â€¦ YOUR HEART OUT PRESENTS
THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF AN ABANDONED SOUL SINGLE
THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF AN ABANDONED SOUL SINGLE INTRODUCTION “WHAT, AFTER ALL, ARE OBJECTS AND APPEARANCES BUT STORIES IN DISGUISE? IS NOT THE MOST MUNDANE OF THINGS CRYSTALLIZED HISTORY ?” - KITTY HAUSER, B LOODY O LD B RITAIN : O.G.S. C RAWFORD AND THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF MODERN LIFE One of the enduring tenets of the punk explosion is captured in a famous Joe Strummer quote from a Steve Walsh interview in the fanzine Sniffin’ Glue about how The Clash were into rubbish, using what other people have thrown out. I guess that was one of the consolations of the punk era. Hand-me-down Harringtons and second-hand Sta-Prests were a godsend not a curse. It’s just funny it worked out that way. We’re living through another period in time where out of economic necessity more and more people are opting to seek out treasures among what others have cast out. It may not be a lifestyle choice as such, but it’s very likely that a kid who gets a second hand toy from a charity shop will get more pleasure from it than some spoiled brat whose parents can afford to buy it the latest technological gadget. Naturally that doesn’t stop the abandoned parent of that first child crying herself to sleep at the injustice of it all, but … Interestingly we are living in an age where people seem less disposed to hang on to objects. One of the reasons things get thrown out is the advance of technology. Charity shops now, for example, are filled with video cassettes. They practically give them away. 20 odd years ago it was vinyl records that were being cleared out, as people fell for the whole CD thing, the supposedly improved sound quality and all that. So while people replaced old vinyl, second hand shops were filled with 7” singles that were there for next-to-nothing. The Record and Tape Exchange shops in Camden Town and Notting Hill, for instance, had basements filled with boxes and boxes of old singles for 10p each. I would spend hours browsing through the abandoned records, buying loads of intriguing looking relics, particularly anything that looked even remotely as if it might be old soul or reggae related. As often happens I got so sick of doing this that I in turn cleared out piles of salvaged singles, which I often regret. Nevertheless there were certain 7”s I saved, and looking through my own dusty crates recently I chanced upon a single by Joe Curtis from 1972 on the Spiral label, with Black Is Beautiful on the a-side and This Is Love on the flip. It was the fantastic b-side that made me hang on determinedly to that particular single, as it was a really catchy uplifting uptempo soul number very much in the vein of the Chairman of the Board or the Invictus sound. I was never sure about the single’s provenance though. Was it recorded earlier than 1972 and reissued to meet revived interest in old soul? Was it a cash-in? Was it even a US or UK release? Anyway, digging out the 7” recently and playing it again, and falling in love with it all over again, I thought it was time to do some archaeology of my own.
Looking on the internet, the only mention I could find of this single was someone on eBay offering an Italian edition for sale with a pic sleeve. Intrigued, I looked again at my single, and while Spiral certainly seemed to be a UK concern the publishing did refer to Eurobeat. That kind of made sense, as the sound was in that Eurosoul sort of Mac and Katie Kissoon mould, which found success in places like the Netherlands before the UK. Then I noticed the common denominator on the song writing credits was one Sylvester Lysy, and putting this into a search engine suddenly made things far more interesting. Lysy it seems was another working name for Sylvester Levay, the Hungarianborn composer, arranger and producer, who is best known perhaps for his success with ‘80s Hollywood soundtracks, but a little earlier was also the person behind Silver Convention of Fly Robin Fly fame in the mid-‘70s and part of the whole Munich milieu that brought us Giorgio Moroder, Donna Summer, Munich Machine, Dee D Jackson and so on at the height of the disco explosion. Tracking connections between Sylvester Levay and Joe Curtis I found references to them working with the Ambros Seelos Orchestra, a name I was familiar with from compilations like The In-Kraut series on Marina and Achtung! German Grooves which focused on the funkier, swinging output of the German big band leaders like Peter Thomas, Max Greger, and so on. Levay also seemed to turn up in the context of some more Krautrock or fusion related recordings, like Ralph Nowy’s Lucifer’s Dream, so things were getting interesting. And so it goes. Take an abandoned artifact, look for depth in detritus, find the untold stories, track down the connections, provide new perspectives, add colour, and the discarded takes on new significance.
CHAPTER ONE So why should an abandoned soul single hold such an enduring appeal? Where did the soul thing come from anyway? As the years have gone by I have put the case that subconsciously it all started with loving the soul sounds I absorbed as a kid, and in particular the singles given a new lease of life by a resurgence of interest in ‘60s soul music during the ‘70s, predominantly through the Northern Soul scene when the occasional record crossed over and got into the charts, like Robert Knight’s Love On A Mountain Top. More specifically though my passion for old soul music was ignited by the revival of interest in the mod way of life that took place underground in early 1979. As more and more information emerged about the original mod thing, so it became apparent that the real mod sounds were soul and rhythm and blues. Articles like Penny Reel’s in the New Musical Express about the early mod scene gave an insight into what people were listening to back then, and made everything seem impossibly romantic. As the new mod scene moved overground, and groups like the Purple Hearts, Secret Affair, The Chords, Back To Zero, Teenbeats and so on started to get records out, so you would see more mentions in the mod fanzines about the original mod sounds. And by the time issue number 8 of Maximum Speed came out, original face Randy Cozens was well into his campaign to get the new mod generation interested in the old soul sounds. The same issue would feature a piece by Tony Rounce on the first of a new monthly ‘60s rhythm & soul night at the Bedford Head in London’s Covent Garden … “something that no dedicated Modern Boy will be able to miss in future”. That was all very well, but being just 15, stuck out in the suburbs, it was all a bit remote and all the more glamorous for being so unattainable. These ‘6T’s Rhythm ‘n’ Soul nights were run by Randy Cozens and Ady Croasdell. Both these guys would become folk heroes to many. Randy’s infamous list of 100 mod tunes would become a treasure map for many, while Ady would go on to oversee Kent Records who in the early ‘80s transformed the soul world by releasing a series of compilations of lost musics, beautifully presented, solving the conundrum of how on earth do you get to know music if it’s only available via expensive old singles? And while now we may almost be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of old soul music that is instantly available at the click of a mouse, back then it was very different. Even compilations were few and far between. So it’s impossible to overestimate the value of what Kent has been doing in terms of making old soul music available. In 2005 Kent got round to issuing a compilation celebrating the beginnings of the 6T’s Rhythm & Soul Society. It’s a fantastic collection, covering the broad spectrum of black American r&b and soul, and tells an important story. In his sleevenotes Ady refers to the early days in the summer of 1979, and the way the new mod generation became part of the London soul scene, mingling with the old heads. This is one of those aspects that have been overlooked in the capturing of history, the enduring legacy of what happened in 1979 being a propensity to learn, a passion for education and enlightenment. So, it seems only appropriate for Brian Kotz, who in 1979 was the singer with Back To Zero, who were riding on the crest of the new wave with their fantastic Fiction single, Your Side Of Heaven, to share the young mod’s forgotten story about how the soul thing worked its magic and cast its spell …
“So, by early ’79, we had the bands, we had the enthusiasm, and some of us who were lucky enough had the record collections, but to our knowledge, there was nowhere to go out and hear, or maybe even dance, to the ‘60s soul and rhythm & blues that inspired us and would inspire us more. The best that could be offered at gigs, (when it wasn’t the soundman’s JJ Cale tapes), were fun but uninspiring ‘60s hit compilations. Don Letts, it wasn’t. “In January, John and Mal, (at that time members of the pre-BTZ Modern Boys) were in the HMV Store in Oxford Street, when they were stopped by a shop assistant who identified them as mods by their apparel. This turned out to be Jo Wallace, a Wigan Casino veteran, who is now regarded by some as one of the best Northern– style DJs of the last 30 years. Jo was fascinated by the emergence of a new mod scene, and hung out with us for a few weeks, but I think she was ultimately somewhat bemused by our commitment to guitar music and, likewise, we found her exhortations to accompany her to soul nights in far-flung areas of the South-East to be too much at that point. The empathy was lacking. “By May, the scene in London had gelled and was growing. A workmate of mine at ATV Music Publishers, Rob Sawyer, was also a funk DJ, and planned a mod-oriented ‘60s soul evening at a pub in his locality of Catford. He certainly had the vinyl (he was a fan of black music; everything, he said, from Nat King Cole to Jimi Hendrix – great line, that!), and wanted to do something in support – his brother had literally swapped bondage trews for mohair in the previous few months, too. The resulting evening was fun, but too under-populated to make regular. The location was difficult to get to, being in the non-tube part of town; and Rob, coming as he did from the world of funkateer tribes and beats per minute, didn’t have the connections to make it a success. “What we needed was someone from our own scene to be a link to the music and, in the summer, it was Tony Rounce who stepped forward. Tony was also a vet of legendary Northern all-nighters, and a veritable soul encyclopedia, but had embraced punk. Naturally any stirrings of Modernism would be up his street, so he became a regular at the Mod gigs. To show how young our
average age was at that time, some of us knew him as “26-year-old Tony”, as he seemed so adult to us! Tony was friends with Ady Croasdell, who was co-organising a new 6T’s event, and the publicising started a few weeks before the first night. “Tony and Ady were absolutely the right catalysts for us, for two important reasons, I’d say: a) Despite their experience and status in the world of soul appreciation, they hated any elitism. They saw a need, and wanted to include us in the plans, to share the music they loved. Tony had already compiled a terrific tape for me, including gems like Candy by The Astors. And b) Their own musical taste spreads way beyond just soul. They love whatever moves them. Their profiles and “Top Tens” in the role as consultants on the Ace Records website bear this out. They don’t have a blinkered view of music. If anyone had come along, tried to patronise us, and said: “Stop listening to The Small Faces & The Creation immediately, you’ve got it wrong”, the door would have been slammed. Also, there was nothing po-faced or earnest about their attitudes – their flyers for the early events are hilarious.
(Left to right) June 1979: A toast to tomorrow - Brian Kotz, Mickey Hassett (part hidden), Unknown, Tony Lordan (Guns For Hire/Dept S), Mark Mason, Billy Hassett (Chords), Bob "from Bethnal Green" Waterman, Vaughan Toulouse (Dept S, RIP), Unknown.
