Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Oliver: Hole - Violet/Doll Parts [Peel Session] (5 January 1992)

In the 60s, Peel often used to claim that he got a kick out of winding people up by making them believe that he thought Donovan was better than Bob Dylan.  Had I been aware of the issue at the time, I may have tried to update this by telling people that Hole were better than Nirvana, though I guess if I had really wanted to provoke a reaction, I'd have swopped Hole for Pearl Jam.  But listening back to the session that Courtney and co recorded for Peel which was broadcast on 5/1/92, I'm starting to think that this would have been an argument I would have genuinely advocated.

Due to the vagaries of my listening pattern with the recording of the show, I only heard the two tracks presented here.  I missed out on Drown Soda with its spine chilling refrain of "Just you wait till everyone is hooked", quite possibly the best performance of the lot.  However, Violet comes close to that accolade.  Propelled along by an incendiary guitar line and with Love in her finest succubus/she-dragon form, it comes on like a turbo-charged update of Good Sister/Bad Sister but it's the Cobain like "Everything"s which catch the ear.  Even at 100mph, she was doing Kurt better than Kurt.  But it's Doll Parts which comes on most uniquely Hole-like.  Unlike her husband, Love never seemed to have any qualms about meeting the image of a rock star head-on.  She understood the commodification of the artist and seemed resigned but unperturbed about being plastic onto which different looks and images could be hung off, but that seemed a worthy sacrifice to become to girl with "the most cake" even though this would ultimately extract a high price, both within Love's musical vision and her personal life.  The willingness to ride the pop hammerhead shark head-on perhaps meant it was inevitable that Love and Hole would find themselves swapping Caroline and Sympathy for the Record Industry for David Geffen.  As Peel himself remarked after playing Violet, "Like that did you?  You, me and Madonna it seems".  Indeed, it's not fanciful to suggest that in another musical universe, Love and Hole became as big and as uncompromising in their way as Madonna did in hers.

The session was fascinating, comprising tracks which didn't surface for over 2 years and which, when they did, were recorded by a new rhythm section in Hole.  This is a fascinating snapshot of the original Hole line-up including Jill Emery on bass and Caroline Rue on drums.  The full Peel Session 
is also available

Merry Christmas to you all and my special Christmas wishes to all those who have provided clips for this blog and the shows which I can make selections from.

Videos courtesy of Vibracobra23redux and Bow Down To Me.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Oliver: LFO - What is House [LFO Remix] (5 January 1992)

House music may have seemed like it was purely based on appeals to the emotions and energies but a surprising number of tracks used the freedom of the format to try and put messages across to their audiences.  CLSM's John Peel is Not Enough was perhaps the greatest example of a 128bpm Reith Lecture in Peel's lifetime, but there were plenty of other examples of DJs coming armed with a beat, a sample and a written manifesto.

LFO's What is House doesn't go overboard on this - mostly it's a set of names, some of which I recognise and others that I don't.  You may question whether Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk count as house, but at least it confirms that LFO were more concerned with the ambient side of house music than the banging beats side.

Video courtesy of BenZomb.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Oliver: Fierce Ruling Diva - Rubb It In [Ruling Radio Mix] (5 January 1992)

At the time that this show went out, I was still a year away from starting to go clubbing.  My own impressions of what clubbing was like were based almost entirely on old editions of The Hit Man and Her which I had had to fast forward through, while watching with an appalled fascination in the days when I had to leave a video running all night so I could record WCW wrestling, until I worked out how to set the timer on it.  If you never saw The Hit Man and Her, it was a simple idea, cooked up by Pete Waterman and sold to Granada Television which saw him and Really Wild Show presenter, Michela Strachan present an evening's night-clubbing. Not just dancing or people trying to make themselves heard at the bar, but games and club PA sets, usually by The London Boys.  It was simultaneously terrible and compulsive; the type of show which told you it was time to go to bed, but which you struggled to tear yourself away from, despite the fact that there is nothing worse than watching other people seem to be having a good time.  Someone has posted whole editions of the show on YouTube, but I think this taster gives you an idea of the entrancing awfulness of the show, as well as Pete Waterman highlighting that non performing creative artists haven't got a rhythmic bone in their bodies when it comes to dancing.

The link between John Peel and Pete Waterman is not immediately obvious, but as this article reminds us, The Hit Man and Her was being broadcast during a period where the only chart perennials you could count on were Stock, Aitken and Waterman or acid house.  In their default settings, Peel's show and The Hit Man and Her were poles apart, but Waterman admitted a love of acid house and trance music, while Peel, yet to discover variants of dance like drum 'n' bass or grime, wasn't averse to giving techno tracks an airing.  His shows of the period are dotted with them among his preferred house music enthusiasms.  That intersection shows itself on the brilliantly named Fierce Ruling Diva track, Rubb It In, which mashes up the quick fire-edits of house music with the Baleric piano samples and big voiced female vocals so beloved of Messrs Waterman and Strachan's after the pub extravaganza. "Need I say more?"
That was what I expected of clubbing in the run up to my 16th birthday.  The reality, in Falmouth anyway, was very very different....

The video may say that this is the Paperclip mix of Rubb It In, but Peel announced it as the Ruling Radio mix, probably put together by Frank De Wulf.  There were certainly enough mixes to be shared around.  Regardless, this was the one Peel played on 5/1/92.

Video courtesy of picolettettauo.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Oliver: The Art of Noise - Instruments of Lightness [The Sequel - The S1000 Life Beyond Transformation mix] (5 January 1992)

You may have missed it back in 1991, I know I did, but it seems that The Art of Noise's star was back on the rise at that time.  Ironic really given that their last original album for a decade was released two years earlier, but as 1991 was the year that dance music really cracked the mainstream, it may not be so surprising.

To children of the 80s, this "anti-group" were as much a part of that decade's musical landscape as yer  Durans and Whams.  Indeed, go up to a music fan of a certain age and start singing "DUM. DUM. DUM DUM DUM DUM DUM. DUM. DUM. DUM." and they will reply with the "La-la-la" refrain from their 1984 top ten hit, Close (To the Edit), a record which 31 years on has lost none of its ground breaking qualities regardless of how dated the Fairlight synthesisers sound.  Shot through with a mix of absurdist humour, musical classicism, disturbing world views and a dancer's instinct, Art of Noise records were always an exhilarating experience to listen to.  That mix of elements worked flawlessly together to prevent their material from ever seeming cold, dry, over-arch or dull.  For me their sound in many ways is the 80s, you only need to look at their record sleeves for proof of that.  But that mix of stabby orchestral fanfares, blurts and shouts sums up an aesthetic that while not remembered particularly fondly, encapsulates memories of adverts for those alcoholic drinks like Tico that were advertised in scorched European capital cities glimpsed through half-drawn blinds which gave sight to exotic models sipping their alcoholic gunk after applying body paint to their faces.  Yes, it seemed ludicrous and awful at the time, but it's acquired an undeniable retro chic in the time since, in a way that the 90s have yet to do.  Perhaps the link I've made there really did come about after former music journalist and manifesto-writer in residence for The Art of Noise, Paul Morley, left the collective, at which point this anarcho-sound project became in Morley's own words, a novelty act: getting Tom Jones to have a crack at Prince, putting together the definitive theme to The Krypton Factor or covering one of John Peel's favourite instrumentals.  But whatever they did, it sounds like an Art of Noise record and completely unlike anyone else.

By 1989, The Art of Noise had gone their separate ways, but the new generation of dance DJs and acts that they had influenced were ready to keep their music in public consciousness with a wide array of remixes.  1991 saw an album of mixes from FON Studios in Sheffield including Carl Cox's take on Paranomia.  Released as a 12-inch single, it included S1000's remix of a track from The Art of Noise's 1986 album, In Visible Silence.  Instruments of Darkness in its original incarnation, is a slice of pessimistic mid-80s paranoia in which the grooves are interspersed with the fear staples of the age: nuclear war and apartheid in South Africa.  However, depression is offset by that mix of offbeat humour and classical virtuosity. S1000's remix, like a number of their contemporaries' approaches to The Art of Noise's music throws all that away, apart from some bits and pieces, "Now the fuse is lit".  Instead, we're drawn onto the dance floor and invited to lose ourselves in the beats and mix of tempos.  The Art of Noise attempted to distort reality and look at it through their own
peculiar kaleidoscope, but in doing so, they would inspire other musicians, living in what seemed like  a time of prolonged peace (The Cold War over, Nelson Mandela released) to make party music out of it.  But then, I feel sure that it would have only been a matter of time before AoN, as I shall never call them again would have got there.

