Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Random Play: Wet Wet Wet

Wet Wet Wet. I know. I know. Yes, that song. It did my head in too. I won't mention it, so you don't get it into your heads. Fifteen bloody weeks at number one though. Yeah, it definately did my head in.

But I'll let you into a little secret. I own their first two albums. Actually I think I've three albums, because there's one they did with Willie Mitchell in Memphis.

Anyway, despite being a fairly slick pin up band they were musically into a lot of the same stuff I listen to and post on here - for instance Dexys and Costello and old soul. So when my sister got a huge crush on their keyboard player back in the 80s I listened to their albums when she was out, having to buy them later on for myself.

Here's a couple of b-sides from their early singles. The first Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight is a James Taylor tune that the Isley Brothers once covered to great effect, and the second World In Another reminds me of one of Wet Wet Wet's other favourites Scritti Politti for some reason.

These are probably my favourite recordings by them, just because they're not as slick as some of the more known tunes. And Marti Pellow was a great singer.

Yeah. I know. But I don't care!

Wet Wet Wet - Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
Wet Wet Wet - World In Another

It's A Shame

I've had It's A Shame by The Detroit Spinners going around and around in my head for a couple of days now. It's a song that does this on a regular basis. I'm not sure if that means that I love the song more than most or if it's just super catchy. I find myself singing it to myself walking down the street, or while I'm cooking.

It is a great track mind you, and what I didn't know for years was that Stevie Wonder wrote and produced it, and plays a lot of the instruments on it. Listen to the brass lines and you can hear Stevie's melodic touch quite clearly.

Here's the original by The Detroit Spinners (just The Spinners in the US, renamed in the UK to avoid confusing them with our middle of the road folk group of the same name) and a lovely reggae version by Alton Ellis. I'll have this going around and around and around in my head all day now...

Detroit Spinners - It's A Shame
Alton Ellis - It's A Shame

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sounds For Sunday: Get Happy!! The Originals

I managed to forget Sounds For Sunday last week. Not quite sure how.

Anyway, I'm on a Costello kick this week: primarily with The Attractions because they were superb. I'm never sure which album is my favourite of those years, at the moment Trust is actually up there. But along with Blood And Chocolate, Get Happy!! is my most listened to Costello album. Loads of songs, mostly played at high energy and filled with soul influences.

Hmm. Motown grooves played with punk energy and topped with snarled vocals singing intelligent lyrics. Weller as always was keeping watch I think, but this album really did show the way for a lot of bands in the early 80s. And what an album, Costello wrote better songs probably, and The Attractions played better elsewhere, but there's something about Get Happy!! that is just so direct and powerful. And some great choices of covers. Sam And Dave's I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down was a ballad and beautiful with it, and there is a Costello version in the same style, but somewhere along the way he sped it up. I Stand Accused was by Jerry Butler originally. Now I don't seem to have it, even after some searching. What I do have is an lovely Al Green version. Again it's a ballad, which is a huge contrast to Costello's extremely speedy version. On the other hand Costello's version of Betty Everett's Getting Mighty Crowded is quite faithful to the original, with a great vocal, and the Attractions powering on like Booker T & The MGs on speed. It's very Mod with a capital M. (It also ended up on a b-side at the time rather than on the album but we'll forget about that for the moment...)

Get Happy!!

Sam & Dave - I Can't Stand Up
Al Green - I Stand Accused
Betty Everett - Getting Mighty Crowded

Friday, 27 March 2009

Soulful Kind Of Friday Night

Something soulful and full of strings for you this evening.

Sam Fletcher's I'd Think It Over is lovely, a big jazzy orchestral swaggering piece of soulfulness to dance circles around the front room. It builds beautifully, rising up and up to a nicely dramatic chorus. It makes me want to wear a sharp suit, drink whisky on the rocks and smoke french cigarettes. Whilst wearing shades inside. At night-time.


Sam Fletcher - I'd Think It Over

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Town Cryer

Adam at Pretending Life Is Like A Song posted the wonderful Town Cryer by Elvis Costello recently. It's a wonderful song, with a great Costello vocal, changing the way he sings each repetition of the lines until you feel like he's been singing four or five different songs at once. And then there's the beautiful arrangement, those orchestral parts that feel like the sun coming up.

