Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Q&A With Uwe Weigmann of Firestation Records

You need only look as far as my annual list of the best reissues to know nobody mines the UK indie-pop archives better than Berlin-based Firestation Records. They are the rare label that can get me to buy an album without ever hearing a note. I know it's been vetted by the best. By the best, I'm referring to Founder/Label Manager Uwe Weigmann. So far this year, Weigmann and his team has had me spinning the likes of the Apple Moths, Keen, Asia Fields and the Pressure Group. It's an exciting time right now as Firestation has a trio of releases hitting the shelves this Friday. Let's catch up with Weigmann to hear about new albums by the Siddeleys, Elephant Noise and the English McCoy, as well as some big news on 'the Sound of Leamington Spa' series.

Linear Tracking Lives: The original releases from the Siddeleys are rare, highly coveted and extremely expensive. Since the late '80s, there have been few reissues. In 2001, Matinée Recordings put together a terrific compilation featuring their singles and Peel Sessions. In 2015, Firestation did a very nice job with the "Sunshine Thuggery" 12". How will your upcoming release, 'Songs From the Sidings,' differ from these previous reissues?

Uwe Weigmann: 'Songs From The Sidings' partly contains demos which Johnny Johnson recorded with Torquil MacLeod of Reserve between 1985-1986. Apart from it you will find demo versions of classic tracks such as "What Went Wrong This Time?" or "Falling Off Of My Feet Again," which the band recorded as four piece in early 1986. The CD version contains liner notes by Johnny along with some rare band photos.

LTL: 'Songs From the Sidings' is not the only release you have coming out on Aug. 18, but the Siddeleys are certainly the best known. Can you tell us about the bands Elephant Noise and the English McCoy and the impending reissues that feature them?

Uwe: Both the English McCoy and Elephant Noise are faves of mine since the early '90s when I bought their records from the secondhand record shops in London. Their releases became ultra rare soon after. We already worked with Elephant Noise some years ago when we included one of their songs on the seventh part of 'the Sound Of Leamington Spa' series. It took years to locate the members of the English McCoy. I nearly gave up on it until the last year when members of the band get in touch with us via e-mail. I already had a tracklist in mind for the album but did some changes on it when I found out that there are even more recordings by them which were unknown to me before. There are still some cool songs by them which didn't made it onto the album.

LTL: What Firestation releases do you listen to with the most pride? Why?

Uwe: Of course, I have some personal faves. Without a doubt the most important release for me will always be FST 001, Bazooka Cain – Viele Grüsse. I have so many great memories of this release. Maybe it was the best time of my life when it came out in 1998. "Annahmeschluß" is one of the greatest songs ever written. I was also very proud to release records by some of my favourite bands or artists, such as Sensation, Andy Pawlak and the Bodines.

In recent years, the album by Skint & Demoralised was very important to me for various reasons. It was the last current indie-pop band I was in love with. Also, I will never stop raving about this record. I deeply regret now that we haven't released the bands third and also last album when it came out some years ago. I am also proud to have put together FST 100 - 'Still Mad At Me? 15 Years Firestation Records 1998-2013'. It took me a year or so to organise everything for it, put together the tracklist, write the liner notes, locate photos and so on. It was great fun! Another big fave of mine is "Listen" by SouLutions, a 7“ single we released three years ago together with our friends from Sundae Soul Recordings. The record was sold out within a day.

LTL: Many of the volumes in the the popular 'Sound of Leamington Spa; series are no longer available. Any chance we could see more editions? Could the previous volumes be brought back in print? On vinyl?

Uwe: Yes, unfortunately nearly all of them are no longer available. We just sold out FST 100 which included the seventh part of the series, so we only have copies left of volumes 1 and 6. We will not print the previous volumes again. Some years ago I wrote that I will not continue the series, but I changed my mind a while ago. There should be news on it by the end of the year.

