Diario

  • ~Kitten Wine~#11 "Everybody Wants To Be Joe Dallesandro"

    Mar 28 2010, 18:58

    A Look Back At The Smiths Debut Album

    It's all about sex you know!
    No really...it is! Listen:

    Early 1984, Interviewer; "It's been said that your songs are not so much 'love songs' as 'sex songs'..."
    Morrissey; "Yes....though it sounds almost brutal, but....yes".

    See!

    Ask anyone what The Smiths greatest album is and more often than not will come the reply 'The Queen Is Dead'. Morrissey and Marr both claim that it's 'Strangeways, Here We Come', but they're both well off the mark. For me, everything that is great about The Smiths, everything that raises them well above any other band or cultural phenomenon that has existed in my lifetime, is their eponymous debut album. Everything that, for me, defines The Smiths can be found within their debut album and the accompanying singles and B-sides....everything, in fact, pre-'Meat Is Murder'. From 'Meat Is Murder' onwards The Smiths became a different(though still magnificent) band, but
    'The Smiths' offered something totally anomalous, something totally out of step with the times, something loaded with menace, longing, dread, lust and of course....sex.

    But first, a bit of contextualising.

    Back in mid 1983, when I was still at school, I saw the movie 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush', a swinging 60s romp in which our hero played by Barry Evans(who would later find infamy as the teacher in the gruesome racist sit-com 'Mind Your Language') spent the movie trying to win the girl of his dreams and lose his virginity....though not necessarily at the same time. Through the course of the movie he gives a direct-to-camera running commentary, kind of like Michael Caine in 'Alfie'. A short time after this my folks decided I was old enough to watch mid-70s sex comedy 'Confessions Of A Window Cleaner', in which Robin Askwith as our hero Timmy Lea finds himself waist deep in sexual situations, again all the while delivering his thoughts to camera.
    What, you may be asking has all this got to do with 'The Smiths'? Well, because of these films I imagined that my own adolescent fumblings would be accompanied by my giving some kind of running commentary to the waiting public. Obviously it wouldn't, but the reasons I fell in love with The Smiths is that the lyrical content, especially of 'The Smiths' sounded like the commentary I should have been giving.

    'The Smiths' is an album full of sex.....straight sex, gay sex, bi-sex, underage sex, sex in cars, sex at the hands of a woman more masculine than the male protagonist, clumsy sex, sex that leads to unwanted pregnancy.....
    It's an album that creates it's own world entirely, a perfectly contained world housed in bruise/lovebite coloured sleeve featuring a naked man. A world where Morrissey doesn't have too much of a past to conjure poetry from....you get the feeling that these are lyrics he HAD to write out of necessity rather than as a vocation. He still references school and the clumsiness of youth as though they were still occurring. These are the thoughts and words of a young man bursting to express himself in a way that would be incongrous to anything else happening in pop or rock at that, or indeed any time.

    Back in the long cold Winter of 1983 my friends and I used to prowl the streets at night, bored senseless and literally busy doing nothing. We used to congregate at a cafe called The Fountain, an unglamorous greasy-spoon affair that no longer exists but which has become a fixture of our teenage folklore. Hence, it only seems appropriate that 'The Smiths' should begin with lumbering epic 'Reel Around the Fountain', a song that would take on a different meaning looking back. "It's time the tale were told// Of how you took a child// And you made him old...", not lyrics detailing child abuse as the right-wing press ranted at the time, but a gentle unfurling of the flag of manhood. Is it a kiss, is it sex that has made the child in Morrissey come of age? "15 minutes with you// Well, I wouldn't say no// Though people see no worth in you//....I do" The cameraderie of the outsiders....the love of the weird for the weird....YOU were young once, right? You know how it goes! "Reel around the fountain// Shove me on the patio// I'll take it...slowly" Remind me what this album is about again!
    A crash of drums and we pound into 'You've Got Everything Now', Morrissey reflecting back to his school days when he was on top and his downtrodden companion wilted in his shadow. But now it's all change and Morrissey's jealousy and frustration at his former friend's good fortune leads to a perplexing infatuation that he struggles to handle; "But I don't want a lover// I just want to be seen...in the back of your car".
    To my musically uneducated ears back in 1983 'Miserable Lie' sounded positively startling; a slow ponderous intro, "So goodbye// Please stay with your own kind// And I'll stay with mine", what is Morrissey's 'own kind' do you reckon? Then the song suddenly bursts into vibrant life, with a whole bizarre collage of clumsy, awkward, typical teenage sex; "Please put your tongue away// A little higher and we're well away" and "I look at yours// You laugh at mine// And love is just a miserable lie" This is followed by an insane coda in which Morrissey shrieks falsetto "I need advice// I need advice// For nobody ever looks at me twice!!" Surely the best use of Janov's primal scream therapy heard in music since John Lennon's scathing 'Mother'! It's often been said that this song along with 'Jeane' and 'Wonderful Woman' document Morrissey's infatuation with Linder Sterling.
    And Morrissey's obsession with strong women continues into 'Pretty Girls Make Graves' in which Morrissey finds himself at the hands of a woman who is "...too rough// And I'm too delicate", a brave statement for any rock star to make unless they are fully prepared to dodge the brickbats of lazy, prejudiced opinion. As Morrissey's companion begs "Give in to lust//Give up to lust// Oh heaven knows we'll soon be dust ... " Morrissey refuses and watches as she goes off with another man. When you're 16, clumsy and shy, to hear someone actually put all this into the words of a pop song is incredibly liberating and inspiring. It's songs like these that, on hearing them at the right time, changed my DNA...Songs That Saved Your Life? You bet!
    At this point I realise I haven't mentioned Johnny Marr yet, but with the next track it's impossible not to. 'The Hand That Rocks the Cradle' is quite unlike anything else from that time, it features no chorus or middle eight to speak of, just a continuous guitar pattern over which Morrissey delivers a stream of consciousness tale of wanted/unwanted pregnancy, childhood and parenthood(what it's certainly NOT about is child abuse....is it, Garry Fucking Bushell??) Morrissey takes on the role of a (possible) parent looking in on the cradle which may contain his baby son and we're suddenly immersed in some of the most beautiful lyrical poetry; "Ceiling shadows shimmy by// And when the wardrobe towers like a beast of prey// There's sadness in your beautiful eyes// Oh, your untouched, unsoiled, wonderous eyes// My life down I shall lie// Should restless spirits try// To play tricks on your sacred mind// To tease, torment or tantalise" Oh frabjous day!! Oh joy!! Some of my friends mock or fail to understand my devotion to Morrissey and/or The Smiths, but I still recall the first time I heard this....it made me cry then, and it makes me cry now.

    (If you're expecting 'This Charming Man' next then you obviously don't have the original vinyl version of the album. TCM was only included on the WEA CD reissues)

    Side Two then....
    How do I begin to write about 'Still Ill'? 'Still Ill' is THE song, the hook that ensnared me and pointed my life in a different direction. Truth be told, 'This Charming Man' is one of two songs that changed my life entirely; the other is 'Dog Eat Dog' by Adam & The Ants but I'd have to write an entire spiel about that song to try to explain why. 'This Charming Man' alerted me to The Smiths, the road to Damscus moment, but it was 'Still Ill' that sowed the seeds of a second heart.....one that would only ever beat or break for The Smiths. I can still recall when I first heard it....the John Peel show, early 1984...he'd just been given a copy of the album and played 'Still Ill' for David 'Kid' Jensen who WAS ill at the time. When Morrissey's voice first comes in, my entire life stopped in it's tracks....the old 'me' was gone, the new 'me' had arrived. That life affirming refrain, "Under the iron bridge we kissed..." OH Yessss!!!! Stirling is full of old bridges, iron or otherwise, and our lives seemed forever cast in their shadows....all teenage life was carried out under those bridges; underage drinking, messy fumblings, swaggering braggadocio, broken hearts and skinned knees.....Sore lips? We could but dream.
    Morrissey has often regarded 'Hand in Glove' as the most important song he ever wrote and it's position as The Smiths' debut single(again housed in a twilight purple/grey sleeve with a naked man upon) bears this out. "The sun shines out of our behinds", their arrogance is not misplaced, "Yes we may be hidden by rags// But we've something they'll never have" ....once again, love amongst the outsiders.
    Another single, 'What Difference Does It Make?" and another song seething with pent up lust. The way Morrissey growls "Oh, the Devil will find work for idle hands to do" followed shortly by "And now you make me feel so ashamed// Because I've only got two hands" you have to wonder just who Morrissey is attempting the dual-backed beast with....and more to the point, why does he need so many hands? Even though this was released as a single, The Smiths grew weary of the song very quickly and it disappeared from the live set after only a few plays. Still....that coruscating guitar intro gets me very time.
    Let's jump a song now(which we'll come back to) and let's look at the closing track, 'Suffer Little Children'. Again, quite remarkable in it's set-up, no verse-chorus-middle-eight-brake-fade here, again Johnny Marr conjures a piece of extraordinary music leaving all peers in his wake. And Morrissey's lyrics? Well, these are the lyrics that convinced Johnny that he had a partner of equal genius here. Aaah, Morrissey and Marr....together as beautiful as a sunrise....apart, occasionally as ropey as an old cardigan. In 'Suffer Little Children' Morrissey excorcises his own personal ghosts by dealing with the Moors Murders, a crime which he was a potential victim of, given that he lived in that area at that time and was only 5 years old. Of course, the right-wing gutter press went apopleptic, again shrieking about child abuse, but Morrissey had pre-empted this and sought the blessings of the families of the victims, which he was granted. A tender, gorgeous ending to a remarkable album.
    And there's still one song we've not spoken of....
    There was a time that if you asked me my favourite Smiths song I would have replied 'Sweet and Tender Hooligan' but I think I was just trying to be a little clever. Then, for many years, it was 'Well I Wonder' from 'Meat Is Murder', a song that could easily have sat on this album, so beautiful, striking and exquisitely played it is. But, in truth, my favourite Smiths song is 'I Don't Owe You Anything'. No other song EVER captures my youth, my teenage frustration and exhillerations like this one does. In our teenage years, my friends and I seemed to forever prowling the streets, doing nothing, going nowhere....just being. We'd walk the frozen pavements lit by the orange streetlamps, ill-dressed for the plummeting temperatures but uncaring. What were looking for? Where were we going? Was some great revelation about to be disclosed to us? Who knew? When my musical cohort Griff and I formed ~Sighrens~, one of the first lyrics Griff wrote was called 'The Last Of The Lights' which dealt with this very subject. In 'I Don't Owe You Anything' Morrissey is out on his own streets and his words resonated deep within me. "Bought on stolen wine// A nod was the first step// You knew very well what was coming next"; well maybe not stolen wine, but certainly underage purchased Merrydown Cider! "And did I really walk all this way// Just to hear you say// Oh, I don't want to go out tonight..." This is where it get's me...all those nights, walking to friends or a girl's house just to be casually knocked back...."...Oh but you will// For you must", and it's that tremor in Morrissey's voice on the word 'must' that does it! He knows that this is a time in which EVERY night is important, every night is an adventure, every night will be recalled and spoken of as the dulling grey of adulthood descends. In your mid/late teens EVERY night is SO important....OF COURSE they are going to come out with you....for they must!! "Too freely from your lips// Words prematurely sad"....more tear stained poetry far, far beyond his contemporaries, "You should not go to them// Let them come to you// Just like I do...", sage advice Steven, that way you don't look like an idiot and face constant rejection, I wasn't just listening, I was learning. And then, "Life is never kind// Oh, but I know what will make you smile tonight", and it's the way he quite audibly grins during this line that brings us back to what this album is all about.

