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Dorothy & The Television Personalities

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This week two of the records that were part of Lawrence’s collection in the Record Store Day video from my previous post. Which, I forgot to mention, was directed by Douglas Hart and Valerie Phillips. And if you want to read what I think of the BFI’s re-released Lawrence of Belgravia Blu-ray, here’s a link.

Okay, first up is Dorothy’s I Confess, released by Industrial in 1980. According to its back cover: ‘When 19-year-old Dorothy first walked into the reception of the Industrial Records office no one was quite sure what to expect. But it only took one play of the tape she’d made with young Scottish guitarist, Alex Fergusson, and our minds were made up – HIT was stamped all over it!’

This might conjure up a vision of a naive teen pop fan from the sticks somehow stumbling into Industrial completely unaware of their reputation as a noisy and confrontational experimental label.

This goes to prove one thing at least, it isn’t only major labels who are less than 100% truthful about their acts. Dorothy was Dorothy Max Prior, who was in her mid-20s when her record came out. And everybody at Industrial knew exactly what to expect. She’d worked in the ICA in 1976, during the brouhaha over COUM Transmissions’ Prostitution exhibition (which she’d helped mount) and got to know the members of Throbbing Gristle, becoming a regular at the label’s Beck Road base. Fergusson, then playing with Alternative TV, was also a frequent visitor. Rema Rema, Dorothy’s band which had just split, had also recently shared a bill with Throbbing Gristle (and I featured a great cover of one of their songs in this post).

I Confess is a list song, where Dorothy tells us about some of her passions like The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Lolita, Herman Munster, and Harry Palmer. She also displays an admirably wide taste in music from Cajun to music concrete (which she really was a fan of); Sinatra’s Songs for Swinging Lovers to Subway Sect.

With a burbling synth sound straight out of a 1970s children’s TV show, singalong chorus, cabaret guitar break, chirpy yeah-yeahs and little girl voice, this is a real oddity, and needless to say, it wasn’t a HIT. But I’m happy to confess that I like Dorothy. Best thing Industrial ever put out if you ask me – I’m likely in a very small minority on that one, I know.

In 2016, the track was included in the Sharon Signs To Cherry Red compilation of independent female acts, along with tracks by Strawberry Switchblade, The Mo-dettes, The Twinsets and others. It was also reissued as a single by Sealed Records. Dorothy recently contributed to Jordan Mooney’s Defying Gravity and this maybe encouraged to pen her own autobiography 69 Exhibition Road, which is out in November.

I like The Television Personalities too. Appropriately enough for Chelsea boys, their second release came out on their own King’s Road label. The Where’s Bill Grundy Now? EP featured four tracks and proved highly influential for Britain’s growing independent label movement – which wasn’t ever called indie back then.

Part Time Punks poked fun at the kind of missing the point punk fans who were all about posing and who ‘want to buy the ‘O’ Level single / Or ‘Read About Seymour’ / But they’re not pressed in red / So they buy The Lurkers instead.’ Bet, they all love Record Store Day.

From November 1978, here is Part Time Punks:

Lawrence, formerly of Belgravia

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2012’s Lawrence of Belgravia documentary will be released in the coming weeks for the first time on Blu-ray, so to get you/me in the mood, this week some music by the man himself from various points in his career.

I’ve not been keeping too up to date with Lawrence’s career in recent years and I’ve only just discovered that he is now going under the moniker Mozart Estate and playing at an event at Glasgow University in August called Glas-goes Pop.

I’ve not been keeping up with Record Store Day either. In its early years it had struck me as a good idea but more a good idea for other people to help keep record shops open so that I could visit any day of the year that hadn’t been installed as RSD. I’ve just never felt any inclination to queue up for hours on end in order to get the chance to fork out over the odds for a 12 inch piece of grey vinyl speckled with pink – or something equally hideous – featuring a couple of tracks I already own on CD or could download within seconds.

Jean-Luc Godard is credited with once saying that all you need to make a film is a girl and a gun and here we see that a girl and a record collection are all you need for a promo video. With a jingle like simplicity, this is Mozart Estate with Record Store Day from 2021:

Presumably the singles here were supplied from Lawrence’s own collection and the biggest surprise is likely the inclusion of Lio, who featured in my previous post. I didn’t have him down as a Red Noise man either. While I would never classify myself a collector, I have owned a fair amount of the singles featured and have even managed to hang on to a number of them such as Horrorshow, Blue Boy and Ambition by my favourite Godard, Vic, and his band Subway Sect.