“I couldn’t make it to the first historic 6T’s Rhythm & Soul night at the Bedford Head, as I was Marching on a certain Mods’ Tour, but I was really psyched up for the 2nd one, on September 7th. I won’t pretend I remember the entire playlist. I will say that I danced non-stop, and the atmosphere was terrific. The one tune I remember being played above all others was First I Look at the Purse by The Contours. To this day, any mention of 6T’s past and present, and it’s the first song that comes to mind. Note that it’s a classic Motown original, and not a Motown-a-like rarity. True to what the comp CD sleevenotes say, there was indeed a slowie section where smooching occurred. This actually didn’t come as a surprise to someone who only the previous year had still been bunking into youth club do’s, but I realise now it was unique to the milieu. I even remember who I danced with (to Mitty Collier maybe, or I’ve Been Lovin’ You Too Long)? What a night. I wanted more of these.
“It was obvious that the Big Daddy of this London Soul World was the co-organiser, Randy Cozens. Randy was more of a purist in the mould of Dave Godin, and didn’t really have time for the new bands, but he was happy with the new faces. I hope he realised what a huge effect his Top 100 choices that were printed in Sounds would have on thousands of people. He seemed to make an exception for Back To Zero for completely parochial reasons; he was from Southgate and so was I, and he and his local friends were drunkenly yelling mine and BTZ’s name at the end of the evening. At least I felt welcome, and whenever I passed Southgate Rhythm & Soul Society’s “HQ” at The Rising Sun in Chase Side from then on, there always seemed to be one of them outside raising a glass in my direction.
“With 6T’s off and running, there was further integration, particularly at Small Hours gigs. They were, quite rightly, the Rounce & Croasdell group of choice – they were, after all, as close to a live version of their concept of Rhythm & Soul as they could wish for, and one gig, in particular, in early 1980 at Jackson ’s Lane in Highgate, was the equal of the Bedford Head for a feeling of soulful headiness. “… And when we in the bands became individuals who used to be in bands, the music and the 6T’s Club remained, and still remain. I’m happy to say that we finally caught up with Jo Wallace.”
CHAPTER TWO Spring into summer 1979. The mod thing really taking off. A lot of interest out there in what had happened in the ‘60s. A revival of interest. But just as much interest in the future. It was all mixed up together. A great time for new music. A hell of a job getting hold of anything much old anyway. So you’d be listening to The Pop Group, Gang of Four, The Fall, Undertones, Wire, The Cure, Swell Maps, and so on just as much as the new mod groups like the Purple Hearts, Chords, Back To Zero, Small Hours. Increasingly independent releases would capture the imagination. In a special ‘new groups’ edition of the fanzine Jamming there would be a special feature of making a DIY single, focusing on The Visitors’ Electric Heat EP, put out by Johnny Waller, editor of Edinburgh-based fanzine Kingdom Come, on his new Deep Cuts label.
For me, that Electric Heat EP captures, still, the magic and mystery of that time. A record put out on a new label by an unknown group, gets played on John Peel’s radio show, gets some support from Dave McCullough in Sounds, turns up in our local record shop (and this would be unimaginable five years later when independent distribution networks were properly established ... erm ...). The cover looked impossibly glamorous. Four figures sitting out in the snow, huddled round a small electric bar fire. And the record itself sounded like nothing on earth, striking some perfect balance between the very intense, very
danceable, very prickly, and very poppy. Fantastic guitar sound from Colin Craigie. Great organ thing going on too via singer John McVay. “I HAD AN OLD BURNS T RI-SONIC GUITAR WHICH IN CONJUNCTION WITH MY CHEAP FUZZ PEDAL PRODUCED A SOUND SIMILAR TO AN ANGRY WASP IN A JAR. P LAYING IT WAS A BIT LIKE TRYING TO HOLD A CROCODILE' S JAW SHUT.” - C OLIN “PART OF THE SOUND WAS BECAUSE I HAD AN OLD FARFISA ORGAN THAT WAS GREAT FOR CREATING A BACKGROUND SORT OF DRONE LIKE A BAG PIPE. W E ONLY USED IT TO CREATE A BACKGROUND WASH OF SOUND OFTEN USING A PHASER OR FLANGER OR OCCASSIONALY AS IN ELECTRIC HEAT WITH A VERY SIMPLE THREE NOTE MOTIF . UNFORTUNATELY THE POOR OLD THING (FARFISA) EXPIRED IN 1980.” - JOHN The feature in Jamming would outline how the EP was recorded at Cargo Studios in Rochdale, just around the time the facilities there were becoming a key resource for the post-punk outfits. The Gang of Four and Scars had recorded there, The Fall would use it often, and Factory and Martin Hannett would also work there. John Brierley was the engineer there, and is something of an unsung hero of the post-punk era in terms of making it possible, financially and creatively, for groups to do something different. “I DON' T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT THE CARGO SESSIONS EXCEPT THE RED BRICK BUILDINGS BUT BRIERLEY WAS A CHEERY SORT OF CHAP WHO HAD HIS WORK CUT OUT FOR HIM SINCE OUR EQUIPMENT WAS NOT UP TO MUCH.” - C OLIN “JOHN WAS GREAT BUT DUE TO THE LACK OF MONEY WE HAD TO DO EVERYTHING IN ONE OR TWO TAKES. AS IT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN A ‘PROPER’ STUDIO WE WERE NAIVE ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE THE SOUND SO WHAT WE GOT WAS A LOT ROUGHER THAN WE INTENDED BUT ON A BUDGET!” - JOHN Into 1980 and The Visitors got to record their first session for the John Peel show. A recently unearthed recording captures Peel bemoaning the lack of live appearances the group was able to get. “THE GOD LIKE JOHN PEEL WAS PROBABLY THE ONLY WAY WE MANAGED TO STAY ALIVE -THROUGH THE ROYALTIES WE EARNED FROM THE P EEL SESSIONS ( THERE WERE THREE IN ALL). W E WEREN ’T ALONE. H E KEPT A WHOLE GENERATION OF BANDS WHO WERE AT THE MARGINS ALIVE AND HOPEFUL. H E HAD HIS OWN LABEL AND IT LOANED US MONEY TO HELP PRESS THE SECOND SINGLE E MPTY ROOMS, WHICH HE NEVER ASKED TO BE RE -PAID . W ITHOUT THIS AND HIS PATRONAGE WE HAD NO CHANCE TO GET TO MAKE THE THIRD SINGLE WHICH CAME FROM THE SECOND P EEL SESSION.” JOHN “WE COULDN'T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT HIM BECAUSE WE WERE DESPERATELY SKINT, SPENDING ALL OF OUR MONEY ON REHEARSAL ROOMS , BEDSITS , EQUIPMENT, VAN HIRE , ETC”. - C OLIN In 1979 into 1980 something seemed to be happening in Edinburgh. The Visitors had released Electric Heat and Scars had released Horrorshow. They were the two best records around. They certainly had the best guitar sounds. Very jagged. Fast Product was the coolest label around. They were putting out Earcom with The Flowers and Prats on. Josef K and Fire Engines would be waiting in the wings. But things moved slowly for The Visitors and Scars. This was before the Postcard thing took off. And anyway The Visitors definitely didn’t fit in. “I THINK THAT OUR DISTINCTIVE STYLE MAYBE DID WORK AGAINST US A BIT ...” - COLIN “WE WERE ALWAYS INTO THE VELVETS , FROM EARLY ’76, BUT LATER ON WIRE WERE A BIG INFLUENCE AFTER WE SAW THEM IN LATE ‘77 IN N EWCASTLE. W E ACTUALLY LINED UP C OLIN FROM W IRE TO PRODUCE OUR FIRST 4AD ALBUM , BUT IT DIDN’ T AS YOU KNOW HAPPEN. A LSO T HE F ALL, M AGAZINE, SCOTT W ALKER, C HIC.” - J OHN “I LIKED THE A DVERTS. WE BECAME QUITE FRIENDLY WITH TV SMITH AND STAYED AT HIS HOUSE WHEN IN LONDON. ALSO REALLY LIKED T HE SCARS BEFORE THEY BECAME A POP BAND. T HEY HAD SUCH AN EXCITING EDGE.” - C OLIN
The second single would be Empty Rooms, though one of the EP’s other tracks, The Orcadian, a highlight from the first Peel session, would be the most appealing, with a harsh, discordant Subway Sect style guitar sound. “JOHN WAS THE MAIN MAN AS FAR AS THE ETHOS OF THE BAND WAS CONCERNED. HE WROTE MOST OF THE LYRICS AND SOME OF THE SONGS. I WAS MOSTLY INVOLVED MUSICALLY , DOING A LOT OF THE ARRANGEMENT , ALTHOUGH I DID COME UP WITH THE LYRIC FOR T HE O RCADIAN , WHICH WAS A PASSAGE I FOUND IN T HE O RCADIAN NEWSPAPER FROM 1851 MY GRANDFATHER HAD IT SOMEWHERE. I' M ASHAMED TO SAY I' VE LOST TRACK OF THAT NOW. M Y FATHER' S PARENTS CAME FROM ORKNEY. I REMEMBER P EEL INTRODUCING T HE O RCADIAN AND SAYING "W ALTERS AND I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO GUESS WHAT AN O RCADIAN IS AND WE WONDER IF IT MIGHT BE AN OLD JUKEBOX OR SOMETHING". I WAS AMUSED BY THAT.” - C OLIN By the time The Visitors would record their second Peel session at the end of 1980 “the sound of young Scotland” would be just about the hippest thing on the planet. In contrast to the cheek and wit of an Orange Juice though, The Visitors had developed into an incredibly intense experience. The session tracks, like Compatibility and Poet’s End, would be epic affairs, far darker than Joy Division, with an amazing guitar sound that not even Josef K could match. “THIS WAS OUR BEST AS A) WE HAD SORT OF CRACKED THE SOUND AND STYLE WE WERE AFTER, AND B) THE PRODUCER ON THE DAY USED TO WORK WITH SLADE AND M OTT THE HOOPLE.” - JOHN
