Monday, June 26, 2017

Before We Say Goodbye to 'Cruel World'

Admittedly, while trying to illustrate how Elvis Costello may have saved a couple of songs from 'Goodbye Cruel World' by reworking them and giving them to other artists, I have been rough on his 1984 album. Let me tell you, it's no fun to speak ill of a hero. What's something I can say that's positive about the album? While proclaiming my affinity for Roy Orbison's "The Comedians" and Tracie's "(I Love You) When You Sleep," I hope I made it clear when you strip away the Langer/Winstanley production, the demos from this era, particularly the solo ones, prove the bones of fine (if not great, in some cases) songs were there. In the liner notes for the 1995 reissue, Costello writes that "the latest fad," the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer, "along with the veneer of Solid State recording... does more than anything else to 'datestamp' this record." I think that more or less sums it up. The demos are pretty clear evidence he wasn't originally shooting to sound like 1984, but that was the result.

When the album was finished but before it was released, Costello embarked on his first ever solo jaunt of America. Before 'Goodbye Cruel World' even hit the shelves, he had already "discovered some of the mistakes [he] made" and "began to rescue [his] newest songs from the fog." Here's a quick listen from that tour:

"Worthless Thing" (Live)"

Not at all bad, but I think the best moment from the "Goodbye Cruel World" era, however, was the B-side "Turning the Town Red," which appeared in most countries as the flip to "I Wanna Be Loved" and is most remembered in the UK as the theme to Costello pal Alan Beasdale's television series "Scully." We listened to that one on these pages in 2015, but it can't hurt to hear it again. A nice memory from your youth for many of you, I'm sure.

"Turning the Town Red"

In 1995, Costello had the honor of curating the Meltdown Festival on the South Bank. By all accounts, it was a fine bill that included Jeff Buckley, the Fairfield Four, the Re-Birth Brass Band, the Jazz Passengers and many more. Costello himself appeared on stage several times during the nine days, including a set where his voice and Bill Frisell's guitar complemented each other to perfection. To me, this performance is the best save of a song from 'Goodbye Cruel World.' Beautiful. Even if this album is Costello's worst, as even the artist himself hinted, the songs of 'Goodbye Cruel World' were not entirely worthless things.

Elvis Costello and Bill Frisell - "Love Field" (Live)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Another Save From 'Goodbye Cruel World'

I almost put a question mark after this headline because this one is bound to divide the peanut gallery. Tracie Young was a protégé of Paul Weller's. He found her by placing an ad in Smash Hits when he was looking for talent to kickstart his own Respond label. Weller incorporated Young immediately, using her for backing vocals on the Jam's swansong, "Beat Surrender, as well as the Style Council's first single, "Speak Like a Child." Weller envisioned Tracie (as she would simply be called) as a solo artist, however, and her first single, "The House That Jack Built," went top 10 in the UK a few months later. There were a couple of other singles in 1983 and early 1984, but this proved to be Tracie's biggest hit.

Tracie's only officially released album during the Respond era, the Weller-produced 'Far from the Hurting Kind,' came out in 1984. The single "(I Love You) When You Sleep" was penned by Elvis Costello. From her liner notes on the 2010 album reissue, here is what Tracie had to say about the song:

I met Elvis on a plane on the way back from doing The Tube in Newcastle. We just got chatting. He was talking about other artists he'd written songs for and said that he'd really like to give me a song. It was a reworking of his song "Joe Porterhouse." He changed the lyrics and the tempo but we did struggle with it while rehearsing at Nomis Studios. I loved the lyrics but it was very slow and I found it hard to sing. We had a chat with him and he said, try using a bossa nova rhythm, so that was the starting point, although it became less rhythmic the more we worked on it. I was always very proud of it.

Tracie's version doesn't bear much resemblance to the "Joe Porterhouse" found on 'Goodbye Cruel World.' A few of you may like Tracie's version. Many will not. As for me, in the mid-'80s, I fell hard for sophisti-pop, and that's what this song sounded like to me. I bought the 12" as soon as I heard it. How could I possibly pass it up? The connections to Costello and Weller were there, and I liked her voice. This single is the only piece I would own by Tracie until the 2010 reissue of 'Far from the Hurting Kind.' Unlike Roy Orbison's take on "The Comedians," Tracie's version of "Joe Porterhouse" is of a time and place and doesn't quite hold up in 2017, but I found myself enjoying it today, anyway.

One last aspect of this song to ponder is the timeline. Tracie's single came out in May 1984. 'Goodbye Cruel World' was released in June 1984. In other words, Costello was already reworking "Joe Porterhouse" before the public even heard it. If I ever have a pint with Costello, I would love to hear about his motivation. I'll have one more post of a different ilk on 'Goodbye Cruel World' next time.

"(I Love You) When You Sleep"

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Successful Save From 'Goodbye Cruel World'

'Goodbye Cruel World' is Elvis Costello's worst album. I know it. You know it. He knows it. If you have listened to any of the demos from that era, you may agree some of the songs might have stood a chance, but going to the Langer/Winstanley well a second time, coupled with 1984 being a dark time in Costello's life, proved to be too much to overcome. Costello would go back to the drawing board and attempt to improve some of those songs, rewriting verses and changing tempos with other artists in mind.

I humbly submit Costello was incredibly successful handing off "The Comedians" to Roy Orbison. The song, produced by T Bone Burnett for Orbison's posthumously released album 'Mystery Girl,' was heard by most for the first time when it was performed live with an all-star lineup in 1988 (taped in 1987) for the Cinemax television special "Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night." Orbison was backed at the Ambassador Hotel's Coconut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles by Elvis Presley's TCB Band, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and many other greats, including Costello himself. If you have read Costello's memoir 'Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink,' then you know what a treat it was for him to be a part of that evening.

Costello's changes to "The Comedians" made the song sound and feel like a long lost Orbison track unearthed for this special night. The soulless clunky synth-driven original had been replaced by that patented Orbison storytelling and drama. Although Burnett did a fine job in the studio, personally, I think this live version was better than the one that appeared on 'Mystery Girl.' So that's the one we will listen to today. Don't feel like this is a slight on Burnett. He was the musical director for the live show too. Another reworked song from 'Goodbye Cruel World' next time.

Roy Orbison and Friends - "The Comedians" (Live, Sept. 30, 1987)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rat Fancy's Mix Tape Recalls Be-Kind-Rewind Era

Without question, "You Stole My Xmas Sweater," from L.A.-based Rat Fancy, was the best of last season's holiday tunes. I described it then as "all hand claps, head bobs and betrayal. In other words, indie pop at its best." You couldn't have asked for a better introduction to the newly formed trio of ex-Sweater Girl Diana Barraza (vocals/guitar), Gregory Johnson (guitar/keyboard) and Gavin Glidewell (drums), and the recently released "Suck a Lemon" EP (HHBTM Records) has more than lived up to the lofty expectations set by that first single. On the surface, this new set is sunshine and lollipops, but as you begin to sing along (and you will sing along!), you'll realize the world isn't quite as perfect as the catchy melodies....

The B-side to that holiday single was a cover from Ramones. That's when I knew we would be in good hands. As you regulars know, '80s indie pop is the cornerstone of this operation, and I asked Rat Fancy what songs from that era tickled their, ahem, fancy. As you're about to see and hear, despite being young whippersnappers, this band knows its stuff. Click on the graphic below to get to the video mix, and then enjoy reading why these songs mean so much to them. Thanks to Rat Fancy and the folks at HHBTM for making this happen. What a blast!

