Alternative Version, Cover Versions

Maker’s Marc

Like most of you who visit here (my demographic stats tell no lies), I was the perfect age for 80’s pop. At the time I kinda took it for granted that the charts would always be filled with million-selling hit singles with shelf lives longer than the queue for a fake ‘Frankie Says…’ t-shirt at Saltcoats Market.

I spent the decade convincing myself that the era was rubbish for music – with the odd obvious exception, a million-selling single was no guarantee that it was any good. Living in the 80s just wasn’t fair.  My parents watched wide-eyed as the 60s unfolded right in front of them (unbelievably, much of it unfolded while they were in a pub stubbornly listening to or playing folk music. Yeah, yeah, yeah), and cool folk from school with groovy uncles or elder brothers and sisters had a gateway into the eclecticism of the 70s, but what did I have that was exclusively mine? Spandau Ballet? Amazulu? The Art Company? Living in the eye of the norm, it was all bland rubbish really, but when you cast a misty-eyed look backwards nowadays, it’s plain to see the 80’s might not have been half as bad as we convinced ourselves they were. Granted, the music soundtracked a depressing time in which to be a teenager; Thatcher’s self-prophesising comment that ‘there’s no such thing as society anymore’ was splitting the country into haves and have nots, and with mass unemployment, little prospect for school leavers and inner city unrest (thankfully, this never made it to the mean streets of Irvine) for the millions of have nots, it was truly a shite time to be alive. But the circumstances led to some of the greatest ever music – ‘our’ generation’s music; The Specials, The Smiths, you know them all….

soft cell 2

Soft Cell‘s 1981 take on Tainted Love remains just one reminder of how decent the 80s actually were for music. At the time, Tainted Love was nothing more than a non-political catchy single, something that Bruno Brookes played between Swords Of A Thousand Men and Kim Wilde’s Cambodia, something that Steve Wright played before Mr Angry, something that Kid Jensen played immediately after the latest Teardrop Explodes session. You might want to cross-reference artists and release dates here, but I’m sure you catch my drift. Tainted Love was everywhere. Minimalist electro-lite and bouncy, with mysterious gassy hisses every now and again, it was infectious and catchy and even now as I type, it was clearly instantly memorable. Did I as an 11 year old spot the mild whiff of submissive, dangerous, homo-erotic je ne sais quoi emanating from Marc Almond. Of course not! Marc Almond was a pop star. It was his job to dress funny, jaunty leather joy-boy cap or not. Just ask Adam Ant, a man who’s make-up-caked face plastered my bedroom wall, much to my dad’s unease. I doubt he’d ever heard those Marc Almond stomach-pumping rumours, given the enthusiasm by which he cheerily battered the dashboard of our Ford Cortina – “Sometimes I feel I’ve got to (thump thump!!) run away!” – whenever Tainted Love parped it’s way out of the tinny AM radio.

Here‘s the super-extended 12″ version, where Tainted Love breaks down into the band’s skeletal yet soulful take on The Supremes’ Where Did Our Love Go?

Soft CellTainted Love (12″ version)

soft cell

I suspect I wasn’t alone in thinking Soft Cell’s version of Tainted Love was the original. It would be a few years later before I discovered the truth (mid 60’s brass-led stirring soul stomper, Gloria Jones, Marc Bolan, etc etc) and when I did, wow!, a whole new world opened up for me. Why couldn’t my mum and dad have been listening to this instead of Hamish Imlach in 1964? Eh? EH?!?

gloria jones

Gloria JonesTainted Love

Here‘s Inspiral Carpets‘ version. Unfairly relegated to 2nd Division Madchester also-rans, early Inspirals were a riot of bowl cuts, bass players called Bungle and badly-rhymed beat-driven garage punk. Easily identifiable by Clint Boon’s skirling Farfisa, many of those early tunes still endure to this day, in my house at least. A proper Plain Or Pan piece must surely be in the offing (I was supposed to be interviewing Tom Hingley recently, but that’s a whole story in itself), but until then, here’s their menacing attempt on Tainted Love, recorded to celebrate 40 years of the NME, a mag (free nowadays) that’s somehow in its 64th year. That’s a pension and a gold watch in old money is it not?

