Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Oliver: The Fall - Sing! Harpy (9 February 1992)

So there I am, doing the ironing, one Sunday earlier this year, and Peel's playing a track by dance act, Verona, which is so forgettable, he doesn't even announce it back.  The only distinguishing feature is the way it blends some screeching, deliberately untuned violins and strings, which seem out of place but are an almost perfect match to the pitch and tempo of the rest of the track. And then after 30 seconds of squalling, we get the keyboard, guitar and cymbal crashes that herald the unmistakeable bass brawn rumble of The Fall, who come up here with a track which tonally feels like an update on Sympathy for the Devil but with the twist that it's Smith who ends up being used and thrown aside by the travelling succubus.  There are allusions to Alice in Wonderland, "She grew taller every day", but ultimately this is a kiss off to his ex wife, Brix Smith Start, and its position as the lead-off track on 1990's Extricate album is clearly Smith's attempt to deal with the matter as speedily as possible.  Touching on her sexual prowess and her liking for cannabis, amongst other things, the song says plenty about Brix that she would later confirm herself.  Lyrically, it shows Mark E's thinking in an extraordinarily personal and clear way.  Allied to the returning (though he would be long gone by the time Peel played this on 9/2/92) Martin Bramah's splendidly circular melody, it's my favourite Fall song so far.

Video courtesy of Uploads.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 - (Saturday 8 February 1992)

The selections from this show came from one 45 minute file.  From this point on, I've made more of an effort in jotting down things of interest from the shows, which weren't connected to the records I've selected, so I hope that this will be the last dull post about the Peel shows that I inflict on you.

From my original selections, one fell from favour, but in light of the EU referendum and how I feel about the result, I will include it here:

Video courtesy of themathematicalbrain.

Full tracklisting.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Oliver: Therapy? - Fantasy Bag (8 February 1992)

If Max Geldray was a dominant musical force for me in 1992, alongside a raft of 60s bands, then Northern Ireland's Therapy? picked me up by the throat and fired me in to the here and now in 1993.

Screamager, the lead track on their March 1993 Shortsharpshock EP, grabbed my attention and interest in a way that no track had done for years when I first saw them perform it on Top of the Pops, as a bonafide Top 10 hit.  "Screw that.  Forget about that" was the call I had been waiting for, and it meant I took my first tentative steps at looking seriously at the music of my age, rather than looking back to the time before I was born.  I really must get back to doing that again....
My interest was tentative, especially in Therapy? who had the good grace to release records at an amazingly regular rate through that year, most of which I was too slow to buy, although I did pull myself together to buy Opal Mantra on cassette, I didn't get a CD player until 1997, and this possibly accounts for why I have cherished the mixtape into the 21st Century.  For all my inconsistency in collecting their discography, I declared Therapy? as one of my favourite bands.  They stood out next to the other two who I would confess an affection for at that time: Saint Etienne and Wet Wet Wet.  Yes, I know, but Cold Cold Heart (still) fucking slew me when I heard it and their Best Of, released that year (and this was pre-Love Is All Around) contained a treasure trove of pop-soul that was slick but completely lacking in any sense of calculation or contrivance, at least to my, then uncynical ears.
However, out of the three, Therapy? were who I'd have wanted to be.  They were one of the "personal" favourites "Personal" favourites are those bands that you would be if you had the ability to do what they've done.  I must confess to you that they aren't anymore.  Not like MarionThe MoveManfred Mann or The House of Love. still are with me, but they were the first band to drag me into the here and now musically, at the age (17) when my ears needed opening.  Typically, I was discovering them at the time that Peel was waving them goodbye, after 3 years of support, as they embarked on their major label sojourn, and yes, I did let myself down that summer when talking to people far more musically clued up than I was about Therapy? and they showing and playing me albums by them  that were up to 2 or 3 years old by mid '93.