This nearly didn't make it on to the tape, I loved it on the recording, wasn't so keen when I listened to it in preparation for this post, but it won me over in the end and its contrast with the original is staggering.  Peel called it Instruments of Darkness, but Discogs calls it Instruments of Lightness (The Sequel) which makes perfect sense when you consider the joy and optimism of the time.  What a shame that we appear to be living in an age where the original could almost become a modern anthem.

Videos courtesy of Per Christian Frankplads and Adam Ant & Art of Noise.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Oliver: Roshney - Ag Tha Wondi Juway (5 January 1992)

This blog's previous excursion into Bhangra, mixed together an Indian standard with Western rap and beats.  This one goes right to the source.  I'd urge you to bear with the track through the first 45 seconds, which sounded cliched even in 1992.  Once the vocal comes in things pick up all the way through to the delightful chorus and the mix of keyboards and shenai pipes, which isn't something you write every day.  I haven't a clue what the lyrics are about but it sounds like a tribute to Vanessa Paradis in the last verse.

Any Bhangra experts passing through, and please make yourself known if you do see this, may like to confirm the spelling of this track, which comes from the Roshney album, Maar Sutiya, as I've seen at least two different spellings of it.

Joyously, the video has been taken directly from the show on 5/1/92 including Peel's introduction which sees him grappling with the natty problem of singer, Sukhbir Ral's stage name.

Video courtesy of John Peel.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Oliver: Beres Hammond - Move Along (5 January 1992)

We seem to be dealing only in single verses at the moment.  This beautifully delivered slice of lovers' rock from one of the titans of the genre is notable for its decidedly unromantic mood.  I have listened to it over and over again in recent days and still can't decide whether Hammond is singing about a relationship gone sour or a new life creedo in which to try and survive by in our dog-eat-dog world.  The legacy of the 80s had a long creep to it and can colour anything which uses the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" angle.  "If you can't stand the pace, then get out of the race".  Sounds like a co-write straight out of Wall Street or the Square Mile.

Video courtesy of RootsCali831

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Oliver: Sonic Youth - Pacific Coast Highway (5 January 1992)

I could have included this track from Sonic Youth's 1987 album, Sister, on at least two previous occasions as Peel went on a bit of a nostalgia spree with this record in late 1991.  Eventually, it wore through my indifference through persistent exposure to its rough but intriguing charms.  The mix tape equivalent of a sympathy fuck.  Or perhaps it was the placing in the programme on 5/1/92; the final track of the night and with a structure that seems to evoke nightmare-dream-nightmare.  That anvil heavy guitar line and Kim Gordon's hoarse, dead-eyed exhortations to join her for a drive with the chilling promise "I won't hurt you as much as you hurt me" set a suitably anxious mood, only for the song to give way to a spacious, laid back instrumental mid-section that almost seems lifted from another era entirely.  An early 90s take on the Terry Kath's Tell Me from the Electra Glide in Blue soundtrack perhaps?
However, before this gets too fanciful, we're back to the single verse of the song, that hacking riff, Kim's terrifying reassurances and then this addition to the Great American Songbook's sub-section of Driving Songs ends with a crash into the wall.  "You make me feel so good.  You make me feel so crazy".

Sleep tight everyone, Lynn Parsons is on next.

Video courtesy of why2beyou's channel.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Smell of the Greasepaint and the Sound of the Peel's Festive Fifty for 1991

Before starting on 1992, I couldn't let my endeavours over a mere 8 weeks worth of Peel show recordings go without putting together my own version of the Festive Fifty for 1991.

There are a few rules I had to follow:

a) They could only come from shows I heard.  Meaning almost nothing in Peel's actual 1991 Festive 50 list can be included until this blog gets to 1993 and starts to hear one track a show for the first 50 Peel shows of that year.

b) They could only be tracks that I could share.  So no link to Popeye by Pay the Man for instance.

c) All had to be from the period.  So no Elmore James alas or The Pogues (and I did get that track played at my wedding).

In terms of working it out, I looked down my list and leading candidates were tracks I played to death when waiting to write about them or which stayed in my mind after I'd written about them.  Ones further down the list got in on more visceral instincts: a riff that had stayed in my mind, a nice turn of phrase or an unforgettable sample.  There were some concessions to quality or received wisdom, but only where I found myself in step with it.
There were 54 selections which I liked enough to have in contention but my Festive 50 looked like this:

1 - The Blofelds - The Dog is Dead
2 - PJ Harvey - Dress
3 - The Farm - Mind (Peel Session)
4 - Loketo featuring Diblo Dibala - La Joie de Vivre
5 - Milk - Claws
6 - The Rockingbirds - A Good Day For You is a Good Day For Me
7 - Silverfish - Big Bad Baby Pig Squeal
8 - The Field Mice - Think of These Things
9 - Culture - Life
10 - Rum & Black - Wicked
11 - The Pixies - Motorway to Roswell (Peel Session)
12 - Nirvana - Dumb (Peel Session)
13 - Hole - Good Sister/Bad Sister
14 - The Farm - Love See No Colour (Peel Session)
15 - Bleach - Decadence (Peel Session)
16 - Gang Starr - Check the Technique
17 - Organised Konfusion - Who Stole My Last Piece of Chicken?
18 - The Fatima Mansions - Bertie's Brochures
19 - The Telescopes - The Presence of Your Grace (Peel Session)
20 - Loketo - Mondo Ry
21 - Dr. Phibes and the House of Wax Equations - Hazy Lazy Hologram
22 - PJ Harvey - Victory (Peel Session)
23 - Frankie Paul & Stinger Man - Beautifulla
24 - The Satyrs - Shooting Air
25 - Anhrefn - Rhedeg I Paris
26 - Curve - Clipped
27 - The Fall - A Lot of Wind
28 - Krispy 3 - Don't Be Misled
29 - New Fast Automatic Daffodils - All Over My Face
30 - Unsane - Cracked Up
31 - Smudge - Don't Want To Be Grant McClennan
32 - The Orb - Little Fluffy Clouds (Cumulo Nimbus mix)
33 - Billy Bragg - Accident Waiting to Happen (Peel Session)
34 - Bally Sagoo featuring Cheshire Cat and Rama - Mera Laung Gawacha
35 - Managa ad Zdorp - Ne Ted Ne!
36 - Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Mansion on the Hill (Live)
37 - Home T, Cocoa Tea & Cutty Ranks - Another One For The Road
38 - The Clouds - Dude Electric Cell (Peel Session)
39 - The Infinity Project - Virtual Reality is Here
40 - Ivor Cutler - Thick Coat (Peel Session)
41 - Wenge Musica Aile Paris - Nouveau Testament
42 - Eton Crop - Hey Hey
43 - The Pixies - Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons
44 - Tony Rebel & Macka B - DJ Unity
45 - Back From Detox - Dove People
46 - Katch 22 - Mind Field (Peel Session)
47 - Gear Jammer - Two Tons of Chrome
48 - LFO - Tan Ta Ra (Moby remix
49 - Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic
50 - Raw Noise - Under the Influence (Peel Session)

And there it is.  Quite a few "White boys playing guitar" but not dominant by any means.  After a week off, we will gird our loins and dive deep into the waters of 1992.  I must do some ironing tomorrow so I can listen to more shows up to February half term of that year.  Incredible how school days come back to dominate your thinking in certain respects.

If you're new to the blog, have fun.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 - (Sunday 29 December 1991)

The last show of 1991, and the end of an experiment which was never repeated again, allowing Peel to pick his favourite records and sessions across the year.  He saved the best for last, I was lucky enough to make my choices from a near 2 and a half hour recording in which very few tracks failed to impress me enough to make my cut.  Of the ones I chose, only one is unable to be shared:

The Pied Piper - Dreamers (Lucid Dream Mix) - After all that fuss about I Say Yeah too, I am so bummed out that this isn't available for sharing.  A piece of lovely breakbeat filler featuring a sample of someone saying "We are the music makers and we are the creators of dreams."

You can ponder on the ones that didn't seduce me by having a look at the tracklisting.