“IT'S GREAT TO HEAR THAT YOU LIKE COMPATIBILITY AND POET' S END. THEY WERE BOTH SONGS WHICH WERE INITIALLY JUST MADE UP AS WE WENT ALONG. W E USED TO CREATE A LOT OF OUR SONGS LIKE THAT AND THEN CRAFT THEM INTO TANGIBLE SONGS OVER TIME. I REMEMBER PLAYING THE RIFF FOR C OMPATIBILITY AND THE BAND JUST JOINING IN AND BEFORE WE KNEW IT WE HAD THE BONES OF THAT SONG” - C OLIN The Peel session tracks Compatibility (five and half minutes) and Poet’s End (nearly seven minutes) would appear on a single put out by the Rational label, run by Edinburgh entrepreneur Allan Campbell. Rational is a label whose output is incredibly fondly remembered by aficionados of post-punk. As well as the Visitors’ single Campbell’s label would also issue a couple of great singles by the Delmontes, the beautiful Soon by Paul Haig’s Rhythm of Life, and the fantastic Alan Horne/Malcolm Ross produced Event To Come by Article 58, who are described as a “post-punk existential teenage angst pop group” by guitarist Douglas MacIntyre in the sleevenotes to the Endless Soul compilation of Josef K material issued in 1998 by German label Marina. The Visitors’ fantastic recordings have yet to be properly salvaged, though they are included in the Scottish volume of Chuck Warner’s valuable Messthetics series, where mention is made of a doomed liaison with 4AD. “I LEFT THE BAND BECAUSE I FOUND IT MORE AND MORE DIFFICULT TO FIND GUITAR PARTS FOR THE DIRECTION THE MUSIC WAS TAKING . I T WAS A BIT TOO OBSCURE , INACCESSIBLE AND SELF - INDULGENT FOR MY LIKING . I ALSO ALWAYS STRUGGLED WITH PERFORMING LIVE BECAUSE I WAS QUITE A SHY PERSON. I DON' T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE 4AD DEAL BECAUSE I WAS GONE BY THEN.” - COLIN “IT’S A SHAME THAT THE BAND DIDN’T STAY TOGETHER MUCH LONGER AFTER THIS ( THE SECOND PEEL SESSION) AS THERE WERE A LOAD OF OTHER SONGS FROM THAT TIME THAT WERE NEVER RECORDED BUT AFTER A TRIP TO L ONDON THEY GOT THE INTEREST OF 4AD. W E WANTED TO RELEASE TWO 12” SINGLES WITH DIFFERENT THEMES . O NE MORE POETS E ND, THE OTHER A BIT MORE EXPERIMENTAL, RATHER THAN A SINGLE LP. BUT IVO AT 4AD WASN’T INTO THAT DUE TO THE INCREASED COSTS I THINK . S HORTLY AFTER A DISASTROUS GIG AT THE ICA THE BAND SPLIT UP SO THE ONLY BITS THAT GOT TO TAPE WERE THE ONES WE DID FOR THE LAST AND NOT VERY GOOD PEEL SESSION WHERE THE PRODUCER WE HAD WAS VERY RESTRICTED AND COULDN’ T SEE WHAT WE WERE TRYING TO DO .” - JOHN
CHAPTER THREE Something was happening around 1983 and 1984. Scattered around the country there was a whole group of young people that seemed to be feeling the same way, seemed to be clutching the same things close to their hearts, using these as symbols and signs, tools almost with which they could change things. Some of these people started groups, some started fanzines, some record labels, some put on live shows, others simply spread the word. There were sort of three strands to what was happening. One was the exploring of ‘60s roots, via folk rock, garage punk, northern soul, tapping into the source sounds. The second was the continuation of the raw experimentation and melodic invention that lay on the darker side of Postcard Records via groups like Josef K, Fire Engines, Scars, Visitors, Article 58 and the wider post-punk thing of the Raincoats, Blue Orchids, and so on. And the third was the initial burst of energy that came via the punk rock explosion. These were all things to be used, foundations to build on. Among the groups that were around at this time would be the June Brides. They would have this great set of songs. Scratchy and prickly but with very catchy tunes, very sharp words, and the whole thing was very danceable. And live they would slip in the occasional incongruous cover of a primal punk nugget like the Radiators’ Enemies or the Cortinas’ Television Families. Similarly live the Jasmine Minks, who were working in the same way, would segue Chelsea’s Right To Work with Love’s Seven And Seven Is. Another song the Jasmine Minks would hold up as a perfect example of punk’s primitive potential would be The Users’ Kicks In Style, which was an insanely poppy racket, independently released, with a memorable cover pic of the group as rebels having faced the firing squad. Many years later when interviewing June Brides singer Phil Wilson for an abandoned oral history project he mentioned going to see The Users and never being the same again, and I remember being as jealous as hell. Anyway, thanks to the vagaries of technology I came across the MySpace page of a group called Pop Art and fell instantly in love with one of the songs they’d posted called That Summer Feeeelin’. Delving deeper it seemed there were connections via guitarist Chris Free to The Users, which made me sit up like I’d been struck by lightning. There was it seemed a Users compilation out called Secondary Modern, which I had to have. And I remembered what Phil Wilson had said: “VERY FEW PEOPLE HAD THEIR PUNK ROCK EPIPHANY WATCHING THE SEX PISTOLS AT THE 100 CLUB OR MANCHESTER FREE TRADE HALL ( IN SPITE OF THE NUMBER OF CLAIMS OTHERWISE). FOR MOST OF US , IT WAS SEEING A BUNCH OF SPOTTY YOUTHS AT A YOUTH CLUB OR LOCAL FESTIVAL THAT PROVIDED THAT JAW- DROPPING "GOD THAT' S GREAT, AND I COULD DO IT TOO!" MOMENT. I WAS ESPECIALLY LUCKY IN THAT THE LOCAL PUNK BAND I GOT TO SEE WAS THE USERS. ”IT WAS SOME ODD LITTLE LOCAL FESTIVAL IN WISBECH, WITH THE EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND HEADLINING. I HAD HEARD S ICK OF Y OU BY T HE USERS ON JOHN P EEL AND LOVED IT . I THEN SAW THEY WERE PLAYING THIS FESTIVAL . A S THEY WERE ON AT OR NEAR THE BOTTOM OF THE BILL, I BEGGED MY MUM TO LET ME GO , PROMISING I' D LEAVE EARLY AND WOULDN' T DO ANYTHING NAUGHTY. M Y MATE P AUL S TRUDWICK AND I WENT TOGETHER, AND WAITED AT THE FRONT OF THE STAGE FOR T HE USERS . T HEY WERE ALL I HOPED FOR AND MORE. Y OUNG , LOUD, EXCITING, AND WITH PERFECT PUNK ROCK SNEERS TO DIE FOR. I THINK P AUL AND I WERE THE ONLY PEOPLE OUT OF A COUPLE OF THOUSAND THERE WHO ENJOYED THE BAND .. BUT WE BLOODY LOVED THEM . I T WAS THAT MOMENT THAT I THOUGHT THAT I SHOULD GET A GUITAR AND JOIN A BAND . M Y LIFE CHANGED FOREVER BECAUSE OF THEM .... ”MOST IMPORTANTLY, SICK OF YOU AND KICKS IN STYLE STILL WORK TODAY AS FANTASTIC PUNK POP SINGLES AND AS PERFECT TIME CAPSULES TO TAKE ME BACK TO WHEN EVERYTHING SEEMED EXCITING AND ANYTHING SEEMED POSSIBLE.”
The Users were right there at the onset of punk. Starting up in Cambridge, as Chris Free explains ...
“WELL ANDREW AND I MET UP OUT OF TECH - PLAYED DRUMS AND GUITAR - HE THEN GOT BOBBY KWOK ALONG TO PLAY BASS AND I GOT MY MATE PHIL ALONG TO SING. W E WERE PUT ON TO PLAY AT A PRIVATE PARTY AT DOWNING COLLEGE BY RICHARD BARBROOK.” Many years later Barbrook would be the author of the book Imaginary Futures which traces the political history of the internet. During the early 1980s, he was involved in pirate and community radio broadcasting and helped establish Spectrum Radio, a multi-lingual station in London, and published extensively on radio issues. Later he coordinated the Hypermedia Research Centre at the University of Westminster. He would claim that the punk explosion, seeing the Sex Pistols and learning about the Situationists were life-changing moments. “THE USERS? WELL WE JUST WANTED TO BE LIKE THE STOOGES - THE WHO - THE NUGGETS COMP - ALL WRAPPED UP IN ONE PACKAGE COMIN' AT YOU. W E WERE REALLY FOCUSED ON BEING A DEVASTATING LIVE EXPERIENCE - WE WANTED TO TAKE THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD OFF - AND BE LOVED BY THE ARTSCHOOL GRRRLS . W E WERE YOUNG, OUT OF SCHOOL UNEMPLOYED - SIGNING ON - REHEARSING IN A BOATHOUSE OVERLOOKING THE RIVER C AM IN C AMBRIDGE. L IFE WAS VERY COOL!!! A ND I HAD A GREAT GUITAR SOUND!!!!” “LEE WOOD OWNER OF RAW RECORDS SAW US AND IMMEDIATELY PUT US IN THE STUDIO - ONE MONTH LATER SICK OF YOU WAS IN OUR LOCAL RECORD STORE. WE THEN HAD TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION TO GET PAID!!! WE WERE GOING TO GO HALVES WITH L EE W OOD ORIGINALLY AND CALL THE LABEL RAWPOWER R ECORDS .”
