Alternative Version, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Keeping It Peel 2013

john peel home studio

Keeping It Peel is the brainchild of Webbie, who writes the excellent and informative Football And Music blog.  An annual celebration of all things Peel, it’s purpose is to remind everyone just how crucial John Peel was to expanding and informing listening tastes up and down the country. Be it demo, flexi, 7″, 10″, 12″, EP, LP, 8 track cartridge, wax cylinder or reel to reel field recording, the great man famously listened to everything ever sent his way, and if it was in anyway decent he played it on his show. Sometimes, he played the more obscure records at the correct speed. Sometimes he didn’t. And sometimes, no-one noticed.  John Peel is the reason my musical tastes expanded beyond the left-field avant-garde edginess of Hipsway and Love And Money and the reason why my mum stopped singing her own version of whatever it was I was playing (“Take a ri-ide on the Suga Trayne!”) and started asking me to “turn that racket down” whenever she passed my teenage bedroom door. Thank you, John.

This year’s Peel Session selection features Roxy Music from February 1972. It’s a cracker……..

roxy music 72

But first, a history lesson.

1972 was a pivotal year in music. The number of influential/classic albums released in those 12 months is nothing short of staggering (I’d like to say “off the top of my head“, but Google is a handy wee tool now and again).

Take a deep breath and off we go; Neil Young‘s Harvest (and the unreleased Journey Through The Past), Nick Drake‘s Pink Moon, Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side Of The Moon (hey – I’d never spotted that before – Pink and Moon…anyway…), The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot, both by Captain Beefheart (2 albums in one year, nae bother), Todd Rundgren‘s Something/Anything, Talking Book AND Music Of My Mind by Stevie Wonder (2 albums in one year, nae bother), T Rex‘s Bolan Boogie and The Slider (2 albums, one year…), Big Star‘s #1 Record, The Stones’ Exile On Main Street, Bowie‘s Ziggy Stardust, the soundtracks to Superfly and The Harder They Come (Curtis Mayfield and Jimmy Cliff), Black Sabbath 4, Steely Dan‘s Can’t Buy a Thrill, Greetings from LA by Tim Buckley, Can‘s Ege Bamyasi, Transformer by Lou Reed, Marvin Gaye‘s Trouble Man, and the debut eponymously titled LP from Roxy Music. Crikey! That’s almost a classic album a fortnight! And there’s a ton more I haven’t even mentioned! Oh to have been a teenager with a disposable income in the early 70s……

Roxy Music At Royal College Of Art In London in 1972

Roxy Music looked as if they’d been beamed down from the first spaceship from Mars and sounded just as other-worldly. Dressed in a clash of tiger print and tinfoil, faux fur and flares, and with a sound giving as much space to the clarinet and oboe as to yer more traditional rock instruments (and we haven’t even mentioned Brian Eno’s synthesiser), they were so out of step with the fashion of the day (compare them to the list above), it’s easy to see why John Peel would champion them. Between January 1972 and March 1973, they recorded 5 thrilling John Peel sessions. Their session recorded in February 1972 (although not broadcast until 1st August – anyone know why?) is particularly brilliant, featuring the yin and the yang of Roxy Music in two tracks.

The Yin

A full six months (a light year in 1972 musical terms) before being released as their debut single, Virginia Plain was recorded as part of that February session. Over a minute longer than the released version, the Peel version is a proto-punk glam slam, overloaded with fizzbomb guitars and a seemingly improvised solo, all whammy bar and feedback sturm und drang. Hogging the limelight, Phil Manzanera made sure there was no room for the single’s twangy bass solo here.

Virginia Plain Peel Session, 18 Feb 72

Years later he would indeed be flying down to Rio! but, when he wasn’t purloining other bands’ equipment, I’m sure sticky-fingered street urchin and future Sex Pistol Steve Jones was cribbing notes on Manzanera’s guitar sound during this transmission. A verse sung over 2 open chords….. stray wafts of controlled feedback….. a fantastic, fluid and free-form guitar solo….. a four-to-the-floor jackboot stomp. A full 4 years before UK punk was ‘invented’, Roxy Music were doing it, maaaaan. If this version of Virginia Plain doesn’t make you want to go and learn a couple of chords and start a band in a desperate middle-aged attempt at hipster cool, nothing will.

roxy music 1973

The Yang

On the debut album you’ll find If There Is Something, a countryish clip-clopping slide guitar and piano-led song in (prog alert!!!) three distinct parts. According to that bastion of trusted information Wikipedia, it ‘s been said that the first part of the song is a youth wondering about love, the second part adults in the heat of passion and the third part the singer in old age thinking about their past love. Gads. Whatever you think, in length and libido it manages to invent both prog rock and Pulp. Heavily-effected saxophones waft in and out, guitars get fuzzier and quieter as the track progresses and the ending is bathed in synthesised melancholic heaven, Ferry crooning in his collapsed quiff like a pub singer after half a dozen Guinesses.

If There Is Something Peel Session, 18 Feb 72

The Peel Session version is free from slide guitar and twice as long as the released version, clocking in at over 12 meandering minutes, the track ebbing and flowing like the champagne at one of Bryan Ferry’s socialite soirees. A few short years later they’d be making syrupy cocktail dross like Avalon. Remember Roxy from 72; weird, wonky and wonderful, unparalleled and untouchable.

*Bonus Track!