Christmas 1991 was a bit of an end of an era for my family.  We had had our Christmas Days wrecked over the preceding years by sharing them with my father's elderly uncle and auntie.  She was sliding into dementia and he, never a kind man in his youth, was not able to deal with it.  They rowed incessantly, I think they may have stayed together for the good of their daughter who was born with learning difficulties and was an unlucky pawn in the middle.  She would play quite a part in my family's life until long after Peel had died.  The three of them came over that Christmas as always and we dreared through proceedings, I escaped upstairs after dinner, coming down only to watch that overextended Only Fools and Horses episode set in Miami.  I knew we were in trouble when they dropped the laughter track.  Elsie, Cecil and Beryl left at 8pm with Elsie claiming that Cecil wanted to kill her; Cecil looking like he would carry out some sort of painful retribution when they got home and Beryl telling us that she was going to live us when both her parents died.  Needless to say, when my dad got back from dropping them off, he and my mum went straight to the whisky so they could get their Christmas properly started.  We were one less person round the table by Christmas 1992....

I enjoyed Christmas of that year though, mainly because Ipswich Town started to put their indifferent start to the season behind them and put together three consecutive victories against Charlton, newly minted Blackburn and Port Vale, two years to the day that they helped Town greet the new decade by putting five goals past them.  Something was brewing in Suffolk, as though the team had been keeping their powder dry while I tried to get a girlfriend in those inconsistent autumn months and now that I had failed, they were ready to ensure my devotion to them again with a promotion push.  Peel noticed it as well.  No longer able to get to Anfield to watch Liverpool, he had started accompanying The Pig and his youngest son, Thomas to watch Ipswich play at Portman Road.  He thought that they looked ready to make a serious push towards the imminent Superleague as it was quaintly called back then and he wasn't altogether happy about the prospect of them being there.  Perhaps he foresaw how negative we would become once John Lyall moved upstairs and Mick McGiven took over.

One of the unexpected bonuses of these recordings is catching moments of the Radio 1 outside of the Peelverse.  In 1991, the station was still populated by names to whom Matthew Bannister was but a voice on the wind and nothing for them to be concerned about.  Before cueing up the first track from Nirvana, Peel pondered aloud, "Does anyone in 1991 still regard the promise of gags as an inducement?  We shall discover." before playing a trailer for Adrian Juste's New Year's Eve show which sounded like the very thing to get anyone not otherwise feeling desperately lonely if not at a party on that dreaded evening, feeling even worse.  (God, that's an appallingly constructed sentence.  Looks like something Jay Leno would have read on his Headlines slot).  Bannisterisation is still a long way away from this blog's remit and despite Juste's caustic putdowns of those who came after him (particularly Danny Baker), a listen to that trailer shows just why it had to happen.  "Let us provide the music, you just have to put out the nuts!"

Like Peel, I spent my New Year's Eve, "Staring out of the window, blankly".  No, I spent it watching the BBC video of one of the great classic Doctor Who stories: The Deadly Assassin.  Peel was
tempted by an invitation to a fancy dress party held by The Sausage Machine venue in Hampstead, which promised free entry to anyone dressed as Dave Hill from Slade.

Peel was in fine form in this show.  And he ended it with the type of story I loved him for.  Before playing an appallingly cloying track by Ed's Redeeming Qualities, Peel dedicated the track to a bloke he had seen in a cafe earlier that day, "Obviously off his head, who spoke at great length, most eloquently and at the pitch of his lungs of his enthusiasm for masturbation."  A nut that even Adrian Juste might have turned his nose up at.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Oliver: The Satyrs - Shooting Air (29 December 1991)

Apart from Bryan Adams, the singles chart in 1991 was dominated, to great and ghastly effect by sex,      sex, and more sex.  I was 15 in 1991, in the full throes of a puberty that seemingly hasn't left me alone in the intervening 24 years, and even at the time I thought it was all a bit excessive.  Was everyone so numbed by the onslaught of that bloody Robin Hood song that they couldn't be bothered to get out of bed?  In retrospect, I was probably jealous and definitely clueless.  I could talk about sex, without really having a clue about what I was talking about.  I definitely wasn't still having sex and as we have already established my motives towards someone that I fancied did not include trying to sex them up.
Without getting too anecdotal, what I was missing in 1991 from all this musical lust was a track which reflected what little sexual experience I was having behind my bedroom door when my parents were out.  In Peel's words, "a classic pop single, grievously overlooked" which just happened to be about masturbation.
Shooting Air was the only release from the three-piece, Satyrs, and it tells you everything you need to know about the state of the charts in 1991 that this piece of three minute brilliance wasn't a hit.  Cracking one off (no pun intended) from a guitar riff that informs anyone passing that this is a tune that is going to piggy back its way straight to your ear-heart.  The sheer sense of joy inherent in that feeling of anticipation when you're on a promise leaps and bubbles over every section of this track.  "God knows, I know what to do.  Long as you do, I'm never ever shooting air."  Quite literally, a coming of age song.
Joy.  Anticipation.  Leaps.  No, I'm not going all Nigella Lawson on you and trying to make individual words seem seductive on their own, but instead reflecting on how in direct comparison to many of the other tracks selected from this show, Shooting Air is a slice of gorgeous loveliness that you want to take to bed in comparison to the anguished, tortured, angry tracks that followed it. Life and love should always be this blissful, so wonderfully pre-coital.  By never releasing another record, The Satyrs ensured that they would always be preserved in that moment of anticipation.  Disappointment and let down would never intrude on their worldview.  The only disappointment was that the mainstream/alternative divide that was still alive and well in 1991 meant that The Satyrs got to soundtrack the carnal thrills of Peel's army of virgins, instead of that of the masses at large, who had to make do with Divinyls inferior, I Touch Myself.  A state of affairs so retrospectively maddening, I need to have a wank to calm down over the injustice of it.

Video courtesy of Patrick Pierson.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Oliver: Bleach - Decadence/Surround [Peel Session] (29 December 1991)

Decadence originally recorded for Eclipse EP and a disc mate of Wipe It Away.

Surround would surface on Bleach's first full album, Killing Time.

*NOTE (25/3/17) - Since writing this post, the full Peel Session can now be heard on YouTube.*

When I first heard the show for 29/12/91, I was bowled over by 3 of the 4 sessions repeated on it.  Three of them were broadcast a week apart from each other in November 1991.  Nirvana and PJ Harvey found their way onto the metaphorical mixtape, though it was back to Sierra Leone for Dr. Oloh and his Milo Jazz Band.   Peel castigated himself when playing Oloh's session originally on 09/11/91 for not following through on promises he made to go back to Sierra Leone to record more music by similar groups.  His self reproach was striking to listen to, and the disappointment in himself for not carrying off what would have been a Herculean task of musical ethnography was palpable.

He could still offer support to bands closer to home though and Ipswich's Bleach found themselves sharing a programme with a band who in the wider public eye had more to do with Bleach's name
than the band themselves.  I briefly convinced myself that this was the best session of the night but re-exposure to Nirvana and Harvey's sessions see Bleach in the bronze medal position for the night.  I really like the tracks they did, but you can sense the Big Bad Wolves of Grunge clearing their throats to blow the shoegaze acts off the cultural map, while the wily PJ Harvey drives her chariot away from it all, set on her own course of action, defying categorisation but remaining utterly compelling.  It's tempting to cast the shoegaze acts with their noisy but clean guitar lines and soft vocals as the equivalent of 90s prog rockers ready to have their thunder stolen by the punk-like authenticity of the grunge acts.  It's also unfair but the moment when Salli Carson sings about threatening to "kick your feet from under you" or feeling "bittersweet and black and blue.  I'm pleased and crushed that I think of you", how many of us believe that she could metaphorically do that?  Kurt or Courtney?  Yes, I could buy that totally, but I'm not so sure here.

It's regrettable too that Bleach's best track of the night, Friends, hasn't surfaced on YouTube in any form as it's a perfect example of what I've always called the Bleach Wait.  The way that in several of their songs, they make the listener wait for the burst of release that seems prevalent in much of the best shoegaze material.  Wipe It Away did it through mixing thunderous drumming with feedback loops that seemed to be waiting to burst through the window to run down the street screaming.  Friends used dampened guitar chords before finally bursting into spectacular Technicolour freedom.

