Sunday, 31 July 2016

Oliver: Sunshot - Baby Doll (16 February 1992)

It's been bugging me since first I started listening to this again, a few days ago, but Sunshot's vocalist, Maria Brannigan sounds like another prominent singer and yet I can't put my finger on who it is.  Please feel free to comment and I'll let you know whether you've jogged my memory.

Happily, there is more to recommend the inclusion of Baby Doll than simple, "Ooh, she reminds me of whatshername" curiosity.  From its chicka-chicka tambourine opening (so delightfully 1992), through to a thunderously ondriving air-guitar riff, the track takes the listener into a deceptively sweet sounding dark fairytale complete with allusions to mental illness, imprisonment and peadophobia.  All that and you can mosh to it too.

Video courtesy of Jeffrey Hathaway (NSFW though and speaking of that - allow me a shameless plug for my next show).

Friday, 29 July 2016

Oliver: Ronin - Who Got The Last Laugh (16 February 1992)

This isn't just any hip hop record, it's a whole label's philosophy wrapped up in 4:49.  Ronin Records of North London released their first record in 1989, a tune by DEF II presenter Normski.  It was slow going to judge by the label's Discogs page, although they hit a huge surge of activity in the late 90s, early 00s.

At the point that producer Ronin decided to make this record, the label had only a handful of releases under its belt, but with an attitude that Peel would undoubtedly have approved of, that was fine.  What mattered was getting the stuff recorded and put out, even if it was just one record, and it was even more important, as the opening of this joint alludes to, if others told you that you were wasting your time.

This joint should have given Ronin not just the last laugh, but a massive hit into the bargain, because it is tremendous, furnished by a bassline so thick and sleek, you could cut toffee with it; sublime wordplay which gathers its story up without dropping a syllable; and a compressed brass sample which overlays the whole thing from the first chorus onwards.  It makes the piece sound like the soundtrack for the greatest blaxploitation movie never made.

After this, Ronin went back to producing, but had left behind an almighty high standard to follow for  anyone recording on his label in the future.  Well if you own the playground, you may as well play on it to win.

Apropos of nothing, I had a look at Bloodstone's track, Who Has The Last Laugh Now, wondering if it was in any way related to Ronin's opus.  It isn't but it's so gorgeous in its Philly Soul Slow Jam wonderfulness that I can't believe Peel didn't think to play the two tracks back-to-back.

Video courtesy of Setinal One (Ronin) and Out2gecha2 (Bloodstone)

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Oliver: Appendices for John Peel Show - Radio 1 (Sunday 9 February 1992)

We all need benefactors in our lives.

When I was in my final year at junior school (1986-87), the big craze of the time was marbles.  This may seem irredeemably old-fashioned in the age of Pokemon Go, but you couldn't move round the drain covers of All Saints Junior School at break time for groups playing marbles.  Starting at opposite corners of the drain cover, players would nudge their marble along the diamonds of the cover before attempting to hit their opponent's marble and thus add it to their collection.  Simple, easy and compulsive entertainment - just a few years earlier, I had been spending my breaks at this school, kissing older girls but who wanted to be doing that when you could have this much fun instead.  Was it a quirk of timing or fashions that my schoolboy interests ended up being back to front?
Alongside the thrill of the game was the fascination in the objects themselves.  There were innumerable varieties of marble.  I can recall pee-wees (ultra-small marbles that it was considered bad form to use in a game), ordinarys (your bog standard marble cannon fodder - the equivalent of a pawn in chess), chinas (marbles which weren't see-through, but which looked they were made of china and with lines painted on them), kingers (large coloured marbles which again were solid and had lines painted on them).  One boy even had an emperor marble which looked like, and in retrospect possibly was, a small paperweight afforded greater importance because of its size.  He never played it in a game, instead it was occasionally glanced as he opened the pencil case in which he kept his marbles in and which lay hidden away from mere mortals' eyes like the contents of the Ark of the Covenant.
My own stack of marbles was predominantly made up of ordinarys together with the odd china, but everyone needed at least one marble of their own as a statement of intent.  With me, it was a black kinger with orange and yellow lines; my prestige marble; the marble that was me.  But the problem with decorative things in a competitive sport is what to do when all your functional objects are lost and all you have left is the deluxe item.  Over a period of a week I hit a losing streak that would have made a compulsive gambler quit and dedicate themselves to a life of sobriety and good works.  I couldn't catch a break in any game, I even lost one match when my opponent's marble was three inches in front of mine and I conspired to fail to knock the marble with sufficient force to hit theirs.  My reserves were decimated and my friend, Shaun, kept asking me to play my kinger in a game with him.  I kept refusing - no one except the stupid or the desperate used large marbles in games - they were unwieldy movers on the drain covers and besides those marbles were not for gameplay, but for prestige.  But eventually, I had lost all my marbles until I was down to that kinger.  If I lost that, I had nothing left.  I would have to save up my pocket money over several weeks to buy new marbles; also my pride was tied up in that kinger.  If I lost that, it would be like I would cease to exist at break times.
Eventually, I reasoned that I may as well play Shaun with my kinger, because either way I was looking at weeks without being able to play marbles.  I agreed to a game in afternoon break time and tried to psych myself up for the big game.  About 20 minutes before break time, I was trying to do some work, when a marble rolled on to my exercise book.  I looked up to see a boy in my class called Jason Higgs rolling 10 or so marbles across the table towards me. "There you go, Pascoe," he said, "that will keep your kinger safe for a while".  I was astonished, "Are you sure?" I asked him.  "Yeah, of course.  I've got loads.  Just don't lose them all too quickly".  Astonishingly, he did me the same unasked favour several months later when I hit another losing streak.  It remains one of the nicest acts of kindness, I've ever received from someone, and even when he started hanging around with school bullies at secondary school, I wouldn't hear a word said against him - maybe because I could see his heart wasn't in that.

