Thursday, 27 December 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Stevie Hyper D & Tigger Max - Hear the Vibes (8 May 1992)

My notes for this track when I selected it for inclusion talk of “techno reggae”.  What a super idea - reggae flow over a drum and bass backing.  How niche, eh?  And then I listen to Hear the Vibes again and realise that plenty of other influential and creative people were thinking the same thing but they didn’t call it techno reggae, they called it jungle.
Peel wasn’t calling it that in 1992, but he had form for playing records that would fall under that label, especially if they were on a ragga tip.  With Hear the Vibes though, he provided a showcase for Stephen Austin aka Stevie Hyper D, a man widely acknowledged as the finest jungle MC Britain ever produced.  Ian McQuaid’s outstanding retrospective article does far better justice to the late Stevie than I am currently in any position to, but Hear the Vibes hits many of the fundamentals that seemed to make Stevie’s live sets so mesmeric - he hypes the room, giving himself space to build up his flow of ideas before launching, in double time into his flow of vocals.  The speed flow beats me but he’s certainly shooting for the Millenium at one point.  Sadly, he didn’t see it, dying of a heart attack at the age of 30 in 1998.
After releasing Hear the Vibes, Stevie sat out recording for three years by which point jungle was up and thriving both under and overground.  I hope Peel went back to him or offered a Peel Session.  As for Tigger Max, who provided the fantastic beats and beds for Stevie to work over, this record appears to be all they ever put out as an artist.  Discogs turns up no further evidence or aliases.  Maybe Tigger felt this could not be improved upon.  Regardless, they left a mark.

Video courtesy of PitchlockmobileDJs Ireland.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Not From There - Sleep/Earl Bostic and his Orchestra - Sleep (8 May 1992)

With Christmas imminent, I must give thanks to this blog’s very own Santa Claus - the sainted Webbie - who has provided both of these tracks direct from Peel’s broadcast on 8/5/92.

On the one hand, we have Sleep by Australian power pop trio Not From There followed by Sleep as performed by one of the most influential jazz saxophonists of the 1930s-1950s, Earl Bostic.  I can let Peel himself tell you about the significance of the Earl Bostic record and how it fed into his feelings of outsiderdom when he played it to his school’s jazz club.   Needless to say this was of a piece with some of Peel’s other experiences of his upbringing which saw him being sneered at and snubbed by groups as varied as his army hockey team and Liverpool Ramblers A.F.C. In the former instance due to a combination of his inadequacy as a hockey goalkeeper and the fact that as the only non-officer in his team, none of them deigned to speak to him or treat him with any kind of respect:
“Before and after the games none of my team-mates spoke to me and they spoke rarely during the game other than to chide me for allowing the opposition to score.  I was a crap goalkeeper and they were crap human beings” (Margrave of the Marshes, 2004, page 161).
In the case of the Ramblers, Peel was trying to please his father in looking to extend his social circle by joining a football team made up of the type of public school figures who had likely sneered at Earl Bostic in the mid 50s.  “The Ramblers were almost exclusively public-school types who were crap at football and met in a bar called the Crooked Billet.  Upon entering the Crooked Billet, you found yourself at the top of a flight of steps leading down into the body of the bar and it seemed to me that, in the manner of figures in an H.M Bateman cartoon, everyone spun around to check out new arrivals at the top of the steps.  On the third occasion I put myself through this ordeal, there was as I entered, I felt, a certain amount of tittering from my team-mates gathered on the floor.  I froze in the doorway.  Eventually, some languid oaf detached himself from the crowd at the bar and sauntered over. ‘Excuse me, old chap,’ he said. ‘Are you playing for the Ramblers this afternoon?’  When I nervously confirmed that I was, he raised his voice slightly to say, ‘Perhaps, then, you’ll be a good fellow and do your flies up.’  This was greeted with guffaws from, it seemed to me, the entire company.  I never went back.”  (Margrave of the Marshes, 2004, pages 174/175).

Peel’s reference to the Lord Palmerston pub in South West London before playing Not From There refers to a sleeve note on the Conned mini-album encouraging people to send “All offers of food, money and drugs” there.  Anyone taking them up on the offer would have had a return to sender given that the pub closed in 1990 and was converted to flats by 1996.  You can visit the North London variant though.  What seemed to have escaped Peel’s notice is that Conned was produced by Mark E. Smith.  It surprises me that he would have the patience to produce another act, but he does a fantastic job on Sleep which fairly tears along.  Building around a refrain of “The point that I missed”, which leads me to feel that the track may have been better off being called Insomnia given
the many things, looks and emabarrasments that vocalist Heinz Riegler reels off.  After releasing Conned, two-thirds of the band were deported back to Australia with Riegler, an Austrian, moving out to join them.  It would be another two years before they released their next record and they continued to be active through the 90s.  It will be interesting to see whether Peel returned to them.

If I had been in Peel’s school jazz club, I would have loved the Earl Bostic record, mainly because I love a good vibraphone solo.  Originally recorded as the flip side to future sitcom theme The September Song for a 1951 release, its treatment sounds remarkably prescient and in its urgent grooves and propulsive melody it seems to foreshadow elements of both rock ‘n’ roll and soul music, in contrast to its croonerish A-side.  His feelings may have been hurt, but even at school, Peel was showing an awareness of what was out there, musically, that would move things along.  It wouldn’t be the last time he would hear sneers for his musical enthusiasms, but it could also be seen to be the first clear example of his judgement being absolutely spot-on in the face of opposition.

Video courtesy of Webbie.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Bi-Face - 303 We Hate You (8 May 1992)

“Let’s get on...”

The unidentified sample at 2:13 provides a definite hinge around which the two halves of this track work.  The first half up to that point is the typical hybrid of “thump/thump/thump” with the approaching train feel of the start of Theme from S-Express.  Thereafter, it noodles out with prominent hi-hat action, “wah-wah” vocals, birdsong that sounds like it’s been fed through an old ZX Sinclair computer game and samples telling us to get “back to Pod”.  Promotion for the record label that put out the 137 EP that 303 We Hate You came from, perhaps?  Well, I’m sure it worked for Mowtown.
I find myself hoping that Peel went back to Bi-Face - the two halves of the act being Pascal Dardoufas and Uwe Schmidt - if only because most of the other tracks they did under this name are better than 303 We Hate You.  So far I’m listening and selecting from Peel’s show from 29/5/92 and haven’t heard any Bi-Face tracks on files of shows between then and 8 May 1992 (though not every file I listen to is from a complete show).  I won’t link to them in case they turn up in June 1992 shows and can be blogged about here, but if 303 We Hate You is vanilla (pleasant enough but unspectacular) then more interesting flavours are to be found in tracks like Flota, 137 Ambience and Slo/Fast.  It’s your move, John...

Video courtesy of CookiesJunky

Saturday, 8 December 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Back to the Planet - Revolution of Thought (8 May 1992)

In days of yore, painters and writers strove for cultural relevance or success in a garret.  For bands, who couldn’t necessarily fit into a sloping attic, it was a squat that would serve as a base for their art. I was initially shocked, but then less so, when I read Carl Loben’s article for Louder Than War about some of the prestigious musicians who had been squatters when they were young and unknown.  Squatting also provided its own music and culture scene.  Julian Cope’s Head Heritage message board features a long thread on some of the most prominent and best bands from that scene, which seemed to specialise in various tribal, funky forms of space-rock.  Magic Mushroom Band were a Peel backed band from this scene.

Formed out of a squat collective based in Peckham, Back to the Planet don’t appear to have many fans on Head Heritage, but they had John Peel in their corner and on this evidence, they would have had me too.  Revolution of Thought was Back to the Planet’s first “proper” release after a couple of  cassette-only live albums.  It’s an interesting mixture of naively, sincere lyrics on gender politics and war-mongering bound up in fabulously funky rhythms and evocative production work (provided by Llwybr Laethog  according to Peel).  You can picture the dancing dreadlocks and raves around the campfire from here.

Video courtesy of maggieloveshopey.

