Alternative Version, Cover Versions, demo, Double Nugget, Dylanish, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, Most downloaded tracks, Sampled, Six Of The Best

We Are 9

Somehow, some way, Plain Or Pan has turned 9. Or, to be more accurate, is just about to turn 9. But at this time of year, when you can never be entirely sure if it’s Sunday morning or Thursday night and inspiration goes out the window along with routine and work ethic, it’s tradition that I fill the gap between Christmas and Hogmany with a potted ‘Best Of‘ the year compilation, so I’ve always made this period in time the unofficial birthday for the blog.

i am nine

Not that anyone but myself should care really; blogs come and go with alarming regularity and I’ve steadfastly refused to move with the times (no new acts here, no cutting edge hep cats who’ll be tomorrow’s chip paper, just tried ‘n tested old stuff that you may or may not have heard before – Outdated Music For Outdated People, as the tagline goes.) But it’s something of a personal achievement that I continue to fire my wee articles of trivia and metaphorical mirth out into the ether, and even more remarkable that people from all corners of the globe take the time out to visit the blog and read them. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, one and all.

Since starting Plain Or Pan in January 2007, the articles have become less frequent but more wordy – I may have fired out a million alliterative paragraphs in the first year, whereas nowadays I have less time to write stuff and when I do, it takes me three times as long to write it. To use an analogy, I used to be The Ramones, (1! 2! 3! 4! Go!) but I’ve gradually turned into Radiohead; (Hmmm, ehmm, scratch my arse…) Without intending it, there are longer gaps between ‘albums’ and I’ve become more serious about my ‘art’. Maybe it’s time to get back to writing the short, sharp stuff again. Maybe I’ll find the time. Probably I won’t.

The past 9 years have allowed me the chance to interview people who I never would’ve got close to without the flimsy excuse that I was writing a blog that attracted in excess of 1000 visitors a day (at one time it was, but I suspect Google’s analytics may well have been a bit iffy.) Nowadays, it’s nowhere near that, but I still enthusiastically trot out the same old line when trying to land a big name to feature. Through Plain Or Pan I’ve met (physically, electronically or both) all manner of interesting musical and literary favourites; Sandie Shaw, Johnny Marr, Ian Rankin, Gerry Love, the odd Super Furry Animal. Quite amazing when I stop to think about it. You should see the list of those who’ve said they’ll contribute then haven’t. I won’t name them, but there are one or two who would’ve made great Six Of the Best articles. I’m not Mojo, though, so what can I expect?

pop9

A quick trawl through my own analytics spat out the Top 24 downloaded/played tracks on the blog this year, two for each month:

  1. Michael MarraGreen Grow the Rashes
  2. Wallace CollectionDaydream
  3. Jacqueline TaiebSept Heures du Matin
  4. The TemptationsMessage From A Black Man
  5. New OrderTrue Faith
  6. Bobby ParkerWatch Your Step
  7. Jim FordI’m Gonna Make Her Love Me
  8. DorisYou Never Come Closer
  9. Ela OrleansDead Floor
  10. Mac De MarcoOde To Viceroy
  11. Teenage FanclubGod Knows It’s True
  12. Iggy PopNightclubbing
  13. George HarrisonWah Wah
  14. MagazineThank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again
  15. Future Sound Of LondonPapua New Guinea
  16. Bob DylanSad Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands (mono version)
  17. Richard BerryLouie Louie
  18. REMRadio Free Europe (HibTone version)
  19. The CribsWe Share The Same Skies
  20. Johnny MarrThe Messenger
  21. McAlmont & ButlerSpeed
  22. Talking HeadsI Zimbra (12″ version)
  23. Style CouncilSpeak Like A Child
  24. Darlene LoveJohnny (Please Come Home)

And there you have it – the regular mix of covers, curios and forgotten influential classics, the perfect potted version of what Plain Or Pan is all about. A good producer would’ve made the tracklist flow a bit better. I just took it as I came to them; two from January followed by two from February followed by two from etc etc blah blah blah. You can download it from here.

See you in the new year. First up, Rufus Wainwright. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

Alternative Version, demo, Get This!, Hard-to-find

Callin’ All, Radio Transmit!

