Saturday, 11 November 2017

Oliver!: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Friday 3 April 1992)

There are times, dear reader, when I feel that I fail you in terms of what you might basically expect from a John Peel blogger.  Whether it be not listening to any of the recent glut of Peel retrospectives through 6 Music or Radio 1 Vintage; not providing regular updates on his appearances on the latest repeat of Top of the Pops or most pressingly in the case of the programme Peel broadcast on this night, not selecting the track Rahm by Attwenger.  I mean Austrian accordion led rap music was what the Peel Show was essentially for wasn’t it?  Well, in some respects, yes, but it wouldn’t have got on my mixtape, I’m afraid.  And in light of Attwenger’s subsequent behaviour towards our hero, maybe it’s for the best.

If we file the Attwenger track under Foreign Novelty, it has to be admitted that Peel was indulging his musical funnybone in this show given that he chose to end it with an extraordinary record from 1963 called When I Did the Mashed Potatoes With You by Larry Bright in which over a lush background, Bright reminiscences about performing novelty dances with his lost love.

The file I made my selections from came from the last 45 minutes of the show.  There were two tracks I would have liked to include but wasn’t able to, and in the case of the first of them, it’s most irritating:

Sanchez and Shaka Shamba - No Bun It Down - Described by Peel as “a plea to the Jamaican authorities not to burn the marajuana crop”, you can hear an abridged version of the track by clicking on the link.  With its dancehall beats and stabs of electric guitar, this is a business proposal to the Jamaican government about why they should legalise ganja, where they could grow it and the export strategy they could follow (Britain, America and Canada would be great markets apparently).  Shamba plays the part of the businessman, outlining the benefits of legal ganja, while Sanchez plays the satisfied customer - happily getting blissed out and inspiring the writers of Just a Little by Liberty X a decade later - see if you can hear the lift.  The track could be accused of irresponsibility, though it makes it clear that harder drugs than ganja are not welcome, but I love it for the fusion of riddim, politics and social issues.  An audacious gem, please can someone put the full version up, especially if it links into...

Wingtip Sloat - M31 - Peel followed Sanchez and Shaka Shamba with this track from the Washington D.C. trio.  He wondered what a sloat was, and it turns out that it’s not anything complimentary - at least this side of the Millenium.  M31, in the style of this band, is a driving song which starts out as jangle before moving to clangle with added feedback and dissonance before it comes off the musical motorway and arrives on calmer roads.  I’ve not been able to play any of the Wingtip Sloat tracks that caught my attention so far.  If you have 37 minutes to spare, I can recommend a listen to User Friendly Bowl Wrapper, a collection of originals, covers, works-in-progress and outakes from 1991.  Peel was still raving about them when he spoke to Rolling Stone in 1993, so I’m hopeful that they will be able to turn up here soon in some form.


The wonderful Webbie @keepingitpeel  and especially, came up trumps again by uploading both tracks for us all to hear.

That Rolling Stone interview is notable for its final paragraph in which Peel reflects back to the early 70s and considers that, in the long run, Tony Blackburn was right and he was wrong.  But the mention  of Quicksilver Messenger Service provides me with a nice preview for the next post I’ll make here where I reflect on a few of my own musical prejudices and what I found when I confronted some of them.  Required reading for advocates of Grand Funk Railroad, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Chicago and The Eagles.

Full tracklisting

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Oliver!: Swell - Turtle Song (3 April 1992)

Peel was in one of his lightly sarcastic A & R man moods on this show as for the second week running, he made pointed reference to Swell’s status as potential Next Big Things: “Tipped as the next big things but one” as he put it, before going on to play the next big things, later in the programme.

Compared to the epically panoramic sweep of the previous week’s Down, a track which in parts hints at U2esque levels of mass-marketism, Turtle Song is more one for the fans.  It starts off with a drum practice in a factory cafe before going into a tightly packed riff suggesting an emotional face-off between David Freel and the target of his entreaties.  In typical Swell style, the tension appears to be a bluff though given the “beautiful day” that plays out over the scene.  It’s evidently still a stoners’ paradise.

Video courtesy of MrAlstec

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Oliver!: Kalaeidoscope - I’m Gonna Get You [Remix] (3 April 1992)

“There have been dozens of people called Kalaeidoscope down the years, and this is the latest of them” - John Peel prior to playing this tune on 3/4/92.

