Saturday, 25 May 2013

Final Post

Well I've now hit my 1000 post when I always said I'd call it a day. As much as I've loved doing the 125  and a big thank you to all who played along even if you did end up costing me a lot of money! it has confirmed it is time to stop.

I've started to repeat myself (there are only so many Lloyd Cole posts I can write and I think I'm well beyond the number people would want to read!) and I've kind of run out of themes (anyone who has stuck with the blog knows how I've loved a theme)

I started in august 2009 and thought I might make it to September and now my increasing waistline and growing children need both some attention.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to leave comments, the one offs , the occasional pop bys and the regulars - Phil who I think was my first reader as he somehow found my first post left a comment and stuck with me ever since , Tim who has introduced me to some great new music , Echo for writing with more  certainty  and feeling than I ever could. Other bloggers Jc for offering great advice and patience when I tried to figure out how actually use blogger , Trev for allowing me to spend 6 months posting tracks every Monday for his band , Seamus for getting me to read books I wouldn't normally read and listen to music I'd previously shut my ears to and anyone in the blog heaven side bar - I know how dam difficult and time consuming this blogging thing is.

Thanks for putting up with my ramblings , my there are 2 views the wrong one and my view viewpoint, my inappropriate use of !! and my need to spell from as form

Never say never , I'm sure after a bit I'll get itchy fingers or hear a new band I've just got to share, but for now cheerio and I raise you a digital dram

Final Song

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Desert Island Discs 1 Lexicon of Love by ABC

1 Lexicon of Love by ABC 1982

number 1s are meant to be irrational aren't they?

What makes a perfect pop record? It needs to be immediate but have depth, timeless but tied to memories , catchy but smart, be able to dance to and be able to sit down and listen to, influenced by but unique, throwaway but impossible to shift.

For me ABC's debut is about as near to the perfect pop lp as you can get. Is it also the only pop concept lp? I'm struggling to think of another.

Driven by a combination of the band's understanding of club culture , Martin Fry's lyric book and love of puns and metaphors , Trevor Horn's obsession with building a song up brick by brick note by note and of course a broken love affair.

The cover sets the scene with high drama, crime of passion on the front shown to be all an act , a staged scene on the back.

The inner sleeve was a red velvet curtain with a cut up technique stream of consciousness snatches of lyrics from the lp, a technique I copied for every compilation tape I did for years afterwards.

There is no gritty realism here , it is all widescreen . cinematic romanticism but with  a knowing wink.

Show Me kicks things off with a sweeping strings and horn introduction before the echoes of Chic bass lines kick in . The opening lines tell you all you need to know of where we are

Once I needed you love
But that was just one thing left on my mind 
Then I needed to feel you near me
You said "Don't have the time"

It is a broken heart but one with a sense of humour

It seems odd now that the prominence and high mix of the strings would seems so different. Strings and dance music had been done thousands of times before but in the time of synths dominating it did feel a bit different. A lushness and extravagance that was much more appealing than lying on a beach in Sri Lanka with Duran Duran.

Next up is the first "big" single with its playground taunt , nursery rhyme chorus. It is clear now that the girl of the singers dreams has gone and that the Show Me of the first track is a failed attempt at a last hurrah

Right from the start when you knew we would part with the killer kiss off as the singer a fool "I thought you loved me but it seems you don't care" is answered by the cool aloof "I care enough to know I could never love you"

The spoken word bits (corny as they are)  and the instrumental interludes  / fade outs all add to film sound track feel. They even ended up making a film with Julien Temple built around the lp. Mantrap has all the faults of those 80s extended pop videos and I remember when it was shown on channel 4 desperately wanting it to be fantastic . well ......

When she's gone all I get to learn
is the law of diminishing returns

After Many Happy Returns , it is the song closest to their original sound. Already released as a single , it was re recorded for the lp by Trevor Horn. A knowing lyric again , it is as if Martin Fry is saying its a cliché but at least I know its a cliché

Blueprint, that says that boy meets girl
Picture, girl meets boy
A blueprint that says that the boy meets the girl
Picture in a magazine

This must have been their first top of the pops appearance and it is pretty horrendous

Valentines Day brings side one to a close with its again it wears its influences high on its sleeve. It mixes the usual 80s drum whack with a disco backing mixed in with some easy listening cocktail music. Over which a rather unhinged Martin Fry mourns the state that love has left him in ,

When they find you beached on the barrier reef
And the only pleasure treasured is in map relief
The choice is yours sure, saint or thief
Don't ask me I already know

Yes they baked your cake in little slices
Kept your eye on rising prices
Wound up winning booby prizes
I'm sure you'd like to think you know what life is

Find destiny through magazines
Lip-licking, unzipping, Harpers and Queens
From here to eternity without in-betweens
Don't ask me, I already know

With your heart on parade and your heart on parole
I hope you find a sucker to buy that mink stole
School for scandal, guess who's enrolled?
So ask me, I already know

When I'm shaking a hand, I'm clenching a fist

If you gave me a pound for the moments I missed
And I got dancing lessons for all the lips I shoulda kissed
I'd be a millionaire, I'd be a Fred Astaire

This live version comes from when they toured the lp in 1982

Side two starts off with their most well known song and the one that cursed by 100 70's compilations has suffered through over familiarisation. Apparently Trevor Horn got the girl who had left Martin Fry and became the focus of all of his songs to come in a record the "goodbye". Not sure if it is an urban myth but if it is its a good one.

