the group, it is a loving and generous tribute, all wrapped up in the most gorgeous of tunes:

"You made me see so clear
I learned so much from you immediately
A radiance flowed from you affecting me
The knife you cut so deep in me will stay 'til the day I die."

The following year saw the Jasmine Minks finally release the great LP they'd always promised ('Another Age'). Later that same year I saw them play an incendiary set in support of Primal Scream in Nottingham; one of my greatest memories.

And so you see, some stories do have a happy ending.

These two Precious releases are beautifully packaged and lovingly put together. You really need to order them! Many thanks to Nick G of Precious Recordings of London for making these two radio sessions available after all these years.

February 2021

Monday, February 22, 2021

New Music From the Catenary Wires

If there is anything positive that can be taken from lockdown, it's that Rob Pursey and Amelia Fletcher, indie-pop's answer to Nancy & Lee, haven't rested on their laurels... and they certainly could have, couldn't they? After all, the duo has kept our heads bobbing since Talulah Gosh nearly 35 years ago.

In the last year, Rob and Amelia have had stints in new bands European Sun and Swansea Sound. If that hasn't been enough to keep us sated in these troubling times, don't forget that tremendous singles collection from their years in Heavenly. Oh, and there have been online DJ sets, an appearance at the Wedding Present's At the Edge of the Sofa virtual festival and on and on. Thank you, Rob and Amelia, for making the last year tolerable. Whippersnappers of the indie world should be taking notes on these two.

Now comes the best news of all with the triumphant return of the Catenary Wires. The duo has made an abrupt turn since the melancholic bedsit tunes of mini-album 'Red Red Skies' in 2015. Since 'Til the Morning' in 2019 there is a full band that now includes Fay Hallam on keyboard, Ian Button on drums and Andy Lewis on bass. Upcoming album 'Birling Gap' should hit the shelves in May.

Today, it is my distinct pleasure to join several other like-minded indie-pop fans in posting a listen to the first single from 'Birling Gap.' "Mirrorball" will be released as a 7" (and digitally) on Shelflife in America and on the band's own new label Skep Wax in the UK and elsewhere. The sound will take you back to the golden age of indie, and the gorgeous back-and-forth vocals of Rob and Amelia are sure to make you smile. Mark your calendars. The single comes out April 16th. In the meantime, let's go to the '80s disco for a listen to that A-side. Can love really be found under the mirrorball?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

More Trips Around the Track With BMX Bandits

Here are a couple of releases from BMX Bandits that are necessary only to the fan who has to have everything. "Islands in the Stream" (yes, it's a cover) came out in 1994 as half of a yellow 7" split flexi with short-lived BMX Bandits tribute band the Duglasettes on the flip. This was right smack in the middle of the band's Creation years. It came out on Bring on the Bull Records and was included with issue No. 4 of the WAAAAAAAAAH! fanzine. This proved to be the last issue from Richard Coulthard and Colin Babb, and they went out on a high note with interviews from the like of the Haywains, Blueboy, Brighter, Northern Picture Library and the Rileys. These are all bands you should find on your shelf.
Back to the song. Duglas goes Vegas camp on this one, complete with screaming girls and corny on-stage banter. It's a big smile, especially when he introduces Norman Blake on guitar. Like the original, this is a vocal duo, and the girl part is taken on by Catherine. That's all the sleeve says, Catherine, and I have always assumed it's Catherine Steven from the Groovy Little Numbers. She would have been part of gang, and it sounds like her too. Still, just an educated guess. This one is far from vital, but I love it anyway. Upon hearing it, Kenny must have rubbed his beard and said something like, "huh?" Dolly probably paused, giggled, and said something along the lines of "ain't that sweet." She's a very nice person.

Islands in the Stream

Here's another bonkers early '90s release. "Gordon Keen and His BMX Bandits" is a five-song EP that came out as a red-vinyl 12" and on CD via little known Sunflower Records. Most of the usual suspects join Duglas, including Joe McAlinden, Francis Macdonald, Eugene Kelly and Norman Blake. Opener "Your Class" is well known from 'C86.'

