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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:

https://www.facebook.com/mozartestate

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/artist/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

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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.

Dorothy & The Television Personalities

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This week two of the records that were part of Lawrence’s collection in the Record Store Day video from my previous post. Which, I forgot to mention, was directed by Douglas Hart and Valerie Phillips. And if you want to read what I think of the BFI’s re-released Lawrence of Belgravia Blu-ray, here’s a link.

Okay, first up is Dorothy’s I Confess, released by Industrial in 1980. According to its back cover: ‘When 19-year-old Dorothy first walked into the reception of the Industrial Records office no one was quite sure what to expect. But it only took one play of the tape she’d made with young Scottish guitarist, Alex Fergusson, and our minds were made up – HIT was stamped all over it!’

This might conjure up a vision of a naive teen pop fan from the sticks somehow stumbling into Industrial completely unaware of their reputation as a noisy and confrontational experimental label.

This goes to prove one thing at least, it isn’t only major labels who are less than 100% truthful about their acts. Dorothy was Dorothy Max Prior, who was in her mid-20s when her record came out. And everybody at Industrial knew exactly what to expect. She’d worked in the ICA in 1976, during the brouhaha over COUM Transmissions’ Prostitution exhibition (which she’d helped mount) and got to know the members of Throbbing Gristle, becoming a regular at the label’s Beck Road base. Fergusson, then playing with Alternative TV, was also a frequent visitor. Rema Rema, Dorothy’s band which had just split, had also recently shared a bill with Throbbing Gristle (and I featured a great cover of one of their songs in this post).

I Confess is a list song, where Dorothy tells us about some of her passions like The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Lolita, Herman Munster, and Harry Palmer. She also displays an admirably wide taste in music from Cajun to music concrete (which she really was a fan of); Sinatra’s Songs for Swinging Lovers to Subway Sect.

With a burbling synth sound straight out of a 1970s children’s TV show, singalong chorus, cabaret guitar break, chirpy yeah-yeahs and little girl voice, this is a real oddity, and needless to say, it wasn’t a HIT. But I’m happy to confess that I like Dorothy. Best thing Industrial ever put out if you ask me – I’m likely in a very small minority on that one, I know.

In 2016, the track was included in the Sharon Signs To Cherry Red compilation of independent female acts, along with tracks by Strawberry Switchblade, The Mo-dettes, The Twinsets and others. It was also reissued as a single by Sealed Records. Dorothy recently contributed to Jordan Mooney’s Defying Gravity and this maybe encouraged to pen her own autobiography 69 Exhibition Road, which is out in November.

I like The Television Personalities too. Appropriately enough for Chelsea boys, their second release came out on their own King’s Road label. The Where’s Bill Grundy Now? EP featured four tracks and proved highly influential for Britain’s growing independent label movement – which wasn’t ever called indie back then.

Part Time Punks poked fun at the kind of missing the point punk fans who were all about posing and who ‘want to buy the ‘O’ Level single / Or ‘Read About Seymour’ / But they’re not pressed in red / So they buy The Lurkers instead.’ Bet, they all love Record Store Day.

From November 1978, here is Part Time Punks:

Lawrence, formerly of Belgravia

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2012’s Lawrence of Belgravia documentary will be released in the coming weeks for the first time on Blu-ray, so to get you/me in the mood, this week some music by the man himself from various points in his career.

I’ve not been keeping too up to date with Lawrence’s career in recent years and I’ve only just discovered that he is now going under the moniker Mozart Estate and playing at an event at Glasgow University in August called Glas-goes Pop.

I’ve not been keeping up with Record Store Day either. In its early years it had struck me as a good idea but more a good idea for other people to help keep record shops open so that I could visit any day of the year that hadn’t been installed as RSD. I’ve just never felt any inclination to queue up for hours on end in order to get the chance to fork out over the odds for a 12 inch piece of grey vinyl speckled with pink – or something equally hideous – featuring a couple of tracks I already own on CD or could download within seconds.

Jean-Luc Godard is credited with once saying that all you need to make a film is a girl and a gun and here we see that a girl and a record collection are all you need for a promo video. With a jingle like simplicity, this is Mozart Estate with Record Store Day from 2021:

Presumably the singles here were supplied from Lawrence’s own collection and the biggest surprise is likely the inclusion of Lio, who featured in my previous post. I didn’t have him down as a Red Noise man either. While I would never classify myself a collector, I have owned a fair amount of the singles featured and have even managed to hang on to a number of them such as Horrorshow, Blue Boy and Ambition by my favourite Godard, Vic, and his band Subway Sect.

That final 45 you see, Felt’s debut Index is one of two copies of the single that Lawrence sent to John Peel – when the first copy wasn’t played, Lawrence guessed that it must have been lost somewhere down the line and sent another but Peelie was just not very keen on it, a fact that prompted Lawrence to then post off what the DJ later claimed was the most ‘vitriolic and nasty’ letter he’d ever received.