The gold lame suit and the dance routines did the trick whereas the video is  a massive misstep full of moments to make you cringe

Listening to it again properly , it is still a classic single with everything slotted together perfectly and as with the rest of the lp Anne Dudley's string arrangements spot on (amazingly her first go at arranging) , it is a shame it has been ruined by too many 80s discos and wedding parties.

Datestamp however benefits from being one of the lesser known songs . Trevor Horn adds in the ringing cash registers , before the Chic bass kicks in. Despite the best sales talk from sales assistants , the cynicism of a broken heart wins out

Love has no guarantee
promise of eternity
no chance of certainty
even with a pedigree
love has no guarantee

All leading up to the lps masterpiece.

The mixture of a poppy ballad, sweeping strings , everything including the kitchen sink production, a glossy sheen , high drama , clever clever word play - they are all present and correct.
skip the hearts and flowers , skip the ivory towers
You'll be disappointed and I'll lose a friend
I remember when it was released as a single , straining to hear the top 40 on a long car journey ( we didn't have a radio in the car , but we did have a small portable in which me , my mum and sister would take turns holding to try and get some kind of reception). I was convinced that it would straight in at number 1 and go on to be the biggest seller of all time.  When it emerged at 3 or 4 I knew then that there were an awful lot of people buying an awful lot of rubbish.
One of the reason I wont be doing a 125 singles (apart form wanting to stop the blog at 1000 posts) is I'll end up repeating myself - my favourite 3 are in reverse order Rattlesnakes , When Love Breaks Down and All of My Heart
It used to annoy the hell out of me that the single version would fade out and miss of the last 90 seconds where everything just melts together. It is as if the band , Trevor Horn and Anne Dudley just couldn't bring themselves to end it. Still the single version is all I have to offer
Yes I hope and I pray
That maybe someday
You'll walk in the room with my heart
And I shrug and I say
That maybe today
You'll come home soon
Surrendering that part-all of my heart
From the sublime to the ... well the bonkers that is Forever Together ( I even could live with the naff Prince like spelling 4ever 2gether of the title)
There is bitterness and defiance at the end
I stuck a marriage proposal
In the waste disposal
If that's the trash aesthetic,
I'd suggest that we forget it
The calm after the storm comes in the form of The Look of Love part 4 - a string instrumental of Look of Love., the message that the singer is still searching.
Lots of writers have tackled the lost love issue but as poetic as the Laughing Lens , the Dylans , etc are what this process has reminded me is that at heart I'm a pop fan and that often the music greats , over complicate and over analyse and spend maybe a tad too long tummy button staring. What is great about this lp is that it is universal language - totally disposable but just smart enough and with just enough depth to stick around. The art is pretending its art as another bunch of posers once said
As a result despite odd excursions into flavours of the rock week noisy guitar bands with attitude , scratchy guitar bands , arty guitar bands singer songwriters grasping at the meaning of life , the  music royalty new and old. this lp has refused to be shifted from the top of the pile.
As I got into the top 10 all the lps started to have something in common and that was when they came out there was a that feeling of "wish I'd made this" that was strong enough to be an ache. I love loads of stuff with a passion and I've got a taste broader than my top 125 may suggest but that feeling has only come maybe 10 or 12 times and never more so than with the Lexicon of Love   
Garry Mullholland in his book the Fear of Music sums it up nicely and with just the right level of ridiculous pretentiousness "Punk , Post Punk , disco , Mowtown , glam and all the possibilities suggested by all the best pop found a home somewhere among the gleeful pretensions and intense integrity housed inside the swelling strings and the swaggering swing of an album as familiar as wham yet as multi layered and deep as Dylan. The Lexicon of Love is the Citizen Kane of British pop albums and the anonymous girl that broke Martin's heart is its Rosebud"

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Desert island Discs 2 Steve McQueen by Prefab Sprout

2 Steve McQueen by Prefab Sprout 1985

I'm not sure really what to write about an lp that most of you know probably just as well as I do.  Strangely I probably would have had more to say about the nearly choice of Jordan which without the one lp rule would have been sat only a place or two behind it .

 Swoon had been a bit of an oddity with quirky stop start rhythms , songs with that touched on Graham Greene and Bobby Fischer , a bit indie in sound and mentality , up front rough and raw male vocals, strangely ethereal , just in tune female vocals. It had all the markings of a cult lp but much as I love it (still my third favourite Sprouts lp) it didn't really give any indication that they would return with something quite so smooth and polished.

A lot of credit must go to Thomas Dolby. The story goes that he visited an ill Paddy Mcaloon to talk about songs for the lp  They sat in his bedroom whilst Paddy played endless songs from the infamous box under the bed  on a battered cassette player and croaked them out with an old acoustic guitar. Dolby then took them away and chose the ones he liked best. The reality has elements to this but not quite as romanticised Howard Hughes in nature.