Fantasy Bag comes from that period - a standout track on their mini-album for Southern Records called Pleasure Death.  A straight out serial killer POV track from the samples of people describing their crimes over the top of a bass line that sounds like the darkest stirrings of the engorged passions that could drive someone to kill, and that long drawn out whine of feedback, before launching headfirst into the two foundations of Therapy?'s sound: that star squealing guitar.  First heard around the 1:03 mark and so-called because it sounds like a player trying to scrunch together as many
celestial bodies as possible.  It's on many of Therapy?'s best early tracks and has only faded from
memory, because so many inferior nu-metal and nu-punk bands appropriated it at the start of the millennium. The other facet is Andy Cairns's voice, which could turn on a dime from scuzzy blues man to panicked and shattered tenor. At times, Cairns even looked like a backwoods serial killer, but he sang like a man constantly trying to reconcile why he had a bloodied meat cleaver in his hands.  That sense of terrible deeds having been committed and not understanding or knowing why.  "I can't wait to get away" indeed.

Video courtesy of Therapy Question Mark.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Oliver: Curve - Fait Accompli (8 February 1992)

February 1992 was Curve month on the John Peel Show.  The imminent release of their debut album, Doppelganger, saw them pick up a number of plays on Peel's show through the month as well as a Peel Session on 29 February.  I've got several tracks slated for inclusion on this blog, but it may end up being a close run thing.  This sounded to me, when I first heard it again after initially making my lists, like Curve by numbers, and in a future post we will see Peel pick up on an issue with a lot of Curve's music at the time.  I also didn't know how I felt about the fact that Curve were, on the sound of this track, responsible for giving the world Garbage.
But, what won me over to Fait Accompli eventually was the use of what sound like processed harmonicas from around 1:15.  I have to confess a nostalgic association here, rather than an outright love of the effect itself.  I was in near total ignorance of all the stuff Peel was playing in 1992, instead I was listening to either 60s music or more often than not, The Goon Show.
I had first discovered Spike Milligan's crazy world of radio humour in 1989 when I bought and enjoyed hugely a book of Goon Show scripts as holiday reading in France. I was curious to see that the shows always had two musical interludes: singer Ray Ellington and his quartet and harmonica player, Max Geldray.  When I finally got to hear the Goon Show in 1992, I loved it.  The inspired lunacy of Milligan's imagination supplemented by the astonishing performances of Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers, meant that the show transcended what I thought of as Home Service/Light Programme shows...apart from those self same musical interludes which tied the surreal but hilarious narrative of the programme to the variety type set-up that had been so common for decades.  Despite this juxtaposition, I came to enjoy the musical interludes.  Whenever I bought a new Goon Show tape, part of the fun would be wondering how they would be cued up the Goons.  Max Geldray's harmonica performances interested me especially because, being musically illiterate, I figured that the harmonica might just be an instrument I could play.  I duly bought a B-flat blues harmonica that summer, which still sits in my bedside drawers, and which I tried to use in a pre-curtain sequence for the next play I performed in, The Comedy of Errors.  By the end of the year, my musical interests were specifying themselves in the 1960s and Manfred Mann were becoming big favourites of mine, as much as anything because of their prominent use of harmonica.  I had all the inspiration I needed but I never put aside the time needed for it.  To paraphrase Desmond Lynam - playing the harmonica is easy.  I know, I've done it.  Playing the harmonica well is difficult. I know, I haven't done it.  Even four years later, when I fell in love with the only Britpop band who used the instrument as a prominent part of their sound, I never mastered it.  I can however, still play the first couple of notes for One, Two, Buckle My Shoe...but not half as well as Max.  "Thin ploogie!"

Videos courtesy of Felice Scalia (Curve) and Bruce Kennewell (Geldray)

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Oliver: Jacob's Mouse - Caphony (8 February 1992)

It's back to the most famous chip shop in Bury St Edmunds for a track that opens up like The Walk, The Shuffle, The Crab or any other of those guitar instrumentals that invite dancers to barrel up to the floor like demented earwigs given over to dances which provoke constant movement rather than aesthetic form.  The poorly mixed vocals keep the intentions of this track unknown, though an anti-fascist lyric peaks through alongside the prominent "Snow white, blood red" chorus.

The rest of this post I'm going to leave to Jacob's Mouse themselves.  After all they are the official representatives of all of the J releases in Peel's record collection.

