Sunday, 31 May 2015

Reflections on Katch 22 - Diary of a Blackman Living in the Land of the Lost. (1991)

Katch 22 bring that What's Going On vibe to Stockwell

Label: Kold Sweat

First referenced via Mind Field [Peel Session] - 2 November 1991

I want to start by making a confession: this is the first hip hop album that I have ever bought.  I was not a part of its natural constituency when I was a teenager, and at nearly 40 years of age, I'm not going to change that now.  However, I found plenty to admire in the form from the poetry to the technical competence in putting it together.  The wit and or the anger of many of the tracks appealed to me as well.  However, the celebrations of violence, casual misogyny and crass materialism were turn offs for me, not to mention the amused contempt I still feel for young white men from the shires trying to pretend they're gang members from Hackney.  After a while it felt to the casual observer like these topics began to dominate the form, which became bloated and morphed into a Grand Theft Auto parody.

I think John Peel felt the same way, over time. By the time I started listening to him regularly in the late 90s, hip hop didn't feature too much - same for rap as well.  Instead it was the hybrids of those forms such as jungle, garage and grime that got more prominence.  However, in listening to the 1991 recordings, it's surprising just how much hip hop and rap was on his playlists.  Not just from America but from the UK too.  I've already included selections by Krispy 3 and am gutted that I can't include their Peel session tracks from 7 December 1991.  Red Ninja also cut an exciting Peel session on 1 December 1991 and I only just put up a storming piece of social commentary from Hackney's influential, Shut Up and Dance.

Coming out of South London, Katch 22 were the brainchild of Andrew Ward aka Huntkillbury FiNN. Ward's bio reveals that he was educated in the Carribean before coming to England at a young age.  Jamaica features heavily in the background of Diary of a Blackman Living in the Land of the Lost as Ward together with his associates DJ Brainiac, DJ Kill-a-Man Twice and producer Mad Marga reflect on racism in the UK and a system which, in the words of one sample, forces "My sons to become thieves and my daughter get pregnant at 16."  This track, Son of Shem, is indicative of the album which takes as its focus, not a blame culture, but frustration over the lack of opportunities available to young black people, in particular how, "We have fallen from pyramid builders to council tenants".  Over two thirds of that line comes from a sample of Louis Farrakhan, who crops up so frequently on
this album, he should get a band credit. "I have to tear the lie from your tongue and slap you with the
truth from this microphone!"

The black community don't get off lightly either.  Tracks like Brown Clown turn the spotlight on those who are "black to the core but white in the mind so therefore he is unsure".  Despite the slinky
grooves and Philly style flute, there's real rage in these rhymes towards those who try to integrate into white culture in order to get on.  Despite that, the track acknowledges that "Respect will never be given until we hold the mantle of power and become the master of our own destiny".  Such separatist talk was depressing enough to hear in 1991, but over 20 years later, in another race row, it became clear that the issue still burned in the black community albeit under a different label and by people who should know better.

While it's depressing that things have not moved forward much in 24 years, this is an essential record - intelligent and clear sighted in stating its case, packed with good rhymes and danceable samples.  I was particularly delighted to hear Lalo Schifrin's Dirty Harry theme in Service With a Smile and Tenor Saw's Ring the Alarm in Rogue's Gallery.

Mixtape selections: Service With a Smile, Son of Shem, Diary of a Blackman in the Land of the Lost, Who's Business?, Brown Clown, Cynical World.

Discogs link

Katch 22 invites Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan to take part in a special edition of Question Time.

Video courtesy of UK Stand Tall

An excellent track-by-track review of the album

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Oliver: Sam Dees' Beauty and the Beat - Child of the Streets [Peel Session]; Shut Up and Dance - Autobiography of a Crackhead (14 December 1991)

Sam Dees minus Beauty and the Beat in 1975.

Shut Up and Dance gets its hands dirty.

