Goodbye, Lou: Part 2 (Lou Reed at the Glasgow Apollo)

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Lou Reed Glasgow Apollo 1974

Over the past few days I’ve searched out a pair of ads for two legendary shows that Lou Reed performed in the mid 1970s at the Glasgow Apollo as I don’t think either of them have ever been uploaded online before and I thought that fans who had attended the gigs might like to have a wee gander at them.

The one above is for a concert that took place in the summer of 1974 when I was twelve. Unfortunately, to the Apollo I did not Go, Go, Go as although I had liked Walk on the Wild Side, I wasn’t interested enough in Reed to spend between a £1 and £1.65 to watch him live.

The ad below is for an earlier show from 24 September, 1973.

Lou Reed Glasgow Apollo 1973

This gig was famously bootlegged and came out as Walk On The Wild Side, Live at the Apollo 1973, a fine set – considering that legend has it that Lou had to be carried on-stage and later carried off. His set-list that evening included ViciousRock ’n’ RollHow Do You Think It Feels? and Sister Ray.

Lou Reed Apollo 1973

I’m sure you’ll find an MP3 of the whole album out there somewhere on the net if you make the effort but here’s a taster, a version of Satellite of Love from the album Transformer co-produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson.

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A month after that visit to the Apollo, in a Let It Rock interview, Lester Bangs asked Lou, who was going through a particularly self destructive period in his life, how he intended to die. ‘I would like to live to a ripe old age,’ Lou replied, ‘and raise watermelons in Wyoming.’

I would guess Reed wasn’t being particularly serious with that answer; Lou living anywhere outside NYC was practically unthinkable, indeed the New York Daily News called him ‘the conscience of the city’ in their obituary. And as for the watermelons idea…

Elsewhere, David Bowie was among the first to pay tribute to his old pal, declaring simply that, ‘He was a master’.

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Last night at the Barclaycard Mercury Prize ceremony, Bowie (who didn’t attend) premiered this new promo for the James Murphy remix of The Next Day album track Love Is Lost, which Bowie wrote, shot (on a home camera) and edited with some help from assistant Jimmy King and friend Coco Schwab last weekend and which apparently cost only $12.99 to make. It’s been described on Bowie’s official site as a ‘strangely moving gothic inflected story line perfect for Halloween’ and here’s a chance for you to judge for yourself.

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Happy guising, folks!

Arcade Fire: Reflektor (Review)

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Arcade Fire Reflektor Art

‘Disco will never be over. It will always live in our minds and hearts. Something like this that was this big, and this important, and this great, will never die.’

So declared the character Josh in Walt Stillman’s 1998 film The Last Days of Disco and several key releases of 2013 could definitely provide some pretty damn conclusive evidence to back up his theory, chiefly among them Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories with its lead-off single Get Lucky (co-written by Nile Rodgers) and the Bohemian Rhapsody of Disco that is Giorgio Moroder. More recently and far more surprisingly was Arcade Fire’s curveball from early September, the single Reflektor.

You really should know Reflektor by now; the first taste of Arcade Fire’s fourth album had it all: seven and a half minutes of sublime, hypnotic and infectious art-school disco that displayed one of the planet’s most interesting and successful acts moving in a new and ambitious direction aided by James Murphy formerly of LCD Soundsystem on production duties along with long-time collaborator Markus Dravs (and the band itself). Reflektor also managed to feature a very brief vocal cameo from the man of the year, David Bowie, and was accompanied by a very intriguing and genuinely surreal video by Anton Corbijn.

One minute tense, the next triumphant and soaring with house piano, Reflektor is surely the best thing they had released since their debut album Funeral. Go on, remind yourself just how good it was:

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So how does the rest of the album stand up to what you might have guessed is my favourite single of 2013 so far?

Firstly, a disclaimer, I’ve only listened to the album two and a half times (CD 1 twice and CD 2 three times) and from experience Arcade Fire can be a notoriously difficult act to judge from early exposure – on first hearing Neon Bible, I was convinced it was overblown and overlong but it did grow on me steadily on subsequent listens albeit I still believe the over earnest faux-Springsteenisms should have been ditched.

