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.