Monday, 28 March 2016

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 - Saturday 18 January 1992

Selections from a first Saturday show of 1992, these came from an 85 minute recording.  From this point on, I've made a better job of noting down other incidents of trivia from his programmes but my notes for this show are strictly "Just the records, Mam", but future weeks will involve Princess Margaret, awful football strips, Jacob's Mouse album titles and the war in Bosnia, so stay tuned!

Of the selections I made, only 2 couldn't be shared - both overseas recordings:

Softhard - Love in the Dark Actuation (Hong Kong based group who heavily sampled Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed in this track).
Zimbabwe Cha Cha Kings - Ambewe (becoming really hard to track down many of my recent African music choices).

Full tracklisting from the night

Oliver: I.C.P - Free & Equal [Leftfield Remix] (18 January 1992)

I'm not sure if this wonderful piece of house music had anything to do with Insane Clown Posse but getting the soon to be massively influential Leftfield in to remix it was a shrewd move.  And Leftfield themselves clearly enjoyed it as well.

It briefly stood a chance of missing out as I thought the bit that sounded like sampled water burbling might be too irritating to endure, but its manifold other charms and its contrast to Smashing Pumpkins sealed its inclusion.

Video courtesy of davemc978.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Oliver: Smashing Pumpkins - Smiley [Peel Session] (18 January 1992)

Smashing Pumpkins (they weren't using the definite article at the time Peel was playing them) always reminded me of that line attributed to Peter Cook about David Frost's progression to a position as one of the major power brokers in television, both in front of and behind the camera.  That is to say they "rose without trace".  As best as I can remember, and I am an unreliable narrator so please feel free to add opinions and corrections as you see fit, there was no one track or moment which led to Smashing Pumpkins becoming as popular as they were.  They were just there - selling records and vaguely thought of as major players without anyone holding up a definitive record to say, "This is what people are responding to".  I mean 1979 was a good tune, my mate Teudor bought that, and it led on to an album that I remember dominating the front window of many record shops. Perhaps they were like the Moody Blues or Pink Floyd, an albums band that found its way into millions of record collections to the bewilderment of those who couldn't see what the fuss was about.

Peel didn't play much of Smashing Pumpkins' music after about 1993, so it's doubtful that I will have an opportunity through this blog to find out in greater depth, unless I choose to.  I have to say that listening to the band's debut album, Gish, which they were promoting at the time they recorded their Peel Session in September 1991, didn't provide me with great impetus to explore what I've been missing.  On the evidence of that record, I prefer the Pumpkins when they're trying to find their inner Red Hot Chili Pepper on tracks like Tristessa rather than when they are being themselves on tracks like Window Paine.  And including a track called Snail on their record was just asking for a kicking.

However, although I'm sharing the only track I heard from the session which Peel repeated on 18/1/92, if I had heard the whole thing on the recordings I based my selections on, then I would definitely be writing about how good the whole session was featuring a blistering version of album track Siva and a cover of A Girl Named Sandoz by The Animals which improved on the original.  Ironically the track I have included here is one of those which are inherently Smashing Pumpkins, but which I've just told you I don't like.  Smiley was written for the Gish album but wasn't included, but doesn't outstay it's welcome at 3:31, unlike some of the near 6 minute noodles on Gish.  Credit where it's due, this is lovely.

Video courtesy of Wasp Kap.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Oliver: Billy Bragg - Between the Wars [Peel Session] (18 January 1992)

I kept this selection back, mainly because I wanted to tortuously link it to the notion of a week being a long time in politics.  I'm writing this at 2pm on Good Friday.  A week ago, at this time, Facebook feeds everywhere were being clogged up with Memes of Tory MPs who had claimed thousands of pounds of expenses or who wanted to award themselves pay-rises, but who had also voted to reduce levels of ESA payments to disabled people found unfit to work.  All this on top of a Budget which would fund tax cuts by making 4.4 billion pounds worth of savings to Personal Independent Payments to the disabled.  The mood in the country and in the media was as dark and rage-filled as I have ever known it. Just where would this end?  Worst of all was the feeling of utter hopelessness that it engendered. Tory MPs (with a few exceptions) trooped into the lobbies to vote these cruel policies through.  Large numbers of opposition MPs sat on their hands and did nothing to oppose it.  The Lords had been outfoxed when trying to quash the ESA cuts by the lower house making the cuts a financial matter and taking out of the Lords' jurisdiction - no way were the Government going to be humiliated by the unelected house again after working tax credits debacle.  It needed a miracle or an attack of conscience by someone in power to give any hope that this cuntitude could be tripped up...and then the trip came, and from the most unlikely source.  Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, the man who had piloted and nurtured many of the confidential reforms to welfare over the last 6 years resigned in protest at the fact that the cuts now were seen as a matter of ideological mania and a concerted attack on the working poor who don't vote Tory.  His resignation letter was damning and it has blown the lid off relationships within the Government, with MPs breaking ranks to denounce the policies and sparking off bitter in-fighting within the Conservative Party, which is always nice to see.  The cuts were subsequently removed from the Budget and a rethink has been promised.  Whether it leads to anything in the long-term remains to be seen, but it's a first tangible sign that the struggle need not be a hopeless one.

