A Souvenir From Glasgow

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‘The older I get, the less “refined” my taste,’ Luke Haines writes in the latest issue of Record Collector. ‘I like the sound of things being broken. I like guitar amps at critical mass. I’d rather listen to a cacophony of screams and animal grunts than a well-written song.’

I’m partial to that kinda thing myself, although not in a live setting nowadays due to suffering from tinnitus – my fault for not listening to sensible advice as a teenager, I would have to admit. Haines recommends The Sun City Girls, who were from Phoenix, Arizona rather than Sun City and who were boys, not girls. I did have a quick listen to a random track by them, and they sounded like a punk band attempting to play prog.

I’m guessing Luke would likely enjoy Trout too, who sound like a punk band playing deranged, daftish punk with childlike lyrics, a sledgehammer guitar riff, shouty vocals and a right oul cacophony of screams. Collected on the 1995 Cherry Red compilation Prole Life: A Souvenir From Glasgow – which also featured Alex Kapranos’ former band The Blisters, together with The Yummy Fur, Pink Kross and Lugworm – Owl in the Tree is wild from the kickoff and just keeps getting wilder until singer William Rogan seems to exhaust himself. Two minutes of absolutely glorious mayhem.

Kitten Frenzy fanzine summed up Trout as: ‘Totally mental and totally entertaining,’, while in The List, Fiona Shepherd urged readers to catch them ‘before someone beats them up.’

Despite living in at the time within walking distance of some venues they’d play like Nice N Sleazy, I never saw them live (yes, they’re longer together, maybe they did get beat up badly and decided to call it a day). I don’t own any of their independently released singles (which all came out on different labels) and only discovered them when they are glimpsed in Niall McCann’s 2016 documentary Lost in France (McCann, incidentally, had previously made Art Will Save the World, a documentary on Luke Haines, which I really must get round to seeing). In Lost in France, a group of musicians with connections to the 13th Note Bar in Glasgow and Chemikal Underground recreate a trip taken to Mauron, a small town in Brittany, which they made many years earlier, before they’d experienced any real success. And if you’ve watched it, you might not have been that surprised by The Delgados’ decision to get back together again recently for some shows with more dates upcoming this summer.

From the film, here’s a cover of Owl in the Tree by The Maurons, a hastily assembled temporary band, featuring Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), Emma Pollock and Paul Savage (The Delgados) and RM Hubbert.

I know which version I like best, and I’d bet yer man Luke would agree.

Rip It Up: Post-Postcard (Part One)

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You know me, I’m acting dumb
You know the scene, very humdrum
Boredom, boredom

Howard Devoto & Pete Shelley: Boredom

You know me, I’m acting dumb-dumb
You know this scene is very humdrum
And my favorite song’s entitled ‘Boredom

Edwyn Collins: Rip It Up

Polydor Orange Juice didn’t match Postcard Orange Juice for me. Not because I’m any kind of indie snob, but with the departure of James Kirk and Steven Daly, some of their early magic was clearly lost. I still liked them but no longer did I L.O.V.E… Love them.

The last time I saw the band live was when they played Glasgow’s Mayfair late in 1982 with the Switchblade Sisters in support. This was in the wake of the release of I Can’t Help Myself, a single that sounded like a hit to me but which stalled at #42. Some copies of their second album Rip It Up included a sticker that proclaimed: ‘Featuring the hit single I Can’t Help Myself‘, but hits in Britain back then were generally thought to be ones that made the top 40. Close, but nae cigar.

Now based in London and on a major label whose acts included everyone from Level 42 and James Last, Orange Juice’s profile remained high but despite Edwyn previously declaring to local fanzine Stand And Deliver that in Glasgow they had ‘no competition’, his band’s success had been completely outstripped commercially by two of their former Glaswegian contemporaries.

As they played the Mayfair, letting fans pay in at the door, Simple Minds – who Edwyn liked to dismiss as ‘poser neds’ – were announcing a second date at nearby Tiffany’s due to ‘phenomenal demand’ while Altered Images, who may have once have considered signing to Postcard (depending which band member you listen to) had, like Simple Minds, established themselves as chart regulars. Happy Birthday peaked 40 places above I Can’t Help Myself.

That was it, I reckoned. Collins’ band were never going to make the big chart breakthrough, but I hadn’t yet heard Rip It Up, which would be the second single taken from the album. With its irresistibly zingy guitar riff and squelchy Roland TB-303 synth bassline, this track was immediately embraced by the kind of pop audience who were more Howard Jones than Howard Devoto and wouldn’t get Edwyn’s Buzzcocks homage.* The ‘sophisticated amateurism’ of Rip It Up finally propelled the underachievers into the top ten and onto Top of the Pops.

