Cocaine Brain Speed Cocktail ZOOOOOOOM!

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Ultravox!: Young Savage (Island).

Set in the era of wedge cuts, Lois jeans and Adidas Forest Hills trainers, Awaydays is one of the better British football hooligan films made so far, which to be fair could be seen as damning the film with faint praise.

Awaydays tells the story of Carty and his entry into a mob of young Birkenhead proto ‘casuals’ called the Pack who follow the fortunes of a unnamed Merseyside football team that is clearly Tranmere Rovers.

The provincial setting makes a refreshing change from the usual well ‘ard Cockney geezers dishing out beatings before and after a match. The film also attempts to go beyond any simple Scallies with Stanleys storyline and the fight scenes actually always manage to push the plot forward. The two lead characters, Carty and Elvis are far more developed by screenwriter Kevin Sampson than the usual one dimensional booze, birds and battling types normally portrayed in this kind of thing and their complex friendship actually takes centre stage over the aggro.

Carty is an art school dropout and a regular on guest lists at the local cool clubs, Elvis is enigmatic, charismatic and temperamental and realises the futility of the Pack lifestyle. He’s also very probably gay.

Together they spout hazy philosophy, buy Bowie bootlegs and talk about moving to Berlin. And not just to team up with some German hoolies.

Awaydays Run with the Pack

The film is uneven and occasionally suffers from its meagre budget, although not the soundtrack. Amazingly enough, the money set aside for music by film production company Red Union, only stretched to ten grand and as someone who briefly worked in film and television, I’m amazed that they secured so many top flight tracks with so little cash, securing as they did the likes of Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cure and Joy Division.

Not only does the music sound great but it is also used with a fair amount of flair.

There’s a great sequence where the Pack turn a corner to face an older, scruffy crew and then proceed to punch, slash, kick and headbutt them into submission, which is accompanied by The Light Pours Out of Me by Magazine. Somehow it works perfectly.

The music of Ultravox! runs through the spine of Awaydays and is used most effectively as the film opens (it’s also reprised later) where Carty, on a visit to the grave of his dead mother, suddenly realises he is late for something else. He rushes over to some bushes, changes in a matter of seconds into a green cagoule, jeans and pristine white trainers and goes on the sort of run often described by sports commentators as lung bursting.

Why?

To catch a football special train which the Pack are just about to board on their way to one of their many awaydays.

And these scenes are cut to the fantastically thrilling Young Savage, a hyperventilating three minute classic released early in the summer 1977.


Today, of course, Ultravox, are remembered by most of the British public as a Live Aid act, a multi-million selling band who during the 80s scored an incredible seventeen top 40 singles in Britain, the most successful of these being Vienna from 1981. But Vienna and all the albums that followed mean nothing to me as my interest in the band ended with the departure of John Foxx.

The band started out as Tiger Lily, a post glam outfit whose first official gig was at the Marquee supporting The Heavy Metal Kids. A year or so later they released a single originally intended for one of those awful softest of soft core sex comedies that were strangely popular in Britain at the time, a version of the song made famous by Fats Waller, Ain’t Misbehavin’, though George Melly’s take on the song eventually replaced their efforts on that particular film. Within a year or so of that they had morphed into Ultravox!, the exclamation mark referencing Neu!.

Like the still underground punks, Ultravox! were fed up with the ocean (topographic or otherwise) of meandering and obtuse progressive rock of the day and they initially concentrated on writing a set of short songs that fused some of the best pre-70s pop from Roy Orbison to the Velvets with Roxy Music, David Bowie and Krautrock.

Early in ’77, their first release Dangerous Rhythm, was hailed by Sounds as the best and most confident debut single since Anarchy in the UK although many other critics were quick to sneer at their efforts and no real critical consensus was reached on their self titled debut album. As most groups did at the time, Ultravox! quickly re-entered the studio and began recording album #2, Ha!-Ha!-Ha!.