REM‘s output falls into two camps – the hard jangling college rock of the IRS years and the radio-friendly unit shifting Warners years. Fans are often divided over which era constitutes the band’s ‘best era’, which is a bit like arguing over whether tomato soup or tangerines are better. Both are magic, both are different. Me? Despite the dramatic tail-off in quality towards the end of the Warners era, I like ’em both equally.

rem 81

REM were born into the world on the back of Radio Free Europe,  first released on their own promotional ‘Cassette Set’, of which only 400 were made. The track was pretty much fully formed from the word go. Counted in on a pistol crack snare and carried in the verses by a tightly coiled spring of a guitar riff, it explodes in a colourful burst of glassy 12 strings and up-the-frets bass.

REMRadio Free Europe (Cassette Set version)

There’s also an extremely rare ‘Radio Dub’ version which has novelty appeal, interesting for the treated vocals and rudimentary special effects.

REMRadio Free Europe (Cassette Set ‘Radio Dub’)

*credit where it’s due – these tracks came a few years ago via The Power Of Independent Trucking blog. I think at the time they were almost shut down over the inclusion of them, so shhh!

Local label Hib-Tone were suitably impressed by the demo cassette to offer the band a one single deal, and Radio Free Europe was committed to 7″.

 rem hibtone

REMRadio Free Europe (Hib-Tone Single)

The band themselves weren’t overly impressed by the finished results, but Radio Free Europe is the perfect defining introduction to the band – great musicianship fighting for earspace with the sandpaper vocals of Michael Stipe. Stipe is clearly a passionate vocalist, but you’d need a degree in WWII code cracking to work out what he’s on about here. Even when you can make out the words and phrases, many of them make little sense.

The silent silver radio’s gonna stay,

Reason it could polish up the grey

Put that! Put that! Put that! In you wha

Badness isn’t country at all

Ray-dee-stay-shu…….

That’s not right, of course (Taking my cue from the chorus, I don’t even think I’ve got the right title for this piece), but that’s what I’m hearing. The first time I heard it, I actually stopped the record after a minute to check I hadn’t a build-up of fluff on my Grundig ‘music centre’ stylus.  A quick Google of the lyrics just now (there was none of that in 1989) doesn’t help either. There are many websites offering you their definitive take on the lyrics and, like much of the internet, the information is only as good as the person who put it there. I’m not convinced any of the lyric sites have the words 100%. Just as you most certainly shouldn’t be convinced by my ham fisted attempt above. Not for nothing was REM’s first LP called ‘Murmur‘.

rem 83

Radio Free Europe and the band was picked up by IRS. Re-recorded and re-released, the track also kicked off side 1 on Murmur. 

REMRadio Free Europe (Murmur version)

rem irs

It was slower and less murky, perhaps on the instructions of producer Mitch Easter, but Michael’s mumblings were all over the record like the fuzz on a Georgia peach. There’s also an annoying hi-hat ‘tick tick tick’ all the way through the verses that, once heard, can never be dislodged.  The best bit is still towards the end when, on one of the final choruses, all instruments bar the beat-keeping drum drop out before returning a second later.

rem stipe

The band played it live less and less as the years grew. In fact, you can probably chart it’s appearance in set lists in direct proportion to the introduction of the mandolin in their sound. It was something of a surprise to this audience (venue unknown) in 1992 when REM played a rare version. No doubt inspired by Nirvana and their ilk who were all the rage at the time, this version is a somewhat muscled up, balls-dropped shitkicker when compared to its original form. It brings to mind the harder sound of future LP Monster. Mike Mills plays like a demon possessed on this. Thankfully Peter Buck hadn’t yet discovered the tremelo pedal that would spoil much of the upcoming LP.

REMRadio Free Europe (Live 1992)

 

 

 

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, demo, Gone but not forgotten, Live!

Sound Affects

The Small Faces were the perfect group; a pint-sized pocket dynamo of r’n’b and soul, windmilling guitars and swirling Hammond. They dressed the same, sported the same haircuts and were a walking, talking, living and breathing advert for Carnaby Street and Swinging London. None of the four of them stood taller than 5′ 6″ (it was the 60s, therefore imperial units of measurement counted) and were mod to the core. In the street parlance of the day, a ‘face’ was the most respected, sharpest looking mod about town. The band name wrote itself. 

small faces

With disparate roots in American blues and soul and cockney music hall (thanks in part to Steve Marriott’s training at the Italia Conti stage school), The Small Faces cooked up an original brew of heady mod pop.

