Saturday, 14 October 2017

Oliver!: Shake Inc. - Adrenalin (3 April 1992)

Always with a techno record, what I’m listening out for is the contrast moment.  Once the initial beats and squelches have set out their wares, it’ll be the moment of change in the track that will decide for me whether I will include the track or not.  With Shake Inc.’s Adrenalin that moment comes at around 1:15 when a freaky, ghostly synth line - blasting out from a rave in the divide between this world and the next - makes its entrance into the blazing mix of noise in this banger.  Bringing a greater range of sonic variety than the previous week’s Twin Rave, there’s plenty of energy, life and...well...adrenalin surging through this track’s veins.  I love how the sound gets dirtier as it goes on too.  A mini-epic.

Video courtesy of E for Free.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Oliver!: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Saturday 28 March 1992)

I turned 16 years old on 27 March 1992 (cards and presents to the usual address next year please, fans).  I didn’t spend it going mad on a moped or losing my virginity at the earliest opportunity.  Instead I went for dinner with my parents and watched a double-bill of the Doctor Who videos for Logopolis and Castrovalva.  One of the boys acting in Oliver!, Toby Haynes, was a Doctor Who fan and actually lent me videos of Who stories recorded off the television in the mid-80s.  It was like having access to YouTube, a decade and a half in advance.  My whole memory of that period can be boiled down into a series of word associations: new house, foolish romanticism, stage make-up, spring sunshine and 1980s Doctor Who.
John Peel broadcast a show on March 27, but all the available files failed the minimum time-limit test  (as near to a single side of a C-90 tape as possible), so we have had to skip on to Saturday 28 March 1992 instead.  My birthday isn’t particularly well served by the Peel share universe.  There are plenty of years where no record of what Peel broadcast on March 27 has shown up, or the files are very short.  1979 and 1980 provide some decent running times, but I’ll have to wait till 1993, when I was performing in a production of Peter Shaffer’s play, Equus to have a birthday Peel show to savour.

Selections from this show were taken from a 93 minute long file.  A news bulletin contained news about the 1992 General Election, only 2 weeks away at this point.  Des Wilson, campaign manager for the Liberal Democrats, implored the two main parties to focus more attention on Europe.  It was where our future was, according to him....  On that tack, I’m currently reading this and it’s shaping up to be a classic of its kind.

There were several tracks that I would have been interested to share had they been available.  They included:

Brother Blue - Ons Het Hautuley - my notes describe this as an example of 60s South African skiffle, which sees discordant accordion played alongside a traditional soukous guitar line.  Peel had two copies of the record and had given one to Andy Kershaw.  Very difficult to find any record of it online, so may qualify as one of Peel’s rarest records.

Cul-de-Sac - Cant- this was the B-side of their 7-inch single, Sakhalin.  With its mixture of varispeeded organ and supermarket Muzak guitar, Peel preferred this instrumental to the A-side.  I agree with him, Sakhalin starts off well, but outstays its welcome.  He referred to Cul-de-Sac as a “String-a-Longs for the 1990s”.

Piss - Nightmare - Peel adored this all-girl Japanese punk band and the loss of the Women’s Liberation album on which they contributed pained him later in the decade by all accounts.  This was the first of their tracks to make any impression on me, supposedly because of a comedy vocal and hints of melody through the thrash.

Rise From the Dead - Full of Dirty Money - More Japanese rock goodness and I liked the start, which was fortunate as that was all I heard due to the tape on the file running out.

Falling from favour were:

The Wedding Present - Silver Shorts - on first hearing, this was a cinch to be included.  However, it lost its sheen on subsequent listens.  I feel bad about this, because the only post I’ve deleted from this blog was for The Wedding Present’s superb Blue Eyes (nothing that they had done, just I was a bit too open in what I discussed about myself and ended up causing un-nessecary distress to a loved one).  Perhaps Blue Eyes, which seems magnified in status because of its deletion, set standards that need to be met by this band if they are to feature here again. I certainly hope so, because Blue Eyes told me just why The Wedding Present mattered to so many.

Augustus Pablo - Black Gunn - it was Rob Da Bank’s Early Morning Dub Appreciation Society which first introduced me to the brilliance of Augustus Pablo.  I think some residual appreciation from that may have led to Black Gunn being earmarked for inclusion, but there was always a question mark next to it.  Despite the charming, music-box like quality given to the glockenspiel part, the ennui was palpable.

Happy birthdayish

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Oliver!: Monster Magnet - Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother (28 March 1992)

Like a dope, I missed the 1970s episodes of The Evolution of John Peel.  My suspicions that it would be nothing more than a John Peel greatest hits of the decade proving to be spectacularly wide of the mark.  At least with reference to this track, there was nothing from Grand Funk Railroad featuring in the programme, offering little clue as to why Peel gave airtime to covers of their tunes through late 1991/early 1992.  Grotus missed out with me on their version of We’re An American Band but three months on, Monster Magnet make the metaphorical mixtape with their version of Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother, the opening track on GFR’s 1970 album, Closer to Home.

Dispensing with the acoustic opening section and clocking in at a minute less than the original, Monster Magnet do a great job of conjuring up the mythical rock preacher sound in this song with its reflections on how good and evil are two sides of the same coin and calls for revolution - topic of the day in 1970 and seemingly acted out by 1992.  But ultimately everything is subservient to the riff that drives the track and which sets everything on course with the false ending and subsequent race to the end of the track.  The 16 year old me would have lapped that riffage up, though whether it would have inspired me to seek out the source material is a moot point.  Because, in my ignorance (and I am still moored in it) Grand Funk Railroad are one of those band names that can fatigue me without hearing a note - see also the likes of The Eagles, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Chicago Transit Authority (later just known as Chicago).  Just to look at the names conjures up images of triple or quadruple albums, guitar solos that go on for three hours and grim musicality.  Are they justified opinions to hold without having sampled much of any of their music?   No, of course they aren’t, and in Grand Funk Railroad’s case, they were hugely influential on a number of 90s bands.  In Monster Magnet’s case it fed towards their 1991 album, Spine of God, which managed to be thrilling, intriguing and irritating sometimes all within the space of the same track.  It’s my hope that those bands I’ve just slandered managed to be equally diverse when the time comes for me to hear them.  In the meantime, the John Peel quarterly meeting of the Order of the Grand Funk Railroad cover will hopefully reconvene in June 1992.

Videos courtesy of P.P. (Monster Magnet) and drwu1975 (Grand Funk Railroad)

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Oliver!: Capleton - Prophet (28 March 1992)

This track by Clifton Bailey aka Capleton would have turned up here much sooner if I’d been content to stay ignorant and write about how the patois had been too quick for me, but I loved the delivery and how it fitted with the Batty Rider Riddim.  However, I wanted to provide some attempt at analysis, for the 50 or so people who read and listen to the posts, so I made one final attempt to see what I could catch.  And early on, it was all pretty much par for the course: inspiration from God rather than Man, worship to the prophet, cursing the forced repatriation of Africans to the Carribean - oh, and adulterous women should be stoned.  Eh?...What? ...Did I hear that right?  And would I be comfortable including it here in 2017, when it feels at times like such misogyny could be given free reign again.  But on listening to the vocal again, maybe it wasn’t the woman on Mount Sinai who was going to be stoned but instead one of her accusers.  But on the other hand...  The ambiguity makes me a little queasy but I see enough parallels with Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (the origin of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”) to wave it through. Anyone with a keener ear than me  is welcome to set me straight or confirm the worst.  And if we can’t be clear, then let’s just dance.

