Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Read My Lips

Tipped by the NME in late '89 as one of their tips for stardom in the 90's, alongside the likes of Ride, The Mock Turtles and The Charlatans, it was not to be for The Katydids. Their career may have been short lived, but did produce two terrific albums. Their debut found Nick Lowe at the production helm and it's clear why Reprise enlisted him for the task. The album's 60's pop sensibilities are to the fore throughout and Lowe perfectly captures their obvious love of the music of that era and their ability to write great pop songs. There is a joy in the voice of lead singer Susie Hug that comes across throughout the album that is hugely infectious that stood them out from the crowd. 

Lights Out (Read My Lips) was the second single from the album and is a track I never tire of hearing. Everything that was great about the band can be found in this one track. Unpretentious, hook laden pop that is an absolute delight to listen to. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Falling And Laughing

Comprising a couple of re-recordings of early singles, cleaned-up versions of demo tracks and a few new tracks the debut album from Orange Juice was released on this very day in 1982. 

You Can't Hide Your Love Forever is chock full of timeless pop tunes, with some great songwriting from both Edwyn Collins and James Kirk. The debut album from Glasgow's finest purveyors of The Sound Of Young Scotland is one of the best, and most underrated albums of the 80's. At the time some thought it did not live up to expectations, possibly due to a bit of musical snobbery due to signing to a major after releasing their first singles on Postcard. In reality, what's so great about the album is that it sounded so different to anything else at the time and how much it would influence what would follow. Infusing their obvious love of punk with their love of soul it stands as one of the truly great British debut albums. 

With lyrics that are cutting, witty and romantic, excellent guitar interplay between Collins and Kirk and a great rhythm section from David McClymont and Steven Daly this is an album like no other.

Also you can't really go wrong with an album sleeve featuring a couple of lovely dolphins swimming together in the sea. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Early Gigs Part 1

Between '86 and '89 there was barely a week went by where I would not be found at one gig or another. Apart from The Barrowland, most of these would have been at Glasgow Uni, Strathclyde Uni or Glasgow Tech with a few others at the likes of Fury Murry's, The Mayfair or 46 West George Street. Over the first few years of gig going I had the pleasure of seeing the likes of The Shop Assistants, Go Betweens, 10,000 Maniacs, Pixies, Sonic Youth, James, Age Of Chance, The Sugarcubes, The Bodines, The Pastels, The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Wedding Present amongst many others. 

Both the Universities and The Tech played host to many great bands and were essential to the gig scene in Glasgow before the likes of King Tut's and the much missed ABC. If it hadn't been for these venues it's unlikely I would have had the chance to see most of those bands in their prime. 

Two that really stand out for me from that time are The Pastels, supported by The Vaselines in Fury Murry's and Pixies at Glasgow University. The Pastels had not long released Up For A Bit and that evening started a lifelong love of both them and The Vaselines. Both these bands are much loved and that evening in Fury's clearly showed why. I do recall being a bit worse for wear at the Pixies gig and missing the support band completely. I managed to rally just as Pixies hit the stage. Doolittle had just been released and we were amongst the first people to hear these songs live. Glasgow took Pixies to their collective hearts and made sure they knew how loved they were in this part of the world. I've seen Pixies a few times over the years, but none will match that very special evening in The QMU. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Texas Fever Revisited

I have posted before on Texas Fever, a club night we used to frequent in Glasgow when we were 16/17 years old, but watching Teenage Superstars last week prompted a new post. Although Texas Fever was not part of the film it was held in the same venue as the legendary Splash One nights that were featured in the film. We knew of Splash One, but were just that bit too young when it was going. We saw all the posters around Glasgow advertising these nights but at only 15 we just missed out on them. At 16 we felt we might get into a club so headed into Glasgow on a Friday, after school, to 46 West George Street for an audio feast. We were listening to the likes of The Velvet Underground, The Byrds, The Sonics and The Stooges so this felt like the place for us, and it was. Those nights at Texas Fever were nights to treasure and certainly helped shape my music tastes ongoing. Everyone there was there because they loved music and wanted somewhere that they could meet like minded souls and just hear and dance to their favourite music in a club instead of a bedroom. Texas Fever was held upstairs at 46 West and on a Sunday downstairs they would host live bands with the likes of James, The Wolfhounds and The Mighty Lemon Drops playing. Splash One may go down in Glasgow folklore, but those Friday nights at Texas Fever will always be unforgettable for all who had the joy of being there. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