"Girl at the Bus-Stop" is from the mind of Dan Treacy and goes back to 1987. He sent a rough demo of the song to the band, and it became part of their show from way back. You can catch a live rendition on their 1989 album 'Totally Groovy Live Experience!' That Treacy demo didn't pop up officially until 2005 on 'And They All Lived Happily Ever After,' an odds-and-sods collection from Television Personalities. Incidentally, Treacy and BMX Bandits shared a split 7" in 1991 where they performed a song from each other's discography for a singles club. Treacy chose the aforementioned "Your Class."

If you're a fan of the Flying Burrito Brothers and liked how BMX Bandits called themselves BMX Bandidtos on 'C86,' then the title of this next one will be a big smile. Just don't expect it to sound like something from 'The Gilded Palace of Sin.'

Girl at the Bus-Stop
Hot Bandidto No. 1

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Take Rides Back in Time With BMX Bandits

Since the recent airing of 'Teenage Superstars' (the 2017 documentary chronicling the indie scene in 1980s Glasgow) on Sky Arts, our little corner of the Internet has been awash with posts on the Pastels, Shop Assistants and many more. Feels like heaven. Wait, Fiction Factory is Perth and the wrong, well, everything. My apologies. Anyway, keep up the good work, bloggers. It has been a pleasure.

I hope all of this attention has Duglas T. Stewart feeling less like a cult curiosity and more like a bona-fide hero. He deserves it. With all of the recent reissues and still more just around the bend, it certainly seems like, especially, the earliest work of BMX Bandits is getting a good reassessment. I picked up a nice copy of 'C86' back in the fall (No. 16 on my list of best reissues), and we have these to look forward to in the near future...

As mentioned in an earlier post, Precious Recordings of London is a new label focusing its talents on releasing BBC sessions from indie-pop's golden age, and these two beauties will drop on or about March 1. The format for each is double 7" with gatefold sleeve and includes sleeve notes from Duglas himself. A few postcards will be thrown in as well. As you can see from the dates on the covers, both BBC appearances are very early. We didn't really know it then, but BMX Bandits was an all-star band in the making.

I should warn you these records do not come cheap, particularly if you have to have them shipped halfway around the world. When the dust settled, my pre-order came out to a whopping $50. Still, if the download of "Strawberry Sunday" I received immediately is any indication, I'm in for a real treat. I love that song. You may remember the live version that was on the 12" of "Sad"/"E102" back in '86. If not, perhaps the studio version found on 'C86/Plus' or the 'Big Gold Dreams' box rings a bell. Well, this version from the Janice Long session is a different kettle of fish. Give it a listen above.

Here's another one for you to consider. On May 4, Last Night From Glasgow's reissue arm Past Night From Glasgow will bring you a 30th anniversary repress of BMX Bandit's second album 'Star Wars.' I preordered this one way back in early December as a companion to that 'C86' reissue I got last fall because...
This 2-in-1 CD is the only copy I have of 'Star Wars.' Quite an ugly and unimaginative cover, eh? I want to thank Rev-Ola for releasing it a decade ago when I was desperate for these albums, but it will be a pleasure to retire this one. What a who's-who of Scottish legends the BMX Bandits were for 'Star Wars.' Duglas was joined by Joe McAlinden, Norman Blake, Eugene Kelly, Gordon Keen and Francis Macdonald. Enough said, really. For those who haven't pre-ordered from Past Night From Glasgow, another option would be Monorail. Stephen will have exclusive magenta vinyl and a signed Risoprint. At any rate, if you don't have 'Star Wars' yet, there's "a new hope." Sorry. That's terrible.

Come Clean

Monday, February 1, 2021

'A Different Kind of Tension'

Was perusing the shelves yesterday... looking for something to listen to while doing mundane household chores. Can't say I got much done during the extremely short side A of the 1986 compilation 'A Different Kind of Tension,' but what an enjoyable listen! Side B was a much bumpier ride (the Beloved, Vee VV, Stump, the Wedding Present, the Shamen), but these first five songs are quintessential 'C86.' Some of the best offerings from Dreamworld, Subway and Pink. Quality. The album came out on Pressure Of The Real World Records, and this was the label's only release. Weird.