That final 45 you see, Felt’s debut Index is one of two copies of the single that Lawrence sent to John Peel – when the first copy wasn’t played, Lawrence guessed that it must have been lost somewhere down the line and sent another but Peelie was just not very keen on it, a fact that prompted Lawrence to then post off what the DJ later claimed was the most ‘vitriolic and nasty’ letter he’d ever received.

Before Mozart Estate there was Go-Kart Mozart, and before Go-Kart Mozart there was Denim. Denim’s music was rooted in the music of Lawrence’s childhood and deliberately rejected the 1980s – the closing track of 1992’s Back in Denim was even called I’m Against the Eighties (you might legitimately ask why he has joined the Glas-goes Pop lineup as the acts are all associated with 1980s indie). In Middle of the Road, though, it is earlier musical sacred cows that he merrily slates: ‘I hate the King, I hate Chuck Berry / I hate Hooker, I hate Leadbelly.’

Lawrence obviously doesn’t hate Jonathan Richman and the Roadrunner guitar riff, to which he added a little glitterbeat (he even hired a couple of The Glitter Band to help out) and Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. Yeah, ooh wee Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. Released in January 1993 on Boy’s Own, this is Middle of the Road:

And now for some Felt from 1984, a year that was perhaps the highpoint of independent music in Britain with the releases of Upside Down, Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops, The Smiths’ self-titled debut album and Felt’s Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow.

The latter begins and ends with a bassline maybe influenced by Jah Wobble’s opening of Public Image. In between there are some great strings, a very pleasing vocal interplay between Lawrence and Strawberry Switchblade’s Rose McDowall, and Maurice Deepak’s chimiest of chiming guitars. No video unfortunately but you can hear it here:

On Wednesday 15 June at 7pm, the BFI and Rough Trade East (150 Brick Lane, London E1) present a special launch event, with a screening of Lawrence of Belgravia to be followed by a conversation with Lawrence and Paul Kelly, hosted by journalist Siân Pattenden.

The following day sees the official release of the Blu-ray. For more information, click here.

Elli et Jacno et Lio (et aussi un peu Nouvelle Vague avec un sosie Lionel Messi)

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The Eurovision final is almost upon us – and getting in a bit early, before I head off to the pub, well done to Ukraine on their win. Tonight, a couple of tracks from France and Belgium that both possess what I think of as a Eurovisiony feel. And I’ve also added a cover version of one of the songs sung by a Lionel Messi lookalike, in case you were struggling to translate this post’s title.

Elli et Jacno might look like they’ve stepped off the cover of some French fashion mag of the early 1980s but the pair didn’t meet via some modelling assignment, but rather on a protest march that turned violent in Paris. Or so they say, anyway.

In the summer of 1976, they formed what’s said to be the first French punk band: Stinky Toys, who went on to play at the famous 100 Club Punk Special along with The Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks and others. The following summer Polydor issued their debut single Boozy Creed in Britain but the album it was taken from received some horrendous reviews and was never released here. Later, in Trouser Press, Ira Levin branded it ‘uninspired sub-Rolling Stones rock’n’boogie with terrible vocals by Elli Medeiros.’ Harsh but not entirely unfair.

By 1979, Stinky Toys were no more. Jacno recorded a self-titled solo album with a noticeable Kraftwerk influence. On one track, Anne Cherchait L’Amour, Elli sang.

The pair decided to join forces more permanently and moved even further away from their punkish roots with Jacno specialising in minimalist uber-catchy synthesiser hooks and Ellie providing lyrics and vocals (and a minimalist dance style). Briefly, the pair resembled the Serge Gainsbourg and Françoise Hardy of Parisian synthpop.

Here is maybe their finest moment, Main Dans La Main from 1980. Warning – this may trigger a relatively long-lasting earworm if listened to three times in a row. I speak from experience. First up, an introduction taken from a Stinky Toys TV appearance where Elli is asked if she is Uruguayan. She is.

I missed out on the track on its release and only came across Elli et Jacno via the soundtrack they supplied for Eric Rohmer’s Full Moon in Paris from 1984, which is one of those French films where everyone is very sophisticated and keen to discuss philosophy at parties. As opposed to the kind of parties you got in Glasgow roundabout the same time – where you were more likely to take the Buckfast Challenge than discuss de Beauvoir or Sartre. If you ever watch Full Moon in Paris, look out for the scene where Pascale Ogier’s Julie dances to the track Les Tarots – you’ll see Elli strutting her stuff to the left of her.