For punk connoisseurs the Raw label has a considerable reputation. The records it put out live up its name. Killjoys, Some Chicken, Soft Boys, Unwanted, The Now, Acme Sewage Co, Sick Things. Plus connections to primitive roots sounds, via the Hammersmith Gorillas, The Creation, Downliners Sect, rockabilly and so on. And there are those that swear the definitive guitar punk sound was captured at the local Spaceward studios that Raw used. Among those that recorded there would be the early Scritti Politti which kind of proves the point about the guitar sound. Listen to Skank Bloc Bologna. Brilliant guitar sound. But you’re better off listening to Sick Of You. “I THINK WHEN I TOOK MY GUITAR SOUND DOWN TO SPACEWARD STUDIOS THEY WERE INITIALLY SHOCKED BUT I WAS AFTER A MODERN DAY K INKS Y OU R EALLY GOT M E KINDA SOUND . “ Listening to Sick Of You is like being connected up to the National Grid with the power turned right up. It’s one of the more enduring of the punk independents, and probably sold enough copies to be a major hit. John Peel apparently had a couple of copies in his legendary record box, the one to grab in case of emergency. Kicks In Style was the Dave Goodman produced second Users single. It is the most malevolent ultra-pop punk 45 ever, complete with cheeky irresistible handclaps. “WELL AS WE WERE HAVING TO TAKE RAW TO COURT TO GET PAID WE SET UP OUR OWN LABEL WARPED. I REMEMBER GEOFF T RAVIS (ROUGH TRADE OWNER) HEARD ABOUT 20SECS AND THEN TOOK A LOAD OFF US TO DISTRIBUTE.” Gradually The Users developed a sharper, more mod sound ... “WELL WE ALWAYS WANTED THAT 60'S GARAGE SOUND. WHEN WE FIRST PUT THE BAND TOGETHER THERE WERE NO PUNK RECORDS OUT. I THINK THAT BY 1979 WE JUST GOT BETTER AT CAPTURING IT. I REALLY DID LIKE T HE W HO COVER I T' S N OT T RUE AND WISHED WE' D RECORDED OUR VERSION OF M ARTHA AND THE VANDELLAS’ N OWHERE TO RUN …” And then The Users came to an end … “WELL WE HAD NO MANAGEMENT - TO KEEP US IN CHECK - SO THERE WERE ALL SORTS OF DISTRACTIONS IN THE FORMS OF GIRLS AND RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES ... P LUS P HIL JAMES THE SINGER AND I HAD RELOCATED TO LONDON WHILE ANDREW WAS STILL IN CAMBRIDGE, AND BASS PLAYERS WERE IN AND OUT. IT WAS ALL A BIT UP IN THE AIR. I WANTED TO PLAY - BUT IT WAS NOT HAPPENING... P LUS WE WERE BROKE !!! F AVOURITE MEMORY OF THE PUNK ERA? PLAYIN ’ THE JOHN PEEL ROADSOW. I T WAS JUST US , T HE USERS , AND JOHN P EEL SPINNING DISCS . A N AWESOME GIG . W E BLEW THE PLACE APART. JOHN WAS NEXT TO MY AMP FOR THE WHOLE GIG.” Chris Free would later reappear with singer Lucy Barron as A Craze, who released the classic Wearing My Jumper on Paul Weller’s Respond label, meaning that temporarily at least Chris would be with the same record company as old colleague’s Andrew’s sister Rachel who was part of Dolly Mixture. With A Craze Chris and Lucy would create a sound that fitted in perfectly with what was happening in terms of Weekend, Everything But The Girl, Pale Fountains, Carmel and the Style Council of Headstart For Happiness and Paris Match. In many ways they were Saint Etienne seven or eight years too soon. Their potential as a Goffin/King or Barry/Greenwich style songwriting team was sadly not exploited, though they did write Tracie’s hit Give It Some Emotion. Hopefully a CD round-up, initially for the Japanese market, will shed some light on more missed opportunities. In the meantime ...
“MOVED BACK TO CAMBRIDGE IN 2006 - HAD JUST BEEN WORKING ON MY WEBSITE WWW .CXLONDON.COM - AND BUMPED INTO SOMEONE IN THE STREET WHO DIDN' T KNOW I DIDN' T PLAY ANYMORE - I HADN' T PICKED UP A GUITAR FOR ABOUT 15 YEARS - T HEY ASKED IF I WANTED TO PLAY THE S YD BARRETT MEMORIAL WHICH WAS GOING TO TAKE PLACE ACTUALLY IN G RANCHESTER M EADOWS . W ELL THAT WAS TOO GOOD TO TURN DOWN - SO I CALLED A NDREW AND WORKED OUT G OLDEN H AIR , L UCIFER SAM , T HE G NOME , A RNOLD LAYNE , B OB D YLAN B LUES , D ARK G LOBE . I T WAS A FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE. A GREAT VIBE. N EXT DAY I WAKE UP WITH A TUNE IN MY HEAD AND WRITE A SONG IN 20MINS ENTITLED ENGLAND IN JUNE - IT SEEMED REALLY RIGHT - FOR ME FOR NOW. NEXT WEEK ANOTHER COUPLE OF SONGS CAME . W HEN I GOT TO ABOUT 10 SONGS I THOUGHT I' VE GOT SOMETHING HERE … “ Chris had something going with Louise Ness for a while too ... “THE TRACK ON MYSPACE ... BEAT BEAT BEAT - SHE USED TO DANCE BURLESQUE TO THAT AT SOHO'S CLUB I NDIGO & MAYFAIR’S NIGHT OF THE LIVING ULTRA VIXEN. VERY BOHO BEAT LONDON ... WE DID A FEW GREAT TRACKS. ONE CALLED G IRL O N F IRE WAS PRIMO !!! A NDY ROSS AT F OOD RECORDS OFFERED US A TWO SINGLE DEAL, BUT LOUISE DIDN' T FANCY IT (‘T HE POP LIFE ...’ ). I SOMEHOW HAD A REAL TALENT FOR REMAINING UNDERGROUND!!!” And that’s Louise Ness as in doing her Jane Birkin bit on Barry Adamson’s The Negro Inside Me and earlier, much earlier, singing with The French Impressionists, part of the peripheral Postcard Records related activity while the music scene was being redefined and it was considered a rebellious act to play acoustic jazz sets in wine bars and folk music in coffee houses and talk of Astrud Gilberto, Julie London, the Carpenters and the Gershwins. The Jazzateers in their early incarnation with Alison Gourlay on vocals would be very much in the vanguard of this way of thinking. It was this variation of the Jazzateers that would record a version of Donna Summer’s Wasted, with her producer Pete Bellotte, which would never be released as a single. As a concept though, it’s so perfect. The Munich disco thing, the Moroder recordings, Donna Summer’s brilliant interpretations. It was perfect pop, and that’s what Postcard was all about. But Alan Horne and the Postcard organisation did sometimes get carried away with their stories, so was this another example of wishful thinking perhaps? Douglas MacIntyre of the Creeping Bent Organisation, occasional Jazzateer, and even better one time guitarist with Article 58, confirms there really was a cover of Wasted ... “YES, IT'S TRUE...IT'S A BIT OF A HOLY GRAIL. NO ONE HAS A COPY. EDWYN PLAYED GUITAR ON IT ... MEMORY RECALL SUGGESTS A LISON’S VOCALS WERE A BIT SHAKY . BUT … SO WHAT? I' M GOING TO RELEASE THE EARLY J AZZATEERS MATERIAL ON MY FORTHCOMING W E C AN STILL P ICNIC IMPRINT .”
CHAPTER FOUR The whole mid to late ‘70s Munich disco thing really is one of the most fascinating areas of music. What is particularly interesting is the way people from all sorts of backgrounds seem to have gravitated to the city, recognising it as some sort of creative and cosmopolitan capital or epicentre of experimentation, where dreams could be enacted in terms of meshing sounds and styles. Giorgio Moroder was Italian, Pete Bellotte was English, as were Keith Forsey and Gary Unwin. Dee D Jackson was there making films. Donna Summer was just one of a number of black American singers who gravitated towards Munich. And there were musicians there from Iceland, Sweden, and so on. Michael Kunze was born in Prague. And his partner Sylvester Levay was born in Hungary. And within this great pool of talent there were all these linkages and partnerships, creating their own things. Together Levay and Kunze, for example, would invent Silver Convention, a disco outfit that would have hits in the UK in 1975 with Save Me and Fly Robin Fly, masterpieces of symphonic minimalism. And that’s not as oxymoronic as it may seem. The drums and bass were clinically simple and stark, while the strings were lush and sweeping. There have been some great studies of the role of drums and strings in disco music, the regional variations, and so on, but you really only need to listen and learn. And these Silver Convention records are very much still worth a listen. The third LP, Madhouse, for example is unexpectedly and gloriously experimental (what is it with third LPs?), and it’s easy to listen to these records and trace links to the way Ze worked and sounded a few years later.
