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).