Friday, 30 November 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Frankie Paul - Tell Them Fe Cool (8 May 1992)

When Peel played reggae music, it could be easy to become depressed at the human condition, especially given that so many of the records glorified criminality, gun violence and national prejudices.  The artists and the producers had him (and us) over a barrel though given the skill and intelligence that went into what they did.  Thank God for Frankie Paul though, who follows the previous year’s excellent piece of relationship advice for unhappy women with a note of temperance in the hair-trigger world of Carribean music.  For all that I’m unsure whether Frankie is asking the Rude Boys to hold their piece before unleashing their fury at a later stage or whether he just wants them to stay cool throughout and put violence aside, where Tell Them Fe Cool really scores is with the section at 2:36 which gives an appreciation of just how much dancehall music has changed Frankie’s life.  If life in the Carribean meant you went either into crime, sport or music, then this track makes an excellent case for committing oneself to the latter option.

Video courtesy of Exe-Dubz Sounds - the video has been mistimed, the track is 3:29 long.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Bark Psychosis - Blood Rush (8 May 1992)

They wouldn’t have known at the time they wrote it of course, what with 1992 being the end of history but the two lyrical phrases that make up Blood Rush (“Say it again/our world is falling” and “You never stop/you never learn”*) seem horribly relevant and prescient in 2018.  It took me by surprise actually, especially given that what would have made the track stand out had I heard it when originally broadcast would be, exclusively, the dreamy atmospherics, exquisitely beautiful guitar work, lightly brushed drums and the way in which Bark Psychosis manage to mix in a squeaky chair in time with the “You never stop” line, every time it is repeated.  In tracks like this, lyrics are an adornment - a bow tied atop the package of this track’s sonic delights - to be thrown aside while luxuriating in the sonic goodies that Bark Psychosis serve up.  And there is plenty to enjoy here.  The first 4 minutes 20 seconds could best be termed the soft half of the track - murmuring and gentle.  Bark Psychosis used to record regularly in a church  and there’s definitely a sense of the state service to the opening exchanges but the tempo change at 4:20 really feels as though the blood is circulating freely - bringing the listener out of the gentle torpor and sounding like every body part beginning to work in harmony again.  Blood going to the brain and stimulating thought, vision, movement and wonder - but all playing out to gentle, repeated admonishment of the human race.  It’s an odd dichotomy, albeit one that Bark Psychosis always sought in their music, but it gels splendidly.

Peel played it as the final track of the evening on the 8/5/92 show and it is a perfect show closer.  It came from the group’s Manman EP and he found himself guessing the track’s title due to the childlike writing on the cover art.

*Lyrics copyright of Bark Psychosis (Third Stone Records)
Video courtesy of sunnyman1999

Saturday, 17 November 2018

The Comedy of Errors: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Saturday 2 May 1992)

Last week, through the medium of Bang Bang Machine, I ruminated that their session track, A Charmed Life reflects the sense that youth can be a halcyon time.  The challenge is to recognise it as such when it happens.  Well for me, Saturday 2 May 1992 was a wonderful day because my beloved Ipswich Town had clinched the Second Division championship and would be returning to English football’s top flight after an absence of six years and the promise of riches in the new FA Premier League  which would be starting the following season.  It wasn’t until August, when it became obvious just how much Sky TV were throwing money, attention and razzamatazz at this to try and mark it out as an event rather than simply The Football Season that I realised just how changed things were, not only from this 1991-92 season, but from the division that Ipswich had last competed in back in 1986.  On this day, it was merely the cherry on the icing of the cake that had been set with Ipswich winning promotion on the previous weekend at Oxford United.  Among the large crowd of 26,803 who saw Town lift the Second Division trophy after a 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion and hopefully joining in the pitch invasion at the end were The PigDanda and Tom. According to Peel, one of Alexandra’s friends had managed to give a Town player (not identified alas) a kiss during the pitch invasion.  I would have done too had I been there, but instead I was at home catching the final scores and thinking that, at last, when it came to talking about football among the Manchester United and Liverpool fans who had been my peers at school over the previous six years, I could talk to them excitedly about matches my team were going to have with their teams instead of trying to hype matches against Shrewsbury Town or Port Vale, like any of them would give a shit. However, a look at the table as it stands after our most recent match means I could be hyping up similar fixtures next season if results don’t pick up soon.

Peel was still buzzing from Polly Jean Harvey’s impromptu guest appearance in his previous show  Through her he had received a request for a Duane Eddy track from Gallon Drunk.  He was unable to oblige them but put forward what he regarded as a suitable soundalike in Vampire by The Belairs, though after hearing it he repudiated it as an Eddyesque substitute.
PJ Harvey (the band) were about to have their first Peel Session put out alongside those of their labelmates on the Too Pure Records label, Sterolab and Th’ Faith Healers on a 10” limited edition Strange Fruit release.  Peel was tempted to keep them all for himself because he liked the cover art so much, but he was giving 3 of them away in a competition.  Winners would be determined by whoever sent him “something interesting in an envelope - not vulgar and it must be flat”.  I really hope I get to find out what won.

I’ve been listening to Peel shows from the end of May 1992 in which he laments, not entirely in jest, that bands and artists never invite him to socialise with them.  Quite often on the weekend shows, he would relate that he had organised meetings with friends and acquaintances in London for lunch or drinks only for them to pull out and leaving him to kick his heels either in the city or at the Radio 1 offices.  Anyone looking to invite him may have felt  moved to complain that their parties always clashed with Peel’s own visits to exhibitions.  After his March trip to see Normski’s photography exhibition, Peel was looking forward to visiting Edward Barton’s exhibition at Afflecks in Manchester.  It was called Hole Keeper and featured among its exhibits a live Beat the Goalie activity.

The selections from this show were taken from a 79 minute file.  There were two tracks I would have been interested to share if I could have got hold of them:

Midway Still - Making Time - this would have owed its place to a very personal reason, namely that its central riff sounded very close to that used six years later by Therapy? on Church of Noise.  If I ever get my own music radio show I intend to call it The Church of Noise and use the chorus of that as my intro music.  There’s still time and if I find any of you have beaten me to it, I will find you and I will kill you (except for Webbie who has bailed me out that many times, they can use whatever
music they want).

Sin City Disciples - Go Work - an absolutely tremendous rock song by one of Kansas City’s finest, though if I was being critical I’d call it slightly guilty of some of the things Peel accused British bands of the time of being guilty of - namely being in hock to sounds that had come before.  But
when it’s as good as this tune was, who cares?

Falling from favour were:
TPOK Jazz Band - Zena Mama na Lolita - I had a question mark against it and found when I listened to it again, I got 3 and a half minutes before realising I hadn’t thought about the track once.

Full tracklisting

“Good evening my lords and ladies...”

Video courtesy of colzo666

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Equitek - Stylus Flight (2 May 1992)

This industrial warehouse banger, a one-off collaboration between Bernie Von Braun and Marcos Salon took a circuitous route to get here.  Peel played it on 2/5/92 but I wasn’t initially persuaded by it until I heard it again on his 16/5/92 show, at which point it made the tape.  Strictly speaking, I should have waited several months until I start blogging about the selections made for that show, but I didn’t want to keep you in suspense, my lovelies, so I’ve brought it forward to the first time I heard it.
Beyond its musical delights, Peel was thrilled by Stylus Flight due to the progress that the stylus made when going across the vinyl, “In sort of fits and starts - won’t come across terribly well on the radio, but you try doing it with a CD.”  Coming the night after playing a record with a locked groove, the vinyl junkie in Peel was truly getting his tummy tickled in a variety of ways.