1. Orange Juice - "Blue Boy"
Greg and Gavin: When I first think "'80s indiepop," I immediately think of Scottish pop. My love of Scottish bands actually influenced my decision to move to Edinburgh for grad school. Scotland is an amazing place on this planet and Orange Juice is my favorite band on Postcard Records. The only time I woke up early for Record Store Day was when they did the Orange Juice reissues. I got everything I wanted to add to my collection of singles.

2. Altered Images - "I Could Be Happy"
Diana: Like Orange Juice, Altered Images isn't really "indiepop" per se, but they wrote some killer pop tracks. This is my favorite Altered Images track and it's wonderful that this video exists. From the art direction, to dancing lion and sing-a-long moment, it's everything I want in a music video. Also, I love how Talulah Gosh got its namesake from Altered Image's Clare Grogan. That's a serious indiepop influencer!

3. Strawberry Switchblade - "Let Her Go"
Greg: Strawberry Switchblade are such legends. We were listening to them heavily while we were writing "Suck A Lemon." Not only did they write such beautiful pop songs, but they have such appeal to the punk/"goth" crowd. I love that versatility -- especially with Rose's later collaborations. I wonder if they still have those looks. Can we raid their closet?

4. The Vaselines - "You Think You're a Man"
Diana: It's amazing when a band introduces you to something equally amazing. Originally, I learned about the Vaselines via Nirvana. I admit, I'm a child of the '90s and thankfully I paid attention to references and found 53rd & 3rd and K Records pretty early on. Thanks to The Vaselines, I found Divine. This is an amazing cover and hopefully we can do a drag cover ourselves... maybe of Alaska Thunderfuck for our next Christmas single. We are huge fans of drag at Rat Fancy headquarters. I think it's important for bands to do things that are a little unexpected.

5. The Primitives - "Thru the Flowers"
Gavin: There is this episode of "Eerie, Indiana" that has haunted me since childhood. On the show, these twins were able to stay young by preserving themselves in giant Tupperware. That's what comes to mind when I think of Tracy Tracy from the Primitives because she looks like she hasn't aged! In fact, the band sounds as fresh as ever today. We have a tendency to relate everything to '90s TV shows.

6. Beat Happening - "Other Side"
Diana: Beat Happening is everything. I was never able to see Beat Happening live, but I saw Calvin live a few times. I have a poster somewhere of a black and white Beat Happening cat that I colored in myself. Calvin signed it with crayon.

7. The Wake - "Crush the Flowers"
Greg: We're back to Scottish pop! Also related to Altered Images, the Wake sounds so impossibly cool. I love this single so much. Sadly, I don't have the original Sarah Records version, but a friend was able to find the reissue in the Bay Area and sent it to me. I love when pop friends do nice pop things for each other.

8. Shop Assistants - "All Day Long"
Diana: I have a bunch of Shop Assistants releases I was able to snag in Scotland. Their sound is absolutely what I look for in a pop band: fast with a little noise. I actually tried covering this one at a solo show at Monorail Music in Glasgow to a group of friends who were a captive audience.

9. Chin Chin - "Why Am I So Lonely?"
Diana: When we were writing "Suck A Lemon," the idea of doing a slow and fast version of a song came from Chin Chin. Their slow version of "Why Am I So Lonely?" sounds so melancholy, yet the fast version seems so fierce -- almost questioning why they would let someone make them feel that way.

10. The Dead Milkmen - "Punk Rock Girl"
Greg: So this is an atypical pop playlist, because we're including the Dead Milkmen. I hate when bands take themselves so seriously. I grew up in Philly playing in the punk/emo scene and these guys were legends! Punk rock girl just reminds me of being in my late teens and doing stupid shit around town with my friends/girlfriends. I don’t see how you could be in a bad mood when the dead milkmen are on. Plus joe jack’s voice is so unique and endearing. If only I was old enough in the 80s to go to a show.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Swell Covers From Jason Falkner

It's funny, the twists and turns that take you to a song. After sitting in the house for more than a week, I finally opened Robyn Hitchcock's new album yesterday. One listen in, I was pleased as punch to hear him with a band again. The album is produced by power-pop aficionado Brendan Benson, and seeing his name on the sleeve made me think of his pal, Jason Falkner. Always happens. I made a mental note to pull out some Falkner soon. It's been too long.

I had a little trouble sleeping last night and decided to read for a bit. I had a copy of 'Rip It Up and Start Again' by Simon Reynolds on the bed stand. Having read it before and just needing to get drowsy, I opened the book on a random page. It was from the chapter "Autonomy in the U.K.: DIY and the British Independent-Label Movement." Reynolds was going on about Swell Maps, and he mentioned the song "Midget Submarines." I immediately recalled Falkner covering that song on the two-disc Japanese import 'Everyone Says It's On' in 2001. Now the signs were clear as day... in my tired mind, anyway. I was meant to listen to that song, and I would never be able to sleep without hearing it. Luckily, my iPod was charging on the bed stand too. I rolled over and started scrolling only to find I didn't have Falkner's "Midget Submarines" on there.

Awake as ever, I made my way downstairs to the music room and took 'Everyone Says It's On' off the shelf. If you know the album, disc one is called "Me," and the second disc is called "Them" because it's all covers by the likes of Kinks, Brian Eno, Magazine, the Left Banke and many more. Inspired choices. You can guess what happened. Paying for it today, but I stayed up and listened to the whole damn thing. It was worth the cost. Here's a great summary of 'Everyone Says It's On' in Falkner's own words. This is from an excellent in-depth interview conducted by magazine Bucketfull Of Brains back in 2010, followed by a couple of covers from the album. I need a nap.

Yeah I just wanted to release some of my 4 track demos because I'm really proud of how they sound. I miss the urgent sound of that machine 4 track cassette machine, so warm and syrupy and delicious. The covers that comprise one disc of that double were actually recorded in 1994 when my short lived post Jellyfish band The Grays were dissolving. The head of Epic had flown out to Chicago to talk me into keeping The Grays together for one more record even though Jon Brion had quit. I was really over that group as well so I negotiated that I be able to make a SOLO (my first solo performed record mind you) record of obscure covers and if that could happen I would make another Grays record without Jon.

My idea was given the green light so when I got back to LA I booked a studio and started recording this cover record. I remember the A&R guy from Epic leaving tons of messages at the studio but I just kept recording and never called him back. I figured whatever he had to say couldn't be as important as this record I was making. Ha ha the nerve! This was a wonderfully exciting time making this record because it was the first time I was in a proper studio playing all the instruments and I chose a very diverse collection of songs that had impacted me deeply. I also thought I might turn the world on to these great obscure bands like The Monochrome Set, The Left Banke and Magazine. Well obviously I didn't do any of these bands a favour because the reason my A&R guy was calling so much was to tell me to STOP and inform me that The Grays were dropped from Epic. So I finally put that out in 2001 on a Japanese label run by a crook. Long story.....If I did another covers record now? Hmmm....maybe a Public Nuisance track, and "Space Ace" by Brett Smiley, Something mid 90's by Guided by Voices....maybe I'll start this after the interview!

"Midget Submarines" (Swell Maps cover)
"Pretty Ballerina" (The Left Banke cover)
"A Song From Under the Floorboards" (Magazine cover)

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Church Grims Come Out of the Shadows

About a month ago, I shined the spotlight on the jangle of Scottish band Remember Fun. A couple of names were bandied about in comparison to help you, dear reader, understand their sound. It was brought to my attention one of those bands was a bit obscure and may not have been heard by you. Let's remedy that today.