Now for a bit of Vanda Maria Ribeiro Furtado Tavares de Vasconcelos, or, as she’s better known as, Lio. The Belgian singer’s career got off to a flier. Her first single, a slice of bubblegum yé-yé called Banana Split, reached number one in France. For her follow-up, she turned to Elli and Jacno and a track from their Stinky Toys days, although it’s just about unrecognisable from its source material and no one would ever accuse Lio’s Amoureux Solitaires (Lonely Lovers) of being ‘uninspired sub-Rolling Stones rock’n’boogie.’

A jaunty little poptimistic gem, the single sold like hot croissants, replaced Il jouait du piano debout by former Eurovision winner France Gall at the top of the French charts and stayed there for six weeks. Here it is ‘live’ with some well deserved ‘spontaneous’ applause around the minute and a half mark.

There’s been many covers of the song over the years and fans of Lio include Marc Colin of Nouvelle Vague who bought her Lonely Lovers album on cassette as a youngster. Here’s his band’s laid back and jazzy take on the song with guest vocalist Lionel Messi lookalike Hugh Coltman.

Knockabout (1979) & Dreadnaught (1981)

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This week, a look at a couple of new Eureka Classics Blu-rays that are released today. First up is Knockabout, an early example of Hong Kong’s kung fu comedy craze, and the first film to star Sammo Hung (who also directed it) and Yuen Biao together.

Bryan Leung Kar-Yan is Dai Pao, while Yuen Biao, in his first leading role, is his brother Yi Pao. They’re are a pair of low-grade grifters who would happily rip each other off if the chance arose. They do enjoy the odd success – like conning a gold dealer who is equally greedy and gullible, but they pick the wrong mark in Old Fox (played by Lau Kar-Wing in a not terribly convincing grey wig).

Outwitted by the older man, they seek revenge by attempting to beat him up. This is another bad idea and results in him giving them both black eyes. Sensing that learning a mastery of kung fu could come in handy whenever their scams fail, they offer to become his students. Old Fox is reluctant but eventually relents, enlisting the brothers to help him in his struggle against some longstanding enemies.

Old Fox really is far from the kindly and virtuous master that we usually meet in kung fu movies, as the brothers will soon discover to their cost.

The balance between comedy and martial arts tips in favour of the former for much of the movie with Yuen Biao and Leung Kar-yan making for a highly likeable double act.

The role of Yi Pao was intended to launch Yuen Biao into the kind of stardom that his fellow Peking Opera School pals Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung were already experiencing after box office hits like Drunken Master and Enter the Fat Dragon.

Biao did go on to enjoy a long and successful career, without ever reaching the heights of his two ‘brothers’. His acrobatic cartwheels, kicks and backflips are a true joy to watch here, and Sammo Hung’s Beggar putting him through his paces with a skipping rope is one of the great martial arts training sequences. Sammo, incidentally, is predictably good in the role of the jovial beggar, a man with a pet monkey and some kiss ass monkey kung fu moves. As for ‘Beardy’ Leung, despite having never studied any martial arts, he looks pretty accomplished in his fight scenes.

The cast are all in good form actually, Karl Maka’s memorable cameo as Captain Baldy being only one of many highlights. The movie is a delight which keeps getting better and better. Its ferocious finale is one of the longest in Hong Kong action movie history and entirely justifies its length.

Next up, another kung fu cult favourite, this time one directed by Yuen Woo-ping, the legendary action choreographer of The Matrix, Kill Bill and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Yuen Woo-ping plunges us straight into the action here with an eruption of mayhem in a teahouse, which leaves a number of police officers and the wife of a fearsome criminal dead.

That criminal, known as White-Fronted Tiger (Yuen Shun-yee), seeks out an old pal who lets him hide out with a theatrical troupe he is involved with. It’s here his path crosses with Little Gueng (Yuen Biao), a laundry worker who is scared of dogs; scared of the men who refuse to pay their laundry bills; and even more than a little scared of his domineering big sister – who beats him up because he’s so hopeless at collecting debts. Needless to say, even though he doesn’t know the true identity of the troupe’s newcomer, he’s terrified of White-Fronted Tiger. Worse still, the psychotic wrongdoer takes an immediate dislike to him.