Video courtesy of thelostreef.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Bang Bang Machine - Monkey/A Charmed Life [Peel Session] (2 May 1992)

In any cultural field it’s a brave person who declares in the opening week of the year that such and such a cultural artefact will be the best thing of that year.  John Peel didn’t quite go that far in his first Radio 1 show of 1992 but as he cued up Geek Love by Bang Bang Machine, he declared it “The first truly extraordinary record of 1992. Most of you are going to go mad for this.”  51 weeks later, Geek Love sat atop the 1992 Festive Fifty.  This strikes me as the Peel Show equivalent of the Michael McIntyre joke about lazy parental choice when it comes to naming a baby Aaron given that it’s the first name in the baby name book.  Due to file issues, I didn’t blog about or select anything from the 4/1/92 show.  Indeed, I didn’t hear Geek Love until I was listening to his 3/2/92 NachtExpress show for O3 Austria.  I really didn’t see what the fuss was about.  I found Elizabeth Freeth’s vocals exceptionally irritating to listen to while the rest was nothing but tedium.  In preparing this post, I listened to Geek Love again and nothing in it caused me to change my mind.  But what I would say is that although I didn’t like it, I could see why Peel and so many others went for it.  It had ambition and grandeur - especially for a self-financed debut single - it was trying to go that extra mile and it immediately sounded like no other band.  Original voices don’t always say things we want to hear though, and I think that was the case with how I responded to Geek Love.

With so much attention around that track, it was inevitable that they would record a Peel Session pretty quickly.  They duly did so on 28 January 1992 for broadcast on 15 February.  The session was repeated on the 2/5/92 show.  I only heard the two tracks included here, but the full session included other tracks called Justine, which I definitely would have included on a mixtape, and Say It Again,
Joe, which I wouldn’t have done.

Monkey starts out like a funk-rock workout, before going full shoegaze in its chorus.  Freeth’s voice, so teethgrindingly winsome to my ears in Geek Love, now bounces along while reeling off a lyric that appears to connect the ape of the title with working people who have been persuaded that the rat race and pursuit of status symbols is a good life to have, despite the contradiction of “Get a life/That’s no life” while the hair-raising “Oh”s sound like the trains and buses sending all us monkeys out to play at games and pull tricks like monkeys despite us being unable to win at the games that promise us its prizes.
A Charmed Life was more of a borderline inclusion.  It lacks the focussed intensity of Monkey, but stretches out into its spaces in interesting ways.  Around its watery, metronomic guitar patterns, Freeth sings of awakenings - potentially sexual ones - possibly political given the references to 1984, as well as the hunting of boar and other non-sequiturs.  But what comes over especially well is the sense of how youth can seem to be an eternal feeling of joy and optimism that can inoculate us to harsh realities.  Hopefully, we all experience moments in our youth where we feel amazing about life and sure that this feeling will last forever.  Once life intrudes though and pushes its clouds across our sunshine, all we can do is recall those better times and swear undying retrospective devotion to those we shared those times with.

And the ironic thing is that although I would prefer to listen to these tracks ahead of Geek Love any day of the week, neither of them sound anywhere near as original and definitively Bang Bang Machine as Geek Love does.  Which could be the reason why their other material never enjoyed the same level of posterity on Peel’s playlists as their Festive Fifty winner.  Even on the cutting edge of left-field music, there are acts destined to be remembered just for The Hit.

Videos courtesy of VibraCobra Redux

Thursday, 1 November 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Bally Sagoo featuring Irene Perveen - Saiyo Nee Mera Dil (2 May 1992)

Although it lacks the grace and elegance that made Mera Laung Gawacha such a beguiling listen, Bally Sagoo’s reworking of Saiyo Nee Mera Dil may be a more vital recording.  If you were attending a Bhangra disco at the time, one could imagine this bringing male and female Punjabis out to dance off against each other in the style of Wanted by The Cranberries.  And once they’ve collapsed, exhausted, into each other’s arms, Mera Laung Gawacha would seal the deal.  Though I suspect the disco I have in my head is a long way different from the reality.

Sagoo used a vocal by Irene Perveen of a track that translates as My Heart is Beating For Someone and weaves around it a mix reflecting both 50s Bhangra and 90s Birmingham as high pitch keyboards  and soul choirs compete with ringing mobile phones (and in the early 90s, ringtones could be teeth rattlingly shrill).  Inevitably, there are a few touches that date this track painfully.  We get 2 and a half minutes in before the farting saxophones/shehnai blurt out and the coda of the track will remind listeners of between item “bed” music used in “youth” shows of the late 80s/early 90s.  But those touches made me smile and so much more of this moves me to dance.

Video courtesy of Bally Sagoo - Topic

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Circus Lupus - Straight Through the Heart (2 May 1992)

If Peel was playing tracks from your album on successive nights then you had to be doing something right.  Built around a riff which sounds like the third cousin once removed of My Bloody Valentine’s You Made Me Realise, the mentions of “ruby red lips...dark eyes” suggest that, happily, it’s only Cupid’s arrows that are penetrating the surface here.  But in the world of Circus Lupus, joy is not something to be enjoyed at face value and the track ends with dark murmurings that conflate this woman with “temptation”.  Vocalist, Chris Thomson puts himself through hell whenever he sings - so much so that the listener implores him to yield to temptation and enjoy himself, but unfortunately, the tangled emotions and web of feelings that this song hints at suggests the happy couple will ultimately wind up in the state from the previous evening’s Circus Lupus gem, Pacifier.

Video courtesy of Circus Lupus - Topic (so make the most of it in case it gets wiped off).

Saturday, 27 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: The Wedding Present - Softly Softly [Peel Session] (2 May 1992)

Even though The Wedding Present were releasing a single a month throughout 1992, they weren’t resting on their laurels.  2 years on from this session, Softly Softly would be released under the title Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah through Island Records with reworked verses and a Man from U.N.C.L.E inspired video.  Neither version breaks new ground in terms of its theme. David Gedge finds himself fielding a romantic offer that he is completely unable to refuse despite the fact that he and his lover will be cheating on another man.  The illicitness of their rendezvous simultaneously torturing and thrilling him as in so many Wedding Present and Cinerama tracks.

Peel never passed up an opportunity to lavish praise on Gedge and friends heads and this session was no exception.  Describing them as “an excellent band” because, “you know straightaway that it’s them and they are always trying to move forward”.  The session allowed him to pass pronouncement on the state of contemporary British music at that time, and in common with every time I heard him do so in recordings from the early 1990s, he found it wanting.  It was either too in hock to music from the 70s or hung up on what was doing well in America.  I can’t wait to hear his feelings him once we reach 1994-96.

Video courtesy of lalaland.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: The Traveller - Date M [Live Mix] (2 May 1992)

Coming out of the Wonka Beats label in Antwerp, described by Peel as a “top hole place, by all accounts.  I’ve never been meself” The Traveller was a one off monicker adopted by Remy Unger and Sven Van Hees.  Peel played Date M a number of times over May 1992 and deservedly so.  The centrepiece of its sound appears to be what would best be described as a movement for steam organ and bicycle spoke.  I’ve waited for a Sunday morning to post this because it’s a great Sunday morning dance track.  It conjures images of pootling round a Sunday market in Antwerp and watching the world speed by from a cafe pavement table.  If they had been savvy enough, the Antwerp Tourist Board should have used it as a soundtrack to adverts showing just how top-hole the city apparently was.

Video courtesy of Rene Struye.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Po! - Sunday Never Comes Around (2 May 1992)

The brilliance of Po! is that they walk the tightrope between charm and twee and never seem to fall onto the wrong side of the line.  Their sound may, to the lazily cynical, come across like the worst of the Peel show: jangly, twinkly, too lightly melodic - but it cuts deep and does it gorgeously.  There’s experience in Ruth Miller’s vocals and writing that gives Po!’s light touch arrangements a sense of steel about them and rewards further listening.  I have already raved about Look for the Holes, one of the great post-breakup songs and while Sunday Never Comes Around doesn’t scale those heights, it succeeds in capturing a mood of longing for someone who can’t be there and frustration at the conundrum of time passing so quickly when lovers are together and standing still when they are apart.  It is, in many respects, a perfect song for long-distance lovers and there are many periods in my life when I could really have benefitted from knowing this song.  I would have held it like a comfort blanket while waiting to journey to places as diverse as LampeterUxbridgeFarnham and Henly-in-Arden in order to hook up with girlfriends who fate had placed 5 or 6 hours away from Falmouth.