LTL: 'The Sound Leamington Spa' series must have been so much work but a real labor of love, I'm sure. Just how hard was it to track down all of those obscure bands and songs? Do you have a particularly tough or unusual tale about any of your chases?

Uwe: Yeah, partially it was hard to track down some bands. It was relatively easy to put together part one. I wrote a fanzine back then and was in contact with some of the bands already before we compiled the first part. After the success of part one, it was obvious that we had to continue the series, so to track down more bands I wrote a lot of letters to old addresses which I found on the records or in fanzines from the past. I think I sent out more than 100. Some returned with the note "addressee unknown," but many bands got in touch after they received my letters. It was amazing! I tracked down the members of A Strange Desire after I found out that one of them wrote a reader's letter in Record Collector magazine. I wrote to the magazine, and they helped me to get in contact with the band. That was great!

Classic UK indie-pop from the 1980s and early 1990s was my biggest love back then. It was the greatest fun to compile the series. I became a bit tired about it when other labels tried to copy the series. That was one of the reasons why I stopped the series temporarily.

LTL: What '80s indie-pop band would you love to see become a part of the Firestation family? What is the one band you were most disappointed to see get away?

Uwe: Metro Trinity is the band whose back catalogue I always wanted to put out. They released my favourite indie-pop 12" single of all time. We're already worked with Jonny Male a couple of times when we released the first volume of 'the Sound Of Leamington Spa' and later the second album by Sensation. Unfortunately, most of the their recordings seems to be lost. We can't locate them. I already got in touch with a lot of people about it, but so far, no one could help on it. I will not give up on it. Someone out there must have those songs. I would love to reissue the "Episode Four" 12" single or put out the unreleased recordings by all-time faves such as the Painted Word, Fruits Of Passion or the Friday Club. Also, to release the "lost" second album by Del Amitri or a retrospective by Hello Sunset would be a dream come true.

There will be a lot of retrospective releases from us in the near future. Recently, I found out about a band from Liverpool which I never heard of before. Their songs are so amazing that I still can't believe that they never released any records when they were around in the 1980s. Hopefully, we can put out a compilation by them before the end of the year. Everyone who is in love with bands such as Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Friends Again or the Bridge will love them. I am sure!

"Everyone who is in love with bands such as Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Friends Again or the Bridge will love them." I don't know about you, but that warms the cockles of my heart. Can't wait for that one. Many thanks to Mr. Weigmann for taking the time to do this... and during such a busy week too. As my back and forth with Uwe wound down, I couldn't help but ask him about his mention of the Friday Club. Although I do have the 7", as some of you may recall, the 12" extended version of "Window Shopping" has been my most sought after piece of vinyl for as many years as I can remember. I told Uwe if he could find a way to reissue that one he would be my hero for life. Sounds like that could be a tall order. So, the search for my white whale continues...

To celebrate Firestation's imminent reissues, next time on these pages I will countdown my top 10 all-time favorite releases from the label. Stay tuned. In the meantime, don't forget to preorder your copies of the new albums from the Siddeleys, Elephant Noise and the English McCoy!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

An Album Once More From the Granite Shore

If you're a regular, you no doubt remember me fawning over 'Once More From the Top' by the Granite Shore. It was my top album of 2015. If you factor in all of the love and care that went into the packaging, it's my favorite album of the decade. As our friends at Occultation Recordings wrote to this blog at the time, "[o]f course, from a 'business' point of view this is ludicrous. The album was recorded quickly so fairly cheaply and actually we spent more on the sleeve than on anything else. Then we added a 32-page booklet (that cost almost as much as recording) at no extra cost to purchasers. Hmm. Never quite got the hang of capitalism, did we?"

I have no idea what label founder and Granite Shore frontman Nick Halliwell has up his sleeve in terms of packaging for the band's forthcoming LP, 'Suspended Second,' but in terms of the music, I'm certainly drawn to this latest video. Phil Wilson of the June Brides, also a member of the Granite Shore, put together the clip for "Where Does the Sadness Come From?"