R.E.M. - The IRS Years

Last night for the first time in years I listened to the fist five R.E.M. albums, the ones before they signed to a major. I had forgotten how bloody good all five of them are. Unlike many bands I listen to I was in at the start with R.E.M. I bought Murmur when it was released based upon a review I saw in Melody Maker. I had heard a couple of tracks before buying, but had no idea what delights were in store. Every track is top rate, an album to listen to from start to finish without skipping any tracks. I had found the band for me, I couldn't wait for the next album to arrive. Five albums in four years and each one was further proof, if any was needed, that this was one very special band. 

The early Warner Bros albums are great albums too, but there is something really special about those early albums. From Murmur to Life's Rich Pageant they could do know wrong. It was a golden time for music generally with the likes of The Smiths, The Mary Chain, The Bunnymen and New Order (amongst many others) releasing top quality releases and those IRS albums more than stand up to their peers. 

Five albums in four years with this level of creativity is quite something and cemented Athens, Georgia on the world music map. Many of my favourite REM songs come from the likes of Green, Out Of Time and Automatic For The People but those early, enigmatic IRS releases are the ones for me. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

In Praise Of The Style Council

There were undoubtedly quite a few tears shed when Paul Weller disbanded The Jam at the height of their success in '82, and a fair amount of antagonism towards The Style Council when they released their debut single, Speak Like A Child, the following year. Although I was only a young teenager when The Style Council released said debut I was hooked instantly. To do this day, Speak Like A Child is still one of my all time favourite debut singles. I loved The Jam, but was a tad too young when they started out. My introduction to them was round about the Eton Rifles/Going Underground stage of their career and then I worked my way backwards to In The City. When I started secondary school there was "The Mod Corner" where I longed to be, but don't think new starts at the school were given admission to this exclusive club.

Over a period of six years the band released five albums and a fair number of great singles, most notably You're The Best Thing, Walls Come Tumbling Down, Long Hot Summer and the aforementioned Speak Like A Child. Toward the end of The Jam it was obvious that Weller's ambitions were far beyond what he was releasing with The Jam and that he was already moving in a new direction. At the time most people could not understand why he walked away from Britain's most popular band at the time, but listening now to the back catalogue of The Style Council it was the right decision and makes perfect sense now. The Style Council also allowed him to let his hair down and have some fun. The video for Long Hot Summer being a perfect example of his new found freedom. 

And to think he was only around twenty-four or so at the time. Brave decision for a young guy, turns out he always had a wise head. Not sure that Bruce Foxton or Rick Buckler would agree, but those wonderful Style Council records would likely never have been made if he hadn't had the guts to walk away when he did. 



Sunday, September 20, 2020

Stop The Rain

I don't know too much about The Suede Crocodiles apart from that they featured a pre-solo Kevin McDermott and that in 1983 they released their one and only single, the insanely catchy Stop The Rain. With that track they caught the attention of Nick Heyward, who took them on his first solo tour as his support act. He was also touted to produce the follow up single, Paint Yourself A Rainbow, but that single never saw the light of day as Kevin opted for a solo career. Another of those Scottish bands from that era that were releasing awesome pop songs that were largely ignored south of the border. It was very much the kind of track you could imagine hearing on the likes of Kid Jensen or Janice Long's Radio 1 shows or Mark Goodear's show on Clyde. Quality pop that has aged surprisingly well.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Stir It Up