Po! pretty much ran their own show by releasing their material through their own Rutland Records label, but I think they could have been bigger.  Unfortunately, they sound too close to The Sundays and in the desperate state that mainstream British music was in in the early 90s, you needed to be far beefier than Po! were to enjoy the potential acclaim of Top of the Pops, daytime Radio 1 and magazine covers.  I can’t help feeling that the wider public at large were cheated by not getting to know this lovely band better.  However, it fell to Dubstar to take Po!’s sense of reflective, regretful romanticism, sprinkle it with beats, synths and a similarly sweet voiced/pragmatic minded vocalist in order to give the mass audience the calming therapy they needed for wounded hearts and impatient minds.

Videos courtesy of Leicester Music (Po!) and Dubstar.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Friday 1 May 1992)

So the first show to run alongside rehearsals for The Comedy of Errors and I’ve been delighted to see pretty much all the selections I hoped to share from the 3 hour recording were available.  All that was missing were:

The Werefrogs [complete Peel Session] - As things currently stand, Forest of Doves is my likely Number 1 when it comes to setting up this blog’s own Festive Fifty for 1992 - still a long way to go of course.  However, it didn’t surface in this Peel Session as Mark Frog, Matthew Frog and Steve Frog (“Can these really be their names?”) launched into versions of Spinning Felt Clouds, Cry, Sheila and Don’t Slip Away, the latter of these was their next single and they were currently touring the UK alongside Kitchens of Distinction.  Peel set a competition to win copies of the limited edition 7” blue vinyl version of Don’t Slip Away.  All participants needed to do was draw what they thought a Werefrog might look like.  Winners would be judged “...on sincerity rather than artistic merit.”  As we will see in a few programmes time, this was to cause Peel much anguish.

Monkey 101 - Kentucky Woman - a 68 second turbo-charged rock/blues song whose sudden ending caught Peel out. Alas it was not a cover of the Neil Diamond - Deep Purple hit.

In the three weeks since the end of Oliver! and this show, the Rodney King assault trial had ended with not guilty verdicts delivered to the officers who had been filmed beating King.  By 1/5/92, the LA riots that the verdicts had provoked were into their third day, by which point more than 30 people were dead.  The 11:30 news broadcast during Peel’s programme featured King making his “Can we all get along” plea.

Flossie’s full birthday tracklisting

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Fudge Tunnel - Teeth (1 May 1992)

I’m currently working in an office that has a radio in it.  The channel it’s tuned to is Magic Soul, “Playing Stevie, Marvin and Aretha” as its main jingle says.  All things considered, I’ve got off lightly - Peel put himself through much worse on a drive to Scotland.  Out of every 10 records played, at least seven of them will be ones I enjoy and there are plenty of surprises on their playlist too.  One staple of the playlist is the original version of Lady Marmalade as recorded by Labelle.  A corking record as you all know and durable enough to have returned to the UK Number 1 spot through versions by All Saints and as part of the Moulin Rouge soundtrack; Labelle’s version only just made the UK Top 20.  However, it’s taken until now through prolonged exposure to their version to realise just how dirty and rude it is.  I’m not talking about the “Voulez vous coucher avec moi, c’est soir” refrain but  rather what “”Free your lady marmalade” actually means.  What a sheltered life I’ve led these 42 years.
Which brings me to Nottingham based sludge-art metal band, Fudge Tunnel.  And I will confess that when I first heard the name I mentally pictured the sweet.  But a few listens to Lady Marmalade and my new realisation over its literal meaning set me right again.  You can be puerile and clever it seems.  Nevertheless, it could provide a nice piece of extreme dating language for music lovers, “Meet like-minded people and see whether you can get some Lady Marmalade up your Fudge Tunnel”.

This was the title track from an upcoming EP that the band were releasing through Earache Records.  Peel chose it as he felt that it would serve as a good programme opener after Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show which also has its own wiki, though details of what Vance played on this evening are not available yet.  Teeth was a borderline inclusion for me.  Irritatatingly, I can’t make out enough of the vocals, which bugs me because although they flirt with elements of thrash metal, they never fully commit to it.  What makes Fudge Tunnel interesting is the way in which they mix up Donnington style riffage with grungy atmospheres.  Allusions to “the razor” pitch this in some area of internal torment which could be potentially fascinating, but ultimately all we’re left with is something to rock out to and sometimes that’s all that is required.

Videos courtesy of GrindcoreDeathFreak (Fudge Tunnel) and Cla Sessantasette (Labelle)

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Florence - A Touch of Heaven (1 May 1992)

The night before this show was broadcast, Peel’s youngest daughter, Florence, celebrated her 10th birthday.  By the end of the decade, she would have The Cuban Boys immortalising her in their own unique way, but in 1992 John had to be a little more creative in making direct dedications to his children.
In this instance, Florence was an alias used by Stefan Robbers, a Dutch dance producer.  A Touch of Heaven promises exactly that in its early movements as Robbers conjures a beats and nature mix that offers comparison with Marcoesh’s brilliant Love and Death (Minimum Mix) a record which Peel played on his 8/3/92 show and which I adored but wasn’t able to share back then.  It has subsequently turned up on YouTube and having missed out on the opportunity to include it as an Oliver! appendix, I’m delighted to include it below.  A Touch of Heaven is a mellower track but it very nearly diverts us into purgatory thanks to a persistent sample of frequency modulation that wends its way through the track from about 2:18 onwards.  In a more irritable frame of mind, it might have cost the track its place on the mixtape, but there’s enough intriguing stuff going on underneath the widdling to just about make up for it.  I’ll understand if you only listen to this once though.

This, however, should be listened to again and again - as loud as you can get away with.

Videos courtesy of lost member (Florence) and mrDJtix (Marcoesh)

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft - Goldenes Spielzeug (1 May 1992)

This track from DAF’s 1981 album, Gold Und Liebe, found its way on to Peel’s playlist for 1/5/92 thanks to a note in his Norwich trousers,”Being in showbusiness, I have a pair of trousers for every major town and city in the UK” and which reminded him to play Goldenes Spielzeug (Golden Toy) for “Will and Valentin, the Spanish persons” suggesting either that the note was written by them or that he’d had too much to drink when he made the note.