    'The Smiths' is easily the most played record in my entire collection, and time has been very kind to it. Some people used to argue that 'Hatful Of Hollow' was the better album as they believed it's lighter touch made it more palletable....Poppycock!! 'HOH' is whimsical and slender compared to it's dark, drunken, dangerous, delirious brother; it's leaden pall covering it like that first aching hangover. 'The Smiths' is a bruise that never fades, a keratoid scar upon my soul, a recollection of when my heart was full of hope and my head full of hormones. When I walked the streets with a layer of frost on my jacket and the taste of Revlon lipstick on my tongue. When a pop band could batter you senseless and leave you weeping on the pavement.

    The most important album of my lifetime?

    You've really have no idea...........
  • ~Kitten Wine~#10 'Barnoon Hill'

    Mar 15 2010, 21:36

    'Barnoon Hill' by Pacific

    Her name was Amy.
    I never found out her second name, nor much else about her, yet, like Proust's petit-madeline dipped in linden tea, just the sound of her name transports me back to time of innocence when EVERY night seemed like some entrancing experience. In truth I only knew her for a few hours but somehow I can visualise almost every second of the time I spent with her.

    It was a Saturday in very early 1989. My friends Douglas and Sharon were going to a party in Glasgow and asked me to come along. Sharon had just started working for Tennents Live(when the Tennents brewery used to sponsor live concerts) and she had been invited to works get-together to break the ice. They picked me up from work and we drove to Sharon's house so I could get showered and changed.
    Earlier in the day, at lunchtime, I had gone along to the local record shop with the intention of buying 'The Hairstyle Of The Devil' by Momus which Steve Wright had (bizarrely) been championing on his radio show. The single was in amongst a pile of Creation 7" singles all of which came in generic sleeves and all of which cost a paltry 99pence. So, I took the Momus single, a single by The Weather Prophets called 'Hollow Heart' and one I hadn't heard of, 'Barnoon Hill' by a band called Pacific. I had the three singles with me as we headed to Glasgow, not expecting to get them played of course, more as a badge of look-at-me-cool!
    The place where the 'party' was to take place was some ancient monstrosity of late 19th century Glaswegian architecture which had now been renovated into student flats. Big, draughty, full of ghosts and overlooking a section of the Clyde.
    The party was hardly a swinging affair....dull, office-worker types sat around talking arse as they listened to Simple Minds, U2, Hipsway and Hue & Cry. Not good!

    Then I saw her......

    Breton shirt, unkempt black shoulder length hair and an insouciant air about her. Trouble was she looked a little old....you know, like REALLY old...like maybe(gulp!) THIRTY!! In a moment of unexpected bravery I began speaking to her....her name was Amy, and as soon as I looked into her inpenetrabley dark eyes, I was lost. She had one of those posh, West-End-Of-Glasgow sing-song accents and every word she uttered hit me like a stolen kiss. It seemed she lived in the flat and had her own room there. We got on really well, like we'd known each other for ages. With the party loosening up she grabbed a bottle of Bacardi Gold and led me to her room. It was like walking into a blast furnace of patchouli and incense. Her window looked directly onto the Clyde and we sat there looking at the people walking by. She had one of those old fashioned record players with the arm that allowed you to stack 6 or 7 singles on it at a time.
    As the alcohol loosened our inhibitions she opened up the large window and showed me the scaffolding that was wrapped around the flat. We could actually step out onto the scaffolding as a paltform had been created just under her window sill. In a moment predating that awful Rod Stewart record 'The Motown Song', you know, the one about going on the roof and listening to The Miracles echo through the alley down below, we put some records on the player and stepped out onto the ledge. She had chosen three to go along with the three I had brought with me. She chose 'Cattle And Cane' by The Go-Betweens, 'Christine' by Siouxsie And The Banshees and 'A Forest' by The Cure, all of which made the first record of mine to be played, the Momus single, sound very slight indeed, but it's a song I love dearly and looking over the cold Glasgow cityscape as it ran parallel to the Clyde, it sounded glacial. The Weather Prophet's single played itself out in an unimposing fashion, a good track if a little unmemorable.
    Amy smoked Gitanes unfiltered cigarettes which stank and looked like joints. She lit one for me and I tried to inhale it but it was like breathing in a house-brick. I immediately felt giddy, the nicotine rush ripping straight through my head. The stylus clicked onto 'Barnoon Hill', the single by Pacific of which I knew nothing......

    A single keyboard note, a run of a squidgy sounding synthesizer rhythm track and then a girl speaking Japanese. My head was spinning(not a good thing when you're up some scaffolding), I looked at the neon lights reflected in the mirror surface of the Clyde as they merged with the blanket of stars than glimmered above us.......a strummy 12-string guitar so gossamer light it barely registers and then the real vocals begin. A voice so 'clipped English' it made Neil Tennant sound like Arthur Mullard, think of Jagger's unbearable hoary Southern drawl on 'Exile On Main Street' and this was the polar opposite. Lyrical references to dreams, memories and blankets of deep snow followed and I allowed myself to become lost as the cellos took over. The cars below all had windscreens that resembled trays of diamonds....."As the dark side of happiness grows".....I extended my arms, crucifix style, soaking in the moment. Amy smiled at me, a smile so warm and dazzling that something inside me broke, I almost felt like jumping.....angel trumpets on the track now lifting me to a higher state; alcohol, very high tar smoke and the cold night air mixing with the sweetest smile and the perfect soundtrack....a needle-gun etching a memory on my soul....the chorus; "It's all going down now// And such secrets I can't hide// You're treading dirty water// You lose strength down deep inside"....how can a song so poignant and so mournful sound so uplifting? Then a girl's voice cut through the haze....I thought it was Amy and almost slipped in shock..."Talk to me// Talk but don't leave me"...but it was on the record....the chorus returns, sweet trumpets float on the ether and the song comes to an end. I stood there with a film of frost clinging to my jacket, a huge grin and a fire burning somewhere inside me.
    We climbed back into the room and swigged some more Bacardi.

    The rest of the night played out in subdued conversation and drowsy laughter.
    In the morning we both played it cool, not letting on that we had shared a moment. We didn't swap numbers...I reckoned if she was keen she'd ask Sharon for my number, and if I still felt the same way next weekend, I'd ask Sharon for Amy's number. But fate, and two pretty blonde girls called Gail and Louise were waiting like snipers to gun me down and take my life in a totally different direction just a few days later.....and Amy became just another memory.

    Some 20 odd years later as I listen again to 'Barnoon Hill' I realise I can't ever listen to it without thinking about her and that night on the scaffolding....

    More tea, Marcel?



    This video-clip says 1990 but I can assure it was released in early 1989, maybe even 1988!!
  • ~Kitten Wine~#9 '60 Minutes In The Anorak City'

    Mar 5 2010, 21:38

    '60 Minutes In The Anorak City' - A dissection of a mix-tape.

    The mix-tape!
    So quickly did they become retro. Mix-Cds, I-pods and Online Playlists all rapidly eradicated the art of the mix-tape, an art so smugly and erroneously eulogised in Nick Hornby's 'High Fidelity'.
    I used to love mix-tapes....not necessarily making them for friends or potential girlfriends, but really just for myself. Small, compact, contained snapshots of a time and place. Reminders of a Summer, or of a girl.....or both! Of all the myriad mix-tapes I've scattered across the land there is still one that I have and still cherish dearly, and still play every now and again. I made the tape in the late Summer of 1988 as a way capturing my state of mind following, what I felt at the time, had been the greatest Summer of my life so far.
    The cassette was/is a BASF C-60 and I titled the compilation 'One Hour In The Anorak City', an ironic reference to Sarah Records who had just begun around this time. One of the reasons I still love the tape and dread the day I ever lose it is that it contains several songs that I've long since lost the hard copies of, either because I swapped the record, or I only had a loan of the record at the time, or because it was taped off the radio.

