Back in the mid 1970s, Scottish record labels were few and far between and those in existence tended to cater for was often derided as the haggis and heather market, think bearded men in Aran knits singing folk songs from a bygone age and men in kilts blasting away on bagpipes.
This all changed when punk came along and a new breed of independents like Zoom, Fast, Boring, No Bad and Sensible emerged. According to Lenny Love, the man behind Sensible, his new venture was ‘the first Scottish label that has anything to do with rock at all’.
Love, who was Island Record’s Scottish rep, had been searching for an act to launch his label for some time and, with The Rezillos, he found the most exciting new group in the country and the ideal vehicle to get his idea off and running.
Inspired after he’d met up with Captain Sensible of The Damned, Love registered the name Sensible Records in March 1977. ‘Because we are new, I suppose we are new wave but that doesn’t make us punk,’ he explained to the Glasgow Herald that summer. ‘Sensible is prepared to record anything – folk, country, rock – anything, providing it is good enough of its kind.’
The label’s first release was recorded in Edinburgh’s Barclay Towers studio. One side was a composition by guitarist Luke Warm, which he suspected might almost be a joke when he first wrote it. Luckily his fellow Rezillos managed to persuade him to the contrary and the anti-love song I Can’t Stand My Baby immediately became the highlight of many a Rezillos concert.
For the 45, it was accompanied by Lennon and McCartney’s far less interesting I Wanna Be Your Man and advertised as a ‘double B side’ although Sensible had been trumped on that particular marketing gimmick by Stiff, who’d recently issued the Tyla Gangs’ Styrofoam and Texas Chain Saw Massacre Boogie in a plain white sleeve stamped: ‘Artistic breakthrough! Double B-side’.
Propelled by a relentless and incredibly nimble bass-line from Dr. D.K. Smythe, I Can’t Stand My Baby (Fab1) was one of the finest high-octane singles to ever to make its way out of Scotland and it was reviewed very favourably across the board in the music press. Ian Birch in Melody Maker even referred to it later as a ‘masterpiece’.
As I Can’t Stand My Baby hit record shop shelves in August of 1977, the band gigged relentlessly across Scotland, including a date in Paisley’s Silver Thread, where the Glasgow Punk scene had been exiled to due to a clampdown from the council on punk gigs taking place within that city’s boundaries – but that’s another story.
The band were also confirmed to be taking part in the forthcoming Edinburgh Rock Festival, which would also include other new wave acts including Chelsea, The Cortinas and fellow Scots The Jolt and, early in August, they were featured in Melody Maker’s On the Crest of a Wave series on up-and-coming bands, such as X-Ray Spex, the Adverts and Generation X.
The future looked bright for The Rezillos. And Sensible.
Within a month of the single’s release, Seymour Stein, the head honcho of Sire Records sent Sensible a telegram (remember them?) requesting more information on the band and they weren’t the only label expressing an interest but plans began anyway for what was intended to be FAB 2: (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures coupled with Flying Saucer Attack.
That was never to be though. Stein was interested enough to travel across the Atlantic to see The Rezillos live – and he was (along with me) part of a 3,000 plus crowd at the Glasgow Apollo that gave The Rezillos a wild and wonderful reception during their support slot for The Stranglers that October. It was a performance that finally convinced him to make the band an offer and The Rezillos notched up a first; no other British punk or new wave act at that point had yet signed directly to an American label.
Many have assumed over the years that that the Edinburgh label died with their defection to Sire but Sensible continued briefly, releasing one final 45 by a band, Neon, who’d shared a stage many times with The Rezillos.
Neon were from the North East of England, contemporaries of Penetration and Punishment of Luxury, and in the early spring of 1978, they entered Durham’s Guardian Studios where, co-produced by Terry Gavaghan and someone known as ‘the Lovely Lenny’, they recorded Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere and two other tracks that would became FAB 3.