No Roxy Music feature is complete without the funniest bit of telly ever. Johnny Vegas as Eno? Oh aye!

peel bathOch, John!

Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions, Studio master tapes

Punctured Bicycles, Desolate Hillsides And All That Jazz

Recorded between London and Manchester almost 30 years ago (September/October 1983), This Charming Man was the record that transported The Smiths up and out of the late-night, Peel-championed margins and into the mainstream, Top Of The Pops and all.

smiths this charming man

A giddy rush of walkin’ talkin’ Motown basslines and chiming staccato guitar riffs, topped off with Morrissey’s yelping yodel, it still sounds exhilarating to these ears as I type right now. Even the much-maligned New York Mix, with its none-more-80s ricocheting rim shots and ghostly guitar fade-ins still does it.

The Top Of The Pops appearance (the band’s first of 11) a few months later in November was superb, with Morrissey battering about his oversized bunch of gladioli in a show of high camp, while the other 3 played like seasoned telly regulars in matching M&S polo necks. Save a select, hip few, this was the first time many folk had actually seen The Smiths and the effect was seismic. It’s no surprise that by that weekend, sales of Brylcreem had risen 110%, old men’s barbers up and down the country were queued out with boys wanting flat tops, “but just leave the front bit, thanks” and any number of grannies were wondering what had happened to that nice chiffon blouse they’d been keeping in their wardrobe for that special occasion. Your David’s wearing it, gran. Teamed up with that cheap glass-beaded necklace our Doreen gave you when she was eight. And he’s off to the Red Lion where there’s every chance he’ll get himself half a light ale and a right good kicking. Me? I was still in my bedroom, listening to Frankie’s Relax until the wee small hours.

Much has been made of the speed at which Morrissey and Marr wrote in the early days. This Charming Man was one such song. Johnny had heard Aztec Camera’s Walk Out To Winter on regular radio rotation and felt his band should be getting the same attention. With a John Peel session coming up (14th September, to be aired one week later), Marr pulled out all the stops to write a catchy, radio-friendly tune in a major key (G, if you’re asking, though really A, as he tuned his guitar up one whole step). According to Johnny, the tune took him all of 20 minutes to write, although he would spend far longer with producer John Porter to perfect the sonics in the studio.

“There are about 15 tracks of guitar. People thought the main guitar part was a Rickenbacker, but it’s really a ’54 Tele. There are three tracks of acoustic, a backwards guitar with a really long reverb, and the effect of dropping knives on the guitar — that comes in at the end of the chorus.”

Listen for that wobbly doiiiinnnngg every now and again – that’s the two Johns (Porter and Marr) dropping kitchen knives on an open-tuned guitar. You can’t do that with GarageBand, kids.

smiths 83

Morrissey, on the other hand, was studio shy. He often had to be coaxed into doing more than one or two vocal takes. His lyrics for This Charming Man were impossibly impenetrable to this 13 year old, and to be honest, not much has really changed over the past 30 years. Singing about some sort of clandestine sexual initiation or other, Morrissey’s words were “just a collection of lines that were very important. They seemed to stitch themselves perfectly under the umbrella of This Charming Man.” The lyrics were almost certainly taken from Morrissey’s faithful notebook, his collection of words in search of a tune, but they weren’t entirely Morrissey’s own.

The 1972 film Sleuth, starring Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier features a scene where Olivier points a gun at Caine calling him ‘a jumped up pantry boy who doesn’t know his place‘.

The 1961 movie adaption of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste Of Honey features two characters discussing their evening. ‘Are you going dancing tonight?’ ‘I can’t, I haven’t got any clothes to wear.’ Delaney would prove to be a rich source of material for Morrissey’s lyrics. But more of that another time.

Stolen words or otherwise, what’s undeniable is that This Charming Man ramped The Smiths up a notch or two and set them off on their all-too brief trail-blazing journey through the mid 80s.

Here’s the music:

This Charming Man (London mix)

This Charming Man (Manchester Mix)

This Charming Man (New York Vocal Mix)

*Bonus Tracks!

Howsabout some more of those studio master tape tracks? Below you’ll find the bass, the guitar, the vocal and a guitar/percussion track. Isolated parts, perfect for your inner George Martin. Or indeed, inner John Porter.

Andy’s bass track:

Johnny’s lead guitar part:

Morrissey’s vocals:

Guitars/percussion track:

charming charlie

demo, Hard-to-find, Live!, Peel Sessions

Guy Chadwick Once Tried To Kick Me Full In The Face But I Deserved It So I Did.

I liked tons of other contemporaries, but The House Of Love were, for me, the band that perfectly filled that post-Smiths/pre-Stone Roses void. They were terrific. A classic twin guitar and bass and drums indie rock band, they wore their influences proudly on their leather-jacketed sleeves; the twang and reverb. The stripey jumpers and black jeans. The semi-acoustic Gibsons. The rows and rows of effects pedals. The sheer bloody distorted racket they could morph into at the drop of a well-timed drum stick click before coming back as one to the melody – Guy Chadwick sooo wanted to be the new Lou and his band a Velvet Underground for the late 20th century. At a time in music when many bands were posturing in ponytails on political platforms, The House Of Love were always more Nico than Biko. That they blatantly added a female singer with high cheekbones and a 60s bowl cut who happened to be German only hammered the point home to those less observant than yer average muso geek.