    So, on a snowy miserable night in Central Scotland, let's relive the Golden Summer Of 1988....the train's about to leave from Platform Twee...........

    "60 Minutes In The Anorak City"

    Side A:

    1)The Golden Dawn: 'My Secret World'
    The cassette begins with what I must have felt at the time would be a perfect little introductory song. The Golden Dawn were on
    sarah records but were pretty atypical of the overall 'Sarah' sound. Their songs were riddled with feedback and they had more in common with The Velvet Underground or The Jesus And Mary Chain, and like The JAMC, The Golden Dawn were from Glasgow. 'My Secret World' barely last two minutes but it is the perfect opener as it alludes to a world that the listener can lose themselves in, and I like to think that this cassette is a little world in it's own.

    2)The Sea Urchins: 'Pristine Christine'
    Phew! Where do you begin with 'Pristine Christine'? The Magna Carta of all Twee Pop! 'Pristine Christine' was, of course, Sarah One, Sarah's first ever release and it's a perfect start. A twangy guitar ushers us in, but when the drums, tambourine and vocals kick in it's such a rush it's like being pebble-dashed with barley sugar, like the oxygen has turned into candy floss, like you've wrapped the belt around your arm and mainlined pure cane sugar! It's a perfect pop song and it still makes me giddy listening to it. I've seen it for sale in Record Collector for well in excess of £100, but to me it's priceless and unreplaceable.

    3)The Bachelor Pad: 'Jack and Julian'
    Another band from Glasgow, another burst of feedback. This is an absolutely brilliant song, "Oh, one's called Jack and one's called Julian// One shares a flat and the other is a hooligan// Late at night, a pillow fight...." The song is an absolute mess, there's so much happening, so much distortion....but it all works beautifully. I only have two singles by them, this and 'Do It For Fun' but I treasure them both dearly. I wish they'd been much bigger.

    4)14 Iced Bears: 'Sure to See'
    On the sleeve of the cassette I have this listed as 'Come Get Me' and this is because of the weird way the songs are listed on the sleeve of the single. Another Sarah Record(Sarah Five if your spodding!) and a truly wondrous one at that. The guitars seem to hover around the track like a sweet tingly vapour, the drums have an almost louche jazzy feel to them, but it's the bass that propels the song forward; a very languid, melodic bass line that practically takes over the song. The vocals and lyrics have that dreamy wistful feel that would come to embody Sarah's output, and the "Don't you want me anymore" refrain is still very moving to me all these years later. A song that improved my life....no kidding!

    5)The Primitives: 'Keep Me In Mind'
    Okay, okay....so I've dismissed The Primitives a little in previous Blogs, but I really love this track, especially the John Peel Session version which is the version I have on the cassette. In the Summer of 1988 myself and three friends went on holiday to a caravan in Arbroath and one of them had several recent Peel sessions on a tape of his own including The Wedding Present, Big Black, The Cocteau Twins, James and The Primitives....and it's this track that forever reminds me of us all posing furiously amid the caves of Lunan Bay.

    6)Felt: 'Christopher Street'
    A bit of a departure this one. Usually Felt would fit in perfectly with the songs here, but this track is from their atypical 'The Pictorial Jackson Review' album and has a bit of a Bob Dylan-'Positively 4th Street' feel to it. A very strident track with lots of swirly Hammond organ runs, it may seem a little out of place, but I'm glad it's on here.

    7)The Sea Urchins: 'Sullen Eyes'
    One of the B-side tracks from Sarah One, and more than a little similar to David Bowie's 'Sound And Vision'(albeit on a much smaller budget!). A really beautiful, emotion-tweaking song. Bizarrely the only song from Sarah One I didn't include on the tape, 'Everglades', is now my favourite Sea Urchins song. Sarah One may be worth a lot of money to collectors, but it's emotive sentimental value to me is off the scale.

    8)Another Sunny Day: 'Anorak City'
    It only lasts about 99 seconds and it comes on a 5" clear vinyl flexi-disc that was attached to a fanzine called 'Sarah Four'. It has a two-note guitar solo that breaks my heart every time I hear it, and it ends in a blast of feedback. It's SO good that I named the cassette after it. Anything else you need to know?

    9)The Magic Shop: 'It's True'
    Another flexi-disc. This came on the legendary Sha-la-la Records label and I probably got it with some now long discarded fanzine. This was the only track they ever released and, as I'm pretty sure the flexi-disc will by now be unplayable, it's inclusion on this cassette is all the more poignant and vital.

    10)The Visitors: 'Goldmining'
    This was on the other side of The Magic Shop's flexi-disc, and again this was the only track The Visitors ever released at the time. It's quite a bitter little anti-marriage song and I love it. A few years ago Matineé Records released the band's collected home recordings, so strong was interest in them. Again, it's inclusion on here is something I'm very thankful for.

    11)Meat Whiplash: 'Don't Slip Up'
    And so Side A comes to an end with a track I've already written about extensively enough in a previous Blog.

    Side B:

    1)The Vaselines: 'Rory Rides Me Raw'
    "Galloping through the morning dew// There's only one thing that I wanna do to you// And it's true that we're gonna do it soon", a homoerotic paen to horseriding(yeah right!!) by Kurt Cobain's favourite band. In a paralell world this song would be Number One for weeks and get played at Lady Di's funeral.

    2)The Dragsters: 'I'm Not An American'
    From Greenock if I remember, although there's scant info on them on Last.fm! Over a Marychain-esque buzzsaw attack comes a litany of American cliched naffness which I'm going to let speak for itself as I just love it: "Batman, The Shadow and the Silver Surfer// Another crummy lyric and a dumb pop tune// Only Manny, Moe & Jack are gonna know what I'm after// A ticker tape parade and a place on the moon// Drive-ins, vitamins, cable, Las Vegas// Cutting down a cherry tree and blaming a slave// Cosmetic surgery and medical trousers// There's no room for me in the home of the brave// Hip-hop and pinball and snow by the order// Beer drinking hippos and warm apple pie// Weird bearded gurus and tuxedoed dentists// A round of applause for the presidents who die// Empire State Building and the Grand Canyon// Building a home on Geronimo's face// Spray painting the subway and rapping your ears off// Without any legs I'll be last in the race// Ice cream and pool halls, the mob and the Klan// Bonnie & Clyde on the NBC news// Ding-dongs and folks songs, Star Wars and guns// America the beautiful, the home of the blues// Game shows for hobos, the Star Splattered Banner// French Fries and G.I.s in Budweiser shorts// 24 hours of 24 hours, the American dream in a foreigner's heart...."
    I loved it then and I love it now!


    3)The Bodines: 'God Bless'
    The Bodines track 'Therese' was included on the NME's infamous C-86 compilation and is a pretty good song, but this was their debut single from a year before and came on Creation Records in the customary wraparound paper sleeve....and it's fantastic! "God bless everyone in this whole world but you!" Oh yes!!

    4)Slaughter Joe: 'She's Out of Touch'
    Joe Foster was involved in the whole Whaam! Records/Television Personalities scene of the early 80s and, as such, when Alan McGee started Creation Records he had Joe on board with him. As Slaughter Joe, Foster released the very Mary Chain-alike 'I'll Follow You Down', a very rough and raucous record indeed. That he followed it with this, a quite remarkable track very akin to The Velvet Underground's 'Sunday Morning' or 'Stephanie Says' confounded everyone. A very beautiful piece of music indeed!

    5)McCarthy: 'Antiamericancretin (bonus track)' - (I have to write 'bonus track so it links proprely!)
    Ever wonder what would happen if you crossed The Smiths with Crass? Probably not....but the effect would probably resemble the music of McCarthy; strident jangly pop music with extreme left-wing political subject matter as lyrics. This is another anti-American track which suggests that I was in a bit of a Pinko phase at the time. "This is my melancholy// My Country is a colony// Our once proud nation bowed beneath a baseball bat// Beneath an ice cold Cola can// English men, rise again// Throw off the yolk of the shake and the Coke" goes the vitriolic lyric before a flurry of shimmering guitars and then, "Away shallow USA// Britons shall never be slaves// Cleansed of your bases and your trivial TV// We'll be all the things we used to be". Yay Stalinism! The track comes from their 'The Well Of Lonliness' 12" E.P. Definitely a band for rediscovery!

    6)Baby Lemonade: 'Real World'
    Once again I have the wrong song title written on the sleeve....I've written'Secret Goldfish' but the track is actually 'Real World'. Baby Lemonade only played a handful of gigs, virtually all in Scotland, and they were contemporaries of Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes, releasing this song on Narodnik records and having it produced by Douglas Hart of the Jesus & Mary Chain. Again this is very reminiscent of The Velvet Underground's 'Sunday Morning' which can only be a good thing.

    7)The House of Love: 'Nothing To Me'
    Everyone thought they were going to be huge! I saw The House Of Love for the first time in the Autimn of 1988 and the buzz behind them was enormous. Seen as the obvious successors to The Smiths, front man Guy Chadwick had his very own Johnny Marr in bonkers guitar genius Terry Bickers. How did they fail? Perhaps releasing three albums all called 'The House Of Love' didn't help, and perhaps scoring a dreadful own-goal by releasing a pretty dull album(their first for major label Fontana) when they had the whole world's attention didn't help. But this was a track on one of their Creation 12" E.Ps and it remains my favourite song by them. They played it at that first gig and it was, for me, the highlight of a fantastic show.

    8)The Fizzbombs: 'Sign on the Line'
    The Fizzbombs were a kind of Scottish Indie Supergroup, formed from members of Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes, Rote Kapele and The Shop Assistants. This was another release on Narodnik Records. Guitarist Margarita Vasquez-Ponte was also the drummer in Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes and when my band supported them in 1987, I borrowed her hi-hat as mine was completely knackered. A nice claim to fame.