This will be short and sweet because the Church Grims don't have much history. That's unfortunate, too, because when they did make it to wax (well, cassette, in most cases), each artifact turned out to be a perfect piece of indie pop. Like Remember Fun, the Paisley band was signed to Egg Records out of Glasgow, along with groups like the Prayers, Even as We Speak, the Hardy Boys, the Bachelor Pad, Baby Lemonade and several others. There was never an album during their five years together. In fact, the Church Grims' officially released discography was only four songs, all on compilations. As you'll hear in a moment, that's a travesty.

The Church Grims may have been forgotten all together, but a resurgent interest in bands influenced by the 'C86' sound that began at the turn of the century prompted Egg founder Jim Kavanagh to dig up the long out of print music from his roster with the goal of getting it out there. In 2003, many years after the band called it a day, the Church Grims finally had a somewhat proper release with 'Plaster Saints: The Church Grims Basement Tapes 1987-1988.'

"Mr. Watt Said" was the only song from the Church Grims that ever made it to vinyl. It appeared on the four-song Egg sampler "A Lighthouse in the Desert" in 1989. If you only hear one song by them, this should be the one. You know I'm a sucker for trumpet with my pop, and there is plenty of that here. Within seconds, you will think of the June Brides. I can't give a better compliment.

"Mr. Watt Said"

Friday, June 9, 2017

Miaow on Peel

We began the week with music from Manchester, and I thought we could begin the weekend with another band that got its start in that fine city. I listen to a lot more Cath Carroll through her work with Julian Henry in the Hit Parade than in any of her other guises, but I do have a soft spot for the short lived Miaow. Officially, there were only three singles, two of them recorded for Factory Records in 1987, at least one of which we will listen to in more detail when we get to the letter M in my vinyl-ripping series. I think Miaow always seemed bigger than the paltry discography because of their appearance on the legendary NME 'C86' cassette, as well as two memorable sessions for John Peel.

To the Peel Sessions we go for today's tracks. Recorded for the program in June of '86, "Did She?" would go on to appear as the B-side to the indie hit "When It All Comes Down." To the best of my knowledge, Miaow never recorded "Thames at High Water" outside of the January '87 Peel Session. I assumed for years it was meant to show up on the shelved album 'Priceless Innuendo,' but the demos have seen the light of day without this one. Both of these sessions can be heard in full on the 2003 LTM compilation 'When It All Comes Down.'

"Did She?" (Peel Session)
"Thames at High Water" (Peel Session)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cut a Big Pink Cake for Matinée Recordings

This is going to feel like "This Is Your Life," but it's a life well worth celebrating. As Matinée Recordings turns 20, I'm struck by how much of my favorite music has come from the label. From its humble D.C. beginnings, when founder Jimmy Tassos bucked late '90s trends and actually put out 7" singles by indie-pop bands from around the world, to the left-coast move and an expanded stable of stars, including even an American band (Math and Physics Club) that unexpectedly fit Matinée's distinct aesthetic, Matinée has been nothing but quality.

Like many of you, it was the Lucksmiths that brought me to Matinée. More specifically, it was the "Untidy Towns" 7". I imagine those Aussies helped pay many of the label's bills, but there have been so many memorable releases among Matinée's 79 albums and 93 singles that only a list will do. To celebrate 20 years as a label, here are my 20 favorite Matinée releases. No rules. Singles, compilations and anything else from the label are eligible. Apologies in advance for releases that show my age.

The Matinée 20 on 20
20. Airport Girl - 'Honey, I'm an Artist'
19. Remember Fun - "Train Journeys" EP
18. Seabirds - "Real Tears" 7"
17. Sportique - 'Modern Museums' 10"
16. Tender Trap - '6 Billion People'
15. Math and Physics Club - 'Our Hearts Beat Out Loud'
14. Razorcuts - "A Is For Alphabet" EP
13. The Popguns - "Lovejunky" 7"
12. Brighter - 'Singles 1989-1992'
11. The Sugargliders - 'A Nest With a View 1990-1994'
10. Brighter - 'Out to Sea'
9. The Perfect English Weather - 'Isobar Blues'
8. The Lucksmiths - 'First Frost'
7. Northern Portrait - 'Ta!'
6. Razorcuts - 'R Is For Razorcuts'
5. The Catenary Wires - 'Red Red Skies'
4. The Siddeleys - 'Slum Clearance'
3. The Popguns - 'Pop Fiction'
2. Cats on Fire - 'Our Temperance Movement'
1. The Lucksmiths - 'Warmer Corners'

Matinée is on fire right now, with new bands and albums just around the corner. So, obviously this list is fluid. You already know about 'Sugar Kisses,' the new one from the Popguns that's sure to make the list above soon, but we now know about some other poptastic releases out now or just around the corner. The Lucksmiths are sorely missed, but Marty Donald returns to the fold with a new band, called Last Leaves, and some of the fellas from his old band will make appearances on a new album due out this fall. There are other new signings, too, including Tinsel Heart from Sweden and the Royal Landscaping Society from Spain.

To mark 20 years, the just released compilation 'Matinée Idols' includes a song from all three of these new bands, as well as songs from many of your favorite bands on the label's roster. Best of all, these are previously unreleased, exclusive, or rare recordings. My copy is on the way, and I have been stalking the postman all week. Here is the tracklist and a few of the songs to stream. Happy birthday, Matinée!

'Matinée Idols'
1. Champagne Riot - Ingrid Bergman
2. The Popguns - So Long
3. The Electric Pop Group - Postcard
4. Last Leaves - Something Falls
5. Tinsel Heart - Talk
6. Strawberry Whiplash - Me, My Selfie and I
7. The Royal Landscaping Society - Moon
8. Math and Physics Club - Shadows Longer
9. The Catenary Wires - You Save Me From Myself
10. Seabirds - Independent Horses
11. The Perfect English Weather - Under My Feet
12. Bubblegum Lemonade - Set The Boy Free
13. The Hermit Crabs - Game Plan
14. Azure Blue - New Moon

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Even Manchester's Footnotes Are Fine

Thinking of Manchester today and trying to decide which '80s indie band to play from that city. So many to choose from. Let's listen to the Waltones. They were one from a stable of stars on Medium Cool Records. The label wasn't around long, 1986 to 1989, but if you saw the logo on a record, you could be guaranteed quality. The Raw Herbs, the Siddeleys, the Rain, the Corn Dollies and even my beloved Popguns had a moment there.

The Waltones found the indie singles chart three times during that period, with "Spell It Out" being their biggest moment, peaking at No. 20 in 1988. There was one album, 'Deepest,' released in 1989, and I think these lines from an NME review of the LP sum up the band succinctly: "They're shaping up as the best band to emerge from the guitar pop glut of '85. People are bound to comment that they are trapped in an indie ghetto - but this is commercial, it won't turn Woolworth's girls' heads but it's bloody good. If you like beat, melody, strong guitar lines and choruses you'll go for it in a big way. The major problem is perhaps their lack of cynicism and anger (two obvious Mancunian traits) - a rosy glow cheerfulness remains throughout."

"She Looks Right Through Me" just barely made the chart, No. 49 in 1987, but it's my favorite and the one that seems to be remembered most fondly by fans. How was this not a bigger hit? The B-side "Special 20" isn't half bad either. The 12" had a the bonus B-side "Burning Conscience." Today's trivia: After the demise of the Waltones, guitarist Mark Collins went on to greater success with what band?