house of love classic

By the time the band had had a modicum of success, Andrea Heukamp, she of the bowl cut and high cheekbones, had gone her own way. With her in their ranks, The House Of Love had cut their original version of Shine On. Not the over-produced, radio-friendly, siren-led version that, backed by their major label Fontana’s money gave the band their highest chart placing (20), but the far superior played-in-a-tunnel original version. This version was all reverb ‘n twang punctuated with a stratospheric guitar interplay provided by Guy Chadwick and Terry Bickers, a bonkers but brilliant guitarist who’s hedonism for the excesses encouraged by the music industry could make Bez and Shaun Ryder seem like Smartie-guzzling Boy Scouts in comparison. (He’s the angelic looking one 2nd from the right). At one stage Bickers’ erratic behaviour-via-drug use got so full-on the band elected to throw him out of their van halfway up some motorway or other between last night’s venue and tonight’s. Bickers left the band around this point, but would return to the fold a few years later. But you probably knew that already.

Shine On was followed up by one more equally sonically-brilliant but anonymous-to-the-public single. Real Animal came and went in a real blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. Had you heard it, you’d have been telling anyone who’d listen just how good The House Of Love were. I know I did. John Peel had played it on occasion and, as recording it to a C90 had escaped me at the time, I had to wait until a few years later to own it when I picked up a German import compilation of the band’s first few singles.

house of love live

Having an ear glued to Peel was good news for the House Of Love fan. Peel was a fan as well, which meant they regularly popped up in session (7 in all, between 1988 and 1992) and he always seemed to have first play of the next single. The first single to be released as a four piece, Christine was the one that put the band in the spotlight. All tough as nails guitars and ba-ba-ba-da-ba vocals, Christine once again failed to make the ‘real’ charts, despite being a creatively marketed Creation Records 99p no-risk disc. But the band’s next single (and last for Creation) was their best yet. Fading in on an instantly recognisable guitar riff, Destroy The Heart was a heady mix of shimmering chords and pistol-crack drums, Bickers’ anti-solos confirming him as the next indie rock hero to follow in Johnny Marr’s footsteps, although John Squire was just around the corner, ready to pop up with his band and change the rules and define an entire epoch. As I said earlier, betwixt and between The Smiths and Stone Roses. But you know all that already too.

Destroy The Heart

As you’ll see from the video, The House Of Love were more frantic, more fuzzed, more furious than on vinyl. They played King Tuts three nights running, with a different set each night. Gigs weren’t that expensive back then and I don’t know why we didn’t go to them all, but we chose the Friday night only. Full of spirit (and beer and wine) I managed to squeeze my way to the very front of the stage and, being a little shit, managed to annoy Guy Chadwick at one of the last songs by grabbing the base of his microphone stand and twisting it away from his mouth just as he was about to sing. This forced him to turn his head to the side slightly and remain in an awkward stance until he’d finished the verse or chorus or whatever he was singing, before heading the end of the mic like a crap footballer (“Thuuunk!”) back to his favoured position. As you might imagine, he wasn’t in the least amused by any of this. The second time I did it, he looked down from his lofty King Tuts stage position and scowled witheringly at me. When I did it for a third time, he aimed a well placed Doc Martin at my face which only just missed. Punk’s not dead! I suppose I deserved it. It did give me a bit of a fright, but as they finished, I made sure Guy wasn’t watching and I managed to detach the heavily-gaffer taped setlist from the stage and folded it into my pocket:

hol setlist

Afterwards we went to The Arches. (Bouncer, frisking me. “What’s that?” “It’s my House Of Love setlist.”) Still full of spirit (and more beer and wine), we made idiots of ourselves dancing to the anonymous doof-doof-doof house music of the time before heading home – by taxi? by bus? did we stay on someone’s floor until the first light of morning? – I can’t actually remember. Anyway, guess what? In a bizarre turn of events, look who’s due to play at those very same Arches in April this year. It’s only Guy Chadwick and whoever else constitutes The House Of Love these days. I’ll be there, but taking up my more customary back of the room position that I’ve come to appreciate in my advancing years as a gig goer. If you’re coming, I might need hawners. You up for it big man?

Cover Versions, demo, Get This!, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions, Sampled

Victoria Wood. Morrissey Did.

Rusholme Ruffians is The Smiths at their sticky-fingered peak. From the alliteratively-alluring Ealing comedyesque title down, it’s a masterclass in Morrissey’s stolen kitchen sink observations backed by a Johnny Marr riff flat-out filched from Scotty Moore via Elvis Presley’s (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame 1961 single.

smiths bw tumblr

By the time they came to record Rusholme Ruffians for second album Meat Is Murder, The Smiths were at the top of their game. As was usually the way, Johnny would present the band with a cassette demo. The musicians would go off and shape Marr’s ideas into a band performance while Morrissey would twist and turn what lyrics he had into the new tune, writing and re-writing as he went along until, between band and bard, they had the genesis of a song.  “Let’s do a song about the fair,” suggested Morrissey. “For some reason my association was to pull out that Elvis riff,” explained Marr.

His appropriation of the riff as a frantically scrubbed rockabilly knee-trembler alongside Mike Joyce’s rattlin’ and rollin’ percussion is in stark contrast to Andy Rourke’s slap happy elastic band of a bassline. Played at half the speed, it wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any mid-period Sly and the Family Stone record. Played as it was, it gives the tune that certain je ne sais quoi; the essential ingredient that turned an average Elvis pastiche into an undeniable Smiths’ tune. To use what is surely by now a cliche, Andy Rourke really was the unsung musical hero in The Smiths. And by the time the vocal went on top, well, an undeniable Smiths’ tune had become an undeniable Smiths’ classic.