And we are here considering all this because a few years earlier Levay’s name, using its Lysy variation, crops up as composer of a great soul single by Joe Curtis, with Black Is Beautiful on one side and This Is Love on the other. Prior to this Levay seems to have performed with the Ambros Seelos Orchestra, one of the great German big bands, whose occasional funky and more groove driven workouts are now much loved by the jazz dance community, particularly Seelos’ recordings for the very hip MPS label. From what I can gather Joe Curtis will have been a singer with the Orchestra. Certainly Horst Michalke, who shares songwriting credits on This Is Love, worked with Seelos. And Levay worked on some of Seelos’ most loved arrangements like Swingle Beat, from the great 1968 Fire! LP on MPS, which featured on one of the excellent Marina In-Kraut compilations, and has a fantastic swingin’ ska arrangement on the title track. The whole big band thing is fascinating itself, and for example the legendary Clarke-Boland Big Band found a welcome home in the Germany of the ‘60s/’70s, producing some absolute classic works, like All Smiles, More Smiles, Faces, Changes of Scene, and collaborations with singers like Mark Murphy and Camren McRae. And the influence of the orchestral/big band sound can very much be heard in the disco recordings Levay went on to make with Silver Convention and beyond. But before we get to that Levay seems to have been involved with some Krautrock related recordings with Vita Nova and Ralph Nowy, which are heavily fusion influenced. So by the time we get to the Munich sound you can trace all these elements getting mixed up like the big band sound, fusion, Krautrock, mixing in with the r’n’b roots and the electronic explorations. It’s no wonder things sounded so good. Sometimes too much emphasis is focused on the machine aspect, but that was really one key ingredient. And another of those key elements was the songwriting craft. Moroder, for example, had at the start of the ‘70s written Son Of My Father with Pete Bellotte, which became a massive hit for UK group Chicory Tip, where already you can trace the dichotomy between electronic experimentation and pure pop sensibilities. The songs were strong enough to work in any format. The collection of hits which Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte had with Donna Summer from the mid-‘70s into the ‘80s forms one of the greatest songbooks in popular music, and I doubt that anyone who cares about the magic of pop music will disagree with that. One of the astonishing things about this body of work is how prolific the participants were, each playing their part to perfection. Donna, for example, given her stage background approached her work like a great method actor, getting completely into the role as required. And although the team was so prolific, creating a trademark sound in a Tamla Motown sense, the standards didn’t drop. Search beyond the hits, delve into the LPs, and there’s still plenty to amaze. Listen to recordings by satellite artists like Roberta Kelly. Her Moroder produced works, like The Troublemaker and Zodiac Lady are classics. Listen to the Munich Machine records. To Moroder’s own recordings, like From Here To Eternity. And in particular the Sparks LP from 1979, Number 1 in Heaven, where the Mael Brothers and Moroder are a match made in, well, heaven. The drumming performances, by Keith Forsey, on that record are astonishing, flamboyantly metronomic and a signpost to the future and the programming to come. Interestingly it is the mix of the up-to-the-minute technology and the expertise and experience of the technically adept that would be hallmarks of the Munich sound. Just as the best of the European post-punk groups utilising electronic sounds and synths seemed to be mixing these with propulsive live instrumentation, like I’m So Hollow and Music For Pleasure. Naturally Sylvester Levay would work at times with the Moroder set-up in Munich, on for example Donna Summer’s The Wanderer, before they were all Hollywood bound to shape the silver screen soundtracks of the ‘80s. Before that, as with anything in life, the success of Silver Convention opened doors for Levay, and he would work with Sister Sledge on their Together LP, before they
joined up with the Chic Organisation. Another production work would be with Silver Convention vocalist Penny McLean on Lady Bump and with Joy Fleming, creating the symphonic 15-minute The Final Thing, and with Mick Jackson on the original of Blame It On The Boogie. The Sister Sledge LP is of particular interest, though. Recorded in Munich in 1977 it is something of a lost classic. And while I am a Chic devotee the earlier Sister Sledge records should not be overlooked. The debut Circle of Love is a gem, with Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes being a particular highlight. Then there was the 1975 hit, Mama Never Told Me, which Tracie would cover for a Respond Records collection. The Sylvester Levay and Michael Kunze produced Together intriguingly is far funkier and grittier than might be expected. The Sisters singing that they are a funky family, for example, suggests the way ahead with the Chic Organisation. And it’s possible here to see where the trail leads back to that Joe Curtis single. Levay would also work with jazz flautist Herbie Mann on his Bird In A Silver Cage set, which is very fitting. Herbie Mann is something of a folk hero around these parts. If you need to know about music in the twentieth century then you can learn an incredible amount just by examining the very many Mann-made recordings. He’s pretty much done it all. And flutes in jazz, like choral sections, just make me melt. But Mann’s career is exceptional. He was there playing on some of those old Chris Connor jazz vocal recordings on Bethlehem. He was among the very first of the North American musicians to go to Brazil and get involved with the bossa revolution. He had a go at pretty much everything after that. As long as it had the groove. Latin jazz. Anthony Newley’s The Roar of the Greasepaint. Sounds from the Middle East. Hard hitting r’n’b on Memphis Underground, Push Push, Big Boss Mann and so on. Mod jazz. The wonderful vocal outing with Tamiko Jones. The moody Stone Flute. The London Underground set. The disco influenced recordings, like Waterbed and so on. And the list of which musicians Mann has worked with is astonishing. You know them. If they matter, they’ll be on there. From Joao Gilberto and Oliver Nelson to Dave Pike and Sonny Sharrock to Cissy Houston and Stereolab to Mick Taylor and the Muscle Shoals guys. It’s all there. Among the more esoteric of Mann’s recordings is the 1974 Reggae set, with participants including Mick Taylor and Tommy McCook’s group. There seems a beautiful appropriateness to Mann working with saxophonist Tommy McCook. It is impossible to even guess at the impact McCook has made on popular music through the vast array of reggae, rocksteady, ska recordings he made with the Skatalites, Supersonics, Aggrovators and so on. And while McCook and Mann did not stick to the jazz or reggae templates, they captured the music’s adventurous heart more than most. So, naturally Mann’s Reggae set was anything but a straight reggae set. 18 minute work outs on My Girl. That sort of thing. Which has to be a good thing. Shortly after this set McCook went on to record his own excellent Reggae In Jazz set followed by the superb Disco Rockers LP with the Aggrovators. Perfect active background music.
CHAPTER FIVE A WHILE AGO, TRADING DIGITAL MIXES, I WAS FORTUNATE TO RECEIVE A FANTASTIC COLLECTION FROM MY COMRADE PC, (FROM THE EXCELLENT BOLLYWOOD SOUNDTRACKS BLOG WWW.THIRDFLOORMUSIC.BLOGSPOT.COM), FOCUSING ON THE YEARS 1980-1982, WITH A NEAT COVER PIC OF GO - GO DANCERS AT T HE G ROOVY C ELLAR , WHICH SADLY I REMEMBERED SEEING IN T HE F ACE. P LENTY OF ALL- TIME FAVOURITES WERE ON THERE. S ECRET A FFAIR, PURPLE HEARTS, DEXYS , THE BEAT, SLITS, KID CREOLE, ORANGE JUICE, PERRY HAINES, DELMONTES, TVPS, SUICIDE, AND SO ON. T HE TRACK THAT REALLY CAUGHT MY ATTENTION, THOUGH, WAS DANS T IL M USIKKEN BY T HE A LLER V ÆRSTE! I HAD ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO T HE A LLER V ÆRSTE! WERE , BUT LIKED WHAT I HEARD . A PART FROM A FONDNESS FOR GROUPS THAT EARN THEIR EXCLAMATION MARKS , I LIKED THE PUNKY- SKA FEEL OF THIS TRACK , WHICH HAS A HARSHNESS MORE IN KEEPING WITH THE GANG OF FOUR OR WIRE. I HAD TO CONFESS MY KNOWLEDGE OF N ORWEGIAN MUSIC REALLY ONLY EXTENDED AS FAR AS THE GREAT JAZZ SINGER K ARIN K ROG, AND THE FEW RECORDS OF HERS I KNEW , SUCH AS JAZZ M OMENTS AND COLLABORATIONS WITH A RCHIE SHEPP AND STEVE KUHN. SO PC KINDLY AGREED TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO HEAR MORE OF TAV! I BECAME A REAL FAN , AND THINKING ABOUT MY OWN INTEREST IN SKA AND EARLY REGGAE BEING PIQUED BY T HE S PECIALS AND THE T WO T ONE EXPLOSION IN THE SPRING AND SUMMER OF 1979, IT SEEMED ONLY APPROPRIATE FOR PC TO SHARE HIS STORY. “What follows is essentially true. It is however a story close to 3 decades old, so details will have been forgotten, and the chronology might not be entirely correct. Chances are there has been some revisionism along the way, but any embellishments will hopefully only serve to, as Kevin Rowland said, add to the picture. ”For me, it probably started with The Specials. I’d been passionate about them for a couple of months, immersing myself in all things 2 Tone and Mod. I’d only recently discovered the wonderful world of new wave (we still called it that back then); I’d ditched all my old records and had disassociated myself from the majority of my peers. At least in terms of music. While hardly any of the kids from my part of clean, suburban Oslo were about to give up their ELOs and Supertramps anytime soon, I was more than ready. ”Initially it was all about England, and that was fine. I was a 16 year old wannabe mod (a foreign concept to all but a few) and hadn’t really been paying attention to the few Norwegian punk bands that may have been around. Thus I have no exact recollection of how I first came to hear about The Aller Værste! (a name meaning the very, or absolute, worst). I knew they originated from a commune in Bergen and that they used to be called Johnny Banan Band. They ran their own label (Den Gode Hensikt) and their first record had been played by John Peel. That part was important. As was the fact that their music contained elements of ska. And they sang in Norwegian. It kind of mattered at the time; it made them ours, exclusively. ”What I remember quite vividly is a Saturday in September 1980. Myself and two or three similarly minded friends had decided to attend a showcasing of “new Norwegian rock” at Oslo’s quite distinguished ABC Theatre. On the bill were Cut (an unexciting synth band), Kjøtt (in hindsight probably the only good punk band to come out of Norway) and The Aller Værste! They were the ones I wanted to see. Earlier that week (it may have been the same afternoon) I’d bought their newly released 4-track TAV! EP. I loved it from the first listen. Inside its blue pop art sleeve were the most exciting sounds I’d heard since first encountering The Specials’
Gangsters. The ska element was there, and I’m sure TAV! were lending an ear to 2 Tone (who wouldn’t?); this was however very different from anything on that label. It possessed an intense and manic energy, a jarring urgency that to me was unique. Dans Til Musikken (Dance To The Music) with its punky surf-intro, raw vocals, screams and guitar noise became my favourite. I’ve never been able to ascertain whether the title was a deliberate nod to Sly & The Family Stone or not, but it did make me want to jump around, madly. Søster, Søster (Nurse, Nurse) was equally good, a twisted hospital romance set to music; clanging drums and a Farfisa organ conjuring up images of scalpels. Ingen Vei Tilbake (No Turning Back) and Rene Hender (Clean Hands): both amazing, completing what I still consider one of the best 7” records of the era. Any era. And I was hooked. ”The gig was an over 18 event, fully licensed, and that had us a trifle worried, but we either looked the part or the man at the door was in an accommodating mood. We celebrated by ordering wine. Posh venue. Cut were mildly interesting. Kjøtt were great but not a part of this story. TAV! were a revelation. Half of them looked liked hippies (albeit short haired ones), nothing at all like makers of the razor sharp, spiky, totally modern sounds emitting from their amps; not much like the punks constituting most of the audience. They kept swapping instruments. They shared vocal duties. They looked wrong. They looked weird. They sounded absolutely wonderful. They played the EP (which I probably already knew by heart), the first single Blålys/På Vei Hjem (Blue Beacon/Going Home), and several new songs that would soon appear on their debut LP. Not a dull track amongst them.