Everything about this lp is so familiar , I know it inside out , even when to do that strange little sniff at the start of Bonny (turn it up and have a listen). The fact that it has stayed so high is because it manages the feat of somehow being comfortably familiar but still able to get me to sit in awe at its surprises

Again Dolby manages to give the lp that sheen but also keep hold of the quirkiness which is at the heart of why it has been so enduring. Non of this would have worked if the songs had been merely okay , but the anniversary edition with the stripped down acoustic versions show how strong a set they are

There is a kind of 10cc I'm not in love lushness on one hand but still a bit of an edge to Paddy's vocals (on some more recent songs the personality has been almost polished away). Live versions give a clue to what a Dolby less lp may have sounded like

Fall be free as old confetti

The acoustic versions of the lp that Paddy recorded for a recent re release show the quality of the songs and are a great listen but I miss the small oddities in the production and rough edges around his vocals

There is a great interview with Thomas Dolby on making the lp here

As an lp it is another slow burn (only getting one place higher in the lp charts at 21 than debut lp Swoon) with none of the singles initially making the chart. I remember at the end of the year Mark Goodyear doing a top 40 run down of singles voted to for by the listeners of radio one, the one criteria being that the single they voted for hadn't made the top 40 . Three of the top Five were the 3 flop singles from side 1 on the lp. However, the lp started appearing in end of year best of lists and since then has been a feature in best lps charts ever since.

wishing she could call him heartache but its not a boys name   

I don't think any lp I own has a stronger opening side and this bit of throwaway pop is the worst thing on it , but still better than virtually anything else around

There is a time for tears

For something a bit different here is an cover of Bonny by the Editors which I think kind of works , not sure where the images come from but they are a tad distracting

all  my insights from retrospect

For side 2 the quirky factor is turned up with songs changing direction and wondering down interesting back lanes and closer in structure if not sound to those on Swoon. Songs that can be traced back to Gershwin Sondheim, , Bacharach etc but with a personality all of their own. They all had the kind of lyrical playfulness that had me agonising over meaning and interpretation.

Every song on the lp has at least one line that is just so achingly clever. Love songs don't have to be simply I love You and songs don't have to be simply love songs

You surely are a truly gifted kid
But you're only good as
The last great thing you did

The live clips are a bit ropey and showed they had moved on giant strides by the time they toured with Jordan 

For cheating on the deal, pulling off the sting
Tuning up the harps, dishing out the wings

This is turning into a bit of meaning less ramble which doesn't really do the lp justice at all so best leave it at I really couldn't imagine a world without it

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Desert Island Discs - 3 Rattlesnakes Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

3 Rattlesnakes by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions 1984

I didn't have any older brothers or sisters , my parents weren't into any kind of culture really and I grew up in the land that time forgot.

The guide to what to see what to read could only come from records. So when this and the following lp came out I hoovered it up - Norman Mailer (I skipped getting a new tailor) Joan Didion, Laughing Len etc. all lifted from the lps lyrics.

Perfect Skin was one of those hits that seemed to come from nowhere. I knew the words must be important because they didn't quite scan and rushed out of Lloyd Cole's mouth , tumbling over themselves , not quite fitting the tune ,as if not one syllable could be sacrificed . Full of quotable lines that if you quoted to anyone would immediately make you seem like a tosser so could only form part of an inner monologue. All backed by the kind of guitar lines that no one else seemed to be playing.

The Commotions took the look west mantra of mid 80s Scottish bands in a way that was different from the rest.

I still remember getting the lp with its cover that told you everything and nothing and a photo of a band somehow looking cool and uncomfortable at the same time , I mean one of them had a beard. ( I can quite confidently state that at the time I owned nothing by anyone with beard.)

I was worried that Perfect Skin would be a one off, but wonders of wonders much as I loved it , it was one of the worst things the lp.

The Play it as it Lays inspired title track had the perfect combination of acoustic guitars and strings (who cares if synthetic or real) that I don't think has been bettered

... and in Forest Fire there was the guitar solo for people who didn't like guitar solos

Like a book of short stories with minor characters (all with the J initial) you always got the feeling that Lloyd would rather be Raymond Carver than leading a band.

I remember thinking when I hearing Speedboat, this is what going to college would be like - "Julie said we drink far too much coffee ,wine and cigarettes and we never get  no sleep" (he loves a double negative does Lloyd)  and it cemented the feeling that High Land had started the year earlier that I had to get away from the flat lands. When I did eventually go to Leeds poly this was the first lp on the record player as I sat in my room waiting for whatever happened next

Right from the off there isn't a duff track on the lp and it started a journey which ,having just checked, means I have 202 Lloyd Cole songs on my mp3 player.

I can't believe that anyone who has stuck with this blog doesn't have this lp, so here is something a little different , a track that didn't make the final cut

Beautiful City - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

Friday, 17 May 2013

Desert Island Discs 4 Walk Across the Rooftops by The Blue Nile

4 A Walk Across the Rooftops by The Blue Nile 1984


Walk Across the Rooftops features a song which indirectly led to this blog. About 4 years ago Vinyl Villain invited his readers to write a post for when he was in holiday. This turned into a month of guest posts one of which after much umming and arrghing was something i sent in on Tinseltown in the Rain by the Blue Nile. The reaction I got finally kicked my bout of inertia and the blog was born.

Here is an extended version of what I wrote.