As a child I was literally educated at fairgrounds. It was a place of tremendous violence and hate and stress and high romance and all the true vital things in life. It was really the patch of ground where you learned about everything simultaneously whether you wanted to or not.”

waltzers

The lyrics that poured out of Morrissey for Rusholme Ruffians are pure 24 carat gold. Every line features classic Morrisseyism after classic Morrisseyism; perfectly executed observations on what happens when the fair comes to town;

The last night of the fair, by the big wheel generator…a boy is stabbed and his money is grabbed and the air hangs heavy like a dulling wine…she is famous, she is funny…..an engagement ring doesn’t mean a thing to a mind consumed by brass (money)….and though I walk home alone…..I might walk home alone ….but my faith in love is still devout…..From a seat on a whirling waltzer …her skirt ascends for a watching eye …it’s a hideous trait on her mother’s side…someone falls in love, someone’s beaten up…..the grease in the hair of the speedway operator is all a tremulous heart requires…how quickly would I die if I jumped from the top of the parachutes….scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen, this means you really love me….

Classic Morrisseyism after classic Morrisseyism.

Or are they?

victoria-wood

Morrissey was, and remains, a fan of slightly posh, slightly batty northern comedienne Victoria Wood. Her dry ruminations and reflections clearly struck a  chord with him, mirroring as they did his own skewed and melodramatic views on life and living. Sonically, she’s about as far removed from The Smiths as Take That are from the MC5, but her skits and sketches have proven a rich seam for mining lyrics and snippets that pop up across many Smiths recordings – ‘ten ton truck‘, ‘singing to the mentally ill‘, ‘not natural, normal or kind‘, the list goes on….

Wood’s 1983 concert album Lucky Bag was a big favourite of Morrissey’s. On the LP was a track called Fourteen Again. A track featuring a spoken-word intro, including a line proclaiming “they didn’t even know what drugs were” that the eagle-eared amongst you will recognise from the title track of The Queen Is Dead, Fourteen Again includes such lyrics as;

I want to be fourteen again, tattoo my self with a fountain pen….free rides on the waltzer off the fairground men for a promise of a snog….. the last night of the fair…..French kissing as the kiosks shut…..behind the generators with your coconut…..the coloured lights reflected in the Brylcream on his hair…..when I was funny, I was famous

OK, so he didn’t steal them all, and he came up with some genuine crackers of his own  – tremulous hearts and minds consumed by brass (money) and jumping from the tops of parachutes (the ‘skirt ascends‘ line is my favourite) but old Morrissey certainly utilised his love of Victoria Wood to full extent, that much is clear. And just in case you still aren’t convinced, the ‘my faith in love is still devout‘ line was taken from another Wood song, Funny How Things Turn Out, where she proclaims ‘my faith in myself is still devout’.

Hear for yourself:

Elvis Presley (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame

Victoria WoodFourteen Again

Victoria WoodFunny How Things Turn Out

The SmithsRusholme Ruffians (demo, first take recorded with John Porter July 1984)

The SmithsRusholme Ruffians (Peel Session 9th August, 1984)

The SmithsRusholme Ruffians (Meat Is Murder LP version, February 1985)

…and, acknowledging their debt to The King….The SmithsHis Latest Flame/Rusholme Ruffians (Rank LP version, recorded October 1986)

morrissey marr face 1985

Like This? Try these…

The Smiths How Soon Is Now explained

The Smiths A Rush And a Push explained

The Smiths There Is A Light That Never Goes Out explained

Johnny Marr’s Dansette Delights

 

Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Keeping It Peel 2012

Keeping It Peel is the brainchild of Webbie, who writes the excellent and informative Football And Music blog.  An annual celebration of all things Peel, it’s purpose is to remind everyone just how crucial John Peel was to expanding and informing listening tastes up and down the country. Be it demo, flexi, 7″, 12″, LP, 10″ ep, 8 track cartridge, wax cylinder or reel to reel field recording, the great man famously listened to everything ever sent to him, and if it was in anyway decent he played it on his show. John Peel is the reason my musical tasted expanded beyond the left-field avant-garde edginess of Hipsway and Love And Money and the reason why my mum stopped singing her own version of whatever it was I was playing and started asking me to “turn that racket down” whenever she passed my teenage bedroom door. Thank you, John.

Long before iPlayers and listen again features and podcasts and illegal file sharing sights and camera phones and all that technological flim flam that clogs up the listening experience nowadays, back at the time catching a Peel Session was often a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. Whole sub-cultures and cottage industries revolved around advertising copies of Peel Sessions in the inky sections at the back of the NME or Melody Maker. Quaint. That’s what they’d say today. I’d often find myself, fingers sweating over the ‘pause’ button as my C90 waited patiently to magnetise the latest session by the Wedding Present or The House Of Love or The Pixies or whoever. In between the African jit jive and dub reggae played at the wrong speed I would find myself bursting for the toilet, but afraid to go in case I missed the next In Session track. I’ve written this before, but it really was an art if you could start recording just as Peel stopped talking but before the music started. It was often a guessing game, but the more I did it the better I got at it. Nowadays, of course, I wish I’d been less careful with this – it would be great to hear the man’s voice again at the start of a track, or between back to back session tracks. When he does pop up on those old tapes, like on a House Of Love session “Hey man! The bongos are too loud!”, it’s like an aural comfort blanket that transports me back to my youth. I loved that a Peel session would regularly feature a new track, yet to be committed to vinyl, or an unexpected cover version you might never hear live. A Peel session was your favourite band’s way of saying, “What d’you think of this?” Peel tracks would often pop up on the band’s next LP, radically altered from the original Peel Version. For trainspotters like me, this was magic.