As the sixties progressed and trouser legs widened, The Small Faces’ sound drifted away from the cor blimey Pearly stomp of the mid phase Faces to a more pastoral, whimsical and expansive psychedelic sound, but by 1968 the band were brought back to terra firma when Marriott penned Tin Soldier.

tin soldier 7

Small Faces  – Tin Soldier

Tin Soldier was a no quibbles return to their r’n’b roots – an off-mic count-in gives way to piano and Hammond before Marriott’s stinging electric guitar and rallying cry of “Come on!” lead into the verses. It builds and drops before building again into a wonderful crescendo of tumbling toms, grinding riffs, gritty soul adlibs and a hysterical female (PP Arnold) hell bent on raising the roof. If The Small Faces are the perfect group, this is the perfect record. If you listen really carefully, you’ll hear a little scratching noise in the background – that’s Paul Weller writing his crib notes.

Sound affects, indeed.

Jenny RylanceJenny Rylance. Whatever did Rod Stewart see in her?

Steve Marriott wrote Tin Soldier for the beautiful yet unattainable Jenny Rylance, a leggy model who was at the time Rod Stewart’s girlfriend. He intended to give the song to his current beau PP Arnold, but on completion, realising he’d created such a brilliant track, he gave Arnold If You Think You’re Groovy instead and kept Tin Soldier for The Small Faces. A wise move, as it turned out. When Randy Rod finished with Rylance, Marriott ended up wooing her and married her a year later. Like the Artful Dodger he once played on stage,  Marriott ended up with both the song and the girl. The perfect ending.

I usually steer clear of sticking YouTube clips in posts, but this is fantastic – a top of their game Small Faces on French telly, live vocals, mimed instruments and with a little help from a somewhat sparkled PP Arnold. Check the eyes! Oh to have seen them in concert.

 

* Bonus Track 1!

Here‘s a live version of Tin Soldier from Newcastle City Hall in November 1968.

I get the impression the screaming and incidental crowd noise has been mixed in afterwards to create a more ‘live’ sound, though I may be wrong. Either way it sounds like The Small Faces are playing in a cave to 20,000 appreciative ace faces, and not the sweaty box bedroom-sized r’n’b club you might’ve expected. (Newcastle City Hall being neither, as it turns out.)

* Bonus Track 2!

Here‘s PP Arnold doing If You Think You’re Groovy

pp arnold nme

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, demo, Double Nugget, Dylanish, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Live!, Most downloaded tracks, Six Of The Best, studio outtakes

P.O.P. B.O. ’14

Somehow, this is the end of the 8th year of this blog. 8 years! I never for a minute thought I’d be down this road for so long, but here I am, slowing down slightly, but still writing whenever the muse takes me. In the past, I used to write loads over the Christmas period and store it all up like a squirrel hiding nuts in trees, so that when I was busy with my real work I could drip-feed my wee articles online at regular intervals when time was of the essence. These days, holidays mean holidays. For the past week or so I’ve done sweet F.A. apart from sit around in my underwear eating cheese until 3 in the afternoon. Occasionally I’ve tidied up a bit, but that’s only after the Applewood smoked or Wensleydale and cranberry has run out.

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It’ll be good to get back to the old routine in January and, along with work, get back to writing about music on a (hopefully) more regular basis. Until then, here’s the annual end of December post.

Around this time of year I employ a team of stat monkeys to sift through everything published on Plain Or Pan over the last 12 months. Numbers are fed into a specially-constructed silver machine, crunched and spat back out. Amongst the stainless steel saliva lie the 25 most listened to and/or downloaded tracks of the year.

Below is that list, a CD-length collection of covers, curios and hard-to-find classics. Download the rar file, sequence as you please and burn away.

 

pop8

Baby HueyListen To Me

The Lovin’ SpoonfulDo You Believe In Magic?

French FriesDanse a la Musique

Oscar BrownThe Snake

Al BrownHere I Am Baby

RadioheadThese Are My Twisted Words

Bob DylanBoots Of Spanish Leather

Ian Dury & the BlockheadsHit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

Michael MarraHamish

Paul WellerFlame-Out

Bo DiddleyShe’s Fine, She’s Mine

Barbara & the BrownsYou Don’t Love Me

Tommy James & the ShondellsCrimson & Clover

LightshipsDo Your Thing

The BeatlesIt’s All Too Much (Much Too Much bootleg version)

Les Negresses VertesZobi la Mouche

Trash Can SinatrasGhosts Of American Astronauts (Live at Fez, NYC 2004)

Eddie FloydI’ve Never Found A Girl

The SmithsThere Is A Light That Never Goes Out (demo)

Curtis Liggins IndicationsWhat It Is

ThemI Can Only Give You Everything

Kim Fowley Bubblegum

A CampBoys Keep Swinging

The SlitsI Heard It Through The Grapevine (demo)

Madness Un Paso Adelante

 

And here’s to health, wealth and happiness to you all for 2015. All the best!