    9)The Pastels: 'I Wonder Why'

    10)The Revolving Paint Dream: 'In the Afternoon'

    11)Razorcuts: 'First Day'

    12)Meat Whiplash: 'Here it Comes'
    And so we have a run of four songs, all of which I've written about in previous Journals here which I hope shows how important these songs are to me.
    I should point out that the version of The Revolving Paint Dream's 'In The Afternoon' that is on Last.fm is not the version that means so much to me, but a re-recording with female vocals and keyboards. I can't find any trace of the version with Alan McGee's vocals anywhere on the Internet which is a shame as not only is it brilliant, but it means the absolute world to me!

    13)Reserve: 'The sun slid down behind the tower'
    You would get the feeling that I put this compilation together in a deliberate manner; beginning with a little introduction and ending with a song about the sun setting at the end of the day, but I don't really remember it being like that at all. Maybe it was all subconcious. Anyway, this is a track from another flexi-disc that while being on Sha-la-la records, featured two bands on Sombrero Records, Reserve and The Siddeleys. While I really love this track, I wish I had put The Siddeleys track on it too so that they would have been scorched into my psyche like the rest of the bands here. Unfortunately I never heard anything by The Siddeleys again till many years later and thought they were fantastic....all those years I could have been listening to them. Oh well.

    And that's it....a 60 minute snapshot of my life in the late Summer of 1988. I love all of these bands and I love this cassette, and I dread the day something happens to it and I can no longer play it.

    Till then.....once more with feeling!
  • ~Kitten Wine~#8 'Slowly Goes The Night'

    Feb 23 2010, 21:00

    'Slowly Goes The Night' by Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

    It was over!
    This time it was beyond doubt...we were finished.
    As I stood there in her room all I could feel was an aching hollow sense of dread, knowing I'd have to face the rest of my life without her. I should have seen it coming. Just like Kurt Cobain's death in 1994, there had been a very obvious warning sign just a few weeks before. A shot across the boughs that I'd somehow ignored, somehow failed to even acknowledge.
    And now, here in the inky blackness of her room as she lay crying on her bed, I had a decision to make quickly. She'd asked me to stay this last night, but I knew I'd only be stretching the agony out beyond human endurance....so I decided to go, to walk away for the last time. A few weeks before, I had loaned her Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 'Tender Prey' album which she still had in her room. I knew that this was something I was going to need to help me through the next few hours. Somehow, in the darkness, thanks to some sixth sense I managed to find the black sleeve of the album. I tucked it under my arm and left her house, out into the night to try and find a late taxi(it was already passed 2:00a.m).
    The taxi ride was unbearable! The driver was far too jolly and chatty and all I wanted was to disolve into the seat. As I got home my huge masculine cat(tragically named Fluffy) came bounding up to meet me as he always did.
    I sat on my bed and switched on the Dansette, taking the album from it's sleeve and putting on my headphones, I knew there was only one track in the history of music that could in any way reach me right now, that could cut through the fear and longing and put my despair into any kind of context. Sometimes, when gazing into the abyss of heartbreak, of life without HER, there's no point in reaching for the drink, the drugs or the razorblades. Sometimes you just need the balm that only music, the right song at the right time, can bring......

    'Tender Prey' Side 2 Track 2......'Slowly Goes the Night'. The stylus clicked into the groove.......

    Brushes...chikka chikka....a single piano chord falls like the first tear....and then Nick's deep sonorous voice cuts through the darkness with a spoken intro:
    "Darlin', that mornin' you chose to go// I awoke in my boots and clothes// You'd taken my car, stolen my cash// Even my 500 dollar suit was slashed// And I just lay there watching the sun fall down from the sky// Not wanting to open the letter, but opening it anyway and seeing those two words//...Lover, Goodbye!"
    Oof!! It was like a gut-punch....just those two words. They were the catalyst....at last the tears and the grief could begin properly.

    'Tender Prey' was an important album for Nick Cave, it was the first where he buried his post-punk reputation and emerged as a truly important contemporary songwriter. I'd followed his career through The Birthday Party into The Bad Seeds and every album seemed to improve upon the previous. But 'Tender Prey' was different, and 'Slowly Goes The Night' was his first foray into some kind of Sinatra-like balladeering. I knew from the very first time I heard it that here was a song that one day I would NEED....and now that moment had arrived.

    "Next to me lies your body plan// Like a map of some forbidden land// I trace the ghosts of your bones with my trembling hand"...to hear someone who had been often criticised for a misogynistic bent to his lyrics suddenly sound so vulnerable and wounded at the hands of a girl was breathtaking, but now here put into some real-life context it was more important than mere breathing.
    The 'ba-ba-ba' backing vocals that run through the song play like little reminders of happier times, compounding the heartbreak more unwaveringly.
    "Dark is my night//And darker is my day....yeah// I must have been blind// Out of my mind// I never never saw the warning signs"....I doubt that I have ever been at one with a song in my whole life before or since.
    At about three quarters through the song comes the killer line, waiting like an assasin in the corner of the room...."Oh baby I feel the heal of time...(pause)...and it hurts!" Each sylable of that line hit like a bullet.... a line that elevates Cave way beyond the lesser songwriters of this or any day. The healing process hurts! The healing process.....hurts!!
    "I reach out and embrace// An empty space// A song that slowly slowly fades// Where goes it? It goes someplace// It goes someplace where it's lonely//.....and black as the night" Every line of this song was now feeding me like a mellifluous intravenus drip, slowly piecing fragments of sanity back in place, keeping me together, "Call it sleep, call it death// Call it what you like// But only sleep, only sleep brings you back to life"....and there we have the reality...only in sleep would I ever be with her again. Ever! Almost cruelly Nick offers a slight chink of light, of some kind of hope as he bids us farewell, "Well I'm goin'// Yeah but slowly slowly goin'// And we both know that it's gonna be alright".....Really? Are you sure it's going to be alright Nick? "But it ain't you that has to cry cry cry// Ten lonely days, ten lonely nights// Since you left my side, side......side" The last utterance of the word 'side' so low and gutteral that you know it's not going to be alright after all. I'd like to think that Nick only took one take to record his vocals here, so full of despair and hurt that you get the feeling he's not acting, that this vocal performance is real.
    And with that, the song ends.....
    I took off the headphones, switched of the Dansette and fell into a sludgy and dreamless sleep.

    When I awoke I felt like Faust, so drained of anything resembling a soul, a hollowness gnawing deep in my stomach. I took the 12" sliver of black vinyl from the turntable, slipped it into the inner bag and placed it inside the sleeve. I then put the album away and never returned to it for a long time. Indeed it was well over five years before I could ever bring myself to play 'Slowly Goes The Night' again. Nowadays I can listen to it for pleasure but somewhere a little piece of me dies with every play.

    And YOU think YOUR records mean something to YOU??

    As I've said in previous Journals, there are songs I like, songs I love, songs I couldn't face life without, and then there are about 20 or so songs that transcend all these platitudes and simply become ME, of which this is one. When they cut me open on the autopsy slab, these songs will fill the mortuary!

    If music be the food of love......play on!
    If music be the cardiopulmonary resuscitation excersises that keep me together when the darkest night of the soul comes calling....give me excess of it!!

  • ~Kitten Wine~ #7: The Humms, PaddlePOP and Hearts!Attack...three recent singles

    Feb 17 2010, 21:13

    In our Blog so far, we have dealt mainly with some of our favourite records from the past....in this Blog however we have decided to look at three very recent releases; current singles by PaddlePOP, The Humms and Hearts!Attack.
    To avoid any sense of favouritism we have decided to review them in alphabetical order.
    =============================================================

    'If You Were Dead' three track EP by Hearts!Attack

    This is pretty much a home made affair, housed in a personally designed sleeve created with acrylic paints and boasting the legend; "This record was made from two bedrooms, in two continents, by three people", already what's not to love? The three people are Darren, Alexis and Sam, with help from Tabby from Tabbyondrums....erm, on drums!

    Hearts!Attack are purveyors of a raw blend of raucous bedroom lo-fi, and title track 'If You Were Dead' sets out their agenda beautifully....think of The Raincoats, or early unpolished Sonic Youth and you're starting to get somewhere. Now imagine Bis clashing with cacophonous early grunge-punks Distorted Pony and mashing up their joint boy/girl call-and-response vocals and the picture starts becoming clearer. I often get anxious when I praise a band for their un-embellished lo-fi production, often worrying that I may be insulting them somewhat, but given that I consider 'Green Fuz' by Randy Alvey & The Green Fuz, a record that sounds like it was recorded in a bucket of sludge with a broken mic, as one of the greatest records of all time, and that I can think of nothing worse than listening to polished over-produced music like Rush, Yes or Supertramp, then I'm hoping any references to lo-fi distortion aren't seen as a negative. It's the raw, abrasiveness of Hearts!Attack's music that draws me in, but beneath the rough edges lies the true beauty....listen to that melodious keyboard pattern, or the way the girl vocals sweeten the anger of the boy vocals, and the moment at around 2mins 40 when the song slows down and an air of poignancy drapes itself over the track. It's quite wonderful.
    "I heard it on the TV// You've been cheating on me" is the opening line of second track 'Mariana' where there are so many different vocal structures that it can't fail to burrow into your brain to seduce and slap you at the same time, which, like the band's name, seems to sum up their double-edged nature....the 'heart' alluding to the sweetness of love; the 'attack' to the gutpunch when it all breaks down.
    And final track 'Dead Snails' captures this beautifully....like honey wrapped in nettles.