Videos courtesy of Michael McDonell and John Peel Archive.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Oliver: Chumbawamba - Revolution/I Never Gave Up (8 February 1992)

Revolution is also known as The R'n'R Factory Strike.

At the time of Peel's show on 8/2/92, Falmouth School's production of Oliver was still 2 months away from its production week.  It would take me another 5 years and another 4 musicals before I would conclude that they took up too much time and stopped doing them.  So lengthy were the rehearsal schedules for the musicals that I did, that I often had time to fit another show in before they got to stage.  In the last 19 years, I've only done one musical, Little Shop of Horrors, in 2007, withSt Austell Players.  That at least had the decency to take a summer break rather than flog us all the way from late March to early October.  Nevertheless, I was still loving every minute of Oliver and found the rehearsal process fascinating.  Another layer of interest was added from about this time onwards when Jane Stevenson's husband, Mike, who I knew as a bloke who ran a carpet store on Killegrew Street, started overseeing rehearsals away from the main hall in another part of Falmouth School's Lower School site.  While Jane looked after the big set pieces, Mike worked on the acting between the songs, and it was here where I first learned about putting some depth into the character of Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker.  We're still talking school play level here and an hour and a half crammed
in after a school day, but it was all very useful and gave me plenty to consider.  It also had an effect on what drama was going to mean to me as a past-time, because Mike and Jane would clearly see enough in what I was doing to invite me to take part in a Shakespeare production that they were directing for A-Level and GCSE drama students; myself and a few others being brought in to make up the numbers, which was staged in July 1992 at Pendennis Castle.  This was crucial to me because it meant, I had something to follow up my enjoyment of Oliver with and it was in something hugely different.  But we're getting ahead of ourselves, it's going to take ages to get to The Comedy of Errors, and there's plenty of Oliver-era Peel selections to go yet.

I decided now was as good a time as any to recap on my acting adventures after hearing Chumbawamba's stabs at amateur radio acting in Revolution, as we'll call it here because Peel did, but I think the other title is better.  Maybe because a general election was in the offing, Peel gave us a double bill of Burnley's contribution to anarchism, bringing together a track from their first vinyl release in 1985, though they had released some cassette recordings just after forming in 1982, followed by their latest 12-inch release.

 I always regarded Chumbawamba as a band that were hard to love, but difficult to ignore.  That
seems to have been the band's intention , I reckon.  Revolution is a mini-opera in four and a half
minutes complete with pamphleteers, rapacious bosses, down-trodden masses and explosive revolutionaries.  Anarchy is a word which gets banded about as freely as genius now, but there is an
edge to this track which makes it feel like the genuine article.  The lines about struggle and defeat/revolution and capitulation brought about either by being beaten down or bowing to concessions would have felt very raw in '85.  With the trade unions reeling from the double whammy of losing the miners' strike and Rupert Murdoch uprooting operations from Fleet Street to Wapping - all brought about or supported by the Conservative Government, the police and other sections of the media, the closing Day in the Lifeesque ending casts Chumbawamba as revolutionaries, desperately trying to suck bath water back out of the plug hole as the opportunities to improve the lot of the
working man gets sucked away, but as they make clear, they can't do it alone and need us all to fight. It's a song from the end of days in some respects, they know the jig is up, but they have to hope.  It's a track whose time has come again in recent years, and just as then, there are forces lined up against the revolution and redistribution, that's so desperately needed.  Can you tell I've been reading a lot of
Owen Jones?

In such a context, it's difficult to regard I Never Gave Up as anything other than a letting down of their guard.  From it's opening drum shuffle through to its strident guitar pattern, this is a song of celebration and joy.  It is nothing less than the sound of a movement that believed the keys to power were about to be returned to it, and why wouldn't they have believed it?  The witch was dead and in her place was a man who didn't strike as someone who could inspire the masses at large.  There would be long memories about the Poll Tax, a developing recession and grumbles about Europe starting to make themselves heard.  Surely this was the left's moment - all those who had came through the battles of the 1980s, mocked, derided, disenfranchised by the Iron Lady, surely the Grey Man would be no barrier....they were coming back to take the keys of the castle.  It's a song that really believes in something, which could be passed from one person to another.  Survivors of the ideological war of the 1980s congratulating themselves and each other on coming through it.   But alas, it was as premature as Neil Kinnock in front of the masses at Sheffield on April Fools' Day, 92.
I can't believe Chumbawamba repeated such folly themselves, and those reading this who are better acquainted with their discography than me are most welcome to correct me.  My conviction about that stems from the belief that they had turned on Tony Blair, as every right thinking individual should do, before he had unpacked his suitcases at Number 10.