Cover Versions, demo, Dylanish, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

Band Aid

I’ve been enjoying the recent latest release in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. Number 11 shines a light on the Basement Tapes, the name given to the set of landmark recordings Bob did with The Band in 1967 in the basement of Big Pink, the cabin in the woods that served as a commune/writing/rehearsal space for The Band.

As any music scholar knows, the Basement Sessions unwittingly became the first bootleg LP, when some tracks were spirited out of Big Pink, into the ether and onto a record titled ‘The Great White Wonder’. Bob fans lucky enough to lay their hands on a copy marvelled at the down-home, rootsy feel of it all. Taken in context, the musical world was ingesting heaps of hallucinogens, dressing up in silly clothes and humping anything that moved, under the guise of ‘free love’.

 Bob Dylan

A burnt-out Dylan eschewed all this nonsense by totalling his Triumph in a motorbike crash and taking to time to convalesce at his own speed. The recording at Big Pink found him running loosely through a set of songs that had their roots in long-forgotten Americana, creating an arcane set of mystical wonder.

For years it’s been easy enough to uncover complete sets of this stuff in the darkest corners of the internet, but much of it is poor quality and while you might be of the notion that the song is key, a lot of it is unlistenable.

The official release comes in a couple of formats – the eye-wateringly expensive Complete Sessions that I’d assume is just that, though I’m certain that some Bob Cat somewhere has a version of Yea! Heavy And a Bottle Of Bread or Don’t You Tell Henry sung by Rick Danko’s dog that the compilers missed for some reason or other. Look in the darkest corners of the internet and you can no doubt find it too. I went for the recession-friendly 2CD set, which compiles all the essential stuff at a far better sound quality than my old CD bootleg from years ago.

bob and band bw

Recorded on a mobile recording unit loaned to them by Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman through microphones borrowed from Peter, Paul and Mary, it’s terrific stuff, with Bob leading The Band through first versions of never-since played originals and exhumed olde worlde tunes. It’s not music Dylan intended for mass consumption. It’s him and The Band (and the occasional dog at their feet) merrily running through whatever the hell they like, however often they feel like it. Had they known it would become the stuff of legend, it’s possible the group would’ve tried to make it more contemporary. Thankfully, this music remains as pure and clean as the air around Big Pink. Nowhere on the Basement Tapes will you hear the sound of the beat group, nor will you hear “the sun’s not yellow it’s a chicken”-type lyrics.

Following the constant record/tour/release schedule that had eaten up all of his time for the previous 2 years, Bob essentially used the sessions as a way of recording new stuff that could be somewhat cynically sent to other artists to have hits with, ensuring Bob’s pockets stayed healthily full whilst maintaining a low public profile. Much of the stuff from the sessions did indeed do this;

Both The Band and The Box Tops put out versions of I Shall Be Released. The Mighty Quinn became a hit for Manfred Mann. The Byrds made You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere the lead track on their Sweethearts Of the Rodeo LP.

My favourite is This Wheel’s On Fire, a weird ‘n wonky slice of claustrophobic nonsense, all walking basslines and odd chords.
Bob Dylan & The Band – This Wheel’s On Fire

bob basement

Even better than Bob’s one take wonder is Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll’s, who released the definitive version in 1967; all swirling psychedelia and phased vocals, with shimmering Hammonds and eerie mellotron.
Brian Auger and Julie DriscollThis Wheel’s On Fire

 

No stranger to a Bob tune, Rod Stewart wraps his gravelled tones around a version that is too rock for solo Rod but not swaggering enough for The Faces. A rather misplaced cover, if y’ask me. As a ballad singer, he did Mama, You Been On My Mind far, far better. Worth searching for.
Rod StewartThis Wheel’s On Fire

 

Siouxsie & the Banshees had a good stab at it too, going for an eastern gothic feel more in tune with Auger and Driscoll than Dylan’s, 12 string guitars competing with both a rattling snare and Siouxsie’s ice maiden vocals for attention.
Siouxsie & the BansheesThis Wheel’s On Fire

 

Predictably, both The Band and The Byrds had a go at it. You’ll know where to look if you need to hear them.

basement cover

Alternative Version, demo, Live!, New! Now!

