Friday, May 30, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 7)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

7. Orange Juice - "Blue Boy"

Other Contenders: As I imagine most of you know, there were three other charting singles (for Postcard, of course) before the move to the majors. I love two of the four A-sides, and I like the other two an awful lot. If you're curious, possibly the least popular of the lot, "Poor Old Soul," is the other one I happen to fancy.

Chart Entry: Sept. 13, 1980

Peak Position: No. 15

Comment: Here's a little clue about what's coming up on this list: The followup to "Falling and Laughing" -- and the first Postcard single to use the cowboy design sleeve -- is my SECOND favorite of the charting Postcard singles. As I hinted earlier in the countdown, the Postcard through the back door "Sorry for Laughing" would claim the title of the label's best 7"... if it was eligible. Unfortunately, the song didn't chart.

The self-deprecating Edwyn Collins told Simon Goddard that the lyrics to "Blue Boy" "are kind of crap. The record's good but the words are kind of back-of-the-envelope type stuff." That's a smile, but, the words of OJ aficionado and pal JC at the (new) vinyl villain felt truer when he rated "Blue Boy" his top Postcard A-side:
"[It's] the song that today still fills me with joy every time I hear it... and which even now, more than 30 years on, still has the ability to have me lose it completely on the dance floor whenever it gets aired at one of the Little League nights."

Buy "Blueboy" add the rest of the band's Postcard output on 'The Glasgow School.'

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Word With Andrew Burnett of Close Lobsters

If you have been following my countdown of the UK's best indie singles from the golden age of the chart, then I'm sure it's apparent how important the 'C86' scene is to me. Seven bands from that colossal compilation made the list, and none ranked higher than Close Lobsters. When I read a few weeks ago there would be new music from frontman Andrew Burnett and his mates, I was filled with excitement... and some anxiety. Let's face it, after decades away, this could easily go wrong. I needn't have worried. Without any fear of sounding sycophantic, the new "Kunstwerk in Spacetime" EP fits in nicely next to "Just Too Bloody Stupid" and the rest of the work they left us in 1989. It's not every day you get to contact one of your heroes, and I want to give special thanks to Mike at Crashing Through Publicity for making this happen.

Linear Tracking Lives: How do you think Close Lobsters would have played out without your appearance on NME's 'C86' compilation?

Andrew: This is undecidable. An unknown unknown, to quote the sole contribution to mankind from [Donald] Rumsfeld.

Linear Tracking Lives: Cherry Red is about to reissue 'C86' as a three-disc box set. What are your thoughts?

Andrew: Very happy to contribute. We were also invited to play in London at the 'C86' show but unfortunately couldn't make it on that date.

LTL: In recent years, quite a few of your peers, such as the June Brides and Primitives, have reappeared on stage and in the studio. Are there any old friends you are excited to see and hear again? Are there others from that period you wish would return?

Andrew: June Brides were monumental in Glasgow recently, as were The Wolfhounds at the NYC Popfest last year. I always really liked McCarthy a great deal. I wonder if they would play at all? JAMC [The Jesus and Mary Chain] playing again is of course to be welcomed very much.

LTL: A couple of years ago while visiting Scotland I popped into a little shop in Edinburgh called Elvis Shakespeare. I was chatting with the owner, David, and I told him I was searching for the 12" of "Let's Make Some Plans." His jaw dropped, and he preceded to tell me I had just missed some fellas from the band. I spend a lot of time writing about the thrill of the record hunt, and all I really wanted to know was what was bought at Elvis Shakespeare that day. Assuming you don't remember such things, what elusive records keep you popping into the shops these days? Do you have some favorite record shops at home and abroad?

Andrew: It must have been an imposter! Having said that it was probably Stewart [McFayden] or Tom [Donnelly]. Who knows. I dream of setting up a record store in Paisley to replicate the old 'Listen' that used to service our punk rock needs when growing up. This store would sell only underground music with no mainstream stuff. I remember getting The Clash "White Man" there on the day of release. It was one of those key moments in life. Record shops are brilliant places.