So although tracks 2, 3 and 4 here: We Exist, Flashbulb Eyes and Here Comes the Night Time failed to make any major impression on me, I’m not unduly worried as just might suddenly grab me a few more listens down the line.

We Exist would likely have been big on American FM radio in the 1980s, Flashbulb Eyes reminds me of Sandinista era Clash in that it is maybe an admirable failure; Here Comes the Night Time also shares some of Sandinista’s experimentation, a song obviously influenced by Win and Haitian born Régine’s visit to the country of her birth in 2011 that apparently made such a profound impression on them – interestingly, a couple of percussionists from that island have been drafted in to provide Reflektor with what Régine has lately been calling ‘voodoo rhythms’ in interviews.

‘Do you like rock and roll music?’ Butler asks as Normal Person kicks off, ‘Because I don’t know if I do’. Vocally, he initially veers so frustratingly close to a David Byrne impersonation that I can’t but help but visualise him wearing a big Stop Making Sense suit as he performs the song live, but the song also resides in a territory close to both the Robert Fripp guitar sound of Lodger and also Bowie’s version of Pixie’s Cactus on Heathen – and speaking of Cactus era Pixies, isn’t Régine Chassagne (like Kim Deal on Surfer Rosa and elsewhere) frankly always under-used on Arcade Fire albums?

After ‘Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be David Byrne’, we are led into the next track with a rather unexpected sample of Jonathan Ross introducing the band a few years back on his TV chat show, maybe not their greatest idea but You Already Know is an irresistible toe-tapper – there’s a little Motown in its musical DNA and it would make a great single.

Joan of Arc starts off as a punkish thrash but speedily mutates into a junkyard glam stomp and is huge fun even if it does bring to mind the work that producer Mike Leander provided for a now very much derided chart topper of the mid ’70s.

Here endeth CD1 with a bang – unless you’re counting the unnecessary cassette tape toneburst which follows, and which is also used to introduce CD2.

‘I hurt myself again, along with all my friends/Feels like it never ends/Here comes the night time’.

Here Comes the Night Time II is a very different beast from its paired predecessor. The joyousness of Haiti during a carnival is gone, replaced by a gorgeous though deeply melancholic tune that sounds like it could have been written during the aftermath of one of those hurricanes or earthquakes that have caused so much devastation to that country in recent years but which seems to concern a strained to breaking point relationship (I think).

Next up are two more paired tracks, this time back-to-back, Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice) and It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus). The former starts with some great tribal drumming and ends with a football terraces style coda with some classic, anthemic Arcade Fire in between while the latter is haunting but danceable – and to possibly save you having to have a peek at Wikipedia, Orpheus was a legendary musician in Greek myth, who unsuccessfully attempted to bring his wife Eurydice back from the dead with his enchanting music – that’s them on the front cover as sculpted by Auguste Rodin.

Next up, Porno is just a little too plodding and a little too slick for my tastes and then the band seemingly felt unable to resist the temptation of throwing in a bit of New Order, one of the bands who have influenced them most deeply, into the mix with the penultimate track Afterlife, an ultimately uplifting slice of synthpop with a fantastic finale.

An eleven minute plus track, Supersymmetry, closes Reflektor and with some mesmerising Phillip Glass style sounds burbling away in the background, it begins promisingly but then to all extents and purposes ends on the six minute mark, though over full five minutes of absolutely superfluous noise like mild mannered Metal Machine Music follows on – oh and before I forget, don’t get too excited about the hidden track as that’s only more of the same sort of ambient gurgle.

So, the album is by no means perfect. Perhaps Flashbulb Eyes and Porno could have been excised along with the second half of Supersymmetry, cutting the album’s length by about fifteen minutes so that the double could have been fitted easily onto a single disc.

And what an outstandingly fine single disc it would have been.

4/5

Reflektor is out today, 28 October 2013.