March 1983 saw them perform twice on that show as the song made its way up the charts. By the time of their second appearance a fortnight after the first they were poised at #9. I didn’t see this at the time due to work shifts and a growing disinterest in TOTP but I have now watched some highlights of the whole show on YouTube and Orange Juice did put in one of the more memorable performances in the programme’s history.

Edwyn, the man in black with the black Burns Nu-Sonic, looks fresh-faced and happily making the transition from NME to Smash Hits. David McClymont, on the other hand looks like he’s just emerged from Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, apparently as a result of far too much of the lethal combination of amphetamine sulphate and whisky. Many of us have been there – hey, I was trashed myself that night at the Mayfair and remember nothing about it – but few have managed to ever appear so utterly blootered on national television.

Luckily only miming was required although that even mostly proved an impossibility for David.

Apparently McClymont’s shenanigans earned Orange Juice a reprimand from their Polydor paymasters and a ban from Britain’s biggest pop show but on the bright side the single rose again when the UK charts were next announced. It was, though, leapfrogged by the latest Altered Images single, Don’t Talk To Me About Love.

This was the lead single from their third album Bite, my copy coming in the form of a cassette tape earned by handing out leaflets advertising a record shop in the south coast of England for an hour or so (I had moved south of the border again since the Mayfair show). Not the most financially remunerative work I’ve ever undertaken but an easy enough way to get my hands on what seemed like free music, a not so common concept back in the age of the Walkman.

The LP cover, incidentally, was later voted 18th ‘best dressed sleeve’ by NME readers in their annual poll. I’m a big fan of the art deco font myself and its placement and definitely no complaints about the image either. The young woman voted 5th ‘best dressed female’ in that same poll didn’t scrub up too badly during the photoshoot.

Half of Bite had been recorded by Tony Visconti, half by Mike Chapman. Visconti, of course, established his reputation by working with the likes of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop and Sparks, Chapman had been half of the Chinnichap brand along with Nicky Chinn. In the 1970s, they worked with Mud, Smokie and Racey. So it might have surprised many that the ultra slick, Don’t Talk To Me About Love was produced not by Visconti but by Chapman, although to be fair he had more recently (without Chinn) worked with Blondie on hits like Heart of Glass and Rapture, which explains the disco sheen of that synth pulse. Few songs sounded better on the dancefloor that year.

Finally, if you’re wondering about the image (x2) at the top of the post, it’s one of a series of songs reimagined as British kitchen sink films of the early 1960s by Mark Reynolds and a print of it is available to buy here.

*According to Edwyn, even producer Martin Hayles didn’t understand the reference.

Wonky Dada, The First Lady of Trash & Some Synthwave From A Secret Soviet City

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Still arguably the high-point of British independent music, Blue Monday will be turning forty next month. New Order have always been upfront about the music that helped inspired the track. The droning choir of male voices lifted from Kraftwerk’s Uranium (itself a sample); the beat of Klein and MBO’s Dirty Talk and Giorgio Moroder’s drum programming on Donna Summer’s Our Love, the bassline from Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and Peter Hook’s twist on a riff he’d just heard on Ennio Morricone’s For a Few Dollars More score while watching that film in the Brittania Row studio.

They’ve always denied borrowing from Manchester-based Gerry and the Holograms’ eponymous single of the same name, though. Released in 1979 on independent label Absurd, New Order are guaranteed to have heard this albeit I’m happy enough to believe they don’t reckon that it had any influence on Blue Monday, although maybe it did just a little – subconsciously.

During an interview with Bill Grainger on Radio Clyde, Divine, the outrageous star of cult midnight movie Pink Flamingos, admitted that his single Love Reaction was ‘a complete rip-off of Blue Monday.’

He went on to talk about his first experience of hearing the New Order song, explaining that listening to the radio one day while in England: ‘It came on and I thought for sure it was Love Reaction.’ His reaction? He got ready to sing along and was confused when instead Barney Sumner asked: ‘How does it feel / To treat me like you do?’ Divine initially jumped to the conclusion that somebody had ripped Love Reaction off. But soon learned that the truth of the matter.

Or so he said, but it’s difficult to believe Divine hadn’t heard Blue Monday already in a club or been told that the song supposedly ‘written’ and produced by Bobby O was a virtual clone of the New Order track.

Far from HD quality, here is Divine performing the song live.

Despite some lawyers exchanging letters, Love Reaction is still credited as being written and produced by Bobby Orlando.

New Order themselves even covered it on occasion live, or maybe I should say that they incorporated it into Blue Monday. I saw them in the Bournemouth Stateside the night after the Brixton show below and the awkward buggers didn’t even play Blue Monday let alone incorporate Love Reaction into it. A show that failed to deliver the goods with a bunch of tech problems, weak vocals and bad attitude. And due to working shifts, I missed both the support bands.