LTL: I'm really enjoying Close Lobsters' new material, and we'll get to that in a minute, but I'm wondering, at all of these Popfests you've been playing around the globe, what are the moments in your shows that seem to most excite the fans? Does the answer vary from Berlin to New York to Madrid to Copenhagen? And what's your favorite song to play?

Andrew: Every time we have played, the response has been wonderful... Madrid, Berlin, Glasgow, Hamburg, NYC, Copenhagen... each with their own distinctive feel. Most times "Let's Make Some Plans" is received with gusto. We hope to visit France and Italy and Spain and the USA again in the near future, if fate permits.

LTL: Ah, the '90s, the place where great jangle bands like yours went to die. Am I exaggerating, or just how bad was that bloody decade?

Andrew: The '90s I spent cocooned in underground house music. The popularisation of indie or Brit or whatever looked like a car crash to me.

LTL: So, Close Lobsters have a brand-new seven inch coming out on May 27.* It's your first new music since 1989. Listening to it, I'm struck by how it sounds like no time has passed at all. It's the perfect followup to 'Headache Rhetoric' and 'Just Too Bloody Stupid.' In fact, just hearing the word "stupid" sung in the opening line of "Now Time" is such a smile. What's the story behind that song and "New York City in Space?"

Andrew: The new single "Kunstwerk in Spacetime" is aptly titled. The gap between the last recording and the new is like a black hole. Space and time collapse into "Now Time," or Jetztzeit, as Walter Benjamin once put it.

*Note: Due to a printing issue with the sleeve, "Kunstwerk in Spacetime" has been delayed until June 17. However, preorder the 7" directly from Shelflife Records, and you will receive a digital download of the new songs today. Check out "Now Time" below.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 8)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

8. Close Lobsters - "Going to Heaven to See If It Rains"

Other Contenders: Every single (and just about every B-side) was a gem, and there were three others that charted. There was "Never Seen Before" in the spring of '87, followed by "Let's Make Some Plans" that fall. The band's last indie hit came the following year with "What Is There to Smile About." I went back and forth whether to include that one on this list instead. There were other great non-charting singles after that, including "Nature Thing" and one of those classic Caff one-offs with "Just Too Bloody Stupid."

Chart Entry: Dec. 20, 1986

Peak Position: No. 9

Comment: I doubt I'm alone here, but the moment I fell for Close Lobsters was upon hearing "Firestation Towers" on NME's 'C86.' Surprisingly, the band got some good pub here in America, even by Rolling Stone, and I can actually remember their songs being played on the suburban college radio station I used to tune into from time to time. Look, this is a coin flip choice. I love every single the band released. This one gets the nod because it was the first, and I love the title. It's simple, really. Here's how Sounds put it back in the day: "Look, you know how nowadays everybody goes on about 'perfect pop songs' all the bleedin' time, and you know how they're mostly talking a load of old tripe? Well, these Close Lobsters fellows have composed a perfect pop song. Almost."

Are you sitting down? If you're a fan, this may come as quite a shock, but Close Lobsters have a new 7" out just today! Check out the "Kunstwerk in Spacetime" EP on Soundcloud. It's the band's first new recording since 1989, and it's good... really good. Twenty-five years later, the flawless string of singles continues.

Update: There were some printing issues with the sleeve. So, the new 7" from Close Lobsters has been delayed until June 17, but you can preorder from Shelflife Records.

Buy "Going to Heaven to See If It Rains" on the singles collection 'Forever, Until Victory!'

Monday, May 26, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 9)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

9. The Orchids - "I've Got a Habit"

Other Contenders: Sarah 011, the beautiful "Underneath the Window, Underneath the Sink," is the only other eligible single, and it deserves much more than the passing mention I'm giving here.

Chart Entry: Feb. 13, 1988

Peak Position: No. 8

Comment: In all candor, "What Will We Do Next," their third single and the last Sarah 7" of the '80s, is tops for me, but it's "I've Got a Habit," Sarah 002, that helps me get my favorite band from that famed label into the top 10. The Orchids' sound changed a bit as they moved along, but these early years of melancholy guitar revolving around the brilliant 'Lyceum' 10" were a real bright spot as the sun was setting on what seemed an otherwise dismal close to the decade.

