Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Oliver!: Moe Tucker - Too Shy [Peel Session] (3 April 1992)

Spoiler alert - she isn’t doing a cover of this - more’s the pity.

If I had been looking to buy a car in the late 90s/early 00s then I can categorically state that I wouldn’t have gone near either a Mercedes Benz or a Hyundai.  My stance had nothing to do on either mechanical or ethical grounds, but solely due to the fact that their advertising campaigns caused me to reach for the off switch whenever they came on TV.
In the case of Mercedes, I often wasn’t in the mood to have Janis Joplin bellowing at me over my TV dinner.  However, I’d often want to throw said dinner at the television when they used the ad that replaced Janis with grannies, shepherds, bricklayers and sundry others all having their own crack at the tune.

The worst offender though was Hyundai which used the Moe Tucker sung half of The Velvet Underground out-take, I’m Sticking With You in its advertising for a while.  I loathed the song with a passion finding its apparent whimsy irritating in every respect - words, tune, Tucker’s vocal, the backing vocals.  You name it.  One of those pieces that will charm some and provoke others; it certainly got my slapping hand twitching.  Having heard the thing in full I’m (only) slightly more charitably disposed towards it.  It doesn’t surprise that it was unreleased for so many years - it doesn’t sound fully sure or formed in Lou Reed’s half - at least not in comparison to Tucker’s half at any rate.  I do wonder what pushed whichever marketing agency had Hyundai’s account to licence such a twee sounding piece of crap to market their vehicle.  If they had gone with something from Tucker’s solo career, they may have uncovered music similarly idiosyncratic, but a lot more convincing.

On 18 February 1992, Moe Tucker went into a BBC studio and laid down some tracks for a Peel Session which was broadcast on 3/4/92.  The tracks were in support of her third solo album, I Spent a Week There The Other Night.  On the recording I heard only this track, Too Shy, was available.
The whole session is available and I would draw your attention to the opening track, Blue All the Way to Canada in which Tucker plays our Chrysler based tour guide diverting our attention from the Cheyenne to the families enjoying the peculiar hell that is long distance car journeys. Trains though is the banal rubbish of I’m Sticking With You transposed to the 1990s.

As for Too Shy, it’s less the sound of 1967 and the Velvet Underground, and closer to the kind of girl fronted power-pop stuff Peel played circa 1978 as Tucker, whose voice developed far greater power as she got older, reflects on her lost opportunity when it comes to approaching the boy of her dreams.

Had I been listening to the Peel Show on this night, the track would have had some resonance for me as to what not to do.  With production week for Oliver! imminent, I was all set to ask out a girl that I had become attached to within the cast over February/March 1992.  Unlike Moe, I wasn’t going to die wondering.  However, I was headed off at the pass in the event.  Whether the girl got wind of my intentions, I never discovered, but as production week rolled around, she got very distant with me - almost an overnight change and not one which looked like it could be reasoned with.  I skulked away, a little saddened and a little more attuned to female psychology.  “Bye. Bye. Bye. Bye” as a great lady once put it... I wish I’d had the chance to say more than Hello though.

Video courtesy of Vibracobra23Redux.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Oliver!: Pavement - Two States (3 April 1992)

It was 20 years ago today
Damon Albarn said Pavement could play.
Blur in the market for a change of style
Cos they’d lost their shiny Britpop smile.
So may I introduce to you
The act for which I’d no idea.
The Pavement Lovers Career Reviving Band!

(Apologies to Paul McCartney)

In what is one of this blog’s many music-related “I’ve never seen Star Wars” moments, I’d never knowingly heard anything of Pavement’s music until they turned up on the recording of Peel’s 28/3/92 show.  For years they’d been tucked away in my subconscious as one of the influences that a battered and bruised Blur told journalists they were mining to help them draw a line under their pop-star phase as they trailed Blur (1997).  But I suppose it depended on which one of them you talked to.  I remember Graham Coxon being interviewed on The Evening Session one night in late 1996 and extolling the merits of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion who sounded terrific to my ears when Steve Lamacq or Jo Whiley cued in a record from them.  A look at Pavement performing in 1996 shows why they would have appealed to a pop star wanting to take a right turn - the tracks played at that gig walk a tightrope between indie-pop and jazz-rock performance art, but the unpredictability of the music and the “consciously loose live” (Tabitha Soren TM) feel must have seemed like the antidote to any band willing to step off the pop roundabout and enjoy the freedom to go down other routes - and in the case of that fifth Blur album, it worked like a treat both artistically and commercially.