Peel looked to tie the track into contemporary settings, describing DAF as “Grandfathers of techno”.  Certainly Gabi Delgado-Lopez and Robert Gorl were veterans by 1992 having released their first records in 1979.  However, I upon hearing it was transported back to childhood bedtimes.
Between the ages of 4 and 7, I was a right shit when it came to going to bed.  My parents could get me into my room, OK, but I was buggered if I was going to lay down and sleep.  I put it down to a mix of too much energy (one night, I apparently got out of the house and ran in my pyjamas and Wellington boots down the centre of Kimberly Park Road, until I was found by a group of teenagers who took me back home - like all potential infant near death situations, I have no memory of doing any of this, just parental record), resentment at people still being allowed to stay up while I had to stay in one place and plain old fashioned night terrors. Fear of the dark certainly, but more a feeling of drowning in the huge centuries of time that it seems to take a night to pass when you’re a child and awake.  Sleep and nights seem a monumental waste of time when you’re a kid - think of all that play you could be having.  Not to mention having to be quiet and reserved, which was particularly important in the 3-4 years that my mother ran our house as a bed and breakfast in summer, while taking in students over the winter.  I couldn’t accept having to switch myself off before everyone else in the house when my parents said, “Bed time, David”. There were rows, screaming and tears, and that was just my parents.
Eventually, they gave me a proposition.  I could continue to be awake, to play quietly in my room and have my light on provided that I stayed in my room when they told me it was bed time.  This sounded fair to me, but I still missed the distraction of sounds or other people - I was raised as an only child after all.  My Dad rectified this by putting an old transistor radio on in my room, at discreet volume and this was the final piece of the puzzle in terms of getting me to bed.  Indeed some combination of light, radio and, from my 10th birthday in 1986, television was my regular bedtime routine up till around 1990 when I finally grew out of it all.
What does this have to with DAF though?  Well, in the early 1980s when I first started to have a radio on in my room, I quickly became enamoured of retuning channels and what I sought more than music
was voices/conversation.  It’s wholly possible that I listened to the John Peel wingding on a number of occasions over 1980-83, but I have no true recollection of doing so, even though I knew him for some of that time as both the host of Top of the Pops and someone on the radio.  I am far more certain though of listening to overseas radio channels in France and Germany, babbling through the foggy medium wave as though they were broadcasting behind two layers of concrete.  The unintelligible languages providing companionship at least; the sudden piercing jingles; meandering adverts; long silences which were then broken by records - often Top 10 hits that I knew, but equally likely to be foreign Europop.  It was company and it helped me face up to the lengthy night ahead.  But it was also frightening.  The long silences after an advert or a news break on those foreign channels often meant something ominous was coming.  I vividly remember being riven with fear on my bed as the haunting opening movement to Vienna by Ultravox peered out of the audio gloom.  Or it would be something persistent and unsettling like O Superman by Laurie Anderson.  I was caught in a petrified limbo - if I turned the radio off, I would be plunged into silence again; if I retuned the radio I might find other tunes just as frightening.  I wish I’d had the sentience to find and recognise Peel back then. Someone once said of him that whenever he played a frightening or unsettling piece of music, the un-nerved listener just had to keep repeating “Peel will be back in a minute”.  He brought the extreme to your radio, but his presence was a safety net and his calming, bemused voice was an island welcoming you to safety and congratulating you on listening to something that had yanked you out of your comfort zone.  In Radio 1’s pre 24-hour days, it was tempting to think of him as the last person in Radio 1 each day, charged with locking up and turning the lights off at the end of his show.  An image no doubt seered into the imagination by the “Goodnight and good riddance” clip of him reeling off the records he played in one late 1970s show, in a completely dark studio except for one anglepoise lamp set over his head.  My radio listening in those early infant days lacked that calming figure.  Instead, I had to blunder, unprepared to face tracks like Goldenes Spielzeug.  That chilly
Germanic vibe of the period is in place alongside the fractured, brittle vocal which sounds like it’s being guided through repressed memory theory.  Essentially it’s the synth horn blasts that won me over as well as nostalgia for bedtimes past.  By the end of the decade, synth blasts sounded absurd and naff - their fakeness cheapening any piece of music they were attached to.  But throughout this track, the effect is used with great subtlety and skill providing a striking counterpoint to the tinkly backing that forms the skeleton of the track.  “Wake up.  Look here. Pay attention” it seems to be saying and it was precisely those surprise elements that kept me wary but entranced while unfocusedly  listening to the radio on those long early 80s nights.  The track has been remixed by Lor for their latest album, Reworx.

Have you come to sing me a lullaby, Midge?

Videos courtesy of Stormcloudgrey (DAF) and Ultravox

Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Comedy of Errors: The Fall [Peel Session]/Lee Perry - Kimble (1 May 1992)

The 1/5/92 show featured a repeat of The Fall’s 15th Peel Session, originally broadcast on the 15 February 1992 show.  It showcased tracks from the band’s Code:Selfish album, some of which had already turned up on this blog before.  If live music allows a band to breathe then Peel Sessions certainly benefitted The Fall  -  under this setting, Mark E. Smith couldn’t help but come over loud and clear, while his band fell in tight, lean and smooth behind him.
The wildcard of the session, and one which Peel was particularly excited about, was their cover of Lee Perry’s nursery rhyme like, Kimble.  Peel admitted that, at the time, his family used to play The Fall’s version on cassette in the car very loudly and sing along with it.  My notes for the Perry version from a few months ago are extremely fulsome in their praise, “I love the storyteller vibe here, like he’s talking about his life story”.  But that was then, and this is now.  I’ve gone cooler on Perry’s original and it’s here mostly on the grounds of completeness and comparison.  The Fall’s version is much more interesting, with Smith taking the opportunity to walk down some lyrical sidewalks about new shoes and upholstering buildings.  I can certainly see what appealed to Smith about the track with its choppy lyrical lines, declamatory title line, “I am Kimble!” and vaguely threatening overtones.  This coupled with the reference to “the Midlands mentality” suggests that Smith was using the track to let the band’s manager, Trevor Long, know that he was on borrowed time.

Nevertheless, Peel was delighted at the marriage that the session was able to bring about.
“Two of pop’s great performers, united in song.....What a night, eh listeners? If only life could always be like this and for everyone.”

Videos courtesy of contraflow (The Fall) and rudeboy600 (Perry)

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Seaweed - Recall (1 May 1992)

Listening to Seaweed’s debut album, Weak, alongside Love Battery’s Dayglo album, it becomes touching just how much Sub Pop were hawking out acts in 1992 as potential new Nirvanas to follow in Kurt and Co’s path to mainstream success.
Weak was no  Nevermind, but then very few things are.  However, it certainly didn’t take a leap of imagination to hear tracks from it booming out on daytime radio and enjoying mainstream popularity.  A decade on from Weak’s release, the Seaweed sound was smoothed down and given a bland production makeover in order to create hits for many of the tedious American nu-metal bands that stank out the charts in the early to mid Noughties.  They could appropriate parts of the sound, but Seaweed’s work cut a little deeper.
In terms of the Peel show, Recall makes for an interesting tails to the heads of Pacifier by Circus Lupus, broadcast on the same night as this track was. While Pacifier sounded like it was being directly broadcast from the maelstrom of a tempestuously failing relationship; Recall is the sound of a man reflecting on where things went wrong and casting around for consolatory memories, but still too rawly affected by the relationship to be at peace.  Whatever Aaron Stauffer is singing about has still left marks on his psyche.  Indeed the sense of trying to make sense of the past and letting it cloud your present relationship is a bit of a theme running through the best tracks on Weak.  I only hope Peel’s playlists for May/June 1992 allow a chance to share more of their tracks from the album as there is a lot to enjoy in tracks like Baggage, New Tools and Clean Slate.

Video courtesy of Mike Vince

Sunday, 16 September 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Mosquito - Down/The Bonzo Dog Band - Slush/Mighty Force - Dum Dum (1 May 1992)

A triple bill of tracks taken directly from Peel’s 1/5/92 show and each of which owe their place on the mixtape to their sense of atmosphere.  Two of them are instrumentals and a third features vocals mixed in such ultra lo-fi fashion as to be indecipherable.
Mosquito was a meeting of minds and talents that brought together Jad Fair (think a slinkier voiced Daniel Johnston), Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Tim Foljahn of Two Dollar Guitar, a group that Shelley would also play a part in.  Peel was playing Down, a track from their eponymous debut EP, and was particularly tickled by the fact that the track ended in a locked groove, “So you can play it as long as you like until the record wears out or you switch your radio off.”  Given that it was the first track on the EP, how many people took it back to the record store complaining that there was a scratch in the vinyl?*  Before the groove is reached at around 2:15 on the video, Mosquito serve up what sounds like busking performed by dancing skeletons.  The distortion on the vocal is so harsh that about the only words I can pick out sound like “cheap whores” and “cheap meals”.  Close miked blasts of harmonica ring out like a steam train passing directly over the listener’s head, but help to keep things bouncing along catchily amid the verbal incoherence.