I like the idea that IDS chafed at the strategy of the Budget and finally decided to act after somehow hearing Billy Bragg's Between the Wars, one of the keynote tracks of mid-80s politicised songwriting.  It says everything for the collective trauma of recent years that one can look back 30 odd years to the days when the Tories contented themselves with destroying industries and unions as their battle against the "working poor" and find yourself reflecting that things were better then.  Architecture writer, Owen Hatherly, in The Quietus makes some very good points about how Between the Wars is arguably more relevant today than it was in 1985, because a greater number of people now have been directly affected by the themes of the song than was the case back then.

This recording isn't from the Peel Session, which Mark Radcliffe produced in September 1984, but we do get Bragg singing the song live at the Top of the Pops studio in its Club Tropicana-era setting.  Curiously, Peel wasn't presenting that night, so instead we get Steve Wright doing "sincere".

Video courtesy of Doug Tilley.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Oliver: The Jesus and Mary Chain - Reverence (18 January 1992)

When I began this blog, one of my intentions was to buy the records which my selections came from. Be they 7", 10", 12", LP/CD, I would track them down.  Once I had them, I would write about them.  It sounded perfect.  The mixtape would be metaphorical, but the Peel inspired record collection would be real and tangible.  All right, there would be records I would probably never play more than a few times, but then wasn't that to be Peel's lot as well?

18 months into this endeavour my grand total of record purchases stands at a mighty 6, of which only 3 have been reviewed.  The reasons for this are a mixture of money, time-management and laziness, with a side order of bafflement at how I write an album review of non-English music.  I've gained a fresh appreciation for the work of World music reviewers while pondering how to write something about Wenge-Musica Aile Paris beyond simply stating that the guitars sound nice.

In terms of the quantity of music bought, I could and should have pulled my finger out.  I've done plenty of research into the records and dear old Discogs hasn't let me down.  I've also received every record ordered through it swiftly. I simply have to take myself more in hand if I'm to do this.

One way of achieving it may be to go to more record fairs.  Where I live, the first Sunday of every month sees a record fair held at the local civic centre.  I always forget to go but a few months ago, I was walking past the civic centre on the first Sunday in, I think it was October, when I decided to pop in and have a look.  It was late in the day and a number of the stands there were packing up for the day, but others were still trading.  I had a quick whizz around the stalls and couldn't see any massive surprises but the moment I saw 21 Singles, the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin compilation of all the singles released by The Jesus and Mary Chain up to their break-up in 1998 (they subsequently reformed in 2007), I had to buy it.
Just a few days previously, I'd heard Peel play Reverence on the 18/1/92 show and I needed access to it immediately.  Peel stayed with The Jesus and Mary Chain pretty much all the way through their career, stubbornly refusing to fall for the narrative that said they released four amazing singles, a seminal debut album (which I've still not heard), played 15 minute gigs which descended into riots because of their loathing for each other and their audience, before finally fading into irrelevance when they toned down the feedback and concentrated on playing fuller sets by the end of the 80s.
I can certainly see why people may have felt this way about them, given the volatile nature of the relationship between Jim and William Reid, as outlined so superbly by David Cavanagh in My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize and the quality of those extraordinary first 4 or 5 singles.  After buying 21 Singles, I put it on my car stereo for the drive home.  It was a warm October day and I was parked in a cul-de-sac which had a roundabout at the end of it.  I wound down the driver's window and started to drive home.  As the tender feedback apocalypse of Upside Down began to blare out of my speakers, it made a woman who was working on her front garden look up in alarm
and surprise as I swung past her. You have to admire any record which can do that.