Goodbye, Lou (Sad Song)

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Tuned into Billy Sloan’s radio show on Clyde 2 earlier and discovered – after listening to three stunningly good Velvet Underground/Lou Reed tracks – that the singer and guitarist with my favourite ever group ever had passed away.

Here’s the track that closes his third solo album, Berlin, which might just be his masterpiece, the disturbing but beautiful Sad Song:

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Lou Reed: March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013.

Three Girl Rhumba & A Band Called Dot Dash

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7x7 1977

Wire: Three Girl Rhumba (Pink Flag)

Think of a number, divide it by two / something is nothing, nothing is nothing.

OK, another new series – and, yeah, the blog has went a little series crazy in the past week or so, hasn’t it?

7×7:1977, you won’t be surprised to discover, will consist of 49 tracks from 1977 and with Wire about to start a tour in less than a week’s time that will take in Turkey, Israel, Finland, Poland and America, I thought I’d kick things off with the third track on their debut album.

‘Pink Flag is very much about the climate of the time: about 1977, about punk rock’, Wire’s singer/guitarist Colin Newman reflected in Wilson Neate’s book Pink Flag (33 1/3). ‘But it’s not a punk record. It’s about giving punk a good kicking using the tools of punk. It was very much about not being like the Sex Pistols or the Clash – or another rock band.’

Three Girl Rhumba is my favourite track on Pink Flag and contains the one Wire guitar riff that everyone knows – even though they might well know it from Elastica’s Connection.

For over three decades I had no idea what had inspired Three Girl Rhumba: like many other Wire compositions the title sounded like an impenetrable crossword clue and the lyrics made little sense to me but then, again through Neate’s book on the album (which I’d definitely recommend), I finally discovered it was apparently a love song.

As Newman explained: ‘There were three girls and there really was a choice and I ended up with the one who was ‘the impossible’: there was one I kind of wanted to be with, but it wasn’t going to happen; there was another who wanted to be with me, and I didn’t want to be with her and then suddenly Annette entered the picture. She was so impressive and amazing and I succeeded. It was like pulling off the impossible.’

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Over the years the influence of Wire has continued to manifest itself, from the aforementioned Elastica, Blur and Menswe@r – who Allmusic claimed sounded ‘more like Wire than Elastica, only funnier, even if it may be unintentional’ – through Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads and across the Atlantic to LCD Soundsystem and Liars.

Dot Dash, a Washington D.C.quartet, borrowed their name from Wire’s third single but few Wireisms were discernable on their first two albums, spark>flame>ember>ash (2011) and Winter Garden Light (2012).

The band got in touch with the blog to send me their new video for A Light in The Distance, a song from their recently released (third) album Half-Remembered Dream and I’m very glad they did.

Available now on Canadian indie label, The Beautiful Music, the album is crammed full of melodic but dynamic gems and could feature in a number of end of year best-of lists, including my own. I’ve only had the chance to listen to Half-Remembered Dream a couple of times so far but I’m already convinced it’s one of the finest American albums of 2013.

Louder Than War agree and have just declared them ‘your next favourite riff sodden but also tune filled band’ and here is that video of the guys performing a short sharp slice of Buzzcocks meet Hüsker Dü noisy pop:

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And here’s a free download for A Light in The Distance (via Bandcamp).

Dot Dash Half-Remembered Dream

Half-Remembered Dream is available to buy as a download via Bandcamp, iTunes, eMusic, Amazon and from The Beautiful Music.

For more on Dot Dash: Facebook

The Buzz And Some Children Of Nuggets

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Over the weekend I’ve been listening again to a pair of Various Artists compilations that I hadn’t heard for a while and decided to share a couple of highlights from them which I think you might just really, really, really like.

Firstly a track that kicks off and also partially gives its name to a CD collection with the frankly overlong title: Joe Meek – Freakbeat: You’re Holding Me Down (30 Freakbeat, Mod and R&B Nuggets) which Castle put out in 2006.