The easiest and cheapest way to buy "I've Got a Habit" is as a bonus track on the LTM reissue of 'Lyceum.' The original Sarah 7" goes for about $200.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 10)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

10. Joy Division - "Transmission"

Other Contenders: Outside of Peel Sessions, "Atmosphere" and a little song called "Love Will Tear Us Apart" are the only other charting singles. At 195 weeks, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" had the longest indie singles chart run of the entire '80s. In case you're interested, "Atmosphere" (70 weeks) and "Transmission" (77 weeks) also show up in the top 10 of the longest indie chart runs.

Chart Entry: Jan. 19, 1980

Peak Position: No. 4

Comment: I'm not sure if I'm in the minority, but I don't really think of Joy Division as a singles band. When I put them on, I usually listen to 'Closer' or 'Unknown Pleasures' from beginning to end (followed soon after by a much needed nap). I do have a few specific favorite Joy Division tracks, but they either weren't released as singles or didn't make the chart. "Warsaw," "Isolation" and "Digital" are the first to come to mind, but to leave "Transmission" off of an indie singles list would mean questioning the countdown's legitimacy in its entirety.

The trouble I have with handling this band has more to do with placement. I would never question anyone putting this song at No. 1, but No. 20 doesn't seem ridiculous to me either. Where things get muddy is when you weigh history and the band's importance in it. There is arguably only one other band on this countdown with such a legacy (I haven't quite reached the other yet), but when it comes to specific songs, there really are at least nine other songs from the indie chart I listen to and enjoy more than "Transmission," and this is all about indie singles.

Did you notice how I managed to almost completely ignore the more successful "Love Will Tear Us Apart?" Listen, great great song, but I'm just not sure those three-and-a-half minutes are the best representation of the band... plain and simple. If you like it more than "Transmission," I don't agree, but I do understand. It's pop brilliance.

Oh, and our pal Dirk at sexy-loser recently had a very interesting take on the subject of Peel Sessions vs. original studio recordings, and "Transmission" is one of the songs open to debate. If you get a chance, check out the comments section and weigh in at the end of his post. Great topic.

Buy "Transmission" on 'Substance 1977-1980'.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 11)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

11. The Bodines - "Therese"

Other Contenders: In total, the Bodines had three charting singles for Creation. "God Bless"/"Paradise" peaked at No. 8 in 1985, and "Heard It All" made it all the way to No. 4 in the fall of 1986. That piece of pop brilliance got more than a fleeting thought for a spot on this list.

Chart Entry: March 1, 1986

Peak Position: No. 4

Comment: If you're counting, the Bodines are the seventh band from NME's 'C86' compilation to appear here. There will be an eighth, but the Bodines are the only band whose actual song from the famed cassette is part of my countdown. If you didn't like the debut album, 'Played,' then you probably sum up the lads' career as 1) rose to the top of the indie world, 2) hooked up with the wrong major and 3) fizzled like old soda. It does appear that way, but I happen to love that album. So, yes, the youngest band to ever play the Hacienda didn't live up to expectations, but there is no way I can listen to singles like "Skankin Queens," "Slip Slide" and my pick for the 11th best UK indie hit of the '80s and call them a failure.

Buy the original 7" of "Therese," or the re-release on 'Played.'

Monday, May 19, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 12)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

12. Prefab Sprout - "Lions in my Own Garden (Exit Someone)"

Other Contenders: "The Devil Has All the Best Tunes," also from 1983, is the only other single eligible for this list, but it's not quite up to the standards of "Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)."

Chart Entry: June 4, 1983

Peak Position: No. 16

Comment: No, I don't quite go all the way back to Prefab Sprout's first single and the fourth ever 7" from the folks at Kitchenware, but I have enjoyed its charms for about 25 years. My copy comes from a 1988 limited edition 7" of "Nightingales." The flip side is dubbed "The Early Years E.P.," and it contains the A-sides of the band's first two singles. The photo above is the inside of the fantastic gatefold sleeve, and the words are Paddy McAloon's thoughts on these first two efforts. Here is what he had to say about "Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone):"

On the 25th of February and the 11th of March, 1982 we recorded our first single "Lions"/Radio Love." The Sprouts lineup at the time was a threepiece: myself on guitar, my brother Martin on bass and our friend Michael Salmon on drums.