I didn't realise that I had three versions of the song however. The original and an acoustic demo which is lovely. And a very strange fast version, all jerky early 80s funk moves and Hammond Organ washes. I don't think either of the other versions are as good as the original, but they're great indications of how good the song is that it stands up to the differences. I especially like the vocal breakdown at the end of the fast version. Fun.

Town Cryer (demo version)
Town Cryer (fast version)

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Random Play: Tracie Young!

Can't be posting Respond Records without mentioning Tracie. Tracie was the reason I bought Beat Surrender, and then Speak Like A Child and then a whole load of music. It was all her fault. There I've admitted it. I got into a whole youth sub-culture (so sub by this point that I was surfacing on the other side of the planet) because of a crush on a girl. All my Motown and Trojan and Who and Small Faces and Moment and Fred Perry shirts because of a girl. Tracie! Can't forget that exclamation point.

Ah but what a girl. One of my favourite vocals ever by anybody on The Boy Hairdresser, a Weller original that was the b-side to Give It Some Emotion, Tracie's second single. I love the high note she hits on the last verse, the one after the spoken middle. (Who was that speaking? Weller, Mick Talbot, or the late great Vaughn Toulouse?)

And then some eagle eyed folk may have noticed this posted in comments earlier on in the week, but I'll post it 'officially': I Love You When You Sleep, a great song written by one Elvis Costello.

Ah what a song. Absolutely gorgeous.

Keeps On Burning indeed!

Tracie! - Boy Hairdresser
Tracie! - I Love You When You Sleep

Rubber Reggae

It's a great game isn't it - recreating Beatles albums purely with cover versions. Here's a handful of great covers of tunes from Rubber Soul, all from the Trojan Beatles box set.

Willie Lindo - Norwegian Wood
Ernie Smith - You Won't See Me
Jackie Robinson - In My Life
Joe White - If I Needed Someone

So, name some tunes to finish the album - in any style of music...

Happy Tuesday!!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Random Play: Love: Alone Again Or

An absolutely beautiful and melancholy baroque pop masterpiece. I love the strings and the mariachi brass, and the sense of cold at it's heart.

Definitely and definitively classic.

Love - Alone Again Or

Meaty Big And Bouncy

(Lee at Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop was reminiscing today about our diets back in the 70s and how steak was a luxury and seen as posh or upmarket. This was in part my response over there, and also a tiny bit of response over here.)

Back in the 70s and early 80s my mum worked at Smithfield Meat Market, doing the books for a big Scottish beef firm. Part of her weekly wages was a certain percentage in 'meat' so to speak.

And no I don't mean she was sleeping with the boss.

Anyway, she regularly brought home a leg of lamb, 2 chickens, sausages, pork chops most weeks. But I can't recall any occasion when she came home with steaks. Given that she worked for a Scottish beef company it's a bit odd. Steak must have been their prime resource or something.

I can remember vividly when we were able to start buying anything but the crap food from shops though. It was spring 1982 in our part of London when Safeway opened up one of their big stores near the Barbican. Cartons of orange juice. Fruit and veg that wasn't simply potatoes carrots and apples. Starfruit and kiwi fruit! And avocadoes. And cook in the oven pizzas with deep crust!

But still we wanted fish fingers and fray bentos pies. Bad pop - "it's frothy man" anybody?

Is there a link between the country's diet and the music we listened to I wonder though? Lumpy bad food in the 70s and then the colourful more healthy option in the early 80s: Did all that early 80s pop sound that much brighter and bubblier because I wasn't so full of crap?

Here's some of the bubbliest and brightest from that summer when Safeway opened.

Madness - House Of Fun
The Associates - Party Fears Two
ABC - The Look Of Love Part 1
Duran Duran - Rio

The Questions - Price You Pay

I posted The Questions last week and their song Tuesday Sunshine. I had a few requests for one of their other songs, Price You Pay, which came out in the spring of 1983 and takes me right back whenever I hear it.

I hear it quite often because it is probably one of my all time favourite singles. I love it, from the drum intro, to the Paul Barry ad-libs over the fade. I always think it should have been a huge hit. But that's how it goes sometimes.

The real sound of spring in my head.

The Questions - Price You Pay

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Random Play: Dodgy

Not exactly random, but one of the un-posted uploaded tracks I had access to whilst sitting at the in-laws on a Saturday morning.