  One of the things about getting older is that everything starts to remind you of something else. Those goose bump times of hearing something that you feel genuinely sounds like nothing else happen less and less. This can be a good thing as now when I hear something new I like I also get weird throw back memories of times and places that I'd forgotten. However I miss those moments of genuine discovery. Growing up in the fens (nice sunsets is about all it has going for it) meant that visits to see bands play were few and far between and anything that wasn't in the top 40 had to be ordered in to the local Boots.

The only place I got to listen to new music was on the radio and whilst John Peel tends to get all the plaudits, I would make a date every Sunday night at 9pm with Annie Nightingale (before she went to Ibiza and became some kind of trance queen). She used to run a request show and made a point of playing album tracks, b sides and extended versions

I remember the time she first played this particular track and the weird synth sounds , a driving bass kicked off before a voice that sounded like the dictionary definition of "sorrow and regret" kicked off with "Why did we ever come so far". The voice had to be good to compete with the beauty of the backing and by the “will we always be so happy go lucky?” the weariness and resignation told you the answer. By the end of the song I was hooked, it wasn't poppy , it wasn't rock it didn't seem to go verse chorus verse chorus and I had no idea what was making those sounds. On top of this, the fact that I didn't have a clue what the song was about but just felt it had to be about unrequited love (of which like a lot of 16 yr old males I was suffering of at the time) and add to that a title that just sounded great and was meant to be stencilled onto exercise books and a band that I knew nothing about but like Aztec Camera consisted of 2 words that just felt like they should be together and I was determined to get a copy.

Nothing as exotic would be found in Holbeach and for some reason I just assumed that something so different couldn’t be ordered into Boots. I tried shops in bigger towns and no-one had heard of the band or the song (these were the days when record counters in WH Smiths etc all seemed to be staffed by middle aged women).

Eventually that summer, we had a school trip to London and were allowed to wonder around in small groups unsupervised as long as we were at the Barbican by late pm to see a production of Julius Caesar (imagine allowing that now!). So a group of us headed for the mecca of HMV Oxford Street and joy of joys they had a copy. The cover told me I wasn't going to be disappointed , a black and white photo of the band looking suitably aloof and cool, simple lettering with the name of the band and LP, no clues as to who these people were , apart from their names, who played what, the lyrics etc all missing. I'm not sure if when I got it home and played it how I would have reacted if it had been a "1 song" LP. It wasn't - every song seemed so unique the world weary voice matched to perfection with sounds from some alternative future/past place.


If Deacon Blue’s later lp told of a Glasgow of work and rain . The Glasgow of Walk Across the Rooftops was one full of summer girls in disarray , lights caught fences , reds cars in the fountain , wild wild sky, bright rags , St Stephen’s bells , confetti , hats in the air

It all sounded widescreen, cinematic, romantic, mysterious, definitely not flat, grey , smelling of sugar beet and full of daffodils
At seven songs , it is over too soon.

I listen to it now and yes I'm now much clearer as what is making the sounds, the production and bass is a bit early 80s and mystery of the band has disappeared, but the songs and the voice still take me back and wash sorrow and regret over me– a love theme for the wilderness
Easter Parade - the Blue Nile

You can buy the extended version of the lp here, which includes the poppier first single (one of my most treasured bits of vinyl) I Love This Life and too good to be a b side perfect in its sadness that is Regret

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Desert Island Discs 5 High Land Hard Rain by Aztec Camera

5 High Land Hard Rain by Aztec Camera 1983

As we get higher up the chart it becomes less about the music and more about wanting my desert island to be full of memories. When this came out I was 16 a year younger than Roddy Frame and whereas Bowie came from a different planet with an box full of history here was someone virtually my age. When I first heard this lp (I was a tad late , it was after Oblivious became a hit) I knew that this is what music should be about and it became a template for a large chunk of my record collection.

It also crystalised the need to get away. There was the boy wonder making records and here was I stuck in the fens , dodging skinheads on a Saturday night  and drinking vodka and orange cordial in the imaginatively named Wine Bar hoping not to get rumbled as underage drinkers

Over the next  2 years it was the core record against which all others were judged. Listening back then the lyrics can drift towards 6th form poetry at times and the production is a bit woolly in places, but despite being 30 years old it holds up really well.

I loved everything about it and felt it had it all. Right from the cover art of David Band  (now sitting framed on our dining room wall) down to the quotable lyrics and frantically strummed big guitars. The only thing I was never certain of was the fringed western jacket and checked shirts look.

The lp had everything love , politics , loneliness. The lush big number , the catchy pop song , the acoustic strum and a trio of singles that put a lot of bands to shame.

Here are 2 live songs , almost 30 years apart. Forgetting the slightly higher hair line Roddy Frame must have a dodgy painting locked in the attic.

"despite what they'll say
it wasn't youth we hit the truth"

Oblivious is a such a gloriously catchy single. One of those songs that when it comes on the radio or mp3 player , I still will turn it up , stop talking and start listening and smiling

Big choruses mix effortlessly with quieter more reflective moments.

One of my favourites is the big ballad We Could Send Letters. Like all good songs you can rewrite it to your own meaning. For me it was always about some home town romance broken by going away to college

You said you're free, for me that says it all.
You're free to push me and I'm free to fall.
So if we weaken we can call it stress,
You've got my trust I've got your home address.
And now the only chance that we could take,
Is the chance that someone else won't make it all come true.