We're with you, Manchester. Regardless of the turmoil this weekend, the show should and must go on.

"She Looks Right Through Me"
"Special 20"
"Burning Conscience"

Friday, June 2, 2017

Two Great Songs That Sound Great Together: Response Songs

Two Great Songs That Sound Great Together is an occasional series on these pages where we listen to songs I often coupled on mix tapes in my youth. Today's picks don't quite fit that criteria because two of the four songs below come from this century and many years after I bought my last Maxell XLII-S 90 cassette, but I have certainly played them back to back on mixes made for my iPod.

These are best described as response songs... a composition inspired by an earlier one. In fact, that's exactly how Elefant Records described this song by the School in the fall of 2015: "'Do I Love You?' is an upbeat Northern Soul-inspired track, a girl's response to the famous Frank Wilson song." I have one of two known original copies of Frank Wilson's "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)," anonymously bought at an auction in 2015. Just kidding, Drew. I hope the doctor didn't need to use the paddles on you after reading that. I have Wilson's song on 'The Best Northern Soul All-Nighter... Ever!' Terrible name and packaging but there's no arguing the 60 classics spread over two discs is a wonderful place for a novice to start.

Frank Wilson - "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)"
The School - "Do I Love You?"

Elefant again! Two fine examples to illustrate why they are just about the best label out there. This one is surely in the running for the best answer song ever. Certainly helps when you have someone so brilliant posing the question in the first place. I'm going to cut this short. I get so blue thinking about the death of Carey Lander. If you don't have all five of Camera Obscura's albums, go get 'em right now.

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?"
Camera Obscura - "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken"

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 13)

Finally finished ripping all of my vinyl from Everything But the Girl. After four albums and scores of singles, I'm ready to move down the shelf. We will, of course, hear from Ben and Tracey later on when we get to Marine Girls and solo works. There has also been some interest in a bonus post of covers performed by EBTG as well, and I'm all for it. Look for that in the next week or so.

This is EBTG's fourth post in this series, and that's uncharted territory. No other band or artist, so far, has had four posts. Even Elvis Costello didn't get four, but that's misleading because we did listen to 10 singles crammed into three posts. When you consider I own almost nothing by EBTG beyond 1989, yet they still garnered this much attention, that's all the proof I need that they were and still are among my favorite artists.

Two more singles today and from eras we haven't listened to yet. From the 1985 album 'Love Not Money,' here is the second of two singles from that album. Incidentally, the first was "When All's Well," a perfect piece of horn-driven pop that raced up the chart to... No. 77. Ridiculous. Neither single made any noise on the big countdown, but I do think "When All's Well" and "Angel" were fine choices for radio. They weren't, however, the best songs on the album, and the LP managed to sell more than 100,000 copies without a hit on it. There were three songs on the B-side of second single "Angel," and none of them came from 'Love Not Money.' Much appreciated. There was an alternative version of "Easy as Sin," a song that first appeared on the 1984 U.S. self-titled release. This take was much longer than the original, and Ben took the vocals this time around. "Pigeons in the Attic Room" and "Charmless Callous Ways" were guitar and voice and piano and voice, respectfully. Each clock in at less than two minutes and took you back to the way EBTG did things in '82. No throwaways there.

"Angel" 12", UK Chart Peak: No. 93
"Easy as Sin" (Version)
"Pigeons in the Attic Room"
"Charmless Callous Ways"

Now we enter the 'Idlewild' era, but this was a non-album single from 1989. This was not my favorite single, not even my favorite cover, but I wanted to end the EBTG posts with a success story, and this was, by far, the band's biggest hit of the decade. In her memoir 'Bedsit Disco Queen,' Tracey went into detail about how 'Idlewild' marked a tough time for the band. Label support was low. In turn, the band's confidence was even lower.

How rewarding it must have been, then, to cover Danny Whitten's song, first recorded by Crazy Horse in 1971 and made famous by Rod Stewart in 1977, and watch it immediately get airplay on Radio 1. This was their "Top of the Pops" moment. Stewart was a big hero of the Thorn family when she was growing up, and EBTG stuck to a faithful rendition. Thorn admitted all of that attention was fun, but by covering Stewart they had "unwittingly steered ourselves perilously close to becoming housewives' favourites." Of course, over here, we didn't know about all of that. It would be seven more years before they would have that moment here in America.

If you can spare the time, try the instrumental mix from the flip side of the 12". Has a little different feel, and Ben Watt really shines. The rest of the B-sides were taken from 'Idlewild.' After all, this single was issued to beef up sales of the current album. The label did try to cash in on the band's fresh fame by issuing a followup single to "I Don't Want to Talk About It," the third from 'Idlewild.' "Love Is Here Where I Live" failed to chart. Personally, I'll take that one before the hit every time.

"I Don't Want to Talk About It" 12", UK Chart Peak: No. 3
"I Don't Want to Talk About It"
"Oxford Street"
"I Don't Want to Talk About It" (Instrumental Mix)
"Shadow on a Harvest Moon"

Saturday, May 27, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 12)

Two singles from 1984 by Everything But the Girl today, and this first one is my absolute favorite from the band. Both of these singles appeared on what is my favorite album by them, the U.S. release simply known as 'Everything But the Girl.' Unless you were a lucky and deep digger in the import bin, debut album 'Eden' was nowhere to be found in these parts. What we got instead were six of the 12 songs from the UK release, plus two additional UK singles and four B-sides.

For much of my teenage years, I didn't even know 'Eden' existed. By the time I did pick up a copy of the import, 'Everything But the Girl' was so much a part of me that I thought 'Eden' seemed inferior in every way. When does that ever happen? In my experience, the UK version of an album is almost always better, but the addition of five of the six songs from these UK singles below really beefed up the U.S. release. I even liked the album cover of the U.S. version better. That's probably sacrilege to some fans since artist Jane Fox of Marine Girls created the cover for 'Eden.' Of the songs below, only "Native Land" B-side "Don't You Go" didn't make the U.S. album, and that song wouldn't appear anywhere else until the 2012 deluxe edition of 'Eden.'

One more thing about this time around 1984 and 1985. Obviously, this album and the next one took many personnel, from flugelhorn players to pedal steel aficionados to Johnny Marr on harmonica, but Tracey Thorn on vocals, Ben Watt on guitar and piano, Philip Moxham of Young Marble Giants on bass and June Miles-Kingston of the Mo-Dettes on drums was a tight unit that should have received more accolades. How about one more post on EBTG before I put their vinyl away?

"Each and Every One" 12", UK Chart Peak: No. 28
"Each And Every One"
"Laugh You Out The House" (dedicated to Echorich)
"Never Could Have Been Worse"

"Native Land" 12", No. 73
"Native Land"
"Riverbed Dry"
"Don't You Go"

Friday, May 26, 2017

Turntable Una'whale'able. Come Back Tomorrow

Today marks the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer, and many will be finding their way to the beaches to celebrate. For those of you in my neck of the woods, I would recommend staying far away from Twin Harbors State Park on the Pacific Coast of Washington. There is a rotting 30-foot gray whale on the beach, and the smell is said to be overpowering. What to do? Washington State Parks rangers have decided the best course of action is to let it decay and become food for seagulls and crabs. That will make for a fun summer in those parts, eh? One option not considered was blowing it up like those weirdos to our south did in Oregon back in 1970. Watch this. You won't believe what happened. American ingenuity at its best.

Oh, and state parks officials are reminding people not to take parts of the rotting whale because it's a federal offense. Uh, okay, thanks for the warning. That was close. Happy summer, everyone.