Video courtesy of kikiReloader.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Oliver!: Shut Up and Dance feat. Peter Bouncer - Love is All We Need [Peel Session] (28 March 1992)

Unlike their first session, from 1990, which features a mix of your favourite 1990 issues of the day (The Poll Tax) and more evergreen concerns (White domination), the second Peel session by Shut Up and Dance has to be represented by the original records.  Fear not though, there isn't much difference between the recorded and session version of the track presented here.

For their second trip to Maida Vale, DJ Hype, Smiley and PJ were joined by the dancehall singer, Peter Bouncer.  A strange kind of alchemy occurred whenever they worked together.  Compared to the dreariness of his own recordings on labels like Unity, Bouncer always sounded an artist transformed when working with the beats and production offered by Shut Up and Dance.  It was a combination that later in 1992, would see them an uncleared piano sample away from a potential UK number 1 single.  For this session though, they produced a come-down classic which must have sounded unbelievably moving in the clubs as the bliss started to take hold.  At its core is a mixture of restraint and gentle nostalgia for a past love affair which the singer is trying to come to terms with.  In keeping with the spirit of times, there's no animosity on the singer's part.  He tries to take the best of the memories from the relationship and use them to sustain him, going forward.  A heart-mender for recovering clubbers everywhere.

I haven't heard the full version of the session on the tape either, which only caught 93 minutes of the show, but it did include a session version of an earlier Shut Up and Dance recording, played by Peel on 14/12/91.

Video courtesy of AlvinAI3000.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Oliver!: Shake Inc. - Twin Rave (28 March 1992)

There's something about the opening synth chord in this record by Dutch producer Aad de Mooy that makes me convinced that Angelo Badlementi was influencing ambient dance music more than anyone else in the early 90s.  However such thoughts are dispelled within seconds here once the twinkly synths start in over the top of that Fire Walk With Me-like chord, and then when the beat drops around the 50 second mark, our move from Lynchian despair to a full on rave sound system head to head is complete.

Video courtesy of E for Free.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Oliver!: Marcia Griffiths - Closer to You (28 March 1992)

I've focused so much of my attention on John Peel's radio programmes over late 1991/early 1992, that I have been somewhat slapdash when it comes to other opportunities to appreciate him.  I still haven't listened to any of 6Music's current retrospective series The Evolution of John Peel, partially because I fear that it will just end up being a greatest hits collection through the decades - though I will pull myself together and listen to it soon.  Perhaps even more unforgivably, I've been equally tardy when it's come to watching him on BBC Four's repeats of Top of the Pops.  This damns me heavily because when BBC Four kicked off the run, back in 2011, with the announcement that they were going to start with shows from 1976, my initial reaction was "Bloody hell, it'll be 6 years before they get to Peel hosting it!"  In the event, once episodes that had either been wiped or hosted by Jimmy Savile or Dave Lee Travis were skipped past, they reached Peel's 1982 return within 5 years.  He had co-hosted the show on one fateful occasion in early 1968, and, by his own admission, did a terrible job of it - forgetting who Amen Corner were at one point.  But after a mere 14 years, he was back and I was keen to see the repeat of his first, well second, appearance on the programme, especially considering that the opening sequence of him introducing Theatre of Hate was one of the first Peel related clips I remember seeing on YouTube, some 11 years ago.  Peel acquitted himself well - there were tracks I was pleased to see and others that were completely new to me including a band clearly put together to try and cash in on Shakin' Stevens popularity.  At the end of it, I was pleased to see that Peel was finally on the Top of the Pops list and looked forward to catching his Rhythm Pals act with David Jensen once they got to 1983.  I think I caught one more of Peel's 1982 TotP shows before they were suddenly in 1983 and he was paired with Jensen.
They hosted the show 13 times that year but I only caught two of them, which is silly considering that I would have been watching the show as a curious 7 year old at the time, and the original broadcasts would have been my first awareness of Peel in any form, beyond possibly hearing snippets of his show on the radio I used to play at bedtime when I was even younger (that's a story for another time, I expect).  Now the Pops repeats have got to 1984 and aware that Jensen moved from Radio 1 to Capital Radio - to Peel's great sadness - and subsequently off Top of the Pops as a result, I made great efforts to catch their last few shows together.  The Rhythm Pals were essentially Top of the Pops version of Morecambe and Wise, with Peel free to engage in whimsy and gently absurd piss-taking, while Jensen could guide things back to Earth, with a"What can you do?" air about him in regards to his sidekick.  Their affection for each other, and enjoyment in hosting the show was obvious, despite the fact that their natural radio environment was, to varying degrees, some way removed from the neon and party balloons environment in which they hosted the show.  For all that, it's worth remembering that regardless of how frivolous or dour, depending on the approach producers took with the show, its great strength was that the credible would follow the cheesy without comment - it was an open house to pop and popular music, and the likes of The Clash and The Arctic Monkeys lessened themselves by not appearing on it.  In terms of 1984 pop music, I often think that one reason why the early appearances of The Smiths on the show are so fondly remembered is the fact they would either be following or leading on to Black Lace.  Right up to its dying day, I always regarded the Top of the Pops studio as simultaneously the most exciting/naffest place in the world.  It clearly had something about it, just look what it did to Danny Baker.

One feature of the TotPs I've seen with Peel in them is a performance of a record described either by himself or Jensen as "coming up through the clubs".  Four years on this would invariably mean an acid house or techno record, but in 1984, it was usually something that attempted to meld together Hi-NRG beat with soul vocal. Exhibits from the time, cued in by Peel include I'll Be Around by Terri Wells and the stone cold classic High Energy by Evelyn Thomas.  Such records seemed pertinent when we bring ourselves back to Peel broadcasting in the middle of the night from a Radio 1 studio, eight years after he was taking the piss on prime time BBC 1. A record like Closer to You seems closer in tone to those Top of the Pops club classics, even though its much more laidback and fuses dancehall with lovers rock.  Such an expression of unadulterated sweetness and love always seemed vaguely shocking on a Peel playlist, as though he decided to aurally airfreshen his airwaves for a moment after all the expected rock, racket and rave.  But as BBC Four have shown us, there were plenty of occasions when Peel found himself engulfed in "sweet" music.  He was just better at picking out the nuggets amidst the chintz than many others.  And Marcia Griffiths' voice was pure gold.

The video is of someone playing a record, which I appreciate is a bit unsatisying, though good for the   ear heart.  The record plays twice, but is around 3:40 in duration. There are other versions which include toasting by Buju Banton.  If you find it visually dull, then enjoy the best clip I've seen from Peel's '84 shows so far, featuring Zoo, the final dancing troupe used by Top of the Pops in order to boost a rather dull Pointer Sisters video for their terrific track, Automatic.  Sadly, no videos from the programme include Peel's hilarious attempts at robotic dancing at the end.

Videos courtesy of 777SKA (Griffiths) and memorylane1980s (Pointer Sisters).

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Oliver!: Swell - Down (28 March 1992)

Peel played this as the last of a medley of three records by bands who he described variously as "A consumers guide to what you're going to pretend to like next" and "The next big thing after the next big thing".  When he said that two of the bands began with the letter S, I found myself wondering whether one of them might have been Suede, despite the orthodoxy that Peel had never played them.  Anyway, the run started with Conduit for Sale by Pavement followed by Decatur by Seam.  Nothing in either of those tunes to distract me from the washing up.  However, when Decatur was followed by  the cavernous guitar riff at the top of the third track supplemented by an acoustic guitar strumming confidently away underneath, I really did think for a moment that it might be Suede as it seemed to encapsulate all those breathless adjectives that journalists used to use about the world beating possibilities that they had.  And then the vocal came in, several octaves down from Brett Anderson's range and I could relax and take the track in on its own terms.
To be fair, after such a stunning opening, the verses, which seem to focus on a long, enjoyable night getting stoned and trying to make it through to the next day, couldn't help but seem like a slight anti-climax.  But for its air guitar possibilities alone, Down would be guaranteed a place on the metaphorical mixtape.
Swell never did become the next big thing, but continue to release albums and EPs into the 21st century.  Hopefully more of their work turns up in future Peel shows.