    A while back I had felt I had become a little jaded with music and felt that nothing was doing it for me any more, but listening to Hearts!Attack reminds why I fell in love with music in the first place. In a world where Oasis are seen as (cough!) relevant, where Nickelback sell out stadiums , and where (groan!)The Killers and (ggrrooaann!!)Kings Of Leon are seen as the future of rock, I know what I like and I DO know about art!!
    Already a contender for my favourite release of the year; if you like The Slits, Swell Maps, The Subway Sect or The Shaggs then this comes highly recommended. I personally cannot wait for further releases.

    And if Hearts!Attack ponder 'If You Were Dead', then The Humms reply with the question 'Are You Dead?'

    At ~This Elegant Chaos~ we don't just celebrate the twee and the sweet, we also love the rough and the raw, and that's exactly where The Humms debut CD EP fits in.
    You may recall that the Brill Building songwriters(Goffin & King, Neil Sedaka, Leslie Gore etc) had the motto 'Don't bore us, get to the chorus!' suggesting that songs really shouldn't faff around before getting their hooks in.....well, 'Are You Dead?' took a mere one second to hook and reel me in!! The fevered WHOOP that precedes the rattling garage groove won me over immediately. If you're aware of the Pebbles collections of Sixties garage tracks then this track would fit on there easily. One of my most treasured possessions is The Pebbles Box, a box set of the first 5 volumes of Pebbles all on splattery psychedelic coloured vinyl, with revamped tracklistings and remastered sound. And rather than having it lying around like some ornament, I have played it to death. 'Are You Dead?' simply would not sound out of place on such a hallowed release. It sounds like it should be soundtracking the next Tarantino movie it's such an exciting piece of music. The chorus even skirts close to early 80s synthpoppers B-Movie and their classic 'Nowhere Girl', which I hope doesn't offend Zeke, Tyler and Bleech who comprise The Humms, but it's a favourite of mine anyway.
    Second track 'Do The Graverobber' is, perhaps, for me, the weakest of the four songs here. It's still miles ahead of most stuff that's out there at the moment, it just lacks the hooks that make the other tracks so special.
    No complaints with track three though, 'LSD Is Evil' not only shakes a lysergic groove, but becomes totally deranged, almost threatening to collapse in on it's self. After a couple of fairly composed verses about taking acid the driving out into the country, Zeke loses his marbles and begins jabbering some complete hat-stand gibberish that, again, recalls those magic Pebbles records, especially Vol 3 'The Acid Gallery'(on luminous electric green vinyl!!) which was a collection of those REALLY deranged sixties recordings. Zeke's hilarious wibbling conjures up 'The Diamond Mine' by Dave Diamond & The Higher Elevation, or 'The Reality Of (Air) Fried Borsk' by The Driving Stupid, or 'Like A Dribbling Fram' by Race Marbles, or 'A Pindaric Ode' by The Sunday Funnies....and if you don't know any of these tracks, re-educate yourselves for goodness sake!! 'LSD Is EVIL' is pretty wonderful and worthy of fellow Southerner Gibby Hayes at his most demented.
    Final track 'No One Wants to be Alone on Valentines Day' sounds like The Seeds indulging in some campfire country sing-a-long and is a perfect comedown for all the madness that has gone before.
    A fantastic release, and if any song is going to top 'Are You Dead?' for Song Of The Year, it's going to have to be pretty special.

    And so to PaddlePop and the sweetness and light that is their 'When Pherry Meets Phil' CD EP. Jello Biafra(of The Dead Kennedys) once said that the reason he liked taking LSD was that it made him see things he hadn't seen since the nursery....and that's what makes PaddlePOP so special, they have a childlike(but NOT childish) quality that taps deep into the psyche and makes you feel all glowy and giddy....like you've eaten too many Splicers!

    PaddlePOP are from Singapore, where so much brilliant Indiepop is coming from these days, and manage to meld a Sarah Records essence with that wonderful post-punk feel of The Au Pairs, Mo-Dettes, The Delta 5 etc.
    Opening track 'Orangewine' pretty much sums up what PaddlePOP seem to be all about, the bitter and the sweet....Nunu's female vocals working against Iskandar's male backing vocals create a beautiful contradiction.
    'Phil in the blanks' is all plucked guitar and lyrics about 'Your life is crossword puzzle' and features some deftly poignant backing vocals from Iskandar that make me smile and feel melancholic at the same time.
    'Pherry's Wheel' has an almost jazzy/lounge feel(in a GOOD way) with some wonderful keyboards that brings to mind a lo-fi Camera Obscura. Nunu's vocals are so sweet that they intoxicate like the very Orangewine they sing about.
    The CD ends with '3 rounds of pleasure', "On Saturday afternoon//The music whispers through//I know you've waited for this moment" goes the lyrics accompanied by echoey guitars giving a cool C-86 vibe to the track.

    PaddlePOP are completed by Faizul on bass and Oqi on guitars and keyboards and I love them to bits....if they'd been around when I was in my teens they would probably be in my Top 3 favourite bands of all time.

    Trust me....you need these three releases in your life!

    =============================================================

    Hearts!Attack's single 'If You Were Dead' is available directly from their Myspace page; www.myspace.com/heartspowattack

    The Humms CD is available from Oddbox Records; www.oddboxrecords.com www.myspace.com/oddboxrecords
    And the band have their own Myspace, www.myspace.com/thehumms

    PaddlePOP's CD is availavble from Susy Records of Peru(!) http://susyrecords.sugarpop.org and www.myspace.com/susyrecords
    And PaddlePOP can be found at www.myspace.com/paddlepopband
  • ~Kitten Wine~ #6: Creation Records

    Feb 17 2010, 20:54

    Remember when Creation Records ruled the school? I mean, like, REALLY ruled the school!!! Long before they got bogged down with all the beige sludge that is 'the O word'. I could write page upon page about how much I hate 'the O word' but this Blog is here to celebrate music, not to pick at the scabs of those who stifle music with their bland ordinariness.
    So, yeah, let's look back at when Creation were pretty much the cat's nadgers and look at three singles in particular which sum up that exciting and revolutionary time.

    It all began, for us, with The Jesus and Mary Chain....we had just left school, in fact if I recall, some of us were still at school, when my friend Gary turned up at my house one day clutching some records. "You have got to hear this" he gushed, handing me the plastic bag in which The JAMC's '
    Upside Down' resided. "Why is it in a wraparound paper sleeve and shoved into a polly bag" I asked. "It just is. It's just a wee Indie label they're on" he answered.

    I put the record on the Dansette and waited....next thing, I felt like had been thrown across the room. 'Upside Down' propelled itself from the speakers in an explosion of honey and razorblades.....the pounding echo heavy drums, the feedback, the impassioned vocals, the killer riff....I wish I could say that I immediately proclaimed it to be a heady mix of The Velvet Underground and The Beach Boys, but back then I had yet to hear The Velvet Underground, and The Beach Boys were merely some 60s pop band my parents played when the sun shone, so I wasn't that sussed yet.
    'Upside Down' rattled around in my skull for months....it was like the greatest record we had ever heard. The b-side was called 'Vegetable Man' and was equally good. We wondered who Syd Barrett was who had written it. When we found out he had been the original lead singer of Pink Floyd we were crestfallen...why were they recording something by those hoary old dinosaurs? Again, our naivety regarding music back then is almost embarrassingly quaint.
    The Mary Chain became a galvanizing force amongst my friends, even more so than The Smiths whose archness alienated some. We read every interview like it was a manifesto for our lives, every new release was welcomed with street parties. 'Never Understand' was an immaculate follow up, and with 'You Trip Me Up' it almost became like they were taking the piss. With every utterance we danced in the streets; when they claimed their ambition was to be Number One in the UK and US simultaneously with a song called 'Jesus Fuck' we truly believed every word the Reid brothers spoke.
    Then they released their debut album: 'Psychocandy'.
    Everyone I know owns 'Psychocandy', it's the record that glues all the people I knew, post-school, together. It's release was timely....immediately after the horror that was the Live Aid concert. 'Psychocandy' took a flamethrower to the faces of those smug bastards who'd spewed their bleeding liberal hearts all over their Armani sleeves....all those old whores that Punk had wiped out were being given a second chance....how did this happen? 'Psychocandy' was something that was genuinely thrilling, genuinely sexy, genuinely dangerous in a time when Punk was, for the first time, being forgotten.
    We had to wait a whole year for the next release, the wonderful 'Some Candy Talking' EP, but it was well worth it. Then came 'April Skies'....and sadly that's where the love affair ends. At the time I thought 'April Skies' was fantastic, but annoyingly The Mary Chain never seemed to progress beyond this point. The subsequent album 'Darklands' saw them adopt some kind of dark(Goth?) Rock which they would never seem to shake off. Each following release just sounded like an empty retread of the previous and all the magic, all the danger just seemed to vanish. I still went to see them every time they played Glasgow and they were always pretty wild live, but it just wasn't the same.

    Back around the time between 'Upside Down' and 'Psychocandy' came another important Creation release; 'Don't Slip Up' by Meat Whiplash. Even though 'Upside Down' is a clattering, raucous punch-in-the-throat, it's still James Taylor compared to 'Don't Slip Up'.

    Cut from the same cloth as The JAMC's debut, 'Don't Slip Up' is a thrilling, ragged, messy, dangerous SKKKKRRRREEEEEEEE of uproarious cacophony. It sounds like a record made by genuinely psychotic nutjobs who shouldn't be let within a hundred miles of a recording studio. The vocals; "No you mustn't slip up....AH HAAH HAAH!!" sound more like a threat than a chorus. And the B-side, 'Here it Comes' sounds even worse/better!! Equally jarring and genuinely scary, with a rogue drumbeat that knocks the song of it's axis every time it slips through the mix. I played it to death and even included both sides on my favourite ever mix-tape(which will from the basis of a future Blog) which I still cherish.