Peel let the locked groove keep playing throughout the majority of the next track in an act of worlds-in-collision mixing by segueing into Slush by The Bonzo Dog Band.  With its gentle organ and string lines (possibly provided through a Mellotron), this appears to provide a calming contrast with the noise of Down.  But Peel may well have been indulging in a bit of creative sequencing here, because while the locked groove of Down continues to scream away in the background, Slush’s most distinguishing feature - a persistent, genuinely amused, maniacal laugh begins to fade in and overwhelm both its own sound and the locked groove.  Considering that Slush was the final track on a Bonzo Dog Band album, Let’s Make Up and Be Friendly, which was recorded as a contractual obligation in late 1971, nearly two years after the band had announced their break-up, its tempting to see the strings and organ as a final burial of the band while the use of the laughter reflects both the sensibility  of the band throughout its life or a comment by its composer, Neil Innes on the mental state of Vivian Stanshall.  The frontman of the Bonzos had in Innes’s words, “lost his nerve a bit” between two American tours in 1969.  Prescribed “life threatening” amounts of Valium and drinking heavily  by the turn of the decade, one of the 1960s sharpest, brightest and funniest intellects had seen his genuine eccentricity lead him into shithouse stunts like dressing up as a Nazi officer and joining Keith Moon on a pub-crawl around Golders Green.  Stanshall would later regard the 1970s as a lost decade despite the fact that during that time he recorded arguably his most famous musical creation, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End which he had devised out of sessions and shows covering for Peel while he was on holiday through the early to mid-70s.  The choice of laughter that Innes uses is very perceptive, sounding on one hand healthy, happy and alive; while on the other hand it sounds like the laugh of a maniac locked away in Stanshall’s head and ready to burst forward at any moment inflicting chaos on its owner.

As the laughter fades away, the trio completes with the enjoyably bouncy Dum Dum by Mighty Force
which despite sounding heavily imbued by the German industrial techno scene was recorded at Suite 16 Studios in Rochdale.

*Answer - no one, because the sleeve of the record warned of a “Pesky Locked Groove”.

Video courtesy of Webbie and my sincere thanks to them for their help in putting these tracks up for sharing.

Friday, 14 September 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Circus Lupus - Pacifier (1 May 1992)

Pacifier is a perfectly chosen title for this wonderful piece of funk-hardcore which comes in on a vocal line by Chris Thomson that sounds like Happy Flowers having a post-college breakdown.  At its heart, this is a break-up song for the grunge generation, in which the protagonist is weary of returning to a home in which it is clear that he is no longer welcome or respected, “Might as well be dead, as round here”.  In common with Milk’s wonderful Claws it seems that conflict is inevitable regardless of what the time is, “Out of nowhere/she must be a nocturnal/in her snare and I’ll feel it/just like a reptile”.  Despite the rage, there’s also great sadness about the time lost and shortly to be thrown away, which the music reflects through Chris Hamley’s high-held squalling guitar line which never allows the audience the relief of a drop to a more reflective, softer tone.  Whenever it tries to drop down, like the soothing peacemaker in a spousal row, it shifts up again as though the other side of the argument is saying, “Fuck your olive branch, I want to fight!”
There’s no peace to be had here and Thomson’s vocal suggests that he won’t find it and doesn’t really deserve to.  The final five note flourish from the band sounds every bit like another evening’s crockery throwing and shouting before a final, exhausted collapse into bed.  Brilliantly compelling stuff.

Video courtesy of maldoror.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Lagowski - Storms (1 May 1992)

This piece of industrial techno by electro musician, Andrew Lagowski, inspired waves of hyperbole.  Peel read out a lengthy promotional piece from the Minus Habens label on Storms which cited “fields of alien climates...fetal alterations and deviated birth...inner tides for plasma enhancement”.  My own notes call it simply a cracking dance tune, though I think they came over a little more readily when heard on the original broadcast - the YouTube transfer above sounding a little more (too?) smooth in comparison.
Ultimately, it probably owes its inclusion here to the fact that the Minus Habens label was based in the Italian city of Bari whose football team were a passing fancy of mine in the mid 1980s when I briefly dallied with having “second teams” to follow while Ipswich Town toiled in the second tier (things have changed so little...).  My attraction to Bari was based on the usual things that an 11 year old may have liked about a foreign team: the name - which when you think about it sounds like a sexy, Italian woman’s way of saying “Bury” and I’d be up to Gigg Lane like a shot if they had more female Italian supporters - the shirt colours with the chicken head badge and the fact that Paul Rideout played for them and I always liked his name.  It says a lot about me that as an avid reader of Match in the mid to late 80s, the Brits abroad that I looked out for on the football field weren’t the likes of Gary Lineker or Ian Rush, but rather the lesser names like Rideout, his Bari teammate Gordon Cowans or Michael Robinson at Osasuna in Spain.
By 1992, Bari and the rest of the Italian top-flight were ready to become weekend UK TV staples through Channel 4’s Football Italia show, but with Ipswich ready to celebrate promotion to the Premier League on the weekend of this Peel show, memories of Bari were a million miles away at this point.  So, it’s nice to listen to Storms and remember the days when all I wanted for May Day was a Bari S.S.C away kit.

Video courtesy of AllanHunter1 - given football has dominated this post, it couldn’t be this one could it?

Monday, 3 September 2018

The Comedy of Errors: The Wedding Present - Pleasant Valley Sunday (1 May 1992)

Although I’ve been a bit hit-and-miss when it’s come to The Wedding Present’s A-sides during their 12 month assault on the Top 40 single charts, their B-sides have fared better with me due to them exhibiting such good taste.  Pleasant Valley Sunday, which backed their May 1992 single Come Play With Me, brings back memories of the mid-80s and watching The Monkees TV show on each weekday morning of the summer holidays.  In a packed field, Pleasant Valley Sunday has claims to be the best Monkees single, and The Wedding Present’s version reflects the sonic Jackson Pollock approach that producer, Chip Douglas brought to the original - and it should be acknowledged that in keeping with The Monkees image at the time, the emphasis was on producing tracks that reflected the  nature of their TV show: fast paced, engaging, eccentric, enjoyably anarchic but with a suggestion of weirdness that meant that their 1968 film, Head, was less of a departure and more of an inevitable end-point for a pre-packaged group that embraced the spirit of the age as much as any pop group did in the late 1960s.
Unfortunately, David Gedge’s Kermit the Frog croak can’t quite do the same justice to the countercultural lyrics that Micky Dolenz could, which is a shame, because while Gerry Goffin’s lyrics may seem to have been heard in a thousand different iterations over the last 50 years, it also seems a perfect touchstone lyric for garage/punk/grunge bands ever since.  Any song you’ve heard that bitches about the identikit nature of suburbia or a longing to escape a world of identical houses, garages and car ports can trace itself back to Pleasant Valley Sunday.  Nowadays, writers and musicians could get criticised for following a cliche but at the time Goffin wrote the lyrics to Pleasant Valley Sunday, he was starting to turn on, tune in and drop out.  LSD and the hippy lifestyle was starting to exert its pull on the co-writer of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. In effect, Goffin (still only 27 years old by 1966, despite having been a writer since the late-50s) was picking his side in the battle for the soul of America that defined so much of its self-relationship between 1965-72.  Nowhere was this more eloquently defined than by Ian MacDonald when writing about the rise of LSD use and the theory of cultural and human relationships espoused by people like Timothy Leary.

“The enemy was The System: the materialistic machine which processed crew-cutted American youths through high school into faceless corporations or the army - an ‘uptight’ society of ‘straights’ so estranged from their bodies and feelings that sex had become a source of guilt to them assuageable only by setting fire to the living flesh of Vietnamese peasants.” (Ian MacDonald, p.149 Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, 4th Estate, 1994).

Pleasant Valley Sunday reflects a whole petri-dish containing both straights (the squire mowing the lawn, Mrs Gray and her roses, Mr. Green and his multiple televisions) and the growing army of freaks such as the narrator or the local rock group who would reject “creature comfort goals” in favour of “a change of scenery”.  However the line about mothers complaining about how hard life is
 to general indifference implies that Goffin had been hammering Mother’s Little Helper by The Rolling Stones around the time he sat down to write the song.

There is a case to be made against Pleasant Valley Sunday for sneering at middle-class values and local community spirit.  John Peel’s favourite song of the 60s, The Misunderstood’s mighty I Can Take You to the Sun can be seen in parts as a generous olive branch to those who were happy to stay behind their picket fence and tend to the garden amid the implied social storm which was kicking up in America at the time.  However, to really get the nuance of this most sweetly delivered middle finger to the US Bourgeoisie, I always end up going back to Mrs. Goffin’s original demo.  You can’t fail with Pleasant Valley Sunday and no one ever really has, though whether The Monkees would have gone near it had it been written in 1968 and included a demand to burn Pleasant Valley to the ground is debateable.