This is the kind of comp that should have made quite an impression on my musical tastes in my youth, and I usually have a mind like a steel trap when it comes to these things, but I have no recollection of when or where I picked this one up. Troubling. Leads me to believe I got this later in life when I already had these songs but couldn't resist buying it anyway. That happens a lot.

The Mighty Lemon Drops - Like an Angel
Soup Dragons - I Know Everything
One Thousand Violins - Like One Thousand Violins
The Wolfhounds - Cut the Cake
June Brides - Every Conversation

Friday, January 29, 2021

'Hardy' Helping of Early '60s French Pop

After pulling out that Primal Scream single with the distinctive sleeve the other day, you might have guessed this was coming. I have a particular affinity for Françoise Hardy's debut album from 1962. She got lumped in with the French yé-yé singers of the time, but while most of those young girls in the scene were performing songs written by much older males, Hardy co-wrote 10 of the 12 songs on that self-titled album. Even more amazing, she was just 18 at the time.

What I like about the LP is how Roger Samyn's accompaniment takes a back seat to Hardy's voice. I'm sure he knew a star when he heard it. I don't understand French, but it's clear by her delivery ("Oh oh chéri" is the lone exception) these are the songs of a tormented soul. The big hit off of this one was "Tous les garçons et les filles." It spent 15 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the French chart. We'll give that one a go, as well as "Le temps de l'amour." You might know that one from a memorable dancing scene in Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom." If you have seen the film, you will agree the opening line of the song, translated as "It is the time of love, the time of friends and adventure," made this an inspired choice for the scene. Adventure indeed.

Tous les garçons et les filles
Le temps de l'amour

Now, there are a few who think Hardy is a real looker, and if this blogger was one of those folks, I would probably take this opportunity to post a bunch of provocative photos of her. Fortunately, this spot is all about the music, and I have some decorum. You'll have to get your kicks someplace else. Oh, before I forget, I did want to tell you about a film I highly recommend. It's from 1966, and it's called 'Grand Prix.' Director John Frankenheimer was even nominated for an Academy Award. Here are some stills taken around the set to whet your appetite...

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Latest Foray Into Flexis

My Woosh collection got a big boost with the recent acquisition of three coveted flexis from a seller in L.A. If you have 'Ten Little Records: The Woosh Collection' Jigsaw put out in 2014, then you're aware there was one song Chris couldn't get. Otherwise, everything from Woosh was compiled on one lovely disc. The missing song was from Woosh 006, Groove Farm's "Heaven Is Blue," released in April 1989 with fanzine Woosh No. 3. That was a good get back in the day becuse that same fanzine also included a second flexi with "Hard on Love" by the Pooh Sticks.

Back to Woosh 006. The flexi came in a brilliant red and, as usual, was a split. The other song was "Vampire Girl" by Esmerelda's Kite. The Groove Farm has been featured on these pages quite a few times, and the band was already well on their way by the time this one came out, having released several well-received singles and a full length. Esmerelda's Kite is another story, and they have never been mentioned here. That's because one-third of their entire released output (outside of selling cassettes of their demos at a record store in their hometown of Leeds) is "Vampire Girl." Their other two songs were on another flexi that came out in 1988. Yes, I'm going to track it down.

Simon Westwood from the band went on to form Gentle Despite with Paul Gorton, and they released two sevens on Sarah in the early '90s. Sadly, Westwood passed away six years ago. That's about all I have on Esmerelda's Kite, but I do like this song. I have since heard a song from the other flexi, and it's even better. It would be great if those demos got a proper release along with these songs from the flexis.

Groove Farm - Heaven Is Blue
Esmerelda's Kite - Vampire Girl

Monday, January 25, 2021

Monday's Long Song

There is a tradition in these parts my fellow bloggers participate in that they aptly call Monday's Long Song. I rarely join in because, well, I'm all about the pop, meaning I have very few songs on the shelf that last longer than three minutes. Got a good one today, though, and it's a cover to boot. This one popped into my head when our pal Rol assembled his top 10 songs affiliated with the recently deceased Phil Spector. "My Sweet Lord" was on there, and it would have been on my list too. I think the flip side to the single from 1970 just may have made the cut as well.

