Friday, March 24, 2017

Nick and Dave Channel Phil and Don

In 1979 and 1980, Rockpile were on fire. Dave, Nick, Billy and Terry followed up albums 'Repeat When Necessary' and 'Labour of Lust' with 'Seconds of Pleasure,' the only official release under the Rockpile name. If you bought 'Seconds of Pleasure' early on, the album included the bonus four-song 7" "Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds Sing the Everly Brothers." All four lo-fi numbers were done with care and affection, and you can really feel the love for the Everlys in these performances.

Nick and Dave opened with the melancholy prison ballad "Take a Message to Mary," but they really got your toes tapping by the flip side. "Poor Jenny" has always been one of my all-time favorites. In 1959, Phil and Don burned through this thing like their lives depended on it. Did Nick and Dave find the energy to pull this one off? I think they did. "When Will I Be Loved?" is all about the harmonies, and the voices from both of these duos melt into each other beautifully.

It would be many years before I loved two voices together as much as Nick and Dave singing the Everly Brothers. I considered asking you to guess, but that's too cruel. When I discovered Mark Olson and Gary Louris singing together on the Jayhawks' album 'Hollywood Town Hall,' I knew I was listening to something special.

The Everly Brothers - "Take a Message to Mary"
The Everly Brothers - "Poor Jenny"
The Everly Brothers - "When Will I Be Loved?"

Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds - "Take a Message to Mary"
Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds - "Poor Jenny"
Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds - "When Will I Be Loved?"

Thursday, March 23, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 4)

It's probably not the best sign when your favorite song from an artist was penned by another, but that's the position I find myself in with Dave Edmunds. Elvis Costello said he gave "Girls Talk" to Edmunds "in a moment of drunken bravado," and we should all be thankful for his cockiness. The next time you have a free evening, do yourself a favor and play both of Rockpile's albums from 1979, Nick Lowe's 'Labour of Lust' and Edmunds' 'Repeat When Necessary,' back to back. Lowe, Edmunds Billy Bremner and Terry Williams were a hell of a unit. From the Edmunds' section, here are the three singles from 'Repeat When Necessary,' covers one and all. I'll have another treat featuring Edmunds and Lowe and a couple of famous siblings next time.

"Girls Talk"
"Crawling From the Wreckage"
"Queen of Hearts"

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Goin' Bananas for VU Covers

While catching up on posts over the weekend, I was deeply drawn into Drew's appreciation for 'The Velvet Underground & Nico.' As we continue to celebrate the album's importance in rock history 50 years after it flopped, I thought of the bevy of bands through the generations that have been influenced by the 11 songs on the album. Here are a few from the '80s who dared to put their own spins on perfection.

Strawberry Switchblade - "Sunday Morning"
("Since Yesterday" 12" B-side)

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "I'm Waiting For The Man"
("Messages" 10" B-side)

Tracey Thorn - "Femme Fatale"
(from 'A Distant Shore')

Echo & the Bunnymen - "Run Run Run (Live)"
(from 'Crystal Days' box set)

R.E.M. - "There She Goes Again"
("Radio Free Europe" B-side, 1983 version)

The Primitives - "I'll Be Your Mirror"
("Sick of It" 12" B-side)

Slightly off the topic of 'The Velvet Underground & Nico,', but I can't resist playing my favorite VU cover. Probably helps that I love the original to bits.

The Feelies - "What Goes On"
(from 'Only Life')

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Name Like No Other

Actually, Brian is a name like any other, and that's exactly why Ken Sweeney named his band something so mundane. It worked for the Smiths, after all. JC's inclusion of Brian in his excellent mix of Irish bands on St. Patrick's Day inspired me to pull the 1992 album 'Understand' and 1999 album 'Big Trouble' off the shelf on the weekend for the first time in a good long while. My recollection of 'Understand' was timeless sad-sack music of the highest order. If anything, I was even more struck by its beauty this time around. "Understand" has always been my go-to song, but I just got this one stuck in my head. It was a single that went nowhere in 1991:

"You Don't Want a Boyfriend"

The EP "Planes" followed 'Understand,' and Sweeney thought it was his best piece of work. Its failure hit the artist hard, and he disappeared for several years. When he reemerged with 'Big Trouble' at the end of the decade, the shift in sound was a shock to some of Brian's veteran followers, but it had a beat you could dance to, and there were new fans after "Turn Your Lights On" was BBC Radio One Single Of The Week. There was success on Irish radio and a nomination for Irish Single Of The Year at the Irish Music Awards as well. The overall feeling, though, was Brian was better at music for the melancholy, and Sweeney must have agreed because he never recorded as Brian again. Here are a couple from 'Big Trouble.'