They found a fan in Tony Visconti, producer of Bowie, Bolan and later Morrissey; guesting as Singles Reviewer in Melody Maker, he described Neon as: ‘thinking people’s rock. A very solid group who delight in fidgeting with the fabric of time.’
The record did reasonably well, persuading John Peel to give the band a session on his radio show and helping them find a deal with Radar but that was the end of Sensible – unless you count the re-release of I Can’t Stand My Baby in 1979 under the moniker of Sensible Mk 2, which, to put it rather mildly, The Rezillos weren’t entirely happy about.
March 25, 2014
An early contender for my best of 2014 list is Vic Godard’s 30 Odd Years, a double CD that highlights some of the finest music from Vic’s long career but which includes some idiosyncratic tracklisting choices that make the compilation all the more intriguing for long term fans, for example, the late Paul Reekie, occasional Subway Sect heckler but colossal fan, provides an intro and outro, while Ambition is represented here by a live version of the song performed ten years ago in Brentford by Vic along with The Bitter Springs rather than by the 1978 Subway Sect single.
30 Odd Years has attracted some sky-high critical praise with Louder Than War rating it 10/10 and Neil Cooper in The List describing it as a ‘joyride through Godard’s back catalogue that reveals Godard as craftsman, explorer and multi-faceted pop songwriting genius’.
This Thursday night, Vic and the lads will be in the 6 Music studios to play a live session for Marc Riley’s show before embarking on some sporadic live dates around England where they’ll be showcasing much of the material from the new album.
Here’s the latest details of these forthcoming shows but check Vic’s site for updates:
March 28th: New Continental, Preston
29th March: The Cross, Birmingham
April 19th: The Thunderbolt Bristol
April 20th: Light It Up Alldayer. The Star and Garter, Manchester
May 3rd: The Rigger, Newcastle-Under-Lyme
May 4th: The Leek Arts Festival. Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek
19th July: Latitude Festival. Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk
8th August: Rebellion Festival, Blackpool
TBC September: Trash Cannes Festival, Hastings
19th September: The Star & Shadow, Newcastle
20th September: Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough
9th October: John Peel Night. TBC, Brighton
Vic’s also been involved in some recording over the past few weeks and the latest news is that 1979 Now should be out on AED round about September. Before that, a DVD/CD of his London Town & Country Club show of 1992, where he was accompanied by Edwyn Collins, Segs, Martin Duffy and Paul Cook, is due out in August.
This is one of the songs from 30 Odd Years, Nobody’s Scared, originally released in March 1978 although this is from a performance in March 2012 at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms:
As you can see from the posters displayed here, there’s usually an interesting support act or two when Mr. Godard rolls into town and at his gig in Newcastle last November, he was joined on the bill by a newish Edinburgh band formed by ex-Scars vocalist Robert King called Opium Kitchen, who also feature the talents of William Baird on guitar, Colin Whitson (Gin Goblins) on bass and drummer Russell Burn (Fire Engines and Win).
Their debut single, We Will Be, was released on iTunes last Monday on Eromeda Records and a CD and vinyl single should also become available in the very near future with an album in the pipeline too. I’m growing very fond of the song and here’s the promo video:
For more on Opium Kitchen click here.
Next up, some news on Vic Godard’s old pal and frequent collaborator, the Sexual Object that is Davy Henderson, who is reuniting one of his many stunningly good previous bands – Nectarine No.9 in this instance – to perform their 1995 Postcard album Saint Jack in its entirety live at Rutherglen Town Hall on the 7th of June. And not only that, the support on the night will be Casual Sex! And that sentence really does deserve an exclamation mark. This is NN9 with South Of An Imaginary Line:
And finally if you’d like to hear Vic’s special set in Edinburgh in tribute to Paul Reekie from 2011, where Davy Henderson helped out on guitar and Russell Burn guested on drums, here’s the link. And while I’m at it, I should also mention that one of the books in the pile at the end of the Opium Kitchen video is a 1997 collection of Scottish writing called Children of Albion Rovers, that included work by Paul Reekie, Irvine Welsh, Gordon Legge and others and which I would recommend.