Video courtesy of pierolivio.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Oliver!: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Saturday 21 March 1992)

One of my favourite chapters in The Olivetti Chronicles was a 1994 article for Radio Times in which Peel drove from Suffolk to Glasgow and chose to soundtrack his journey not with demo tapes from acts hoping to get a play on his programme, but music from commercial radio stations based in the various counties he drove through.  In cultural terms, it was not a transportive experience:

"(Visitors from outer space) would assume that, judging by the records playing during the day, either life had come to an end in 1980 or the ultimate human dream was to get it together with the only one worth thinking of, with a view to making it through the night." (John Peel - Local Radio, p.144, The Olivetti Chronicles, Bantam Press, 2008).  If I tell you that he pledged to change channels every time a Cyndi Lauper record came on, it should give you some idea of the musical diet he was served up by stations as diverse as SGR FM (Suffolk), Q-103 (Cambridgeshire), Lincs FM (Lincolnshire) and Viking FM (Yorkshire).  Speaking as someone who really can't abide local or commercial radio, I can only admire Peel's tenacity at undertaking such a journey with nothing but "trite radio with play-safe musical policies" to listen to.  He wrote the article, apparently in defence of a Radio 1 which was still taking flak and losing listeners as Matthew Bannister's changes and updates continued to take hold.  Those departing listeners may have been going to commercial and local stations.  The roots for the article though were first brought to my attention on this show when Peel denounced "oldies" radio stations as they used to be called for not playing anything by The Big Three.  However, given that JFM bore him through Manchester with plenty of rhythm and blues while "Jenny-at-Drivetime" on West Radio over the Scottish border "played me three good (if elderly) records in a row", perhaps the balance was slightly redressed in the intervening two years.  He advised listeners who didn't want to listen to Radio 1, but who wanted to avoid listening to unadulterated wallpaper music to "drive from Preston to Glasgow a lot."  I can endorse this point of view.  Not from a musical perspective but the scenery from a train window between these two places is so breathtaking that Peel admitted to switching the radio off because of it, so that he could enjoy it more.

On this show, he told listeners about a mind-boggling TV preview in The East Anglian newspaper in which Jack Pizzey met a remote tribe in the Philippines who collected kneecaps as protection against bullets, "...and that's all it said!"
Amid the usual gig guides, he promoted an upcoming "anti-racism do" at Leeds University featuring Cook da Books who Peel was surprised to see were still going.
The show also kicked off a feature that would run for the next year and beyond on Peel's show, The Little Richard cover search.  Click the link if you want to find out in great depth, right now what the fuss was about, but in short - Peel became fixated in trying to track down a cover of a Little Richard song that he had, and which he thought was tremendous but which he couldn't remember the title of, or who had performed it.  As a result, he started working his way through his collection of 45s and started slipping in records he had forgotten about as a result until he found the one he was looking for.  The above mentioned Big Three were beneficiaries of this tonight.

The selections from this show came from an 80 minute file in which the taper, a person after my own heart, had made up their own mixtape of the show.  I only have one selection of my own which couldn't be shared:

The Meathooks - Tribute - or to give it its full, unbroadcastable title, Tribute to Gerogerigegege ->. Shithead..Dum Dum Noise..Pistol Fuck Attack...Meat of Meathooks...Shitface.  Taken from their album, Cambodia Soul Music.  Given the titles, you can probably guess what the music was like.  Listening to the track again last week for the first time in several months, I found myself thinking - perhaps unsurprisingly given the band's name, that this track would have made a perfect accompaniment to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had the late Tobe Hooper chosen to use hard, noiserock, grindcore as the soundtrack, because Tribute is essentially a rock music horror soundtrack taken at breakneck speed with pure noise and shafts of melody chasing the listener into the abbatoir.  And rightfully so given that Peel's show and this blog recently featured the sound of Leatherface.

If the thought of Texan cannibals is too upsetting to finish on then why not enjoy a little sport.  The last half hour of Grandstand going out around 6 hours before Peel's show did on this day.  I don't know what it is but there's something incredibly restful about David Coleman and Brendan Foster's commentary on the Boston cross country race.  As for the football results, Peel would have been cheered by Liverpool beating Tottenham. The Pig may have taken a jaunt up to Cambridge to see Ipswich draw up there, unaware, as I was, that the next five games would take us to the brink of promotion....

Video courtesy of BiroWybz.

Full tracklisting

Monday, 4 September 2017

Oliver!: Spawn - Infiltrator; Silverfish - Vitriola [Peel Session] (21 March 1992)

2 tracks with very little in common, musically but what links them is that I had previously passed on including them in earlier shows.

Infiltrator by Spawn, a dance act which included future Plastikman, Richie Hawtin as composer and producer, should have featured on the 8/3/92 show, but the fact I found myself wishing that I could write about a completely different track saw it fall from favour.  Peel kept the faith, and eventually I caught up with him.  All the things that drew me towards it originally - the drum and bass vibes for example - were supplemented by effects that I had missed originally.  I particularly like the sci-fi lab feel to it as it progresses.  Field of Vision by Nico is still a better tune though.

I must have been on my period or something when I first heard the Silverfish Peel Session broadcast on 12/1/92.  The only track I liked from that session originally was on there because of nostalgia for something else.  Eventually, Jimmy, albeit a non-session version, made its way on to my virtual mixtape.  Now, inspired by Peel's repeat of the session on this show, Vitriola joins them.  I suspect it was artist fatigue that was the issue for me at the time - a man can only take so many of Silverfish's aural punches in the face in a confined space.  Vitriola is perhaps their most violent expression yet arising out of the band's standard hammer on anvil drums and thunderclap guitar sound.  Lesley Rankine uses words as pure violence in this track - one moment a gun, the next a blade and then a burning sun.  Whoever has betrayed her is in real trouble as evidenced by the ongoing refrain, "You don't want to be around here when I get out", all topped off with the Silverfish "Uh!"  It's primal, exciting, thrilling and drips with danger.  A track that cannot be reasoned with or watered down, and as those final cymbal tinkles suggest at the end, it's already sprinkling the earth on your grave.

Videos courtesy of Sound of 88/92 (Spawn) and Vibracobra23 Redux (Silverfish)

Friday, 1 September 2017

Oliver!: Scarface - A Minute to Pray and a Second to Die (21 March 1992)

NOTE - the lyrics in this video are uncensored.