” S v e r r e K n u d s e n , H a r a l d
Sverre Knudsen, Harald Øhrn, Lasse Myrvold, Chris Erichsen and Ketil Kern were their names. Sverre and Harald sang, played bass or organ and sometimes guitar. Lasse and Chris sang, played guitar and sometimes bass or organ. Ketil managed to stick with drumming. I didn’t think any less of him; tall, lanky, reminiscent of Shaggy from Scooby Doo, he was a cool and animated bohemian type in the background, keeping it together . ”November saw the release of their by now much anticipated LP Materialtretthet (Material Fatigue), which I’m pretty sure I first heard on my 17th birthday. Maybe that’s my memory playing tricks, but it’s how I’ve always chosen to recall it. It makes sense to me, having my birthday soundtracked by what is without a doubt the greatest album ever made in Norway. What already sounded perfect on the EP had been expanded on and refined. The ska, the barbed guitars, the garage organ, the angsty vocals, the catchy as hell tunes... this time around there were even touches of funk. And words that meant something; political and charged, personal and uneasy. My favourites were Lasse’s Discodrøv (Disco Cud), with a shouted intro dealing with the emergence of a violent and militant far right; Sverre’s harmonica driven, easy listening tinged Blank; and Chris’ jagged Bare En Vanlig Fyr (Just A Regular Guy), his defiant ode to the average outsider, autobiographical I expect. Again though, TAV! had made a record sans filler. One that was gorgeously packaged in another iconic sleeve, instantly recognisable to Norwegians due to its cheeky use of ‘the diving lady’ from a popular brand of licorice pastilles. ”Materialtretthet won Spellemannsprisen (the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy) in February 1981. That blew my mind. TAV! played Bare Ikke Nok (Simply Not Enough) at the awards ceremony, sporting matching shirts, each in a different colour. Lasse had been assigned the task of writing a backing arrangement for the studio orchestra. “Make it sound like a cross between Motown and Stravinsky” he’d been told. The result was astounding. Watching the show with my parents, I felt immense pride. I audio-taped every glorious second. The video is now on YouTube, courtesy of Ketil Kern’s TAV! channel (www.youtube.com/user/nreklitek). ”I saw them live on several occasions over the next months, every chance I got. They never failed to excite me and I loved every gig. One of the last was at a summer festival an hour or so out of Oslo, where they shared a bill with The Specials. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one thinking how fitting that was. Before that, in May, Disniland I De Tusen Hjem (Disniland In Every Home) was released. The title had been purposely misspelled, as the theme park owners wouldn’t sanction the use of their trademark. That didn’t surprise anyone. TAV! were unperturbed and proceeded to design a cover that featured Mickey Mouse in various stages of cut-up and themselves wearing clown noses. ”But for the first time, the reception of a TAV! record was less than ecstatic, possibly due to its format, in part anyway. Disniland was only half an album. The uncredited B-side consisted of a remix and a live session, and to many that was neither here nor there.
(The initial plan was a 12” with bonus 7”; problems with the pressers nixed that idea). There were also those who thought TAV! sounded less adventurous this time around, less angry, more restrained. What nonsense. I loved it to bits and it became my summer album of that year. Maybe it was less manic than its predecessor, maybe the sound was less intense, warmer, but what was wrong with that? It still had plenty of bite. And it had Store Sterke Damer (Big Strong Ladies), the first TAV! song to make me laugh; its protagonist a sailor-suited boy out scrumping apples from large breasted women. And a ska cover of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross. Wonderful stuff. ”After that... my memory is a bit hazy, but essentially it all petered out. I think there was a tour in the autumn, Ketil Kern left the group, and with a new drummer they released a final single, Hakk/Bare Feiginger (Scratch/Cowards Only). In hindsight it sounds very good, hinting at a different, more industrial sounding direction, but nobody really liked it then. And thus it was over. The Aller Værste! went their separate ways. ”The 80s saw several members regrouping in new bands. Of these I was briefly enamoured with Løver & Tigre (Lions & Tigers); Sverre and Chris playing with Django Reinhart inspired Hot Club de Norvège. They released an album of quirky new wave jazz entitled Grr..., packaged in individually hand-painted sleeves. It was excellent. More famous were The Beste (guess) featuring Lasse, Harald and Sverre. They put out two albums without ever really living up to their name or potential. ”In 2004, most of TAV!’s recorded output was released on CD by Norwegian indie Rec 90. Now I’ll cling to my vinyl copies until the day I die, but this still pleased me enormously. It was a necessary and overdue salvage job. TAV! were now also available to download. Two years later, further interest resulted from less happy events. Norwegian national TV screened a documentary on Lasse Myrvold, just days after his untimely death from cancer. He left behind a 15 year old daughter who had already lost her mother under similar circumstances. The profits from a subsequent tribute album and concert, in addition to the TAV! Live 80 set released in 2007 all went to her. ”It saddened me a great deal to lose Lasse Myrvold. But I didn’t feel sad back when TAV! split up. I seldom do when bands I love call it a day. Quit while you're ahead. All things end, The Aller Værste! had had a great run, and what a legacy they had left behind. For those two years, coinciding with my own musical awakening, they really were the very best. Absolutely. (www.myspace.com/tavband).”
CHAPTER SIX I guess I first came across the name of Tommy McCook via one of the early ska compilations (like the Island one Intensified!) that were back in circulation around ’79, thanks to the success of The Specials and 2 Tone. It would have been a track like Rocket Ship or Down On Bond Street. Glorious stuff. Around this time I remember walking into a local secondhand record store run by some old hippies who seemed amazed anyone actually came into their shop let alone bought anything. Amazingly I found a clutch of old ska singles on the Bluebeat label, battered as hell, but a few were playable. One of which was Laurel Aitken’s Judgement Day, which I still have and love to death. I think it was released around 1960, and is as much gospel or jump blues as ska but it is as infectious as the latest virus and has spot-on sentiments about sitting around and playing rock ‘n’ roll records in the same old way on the judgement day, plus a killer trombone solo from the great Rico. When I bought it I knew nothing about Laurel Aitken, and certainly was unaware of his significance as an early reggae pioneer, but by some strange synchronicity he would shortly re-emerge on Secret Affair’s I-Spy label, having a minor hit with Rudi Go Married and recording a great John Peel session with The Ruts. An article in The Face in 1980 would give a fascinating insight into Aitken’s background, and how he had been living in the UK since the start of the 1960s, occasionally benefiting from the fickleness of fashion such as the skinhead reggae explosion in the late ‘60s and indeed the resurgence of interest in ska in ’79. With ska often patronisingly dismissed as rough and tumble rambunctious party music Aitken appositely points out how the original pool of musicians he worked with, who essentially were to become the Skatalites (and interestingly both Aitken and Tommy McCook were born in Cuba, later moving to Jamaica) were trained musicians who “could all read and write music. They could play something by Charlie Parker or by Muddy Waters just as easily as the stuff we were recording. They were very bluesy all those records we were making. Everyone used to listen to the radio stations in New Orleans and after a while we went into the studio and just started to record the same sort of sound but with a different, more Carribean sorta beat.” The Janette Beckman photos that accompanied the feature are fascinating, giving a glimpse into Aitken’s life in his Leicester council house. In the background you can see a copy of one of the Bell Cellar of Soul compilations, sheet music for Carole King’s It’s Too Late, and so on. In the interview Aitken argues that the skinheads were always good to him, but anyone who thinks his repertoire from that time consisted solely of rude boy anthems or the plain rude would be very much mistaken. Particularly worth seeking out is his Scandal In Brixton Market set, with backing by the British reggae group Pyramids (of Symarip fame). Among the tracks on that LP are Run Powell Run, a brilliant response to the maverick far right politician who shortly before had made his infamous and inflammatory ‘rivers of blood’ speech. T HEY'RE MAKING THIS BIG CONFUSION 'BOUT REPATRIATION MR POWELL HE IS AFRAID T HAT BLACK MAN WILL TAKE HIM TO HIS GRAVE WE DON'T WANT NO HOSTILITY WE'RE JUST BEGGING HIM FOR EQUALITY RUN POWELL RUN RUN POWELL RUN, RUN BLACK MAN A COME
Y OU MOUTH TALK WITH SUCH A MIGHT YOU ONLY MAKING BLACK MAN UNITE Y OU BEEN RULING THREE HUNDRED YEARS AND WE'VE BEEN LIVING IN HOPE AND FEAR WE DON'T WANT NO HOSTILITY WE'RE JUST BEGGING YOU FOR EQUALITY RUN POWELL , RUN, RUN BLACK MAN A COME RUN POWELL , RUN, RUN
EVERY MAN HAVE A RIGHT WHETHER YOU GREEN, BLACK OR YOU WHITE NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY OR DO Y OU THINK OF IT , WE ARE HUMAN TOO WE DON'T WANT NO HOSTILITY WE'RE JUST BEGGING YOU FOR EQUALITY RUN POWELL RUN TILL YOU TUMBLE DOWN RUN POWELL RUN, RUN, RUN BLACK MAN A COME
RUN POWELL RUN BLACK MAN A COME RUN POWELL RUN, RUN T ILL YOU TUMBLE DOWN RUN POWELL RUN BLACK MAN A COME RUN POWELL RUN.