I thought of Jason Higgs when the redoubtable Webbie also known as @keepingitpeel uploaded the tracks by Mind Sirens and Kat Bjelland that I couldn't share earlier in my ramblings about selections from 9/2/92.  This is not the first time that Webbie has conjured up a missing track and I am immensely grateful for their support and kindness in doing so.  This blog wouldn't survive without those who have uploaded Peel shows for others to listen to or who put tracks out on YouTube, many probably completely oblivious to the fact that I'm embracing them on my own journey through Peel's playlists and trying to put them into my own 13 year mixtape, for you to share.  We all have our relationship with Peel and the music he played.  Kindnesses like this allow me to explore mine and I cannot thank you all enough for letting me do that.  Webbie and the other uploaders are my benefactors now, and I count myself very lucky to know them.

PS - if anyone can upload Forest of Doves by The Werefrogs from Peel's show on 1 March 1992, I'll send you a kinger marble in thanks.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 (Sunday 9 February 1992)

Selections for this show were made from two separate sections - the first 45 minutes and part of the last hour.  I've just checked and had an anally retentive spasm because I may have broken the "no selections from a file under 44 minutes" rule.  Combine this with us now having full Peel sessions here to showcase individual tracks from them and things are becoming quite anarchic after 18 months of discipline.  Consider this our Rubber Soul phase...

From the parts of the show I heard, there were two tracks I would have liked to share but which I couldn't track down:

Mind Sirens - Head-Stomach-Highway - a rather dissonant, melancholy guitar number with a number of striking time-changes.  Thrillingly, it was followed by one of my favourite tracks of the year.

Kat Bjelland - Bruise Violet - the Babe makes a solo excursion from Toyland to provide an acoustic version of one of the group's best known tracks on the Guitarrorists compilation.

The shows covering late 1991/early 1992 co-incided with the transition of many countries in Eastern Europe moving towards their first democratically elected governments after the break-up of the Soviet Union, but Peel's postbag served a reminder that chaos is only ever waiting for a new town to breeze into.  Before playing the Kat Bjelland track, he read a letter from a Croat called Synesha, who was anxiously waiting to see when or if he would be called up to fight in the war with Serbia, one of innumerable conflicts that broke out after Yugoslavia was dissolved.  The letter was postmarked November 1991 and Peel found it sobering to read, wondered what had happened to Synesha etc.  Not only that, but he didn't fully satisfy Synesha's request at that moment. He'd written in for a Nirvana record, but would have to wait until the end of the show for it.
Also writing in were a couple of lads from Georgia who wanted to know about his relationship with Queen.  The rarely seen but always present Peel ego popped up after playing a track by  Cell. He thanked people who had voted for the show in music polls, but wished more people would listen to the show and thank him for playing such good music.  Let's not be too harsh though, a person's judgement is always likely to desert them as they get closer to 2am.

Thank you for tonight's good records, John.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Oliver: Silverfish - Jimmy (9 February 1992)

This went through a tortured route to get here.  I first heard it as part of Silverfish's Peel Session on 12 January 1992 but possibly because I was underwhelmed by their version of Rock On, it didn't grab me, despite Lesley Rankine's "Uh-uh"s which would, but for the dogs breakfast they made of Rock On, have certainly grabbed my attention to my most primal place as I hit the record button.  Flash forward to the 8/2/92 show, when Peel opened the show with the version on Silverfish with Scrambled Eggs, and somehow it all clicked, despite me misreading the song.