I'm specific about the dates because they were hard earned. Martin saved his wages from a job on a building site for the trip to a local recording studio. The main thing I remember about that time was receiving the test pressing and being disappointed. It sounded just like the tape we'd sent away. I really believed that the transformation to vinyl would make it sound like a record. (By that I mean someone else's record, preferably Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel" or The Beatles' "She Loves You").

Funnily enough it now sounds like a record to me, probably because it brings back a sense of the time in which we made it.

When it was released, D.J.'s John Peel and David Jensen picked up on it and we were written about. That was the first time we came face to face with a picture or image of the group that wasn't our own and we were shocked to be thought of as "acoustic" and part of a Northern/Scottish movement.

We thought, if anything, "Lions" was like "Love Me Do". I still do.

Even more than "Devil" or just about anything on Prefab Sprout's first album, 'Swoon,' "Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)" illustrated a potential realized just a short time later with the band's masterpiece, 'Steve McQueen.'

You can buy an original copy of "Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)" on ebay for about $35. The song also appears on the highly recommended 'Scared to Get Happy' box.

Friday, May 16, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 13)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

13. The Wedding Present - "My Favourite Dress"

Other Contenders: "This Boy Can Wait," "Nobody's Twisting Your Arm" and "Anyone Can Make a Mistake" received serious consideration. Between 1985 and 1988, the band made this chart nine times.

Chart Entry: Feb. 14, 1987

Peak Position: No. 4

Comment: I go back decades with 49 of the 50 singles on my list. This song is the exception. Sadly, prior to February 2013, I never owned an album from the Wedding Present. For whatever reason, the songs I had by them on various compilations never got me off the sofa to take the plunge. When Friend of Rachel Worth at the now defunct Cathedrals of Sound (you are missed!) highlighted the band's 'Take Fountain' on his Desert Island Discs list, I asked him where he thought I should start. 'George Best' was one of his recommendations, and I bought it immediately.

This has been, by far, my most listened to album of the past year, and each play is like running into a tornado. What energy! Yet, this tune is a particularly sad one: "To see it all in a drunken kiss, a stranger's hand on my favorite dress" really gets me. To these ears, every song on the album sounds like a single. I suspect if I went all of the way back to 1987 with the songs from the 'George Best' era, "My Favourite Dress" would be in contention for the top spot on this list. Still, after only about a year, No. 13 with a bullet is mighty impressive.

Buy "My Favourite Dress" on 'George Best.'

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 14)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

14. Robert Wyatt - "Shipbuilding"

Other Contenders: There were many hits, but this was the only song I considered.

Chart Entry: Oct. 9, 1982

Peak Position: No. 1

Comment: I heard Elvis Costello's version first, right when 'Punch the Clock' came out, and I thought it was wonderful. I was especially enamored with the appearance of Chet Baker on trumpet because I was really into him at the time. Not too much later I caught up with the Wyatt take (released nearly a year earlier), and I couldn't really ever listen to E.C.'s version again. Interestingly, to this lad's ears, the song's subject matter didn't really hit home until I heard Wyatt sing it.

Wyatt's delivery gets me a little misty, and the overall atmosphere has an organic feel that's missing from the slick Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley production on 'Punch the Clock.' Still, we have to thank this team for Wyatt's version. Costello considers this "the best lyrics I've ever written," and Langer composed the music. Costello and bandmate Steve Nieve both contributed their talents (uncredited, however) to Wyatt's "Shipbuilding" and, humorlessly, this was called "A Clangwinstello Production" on the label.

There were four different sleeves, and all of the art was taken from sections of the brilliant eight-panel painting "Shipbuilding on the Clyde" by Stanley Spencer. The 7" version I own has the cover seen above, and that's the one I see most often in secondhand record shops.

Buy "Shipbuilding" on 'EPs' (5xCD).

Monday, May 12, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 15)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

15. The Chesterf!ields - "Ask Johnny Dee"

Other Contenders: There were other hits, six in all, but this single was the only one I considered. If you asked me for a second, and it would be a distant one at that, I did like "Completely and Utterly."

