Independent Scotland #3

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PVC 2 - Put You in the Picture

P.V.C. 2: Put You In The Picture (1977) Zoom Records

Scottish pop band Slik moved rapidly from being the next big thing when, early in 1976, their song Forever And Ever topped the British singles charts to a point where, before the year was out, they’d practically dropped of the radars of all but their most loyal fans. In fact, when their single released that December, Don’t Take Your Love Away again failed to recapture the public’s imagination and enter the UK charts it wasn’t even much of a surprise.

March ’77 saw Jim McGinlay abandon Slik, replaced by Russell Webb. By this point Slik were without a record label and were often playing to paltry audiences. Appearances in teen-girls magazines began drying up and the next time they made any kind of real media splash was that summer when they announced they’d broken away from the reins of Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. Pictured in the Daily Record, there wasn’t a trademark retro baseball top or cap in sight; instead they were almost unrecognisable, wearing shades and dressed in zip T-shirts and straight legged trousers and, looking a damn sight punkier than many of the bands who were finding themselves being categorised punk.

Midge Ure spoke about regretting the fact that they’d let themselves be pushed in the wrong direction and reckoned that the band’s songs were now better than before. He was also convinced that without their teen heart-throb legacy, they would have been snapped up by a label thinking they had another Stranglers on their hands.

Well one label did want to get involved although with a little less clout than the likes of United Artists, then home to The Stranglers. Bruce Findlay’s Zoom Records, an ambitious Edinburgh independent largely inspired by Stiff and Chiswick, agreed to release what was described as a triple ‘A’ side, the three new songs, Put You in the Picture, Deranged, Demented and Free and Pain being recorded cheaply on a borrowed Revox in a pub out-with opening hours.

In his autobiography, If I Was. Midge Ure explained: ‘We called ourselves PVC2, because we knew if it was Slik nobody would buy it – though it became pretty clear when Slik played the songs live. We sold 18,000 copies – not bad at all and the biggest-selling record Zoom ever had.’*


NME’s Ian Cranna saw the band live at Edinburgh Odeon and poured superlatives on their performance, describing it as, ‘a magnificent display of blistering high energy rock’n’roll’, before going on to lavish praise on Put You in the Picture. Meanwhile Ian Birch in Melody Maker called the song a ‘diamond’ but like other journalists, when reviewing the record, he spent more time on discussing Slik, a fact that looked fated to never be forgotten.

Despite the creative success of the venture, Slik/PVC2 were still on their last legs but luckily for Midge, he had a very important punk admirer, a famous bass player who’d already tried to lure him to London to join what was guaranteed to become one of the most heavily hyped bands of the era. Since Glen Matlock had left the Pistols – and not been thrown out as Malcolm McLaren preferred to portray his departure – there had been much speculation about his next move. He’d always impressed by the Glaswegian singer and had immediately considered him as a potential front man and guitarist.

Midge Ure, though, wasn’t convinced but was persuaded to troop down to London and hook up and jam with existing members, Matlock, Steve New (who had briefly played in a pre-Rotten version of the Pistols**) and Rusty Egan.

He was adamant that Slik/PVC2 were superior musicians to Rich Kids and even let his potential new bandmates and the music press know it – I bet Glen loved him for that – and he declined the offer to join, meaning their search to find the elusive missing piece of the jigsaw continued.; in September, they played in London twice with Mick Jones of The Clash guesting on vocals and guitar and already obviously had the makings of a good set – that even included an airing of Pretty Vacant.

Midge though would eventually succumb and, early in October ‘77, the Evening Times led with the not entirely accurate headline SLIK STAR QUITS. MIDGE LEAVES TO JOIN PUNK BAND.

Slik played their final British gig at Satellite City in Glasgow and before the year was out Rich Kids were gigging across Europe, where ironically Slik had managed to retain their popularity levels and then fitted in a quickly organised short British tour. In fact, before long they played Satellite City too.

Slik Satellite City 1977 Rich Kids Tour December 1977

As 1978 dawned, Midge would again be touted as being the next big thing as his new band’s debut release came out in a blaze of publicity on the label that had first signed The Sex Pistols, EMI.


* I think Midge is forgetting The Simple Minds originally being on Zoom here.