I’m told that back in the mid 1960s, an exciting music scene existed on the East Coast of Scotland and venues like McGoos on Edinburgh’s High Street staged headline shows by some of the best bands in Britain including The Who, The Kinks and The Troggs, while a multitude of local hopefuls played in pubs and clubs across the Lothians and further afield, many building up a sizeable fan base.

These acts included The Purple Eyes, The Spellbinders and, most notably, The Boston Dexters – instantly recognisable in their 1920s Chicago gangster get-up – who recorded some fine singles in their short time together. In the wake of their demise, singer Tam White and guitarist Johnny Turnbull put together a new combo called The Buzz and this outfit provided Britain with one of its most exhilarating 45s of the era, You’re Holding Me Down.

The track’s fade-out in particular is superb with squalls of raging guitar and some surprisingly psychedelic touches from sonic innovator Joe Meek but best of all is Tam White who gives one of the most demented vocal performances you’re ever likely to hear; a rasping, broken man who sounds like his vocal chords are being torn from his throat as he sings.

Play loud!

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You’re Holding Me Down came out on the Columbia label on April Fools’ Day, 1966 but made little impact. Twenty years later a newly recorded song seemed to aim for a sound that I’m guessing, even if it had come out in 1966 itself, might already have struck many listeners as slightly dated. This would make even less impact than You’re Holding Me Down and, like that track, would only reach a wider audience many years later when it too surfaced on another compilation with Nuggets in its title.

Rhino’s 2005 box set, Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The Second Psychedelic Era, 1976-1995 lacks the consistency of the original 1972 Nuggets double L.P. compiled by Jac Holzman, the founder of Elektra Records, and future Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye, but there are some fantastic tracks scattered throughout each of its four CDs such as God Knows Its True and Metal Baby by Teenage Fanclub and Tracy Hyde by The Wondermints.

Best of all though is this originally highly obscure track by The Nashville Ramblers that could almost be The La’s covering a lost classic by The Hollies. The Trains is three minutes and ten seconds of perfect pop that pisses over just about everything that made the charts in the conservative climate that prevailed post-Live Aid.

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Just think, in 1986, Mr Mister, Starship and Peter Cetera all scored #1 singles in the U.S. and the dreary Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms spent 10 weeks as Britain’s best-selling album and yet, as Kieron Tyler pointed out in his liner notes for Children of Nuggets: ‘Despite being based in San Francisco and originally having come from San Diego, The Nashville Ramblers only vinyl appearance was in the UK, via The Trains inclusion on the Brit-only mod-comp LP American Heart And Soul.’

Luckily that vinyl release did eventually happen, a couple of tracks by the band being remastered from the original tapes and put out by Ugly Things Records in January 2011 and well done to Ugly Things for that.

For more on the Nashville Ramblers: https://www.facebook.com/thenashvilleramblers

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You’re Holding Me Down Trivia: In 1987, Tam White was chosen to provide the vocals for Big Jazza McGlone, played by Robbie Coltrane, in John Byrne’s award winning BBC Scotland TV drama Tutti Frutti which told the story of The Majestics, an ageing Scottish rock ’ n’ roll band celebrating their ‘Silver Jubilee’. He also appeared as an actor in Braveheart, Rebus and Taggart. Tam died in 2007, aged 67.

An A to Z of Scottish Fanzines #1

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A is for Alternatives to Valium

The first half of the 1980s was a real boom time for Scottish fanzines and Alternatives to Valium, the brainchild of Alastair McKay, was one of the finest to emerge at this time and to kick off the first of this series Alastair agreed to talk about his fanzine.

Alternatives to Valium #1

What gave you the idea to start up your own fanzine and what were the main influences on ATV? Had you contributed to any fanzines before?

I was always interested in magazines. I made one in primary seven, one issue, written in felt pen, which I rented to the class for a penny a read – an interesting distribution model. At high school I did a xeroxed magazine called Blow Your Nose On This, which my pal’s mum used to photocopy during her lunch break at the Ben Sayers’ golf club factory in North Berwick. It was just daft stuff, photos of teachers, music rubbish. It was faintly influenced by Sniffin’ Glue, which I used to buy from Bruce’s in Edinburgh.