Let’s jump over to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s. With the Cold War still raging, this was obviously not a time of great artistic freedom in the Communist world. Back in the USSR, western rock music was effectively banned for its ‘capitalist and imperialist messages’ and many wanted to keep it that way.

In 1985, Komsomol, a kind of youth division of the Communist Party, compiled a list of ‘Artists Whose Repertoires Contain Ideologically Harmful Compositions’ pointing out each act’s ‘sins’. ‘We recommend using these findings to more strongly control what happens in discoteks,’ they proclaimed.

10CC were castigated for neofascism, as were Sparks. 10CC, why? Sparks? I’m guessing it was something to do with Ron Mael’s trademark Hitler moustache. The Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones and Stranglers were accused of being punk and in the case of the three British groups, violent too. The Village People also encouraged violence apparently. I thought they wanted a thing at the YMCA, not a rammy.

Nazareth combined violence with religious mysticism and sadism. Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden were guilty of religious obscuritanism, whatever that is. Donna Summer made the list on account of ‘eroticism’. I imagine a group of fanatical teens keen to boost their Communist credentials, made the list up as they went along, throwing in suggestions at the drop of a ushanka-hat, with fact checking playing no part in the proceedings.

As for bands operating in the Soviet Union, a small minority were sanctioned by the state and prepared to let some group of ageing comrades dictate what they could and couldn’t say and play. I’m guessing these acts were all utterly awful.

There was an underground but the underground acts were denied the opportunity to officially exist. Many were hassled by the secret police, some were sent to labour camps, some others ‘disappeared’.

‘I had problems with the KGB,’ Vladimir Siniy revealed to Psychedelic Baby magazine in 2021. ‘I was harshly interrogated four times. That’s not for the weak. I thought they’d put me in jail. At the urgent request of a KGB colonel I knew, I joined the army.’

Siniy co-founded a band Brothers In Mind in Chelyabinsk. Chelyabinsk? you may ask yourself. Yes, a city in west-central Russia, close to the Ural Mountains and created in the wake of WWII solely to act as the centre of the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons programme. For decades, including the 1980s, it wasn’t even displayed on maps, and its population’s identities were not shown on any census. A truly secret city.

Nowadays, it appears to have rebranded itself as Ozersk but the name-change hasn’t changed the fact that it is still said to be the most contaminated spots in the world.

Brothers In Mind recorded in their bedrooms, using only two tape recorders to primitively sample instrumental passages from records by the likes of Talking Heads, Grace Jones and The B52s, before adding their own vocal takes on their creations.

Like many other under-the-radar bands, their music was recorded onto cassette tapes and these were distributed across the country.

See if you can possibly spot the source material for this one. From 1985, this is Vova Blue and the Brothers of the Mind and Molchat! (Be Quiet!):

Pop-Up! Ker-Ching! And The Possibilities Of Modern Shopping (The Return of Lawrence)

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Anybody remember that Relative Poverty sitcom that was shown on ITV back in 1984?

Chirpy Cockney couple Gordon Bennett and wife Maureen both receive their P45s on the same day when, without warning, the factory where they work goes into administration. Worse still, daughter Sonia is about to leave school with little prospects of finding a job, while Gordon’s overbearing mother-in-law Wanda, who lives with the family, is already complaining of struggling to survive on her pension. Times are gonna be tight!

The ensemble cast’s acting was universally panned by critics and viewers alike. It was often compared unfavourably with Only Fools and Horses, struggled in the ratings and failed to be renewed for a second series.

Okay, I just made all that up. But if this dire sounding sitcom* had existed then I can imagine something closely resembling Mozart Estate’s Relative Poverty being its theme song. It would be the best thing about it.

First surfacing on Go-Kart Mozart’s 2018 album Mozart’s Mini-Mart, seldom has such a depressing subject matter sounded such damn fun. Here is the new version of Relative Poverty:

Possibly Britain’s greatest pop eccentric, Lawrence is back under a new guise with a new album Pop-Up! Ker-Ching! And The Possibilities Of Modern Shopping, which is just out. Asked about the recent rebranding from Go-Kart Mozart to Mozart Estate, the singer explained in An Audience with Lawrence in Uncut: ‘A more serious name for serious times. I love novelty records but I wanted to hit a bit harder this time.’

Certainly, the times they are a-changin’ in a negative way in Britain and I don’t see them a-changin’ for the better any time soon. Stepping off a bus at my local shopping centre last week, it looked like the council must have made their priority to ensure they have a high new entry whenever the next edition of Crap Towns is published. The fronts of the adjacent boozer, bookies and carry-out shops were awash with the sort of desperados that always seem to be stranded and need a tap for their bus fare home. Or who try to flog you some street valium. Meanwhile, schoolkids are queuing up at the chippy to eat themselves into Scotland’s latest rising obesity statistics, chips with curry sauce being a big favourite. At least the food bank has had new windows installed after being repeatedly smashed.