March 21, 2014
Eagulls, in case you don’t know, are a Leeds five-piece, who according to Wikipedia, should ‘not to be confused with the American band The Eagles’. As if. They released their eponymous debut album earlier this month and reviews from across the media have generally been very favourable with Drowned in Sound calling them ‘an unstoppable force’ and NME judging the songs as ‘never anything less than vital’. Oh, and they’ve also performed live on Late Night with David Letterman when Bill Murray was a guest.
Dominated by pummelling riffs and shouty lyrics on subjects like drug addiction and being in a dead-end job in an age where the choice for many is between zero hours or no hours at all, the thirty seven minutes of Eagulls left me feeling just a bit bludgeoned but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and if they had been a neglected Peel session band from the 1980s then they’d have been one of the best neglected Peel session bands from the 1980s.
As a whole, though, the album lacks the necessary light and shade that would make me want to play it all the way through on much of a regular basis but Possessed, Amber Veins and this song, Tough Luck, are definitely worth hearing.
If you want to see Eagulls live in Glasgow then hopefully you’re already in possession of a ticket for Franz Ferdinands’ forthcoming sold out show at the Barrowlands on Tuesday (25.03.14) where they’ve been installed as support act. If you’d like to see their recent NPR gig at SXSX click here.
City Reign is another newish act based in the north of England, though on the other side of the Pennines to Eagulls. Formed in Manchester by two relocated Londoners, Chris Bull and Mike Grice, they seem happy away from the metropolis and even sing on This Heart’s Built To Break that ‘London’s just too big’. I bet Tony Wilson would have smiled wryly if he’d had the chance to hear that line.
They’re now one of the most hotly tipped acts in their adopted city and I’m surprised that they’re not already much better known after the release of 2013’s Another Step on their own Car Boot Records.
Eschewing the ever more common route of the digitally produced on a laptop in your bedroom album, City Reign opted for something much more imaginative. Excited by the idea of using the natural and rich reverb of the Sacred Trinity Church in Salford, their producer Sam Jones persuaded them to record Another Step there and the location, with its wooden panels and pews, helped create a very particular resonance that brought a pleasing depth to their sound.
Since then they’ve hidden away and penned some new material and they’ve also shuffled their line-up bringing in two new additions, Duncan Bolton and Ryan Ashton.
If there’s one criticism I have it’s that they sometimes let their admiration for Idlewild burn a little too brightly in their material although, as a whole slew of their songs demonstrate, they certainly know how to write melodic, even anthemic, guitar pop. Here’s the official video for their latest single See What It’s Worth:
And finally, Amphetamine Ballads, the debut album from For Malcontents Only favourites The Amazing Snakeheads, is out on Domino in the middle of April. Apparently, after a hectic start, the second side of the album (it’s out on CD and vinyl) slows down the pace and shows a more reflective side to the Snakeheads – so I might have to rethink my claim of a few months ago when I said that they sounded like Begbie fronting The Birthday Party.
From the album, this is Here It Comes Again:
They’re currently touring in the kind of smallish venues that they’re unlikely to be visiting once the album is massively successful (it can’t fail to be, can it?) and these are the next five dates (more are being announced as I write):
Mar 22 Buskers, Dundee (Free Show)
Mar 28 Broadcast, Glasgow
Mar 30 Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Apr 03 Bethnal Green Working Mens Club, London (Sold Out)
Apr 25 Broadcast, Glasgow
If you are going along to the London gig, make sure you’re in early enough to see support act The Rosy Crucifixion, who are also playing in the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow the weekend before (29.03.14), along with Catholic Action and Asian Babes – whose name I’m led to believe may contravene the Trades Description Act.
For more on these bands:
EDIT: The Roxy Crucifixion? As typos go I did quite like that but now fixed.