    It was all housed in yet another wraparound sleeve 'designed'(in the loosest sense of the word) by then Mary Chain drummer Bobbie Gillespie, and they never released another record, although I seem to recall a live cassette did the rounds for a while.
    Almost preposterously the musicians from Meat Whiplash resurfaced as The Motorcycle Boy whose incredibly tight sound betrayed their MW past. The Motorcycle Boy released a fantastic single called 'Big Rock Candy Mountain' which the band I was in in the late 80s used to use as an intro song.

    And speaking of Bobby Gillespie, we come to Creation's third Very Important Single. Now....you have to remember that around this time i.e. early 1985, POP was a dirty word. I had loved POP at school; Adam And The Ants, Japan(stop laughing!!), Blancmange and of course the BIGPOP of Dexys, Madness etc. But now, none of us would ever admit liking ::shudder:: Pop Music. Little did we realise that New Order, Julian Cope, The Specials, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen and the whole 'Pillows & Prayers' roster were making some of the greatest Pop Music on Earth.
    So when Bobby Gillespie's new outfit Primal Scream released their debut 7" on Creation; 'All Fall Down"/ "It Happens", we almost felt embarrassed to be listening to it, so joyous, sparkling and deliriously effervescent was it's pure sugar-rush. We couldn't compare it to The Byrds or The Loving Spoonful as again we hadn't discovered the pleasure of those bands yet. But we loved the way it went zzziiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnggggg, the way it went kkittttcccchhhaaaannggggg, and the way it swayed like a drunk at a wedding. One of my happiest memories of this single is my ~Sighrens~ cohort Griff serenading the entire upper floor of a doubledecker bus with 'It Happens' as we made our way to the local under-age drinking hostelry one Friday night back in the rain-drenched Summer of 1985. As the 'sha-la-la-la-la-la-lahs' swirled around the bus, I was convulsed with laughter as everyone else tried to avoid making eye-contact with 'the loony'.

    Of course Primal Scream practically invented Indiepop and the whole C86 scene with such delights as 'Velocity Girl', 'Gentle Tuesday' and 'Crystal Crescent', and their psychedelic phase, 'Imperial', 'Sonic Flower Groove' etc really needs to be rediscovered properly.
    In some people's eyes Bobby Gillespie is a bit of a bandwagon-jumping Indie chancer but he always seems to have been just one step ahead of his critics, and I guess he still is.

    All of these singles are so life-affirmingly important to me that this Blog entry was so nearly called ' East Kilbride - So Much To Answer For' but that would just have been silly. So here's to a more innocent time when the only heady rushes that came in paper wraps inside polythene bags were the fantastic 7" Singles of Creation Records.

    All Hail!!
  • ~Kitten Wine~ #5: "The Darling Buds; A Tale Of Two Concerts"

    Feb 15 2010, 21:20

    I never liked The Primitives!!
    I don't know why. I just found them to be a bit too polished, too corporate, too....knowing, like they had been created in some Pop-lab from loose cuttings of (spit!)Transvision Vamp. A lot of my friends liked them but I think they really just liked Tracey.
    So, it was with some surprise that I found myself falling in love with The Darling Buds, a band once described as Primitives-lite, to the point that, in the wake of the recently demised Smiths, they became, for a period, My Favourite Band.

    It all began with 'Shame On You'. A friend of mine called Sharon gave me a loan of her copy of the single, telling me that I'd really like it. On first play I wasn't exactly impressed. It sounded like every other girl-fronted Indie band I'd heard in recent times; The Flatmates, The Shop Assistants, The Popguns.....BUT, on repeated playings something broke through my veneer of Indie snobbery. Pretty soon I was collecting up all of their back-catalogue and even began collecting live bootleg cassettes at the Barras, record fairs and from their devoted fanbase somewhat ironically(I guess) named The Skullfuck Crew.
    I was truly smitten to say the least. I listened to them constantly, compiling tapes of everything I had and perpetually playing them on my Walkman. Then one night in late 1988 I got a call from Sharon to say that The Darling Buds were doing a tour to promote their forthcoming debut album and that they would be at the Glasgow Rooftops on the 12th of January 1989. We immediately sent off for tickets....this was going to be IT!!!

    The first edition of the NME in 1989 had on the cover Guy Chadwick(from The House Of Love), Andrea(from The Darling Buds) and The Wonder Stuff's Miles Hunt. What the NME seemed to be saying was; here are the three pop stars who will show the way in 1989, these are the three to put your trust in and who will lead us to the Indie Promised Land.
    On the 12th of January 1989, the night of the concert, The Darling Buds appeared on Top Of The Pops performing 'Hit The Ground'. We were a little worried that they wouldn't make it up to Scotland for the gig as this was the depths of a particularly hard Winter.
    Five of us piled into the car....me, Sharon, her boyfriend Douglas, her sister Gillian(who at the time was, as far as I was concerned 'The Most Beautiful Girl In The World'™) and Gillian's friend Louise for whom I would soon develop a crush so severe it almost bent me double. It was a FREEZING night and we hoped the weather hadn't stopped The DBs getting up here. When we arrived at the venue we were told that a second support band had been added to the bill which didn't bode well. Douglas, Sharon and Louise went up into the gantry but I wanted to get right down the front and Gillian came with me. One of the bouncers told us not to worry as the band's instruments had already been soundchecked. The atmosphere in the place was really starting to crackle(you have to remember they really were tipped to be something BIG!!!)....then the lights went down....

    Without making an obvious pun, the band really hit the ground running that night....It was absolute pandemonium when they took to the stage. The crowd were really up for it, confetti exploded from everywhere....this was a trait of the Skullfuck Crew, and they launched straight into 'Valentine'. I was going ballistic at the front, and Andrea was literally within touching distance. My favourite song of theirs was 'Big Head' and I hollered for it at every opportunity. When Andrea first took a breath and stooped down to the drum-riser for a drink of water I seized my chance; "ANDREA!!!.....BIG HEAD!!!.....PLEASE!!!!" and put my hands into a kind of prayer gesture. She looked right at me, smiled and nodded. Five songs later, "You gotta great big head...." I whooped with joy and bounced like a madman. Andrea even looked down at me to see if I was enjoying it....I was!!! It was a brilliant show....both audience and band really seemed to enjoy it. I thought it was SPECTACULAR....."Thanks, goodnight, we'll see you again", and Andrea was off leaving Harley riffing alone.
    I was knackered!! But totally elated. I had virtually no voice left, I felt like I'd shattered a few vertebrae, and it looked like someone had poured an entire swimmingpool of water over me. As we stepped out into the severely freezing Glasgow night, so much steam was rising from me I looked like Johnny Storm. The journey back to Bannockburn consisted of us all jabbering away at how great it had been, they had played every song we knew plus songs from the forthcoming debut album. I couldn't sleep that night, running and re-running the show over and over in my head. It would go down in history as one of my favourite concerts of all time. A couple of days later I received a bootleg cassette of the gig and welded it into my Walkman. It became part of my DNA.

    Two weeks later, the debut album 'Pop Said' was released....Strewth!!! What a disappointment! It just sounded totally flat. I don't mean out of tune, I mean lifeless, over-polished, too smooth. Where was all the excitement of the early singles and the bootleg tapes? I was dejected. I threw the CD across the room in disgust. After a few plays it started to grow on me, and eventually I came to really like it realising that if I hadn't had all those bootlegs or seen them live then I would probably have thought the album was brilliant. It ended up being my second favourite album of 1989 and practically soundtracked that year.

    In the Summer of 1989 The Stone Roses released their eponymous debut album and overnight the rules of Indiepop were rewritten. The Darling Buds and The House Of Love suddenly started to sound very much like last year's thing. The Wonder Stuff would survive, but only by becoming a kind of comedy-indie band, a million miles away from 'Unbearable' and 'Give Give Give Me More More More'. By the time Christmas came around and the twin-headed Roses/Mondays Madchester juggernaut was in full throttle, a lot of Indie bands either perished or adopted dance-grooves to survive. For some(Primal Scream) it worked, for others(The Soup Dragons, The Farm) it was a tad embarrasing.
    The Darling Buds second album 'Crawdaddy' released in 1990 saw them add dance beats and remixes, it kind of worked, sounding like a proto-Saint Etienne but it just didn't suit them at all really.

    In September 1990 I got a call that The Darling Buds were playing King Tuts in Glasgow and so once again we decided to go. This time there was no exciting build up, only three of us(me, Douglas and Sharon) went, and even they only went because I said I'd pay them in.
    The concert couldn't have been more different from the first. The audience just ambled about, there was no moshpit, the songs were greeted with muted applause, businessmen types in suits giggled like schoolboys when ever Andrea said anything suggestive....the whole gig was like some massive shrug of indifference. The only highlight was the fact that new song 'Fall' from the second album sounded AMAZING, a huge, trippy, dreamlike groove that received the warmest response from the crowd.....but you could sense it was all over. I never saw them again, and never even bought their third album 'Erotica'('conveniently' released at the same time as Madonna's album 'Erotica'....hmmmm!!!).
    The gig seemed to signal the end of an era.......no longer did we all pile into cars and rush enthusiastically to see bands we'd only read about in the NME. Concerts no longer became twice of thrice weekly events, but instead we just went to see bands we knew whenever they played in Scotland.
    It felt like a part of my youthful gig-going experience died that night.

    The night before I sat down to write this Blog I went up into the attic and found the live Bootleg cassette of the Rooftops gig. I realised I probably hadn't played it in close on 18 years. I felt a little nervous...it was like being asked to meet an old flame. As the tape played, the memories came flooding back...I just sat there grinning. You can actually hear me on the tape yelling for 'Big Head' several times, and you can hear me whooping when the song begins. From a historical perspective their songs sound SO good that I have just ordered 'Erotica' from Amazon.