Serious times indeed, but much of Pop-Up! Ker-Ching! And The Possibilities Of Modern Shopping is hardly devoid of its novelty elements. I’ve only played the album fully once, so this won’t be a review but I will mention that Flanca for Mr Flowers comes over like a Ennio Morricone track played on a tinny keyboard rather than by an orchestra (I love it), while Pink and Purple is incredibly jaunty, reminding me of some 1970s children’s TV show but with the late introduction of a country and western style steel guitar.

Nobody else sounds like Mozart Estate. One minute you might detect an influence from one of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s weirder experiments (the intro to Before and After the Barcode), the next you might think of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Get Down or The Scaffold’s Lily the Pink. Poundland is a slice of musical madness with lyrics like:

In Poundland, things are almost free /

In Poundland, don’t get two, get three /

In Poundland, they’re making history.

Despite its horrible squelchy slap bass, it did make me smile. But it isn’t going to be picked up by the cheapo chain store for its use as an ad if that’s what you’re hoping, Lawrence.

Even the cover version on the album was unexpected. I thought that by the 1970s, Adam Faith had packed in music for acting – he’d already starred in two series of Budgie and co-starred in the movie Stardust – but no, he made an LP called I Survive in 1974. From it, this is Honey, a song that, as I played it, made me think of Steve Harley. And the album that Lawrence’s never gets tired of listening to, according to that aforementioned Uncut Q&A, is Cockney Rebel’s The Psychomodo, so maybe it isn’t that much of a surprise that he was keen on the song. Here is the original, which while no classic is much better than I thought it would be:

Pop-Up! Ker-Ching! And The Possibilities Of Modern Shopping has been picking up some very favourable reviews. The Times awarded it 5/5 stars and asks: ‘Has the time of Lawrence finally arrived?’ Louder Than War‘s Paul Clarke noted: ‘For over three decades Lawrence has been on a relentless quest to be a star and this album full of quirky pop gems might just do it.’

So, is this the album to finally achieve the kind of success that will make Lawrence’s dreams of fame a reality? Could he be about to exchange a crap van for a limo, his high-rise council flat for a swanky London townhouse and villa in Barbados? Might Charli XCX come knocking at his door begging him to write her a song?

Being a spoilsport, I would have to say no, but it is great to have a new batch of tunes by him.

For more on Mozart Estate:



*Still likely a better idea for a comedy series than the likes of Citizen Khan or Mrs Brown’s Boys, which obviously isn’t saying much.

Technology Nights

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I don’t remember food, competitions, prizes or any charitable element, but on this night I do remember ‘Dexey’s Midnight Runners’. After a few songs it became clear that unless the set was very, very short it would mean me and my pals missing our last bus and a long walk home. No way were we going to miss a single song, though.

And look at that ticket price, a measly pound to see them with none of your booking fee nonsense either. You would have imagined we could have afforded a taxi.

Okay, I am aware of something called inflation, especially every time I go to the shops nowadays, but a little research tells me that £1 back then is equivalent in purchasing power to just over £5 as I type.

I saw Dexys twice in Glasgow in 1980. Firstly at the Tech, then (I think) at Tiffany’s in Sauchiehall Street. Glasgow College of Technology – long since upgraded to being university status as Glasgow Caledonian, after their students learned how to spell band names. It was a great venue at the time with acts such as Orange Juice, OMD and Simple Minds taking to the stage. Best of all likely was the night The Cramps shared a bill with The Fall, though I was living in England when that one took place and missed it.

As the 1980s got underway, Dexys were just starting to make waves with debut single Dance Stance managing to graze the top 40 in Britain. A chart that also made way for singles like London Calling; 7 Teen; Underpass; Brass In Pocket; Rapper’s Delight and Joey Ramone’s – I mean – The Ramones’ version of Baby, I Love You. Number one was The Specials with their Too Much, Too Young EP. Dexys would soon also have a number one with Geno.

After Geno came another top ten hit: There, There, My Dear. The song, in case you’re wondering, is addressed to Robin, the sort of pretentious (or what Rowland judged as pretentious) independent musician beloved by NME, keen to namedrop the likes of Ballard, Burroughs and Duchamp, to establish their intellectual credentials. This lyric (printed on the back of the sleeve) from a man who a couple of singles previously had managed to namecheck Samuel Beckett, albeit he had a admirable enough purpose there: addressing the Irish are thick jokes that were all too common in Britain throughout the 1970s. I would guess that for every black or Asian joke you would hear back then, you would hear at least five Pat and Mick gags.