I'll end with in his own words and acoustic punk song

If for some strange reason you don't have this lp then you can get it in an expanded version with questionable 12" mixes and top notch b sides here

Monday, 13 May 2013

Desert Island Discs 6 Del Amitri by Del Amitri

6 Del Amitri by Del Amitri 1985

 Number 6 is one of those lps that pretty much sets the template for most of the music I like - jangly guitars and pretentious lyrics (full of meaning or meaningless depending on your point of view) , add in a focus on melody , some interesting right turns, a dash of melancholy and love gone wrong songs and you have my perfect band or album

I've written about this lp before and I've not really got that much to add so being lazy this is a slightly extended post of something that appeared 3 years ago.

Once upon a time Del Amitri used to have short hair and wear jumpers. They sounded more like Orange Juice and Aztec Camera than Neil Young. They released a couple of singles and a self titled debut lp before frustrated at the lack of recognition and being dropped by their record label they undertook a never ending US tour often sleeping on fans floors after the gigs and came back with sideburns and guitar solos and finally a hit in "Nothing Ever Happens"

The Waking Hours is a great lp but feels like it is by a different band. Their debut sparkles. Lead singer Justin Currie describes the bands philosophy of the time as "No chords, No choruses, no distortion, no synthesizers and no long hair, melody was god". - the polar opposite of the band they would become
He goes on to say "There are more tunes between the twin guitars and the basslines in one backing track from this era than in every top line melody I've written since".

A lot of credit must go to the "god like" Hugh Jones who keeps the guitar sounds crisp and clear , with every note

On the re-release Justin Currie ends his sleeve noted by saying "Too many fucking words though", but for me the more the better!

I bought this when it came out in 1985 and loved it ever since. My copy came with a poster of the cover art which now sits proudly framed on our landing.

The lp starts with a rush of descending notes on a guitar and never lets ups

Heard Through a Wall - Del Amitri
As well as the frantic strums there are some killer slow songs , the best of which Keepers about over loving and Former Owner , not loving quite enough.

Keepers - Del Amitri

why are you craving
to be free from loves slavery

Former Owner - Del Amitri

Just as the early bird catches the worm
The Early cat catches the bird
That former owner is keeping his word

These lines sum up the whole lp. If I heard them  for the first time now I'd cringe a bit but they are so ingrained and linked to being 18 that they remain perfect

If you've not heard this incarnation of Del Amitri then give them a go. If you are a fan of the mid atlantic later stuff then you're probably in for a surprise

I'll end with a quote from the bio Justin Currie's put in his myspace page (again lifted from another post I'm afraid)

Justin Currie was born in a van near Paisley in 1964 in a hailstorm so vicious that it took a team of panel beaters a month to separate his forehead from the roof. Later on, perhaps in the nineteen eighties he started to sing in a strange breathless way, cramming too many words into odd amounts of bars and found himself, with his group of twee schoolboy punks, Del Amitri, getting firmly up the collective nose of the Glasgow white-soul cognoscenti. Much more loathed than loved, and revelling in their outsider status, Del Amitri attracted a dense little coterie of followers in the United States of America who duly set up a nationwide tour funded by busking, badge selling and the refrigerators of those fans' generous parents. Driven half-mental by their experiences the group came home, ditched their indie twiddling and embarked upon a course of songwriting so sickeningly mainstream and Americanised that it led to a long career being spoilt stupid by the radio and recording industries of the English speaking world. Limos to the pub, ponds full of chips, week-long parties in Bognor, that sort of thing.

You can buy the lp here

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Desert Island Discs 7 16 Lovers Lane by the Gobetweens

7 16 Lovers Lane by the Gobetweens 1988

 Those double l lp titles ! Tallulah is the first Gobetweens lp I bought and quickly hoovered up their back catalogue, Liberty Belle is probably their masterpiece  , Before Hollywood has my two favourite Gobetween's tracks on it, Spring Hill Fair is where that polished pop sound started to really emerge and Bright Yellow Bright Orange showed the quality control of the reunion wasn't  a one off.

Still the one I'd save from a fire is the 2 l word 16 lovers lane. In a way it was their own Rumours as at the time 4 of the band were ending relationships with each other. This can be seen especially in the songs of Robert Forster (his strongest set for a Gobetweens lp) all of which are steeped in melancholy and regret.

It kicks of with a 60s pop song of false hope , resigned plea Love Goes On. The tone is set in that the production on the lp is the best the band have managed , crystal clear with each guitar note sparkling.

The two singles were the hit that never was Streets of Your Town. One of those prefect summer pop songs that sounds like it was heaven made for the radio

There are two videos for the song , the first and by far the best features the band filmed in their favourite parts of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne

The second followed a re release is one of those blatant lets try and break them in America after some success with Was There Anything I Could Do and relocates them to Joshua Tree Park

Was There Anything I Could Do echoes back to an earlier sound and sticks out  a bit on the lp. It's my least favourite track by some distance (the fact that it is a Grant track shows how much Robert Forster raised his game on this lp), although in isolation away from the lp it sounds a lot better.