One such band was Inspiral Carpets. I taped their first session in 1988 roundabout the same time I saw them support the Wedding Present at the Barrowlands. Live, they were great. All bowl cuts and beads, they reminded me of a punkier, rougher version of The Teardrop Explodes. It was all simple stuff – straightforward basslines and basic open guitar chords behind a wall of what I would later realise to be Farfisa organ (and not Hammond as I’d assumed). The singer,  superglued to the microphone stand like a lampost and backlit in blue had a terrified thousand yard stare and the most enormous set of ears on anyone I’ve ever seen. Even then, you could tell that the guy behing the organ was their leader. On and off in 20 minutes, I’d eventually see them live about half a dozen times, each time the ned to bigger venue ratio increasing accordingly. But never have a band disappointed more – their early releases are terrific; steeped in Nuggetsy 60s garage band references and, for the late 80s, unlike anything around at the time (later on I’d find discover The Prisoners, so the Inspirals weren’t really all that unique), and they were essential. The first 2 or 3 EPs are far superior to anything off of the polished-up, chart bound Life LP and anything that followed after. But that’s a moan for another day.

My original Peel tape of that first Inspirals’ session is in the loft, but thanks to the wonders of illegal file sharing and the technological flim flam that clogs up the listening experience, I’ve managed to track down that 1988 session in listener-friendly lo-fi quality, complete with the odd burst of radio hiss and JP’s vocalised musings at the beginning and end of each track. It really is a wonderful session:

These tracks would all end up on future EP releases, but the spirit of those early Inspirals live shows can be heard in the youthful vigour in which they attack each song in the session. Personal favourite Greek Wedding Song, with it’s ‘never a frown with Golden Brown‘ stolen melody towards the end ended up on the rare Train Surfing EP, a record that really deserves it’s own post one day.
God bless you, John Peel, wherever you are. Thanks for getting me into the music.
Cover Versions, demo, Double Nugget, Dylanish, elliott smith, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, Most downloaded tracks, New! Now!, Peel Sessions, Sampled, Six Of The Best, Studio master tapes, studio outtakes

I Got 5 Years Stuck On My Eyes

I got 5 years, what a surprise!Five Years‘, Bowie’s opening track on the Ziggy album ends with that afore-mentioned refrain. But you knew that already. You might also know that Plain Or Pan has now been going for 5 years. Or you might not. Either way, thanks for visiting time and time again. Whether you’re one of the few who choose to ‘follow this blog’ or you’re one of those misguided creeps who ended up here via Google after searching for ‘Teenage Fanny‘ and got the Bellshill Beach Boys instead, those visits (and the numbers they register behind the scenes in the Plain Or Pan office) are what keeps me a-writin’ and researchin’. Not as often as I’d like to, but as someone commented some time ago, “One good post a week is better than 7 posts of shite.” I might be paraphrasing there, but you get the idea.

As is now customary at this time of year, my team of office monkeys gather up all statistical information made available to them and compile a couple of CDs worth of the year’s most popular downloaded tracks and painstakingly create a groovy cover that goes with it. This is not a quick process. Hours are spent refining and re-refining running orders. At least 14 different covers are produced before a carefully-selected random sample of Plain Or Pan’s target audience (that’s you, that is) choose the cover that speaks most to them. This year is slightly different. The office monkeys have gone on strike (they mumbled something about pensions) and time is at a premium (ie, I don’t have any). The tracks, 2 CDs worth are here. The artwork, not your normal CD cover, more of an image that you can use as cover art in iTunes or however you listen to music on your computer, is there, above this paragraph (right click, save as etc etc). The tracklist? I don’t have one. This year you can choose your own running order from the following:

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John Barry – Midnight Cowboy

King Creosote – Home In A Sentence

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (Rare Italian pressing)

Gruff Rhys – Shark Ridden Waters, which samples….

The Cyrkle – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Midlake – Branches

Elliott Smith – Alameda

Peter Salett – Sunshine

Mott The Hoople – Walking With A Mountain

Primal Scream – Jailbird (Kris Needs’ Toxic Trio Stay free mix)

Primal Scream & PP Arnold – Understanding (Small Faces cover)

Ride – Like A Daydream

The Wildebeests – That Man (Small Faces cover)

Dion – The Dolphins (Tim Buckley cover)

Darondo – Didn’t I

Edwin Starr – Movin’ On Up (Primal Scream cover)

Shellac – My Black Ass

The Rivingtons – Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow (the building blocks of Surfin Bird)

The Survivors – Pamela Jean (Brian Wilson recording)

The Heavy – How You Like Me Now? which heavily ‘borrows’ from…

Dyke & The Blazers – Let A Woman Be A Woman (Let A Man Be A Man)

The La’s – Come In Come Out (John Leckie mix)

The Girlfriends – My One And Only Jimmy Boy

The Whyte Boots – Nightmare

James Brown & the Famous Flames –I’ll Go Crazy

The Jim Jones Revue – Hey Hey Hey Hey, cover of….