Unlike many of their contemporaries, this was an LP that was actually better than their first, an adventurous collection of songs that took inspiration from the recent past (the aforementioned art school glam and krautrock), the present (punk) and also looked forward to electronic synthpop, album closer Hiroshima Mon Amour being one of the earliest tracks by any British band to feature a drum machine.

Young Savage MM ad

Again like most groups of the time, a single was released from the recording sessions that didn’t find a place on to the album. This was Young Savage, which in Sounds, Tim Lott summed up thus: ‘One tone vocal over double shift RNR rhythm, sharp point classic new wave, acid brilliant guitar break energy injection power chorus 78 rpm cocaine brain speed cocktail ZOOOOOOOM!’

There’s not a lot I feel I can add to that description.

Introduced by Annie Nightingale on The Old Grey Whistle Test this is a song that also features on the Awaydays soundtrack, Slow Motion from the Conny Plank produced 1978 album, Systems of Romance, by which point Ultravox! had become Ultravox:

 
For more on Ultravox, click here and this is your link for more on John Foxx.

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Confessions Of A Teenage Buzzcocks Bootlegger

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More Buzzcocks today, folks.

I managed to see the band twice at the Glasgow Apollo back in the late seventies and one of those times I sneaked in with a dimply Philips N2207 cassette recorder, recorded the show on a C90 tape and then made copies of the tape, put an ad in a local record shop and started a very short career as a bootlegger.

This wasn’t quite as easy as I’ve maybe just made it sound. In fact, the sneaking a cassette into the Apollo was a highly risky business as this kind of thing was strictly verboten and two sets of bouncers generally had to be negotiated before you could gain entrance to the concert hall with routine searches taking place. If caught I’m guessing that at the very least the cassette would have been confiscated and I would have been thrown out, not as in escorted out, but thrown physically out onto the pavement of Renfield Street.

The first set of bouncers, though, let me and a bunch of pals past without a search and the second lot actually asked me if we had been searched, a strangely trusting attitude from men never noted for trusting attitudes. Nerves made my mouth feel like it had been coated with pepper but I managed to croak out some words along the lines of, ‘Yeah, we’ve already been searched.’

And to my relief, we were happily waved upstairs.

Whether a basic search would have found my cassette is another matter, as I was wearing a duffle coat, repeat – a duffle coat, and had sewn the cassette into the bottom of the back of it, wearing the coat unbuttoned and loose. I wouldn’t have been the most credible looking member of the audience that night but I was likely the only one to emerge with a tape of the concert, which although the quality wasn’t that great, was good enough to listen to repeatedly and enjoy.

After much trial and error I figured out a way to hook the cassette player up to the family music centre and began making copies, which I advertised in the basement of Listen, which was largely dominated by second hand records and where punky/new wavey types tended to congregate for hours on end, especially on Saturday afternoons, this being a time when record stores (or shops as we called them) didn’t remotely need to have a special promotional day every year because people like me flocked to local independents like Listen, Bruce’s, Graffiti and Impulse on a near daily basis.*

Even stranger as it might seem to some younger readers, at this point in Britain, many families didn’t even possess landline telephones and others, like mine relied on what was known as a party line, which sounds like it might have been fun and possibly even dodgy but it was just short for multiparty line.

This meant that our line was shared with our neighbours from two doors down. Long calls were discouraged in case the neighbours possibly needed the phone to make or receive an emergency call. After six o’clock when I got back in from being a young factory wage slave, I would sit down for a meal and for a few weeks anyway, my mince and tatties or gammon steak with chips would be interrupted by somebody wanting to get their mitts on one of my tapes.

I made a little money and met some new friends but I eventually flogged the original tape after someone made an offer to buy it as a one off. My short career in low level bootlegging was over.

Buzzcocks Joy Division Glasgow Apollo

The third time Buzzcocks played the Glasgow Apollo (towards the end of 1979) I was unable to attend as I was living hundreds of miles away working in a seaside town which, since the summer season had ended, really did have the feel of every day being like Sunday. Pity as I would’ve loved to have seen them again especially as Joy Division was the support act. All these years later, I still regret not being able to go along that night to see both bands.