Here is Kevin rrrrrrrrrrrrrRowland, practising his marching technique, searching for the young soul rebels and questioning Robin’s enthusiasm for Frank Sin-nat-rahhh:

Rowland could be a prickly customer, confrontational but quick to take offence. For almost two years, he refused to give interviews to what he called ‘the dishonest hippy press’ and instead took out ads in the likes of Record Mirror to give his side of the story. ‘The Musical Express (which, incidentally, we felt had more integrity than the other papers) seems intent on making Kevin this year’s whipping boy,’ he complained in one of these communiqués. Poor Kevin.

Dexys were far from your average band. They’d go out for runs together before heading along to the studio and they preferred cafes to pubs. If I was to draw up a list of groups I’d liked to have been a member of in the 1980s, Dexys wouldn’t be featuring on it.

Rowland was very much Dexys’ leader and it has been said that he ran the band as a dictator would. This is something that I don’t have a big problem with. Give me the likes of a Kevin Rowland, Captain Beefheart or Mark E. Smith anytime over the hundreds of groupthink groups over the years who have trumpeted the fact that each of their members has an exactly equal say in their music. In a musical sense at least, I say democracy be damned! And as an example of this, I give you David Bowie, who, as his band Tin Machine began taking their first tentative steps, talked up the idea of the band being a democratic unit.

How did that one work out? Well, if you haven’t already watched Brett Morgen’s dazzling documentary Moonage Daydream, don’t expect to hear a single note of Tin Machine’s music over the course of its 140 minute runtime and I doubt too many would be too disappointed by their absence.

Before scanning some old ticket stubs recently, I was convinced that the first time I’d seen The Specials (as opposed to The Coventry Automatics) was at this Bournemouth show in 1980 but a little research tells me that I had already seen them at the Apollo in late 1979 as part of the 2 Tone Tour. Somebody on social media claims to have seen them before that in Tiffany’s – I remember going along to see them at that venue but the show being cancelled. Maybe it was rescheduled for the Apollo, somebody’s memory is hazy and it might be mine. At the Apollo they were supported by Madness and The Selecter, who I do remember.

Sadly, the last few weeks have seen a number of deaths amongst musicians of my generation. The Specials’ Terry Hall and Martin Duffy both died on the same day in December. Some days earlier, Thomas McLaughlin aka Rev Volting, one time Backstabber, a quarter of The Fun Four and occasional reader of this blog, passed away in Glasgow. Most recently, it was announced that Alan Rankine of The Associates had died peacefully in his home in the early days of 2023.

From 1983, here is Terry Hall fronting Fun Boy Three with Our Lips Are Sealed, a song he co-wrote with Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s, who supported The Specials at the Stateside. They had already recorded the song, and even if you knew nothing about either act, you could easily guess which band was from California and which was from Coventry. I’m a big fan of both versions.

I Don’t Intend to Spend Christmas Without You


Okay, you may not recognise the female above rocking the red jumper, whose Christmas song I will eventually get round to. She’s Margo Guryan, brought up in Far Rockaway, one of a number of neighbourhoods dotted around Rock, Rock, Rockaway Beach. Not that Margo was remotely rock, I should add.

She only released one album during her late 1960s heyday, Take A Picture, which was produced by John Simon, whose next client I believe would be Janis Joplin, a hollerer about as far away from Guryan’s wispy wooze as it’s possible to imagine. Bet he needed earplugs.

Here is Margo and the melancholic Why Do I Cry, just over two minutes of baroque pop gorgeosity and there’s even some baa, baa, baas. It’s one of those tracks I can just put on repeat and never get tired of listening to. Pour yourself a glass of eggnog and enjoy!

I’m guessing hopes for Take A Picture were initially high or at least highish. Sunday Morning, the opening track, penned by Margo had already achieved top 30 hit status in February 1968, via a cover by Chicago sunshine vocal harmony pop band Spanky and Our Gang. Margo had been a talented musician from a young age, had a number of connections in the industry and was certainly a good looking gal. So, why did the album fail to take off?

Mainly because Margo refused to play the pop game. She declined the idea of touring or promoting herself on TV or radio. Her label weren’t impressed and just about gave up on the album. Sunday Morning did come out as a single and, strangely enough, its B-side was a tribute to the band who had already made it a success. Here is Spanky and Our Gang:

BMX Bandit Duglas T. Stewart is a fan, as is Anton Newcombe and listening to the above track, I think we can safely assume that Stuart Murdoch adores Guryan’s music too. Belle and Sebastian’s Late Night Tales, Vol. 2 various artists collection, incidentally includes a version of Guryan’s Sunday Morning by French ye-ye chanteuse Marie Laforêt, which you can see the singer perform here.