Of the two tracks that I can share, albeit in their disc versions rather than the Peel Session ones, Decadence is a fabulously clattering tune propelled on by Steve Scott's superb drumming before exploding like a million fireworks in one of those rocket ship guitar frenzies (though that could just seem true because of the director of the video going all 2001: A Space Odyessy with the visuals at the end).  Surround is a little more restrained though still with plenty of killer guitar work.  The video is shoegaze in a visual nutshell: Psychedelic swirl background and all the focus on the girl.  Note how in two years Salli cut her hair, lost the guitar and moved into a party dress.  Even in shoegaze, the pressure to conform to industry perceptions was strong.

The session also included Headless which was the last track Peel played in 1991, fact fans.

We stand poised on the brink of 1992 in this blog, and even though other more forceful bands were poised to push Bleach and others like them to the sidelines, I have everything crossed that Peel stayed loyal to them and that a copy of Friends turns up soon.

Videos courtesy of  EVEvideoproductions and everyheaven.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Oliver: Frankie Paul & Stinger Man - Beautifulla (29 December 1991)

Not for the first or last time, I was beaten by the bounce of the patois in this collaboration between Frankie Paul, a man described as "the Jamaican Stevie Wonder" and reggae rapper, Stinger Man.  The track poses the age old question, why do beautiful women always seem to go around with "stupida" men?

In such situations, baffled impotence seems the only response.  I remember talking to a mate of mine about it, one night in 1993, when we were eavesdropping on a conversation in a nightclub where one attractive woman was telling her friend about the problems she was having with a bloke who sounded awful, but who she loved nevertheless.  Forever after such men became known to us as "Darrens".

Frankie and Stinger Man propose slightly more radical action than my mate and I's amused distance.  "Hawk, cough and spit on them", which sounds a bit drastic, and in a post Elliott Rodger world, more than a little queasy with the benefit of hindsight.

Video courtesy of Jarrett Mc.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Oliver: Nirvana - Peel Session (29 December 1991)

If I had found a serviceable recording that matched my criteria for 3 November 1991, we would not have had to wait a year for Nirvana to turn up on this blog. It might also have helped had Peel played some Nirvana tracks that I liked in the meantime.  If Unsane were ubiquitous in December 1991, then Nirvana were in that position on Peel's playlists in November 1991.  However, while the fare on offer was a suite of tracks from their debut album, Bleach or 12-inch picture disc only b-sides, the record button would stay untouched.   I'm afraid I've always been that way with Nirvana.  As Stuart Maconie put it:

"I could see the sheer visceral power of Nirvana.  I could feel (Kurt) Cobain's excoriating pain and rage.  I just didn't fancy it myself.  I didn't hate myself and I didn't want to die.  I actually was quite happy staying alive.  I had a nice walking holiday in the Lake District booked for one thing..." [Maconie - p.301 Cider with Roadies, Ebury Press 2004]

The analogy is perfect.  Too often when listening to Nirvana songs, I've been mentally on one of those walking holidays.  It didn't connect with me at the time when I was the right age for it, and it still struggles to now.  But, as with death metal, sometimes you need to be face to face with the music (live) rather than looking at it though the mesh of studio technique.  It certainly seems the case here because this session, their third for Peel, is a doozy.

Peel sessions were always intended as a means by which the artists involved could, if they chose, let their music stretch out and move in new directions.  Plenty of artists went in the studio and whacked the tracks down in time to get to the pub, but others used it as an opportunity to have a little fun.  Whether it be melding all their singles into a fantastic medley; exploring their ethnic heritage or passing themselves off as an acapella group, the Peel session archives feature dozens of examples of bands taking temporary live left turns.  Having delivered an all covers set in their 1990 session, Nirvana played Peel session bingo this time around, serving up a new song, Dumb - which was recorded for their 1993 In Utero album.  I love Cobain's vocal in this recording, he sounds like a chanteuse.  Heavy lidded and with a large glass of absinthe in front of him, but one can almost hear the smile on his voice as he sings about how he will deceive himself into contentment.  There was a choice cut from the gathering juggernaut that was Nevermind; Drain You being a great example of the Nirvana sound that hit so big in 1991 featuring plenty of Cobain's Southern Boy vocals and the Seattle Overdrive guitar sound that made the UK shoegaze sound seem tepid in comparison.  The mid section duel between Kris Novoselic's rope like bass and the detonating doorbell rings of Cobain's guitar and Dave Grohl's flung from a tall building drum beats is the sound of a band taking the world with confidence and brio, instead of the hesitancy that would lead Kurt into the darkening cellar of his own tortured contradictions.

Last and best of all comes the Peel session experimentation that I spoke of. A lengthy, almost
instrumental piece of free-jazz rock called Endless, Nameless, which sounds like someone asked them to soundtrack a monster movie.  It certainly sounds like a take on John Williams's  approach of the shark theme from Jaws at the start.  But then the piece makes its way through a series of tonal shifts including an impromptu cover of The Vapors's Turning Japanese  before ending in a series of propulsive feedback manoeuvres.  It may seem like a bit of a contradiction to laud Nirvana for feedback play, having slagged Neil Young for doing the same thing but I like feedback with purpose instead of posturing.

Nirvana's Peel sessions have been gathered into a compilation called Almost Everything.  It may possibly have a claim to be their best album.

The session is cherishable for many reasons not least of which the fact that it feels like an end of innocence for Nirvana, if such a thing is possible.  It was recorded on September 3 1991, some three weeks before Nevermind was released and made them the biggest band in the world while simultaneously conferring a status on Kurt Cobain that he was hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with.  There would still be peaks in the Nirvana story over the coming years, but this session catches them before the leaves on their tree started to curl up.

Video courtesy of vibracobra23.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Oliver: Syran Mbenza feat. Diblo Dibala - Icha (29 December 1991)

Going into the 11.30pm news on 29/12/91, Peel promised his listeners a segue of "the two greatest guitar tracks of 1991".  Curiously the taper of the show I listened to declined to include either of them apart from snatched extracts at the start of both tracks which gave their identities away.

I don't blame them for passing on Neil Young & Crazy Horse's, Rockin' in the Free World from the Weld live album.  It's a good track, I agree, but commits the cardinal sin of Excessive Feedback Wankery at the End of a Live Performance.  An unforgiveable folly, which despite its volume and intended power is ultimately nothing more than noodling.  You're better off with this.

I'm a little surprised that they rejected Syran Mbenza's, Icha from his album, Symbiose, featuring as it does impressive guitar work from Diblo Dibala among others, although it could be argued that the repeated arpeggios in soukous music could qualify as noodling too.  However, that kind of noodling invites you to get lost in the music, whereas Young's feedback antics seemed designed to lock thousands of people into that idiotic pose, only seen at rock concerts, where the crowd start applauding at different stages while waiting for their cue to come in and simultaneously checking their watches to ensure that they haven't missed their buses.

Icha gets on the mixtape, because it's life affirming and catchy, but I disagree with Peel about it being one of the two best guitar tracks of that year.  Hell, it's not even the best guitar track of 1991 to feature Diblo Dibala. 

The video doesn't actually come from 29/12/91, but is taken from presumably earlier in that year.  It had to be used given that it features a classic Peelism at the beginning.

Video courtesy of Kanal von brianrenate.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Oliver: Daniel Johnston and Yo La Tengo - Speeding Motorcycle [Live] (29 December 1991)

Speeding Motorcycle was originally recorded by Daniel Johnston in 1983 before being eventually released on the 1986 cassette only album, Yip/Jump Music.  Four years later, Yo La Tengo covered the song on their album, Fakebook (such prescience!).  On 4 February 1990, the two were brought together with Johnston on a phone and Yo La Tengo in a radio studio to perform the song.  It was released as a single and in playing it on 29/12/91, Peel set the scene via a press release:

"On the special evening of this recording, Yo La Tengo were guests of WFMU Music Radio personality, Mick Hill, on weekly live music, Force It, show.  Daniel, at home in West Virginia, called  the station at a predetermined time and sang Speeding Motorcycle over the telephone, while Yo La Tengo provided the musical accompaniment live in the studio.  The pairing of Yo La's subtle musical virtuosity with Daniel's long distance lo-fi vocals is, in a word, magical."

Compare the original and the cover!

In another piece of serendipitous timing, hot off the servers, The Quietus celebrate 30 years of Yo La Tengo.

Videos courtesy of deusexmachinaa (collaboration), Mega Lamka (Johnston) and Plath North Star (Yo La Tengo)

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Oliver: The Gibson Brothers - Broke Down Engine (29 December 1991)

Isn't it typical?  After a wave of angry, urgent female fronted selections, we find the men mucking about with their cars like their emotionally stunted counterparts in Alan Ayckbourn plays.