Little Richard – Hey Hey Hey Hey (false start take)

Suede – The Wild Ones (unedited version)

Lee Dorsey – Holy Cow

Fern Kinney – Groove Me

Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady (alt mix)

Jackson 5 –  I Want You Back (Michael’s isolated vocal – dynamite!!!)

Reparta & the Delrons – Shoes (the inspiration for The Smiths’ A Rush And A Push…)

Dusty Springfield – Spooky

She & Him – Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want (Smiths cover)

John Barry – The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair

A fairly representative selection of what Plain Or Pan is all about, you might agree. In other words, a right rum bag of forgotten classics and demos and cover versions and alternative takes and studio outtakes and the rest of it. Outdated Music For Outdated People right enough.

Missed any of these legendary compilations?

Here‘s the first 2 years, 2007 & 2008

Here‘s 2009’s

Here‘s 2010’s

Download ’til yer heart’s content!

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

The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Ooh! What’s that bulging in Santa’s sack? Buoyed by the swell of traffic following the Pogues post (a wee bit below), here’s a shortcut to previous Plain Or Pan Christmas stuff:

The James Brown Christmas album . Even better than it sounds. Here.

Dora Bryan‘s 1963 novelty cash-in All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle. Here.

Julian ‘The Strokes’ Casablancas‘ uber-rare I Wish It Was Christmas Today. Here.

Some Bob Dylan festive fare. Here.

The Fall do Christ-mas-ah! Here.

The Ghost Of Christmas Past? That’ll be Phil’s Spectre.

Plain Or Pan is almost 5 years young. Over the festive period you’ll be able to pick up (download!) the annual Plain Or Pan Best Of The Year CD, featuring the most popular downloaded tracks from throughout the year – the ideal way for newbies to quickly catch up on what they’ve been a-missin’ and regulars to plug the gaps in their collection.

Remember, the ‘Whityeherefur?‘ botton on the left is your friend.

Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Keeping It Peel 2011

Keeping It Peel, eh? A worthy and admirable affair since you’re askin’. Click on the face of the great man just over there on the right to find out more.

Late 80s/Early 90s music in the UK was a strange place to be. The Smiths were long gone but still on everyone’s lips and Morrissey was trying to carve out a solo career and somewhat failing (the lukewarm Kill Uncle limping behind the giddy thrill of Viva Hate). New boys on the pedestal, The Stone Roses (whatever happened to them?), were on extended hiatus and the charts were full of 2nd rate Roses-inspired trash that was supposed to keep us entertained till they pulled on their Joe Bloggs and got down to business again. Happy Mondays were self-imploding on a cocktail of every conceivable drug. Bridewell Taxis? Naw! Chapterhouse? Naw! Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine? Naw! Naw! and Naw! Hairstyles started creeping downwards and greasy globs of lumpen grebo clogged up yer actual pop charts – Neds Atomic Dustbin, Wonderstuff, PWEI. Looking for a fix I turned to The House of Love and posh boys Ride. Both were very traditional 4 piece bands with all the right reference points and songs coated in all manner of guitar effects, but whereas House of Love used their pedals subtely to enhance their songs, Ride used them to disguise their shortcomings as musicians and singers. Flange. Chorus. Delay. Wah-wah. Turbo Distortion. Throw them all at the verse. Add a bit of Phaser to the chorus. Extra Delay in the middle eight and, voila, music for the kids. Being 19/20 years old, I loved them.

In a hazy blur of stripey t-shirts, girly fringes and expensive guitars, Ride thrashed their way fantastically through their first couple of EPs and debut album. With 2 singing guitarists (how very 60s!) and token silent moody bass player, the secret to their success was Lawrence on drums. A seemingly 8-armed whirlwind of Moonisms, right down to the target t-shirt, he was always the one to watch whenever they played live. First time I saw them, in the old Mayfair (now Garage) in Glasgow, the tall brothers walked in and stood right in front of me just as the band took the stage. I have a vivid memory of watching Lawrence thrash at his drums in the mirrors on the wall. I also remember trying to work out the chords Andy Bell was playing during Chelsea Girl, but, given that I was watching in mirror image, I couldn’t work it out. Damn those 2 Joey Ramone lookalikes.


Ride recorded a couple of sessions for John Peel. Their first from February 1992 is my favourite. In the spirit of all the great Peel Sessions, this session featured new stuff and a cover – 3 tracks from their not yet released second and third EPs plus a cover of a Pale Saints song – the joke being that Ride claimed to dislike Pale Saints, although their version of Sight Of You is pretty faithful to the original. Opening track Like a Daydream is sadly minus the backwards fade-in cymbal rush that introduces the EP2 version, but fairly clatters along in a rush of boyish off-kilter harmonies and masses of bravado. Great machine gun drums too, of course.  Perfect Time (also from EP2) is awash with a combination of chiming 12 string guitars and fuzzed out Fender Jags. Did someone mention Shoegaze? Shoegaze was never this slow, though. You want slow? Dreams Burn Down featured on both EP3 and the album, but on the Peel Session is stretched out to 6 and a half minutes of tremelo ‘n feedback and ‘she doesn’t love me anymore’ angsty lyrics. I thought this might’ve sounded dated 20 years on, but, nope, it still sounds mighty fine to these ears. Dreams Burn Down was always a favourite of Andy Bell, as he said in April this year:

“What can I say? It’s a great tune. It’s about the end of an affair — the end of a relationship. Kind of a typical, teenage reaction. I remember it became massive when the band started playing it. It was written as a pretty straightforward sound, but I remember the rehearsal when we first played it — we decided to go with this noise kind of thing. The noise emphasized certain parts of the lyrics, and that really worked and it was fantastic. Lawrence plays a massive drumbeat on it that actually Coldplay ripped off. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not.”