However, the Pavement played by Peel on this night, sound less like innovators and more in hock to The Fall than anything else, but it sounds football-crowd-arms-in-the-air compelling with the bellowed title line - potentially advocating the partitioning of California - a three chord riff driving the track along throughout, stolid double-drum pattern underpinning the whole thing like some Glam Rock out-take, “Forty million daggers!” a vocal varying between the melodic and the narratorial.  And after all, Fall shows could be as unpredictable as anything going.  It all becomes clear now.  The Godfather of Song 2 was never Stephen Malkmus, it was Mark E. Smith.

Video courtesy of WeezerFan4Ever.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Oliver!: Wonky Alice - Caterpillars (3 April 1992)

“A big favourite of Radders of the North (Mark Radcliffe).  18 months ago they would have been from Manchester.  Now, they’re from Oldham and don’t you forget it!” John Peel after playing this track on 3/4/92.

I’d like to think that Wonky Alice based their name on a desire to parody Ugly Kid Joe.  It’s a better idea than that floated by the band’s former guitarist, Yves Altana, that the name wasn’t based on anything at all.

In parts, this track from the band’s second EP, Insects and Astronauts, ties into the blend of Northern Drama Music that Peel was playing a lot of in early ‘92 -see Red Hour and Some Paradise for further examples of this - its early verses focusing on someone whose mix of self and petty obsession either ends up killing them or leads to them casting a chrysalis around themselves from which no butterfly can either emerge, or in the case of the romance that’s hinted at in the mid section, penetrate.
If its bassline opening sounds like any number of scally Northern bands through the years, it leaves such parochialism behind with its guitar play which comes on in one 5 note refrain as though Pete Townshend had decided to set his mini-mini opera, Rael from 1967’s The Who Sell Out in Oldham.  Lyrically, it loses its way in the latter stages but it’s worth cherishing for the fact that it immortalises dour people behaving dourly in an excitingly, tender way.

The image in the video reminded me to link you through to Dave Bryant’s Indie Top 20 blog in which he not only reviews this song, but others previously featured here by the likes of Dr. Phibes & The House of Wax Equations and Th’ Faith Healers

Video courtesy of carlos rodrigues

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Oliver!: Shake Inc. - Adrenalin (3 April 1992)

Always with a techno record, what I’m listening out for is the contrast moment.  Once the initial beats and squelches have set out their wares, it’ll be the moment of change in the track that will decide for me whether I will include the track or not.  With Shake Inc.’s Adrenalin that moment comes at around 1:15 when a freaky, ghostly synth line - blasting out from a rave in the divide between this world and the next - makes its entrance into the blazing mix of noise in this banger.  Bringing a greater range of sonic variety than the previous week’s Twin Rave, there’s plenty of energy, life and...well...adrenalin surging through this track’s veins.  I love how the sound gets dirtier as it goes on too.  A mini-epic.

Video courtesy of E for Free.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Oliver!: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Saturday 28 March 1992)

I turned 16 years old on 27 March 1992 (cards and presents to the usual address next year please, fans).  I didn’t spend it going mad on a moped or losing my virginity at the earliest opportunity.  Instead I went for dinner with my parents and watched a double-bill of the Doctor Who videos for Logopolis and Castrovalva.  One of the boys acting in Oliver!, Toby Haynes, was a Doctor Who fan and actually lent me videos of Who stories recorded off the television in the mid-80s.  It was like having access to YouTube, a decade and a half in advance.  My whole memory of that period can be boiled down into a series of word associations: new house, foolish romanticism, stage make-up, spring sunshine and 1980s Doctor Who.
John Peel broadcast a show on March 27, but all the available files failed the minimum time-limit test  (as near to a single side of a C-90 tape as possible), so we have had to skip on to Saturday 28 March 1992 instead.  My birthday isn’t particularly well served by the Peel share universe.  There are plenty of years where no record of what Peel broadcast on March 27 has shown up, or the files are very short.  1979 and 1980 provide some decent running times, but I’ll have to wait till 1993, when I was performing in a production of Peter Shaffer’s play, Equus to have a birthday Peel show to savour.

Selections from this show were taken from a 93 minute long file.  A news bulletin contained news about the 1992 General Election, only 2 weeks away at this point.  Des Wilson, campaign manager for the Liberal Democrats, implored the two main parties to focus more attention on Europe.  It was where our future was, according to him....  On that tack, I’m currently reading this and it’s shaping up to be a classic of its kind.

There were several tracks that I would have been interested to share had they been available.  They included:

Brother Blue - Ons Het Hautuley - my notes describe this as an example of 60s South African skiffle, which sees discordant accordion played alongside a traditional soukous guitar line.  Peel had two copies of the record and had given one to Andy Kershaw.  Very difficult to find any record of it online, so may qualify as one of Peel’s rarest records.

Cul-de-Sac - Cant- this was the B-side of their 7-inch single, Sakhalin.  With its mixture of varispeeded organ and supermarket Muzak guitar, Peel preferred this instrumental to the A-side.  I agree with him, Sakhalin starts off well, but outstays its welcome.  He referred to Cul-de-Sac as a “String-a-Longs for the 1990s”.