Halliwell decided to leave the narrative found on 'Once More From the Top' this time around. Occultation has described 'Suspended Second' as an angry pop record, and news of the day did much to shape its content. As writing began in spring 2016, Halliwell says, "Suddenly, we were overtaken by what felt like a national self-harming anxiety episode, which then went global." In other words, all of those hooks may get your toes tapping but will do little to hide the state of affairs. What more can you hope for from a pop album?

'Suspended Second' is expected to be officially released on or about Oct. 13, but the label says test pressings have already been approved and that the plant may be able to turn the album around quite quickly. Occultation is hopeful they may be able to begin selling 'Suspended Second' on their own site by the end of the month or early September. News of a deluxe edition should be announced soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Wife's Not Away, But Scritti Politti Will Play!

I got a surprise gift in the post yesterday from one of our swell blogging pals. Can you guess which one? There is a very big hint in the photo above. Thanks for hanging on to that poster for 35 years, mystery blogger. Love it! It's going up in the music room, tout de suite. Now, for another opinion, I hand things over to Mrs. LTL. Spoiler alert: You are about to find out who sent the package...

Dear Mr. The Swede,
While I am touched by your thoughtfulness and generosity in sending my betrothed a vintage poster, I am equally revolted and repelled by the idea of resurrecting the Scritti Politti rotation in our household. For the love of Green, don't encourage Brian! Next he'll be bringing out his paisley collared shirts, buttoning them up to the top and digging through my fashion archives for garish brooches. I just CAN'T go back there! Of course, I am just having some fun with you. It is a lovely gesture, and I have a "perfect way" to honor the poster – it will be framed and proudly displayed... but only in HIS music room.
Mrs. LTL

Swede, your timing is impeccable. While on vacation a couple of weeks ago, a reader named Andrew left a comment on an old post about Scritti Politti. He asked if I had the 7-inch version of 'Songs to Remember'-era song "Jacques Derrida." I can help him with all three takes. It's a big favorite around here. By "around here," I guess I mean it's a big favorite of mine. Obviously, I'm not speaking for Mrs. LTL on this subject. Thanks again, Swede!

"Jacques Derrida" (7")
"Jacques Derrida" (12")
"Jacques Derrida" (Album)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Two Good Songs That Sound Great Together

The reason I enjoyed the following two songs back to back on mix tapes is obvious. In 1980, Malcolm McLaren convinced Matthew Ashman, David Barbarossa and Leigh Gorman to leave Adam and the Ants (or Antz, as they were known then) for his latest venture, Bow Wow Wow. Adam Ant, using much of the advice McLaren had given him as he was swiping his band, upped his game with the hugely popular album 'Kings of the Wild Frontier.'

At about the same time, Bow Wow Wow was putting out its first recording. McLaren, in one of his brilliant semi-failures, released the anthem "C·30 C·60 C·90 Go" as the first ever cassette single. Needless to say, EMI didn't get behind the ode to home taping, and the label wasn't real fond of the blank B-side either (another genius McLaren moment). Still, it was a hit with the NME crowd and, to this day, I think it works really well with "Antmusic." Both are anthems and fantastic singalongs, especially in the car. I think it's clear to say Ant won this opening bout with his old band. Only the re-release of "Imagine," following John Lennon's death, kept "Antmusic" from the top spot in the UK. "Dog Eat Dog" also went Top 10 that year. Bow Wow Wow would have to wait until 1982 and "Go Wild in the Country" to have such a moment.

Adam and the Ants - "Antmusic"
Bow Wow Wow - "C·30 C·60 C·90 Go"

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Last Listen From a Distant Drive

Prolific would not be the best word to describe the frequency of posts in these parts since the LTL Family returned from the Southwest. I'll try to do better. This will conclude the vacation snapshots. I'm sure this is starting to feel like Grandpa's tired slideshow at the family reunion.