March 15, 2014
Forty years ago Glam Rock was huge in Britain. In March 1974, Suzi Quatro’s Devil Gate Drive and Alvin Stardust’s Jealous Mind both in turn topped the singles chart; David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel wasn’t far behind in the top ten and even Lulu, repeat Lulu, got in on the act with the encouragement of Bowie, who co-produced her cover of The Man Who Sold the World and this also made the top ten. Then there was Marc Bolan and T.Rex, Mott the Hoople, Sweet, Slade, Roxy Music, Barry Blue and an assortment of others. Glam Rock was a broad church, some were fresh from art school, others were fresh from a summer season at Butlin’s.
Scotland had a few glam or glam influenced bands too, Salvation supported Sweet at the Glasgow Apollo towards the tail-end of 1973 and later changed their name to Slik and scored a #1 single, Molls Myre had a sizeable local following and claimed to be ‘Scotland’s No. 1 Glitter Band’ and there was also Bilbo Baggins, who went through a number of image changes but never embraced the full on glam look with the same gusto that the best of the bunch, Iron Virgin, did.
Hailing from the Edinburgh area, Iron Virgin, gigged regularly across the country, playing a mix of their own numbers along with some of the hits of the day such as David Bowie’s Suffragette City and Hang onto Yourself and Get Down & Get With It by Slade.
They signed to Deram, an offshoot of Decca that had been synonymous with psychedelia in the late 1960s, and went into the studio with Nick Tauber, who’d just established his reputation by producing a pair of Thin Lizzy albums, Shades of a Blue Orphanage and Vagabonds of the Western World.
I still remember reading about Iron Virgin in the pages of the Daily Record, where they were tipped for fame and fortune and photographed modelling a look that even by the excessive fashions of the day managed to stand out: red and yellow American football gear – including the helmets, although instead of NFL style cleats, Iron Virgin made the bold and possibly preposterous decision to stick with their monumentally high platform boots – I doubt they would ever have made many touchdowns wearing those but hey, the photo certainly lodged itself in my mind.
Unfortunately, the success predicted for them failed to materialise and the band wasn’t destined to stay together for too much longer after the relative chart failure of the two singles they released.
Maybe it would all have been very different if they had taken up one of the few publicity stunts that their record company suggested to them – biting the heads off budgies in Trafalgar Square. It certainly didn’t do Ozzy Osbourne’s career any harm when he did something similar with a bat, did it?
Like many other acts of the era, Iron Virgin quietly faded into obscurity until, that is, a new phenomenon surfaced that sought to give the flotsam and jetsam of the glam years a little bit more recognition. This was dubbed ‘Junkshop Glam’ and its arrival was signalled by articles springing up in Record Collector, Mojo and the Guardian, and on eBay, some of these records becoming much sought after collector’s items.
Compilation albums such as Boobs and Glitterbest, featuring an array of talent like Hector, Hot Rod, the Boston Boppers and Barry Blood, were released to wide and pretty much universal acclaim and perhaps the most enthusiastically received of these rediscovered gems was Iron Virgins’ Rebel Rules, an exuberant glam stomper written with a teenage rampage in mind, which possessed one of the great runaway choruses of the mid ’70s; a Scottish School’s Out that sounded like pop gold from the savagely pounded drum intro all the way through the sudden Stand Up-Up-Up-Up-Up! fade-out.
This song, track one on the excellent Velvet Tinmine Various Artists compilation released by RPM Records, would go on to give its name to a club night in Glasgow and be singled out for praise in one of the world’s most highly regarded newspapers.
I spoke with guitarist Gordon Nicol about his days as a member of what might well have been the best British glam act to never land a hit single about his time with Iron Virgin and his reaction to the renewed interest in his former band during the last decade or so.
What were the circumstances that led to you joining the ranks of Iron Virgin?
They came to my house to have a look at a Taylor amp (made locally) which I had bought as they were interested in getting one themselves. They were obviously thinking about adding another guitarist as, once they had tried out the amp, they asked me to join. But first, I had to shave my beard off!