Initially I thought it was a continuation of the strap-on thrills of Big Bad Baby Pig Squeal, with Lesley lording her domination over all Jimmys, moulding them exactly as she wanted to before ordering them to crawl. But subsequent hearings caused me to listen to it in a different light.  The "put your head between your legs. Stomach in.  Push your chest up under your chin". And then those exhortations to "crawl".  This wasn't sex or even domination, instead it's childbirth.  In Silverfish's world, the foetal position will only shield you for so long, before you have to deal with muck and devastation of life.
The song is littered with clues: "Go hit/smack it hard" followed by those "Uh-uh"s sound like contractions.  "Watch him slide" (down the birth canal), "cut it off and leave it in the sun" (a dispassionate severing of the umbilical cord leading to a horrible mental picture of the placenta sizzling on the skin - and given the weather that the UK has had this week that's a horrible image which could well have been made flesh).  "This is blood.  This is power" (child as bargaining chip?) - it's a brutal environment that Silverfish conjure here. Albeit one that, in this live recording at CBGB's, in undercut by bass player, Chris P Mowforth, ending the song by seeming to launch into the opening of White Lines (Don't Don't Do It) and inspiring Duran Duran.

Video courtesy of skablankets.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Oliver: Terminal Hoedown - Go-Go Juice/Superwoman [Peel Session] (9 February 1992)

That Altern 8 incident, whereby one track is highlighted but a whole session ends up being shared, repeats itself here.  The two tracks in the title were the only ones I heard from this band, but I would almost certainly have included the final track, Yeah, which begins at 12:03. The second track, Fear Eats The Soul, from 4:58 would have been a borderline inclusion, but why split hairs given that this session offers one of the few recordings in existence of Terminal Hoedown, who never got round to releasing any records.  Session opener, Go-Go Juice offers singer Robert Lloyd a chance, as Peel remarks to give us his Marc Bolan.  It made me wonder whether Lloyd had been as delighted by Shooting Air by The Satyrs as I was given their similarities.  Superwoman, which starts at 8:34, tickled me because it offered the vision of what Aerosmith would have sounded like if fronted by Ozzy Ozbourne's quieter brother.

Nobody remembers Terminal Hoedown now, but their session is very important when talking about influential and important artists on John Peel's show.  Robert Lloyd had been a fixture on Peel's playlists since the mid 1970s. Through The Prefects, especially The Nightingales, his own solo career backed by The New Four Seasons and Terminal Hoedown. - his musical journey, one undertaken with a number of faithful lieutenants like the Apperley brothers offers a perfect aural summation of changing sounds and styles, even when the man at the centre of it all remains true to his calling as a master lyricist.  In short order:

The Prefects - scratchy punk guitar, allusions to concentration camps, Peel pimping for a new drummer.
The Nightingales - skinny post punk guitar, social contexts, a Birmingham housing estate of identikit futuristic awfulness.
Robert Lloyd and The New Four Seasons - expanded sound i.e. there's a keyboard player in the band, someone is audibly wearing a linen jacket with the sleeves rolled up, contemporary AIDS reference, basically The Style Council 4 years after the event. (This features my favourite Lloyd composition among a number of potential candidates in the shape of the magnificent The Part of the Anchor.)

Leading us up to Terminal Hoedown and what a fat sound these tracks have.  The sound of early middle age spreading into a sound and making it sound genuinely kick-ass.  A million miles away from that scratchy Prefects sound, but even through the rawk haze, Peel's words from The Nightingales debut session in October 1980 remain pertinent:
"Try and listen to Robert Lloyd's words cos they're worth catching."

Lloyd eventually reformed The Nightingales in 2004, and doesn't appear to have missed a trick.

Video courtesy of John Peel.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Oliver: Jonestown - Baby (9 February 1992)

Well, this is a weirdie and no mistake.  Peel was very impressed by this Minnesota five-piece's debut (and only) album, All Day Sucker from which this track is taken.  In listening to it, I hear echoes in the future of Aerial Pink's Haunted Graffiti track, Interesting Results.  I hear an improvement on Don't Want to be Grant McClennan by Smudge, the last selection on this blog to consider the agonies of the creative process.  And I also hear in patches, the spirit of The Fall, especially in the second verse with its talk of "Repa - Repetition".
It starts out asking us to consider the paradox of the singer-songwriter, which it's worth remembering in the early 90s was still seen as the preserve of artists ahead of pop stars.  I mean you never saw Tracy Chapman or Tanita Tikaram headlining Wembley Stadium back then.  But for our narrator here, that 15 minutes of fame has been a pleasant surprise, which the ego is not yet ready to let go, even if it means being locked into creative repa-repetition by it.  Then we career unsteadily into the television studios demanding that the singer deliver his cliche ridden chorus on cue.  I love the shrieking harmonica which sounds like the fame juggernaut heading down the tracks at full speed, it's train horn blaring a warning to get out of the way or let yourself get mown down.  But escape is impossible.  Attempts to run back to dreams of obscurity constantly frustrated by those Fender bar bursts that sound like cartoon characters having their braces caught in those incredibly pliant wire fences that give and give and give until....tension reclaims the escaping figure and springs it back into the world it simultaneously craves and fears.  Eventually, our narrator hears his track playing to him in an elevator.  And up and up the elevator goes...but this isn't Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and we end on a rather odd note of regret, recrimination and confusion.  Just what exactly is "in the back"?