Was this where you started the rumour that the Pistols were going to play a secret show in East Lothian?

I mentioned in Blow Your Nose On This the rumour that the Sex Pistols might play in Haddington. Clearly they didn’t, but it was a real rumour, not made up by me.

Did you contribute to any other fanzines around this time?

Before ATV I had an idea for a magazine that was going to be called Fish Pie Talks, based on a misheard Captain Beefheart lyric. The idea was that it wouldn’t have journalism in it, but the artists would be free to express themselves however they wanted. I wrote to a few people, but (unsurprisingly in retrospect) most of them didn’t have the time or energy to do anything. A few people were helpful. The Visitors were encouraging and wrote back, and Mike Scott (then of Another Pretty Face) answered my letters at length. I was very encouraged by that, because his fanzine, Jungleland, was a big influence. I also have an abusive letter from Steven Hanley of the Fall somewhere. I’m not sure where that fits in the timeline, but evidently I’d annoyed him. Reading between the lines of the reply I’d written asking The Fall some tedious questions about selling out. Another time, and I think this made it into ATV, Mark E Smith sent me some xeroxed fragments which had fed into his lyrics. Anyway, Fish Pie Talks evolved into Alternatives To Valium, which I started at university in Aberdeen, though I used my brother’s Edinburgh address for a while

Interesting choice of name.

The name came from a feature in The Sunday Post. I used to get letters asking me for medical advice. I still asked people to contribute in their own words if they wanted, but mostly it became about interviews, ranting, and weird art and essays that people sent me.

The first issue came out in 1983, how many other issues followed and how many copies would you generally sell?

There were five issues (maybe six, but probably five). By the end I was printing 1000 and selling most of them.

Alternatives to Valium #2

How did you put ATV together?

I put it together myself, with the help of my then-girlfriend, Jane. I typed it all on my old Olivetti typewriter and photocopied it all until it was pretty much too small to read. I took many of the photos too. After a couple of editions, I was contacted by Les Clark, who was the singer in a fierce Aberdeen band called Nervous Choir, and also worked in design at the Press and Journal, and he started doing some design work, providing some nice pieces of type, and helping with covers etc. Les really helped the magazine look more professional. It was funded by sales and advertising. The amounts of money involved were very small. I didn’t make anything, but it didn’t make a loss either. I think the first issue was printed by Aberdeen University press, where the printer almost died when he saw the poor quality of the artwork (I hadn’t replaced the ribbon on my typewriter for a long time), but he did a brilliant job. Later issues were printed by some sort of fanzine collective somewhere in England – I can’t remember where. They were cheap, but they screwed up one of Les’s covers, putting a white border on a black page (that was the issue where I put a distorted picture of Diana on the cover because she was on the cover of every other magazine at the time).

And how did you distribute it?

Distribution was essentially done by taking the fanzine to shops such as One Up in Aberdeen, and student union shops, and I sold copies at gigs. I remember selling a lot at a Jesus and Marychain show in Edinburgh. Rough Trade in London were helpful. The real boosts in circulation came from getting mentioned in the music press. I think the NME gave ATV a good write up, as did Tony Fletcher’s (more professional fanzine) Jamming! One of the funniest write-ups was by Gary Crowley in Record Mirror. He suggested that people send postal orders or cheques to “Jock rocker, Alastair McKay”. I got loads of postal orders made payable to “Jock Rocker”, which took some explaining in the Post Office. I think John Peel may have mentioned ATV as well. But there was a real community feel about fanzines at the time – I did quite a lot of trades. What I noticed was that many of the orders which came in the post tended to be from remote, non-metropolitan addresses. They were from isolated people who were very keen to get hold of any information they could. They weren’t city hipsters. 

Favourite Moments or Interviews?