Good Enough, probably Dodgy's biggest hit, is such a summer feel-good tune. The summer of 96 was pretty damn good, looking back it counts as one of my favourite summers ever. Good good times. It was such a hopeful time, sunshine, good music, a new band I was starting, new friends. It really felt like the beginning of something. In hindsight it was a slight detour. I'm not sure things were as good as that for some time after. But anyway they were as good as that, and much better. So there's always an upside...

I love this track because it's a great track, but also because that feeling of hope is in it's grooves. I know it wasn't just me at the time, because I've talked about this with other people and they point at the approaching Labour government, Oasis and Blur, any number of dance tracks, Pulp and that other grooves full of hope track from the time Wake Up Boo! There really was a feeling in the air at the time, and that was before the beer or chemicals kicked in.

Funnily enough, and it may be the impending parenthood, but I'm starting to feel like that about this year. It'll be more than good enough!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Late Night Feelings: Prefab Sprout

Nothing major, just a headful of all the things that have been happening, all the things that are going to happen, and a few things that will hopefully never happen. I could do with a cigarette, but music is better.

And so this song to soothe the way. An acoustic version from the re-issue of Steve McQueen. Lovely.

Prefab Sprout - Appetite

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

How Did I Miss This? The Chemical Brothers: Saturate

Just about two years after it came out I got around to listening in full to the last Chemical Brothers album We Are The Night. When I listened to it before I must have been on full on skim mode because I completely missed Saturate.

Not this time. WOW.

A track that could sound like bleepy trance by numbers doesn't. Oh it comes close, simplistic sequencing and beats for the most part and lazy layering of riffs. But it's kind of nice. Then the chorus kicks in. And I mean kicks in, a huge ascending riff over a mammoth break beat that just goes sky high. Vertical Take Off. Talk about hands in the air, really beautiful and soaring and melodic, more like Orbital at their best than the Chems. I mean they've made some amazing music but it's not always about melody with them. But this is probably the best tune I've heard from them in years, maybe ever. Absolutely. Love. It.

Better late than never.

The Chemical Brothers - Saturate

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tuesday Sunshine

Rol at Sunset Over Slawit is doing a series about days of the week in music. It's Tuesday today over there, so I thought I'd post my favourite day of the week song ever.

Tuesday Sunshine came out around this time in 1984...25 years ago...wow. I was in the middle of being ill, stuck at home for a month, and I absolutely hated every song on the radio, which all seemed to be songs from Footloose, a film I still haven't seen all the way through. The Questions were one of the groups on Paul Weller's Respond Records and had released one of my favourite singles of 1983, The Price You Pay. So you can imagine I was quite excited to get my hands on Tuesday Sunshine. I played it over and over again, quite annoying my mum.

Listening to it now it's not quite the classic it seemed. Great vocals, musically a mix of Weller's Speak Like A Child and the Chairman Of The Board's Everything's Tuesday. It's great, but unlike The Price You Pay, I don't listen to it much anymore. It is however perfect for a sunny March morning.

The Questions didn't last much longer, releasing one album that summer. Paul Barry, vocals and bass is now a songwriter for hire, famously being one of the writers of Cher's Believe.

Happy Tuesday!!

The Questions - Tuesday Sunshine

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Sounds For Sunday

Here's a vintage dance pop tune that's a little bit more 'modern' than usual. Weird to be calling a tune from 1990 'vintage', but blimey it's nearly 20 years ago...oh well....

JC over at Vinyl Villain has posted Chic's Good Times, which prompted me to mention Johnny Marr's love of Chic and the influence of Nile Rodger on his playing. Which reminded me of this track, Still Feel The Rain by Stex on which Johnny plays. I know very little about Stex other than Stephen Lironi (Mr Claire Grogan and ex Altered Images/Black Grape) produced it and Johnny played guitar. And it featured over at Acid Ted before Christmas.

This is the Grid remix which sets the main JM riff way out front for a large portion of the track. That synth brass is pretty unfortunate however. But it's a great track that takes me back, this got played out quite often for a while.

Stex - Still Feel The Rain

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Random Play: The Perfections

Get your dancing feet on for this prime bit of seventies soul, with those scratchy funk guitars and cool brass lines that influenced so many early 80s records.

An original copy of The Perfections "Can This Be Real?" has been known to sell for as much as £300 on ebay!!!. I'm no purist, I'm glad I can get to hear these things, no matter what the format!


The Perfections - Can This Be Real?

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Random Play: The Smithereens

Sometimes a song takes you back so vividly that you can feel the sun on your face from a summer over twenty years ago.

