Sunday, 21 May 2017

Oliver!: The Werefrogs - Forest of Doves (15 March 1992)

Nothing made The Frank and Walters sound so anodyne and pointless to me than hearing Peel follow their session version of Happy Busman with the title track of The Werefrogs' first EP.  That was on the 1/3/92 show, but it wasn't available anywhere when I first heard it.  Thankfully, our next selection from this 15/3/92 show turned up on YouTube, and I asked the uploader very nicely for The Werefrogs, and here we are, to my everlasting gratitude, because this is a huge favourite of mine.  223 views on YouTube, and at least 3/4 of them have probably been made by me.  It's high time Forest of Doves was better known.

The Werefrogs formed in New York but were one of those bands who, if not more popular in the UK than in their homeland, found that Blighty offered them the opportunity to record and distribute their music.  Ultimate, home to groups like Senser and the 1992 Festive Fifty winners, Bang Bang Machine put out virtually all of The Werefrogs material starting with this superb, unashamedly romantic, psychedelic rocker.

The first thing that strikes you is the massiveness of the initial burst of sound after the preliminary drum pattern and bass prodding; once singer, Marc Wolf's guitar bursts forth, strap yourself in for an epic. The first 90 seconds seem to progress through the stages of seeds being planted which burst into mighty oaks and stretch up, up into the sky.   On their own website the band called themselves "shoegaze/indie" but Forest of Doves is full rock monster; more Led Zeppelin than Curve, though a more contemporary, for the time, comparison might be with The Thing.  Marc Wolf's vocals can't compete with the sound but does a better job of integrating with it than Sice Rowbotham.  He sounds like someone trying to pick his way through the depths of the forest, looking to reach an oasis of sanctuary in the middle of it.
Lyrically, the song can be read several ways.  On the one hand, it's a love song with Wolf bringing flowers to his lover.  It could be a drug song, if the doves are taken to mean something other than birds.  The laments over hollowness and haunted streets imply that the song is about a graveyard of memories, and that the forest represents a chance to escape mental torments of the past or the ennui of the present.  I'm particularly entranced by the last minute of the song from 4:51 onwards where a gorgeous minor chord guitar line comes in to play the song out alongside the more monolithic guitar parts.  It gives the song the feeling of a thousand doves taking to the skies from the tree branches of life, while the forest burns beneath them.  A piece to listen as the sun rises and allow chaos to fall away from you.  Staggeringly good.

This recording comes direct from the 15/3/92 BFBS show and Ivor Cutler's When I Stand on an Open Cart followed it.  You may hear a snatch of the next track on the Forest of Doves EP, Spider Gardens Fizzle, before Ivor starts.  I had to smile as the same quick start caught Peel out on 1/3/92 as well.

Video courtesy of John Peel.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Oliver!: Ivor Cutler - When I Stand on an Open Cart (15 March 1992)

The last time an Ivor Cutler piece turned up on this blog, I blethered on about how, in his nature-centred pieces, Cutler never wrote about animals or landscapes in sentimental ways.  To Cutler, the natural world was as full of absurdity and ridiculousness as the human one and his interactions with birds who wanted to break into the Top 40 made perfect sense.  However, he pulled a neat subversion of this approach in When I Stand on an Open Cart, a brief spoken word track on his 1976 album, Jammy Smears.  Whereas most of the natural world tracks that I've heard of Cutler's either had him directly talking to the animals and insects, or singing about their issues from their perspective, this track presents him as an observer of nature's bounty.  If the Countryside Code wanted to add a poem to its list of instructions for the public, it might look to the opening lines of this piece.   But typical of Cutler, the appreciation of cows, corn and voles also has room for weeds, bacteria and cowpats.  Nature's pitfalls have to be preferable though to what the average cart rider may observe in the towns.  The image of "the aged" observed through windows, "lying in bed, wrapped in newspaper" offers a bleakness that must surely have fired the imagination of somebody like Stephen "Babybird" Jones.

You'll hear When I Stand on an Open Cart again tagged on to the end of the next track I write about for this blog, but as that track is a potential choice for my own favourite of 1992, I want it to have the post to itself.  And likewise, When I Stand on an Open Cart deserved its own solo spotlight too.  Peel was certainly enjoying having the reissues of Cutler's albums for Virgin on CD as it made it easier for him to cue up the individual tracks than it had been on the original vinyl.

Video courtesy of bobsherunkle.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Oliver!: Emeneya - Ngonda (15 March 1992)

I'm so pleased that this wonderful soukous track was available to share, because a) it's been ages since any of my soukous picks have been available and b) Ngonda formed part of a wonderful trio of tracks on the 15/3/92 show.  It's all subjective of course, but Peel's programmes were unmatchable whenever a sequence of melodic, thrilling and new (to the listener) records came together.  This and the next two tracks that turn up on this blog over the coming days have had me aching with anticipation since I heard them.

Ngonda appears to be one of King Kester Emeneya's key songs, and it features a brilliantly extended outro, full of rippling guitar duelling from about 3:03 onwards.  Peel praised the playing of guitarist Luttulle Lutus but felt that the Emeneya name, which I think he thought covered the band rather than the singer, sounded like "a rather grisly religious foundation".

Get on your dancing shoes and give praises.