Maybe Gueng’s best pal Leung Foon (Bryan Leung Kar-yan) can persuade his master Wong Fei-hung (Kwan Tak-hing) to teach the fearful young man the fighting skills required to take on the man that Gueng calls Painted Face.

Nobody could ever accuse Yuen Woo-ping of being scared to shift tone. Dreadnaught begins like a Chinese version of a spaghetti western, then switches into slapstick mode soon after. There is some superb physical comedy on display, such as Gueng demonstrating his unorthodox kung fu method of drying laundry – later referenced by Joel Schumacher in Batman Forever – and also some less amusing broad Hong Kong humour, although I did laugh at one visual gag involving some incompetent police officers drawing the wrong conclusion about a dead man covered by a blanket.

There are also elements of the buddy movie, while the final third of the film strays into serial killer territory – and it is bizarre that a movie with cross-eyed cops and men with weird hair sprouting from unsightly facial warts also manages to feature a genuinely unsettling scene when Leung Foon clashes with White-Fronted Tiger.

Consistently entertaining, Dreadnaught also marked the final time that Kwan Tak-hing portrayed Cantonese folk hero Wong Fei-hung – a man also portrayed onscreen by Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The actor bowed out on a high on what is said to have been his 77th time in the role. No, that’s not a typo.

Tak-hing, who was in his mid-seventies during filming, even features prominently in the film’s standout scene, a long brawl between two Lion Dance teams that brilliantly showcases Woo-ping’s virtuoso choreography skills.

This Eureka Classics releases of Knockabout and Dreadnaught are their UK debuts on Blu-ray, both in brand new 2K restorations.

Special features on both include limited edition O-Card slipcases featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling [2000 copies]; reversible sleeve design featuring original poster artwork; new feature length audio commentaries by Frank Djeng & Michael Worth, and new feature length audio commentaries by Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, plus collector’s booklets featuring new writing by James Oliver.

For more on Knockabout, click here.

For more on Dreadnaught, click here.

Goodbye, Jordan Mooney

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There’s a story in Jordan Mooney’s 2019 book Defying Gravity (written with Cathi Unsworth) about going to see David Bowie at the Brighton Dome in 1973 during his Ziggy Stardust tour.

She’d queued up all night for tickets and then thought long and hard about what to wear on the big night – which turned out to be a Biba jacket, Oxford bags and towering gold platforms with her razor-cut hair coloured pink and red. ‘I don’t like to boast, but I looked so fucking good that night, it’s untrue.’

While the band were onstage, the young Jordan made her way down to the front and at an opportune moment showered the singer with a handful of cherry blossoms picked from a tree she’d climbed at the end of the street where she lived in her home town of Seaford. This was appropriate as the singer had recently been photographed in a Kansai Yamamoto satin suit that featured that flower.

As the petals fluttered down, Bowie leaned down and took the cherry blossom girl’s hand. During the rise and rise of Ziggymania, this must have been a staggeringly exciting moment for the teenager. He even asked if he could have her earring, which she’d fashioned out of a starling’s feather and some strategically placed pearls.

I’d guess that every other fan in the hall would have happily whipped it off and handed it over but she shook her head and told him, ‘No.’

And why should she just give something like that away just because it was Bowie doing the asking?

The next time the pair crossed paths was at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival. Bowie was hosting a swanky party to publicise Just A Gigolo, a film that Bowie would later describe in NME as, ‘my 32 Elvis Presley movies rolled into one.’ Jordan, meanwhile, was in town for a screening of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee, which was being being shown as part of International Critics’ Week.

This time round, she did agree to the request and he didn’t ask her for anything bar her presence.

Did she upstage him? Very probably, hence him pulling the face. I’d say Jordan 2 Bowie 0.

In Jubilee, Jordan played Amyl Nitrate, a part specially written for her by Jarman, the man who dubbed her ‘the original Sex Pistol’.

Here she is performing Rule Britannia – well, kind of, as it’s Suzi Pinns supplying the vocals – this supposedly being England’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest that year. And which would likely have scored nil points but never mind.

Jordan (Pamela Rooke): 23 June 1955 – 3 April 2022.

The Andy Warhol Diaries & A Space Age Love Song

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Posthumously published at the tail end of the 1980s, The Andy Warhol Diaries has just been adapted into a six-part TV docuseries by Netflix.