As I write this (28/8/17), the city of Houston in Texas is currently experiencing serious flooding due to Storm Harvey.  It remains to be seen whether this reaches Hurricane Katrina proportions, but the world will be watching to see if the level of response from the authorities is sharper than it was in New Orleans, 12 years ago - and if it isn't then expect Houston's very own Brad Jordan AKA Scarface to tell us all about it.  In his 2015 memoir, Diary of a Madman, he has plenty to say about where America found itself at the end of Obama's tenure and his words take on even greater resonance after 6 months of Donald Trump:
"America is always looking for something to blame for the reason it's destroying itself.  First it was jazz that was destroying America, then it was rock and roll, then it was disco, then it was rap.  But you know, I think America is destroying America.  Our country is built is built on a foundation of rules and laws and belief systems that date back to the 1700s and 1800s, back to the time of slavery and it's fucking us up.  It's breeding hate.  It's deeper than a record.  Hate goes deeper than that." (Page 37, iBooks - Diary of a Madman: The Geto Boys, Life, Death and the Roots of Southern Rap by Brad Jordan with Benjamin Meadows-Ingram; Dey St through Harper Collins, 2015)

In March 1992, Peel visited an exhibition of photography by rapper and TV presenter, Normski.  He didn't say whether he bought any of Normski's work, but he certainly picked up this 12" release taken from the Geto Boys alumnus's official solo debut, Mr. Scarface is Back.  Peel put the track on heavy rotation over March/April 1992 and deservedly so.  Using samples from Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues and the greeting at the top of What's Going On, this is an outstanding take on the realities of gang violence which weaves its way through three different viewpoints - the hustler who ends up dead leaving behind a daughter who he will never see grow up; the thankless lot of the women who love the dealers and criminals, thinking that they'll get to enjoy the fruits of their money, only to find themselves targets of abuse for spurious, paranoid reasons and ultimately left holding the baby; and lastly there's the foot soldier who recovers from a shooting, but instead of using his good fortune to take a righteous path pursues vengeance and takes it in shocking directions before finally being taken down for good.

For Scarface this track would crystalise two of his obsessions - the hold of the streets and death.  He witnessed it several times growing up, having been working in a convenience store as a child when a
cashier was murdered in a bungled robbery; seeing a neighbour come out of her house and die on the street after being shot inside the house by her husband and losing a number of friends and associates both to heat of the moment rows that escalated or cold-blooded executions.
"When I write about death on my records, it's almost never from a rapper's standpoint.  I write about what I know, what I experienced, what I thought, or what I saw.  But when you've had the opportunity  to see life come into this world, and you've seen it taken away, you start to look at life in a different way.  I know I did.  Just watching somebody who's getting ready to die who doesn't want to die fight for his life even though he knows there's nothing either one of you can do and all you can do is watch him go...To look them in the eyes and see life there before it's gone and then to watch it take off and to see those eyes turn into a blank stare....  I can't describe it.  It's like watching a birth.  That instant of life and death and creation and destruction -...I've seen a lot of people go out.  And it's a cold feeling.  It will give you a whole new respect for life." (Page 69, iBooks - Diary of a Madman).

The fragility of the human condition that Scarface talks about here underpins this track beautifully just as it does in all of Scarface's best work.  Although he himself talks about confrontations in his own life, he says that he's always ready to stand down if the other person will, but if they won't then he's ready to die.  A Minute to Pray and A Second to Die looks at the consequences of those who are only prepared to die.  It pities rather than glorifies, but as Scarface says, he and his contemporaries never sought to glorify violence, they only related what they had seen.  And in doing so here, he created great art.

Video courtesy of toxicofera.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Oliver!: Boss Hog - Fire of Love; Tar - Deep Throw; Helmet - Oven; Vertigo - Dynamite Cigar (21 March 1992)

Just as Peel did, I present these 4 selections from the Sub-Pop compilation of Amphetamine Reptile acts, Smells Like Smoked Sausages  in a batch for your delectation.  Given that Nirvana parodying title, it's tempting to see this as a grunge collection only, but the choices themselves and the rest of the album too, are a bit more interesting than that.  Boss Hog give a blues makeover to Jody Reynolds's moodily twangtastic 1958 track Fire of Love, with its drawled female vocal and stabs of harmonica.  It's only in the turbo-charged coda, when that harmonica is turned into an instrument as rocking as any guitar that its place on this album makes any surface sense.  I suspect it may have been Peel's favourite track on the album, given that he re-played it at the start of his 4/4/92 show.  I can imagine him and Andy Kershaw approving of those modern 
whippersnappers paying homage to Jody Reynolds.

The last time Tar were on this blog was with the thundering, if slightly ponderous On a Transfer.  By contrast, Deep Throw is a more exciting piece of music, but it escapes being lumped in as grunge through what appears to be a mix between hard rock and shoegaze, especially given the "Do you wake up dreaming?" refrain that keeps cutting through and lodging in the listener's ear.

Helmet offer a reminder of the source of what American guitar music was being celebrated for in 1992-93 with their cover of Melvins' track, Oven.  Their take on domestic passive aggressiveness is very faithful to the original, but 
loses none of its unsettling sense of estrangement.

Vertigo's Dynamite Cigar has been bugging me because it reminds me of another record which I can't place. Curiously, I keep thinking it's a Half Man Half Biscuit tune.  Certainly they share the Wirral outfit's gift for quickfire verbiage as this tune is closer to rap'n'rock than grunge, though the vocals are disappointingly low in the mix.
Taken as a whole, none of these tracks or any of the others on Smells Like Smoked Sausages with the possible exception of Our Demise by Surgery looked like cracking the top of the Billboard charts, but as a snapshot of US guitar rock and insight into some of the bands' influences, it's an essential record.  Mind you, I recommend skipping the misanthropic album closer by God Bullies.

This has been a hard blogpost to write, because it's the first 
one I have done since the sudden, unexpected death of my beloved cat, Saoirse, on August 19.  In the 3 years I've been doing this blog, she mastered the art of sleeping through whatever unholy racket I would be listening to near her, in the name of research.  These tracks are dedicated to her.

Videos courtesy of Irresponsableful (Boss Hog & Vertigo), Jon Boucher (Tar) and Stoopid (Helmet).

"You're not listening to Claws by Milk again are you?"

Friday, 18 August 2017

Oliver: Yami Bolo - Iniquity Workers (21 March 1992)

"Pomp and ceremony.  Are we feeling the pomp and ceremony, ladies and gentlemen?  Are we feeling the pomp? (YES) Are we feeling the ceremony? (YES).  Do you have any idea what the difference is? (NO) Neither do I..." Michael McIntyre at the 2006 Royal Variety Performance.

McIntyre riffed in that routine about how certain words go together without any thought given to what they definitely are.  Hoist with his own petard is another one, though as Angus Deayton once remarked on Have I Got News For You, it all depends on what a petard is.  And so we come to those who can be found in the fabled dens of iniquity - another combination of words which features one that is never seen without the other, or at least not until the mighty Yami Bolo comes along with the brilliant Iniquity Workers.

Having helped me trace an earworm from my youth on his last appearance on this blog, Bolo comes up with something truly special here, an attack on low level criminality especially where it works to stifle those who are trying to get out of poverty by honest means.  Drug dealers seem to be the specific target here because of the spells they weave on the young and vulnerable, and the death toll they contribute to.  Although cast as a lament and beautifully performed, there's a genuine anger that cuts through suggesting that Yami's God is a vengeful God and when Judgement Day comes there will be hell to pay for those offering a taste of heaven through a crack pipe.