A look at Discogs shows Peel was right about this with at least 25 sets of artists sharing the name across the decades.  This dance act from Bedford, a fact which Peel always mentioned whenever he played them, upset the apple cart somewhat by using a different spelling from the more widely known Kaleidoscope.  As they used it on both of their releases for the Bass Sphere label, we shall use it too.

Listening to their work here I’m becoming convinced that it was the likes of DJ Ramin and others within the hardcore dance community who were the true musical geniuses of the last decade of the 20th Century.  Although starting out from the computer game intro beloved by their contemporaries it’s the flourishes provided by perfect samples such as “Who’s a potty mouth” one that lift it to another level amidst all the breakbeats and synthesiser riffs.  It also contains a snippet from Bizarre Inc’s wonderful chart hit of the same name. The precision and artistic ear needed to blend that together and make it work will never fail to impress or thrill me.

It’s interesting that although the big voiced female “Come on”s help date this song to 1992 like a stick of rock, I find myself more drawn to it than a lot of the guitar based stuff that I picked out recently.  It sounded like the future then, and it still does today.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Oliver!: Moe Tucker - Too Shy [Peel Session] (3 April 1992)

Spoiler alert - she isn’t doing a cover of this - more’s the pity.

If I had been looking to buy a car in the late 90s/early 00s then I can categorically state that I wouldn’t have gone near either a Mercedes Benz or a Hyundai.  My stance had nothing to do on either mechanical or ethical grounds, but solely due to the fact that their advertising campaigns caused me to reach for the off switch whenever they came on TV.
In the case of Mercedes, I often wasn’t in the mood to have Janis Joplin bellowing at me over my TV dinner.  However, I’d often want to throw said dinner at the television when they used the ad that replaced Janis with grannies, shepherds, bricklayers and sundry others all having their own crack at the tune.

The worst offender though was Hyundai which used the Moe Tucker sung half of The Velvet Underground out-take, I’m Sticking With You in its advertising for a while.  I loathed the song with a passion finding its apparent whimsy irritating in every respect - words, tune, Tucker’s vocal, the backing vocals.  You name it.  One of those pieces that will charm some and provoke others; it certainly got my slapping hand twitching.  Having heard the thing in full I’m (only) slightly more charitably disposed towards it.  It doesn’t surprise that it was unreleased for so many years - it doesn’t sound fully sure or formed in Lou Reed’s half - at least not in comparison to Tucker’s half at any rate.  I do wonder what pushed whichever marketing agency had Hyundai’s account to licence such a twee sounding piece of crap to market their vehicle.  If they had gone with something from Tucker’s solo career, they may have uncovered music similarly idiosyncratic, but a lot more convincing.

On 18 February 1992, Moe Tucker went into a BBC studio and laid down some tracks for a Peel Session which was broadcast on 3/4/92.  The tracks were in support of her third solo album, I Spent a Week There The Other Night.  On the recording I heard only this track, Too Shy, was available.
The whole session is available and I would draw your attention to the opening track, Blue All the Way to Canada in which Tucker plays our Chrysler based tour guide diverting our attention from the Cheyenne to the families enjoying the peculiar hell that is long distance car journeys. Trains though is the banal rubbish of I’m Sticking With You transposed to the 1990s.

As for Too Shy, it’s less the sound of 1967 and the Velvet Underground, and closer to the kind of girl fronted power-pop stuff Peel played circa 1978 as Tucker, whose voice developed far greater power as she got older, reflects on her lost opportunity when it comes to approaching the boy of her dreams.

Had I been listening to the Peel Show on this night, the track would have had some resonance for me as to what not to do.  With production week for Oliver! imminent, I was all set to ask out a girl that I had become attached to within the cast over February/March 1992.  Unlike Moe, I wasn’t going to die wondering.  However, I was headed off at the pass in the event.  Whether the girl got wind of my intentions, I never discovered, but as production week rolled around, she got very distant with me - almost an overnight change and not one which looked like it could be reasoned with.  I skulked away, a little saddened and a little more attuned to female psychology.  “Bye. Bye. Bye. Bye” as a great lady once put it... I wish I’d had the chance to say more than Hello though.

