Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Early Edition of The Times

A new pal of mine mentioned the Times to me the other day. In 12 years of blogging, I have never had a post on Ed Ball's band. Time to right this blatant wrong. Unfortunately, my record collection is limited to Ball's work on those early albums with Dan Treacy in Television Personalities and, at about the same time, his first few albums he recorded as the Times.

Both the Television Personalities and the Times have had a mess of 21st century reissues that have had me pulling out these relics. One in particular, a 7" reissue of "Red With Purple Flashes" that came out last year, had me obsessed. I loved watching the Whaam! label spinnning 'round on the turntable, and it stayed on the platter for weeks. If you're new to the Times, those early records are mod, share traits with your favorites from the Jam and the Creation and, to these Yankee ears, sound about as British as you can get. If you're from North America and love the Kinks, you'll understand what I mean about that Brit feeling.

Confession time. I have an ulterior motive in bringing up Ed Ball. There are really two chapters to The Times. After '86, Ball went on a sabatical of sorts by shuttering his Artpop! label (for a while) and taking a job at Creation Records. A couple of years later, Ball resurrected the Times on Creation with a different sound. It seems Ball decided to "go with the times" and record synth-driven dance-floor fillers. Is this an apt description? Too simplistic? I don't really know this era, but my friend mentioned "Manchester," and that's a song from the Creation years that has me investigating. I need some help, indie-pop fans. Should I be looking into these later years of the Times? What about some of his other bands, such as Teenage Filmstars, 'O' Level, Love Corporation and Conspiracy of Noise? I know there are some releases under his own name too. Where should I start? What's vital? There are a couple of comps out there covering much of Ball's career. Are these any good?

While you're pondering those questions, let's listen to some of my favorite songs from chapter one of the Times. Here are two songs from each of my three favorite albums. I have a particular affinity for 'This Is London.' A couple of things to know: Dan Treacy was in the band for 'Pop Goes Art! It was released on Whaam! This was the first LP release, but it was not the first album finished. 'Go! With the Times' was released in '85 but recorded in '80.

Biff! Bang! Pow! (from 'Pop Goes Art!' 1982)
I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape (from 'Pop Goes Art!' 1982)
Goodbye Piccadilly (from 'This is London,' 1983)
Whatever Happened to Thamesbeat? (from 'This is London,' 1983)
Red With Purple Flashes (from 'Go! With the Times,' 1985)
My Andy Warhol Poster (from 'Go! With the Times,' 1985)


Khayem said...

Great post, Brian. It's the other way around for me: I discovered Creation-era Ed Ball via The Times and Love Corporation. It was probably Andrew Weatherall's remix of the latter on the mighty Keeping The Faith compilation, but The Times were also regulars on any Creation 'indie' comps. I was in Australia when The Times' 1991 album Pure came out; their cover of New Order's Blue Monday was played to death on Triple J, the full 10+ minute version with A Clockwork Orange, John Lydon & Neil Young samples thrown in for good measure. That said, Pure is unrepresentative of The Times albums that came before and after.

The Creation compilations are a pretty good jumping on point, if you can pick them up cheaply: Pink Ball, Brown Ball, Ed Ball (1991) covers the initial albums up to Pure; Welcome To The Wonderful World Of Ed Ball (1995) is a double but covers his various aliases too. To add to the complexity, Ed Ball's 1999 album Why Do I Need A Gun I'm Chelsea is pretty much a B-sides and sessions compilation, but also worth a listen.

By spooky coincidence, I dug out a mixtape I did of The Times (Creation period) in the late 90s. I've created a playlist from side 1 so far as I need to dig out a couple of CD singles to recreate side 2, but I'll get a link posted up on my Dubhed blog so you can sample some of the material.

Dan Destiny's Silver Dawn said...

Excellent, post, Brian. Like you, my Times knowledge is patchy and geared towards the Whaam!/Art Pop era. However, in the early 90's I picked up an ultra cheap (bargain bin!) copy of the 'Beat Torture' LP on Creation. It's from '88, and I reckon it's pretty darn good. You may know the opening track, 'Godevil', which was included on the 'Doing it For the Kids' compilation. The rest of the LP is very songs based and is not a million miles away from what Biff! Bang! Pow! were doing at the time (not surprising as it's basically Ed Ball backed by BBP!); lots of acoustic guitars, noisy lead breaks and rousing choruses. The second track, 'Heaven Sent Me An Angel' could have been a big hit if it had been released in '96. Worth checking out.

BTW - Have a great holiday with the family - very well deserved!

Khayem said...

Side One of The Times mixtape posted today on https://dubhed.blogspot.com/

Swiss Adam said...

I can't add much to what Khayem mentioned above. I think Ed's decision to go with the times and change his music accordingly may have due to the amount of time he was spending at the Creation offices and the general level of consumption and debauchery that took place there And resulting changes in musical styles and technology. Manchester is a fantastic record that occasionally makes me cringe but also pulls at my heartstrings.

Brian said...

Khayem, You are really spoilong us over at your place. Thank you. Will converse with you over there as I listen...

SA, Yep, completely agree with you on Creation rubbing off on him. After listeing to side one of Khayem's mix, I can see how this later stuff would be in your wheelhouse.

DDSD, 'Doing it For the Kids' is a staple for indie popsters like us. One I know Adam has featured a time or two. I get the feeling we are outliers knowing the early material of the Times more than the Creation stuff. One more week until our holiday trip. The kids end school next Wednesday, and we leave right after the bell. That's how much we need to get out of here. Hope to get more posts before we go, but the help needed on school projects and studying has us pretty busy around here.

Brian said...

Incase you have been missing all the fun, pop fans, jump over to Khayem’s place for three posts worth of Ed Ball’s work. The url is in the comments above.

Khayem said...

Thanks, Brian. The Times aren't all that unusual as a band/act that I first heard in a later/second phase and then worked my way back. Partly, this is down to age - I was a teen in the early 1980s, so this equally applied to The Fall, The Psychedelic Furs, Wire, the list goes on. I'm a big fan of the earlier period of The Times, although I've tended to keep the two distinct phases separate when it comes to playlists.

Best wishes for your upcoming holiday trip, it'll be amazing.