I think one of the most exciting times was going backstage at the making of the TV programme Riverside. The Cure were playing (they did a thing with some dancers). Afterwards in the canteen I interviewed Robert Smith, and he told me that The Cure was, to all intents and purposes, finished. Today, I would have stuck that straight on the internet. Back then, it took me a few months to get the magazine out, but it was an interesting moment. Doing the interview was quite intimidating, because Siouxsie Sioux was wandering around (Steve Severin was playing in the Cure at that point). Generally, there wasn’t a lot of planning with the interviews. There were no PR people involved.  I just turned up after live shows and asked. I did Ian McCulloch and Roddy Frame that way. Also, my idea for the fanzine was slightly political – so I did (gay activist) Peter Tatchell and Alex Wood, the socialist leader of Edinburgh District Council. They were actually more interesting than most of the musicians, because they had something to say and weren’t bothered about appearing cool. One of my favourite moments may be a myth, but my younger sister told me that ATV appeared on Grange Hill when one of the school kids was thinking about doing a fanzine. I hope that’s true. 

Bunnyman On Drugs

What happened next, after ATV?

After ATV, I – along with everyone else in the mid-1980s – was unemployed for a while. I did some DJing at a club called The Flesh Exchange in Aberdeen. I did a bit of very minor talent scouting for a major record label (the only band I sent a positive notice about was Alone Again Or, who morphed into The Shamen. I was paid in records – that’s how I got the first REM album. I worked in community newspapers (the North Edinburgh News in Pilton) – I got the job largely because of ATV. Later, I worked for CUT magazine, and as Scottish stringer for NME, before working for Scotland on Sunday and The Scotsman for many years. I’m freelance now, which feels oddly like the mid-1980s. 

And finally, what is the best alternative to valium?

At the time I was doing ATV, I would have said Maynard’s Original Wine Gums. My teeth aren’t up to that kind of abuse any more.

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Thanks to Alastair for taking the time to answer those questions.

See the Blogroll sidebar for Alastair’s Alternatives to Valium blog. Or to see some of the photos Alastair took for ATV  click here.

Scottish Fanzines Collage #2

A is also for:

A Boring Fanzine: Produced by the label Boring Records and Bishopbriggs band The Exile, the first issue came out around the time of the release of The Exile’s Don’t Tax Me E.P. in August 1977 and was quickly followed by a couple more issues before the year was out. Mostly Scottish acts like The Jolt, Johnny and The Self Abusers and The Backstabbers are featured along with live reviews of bands playing here such as The Clash, Rich Kids and Graham Parker and The Rumour with some well written assessments of some of the most interesting album releases of the time thrown in too. An Extra Boring Fanzine seems to have been a special Christmas 1977 edition and #4 titled Another Boring Fanzine from early in 1978 included a review of the last ever Sex Pistols show in Britain (with Sid Vicious anyway) written by Billy Sloan, later a long running Radio Clyde DJ (see Radio sidebar). Far from boring.

(The) Absolute Game: Named after the third Skids album. TAG was one of Scotland’s first and finest football fanzines and catered to supporters of all clubs as well as the national team. A number of contributors now work for the sports pages of the mainstream media while Christopher Brookmyre, who wrote on subjects from playground football to his team St. Mirren, went on to become a highly successful ‘Tartan Noir’ novelist, his debut Quite Ugly One Morning (1996) won the inaugural First Blood Award for the best first crime novel of the year and was later adapted into a television drama by Clerkenwell Films for ITV. TAG lasted from 1986 until 2002 and 60 issues were produced. At its peak the fanzine’s circulation fell just short of 3000 copies per issue.

Alive and Kicking: I remember two fanzines in the late 1970s with this title, one from Glasgow and one from Stirling but I don’t think I ever bought either of them.

Always the Bridesmaid: One of a surprisingly large number of Hearts zines.

(The) Angry Corrie: A fanzine for hillwalkers and the Munro brigade. Wide circulation by all accounts.

Another Tuneless Racket: From East Kilbride’s and one of many Scottish zines to feature in Teal Trigg’s 2010 book Fanzines – The DIY Revolution. Put together by Ali Bruce, ATR featured mainly punk, particularly EK acts like The Stillettoes, The Electrix and the curiously named Sinister Turkeys, who were actually a very decent band.