It would be another decade or so before I would get the chance to see Buzzcocks live again when they reformed in 1989 and announced a series of dates including one in Glasgow. Posters at the time claimed that the original line-up would be taking to the stage but this wasn’t actually true albeit you could easily argue that it was the best known Buzzcocks line-up of Shelley, Diggle, Maher and Garvey.

Buzzcocks Barrowlands

This time around though I wasn’t quite as keen to see them. Even though the band had only formed thirteen years before, after a break of eight years or so their reformation struck me as being dangerously close to nostalgia and nostalgia was something I was determined to avoid so I have to assume that the me of back then might not have entirely approved of everything about this blog.

As David Belcher asked later in his review of the gig in the Glasgow Herald: ‘Wasn’t that punk business supposed to be about burning bright and going up in smoke rather than having a career and gradually fading away?’

Still, most of my pals were going along and I judged that the Barrowlands would be the ideal venue to see Buzzcocks perform in, so I stumped up my £6.50 for a ticket, had a good few drinks in a famous, or should I say infamous, bar across from the Barrowlands and went on to absolutely enjoy every second of the night.

Well, it would be impossible not to enjoy hearing all those classics like I Don’t Mind, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) and Fast Cars, wouldn’t it?

Tonight Buzzcocks play the Baltimore Soundstage.

Buzzcocks Baltimore Soundstage

For the latest Buzzcocks news and some great links – okay I’m saying this mainly because there’s one to my previous post – head to their Facebook page.

* If you are heading out to Record Store Day you might want to look out for exclusive releases by Alex Harvey, Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe, Django Django, Bis, Honeyblood, The Heartbreakers and N.F. Porter’s Keep On Keeping On, a track that inspired Joy Division’s Interzone, from their 1979 album Unknown Pleasures.

Eat The Beat & Pulse Out

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7x7-1977

Buzzcocks: Boredom (Spiral Scratch EP) New Hormones.

You may well know the story of how in February ’76, two Bolton Tech students called Peter and Howard journeyed in a borrowed car from Lancashire to High Wycombe to see a band that neither had even heard before, an article in the music press being enough to convince the pair that the round trip of almost 500 miles might just be a good idea.

Most of the crowd for the show were there to see ’60s eccentric Screaming Lord Sutch but our intrepid new music fans – who on returning home, changed their surnames to Shelley and Devoto – were of course there for the support act, The Sex Pistols.

The following night in Welwyn Garden City, where the Pistols were again gigging, the pair approached Malcolm McLaren and offered to arrange for the group to play at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, which they planned to hire, the idea being that they would be the support act.

They became Buzzcocks and on the night of April Fools ’76 made their debut, three songs at Bolton Tech’s Textile Students’ Social before the plug was pulled – the same fate as the Pistols’ debut supporting Bazooka Joe at Saint Martin’s College in London late in 1975.

The Pistols show went ahead in Manchester but without Buzzcocks as they’d lost their bassist and drummer. Seven weeks later The Pistols returned and now with new bassist Steve Diggle and drummer John Maher, Buzzcocks did get the opportunity to join in the fun, albeit third on the bill, below glam hoodlum punks Slaughter and The Dogs.

This time round no plug was pulled – and not just because they had helped set up the concert. Impressed by their performance McLaren invited them to play with The Pistols and Clash at the Screen on the Green in London and then at the second night of the 100 Club Punk ‘Festival’ a high impact event for the still largely underground scene.

Shortly afterwards Buzzcocks entered Revolution Studios in Manchester where, live, they recorded what at this point was their entire set, the idea being that this would act as a demo. They also obtained a manager in Richard Boon. Before the year was out they had raised enough money from friends and family (around £500) to record, press and release 1000 copies of an EP.

They soon scooted back into a studio, to Indigo Sound with the Joe Meek of Manchester – Martin Zero (aka Hannett) on production duties and within five hours, Buzzcocks had the four tracks that would become the Spiral Scratch EP in the can. The band together with Boon created New Hormones for its release.


The hope was to sell at least half of the records, thus ensuring debts could be paid back and the band break even.

