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.

Cover Versions, demo, Double Nugget, elliott smith, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, Most downloaded tracks, Peel Sessions, Sampled, Studio master tapes, studio outtakes

Four Play

Amazingly or not, ye olde Plain Or Pan is now 4 years young. This year saw the double-whammy milestones of reaching one million visitors and, on a personal level, having my writing recognised to the extent that I was invited to interview Sandie Shaw in advance of her appearing at the summer’s Vintage At Goodwood festival. My interview was subsequently published in the hardback Annual that festival goers could buy at the event. Which was nice.

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As has been something of a tradition at the start of a year, I’ve put together a compilation of the most downloaded tracks over the past year – 2 CDs worth of covers, curios and hard-to-find classics. I like to think of it as a potted representation of what Plain Or Pan is about.

Tracklist Disc 1:

Jackson 5 I Want You Back acapella

Dean Carter Jailhouse Rock

Frankie Valli Queen Jane Approximately

Chris Bell I Am The Cosmos

Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson I Am The Cosmos

Scott Walker Black Sheep Boy

Tim Buckley Dolphins

Sandie Shaw I Don’t Owe You Anything

Big Maybelle 96 Tears

Patti Jo Make Me Believe In You

Curtis Mayfield (Don’t Worry) If There’s Hell Below We’re all Gonna Go (takes 1& 2)

Brinkley & ParkerDon’t Get Fooled By The Pander Man

Sly Stone Time For Livin’ (early version)

Maggie Thrett Soupy

Sheila and B. Devotion Spacer

Happy Mondays Staying Alive

Aretha Franklin / Duane Allman The Weight

Funkadelic Maggot Brain (alt mix)

 

 

Tracklist Disc 2:

Spiritualized Can’t Help Falling In Love

Serge Gainsbourg Melody

Stone Roses Something’s Burning (demo)

Can I’m So Green

Alex Chilton My Baby Just Cares For Me

Elliott Smith I’ll Be Back

The Czars Where the Boys Are

Peter Fonda November Night

Beach Boys Never Learn Not To Love

Charles Manson Cease To Exist

Wedding Present Happy Birthday (Peel Session)

Penny Peeps Model Village

The Stairs Woman Gone And Say Goodbye

Kinks Sittin’ On My Sofa

Ramones Judy Is A Punk (1975 demo)

Capsula Run Run Run

White Stripes Party Of Special Things To Do

13th Floor Elevators Slip Inside This House

Jake Holmes Dazed & Confused

White Antelope Silver Dagger

Arcade Fire Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son

The Velvelettes Needle In A Haystack acapella

Each disc comes packaged as one big downloadable .rar file, complete with artwork.

If you’re new here, welcome and happy downloading! If you’re a regular here, you may have some or all of these tracks already, so why not download anyway and burn a CD for someone who might appreciate it?

Cover Versions, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

That’s When I Softly Sigh

Good evening children. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

White Horses was a late 60s/early 70s TV show that readers here of a certain vintage will remember. I don’t, but I am more than familiar with the show’s theme tune, thanks in no small part to the Trashcan Sinatras and the lost art of the b-side. The original, sung by Jacky (real name Jackie Lee) is a light ‘n breezy affair, all mellow parping brass, plucked strings and perfectly e-nun-ci-ated vocals. Twee doesn’t even begin to describe it. Belle & Sebastian fans (d’you see what I did there?) probably rate it as crucial a record as there could possibly be. Tuck it just so under the sleeve of your duffle coat and pop on down to the University Cafe why don’t you?

Image stolen from Five Hungry Joes

The Trashcans take the original and give it the full-blown Cocteau Twins treatment – chiming 12 string guitars, a reverb-soaked vocal that has Frank Reader harmonising with himself throughout and a drum beat that is a sonic metaphor for those white horses that run wild and free in the Camargue in the south of France. The slide guitar that pops up in the middle is sublime – that’s when I softly sigh – sonic cathedrals of sound, man! Sonic cathedrals of sound. And they stuck it away on a b-side (see advert above). Criminal!

An unfamiliar-looking Wedding Present ground out a version for a late-era Peel session (July 2004) that has Gedge and co. twisting Jacky’s pop-lite original into something quite creepy and menacing that wouldn’t sound out of place on Twin Peaks. Adopting the standard indie blueprint of quiet-loud-quiet-louder, this is the sonic equivalent of a gnarly piece of wood – on first glance it looks ugly and out of place, but on closer inspection reveals itself to be a thing of rare beauty. Or something like that.

*Bonus Tracks!

The b-side to the Jacky original was another crackly curio called Too Many Chiefs (Not Enough Indians). If you listen carefully, it sounds a wee bit like the long-lost cousin of Tequila by The Champs. But just a wee bit.

In 1970, a guy called Gerald (not A Guy Called Gerald) gave White Horses the full Papa Smurf treatement. Listen to this once then bin the mp3 and go and wash your hands. Eugh!

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

David Gedge! 25 Years In the Business! Yay!