There are at least three artists called The Gibson Brothers on Discogs.  Peel probably steered clear of the late 70s French disco act who had 2 top 10 hits;  the 21st Century bluegrass act might have made his latter playlists but on 29/12/91 he was playing the lo-fi rock-blues outfit from Columbus, Ohio whose members would briefly include Jon Spencer.

Broke Down Engine was an update of Blind Willie McTell's 1931 composition, Broke Down Engine Blues.  It's smothered in that Duane Eddyesque twangy guitar that Peel was so fond of, and since hearing it again earlier this week, I've found myself singing "Lordy lord. Lordy lordy lord" in my unguarded moments.

Broke Down Engine was the flip-side to The Gibson Brothers' cover of Rex Garvin's gospel stomper, Emulsified.  The only shareable version I could find features both songs.  Broke Down Engine starts at about 5:20.  Emulsified proved incredibly durable and was covered by a number of groups including Yo La Tengo, and in the next selection, Peel will have an interesting tale to tell you about them and a very special guest...

Blind Wille McTell's original recording.  Unfortunately it seems he didn't live long enough to have a crack at Emulsified.

Videos courtesy of Ecilliterate (Gibsons) and RagtimeDorianHenry (McTell).

Friday, 16 October 2015

Oliver: PJ Harvey - Oh My Lover/Victory/Sheela-Na-Gig [Peel Session] (29 December 1991)

"[Someone] of Leeds went so far as to send me an illustration of a Sheela-na-Gig, and frankly, I was appalled." - John Peel, 17 November 1991.

If Hole and Silverfish represent the blowtorch and pliers, then PJ Harvey is the salve to rub on the wounds.  After all what does her opening delivery on Oh My Lover suggest, if not the image of her smoothing the fevered brow of someone who has been chased across hill and dale by an enraged Courtney Love and Lesley Rankine.  I'm sure the little hiccup of uncertainty on her "all right" doesn't
portend anything to worry about, does it?  Surely not, she's even giving licence for her lover to keep both her and her rival going at the same time.  She'll always put herself out for the one she loves, will Polly Jean.

In trying to gather his early thoughts of Harvey together, Peel wrote perceptively of her that she seemed "crushed by the weight of her own songs and arrangements". Certainly Oh My Lover and Dress are bonded by the desperate need to pacify and interest others, either by dressing provocatively or by giving them total freedom to do what they want.  It's a submissive stance which could have been horribly misjudged were it not for the fact that Harvey, even at her most pleading and desperate, had amidst her fragility, a sliver of steel running through her which meant that you could see her turning the tables on the faithless, feckless, lucky bastards that were playing her for a soft touch.

That is precisely what happens in the other two tracks I would have taped from this session.  After lying prostate at her lover's whims in Oh My Lover, she's now mocking his prudishness when he refuses to be seduced by her "child-bearing hips" and "pillows" in Sheela-Na-Gig.  The object of her affection/derision is repulsed by her naked body and efforts to seduce him, as though she shoved the most prominent feature of a Sheela-Na-Gig into the poor man's mouth.  But it's his loss as she resolves to wash that man right out of her hair in an earthy update of the South Pacific standard.  It would go on to be a single in 1992 and remains a signature tune of Polly Jean's.

My favourite of the three tracks here is Victory, a muscular rocker that could almost be set the morning after the night before the other two tracks.  "Storm is gone and the temperature's high".  There's a wonderful, celebratory atmosphere in this track as she starts partying with the angels, God and those men who want to get right into her Sheela-Na-Gig, before setting sail in Victory and conjuring an atmosphere every bit as raucous as that which Nelson would have indulged on his ship of the same name.

I only heard three of the four tracks on the recording, which suits me fine as the fourth, Water, would have been a borderline inclusion.  Quite serviceable but sounding too much like a piece of tepid surf rock to my tin ears.  No matter, I'm content to get high on the three pieces of "Grade A stuff" as Peel described the session which Harvey, Rob Ellis and Stephen Vaughan cooked up in Maida Vale.  An
epoch defining set and Harvey included it in full when she curated the best of her Peel Sessions in 2006.

Videos courtesy of VibraCobra23 Redux

Monday, 12 October 2015

Oliver: Silverfish - Big Bad Baby Pig Squeal (29 December 1991)

"Are you afraid of me?"

Good question and a highly pertinent one for the time as well.  The early 90s was an incredibly fertile time for angry, aggro-ey female fronted bands.  For a brief moment, it seemed as though they could take the world, riding on a wave of feminist energy at the very time when it seemed the liberal consensus was going to win through in a post Cold War/pre millennial world.  These bands had manifestos, were not going to be manipulated by the music industry (though many of them still were), didn't give a fuck about any rules or anti-rules they were expected to play by, given that the punk sound many of them were using had been absorbed by the industry during the 80s and they all rocked like bastards.  They were any music loving misogynist's worst nightmare.  To hear them thundering out of your speakers was to feel one's balls being held up ready for the emasculating chop of the knife.

Dear God, how we could do with many of them around now....

From the day in September 1977 that The Slits walked into a BBC studio, armed with untuned guitars and two chords between them, and walked out of it having recorded a session which Peel would spend the rest of his life lauding as one of the best ever recorded for his programme, many of these bands found a home at the John Peel Show.  In the course of this blog, I've heard examples I've liked (HoleMudwimin), examples I haven't got on with (Babes in Toyland) and I'm still waiting to hear some of the key 90s bands in this style (Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear).

Many of the bands followed a template: guitars set to loud, bass set to thunderous, drums set to tribal, vocals set to abrasive.  Silverfish maintain the standard with this insanely catchy piece of head bludgeoning.  It's a remarkable track because it doesn't really say or do much; there aren't any harmonic surprises; lyrically there's nothing here to make even John Power lose sleep; it's all very verse/chorus/verse/chorus relentless but.... what a chorus.  It became a T-shirt slogan at the time and in just four words, it served up one of the great feminist anthems.

I say that the lyrics to Big Bad Baby Pig Squeal don't stand up to great scrutiny, but I forgot to mention the "Are you afraid of me?" refrain.  In their different ways, Silverfish, Hole, Huggy Bear and the rest often posed that question in their music, approach, politics.  Sometimes as a direct question, other times as a direct challenge.   They were more than just bands, they were a threat. To your prejudices, to your views, to your desires.  The video for the song makes this thought more explicit, but when I first heard it, it took me to a mental place in which Lesley Rankine had me hog-tied and ready to take the butt-plug.  It's the sound of womankind, poised over the supine form of man kind and mocking the stupid, chauvinistic pigs of the male species.  And when the music's this forceful and superb, I for one feel ready to have the collar fitted and be led by the nose.  Perhaps it's a strong woman thing, a sense that the world would be less fucked up if we let women take care of all the important stuff.  But then I see Theresa May and the thought flies into the ether to expire in disgust.

From a retrospective point of view, the likes of Silverfish were ancient history by the time I started listening to contemporary music in the mid-90s.  I loved Elastica, Echobelly, the post-shoegaze Lush, I even enjoyed some of Sleeper's stuff.  Peel also played these bands over the ensuing years, but I can't help sympathising with those who would have looked at how female fronted rock had gone in the space of four years and wondered how they ended up with Dale Winton.

Never mind - time for one more rousing chorus.  Sing up, Peelie!

"Hips. Tits. Lits. Pow- I can't even say it!"  - John Peel 29 December 1991.

Video courtesy of Jzzzzzzz

Friday, 9 October 2015

Oliver: Hole - Good Sister/Bad Sister (29 December 1991)

Courtney Love celebrated her 51st birthday this year.  Just take a moment to re-read that sentence and marvel at it.  This was a woman who spent the whole of the 90s seemingly on the edge of an overdose and one who, in the Noughties, continued to make headlines and teeter on the edge of crises that would have finished off someone with a weaker constitution and spirit.  She survived huge amounts of drug taking, the death of a spouse who happened to be the most famous rock musician in the world at the time, self harm, miscarriages and a romance with Steve Coogan.  Whether she's come out wiser is hard to say, but the fact that she is still with us and still possibly making music is to be celebrated.  She's also reached an age where she's entitled to write her memoirs, as apparently she is planning to do.
It always sounds a pat thing to say when talking about an artist who has put their health through the wringer over the years, but it's a crying shame that Love's behaviour and addictions have limited Hole to a mere four albums and that at the time when they really could have cleaned up both in terms of sales and sustained musical legacy, they got the muslin of Love's crazy life pulled over them and had to try and function under something which threatened to submerge the fact that she had a band worth giving a damn over.