Inspiral CarpetsTainted Love


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, Hard-to-find

Them was rotten days

Going to see a band these days is far too expensive. Yer enormodome megastars like U2, Springsteen, AC/DC etc etc charge a small fortune. Yer second string enormodomers like Coldplay, Oasis, (insert your own choice here) etc etc can get away with charging similar fortunes. Even relatively minor league acts are asking you to stump up anything upwards of £15 to hear their one album’s worth of whining nonsense. And why? Cos in this day and age, when folk (like me) illegally share music, the artist has realised that the only way to make money is on the road. That’s why live music has never been so bouyant.  Even Madonna is out and about playing a football stadium near you. You can’t download the live experience. Aye, you can download a Dylan concert the minute he’s off stage. And you can watch umpteen YouTube shaky camera phone videos of Paul McCartney on stage with Neil Young even before the last bit of feedback has fizzled out. What you can’t do is download the actual in-yer-face gig. And until you can, your favourite artists will continue getting away with charging you the price of feeding a family of four for a week. But you knew that already.

blur ticket

It wasn’t always like this. I saw Blur for £1! (see above). I paid £4 on the door the first time I saw the Stone Roses. Even their famous Alexandra Palace gig was only £8.50. And they were massive by this point. I’ve tons of tickets for concerts I’ve been to where I’ve paid a fiver or less. Sure, that first Stone Roses concert was 20 years ago. Blur was 18. I’m no economist, but surely the price of gig tickets these days outstrips the rate of inflation?


I saw the Inspiral Carpets loads of times. So named after one band member commented on his fellow band member’s mum’s orange and brown 70s living room carpet, the first time I saw them they were supporting the Wedding Present in the Barrowlands. I thought they sounded like the Teardrop Explodes; swirly organ, 60s references, bowl cuts and all that. Every song sounded like ‘Reward‘. I was hooked. I kept my fingers poised over the pause button of my tape recorder during John Peel shows and I kept my eyes peeled on the gig pages of NME. I went to see them all the time. I paid £3.50 to see them in the bar at Glasgow Tech. A quick visit to their merchandise stall to purchase 2 ‘Cool As Fuck’ badges (lost on the way home) and a demo tape called Dung 4 cost me a further £3.60. Add a couple of student-bar-priced watery pints  and you can see that I had a great night out for a tenner.

Inspiral Carpets - DUNG 4

Keep the Circle Around

Seeds Of Doubt



Inside My Head

Sun Don’t Shine

Theme From Cow



Garage Full Of Flowers

96 Tears

A couple of weeks ago I dug out that old demo tape and converted it into mp3 files. It’s very much of it’s time, but still sounds pretty good. If you’re in anyway into Farfisa-led 60s influenced tunes sung by a shouty guy called Steve (these songs are pre Tom Hingley fame era) then it’s for you. Some of the tracks appeared polished and shiny down the line on the Rare As Fuck Plane Crash ep.  Others crept onto 7″ b sides or re-appeared in future Peel Sessions. If you’re a fan of Inspiral Carpets you’ll know most of them. If not, it’s as good a place to start as any. This tape was the one thing that convinced me I had seen the future of rock n roll. And it wasn’t called Bruce Springsteen.  


The Inspiral Carpets occasionally gave out a newsletter. By issue 4 it had become known as the moos-letter. Here’s the one I got round about the time I saw them in Glasgow Tech and bought the tape that you’re just about to download.

find out why 1

find out why 2 3

find out why 4


I meant to write in my original post that about a year after the Glasgow Tech gig, I saw the Inspiral Carpets again at Strathclyde University. This was round about the time Noel Gallagher was roadying for them. The band were outside unloading their van and I took the chance to get them to sign the inside of my Levis denim jacket. They all signed it (apart from the singer who was, to quote the roadie (Noel?), “away shaggin'”). Clint Boon drew the cow logo and wrote “Inspirals ’89” underneath it. I think my sister nicked the jacket about a year later. Pre-eBay, I don’t know where it ended up…