The Smithereens are a New Jersey based power-pop band that have been around for nearly 30 years. Back in the mid 80s they released this single, with an old friend of theirs Suzanne Vega on gorgeous backing vocals. Her presence helped get the track played on radio, I bought it and played it to death; smoking cigarettes late at night, cursing lyric writers who could catch my state of mind so easily. "I'm alone and lonely every night" as the slow jazzy acoustic groove smouldered away.

Ah broken hearts. Bastard bastard things. Thankfully the only trace of a fractured aorta is in the songs of my life....

The Smithereens - In A Lonely Place

Random Play: John's Children

John's Children were a 60's Mod band mostly known for featuring Marc Bolan in their line up for about six months in 1967; during which time they released one of Marc's songs Desdemona as a single. The song was banned in the UK for the lyric "Lift up your skirt and fly". Not long after Marc was on his merry way towards Tyrannosaurus Rex/T-Rex and fame.

Desdemona is a cool little art-rocker with some great acid guitars and the unmistakeable sound of Marc's vocals on the chorus. Apparently The Jam covered it live back in the day, but I've never been able to track down a recording...if anybody has one......!!

John's Children - Desdemona

Jane: It's A Fine Day

This track still has the power to stop me in dead in my tracks whenever it comes on.

"We will have salad...."

Jane - It's A Fine Day

Random Play: The Proclaimers

Ah I love this track. Taken from The Proclaimers first album This Is The Story, The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues is that rare thing, a white soul song that conveys joy, ecstasy, pure uplifting soul. There are a few people that have done it, Van is one and dear Kevin Rowland is another. Craig and Charlie have always 'proclaimed' their love for Kevin and he was quite involved with them in the early days, advising and paying for studio time so they could record demos. And his influence is quite apparent on this.

And yet who knew you could create something so uplifting out of a visit to a Hibs away game?

Just listen to those soaring vocals and the urgency of the second half of the track, and tell me you don't feel your soul take flight?

"I'm not gonna talk about doubts and confusion on a night when I can see with my eyes shut"

The Proclaimers - The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Groovin' On A Sunday Afternoon....

I had a whole post worked out in my head about this track and how the original is one of my all time favourite songs and performances. A couple of pints of Guinness later and a decent pub roast and I'm kicking back with a cuppa, probably heading for a snooze.

So, one of those times when the music needs to do the talking I think.

The Young Rascals - Groovin'
Booker T & The MGs - Groovin'
Marvin Gaye - Groovin'
Willie Mitchell - Groovin'
Aretha Franklin - Groovin'

Friday, 6 March 2009


Ok, forget dancing on Fridays, here's three tracks that sound more like the Fridays of my life. Saturday night was always for dancing, Friday was more for going down the pub after wherever I'd been that day.

It's really difficult to explain how much The Pogues meant to me. More Last Gang In Town than The Clash, almost more fire and passion than The Jam and Dexys combined and in my opinion the best lyricist of all time in Shane MacGowan. And they arrived in my life when I was about 17, searching for identity, and jumping on my Celt ancestry like it was a runaway horse.

Here's three tracks, two of which are not so typical of The Pogues and probably their best song ever.

First up is the full length Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah, where The Pogues turn to Stone of the Rolling variety. "I love your lips and I love your eyes, I love your breasts and I love your thighs" Great to turn up loud and jump up and down to.

Next is Haunted from the Sid & Nancy soundtrack, featuring Cait O'Riordan on vocals. This one is more like The Pogues doing Phil Spector by way of the Jesus & Mary Chain. And as far as I'm concerned it's as good as that sounds, one of my favourite songs from the mid 80s, all spaced out romance.

But not as good as this next one: Rainy Night In Soho. I posted this last year sometime, but it was the remixed/re-recorded/whatever version. This is the original version from the Poguetry In Motion EP, which I absolutely adore. It's rougher around the edges and simply majestic. Is there a better lyric than this song contains?

"There's a light I hold before me and you're the measure of my dreams" indeed. Indeed.

The Pogues - Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah
The Pogues - Haunted
The Pogues - Rainy Night In Soho

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Random Play: Madness

Is it just me that thinks the theme tune to The Sweeney was the blueprint to the Madness sound?