Peel was a huge admirer of Love and Hole.  In typical style, he nailed the reason as to why they were so compelling: "They can be alarming, disconcerting, they can be embarrassing at times....but you want to hear and see every second of it."  Margrave of the Marshes contains some charming stories about Peel meeting her at Reading Festival in successive years, and her telling his children that they would be better off watching Pavement than her own band, before she toddled off and walked into a rubbish bin.  I'm ashamed to say my own knowledge of Love in the 90s went no further than "Does drugs and makes a tit of herself in public."  I liked the track Celebrity Skin when it came out in 1998, but it was on a different planet to the stuff that Peel was playing of them on this night.

Good Sister/Bad Sister is seismic.  It's a female Godzilla of a song which surprises and terrifies in equal measure.  Listening to these early Hole tracks (I'll be covering their Peel session in my first 1992 show), I am frankly staggered by how good they sound.  Love sounds like the most fearsome succubus you can imagine, her raw, shouty vocals seemingly bending the songs to her will while Eric Erlandson and co create merry hell around her.  Sonic Youth's, Kim Gordon produced this track and the album from which it came, Pretty on the Inside and the influence of Gordon's band is plastered all over the track particularly in the dissonant, almost spoken word sections from around 1:55.  These sudden shifts into sloppy metre and free form poetry led me into the classic mental wrestling match
one has when listening to Peel.  "I don't know what I think of this.  It doesn't fit straight away, but
there's the sense about it that it might do in a moment."  And for me that moment comes at 2:23 with a propulsive rift that sounds like the Giantess climbing the Beanstalk after you and roaring, "I'll be the biggest scar in your back....I'll be the biggest dick that you ever had.  You want it bad.  You want it bad". And the 15 year old me would have wanted it bad enough to put this on a mixtape. But the sexiest female dominator song on the Peel show of 29 December 1991 is the subject of the next post on this blog.

Love had been through several more lifetimes by the time she came to declare Pretty on the Inside as "unlistenable".  Several years sober by that point, it stands to reason that she may think that, but whatever sins she visited on herself at the time should not be used to make her put down such a splendid piece of rock.

Video courtesy of grungegirl1992.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Oliver: Admiral Bailey - A Nuh Sin (29 December 1991)

If I tell you that the title to this track is pronounced, "I No Sin", you may be expecting an early 90s prototype of It Wasn't Me.  The shrill opening histrionics of a mortified woman seem to give the game away, but instead Glendon "Admiral" Bailey goes in a different direction, dispensing relationship advice to women looking to pacify their men and to men who let their jealousy get the better of their good sense.  There's a nice undertone of protesting too much, which I find an attractive touch and his flow is as impeccable as Ed Robinson. Highly recommended.

EDIT - This is not the version Peel played on the show I heard.  That was taken from the Digital-B release.  The woman at the start isn't really present there and the whole thing seems a little more down-at-heel than this re-recording for the Mi Big Up album.

In drama news, I did a Peel from the soundbox last week.  I was doing the sound for Hayes Players' production of Noel Coward's play, Relative Values.  Not a particularly onerous task, a handful of standard effects (doorbells, car horns etc) and curtain music for scenes.  For the interval music, I used iTunes, having bought an album of 40s light music to cover the interval.  I'd taken a handful of tracks from the album to use for curtain music, which I programmed into the sound software we were using and was waiting to cue up a piece called Ascot Enclosure to begin the second half while waiting for a lady in a walking frame to return to her seat.  Once she was in place, I pressed the button on the laptop and brought up the faders on the soundboard to be greeted by the most unholy cacophony.  Strings, brass and xylophone were brought together in what sounded like a hellish avant garde freak out that I couldn't remember being there before.  Eventually, the curtain open and I faded everything down.  "What happened?" I wondered aloud.  The answer was that I had had both the sound software and iTunes playing simultaneously.  If nothing else, it showed me how piss easy mixing is (one track was much further on the other, so it sounded strange but kind of worked, despite its unexpectedness).

I also bought David Cavanagh's new Peel Show biography, Goodnight and Good Riddance last weekend.  I've dipped into it.  It will be a while till I read it in full.  Very glad to have it and relieved that it doesn't make this blog obsolete.  As I said before, his book doesn't have the clips or the hi-hi-larious theatre anecdotes that I can offer you here.  I hope you'll think this town is big enough for the both of us.

Video courtesy of #AdmiralBailey.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Oliver: Anhrefn - Rhedeg I Paris (29 December 1991)

"Of course most people in England, Scotland and Ireland think that Welsh music means Harry Secombe, which is bad news indeed." John Peel sampled on Bandit Country by Skep.

When I started listening to Peel in the late 90s, Welsh music to me meant three bands: Melys, who I was indifferent to.  I think because they ALWAYS seemed to be in session for him; Super Furry Animals, who I had a distant respect for.  Distant because I never seemed to like two SFA tracks in a row, but those I did like, I fell for hard. And Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, who I adored.  Their 1996 album, Barafundle is, for my money, the closest any band has got to producing a contemporary update on Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
Whether intentional or not, all three bands put into my mind an image of Welsh music as, essentially, "soft" and I don't mean that as a put-down.  The Welsh as good singers is as strong a cliche as the Cornish being straw-sucking farmers. (What do you mean we are?!). But, nevertheless, their songs, even when they were rocking out, were delivered in flawless Welsh tenor voices that transported the listener to a pub fireside.  In their different ways, their tracks evoked a strong sense of place.  From Melys's internal ruminations, Super Furry Animals's projections into space or Gorky's sense of the sea, the overall picture that built up in my mind was a hybrid of quiet rurality mixed with vast senses of imagination.  To define under a label, I'd go for indie-folk-space rock-psychedelia.

At least that was if you talk about the late 90s....

In the 80s and early 90s, Peel played a number of tracks and sessions by Bangor-based, Anhrefn.  Unlike the later bands, any pastoral, bucolic sentiment expressed in their Welsh language only songs was buried under a punk rock sonic assault.  You may not be able to understand a word of what's being sung, but you know exactly where you are (in a soulless city with a spirit that won't be crushed, no matter what is prescribed).
Anhrefn were remarkably belligerent about their language stance and that's probably for the best, because when they did record in English, they got it wrong: teaming up with annoying Scouse actress, Margi Clarke to record a cover of Anything Goes, for instance.  Peel seems to have resisted that, as would I.  This was my first listen to Anhrefn and if the John Peel wiki's accurate it would have been my last listen to them for nine years had I been taping the show at the time, but it's how they wanted to be heard: defiant, rocking and Welsh.  Another link in the daisy chain of Welsh bands that got support from Peel when no one else was listening, even those who could have sung along with every word.

Anhrefn defend their brand of free speech.

Videos courtesy of eastside1977rucker and Rhys Mwyn.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Oliver: The Pixies - Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons (29 December 1991)

This track from The Pixies's Trompe Le Monde album is the type that wears rock critics' warmest adjectives like a pair of gloves: "Full flowering of their talents", "a mature, fully formed work", "essential listening", "at the top of their game".  All these and more fit this piece of music.  It all starts with that contrast between the initially mournful organ chords and the solidity of the drum-bass line.  A piece of backing rhythm so solid, you could build a house on it.  And then, Black Francis starts the vocals, originally down low in his chest, but progressively soaring higher and higher like Icarus.
By this time, The Pixies were as big as they were ever going to be and, inevitably, all that was left to follow was the fall.  This was a valedictory play on the Peel Show.  As the John Peel wiki shows, from 1992 onwards, The Pixies became a band of the past.  Purely because they were now set to fly into their own mountain of a break-up within a year or so of this broadcast.  Perhaps, they knew it themselves, especially given this track's ending which evokes all too well the final moments of serenity before impact, which arrives by the pulling of guitar leads.