Keeping It Peel is the brainchild of the good persons over at Football And Music. To honour the memory of the late great John Peel, Football And Music has decreed October the 25th “a sort of John Peel Day, but for bloggers.” Like many of the blogs listed on the Blogroll down there on the right, I’m in. It seems the right thing to do – as a music-obsessed teenager I listened religiously, finger sweating on the ‘pause’ button of my music centre waiting patiently to catch and magnetise some of those brilliantly weird and parent-bothering new sounds floating through the ether and onto my crappy cheap Boots C90s. I quickly developed the skill of being able to depress the ‘pause’ button in that wee space just between JP stopping talking and the record starting. In hindsight, I wish I’d been less skillful, as I’d love to listen back to those old tapes and be able to hear some of what he was saying. I still have some of the tapes up the loft. I should really get them down and have a wade through them sometime. Y’know, without John  Peel etc etc blah blah blah…

So, what to post? Much of the stuff I enjoyed on the Peel Show (roughly about 3 records an hour if I’m being honest) ended up being the stuff recorded by my future favourite bands. You know who they are, they’re the same as yours. I could be wilfully obscure or wilfully elitist, but in keeping with the unpretentious nature of the band I’ve chosen to feature, I won’t. The ubiquitous Fall may be forever linked-uh with John Peel, but to me The Wedding Present are just as big a deal – he gave them plenty of opportunity to record sessions for his show and they seemed to appreciated the platform he afforded them. Peel’s listeners clearly appreciated them too – they had a massive 45 tracks included throughout the years in Peel’s Festive 50s, a feat only bettered by, aye, The Fall.  And besides, David Gedge is the nicest pop star I’ve ever met – you can read all about it here.

Fan snap shot of The Wedding Present, Glasgow Barrowlands

(you can tell by the white tiles on the ceiling) 1988

Their session from the 24th May 1988 is my favourite Wedding Present Peel Session. This is the sound of a band no longe ramshacklingly scrubbing tinny guitars with brillo pads and replaying the reults through cheap amplifiers. This is the sound of a band who’ve managed to recreate their favourite sounds of alt. America in their live set – low rumbling bass that sounds as if it’s balls have dropped, meatier guitars played through proper amplifiers; tight, taut, tense, terrific. They would later go on to replicate this sound on their masterpiece LP, major label debut Bizarro (aye, forget the George Best album. No tears now.)

The 24.5.88 session is almost the perfect session. As was often the norm at these sessions, the band recorded 3 brand spanking new songs and one sparkling cover version. Nowadays, those three spanking new songs would be all over the internet the moment the last screech of feedback had died out and would have been digested, discussed and dissected by chat boards from Bradford to Berlin and beyond before breakfast. In pre-internet days, the C90 and your ‘pause’ button were your only friends. Fearful of taking a toilet break (Misty In Roots was my calling card every time), you captured what you could and replayed it the next day and more until the tape started to sound a bit wonky. Over time of course, this only added to the charm of a clandestinely captured Peel Session. It was often something of a shock to hear the ‘new’ song for the first time on the band’s album and finds that it didn’t slow down and speed up during the last chorus. Kids today with their mp3s, huh? They don’t know what they were missing. The 4 tracks I captured in all their hissy glory?

  1. Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now? (with ‘single‘ written through it like a stick of Blackpool rock, it was released on 7″ 4 months later. It even ended up being recorded and released in French)
  2. Unfaithful (workmanlike strumathon, eventually saw the light of day on the b-side of Kennedy (October 89 – Number 33  in the proper, real Hit Parade, pop pickers!)
  3. Take Me! (introduced by the DJ as Take Me, I’m Yours, released as Take Me! on Bizarro just under a year and a half later, this is a terrific indication of where the post George Best Wedding Present were heading (major labels, Steve Albini, America, Top of the Pops, my fanzine…))
  4. Happy Birthday (Altered Images cover, complete with Marilyn Monroe singing to JFK, “Happy Birthday Mr Pre.Si.Dent“. at the start)

Take Me, I’m Yours was my favourite. Over 8 minutes long, it featured an extended outro complete with Status Quo riffing, not the sort of thing expected from yer Wedding Present at all. The band must’ve been in on some Quo-related in-joke, for on Happy Birthday Gedge gleeefully shouts, “Status Quo, 25 years in the business!” and the band all cheer. It still tickles me today. The session tracks above are taken from my shiny, pristine Wedding Present Peel Sessions Box Set. Free of any FM hiss and missed guitar riffs they (cough…ahem) Present the Weddoes in the best possible way. I’m amazed that the Marilyn Monroe intro to Happy Birthday has been retained. I’d’ve thought that would’ve cost an arm and a leg to get the clearance for, perhaps even more than the expected return after selling however many copies of the box set they expected to sell. This music, after all, was recorded by a band who once sold a t-shirt proudly proclaiming in big black letters, ‘All The Songs Sound The Same‘. Who wants to sit through 12 John Peel Sessions over 6CDs in the one sitting? Only a fool. But a fool with particularly good taste.

The official Wedding Present website seems to be no more is here, and this excellent fan site has all you need and more. The image above, of David Gedge’s handwritten lyrics and guitar chords for Unfaithful and that shot of the band at the Barrowlands were taken from there. Thanks, Something And Nothing website!

*Bonus tracks!

Woah-woaw! Just cos it’s a cracker, here‘s The Wedding Present’s version of Orange Juice’s Felicity (Peel Session #1, 11th February 1986)

I used to have a few complete Peel Shows from the late 60s and early 70s which I’d have loved to make available for download here, but following the disaster that was the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2007, this is no longer possible. Instead, I offer you this – the complete 1971 David Bowie Peel Session. Some of this (crucially, not all of it) made it onto the Bowie At The Beeb CD set a few years back. Plenty of chat from Peel (and Bowie for that matter). Get it while you can.