Seems like at least once a year I try to convince you to purchase 'The Palace at 4AM,' the post-Wilco album Jay Bennett released with Edward Burch in 2002. During that same period, Bennett and Burch recorded a cover of "Isn't It a Pity" for 'Songs From The Material World (A Tribute To George Harrison).' Like so many tribute albums, the songs are hit and miss, and I'm on the fence about recommending it. Highlights come from fanatics like the Smithereens and Todd Rundgren. For me, though, this is the tops. Like the original, it's a slow builder. Stick with it the full seven-plus minutes. You'll be glad you did.

Isn't It a Pity

Friday, January 22, 2021

Back to the Beginning

For the first time in years, I pulled out this single earlier this week. It's not that I don't like it, but there are so many other options to hear "All Fall Down" that I listen to more, such as the 1988 Creation comp 'Doing It For the Kids' or the 'Creation Soup' box of the label's first 50 singles. Other than the B-side of the "Crystal Crescent" single, which in my humble opinion is the quintessential 'C86' song, I haven't posted all that much from Primal Scream. I always feel like it could start a rumble. You see, I don't own so much as a single after 1989. For a few of you regulars out there, that's like enjoying the appetizer but skipping the entree completely. I can respect that, but you must know by now the early stuff would be right in my wheelhouse. Perhaps I take more stock in Jim Beattie's contributions than where Bobby Gillespie would move the band after he left. At any rate, this is a fan that thinks they peaked with "Gentle Tuesday." You can pick up your jaws now.

Here are both sides of CRE 17 from 1985. Bobby Gillespie was still beating the hell out of that snare for the Jesus and Mary Chain, but Jim and William gave Gillespie an ultimatum after this single. Goodbye Bobby. That's Françoise Hardy on the cover from her 1967 album 'Francoise In Germany.' Don't ask me what he's going on about on "All Fall Down." I once searched for the lyrics and got a good laugh when I saw lines like "To find a ???? for me" and "Spend my ???? ???? how I hope this feeling lasts." It's a mystery... but a fun one.

All Fall Down
It Happens

Jan. 26 Update: Adam found this clip, and you need to see it. Other than his overuse of the word "basically," Alan is on fire. This will be your best seven minutes of the day. You'll laugh until there is a crack about not making music for 40 year olds. Then you'll cry. Most of all, you'll hear some great Primal Scream.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

More From the Holiday Haul

Last year, I went gaga for 'Adelphi,' the long player from Sydney indie-pop vets Even As We Speak. It felt like I put it on the turntable in July and never took it off. This affection had me thinking it was time to fill a few of the band's holes on my shelves, and I asked Santa for some help. Sure enough, on Christmas morning, I found a couple of their singles from the Sarah era under the tree. From 1991, let's listen to Sarah 59. This is both sides of the "Beautiful Day" single. Each song is gorgeous pop with one of their patented breaks in the middle where everything goes off the rails before recovering. That uneasy feeling is perfectly illustrated with the beach scene of a lone half-buried grocery cart found on the sleeve. Listening to Mary's voice from 30 years ago, I can't help but marvel how she sounds at least this good (if not better!) on 'Adelphi.'

Beautiful Day
Nothing Much at All

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Another Mighty Mighty Fine Holiday Haul

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote about the Sha La La split flexi featuring Mighty Mighty and the Clouds that Santa had left under the tree. That prompted some friendly banter from our old pal Dirk in Germany who said, "If a gun were pointed at me in order to name my 10 all-time tunes, 'Gemini Smiles' would surely be on this list!" I made the ridiculous assumption he meant the studio version found on the 'Sharks' LP, the only take I knew. Silly me. He went on: "Yes, as neat as the 'Sharks' version is, I very much prefer the version from their second Peel session." If you know him, you understand the one from Peel is the only one he could have meant. I closed with, "[Mighty Mighty] had three total [Peel] sessions in '86 and '87... All of those songs together would make a hell of a release."