Video courtesy of Dolemite

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Oliver!: Sugar Shack - You're a Freak (21 March 1992)

Played by Peel on pressed purple vinyl, I'm dedicating this track by Houston band, Sugar Shack, to the woman I saw on the Tube in London on June 23 this year.  It was not a Brief Encounter moment - illicit romance was the last thing on my mind considering I was coughing my lungs out with some kind of chest infection, a mere 24 hours before my wife and I were due to leave for Portugal on a long-delayed honeymoon.  I would have preferred to be at home, packing, but had had to come into London for a job interview.  Considering my interviewers were coming down from Leicestershire and Yorkshire, I felt I couldn't really ask for a reschedule of the interview - not least because they had brought it forward for me before I went away.  The interview went OK, despite being conducted in the bar of a Travel Inn.  I was there for nearly 2 hours though, so was glad to start my journey home.  While taking the Tube back to Victoria, I was sat opposite a woman in her late teens/early 20s who stood out a mile amongst everyone.  On a pleasant summer's day, she was rocking some kind of summer Goth look, with boots that looked like they had come from Milla Jovovich's wardrobe from Resident Evil.  Her hair was dyed black, her lips were painted black, her eyes were almost submerged in black eye shadow, but what made her stand out were the tattoos.  She didn't have the kind of flowing body tapestry of interconnected squiggles, stars and quotes, much beloved of footballers - Luke Chambers, the captain of my team, Ipswich Town has progressed his own transmogrification from arms to upper thighs over the summer, though there are worse offenders.  Instead, this lady had tattoos dumped at random parts of her body, or at least where I could see them.  On her arm, on her knee, on her chest - there was no consistency or pattern to it.  Just random quotes, book titles and band names dotted about here and there with pieces of artwork cropping up in places where text would have been too cramped to fit in.  Written across her face, though not in ink form, was a great sense of vulnerability.  Despite the Goth/Punk look, she didn't look unapproachable, but rather more that if you approached her, she might crack and break apart in front of you.  If the tats and boots were intended as an armour defence, she hadn't quite grown into it yet.   I did what I always do when I see people celebrating their individuality/trying too hard (delete as applicable) and mentally speculated over what had led her into this extremity of look - rebellion against a repressive home life? A reaction to being bullied at school?  Falling under another's influence and trying to copy it?  - the possibilities were endless.  What was apparent though was that this was her.  Some old form of this woman had been jettisoned somewhere along the line and this was how she was going to represent herself for the foreseeable future.  And why not?  I may not have been able to stop looking towards her and constructing life stories in my imagination,  but to her, she wouldn't be seen any other way on that Tube train.  Her life so far has built to that look and if it's the right direction for her, then that is all that matters.

All of which cod-sociology leads me to wish that You're a Freak had been sound tracking the journey, not least because it might have brought a smile to her glum features.  Built around a classic sludge-
rock riff incorporating the guitar equivalent of that comedy trumpet "wah-wah-wah-wah" effect on the title line, this is a song which is by turns slightly awed of those with the black lipstick on and the chalk white faces, while mocking those looking on at them.  The chorus is a neat reversal of what the title implies - they don't know they're freaks not due to a lack of self-knowledge, but rather more appropriately because they don't give a damn. With its lines about freaks holding lattes* as they move obliviously through the streets, Sugar Shack are ahead of the curve when it comes to predicting hipsterdom but the sting in the tail comes through a false ending in which singer, Mark Lochridge, speaks the ultimate universal truth.

* Turns out I misheard Lochridge sing "light of day" as "latte" which takes away a little bit of the song's satirical bite, I feel.

Video courtesy of FEBear1

PS - I didn't get the job. Serve me right for imagining alternative life histories...

Friday, 4 August 2017

Oliver!: Dyke and the Blazers - Shotgun Slim (21 March 1992)

Whenever Peel cued up a record as being "From the Kent compilation...", my interest would be piqued.  It usually meant there was a good chance of a fascinating slice of pure funk or soul following on.  For years I associated Kent Records with the best segue I ever heard on a Peel show.  On 27 June 2002, he followed Sandbar by Derrero with Woman to Woman by Shirley Brown, an almost perfect tonal matchup from the conclusion of the former to the beginning of the latter.  Shirley Brown's track was taken from a Kent compilation called If Loving You is Wrong, an album packed with intriguing titles like If We Get Caught, I Don't Know You (sung by a man naturally).  10 years before this, Peel was playing tracks from a reissue of an early Kent compilation called So Sharp which showcased the work of "Dyke" Arlester Christian and his band The Blazers.
In the late 60s, Dyke & The Blazers would have been the soul band of choice for anyone who feared that James Brown was becoming too indulgent or that Sly and the Family Stone was soul music for hippies.  In the age of Aquarius, they provided a home for displaced Mods and a soundtrack for the Northern soul movement.  Playing them in 1992 leaves me hoping that Peel would have inspired any of the soul bands who formed after watching The Commitments.  Not such a leap of imagination when you consider that Dyke and the Blazers' best known song was covered by Wilson Pickett, who (SPOILER) may very well have sung it with The Commitments if they hadn't broken up before he arrived at their last gig.

Video courtesy of FunkNationZ.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Oliver!: Sebadoh - Kath (21 March 1992)

I wouldn't want you to think I was obsessing on names of people I've known through drama; it's just the way that selections have worked out.  Unlike the Ruths, I was never romantically involved with the Kath I knew on the Cornish drama circuit, but she did give me a cracking part in The Diary of Anne Frank which this blog is still, chronologically, 2 years away from.  I had a huge amount of respect for her because she was fearless as an actress, highly imaginative as a director and endearingly devoid of any confidence in herself in either discipline.  She wore her fear heavily and visibly even when she had pulled off something brilliant onstage or had put together a production full of innovative touches - especially in pantomime.  Goldilocks and the Three Bears set in a circus or Aladdin in which the set was a scaffold tower - cue much grumbling from people within drama committees about doing a traditional panto the following year.  But invariably the shows would scoop  awards at the county pantomime awards evening - sponsored by Calor Gas in my day, and now revived - at least in one part of Cornwall, meaning that they would be remembered fondly, rather than as arty folly.  She has now started writing and directing her own work as well, and one of my greatest regrets about not acting in Cornwall anymore is missing out on the potential chance to have played in some of her writing - or at the very least wonder why I hadn't been approached to.  I write this on a day when I have worked in a job that leaves me uninspired, directionless and pissed off.  I really need to start doing more of what Kath is doing.

While I wouldn't rush to play Goodbye Ruth to either of the Ruths given the rather downbeat nature of the song, I'd happily play Sebadoh's Kath to Kath.  Simultaneously haunting and calming, with its beguiling mix of spine-tingling acoustics, metronomic percussion and a lyric poised somewhere between romantic cherry popping ("I'm so glad the wait is through/I'm so glad I waited for you") and pagan sacrifice (allusions to chicken heads and killing the jealous) this is a superior piece of U.S. acoustic gothic complete with live cicadas providing an alfresco choral feel to the recording.

Video courtesy of jakmgrunge.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Oliver!: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Friday 20 March 1992)

One book on my To Read list is Ken Garner's 2007 book The Peel Sessions which chronicles all the sessions recorded and broadcast by Peel during his time on Radio 1.  15 years earlier though, Peel Sessions had been one part of a more comprehensive work of Garner's called In Session Tonight which attempted to present a full history of ALL sessions recorded for Radio 1, regardless of host and/or size of act.  During early 1992, Garner was observing sessions and writing about contemporaraneous Radio 1 for the opening chapter of his book.  He wrote to Peel about the Spiritualized session broadcast on 14/3/92, of which precisely no tracks turned up on this blog, because none of them were on the recording I made my selections from.  Garner had sat in on the session at Maida Vale, recorded on January 7, 1992 and one which Peel had particularly enjoyed because Jason Pierce and co. had taken his words to heart about using sessions to push beyond their comfort zone by bringing in outside musicians to bulk up their sound.  According to Garner, Kenneth Branagh had been recording a radio adaptation of Hamlet for broadcast on Radio 3, in the next door studio.  The first anyone knew of this was when Roddy Lorimer, one of the trumpet players that Spiritualized had drafted in for the session announced to the assembled company that he had just bumped into Michael Hordern in the Gents toilet.  Peel replied that his only lavatorial encounter with a famous person had been at Wembley Stadium a few years previous, when he had met Matt Busby.

Since the previous week, Peel had made the finals of a stock car racing event, in which he had beaten out Andy Kershaw.