Following on from last week's Studio One post, today's post focusses on the premier UK reggae label, Trojan Records. The label was instrumental in introducing reggae to a global audience and by 1970 had secured a series of major UK chart hits from the likes of Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Cliff and The Maytals. Pick up any reggae compilation album and you'll instantly see the influence of Trojan. Founded in 1968 when Lee Gopthal, who operated the Musicland record retail chain and owned Beat And Commercial Records. pooled his Jamaican music interests with those of Chris Blackwell's Island Records, the label was also a huge influence on the skinhead culture of the 60's and 70's. As with Studio One, the success of bands such as The Specials and Madness sparked a renewed interest in Trojan in the late 70's that brought many of their classic tunes to a new audience.

Reggae without Trojan would be likes soul without Stax, with a back catalogue to match any label. The cultural impact of Trojan has shaped the world we live in and thankfully most of the music released on the label over the years is still available thanks to those lovely people at Sanctuary Records. 

One of the earliest releases on Trojan was The Wailers, with the original version of the classic Stir It Up. Released in 1968, it was an early indicator of just how good The Wailers would become. Written for his wife Rita, after Bob's eight-month absence from Jamaica in 1966, staying with his mother in Delaware, it went on to become one of their most loved songs, in no small part due to their spellbinding appearance on The Whistle Test. 




Thursday, September 10, 2020

Studio One

Known to some as the Motown Of Jamaica, Studio One was was involved with most of the major music movements in Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s, including ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub and dancehall. Studio One discovered many reggae artists that went onto to become legends throughout the world, most notably The Wailers whose early recordings were released on the label founded in the early 60's by the one and only Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd. 

Also on the label were The Skatelites of  Guns Of Navarone fame. They were also the house band, playing on releases by the likes of Prince Buster and on The Wailers debut single Simmer Down. Like many others of a certain age my introduction to The Skatelites was through The Specials, in particular the Too Much Too Young E.P. Fast forward a few years and I was discovering these wonderful old reggae and ska songs that had such an influence on the 2 Tone bands here in Britain. Through John Peel and Ital Riddims in Glasgow I was hearing, and starting to buy, these records that were made thousands of miles away in Jamaica but spoke to something in me. 

The world of music owes a huge debt to Clement Dodd, without whom much of this music may never have seen the light of day, and to the 2 Tone bands of the 80's who revitalised it for a younger generation.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Big Gold Dreams

Released in 2019, Big Gold Dreams documents the vibrant independent music scene that emerged in Scotland in the late 70's and 80's. Named after (The) Fire Engines single and Grant McPhee's fascinating documentary of the same name it includes many of the Scottish music scene's most important names as well as countless lesser known bands.

One of the many bands included are Article 58 with their fast and frantic debut single Event To Come. Echoes of fellow Scots Josef K are evident in their only single released in '81, which was co-produced by Josef K guitarist Malcolm Ross and Postcard boss Alan Horne. Cited by Davey Henderson as an influence on (The) Fire Engines, it's one of those tracks that has kinda got lost in the midst of time but thanks to Big Gold Dreams it can be heard once again in all its glory. Article 58 was the first band of Douglas MacIntyre who now runs the wonderful Creeping Bent label (think Nectarine No. 9, Secret Goldfish, Monica Queen) and has also played in countless Scottish bands including Love and Money, The Sexual Objects, The Jazzatears and his latest project Port Sulphur. 

Port Sulphur are a bit of a who's who of Scottish music, featuring members of The Bluebells, Aztec Camera and Orange Juice amongst many others. Recently released album, Compendium, runs the gamut from jangly pop rock through to synth driven tracks reminiscent of early Simple Minds and is one of the most varied albums you are likely to hear this year. What other album this year are you going to hear the likes of Alan Vega, Davey Henderson, Vic Godard and Ken McCuskey on. It is presented as a musical triptych - Biblioteca, Paranoic Critical and Companion Set - and is an album that you want to listen to from beginning to end. No pre-programming for this one, it is that rare beast that commands your attention from the moment you press play.