Later that day, after a little digging to find Dirk's coveted "Gemini Smiles" from Peel, I discovered, in fact, all of Mighty Mighty's BBC's sessions (the three from Peel plus one from Janice Long) had been compiled by Vinyl Japan (who else?) in 2001. I hunted around for a copy, but there didn't seem to be one available anywhere at the time. I mentioned it to Santa, and she (whoops, I mean he, sorry kids!) remembered when Christmas came around again. I can't help but wonder, could there be anyone else in the world who received something by Mighty Mighty for Christmas two years in a row? If you're out there, let me know. I want to be friends.

These two from the Beeb are dedicated to Dirk. It's been far too long. I hope you and your family are well. More from the holiday haul next time.

Throwaway (recorded March 25, 1986)
Gemini Smiles (recorded Sept. 24, 1986)

Friday, January 8, 2021

Derailed '80s Indie-Pop Band Back on Track

If you are a fan of Candy Opera, and I imagine you are or you probably wouldn't be here, this will sound like a familiar story: Great but undiscovered UK band from the '80s is heard by Uwe Weigmann of Firestation Records. The label grabs what they can and releases a compilation all these decades later and to critical acclaim. This lights a fire under the lads, and they give the band another go. The new songs, miraculously, sound as if the band never disappeared at all. In short, Daniel Takes A Train is a rerun you're sure to enjoy.

Before we get to the new album, let's refresh your memory with a couple of songs from that 2018 comp 'Style, Charm and Commotion.' You can't help but go back to 1987 and think coulda, shoulda, woulda been huge, eh? You're in luck because Firestation has this title (and many others) on sale this month.

That brings us to the end of 2020 and the release of brand-new music from Daniel Takes A Train. Album 'Last Ticket to Tango' melds a few musical styles, but to these ears, the band is strongest when they bring the jangle and sophisti-pop. Some of the bands they have been compared to include ABC, Orange Juice, the Style Council, Trash Can Sinatras, Prefab Sprout, Lloyd Cole, Vampire Weekend, the Divine Comedy, Real Estate, the Smiths and the aforementioned Candy Opera. I agree with a few of those, but the point is they are tough to pin down. None of that matters. Daniel Takes A Train is on their own trip, and 'Last Ticket to Tango' should be part of your itinerary. Check out the jangly "Honeymoon."

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Filing Day

New Year's Day is when I take all of the records bought in the last year from my box marked "recently purchased" and put them in their permanent places on the shelf. Then I spend the next 365 days filling the box and repeating. This is how I keep track of what will go on my year-end lists. Unfortunately, I found out in 2020 this is no longer a fullproof way to keep my lists organized.

For the first time ever, I had music worthy of inclusion bought only as a digital download. This pains me beyond belief. I imagine most of you got over this many years ago, but I'm stubborn, old and set in my ways. You are supposed to be able to hold an album. Nothing to put in the box meant the risk of forgetting something on my year-end list. Out of sight, out of mind, you might say. There were two titles I was meant to remember. The live album 'The Haywains Have Left The Building!' made it. 'Needs Help' by the Very Most did not. Listen, I know my list of best albums means little in this world, but there are a few like-minded people who read it. They may have bought 'Needs Help' on my insignificant stamp of approval. I hope this mention will put a few more shekels in the pockets of Jeremy Jensen and Co.

'Needs Help' came out on CD via Spanish indie label Kocliko Records. There were 130 copies, and I missed out on the small run. Too bad because it's an album that would have been in my top 20. This download issue is bound to increase in ensuing years. Guess I had better start keeping a spreadsheet or something. Now for something completely different. I just bought 'Needs Help' on cassette from Seattle-based Lost Sound Tapes. Lots of firsts surrounding this album. Sounds crazy, but if you're a fan and haven't bought the album yet, this is not a bad way to go. Costs $6 and comes with a download. Even if you haven't played tapes in decades, c'mon, $6 for the digital album alone is a steal. Don't sit on the fence, though. There were only 100 copies of the cassette made. Check it out here.

There isn't a dress code when it comes to filing my records, but I thought it might be fun to wear one of these T-shirts while putting records away and listening to one of these 2020 reissues hot off the vinyl presses. It was a tough choice, and I considered a wardrobe change halfway through the exercise. Here's a huge hint on my decision. If you love the Blubells, here is a real treat. Listen to the lads discussing 'Sisters' for damn near two hours!