Directed by Andrew Rossi, it’s been picking up some rave reviews, Ireland’s Sunday Independent touting it as ‘a brilliant and penetrating portrait of a genius whose influence is still felt and who predicted so much of modern life’, while for Edge Media Network it was ‘a monumental event’.

I wouldn’t go that far. A big problem with it is that Warhol didn’t start on his diaries until November 1976, by which point he was extolling ‘Business Art’ rather than Pop Art. ‘Being good at business is the best art,’ he claimed. Whether or not he was being serious is hard to tell but as his aphorisms go, this was maybe the dumbest.

In the 1960s, Pop Art Andy was shooting esoteric underground movies with titles like Blow Job and promoting The Velvet Underground, while surrounded by drag queens, speed freaks and mad, bad and dangerous to know hangers-on and hustlers. In the 1970s and 1980s, Business Art Andy was making MTV friendly videos for The Cars and Curiosity Killed The Cat, and if any art collector fancied a portrait, then he was more than happy to immortalise their mugs on canvas, as long as the price was right. He even agreed to appear on The Love Boat and delivered the kind of performance that would have made Tommy Wisseau blush.

You can’t blame him for dropping most of his mid-’60s entourage. After being shot by the maddest, baddest and definitely most dangerous to know of his hangers-on, Valerie Solanas, things were never going to be the same again.

Andy is seen here publicly denying that the incident changed his life, but you’d have to be truly gullible to believe him. Wildly insecure, Warhol saw himself as ugly and a freak, and the heavy scarring and puncture marks on his torso must have horrified him. And served as a daily reminder of the downside of his days walking on the wild side.

Jed Johnson, a much younger man who Paul Morrissey had hired to work at the Factory due to his striking good looks, became Warhol’s live-in carer as he recovered and the pair became involved romantically even though Andy still liked to pretend to the world that he was asexual in line with his public ‘I want to be a machine’ persona.

Shy but a social butterfly, he was drawn to the sex, drugs, and disco world of Studio 54. Jed judged that he was wasting his time there with ‘the most ridiculous people’ and during this time, the older man comes across as more voyeuristic than visionary.

The two grew apart and Jed eventually dumped him. Not one to heed the commonplace advice that going on the rebound is never going to mend a broken heart, Andy immediately decided to woo Jon Gould, a preppy New Englander who worked as a bigwig exec at Paramount. Like Jed he was a twin with a twin brother called Jay. The odds on that? Pretty damned high I would guess.

Episode two ends with archive footage from New York’s 1981 Hogmanay bash, this celebration and the end credits soundtracked in a completely on the nose fashion by a synthpop/guitar track that, as my toes tapped, I soon identified as A Flock of Seagulls, a band most famous nowadays for being namechecked by Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules in Pulp Fiction and for the utter ridiculousness of the singer’s hairstyle.

For a brief period, the Liverpool band must have been credible enough. They’d hoped to pick up a deal with local independent Zoo Records but instead, former Be-Bop Deluxe frontman Bill Nelson released their debut 45 on his own Cocteau label, producing it into bargain. He also took John Peel along to see them play in a Yorkshire boozer and the DJ was impressed enough to offer them a session on his show.

Nowadays, some even consider them the least cool band of the 1980s (which would be a real feat given that Kajagoogoo, Level 42 and The Thompson Twins were all on the go at the time). In his book Mad World, Jonathan Bernstein put the boot in: ‘In my U.K. homeland, they were seen as a joke act, like a band formed by a bunch of oafish characters in a British soap opera.’ This, their fifth single, is about as ’80s as a rah-rah skirted Molly Ringwald attempting to solve a Rubik’s Cube, a bunch of bangles dangling against her Swatch watch as she does so. Space Age Love Song is also a delicious slice of sincere and optimistic pop. Paul Reynold’s nimble guitar work is dazzling and you’ve got to love those synthy laser gunshot whooshes which accompany the whole song.

Released in Britain forty years ago come May, here it is:

More on The Andy Warhol Diaries soon.

Archangel Thunderbird & The Nearest Thing To Kate Bush Before Kate Bush

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Being only a young ‘un in the spring of 1970, the release of Amon Düül II’s second album Yeti was way off my radar. I was more Archies than Amon Düül II. They might have been pure bubblegum but were at least preferable to much of what was then on offer in the British charts: Lee Marvin croaking out Wand’rin’ Star? No thanks. Likewise the efforts of England’s World Cup Squad, Sacha Distel, Dana and Des O’Connor. Even worse, there was (spits) Rolf Harris’s Two Little Boys.