    So...Yeah, I never liked The Primitives.
    But I LOVED The Darling Buds!!!
  • ~Kitten Wine~ #4: Razorcuts

    Feb 14 2010, 20:27

    From a distance of 22 years now, I can't fully recall whether it was 'First Day' or 'I Heard You The First Time' that was my introduction to Razorcuts. It was one side of that single, I remember John Peel playing it and I thought it was just beautiful. The next day I bought it and it became a permanent fixture upon my turntable.....it must have been 'First Day' as that's the track that's on my favourite mix-tape from that period.

    'First Day' begins with the gentlest 12-string strumming before the sharp, tambourine heavy drums crack in and we're swept up in a giddy whirl of optimism, "Oh can you feel the morning sun// Oh will it shine till evening comes" ....naive idealism?? Well...maybe, but the joy is so infectious you want to run naked through cornfields, jump off waterfalls, bristling with electric adolescent vigour!! Youth is wasted on the young? No, that's just something bitter old bastards say. Youth wasn't wasted on me and listening to this song again, I feel that fire..."That's when you say that you're going to change my mind// That's when you show me the world I never can find".
    Surprisingly, 'First Day' was only the B-side....Side A's 'I Heard You the First Time' is an equally splendid piece, with backing vocalist Yvonne's voice prominent on the main lines "Oh I heard you the first time// You act like you've got something worth saying// But I'm still waiting for that day".

    Razorcuts were sometimes a full band but mostly the duo of Gregory Webster and Tim Vass; Gregory wrote the music, did the vocals, and played the amazingly lustrous guitars. Tim played bass and wrote the incisive yet poignant lyrics.
    They released a handful of singles and two proper albums, and it's their first album 'Storyteller', released in 1988 that we are here to discuss, containing as it does two of the most important songs of my lifetime.

    'The Last Picture Show' shares that same heartfelt melancholia of it's cinematic namesake. Peter Bogdanovich's movie captures the disintegration of smalltown friends and lovers against the backdrop of the closing of the local cinema. It's a heartbreaking film, especially if you dwell within the kind of smalltown it presents.
    The song is the longest track on the album and is the closing piece; I wish I had a lyric sheet as some of Tim's words are hard to make out, leaving mere snapshots hanging in the air; "The last picture show starts at eight", "Running as the curtain starts to rise// We're looking for the time of our lives", "The picture freezes on the final scene// And as the credits roll across the screen// We pick our[indecipherable] towards our seats// And walk out silently into the streets// The crowded streets", "Then we could stay together till sunrise// And this could be the time of our lives// And if it doesn't work out right// We'll change it all in time"
    The structure of the song is wonderful; full chiming guitars, insistent hi-hats punctuating the rhythmns, wild hammond organ wig-outs, then in comes a gentle coda; "Something tells me// I won't forget this night// For a long long time// If memories are made this easily// That's fine by me".
    This is a truly wondrous song and it reminds me of all the friends I no longer see, and all the radge things we did in our little town....

    But there's a Razorcuts song that's even better, and one that is forever engraved upon my heart, all because of one special night. And as the album is called 'Storyteller', settle down children for we're in for a bit of a session.....

    It was the Summer of 1988...I know it was Summer as it was around my Birthday therefore it was late July. For my Birthday that year I had gotten my first ever CD player as a present. It was in truth a music center complete with turntable, tape-decks and radio. I hadn't actually asked for a CD player as I still loved my vinyl, and didn't buy into the Yuppie nonsense about it sounding like the band were in the room with you, and anyway all those click and pops on my old Adam & The Ants records added some kind of nostalgic aura to the music. With my Birthday money I bought not a CD, but Razorcuts 'Storyteller' on good old 12" vinyl. I must have played it a couple of times for one or two songs stuck in my head as I set off at night for what my friends and I had planned.
    Four of my friends and I were going to the local Art-house cinema to see 'Betty Blue'. It had played in Glasgow earlier in the year but this was the first time it played in any cinema near us. Some older friends sneered at us saying it was just pornography (un)dressed as art, but we'd heard so many good things about it, we HAD to go. It was still baking hot in the early evening as we made our way to the cinema, and the theatre itself was like an oven. My ex-girlfriend was there with her new boyfriend. She had dumped me because she thought I was getting a little too serious....she married the guy she was with that night less than six months later!! Oh well. So...I was already a little shaken, and, as we had not asked for a block of tickets when we entered the cinema we were all sat in diffrent seats. At first we all tried to sit in one row but as more people came in, we all got separated. I spent the beginning of the movie in the wrong seat worried the actual person whose seat it was would come in, but as I became absorbed in the wonders that danced before my eyes....I forgot all worries.
    As the movie played out, I was transfixed!! I think every young male fell in love with Beatrice Dalle that Summer. The movie didn't strike me as being about sex....but about love, passion, art, cool, life, aesthetics.....the dreamy soundtrack washed over me, the images touched me deep inide, the story left me drained and emotional(I should point out this was the original 2 hour version, not the terrible 3 hour Director's Cut).
    When the movie was over, I remember staggering out into the still-bright evening sun....I was dizzy, dazed, puchdrunk and somehow....changed. We drove to Stirling town center and poured into the Barnton Bistro where they sold Antonius and Furstenberg on draught and we huddled round a table. We jabbered enthusiastically about the film, about Beatrice, about the amazing soundtrack. As the beer calmed us down, I could feel myself drift off and become a little philosphical. Caroline was chattering madly about how she wished we lived like the characters in the film; free-spirited, sensual, passionate, parading about in a state of undress. "What's stopping us?" I replied, "Why can't we be more like that? There's absolutely nothing to prevent us" Already inside I could feel myself changing....nothing would ever be the same again after tonight. Out would go the agit-prop clothes to be replaced by blousey, polka-dotted or Paisley-patterned shirts, the unkempt hair would become an immaculately sculpted quiff, in would come drainpipe thin black Levis and pointed shoes. Battered copies of Proust, Kafka and Rimbaud would hang from my back pocket like a badge. My whole aesthetic changed that night...I was going to be a different person. Gone would be the obnoxious, bratty, loud mouthed over-opinionated punk-kid. In would come a more considrate, well-spoken, arty-type(pretensious?? Moi??).
    When I got back home the sky had bruised to open-wound red and I sat by my window just gazing at the night sky. I remembered a track from the Razorcuts album which I thought would suit the mood of the moment.....
    The stylus crackled a little before the beautiful sweep of strings and strummings welcomed us into 'Brighter Now'....I could feel the air changing around me, "Since that day// I haven't felt the same// And I'm not even sure if I can say// When I last thought about my life".....GULP!! How perceptive!! "It could be why// The lamp that lights my room// And the colours of the pictures on my wall// Seem to shine much brighter now".....Are they in my room? Are they spying on me?? No...it's just that this is the most beautiful and important song in the world right now, and when Gregory's pure, innocent, choirboy voice takes the refrain up...."Brighter Now...Brighter Now....I've got to make this last somehow" the world tilts on it's axis. By now the scales have fallen from my eyes, I'm ready to step out into world anew, the moon is hanging like a burning pumpkin, my mind is racing, my heart is pounding...."I don't know why// I never realised how long it takes for half an hour to pass// When you're waiting for someone// all aglow".....Yeah, I would spend hours standing at the bus stop waiting for girls, especially HER. I once waited 90 minutes straight for HER, she couldn't believe it, no-one had ever shown that level of patience and devotion....I was well thanked for it.
    "And the rays of golden light that gently brush the curtains of my window"....they ARE here with me..."Every day is brighter now.....and I'm never coming down"......and for a long, LONG time, I never did.
    I played the song over and over and over that night. Basking, smiling, dreaming....being!!
    This song is so incredible, just SO INCREDIBLE.....so much so that 21 years later as I re-listen to it in my room on a muggy June evening, I feel that liberating ire I felt that night....I feel like burning my place of work to the ground, like kissing everyone I love and punching everyone I hate, like phoning up old friends just to hear their voice, like starting the revolution right here, right now. Matt Haynes was right.....this kind of music isn't about twee whimsy....it's the catalyst for an angry change that Joe Strummer could only dream about.

    Nights like that stay with you forever....that night is a memory so strong, so strident, it has become a tattoo upon my soul.
    Music does that.
    Everything is brighter now.......and I'm never coming down....

    And, you know, part of me never did!!
  • ~Kitten Wine~ #3 "Cleaners From Venus"

    Feb 14 2010, 20:14

    Celebrating The Best Indiepop Records #3:
    "Going To England" by Cleaners From Venus


    Escape....

    That's what all the best Pop Music is about.....escape. Escape from the drudgery of real life and the grind-to-five. Brain Eno once said that Pop Music allows us to create other worlds, and that's exactly what Martin Newell and Giles Smith did on their wonderful 1987 album 'Going To England' under the guise of Cleaners From Venus
    "For the next 38 minutes you will be England" boasts the back sleeve....and we are!! But not contemporary England, nor even the England of 1987, but the England of Antonioni's 'Blow Up', of 'The Knack....And How To Get It', of 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush', of Biba, of Mary Quant...
    Come on!! Jump aboard and we'll take a trip to a better place....a place we can escape!!

    I can't recall how I stumbled upon The Cleaners From Venus but I am forever glad that I did. The CFV are the brainchild of Martin Newell who, on the back sleeve at least, looks like a cross between Withnail and Jerry Sadowitz. Thankfully he sings like neither! He also plays all the guitars and is helped out by Giles Smith who co-writes a couple of songs and plays all keyboards.
    That's the introductions over....let's listen to the album....