The selections from this programme came from a 90 minute file.  The show included a track called Her Too by Greenhouse which takes the prize for track I've hated most on any Peel show, so far.  It's basic tune is good, but it becomes unlistenable due to their incorporating the sound of metal bars being struck.  Even Werewolf, Semen and Blood by Finnish group, Beherit was more enjoyable to listen to.

Tracks I would have liked to include but couldn't included:

Fun-Da-Mental - Janam (The Message) - Peel sounded like Sir Nicholas Soames as he attempted to enunciate Fun-Da-Mental's name.  The track though was fantastic: a compelling mix of Eastern drone, propulsive bassline and political agit-prop.  Essential listening - if you can find it.

The Megaton Men - So What - A venomous break up song, from Peel-described "Pride of Penarth" replete with gay subtext given that they sing about there being "another guy" at the root of their reason to break off the relationship, unless they're reading back a Dear John letter.  A good rocker, either way.

Manifesto - Pattern 26 - Peel heard traces of former Dandelion Records act, Medicine Head in this tune, but I thought it more closely evoked T.Rex myself.  Not quite hitting the heights of Walking Backwards but a strong ending would have recommended it for inclusion.

Tracks that fell from favour included:

The Hair and Skin Trading Company - Ground Zero - I agonised over this.  At times I loved it, especially when the ear-heart sound from the radio recording was in full effect, making the tune sound massive and exciting.  But too often, I felt detached from it - maybe because it's in that halfway house between major label sound and no budget one.  It's not a track that's going to die wondering, it has its eye on Wembley Stadium, and would probably sound amazing in that context.  However, it never held my attention when I was doing something else, so it was left out.  I have no idea whether this was my fault, or theirs.

PJ Harvey - O Stella - one of her key tracks from the start of her career, but on listening to it more closely, it just seems like a retread of the far superior Sheela-Na-Gig.

Full tracklisting

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Oliver: Hypnolovewheel - Candyman (20 March 1992)

This track from the Long Island band's Angel Food album allows them to showcase, as Peel noted, a remarkable similarity to The Fall, despite "...the remarkable preponderance of beards and facial hair in the band".  There's the opening burst of radio static cum audio sludge out of which Mark E.Smith would usually emerge barking out "Pander! Panda! Panzer!" or suchlike.  But here, we get a Fallesque scratchy guitar riff, which in no time at all is beefed up by its bigger, brawnier bass brother, before we get a lyric delivered somewhere to the right of Aubrey Woods and Christina Aguilera.  I can also hear a touch of Big Black in here as well.

It's difficult to make out too clearly what the content of the track is, but there's a vague update of The Beatles' Savoy Truffle with chocolate, flavours and wrapping being used as metaphors for human behaviours and an "it's what's inside that counts" message.
All in all, it's a borderline inclusion that wins through on the strength of that riff and the quality of the  Mark E.Smith pastiche.  It also appears to be an anomaly with the Angel Food album itself, which mostly seems to be made up of glistening guitar-pop and high harmonies including one track whose opening sounds like the the clear inspiration to Babies by Pulp.  I like the fact that in the middle of all that perfectly serviceable pop, there's this gnarly, snarly, difficult track like Candyman.  It made me wonder why any pop bands who complained about feeling constrained by their established image, didn't just do something like this extremis.  "There's three singles for the radio; the rest of the album's going to be lo-fi racket".  Blur managed it in 1997; any other suggestions are welcome.

Video courtesy of Oliv DeKaDe

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Oliver!: Some Paradise - Goodbye Ruth (20 March 1992)

Speaking as one of the unpublished, untalented ones, songwriters often have to remember a key rule when it comes to writing songs which mention women by name.  The rule is "One syllable name difficult; multi syllable name easier".
Go on.  Think of a song with a woman's name in it.  Bet you automatically defaulted to a song with a 2 to 4 syllable name, didn't you?  I don't blame you, I've already had LaylaRuby and Victoria (original version - sorry, Fall fans) going through my mind while writing this paragraph.  Incidentally, if anyone remembers this blog's last meditation on names in song titles, my wife now has another one to add to her own list courtesy of a collective of musicians called The National Gallery and a track from their sole 1968 album inspired by the work of artist, Paul Klee.

I wrote song lyrics to myself about all the women I went out with, and the one I eventually married.  Two of my muses were called Ruth, but by the time I wrote about the second one , I avoided the issue that dogged the song about the first one, and didn't try to crowbar her name into the lyrics.  I can't remember anything about the eponymous Ruth song that I wrote circa 1995, though I don't think I gave it a Flash  (Ahhh...) style chorus, and I'm hoping that I was savvy enough to avoid rhyming her name with "truth" or "strewth".  There's no guarantee of this good judgement - I once wrote a song and hit upon the idea of ending the verses with "Good (something)".  This was fine for the first two verses as the rhymes I needed led me to write "Good night" and "Good time" respectively.  So far so good, but I ran into trouble when my third "Good..." had to rhyme with the word, "look".  I racked my brain for a while before deciding that as I was writing about a woman, then "Good cook" would do fine.  I still thought it would when I showed the lyrics to my songwriting partner a week or so later.  But his snort of "Good cook?!" when he read through it consigned it to the dustbin.  I don't think it was much of a loss to music really - the last verse ended with "Good moon" (to rhyme with "soon" naturally).  That's the thing about songwriting - it never pays to overthink it.

The issue with one syllable names in song is that they either come out too sharp - as though the singer is spitting out the name - or they dribble out like someone dropping a blacmange onto a mattress.  Even the peerless Michael Jackson had delivery problems when singing about a pet rat - "Bin" anyone?  You have to put the name together with another word and ideally have it at the end of the line.  To their immense credit, Todmorden's Some Paradise - no stranger to Peel's show under their old name, Victory Mansions - do exactly this and when allied to a full bore performance full of driving guitar and strong vocals, serve up a little classic.
I have good relationships with both of the Ruths - the subject of the eponymous song came to my wedding and was in Extraordinary - but while I'm tickled to discover a song with their name in it which was played by John Peel, I'd be reluctant to bring this to their attention, regardless of how much I like it.  The main reason is, as you can probably guess from the title, this isn't a particularly
happy song from Ruth's point of view.  The song appears to be a lamentation about how Ruth used her youth (I didn't use that rhyme in 1995 either) and beauty to secure a lover which made her financially secure only to have her bright future torn up when her lover found someone else who had the youth and beauty that she had lost herself.  It plots the course of the trophy wife's journey from pearl of the oyster to burnt out cigarette in the gutter pretty unsparingly but with the dramatic eye of a Terence Rattigan play.  The sympathetic but unsentimental tone reaches its natural conclusion in the chorus, where it feels as though the farewell is not just to the memory of what Ruth lost, but possibly to Ruth herself.  Left with nothing but the scars in her mind after growing, blooming, wilting and being tossed aside, the piece as a whole has the feel of a damning funeral address.  It mines a similar vein of intensity to that of Red Hour albeit with a slightly poppier edge.  Something was brewing in the North of England circa 1991/92 - dark folk/pop tales which never got a chance to grow as grunge swept in over the next  2 years, but someone should gather these examples together and put them out in a compilation soon.

The video is taken from the 29/2/92 show, with Peel's link at the end.  My customary thanks to the wonderful Webbie (@keepingitpeel) for answering my specific request to upload this track.  They're a prince!

To finish on the multi-syllable name in song, I couldn't not include this bearing in mind how many times I saw it in rehearsal during the period this blog has covered so far.  Oliver.  3 syllables long, so it could be easily given not just the title, but whole lines of nothing but the name.