Chain Reaction

At the end of my back garden there’s a fence. Down a steep slope behind the fence is the Ayr-Glasgow railway line. It’s a busy line, but you get used to the trains going past every 15 minutes. In  fact, you rarely hear a train. And when you do, you could set your watch by it. Scotrail. They’re getting there, or to Ayr and Glasgow at least, on time.

Now and again the silence is punctuated by the Hunterston coal train. The power station up the road needs regular feeding by coal and occasionally the train will be held up at the points while another commuter train snakes its way out of the suburbs and on into Glasgow. The Hunterston train doesn’t stop very easily. Weighed down by 35 coal-carrying containers, it starts braking 4 miles up the line in Dalry. By the time it reaches Kilwinning, and my back door, it’s making a cacophony of noise; grinding steel on steel punctuated by the odd hellish rumble, but mainly a horrible metallic screech that jars the nerve endings and sends cats and dogs running for cover. Around 9.30pm last night, it struck me that this is the wonderful sound of The Jesus And Mary Chain.

They were back on (almost) home turf over the weekend, pitched up at the Barrowlands to play the Psychocandy LP, track-by-track. It’s an album that rarely left my turntable when I was in my late teens, but not, I must admit, an album that has stayed with me in the way that other ‘Classic’ albums (insert your own here____________) have. Nonetheless, to hear it in its entirety was too good an opportunity to miss for myself and a couple of thousand other folk of a certain age.

IMG_4803

The band began the show not with Just Like Honey and the rest of the album falling after, but with the encore. “We’re contrary fuckers,” explained Jim Reid. So as an aperitif we got April Skies, Head On, a twangin’ prime Velvets take on Some Candy Talking and a couple of tracks that I struggled to recognise on account of the vocals being buried so deep in the mix they were practically being sung from Australia.

At times William’s guitar was so out of tune he was practically playing jazz. Free, experimental jazz, and he knew it. I lost count of the number of times he attempted to tune up between songs. “Stop!” shouted his brother at one point, sounding uncannily like one of those early JAMC bootlegs I had from the days before they knew how to end songs, and the band came to a juddering halt, just like that train at the bottom of my garden. Recovering in time though, best of all was a head-splitting version of Reverence, replete with descending, fuzzed-up I Wanna Be Your Dog guitar riffs that went straight into a white-hot version of Upside Down. Top that, you’re thinking. And they did.

Taking no prisoners, they rattled through Psychocandy. Guitars sounded like sirens of war, or like a hundred bottles being smashed against a greenhouse wall in the middle of a violent storm. They felt like tiny hand grenades of pain on the ears. This was a full-on sonic assault and battery on the senses. Backlit by white light and strobes, at times I almost zoned out as the band, stock still in silhouette, never let up. Fast-cut film of motorbikes and 60s girls and staring eyes and melting things and swirling patterns and kaleidoscopic psychedelia played relentlessly. It was the Exploding Plastic Inevitable turned up to 11. Scratch that, it was turned up to 14 or 15. It was uncomfortably loud, perhaps just as the band intended it to be, but as I type there’s still a background screeeee to everything I hear.

IMG_4805

It goes without saying of course that if you get the chance of a ticket when it comes to your town, make sure you grab it.

A coupla tunes from the Psychocandy LP:

Taste The Floor

The Hardest Walk

Just Like Honey demo

Darklands-era b-side Everything’s Alright When You’re Down

Pop music, pure and simple.

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, demo, Gone but not forgotten

Ari Styles

I Heard It Through The Grapevine was first committed to vinyl by Gladys Knight & The Pips, although it’d be Marvin Gaye who would have the first hit with the song. But you know all that already. If not, I’ve written about it before. For me, the most interesting (but not necessarily the best) version of  …Grapevine comes from The Slits.

  slits

In ye olden days of punk rock, Slits stood out. A female 4-piece, their lead singer was a 15 year-old German girl whose mother would later marry John Lydon. Guitarist Viv Albertine lived in a squat and was Mick Jones’ girlfriend. Drummer Palmolive was born in Spain and lived for 2 years with Joe Strummer. Not at all like the ‘typical girls’ they sang of on their debut single.

They under-rehearsed, they dithered over releases and they supported The Clash on a couple of tours (To quote Joe Strummer – “They need to do thirty gigs in thirty days and they would be a different group. Then they’d be great.”)