And he gave all that up! To play bass! In MKII (or was it MKIII?) Oasis! The fool.

The music:

Like A Daydream

Dreams Burn Down

Perfect Time

The Sight Of You

*Bonus Tracks!

Here‘s the EP2 version of Like A Daydream, backwards cymbals ‘n all.

And here‘s Pale Saints‘ original version of The Sight Of You.

The beginning of the end I’d imagine.

Cover Versions, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Notebooks Out, Plagiarists!

The Wisdom of MES #1:

He told me I didn’t understand, that we were from the bleak industrial wastes of North England, or something, and that we didn’t understand the Internet. I told him Fall fans invented the Internet. They were on there in 1982.

The Fall. Two short words. One long career. They’re a bit like whisky. You’ve been told it’s good and you want to like it, but on the first coupla tries it doesn’t go down well, sticks in the throat, comes back on you with a vengeance. Then, a wee bit older, more wordly-wise and mature and you realise, hey! This stuff’s great! It’s for every occasion, much better after dark, much better alone than shared. Ease your way into it gently then go for it. If you’re new to it, there’s a lot of catching up to be done. It’s been 35 years and 28 LPs or something like that. 28 LPs! And that’s not counting the multitude of ex label cash ins, compilations and crappy semi official bootlegs. Those 28 studio LPs, they can’t all be good though, eh? Yeah, some of them are better than that. Excellent you might even say. This Nation’s Saving Grace. Live At The Witch Trials. Hex Induction Hour. I could go on, but you know them all and you’ll all have your own personal favourites. (Extricate, since you’re askin’). Band members play on a seemingly shoogly, constantly moving conveyor belt. In The Fall, yer number can be up at any moment. Mark E Smith changes rhythm sections the way most of us change our socks. Play Dead Beat Descendent the wrong way and it’s curtains-ah! Play Dead Beat Descendent the right way and it’s curtains-ah! But you knew that already.

The Wisdom of MES #2:

If it’s me and your granny on bongos, it’s The Fall.

Check the record, check the record, check the guy’s track record!

I’ve always liked The Fall for having the gumption to tackle other folks material, regardless of how hip or otherwise it may appear to those watching from the outside. A quick poke about the internet will reward you with an excellent compilation of assorted cover versions that they’ve tackled in their own rattlin’, shoutin’ way. Lee Perry. The Kinks. Sister Sledge. The Searchers. Any number of garage band and rockabilly ramalamas. It doesn’t matter who’s being covered, they all end up sounding like The Fall. Which got me thinking. Can anyone ‘do’ The Fall? The Fall do loads of other bands, but have any bands done The Fall. Well…………Apparently not. There are precious few attempts at covering Fall songs. However….

Sonic Youth, pre-conceived too-cool-for-school detuned pretentious art-rockers that they are did a whole Peel Session of Fall tracks in 1988, and their version of Rowche Rumble is bloody marvellous. A right wiry tub-thumper, it keeps those ‘Ksch Ksch‘ vocals in and dresses the whole thing up in a wall of  skronking Jazzmaster guitar. (Adopts noo yoik accent) It’s like art, but it’s like, rock at the same time.

The Wisdom of MES #3:

When they start saying they like the Fall, it’s usually that they’ve run out of ideas. You remember Wet Wet Wet saying that, you know, ‘we wanna concentrate on doing our own stuff, a bit like The Fall’. It’s like, ‘shut the fuck up!’, you know.

Enter Pavement. They based most of their career sounding like The Fall, at least they did for those first coupla albums. Total rip off? Cute fanboy homage? It’s hard to tell. Anyway you look at it, they even had the nerve to do The Fall in a Peel Session, tackling The Classical with reserved jangle and polite (polite!) Hey There Fuckface vocals ‘n all. Sadly, nothing much like the pummeling, frantic original at all.

The Wisdom of MES #4:

Listening to Pavement, it’s just The Fall in 1985, isn’t it? They haven’t got an original idea in their heads.

*Bonus Tracks!

Contrast and compare with the original and best:

The FallRowche Rumble

The FallThe Classical

It’s really Roche Rumble. But you knew that already.

Cover Versions, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Hope I Die Before I Get Old

(and I’m talkin’ about my g-g-g-generation)

It’s 1989 and I’m sitting in my bedroom, pleased as punch that I’ve managed to de-press ‘pause‘ on the tape deck of my music centre at the exact moment The Wedding Present launch into their final song in yet another brilliant Peel Session. It’s a rattlin’, clatterin’ version of Altered Images’ perennial classic Happy Birthday (hear it here), and during a breakdown in the middle section David Gedge gleefully shouts, “Status Quo, 25 years in the biz-ness!” and the band “Yay!” back at him with hardly disguised irony. Old farts still churning out the same 3 chord nonsense to the same set of hairier, older fans. Roll over lay down grandad and let the young team through.