"Turn Your Lights On"
"Right Through Tuesday"

I have spent the last few days catching up with my favorite blogs, and I'll be back next time with another post inspired by a post I read.

Friday, March 17, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 3)

Still not 100 percent but on the mend. Thanks for your patience. Hopefully, you'll consider this second post on Echo & the Bunnymen worth the very long wait. Let's start with a rousing rendition of "Crocodiles" from the four-song live EP "Shine So Hard." This was recorded at Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, Derbyshire, on Jan. 17, 1981, and released in April that year. This turned out to be the band's first UK Top 40 single. I have had this one since I was a kid, and the show had always been built up in my mind as an all-timer because I didn't see the video of the performance until about 20 years after I found the 12". Have to say, when I saw it, I wasn't disappointed. Anyone out there one of the 500 that received the video as a thank you for attending the show?

"Crocodiles" (Live)

Now here is a performance that's not just legendary in my mind. Echo & the Bunnymen's show at the Royal Albert Hall on July 18, 1983, pops up all over the band's discography, and this live and very long take on early single "Do It Clean" can be found in several places, including the excellent self-titled mini album from 1983 and as a B-side to "The Killing Moon" 12". If you have never seen this show in its entirety, do yourself a favor and dig it up on the 'Net today. If I had a time machine, this is where I would take it to see them. Hard to believe now, but in the early days of MTV, when they didn't have many videos, this one used to show up in the rotation from time to time, and that's where I first saw clips of this show. Lots of improvisation and odes to rock (and funk!) from an earlier age on this one.

"Do It Clean" (Live)

I don't want "The Killing Moon" to be my favorite song by Echo & the Bunnymen because, well, it's just so typical, but it's too good not to give the tune its proper due. Just try to ignore the fact it appears in auto adverts. Haunting and beautiful. OK, Rol, buddy, here is my all-time favorite 12"... all nine minutes and 12 seconds of it. Hope I have convinced you this is a great extended version.

"The Killing Moon (All Night Version)"

Here is a live version of the song I had not pulled off the shelf for a while, but it was music to my ears a couple of weeks ago when I was ripping what I had from the lads. This is a B-side from the 1984 12" of "Seven Seas." There are four songs on the single recorded at Liverpool Cathedral for the program "Play at Home" on British station Channel 4.

"The Killing Moon" (Live)

Running out of juice. Let's go out with one that seems universally revered. Maybe even George will like it. I dedicate this one to pals Friend of Rachel Worth and JC. As JC said in the comments last time... "lay down thy raincoat and grooooove."

"Never Stop (Discotheque)"

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 2)

At one time it would have taken days to rip all of my vinyl by Echo & the Bunnymen, but they are one of those bands deemed so vital that in 1988, when I caved and finally bought a CD player, I immediately traded in the first five albums on vinyl for the fancy format. What an idiot. At least I had the foresight to save the EPs, singles and other vinyl pieces not found on CD at the time. Of course, in 2001, the four-disc box set 'Crystal Days 1979-1999' made most of the vinyl I had left obsolete. Still, I couldn't help myself, and I bought the collection anyway. At least I learned from my mistake in '88 and kept the vinyl I had left this time.

These boys deserve more than one day in this series. I'll be back next time with a few more nuggets. In the meantime, here are some favorites from three 12" singles. "Silver (Tidal)" is a beautiful piece from the 'Ocean Rain' era. What I like most about this one and the other extended mixes from this period is there are absolutely no additional '80s bells and whistles so popular in 1984. The first two minutes of this version is so lush and full of orchestral flourishes that I don't think someone new to the band would even guess the song came from that decade.

"Bring on the Dancing Horses" was written for the film 'Pretty in Pink' and released as a new single to make the band's 1985 compilation 'Songs to Learn and Sing' a little more provocative. If you're a regular around here, you know how much I hate when a band sticks a brand-new song or two on a best-of package. The new songs often seem out of place next to the hits, and it's nothing but a cash grab to take advantage of fans that already have all the old songs. Thankfully, these were the days when you could just pick up the physical single.