IT'S A DAMN BLASTED SHAME MR HEATH JOIN THE CAMPAIGN YOU CAN HAVE YOUR FUN BUT I KNOW FREEDOM DAY WILL COME AND WE WILL BUY YOU A DRINK A ' RUM AND THEN WE WILL SING 'WE SHALL OVERCOME'
In a clip, which is probably from Horace Ové’s 1971 reggae documentary, and I say probably because I’ve not been fortunate enough to see it but I know it includes footage from the 1970 Reggae & Ska festival at Wembley, Millie Small can be seen singing her Enoch Power number, which may not be as explicit as Laurel Aitken’s song but nevertheless gives, as Millie would explain, an insight into the immigrant experience. And it sounds brilliant. Another addition to the canon of anti-Enoch Powell protests would be Konekuf, an instrumental by Manfred Mann Chapter Three with a title that needs to be read backwards. Manfred Mann Chapter Three was founder members Manfred Mann (before he was blinded by the light and hanging out with Go-Kart Mozart) and Mike Hugg (before he got to ask after the Likely Lads) venturing into more ambitious, fiercely progressive territory, leaving the pop scene behind in pretty spectacular fashion, sounding as good as Dr John or the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Not that there is anything wrong with the pop side of Manfred Mann, far from it, but this was explicitly adventurous and bears comparisons with any of the freer jazz works of the late ‘60s by musicians interested in tapping into the potential of the rock world. And that was a real golden age for British jazz with Michael Garrick, Harold McNair, Mike Westbrook, Graham Collier, John Cameron, Neil Ardley, Mike Gibbs, Keith Tippett, and indeed Harry Beckett who played with Manfred Mann Chapter Three. Also mentioned among the credits on the first of the two Manfred Mann Chapter Three sets was trumpet/harmonica player Ian Fenby, who had much earlier played with Mann and Hugg in a modern jazz outfit. Interestingly, for us, credited with Sylvester Levay as composer of Joe Curtis’ Black Is Beautiful is one Ian Fenby. I am working on the assumption that this is the same Ian Fenby. Certainly an Ian Fenby did work with Ambros Seelos as part of his orchestra, and is credited on a great CD of testcard music created by Seelos.
The Chapter Three era of Manfred Mann would also memorably be involved in the soundtrack for cult director Jess Franco’s Venus In Furs. No doubt there are a whole range of views on Franco’s work. Erotica, exotica, esoterica. Art, rubbish, fun, filth. But Venus In Furs certainly has its points of interest. In their pop heyday, Manfred Mann produced the exemplary and very jazzy score for Up The Junction, so soundtrack work was not new to them. And ostensibly this was right up their street. A jazz trumpeter (James Darren) is obsessed by this beautiful angel/sinister figure who may or may not exist. And if the haunted trumpeter in Rio makes you think of Chet Baker that may not be surprising as apparently the story is based on a tale told to Franco by Baker some time, and Franco was a huge jazz fan and neatly writes himself into the script by getting to perform in a nightclub scene with Mann and Hugg. I guess being a big jazz fan will have helped go some way towards explaining the key role music has in Franco’s films of the era. Certainly the Bruno Nicolai scores, other library music like Peter Thomas’, and in particular the use of music by Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab in films like Vampyros Lesbos will have added to the appeal if the artistry of Soledad Miranda was not enough. For lovers of links and connections, it is worth mentioning a Sigi Schwab played guitar on the Sylvester Levay produced Sister Sledge LP, together with other mainstays of the Munich Machine scene like Gary Unwin and Martin Harrison. Anyway that whole old Europe soundtrack sorcery is something you could lose yourself in forever, like James Darren looking into Barbara McNair’s eyes. Ah yes, Barbara McNair as the nightclub singer in Venus In Furs, stealing the show. Certainly her delivery of the movie’s theme is one of those seemingly jarring but perfect odd moments of perfection like Doris Troy in Kill! But even better her portrayal of singer, Rita, is wonderfully sympathetic and her night club scene is something to haunt you always. By the time I got to see Venus In Furs I’d become a huge fan of Barbara McNair’s Motown recordings. I liked the fact that she was there to bring some urbane sophistication, and anyway I was slipping more and more towards the lounge end of things, like Nancy Wilson, Ethel Ennis, Dakota Staton, Carmen McRae, so a touch of class was as welcome as a touch of venus.
CHAPTER SEVEN Now, in its fiftieth anniversary year, we are almost spoilt for choice when it comes to Tamla Motown recordings, but it wasn’t always that way. When I was a young mod, for example, we weren’t exactly drowning in Motown material. And this was in the town where the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society started way back when, as I’d discovered much to my delight reading Richard Barnes’ Mods! So in the early ‘80s finding a box full of Tamla Motown tapes in a secondhand shop was something to celebrate. And the great thing was these were not just any old tapes. You know, with the plastic hinged box design. These were quite beautiful objects. Designed like matchboxes. With cardboard covers. And blue plastic inner trays that you pushed out. With design pending embossed on the inner tray. And the immortal legend, “The Sound of Young America”, written down the spine of the cover on each cassette, which had special significance at the time because Postcard Records had appropriated and adapted the phrase. I know McLaren and Bow Wow Wow would design their cassette pet with a flip top cigarette packet style, but I have never seen items like these Motown tapes again though I suspect they were frightfully common place once. Sadly the significance of this never really struck me at the time. And now only two of these cassettes survived, given the glorious fallibility and inherent dangers of the cassette format. At the time what was truly significant was hearing some of the less familiar Motown sounds, like Mary Wells’ Greatest Hits. The unbelievable soaring almost unbearable lightness of these songs, the Smokey Robinson penned numbers, the intimacy of the delivery, and so on was a revelation. And intriguingly in those relatively early ‘80s the most vocal advocates of the more obscure early Motown canon would be The Smiths. Indeed early on almost perfectly the reference points for Morrissey and Marr would be very much rooted in the early Motown/’60s femme pop sounds. While sorting through my own detritus recently I stumbled across a Smiths one-page biog which Morrissey (ah you old name dropper you …) sent me shortly after Hand In Glove came out in May 1983, and an introduction to the members of The Smiths, where Morrissey lists his icon as Sandie Shaw and his record as How Does That Grab You Darlin’ by Nancy Sinatra while Johnny chooses Etta James as his icon and Heaven Only Knows by the Shangri-Las as his record. Given that during the ‘80s Morrissey would persist in citing Sandie Shaw and Nancy Sinatra, Sandy Posey and Rita Pavone, Marvelettes and Velvelettes, The Toys and The Tams, Timi Yuro and Twinkle, Skeeter Davis and Reparata, it remains a complete mystery to me why The Smiths’ records were so persistently traditional, so solidly and squarely rock. It’s one of life’s great conundrums. Perhaps the answer lies in that original biography. I had remembered a line about melody and havoc, a line which Morrissey himself had earlier used when writing as Sheridan Whiteside about Ludus for Irish fanzine Vox. I had, however, in the immortal words of Hilary Clinton, misremembered. The line is actually: “The guitar-based songs would blend melody without havoc, as the words – born out of absolute physical necessity – would tug at the straps of cultural straitjackets” which maybe explains everything. Melody without havoc? We should have been standing up and shouting: “More havoc …” Nevertheless The Smiths did create havoc, and probably did more to keep music in a straitjacket. And where right at the beginning there was the consolation of the words, words which Morrissey helpfully typed out on the back of his biography, together with an exhortation to stay handsome forever and a request that if I should appear at any of their shows to make myself known. I didn’t. Things moved so quickly anyway, and by the time I did see The Smiths play in September there will have been Paul Simpson and Michael Head somewhere on Merseyside doing their Yvonne Fair bit, saying it should have
been me, while Orange Juice and the Scars would have been thinking this is all a bit familiar, and the Go-Betweens and Hurrah! would be saying we could be contenders, then shrugging their shoulders and simply upstaging the Smiths at any given opportunity. Perhaps if there was one person, or one group, that had a right to feel a little peeved at the Smiths’ success it would be Robert Lloyd and the Nightingales. There’s little doubt that much of the momentum around The Smiths in mid 1983 was generated by Dave McCullough writing in Sounds, about how “in postpunk by now you’ve had Bingo Master’s Breakout, Ceremony, and now Hand In Glove is the hat trick. For the present these boys make the rest look not only ugly, but rather silly as well. Everything else is Mickey Mouse.” McCullough then was the star maker, and many of us got carried along for a moment or two. Except Hand In Glove wasn’t the record we thought it would be. It sounded quite square, liked a solid or dependable U2/Bunnymen romp. Rather than some jagged or barbed Nightingales or Josef K racket. Which is what we wanted. A bit of a racket and a bit of glamour. All of which was ironic as only a short while before McCullough had been as equally enthusiastic about the Nightingales and their Pigs On Purpose approach to pop, mentioning them at every given opportunity, citing them as leaders of a new pop resistance, fighting thickness and super-slick-sterilisation. Then The Smiths became his new favourites and no one really noticed when The Nightingales had Hysterics. Yet whereas the debut Smiths LP still sounds ludicrously lame the Nightingales’ Hysterics sounds unbelievably vital and valid. And if there was a tendency to typecast the Nightingales’ sound as purposefully primitive, like the Magic Band if the good Captain had banished his protégés to the desert with simply a tape of Charlie Feathers or the Johnny Burnette Trio, then repeated listenings to Hysterics reveal hidden depths and subtle nuances. And then there’s them words. And with Robert Lloyd words always loom large. I’m wary of words about Robert Lloyd. Not just that I have this feeling of being haunted by Robert Lloyd at the moment. Seriously. Have you looked around you? All these people walking round with those thick blackrimmed glasses. What we used to call NHS specs. As worn by Harry Palmer or the Two Ronnies. Very Robert Lloyd circa 1983. Take for instance the publicity shot Simon Reynolds uses. That’s eerily like Lloyd, and he had the audacity to leave Lloyd as a footnote in his post-punk sweep. No, the real reason I’m wary about writing about Robert Lloyd is that the last time I did so, I got an email off magazine magnate James Brown (whom I had been characteristically less than gracious about, accusing he and his fellow fanzine editors (John Robb, Everett True etc) of being desperately ambitious) gently chastising me and recounting some story about how when he’d been editor at GQ he’d chanced upon Robert Lloyd again, working as a caretaker or something, a little down on his luck, and came up with this scheme whereby the great showman could earn a few bob by writing a cookery column, covering all the old English staples, Shepherd’s Pie, Apple Crumble, and so on, but with deadlines approaching Lloyd went missing, and in desperation James gave the column at the last minute to some chirpy cockney character called Jamie Oliver who was keen to make a bit of a name for himself. Now I have no idea if this is true, or if my memory is playing tricks on me, but it’s almost emblematic, or a metaphor for life, the abnegation of my generation, the success shirkers, the consequences of inaction and dereliction of duty? Look where it’s got us.