It soon transpired that that idea was far from optimistic. ORG1 sold out speedily.

This is a live version of the song shot in Boston sans Howard Devoto in 1980:


Independently released records weren’t actually as much of a rarity at this point as some might imagine. Scotland itself possessed independent labels, with numerous folk artists and even pipe bands making their material available in this manner.

More recently and with far more credibility, two London independents, Stiff and Chiswick, had began to establish reputations for their quirky rosters and imaginative releases. And if you were looking for a label actually founded and run by musicians themselves, Incus could claim to have predated New Hormones by around seven years.

Interestingly too, just over a year earlier, John Martyn, already an established artist, hit upon the idea to release, promote and distribute his Live at Leeds LP himself after his label Island declined to put it out. Most of the 10,000 initial pressing were sold from his home in Hastings after being advertised in the music press.

The idea of an unsigned and unknown band completely funding the release of their own record, though, probably struck some as the equivalent of vanity publishing, that Spiral Scratch was the same as your Uncle Danny’s slim volume on the history of all the cars he had ever owned, paid for from his redundancy money and now lying unsold under his bed.

In fact, although seen now as a major step in the whole concept of Do-It-Yourself, at the time the EP was seen in many ways even by the members of the band as a memento, some proof in years to come that they’d been in a group rather than any kind of vinyl manifesto for the fledgling independent movement.

But Buzzcocks’ EP was far from any self-indulgent artistic folly, instead it proved to be a truly seminal record, doubly so in the regions of Britain usually ignored by the fat-cat record industry. New Hormones would continue to function even after it was decided that the planned second Buzzcocks EP to be called Love Bites wouldn’t come out on the label, ORG-2 instead becoming The Secret Public, a folded fanzine/booklet of photomontages by Linder Sterling and Jon Savage issued early in 1978.

I bought a copy of this at a Buzzcocks show at the Apollo in Glasgow wrongly assuming it was a concert programme. Sadly, I have no idea what happened to it but apparently one copy went for over a thousand quid on eBay a few years ago so I should maybe go through my cupboards again.

New Hormones later also put out material by a band called Ludus who featured Linder Sterling on vocals, and around five years ago I was lucky enough to see some of Sterling’s epic thirteen hour art performance The Darktown Cakewalk at the Arches in Glasgow, which, Claudia Nova aka Hausfrau, from a recent post, also participated in.

Oh and before I forget, if you’re wondering about the title of this post, it’s a combination of the dead wax messages on both sides of the EP.

Buzzcocks Irving Plaza

Buzzcocks are playing some shows in the States over the next few days:

April 16 – New York City/Irving Plaza
April 17 – Asbury Park/The Stone Pony
April 18 – Baltimore/Baltimore Sound Stage

They will also be appearing on Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC on Monday, April 20th. They also have recently released a new single, In the Back, taken from their – by their own standards – frankly mediocre 2014 album The Way:


And finally, I’m told that Pete Shelley reaches the grand old age of 60 on Friday. Have a good ’un, Pete.

For more on Buzzcocks, click here for their Facebook page and here for their official site.

The Bird & City And The Stars

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Two for Tuesday logo version

Kathryn Joseph is a Glasgow based artist whose album bones you have thrown me and blood i’ve spilled has made a very favourable impression on many who have heard it since it came out at the end of January.

Featuring Kathryn on piano and vocals and Marcus Mackay on everything else, the album really is an intriguing listen which is ultimately dominated by Kathryn’s mesmeric one-off voice, a vulnerable and haunting, almost unworldly near croak which, although often sounding profoundly sad, I still find enthralling and somehow strangely uplifting.

From a BBC Radio Scotland session recorded for Nicola Meighan, when she was sitting in for Vic Galloway, this is one of the highlights of the album and probably my favourite track from a superb session, The Bird and I’d be interested in hearing your views on it:

 
Kathryn will be playing the Wide Days Showcase at Edinburgh’s Pleasance Theatre this Friday (10 April) along with the hugely talented C. Duncan and others.