Let’s move on. Before Amon Düül II, there was not surprisingly, a plain old Amon Düül. They’d holed up together in a radical Munich commune and music began playing an important part of life there.

Just as German performance artist and sculptor Joseph Beuys liked to air his slogan ‘Everyone is an artist’, the commune believed that everyone is a musician. You wanted to join in, then you could join in. They even attempted to get audiences involved, handing out bongos and tambourines to them, so they could join in the fun and play along. As John Weinzierl told author David Stubbs in his book Future Days: ‘You didn’t go along to the concert and watch the band; you came to the event and were part of it.’

This was an idea later embraced by some British bands like The Mekons and in some ways it’s a commendable idea. But a flawed one. Have you ever attended a live show and thought: ‘This is pretty good but I bet it would be even better if some random punters were given the chance to tap away on a little drum or bash a tamby?’

Two factions emerged within the band. One specialised in sitting around playing extended and aimless improvisatory jams, which might have been just about tolerable to listen to after a few tokes of Red Leb or a handful of magic mushrooms but otherwise would be an headnipping bore. The others, who took on the name Amon Düül II, wanted to progress musically. Not that they were aspiring towards the virtuosity levels of an ELP or Yes.

Even big fan Julian Cope conceded in his Krautrocksampler that ‘they’ve certainly recorded their fair share of shit,’ but Amon Düül II went on to produce far better music than Amon Düül and enjoy a more interesting career.

For starters, they found fans from John Peel (who booked them for a session) to some leaders of the Baader-Meinhof Gang (who were sent packing from the commune by singer Renate Knaup while attempting to hide from the cops); they managed to fit in a date at the Cavern in Liverpool shortly before it was closed and appeared in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1970 film The Niklashausen Journey. Or to give it its German title Die Niklashauser Fart.

Archangel Thunderbird from Yeti might be their finest moment, a lysergic Louie Louie that sounds like a life or death struggle. It’s gloriously off-kilter, the result of a curious clash of time signatures and Renate Knaup’s soaring Yoko meets Nico vocals, which also look forward to Metal Box era John Lydon.

You could even argue this is where 1970s music truly kicked off.

‘Where,’ you might be asking after that sonic maelstrom, ‘does Kate Bush fit into all this?’

Okay, by the time of Amon Düül II’s seventh album, 1973’s Vive La Trance, precocious young Kate was already composing songs and had even penned an embryonic version of The Man With The Child In His Eyes. She was listening to Bowie and Roxy, American singer-songwriters like Laura Nyro and Judee Sill, as well as a range of folkies from Anne Briggs to The Incredible String Band but she’s such a unique artist that any concrete influences on her work are difficult to detect.

I’ve never read of Kate being a Kosmiche fan but if you listen now to Vive La Trance, you’ll almost inevitably wonder if the teenage singer had been aware of the track Jalousie. It’s certainly a whole lot closer to the kind of material on her early demos and albums than it is to Archangel Thunderbird and if there’s one song that sounds like Kate Bush before she’d ever made a record, this must surely be it.

For more on the band, click here.

So It Goes & So It Goes

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Presented by Tony Wilson, the first series of Granada TV’s So It Goes ran from early July to late August in 1976 and was only shown on three of Britain’s regional ITV networks, none of these being my local channel STV, although I suspect it might have inspired that station to launch Sneak Preview, a late Friday night mix of conversation, film clips and bands early in 1977.

According to Paul Morley’s From Manchester With Love, the title of So It Goes was supplied by Wilson’s then girlfriend, Jane Buchan, via Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel that includes the three words every time a death or deaths occurs. Given that it’s partly set during WWII’s Battle of the Bulge and Dresden bombings, this isn’t uncommon.

So far music-wise, the series has been a little bit pub rock, a little bit hippy and a little bit proggy. You know, Graham Parker and The Rumour, Stephan Micus performing music he’d composed on Afghan rubabs and first up on the final episode, some awful jazz tinged proggers Gentleman, whose bassist thought it was a good idea to take to the stage wearing red dungarees.

Something new and exciting was clearly required.

The pre-Factory Tony Wilson is a bit of a smoothie and looks rather self-satisfied too, but hey, he deserves to be self-satisfied by his coup here. Not only has the debut Ramones album just been recommended but now viewers are about to get their first ever glimpse on TV of an unsigned act who Wilson has already seen live twice in Manchester. Or at least claimed to have seen twice, some disputing his presence at the first Lesser Free Trade Hall show.