These two "interesting contrasts" as Peel described them were played back to back on the 14/12/91 show and are presented together here for the same reason.
While their methods of delivery are very different, the two tracks share the same theme: urban deprivation and its effect on the individual.  But whereas Dees is singing about someone growing up and learning the seamy side of life courtesy of their "pusher man" father, prostitute mother, slutty sister and heroin addict brother ("it's mother like daughter, father like son"); for Shut Up and Dance, the rot has already set in as the titular crackhead goes about their business.  There's not much hope here.  Dees lays out the situation and ponders where the child will sleep tonight, but offers no solutions or hope that the child won't wind up like the rest of the family.
Shut Up and Dance's crackhead knows he's in a bad place ("I steal from you/my brothers too/I lost my morals/ and my brain is chewed"), knows that he's ill ("I look at my body/my face is
shrinking/What's that smell/I must be stinking") and being driven to some desperate dealings ("I'm the guy who nicked your car stereo") but ultimately, the fix is all that matters here.

They're both fine songs, though the beats and poetry of Shut Up and Dance cut through more memorably.  The verse about how the crack addiction started is particularly affecting.

Sam Dees will crop up again soon as one of his other Peel Session tracks also made my list of selections from this show, but it's a long way away from the desperation conjured up in Child of the Streets.

Videos courtesy of Nicholas Reboux (Dees) and Bluefrog73 (SUAD)

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Oliver: Cutty Ranks - The Builder (14 December 1991)

There's a man who's pretty much near the top of my list of people I'd like to get in for a session.  Not much chance, I fear.

It wasn't just Bryan Adams who was ubiquitous in 1991.  According to Discogs, Ranks released 5 albums that year and featured on 10 singles.  That doesn't include examples like this track which turned up on compilation albums.
This doesn't quite hit the heights of the last Cutty Ranks selection on this blog, but still plenty to enjoy.

Video courtesy of Jarrett Mc.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 (Sunday 8 December 1991)

As you'll see when you get to the Field Mice track, everything on this day was subservient to me finding out whether the girl that I'd fancied for two months felt the same way.

The selections were taken from a 90 minute mixtape made by someone who only wanted guitar music.  Fortunately, there was plenty of good stuff to choose from.  I had another 4 selections that I couldn't include and they were:

Precious Sons - Chiari (No record of this has turned up anywhere).
The Alvy Singers - Footsteps (a snip at just £78.20.)
Rufus Thomas - 44 Long
Transmisia - Noise

Talking about records, I haven't given up on my plan to buy and review records that I select.  I have albums by Katch 22 and Wenge-Musica awaiting write ups but must confess to taking my time before I review hip hop albums.  With such a range of themes and meanings, it won't do just to say, "I like this because it's dramatic".  I attempted to bone up a bit more with some suitable reading, but while Lloyd Bradley's Sounds Like London - 100 Years of Black Music in the Capital shone a lot of light on such disparate forms as calypso, funk, reggae, sound system, lovers rock and grime, it didn't help me much with hip hop.  I suppose if you want a job done, you have to do it yourself!

As always, you can make your own selections and choices from the tracklisting.

Half Man Half Biscuit's iconic All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit was covered in the seasonal tunes post.   A feature on how Dukla Prague are currently faring can be found in the current issue of When Saturday Comes.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Oliver: The Telescopes [Peel Session] (8 December 1991)


To the Shore

The Presence of Your Grace

Not knowing any better, my initial reactions upon hearing the three tracks that the Telescopes
recorded for Peel at this, their second session, ran something like this:
"This is nice"
"Spacey shoegaze but very well done and rather more nuanced"
"Vocally sounds like My Bloody Valentine, but easier to hear and appreciate the harmonies"
"Splashdown sounds indebted to Primal Screen circa Movin' On Up"
"Presence of Your Grace is the standout"
"Yeah, all of these would go on a mixtape"