For more on Kathryn:
Official
Bandcamp
Facebook

Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab have very little in common with Kathryn Joseph other than the fact that both make great music and both live in the same city.

I came rather late to the band, through a recent article by Duglas T. Stewart on a batch of exciting new bands from Scotland, and if Duglas recommends something, the odds are that I’ll probably like it too – his other favourites incidentally were No More Tiger, TeenCanteen and Elara Caluna.

Consisting of one time BMX Bandito Stuart Kidd and ex-Owsley Sunshine main man Joe Kane, Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab make a wide range of music, though they do specialize and especially excel at creating alluring bubblegum psych gems that make me think of – for starters – Chicory Tip, Klaatu, Supergrass, The Beach Boys, Hotlegs/10CC, The Small Faces, The Chocolate Watch Band, Chas & Dave (honestly, listen to their track Pie, Mash & Liquor), The Monkees, Appletree Theatre, Todd Rundgren and even Lieutenant Pigeon although I maybe just imagined that last one. Things can definitely get a little trippy listening to their music, man.

According to the band themselves, their newly released album, Beyond The Silver Sea, available on Sugarbush Records, is ‘a sci-fi pop concept album set in an alternate not too distant future.’

The next DCTL show will be on the 22nd April at Nice & Sleazys in Glasgow and here I should mention that, live, they are one of the most eccentric and chaotic bands that I’ve seen in a very long time and fantastic fun too.

This is The City and The Stars:

 
For more on the band:
Facebook
Bandcamp

The Return of Natalie Pryce

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Natalie Pryce vol 2

You might remember me interviewing Mark Swan of Glasgow band (or artistic musical collective if you prefer) Natalie Pryce at the tail end of last year.

Since then, their single Emily was named in the Top Tracks of the Year list of Alistair Braidwood at Scots Whay Hae! and they also found themselves the subject of a highly favourable New Artist of the Day feature in Louder Than War (okay, this was actually written by me so no big surprise there).

Produced by Samuel Joseph Smith of Casual Sex at the Green Door Studio in the west end of Glasgow and financed entirely through crowdfunding, their second album, Vol. II: The Ascent from Ego to Ego, is released today.

Remarkably, each track was recorded in one single take on the first day in the studio in analogue, the whole process of recording and mastering the double album taking a mere three days.

I’m obviously a fan of their apocalyptic collision of dirty blues and desolate garage rock which manages to reflect a myriad of high and low culture influences from grim fairy tales to the films of David Lynch.

Intensity levels are cranked up to eleven throughout and the whole band is in complete command of their material. There are some economical and loping bass-lines from Steven Litts and Greg Taylor’s guitar provides an always interesting coating for all of the songs, while even the J.K. Simmons character from the 2014 film Whiplash would surely approve of Stephen Coleman’s splendid drumming. It really is exceptional.

Mark Swan meanwhile hollers, screams, yelps, shrieks, croons and even whispers his lyrics with the manic conviction of a man who knows he is about to embark on a long day’s journey into a particularly bleak night; sometimes he can sound unhinged and sometimes strangely tender. He also supplies harmonica and occasionally melodica, the latter in particular giving certain tracks like Sam an intriguing and hypnotic texture.

Much of this can make for an uneasy listening experience and Natalie Pryce won’t be for everyone but they aim high and I like that in a band; they also refuse to play safe and clearly put a whole lot of effort into the creation of their music and videos, so see what you think, this is new single Søren, which they advise you to watch on HD.


Søren is available for free download now here and if would like to hear the album streamed on Soundcloud, click here.

For more on Natalie Pryce:
Official Site
Facebook
Twitter

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Finally, since I mentioned the Green Door Studio and David Lynch, I thought I should throw in an extra wee treat that combines the two. Here is another act whose debut album (Night Tides) was recorded at Green Door. This is Hausfrau covering the track Mysteries of Love, a David Lynch & Angelo Badalamenti composition written especially for Lynch’s surreal and mesmerising classic, Blue Velvet, after the director was unable to gain the rights to This Mortal Coil’s stunning version of Song to the Siren for the film.


For more on Hausfrau, click here.