Tens of thousands of songs at my disposal and not one about blowing up whales. Pitiful. This will have to suffice.

Preston School of Industry - Whalebones

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 11)

It's an old story. Girl meets boy at university. That's about as far as you can take the "old story" label. While in Hull, during the first calendar year away from home, Tracey Thorn puts out albums with Marine Girls, Everything But the Girl and as a solo artist. There is a Peel Session and a single of the week in NME with Marine Girls. Don't forget the cover of Melody Maker and interview after interview with all of the music mags. Then there is checking the same publications to see how all of your various entities are being reviewed and moving on the indie chart, even having two slots in the top 10 at the same time! Meanwhile, your partner in Everything But the Girl and in life, Ben Watt, is releasing an album with Robert Wyatt and having his own run with the music magazines. Oh, and there is that whole trying to earn a degree thing.

Sounds a lot like your first year of college, right?

Elvis Costello and Martin Fry reviewed this first single by Everything But the Girl for Radio 1's "Roundtable" program. They, of course, loved it. Thorn remembers in her book 'Bedsit Disco Queen' that the two "threatened to steal the show's copy afterwards." These three songs are miles away from the big sound we heard yesterday on the "Come on Home" 12". The shadowy cover above says it all, really. Guitar and voice that would work perfectly in a smoky downstairs jazz bar. The A-side is Cole Porter's classic. Even U2 couldn't ruin this song (although they gave it a good run!). "Feeling Dizzy" is by Watt, and "On My Mind" is a Thorn composition also recorded by Marine Girls. I'll take this version. More singles from EBTG tomorrow.

"Night and Day"
"Feeling Dizzy"
"On My Mind"

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 10)

In these dark times, the consensus in our blogging community seems to be that the show should and must go on, and I wholeheartedly agree.

As I continue this massive vinyl-ripping project and series, there are some bands that need and deserve more than one post. The need is because there is too much to rip to complete the task in a mere one or two sittings. This brings the blog to a standstill. If I have a huge stack of vinyl by a band, chances are they are very important to me, and I don't like equating a single post by someone minor in the collection, such as Terence Trent D'Arby, with a vital band like today's selection, Everything But the Girl. That means we will need to spend a few days with Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt while I catch up with the vinyl transfers.

Although I didn't keep up with the duo during the '90s, I think I have just about all there is to have by them in the '80s. I fell in love with Thorn's voice when she sang "The Paris Match" for the Style Council in '84. For much of the rest of the decade, I searched high and low for everything I could get my hands on that featured those pipes. For these pages, I'm going to focus on a few of my favorite singles.

Let's begin with this four-track 12" from 1986. "Come on Home," as well as much of the music on 'Baby, the Stars Shine Bright,' was Everything But the Girl going for it. In Thorn's memoir 'Besdit Disco Queen,' she explains the music that was influencing EBTG at the time:

"Our watchwords at the time were Spector, The Shngri-La's and the album Dusty in Memphis. Peter Walsh from The Apartments moved into our flat for a while, and introduced us to Charlie Rich records."

Ben Watt worked tirelessly on string arrangements, and a full orchestra and choir was brought into Abbey Road with Mike Hedges producing. Thorn called it "a grand gesture of a record." When Geoff Travis (their A&R man at the time) visited the studio and heard a finished mix of one of the songs for the first time, he said, "Well, it's very good, but is there possibly a little too much going on in there?" Just what you want to hear after all of that labor, I'm sure.

The extended version of "Come on Home" is a minute longer than the album version and has a lovely prelude. "Draining the Bar," written by Thorn, had to have been influenced by those Rich records. Hearing pedal steel was quite a shock in '86, but I love the song, especially lyrically. For quite a while, you could only get this song on the 7" and 12", but it eventually showed up on the 1992 Japanese import '82-92 Essence And Rare.' There's a nice acoustic version of "Come on Home" on there, too. As for the cover of "I Fall to Pieces," that one was really tough to find until 2012 when 'Baby, the Stars Shine Bright" got the deluxe treatment in 2012. Man, I hate it when my vinyl becomes obsolete.

"Come on Home" (Extended)
"Draining the Bar"
"Come on Home"
"I Fall to Pieces"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Two Great Songs That Sound Great Together (2)

Here's another twofer I used to love to put back to back on mix tapes when I was a lad. It feels like the Nick Lowe-Elvis Costello combinations could be endless, really, but I liked to stack these two songs from 1978 for their slightly eerie atmospheres. One song is decidedly superior to the other, always making Lowe's "No Reason" the build to the masterpiece, but the album it comes from, 'Jesus of Cool,' is impossible to cut up. I couldn't imagine Lowe would make a better album, at least until he released 'The Impossible Bird' in 1994. That's an argument for another day. It's clear these two fellas that have nothing but respect for each other's craft, and each has much to be thankful for because of the other.

Nick Lowe - "No Reason"
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea"

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Single and Album News From the Popguns

With a nearly 20-year wait between albums 'Love Junky' and 'Pop Fiction,' fans of the Popguns were nothing if not patient. These days, however, the band has become downright prolific, churning out indie-pop gems like their halcyon days on Midnight Records. If you have been following along, you have no doubt fallen for the Popguns' charms every step of the way, and the impending single, "So Long," will be no exception. Matinée Recordings will release the digital only single on Friday, and the Popguns' Bandcamp page will also have the song available as a free download for one week only. Excited yet? Maybe this will grab your attention. Although "So Long" is a digital only release, the Popguns have about 20 promo CD singles in their portfolio. Rather than being left to collect dust in an attic somewhere, the singles will be sold on the Bandcamp page beginning Friday. If you're a die-hard fan, log on early. These are sure to move quickly.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to ask guitarist Simon Pickles about the new single. He explains, "'So Long' is basically an indulgence in breeze-pop guitars, multi-layered harmonies and a Lloyd Cole-esque lyric of romantic melancholia about a low-fidelity summer fling. We actually recorded it in summer 2015 but only finished off the album last year before the usual delays before release."

"So Long" is just the beginning. It's the walk-up single to 'Sugar Kisses,' the new album due out June 16, but as Jimmy often does, 'Sugar Kisses' will get an early release date of June 1 exclusively through Matinée Recordings.

Pickles also gives his thoughts on 'Sugar Kisses' and contrasts it with the band's triumphant 2014 comeback release. "I think the album is more raw than 'Pop Fiction,' and "So Long" is probably the lightest tune on it. It features 10 new songs with a pretty big variety and certainly some good old-fashioned, straight down the middle Popguns power pop. We think it's a hell of a lot of fun and we really, really can't wait to play the tunes live." Now I know you're excited.

Q&A With Simon and Wendy Pickles of the Perfect English Weather
Favorite Albums of 2014
Favorite Songs of 2014
Pull Trigger on New Single From the Popguns
The Popguns Aim High and Hit the Bull's-Eye
Still Waiting For New Popuns? Not for Long
Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 22)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 9)

While having a recent in-depth conversation about records and blogging with Walter and JC, or "the Blogfather," as JC is now known, the Blogfather suddenly paused, looked me square in the eye and said, "You know we aren't normal." He's correct, of course, this music obsession of ours, and having a savant-like talent for recalling when and where I have bought thousands of records may be a case in point. That brings me to the two albums above and a wonderful memory of finding them.