Formed in 1976 at the birth of punk, it took The Slits 3 years to release their debut LP. In those three short years, music progressed by several light years but Slits stuck at it, honing their talents in a couple of John Peel sessions. It’s been said that Slits couldn’t play their instruments, but that’s clearly punk talk from the blinkered few who wanted to keep them authentically ‘4 Real’.

The Slits could play! They eschewed all forms of rock music (a dirty word in Slits’ world) preferring instead to form a unique sound built from reggae and the more interesting musical corners of the world. Itchy, scratchy, claustrophobic and defiantly dubby new wave pop music. Nowadays, lazy writers would call it ‘angular’, a term thrown at everyone from Franz Ferdinand to the Kaiser Chiefs. But at the tail-end of the 70s, no-one sounded like The Slits.

the slits

Their demo version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine is terrific – in equal parts quirky, jerky, punky and funky.

The SlitsI Heard It Through The Grapevine (demo)

Like an aural sharp elbow to the gut, it’s designed to irritate, grate and annoy. It’s very uncomfortable – twitching away like Thom Yorke’s gammy eye in the midday sun. The scratchy guitar and dubby bass, coupled with the rat-a-tat percussion is as far removed from ‘punk rock’ as you’d care to imagine, making it a west London cousin to Talking Heads, its catholic musical policy a precursor to that band’s Tom Tom Club alter ego.

By the time Island Records had enlisted Dennis Bovell to produce the album, the band’s sound had rounded out slightly. He took the blueprint of the demos and added a cavernous, bottom-of-the-well booming reverb to it all, enhancing bits here and there with wonky, skanking keyboards and banshee wailing backing vocals. I Heard It Through The Grapevine comes out of all the whole process sounding mightily fine. Indeed, if you pay close attention, that sound you can hear in the background is the sound of a thousand soul boys wailing in despair at what The Slits have done to the Marvin version.

The SlitsI Heard It Through The Grapevine (LP version)

The album and associated singles still stand up to repeated listens today, a bona fide alternative classic in a Mojo-endorsed world of Dylans ‘n Beatles ‘n Zeppelins ‘n Stones. You should investigate further….

 

Slits play the Electric Circus, Manchester, in 1977.

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, demo, Hard-to-find

The Hardest Working Band In Slow Business

A couple of weeks ago, the NME published a list of ‘50 Unfashionable But Brilliant 80s Bands That Time Forget‘. Considering the bulk of the 50 bands listed were still gigging going concerns that made, y’know, actual records and that, it was a bit shoddy. Perhaps the list would have been better titled ‘50 Brilliant Beard-Free And Therefore Not Trendy Bands.’ Sitting snuggly between The Replacements in 3rd place and the James Taylor Quartet in 5th (both still going strong) were the Trashcan Sinatras.

tcs 2014

Yep, they’re still around too. Aye, they take their time to release their music, but it’s always worth the wait. Many bands have had entire careers between Trashcans LPs. But that’s OK. TCS fans are famous for their patience. As I’ve said before – fads ‘n fashions will come and go, but there will always be a Trashcan Sinatras. Split between America and Scotland, the band are even less productive than they once were. But no less brilliant as a result. MP3s regularly zip between laptops in Pasadena and Glasgow, each time embelished and enhanced before being returned. This is 21st century songwriting, grandpa, and it works just fine.

And now, yes!, the fruits of their labour are about to be realised. On Friday, 10th October, I returned from work to discover that the band had released details of their 6th album. It’s written, but it’s not been recorded yet. The recording part is where the band need your help.

Free from the madness that seems to follow them whenever they sign a recording contract, the band have opted to go it alone. They’ve set up stall on Pledge Music, where fans pay in advance for a product yet to be made. You can contribute any amount. The more you contribute, the more you’ll benefit. $10 gets you a download of the album. $24 gets you a download plus a CD. An extra $5 will get you a signed CD, and so on. Those with fatter wallets may choose to pledge $250, where Paul from the band will pop round for a guitar lesson and teach you any Trashcans’ song you care to fancy.

Amazingly, the most expensive item ($2509), the ‘Executive Producer’ package, has sold out. But there are a multitude of fan-grabbing items. You can do your bit for the band by visiting here. Many of you already have – as I type, the band have reached 77% of their intended target. If you haven’t so far, you probably should get across and do your bit. There are still some handwritten lyrics sheets, coloured vinyl, signed birthday cards… all manner of Trashcans’ memorabilia just waiting for you.