    The first three tracks of the album all feature girls names in the titles; 'Julie Profumo', 'Living With Victoria Grey' and 'Clara Bow'....all three are WONDERFUL. 'Julie Profumo' sets the tone of the album beautifully; chiming guitars, a driven rhythm and Martin's scene-setting lyrics "Cos this ain't the Sixties// and there's nothing to lose// and Julie Profumo is singing the blues". Oh, but it IS the Sixties surely!! Not the real, probably-quite-dull-really Sixties, but the Sixties from an Eighties rose-tinted nostalgic perspective. And then come's the beautiful refrain accentuating that this is all about escape, "And some day soon I will forget this junkyard// Take you with me if you're going that way// It's a changing world and let me tell you one thing// Time is wasting, shadows waiting...love will slip away". YEAH!!! I'm sold already.
    I'm not sure if 'Victoria Grey' is a real person or not, but the dreampop backing that drapes around 'Living With Victoria Grey' brings her to vibrant life. It seems to be a song about a dalliance with a celebrity....not the 15-minutes-of-fame-nonsense celebrities we have today, but from a time when celebrities seemed to fall from Outer Space and were immediate royalty.
    Clara Bow IS a real person of course, but back when I first bought this album I had no idea who she was...now she's one of my most cherished icons. The titular song reveals the desire to reach out to the unobtainable, "Clara Bow....I'd love to hear you talking//......but I can't". It may not actually be about Clara Bow of course, merely a metaphor for unrequited love....and it's all played out to gentle bossa-nova beat.
    There are two other songs on Side One, but we'll come back to them shortly.

    Side Two begins with the kind of faux-Sixties 'BIGPOP' that The Maisonettes and even The Style Council specialised in, complete with Blackpool Tower Ballroom keyboards; 'What's Going On In Your Heart' is like modern day Motown Miracles, whilst 'Girl On A Swing' contains one of the album's best lyrics, "I heard a whisper today// That the world would end on a weekday// Maybe we're free...to take a long weekend".
    'A Mercury Girl' is a more gentler track, all tambourines and pianos before another highlight; a song that is SO 1960s it features a sample from a Beatles fan-club-only Christmas flexi, has Captain Sensible on lead guitar and is called 'Ilya Kuryakin Looked At Me'....as the song fades out John Lennon's dismembered voice bids us "Goodnight to ye's all and God bless ye's"....this would seem an appropriate place for the album to end, but there's one last track, 'You Must Be Out Of My Mind', a song that manages to be both trippy and poignant at the same time as it longs for a better world....like the past, or our melancholic image of the past.

    So....a good album then? Well, yeah, it would be....if that were all there was to it....BUT, it becomes a BRILLIANT album because of the two songs I haven't mentioned yet...the two songs that round off Side One. If you've stuck with me this far then please keep reading as I'm about to go into PASSIONATE mode!!!

    The final track on Side One would elevate this album to GENIUS status on it's own as I think it is ABSOLUTELY WONDROUS!!! The song is called 'armistice day' and is a deeply poignant track that recalls Private George from Blackadder Goes Forth and his sepia-hued tales of the Leapfrogging Tiddlywinkers From The Golden Summer of 1914. It's a song about the before and after of World War One, how a generation who basked in the wonders of the early 20th Century were sent off to mindless slaughter in a grotesque class war situation.
    The song is very similar to The Revolving Paint Dream's 'In The Afternoon' which I've previously enthused over....the same beat, the same cyclical guitar pattern....you can actually sing 'In The Afternoon' over the top of it....but it's an equally astonishing song on it's own. Check these lyrics(my favourites on the album), "Sister mine// Some damson wine// Where the woods were white in Wintertime// Drink it down and remember how// You could not cry then, but can cry now// They have all gone away.....Armistice Day!!" Then comes the haunting "There is nothing that can make men happy like the sound of a cannon's roar// There is nothing that can make men happy like a war....LIKE A WAR!!" This song is just utterly magical, evoking a world where the ghosts of Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke and John McRae look back in anger, 'J'Accuse' style.

    There are songs in my (admittedly vast) record collection that I love, there are songs that I cannot imagine life without, and then there are about 20 or so which transcend all platitudes and become part of my DNA....and the last song to be covered here is one of them. The song is called 'follow the plough' and maybe, to the casual or first-time listener, you hear nothing special about it...so let's go back in time and set it in some kind of context:
    It was a Bank Holiday Monday in 1988 and I spent the entire day sitting in a girl's bedroom as we drunk ourselves IQ-less on cheap cider and Liebfraumilch(gird your stomach gentle reader!!). We played record after record after record; some oldie classics like Aretha, The Eagle's 'Desperado', 'Heart On My Sleeve' by Gallacher & Lyle(stop sniggering!!) plus modern day favourites like The Lilac Time, The House Of Love, Raymonde, The Shop Assistants etc. Every now and then I'd go back and put this track on....it's a song about deep infatuation, "When I came to meet you now// I followed you like a seagull follows the plough"....the lyrics cut deep as I was infatuated to the point of madness. I would have followed her EVERYWHERE!! The chiming guitar, the wordless backing vocals, the occasional strident chord....all combined to form the headiest of brews. And it doesn't let up, "You are before me// You are behind me// It was predestined that you would find me".
    Listening to it now, I'm back in that bedroom, the chords swirling through the air like her intoxicating perfume, the vocals hanging like her cigarette smoke, the empty gnawing in my stomach...kiss me, for fuck's sake just KISS ME!!! The song becomes TOO personal, too painful....but that sweet pain, when unrequited love remains forever unrequited. Memories remain as hollow as the cold, greasy pizza boxes we used to soak up the alcohol....until this song is played and I can vividly recall the temperature in her room, the colour of her eyeshadow, the coarse, scratchy texture of her black cardigan....everything becomes alive again in the 3 minutes 43 seconds of this entrancing piece of music...........

    You may think that this album is an odd choice to write about, but those last two songs mean this is an album I cannot live without. I don't play it often because it means too much....but when I do it becomes part of me...a part of my deepest memories, part of my beating heart.

    Do you like music? Then you are of no use to me....music is not about 'like'....it is about LIFE, about LOVE, about PASSION...music is not about one thing....IT IS EVERYTHING!!
    If you haven't understood anything I've just said, then you don't like music at all.

    .....................Leave your soul at the door on the way out.
  • ~Kitten Wine~ #2 "The Field Mice"

    Feb 14 2010, 19:59

    Celebrating The Best Indiepop Records #2: "Emma's House" E.P. by The Field Mice

    "Where is that chaos that usually flows from me?"

    How can a 7" 4-track EP contain all the clout, imagination, and life-affirming beauty of a triple LP concept album? Simple....when it's the "Emma's House" EP by The Field Mice, or Sarah Twelve to the anoraks!!
    This is quite simply one of the GREATEST records ever made....I love it, I absolutely LOVE it!!! This is the record that soundtracked the golden Summer of 1989, the record that created a backdrop of warm twilights, giddy headrushes, broken hearts and melancholic longing.
    Let's take it by the hand and walk to the top of the hill....the sun's just setting.......

    Five to Six....somewhere it's always Five to Six, and Five to Six is the time I used to leave my house to walk the considerable distance to the only bus-stop in my village where I could get the bus to HER town......and on title track 'Emma's House'; "Five to six that's what the time is//Where you are...." I used to sing this refrain every time I walked that bus-stop. On the way I would pass a run down old house that we always used to believe was haunted; "Emma's house is empty//So why do I call it Emma's House?" The song sounds like pure Summer, strummy chiming guitars, the bass playing a melody of it's own(á laThe Marine Girls), and a really primitive drum machine. It can't be any exaggeration that the Summers used to be better when we were young, but all the times I walked to that bus-stop, it only ever rained once!

    Since my childhood, and through my teens, adolescence and twenties, I was a ludicrously light sleeper. A goldfish could break wind downstairs and I'd suddenly be wide awake. Whenever I stayed at HER house, I'd spend the entire night lying wide awake beside HER. This is where 'When You Sleep' comes in......
    "When you sleep// I listen to you breathing//When you sleep//I listen as the air(pause)....leaves you". As we will discover later, it's the pauses that hammer the nails of heartbreak to the wall.
    "I can't help feeling// This cannot last// I can't help feeling// You will break my heart(pause)...break my heart". The pessimists among you will know this experience only too well. If you've ever lay awake beside someone all night, you'll know how deep this song cuts, for it is at these moments that all doubts escalate, and this song captures that sense of hopelessness completely.

    On Nick Cave's storming epic 'Do You Love Me', he growls mournfully one of the most downbeat lines imaginable; "I knew before I met her that I would lose her"....OUCH!!
    And that could be said of 'The Last Letter'; easily one of the most heartbreaking songs EVER, I knew long before I ever met HER that there would come a time when I would have to turn to this song.
    The melodic bass introduces us before a haunting(yet strangely upbeat) piano refrain drapes itself over the song. This is where songwriter Bob Wratten really comes into his own....this song is shot through with so much self-deprecation that the very timbre of his voice stabs you through the heart. The killer line that destroys me on every listen contains the single most heart rending pause; " I never was one// To try// I never was any good(pause)....was I?"
    When SHE left, I knew it would become impossible for me to ever listen to this song again.....for a long time anyway. Even now, even though I love the song so much, I tremble before the power it has over me. It's a song I can only ever play if everything in my life is going well, a song of such incredible beauty that I can only wonder how empty my life would be had I never found it.

    So what does that leave us with? The wistful coda of 'Fabulous Friend'; a vapour-trail, a faded Polaroid, a glance backwards, memory tail-lights fading....."She WAS my fabulous friend"(emphasis on the word 'was')....and YEAH, that's all SHE was....and this is only a 7" piece of vinyl with some songs on it, right?

    It's a record like this that makes me despair of people whose lives aren't dominated by music, those for whom pop songs are mere aural wallpaper, who never feel the emotions of a strummed 12-string crackling and popping on the Dansette.

    Emma's House may be empty......but now my heart is full.