The video is a bit odd hopefully with a capital ironic

The core of the lp are some heartbreakingly beautiful sad songs. Grant's Quiet Heart - the below version from an acoustic radio session

and Robert's break up songs Dive for Your Memory and I'm Alright. Robert Forster always seemed the confident showman of the duo and in these two he has never sounded so vulnerable

Listening to Forster talk about writing Dive For Your Memory it has struck me just how much water is referenced in his songs on the lp.

The version below of I'm alright below is the acoustic demo made prior to recording the lp

Re listening to the lp again I realise what made them so good and what is also missing from their solo lps . They just go so well together and each bought stuff the other couldn't do. As I've written before , during their time apart I'd catch myself taking their solo lps and picking the best 5 tracks from each and thinking this is what the Gobetweens lp would have been like and it was always more than the sum of its parts.

I thought I'd do something  a bit different for this post.

in 2006 a bunch of Australian musicians came together and put on a Gobetweens tribute concert. They also recorded a follow up lp Write Your Adventures down .

I'm afraid I know nothing of the musicians involved but here are the tracks from 16 Lovers Lane. Recorded after Grant's death Dive for Your Memory is especially poignant

Street of Your Town - Bob Evans

Dive for Your Memory - Glenn Thompson

Hold Your Horses -  Sarah Blasko

and as an extra here is a beautiful version of a song form their debut lp Send me a Lullaby

You can buy 16 Lovers Lane here   it is a tad expensive but well worth it

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Desert Island Discs 8 Raintown by Deacon Blue

8 Raintown by Deacon Blue 1987

Not a concept but the 4 pillars of faith , rain , work and home are all over this lp. The whole thing was a perfect fit from the Oscar Marzaroli photograph of the Glasgow skyline on the cover (his striking images were also found on the early singles) to the echoes of Spingsteen in Jon Kelly's production and earnestness of Ricky Ross's lyrics.

The boy girl vocals fit perfectly and you get the sense that everyone was working towards a big idea where ambition would just outstrip time and money but only just.

I bought it on a whim and didn't like it at first for mainly the reasons that I came to love it. Soon though it was never off my stereo and I was boring people in halls of residence every time the drinking ended up in my room and dragging the same people along to see them live. One by one they crumbled and soon Raintown was on most stereos on our floor.

I still get a shiver whenever the first line "that hurricane day.." comes on the stereo

Overtime I convinced myself that the words Rain , Work , Faith or Home appeared in each song. Listening back of course they don't that would be just too forced but the few where they don't they are there in spirit , in the ghosting behind other words. Even the tracks that didn't make the final cut still keep those themes.

Oddly the one track that feels a tad out of place as it moves us to another country and another time , is still just about my favourite on the lp. I've posted before the article that inspired the song but here it is in Ricky Ross's own words

He Looks Like Spencer Tracy Now (live) - Deacon Blue

The only thing that jarred was they made such god awful videos! The bright, glossy, shiny nature didn't fit the music at all

Still it shows how much faith Columbia had in the band , the cast of guest and session musicians were more in tune with a well established big act rather than one on their debut. Although they were surely getting worried  when the big hits didn't come flowing , the first 3 singles bombed and the next 3 including a re release of Dignity all failed to get in the top 30.  What they didn't realise is they had a lp not a bunch of singles and one that had to be listened to as an lp. It became a classic slow burn , word of mouth grower. It only got to 14 in the lp charts but made platinum (which I think means a lot!)

3 years to write 6 weeks to record as Ricky Ross puts it in the recent reissue "that record , the experiences we shared in AIR studios and the songs we still perform today remain a testament to one of the best of times"

I doubt anyone will discover this lp after reading this blog or it will change anyone's view so here are a some differing takes

An early demo version of Loaded which is interesting in that it gives an idea of what the band would be like without Lorraine's vocals

Loaded demo version

A stripped and slowed down version of Raintown

Finally a powerhouse of a live performance that ends with a reference to another Glasgow lp coming a bit higher up , both of were the main part of taking my first job after poly as it allowed me to move to Glasgow where it did rain virtually every day

Town to be Blamed live

If you haven't already got it there is an excellent 4 discs and a dvd deluxe edition that you can buy here

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Desert island Discs 9 Cake by Trashcan sinatras

9 Cake by Trashcan Sinatras 1990

How can you not love this sugar rush of jangly guitars. Every now and then an lp comes along that just ticks all my pop boxes and usually at a time when I'm starting to drift away from music. This came out as I left poly and the bands I loved had all either broken up or started to release lps that somehow weren't quite as good as their last one.

However when I heard this on the radio I was convinced the band was going to be massive and lead a new surge of smart guitar pop bands

However band luck and bankruptcy mean that the band remain one of the ultimate should have been bigger than the beatles

Like the debuts of 2 other bands coming up later on, the clever wordplay of the lyrics tripped over themselves from the title onwards.

Obscurity knocks
Always at the foot of the photograph, that's me there
Snug as a thug in a mugshot pose, a foul-mouthed rogue
Owner of this corner and not much more
Still these days I'm better placed to get my just rewards
I'll pound out a tune and very soon
I'll have too much to say and a dead stupid name

Though I ought to be learning I feel like a veteran
Of "oh I like your poetry but I hate your poems"
Calendars crumble I'm knee deep in numbers
I've turned twenty one, I've twist, I'm bust and wrong again

Rubbing shoulders with the sheets till two
Looking at my watch and I'm half-past caring
In the lap of luxury it comes to mind
Is this headboard hard? Am I a lap behind?
But to face doom in a sock-stenched room all by myself
Is the kind of fate I never contemplate
Lots of people would cry though none spring to mind

Though I ought to be learning I feel like a veteran
Of "oh I like your poetry but I hate your poems"
Calendars crumble I'm knee deep in numbers
I've turned 21, I've twist, I'm bust and wrong again

Know what it's like
To sigh at the sight of the first quarter of life?
Ever stopped to think and found out nothing was there?