In 1988, at age 18, I took a road trip with my best friend. This was the first time I had ever had an adventure like that, and my heart was filled with excitement at this newfound independence. It was a feeling that could never be replicated. You're only young once. We drove all night and well into the next day to get from the cornfields of Illinois to Austin, Texas. Not a care in the world. Lots of junk food and singalongs to early B-52's as dawn was breaking. We were so punchy by then we actually started to think we sounded good. Our first stop in Austin was to Waterloo Records. The legendary shop lived up to expectations when I heard Dinosaur Jr.'s 'You're Living All Over Me' playing on the sound system.

I was heavily into Bowie and Talking Heads at the time, still am, in fact, but I had yet to discover Brian Eno's solo work. I bought his first two albums that day. I still can't believe 'Here Come the Warm Jets' and 'Taking Tiger Mountain' are from 1974. Besides Bowie and Roxy Music, I didn't think there was anything else out there from the era except bad AM-radio hits. These albums opened my mind to the possibilities there could be more good music from the early '70s. Here are the opening tracks to both albums. I have to say they both sound pretty good today.

"Needles in the Camel's Eye"
"Burning Airlines Give You So Much More"

Monday, May 15, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 8)

Back in November, one day after the catastrophic election, to be exact, I featured the soundtrack to 'Dance Craze,' an album chock full of gems from ska's second wave. I purposely focused on minor acts like Bad Manners and the Bodysnatchers because I knew the rest of the bands on the album would get their own day in this series. That brings us to the English Beat. My apologies to the rest of the world for "the Donald" and the fact that we here in America call the Beat the English Beat (in that order). It was all to avoid the confusion of having a terrific power-pop band called the Beat here on our shores... Los Angeles to be exact. I don't like them as much as Dave, Roger and the rest, but they are worth a listen.

My vinyl section for the English Beat is nothing special. I have the three studio albums and a couple of singles. Even that sparse collection became obsolete when I invested in the five-disc 'The Complete Beat' box set when it came out in 2012, but I hung on to the wax anyway. I bought the box for the two discs of bonus material that included extended versions, remixes and dub mixes, as well as all three Peel Sessions and a live performance. I had some of that material on vinyl, and that's what we'll listen to today. Here is the "Jeanette" 12" in all of its scratchy glory. Not a big deal to you folks on the other side of the pond, but I only have a couple of pieces of vinyl with the Go-Feet Records imprint, and this is one of them. The English Beat were on I.R.S. over here. The B-side is an extra-long instrumental version of "Rotating Head" made famous on 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.'

"Jeanette" (Extended)
"March of the Swivel Heads" (Extended)

Linear Tracking Lives turns 8 today. I want to thank everyone who has stopped by over the years. I have always said I'll quit doing this when it starts to feel like work. I'm still having fun, and it's because of you. Until tomorrow, then...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dipping Toe Into Sunday Soul

This is something more likely found on the pages of Drew's or CC's blogs, but I was so moved by this song earlier this week it literally made me stop the car when I heard it. On Wednesday, I'm driving home my oldest son from swimming when KEXP here in Seattle spins the finest 10 minutes of music I have ever heard on the radio. The DJ dusts off some Dusty and follows it up with Nancy and Lee. Then, to tout an entire day of music dedicated to soul the station has planned for Friday, they play this...

Lorraine Ellison - "Stay With Me"

Now, I have heard this song many times, but I'm not sure I had really heard it, you know? Her plea got to me in a way it hadn't before, and I could feel the waterworks coming. There's a pretty interesting backstory to "Stay With Me." In 1966, Frank Sinatra cancelled his recording session at the last minute, leaving a 46-piece orchestra with nothing to do. Warner Bros. put in a call to producer and songwriter Jerry Ragovoy to see if he wanted to do anything with them. Ragovoy and writer George David Weiss quickly arranged "Stay With Me" and had the virtually unknown Ellison come down to sing it. Happy accident, indeed. I have read in places it was done in one take. Ellison's delivery produced many wet eyes in the orchestra that day. If you're not careful, you may need a tissue too.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Musical Memories of Glasgow

Nearly a week on, as the blogger that turned out the lights on the wildly successful Scotland summit, I can't help but think this weekend might not quite live up to the last one. I take solace in the friendships that were formed and the memories that will linger forevermore. The visit was perfect in every way, and I can't thank our Glaswegian hosts enough. They even somehow arranged nice weather. Who comes home from Glasgow with a tan? Most of my peers have already written about the weekend better than I ever could, but I thought I had better get a few things on the record before time and retelling blows everything all out of proportion. I mean, how long before Dirk's claim that eight out of 10 girls he saw on Saturday afternoon looked like models becomes 10 out of 10? Here are a few stops along the way that meant a lot to me.

Do you recognize the address 185 West Princes Street? Flat 2/R of the rather nondescript building was home to Alan Horne's Postcard Records. JC and I stopped there on Sunday night just as the sun was setting for the evening and on the entire trip. As I stood there thinking about Edwyn, Roddy, Paul and Malcolm passing in and out of that doorway with the world on a string, I was struck by how there was nothing on the building to mark what had occurred there in 1980 and '81. This should be a landmark with some kind of signage on the second floor on the outer facade. Everything happened on the second floor, and the distance from the ground may keep sticky-fingered fans from stealing the plaque. This project is a labor of love I'm seriously considering.

On Saturday night, I heard JC tell Strangeways I'm a Glaswegian at heart. It's true. Scotland is my favorite place on earth. Why? Three reasons. The people. The music. The climate. Not necessarily in that order. That's why my chance meetings with pop stars was so exciting. Many of my favorite labels and bands call Scotland home, and they have always seemed so far away. Running into any of them on the street or in a pub seemed so unlikely to me, but it's different in Glasgow. Everyone seems to know each other and is so approachable and friendly.

As you can see above, I met a Bluebell. That's Ken McCluskey. Fortunately, I met him fairly early in the day and was still coherent enough to tell him about discovering the Bluebells through the self-titled EP Sire put out in North America in 1983. If I had seen him just a couple of hours earlier, he would have seen a 12" extended version of "Cath" under my arm, one of several purchases made at Missing. Would have loved to have had him sign it. You might notice Ken is sporting an Electric Honey T-shirt. Ken co-runs the famous in-house label of Glasgow Kelvin College, and JC and I both picked up their latest release, 'Any Joy' by Pronto Mama.

One thing quickly learned in Glasgow was you never walk by a pub... you walk through it. Upon our very next pub stop after meeting a Blubell, JC introduced me to David MacGregor of Kid Canaveral. I had the privilege of telling the frontman I literally listen to him every single day. "Good Morning" from the 2010 debut album 'Shouting at Wildlife' is the song that wakes me up. Try it some time. Great way to start the day. David gave me a vinyl copy of the album, which I'm holding in the above photo. When he handed it to me, I let him know when I visited Scotland for the first time in 2012 the first thing I did when I got off the plane was pick up 'Shouting at Wildlife' on CD at the now defunct Avalanche Records in Edinburgh.

On Saturday morning, I hoped to right a wrong from five years ago. Many of you know my story of visiting Stephen Pastel's record shop called Monorail. I went in to buy the first album from Veronica Falls, and it just so happened to be the very album Stephen put on as I was approaching the counter. I handed him the album I wanted to to buy, and he smiled when he saw it. It was the perfect opening for me to introduce myself and tell him what an honor it was to meet him. Maybe even talk to him about his music. I froze. Not a single word was passed during the transaction, and I have been filled with regret ever since.