And that I thought would be that, until I did a little more research about this Burton Upon Trent five-piece.  Had I become a fan of them during their initial releases which included a debut album, Taste, released in 1989 (the year of their first Peel session), I would have been gobsmacked at what I heard on this Peel session.  When a band is in its formative years, which if they're lucky enough to get that far usually covers their first three albums, there is a pressure on them to develop their music within that time.  Within three albums a number of different scenarios play out:
A) They don't develop and are written off as one trick ponies, comdemned to play to a diminishing fan base for time immemorial.
B) They do develop but no one's interested hence cultdom or obscurity beckons.
C) They develop and lose all their old fans, but don't gain enough new ones so their development is written off as artistic suicide.
D) They develop to the delight of the critics but not to the fans, so their development is heralded as a brave step but written off as commercial suicide.
E) They develop and have their cake and eat it - attaining commercial and critical success.

A-D is what keeps the wheels of the music industry in all its facets turning.  E is the rarity, it's bloody hard to do.  Sometimes it's derailed by the band themselves.

The Telescopes of 1989 were a wall of sound rock band, who could go head to head with the likes of
My Bloody Valentine and come out with their heads held high.  Tracks like The Perfect Needle, Suffercation and There is No Floor marked them out as a rawly exciting band in the mould of early Jesus and Mary Chain.  Indeed, in this clip, their attempts to look and sound like the Reid brothers border on the ludicrous.  I cannot imagine that anyone who got into them in this period could have foreseen that when they came back with their eponymous second album on Creation Records in 1992, it would feature acoustic guitars, harmony vocals, piano, vibraphone and an altogether mellower vibe.  But looked at another way, all they were doing was progressing.  In an interview at the time, singer, Stephen Lawrie, spoke of the band's idea of "perfection" changing in the time between the two albums.

It would have been interesting to see how the Telescopes would have continued through grunge and Britpop, but instead they went into hibernation for a decade.  When they resurfaced in 2002, with the album Third Wave, they had again changed the face of their music, going in a more electro direction but with diversions into spacey folk including violin and organ.  They have certainly made up for lost time, releasing five studio and two live albums since 2002.  It's nice to see that, even belatedly and sometimes only in limited edition form, a creative and vital musical entity is still going strong.

The Telescopes in 1989, recording for Peel and a year or so away from letting loose on the vibraphone.

Videos courtesy of #TheTelescopes and monsmartyrium

Edit as of July 2015 - a review of The Telescopes latest album, courtesy of The Quietus.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Oliver: Unsane - My Right (8 December 1991)

In December 1991, no band held John Peel in greater thrall than the New York noise rock trio, Unsane.

They weren't strangers to his playlists, he had been playing them since 1989 at least.  but the release of their eponymous debut album at the end of November 91, saw them reach Fall levels of ubiquity through the course of December and deservedly so.

How to describe Unsane to anyone who has never heard of them?  I would say that they are the aural equivalent of a gaping, bloody wound, and that isn't so far-fetched given the luridness of their cover art.  If that sounds unattractive, it's important to ask you to imagine someone injecting shots of pure adreanalin into that wound - bursts of excitement that keeps the listener moving forward through the onslaught.  They're harder than Big Chief but slightly less "Rawwwwwwwgh" than Raw Noise and better than either of them.

As with Milk there's drama and ideas galore here and it's that aforementioned "adreanalin" that makes the difference.  A willingness to take diversions and remember that there is an audience out there to engage.  Any noisecore band that takes the time to lift us out of the storm and put us into the eye of it will always find a place on my mixtape.

My Right wasn't featured on the Unsane album that Peel gave such heavy rotation to, instead it was included as part of a triple A-side single with the tracks Jungle Music and Blood Boy.

