Thursday, 18 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Po! - Sunday Never Comes Around (2 May 1992)

The brilliance of Po! is that they walk the tightrope between charm and twee and never seem to fall onto the wrong side of the line.  Their sound may, to the lazily cynical, come across like the worst of the Peel show: jangly, twinkly, too lightly melodic - but it cuts deep and does it gorgeously.  There’s experience in Ruth Miller’s vocals and writing that gives Po!’s light touch arrangements a sense of steel about them and rewards further listening.  I have already raved about Look for the Holes, one of the great post-breakup songs and while Sunday Never Comes Around doesn’t scale those heights, it succeeds in capturing a mood of longing for someone who can’t be there and frustration at the conundrum of time passing so quickly when lovers are together and standing still when they are apart.  It is, in many respects, a perfect song for long-distance lovers and there are many periods in my life when I could really have benefitted from knowing this song.  I would have held it like a comfort blanket while waiting to journey to places as diverse as LampeterUxbridgeFarnham and Henly-in-Arden in order to hook up with girlfriends who fate had placed 5 or 6 hours away from Falmouth.

Po! pretty much ran their own show by releasing their material through their own Rutland Records label, but I think they could have been bigger.  Unfortunately, they sound too close to The Sundays and in the desperate state that mainstream British music was in in the early 90s, you needed to be far beefier than Po! were to enjoy the potential acclaim of Top of the Pops, daytime Radio 1 and magazine covers.  I can’t help feeling that the wider public at large were cheated by not getting to know this lovely band better.  However, it fell to Dubstar to take Po!’s sense of reflective, regretful romanticism, sprinkle it with beats, synths and a similarly sweet voiced/pragmatic minded vocalist in order to give the mass audience the calming therapy they needed for wounded hearts and impatient minds.

Videos courtesy of Leicester Music (Po!) and Dubstar.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Friday 1 May 1992)

So the first show to run alongside rehearsals for The Comedy of Errors and I’ve been delighted to see pretty much all the selections I hoped to share from the 3 hour recording were available.  All that was missing were:

The Werefrogs [complete Peel Session] - As things currently stand, Forest of Doves is my likely Number 1 when it comes to setting up this blog’s own Festive Fifty for 1992 - still a long way to go of course.  However, it didn’t surface in this Peel Session as Mark Frog, Matthew Frog and Steve Frog (“Can these really be their names?”) launched into versions of Spinning Felt Clouds, Cry, Sheila and Don’t Slip Away, the latter of these was their next single and they were currently touring the UK alongside Kitchens of Distinction.  Peel set a competition to win copies of the limited edition 7” blue vinyl version of Don’t Slip Away.  All participants needed to do was draw what they thought a Werefrog might look like.  Winners would be judged “...on sincerity rather than artistic merit.”  As we will see in a few programmes time, this was to cause Peel much anguish.

Monkey 101 - Kentucky Woman - a 68 second turbo-charged rock/blues song whose sudden ending caught Peel out. Alas it was not a cover of the Neil Diamond - Deep Purple hit.

In the three weeks since the end of Oliver! and this show, the Rodney King assault trial had ended with not guilty verdicts delivered to the officers who had been filmed beating King.  By 1/5/92, the LA riots that the verdicts had provoked were into their third day, by which point more than 30 people were dead.  The 11:30 news broadcast during Peel’s programme featured King making his “Can we all get along” plea.

Flossie’s full birthday tracklisting

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Fudge Tunnel - Teeth (1 May 1992)

I’m currently working in an office that has a radio in it.  The channel it’s tuned to is Magic Soul, “Playing Stevie, Marvin and Aretha” as its main jingle says.  All things considered, I’ve got off lightly - Peel put himself through much worse on a drive to Scotland.  Out of every 10 records played, at least seven of them will be ones I enjoy and there are plenty of surprises on their playlist too.  One staple of the playlist is the original version of Lady Marmalade as recorded by Labelle.  A corking record as you all know and durable enough to have returned to the UK Number 1 spot through versions by All Saints and as part of the Moulin Rouge soundtrack; Labelle’s version only just made the UK Top 20.  However, it’s taken until now through prolonged exposure to their version to realise just how dirty and rude it is.  I’m not talking about the “Voulez vous coucher avec moi, c’est soir” refrain but  rather what “”Free your lady marmalade” actually means.  What a sheltered life I’ve led these 42 years.
Which brings me to Nottingham based sludge-art metal band, Fudge Tunnel.  And I will confess that when I first heard the name I mentally pictured the sweet.  But a few listens to Lady Marmalade and my new realisation over its literal meaning set me right again.  You can be puerile and clever it seems.  Nevertheless, it could provide a nice piece of extreme dating language for music lovers, “Meet like-minded people and see whether you can get some Lady Marmalade up your Fudge Tunnel”.