The Jesus and Mary Chain never released a dull single.  Amid the chaos of their personal relationship, the Reids had an uncanny knack for knowing what would sound simultaneously a pop masterpiece and awkwardly out of place in the charts.  Screwed over by Mike Smith banning Some 
Candy Talking because of supposed drug references, they finally made the UK Top 10 in 1987 with April Skies, which led to a glorious-worlds in collision appearance on Top of the Pops in front of an audience who had bigger hair than the Reids for different reasons than they did.

Reverence should have seen them back in the Top of the Pops studio, when it hit the Top 10 in 1992, but again the record was hit by a ban, this time for the fear of encouraging suicide thanks to the "I wanna die!" lines.  No wonder the Reids' natural state was misery and malevolence given the fucking idiots they had to deal with all the time.  There's no question that as time went on, The Jesus and Mary Chain's records became more professional and better produced but they still maintained enough surprises, lurches and dips (I particularly like the "I wouldn't sell my soul for the half of it" bit) and sonic excavations - digging down into new sounds which, in this track, take The Jesus and Mary Chain excitingly close to Lalo Schifrin like funk, that I'll take Peel's view on their merits over and above any perceived notion of "one album and then move on".

Video courtesy of Mammoth Ness.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Oliver: Gas Huffer - Hijacked (18 January 1992)

Any band that decides to sound like mini Mono Men is guaranteed a welcome on any mixtape of mine.  Washington band, Gas Huffer's track, Hijacked turned up as the middle dish in a three part serving of short, sharp, punchy guitar tracks that Peel had programmed.  While session guests, Dawson missed out with me on this show, and Whirling Pig Dervish made me think of Kenneth Branagh films, Gas Huffer's short story on the perils of picking up hitch hikers knocked them both into a cocked hat.  I've always been a lover of that driving but pared back guitar sound and when allied to a vocal like Matt Wright's, it makes me envious for a noise I will never be able to make and a croon I will never pull off.  It sounds effortless, a garage gem.

Video courtesy of teajay69.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Oliver: Whirling Pig Dervish - Whip (18 January 1992)

In Kenneth Branagh's wonderful 1995 film, In the Bleak Midwinter, there is an hilarious scene in which the director of a production of Hamlet is auditioning various actors who happen to be out of work with Christmas approaching.  One of the auditionees is a Scottish actor who the director reassures will be fine to perform Shakespeare in a regional accent, until he hears him bellow the "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech from Richard III in a Govan accent so thick, you could tarmac a road with it.

That scene - that accent came back to me when I heard the key part of Whip by Whirling Pig Dervish.  With its off kilter time signatures and duelling punk guitars, you may find your judgement of the track on a knife-edge, but once that strident Scots shout of "Don't call me your father. Cos I'm not your father etc" comes in you can't help but smile and bung it on the mixtape.  Whip appears to be Whirling Pig Dervish doing "accessible".  I was most curious to hear their track named after Neighbours character, Kerry Bishop but it didn't prove persuasive.  The Scots do this kind of frenetic punk shouting better than anyone else in these islands and this track is a prime example of why.

Videos courtesy of Kruno Janes and Tim Burden (Patrick Doyle)

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Oliver: Datblygu - Sdim Eisiau Esgus (18 January 1992)

I'm going to Wales this weekend, so a track from a Welsh language group seems particularly appropriate at this time.

Several Hogmanys ago, I was watching Jools Holland's annual end of year bag of shite - which is at least on that edition enlivened by the possibility of seeing something unexpected - Kylie Minogue singing a piano torch song version of I Should Be So Lucky, discovering Adam Ant has turned into a pirate captain version of Action Man or Sylvester McCoy funking around to Aloe Blacc like it was still 1973 - Kate Nash was on singing Pumpkin Soup or as I remembered it before doing the research, I Just Want Your Kiss, Boy.  I hated it, I thought it was so lame and empty, and I found myself wondering how on earth she could sit there and sing something so manifestly second rate.  And then it struck me.  She may realise that she's singing an annoying piece of filler, but regardless of whether the song could be better or not, it was on my television and in people's record collections because she was singing it with CONVICTION.  Art, in any field, which the creator shows they think is crap is doomed.  Art, in any field, which the creator puts forward with belief or the strong appearance of belief has a fighting chance.  I told myself I would hold to this if I had doubts when re-starting work on writing my play.  I'm still holding to it even though I've done no work on it even since then.