Video courtesy of picpoul77.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Oliver: Shonen Knife - Making Plans for Bison (8 December 1991)

By late 1991, the Japanese girl trio had gone from underground, cult favourites to being name-checked and courted by some of the most important bands of the era.  Kurt Cobain was a fan, declaring his opportunity to see Shonen Knife play live as the moment he turned into a nine year old, screaming at the Beatles.  Cobain followed through on his love for the band by inviting them to support Nirvana on their late 1991 UK tour.  In the week that this show had been broadcast, Shonen Knife had broken off to perform a few headlining gigs of their own including one at Kilburn National which Peel attended.

The attention surrounding Shonen Knife and the credit that was being given to others for raising their profile caused the rarely seen, but always present, Peel ego to rear its head before playing this track from their 1986 album, Pretty Little Baka Guy:

And I was reading in the Melody Maker today an extended piece about Shonen Knife, and it was always nice to see that sort of thing.  And of course, it was one of those few occasions where you always think, 'I'd like a little bit of credit here' you know, because the impression you got from reading it was that they'd been discovered by a series of American bands and then made famous, or notorious by Nirvana.  And you'd like someone in the course of the article to say, 'Of course, Peel has been soft-pedalling the Shonen Knife stuff to the huddled masses since 1984 which would have been true."

It's an interesting outburst because over the years, Peel often rejected the notion that he'd played much of a part in helping bands and artists to break through, feeling that it was the music rather than the messenger that had resonated with people.  Nevertheless, he was clearly aware of his place in the scheme of things and while still a number of years off being restored to his former prominence by Radio 1 and the BBC, wasn't slow to let people know that he had been ahead of the curve on so many things.

As for this present track, it would within a month, be presented in re-recorded form on Shonen Knife's first major label release, Let's Knife.  However, whereas the Let's Knife version made them sound like shiny, kareoke novelties, the original (which is not exactly poorly recorded) cuts through with greater warmth and immediacy, especially on the chorus harmonies.

Awful isn't it?

Videos courtesy of isabella s and TheUsed1995.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Oliver: The Field Mice - Think Of These Things (8 December 1991)

So picture me, sat in a French lesson at my secondary school, circa October 1991, a few weeks before the John Peel shows that I've taken as the starting point for this blog are going to be broadcast.  I'm probably still running over the possibility of auditioning for Oliver and starting the hobby that will link the two together, 23 years hence.  For reasons I can't recall, I've had a stressful day at school and even though this is the last lesson of the day and a subject I enjoy, my teacher has looked at a piece of work I've done and rejected it out of hand.  Stupidly, I try and argue my case and am slapped down by her, tout suite (is it any wonder I got a grade B in the subject?)  I stalk back to my chair, angry and harrased.  The contretemps (I've still got it, haven't I?) between Miss Roberts and I would have been noticeable to the rest of the class.  I sit down and gaze absently towards the window, reflecting on the injustice of it all.  I can see the tops of the trees at the end of the field and the point where the science block seems to segue into the chain fencing of the tennis courts, when I am taken out of my reverie by a glinting, shining light.  It's C, sat next to the window I'm gazing out of, and she's smiling at me.  A warm, friendly, soul revifying smile which jolts me out of my daydreaming and causes me to smile back and look back down at my work.  I've been caught in that way people are when others help them to snap out of a trance and back into the here and now. I recognise this straightaway, but as I try and apply Miss Roberts's suggestions, a conflicting thought is starting to grow in me.  Why did she smile?   Why was she looking at me like that?  Why didn't she just wave while mocking my gormlessness, which happened to me a few times in the past when other classmates, some of them female, caught me going into shutdown.  I look back over at her, she's working again, breaking off to chat to her friend, Michelle, she of the Living History and Neighbours recreation craze of 1989.  I try to work on too, but I keep looking up and the image of that smile keeps playing in my mind.  And I can feel it starting to ask me more questions - "You liked being the recipient of that smile, didn't you?  You've always gotten on OK with her, haven't you?  Remember in Year 8 when the English teacher, Mrs D'Alton (who will crop up again on my drama journey over the years) decided to restore order by splitting the class up into boy/girl sitting patterns and put you together with her.  There's always been a sort of connection hasn't there?"  Well there hadn't been, but a smile received at just the time I needed it, pitched me into my first fully fledged crush on someone I spent large portions of time around, rather than the TV star/pop star ones of times past.  Indeed I spent most of early 1991 frantically looking in the TV Times for the LA Law listing so I could see whether the delectable Sheila Kelley, in the period before she became a regular cast member, was going to be appearing in that week's episode.  I even wrote her a fan letter which to my amazement she (or her agent/publicist) replied to enclosing a signed photo.