Video courtesy of Vibracobra23Redux.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Oliver!: Pavement - Two States (3 April 1992)

It was 20 years ago today
Damon Albarn said Pavement could play.
Blur in the market for a change of style
Cos they’d lost their shiny Britpop smile.
So may I introduce to you
The act for which I’d no idea.
The Pavement Lovers Career Reviving Band!

(Apologies to Paul McCartney)

In what is one of this blog’s many music-related “I’ve never seen Star Wars” moments, I’d never knowingly heard anything of Pavement’s music until they turned up on the recording of Peel’s 28/3/92 show.  For years they’d been tucked away in my subconscious as one of the influences that a battered and bruised Blur told journalists they were mining to help them draw a line under their pop-star phase as they trailed Blur (1997).  But I suppose it depended on which one of them you talked to.  I remember Graham Coxon being interviewed on The Evening Session one night in late 1996 and extolling the merits of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion who sounded terrific to my ears when Steve Lamacq or Jo Whiley cued in a record from them.  A look at Pavement performing in 1996 shows why they would have appealed to a pop star wanting to take a right turn - the tracks played at that gig walk a tightrope between indie-pop and jazz-rock performance art, but the unpredictability of the music and the “consciously loose live” (Tabitha Soren TM) feel must have seemed like the antidote to any band willing to step off the pop roundabout and enjoy the freedom to go down other routes - and in the case of that fifth Blur album, it worked like a treat both artistically and commercially.

However, the Pavement played by Peel on this night, sound less like innovators and more in hock to The Fall than anything else, but it sounds football-crowd-arms-in-the-air compelling with the bellowed title line - potentially advocating the partitioning of California - a three chord riff driving the track along throughout, stolid double-drum pattern underpinning the whole thing like some Glam Rock out-take, “Forty million daggers!” a vocal varying between the melodic and the narratorial.  And after all, Fall shows could be as unpredictable as anything going.  It all becomes clear now.  The Godfather of Song 2 was never Stephen Malkmus, it was Mark E. Smith.

Video courtesy of WeezerFan4Ever.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Oliver!: Wonky Alice - Caterpillars (3 April 1992)

“A big favourite of Radders of the North (Mark Radcliffe).  18 months ago they would have been from Manchester.  Now, they’re from Oldham and don’t you forget it!” John Peel after playing this track on 3/4/92.

I’d like to think that Wonky Alice based their name on a desire to parody Ugly Kid Joe.  It’s a better idea than that floated by the band’s former guitarist, Yves Altana, that the name wasn’t based on anything at all.

In parts, this track from the band’s second EP, Insects and Astronauts, ties into the blend of Northern Drama Music that Peel was playing a lot of in early ‘92 -see Red Hour and Some Paradise for further examples of this - its early verses focusing on someone whose mix of self and petty obsession either ends up killing them or leads to them casting a chrysalis around themselves from which no butterfly can either emerge, or in the case of the romance that’s hinted at in the mid section, penetrate.
If its bassline opening sounds like any number of scally Northern bands through the years, it leaves such parochialism behind with its guitar play which comes on in one 5 note refrain as though Pete Townshend had decided to set his mini-mini opera, Rael from 1967’s The Who Sell Out in Oldham.  Lyrically, it loses its way in the latter stages but it’s worth cherishing for the fact that it immortalises dour people behaving dourly in an excitingly, tender way.

The image in the video reminded me to link you through to Dave Bryant’s Indie Top 20 blog in which he not only reviews this song, but others previously featured here by the likes of Dr. Phibes & The House of Wax Equations and Th’ Faith Healers

Video courtesy of carlos rodrigues

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Oliver!: Shake Inc. - Adrenalin (3 April 1992)

Always with a techno record, what I’m listening out for is the contrast moment.  Once the initial beats and squelches have set out their wares, it’ll be the moment of change in the track that will decide for me whether I will include the track or not.  With Shake Inc.’s Adrenalin that moment comes at around 1:15 when a freaky, ghostly synth line - blasting out from a rave in the divide between this world and the next - makes its entrance into the blazing mix of noise in this banger.  Bringing a greater range of sonic variety than the previous week’s Twin Rave, there’s plenty of energy, life and...well...adrenalin surging through this track’s veins.  I love how the sound gets dirtier as it goes on too.  A mini-epic.

Video courtesy of E for Free.