Videos courtesy of ikillChildren01 & fred166

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Oliver: John Peel's NachtExpress - O3 [Austria] - Monday 3 February 1992

The first overseas broadcast for 1992 on this blog.  All the stuff that I wanted to write about and include happened in the first half before leading on to tracks that I either didn't care for or which have already surfaced here.

There were 2 tracks I wanted to include but can't:

Love Battery - Foot - This was a storming rock track which I had question marks over when I first heard it but which won me over when I listened to it on headphones the other day.  Annoyingly, the track, pressed up on "succulent green vinyl" according to Peel,  appears to have been taken down in the last 48 hours, although a video of Dayglo, the album from which it was taken can be heard, and Foot crops up pretty early.

Silverfish - Jenny - No record of this track from their Silverfish with Scrambled Eggs EP, but it was an atmospheric thrash that sounded to me like a dragon praying mantis trying to eat its partner, so typical Silverfish then. Peel thought Jenny was the best track on the record and was particularly taken with the line, "I'm so pretty when I'm angry".

The changing nature of the European landscape also came up when he played a track by Belgrade-band, Disciplina Kicme and found himself on the horns of a dilemma about whether Belgrade was now in Yugoslavia or Serbia.  This issue would raise its head more heart-rendingly, on his Radio 1 show, by the next weekend.

Tracklisting or you can climb aboard the NachtExpress yourself.

Oliver: Kicks Like A Mule - The Bouncer (3 February 1992)

"NachtExpress with John Peel, your gaucho of pop....If you've ever visited London and you haven't just stayed in your hotel room, grazing at the mini-bar, then these words will be agonisingly familiar to you."

"Your name's not down, you're not coming in."

Even in my little corner of Cornwall, where in 1992 (as in 2016), I knew as much about contemporary mores in club culture as I did about particle physics, this track permeated the consciousness.  Or maybe it was that eight word phrase which conferred on clubs their mythic "The place to be" status and bouncers as the new gatekeepers to the utopia which its acolytes told us could be found in dance culture.

The Bouncer marks an important milestone in dance culture with its sentiments of exclusivity to the scene running in direct contrast to the all gates open nature of dance music that was promised when the scene first hit in the mid to late 80s.  This entrance into public consciousness came the way all of these things did - through good old fashioned scaremongering.  Acid house was written about in ways which made punk  and psychedelia seem quaint by comparison.  This music and its attendant drugs was going to make kids...wait for it...blissed out and peaceful.  We couldn't have that in a Thatcherite society.  Inevitably, public panic of yesterday becomes the business opportunity of tomorrow and by the early 90s, as dance music began to dominate the charts and airwaves, record labels and entrepreneurs started to open superclubs across the country to "respectably" cater for those who had been going to warehouses and fields.  These venues such as The Ministry of Sound, Gatekeeper, Godskitchen and many others became places to see and be seen.  Whereas at the start of the scene, it was a case of if you knew where it was, you were in; other places depended more on who you were to get in, which, through its three movements, The Bouncer seems to evoke.

Put together with the precision of a watchmaker, there's the euphoric keyboards, blasts of horn and whistle suggesting the wonderful time that's waiting just the other side of the doorway if we can only get past the implacable figure on the door.  This was a world away from John Godber.