Although "Lips Like Sugar" didn't chart here in America, I feel like this one got quite a bit of play on MTV and radio. The addition of the 12" mix on 'Just Say Yes,' the first volume of Sire's compilation series, also gave many kids their first listen of the band. Unlike "Silver (Tidal)," this extended mix has a few of those '80s touches, but I love it anyway. If anyone out there wants to really go back to the dance floor of your youth, there is a dub version on the flip side. Not my cup of tea, but I would be happy to send it along to anyone who wants it. "Rollercoaster" is a non-album B-side worthy of a listen. That song can also be found on the "People Are Strange" single issued a year later.

"Silver (Tidal)"
"Bring on the Dancing Horses (Extended Mix)"
"Lips Like Sugar (12" Mix)"

Saturday, March 4, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 1)

Forgoing the obvious hits (or hit, depending on where you reside) for a favorite from Australia's the Easybeats. They had some great songs in 1965 and 1966, but I think the lads misplaced their compass after that. The Easybeats were, first and foremost, a rock band, and much of their work veered into soft schmaltz in the latter part of the decade. It's not surprising that by 1969 the Easybeats had called it quits. There were exceptions during those less rewarding years, and this is one of them.

"Falling Off the Edge of the World" was a 1967 single of little commercial consequence. In fact, it didn't chart anywhere, but I have always found it to be a dramatic heartbreaker that mixed the band's harder and softer sides to perfection. I was not alone. Lou Reed played this one every night on the jukebox at Max's Kansas City, telling legendary rock writer Lilian Roxon it was "one of the most beautiful ballads ever made." Here's a bit of the lyrics. Clearly, this storyteller is in a dark place. More from the rather slim letter E next time.

The love that was in your smile
When I married you isn't there now,
And even the children see
That you don't look respectable now

Falling off the edge of the world
Seeing you with him
If I let you win I die

You dragged out the soul in me
And you clawed and you twisted it 'round
But I still feel love for you
Though my face has been ground to the ground

"Falling Off the Edge of the World"

Friday, March 3, 2017

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (Update)

Three years ago today I began counting down my 50 favorite singles from the golden age of UK indie. That was, by far, the most fun I have had during my nearly eight years of blogging, and it turned out to be, by far, the most popular series ever attempted here. In fact, chances are fairly high you found this place during that countdown. You might be interested to learn the list has been quite fluid in the three years since I first compiled it.

Sometime during 2014 I made a reverse chronological order playlist of the songs on my iPod, and I don't think a week has gone by that I haven't listened to at least a few songs from it. The many pitfalls of creating a countdown like this, in print for all eternity, is you realize from time to time you have forgotten a gem. This actually happened to me with two songs during the unveiling, but it was too late to correct the problem. I did rectify it on my iPod. Then there was the realization I had picked the wrong song from an artist. Sometimes I went with a less obvious choice because I didn't want to pick the big hit, such as "Love Will Tear Us Apart," when in my heart I knew I loved that song more than "Transmission." Then there are the earworms. Occasionally, I would get obsessed with a song and stick it in the Top 50 playlist for a while, only to see it leave again a month later. Off the top of my head, that happened with songs by the Higsons, the Woodentops, the Nivens, the Au Pairs, Carmel and at least a half dozen more.

On this anniversary, I thought I would give a peek at the list in its current form. There are seven artists that weren't on the countdown three years ago. Obviously, that means seven got the boot. There are also five bands that were on the original list but are now represented by a different song. A few of the bands moved up... a few moved down. All in all, though, about three-fourths of the list hasn't changed. A quick reminder of the rules. One song per band. Must have been a charting indie single from the '80s. Must have been from the UK. No Sugarcubes, Triffids or Minutemen, even though they were on the chart. I imagine always being a seeker of new music, but these are the songs that make that exercise laborious. There are only so many minutes in the day, and I always want to come back to this booty.

Top 50 UK Indie Hits: 1980-89

Note: Links are to new additions to the countdown. Songs in bold represent bands that were on the original countdown but are now represented by a different song.