Seems like a fair deal.
Yep, they were extremely image conscious so, if I wanted to join, the beard had to go. I’m sure there were a couple of other restrictive stipulations but can’t remember them now…
Did Iron Virgin see themselves as ‘Glam Rockers’ or just a rock band that happened to wear some of the styles of the day?
At that time, I’m pretty certain that the term glam rock didn’t exist. We were just a band that loved Slade, Sweet, Bowie, Elton John etc and we emulated our heroes by getting tarted up, wearing the biggest platform boots we could find and endeavouring to give our audience a great show.
We wanted to make people gasp and gawk at us.
Which leads me on to – I see you sold a pair of your old platform boots on eBay!
Yes I did. I lived in Texas for almost 30 years and then moved to Santa Barbara for just over a year. These boots had travelled with me all that distance, but things were really tough for me over there and I just gave up and decided to come back home to Scotland in 2009. So, since I had very little room in my baggage, I decided to sell them.
Is it true that the early image of the band was based on the Droog look from A Clockwork Orange?
It was really only John, our drummer, who went the whole hog and wore the bowler hat, eye makeup and carried a stick. I remember marching through the crowd to the strains of The March from A Clockwork Orange with John leading us. I was so sure we were going to get beaten up by the assembled masses and my heart was pumping big time. Fortunately, the crowd must have been more bemused than ready for bovver.
Who came up with the idea of the American football outfits?
Can’t quite remember who came up with that idea but I would bet that since it was such a crazy idea, it likely was Decca. We asked Decca (we always referred to them as Decca not Deram because in our minds it was Decca who signed us. We hadn’t even heard of Deram until our single came out and it was on the Deram label) to get us the outfits and they said they would. We asked over and over but, like most other things, as usual it was an empty promise. Unlike them though, we were always determined and, even although we had never seen an American football outfit close up, other than on TV, we made them ourselves!
I’m guessing nowadays you could just go online and order the outfits within minutes or even find a tutorial on how to make them but that couldn’t have been easy back then?
First we got motorcycle crash helmets and painted them. Then we got some aluminium tubing and attached it to the helmets for the face guard. Then we bought oversize bright red T-shirts. We found some foam backed cardboard and made that into our padding. Next, we cut out some numbers from some bright yellow fabric and Stuart sewed them on the T-shirts. Finally, we bought bright yellow ‘loon pants’ and… voila! Stuart of course already had some great looking yellow boots with red strips on the platforms so I’m betting that Stuart came up with the colour scheme so that it would match his boots.
Did you play live in that garb?
It’s amazing how many people thought that we actually played in these outfits but, to be honest, we never actually did, these were purely for publicity. I can’t begin to imagine how hot it would be wearing these helmets in the places we played filled with hot and sweaty teenagers. They were real padded motorcycle helmets not props.
Ha, I was thinking more the actual outfits rather than the helmets.
Possibly if we been able to purchase some extremely lightweight helmets, we might have managed but, as usual, our budget wouldn’t allow it and these cheapskates at Decca wouldn’t do anything for us unless they absolutely had to.
Could you tell me about playing live with Iron Virgin?
Our shows were pretty dynamic. We were never a band to just go on stage, put our heads down and play. We really loved to put on a show and give our fans more than their money’s worth. We always got dressed up as glam as we could and even dabbled in some makeup. Stuart, our front man, really was superb at making some of our costumes. As well as making all his onstage outfits, Stuart made most of mine too and, to be totally honest, we couldn’t have bought better outfits anywhere. The jump suit I wore was two pieces of material. One side was white with purple polka dots. The other was purple with white polka dots. He also gave the sleeves a ‘joker’ look with jagged edges.
And how did the live act go down tend to go down?
To give you an idea how some of our gigs went, here’s what happened when we played Clouds in Glasgow. It was a great place and we only played there once but it had everything going for it. A really amazing atmosphere and hoochin’ with tons of people thronging the dance floor.