This was the title track from an upcoming EP that the band were releasing through Earache Records.  Peel chose it as he felt that it would serve as a good programme opener after Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show which also has its own wiki, though details of what Vance played on this evening are not available yet.  Teeth was a borderline inclusion for me.  Irritatatingly, I can’t make out enough of the vocals, which bugs me because although they flirt with elements of thrash metal, they never fully commit to it.  What makes Fudge Tunnel interesting is the way in which they mix up Donnington style riffage with grungy atmospheres.  Allusions to “the razor” pitch this in some area of internal torment which could be potentially fascinating, but ultimately all we’re left with is something to rock out to and sometimes that’s all that is required.

Videos courtesy of GrindcoreDeathFreak (Fudge Tunnel) and Cla Sessantasette (Labelle)

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Florence - A Touch of Heaven (1 May 1992)

The night before this show was broadcast, Peel’s youngest daughter, Florence, celebrated her 10th birthday.  By the end of the decade, she would have The Cuban Boys immortalising her in their own unique way, but in 1992 John had to be a little more creative in making direct dedications to his children.
In this instance, Florence was an alias used by Stefan Robbers, a Dutch dance producer.  A Touch of Heaven promises exactly that in its early movements as Robbers conjures a beats and nature mix that offers comparison with Marcoesh’s brilliant Love and Death (Minimum Mix) a record which Peel played on his 8/3/92 show and which I adored but wasn’t able to share back then.  It has subsequently turned up on YouTube and having missed out on the opportunity to include it as an Oliver! appendix, I’m delighted to include it below.  A Touch of Heaven is a mellower track but it very nearly diverts us into purgatory thanks to a persistent sample of frequency modulation that wends its way through the track from about 2:18 onwards.  In a more irritable frame of mind, it might have cost the track its place on the mixtape, but there’s enough intriguing stuff going on underneath the widdling to just about make up for it.  I’ll understand if you only listen to this once though.

This, however, should be listened to again and again - as loud as you can get away with.

Videos courtesy of lost member (Florence) and mrDJtix (Marcoesh)

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft - Goldenes Spielzeug (1 May 1992)

This track from DAF’s 1981 album, Gold Und Liebe, found its way on to Peel’s playlist for 1/5/92 thanks to a note in his Norwich trousers,”Being in showbusiness, I have a pair of trousers for every major town and city in the UK” and which reminded him to play Goldenes Spielzeug (Golden Toy) for “Will and Valentin, the Spanish persons” suggesting either that the note was written by them or that he’d had too much to drink when he made the note.

Peel looked to tie the track into contemporary settings, describing DAF as “Grandfathers of techno”.  Certainly Gabi Delgado-Lopez and Robert Gorl were veterans by 1992 having released their first records in 1979.  However, I upon hearing it was transported back to childhood bedtimes.
Between the ages of 4 and 7, I was a right shit when it came to going to bed.  My parents could get me into my room, OK, but I was buggered if I was going to lay down and sleep.  I put it down to a mix of too much energy (one night, I apparently got out of the house and ran in my pyjamas and Wellington boots down the centre of Kimberly Park Road, until I was found by a group of teenagers who took me back home - like all potential infant near death situations, I have no memory of doing any of this, just parental record), resentment at people still being allowed to stay up while I had to stay in one place and plain old fashioned night terrors. Fear of the dark certainly, but more a feeling of drowning in the huge centuries of time that it seems to take a night to pass when you’re a child and awake.  Sleep and nights seem a monumental waste of time when you’re a kid - think of all that play you could be having.  Not to mention having to be quiet and reserved, which was particularly important in the 3-4 years that my mother ran our house as a bed and breakfast in summer, while taking in students over the winter.  I couldn’t accept having to switch myself off before everyone else in the house when my parents said, “Bed time, David”. There were rows, screaming and tears, and that was just my parents.
Eventually, they gave me a proposition.  I could continue to be awake, to play quietly in my room and have my light on provided that I stayed in my room when they told me it was bed time.  This sounded fair to me, but I still missed the distraction of sounds or other people - I was raised as an only child after all.  My Dad rectified this by putting an old transistor radio on in my room, at discreet volume and this was the final piece of the puzzle in terms of getting me to bed.  Indeed some combination of light, radio and, from my 10th birthday in 1986, television was my regular bedtime routine up till around 1990 when I finally grew out of it all.
What does this have to with DAF though?  Well, in the early 1980s when I first started to have a radio on in my room, I quickly became enamoured of retuning channels and what I sought more than music
was voices/conversation.  It’s wholly possible that I listened to the John Peel wingding on a number of occasions over 1980-83, but I have no true recollection of doing so, even though I knew him for some of that time as both the host of Top of the Pops and someone on the radio.  I am far more certain though of listening to overseas radio channels in France and Germany, babbling through the foggy medium wave as though they were broadcasting behind two layers of concrete.  The unintelligible languages providing companionship at least; the sudden piercing jingles; meandering adverts; long silences which were then broken by records - often Top 10 hits that I knew, but equally likely to be foreign Europop.  It was company and it helped me face up to the lengthy night ahead.  But it was also frightening.  The long silences after an advert or a news break on those foreign channels often meant something ominous was coming.  I vividly remember being riven with fear on my bed as the haunting opening movement to Vienna by Ultravox peered out of the audio gloom.  Or it would be something persistent and unsettling like O Superman by Laurie Anderson.  I was caught in a petrified limbo - if I turned the radio off, I would be plunged into silence again; if I retuned the radio I might find other tunes just as frightening.  I wish I’d had the sentience to find and recognise Peel back then. Someone once said of him that whenever he played a frightening or unsettling piece of music, the un-nerved listener just had to keep repeating “Peel will be back in a minute”.  He brought the extreme to your radio, but his presence was a safety net and his calming, bemused voice was an island welcoming you to safety and congratulating you on listening to something that had yanked you out of your comfort zone.  In Radio 1’s pre 24-hour days, it was tempting to think of him as the last person in Radio 1 each day, charged with locking up and turning the lights off at the end of his show.  An image no doubt seered into the imagination by the “Goodnight and good riddance” clip of him reeling off the records he played in one late 1970s show, in a completely dark studio except for one anglepoise lamp set over his head.  My radio listening in those early infant days lacked that calming figure.  Instead, I had to blunder, unprepared to face tracks like Goldenes Spielzeug.  That chilly
Germanic vibe of the period is in place alongside the fractured, brittle vocal which sounds like it’s being guided through repressed memory theory.  Essentially it’s the synth horn blasts that won me over as well as nostalgia for bedtimes past.  By the end of the decade, synth blasts sounded absurd and naff - their fakeness cheapening any piece of music they were attached to.  But throughout this track, the effect is used with great subtlety and skill providing a striking counterpoint to the tinkly backing that forms the skeleton of the track.  “Wake up.  Look here. Pay attention” it seems to be saying and it was precisely those surprise elements that kept me wary but entranced while unfocusedly  listening to the radio on those long early 80s nights.  The track has been remixed by Lor for their latest album, Reworx.