The CONVICTION feeling is important when reviewing Welsh rap.  It's a hard sell, because the flow at the start very rarely draws the listener in, sounding awkward and off-key.  Rather like trying to quote Hamlet in Mauritian.  There are also to my ears, two male Welsh rap voices:
1) Paul Gascoigne on helium - which is the case here.
2) Bernard Bresslaw on mogadon - see Y Diwigiad

But regardless of who they are or what they are singing, they go for it and what usually happens, as it did on so many Peel shows, is that you find yourself going with it, until yourself and the band are in sync and suddenly Welsh language rap makes perfect sense.
Datblygu (pronounced as Dat-bluggy) and which translates as develop or developing were celebrating their 10th anniversary in 1992 and Peel had been playing them since 1987 at least.  They were as prominent on the Welsh cassette scene as Wckr Spgt were in the US, fusing together the lyrics of David R. Edwards over a predominantly electro background.  This track finds them moving more explicitly in a dance direction and given that the only two words obvious to non-Welsh speakers are "Solpadine" and "Paracetemol" it could be thought that the track is offering advice to clubbers over how to avoid hangovers.  Given that the title of the track translates as There's No Excuse Wanted, this isn't wholly far-fetched.
Musically it's a little dated, the sound of a million early 90s corporate training videos, but it's that rap which clinches its place on the mixtape.

Datblygu's website is worth a look if you speak Welsh.  I liked the English? page which tells anyone who doesn't read Welsh to use Google Translate.

Just to prove I don't have a total downer on Kate Nash:

Videos courtesy of Peter Davies (Datblygu) and KateNashVEVO.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Oliver: The Neptunes - Take Me Girl (18 January 1992)

Such was Peel's admiration for Culture and Joseph Hill that a track from Hill's pre-Culture outfit, The Neptunes was guaranteed a play when it turned up on the intriguing sounding compilation album Soul Defenders at Studio One which not only gathered together tracks recorded by Studio One's house band, but also individual tracks recorded by the members with other bands and solo cuts.

Take Me Girl is a long way from Two Sevens Clash, but it features some of the religious overtones found in Culture's work.  Whether you want to read it as a call to embrace religion or to embrace the love of a good woman, it's nothing less than utterly charming and delightful.

Video courtesy of italrel.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Oliver: The KLF - America: What Time is Love? (18 January 1992)

Trying to decipher the full history and motivation behind KLF releases can be a fool's errand, but the short story is that this was the third and final version of What Time is Love? to be released by them over a period of three and a half years.
If the 1988 acid house original was the starter and the 1990 rap and samples infused live version was the fish course then the Gulf War inspired, America: What Time is Love? saw them attempt to serve up the main course, dessert, after dinner mints, cheese board, coffee and liqueurs all in one go.

You can hear elements of the previous versions in this take: there's the woo-we synth sounds, a complete new rap from Isacc Bello, the "I Wanna See You Sweat" vocal etc, but these aspects from the past are battling for their lives in a classical-rock smorgasbord.  From the monolithic Last Post style opening, via the sampled riff from Motorhead's Ace of Spades to doomy choral refrains of "America", the lead singer of Deep Purple imploring us to live the American Way, pretentious soliloquies about how Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty found the continent 500 years ahead of Christopher Columbus and finally, an extensive US travelogue; it's overblown, demented, extravagant and wonderfully exciting (at least on the first couple of listens).  The sound of an entire kitchen, not just the sink, being thrown at the listener.  Peel could barely keep the chuckle out of his voice after playing it, "I don't give you a moment's peace, do I?"
Someone, somewhere has to be playing this every night on U.S. radio stations during the U.S. Election campaign.  Please God, say that it is so.  The title seems a more urgent question than ever in 2016.

Interestingly, this whole fill the stage with fireworks dance-rock-symphonic approach got me thinking of The Nice's cover of America from West Side Story.  Recorded at the last juncture in history that America found itself punching itself in the face so publicly, both the band and track were big favourites of Peel, who may well have introduced them on the show which gave us the legendary clip from How It Is.

Videos courtesy of  phattphucks (KLF) and Hanuvanarun (The Nice).