Arsing About: The title parodied the far better known zine Hanging Around. This came free on occasion with another fanzine Wrong Image.

Away from the Numbers: East Fife football fanzine with an appropriate title for the few who watch their football at Bayview. During the 1990s they began adding an occasional music supplement called Ultracore. Started in 1989 AFTN lasted until 2001 but has since re-emerged as a webzine: http://www.aftn.co.uk/

AWOL: Highly rated Meadowbank Thistle fanzine that even got a mention on TV on the Saint and Greavsie show and on radio by John Peel (Meadowbank being his second team).

Aye Ready: Long running Rangers fanzine, which I’m guessing never missed a deadline.

Independent Scotland #1

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Nothing to do with next year’s referendum but instead an occasional series that will take a look at some of the finest records released on Scottish independent labels from the 1970s to the present day. And to kick things off:

ORANGE JUICE – BLUE BOY/LOVESICK (POSTCARD, 1980)

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West Princes Street is situated in what is considered by many to be Glasgow’s bohemian quarter, the West End, a part of the city that almost inevitably finds the adjective trendy affixed to it. Running parallel to a section of Great Western Road dotted with pubs and only a shortish walk away from both Glasgow Uni and Charing Cross, no. 185, West Princes Street, a tenement flat rented by Alan Horne was, at the dawn of the 1980s, about to become the focal point of the independent music movement north of the border.

The first Orange Juice single Falling and Laughing had seen the band and label immediately feted by local fans and the London-based music press, well, apart from Danny Baker in NME, who accidentally reviewed the B-side, the instrumental, Moscow, calling the band ‘a lightweight brother of The Durutti Column’.

He also reviewed the debut single of another young Scottish band on the same page, deeming Chance Meeting by Edinburgh’s Josef K ‘a passable Lou Reed’. They were promptly signed by Postcard and Horne booked time at Castle Sound Studios in Pencaitland near Edinburgh, where in the space of a day both Postcard acts recorded their second singles, Orange Juice laying down Lovesick and Blue Boy in the morning with Josef K using the time remaining to record Radio Drill Time and Crazy to Exist.

2,000 copies of each 45 was pressed and to save on printing costs 4000 shared sleeves were printed up and folded over in half, one way for Orange Juice, the other way for Josef K. Horne and the Orange Juice lads then must have sent long hours personalising their batch of the Sharon Acker designed black and white sleeves.

Orange Juice Blue Boy front & back

I’ve seen a number of these with quite colourful and eye-catching artwork but my own current copy, as you can see, has only some fairly minimal interventions, some straight and some squiggly lines drawn in blue, yellow and green felt pen.

As for my first copy of the record, that went missing in action, when and where I have no idea. That cover featured a ginger cat and multi-coloured hatched lines which I decided one night to ‘improve’ on by felt penning both faces pink and adding hundreds of dots in a variety of colours all over the outside of the tilted square that contains the main illustration, so it ended up looking kind of Roy Lichtenstein meets aboriginal art. This probably wasn’t one of my more inspired ideas although at the time I thought it looked fabby.

Released in August 1980, Blue Boy and Lovesick helped send the buzz emerging around Postcard into overdrive, and two of the most influential critics of the time, NME’s Paul Morley and Dave McCullough of Sounds began an Orange Juice praisefest within the pages of their respective inkies, McCullough headed north to investigate the ‘The Sound of Young Scotland’ and returned to London proclaiming Postcard as ‘the brightest hope I have seen for a very long time’ in a two page article Postcard From Paradise, while Paul Morley met up with Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins and wrote: ‘Orange Juice compose breath-taking pop that extends the art form still further, and have the look and humour, as well as the songs, to be enormously successful.’

Needless to say, additional copies were soon having to be pressed to keep up with demand, though this time they came in a plain ‘cowboy’ style sleeve that came without the added artwork.

Orange Juice Blue Boy Version 2

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