They’re led by a young man with severely chopped hair, a razorblade earring and writing scrawled on his torn jacket, which is also adorned with chains. He starts the song with an anti-hippy tirade and looks furious with the world. And then he begins singing about Anarchy in the UK.

Something new and exciting has clearly arrived.

Nick Lowe’s So It Goes also took its title from Slaughterhouse-Five and the single kicked off the Stiff label in the middle of August 1976, just two weeks before The Sex Pistols’ shock of the new television debut.

A press release explained of the song and B-side Heart of the City: ‘Both are under three minutes, use less than three musicians and less than three chords.’

This isn’t the version that appeared on the single but it does have a video shot by David Mallet, who went on to direct a bunch of promos for Bowie, including Boys Keep Swinging and Ashes To Ashes, so here you are:

If it ain’t Stiff, it ain’t worth a fuck. So went the slogan.

The Members’ Solitary Confinement, therefore is very much worth a fuck. Released by Stiff in May 1978 as a one-off single, this is a little tribute to singer Nicky Tesco whose death was announced yesterday.

Donbass

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This week, a review written two and a half years ago for Louder Than War on an award-winning film from 2018 that examined the conflict in Ukraine at that point. It’s been described as ‘a sprawling black comedy’ but if you’re looking for laughs, then best avoid this one. Donbass, though, might give at least some insights into the horror of what we’ve been seeing on our TV screens in recent days.

*

Named after a region in Eastern Ukraine, Donbass is a film about what is going on there and how it affects the people living there on both sides of the divide. The Ukrainian regular army and volunteers fight separatist gangs, supported by Putin’s Russia. Corruption and criminality of all kinds are rife. Humiliation is commonplace. Violence can flare at any moment.


Each of the thirteen segments that make up the film is based on a real event and are loosely linked. Most characters only feature in one section, although some feature in more.


Born in Belarus, when that country was part of the Soviet Union, writer/director Sergei Loznitsa has been dubbed the ‘maestro of miserablism’ and ‘art cinema’s ultimate bad time merchant.’ Watching Donbass, it doesn’t take very long to figure out why.


It’s like a series of thirteen nightmares, which when taken together, offers a damning critique of this part of the world.


As Donbass opens, we see a group of actors and extras getting their make-up applied in the back of a trailer. A production assistant orders them to get out, presumably to film their scene. But this isn’t a feature film or TV drama that they’re taking part in. This is propaganda, a fake news story with controlled explosions in the background and a burnt-out bus. A woman who moments earlier was complaining to a makeup artist about not enjoying her job is suddenly acting like a stunned witness to bombings. ‘It’s impossible to live like this,’ she complains. ‘Every morning I wake up full of fear.’


Later, we see a snippet of the incident being viewed as authentic reportage.


A looter is made to walk a gauntlet where he is beaten by around twenty soldiers with long sticks. A German journalist is repeatedly branded a fascist, without a shred of evidence. ‘If you aren’t a fascist,’ one Russian soldier taunts him, ‘then your grandfather was.’ A news reporter is given a guided tour of an overcrowded bomb shelter that is now home to city-dwellers seeking safety. The poverty is Dickensian, several inhabitants lie on beds obviously very ill. There is no electricity and little food or medicine. The sole toilet isn’t working. ‘It’s as if we’re living in the Stone Age,’ one of the inhabitants observes.


The most memorable scene, though, is where a Ukrainian man with his hands cuffed, is forced to stand by a lamp-post in Russia’s proxy Donetsk People’s Republic. The intention here being that passers-by can abuse him verbally or physically. It sounds medieval but some young men who blow smoke into his face record events on their smartphones to give the punishment a modern twist.


A hate mob soon assembles, with one old woman squashing a tomato into his face. It’s gruelling to watch as the barbarism only gets worse.

Donbass lasts just over two hours long but never feels like it. With one possible exception, a raucous wedding ceremony, the vignettes don’t overstay their welcome.


The story ends where it began. In the trailer with some of the actors glimpsed in the opening scene. It’s the longest sequence in the film and its final ten minutes or so is filmed in one long take with the camera static and focussing on characters who we can hear in the middle distance but not identify. It’s a chilling finale to an often compulsively mesmerising film.


Sergei Loznitsa won the prestigious Un Certain Regard Award for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018 and he fully merited the recognition.