Our trip to the Utah-Nevada-Arizona corridor wouldn't have been complete without some time at the Grand Canyon, and that's where I'm taking you today. Mrs. LTL and I used to go to Arizona every year to catch our beloved Chicago Cubs during spring training. After the birth of our first child, we had this ridiculous notion our life wasn't going to change one bit, and we took him along to spring training when he was a year old. Needless to say, that marked the last time we caught the Cubs in Mesa. That also meant we hadn't been to the Grand Canyon in 13 years, and our kids had never been there. It's a picturesque setting that never gets old. As usual, these photos don't do the ol' place any justice.

Due to the excessive heat, there was a slight haze I had never dealt with since we always saw the Grand Canyon in March when there would be snow. Still, my boys didn't know any better, and they enjoyed the different shades of orange and red that made up the rocky terrain.

We have plenty of elk here in the Pacific Northwest, but their relatives around the Grand Canyon were much much bigger. This fella was enjoying his leafy dinner at sunset.

As I mentioned in the previous two posts, I had many hours on the road to listen to the mix of 2017 songs I put together just before I left. The trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon was about four hours (one way!). Quite a few albums got a good airing, including two from Australia. I highly recommend 'Living Right' by Glaciers and 'Benefits of Solitude' by Dag. Both groups obviously grew up listening to the right bands from their home country. Like many of you, I have fallen hard for the charms of Sacred Paws, too. Can't get enough of those horns! The new single from the Fireworks is bound to be near the top of my songs of the year list. Beth Arzy from the Luxembourg Signal is fronting the band now, and I'm truly smitten.

As darkness set in on the vast highway, I put on slow burner 'Please Be Mine' by Molly Burch. It's an album I have had for quite a few months, but I believe the environment had something to do with me becoming completely taken by her sound this time around. You'll think of Dusty and Patsy and even Spector at times when the percussion kicks in. I never expected this right turn from our friends at Captured Tracks, but it has been most welcome.

I could go on and on, but that's what December is all about. OK, two more, then. I don't get a chance to go local too often, but Seattle's own Zebra Hunt is right up my alley. Lots of jangle and with a hint of that Australian scene I have been going on and on about since Chook Race, Community Radio and the Goon Sax came into my life last year. You're going to want to put latest album 'In Phrases' on your short list.

And now on to my home away from home. I do miss the Chicago scene (and Portillo's hot dogs!), and hearing 'Lost World' from Star Tropics has me thinking about the old days. As you must know by now, I'm mostly about '80s indie pop and all of the jangle that comes along with it. Star Tropics hearken back to that time but to a different branch of the tree. I have read the band is into the Sarah scene (there is even a song call "Another Sunny Day"), but what I have been hearing is New Order all over new album 'Lost World.' I guess it doesn't matter much what influenced their sound. I just know it's pushing my buttons.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

More Songs For a Distant Drive

Did I mention our trip to the Southwest was a scorcher? I took this photo of the dashboard as we pulled into our hotel in Las Vegas after a long day of hiking and sightseeing. Note the time and temperature. The hottest day of all was when we ventured to Hoover Dam. We were ready to jump into Lake Mead when the mercury read 116 degrees! I have been to the Palm Desert a few times in my life, but I don't believe I have ever been in heat quite like that.

Seeing Hoover Dam was well worth the sweat and panting. I was filled with mixed emotions as I studied the beauty of the structure. It was built during the Great Depression, and I was fascinated by not just the mighty structure itself, but the beautiful art-deco details and finishes as well. Then your mind wanders to those that put themselves in harm's way and even died to complete the project. I couldn't help but wonder whether we would or even could build something this grand today. Here are a few more shots from that memorable day.

This has been a fantastic year for reissues and compilations, and I already have a solid top 10 with almost a half year to go. Here are a couple that got quite a bit of play while watching the odometer.