Not related as far as I can tell to The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Video courtesy of Irresponsableful.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Oliver: Third Dimension - A Forest [Prepare for Reverse Revolution Mix] (9 February 1992)

Peel dedicated this track to those "...who go to raves and stuff but secretly still have a yearning to hear A Forest by The Cure".  As you can imagine, with a link like that, this take by Dutch dance act, Third Dimension is not a note for note reproduction of The Cure's most performed song.  Instead it's more of an "inspired by" version.  Part of the fun comes for listening out for where the most direct atmospheric lifts are.
The track flirted with exclusion due to regular use of what I call the "farting wasp warp" sample, the dance music aural equivalent of drilling a tooth, but I was ultimately carried along by the danceability of the whole thing.  It's a stab in the dark at a sacred text and it's pulled off exceptionally well.

Robert Smith in pre-eyeliner and wasps' nest days.

Videos courtesy of Laloomaloo (Third Dimension) and TheCureVEVO.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Oliver: Altern 8 - Give It To Baby [Peel Session] (9 February 1992)

It's only come back to me over recent posts, just how many bands/collectives of the early 90s had numbers in their name.  Already on here we've seen Krispy 3 and Subsonic 2.  Then there were those who chose to incorporate a pun with their number or an unorthodox spelling, such as Katch 22, but they looked like rank time wasters next to Liverpool duo Altern 8 who had the number, the pun, the standout image (chemical warfare survivors) and the tunes.  Worth remembering that Altern 8 were a side project from a collective unpromisingly called Nexus 21.

From the recording of 9/2/92 that I heard, only Give It To Baby was present, but I've gone against previous practice and chosen to include the whole Peel session which contained it rather than leading with the studio version.  This is mainly because the two versions are poles apart from each other.  Listening to Give It To Baby in isolation from the other tracks in the session, it sounds mellow, almost dinner party rave despite the laid back drum & bass sound on the beats.  Amid the squelches and beeps, there is a rinky-dink effect that puts me in mind of a post Peel track which Rob Da Bank played in 2006 by Coleen et des BoĆ®tes de Musique called What Is a Componium?.  I would probably have passed on it had it not somehow stimulated the ear heart or the sampled shout of "Here We Go Again" not jolted me from my reverie.  In its recorded format, the track is amazingly different - sounding like an all terrain driving computer game with A-Levels and a title line sample  that was as sultry as the Session version was impassioned.
To hear the session version, you will need to go to 5:53 on the video.  Around it you can hear some scorchingly hardcore rave, but which fuses in what would become more widely known as drum and bass throughout.  The full layout of tracks is:
1 Frequency (Sample 8 mix)
2 Give It To Baby
3 Say it Y'all - which would be re-worked to give them a Top 3 hit single called E*Vapor*8
4 Active 8 (La Song Mix)

If nothing else, it's a nice snapshot of a duo who would enjoy a great year in 1992 with 3 Top 20 singles and a Top 11 album - all after this Peel Session, which was originally broadcast on 24 November 1991.

Videos courtesy of bassbytes (Peel Session) and DaBlazingAsian (record version)

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Oliver: Tony Rebel - Rude Boy Soldier (9 February 1992)

Once again, visitors to this blog are invited to visualise their favourite sport here and picture your humble blogger desperately trying to keep up with the flow of a singjay on a dancehall reggae record. This is especially pertinent on this cut from Tony Rebel.  Is it a call up to would-be rude boys to take to the streets and bring down the government? If you transpose that to the UK, it paints alarming mental pictures of 2-Tone fans rioting in ill-fitting suits and porkpie hats.  Or is it an attempt to get the stressed Everyman to lay aside their working cares and surrender to the pleasures of music and the identity/conformity of the Rude Boy aesthetic?  In the first 10 seconds of the track, Rebel tells us that he wants us to listen to him, but also to keep skanking (dancing).  By the end of 30 seconds, there is a call for respect to law and order, while challenging barriers (or is it a call for barriers to go up?). The track appears to be a fusion of Anarchy in the W.I meets the principles of Hulkamania - actually not such a stretch, given that Rebel demands reading the word of Jah, and Hulk Hogan asked Hulkamaniacs to say their prayers.  Ultimately, I think it's a call to Jah, rather than revolution or relaxation, but the fact it offers so many different interpretations marks it out as a splendid piece of music.

Video courtesy of TheMrE1974.