"We're The Sweeney, son, and we haven't had our dinner yet"

Madness - Embarrassment
Madness - Our House
The Sweeney Theme

Monday, 2 March 2009


I've been travelling lately. Picking up information and ideas. Finding out things I didn't know, hearing songs I never knew existed, and hearing things I knew about with new ears. Folk is a funny thing. Twiddley diddley-ey-ay. But of course it's not, it's blood and guts and sex and drugs and rock n roll. And twee whimsy too, absolutely off it's face on scrumpy to the point of hallucination.

It's weird, there's so many connections through my music collection to the folk scene. And I've been on it's outskirts forever. Hey, I know who Cecil Sharp was. If you don't, start googling. It's worth finding out about.

And "The Songs That People Sing" was itself a song about the traditions and songs and stories that get passed down by word of mouth. "Somebody should write down the songs that people sing" was the line. Catch those things before they disappear from the world, lost forever.

Anyway, I've been through the British folk revival from the sixties, your Davey Grahams and Bert Janschs; your Fairports and Wicker Man. I've followed those bands down and their peers and sons daughters of peers. Meanwhile I've also been listening to some electronic bleeps and glitches from Boards Of Canada, not thinking for one moment that I'd be able to find connection with the plucked acoustic instruments of folk, and found the connection there was via The Incredible String Band. Strange psychedelic soundscapes that also sound like the soundtrack to Bagpuss.

So I've been strumming my own DADGAD tuned guitar over bleepy techno until my fingers bleed. Which is nicer than it sounds! And somebody said, hey that sounds like Tunng. So off I went down another funny little path and found this little collective Tunng, folk and folk influenced pop over glitchy beats, like a cross between Simon & Garfunkel and Boards Of Canada, or the music from Bagpuss with extra Clanger. Beautifully laid back and imaginatively arranged with some great melodies and lyrics. Three albums so far and the sound of a band who are improving with every step. Take a listen to these tasters then go and search them out. As much to do with the Fairports as they are to do with Super Furry Animals. Dreamy and incredibly detailed, probably best listened to over headphones...

Pastoral and yet sounding like the city centre all at once.

Aphex Twin Folk Music.

Tunng - Secrets
Tunng - The Wind Up Bird
Tunng - Bullets
Tunng - Surprise Me

Sounds For Sunday Part 2

Matt from Worksop pointed out one absolutely cracking track that might make you go out and buy Felix catfood so I'm going to post that, and as a thank you for reminding me about it I'm also putting up Don Thomas, Come On Train, which is one of my all time favourite Northern tunes, hell, one of my all time favourite tunes by anybody. Beautiful stuff, I absolutely adore the Don Thomas vocals. I'm going to go away and sing very loudly now! And not think about it's connection to Visa one little bit!

Rubin - You've Been Away


Well, Don Thomas was up but no more. I got an email from the nice folks from New State Music who are releasing the track and it's remix, asking me nicely if I'd remove it. And of course I will! Both the original and it's remix are available from iTunes here. Go and buy!!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Sounds For Sunday

Things have been a bit...interesting this week.

There have been letters from lawyers telling me I may have money, letters from employers telling me my job may be at risk, letters from musicians I've admired telling me they like my writings about them and an evening spent in a West End theatre listening to ABBA, which the Bump very much enjoyed if the movement was anything to go by.

Musically I've been on a funny little journey down a folky acoustic path, mixed in with some electronic music that at first glance had nothing to do with anything else. Typically, some investigation led me to discover that I was dancing around on the same path. There will be some tunes from that source later on in the week. If my bleeding fingers let me type.

Meanwhile on a Sunday we have some typically Northern(ish) tunes that may have a funny effect on you. If you find yourself wanting to go out and buy some Adidas gear, or Lambrini; or if you find yourself in KFC or running manically around Boots then it's not my fault.

Happy Sunday!

Frankie Valli - Beggin' (Pilooski edit)
Little Milton - More And More
Al Wilson - The Snake
Ernie K Doe - Here Come The Girls
The Flirtations - Nothing But A Heartache

*You have to laugh sometimes. I wrote this piece this morning, and then this evening an advert for a credit card comes on with yet another classic piece of Northern, Come On Train by Don Thomas.

That's not exactly a well known tune however, so it suggests that the person involved is a fan of the music. Good God man, how do you listen to this stuff afterwards? Don't you forever associate it with a commercial?

I'd suggest laying off the old soul for ad campaigns. There must be some other type of music that's ripe for use. And that I can't stand. Please!!