Yeah I remember going to see bands there when it rebranded itself as Satellite City, great venue for live music.
But we were banned after our one and only gig there. At that time, we opened our act with ELO’s Roll Over Beethoven. But… the manager of Clouds told us before we went on, that if we did our usual open and the crowd stopped dancing we wouldn’t be back there ever again. This was serious stuff because Clouds was the kind of place every band would want to play and to risk losing this prestige gig was to throw caution to the wind.
We didn’t even need to discuss this. We were unanimous. The show must go on… All three guitarists were seated and Stuart, our singer, was resplendent in tux and tails with his back to the audience ‘conducting’ us in the intro which was the immediately identifiable Beethoven’s 5th. Just when it went into that unmistakeable Chuck Berry guitar riff, Stuart would rip off the tails (the whole outfit was cunningly velcroed by Stuart himself so he could quickly disrobe) and reveal his gold lame jump suit replete with chastity belt, ‘No Entry’ sign and padlocks.
The 1970s, eh? What can I say?
Then, the rest of the band would kick the chairs aside and leap to their feet and rock! This was a real showstopper and that’s exactly what happened. The crowd just totally stopped dancing and gaping at us, struck by the absolute theatre of it all and, because of that, we were banned. Management wanted the crowd to be dancing the whole time. I dearly wish we had a video of this great piece of staging.
So have I got this right – your record company encouraged you to release a version of the Wings track Jet from Band on the Run. And then Paul McCartney, who’d given you permission to record the song, decided that Wings should bring out their own version as a single. Which I’m guessing scuppered your chances of scoring a hit with it?
Yes and no. We wanted to record our own songs but Decca had other ideas. They didn’t ‘encourage’ us, Nick Tauber told us that we would be recording Jet. I actually never heard any mention at all of McCartney giving his permission or Decca asking him. They just said that’s the song we would be recording. We had it recorded round about Christmas but Decca dragged and dragged their feet, so it was February before it was released. Had they got it out sooner, I’m certain it could have been a hit. At that time, with no commercial radio, the only chance of getting a hit was that it must be played on the BBC. There was a show called Rosko’s Round Table.
I remember it. Early evening every Friday.
A couple of famous pop stars and a few BBC DJs would judge that week’s releases. Neil Sedaka was the celebrity and Tony Blackburn, Emperor Rosko and possibly others were on when our single hit the airwaves. That was an incredibly exciting day for us I can tell you. To hear your very first single ‘on the radio’. What an accolade! It was given a favourable review and got played a fair amount of times and we were sure that it was only a matter of time… but Mr. McCartney decided to release it as a single himself. End of story. Although, at a later date, Decca told us that we had reached number 11 in the Dutch charts but I have no corroboration of that.
How near did Rebels Rule get to the top 30?
To be honest, I have no idea. Back then in the prehistoric times of before the internet, there wasn’t much chance of finding out unless you got into the charts. I mean I don’t think anyone would say, “Well guys, you’re getting close.” Whereas today, I’m sure everyone’s only a few clicks away from gleaning that sort of info.
Have you got any theories why it didn’t do better commercially?
Glad you see such potential in Rebels Rule. I think it’s quite simple really, Decca did very little in the way of promotion. We were always begging them with our imaginative ideas like sending them silly poems just to try and get them off their fat arses and do something. But they did very little. One good thing was, at that time quite a few big name bands would do a jingle of their single for some of the BBC DJs and we did one for Noel Edmonds. It went, ‘Stand up, Stand up, Stand up for Noel Edmonds’ to the tune of Rebels Rule. He played that jingle for years. Wish I had a copy. So, I feel that, had the mass public been exposed to Rebels Rule it would have had a really good chance of becoming a hit.
Do you find it odd that’s there’s still so much interest in the band. Even the New York Times praised Rebels Rule when it was included in Velvet Tinmine.