Chart Entry: March 28, 1987

Peak Position: No. 4

Comment: The fourth Subway Organization band to make this list (Flatmates, Razorcuts and Shop Assistants preceded them) is the best single to ever come from the legendary label. Most of the band's work is breezy and lightweight jangle, to be sure, but "Ask Johnny Dee" has aged better than the rest, and the lyrics always make me smile. Here are a few of my favorite moments: "Well, if you'd like to know what pop stars have for tea, ask Johnny Dee, and in which motor car it's safe to be seen, ask Johnny Dee, and would you like to know what pop kids wear in the sea, ask Johnny Dee, and tell me, who is the girl who plays the tambourine, she just came to be close to Johnny Dee, to say ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba..." I never tire of this one.

Buy "Ask Johnny Dee" on 'Electric Guitars in Their Hearts.'

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mom's Magical Mystery Solved

Recently, my mother did a spring cleaning of her home. While clearing the clutter, she asked me if there was anything I might want. There was one thing, and you're looking at it. This is my mother's ticket stub. She saw the Beatles in Tokyo on July 2, 1966. I knew she had it tucked away somewhere, but I had never actually seen the ticket until she gave it to me. Having it in my hand after so many years was a real Wonka-like moment.

My musical journey began at the age of 9 when I saw an episode of the band's cartoon on television one Sunday afternoon. The song highlighted that day was "Strawberry Fields Forever." I'll never forget it. When the show concluded I sprinted upstairs and asked my mother if she had ever heard of the Beatles. She laughed... then took me to her records. That was it. She still had much of the discography, and the albums she didn't have I quickly found via bicycle at the local library. After a quick conversion to cassette (a completist even then), I was in heaven. For a couple of years there, as my peers played in the sunshine, I spent my free time at the family stereo listening to the Fab Four.

In my life (see how I did that?), I had asked Mom about the concert from time to time, but I was usually met with, "Oh, Brian, that was a long time ago. I don't really remember." It was almost 50 years ago. I understand that, but this was the Beatles! So, yesterday, I gave her a ring (she lives 2,000 miles away) to get details about the experience. To my delight, she gave me 30 entertaining minutes. Looks like I'm receiving the present this Mother's Day.

She set the stage with some backstory on the move from the United States to Japan. "My father was transferred to Tokyo for Caterpillar. We were among the first Cat families [My mother is one of four children.] to go there, and our housing wasn't built yet. So, we lived in the Tokyo Hilton for 15 months. We lived in three rooms. Two were connected, and there was a kitchenette."

Living in a hotel always sounded like a dream... especially for a kid that was barely a teen. "Oh, it was [a dream]. Cat gave us an allowance to eat, and we could go down to the restaurant whenever we wanted. I used to get steak sandwiches for lunch all the time. It was great! We used to go down to the club and watch performers rehearse. I remember seeing a production of 'West Side Story,' and Peter Allen used to play there. I don't know if you know him. He was married to Liza Minnelli." It was an exciting time in Tokyo. The Olympics were coming. "We had to move out of the hotel and live in the mountains for a month." Every room was booked long before they moved there. "I never really thought about it before, but that's probably why our housing wasn't finished. The construction companies were probably working on Olympic venues."

The Beatles landed at Tokyo's Haneda airport in the wee morning hours of June 30. My mother didn't meet the plane. "I was a big fan, but not in that way like you saw on TV with all of that screaming." The band played five shows in three days and, amazingly, the first show was that very night. As you can guess, it was a tough ticket. "The only way to get one was through a lottery. I think it was run by a radio station, but that's not how I got my ticket. A girl I went to school with, she was Asian, asked me if I wanted to go. I was surprised because we were friends, but we weren't really close friends, you know? Her dad got them on the black market." My mother's ticket was for the afternoon show on the band's last day, July 2, 1966.

There were protests around the city because the Beatles were playing the Budokan. It seems ridiculous, as it is now famously known for hosting rock concerts, but the Beatles were among the first to perform there, and the old guard wasn't happy about it. The Budokan was a symbol of Japan and considered sacred ground reserved for martial arts events. The kids, of course, didn't care at all. "I wasn't aware of all that going on. I was so young, and we hardly ever watched TV." Security was so tight inside it was reported there was a police officer standing at the end of each row. "Nope. I didn't notice the police at all. I was there to watch the Beatles.