They laugh to see such fun
I'm playing blind man's bluff all by myself
And they're chanting a line from a nursery rhyme
"Ba ba bleary eyes - have you any idea?"

Years of learning I must be a veteran
Of "oh I like your poetry but I hate your poems"
And the calendar's cluttered with days that are numbered
I've turned twenty, I've twist, I'm bust and wrong again
Ought to be learning
Twist, I'm bust and wrong again
Feel like a veteran
Twist, I'm bust and wrong again
Calendar's cluttered
With days that are numbered
And I know what it's like
To sigh at the sight
Of the first quarter of life

The lp then appeared on the fledgling Go Discs (home of Beautiful South and the Bathers - they had a pretty good hit rate) with its hazy sleeve that mirrored the fact that you had to strain to hear the lyrics among the charging acoustic guitars. Strain I did as every song threw up a nugget every other line.

They've matured in sound and made arguably better lps (the 2 come backs of Into the Music and Weightlifting would be both on this list without the 1 lp rule) but Cake gets the nod as it came with that joy of "finding" someone making music that was just so in tune with what I liked but seemed to have gone for good

The follow up single showed they were no one tune fluke - here is a low key version played by the older and more mellow band

The highlights for me are 2 slow songs again chock full of quotable lines

Funny by the Trashcan Sinatras which has some of my favourite lines ever

I know her face so well
but the colour of her eyes escapes me for a moment

I know she doesnt play the field
But she likes to know the strength of the team

The band have a great website which you can find here -  and one of the best fansites which is a digital forever evolving museum to the band here

If you are yet to be convinced have a punt on the cd here and try to listen without smiling

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Desert Isalnd Discs 10 Hounds of Love by Kate Bush

10 Hounds of Love by Kate Bush 1987

At 20 I was a bit old to have a schoolboy crush but Kate Bush about this time (even in the strange flared grey trouser thing she wore when performing Running up that Hill) had me smitten.

Since buying Hounds of Love I went back to get the earlier lps and everything seems a run up to this lp. I still could take or leave the first 3 lps , The Dreaming is a big step forward but lacks a bit of focus. It is with Hounds of Love where is all comes together.

The production, especially of side 1 is a bit dated ( a sound she seemed unable to fully shake off , with 2005's King of the Mountain sounding like it could have come from these sessions, until 50 Words for Snow)

I probably wouldn't have bought the lp if the lead off single hadn't been so dam strong. I can distinctly remember seeing it on Wogan. If you are going to mime , at least do it with some imagination

The backing vocals alone didn't really sound like anyone else at the time. With female singers nowdominating the charts it is difficult to remember how unique Kate Bush was

However even better was to come.

Cloudbursting was inspired by a book written by Peter Reich about his father who invented the Cloudbursting machine of the title claiming he could form clouds and create rain. He bought 160 acres in Maine to experiment in, but was arrested by the Us authorities for contempt of court and died a few months into his 2 year sentence aged 60.

The video is a small piece of cinema with the wonderful Donald Sutherland as the father and Kate Bush playing the son (not altogether convincingly but that's not really the point). Lots of great small touches marry the music and the images.

When the lp came out , Running Up That Hills kicked things off , we then get the warning cry from Night of the Demon "Its in the trees its coming" and one of the other big 4 singles from side one

Despite the complexity of songs subjects (and we haven't even got to side 2s concept yet) , the theme that runs through the lp is the oldest of all pop songs ,love - Fear of Love in Hounds of Love , overwhelming all consuming love in Running , love of a son for his father in Cloudbursting , love of a Mother for her son in Mother Stands for Comfort and the love of life in Big Sky

 Big Sky is the weakest track on side one and runs out of steam a bit towards the end but like the video it is one of the few times that she lets rip and seems to be having fun

So we get to side 2 and the 7 song 9th wave. It's a concept in the loosest sense about a girl lost at sea. This is where the samples really work and add so much to each song rather than just being window dressing.

The cycle starts with the girl fighting off sleep with only the light on her inflatable jacket providing any kind of comfort.( the beautiful Dream of Sheep) . She falls into a sleep with dreams of being trapped under ice (Under Ice) . The girl's subconscious takes her back in time as various voices from her past try to wake her up, until her mind makes the link to  the old persecution of drowning alleged witches (Waking the Witch). She then drifts back to present day and imagines her home and the love of her family (Watching You Without Me). The girl next gets a visitation from her future self telling her she cant die ,she has to let her future self live (Jig of Life) . We then zoom skyward as the girl contemplates her insignificance (Hello Earth) . Finally the girl is brought back to land , back into her life with that theme of love again the redeemer (Morning Fog) with the lp finishing with

"I tell my mother
I tell my father
I tell my lover
I tell my brother
How much I love them"

Side 2 saw a level of creativity that for me would only be matched again with the 2nd disc of Aerial some 20 years later.