Way back in the good old/bad old days, the Trashcans were regular visitors to Japan. The Japanese really embraced the band and they have fond memories of their times there. Stephen who plays drums told me once how weird it was playing in venues that were inside 24hr shopping malls, where the audience would sit in total silence until the very last of the cymbal crashes or feedback had faded to nothing before politely clapping a round of applause then quickly settling back down before the next song started.

During their time in Japan, the band recorded a couple of tracks. One of them, ‘Snow‘ was a cover of the Randy Newman track. Very good it is too, and although it’s quite rare, it pops up on eBay from time to time. If you’re a copmpletist (and most Trashcans fans are), it goes without saying you need it. Snow was one of the very first things I blogged about, way back in the good old/bad old days.

town-foxes-cover

More interesting to Trashcans fans is the band’s Town Foxes ep.

Made especially for their Japanese tour in March 2010, only 500 copies were pressed. It could well the be Holy Grail of Trashcans collectables. The a-side (if a CD single can have an ‘a’ and a ‘b’ side) was the band’s own version, more of a demo than a finished article, of a song dating back to I’ve Seen Everything days. Town Foxes grooves along on some slightly wah-wah’d guitar playing atop some of those signature Trashcans major 7ths. To these ears it sounds like it owes a wee debt to Odyssey’s Native New Yorker, which is in no way at all a criticism of it. It’s not the best TCS song you’ll ever hear (probably why it’s never really seen the proper light of day) but it’s a great wee song.

sds

The b-side features the vocal talents of Sokabe, singer with Japanese touring partners Sunny Day Service. Long-time friends and admirers, Sokabe from SDS is given the Jim’ll Fix It treatment (can you still say that?) by taking over Frank Reader’s lead vocal, making him briefly (for 3min, 30seconds) the singer in the Trashcan Sinatras. It’s in Japanese, obviously, which goes some way to explaining the collectability of the Town Foxes ep.

It was a nice surprise, then, when around the time of that Japanese tour a jiffy bag dropped through my door. Two copies of the Town Foxes CD, both cases smashed to bits through mishandling across the continents, but both covers and discs thankfully blemish-free, accompanied by a short note;

AWRIGHT CRAIG! I hope ye like it. It’s only a 4 track demo – no’ as guid as we played it in Japan.”

There you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. The other CD was for Colin who does the excellent Five Hungry Joes site. Don’t go thinking I cashed in on an excellent freebie.

It’s almost impossible to buy Town Foxes. But you can do your bit for The Hardest Working Band In Slow Business by pledging to the new LP. You really should…

http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/trashcansinatras

 

 

demo, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

When I Say I’m In Love, You Best Believe I’m In Love Ell Yoo Vee

new york dolls

The New York Dolls landed on British telly in November 1973; a sloppy, slutty, Stones-in-slap-‘n-stack heels assortment of misfits and ne’erdowells. Their sound was a thrillingly simple souped-up charge of re-hashed Chuck Berry licks and Noo York street-smart shouted vocals, and in this era of prog rock and ‘serious’ music, immediately divided opinions.

Mock rock!” dismissed presenter ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris as he waited patiently for his next fix of good ol’ country rock.

The Dolls gave me a sense of uniqueness, as if they were my own personal discovery,” blurted a foaming at the mouth Morrissey.

Famously, along with being President of the Dolls’ Fan Club, Morrissey had a New York Dolls biography published, which sold steadily in its one and only print. You could argue that The New York Dolls was the catalyst in getting the teenage Morrissey out of his bedroom and into society where he’d meet like-minded Mancunians and ultimately form The Smiths. Now, that may be a bit of a simplified version, but essentially that’s what happened.

On the Doll’s debut album there’s a track called Lonely Planet Boy.

The band’s one attempt (on this LP at least) at acoustic balladry, it teeters metaphorically atop one of Johnny Thunder’s gigantic silver stacked heels, forever on the verge of collapse and falling apart. Coaxed along by a rasping 50s-inspired sax, it was a particular favourite of the young Morrissey. Indeed, a decade or so later when stuck for lyrical inspiration, Morrissey went back to Lonely Planet Boy and appropriated some of the lyrics for the song that would, for some come to define The Smiths.

Oh, you pick me up
You’re outta drivin’ in your car
When I tell you where I’m goin’
Always tellin’ me it’s to far

But how could you be drivin’
Down by my home
When ya know, I ain’t got one
And I’m, I’m so all alone

 morrissey nydolls

And with that steal, Morrissey had galvanised himself into writing the lyrics to There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

A great song needs more than great lyrics, of course. I’ve written about the Johnny’s contribution to it before. Below is the shortened version.