"The Budokan was big, but the seats didn't angle back much as they went up like at most arenas you've been to. There were tiers, but they were on top of each other. Even the seats on the top tier seemed close to where the stage was. We were off to one side, up a little bit, but we seemed pretty close. I don't know what it was like in front of the stage, but I thought the sound was good. There was a lot of screaming. There were some times when John or Paul would talk when you couldn't hear them." Speaking of the lads, were you surprised about how they looked in person? "I thought they seemed really dressed up, but they looked exactly like I thought they would... standing just like they always did on stage when you saw them on TV."

When I lived in Japan in the early '90s, I saw Elvis Costello right after he reunited with the Attractions. It was a big theater in Osaka, and I was shocked at how the sold-out crowd showed such restraint. There was polite applause after each song, and nobody even stood up until the encore. Part of this is cultural, but it was a mature crowd too. I was happy to hear the crowd for the Beatles wasn't quite so reserved. "Surprisingly, it wasn't all just young girls. It was quite a mix of males and females, younger and older. I had a friend in school that was supposed to go with her brother, but she got appendicitis. Her dad took her ticket. [Laughs.] It was terrible. She didn't get to go. I went to other shows at the Budokan. I saw the Beach Boys there, Herman's Hermits and others, but the crowd for the Beatles was completely different. It was much louder, and everyone was on the edge of their seats all the way through to the end."

The setlist for all five Tokyo shows was exactly the same. It's a very odd and somewhat sparse mix, in my view. Not sure I would have guessed any of these songs except maybe "Nowhere Man" since 'Rubber Soul' was a somewhat recent release. I wondered if seeing the list would trigger any memories in my mother.

"Rock and Roll Music"
"She's a Woman"
"If I Needed Someone"
"Day Tripper"
"Baby's in Black"
"I Feel Fine"
"I Wanna Be Your Man"
"Nowhere Man"
"Paperback Writer"
"I'm Down"

"I have seen the list, but I don't really remember the songs. Yes, this show seems short, but I don't recall feeling that way. When the concert ended we rushed out of there to catch a taxi back to the Hilton. That's where they were staying, and we wanted to catch a glimpse of them returning from the show. Too bad we had moved from the hotel to our new housing by then. I'm sure I took the train to the Budokan. It wasn't unusual for a young girl to take the train by herself back then, especially in the afternoon, but we took a taxi to the hotel. Of course, we couldn't even get close. It was crazy outside. If my older brother, your Uncle Steve, had been with us, he probably could have gotten us in. He was always close with the staff. He knew those guys, but I was just so young. I didn't really know them, but I did know hiding places and back halls that would have helped us that day, but it didn't work out."

The security was tight. In fact, outside of the concerts, the Beatles weren't really able to leave the hotel. They wanted to shop, but the shopkeepers had to be brought to the Presidential Suite to sell their wares. To pass the time, the four of them worked on a painting together. "Images of a Woman" is the only painting they ever completed as a group.

The Beatles left Japan for the Philippines and then on to America. "I didn't know they would play their last concert eight weeks later, and I don't think I really understood how big a deal it was to have seen them until much later. When we returned to the United States everyone was like 'you saw the Beatles!' Then I kind of got it, but it would have been better if I had been a little bit older, but, yep, I saw the Beatles!"

My hope is that someday my kids will ask me about the Beatles. I'll show them the ticket stub, tell them this tale, and then they'll know they have a cool Grandma. I hope all the moms out there have a wonderful Mother's Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 16)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

16. Another Sunny Day - "You Should All Be Murdered"

Other Contenders: ASD may be best remembered for the C86 anthem "Anorak City," but the song didn't chart. The No. 12 hit "I'm in Love With a Girl Who Doesn't Know I Exist" is a sad song that often makes indie-pop comps, and it received serious consideration for this list. The No. 19 "What's Happened" deserves a mention too.