The other object of my desire in 1991 makes her presence felt from 16:11 in.  Video courtesy of Phillip Wilson.

But now I had the real thing, 5 days a week for 6.5 hours a day.  It didn't make any sense to me and I knew that it had been ignited by something pretty flimsy, but nevertheless when I thought about the
possibility of her being my girlfriend, I didn't see it as completely ridiculous.  I was 15 years old and
puberty had been a relatively untroubled experience, this though was causing my emotions to yo-yo
all over the place.  I was sure of two things though:

1) I wanted to enjoy this feeling for a while.
2) I would definitely make an approach to her.

I was not exactly a hit with girls.  Up to this point in my life, I'd only had one girlfriend and that had caused something of a stir at my junior school.  I was 8 and she was 11.  This was 1984, another age. Her name was Victoria and I only knew her because she had been a childhood enemy of my best friend at the time, Kevin, a few years previously.  For some reason she saw something in me that she liked and asked me to be her boyfriend.  I said yes, because it was a nice surprise to be asked and it was something none of my friends and classmates had.  Little did I realise what a can of worms I was opening.  We got no peace whatsoever and were regarded as something "other".  Mainly because we were the only boyfriend/girlfriend combination in the school.  There was nothing wrong with her.  She wasn't overweight, she wasn't ugly and she was in full possession of her mental faculties.  But my friends couldn't get their heads around this.  "What are YOU doing with a GIRL?!"  Funnily
enough, among 8 year olds, having a girlfriend was viewed as the height of effeminacy.  It was for sissies.  Holding hands with her was seen as an abomination, an act that no boy should do.  We got some quiet time amidst the baying, I forget how long we were boyfriend and girlfriend.  We didn't call it going out and we never saw each other outside of school.  I think it was a couple of weeks, but it was probably much shorter.  We kissed round the back of the school a few times, chaste kisses on the cheek and were happy, but eventually the barracking got me down.

It all came to a head one lunch time.  Whether we gave off a special glow that denoted we had reached the kissing stage in our relationship, I don't know, but we spent the whole break pursued by a long snake of boys and girls demanding we kiss each other in front of them.  It would probably go viral on YouTube by the end of the school day, nowadays.  Eventually Victoria hatched a plan that a
couple of girls would cover us with their cardigans and we could have a kiss under that, so no one could see us.
Sat on the stairs to the boiler room with a crowd watching us, we suddenly found ourselves engulfed
in a canopy of cardigans.  Having grabbed a moment's peace, we duly kissed each other on the lips, only to be deafened by a shrill cacophony of cries of "They Kissed!"  The girls had lifted the cardigans and allowed what felt like the whole playground to see us partaking in this twisted and sick act.  Everywhere, I heard laughs, hoots and derision.  I felt humiliated and blamed Victoria who had talked me into the cardigan cover up kiss.  I had been part of something exciting and singular but now I just wanted a quiet life and to stop being the centre of attention.  She had to go.  My mates welcomed me back like a returning hero.  I was no longer doing something they couldn't do, I was back in the fold with them - run of the mill again.  The bastards...  And I cut Victoria dead until she left to go on to secondary school.
Some 5 years later, I danced with her at a party.  We didn't speak about that time, but she was very friendly.  Nothing happened that evening apart from a dance and a nice chat.  Indeed nothing had happened  from that period in 1984-85 up to that French lesson in October 1991.  I kept my head down at junior school, and no one else called me to the bins asking me to be their boyfriend.  Most of secondary school up to that point was spent vaguely fancying somebody in order to prove one's heterosexuality, but without ever doing anything about it or being minded to do so.  It was a different atmosphere at secondary school.  Couples were envied and given their space, rather than harassed.  Furthermore, they were integrated into the male and female groups, rather than ostracised from them.
It looked quite idyllic.