Video courtesy of Crackerdamus101.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Oliver: Organised Konfusion - Who Stole My Last Piece of Chicken? (29 December 1991)

You may be tempted to groan with apprehension when Pharoae Monch kicks this cut off by lamenting that back in the 70s "the only AIDS you used to know was Kool-Aids".  The hip-hop/rap community of the late 80s/early 90s were notorious for not being particularly sensitive in their treatment of such topics.  But, you can relax.  Peel wouldn't give house room to anything that crass and neither do Organised Konfusion, who turn in an absolute treat here.
When I reviewed The Rough Side of Town having already heard Who Stole My Last Piece of Chicken? I wondered whether nostalgia for simpler, innocent times was the main focus of their work.  The former reflected on neighbourhood changes; this recalled the pleasure of Momma's fried chicken and their childhoods.  Having listened to their debut album today, the nostalgia angle doesn't fully sum up their over-riding theme.  Rap battles, religion and chemical weapons all pop up through the record, but its Who Stole My Last Piece of Chicken? that stands out best.  A funny, charming track reminiscing about childhood games of SWAT; fat, nosy neighbours with baseball bats; rude games of Show'n'Tell with equally curious eight year old girls and the allure of that titular dish.  Yes, it could be said that it's, at root, a more cutting edge version of The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff's, Summertime, but it's a rare example of a track that merits having a remix of it on the same album.

Word of caution about the end of the video, for some reason the director's seen fit to get one of the more overweight members of the juvenile cast to do something rather lewd with a chicken drumstick.  What do they think they're making?  Killer Joe? (Link definitely NSFW).

So good, they gave it to us twice.

Videos courtesy of cocaineblunts and CaNPaLetFiNeSt.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 (Saturday 28 December 1991)

The penultimate Peel show of 1991 and all selections were taken from a 90 minute mixtape.  I made 12 selections and present 11 of them in the next batch of posts.  The only one I haven't shared is on YouTube but is in incomplete form:

Daddy Yod - Ragamuffin : this features the Guadeloupe born ragga toaster giving it his all.  French speaking ragga fans may also enjoy the fact that his series on the history of French Ragga is also up on YouTube, it appears going by its duration to be an epic on a par with The World at War.

One other selection missed the cut between initial choice and posting.  Streetsweeper by Unsane was that rarest of things: a dull Unsane track.  As you will see below, Unsane did get used in this programme, but I give due warning that the video that accompanies the track is taken from one of the most notorious horror films of the 1970s, Cannibal Holocaust.  Those of a squeamish disposition, take note!

Programme tracklisting.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Oliver: Smashing Orange - Only Complete in You (28 December 1991)

So in the great battle of the early 90s, what side were you on?  Were you a Pumpkinhead or an Orangina?  Alas, there was only room for one band named after an act of violence against a piece of grocery, and ultimately it was Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins who took the spoils, while Rob Montejo and Smashing Orange were forced to trudge back to Wilmington, Delaware with the label, "America's best kept secret" ringing in their ears.

Leaving aside the problems of having nearly the same associative name as another, more successful band, it's worth noting that for a time, Smashing Orange enjoyed a higher level of professional respect, particularly in Britain where their records were seen as meatier, heavier, rockier shoe gazer tunes than pretty much any other British band of the time, outside of My Bloody Valentine.  Unlike Kevin Shields and co. the mixing on Smashing Orange records allowed you to hear every word that Montejo sang, as well as doing a pretty poor separation job between the drums, which are pushed up in the mix, and the guitars which form a rather mushy background.  However, what made this track stand out for me was the use of what sounds like an organ, but could be another processed guitar part.  It drives the song in dementedly determined fashion like Willy Wonka's paddle-steamer.  I just wish it could be presented here as it sounded on the radio.
  Shoegaze records are made to be heard through a radio and on a mix-tape.  One reason I've always made mixtapes from the radio  is because of the enveloping aural hug it gives to the listener; that teasing of what Thurston Moore in his 2004 curated book, Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture calls the ear-heart, that part of your brain that receives the analogue stimulus that a tape can provide.  I've had plenty of those resuscitations down the years, both from Peel and his successors.  Tracks which sound fine when played on a CD, but which take on an extra layer of frisson when heard on a tape, recorded from the radio.  I could cite examples like the keyboards on All Change of Heart by Lianne Hall and Pico, the opening guitar attack of Forget It by Corrigan or Trouble by The Madeleines, the trumpet part on a live recording of the Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager by Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly or the reverb vocal on Need U by Oceaan. They've all tickled my ear-heart and ended up on a tape.  Here, it's that organ effect that shoots the arrow straight to my ear-heart.

There's reason to believe that all shoegaze tracks are essentially about drugs, and the ones here about loving the mirror more than life itself are Exhibit A as far as I'm concerned.

Video courtesy of sadmindSCM.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Oliver: Billy Bragg - Accident Waiting to Happen [Peel Session] (28 December 1991)

Over the last year, this blog has enjoyed some moments of fortuitous timing.  I started it almost on the 10th anniversary of Peel's last Radio 1 show.  I wrote about Public Enemy the week they brought out a new album.  Now, our first selection from Billy Bragg comes a few days after the Labour Party, for the first time in well over 25 years, elects a leader that one can really see Bragg getting comfortably behind.

Like Peel's programme, this blog's relationship with politics will only be touched upon occasionally.  The main reason for this is that my own politics are all over the place.  If it's possible to be a capitalist, liberal, socialist then that's me.  I want to live comfortably and to get on in life, but I want a  society that supports its most vulnerable and keeps the safety net in place for those who cannot work, all while allowing people to say and think what they want (providing it does no harm to anyone else).  So, the moon on a stick basically.  But if that all seems rather woolly, a look at Billy Bragg's Twitter page provides a quote which sums me up in a nutshell: "A progressive is someone who wants to see society re-organised so that everyone has access to the means by which to reach their full potential."

When you read a quote as clear-sighted and warm-hearted as that, it makes me want to bang the heads together of those Labour MPs who've responded to Jeremy Corbyn's victory by saying, "I'll sit this one out thanks, until we can project nothingness as what we stand for again".
Even if I was completely diametrically opposed to Billy Bragg's politics, I'd still respect him and even more now.  After all, in 1987  he appeared on Channel 4's open-ended discussion programme, After Dark, the night after the Conservative Party had won a third term in government under Margaret Thatcher.  On the show, a potentially sleep-deprived and triumphalist Tory MP, Teresa Gorman told Bragg, "You and your kind are finished.  We are the future now." before walking off set. I can't imagine how he must feel to hear members of his own party all but spouting the same thing, throughout this summer.  Regardless of how things turn out in 2020, Bragg deserves a week of quiet satisfaction before the hard work really begins.

1991/92 saw Bragg brace himself for another unsuccessful general election by releasing an album called Don't Try This At Home, which could be called the Billy Bragg overground album: Bragg backed by a full band on some tracks; by a string quartet on others; releasing singles and videos including the delightfully playful, Sexuality.  Inevitably a session for Peel, his seventh was recorded and transmitted in June 1991 and showed that even attempts to package Billy for the Our Price crowd couldn't dull his political or romantic edge.  Accident Waiting to Happen, the only song from the session that I heard on the 28/12/91 recording was from the former branch of his songwriting.  The Bard of Barking is on fine lyrical form:  "I've always been impressed by a girl who could sing for her supper and get breakfast as well" is a cracking opening couplet.  In trying to read the song, I veer between thinking that its addressed to right-wingers in one hearing, "Goodbye and good luck to all
the rubbish that you've spoken", but in the next line, I think that it could be addressed more to former comrades who may have switched sides from left to right, either at local or national level, "Goodbye and good luck to all the promises you've broken."  An impression which seems to be confirmed as we head into the title line, "Your life has lost its dignity, its beauty and its passion".  And then, well Blairites and Corbynistas can split the vote on who the title line should be bellowed at.  One thing's for sure, though, we're going to be seeing a lot more of Billy over the next 5 years.  Hope Huw Stephens is poised with the keys to Maida Vale...

The '91 Peel Session is available but this version is from an appearance on Australian TV.  It's tremendous and connoisseurs will be delighted to see the Billy Bragg bow is present and correct at the end.

The full Peel session from 1991 featuring The Few, Accident Waiting to Happen, Tank Park Salute and Life with the Lions.

Videos courtesy of Peter Demetris and vibracobra23 with thanks to @keepingitpeel.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Oliver: Unsane - Jungle Music (28 December 1991)

CAUTION - Video is definitely NSFW

First of all, apologies for the video.  It was the only one I could find which just had Jungle Music on its own.  Most unforgivably, it gives away the end of Cannibal Holocaust, a movie which many have praised for its political slant in showing how civilised society's sees "uncivilised" society as something to exploit for ratings and sensationalism, but which director, Ruggero Deodato said was just an excuse for him to make a film about cannibals.