Piss - Nightmare - Peel adored this all-girl Japanese punk band and the loss of the Women’s Liberation album on which they contributed pained him later in the decade by all accounts.  This was the first of their tracks to make any impression on me, supposedly because of a comedy vocal and hints of melody through the thrash.

Rise From the Dead - Full of Dirty Money - More Japanese rock goodness and I liked the start, which was fortunate as that was all I heard due to the tape on the file running out.

Falling from favour were:

The Wedding Present - Silver Shorts - on first hearing, this was a cinch to be included.  However, it lost its sheen on subsequent listens.  I feel bad about this, because the only post I’ve deleted from this blog was for The Wedding Present’s superb Blue Eyes (nothing that they had done, just I was a bit too open in what I discussed about myself and ended up causing un-nessecary distress to a loved one).  Perhaps Blue Eyes, which seems magnified in status because of its deletion, set standards that need to be met by this band if they are to feature here again. I certainly hope so, because Blue Eyes told me just why The Wedding Present mattered to so many.

Augustus Pablo - Black Gunn - it was Rob Da Bank’s Early Morning Dub Appreciation Society which first introduced me to the brilliance of Augustus Pablo.  I think some residual appreciation from that may have led to Black Gunn being earmarked for inclusion, but there was always a question mark next to it.  Despite the charming, music-box like quality given to the glockenspiel part, the ennui was palpable.

Happy birthdayish

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Oliver!: Monster Magnet - Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother (28 March 1992)

Like a dope, I missed the 1970s episodes of The Evolution of John Peel.  My suspicions that it would be nothing more than a John Peel greatest hits of the decade proving to be spectacularly wide of the mark.  At least with reference to this track, there was nothing from Grand Funk Railroad featuring in the programme, offering little clue as to why Peel gave airtime to covers of their tunes through late 1991/early 1992.  Grotus missed out with me on their version of We’re An American Band but three months on, Monster Magnet make the metaphorical mixtape with their version of Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother, the opening track on GFR’s 1970 album, Closer to Home.

Dispensing with the acoustic opening section and clocking in at a minute less than the original, Monster Magnet do a great job of conjuring up the mythical rock preacher sound in this song with its reflections on how good and evil are two sides of the same coin and calls for revolution - topic of the day in 1970 and seemingly acted out by 1992.  But ultimately everything is subservient to the riff that drives the track and which sets everything on course with the false ending and subsequent race to the end of the track.  The 16 year old me would have lapped that riffage up, though whether it would have inspired me to seek out the source material is a moot point.  Because, in my ignorance (and I am still moored in it) Grand Funk Railroad are one of those band names that can fatigue me without hearing a note - see also the likes of The Eagles, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Chicago Transit Authority (later just known as Chicago).  Just to look at the names conjures up images of triple or quadruple albums, guitar solos that go on for three hours and grim musicality.  Are they justified opinions to hold without having sampled much of any of their music?   No, of course they aren’t, and in Grand Funk Railroad’s case, they were hugely influential on a number of 90s bands.  In Monster Magnet’s case it fed towards their 1991 album, Spine of God, which managed to be thrilling, intriguing and irritating sometimes all within the space of the same track.  It’s my hope that those bands I’ve just slandered managed to be equally diverse when the time comes for me to hear them.  In the meantime, the John Peel quarterly meeting of the Order of the Grand Funk Railroad cover will hopefully reconvene in June 1992.

Videos courtesy of P.P. (Monster Magnet) and drwu1975 (Grand Funk Railroad)

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Oliver!: Capleton - Prophet (28 March 1992)

This track by Clifton Bailey aka Capleton would have turned up here much sooner if I’d been content to stay ignorant and write about how the patois had been too quick for me, but I loved the delivery and how it fitted with the Batty Rider Riddim.  However, I wanted to provide some attempt at analysis, for the 50 or so people who read and listen to the posts, so I made one final attempt to see what I could catch.  And early on, it was all pretty much par for the course: inspiration from God rather than Man, worship to the prophet, cursing the forced repatriation of Africans to the Carribean - oh, and adulterous women should be stoned.  Eh?...What? ...Did I hear that right?  And would I be comfortable including it here in 2017, when it feels at times like such misogyny could be given free reign again.  But on listening to the vocal again, maybe it wasn’t the woman on Mount Sinai who was going to be stoned but instead one of her accusers.  But on the other hand...  The ambiguity makes me a little queasy but I see enough parallels with Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (the origin of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”) to wave it through. Anyone with a keener ear than me  is welcome to set me straight or confirm the worst.  And if we can’t be clear, then let’s just dance.

Video courtesy of kikiReloader.