50. Phil Wilson - Waiting for a Change
49. Primal Scream - Crystal Crescent
48. Wire - Eardrum Buzz
47. McCarthy - The Well of Loneliness
46. The Jasmine Minks - Cold Heart
45. Hurrah! - Who'd Have Thought
44. The Sea Urchins - Pristine Christine
43. The Primitives - Stop Killing Me
42. The Wake - Talk About the Past
41. The Wolfhounds - The Anti-Midas Touch (Entry Date: Nov. 1, 1986, Peak: No. 6)
40. Razorcuts - Sorry to Embarrass You
39. 14 Iced Bears - Come Get Me (May 14, 1988, No. 15)
38. The Lightning Seeds - Pure
37. Shop Assistants - Safety Net
36. The Pastels - Comin' Through
35. The Brilliant Corners - Delilah Sands
34. The Loft - Why Does the Rain
33. The Teardrop Explodes - Treason (It's Just a Story)
32. The Pale Fountains - (There's Always) Something on My Mind
31. Talulah Gosh - Talulah Gosh
30. Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding
29. Fire Engines - Big Gold Dream
28. The Waterboys - A Girl Called Johnny
27. The Monochrome Set - The Jet Set Junta
26. The Rosehips - Room In Your Heart (May 16, 1987, No. 9)
25. The Icicle Works - Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)
24. The Popguns - Landslide (May 6, 1989, No. 20)
23. Josef K - It's Kinda Funny
22. Prefab Sprout - Lions in My Own Garden (Exit Someone)
21. Yazoo - Nobody's Diary
20. The Orchids - I've Got a Habit
19. Girls at Our Best! - Getting Nowhere Fast (April 12, 1980, No. 9)
18. The Field Mice - Sensitive
17. The Weather Prophets - Almost Prayed (June 7, 1986, No. 3)
16. Miaow - When It All Comes Down (Feb. 28, 1987, No. 5)
15. The Chesterf!elds - Completely & Utterly
14. Mighty Mighty - Throwaway
13. The Flatmates - I Could Be in Heven
12. Another Sunny Day - You Should all Be Murdered
11. Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
10. Orange Juice - Poor Old Soul
9. Scritti Politti - Asylums in Jerusalem
8. New Order - True Faith
7. The Wedding Present - My Favourite Dress
6. The Bodines - Therese
5. Close Lobsters - Going to Heaven to See If It Rains
4. The Smiths - This Charming Man
3. The Wild Swans - Revolutionary Spirit
2. Aztec Camera - Just Like Gold
1. The June Brides – Every Conversation

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 23)

Concluding the letter D with yet another UK legend discovered through the 'That Summer!' soundtrack. After hearing "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" and "What a Waste" as a wide-eyed 13 year old, I immediately ran out and bought a cutout of 'New Boots and Panties!!' for a couple of bucks. Wise investment. I found out where Essex, Billericay, Plaistow and other exotic locales (to a kid from the cornfields of Illinois) were located. Inexplicably, I learned who Gene Vincent was from Dury. You could call him a punk rocker, a singer (seriously, listen to "Sweet Gene Vincent") a poet and about a dozen other creative occupations, but I think entertainer is the most apt description. Dury used lots of filthy language to tell dirty stories, and what immature boy isn't going to be attracted to that?

"Sweet Gene Vincent"

I remember once prank calling a friend with the opening of "Plaistow Patricia." When he said "hello," I held up the receiver to the stereo speaker as Dury spat out "assholes, bastards, fucking cunts and pricks." We snickered like a couple of 13 year olds, because we were, until I turned around and saw my father standing in the doorway. For a moment, he looked like he was going to blow his stack. Then he exhaled in defeat. "Better not letter your mother hear that," Dad mumbled as he walked away. By that point in my childhood, I think I had worn him down.

I only own one other album by Dury, and it was the perfect companion to 'New Boots and Panties!!' 'Jukebox Dury' was the compilation Stiff America released in 1981, and it's packed with several must-have singles not on that 1977 album, including "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick"and "Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3." Still, the best songs on "Jukebox Dury" came from 'New Boots and Pamties!!' The Streets and others would go on to have big hits with this spoken-word approach to song, but I think Dury did it best...

"Razzle in My Pocket"

This post is well timed because Mrs. LTL and I celebrated the 30th anniversary of our first date yesterday. Makes us sound old, but I should add we were in high school. This didn't happen on our first date, but a couple of weeks later we were in the car on the way to a movie. Dury's "Blackmail Man" came on the mix tape I was playing. About 30 seconds in, Mrs. LTL asked, "What's this guy have against black mailmen?" I have told that one before, but it never gets old. To the best of my knowledge, Dury never had a problem with minorities working for the postal service.