Videos courtesy of Webbie (Some Paradise) and maiza (Oliver!)

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Oliver!: Mav Cacharel - Boyoka Ba N'Deko (20 March 1992)

According to Peel, the former Loketo singer's first solo album was called Mav Cacharel (not strictly true).  This track came from his second album, also called Mav Cacharel, which suggests that he took his titling policy from The House of Love.

Peel also revealed some of the musicians on the record, including guitarist Bongo Wende, which got me thinking about Bongo Eddie from Kid Creole and the Coconuts.  Sometimes, I prefer the former, sometimes I prefer the latter - but which one is better?  There's only one way to find out...  (God, I hate myself for that.  I much preferred his Channel 4 show).

Video courtesy of lek kerdammer.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Oliver!: The Family Cat - Furthest From The Sun/Prog One [Peel Session] (20 March 1992)

By the time I got into "contemporary" music, around late 1994/early 1995, The Family Cat were winding  down their operations.  This barely made a dent on me at the time beyond a flippant "see ya" style dismissal in one of the music papers.  Had I known that three of the members came from Cornwall, I might have been pained by it more.  It certainly explains the thinking behind calling their first album, Tell 'Em We're Surfin'.  How nice that this Peel Session allows me to see beyond the slightly quirky name and appreciate a fine band.
The recording that I heard of the 20/3/92 show only had 2 session tracks on it.  The video is of the full session, and had it been on the recording that I heard, I would have included muscular session opener, Too Many Late Nights in the title.

Second track Furthest From The Sun deserves praise anyway as it prompted Peel to follow it with I Can Take You To The Sun by The Misunderstood for which I was profoundly grateful.  My wife spotted that the riff which opens the tune and which it kept coming back to was lifted from The Man Who Sold The World by David Bowie.  It sets up a loving tribute to a female recluse, living out of sight on a hill in the countryside, but who clearly inspires great devotion in Paul Frederick's vocals, for her lust for life and general spiritual purity.  The line "Sleep gently while you fall" implies that the subject of the song has died.  Whoever it was had a profound effect on the band, as the song became the title track of their upcoming album.
This loving tribute is then followed by the best performance of the session and a track that's harder to get a handle on, but fabulously compelling.  Prog One sounds like it should be setting up a piece of space rock noodling, but instead it uses the narrative of horse racing to chronicle a (forced?) break up of a relationship.  References to riderless/futureless horses making a break for freedom, while those left behind maintain the house as a shrine and "bad men" throw things in the backs of vans help to give this track all the intensity of a Dick Francis thriller.  Maybe he was popular on their tour bus?

The session concludes with River of Diamonds, which can't compete with the riches that come before it.  Perhaps it needed Polly Jean Harvey, who sings on the album version.  My picks start at 3:05.

Video courtesy of vibracobra23.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Oliver!: The Misunderstood - I Can Take You To The Sun (20 March 1992)

Imagine a history where The Undertones never wrote Teenage Kicks.  In that instance, it's probable that on announcing Peel's death in October 2004, Radio 1 would have given over four minutes of the daytime schedule to a much admired, cult record from 1966.  A record which Peel, at least until he heard the opening drum beat of Teenage Kicks in 1978, had announced on air more than once as "The best pop (sic) record that has ever been recorded". He was talking about I Can Take You To The Sun by The Misunderstood and, as so often when Peel used hyperbole, a strong element of truth backed up his opinion.

Peel first encountered The Misunderstood when he saw them play at Pandora's Box in Hollywood, early in 1966.  It was a gig that he would, to the end of his days, cite as one of the 10 best gigs he ever saw.  He was so beguiled by them that he offered his services to them as a manager, arranging the opportunity for them to record some demos and then sending them to London where they had to explain to Peel's mother that he had said it would be OK for them to stay with her. By the time Peel returned to the UK himself in early 1967, The Misunderstood had split due to a plethora of issues including drugs, visa problems and being drafted into the U.S. Army.  But their short time together had yielded a handful of influential recordings of which I Can Take You To The Sun was the jewel in the crown, and one which Peel would periodically return to throughout his broadcasting career.

I Can Take You To The Sun is an astonishing piece of music.  It's use of textured fuzztone guitar owes a lot to The Yardbirds, but its opening minute alone throws out challenges to their contemporaries.  I can imagine the likes of Love and The Doors hearing the powerful, panoramic, rocky opening and thinking to themselves, "Shit, we need to raise our games".  The record also achieves a level of cosmic, sonic liftoff akin to what Pink Floyd were achieving in London clubs throughout 1966 before they got into the studio as well.

The track progresses in three movements over the course of about three and a half minutes: the garage rock opening which encapsulates the idea of the psychedelic troubadour before it became a cliche (greeting the sunrise with nothing but a guitar).  If the track can be read as a description of an LSD trip, then the opening section can be read as a dare to dream, a way of greeting the new morning which youth culture felt was approaching through 1966.  The second, instrumental, section with guitars snarling and Glenn Ross Campbell's steel guitar providing the rocket fuel, covers the journey to the sun.  The moment when perceptions expand but the harshness of the sound means that we can't be sure how smooth the journey is.  If nothing else, it puts to bed The Beatles' complaint that three guitars and a drum kit wouldn't be able to produce something like Tomorrow Never Knows on a 1966 stage.  And finally we come to the third and most audacious movement, as the electrics fade out and the sun is reached with an acoustic guitar duel.  All is peace and the sun is being used to warm and not to burn.  However, while the tone of this part of the song is gentle and ethereal, it acknowledges more earthbound truths than might seem to be apparent.  The line, "You've existed in a lie that will someday show/I can take you to the sun...but you don't want to go." is tremendously important in rooting the track's significance because it recognises that the coming psychedelic revolution would not, despite its best intentions, be a collective redemption.  People would be scared by the drugs, by the implied threat to orderly society, by the generation gaps, by The System, by the weirdness, by any number of reasons from engaging with it fully.  Some would make it to the sun, others would float off into space and many more - too many the song implies - would stay earthbound thanks to fear, suspicion and incuriosity.  The last section of the track can be seen as a lament for a battle, which had not yet been fought, but which The Misunderstood forecast would ultimately be lost due to overwhelming opposition.

The best pop record ever recorded?  Impossible to say, but with its mixture of vision, bliss, excitement and regret, it may very well deserve to be called the best psychedelic record ever made.  Peel spoke about how The Misunderstood's live shows of the time could bring people together in ways he had never seen - no one ordering drinks, Go-Go dancers in their cages downing tools, the whole venue pressed up to the stage simply listening to the music.  I Can Take You To The Sun captures all of that in the time it would have taken The Grateful Dead to plug in their instruments and tune up.

Video courtesy of hawkmoon03111951.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Oliver!: 2 Too Many - Where's the Party? (20 March 1992)

This should have been an enormous mainstream hit.  It has bags of fun, charm and wit.  Was built around an infectious sample of The Isley Brothers' version of Stephen Stills's composition, Love The One You're With.  It also had the backing of Will Smith behind it, who had befriended this young West Philadelphia trio and signed them to his production company, before pairing them up with the producers of Summertime.  The love of socialising and rapping; of sharing your gift in a convivial environment with friends comes off this track in waves.  It shares Smith's disdain for those who want to use rap parties as an excuse to get violent or those who put machismo above looking good, feeling fine and having a good time.  There is some neat social observation though about the difficulties of hailing a cab when you're black.  But its primary concern, as it says itself, is making toes tap, which it does effortlessly.  Though not enough for a hit single surprisingly.  They also parted ways with Smith at the end of the year, though he took the "Work that body, work that body" line and piloted it to Number 1 a year later.