Videos courtesy of jim bob (Wedding Present) and Luciano Bugna (King).

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Llwybr Llaethog - Osmosis (1 May 1992)

On what would have been his 79th birthday, it’s a pleasure to serve up a slice of genre that John Peel was, for many years, the only real outlet for - Welsh language music.  Until the BBC started to throw its weight behind their BBC Introducing strand on both Radio 1 and its local radio networks, it seems unthinkable to imagine it but for many years, Peel was the only person playing Welsh language rock and rap on the radio, a fact confirmed in this interview with one of Llwybr Llaethog’s founder members, John Griffiths from 2013.

Not being a Welsh speaker, I can tell you very little about what the track is about, although given that it’s called Osmosis, it may refer to how the Manchester-born Griffiths learnt Welsh after moving to Blaenau Ffestiniog when he was 12, learning words from friends at school and in and around his local environment.  I clearly picked out “Tom Jones” and “curriculum vitae”, but it doesn’t matter much because this ends up being possibly my favourite Welsh language piece on the blog so far.  I’ve spoken about Welsh language rap either falling into two camps: Paul Gascoigne on helium or Bernard Bresslaw on mogadon.  But the vocal here avoids either of those.  It’s silly, sexy and disarmingly confident.  Wrapped around it are fast dub-guitars, manipulated bass lines and what my notes describe as “calls to prayer” transposing Mecca to Blaenau Ffestiniog.  Towards the end, David R. Edwards from Datblygu contributes a guest rap.

Pen-blywdd hapus, John!

Video courtesy of ffarout

Monday, 27 August 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Morrissey - We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful (1 May 1992)

Judging by his splendid autobiography, Morrissey’s post-Smiths career has essentially gone in five phases:
1) The early fumbling years of trying to adjust to solo life after hoping that the Smiths would make “thirty albums”; continuing to work with Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce.

2) The developing confidence of the early 90s as records like Kill Uncle and Your Arsenal hit big; surrounding himself with new musical playmates like Boz BoorerAlain Whyte and Spencer Cobrin; US tours produce scenes of utter carnage as he sells out venues faster than anyone ever has.  Fans invade stages, Morrissey sings from behind police lines and is whisked through airport kitchens for his own safety, “I am Fabian in 1960”

3) The gloomy years as he finds himself accused by the NME supporting racism/fascism for draping himself in a Union Jack during a gig at Finsbury Park and Mike Joyce successfully manages to sue him and Johnny Marr for hundreds of thousands of pounds in royalties through a judgement which sees Morrissey described by the judge, John Weeks as “devious, truculent and unreliable” -
“‘...devious, truculent and unreliable’ in legal parlance means ‘evil, aggressive and a liar’. What was the reason for this attack on me, so aggressively fuelled and so overdone, that it seems to want to bring a life to an end? Surely judges have no need to unleash thoughts more violent than anything done or said by either defendant or plaintiff.  What then was John Weeks thinking of?  In the quiet room of his final years, he will be delighted that his potential was realised by a famously recurring quote.  It is a quote fit enough to poison everything. Weeks could have merely said that someone was right and someone was wrong - or that both parties were wrong. Instead, he leaves a quote that might be rancid and powerful enough to cause one subject to be unable ever again to conduct business, to never again be trusted or - even better - to kill oneself with the brandishing shock of it all.  It doesn’t take much to force one over the edge, but Weeks’s statement in and of itself could have constituted manslaughter” (Morrissey p.287 Autobiography ibook, Penguin Modern Classics, 2013)
Meanwhile the self-same Union Jack now adorns the guitar of Noel Gallagher and the dress of Geri Halliwell, but no one’s throwing sharpened pound coins at Maine Road or at the Brit Awards.

4) The American exile years where Morrissey moves to Los Angeles - labelless but still pulling in the crowds as a live act and when not onstage, he’s in a relationship with an Iranian born woman
discussing the possibility of having a child with her - like any white racist would...

5) The triumphant return with a slew of chart-topping albums and wall to wall hero worship wherever
he plays.  The adulation feeding him towards happiness and contentment - or at least as much as these feelings can be enjoyed by him.  Who needs a Smiths reunion, certainly not Morrissey on the evidence of the extended travelogue from the mid Noughties that makes up the final 100 pages of the book, as he climbs the mountain again. It’s as if Alan Partridge’s Bouncing Back were ghost written by a hybrid of Phillip Larkin and Alan Bennett.  It was impossible not to feel pleasure for Morrissey by the end of the book.

Autobiography is wonderful for its evocation of Morrissey’s childhood and life in Manchester, the minutiae of life in the music business, his appreciations of his cultural loves (The New York Dolls appear to be the band he always wanted to be in - and probably still does), the duplicity of the music press - brought home most forcefully when Morrissey receives a horrified letter from Julian Casablancas in which he explains that an interview with a music journalist has seen a quote attached to him in which he calls Morrissey “a faggot”, which according to Casablancas did not happen - the Joyce court case etc.  He’s generous to others - even Mike Joyce is praised for his drumming on Smiths records - though his teachers, the judiciary, Geoff Travis of Rough Trade and...erm... former Game for a Laugh/Going for Gold host, Henry Kelly all come in for heavy criticism.  John Peel is also viewed with jaundice with Morrissey feeling that it was John Walters interest that got The Smiths on Peel’s radar more than the man himself.  The book also, for me, refutes the charge that Morrissey may be racially prejudiced.  His relationship with Tina Deghani brings him nine years of domestic happiness and she is among the four people he dedicates the book to.  He takes genuine delight from having his songs sung back to him by predominantly black audiences in places like Fresno while he detests the way Americans behave towards Mexican immigrants, comparing US
customs checks unfavourably to European ones on the grounds that:
“The infantile panic with which American Immigration officials shout loudly and humiliate gleefully
is designed to exert strength yet it trumpets cowardice and fouls notions of patriotism... Throughout Europe, borders of strength lead you on your way with admirable calmness; there is no need to destroy the soul at security checkpoints and there is no need to make travellers feel defiled simply because they have turned up with their passports.  This trigger-happy vacuum, so terrified of human touch, feeds every high school shooting - an unfortunate link that no American politician can
understand....The US government boasted Zero Tolerance and implemented the scheme with zero intelligence.” (Morrissey, p.408 Autobiography iBook, Penguin Modern Classics, 2013). Oh, just 5 years ago and yet it seems another century in so many ways.

Where the book is a dead loss is in providing any context to his songs or creative process.  There’s no mention of inspirations, meanings, targets, motivations for any of his lyrics beyond the odd pop at a judge.  For example, all we learn of We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful is that the video was shot in Wapping and is one of Morrissey’s favourites, “capturing one of those lost British
afternoons of timelessness” and that Tony Blackburn, in his marvellously blank way of thinking, once said, “I’m not a Morrissey fan, but he was right when he said we hate it when our friends become successful”.
For a while, I had assumed that We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful was just a standard, if entertaining piece of Morrissey griping - a lifetime disposition formed out of things like his comparison of school facilities when running for his detested secondary school, St Mary’s, Stretford - at another school, Wellacre, Flixton: “Wellacre are roughish posh boys with Garden-of-Eden facilities and none of the shut-up-and-put-up regimented mildew and mold of St. Mary’s.  I am jealous and I stay jealous.” (Morrissey, p.98, Autobiography).  But considering that the song was recorded during phase 2 of his post-Smiths life I see it now as a mockery of those who he feels are jealous of him, starting to gain traction in his solo work and pushing ahead with his career, while they - and his book suggests that during those chaotic US tours of the early 90s, his former band mates were nowhere in sight both personally and professionally in comparison to where he was - lament about how much better looking they are and how much better their songs are.  Like Eddy Ainsworth in Stags and Hens comparing himself to Peter the musician, “Y’ think he’s good because he plays guitar, well he’s not. He can’t play, y’ know. I know about guitars. I play the guitar.  Chords, I play. G and F and D minor...” (Copyright Willy Russell) and if only the world would notice their brilliance. It’s a joyous song, shot through with melancholy only because of what we know happened next.  Forces, hatched that very year, tried to destroy him, just as he predicted.  And the la-la-la refrain in the coda sounds like a star waltzing up Denmark Street unaware of the the sinkhole ahead of him.