When our gang arrived on Saturday, it appeared Stephen wasn't there. I was a little disappointed but excited to thumb through the racks. Just about the time I hit the letter T, I looked up from the records to see Stephen saunter in. I nearly jumped out of my shoes. Then I had a quick check of my pals having a cup of tea in the next room. They had been watching me the whole time, and I guess my reaction lived up to expectations because they were all smiles. Happy to report I didn't freeze this time. Stephen complimented me on picking up 'Paperback Ghosts' from Comet Gain, and I was able to tell what his contributions to music meant to me. Weight lifted.

Just outside of Monorail, the bloggers reconvened for tea. Out of nowhere, the Glasgow contingent began passing out gifts to the out-of-towners. It felt like Christmas. There were Postcard T-shirts (one I didn't already have!), personally chosen 7" Northern Soul singles from Drew of Across the Kitchen Table (based on our past positive comments on his blog), the new Butcher Boy 7" and either a music book or CD. Why? Hmm, didn't think to ask. Too busy bug-eyed over my signed copy of Close Lobsters' 'Firestation Towers' set from JC. On Sunday, he shared the story of how he pulled off the feat, and it's quite an involved tale that will be told another time, but I will say I was rolling when he said, "So I was standing outside my house waiting for a Close Lobster, as you do..." All in all, I didn't spend all that much time in record shops. Yet, I came home with a bounty that included five LPs, two CDs, eight 7" singles, three 12" singles and one 10" EP, many of them gifted to me by pals or pop stars. Surreal. The music should make for a plethora of future posts.

This is a music blog, and that's what I focused on here. If you were part of the summit, you know music may have brought us together, but that's not really what our time together was all about. It was the camaraderie. It was the culture. It was the shitty third-tier Scottish football. It was the drinking. Let me repeat. It was the drinking. It was toasting our blogging friends, guest writers and brilliant commenters that couldn't be with us. It was the stories. It was tightening the binds that were already there. Even though many of us had never met before, we were all already old friends... and it felt like it. I, for one, can't wait for the second summit.

The Bluebells - "Some Sweet Day"
Kid Canaveral - "Good Morning"
The Pastels - "Not Unloved"
Close Lobsters - "Let's Make Some Plans"

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 7)

Back from the blogging summit in Scotland, and there is much to say, which I will do in the next day or two. In the meantime, let's return to the vinyl-ripping series that's been on hiatus for about three weeks.

For the first seven years of this blog, I never brought up Emily. I must be making up for lost time because this is the third time in the past eight months, including the passing mention on the post I did just before leaving for Scotland. Emily had a relatively quiet run from 1987 to 1989 and is best known for the four-song "Irony" EP, the 50th release by Creation. Through the years, I have grown to believe there might have been a better record. In 1989, the band briefly joined Esurient Communications, the short-lived label founded by Kevin Pearce from the legendary Hungry Beat fanzine. If Esurient rings a bell, then you were most likely an indie kid really into Jasmine Minks, the Claim or Hellfire Sermons.

Emily's contribution to the label was the "Stumble" 7". The song begins with the soft acoustic sound fans had come to expect, but before long, there is a keyboard, bold percussion and... a flute! There's saxophone too. Yikes! Could have been (and should have been) a disaster, but the dramatic build and tension it creates completely works. Ollie Jackson's vocal delivery contributes to the success of the the song in the same way Lawrence's voice is such a factor in the best songs by Felt. The single can go for $50 or more, but the always dependable German label Firestation resurrected the song on a brilliant double-album retrospective last year. Highly recommended.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Remember... This Is Fun!

About to begin the trek to Scotland to meet our blogging mates, and I couldn't be more excited. Thus, things will be quiet on these pages until early next week. I leave you with a gem from that land perhaps you haven't heard before.

If you recall Remember Fun at all, it's probably for the 1987 song "Hey Hey Hate" on Matt Haynes' pre-Sarah flexi label Sha-la-la.. a real keeper of a split 7" shared with Emily. A song on a charity album and another on a comp from Egg Records followed, but that's about it. They have been compared to Close Lobsters and Church Grims, but that's probably a bit lazy and comes down to geography in one case and a shared label (and geography) with the other. Their moniker may make you think of some manufactured boy band, but I promise you this is indie pop at its best... bitter words about life unfulfilled masked by cheery jangle.

In 2001, Jimmy, the fearless leader of Matinée Recordings, unearthed a handful of unreleased songs from the fellas, and each turned out to be better than the next. The following song is thought to be from 1989. To all of my pals making the journey to Glasgow in the coming days, no matter how you get there, be safe. See you soon. This is going to be fun! If this one is to your liking, spend the $4 and pick it up here.

Remember Fun - "Train Journeys"

Monday, May 1, 2017

Two Great Songs That Sound Great Together

Ever since Echorich and others celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Clash's debut album, I have been stuck in the late '70s. Stuck isn't the right word since I'm happy to be here. I recently assembled a mix of songs from 1977-1979 that shares one thing in common with the dozens of other '70s mixes that have come before it. I always have these two songs back to back. Sounds like they were separated at birth. We should prepare for a plethora of posts celebrating the big 4-0 for many of the best albums in your collection. These next few years are going to be packed with 'em.

Eddie & the Hot Rods - "Do Anything You Wanna Do" (1977)
The Records - "Starry Eyes" (1978)

Friday, April 28, 2017

One More From a Wondermint

If you have found your way here today from JC's bellwether blog the (new) vinyl villain, here's a bonus to accompany the imaginary compilation album featuring the work of L.A. power-pop band Wondermints. Maybe it should be called a hidden track since the song is a rare one even among die-hard fans.

If you have followed the solo career of Brian Wilson, then you no doubt know about 'Sweet Insanity,' the follow-up album to Wilson's self-titled solo debut. The long player was to be released in 1991 but was shelved and never got a proper release. There are, of course, bootleg versions, and many Wilson aficionados like myself have mixed feelings about the songs. I think part of it comes down to not being able to shake knowing Dr. Eugene Landy was right there in the studio with him writing lyrics and playing bad cop, but that's a story for another day. This post is supposed to be about Wondermints.

In March 1992, years before their first album and many more years before they would meet Wilson and begin working with him, Darian Sahanaja and Nick Walusko of Wondermints were messing about with a four-track Tascam 246 cassette recorder. With help from Nick, Darian covered the 'Sweet Insanity' song "Do You Have Any Regrets?" In 1997, after Wondermints had started gaining traction, French label Pop The Balloon released the song as a 7" single. Darian slowed the tempo a bit, and even though this was on a four-track, I'll take his production over Wilson's take every time. Darian did, however, show us the bones of a great song were there.

Brian Wilson - "Do You Have Any Regrets?"
Darian - "Do You Have Any Regrets?"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Great Ear of Jonathan Demme

When I heard filmmaker Jonathan Demme passed away, my first thoughts weren't about blockbuster films like 'Philadelphia' and 'Silence of the Lambs.' I thought about his passion for music. Demme clearly had a thing for Talking Heads, New Order, Robyn Hitchcock and the Feelies. That made him one of us, didn't it? Obviously, there was 'Stop Making Sense,' arguably one of the most important concert films in a generation, but don't forget his work behind the camera on memorable music videos like "A Perfect Kiss" by New Order and "Away" by the Feelies. You may remember the New Jersey group also had a terrific turn as the Willies, the fictional band that performed at the high school reunion during Demme's 1986 film 'Something Wild.' I showed this clip not too long ago, but it's worth another look.

Although the Feelies as the Willies didn't appear on the soundtrack to 'Something Wild' (what a shame!), it has been an album I have had for more than 30 years now, and one that I pull out often. In fact, I pulled it out today in Demme's honor. Here is the song that opens the film.