Video courtesy of Old Skooler.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Oliver: Swervedriver - Jesus (3 February 1992)

Back in the day when I was getting to grips with David Bowie's BBC sessions, my cultural attaché, David Stent, brought me a vinyl compilation album by The Velvet Underground, a band I knew of but didn't know.  Of all the records that David turned me on to, I think this one may have been the best.  I mixtaped it, just as I did with Bowie at the Beeb, leaning heavily towards The Velvet Underground and Nico album tracks, which dominated the compilation.  Brian Eno famously said that not many people bought The Velvet Underground and Nico, but that everyone who did, went on to form a band.  I can believe him.  For here was the group who showed up un-announced and initially un-noticed at the start of 1967 and who showed a pop scene that was moving towards some kind of peak-era state of ecstasy, just where it could go to when the comedown started.  They were a year too early with their street and drugs stories, but what a band!  The excitement, if you were one of those who had chanced upon this group which could turn its hand to deceptively catchy pop songs about prostitution and  drug purchasing one minute, before laying on dark, intense but gloriously wonderful songs about drug taking and sado-masochism, serving up the most compelling song of the 1960s in the process, must have been as euphoric as the drugs they sang about.  Peel loved them and played them on Radio London both on The Perfumed Garden and on his afternoon show. And in the years that followed he played scores of bands who would cite The Velvet Underground as an influence, either unconsciously or blatantly.

At the start of the 1990s, the reverence in which the Velvs were held spilled over into a series of tribute albums called Heaven and Hell.  There were three volumes released over three years, starring a number of bands and artists featured on this blog including Nirvana, The Fatima Mansions and The Telescopes.  In cueing up this track for NachtExpress listeners, Peel summarised the albums as ones where "3 tracks will be great and the rest, awful."  Oxford's finest, Swervedriver, got the nod from Peel and from me with their version of Jesus, originally a low-key duet between Lou Reed and Doug Yule on the band's eponymous 1969 album.  While the V.U track casts the song as a a moment of truth between an individual struggling to make sense of their place in the world and worried about their lack of peace within themselves, Swervedriver drag this out of the confession box and apply the sentiments to the whole congregation.  The private conversation between man and spirit becomes a full blown prayer meeting.  It's an apt metaphor.  At it's most epic, shoegaze music, like rave music, sounded like it wanted to soar through the earthly membrane into the heavens above.   Check the number of times the word, "ethereal" gets bandied about when talking about the shoegaze sound.  Despite the pyrotechnics, which are impressive, Swervedriver can't quite supersede the original because Adam Franklin can't match Reed and Yule's cracked and wearied vocals, but it does a good
job of trying to take the listener to that point where, to quote Anthony Burgess, God becomes
manifest.  It even manages it's own Lucifer like fall back to earth In the last 40 seconds or so.

Has that Leonard Cohen-like ability to sound like they have the ear of the unknowable force that they're talking to.

Videos courtesy of rareshoegaze (Swervedriver) and pardalalucinado (Velvet Underground)

Monday, 6 June 2016

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 - (Sunday 2 February 1992)

All the selections from this show were taken from a recording of the first 75 minutes.

I have to ask the question of whether there's much love for Mega City Four out there, because their track, Stop, was in contention for a place when I first heard it, but I went cool on it when listening to it again for re-acquaintance.  My reason for this is rather spurious but I find that higher, lighter voices aren't doing it for me just now.  No doubt, something will come along in the next couple of programmes, which will make that last sentence look ridiculous but for the moment the 2000AD - Eric Sykes loving band are out in the cold.

The recording I heard also featured a first hearing for Lush, who have triumphantly returned this year after a 20 year gap.

In the remainder of the show was a track which may or may not be the next selection on this blog.

Have fun guessing.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Oliver: Nirvana - Molly's Lips [Live] (2 February 1992)

"I finished last night's programme, at 2 o'clock, with a rather obscure track by Nirvana and here's another one."

Nirvana's cover of The Vaselines's song, Molly's Lips, got Peel's 2/2/92 show off to a suitably turbo-charged start and it's that out-of-the-blocks feel that sees it included here.  It's all about the energy and it has to be because they miss out a lyrical couplet from the original, namely:

She said she'd take me anywhere
As long as I'm good and clean.
(Lyrics written by Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee)

which would have been right up Cobain's street one would think.  Nirvana covered this and another Vaselines track, Son of a Gun, as part of their second Peel Session in 1990.