For more on the film, click here .

A Ronnie Spector Two for Tuesday: Do I Love You? & Try Some, Buy Some

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A few years back, I declared The Ronettes’ Be My Baby to be the greatest pop song ever recorded. Do I Love You? therefore isn’t the greatest pop song ever recorded. Arguably, it isn’t even the best song called Do I Love You? – albeit I reckon it has a slight edge over Frank Wilson’s Northern Soul belter – but the fourth British single issued by best ever girl group is undoubtedly three minutes of pure pop magic.

Released here in September 1964, the single made its way into the top thirty the following month in a chart with You’ve Really Got Me, Baby Love, She’s Not There and It’s All Over Now. Since then, it’s been covered by The Flamin’ Groovies and by Chrissie & Steve & Paul in demo form – this being Chrissie Hynde and two former Sex Pistols in the days before The Pretenders found fame. The song suits Chrissie’s voice and Steve Jones performs much better in the vocals than might have been expected, but of course, the original featuring the towering vocals of Ronnie Spector is the essential version.

The coolest woman of 1960s pop kicked off her 1970s solo career sans sister Estelle, cousin Nedra, and her beehive but with her trademark oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, ohs still intact.

The vehicle for her comeback was a George Harrison composition which he and Ronnie’s husband of the time (yeah, him) agreed to co-produce with the single being issued by Apple (yeah, that Apple).

When Ronnie released Try Some, Buy Some in the spring of 1971, interest in the former moptops was still intense. All four were represented in the British charts as solo artists: Paul McCartney with Another Day, John Lennon with Power to the People and Ringo with It Don’t Come Easy. George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord (co-produced by Harrison & Spector) was still riding relatively high, after an outrageously successful run that had seen it top the British top thirty for five weeks. Derek Johnson in NME judged that My Sweet Lord had ‘finally and irrevocably established George as a talent equivalent to either Lennon or McCartney.’ It was also #1 in the American charts (and a stack of others) while Harrison’s triple album All Things Must Pass was also a number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The odds would have been short for Try Some, Buy Some becoming a sizeable hit and it was envisaged that Apple would also issue Ronnie’s debut solo album. But the single flopped and the album failed to materialize.

Try Some, Buy Some isn’t a track that’s easy to take a shine to on initial listens. Each additional play does add to its power, though. Crazily ambitious with swelling strings and a mandolin adding a gorgeous Neapolitan feel, it regularly threatens to absolutely soar but no matter how many spins you give it, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that it wasn’t the right song to showcase Ronnie’s voice to the best of her abilities. She even sounds to be straining at times.

The singer herself was far from happy with the song. ‘I didn’t enjoy doing it,’ she recalled to Hot Wacks fanzine in the spring of 1979, acknowledging that it wasn’t in the right key for her. ‘I even told George ‘cos Phil wouldn’t listen to me, I said “what is he trying to do to me, this is just not me.” ’

Phil certainly wasn’t paying much attention to her as she laid down her vocal in an overdub room at Trident Studios. Several onlookers have noted that the maniac producer would get her to perform a take and then launch into anecdotes for twenty minutes afterwards, Ronnie silent as he gabbered on. Then he’d request another take. And again, he’d then feel the need to gabber on for another twenty minutes before asking for another take, offering only the most minimal of advice.

In 1973, Harrison decided to revive it, recording his own plaintive vocal onto the existing backing track and releasing it on his Living in the Material World album. His version also failed to fully work, albeit I do like it more than My Sweet Lord with that syrupy slide guitar and sickly mantra. You can hear the George version here and if you’ve ever wondered how a duet between Ronnie and George might have sounded, here’s a mashup uplifted onto YouTube.

Fast forward to the present century. Ronnie has changed her mind on Try Some, Buy Some and began listing it as one of her favourites. After being unavailable for almost three decades, it was reissued on the compilation Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records in 2010.

And in 2003, an artist who’d been a big fan of the single on its initial release decided to record his own cover of it on his album Reality. Guess what? David Bowie’s vocals also failed to convince, although this live version is a big improvement and it’s good to see Dave enjoying himself so much on stage.

In a Rolling Stone interview in 2016, Ronnie expressed her sadness at the death of Bowie. ‘It bothers me that a lot of the rock & roll people that I loved, that I hung out with, are gone.’

And now, sadly, she’s gone too.

Ronnie Spector: August 10, 1943 – January 12, 2022

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