“If we needed some songs fast, then Morrissey would come round to my place and I’d sit there with an acoustic guitar and a cassette recorder. ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ was done that way.”

Morrissey was sat on a coffee table, perched on the edge. I was sat with my guitar on a chair directly in front of him. He had A Sony Walkman recording, waiting to hear what I was gonna pull out. So I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this one’ and I started playing these chords. He just looked at me as I was playing. It was as if he daren’t speak, in case the spell was broke.”

“We recorded ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ in 10 minutes. I went on to add some flute overdub and strings and a couple of extra guitars, but really, the essence and the spirit of it was captured straight away, and that normally means that something’s gone really, really right.

(Flute/strings overdubs demo below);

I have a version of that take with just the three instruments and the voice on it – it absolutely holds up as a beautiful moment in time. The Smiths were all in love with the sound that we were making. We loved it as much as everyone else, but we were lucky enough to be the ones playing it.”

I didn’t realise that ‘There Is A Light’ was going to be an anthem but when we first played it I thought it was the best song I’d ever heard.”

For some of us, it is too.

 

Alternative Version, demo, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

It Was Plenty Years Ago Today

A few years ago I had the notion that I’d start a semi-regular feature punningly titled ‘It Was Plenty Years Ago Today’. It would focus on Beatles‘ recordings from that day in Beatles’ history, in particular the individual takes that never made it beyond Abbey Road’s cutting room floor. Books such as Ian MacDonald’s Revolution In The Head are excellent chronicles of what happened when in Beatleland and I had every intention of building up a right good wee series on the back of it. However, lack of time and lazyitis (coupled with the fact that most of the time I just fancy writing about something else) combined to ensure this series would never quite get off the ground, but here, today, I bring you another one in this very sporadic series.

george harrison 67

Druggy, fuggy, and slightly Eastern-sounding, It’s All Too Much was born in the summer of 1967, just as an unprepared world was anticipating the release of the Sgt Peppers album. Pencilled in for inclusion on the Beatles’ next project (Magical Mystery Tour) it didn’t see the light of day until the Yellow Submarine soundtrack was released in January 1969. In Beatles terms, that’s an awful long time from written-to-released. Why? The answer is simple – it wasn’t written by Lennon or McCartney. George always had to play second fiddle to his two elder bandmates. He’d had his own Blue Jay Way appear on Magical Mystery Tour, and one George song per album was the norm.

It’s All Too Much

One of George’s best compositions, composed whilst in the midst of a heavy LSD trip (and it sounds it), It’s All Too Much is a microcosm of all that’s best in Beatles psychedelia, grooving along on a one chord bed of feedback, clattering drums, stabbing keyboard and wonky sounding backwards guitars. The production is, I think, intentionally cluttered – It’s All Too Much after all – but that’s why it’s stood the test of time. Each repeated listen brings new things. Hidden depths of sound float to the surface; A full-fat fuzz bass pops itself in and out of the mix. Slightly out of time handclaps catch up with George singing bits of The Mersey’s Sorrow. Trumpets apeing Jeremiah Clarke’s Prince Of Denmark March (you’ll recognise it if you’ve ever seen the pomp and ceremony of a Royal wedding) fanfare your arrival into a higher state of consiousness. Almost half a century later, it sounds new! and fresh! and now! The Flaming Lips would give everything to sound like this.

It’s All too Much is one of the few Beatles tracks not to have been recorded at Abbey Road. Why it was recorded instead at Soho’s De Lane Lea Studios is unclear, but that’s where it was hatched. And plenty years ago today on the 2nd June 1967, those trumpet overdubs were completed.  At 8 minutes long the track fell foul of the Beatles editing process. One and a half mind-expanding minutes were chopped out of the mix, leaving the released version a shorter 6 and half minutes long. Still a trip, just not as long a trip as George would’ve liked you to have.

The full length version has been bootlegged countless times…

It’s All Too Much ( ‘Much Too Much‘ unreleased version)

george stamp

Teenage Fanclub‘s Gerry Love is a big fan of It’s All Too Much. He even went so far as to include it in his very own Six Of The Best mix for Plain Or Pan, saying “The Beatles had more than their fair share of groundbreaking productions, but this is by far my favourite.” Me too Gerry!