**As for the tale of Midge being asked to front The Sex Pistols in 1975, some other time maybe.

Here Comes Dumb And Drummer

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Nightingales Album Art

Last September, after getting the heave-ho from yet another label, The Nightingales decided to go it alone. They recorded a new album at Faust Studio in Germany – they can now count a former Faust member Hans-Joachim Irmler amongst their ranks – and they’ve just self-released it, with as they put it: ‘No interference or outside opinions, no label, no distributor, no catalogue number, no bar code or logo shit, blah blah.’

The album has the defiantly radio unfriendly title of For Fuck’s Sake, and comes in the singular format of a 180g vinyl LP that, since the 9th of April, has only been available to buy at Nightingales live shows.

Luckily, if you want to buy one, they are currently touring and have included two Scottish dates in their itinerary, Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazy this coming Wednesday and the Citrus Club in Edinburgh two nights later.

The album is a thing of genuine beauty and is packaged in a matt varnish gatefold sleeve with five very fine photomontages by David Yates, a massively talented artist from Scarborough, whose work you can see at the top of this post and in more detail here. He’s also a musician and, indeed, his band The Crumplehorns supported The Nightingales in Scarborough last night.

Although formed way back in the post-punk days of the late 1970s, this amazingly enough is The Nightingales’ first ever official promo video. Directed by Nick Small, it’s called Dumb and Drummer:


You were thinking during that that how amazingly cool drummer Fliss Kitson is, weren’t you?

For more on the ’Gales:

Official
Bandcamp
Facebook
Twitter

The first time I heard Dumb and Drummer was when it appeared on the recent Mojo Presents… Death Disco post-punk compilation that also included tracks like Loadstones by The Fall, Simply Thrilled Honey by Orange Juice and Primitive Painters by indie legends Felt, who like The Nightingales, were formed in Birmingham in 1979.

Featuring the inspired pairing of Lawrence with Elizabeth Fraser of The Cocteau Twins, Primitive Painters became a #1 independent hit in 1985 and was voted #7 in John Peel’s Festive 50 at the tail-end of the year.

Simply Thrilled, Barbed Wire Kisses & Mutant Moments & Memorabilia

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This upcoming Saturday is Record Store Day, when I like to set my alarm for an almost unfeasibly early, pre-dawn rise that guarantees me first dibs or almost first dibs on whatever one-off limited edition vinyl rarities are on offer. Last year saw me at least treble my money on the bulk of my purchases when I put everything I’d bought up for auction immediately on eBay and if you’re looking to make a fast buck yourself, I’d recommend you do the same this time round.

Only joking.

I just doubled my money on the most of the records.

No seriously, up till now I haven’t as yet visited what I tend to call a record shop specifically on this particular designated date. Cliché though it may be, every day should be record store day, although if an official RSD does help get punters to pack into independent record shops to buy vinyl rather than giving their moolah to the likes of Amazon, then it gets the thumbs up from me.

This year, though, there is something up for grabs that I really do fancy snapping up ASAP, not a record but Simon Goddard’s latest book Simply Thrilled: The Preposterous Story Of Postcard Records, which will be available exclusively in Scotland a week earlier than anywhere else. Not only that, but if you’re one of the first 500 to buy a copy over the counter on Saturday, you’ll receive a free A3-sized ‘Funky Glasgow Then’ print which is an illustrated map of the city during the Postcard-era.

According to Simon Goddard: ‘The print is suitable for flattening and framing… or equally suitable for wandering around Glasgow’s West End getting lost looking for what was once The Spaghetti Factory’.

That’ll be a Scottish restaurant called Stravaigin folks, if you’re not one of the lucky 500.

Simply Thrilled JAMC Barbed Wire Kisses

Also out on Saturday is Zoë Howe’s Barbed Wire Kisses – The Jesus And Mary Chain Story, which I’m also rather keen to get my mitts on, although sadly no ‘Not Entirely Funky East Kilbride Then’ map is available with information on that town’s musical landmarks such as The Olympia (which resembled a Neds’ convention at weekends but where Orange Juice once played a show and is now a Sainsbury’s), Rockabill Records and Impulse*, where the young Aztec Camera were regular customers (both of those shops have long since bitten the dust too) and the Bonnie Prince Charlie (which once hosted a weekly reggae night in the function room upstairs).

