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)

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