I think I spent two months harbouring my crush on C.  It consumed me totally and I was grateful for being in a show for offering me a distraction, otherwise I would have thought of nothing else.  I lived fairly close to the seafront in Falmouth and spent most of November taking long walks to think about her and relish the way I felt.  That topsy-turvy, upside down feeling that made scents smell
sweeter and colours smell brighter - all that cliche which becomes so gloriously true and which, as I
would discover, is only surpassed by the way one feels when your feelings are returned.  My
daydreams of her were romantic, if unknowable.  If she did say yes to going out with me, what would
we do?  Where would we go?  I had a parental allowance, supplemented by a paper round, but I wasn't rolling in money and was still a year or so off going into pubs and clubs.  Still, I didn't let such practical concerns weigh me down.  Instead, I soaked up the feeling of romantic possibility and set out my plans to make my interest known.

I decided that I would make my approach shortly before Christmas.  Not directly before the holidays in case she was going away, but a week or so before the Christmas break, so that the sting could be taken out of any rejection.  Once I knew that I was going to see Ipswich play Plymouth on Saturday 7 December then the schedule worked itself out:
Friday 6 December - post love letter to her home.
Saturday 7 December - go to football.
Sunday 8 December - meet up to talk.

It was a huge relief to write the letter.  It wasn't an epic but I explained how I felt and invited her to meet at Falmouth Recreation Ground, the gates of which had recently been rebuilt by her dad's firm, so I thought there was a nice connection, so we could talk in person.  I used the "L" word which was probably too much, but when you're that age, if you don't get that out there, you'll burst.
She didn't live too far from me, so I waited till about 9pm before walking to her house and posting the letter at a time when I could be sure that lounge curtains would be drawn and no-one would see me.   A long walk home, reflecting on what I'd done but overall feeling glad that some form of closure was in sight.

I did my best to put it out of my mind at the Plymouth-Ipswich match the next day, though Town did little to lift me out of myself with their insipid performance.  As I said though, I could accept a loss if
it meant I won a greater victory the next day.

Sunday arrived.  A pleasant, sunny December day.  I'd set the meeting for 2pm and wondered up to
the "Recry" in a state between excited anticipation and sheer terror.  I set my chances of success at 30-70.  It was probable that she wouldn't be interested, I was ready for that.  But I felt that the sheer surprise of my interest might at least provoke enough curiosity from her to consider a date.  I took a seat in the main stand and waited.  Just after 2pm, I saw a girl and a boy come in through the rear entrance of the ground.  It wasn't C,  instead it was Michelle with some boy I didn't know.  I felt my hopes sailing off into the distance like a misplaced conversion kick.  Michelle walked towards me with a smile on her face: a look pitched somewhere between "You sly devil, you" and "Oh David...What have you done?"
"Is she not coming?", I asked.
"She can't.  Family do that she couldn't get out of.  She asked me to tell you, she'll talk to you about it at first break tomorrow".  I had uncomfortable flashbacks to myself and Victoria at junior school.  It had also blown out of the water any chance to put myself forward, unhurriedly.  It would all be a rush, unless she came in to tell me that she felt the same.
We talked for a little bit.  I didn't ask about my chances, but wanted to know that I hadn't upset her.  "Surprised her" said Michelle.  Well, that was something at least.  There was little more to add, and so I went home to await my fate.