Peel was taken by the reference to Skip to my Lou from Meet Me in St. Louis, a musical and song which I starred in with a Falmouth youth theatre group in 1995.  He had tried in vain to find a good version to segue into after Where's the Party?

Basically, The Isley Brothers WERE hip-hop sampling at one point

Videos courtesy of mintunderground (2 Too Many) and koollatter (Isley Brothers).

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Oliver!: Th' Faith Healers - SOS [Peel Session] (20 March 1992)

This show featured a repeat of a Faith Healers session which had originally been broadcast on 11/1/92.  I only caught two of the tracks on this show: the rama-lama repetition of Hippy Hole and this rather enjoyable cover of ABBA's SOS, which gives the 1975 original a shoegaze makeover with feedback to spare.  It comes through as one of the more sincere efforts at "underground" covers of pop - see also things like the If I Were a Carpenter tribute album from 1994, which Peel despite his dislike for The Carpenters played tracks from.  Or you could compare it to Chumbawamba's (in)famous Peel Session comprised solely of covers of cheesy party songs in late 1993.

Peel was tickled by Th' Faith Healers choice of cover saying how much he enjoyed it when bands used the session as an opportunity to record something other than the latest single and three tracks from the forthcoming album.  I might have a higher opinion of Th' Faith Healers if they had chosen to go full Erasure in this session.  Considering that this session predates ABBA-esque by a couple of months, you could, at a push claim that Th' Faith Healers made the early running in a year which would see Erasure take an EP of ABBA covers to Number 1 in the charts and end with the release of Gold: Greatest Hits, one of the biggest selling compilation albums of all time.  It's clear, 1992 wasn't about Ebeneezer Goode, it was about Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid.

Inspired by Th' Faith Healers?

Videos courtesy of Vibracobra23Redux and ErasureVEVO.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Oliver!: John Peel's Music - British Forces Broadcasting Service [BFBS] (Sunday 15 March 1992)

For nearly 30 years, John Peel, lest we forget one of the last generations of British people to do National Service, broadcast a show on British Forces Broadcasting Service, hereafter to be referred to as BFBS.  He followed a long lineage of broadcasters whose shows were transmitted to servicemen: Alan Freeman, Kenny Everett and Tommy Vance were among his contemporaries on the network, which began broadcasting in 1943 and remains in operation today, with a wide number of services throughout the world.

By 1992, Peel had had a weekly show going out on BFBS for 20 years, primarily being transmitted in the German part of the network.  In keeping with his shows for other European stations, the shows featured no sessions, but plenty of records and stories.  In keeping with, what Peel always referred to as "my domestic programmes", there was also plenty of worry in the background over Peel's future on the station.  In this show, he thanked the German listeners for getting the programme back on to its  old timeslot after it had been moved, leading some listeners to write to him asking whether the show had been discontinued.

His cold from his holiday at Center Parcs continued to bother him, but nevertheless he had enjoyed observing the comical lengths people had gone to in order to protect their hairstyles on water slides.  One track which didn't make my cut was Tumbleswan by Jacob's Mouse.  According to the music papers, the band had been arrested for trying to steal the No Fish Shop Parking sign.

The selections from this show came from the full 2 hour programme.  I was unable to find...

Cords - Such a Fool - and I can't tell you anything about the track as the recording was taken down.  I can remember them requesting Peel play a track which I initially included but later dropped...

Rapeman - Inki's Butt Crack - yes, it's allround funster Steve Albini and friends with a musical joke based on Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture from Fingal's Cave and in keeping with most musical jokes, it's a tedious bore.  Peel anecdotalised about his usual beef with Rapeman in that he loved their music, but hated their name so much that he had once declined the opportunity to offer them a session as he couldn't face saying, "Here's another track from Rapeman" four times in a night.

For Winston the Ferryman.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Oliver!: Dashing Marbles - MTV Girl (15 March 1992)

This wonderful piece of punk-pop, apparently recorded "in a frigging hole in the ground, Chicago" according to its liner notes was about 3 years old when Peel played it on this show.  I adore it for a number of reasons: the compellingly direct vocal performance from Jeanette Alfred and the virtuoso playing of Russ Forster, particularly that funky-punky duologue between guitar and bass going into the last 30 seconds of the track.  In our Instagram-anyone-can-be-famous-if-they-know-how-to-court-the-right-social-media-crowd world, I felt huge nostalgia for songs that focus their ire on starfuckers who would do anything to get through that gilded gate and into that gilded world.  The rarefied, super cool world that MTV once beamed into homes and lives.  Those impossibly glamorous and hip young things who didn't feel awkward walking around holding a stick microphone the size of a railway sleeper through the late 80s and early 90s while they talked to movers and shakers across what was either an ongoing snapshot of youth culture or a symbol of the McDonaldsisation of it, despite the best efforts of Beavis and Butthead.  Either way, it felt like something that mattered back then.  Now, the only access I have to music TV channels is when I go to my local barbers or the odd pub, and none of them are tuned to MTV, instead choosing The Box and other low calibre variations.  But what does it matter?  As Noel Gallagher remarked during his hilarious video commentary of Oasis' Whatever, "Who fucking watches videos (on TV) these days?"  I mean we could all do it through YouTube now, couldn't we?  Yes, but the point is, it was harder in those days.  You did have to have something about you to get onto MTV.  It seemed as though you had made it, regardless of whether you were a performer in a band, a solo artist or just one of the entourage.  How far would you go to get on it?

Jeanette Alfred was convinced that the price some people were willing to pay was too high.  She told me recently:
"MTV Girl came about when MTV was so popular and all the girls on these (channels) looked the same to me. I wrote a lot of fuck you type of songs though I was not a fuck you type of person. That is why, when Bikini Kill wanted me to sing on an album with them, I thought that singing was really not what I saw in my future.  I asked Michael (Cornelius, her husband at the time) to help me make it a song and we kind of put that song together. Everything has to do with the time back then like the line, "Dancing with Bruce" that would be Bruce Springsteen and "raped by Dee" would be Dee Sneider of Twisted Sister. Some videos must have alluded to that."

Jeanette went through quite a journey to get to recording MTV Girl after arriving in the US from her native Germany:
"I moved to the US (Arizona) in January of 1981 and was bored out of my mind. I wanted to return back to Germany but didn't have money. After a couple of years, I meet some punk-rockers and ended up marrying the bass player (Michael Cornelius AKA Michael Cx)  from JFA (Jody Foster's Army). Our house was the band house.  Every band and skaters who came to Phoenix to play, stayed at our place. I didn't know any of those people but remember the band names (Feeders, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Black Flag, Tony Alva, etc). There is a group on FB that still keeps up with the scene from back then. 
I was surrounded by music and Michael, my then husband, had a zine.  I wanted to do all those things too. I put out a zine in half English and German and helped design JFA's album cover. When I didn't get credit for it, I was kind of mad and said, "Forget you all, I can do my own music." So I started writing."

After her marriage to Cornelius broke up, Jeanette moved to Chicago and continued her musical adventures under the eye of a big favourite of John Peel's:
"I started recording with Russ Forster of Sponge. Our producer was Steve Albini. Steve is kind of a big shot in the Punk music business here in Chicago. I spoke to Russ last year to get all the tracks off of the remaining spools but we never made a definite plan. I will talk to him some more about it."

Jeanette currently manages a world music outfit called Kreyol Roots led by her husband. I'd love to hear a world music take on MTV Girl, a track which retains its relevance, even though its original targets are now more simultaneously widespread and local than ever.

Video courtesy of John Peel. 

My deepest thanks to Jeanette Alfred.

Photo credit - Renata Golden

Kreyol Roots website