I don’t find it odd. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of interest and I find it really quite fun and it really gives me personally a feeling of Wow! That people 40 years later are even talking about the band I was part of and the songs we played. It’s just really cool!
Glad you feel that way about it. I would be too if it was me.
I have heard many contemporary music critics and general punters say they can’t believe that Rebels Rule wasn’t a hit and what’s really amazing is that they are all youngish people – today’s generation. Anyone I play it to, young or older all seem to love it. So, it really has to just be lack of promotion I think.
After Rebels Rule, what happened to Iron Virgin? How did things end?
It didn’t take very long before we split up. It was a very fractious band. Laurie and Marshall could easily spend three hours just arguing about who knows what and totally wasting everyone else’s time. I just used to despair thinking that we could have spent all that time practising or doing something constructive instead of these two selfishly wasting our time. John was tossed out the band just as we were about to drive to London to record Rebels Rule and a few other songs. Fortunately, my twin brother George agreed to go down with us substituting for John and so the Nicol twins contributed quite a lot to Rebels Rule, Ain’t No Clown and a few other songs.
I love the drumming on Rebels Rule.
George gave it ‘laldy’ on the intro and produced that signature sound of thumping drums which quite defined Glam Rock at that time. Poor George had never recorded before and was in for quite a shock. He had never worn headphones and was totally distracted by the headphone cord which kept getting in the way of cymbal smashes and such. He never had a clue how long and arduous the recording process was and couldn’t believe it took a whole week to create a single. Our producer, Nick Tauber used to arrogantly brag, ‘It takes me 5 hours to get a drum sound.’ And it friggin’ did!!! much to George’s disgust. He was exhausted by the end of the week.
It was definitely worth it. Thanks for taking the time to talk, Gordon.
March 7, 2014
Since its inception in 1987, SXSW has grown in size each year and is now widely recognised as the world’s most prestigious international showcase for contemporary music with thousands of performers cramming into over 100 venues – and again like Edinburgh, just about any space that could conceivably host a show is utilised, be it bar, art gallery or even taco joint. There’s an official element as well as a fringe and there’s a range of festivals on offer, SXSW Film focuses on new directing talent, while Interactive SXSW showcases emerging technology. Twitter didn’t officially launch there but that’s where it first made a big media splash. #blameSXSW
The only problem for SXSW is the possibility that it might just be in danger of becoming a victim of its own success with an inevitably ever growing corporate presence, hotels guaranteed to be fully booked increasingly insisting on whopping price hikes, seating shortages at film screenings and folk being turned away from the gigs they most want to see being just some of the problems. Good luck to anybody hoping to see St. Vincent by the way.
Over the years, the music festival has attracted a high number of Scottish based bands such as Franz Ferdinand, The Rezillos and Trashcan Sinatras and the 2014 contingent, who hopefully won’t forget to pack some Factor 50 sun lotion, includes Withered Hand, Meursault, Honeyblood, Young Fathers and Casual Sex, who’ve just finished a short British tour that included Mono in Glasgow and, just a couple of nights ago, Mad Hatters in Inverness. Here, from their Bastard Beat EP is Like Nothing on Earth:
Around this time last year the Guardian’s Paul Lester memorably described them as: ‘the Glitter Band impersonating Neu! at the height of punk’ which maybe isn’t really very accurate, or any more accurate than any number of combinations of glam, art rock, krautrock, post-punk and indie references that you could equally throw in into the equation. Okay, I’ll go for Josef K impersonating ESG with Jarvis Cocker helping out with the lyrics.
If you wanna Google them it might be best to add Sam Smith (the singer/crooner) to your search query. Or just click one of the links below:
And if you haven’t heard of ESG and happen to be in Austin, good news, as South Bronx’s finest are playing live in town on Saturday the 16th. Here’s the funky and much sampled Moody followed by another set of Scots who have previously been part of SXSW, Django Django with Default.