Okay, as Noddy Holder once screeched: ‘It’ssssssss Christmaaaasssssssssssss!,’ so here’s that promised Christmas track. Saint Etienne covered the song for a 1998 fan club record and have been known to play the song live in the leadup to the festive season.

Written specifically for Claudine Longet, an artist that we can safely say is ‘problematic’, here is Margo with I Don’t Intend to Spend Christmas Without You:

Sadly, Margo died in November 2021.

Dolly Mixture & The Link Between The Sex Pistols & Lena Zavaroni

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Dolly Mixture were kinda C86 before NME had even put out their C81 cassette. They shambled. Their dress code was shabby second-hand chic and they’re best remembered for singles issued on Paul Weller’s independent label Respond and their own Dead Good Dolly Platters, although they had started out on Chrysalis. Like many C86 bands, they were inspired to form by punk’s ‘anyone can do it’ credo and were clearly also influenced by early 1960s girl groups like The Shangri Las and Ronettes. Even their name was pure C86.

I saw them in 1981 in Torquay Town Hall supporting The Undertones, a fantastic double bill although the Derry band’s set was marred by some fighting in the audience. ‘And the English say the Irish don’t know how to behave themselves,’ one of the band quipped as order was being re-established. He did have a point. At another show at the same venue that summer, an utterly moronic skinhead took to the stage and punched Siouxsie in the face during the middle of the Banshees’ set. Why? I have no idea, although I did see worse behaviour at the old Glasgow Apollo. And now I think about it, maybe it was The Banshees’ show where Dolly Mixture were in the support slot. It was a long time ago.

A much under-rated outfit, the band may today be best remembered by many as the backing singers for Captain Sensible hits like Happy Talk and Wot! but though far less successful, I much prefer the Cambridge trio’s own music. I was tempted to go with Never Let It Go, which could have been written by Andy Partridge and should have been a single. Instead, I’m going for this gem, Will He Kiss Me Tonight, which should also have been issued on 45 but wasn’t.

This week I’ve been reading In Perfect Harmony: Singalong Pop in ’70s Britain by Will Hodgkinson. It focusses on the 1970s of The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, The Wombles, Wurzels and Watney’s Red Barrel beer (and lots of other stuff that doesn’t begin with a W); rather than The Clash and A Clockwork Orange (although The Clash are given a few mentions). As are The Sex Pistols and their admittedly slightly tenuous connection to Lena Zavaroni. More on which shortly.

At times I asked myself why I was spending time reading about, say, Middle of the Road but the context that Hodgkinson adds is often fascinating. In a chapter on Europe, he reminds readers that the vote to join the European Economic Community saw some strange coalitions emerge. Leading leftists like Michael Foot and Tony Benn (who took his own mug and plenty of teabags on visits to the continent) were in the anti-camp. As was the rabidly right-wing Enoch Powell. In the course of one paragraph, the author moves from Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep to Abba to I Am Curious (Yellow) and finally to Steptoe and Son. Oh, and Lawrence (who in his Denim days recorded a Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep quoting track called Middle of the Road) debunks the idea that everybody was suddenly setting out on package holidays to Spain as tracks like Y Viva España and Una Paloma Blanca gained popularity. Only one boy at his school visited. I don’t remember a single person from my school making the journey.

In another chapter, Hodkinson tells an amusing anecdote about Lieutenant Pigeon – joining a band with your middle-aged mum does cut down opportunities for some traditional band pursuits – and then tackles the subject of Lena Zavaroni.

As they attempted to navigate her path away from child star status, her management decided that Lena’s image should be updated and a PR company was brought in to help out, and this led to the Sex Pistols connection. This came via their former sound engineer and producer of three of their demo sessions, Dave Goodman, whose pal ran the chosen PR company. Goodman suggested Zavaroni record a couple of Dolly Mixture songs, Will He Kiss Me Tonight and Dream Come True. Released late in 1980, the former sounded a lot glossier than the original despite being recorded quickly in a cheap sixteen track studio in Southall. ‘Lena herself was really great,’ Goodman recalled in International Musician in 1986. ‘Her vocal harmonies were spot on and we triple tracked her so she sounded really Sixties.’ He also claims that, despite encouraging sales, the record was withdrawn when the News Of The World discovered he’d worked with The Sex Pistols and informed Lena’s manager, while also wrongly claiming he’d also been a member of the infamous band The Moors Murderers, a surefire way to harm her family friendly image. Okay, I’m not completely convinced this happened exactly as told.

Once upon a time Lena had sang to royalty, presidents and Frank Sinatra but as the 20th century was drawing to a close, she was living alone and relying on disability allowance. She suffered from anorexia and a deep depression and I’ll just say that she didn’t live to see in the new millennium. It’s a gut-wrenching story and the fate of her mother was equally disturbing.