It is a mark of how good the lp is that she couldn't find space for one of the best things she has ever recorded the piano ballad Under the Ivy which was relegated to a b side.

For a much fuller and more articulate comment on the lp Graeme Thomson's book Under the Ivy is well worth a read

Friday, 3 May 2013

Desert Isalnd Discs 11 Kelvingrove Baby by the Bathers

11 Kelvingrove baby by The Bathers 1997

Nearly the top 10 so time to pause for a bit of wild European romanticism , well west of Scotland romanticism anyway. The other splinter group from Friends Again , for this lp Chris Thomson turned down the Scottish Tom Waits and turned up the melodic hooks.

The title track has it all , the epic dramatic hymn to love kind of sums up what The Bathers were all about.

Rather annoyingly I've found a clip of them playing live on you tube but can't seem to embed it on this post so you'll just have to follow the link here  (it is worth it to check out the very fashionable member of the audience just behind the presenter)..

The lp (like all their lps ) is about the mysteries of love. You get the feeling that Chris Thomson is a bit of a boy. Every song is about either being in love , losing love , unrequited love, falling in love , all told with romantic poet's voice and a sweeping orchestral backing.

Three chord rock and roll it certainly isn't.

You somehow just knew that all these songs involved girls as stunning as the one on the cover.

The lp starts with the band at it's most understated.

If you find her
Let her know
Just tell her I'm sorry
That she had to go
Just remind her that I'm still here
On the west coast waiting
I'll wear the rain like tears

Thrive - The Bathers

Elsewhere No Risk no Glory is as close to a giddy single as the Bathers get, helped out by old sparing partner from Friends Again James Grant on backing vocals

No Risk No Glory - The Bathers

The whole lp is music to swoon to and surely a much better candlelit backing than 100 Simply Red efforts

If Love could Last forever is the first dance at many a wedding in some alternative universe where jangly Scottish bands rule the charts

If Love Could  Last Forever the Bathers

Want you every sunrise
Everywhere you've been
Always Walk beside you
Haunt Your Every Dream

There is a bit of Van Morrison in the vocals and at times Wild is the Wind Bowie, it is a shame that the Bathers only managed a miniscule percentage of their sales

The 2 other highlights for me are the more groove based Dial  ( a bit of Scottish soul) and the Girl from the Polders, who you just knew had to the kind of girl that was unknown to any European exchange programme our 6th form had.

A sure fire cure for anyone who thinks romance is dead

You can buy a second hand version of the lp here

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Desert Island discs 12 Station to Station by David Bowie

12 Station to Station by David Bowie 1976

What a great way to celebrate my birthday than with a bit a Bowie and my only choice from the 70s

There was a time when I was maybe a tad too obsessed with David Bowie. It all started with Ashes to Ashes and then a friend at school lent me a load of compilation tapes and I was hooked. Other pop stars (often his bastard children) looked a tad boring and I started to realise that the bands I currently liked would never be able to reinvent themselves as he consistently had.

Part of the attraction was that growing up in Spalding the biggest tribe were the mods (with skinheads pushing them a close second - whose annual tradition it was to pull down the town xmas tree on New Year's Eve) , and ironically considering his early days , the mods hated David Bowie , which was an added bonus. His music really did define which side of the taste fence you sat.

Gradually he became to define what I liked in terms of music and was the yardstick against all others were measured.

At the height of my madness for some  reason I offered to write my sisters CSE history project for her. I chose the albums of David Bowie. Even though she copied out every word , I'm not sure how I thought some pretentious meanderings could ever look like the work of a 15 yr old Whitney Houston fan. I'm not sure what mark she got , but I remember being genuinely puzzled as to why she hadn't scored the top grade with some kind of special award for outstanding work.

Favourite lps of his changed with the weather but this one stayed the course. I went through a phase where all my school essay titles were written in the style of the cover WITHNOGAPSBETWEENWORDSANDINCAPTIALS  typing this I can see how annoying this must have been for my English teacher and that the detention I got was fully deserved.

Everything about this lp fitted perfectly the mix of American Funk and European krautrock, the fact there were only 6 songs , the black and white photo from the Man who Fell to Earth, the glacial title track. ,all put together in what surely was the side effects of the cocaine and not love.

It seems like every singer I liked at the time secretly wanted to be The Thin White Duke

There is desperation in Word on a Wing , a weariness in Golden Years , a plea in Stay , a declaration in Wild is the Wind and a bit of bonkers in TVC15

Add in one of the great guitar riffs This clip is worth it on the strength of the introduction alone

 And then right at the end a heart breaking cover and a vocal performance that would be used to highlight what a great singer by us few and what an awful singer he was by the Spalding many

Word on a Wing is about as spiritual as he gets - this clip comes from about the time he released the Hours lp (one of the many ..."return to form" lps)

The one song that I used to play to death on an lp worn out by overuse was the finger clicking , hand clapping Golden Years , a kind of bridge back to Young American and looking at this clip from soul train never has "nothing is going to touch you in these golden years" sounded so misguided and hollow? He wrote and sang the words but the voice said he didn't believe them

I better stop before I descend into complete drivel but next it was escape to Berlin...