And finally, a couple of Scottish films have been invited to feature in the SXSW Film Conference & Festival. Following its recent world premiere at Sundance, Stuart Murdoch’s directorial debut God Help the Girl is screening in the 24 Beat Per Second strand while Paul Wright’s For Those in Peril is screening as part of SX Global.
March 1, 2014
Okay, first things first, despite the name, Mo-dettes were never anything to do with the Mod movement. The ‘dettes’ part (and don’t ask me about the hyphen) was chosen to resemble classic all-girl groups like The Ronettes and Marvellettes, while Mode was just a word they instinctively liked the sound of – they later used it for the name of their own record label.
Actually, each of the four members: Ramona Carlier, Kate Korus, Jane Crockford and June Miles-Kingston, possessed impeccably punky credentials; Jane the bassist (she of the impressively arched, painted on eyebrows) had gained instant notoriety during 1976 when NME ran a live review of an early punk show at London’s ICA with the headline: ‘Cannibalism at Clash Gig’, after a fracas in the crowd ended with her biting Shane MacGowan’s ear. The reviewer, Miles, a rather genteel type stuck in the 1960s, went overboard in his report, claiming she had bitten his ear off but although she did a draw a lot of blood it was only a minor wound. Never trust a hippy, indeed.
Jane later briefly shared a flat with Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, while Kate was the original guitarist with The Slits, supporting The Clash at the Harlesden Coliseum (no real cannibalism that night either) and fitting in a show at the Roxy, before she briefly hooked up with The Raincoats.
A former student at the National Film School, where she met the director Julien Temple, June’s first drum-kit had once belonged to Paul Cook and, along with Kate (they’d both started planning a group together) she worked on the pre-production of The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle – the toilet of Jane’s flat was considered as a location for the scene where Malcolm McLaren takes a bath but was rejected although while Julien Temple judged its suitability, June and Jane got talking about joining forces.
By this point, Ramona had packed her bags and travelled over to England due to the less than vibrant punk scene in her native Geneva. In London, she’d met Jane when Jane was a member of The Bank of Dresden, which must be a strong contender for any top ten of godawful band names. Ramona with her very striking good looks and glamour on a shoestring style looked like a star and when Jane asked her if she was a singer she claimed she was. The pair began practising together and now with with June and Kate ready to step on board, the Mo-dette jigsaw was complete.
John Peel played them regularly and they recorded three sessions for his late night show on Radio 1; they made the cover of Sounds, Jane was an early cover star of The Face and all four of them were given a centrespread in Smash Hits but, sadly, none of this publicity helped them make any real kind of breakthrough.
Written by Jane, who also provided a great galloping bassline, I especially liked the post-punk edged pop sound of their debut single, White Mice, which they released on the aforementioned Mode label, after Rough Trade turned them down after judging them ideologically suspect because their look wasn’t austere enough and they weren’t especially keen on feminism, although to be fair to Geoff Travis, he did help pay for the recording and manufacture of the single and was happy for Rough Trade to distribute it.
Whether Travis ever deciphered the song’s lyrics through Ramona’s sexy, heavily accented vocals remains a mystery. ‘Don’t be stupid, don’t be limp, the chorus went.’ No girl likes to love a wimp.’
Around the time of the release of their slightly disappointing album The Story So Far, I saw them playing the Bungalow in Paisley, a bar that put on a surprising number of very good acts at the time – I also saw the likes of Aztec Camera, The Revillos and Positive Noise take to the stage there.
Today there’s a different Bungalow Bar in the town that hopes to revive the spirit of the original and maybe one day I’ll get along to it.
And now for Ming City Rockers, a band that in the January/February issue of Vive Le Rock were proclaimed as ‘Immingham’s greatest export’ which I’m guessing might be damning them with faint praise. ‘Immingham,’ they declare, ‘is so bad they put it next to Grimsby.’
Here’s their current single, I Wanna Get Out Of Here But I Cant Take You Anywhere. See what you think… Rocking? Or Minging?