Video courtesy of MorrisseyVEVO.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Comedy of Errors: PJ Harvey - Rid of Me [Live] (1 May 1992)

1 April 1999 and I’ve just finished a rehearsal, quite early on in the schedule, for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which will be staged at the Minack Theatre in 2 months time. Rehearsals are in a village called Madron, just past Penzance.  It’s 45 minutes to get home to Falmouth and John Peel’s show is turned on the minute I start the drive back.  Best of all, I’m leaving early enough to catch the very start of the show, although given that I won’t continue listening to it when I get into the house, I can’t think why it matters.  Things are a little different tonight, the show is forming part of a four hour double bill with Lamacq Live as part of Radio 1’s week of Live in London shows - it’s nice to know the poor loves were being catered for.
Peel’s show, which is being broadcast from The Improv Theatre will later showcase a live set from Echo and the Bunnymen and Ian McCulloch and friends have their work cut out for themselves, because PJ Harvey is opening the show, accompanied by John Parish.  I’m thrilled about this as I begin the drive back, but although Polly Jean announces her set as “wheeling out all the old faves tonight, in case you hadn’t noticed”, she’s caught out latecomers to her party like myself who only came in on To Bring You My Love by opening with a trio of songs from Dry  and Rid of Me.  I recover my bearings as she goes into Angelene and C’Mon Billy from Is This Desire? and To Bring You My Love.  50ft Queenie is a vague memory from when I had first heard her name, but hadn’t been interested enough to get involved in those scuzzy 1993 days.  And then comes the standout performance of the night, the title track of Rid of Me which seems to pull all of Polly Jean’s personalities together at once: the needy pleader, unable let go of what she most desires, the dangerous hydra swooping down to suffocate her feckless love (“Don’t you wish you’d/never met her”) and then most staggeringly and frightening, the insatiable sex fiend - bellowing out in echo drenched ferocity to her paramour “Lick my legs and I’m on fire/Lick my legs and I’m desire” and on it goes until the music drops away and all that’s left is Polly Jean in full-on banshee mode demanding that the lover who struck for freedom get down on their knees and service her “injuries” and give thanks to his bad luck.  When she stops singing, the audience reaction is an explosive release of delight, appreciation - all simultaneously shooting their loads like a football crowd celebrating a 96th minute winner.  I know everything else that’s performed in the rest of the set, but that performance of Rid of Me overshadows it all. Peel, stuck in a radio van at the back of the venue references the astonishing audience reaction with pride and wonderment in his voice.  He perceptively remarks that Polly Jean seems to be bringing multiple voices out of herself when she performs, and that this all serves to heighten her brilliance.

By 1999, Rid of Me was an acknowledged jewel in Harvey’s catalogue, but I’m pretty sure that its first radio performance comes seven years and, for me, umpteen shows earlier.  Peel had spent most of his show on 1/5/92 trailing a mystery guest for that evening’s show and in the last hour, Polly Jean turned up, sans her band mates, to perform two tracks.  Opening with a cover of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, she went at in the only way she knew how - full bore, but the end result left her glumly complaining that she couldn’t hear what she was singing.  After a break for another record, she was back again to perform Rid of Me, which even in the embryonic form presented here demonstrated that whatever Polly Jean did next, it would be rawer and more jagged than anything done on Dry.  The take is everything that Peel would have hoped for - teetering on the edge of collapse, slightly disjointed (not surprising given that it appears that the idea for her to come in was probably hatched earlier that evening).  Although, we are treated to a quality display of domestic sound engineering from Peel’s engineer, Julie, who having obscured Polly Jean’s voice on the first track now reduces the guitar so it sounds like it’s playing in another room, but Peel didn’t mind.  Neither did I and I hope you won’t too.

You’ll have to wait many years before I chronologically blog about this concert, so here’s the 1999 performance of Rid of Me to tide you over until then.  Check out the crowd reaction - everyone there will still remember it to this day.

Videos courtesy of agile elefantus and stepintothegalaxy

Sunday, 19 August 2018

The Comedy of Errors: Cornell Campbell - The Gorgon (1 May 1992)

When Peel played this sweet title cut from Campbell’s 1976 album, I found myself intrigued that a reggae record could be made about a creature from Greek mythology, but then again why not?
However, a bit of elementary research into Carribean patois shed a new light on things.  Gorgon in this context meant the best of the best and a well respected man, although more modern interpretations have thrown criminal meanings onto this especially in terms of the respect angle.  But let’s give Campbell the benefit of the doubt and call it an outburst of confidence rather than an expression of arrogance.
Peel never needed an excuse to spin some retro reggae, but in this instance The Gorgon was used as an interval tune between 2 live tracks played by a surprise guest who popped into the studio on 1/5/92.  More on them in the next post.

Video courtesy of Reggae2Reggae.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

The Comedy of Errors: The Legendary Stardust Cowboy - I Hate CDs (1 May 1992)

Norman Carl Odam AKA The Legendary Stardust Cowboy has two particular claims to musical fame:

1) He had a surprise hit with arguably the worst song to be placed in the Billboard Hot 200.  Paralysed (1968) is a blatant attempt to try and set The Legendary Stardust Cowboy up as a musical idiot savant in the style of Captain Beefheart, Wild Man Fischer, Moondog and others. It won him a
slot on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, but apart from the trumpet mid-section and T-Bone Burnett’s insane  drumming, my reaction to it is similar to Dick Martin’s. But Dick and I were in a minority considering that it sits between The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix in the very first Festive Fifty and...
2) He inspired David Bowie so much that his most iconic creation was named after The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.  Bowie became enamoured of Odam after signing to Mercury Records in the late 60s.  In keeping with record company generosity to new signings, Mercury gave Bowie records by other acts that they had, one of which was The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.  Bowie, by his own admission, loved the idea of the music that Odam was making more than the content itself, but his appreciation was genuine and enduring.  On 2002’s Heathen album, he would cover I Took a Trip (On a Gemini Spaceship), which with its wonderfully dislocated spaced out ambience could be described as the arresting runt of the litter which produced Space Oddity. And in 2007, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy performed at a New York festival curated by Bowie.
Just as Bowie’s star was starting to rise in the late 60s, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy went into a near 20 year absence from recording until, perhaps due to his influence on the Psychobilly movement which arose through the late 70s/mid 80s, he was back with the Rides Again album, which presaged a 3 year spell of albums and singles ending in 1992 with I Hate CDs, after which there would be a 10 year gap till 2002’s Tokyo album, on which The Legendary Stardust Cowboy repaid his most prominent acolyte with a cover of Space Oddity that would have made Bowie’s year.

One of the great pleasures of John Peel’s playlist was the occasional record which showcased quality shouting.  Not in the skilful manner of a death metal record, but just simple, unhinged bellowing.  In the glut of articles I read about him after his death, one that stuck in my mind was of a female writer whose first exposure to Peel’s show was hearing someone shouting, “THERE’S A MAN OUTSIDE!” for 2 and a half minutes only for Peel to calmly announce it as a Tools You Can Trust song.  I Hate CDs is a masterful example of the shout song, following its own logical course, which would have held huge appeal to a vinyl lover like Peel, who regarded CDs as an overpriced occupational necessity rather than a major aural advance.  The slagging off of Bruce Springsteen would surely have tickled Peel further.  More than anything, it’s a great example of an extreme artist in charge of his material rather than benefitting from people laughing at perceived craziness.  It also shows just how durable the riff of Tequila is, which the track appears to take as its basis before concluding on the start of a Two Minute Hate outside Tower Records in Lubbock, Texas.

Bowie gets the kids clapping along to a Legendary Stardust Cowboy song.  Nothing less than its writer deserves

Videos courtesy of peelsmusic (Legendary Stardust Cowboy) and gracexakane (Bowie)