'Three Wishes: Part Time Punks Sessions' came out at the beginning of the year with little fanfare, and that's a real travesty. I mean, c'mon! This is the June Brides, 14 Iced Bears and Aberdeen recorded live from Los Angeles in 2011 by Rob Campanella of Brian Jonestown Massacre in what the Brides' Phil Wilson described as "the most rock 'n' roll day of my life." For indie-pop fans of a certain age, and you know who you are, hearing a new recording of 14 Iced Bears for the first time in 25 years should be enough to get you seeking this one out... along with that old anorak up in the attic.

Moving ahead a few years, if you have any recollection of German indie-pop label A Turntable Friend Records, then you know their stable of stars included the likes of Love Parade, the Apple Moths, the Claim, the Rileys, Boyracer and many more. I picked up 'The Test of Time' compilation at my local indie shop just before taking off on the trip, and I have never been happier to find this one in the bins because the shipping on this one would have been ridiculous. Forty tracks on three heavy pieces of vinyl housed in a dazzling tri-fold sleeve that includes an album-sized scrapbook of the label's history.

The packaging is nothing short of perfection. What a feast for the eyes. I especially love how you get a photo of the front and back sleeves of all the releases along with a comprehensive discography. There's just so much to look at while you're listening. 'The Test of Time' is a definite contender for compilation of the year! Here is a peek inside. Like those pictures from Hoover Dam, I wish I was able to take better photos because this doesn't really do the packaging justice, but here goes...

Back next time with one more go around of music and photos from the family vacation.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Music for a Distant Drive

The family unit is back from a terrific trip to the Southwest. There were few sing-a-longs like above, but there isn't much better for a music lover than hundreds of miles of road with little to do but catch up on recent releases. The vehicle we picked up in Las Vegas had satellite radio. So there was something for everyone in the car... for a while, anyway. Sooner or later, however, I was going to get out my iPod to listen to that killer comp of songs from the first half of 2017 I assembled just before we left. The next few posts will feature some favorite moments from that list.

This is a picture I took as we were leaving Zion National Park after a picturesque day of hiking. We stayed as long as we possibly could, but when the moon made its appearance, it was obvious we squeezed as much out of the day as we possibly could. Here are a couple of inspired covers that are sure to make my list of favorite songs come December. Cattle is a Japanese quartet (two fellas, two gals) that just missed making my top 10 albums list in 2015 with "Somehow Hear Songs." The new five-song EP "Slow Sailor" continues to float my boat with their beefy side of dreampop. You'll want to turn up this take of Ride's 1992 classic "Twisterella."

This is another shot from Zion, along the Narrows. This shady hike through the water was the perfect way to cool off. The temperature peaked at 106 degrees that day. Here's another cover that grabbed me on the drive. The Luxembourg Signal is a favorite that's had nothing but praise on these pages. In fact, only the Popguns kept the band's self-titled debut from topping my list of best albums in 2014. Shelflife recently released a new 7" by the Luxembourg Signal, and both sides of the "Laura Palmer" single are beautiful. There was a certain amount of risk in their faithful rendition of "Let's Make Some Plans" by Close Lobsters because the Wedding Present's version is already so well known, but there is plenty of room in the world for more Close Lobsters! We may hear from Beth Arzy's other band later in the week. More from my 2017 mix, along with more photos from the trip, next time.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Top Single in the Subway Organization Poll Is...

The votes are in, and I would call the winner of the best Subway Organization single a mild upset. Immediate thoughts went to Russian hackers, but is the Kremlin really filled with fans that wanted to make sure Edinburgh's finest got their moment some 32 years after the single hit the indie chart? Yes, the Subway Organization's very first single, the Shop Assistants' "All Day Long EP," also known as the "Shopping Parade EP," came out on top. Nearly half of all voters (48%) checked the box for Shop Assistants. The Flatmates, by far, got the most total votes, but the band's myriad of singles split voters. Still, "Shimmer" fared well and was clicked on 41% of all ballots. Going in, I would have bet on "Ask Johnny Dee" to take this thing, but then again, I voted for a different single from the Chesterf!elds. In case you're interested, here are my top 5 (in order). Thanks to all of you who participated.