As for the music, a final flourish for the year from Unsane, also named after a horror movie, Dario Argento's 1982 film, also known as Tenebrae.  It would have been remiss of me not to include something from Peel's end of year shows for them.  This frenetic and thrilling tune would be a good match for a horror film soundtrack and with good reason too, as by the middle of 1992, events within the Unsane camp would also take a turn for the macabre with the death of drummer, Charlie Ondras from a drug overdose.

Video courtesy of Drew Gordon.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Oliver: The Ukranians - Hopak (28 December 1991)

When I reviewed The Wedding Present's version of the Orange Juice song, Felicity, I was a bit dismissive about The Ukranians offshoot.  To me, it seemed like they were trying too hard to show how kerr-azy they were.  But in music, as in life, it pays to do a little research.  The Wedding Present's then guitarist, Peter Solowka, who has a Ukranian father used to play this song to entertain his friends.  It was recorded for the Wedding Present's November 1986 session and provoked such a strong reaction that the group embarked on a further three sessions devoted entirely to Ukranian music between 1987-89.  Some of these sessions are commercially available.  Somehow, knowing that one of the band was honouring his heritage makes the endeavour seem a lot less insultingly frivolous.

By the early 90s, tensions in The Wedding Present, saw Solowka leave and form his own group dedicated to performing compositions that respected the spirit of the music of Ukraine, while imbuing  it with an indie/punk sound.  They are still going today, though it seems that they have recently started to focus more on providing Ukranian flavoured versions of Western pop music.

Hopak is an old Ukranian folk dance. The Ukranians version of it appears to be based on one part of the dance.  Reading about it, I wish I'd known about it in advance of my wedding as it would have made a nice counterpoint to the Ceildh music we had the day after the service.  The Ukranians version is a real floor filler; a Zorba the Greek for the slacker generation.

We would have been storming this a fortnight ago in South Kerry.

Videos courtesy of Miik004 (Ukranians) and welcome2ukraine (dance).

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Oliver: The Boo Radleys - Towards the Light/Lazy Day [Peel Session] (28 December 1991)

"Wake up it's a beautiful morning.
Chris Evans on your radio.
Wake up, it's so beautiful.
Chris Evans with your breakfast show."   But I'm getting ahead of myself....

(Lyrics copyright of Martin Carr and some wonk in advertising who managed to peg their hack work onto Carr's talent).

At the point that they enter my musical journey, The Boo Radleys were preparing material for their second album, and first on Creation Records: Everything's Alright Forever.  An inevitable step along the way was their third session for Peel, recorded in September 1991 and broadcast a week before the starting point for this blog on 26 October 1991.  The two songs I caught don't really stand out; they both clock in around 100 seconds apiece with Lazy Day marginally the better of the two.  Short, sweet and shoegazey, but at least Sice Rowbottom's voice already sounded otherworldly enough before the phasing effects were applied.  But even under all of that, Martin's Carr's gift for melody could not be suppressed.

The session isn't available for sharing, so it's the studio versions instead and the video for Lazy Day at least gives me opportunity to reflect on the issue of bad haircuts.  I was all set to slam the Boos,
particularly Sice and bassist, Tim Brown for their hair at that time, until I remembered that I wasn't doing much better, tonsorially in 1991 either.  For most of my childhood, I was a three haircuts a year man.  It was boring, sitting around waiting to have it done.  I usually got it cut when summer was kicking in but the rest of the year was a moveable feast.  I can't grow my hair long, well I can but it's thick Irish hair as my mother calls it and grows up faster than it grows down.  Boo Radley drummer, Rob Cieka does a better job of carrying off my hair than I do, but he had the best hair in that band, aided as he was by the fact that black men can carry off funky hairstyles which white men should never go near.  Martin Carr shrewdly adopted the ruse of wearing a hat over his mass of curls, thereby giving him the whiff of Lennon in '64.  But Sice and Brown were ghastly and success and its attendant stylists thankfully meant that Sice's mid-life crisis mullet on a receding hairline and Brown's rustic farm labourer look were soon on the barber's floor, and not a moment too soon.
I meanwhile was blissfully rocking a village idiot look with my unkempt bird's nest.  It took the school photo for that year to wake me up to how dreadful it looked.  The deal was sealed when some friends of my parents asked for a copy of that photo to send to a teenaged relative of theirs in the States.  I felt sorry for her in advance, knowing it would be the most repellent thing she would see that year and so as '91 rolled into '92, I started paying bi-monthly visits to the barber.
In recent years, as other expenses have accrued, haircuts have become scarcer again.  I ended up taking a photo at the end of one seven month period of growth.  It still looks wild and uncontrolled when I let it grow and I feel more virile when it's like that. It's due for the chop again after four months, soon, but I still prefer it to how Sice looked in '91 and he may look longingly for what was lost at it himself if we should ever meet.

Videos courtesy of #TheBooRadleys and TheBooRadleysVEVO.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Oliver: PJ Harvey - Dress (28 December 1991)

Although John Peel gave airtime to thousands of bands/artists during his career, only a miniscule fraction of them enjoyed what I would call a full-career relationship with him.  What I mean by this is that Peel was with them when they started and they were still with him when he died.  Leaving aside musicians whose careers predated Peel's, I can only come up with a handful of names: Captain Beefheart, Mark E.Smith, David Gedge, Billy Bragg perhaps.  1991 though saw another name join that tiny list, the incomparable Polly Jean Harvey, who burst out of the rock 'n' roll hotbed that is Yeovil to claim a place in Peel's affections for the rest of his life.  Through several different stylistic shifts, he stayed true to her, though I suspect his preference was for the jumper and Doc Martens era Polly of Dry and Rid of Me, ahead of the False Eyelashes phase of To Bring You My Love, which was when I got into her.
Harvey's songs occupied some kind of long, desert road which when travelled would bring the listener into contact with murderesses, prostitutes, criminals, missing children, artists, lovers, religious maniacs, Adam and Eve, God and the Devil.  No matter what guise she took on, whether she was storm tossed angel or painted vampire, she created sound pictures, often out of sketchy and raw instrumentation that were (are) compelling, dramatic, occasionally scary, often seductive and always fascinating to listen to.  Couple such immense musical invention with her very singular look -dressed up or dressed down; with either a quizzical, teasing smile or a careworn, world-weary frown; that lean nose and face made her look quite unlike anyone else around, it all added up to one of the great British rock music talents of the last 25 years.

Dress was her calling card single, apparently played by Peel for the first time on 28 September 1991.
It owes the majority of its interest to this listener on its adherence to the whip crack drum beat and whip line tight guitar figure of its opening 30 seconds before rumbling into the warm bath of Polly's voice and the meaty guitar wash that propels the song forward.  That opening verse, in which she talks about wearing the titular garment to go dancing and catch the eye of the object of her desire lays down one of Harvey's key lyrical themes of her work: the desire to please men.  In the battle of the sexes, many of her heroines seemed in thrall to men who in songs like C'Mon Billy seem either to be dangerous or unworthy of her.  But amid the glorious cliche trope of dressing up to go dancing, bedrock of hundreds of songs dating back to popular music's earliest days, she suddenly throws in the lyrical curveball about the dress causing her to spin over like "a heavy loaded fruit tree" - an image which may well be the best lyric I've heard in these 1991 recordings outside of The Field Mice summing up my unrequited love.
Straight out of the chorus and the muscular riff is supplemented by a Bernard Hermannesque violin,
played by Polly herself.  It's touches such as these which suggested that she had a vision for her
music that transcended mere rock chickery: somehow American without being American and leading me to wonder what they put in the water in Yeovil and can more of us drink it?  The PJ Harvey template continues to be sketched out as the song progresses: the increasing frustration/desperation at not being able to get what she wants; the attentions of a beer soaked/nicotine stained suitor reminding  her of what he has already given her; finally the suggestion of violence and rape - "a fallen woman in a dancing costume".  This last point is hammered home in the closing movement as drum, guitar and bass  beat out the rhythm together, while the violin squeals away over the top like an ejaculatory burst at the end of a brutal, grinding encounter.

The standout track of the 1991 Peelenium, if she had never recorded another note, Harvey would have secured a place in music history with this marvellous song, but there was more to come, much more and Peel took it with him, all the way to the end.

Video courtesy of TheSampler2010.