Here is Lena’s cover of Will He Kiss Me Tonight and I must say I never imagined featuring any of her music on this blog, but she does have a great voice, doesn’t she? I wonder what Debsey, Rachel and Hester thought of her version?

Summer In The City & (Till I) Run With You

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And the prize for the most obvious blog post anywhere today goes to me.

Yes, it’s been hot. A real rarity, my solar shower has been out and actually worked. The shorts have been on, even for a visit to the shops and the factor 50+ sunscreen has been applied all over to my very pale Celtic skin. My diet has mostly consisted of rum and raisin ice cream.

Unlike most summer related songs, Summer in the City isn’t a paean to the intense daytime heat (which you might’ve guessed I generally find hellish), with ‘All around, people looking half dead’. Instead the song enthuses about the relative cool of the evening. ‘At night it’s a different world,’ John Sebastian sings, ‘Go out and find a girl / Come-on come-on and dance all night / Despite the heat it’ll be alright.’

The Lovin’ Spoonful even in their mid ’60s heyday were often inconsistent. They could be sublime (Darling Be Home Soon), they could be irritating (Daydream, Nashville Cats) and with Summer in the City, they could produce perfect pop, or as they liked to it ‘good time music’.

Donovan visited the studio as Sebastian added his vocal to the song and I wonder how he thought his next single Sunshine Superman would compare in the popularity stakes, he would surely have realised he had some very serious competition if. In the middle of August 1966, Summer in the City replaced The Troggs’ Wild Thing as America’s number one single and stayed there for three weeks, before Donovan briefly replaced them at the top. Greenwich Village 3 Maryhill 1. Sounds about fair.

Summer in the City was one of the first hit singles to use found sound, which likely explains why John Sebastian finds miming it so amusing here, the pneumatic drill and car horn honks only drawing attention to the pretence that the band were supposedly performing the song live.

Fast forward a few years and, as the hits began running out, the band was witnessing a distinct lack of lovin’ within its ranks, with most of the friction coming between Sebastian and drummer and occasional vocalist Joe Butler.

‘John clearly did not respect Joe’s musical contributions or his abilities as a player, and wasn’t making much of an effort to disguise it,’ Steve Boone noted in his 2014 book My Life on the Run. ‘Joe thought John was pretentious, had a false sense of superiority and claimed too much credit for the success of the group.’

This maybe explains why when Sebastian left to embark on a solo career, Butler was keen to continue on, trading under the Lovin’ Spoonful moniker. If they could somehow turn around the bands’ fortunes, then he would have one up on his rival.

By the Autumn of 1968, they were operating as a trio: Joe Butler on drums, lead and backing vocals; Steve Boone on bass and Jerry Yester playing guitar and keyboards and supplying some vocals. A single called (Till I) Run With You was released in America but flopped so badly that the album which was also to be called (Till I) Run With You was renamed Revelation: Revolution ’69.

Billed as The Lovin’ Spoonful Featuring Joe Butler, the album is inconsistent with an unhealthy smattering of duds, the worst offender being the seven minutes long War Games, a collage of dialogue from film clips intended as a protest against the Vietnam War. Did it change a single person’s opinions on the carnage they’d been seeing on their TV screens every night? I doubt it. Maybe some stoned hippies found it ‘far out’ but it’s so abysmal that I couldn’t listen past the halfway mark.

So, the album is not recommended but I have grown fond of (Till I) Run With You, which has just made an appearance on the soundtrack of The Resort, a mystery thriller set in Mexico, that just started streaming in Britain last month. I doubt I’ll be tempted to tune in but the first episode at least has a couple of other imaginatively chosen tracks on its soundtrack in addition to the Spoonful: namely David Byrne and Brian Eno’s collaboration Strange Overtones and Bridget St John’s Song to Keep You Company, taken from a 1969 session for John Peel’s Top Gear show on Radio 1. Has any other Peel session track been used for a TV drama? I can’t think of any.

(Till I) Run With You might not be regarded as a Lovin’ Spoonful classic and it’s never going to receive the renewed attention and chart success that Kate Bush enjoyed with Running Up That Hill due to its use on Stranger Things but it does grow on you and Joe Butler carries out his vocal duties impressively. There’s also a sumptuous bass line and some lovely harmonies. Enjoy:

Time to experience a summer night in the city myself now, though I think the shorts will have to be ditched and the chances of me dancing all night are about the same as changing my mind about War Games, and declaring it an avant-garde political masterpiece.

A World of Twang

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I know there ain’t no surf in Portobello, but I’m not sure if there were any Scottish surf bands as that genre enjoyed its heyday during the first half of the 1960s. Until last week, I hadn’t realised just how international the genre had become – and by surf I’m meaning the reverb heavy guitar instrumentals rather than Beach Boys and Jan and Dean vocal tracks.

