Wednesday, June 16, 2021

'The First Year Plan'

Time for another vital label compilation from my youth. With the advent of deluxe editions and such, I suppose FAST Product's 1979 collection 'The First Year Plan' isn't looked at in quite the same way, but these FAST releases used to be tough to find... especially if you were a kid growing up among the cornfields of Illinois. Take, for instance, FAST alumni the Human League. If you lived close to a cool record shop, maybe, you could find FAST singles. Today, you can pick up a CD reissue of 1979 album 'Reproduction' and get the "Being Boiled"/"Circus of Death" and "The Dignity of Labour Parts 1-4" releases as bonus tracks and, at least where I live, have it delivered to your home same day, all for about $12. Progress? I guess so, but not nearly as fun.

As usual, I'm off the subject. If you haven't seen Grant McPhee's 'Big Gold Dream: The Sound of Young Scotland 1977-1985,' the documentary featuring Edinburgh's FAST and Glasgow's Postcard labels, you really should. FAST founders Bob Last and Hilary Morrison feature prominently, as well as many of the other major players.

I found 'The First Year Plan' in a used record store in the mid-'80s. Inexplicably, my copy came from Australia, and it doesn't even say 'The First Year Plan' anywhere on it. What I didn't know until years later is there was a similar sampler for the North American market that came out in 1980 on the Passport/PVC labels called 'Mutant Pop 78/79.' The only difference between it and 'The First Year Plan' was the addition of two songs from Edinburgh post-punk band the Flowers and the omission of the second single from the Mekons. I think the cover is so well done if I come across it on my travels, I will snag it in an instant.

The bands on FAST hailed from Northern England and Scotland. Many of them on 'The First Year Plan' would go on to bigger and better things. I'll let you opine on the bands that actually peaked on FAST. I am of the opinion FAST-era songs "Love Like Anthrax" and "Damaged Goods" improved significantly (especially the production) on Gang of Four's album 'Entertainment!' In my younger days, I was never all that chuffed about Sheffield band 2-3, but when I ripped this album the other day it was as if I had never heard them before. Now I can't stop listening. Unfortunately, for them, they are known more for their role in introducing the Human League to Last than their own music. And what can you say about the Human League that hasn't already been said? Even Last knew there was something there and took the band's offer to manage them when they moved to Virgin. He knew when to give up the position too. Scars came and went in a heartbeat, but they did leave us with 'Author! Author!' post FAST. I picked up the deluxe edition earlier this year after reader Jonder mentioned its release in the comments section late last year. Highly recommended. Then there is the Mekons. The band took quite a turn stylistically in the mid-'80s, but their new sound worked for me. I enjoy it all.

Let's listen to some of this "difficult fun," as FAST used to describe the music. Starting with the Mekons "pissing out the noise" on their debut single is a must.

The Mekons - Never Been In A Riot
Scars - Horrorshow
The Human League - Being Boiled
2-3 - All Time Low

I'm going to be out most of the rest of the month, but I hope to check in on Friday with a quick reminder about a new release you really should pick up. Until then, be good, popsters.

1 comment:

The Swede said...

I must admit that, in spite of knowing of them, I couldn't instantly recollect 2-3's music, but one listen brought it all back. This is one of those comps that seemed to crop up in all the bargain bins for a while - incredible really. What a great track list - 'Where Were You' by The Mekons was (and still is) a massive favourite, which I still own on the original 7" single. Come to think of it, I might still have 'Adult/ery' and a quite bashed up copy of 'Being Boiled' too, though I distinctly remember flogging my 'Dignity Of Labour' 12" (with flexi) some years ago, when times were particularly hard.