Saturday, 19 November 2016

Oliver: Spitfire - Wild Sunshine (29 February 1992)

A few weeks ago, I downloaded the Oasis documentary, Supersonic.  It was great, though I wished we could have heard more from Tony McCarroll.  It did the right thing by focussing on the imperial years, simply because there really was nowhere to go but down post-Knebworth and they really did plummet in the last decade of their existence.  But what Supersonic did particularly successfully was consider how fast and stunning their rise was - and the appearance, at least superficially, of how easy it looked.  First single to headlining in front of 125,000 people in two years?  Piece of piss, mate.  Except that it wasn't of course.  It was hard work, dedication, a handful of stunning songs and a bit of luck.  Luck that Alan McGee happened to be in King Tut's Wah-Wah Hut in Glasgow on the pretext of going to freak out his ex-girlfriend, whose band were playing the night McGee first clapped eyes on Oasis. Luck in that Supersonic came out a week after Kurt Cobain's death upended everything and left the music media in need of a new cover star.  And these ones didn't do doubt or vulnerability, which must have seemed refreshing in comparison.  Correction - it was refreshing, because I remember it.

But as with Oasis, as with The Beatles, the question has to be asked: why did fate reward them, especially?  Was it timing?  I mean The Beatles were seen as a band who stepped in when their heroes from the previous decade either found themselves in the army, in disgracegetting religionin jail or dead and took the spoils home with them.  If the floor isn't clear, you need to do something exceptional to stand out.  And it's for that reason I declare Spitfire as our first entrants into The Smell of the Greasepaint and the Sound of the Peel's prestigious Should Have Been Oasis Before Oasis Hall of Fame.
Wild Sunshine is the sound of Britpop before anyone would have thought of it.  It is the spiritual father of one of Oasis's last truly great songs as well as one of the best songs produced by the era's whipping boys.  They also had plenty of admirers among the bands that followed in their wake - and which had greater success than them.  It's all here - the anthemic chorus, vocalist dripping with attitude, guitar pyrotechnics, whippy tempo and they look terrific, if slightly more indebted in their visual styling to The Ramones mixed with Moby Grape than the Beatles.  And yet, in 1992 what should have been a Top 10 hit and an iconic Top of the Pops moment, instead served as a jolting, uplifting record on a John Peel playlist.  He, naturally, recognised the gifts they bore.  Or perhaps, he just appreciated that it stood out from most of Spitfire's other work at the time.  Tracks like Superbaby and Sunflow sounding a little more stodgy and fussy in comparison to the thrilling directness on offer here.  If Wild Sunshine was meant to be Spitfire's ticket to the big time, it is a huge indictment on the state of the music business at the time that it slipped through the cracks.  If the timing was wrong, then people should have been making time for them. Just like John Peel did.
It was originally released on a 4 track EP called Free Machine which included a track called Rocks Off Baby - was this a legal requirement in the 90s?  A period when a single Rolling Stones track held the next generation in its thrall.

Video courtesy of EVEvideoproductions.

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