Chart Entry: Dec. 9, 1989

Peak Position: No. 15

Comment: Like heroes Amelia Fletcher and Ian Broudie that preceded him on this list, Harvey Williams is one of those names that popped up over and over again on my records, from Blueboy to the Field Mice to the Hit Parade, but Another Sunny Day was his baby. Williams played and produced everything that would become one of my all-time favorite albums from the period, 'London Weekend.' The liner notes from the Cherry Red reissue describes the context of this Smiths-like single as growing out of "the mainstream culture of greed that grew monstrous through Thatcher's '80s." When you think of Sarah Records, sad sacks often come to mind, but this song is not about self pity. You can really feel the frustration and rage.... and what a solo!

Buy "You Should All Be Murdered" on 'London Weekend.'

Monday, May 5, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 17)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

17. Josef K - "It's Kinda Funny"

Other Contenders: Postcard singles "Radio Drill Time" and "Chance Meeting" could be here, as well as the band's swan song, a Peel Session take called "The Missionary." Truth be told, Josef K would have been in consideration for the top spot if "Sorry for Laughing" was eligible for this list.

Chart Entry: Dec. 13, 1980

Peak Position: No. 12

Comment: It's quite a coincidence that Josef K's 'The Only Fun in Town' is reissued again today as I praise Postcard's fifth single. Early on, Alan Horne was hesitant about signing the band because Paul Haig was too into the doom and gloom of Joy Division. Well, this mournful and moving song is said to be inspired by the death of Ian Curtis, and it proved to be, in my opinion, Josef K's finest moment for the label. Alan, you made a wise decision. When it comes to Postcard, Orange Juice gets more attention, and I'm as guilty as anyone on this point, but I find it interesting through the years I have taken generous amounts of time (and money) to track down all of Josef K's Postcard singles, but I haven't done the same for all of OJ's early 7" output. It's kinda funny... indeed.

Buy "It's Kinda Funny" and the rest of Josef K's Postcard output on 'Entomology.'

Friday, May 2, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 18)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

18. The Icicle Works - "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)"

Other Contenders: This was the only single I considered, but there were two other indie tracks that charted. One was a self release before "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)," and the other came a couple of years after when the band's old label, Situation 2, had another song up its sleeve. Of course, Situation 2 was a subsidiary of Beggars Banquet. The larger label adopted the idea that it was important to have representation on both singles charts much earlier than its peers (and set itself up that way), but that's a story for another day.

Chart Entry: June 25, 1983

Peak Position: No. 2

Comment: I would love to tell you I was in on this single from the very beginning, but I didn't hear it until it was re-released here in America almost a year later via Arista. By then Icicle Works already had a UK smash under its belt with "Love is a Wonderful Colour." Who knows? Without that No. 15 hit perhaps this single and the self-titled debut album never hit our shores at all, and that would have been a pity since the pop masterpiece "Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)" -- as it would be renamed to match the wording of the chorus for us dumb Americans -- turned out to be the band's only Top 40 hit on this side of the pond. Icicle Works are labeled one-hit wonders in the United States, but I can assure my fellow countrymen that there are many other fine gems from these lads worth discovering.

Buy a copy of the original "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)" single.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 19)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

19. The Monochrome Set - "The Jet Set Junta"

Other Contenders: This one barely makes the timeline, but "He's Frank (Slight Return)" was a minor indie hit in January 1980 during the band's Rough Trade days.

Chart Entry: June 4, 1983

Peak Position: No. 19 (what a coincidence!)

Comment: Much like the Wake at No. 24 on this list, one of my main missions here at Linear Tracking Lives! has been to convert you all to fanatics of the Monochrome Set. I'll add that to my long list of failed objectives, but that's OK. I think commenter extraordinaire Echorich said it best after one such post on Bid and his bunch in March of last year: "I don't think I know four other people who know The Monochrome Set, and that has always made them that much more special for me." I like the cut of your jib, Echorich, but I'll give it one more go today. The band had a couple of mild successes, but they just always seemed to be, as Bid has put it, "the wrong sound at the wrong time." There are loads of examples of wrong turns and bad luck, but the ultra-catchy "Jet Set Junta" should have been the Monochrome Set's breakthrough hit. If you are a fan and have 50 minutes to kill, check out Iain McNay's interview with Bid below. The Monochrome Set's entire discography is dissected.

Buy "The Jet Set Junta" on 'Eligible Bachelors.'