"Blackmail Man"

Saturday, February 25, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 22)

To keep things moving during this colossal vinyl-ripping project, I often just take a favorite song or two from an album. Not today. Double album 'Valuable Passages' (FACT 164) by the Durutti Column is a compilation from 1986 that gathers songs from albums, singles and EPs on Factory Records from 1980-1986. It has been much too long since I have spent time with this collection, and I'm struck today by how there is simply nobody like the Durutti Column on my shelf. Those in the know understand the genius of Vini Reilly, but I feel an awesome responsibility to represent his work well here because there are bound to be those who stop by who have never heard a note.

I'm tempted to start with one of the early pieces produced by Martin Hannett but have opted for Reilly's tribute to fallen comrade Ian Curtis. From second album 'LC,' here is "The Missing Boy." 'LC' was recorded in five hours on a four track and mixed at a studio in two hours. Now that's DIY and a good day's work. Many of Reilly's most well known and revered works are instrumentals, but this song shows his timid vocals can be effective and quite moving.

"The Missing Boy"

By 1983 and 1984, Reilly's compositions had become complex and flamboyant affairs complete with strings, brass, woodwinds and massive percussion. Fourth album 'Without Mercy' is best described as neo-classical and, I imagine, a shock to fans of Factory at the time. The two sides of the album were simply titled "Without Mercy I" and "Without Mercy II." Better to spend less time trying to describe it and just let you get to it.

"Without Mercy" (Stanzas 4 to 7)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What the Kids Are Listening to Today (Part 1)

I so enjoyed doing that recent post on my 10-year-old son's burgeoning record collection that I have decided to make it an occasional series. Now, obviously, after learning his first three records were by the Monkees, the Beach Boys and the Vince Guaraldi Trio, you know the name of this series is a stab at humor.

His fourth purchase continues the trend of repelling his peers. Lil' T, as he will be known on these pages from now on, plays the clarinet with the kind of passion that fills me with envy. So, I wasn't surprised when he spotted this beat up but interesting set of six 7" singles on a shelf at a little used book store the other day. Benny Goodman's 'Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert' is full of fantastic performances by legends like Harry James, Gene Krupa and, a favorite of mine, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. This edition came out in 1950, and I have a strong suspicion Lil' T's box set really is more than 65 years old. It just has that look, sound, feel and even smell, you know? Still, not bad for $2.

Lil' T's review: "I like these little records. They play a lot better on my record player. And it's nice to listen to songs without words sometimes."

Well, perhaps we'll get more on the music next time. Thanks for classing up the joint, son. One more warning, folks. Records don't get much scratchier than this one, but what a song!

"Sing Sing Sing" (Live)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Power-Pop Potluck

A tip of the cap to Manufactured Recordings. Last week, the label reissued a whole mess o' power pop that had not been in the vinyl bins for more than 30 years. Let's start with Manikins. The double long player 'From Broadway to Blazes' gathers just about everything you would ever need out of this Perth, Australia, band from 1971 to 1981. Hard and rough around the edges, their music reminds me of Eddie and the Hot Rods, Undertones, the Only Ones and a slew of other bands coming out of the UK in the late '70s. Even if you never heard Manikins before, this collection somehow manages to take you back.

Now on to more traditional power pop. Smart Remarks wore their influences on their sleeves, but what influences they were! You'll spot the sounds of Paul Collins' Beat, The Records and, especially, Dirty Looks. Remember them? How a trio from Staten Island ended up on Stiff Records must be an interesting tale, but that's a story for another day. This trio from Bordentown, New Jersey, had an all too brief recording career, just one memorable single and the five-track EP 'Seriously Speaking,' but it's all here on 'Foreign Fields: 1982-1984.' If you're scratching your head and wondering where you might have heard Smart Remarks before, perhaps you saw them open for the Replacements, Ramones, Joan Jett or Haircut 100 back in the day.

Let's stay in the Garden State for the best and probably best known of the bunch. The Modulators' 1984 album 'Tomorrow's Coming' is a must for any power-pop fan, and this reissue has a bevy of bonus tracks, including demos and the singles that preceded the LP. I'm not going to bother with influences because bands of this ilk should have been trying to emulate the sound of the Modulators, not the other way around. This is just sublime. Now for some trivia. Did you know Rob Roth, the owner of Vintage Vinyl in Fords, New Jersey, one of the best record stores in the world, was once a member of the Modulators? His label was original issuer of the early singles and this album too. It's only February, but come December I bet 'Tomorrow's Coming' will be vying for my reissue of the year.