Video courtesy of selino bwatshia.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Oliver!: H-Bomb - Radar (15 March 1992)

A one-off pseudonymous release by Jeff Mills, a US DJ who was to become a big fixture on Peel playlists over the course of the next decade.  A look at Mills's John Peel wiki page suggests that it wasn't until 1993 that he started to be played by Peel, but he had been part of the dance music scene for many years under the guise of The Wizard, as part of the Underground Resistance collective or as resident DJ at the Tresor club in Berlin.

Before Peel made a full immersion into Mills's music, he played this storming piece of techno rave, which picked up on the acid computer game feel of many of his contemporaries and reworked it into something much heavier, snappier and better.  There's plenty of soars, sweeps and red alerts in this track (one day I will print a full glossary of terms that I use to describe the soundscapes in dance records, but for now, I ask you to trust me on this), before ending with an emphatic game over that sounds like the vanquishing of his competition.  For Peel, the fact that this record played from the middle outwards guaranteed its inclusion.

It may be some time before we get to 1993, but this will do nicely to be going on with.  On the strength of Radar, there's going to be plenty to enjoy from Mills over the years ahead.

Video courtesy of ffokcuf.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Oliver!: Mo-Dettes - Fandango (15 March 1992)

Even before I tell you anything in depth about this track, you'll probably have heard enough in the opening seconds to go, "Ah, John Peelesque circa 1980, I believe?"  It's all there.  Guitars that sound like the opening of cocktail umbrellas; mannered Mittel-European female vocals that in this particular case sound like they're going to go "Ooh la la" at any moment; whole verses delivered in a foreign language (French, I think*) and a feeling that the whole track is going to collapse in on its original intentions and end up as a Girls At Our Best pastiche.

*Your intrepid blogger just looked at Mo-Dettes page on the John Peel wiki.  Turns out that the lead singer, Ramona Carlier was born in Switzerland, so less mannered than I had thought.

Mo-Dettes were formed in 1979 and included in their ranks Kate Korus, a founder member of The Slits, though she left them before they recorded their legendary Peel Sessions.  Fandango was the opening track on their sole 1980 album, The Story So Far.  The half English/half French mash-up may sound genially close to gibberish as it rattles along, but is of a piece with an album which despite the of its time sound manages to touch a number of musical bases.  What comes through in Fandango is a half lament, half sigh of relief that the protagonist's former lover is out of her life.  This theme is touched on to more satisfying effect on Bedtime Stories.

Peel played the track in response to a letter from a listener called Andy asking for some records by among others Mo-Dettes, Section 25, Blue Orchids and others from the post-punk era.  Peel obliged by playing this back to back with a song by The Diagram Brothers.  I'm charmed enough by Fandango to include it, but I think there are much better examples of Mo-Dettes on their album than this track.  As well as the aforementioned Bedtime Stories, I would recommend their swingtime flavoured history of the Kray Twins (sad to see that it didn't turn up on the soundtracks to either Legend or The Krays), the nifty character sketch of Foolish Girl or the irresistible White Mice in either version.

Video courtesy of Pleasure Victim

Monday, 8 May 2017

Oliver!: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Saturday 14 March 1992)

Now that Peel was broadcasting on the overnight shift on Fridays and Saturdays, it had a knock on effect for his weekends.  By his own admission, today was the first Saturday afternoon he had spent in London for years.  "I was thinking I was going to do loads of interesting things, as you do.  Go to the pictures; go and buy records; go shopping; go and see people; sit in amusing cafes talking codswallop over expensive food and drink.  Of course, int the end, I did none of these things.  Instead, I spent all afternoon in the Radio 1 office putting this programme together for you the listener."  His new weekend arrangements stopped him from accompanying Sheila to Portman Road to see Ipswich play out a fortunate goalless draw with Leicester City.  The Pig had had to borrow a friend's child in order to sit in the family enclosure.  Peel hoped that Leicester wouldn't become a bogey side for Ipswich in the way that they had once been for Liverpool, "Of course these days, virtually every team appears to be a bogey team for Liverpool."

The selections for this show came from a short 47 minute file.  There were 2 other tracks I would have liked to include had I been able to:

Crane - Colourblind - My notes call this "good drone rock" and it seems a good example of that obesssion that British guitar bands over the late 80s/early 90s to rewrite any of See My Friends2000 Light Years From Home or Tomorrow Never Knows.  All clanging guitar and Eastern drumming pattern - heavy on the cymbal to tom-tom shuffle.  It can't help but seem a little lounge jazzy in comparison to its original sources, but not bad for all that.

Cutty Ranks - The Agony - despite featuring plenty of a guitar note that sounds like it's doing a Kenneth Williams impression, I enjoyed this a lot.  I particularly liked the way he works in refrains from kids' songs like Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar.  His flow defeated me on a number of occasions, but it seemed to be going down the "love makes you a hypochondriac" route.  Completists may be interested to know that there is a track called Agony doing the rounds credited to Cutty Ranks and Chinese Laundry, but it was not the one played by Peel on this programme.

Lots of "bundle tracks" in this episode.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Oliver!: Cybersonik - Thrash (14 March 1992)

A storming piece of trance techno to get the 14/3/92 show underway, the type of track that this mixtaper would include just to shake things up a bit.  One for fans of ominous-chords and electro bongos.

"I was going to segue it into Extreme Noise Terror, but that would just have been cheap".

Video courtesy of anubiscj303.