Before Mozart Estate there was Go-Kart Mozart, and before Go-Kart Mozart there was Denim. Denim’s music was rooted in the music of Lawrence’s childhood and deliberately rejected the 1980s – the closing track of 1992’s Back in Denim was even called I’m Against the Eighties (you might legitimately ask why he has joined the Glas-goes Pop lineup as the acts are all associated with 1980s indie). In Middle of the Road, though, it is earlier musical sacred cows that he merrily slates: ‘I hate the King, I hate Chuck Berry / I hate Hooker, I hate Leadbelly.’

Lawrence obviously doesn’t hate Jonathan Richman and the Roadrunner guitar riff, to which he added a little glitterbeat (he even hired a couple of The Glitter Band to help out) and Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. Yeah, ooh wee Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. Released in January 1993 on Boy’s Own, this is Middle of the Road:

And now for some Felt from 1984, a year that was perhaps the highpoint of independent music in Britain with the releases of Upside Down, Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops, The Smiths’ self-titled debut album and Felt’s Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow.

The latter begins and ends with a bassline maybe influenced by Jah Wobble’s opening of Public Image. In between there are some great strings, a very pleasing vocal interplay between Lawrence and Strawberry Switchblade’s Rose McDowall, and Maurice Deepak’s chimiest of chiming guitars. No video unfortunately but you can hear it here:

On Wednesday 15 June at 7pm, the BFI and Rough Trade East (150 Brick Lane, London E1) present a special launch event, with a screening of Lawrence of Belgravia to be followed by a conversation with Lawrence and Paul Kelly, hosted by journalist Siân Pattenden.

The following day sees the official release of the Blu-ray. For more information, click here.

Elli et Jacno et Lio (et aussi un peu Nouvelle Vague avec un sosie Lionel Messi)

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The Eurovision final is almost upon us – and getting in a bit early, before I head off to the pub, well done to Ukraine on their win. Tonight, a couple of tracks from France and Belgium that both possess what I think of as a Eurovisiony feel. And I’ve also added a cover version of one of the songs sung by a Lionel Messi lookalike, in case you were struggling to translate this post’s title.

Elli et Jacno might look like they’ve stepped off the cover of some French fashion mag of the early 1980s but the pair didn’t meet via some modelling assignment, but rather on a protest march that turned violent in Paris. Or so they say, anyway.

In the summer of 1976, they formed what’s said to be the first French punk band: Stinky Toys, who went on to play at the famous 100 Club Punk Special along with The Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks and others. The following summer Polydor issued their debut single Boozy Creed in Britain but the album it was taken from received some horrendous reviews and was never released here. Later, in Trouser Press, Ira Levin branded it ‘uninspired sub-Rolling Stones rock’n’boogie with terrible vocals by Elli Medeiros.’ Harsh but not entirely unfair.

By 1979, Stinky Toys were no more. Jacno recorded a self-titled solo album with a noticeable Kraftwerk influence. On one track, Anne Cherchait L’Amour, Elli sang.

The pair decided to join forces more permanently and moved even further away from their punkish roots with Jacno specialising in minimalist uber-catchy synthesiser hooks and Ellie providing lyrics and vocals (and a minimalist dance style). Briefly, the pair resembled the Serge Gainsbourg and Françoise Hardy of Parisian synthpop.

Here is maybe their finest moment, Main Dans La Main from 1980. Warning – this may trigger a relatively long-lasting earworm if listened to three times in a row. I speak from experience. First up, an introduction taken from a Stinky Toys TV appearance where Elli is asked if she is Uruguayan. She is.

I missed out on the track on its release and only came across Elli et Jacno via the soundtrack they supplied for Eric Rohmer’s Full Moon in Paris from 1984, which is one of those French films where everyone is very sophisticated and keen to discuss philosophy at parties. As opposed to the kind of parties you got in Glasgow roundabout the same time – where you were more likely to take the Buckfast Challenge than discuss de Beauvoir or Sartre. If you ever watch Full Moon in Paris, look out for the scene where Pascale Ogier’s Julie dances to the track Les Tarots – you’ll see Elli strutting her stuff to the left of her.

Now for a bit of Vanda Maria Ribeiro Furtado Tavares de Vasconcelos, or, as she’s better known as, Lio. The Belgian singer’s career got off to a flier. Her first single, a slice of bubblegum yé-yé called Banana Split, reached number one in France. For her follow-up, she turned to Elli and Jacno and a track from their Stinky Toys days, although it’s just about unrecognisable from its source material and no one would ever accuse Lio’s Amoureux Solitaires (Lonely Lovers) of being ‘uninspired sub-Rolling Stones rock’n’boogie.’

A jaunty little poptimistic gem, the single sold like hot croissants, replaced Il jouait du piano debout by former Eurovision winner France Gall at the top of the French charts and stayed there for six weeks. Here it is ‘live’ with some well deserved ‘spontaneous’ applause around the minute and a half mark.

There’s been many covers of the song over the years and fans of Lio include Marc Colin of Nouvelle Vague who bought her Lonely Lovers album on cassette as a youngster. Here’s his band’s laid back and jazzy take on the song with guest vocalist Lionel Messi lookalike Hugh Coltman.

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