I don't know if I slept that night, but I wasn't listening to Peel's show, broadcast on December 8, between 11pm and 2am.  There are no words to describe my astonishment when, 23 years later, I heard the recording and reflected on how I spent that day, to hear him play Think of These Things by The Field Mice.  Here in 4 minutes and 17 seconds was a song which reflected on how I had been feeling since that French lesson.  It was all there, envy of those who got to spend time directly around her while I could only watch on and dream:

I'm jealous of
Those who've known you
Longer than I
Longer than I

Memories of you
With you they share
But I do not share
I do not share.

I'm jealous of
Those who see you
More than I do
More than I do

And isn't that the truth?  When you love from a distance, you envy their family and friends beyond all reasoning.

The song does lapse into an unfortunate, possessive vein in its mid section:
You talking to others
Can make me feel jealous
I want you all to myself.

But the killer line and the one which summed everything up to me in terms of my approach and my feelings at that time was:
Please think of these things
As an indication
Of how much you do
Do mean to me.

This may be one of the finest love songs, I have ever heard and if I had gone to the depths of making
a mixtape for C  at that time, this would have been first and last track, I'm sure.  Robert Wratten,  who would later go on to form Trembling Blue Stars was a master of this kind of bruised, delicate love song.  He wrote for those whose first crush simultaneously exhilarated and brutalised them.  He spoke in certainties which were buried under awkwardness, longing and resignation.  A true romantic aware of how difficult romance is to find and nurture.  Peel couldn't have had any idea when he put this playlist together how pertinent this choice would be.  He only put it in because he had read an interview in which one of the Pastels was attacking The Field Mice's record label, Sarah Records, for being, "a somewhat sexless bunch".  In doing so, he's enabled the 39 year old me to hand this back through the years as a gift to the 15 year old me.  Feeling in the dark, in matters I did not then understand, there was this song that was unknowingly serving as my guide.  A guide to everyone during their first bewildering, astonishing, crush.

I was duly put out of my misery on the Monday.  She was very sympathetic and kind, said all the expected stuff: "big surprise", "very flattered", "like you as a friend" but she didn't want a boyfriend at that time.  I took it fine and didn't mope too much.  It took till March for me to get it out of my system.  I think what I missed more than anything was that surge of adreanalin which I carried on the walks around Falmouth seafront.  That sense of new and endless possibilities.  Other girls would help me to realise them, but the thrill of thinking about them was never greater than when it was first made clear to me at the end of  that French lesson.

Robert Wratten strikes again circa 2002.  This will be repeated on the blog one day, if I live long enough to get to 2002's selections.

Videos courtesy of BlissfulYears (Field Mice) and #TremblingBlueStars

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Oliver: Small Factory - Suggestions (8 December 1991)

In the first proper post that I made on this blog, I said that the only physical mixtapes I made up from the Peel show were the 4 that I put together from a number of shows I listened to over the period May-December 2002.  I told you then what the first selection was, but the second was a track called Bonk! Ding! by lo-fi noise rockers, Gerty Farish.  It was taken from a 1997 album called Bulks Up released by Load Records out of Providence, Rhode Island.  And it's exactly that kind of tenuous connection that leads to this particular selection.

Small Factory were a three piece band, also from Providence, Rhode Island and Suggestions was their debut 7" release on Collision Time, a label which only released this and a tune called Smart Ernest by Frank Allison and the Odd Sox.  The sound of both Small Factory and Frank Allison was a long way off from the kind of compressed lo-fi stuff that Load Records put out.

While superficially optimistic, Small Factory offer an undertow of disappointment in life.  It's prevalent in titles to songs of theirs like Junky on a Good Day, Pretending It's Sunny and their first album's title, I Do Not Love You.  Even Suggestions, despite it's good intentions about having more fun in one's life, espouses that escape and new surroundings are an essential before life and its routines has you in the ground.  Given the growing musical trends of the time, one might almost call it folk-grunge.