Have you come to sing me a lullaby, Midge?

Videos courtesy of Stormcloudgrey (DAF) and Ultravox

Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Comedy of Errors: The Fall [Peel Session]/Lee Perry - Kimble (1 May 1992)

The 1/5/92 show featured a repeat of The Fall’s 15th Peel Session, originally broadcast on the 15 February 1992 show.  It showcased tracks from the band’s Code:Selfish album, some of which had already turned up on this blog before.  If live music allows a band to breathe then Peel Sessions certainly benefitted The Fall  -  under this setting, Mark E. Smith couldn’t help but come over loud and clear, while his band fell in tight, lean and smooth behind him.
The wildcard of the session, and one which Peel was particularly excited about, was their cover of Lee Perry’s nursery rhyme like, Kimble.  Peel admitted that, at the time, his family used to play The Fall’s version on cassette in the car very loudly and sing along with it.  My notes for the Perry version from a few months ago are extremely fulsome in their praise, “I love the storyteller vibe here, like he’s talking about his life story”.  But that was then, and this is now.  I’ve gone cooler on Perry’s original and it’s here mostly on the grounds of completeness and comparison.  The Fall’s version is much more interesting, with Smith taking the opportunity to walk down some lyrical sidewalks about new shoes and upholstering buildings.  I can certainly see what appealed to Smith about the track with its choppy lyrical lines, declamatory title line, “I am Kimble!” and vaguely threatening overtones.  This coupled with the reference to “the Midlands mentality” suggests that Smith was using the track to let the band’s manager, Trevor Long, know that he was on borrowed time.

Nevertheless, Peel was delighted at the marriage that the session was able to bring about.
“Two of pop’s great performers, united in song.....What a night, eh listeners? If only life could always be like this and for everyone.”

Videos courtesy of contraflow (The Fall) and rudeboy600 (Perry)

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Seaweed - Recall (1 May 1992)

Listening to Seaweed’s debut album, Weak, alongside Love Battery’s Dayglo album, it becomes touching just how much Sub Pop were hawking out acts in 1992 as potential new Nirvanas to follow in Kurt and Co’s path to mainstream success.
Weak was no  Nevermind, but then very few things are.  However, it certainly didn’t take a leap of imagination to hear tracks from it booming out on daytime radio and enjoying mainstream popularity.  A decade on from Weak’s release, the Seaweed sound was smoothed down and given a bland production makeover in order to create hits for many of the tedious American nu-metal bands that stank out the charts in the early to mid Noughties.  They could appropriate parts of the sound, but Seaweed’s work cut a little deeper.
In terms of the Peel show, Recall makes for an interesting tails to the heads of Pacifier by Circus Lupus, broadcast on the same night as this track was. While Pacifier sounded like it was being directly broadcast from the maelstrom of a tempestuously failing relationship; Recall is the sound of a man reflecting on where things went wrong and casting around for consolatory memories, but still too rawly affected by the relationship to be at peace.  Whatever Aaron Stauffer is singing about has still left marks on his psyche.  Indeed the sense of trying to make sense of the past and letting it cloud your present relationship is a bit of a theme running through the best tracks on Weak.  I only hope Peel’s playlists for May/June 1992 allow a chance to share more of their tracks from the album as there is a lot to enjoy in tracks like Baggage, New Tools and Clean Slate.

Video courtesy of Mike Vince