Since I last wrote about Robert Lloyd, his back catalogue with the Prefects and the Nightingales, has been lovingly restored and re-evaluated. So some semblance of balance has been achieved. Typically, though, rather than dwell too much upon the past Lloyd has contrarily been acting like a man possessed, whipping up a storm with his reactivated Nightingales, kicking off with a series of great 7” singles and not looking back. And I have to confess it wasn’t until the recent and rather brutal Insult To Injury (wasn’t that the Timi Yuro track Morrissey used to always go on about?) LP that I caught up (but oh the fun I’ve had catching up), and that was only because a promo CD was in a local charity shop and I thought oh for old time’s sake. I was also intrigued that Insult To Injury had been produced by Faust’s Hans Joachim Irmler, and knowing that Robert Lloyd was a teenage Krautrocker back in the West Midlands, and that Faust had shown how to age … Anyway, no matter how hard the music on Insult To Injury may be what really hits home is the torrent of words. And what words. Lloyd seems to be positively bursting with tales needing to be told, observations to be preserved, quips to be made. All, ironically, in sharp contrast to the sad state of Morrissey’s art. Fame makes you stop writing, said Jack Kerouac, and there’s something in that when the writer’s removed from the impetus that drove them on, that created them in fact. So while there may be no f-in-justice, and I desperately wish they all (your Robert Lloyds, your Vic Godards, your Paul Simpsons, your Michael Heads, your Go-Betweens, your Hurrah!s, your Scars) had better luck and more money, but would any of these young writers who never saw the Queen’s face for a while, or who as Vic put it were the writers who rode with the writers slumped, have fared any better? If Robert Lloyd were exiled in LA would he have been about to write about Kirkless Ken so far removed from the colourful characters he might observe on the bus into town or propping up the bar and holding forth begging to be captured in Lloyd’s multi-story carp art? Lloyd’s writing with a sense of urgency that’s striking. Too much time on his hands, perhaps. Or hopefully more a sense of unfinished business. Things that need doing and saying. It’s certainly in stark contrast to his early Prefects days when he would deliberately dodge doing the expected thing: put out records, do interviews, play support gigs, and all that. And I’m all for it. Similarly I am all for the resolute return of the Wild Swans, lionhearts stirred from their slumbers by a sense of duty and destiny. Where once by Paul Simpson’s admission he “thought dressing like a member of the BaaderMeinhof gang was statement enough and refused to song a note for the first few months of the band’s existence” now he swoops like an avenging angel. The appropriately magnificent and truly grand English Electric Lightning strikes quite a chord. Now where’s my flamin’ sword? I ASKED PAUL SIMPSON ABOUT ENGLISH ELECTRIC LIGHTNING. AND EARLIER FLOWERS OF E NGLAND. IS THIS A STRANGE MIX OF REVULSION AND AFFECTION? I T' S CERTAINLY WHAT I FEEL . I T ’S LIKE I HAVE JUST BOUGHT A BOOK IN A CHARITY SHOP FOR A POUND. E DITH S ITWELL' S T HE Q UEENS AND T HE HIVE . I T STARTS : ""T HE CLANGOUR OF MAILED FOOTSTEPS , SOUNDING LIKE A STORM OF HAIL IN THE PASSAGES OF THE T OWER OF LONDON, DIED AWAY; AND NOW A BLACK FROST OF SILENCE SEALED THE WORLD FROM ALL LIFE ..." T HAT WAS ON THE SHELF NEXT TO , FOR LESS THAN, JORDAN' S AUTOBIOGRAPHY ... “I TOURED HIGHGATE'S INCREDIBLE WESTERN CEMETERY ON THURSDAY LAST ( CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC, YOU HAVE TO BOOK ) AND FELT THAT SAME MIXTURE OF WONDER AND REVULSION. T ALK ABOUT LITERAL DECAYING GRANDEUR . I THINK THE KEY TO E NGLISH E LECTRIC L IGHTNING IS IN THE SONG’S WORKING TITLE THAT YOU MAY HAVE SPIED IN THE VINYL' S RUN-OUT GROOVE - PUNK JERUSALEM . I FOUND MY MUSE BURIED BENEATH THE IVY AND I' M NOW WORKING ON THE EPIC AND WORDY FOLLOW UP TO E.E.L. I LIKE THIS S ITWELL PASSAGE A LOT KEVIN. JORDAN ALLEGEDLY WROTE A NOVEL . W OULDN' T IT BE GREAT IF IT WERE A MASTERPIECE OF MODERN LITERATURE AND WE ALL HAD TO REAPPRAISE HER?”
Having mentioned Edith Sitwell, I kept trying to think where else in the modern pop context I’d seen a reference to her book English Eccentrics. The penny dropped on seeing the latest Scandinavian queen of crime paperback, which I’d borrowed from the library, the library which is selling off sets of Balzac in beautiful hard back editions, specially printed for libraries before I was born, at 30p a time. Eventually I remembered it was in the songbook that came with The Concretes’ wonderfully warm In Colour that I’d seen a beautiful edition of English Eccentrics, and needed to know why Lisa Millberg had included it ... "I'M A HUGE FAN OF SITWELL’S ECCENTRICS BOOK AND THE WHOLE IDEA BEHIND THE ART WORK FOR THE CONCRETES IN COLOUR WAS TO COLLECT THINGS THAT INSPIRED US/ME WHILE MAKING THE MUSIC. IT WAS A WAY TO PAY HOMAGE TO HEROES AND HEROINES AND, ABOVE ALL , ECCENTRIC OLD LADIES . " For a long time I have been campaigning for the reclamation of the word eccentric as literally irregular. I loved the idea of The Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul series. I like the idea of English irregulars. Perhaps the ones Paul Simpson portrays on the other side of E.E.L. The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years is an astonishingly beautiful narrative. Seven and a half minutes that draw you in to a world so strangely immediately identifiable as Liverpool in the early 1980s, which still holds the appeal of Bloomsbury or Shelley’s set in another era or something.
“I THINK ONE’S SENSES ARE MORE ACUTE WHEN ONE IS COLD AND HUNGRY SO THE EARLY 80'S ARE STILL PARTICULARLY VIVID IN MY MIND.” – P AUL SIMPSON I'M THINKING ABOUT WORDS IN SONGS , THE DETAIL P AUL USES ( THE BURNT-OUT PIFCO ELECTRIC BLANKET IS SCARILY EVOCATIVE OF A DISTANT TIME ...), AND THEN YOU TURN ON THE RADIO ...
English Electric Lightning is released in a beautifully presented 10” format in tandem with The Granite Shore’s enigmatically epic Tomorrow Morning 3AM on Occultation Recordings. These striking artefacts are an improbable labour of love by Nick Hallewell, to whom we are already indebted for co-ordinating the Wild Swans’ Incandescent project, one of the most valuable of the salvage operations. And in the present economic and artistic climate taking a dramatic stance and releasing quite beautiful objects in this way is tantamount to a political act of defiance and should be unreservedly supported. You can show your solidarity with grand elegance by visiting www.occultation.co.uk.
THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF AN ABANDONED SOUL SINGLE A REPRISE There is a case to be made for archaeology as a political act, as in the uncovering of evidence to support an attack on the status quo, the prevailing viewpoint. So how did it come to pass that around 1989 I would be rummaging round, scavenging about for lost soul and reggae records in boxes of abandoned singles? Was it surreptitious political activity? An act of defiance against the idea that only what was lauded in the media was worth buying? In a way, yes. Money at the time was in short supply. The economy was in a mess back then too. And we were in a situation where if you were making ends meet a few pounds for a half decent hip hop or house or underground pop 12” was a real luxury. Particularly if one of the sides was a ropey old remix. Instead you could get 30 abandoned singles at 10p a time. And, apart from the monetary considerations, the element of chance made this option so much more appealing. There was something more though. A sort of spiritual bond with these rejected relics. I had my own reasons for identifying with these disposed of discs. I was painfully conscious that someone, somewhere, at some time had felt strongly enough, had believed enough, to invest in making these singles come to life. Someone believed these singles could make a difference to the world. And now for whatever reason they were to be found languishing in with the lost. I felt a perverse pride in discovering the occasional genuine piece of treasure in among these piles of singles. I felt it was poetic justice to pick up a copy of Disco Dub Band’s For The Love Of Money or Horace Andy’s O Lord Why Lord, and later realise the significance of what I’d unearthed. The connections, the links, the stories, the way things fitted together. There was a moral tale here about value. And values. “NOTHING THAT HAS HAPPENED OR EXISTED HAS LEFT NO TRACE, NO MATERIAL CONSEQUENCE. WE MAY NOT HAVE THE TOOLS OR THE SKILLS TO FIND THESE CONSEQUENCES , OR THE WIT TO KNOW THEM WHEN WE SEE THEM ; WE ARE ALWAYS MISTAKING SIGNS FOR THINGS , STORIES FOR OBJECTS , PROCESSES FOR THEIR PRODUCTS . T HE LABYRINTHINE WAYS IN WHICH THINGS AND PEOPLE ARE CONNECTED ARE LARGELY OBSCURED BY THE VEILS OF TIME AND SPACE, EVEN IF THERE ARE MOMENTS WHEN, LIKE THE AUTHOR GK C HESTERTON , WE PERCEIVE WITH A FLASH OF RECOGNITION THAT THE THINGS WE ENCOUNTER IN LIFE ARE THE FRAGMENTS OF SOMETHING ELSE WHICH WOULD BE IMMENSELY EXCITING WERE IT NOT TOO VAST AND TOO WELL HIDDEN TO BE SEEN. T HE DAY -TO -DAY SIGHTS , SOUNDS AND EVENTS OF ORDINARY EXISTENCE , THOUGHT C HESTERTON, ARE REALLY THE MIXED -UP TAG ENDS OF AN INFINITY OF TALES WHICH ARE NEVER LIKELY TO BE TOLD.” - KITTY HAUSER, BLOODY OLD BRITAIN – O.G.S. C RAWFORD AND THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF M ODERN LIFE
THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF AN ABANDONED SOUL SINGLE With thanks to Brian Kotz, PC, Chris Free, Colin Craigie, John McVay, Phil Wilson, Chuck Warner, Paul Simpson, Nick Hallewell, Lisa Millberg, Andres Lokko.
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