There were Jokers from Belgium, Finland’s The Quiets and Thailand’s The Galaxies. Surf influenced acts even existed behind the Iron Curtain, like Sincron from Romania and East Germany’s Die Sputniks, although they are said to have broken up due to pressure exerted by the authorities operating in the GDR. ‘Do we really have to copy all the rubbish that comes from the West?’ Party State leader Walter Ulbricht moaned during one speech to his Communist cronies, fearful that any exposure to Western music might help spread decadent capitalist values – even if the music in question was instrumental.

It’s safe to say, though, that Japan hosted the biggest surf scene outside the USA. There, visits by The Ventures proved extraordinarily popular. They weren’t just big in Japan, they were a true phenomenon. According to Wikipedia, The Ventures had five of 1965’s top 10 singles in Japan and outsold The Beatles.

Arguably, the best of the local acts were The Launchers, who supported The Ventures on their 1965 tour of Japan. Featuring well known actor Yuzo Kayama on lead guitar, fans flocked to see them wherever they played and The Ventures themselves became fans, presenting Kayama with one of their distinctive white Mosrite guitars at the end of the tour. They later even covered a couple of Launchers favourites: Black Sand Beach and Yozora No Hoshi, the latter of which you can listen to here.

Terry Terauchi and His Blue Jeans also notched up hit after hit and possibly peaked with their 1964 album Korezo Surfing (This is Surfing). A movie was even devised in 1965 to cash in on what was known as the ‘Elecki’ craze and punters happily queued to see Ereki no Wakadaishō (which you might know as Campus A-Go-Go). By any accounts I’ve come across this was not a movie that ever aimed at matching the artistry of Akira Kurosawa or Yasujirō Ozu, but it did feature a guitar duel between Kayama and Terry Terauchi and that’s something l’d like to see it.

Then there were The King’s Road, Hiroshi Tsutsumi & His All Stars Wagon, The Adventures (see what they did there?), and even, according to Julian Cope, The Tokyo Ventures, who pumped out ‘Spirited morale-boosting elecki versions of traditional Japanese army songs.’ Maybe not a band I’ll be seeking out.

Japan’s love affair with surf lives on and a version of The Ventures still tour there regularly, while a plethora of tribute acts are popular too.

Based in city of Ōita on the island of Kyushu, prolific garage band The Routes recently released The Twang Machine, a collection of ten Kraftwerk classics reimagined as surf tracks. Is this gimmicky? Yes. Do these versions improve on the originals? Of course not. Do they sound fantastic on a summer’s day? You bet.

Here the guys crank up the reverb magnificently on a rip-roaring Trans-Europe Express:

For more on The Routes, here’s a link for Facebook, and here’s one for Bandcamp.

Theme From Pulp

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Much as I like the Sheffield band, for me the musical highlight of the documentary Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets was when Jarvis and his bandmates throw toilet rolls into an audience, accompanied not by Mis-Shapes or Disco 2000 but by Ennio Morricone’s Giu La Testa (A Fistful of Dynamite).

In his score for the 1972 movie Pulp, George Martin channels his inner Ennio Morricone to good effect. The film starred Michael Caine and Jarvis must surely be a big fan. Its title provided his band with their name (after the original Arabicus part was wisely dropped) and he certainly must have been influenced by the wardrobe and choice of glasses worn by Caine’s character Mickey King (supplied by the actor). I rather like his white corduroy jacket myself.

A few weeks ago, I watched the first episode of Peter Jackson’s Get Back, a series that became the subject of a giant brouhaha when it was first streamed last November. I haven’t really felt any inclination to, erm, get back to it and assume I’ll be in a tiny minority in that I’d rather listen to this largely forgotten theme song composed and conducted by the man nicknamed the fifth Beatle than many of the tracks featured in the documentary.

Pulp was a lightweight comedy set in Italy which reunited the producer/director/actor team of Michael Klinger, Mike Hodges and Michael Caine. It was conceived as an antidote to the brutishness and pessimism of their recent hit Get Carter.

A breezy slice of jazz tinged easy listening, the theme song reflects the movie’s mood well and came out as a 45 in August 1972, to accompany Pulp‘s run in British cinemas. It was a great month for British singles. For starters, there was Starman, All The Young Dudes, Virginia Plain and Metal Guru and even Rock and Rock Part 2 by the now disgraced Gary Glitter (absolutely incredible production by Mike Leander it would still have to be said). During these glammy times, the young record buying public were unlikely to embrace a breezy slice of jazz tinged easy listening. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a hit and while no classic it is worth a listen and should be better known. As I type, a mere 55 views have been recorded on YouTube (with a single like), as opposed to one of the Get Back trailers which has had almost 5 million hits.

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