David Byrne With Celia Cruz - "Loco de Amor (Crazy for Love)"

One of Demme's most interesting uses of music in a feature was for the 2008 film 'Rachel Getting Married.' To call this one a drama is an understatement. It's a difficult watch but one that's worth the 113-minute investment. Rather than a traditional film score, all of the music was performed by musicians on-screen in nearly every scene, messing about in the background. Robyn Hitchcock and his pals were in the film as the band that performed at the wedding. Sounds crazy, but the music, or lack of music in some cases, was very effective. This song was in 'Rachel Getting Married' and would show up on Hitchcock's 2009 album 'Goodnight Oslo' too.

Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 - "Up To Our Nex"

Rest in peace, Mr. Demme. You made the world a world a better place. Wherever you are, I hope they have a great record collection.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How Was Your Lunch?

If you sat at your cubicle and stared at a computer screen while nibbling at a bologna sandwich housed on a brown-paper bag doubling as a plate (obviously, I have never done that before!), you might find this post depressing. As for the rest you, I hope you can be happy for me.

The Wedding Present are in town, and they gave a free lunch-time performance at the studios of Seattle radio station KEXP. It was an all-too-brief performance that filled the 12-12:30 slot, but it was an intimate and interesting way to see the Weddoes for the very first time... ever. Yes, you read that correctly. That was a lot of noise at noon for the 75 or so that showed up, and highlights included "Rachel", my favorite from latest album 'Going, Going...', "End Credits", from previous album 'Valentina', and the following from the band's 1992 singles series. This one nearly left my ears bleeding. I have never heard four people make such a racket.

"Flying Saucer"

I'm no shutterbug, and I'm not one to have the camera phone out at a show, but I managed a couple of photos of Gedge and Co. during the soundcheck and after the last song (see below). Not sure even lobster on the French Riviera could top today's lunch. KEXP usually archives these performances. If this one shows up, I'll be sure to post it.


Band With KEXP DJ

Equipment Stage Left

Monday, April 24, 2017

Was '88 Great? Better Than I Remember

We should have seen this coming. A couple of years ago, to mark the 30th anniversary of NME's legendary 'C86' cassette, reissue royals Cherry Red Records released a deluxe edition of the tape, first on CD and later on vinyl. A year later, the label got creative and cashed in on the enormous popularity of the reissue by asking the simple question, what if NME had curated a 'C87'? The three-disc box set was great fun and popular enough to now imagine a wonderful world where a 'C88' also existed.

It's easy to say "enough is enough," but then you look at the tracklist and realize it was a very good year for indie pop. Clare and Matt were getting their feet wet at Sarah. Alan was on fire over at Creation. The best indie label of all time, Martin's Subway Organization, was peaking. Stephen's 53rd & 3rd was wrapping up. How could this compilation not be cool? Preorder 'C88' for a June 30th release.

1. ON TAPE – The Pooh Sticks
2. ELEPHANT STONE (7" Version) – The Stone Roses
3. WHERE DO YOU GO (Flexi Version) – The Popguns
4. (WILL NOBODY SAVE) LOUISE – The Man From Delmonte
5. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? (Molesworth Version) - The Charlottes
6. THE THINGS YOU WANT – The Snapdragons
7. A SHELTERED LIFE – Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
8. ONE SUMMER – Moss Poles
9. LIES – Bridewell Taxis
10. DEFY THE LAW – The Orchids
11. HAPPY LIKE YESTERDAY – The Groovy Little Numbers
12. JULIE CHRISTIE – The Driscolls
13. HIGH – Choo Choo Train
14. CREMATION TOWN – The Poppyheads
16. SO HAPPY TO BE ALIVE – Thrilled Skinny
17. SISTER GOODBYE – The Prayers
18. ANORAK CITY – Another Sunny Day
19. SHE'S GONE – The Train Set
20. BARNOON HILL – Pacific
21. FOREVER HOLIDAY (Ediesta Version) – Blow-Up
22. MARY'S GARDEN – The Mock Turtles
23. THE PENNINE SPITTER – King Of The Slums
24. COLOURS AND SHAPES (Demo) – Pale Saints
25. THE BALLAD OF JET HARRIS – Apple Boutique


1. THE HILL – The House Of Love
2. DYING FOR IT – The Vaselines
3. KIRSTY – Bob
5. PLEASE RAIN FALL – The Sea Urchins
6. SHAME ON YOU – The Darling Buds
7. PRIZE – Kitchens Of Distinction
8. TOO MANY SHADOWS– The Heart Throbs
9. DO IT FOR FUN – The Bachelor Pad
10. THEY FELL FOR WORDS LIKE LOVE – Hangman's Beautiful Daughters
11. GIVING WAY TO TRAINS – Murrumbidgee Whalers
12. WHAT’S GOING DOWN – The Shamen
13. HEAVEN KNOWS – The Flatmates
14. SPELL IT OUT – The Waltones
15. MRS SUSAN SPENCE – The Wilderness Children
16. YESTERDAY – The Nivens
17. REAL WORLD – Baby Lemonade
18. VILLAGE GREEN – The Clouds
19. FIRE ESCAPE – Rote Kapelle
20. MAD DOGS – Emily
21. THE 18:10 TO YEOVIL JUNCTION – Bubblegum Splash
22. MICHAEL FUREY – Metro Trinity
23. THEME FROM COW – Inspiral Carpets


1. SUN, SEA, SAND – The Revolving Paint Dream
2. SURFAROUND – The Fizzbombs
3. PLASTER SAINT – The Church Grims
4. CRUSH THE FLOWERS (Demo) – The Wake
5. SUNSHINE THUGGERY – The Siddeleys
6. CLEAR - Whirl
7. A MILLION ZILLION MILES - Annie & The Aeroplanes
9. CINCINNATI – Holidaymakers
10. THE CAMERA LOVES ME – Would-Be-Goods
11. ANYWHERE BUT HOME – The Caretaker Race
12. WHO WORKS THE WEATHER – The Great Leap Forward
14. BYTHESEA ROAD – The Haywains
15. THE OLD ROAD OUT OF TOWN (12" Mix) – The Wishing Stones
16. SHAKE – The Corn Dollies
17. LAND OF GOLD – Bluetrain
19. APPLE OF MY EYE - Remember Fun
20. MORNING O'GRADY - Yeah Jazz
21. DON'T BURY ME YET – The Raw Herbs
22. CURRY CRAZY - Bad Dream Fancy Dress
23. ON MY WAY – The Claim
24. GLASTONBURY - Rodney Allen

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Original 'Almost Blue'

I dedicate this post to a country lawyer living the dream on the continent. Best of luck to Jonny Bottoms and the rest of the Ponderosa Aces as they begin to boot scoot their way across Europe. No, Jonny, 'Almost Blue' probably isn't considered country by your peers, but the original songs might just work for the fellas. Give my best to JC when you see him in Manchester.

Side 1
Hank Williams - "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)?"
Patsy Cline - "Sweet Dreams"
Loretta Lynn - "Success"
The Flying Burrito Bros. - "I'm Your Toy"
Merle Haggard - "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down"
George Jones - "Brown to Blue"

Side 2
George Jones - "Good Year for the Roses"
Charlie Rich - "Sittin' and Thinkin'"
George Jones - "Colour of the Blues"
Emmylou Harris - "Too Far Gone"
Johnny Burnette Rock 'n' Roll Trio - "Honey Hush"
Gram Parsons - "How Much I Lied"