It’s 2011 and I’m sitting at my computer, pleased as punch that I’ve managed to get this blog somewhat back on track after a couple of months of having more important stuff to do. I’m researching some things for possible inclusion when I stumble upon the fact that 25 years ago this month (July 1986), the New Musical Express released C86, the now seminal cassette that featured a compilation of tracks by 22 staunchly independent bands du jour. Released being the key word here – despite 3 weekly music papers, no-one felt the need to give anything away for free. C86 could only be bought by mail order, whic thousands of alternative music fans did. Although I didn’t. I paid 50p for mine at a record fair in Kilmarnock a few years later. I still have the tape somewhere and after a bit of poking around I turn it up.

And whadayaknow? Track 1, side1? It’s only Primal Scream, still going strong after all these years. Last track, side 2? Why, it’s only little David Gedge with his Wedding Present, also still going strong after all these years – Yay! Twenty five years in the biz-ness indeed.  Aye, so Primal Scream have seamlessly tripped their way through just about every sub-genre known to even the most trainspottery of musicologists, but there is still a band called Primal Scream who release records today, much like the Primal Scream who recorded Velocity Girl all those years ago (did the Stone Roses really rip it off for Made Of Stone? You decide). And The Wedding Present nowadays is a very different proposition to the band of George Best and all that jazz. Indeed, with the exception of the boy Gedge, the current line-up look like they’d have been playing pin the tail on the donkey at a jelly and ice-cream birthday party around the time C86 was made, but nonetheless The Wedding Present are still going strong. They even recently toured the Bizarro album again. What was that about old farts still churning out the same 3 chord nonsense to the same set of hairier, older fans? I love them, though. But you knew that already.

Most of the bands on C86 didn’t last a quarter of a century. Half Man Half Biscuit are still around – Yay! and Stephen Pastel can often be spotted still sporting the same dufflecoat, no matter the weather,  in whatever part of Glasgow is deemed to be hippest that week. Thankfully the others could spot a shelf life when they saw one –  in perhaps the same way that Spitfire and Shed 7 would be considered ‘important’ to musical heritage a decade later (ie, not at all important), Stump and Bogshed were maybe just about alright for the times and didn’t hang around too long afterwards. C86 became a lazy adjective for Steve Lamacq to use when describing under-achieving bands with bowl cuts, beads and a Byrdsian bent to their guitars. Which is more than a bit unfair, as to these ears, C86 had no actual defining sound. D’you know that smell you get when you walk past a group of 18/19 year old boys, all done up in their smart/casual gear and off to the local nitespot? A heady mix of Diesel, Dior and Davidoff that smells nothing like the sum of its parts? C86 is a bit like that. Aye, there’s floppy fringes and feyness ahoy, but there’s also experimentalism, big beats and the sort of music that was impossible to pigeonhole in 1986. The aesthetic of C86 was very much “we do this for ourselves and if anyone else likes it it’s a bonus“.

It was a movement, perhaps the twee-est, tamest of all youth movements, that was more about acne than anarchy, eczema than ecstasy, but it was a generation’s calling card, played out in the wastelands betwixt and between punk and house music, filling the void until the next proper movement arrived. We could do with that now. A proper musical movement to tease us, please us, invigorate and inspire.  Or maybe we have.  Is it Mumford & Sons & assorted pals pseudo folkest posho raggle taggle? Is it the skinny-jeaned and pointy-boots brigade from East London? Is it ‘mon the Biffy? I dunno. Maybe I’m one of the old farts. Actually, I know I am. Roll over lay down and all that, the young team are coming through….

In the meantime, dig out yer pipe and slippers, settle down in the rocking chair and crank up the old music centre. Here‘s C86 in all it’s itchy ‘n scratchy, low-fi, badly produced glory:

Side one

  1. Primal Scream – “Velocity Girl”
  2. The Mighty Lemon Drops – “Happy Head”
  3. The Soup Dragons – “Pleasantly Surprised”
  4. The Wolfhounds – “Feeling So Strange Again”
  5. The Bodines – “Therese”
  6. Mighty Mighty – “Law”
  7. Stump – “Buffalo”
  8. Bogshed – “Run to the Temple”
  9. A Witness – “Sharpened Sticks”
  10. The Pastels – “Breaking Lines”
  11. Age of Chance – “From Now On, This Will Be Your God”

Side two

  1. The Shop Assistants – “It’s Up to You”
  2. Close Lobsters – “Firestation Towers”
  3. Miaow – “Sport Most Royal”
  4. Half Man Half Biscuit – “I Hate Nerys Hughes (From The Heart)”
  5. The Servants – “Transparent”
  6. The Mackenzies – “Big Jim (There’s no pubs in Heaven)”
  7. Big Flame – “New Way (Quick Wash And Brush Up With Liberation Theology)”
  8. Fuzzbox – “Console Me”
  9. McCarthy – “Celestial City”
  10. The Shrubs – “Bullfighter’s Bones”
  11. The Wedding Present – “This Boy Can Wait”

*Bonus Tracks!

Musical karma chameleons Primal Scream have been through more changes than a (insert your own metaphor here).

Here‘s their stompin’ version of the Small Faces’ Understanding, featuring yer actual PP Arnold on vocals. And here‘s the Weatherall remix of Uptown, all 9 and a half minutes of struttin’ 70s dub disco and Chicago house – Hey, there’s about 3 movements right there in the one record! Beat that, kids.

*Extra Reading!

There was a good article here in The Quietus from a few months ago about the genesis of C86. Worth 5 minute of anyone’s time.