Although the song suggests a number of potential interpretations including abduction and stalking, it was actually written about a Scottish actress called Molly Weir, who played Hazel McWitch in Rentaghost. Weir was the embodiment of motherly Scottish charm, and she inspired at least one other tribute song.  I'd like to have seen Nirvana have a try at covering that.  The fact that Nirvana were singing about Molly Weir also introduces a neat variation on the Six Degrees of Separation game:

Jim Carrey>Courtney Love>Kurt Cobain>Eugene Kelly>Molly Weir>Michael Staniforth (Timothy Claypole in Rentaghost).

Peel wasn't to know it but with this being the third non-Nevermind track he had played in his last three shows after Sliver on 25/1/92 and Beeswax on 1/2/92, he was inadvertently A & Ring Nirvana's decision to take control of the myriad bootlegs and compilations of their off-cuts, rarities and pre-Dave Grohl recordings that were popping up in Nevermind's wake, by gathering together the best of them and putting them out on an official release called Incesticide.

The Vaselines' original puts me in find of the fascinating irritatingness of The Lovely Eggs.

Videos courtesy of Marty Tly (Nirvana) & Wonder Muddle (The Vaselines).

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Oliver: Zero B - Module (2 February 1992)

Peel dedicated this track to his friend, Thin John - Peel presumably being Fat John - because he always used to refer to his car as a module.

This is one of those electro dance records which manages to fuse together elements which are utterly timeless and horribly dated.  On the dated side, the main synth voice, at times, sounds like the grating voice treatment which used to turn up on late 1970s episodes of Doctor Who when the money had run out.  There's also a farting trumpet synth voice that makes the track sound more Benidorm than Ibiza.  But set against that is a kicking drum pattern for the ages and that main synth hook sounds great when it's untreated and allowed to chop down on the listener like a heavenly cluster of thunderclaps.

I have everything crossed that the best track from the Module EP turns up on Peel's show soon, so that I can write about it.

Video courtesy of Hannes Kaechele.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Oliver: Subsonic 2 - Dedicated to the City [Peel Session] (2 February 1992)

This blog is read by powerful and influential people within the John Peel community.  These are people who can read a request for a missing track by Manifesto, and provide the means for others to hear it.  I am indebted to them for their generosity and kindness, and should they be looking in here, I throw myself at their feet and beg them to make it possible for intersted parties to enjoy the wide variety of UK hip-hop that was recording Peel sessions in early 1992.  Krispy 3, WBI Red Ninja, The Ragga Twins and this act, Subsonic 2, all turned in notable sessions for Peel in late '91/early '92, but unless you hear the original shows or the day comes when these artists put out the sessions retrospectively, all there is to go on is my word and the studio recordings to give a flavour of what led to their invitations into Maida Vale.

I only heard 2 of the tracks from Subsonic 2's session, which was a repeat of one originally broadcast on 9/11/91.  One of them, Tower of Babel, grabbed me on first hearing, but I would not have kept it on a mixtape after listening to it fall apart as it goes from biblical parody to half-arsed anti-censorship rant.  But Dedicated to the City was a hit all the way.  An unapologetic paean of love to the city, well Northern cities to be more exact, you can tell that MC Robin Morley and DJ Docta D have been stung by London taxi prices before - it categorically rejects the notion that the countryside is in anyway superior, or that upon retirement, all Englishmen want to "move down to Surrey and sit by the fire".  The track is full of such laugh out loud moments like that, especially when Morley compares the merits of a tree and a lampost.

The session version differed from the album version offered here by being much more mellow and with a heavy sprinkling of Fender Rhodes off-setting the saxophone.  Their session for Peel also featured their signature tune, the cruelly respectful Unsung Heroes of Hip Hop.  So inventive and funny were Subsonic 2, that I was sure they had had a far more successful career in terms of releases than it seems they did.  Instead their recorded activity was packed into 1990-91 and no further.  If they pulled out on their own terms, they would certainly have left me wanting more.

Video courtesy of AMAru.