The Jesus and Mary Chain have by coincidence just reformed and announced some live dates. Sometimes they love Rock’n’Roll, on this occasion, though, they hate it:

 
And finally, a mention for an exhibition at Glasgow’s Voidoid Archive that I’m hoping to get along to later this week. Mutant Moments and Memorabilia includes work by former Jesus and Mary Chain bassist Douglas Hart, photographer Ryan S. McGill and Gerard Malanga.

Malanga is famous for many things but I’ll always associate him primarily as the guy who danced with Edie Sedgwick while brandishing a whip as part of Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable show that featured The Velvet Underground, a band who were, of course, a mammoth influence and inspiration for The Jesus and Mary Chain and, for that matter, Alan Horne and Postcard Records.

For more information:

Simon Goddard
Postcard (on this here blog)
The Jesus and Mary Chain
Zoë Howe
Zoë Howe: Interview with Douglas Hart
Mutant Moments and Memorabilia

* I still have very fond memories of the ‘Punk & New Wave’ box on the counter of Impulse as well as their ‘lucky bags’ of singles which were usually dominated by some godawful disco dross, unlistenable AOR and unspeakably bland MOR but which also always seemed to include at least one Spizzenergi or Swell Maps type punky gem too. Or maybe I was actually just lucky.

Odonis Odonis, WTCHS, Sonic Unyon & Supercrawl

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Odonis Odonis Album Cover

Odonis Odonis are the latest in a longish line of bands from the musically fertile city of Toronto that I’ve become very fond of lately and Hard Boiled Soft Boiled, the follow up to their 2011 debut Hollandaze, is out on April 15 on Buzz Records.

Interestingly they have made the decision to sonically divide the album in two as if we’re still living in an age of vinyl dominance and it will be released on vinyl as well as CD and download.

Side one (Hard Boiled) is much the noisier of the two, tense and agitated with screaming vocals and screeching guitars, what their press release describes as ‘a strict machine of industrial proportions and clamour’ while the soft boiled side is – surprise, surprise – dreamier and much more languorous, although both distinct halves definitely complement one another.

At times it isn’t too difficult to guess which bands Odonis Odonis have been listening to over the past couple of years. Mr. Smith‘s guitar sound is sometimes very reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine and there’s a few moments on Angus Mountain where you can’t help but think about Peter Hook, but don’t let me give you the idea that the band are mere copyists with good taste. Uh-uh.

Alexa Wait, for example, combines some Cocteau Twins style guitar wanderings with a little nod to Hal Blaine’s Be My Baby drum intro and even manages to flirt with some Philip Glass style minimalism as the track builds in intensity, but these influences are layered and juxtaposed in refreshing ways and on this song, and indeed throughout the entire album, the music remains distinctively Odonis Odonis.

The band also obviously have a penchant for very unusual and striking videos. Lee Stringle animated the nightmarish paintings of Hieronymus Bosch for Order in the Court whereas Angus Mountain, directed by Jesse Yules, appears to be partly painted over photos of the band which have been folded up by someone with some origami skills to give the resulting images an odd mirroring feel that’s almost as hypnotic as the track itself. See for yourself here:

 
Odonis Odonis are currently touring and will play three dates in Britain next month:

May 25: Brighton, UK, The Hope
May 26: Manchester, UK, Soup Kitchen
May 27: London, UK, Birthdays

Despite the touring and recording, singer Dean Tzenos has also managed to find time to direct a promo for his pals and kindred souls, WTCHS, a quartet from nearby Hamilton, Ontario.

WTCHS

This particular Hamilton is home to Sonic Unyon – a highly regarded record label and local indie institution – and Supercrawl, an annual three day free music event that managed to attract audiences of over 100,000 last September when WTCHS were one of the acts taking part.

They have a new EP, It’s Not A Cross, It’s A Curse!, their first release to fully embrace multiple release formats – cassette, vinyl, and digital, it’s just out on Sonic Unyon, Out of Sound, and their own label PERDU.

I’m enjoying the (defiantly hard boiled) EP the more I hear it and from it this is Over Kilmer:

 
For more on both bands, Sonic Unyon & Supercrawl:

Odonis Odonis Offical
Bandcamp
Soundcloud
Facebook
Twitter

WTCHS Facebook
WTCHS Bandcamp

Sonic Unyon

Supercrawl