My Ballot
The Flatmates - "I Could Be in Heaven"
The Chesterf!elds- "Completely and Utterly"
The Rosehips - "Room in Your Heart"
The Flatmates - "Shimmer"
Razorcuts - "Sorry to Embarrass You"

Complete Results of the Subway Organization Singles Poll
1. Shop Assistants - "All Day Long EP" (aka "Shopping Parade EP")
"All Day Long"
"All That Ever Mattered"
"It's Up to You"
2. The Flatmates - "Shimmer"
3. Soup Dragons - "Whole Wide World"
4. The Chesterf!elds - "Ask Johnny Dee"
5. Razorcuts - "Sorry to Embarrass You"
5. The Flatmates - "I Could Be in Heaven"
7. The Flatmates - "Happy All the Time"
8. Soup Dragons - "The Sun is in the Sky EP"
8. The Chesterf!elds - "Completely and Utterly"
8. The Rosehips - "Room in Your Heart"
11. The Chesterf!elds - "A Guitar in Your Bath EP"
12. Choo Choo Train - "Briar Rose"
12. The Flatmates - "Heaven Knows"
12. Choo Choo Train "High"
12. The Charlottes - "Love in the Emptiness"
16. Razorcuts - "Big Pink Cake"
16. The Flatmates - "You're Gonna Cry"
18. The Groove Farm - "Surfin Into Your Heart"
18. Korova Milk Bar - "Do It Again"
18. The Fastbacks - "Wrong Wrong Wrong"
21. Bubblegum Splash - "Splashdown EP"
21. Rodney Allen - "Circle Lone EP"
21. The Groove Farm - "Driving in Your Car"
21. The Fastbacks - "In the Winter"
25. The Clouds - "Tranquil"
25. The Rosehips - "I Shouldn't Have to Say"
25. The Groove Farm - "The Big Black Plastic Explosion"

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Did You Vote for Your Favorite Subway Single?

My vacation is coming to an end. Last call. Polls close at 11:59PM on Sunday. For you indie-pop fanatics out there, here's a little hint on the proceedings. The photo above is taken from a single that has fared very well in exit polls. Do you recognize it? Vote below...

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Here's Where Your Vote Really Counts!

By the time you read this the LTL family will be on its way to the sizzling states of Nevada, Utah and Arizona for hiking at Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. In the meantime, in an attempt to keep things interesting on these pages, I cooked up a little poll for you indie-popsters to ponder. When you finish voting, feel free to participate in some exit polling via the comments section, and check back July 10th for what are sure to be riveting results.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Video Tribute to June Miles-Kingston

Ever since those mammoth posts on Everything But the Girl last month, I have been digging into the music of the duo's band mates. June Miles-Kingston has certainly had an interesting career. Let's check out a few of the highlights:

With the Mo-Dettes in 1979. Best video of the bunch.

So many great clips of her time with the Fun Boy Three in '83. Check out their performance on "Razzmatazz" too. It's a keeper.

From 1984, here is June's one and only solo single.

On "The Old Grey Whistle Test" with Everything But the Girl in 1985...

Nice vocals from Microdisney's 1985 album 'The Clock Comes Down The Stairs'...

Lovely song from 1986 made even lovelier by June's vocals. Her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Hughes, was in the Lover Speaks.

One of two songs on Big Country's 1986 album 'The Seer' featuring June's voice. Perhaps she was overshadowed by Kate Bush's appearance on the title track. Well, not by me.

This 1989 duet with Jimmy Somerville is the the one for which she'll be remembered. No. 14 in the UK.

From more recent times, June sings and directs this video from the one-time member of the Jazz Butcher. From 2010.

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"