Video courtesy of Let's Play a Record

Friday, 8 May 2015

Oliver: Joy Division - Transmission (8 December 1991)

This iconic track should have been sharing space on this post with a track called Noise by Italian band, Transmisia.  After playing the cut from the Pisa based outfit's album, Mincing Machine,  Peel pondered whether Transmisia was Italian for Transmission....and promptly started to play it at the wrong speed.  "That would have been fantastically clever", he lamented. A quick look on Google Translate reveals that Transmisia doesn't translate into anything.  Furthermore, while plenty of the band's work is on YouTube, Noise is not available for sharing.

So Joy Division have the field to themselves, as they so often do when talking about post-punk bands.    If you haven't heard this before, and I'm ashamed to admit that I wouldn't have picked it out of an identity parade before this week, it's from the poppier end of Joy Division's work, if you can picture such a thing.  A listen to a Joy Division best of earlier today showed Dead Souls as a contender for most poppy Joy Division song, wrapping as it does a real sense of swagger around the ongoing themes of isolation and mis-communication.  Transmission has many of the facets you associate with them:  Peter Hook's abdominal bassline, Stephen Morris's ring pull compressed drums, Bernard Sumner's serrated guitar line and of course, the incomparable Ian Curtis drawling his way with real angst through the nuclear wasteland of interpersonal relationships, but whereas I find a lot of Joy Division songs to be strangely serene experiences, this one feels shot through with life and energy.  "Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance! To the radio" or to anything.  The cover of night lovers, "Touching from a distance", trying to find their way in the dark and looking for the sun, like Robert Duvall in THX-1138.  All this and a ritardando finish too.

Video courtesy of entropyness.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Oliver: Itch - The Club (8 December 1991)

This piece of turbo charged rockabilly from Vancouver band, Itch, made the cut due to it being part of the fascinating sub genre of songs that touch on the awfulness of nights out.

Being 39 years old, I have inevitably succumbed to the feeling that if I'm going to stay up late, drinking, I might as well do it in the comfort of my own home.  But between the ages of 17 and 30, I went clubbing quite regularly with mates, girlfriends and, occasionally, on my own. I had lots of good nights doing this but a fair number of them were spent dying inside, while looking yearningly at the cattle market and waiting for something good to come on the dancefloor.
Falmouth was not blessed with cutting edge clubs.  The live music venue, The Pirate, had a good mix of DJs on through the week, but the other clubs: Shades, Club International and Paradox were mainly good time venues; heavy on the greatest hits or tried and tested favourites.  Every night was Saturday night at these places though Paradox tried to vary it up through the week and had a DJ playing in the downstairs bar as well as in the main club, which was a huge innovation for Falmouth clubbing.  Further afield there was the Twilight Zone in Redruth which was roomier than most of the Falmouth clubs and had a less sticky floor, but the best for my money was The Berkley Centre in Camborne which had two separate dancefloors and the best range of music of any club I visited in Cornwall.  I also got off with a stranger there and betrayed my naievety when she asked me where I was staying that night by guilessly replying, "Oh, my mate's putting me up".  Perhaps it was for the best.  By the end of the night, she was picking a fight with a visiting group of Ghanaians.  Because it was in Camborne, I never went to the Berkley Centre again.  If I had the talent, I could have committed the surrealness of the night's events to music, but plenty of artists have done so.  If pop music's three core themes are love, sex and dancing, then cruddy nights in clubs is certainly on the fringes of pop themes inner circle.
The video is courtesy of bowlthai and includes both tracks on Itch's debut release: 88 Bones.  According to Peel, it was pressed onto vinyl which looked as though someone had picked their nose and made it bleed before blowing it.  Peel was still alive when Itch's  websitewas last updated.

Apparently clubbing could be shit even during the Summer of Love.

Mike Skinner built his entire career on the disappointments of the club scene.

Videos courtesy of bowlthai (Itch), TrigunNeonDeath (Pink Floyd) and Zenn (The Streets).