Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Live!, Most downloaded tracks

2018 (Slight Return)

As is the way at this time of year, lists, polls and Best Of countdowns prevail. Happily stuck in the past, the truth of it is I’m not a listener of much in the way of new music. Idles seem to dominate many of the lists I’ve seen, and I want to like them, but I can’t get past the singer’s ‘angry ranting man in a bus shelter’ voice. I’ve liked much of the new stuff I’ve heard via 6 Music and some of the more switched-on blogs I visit, but not so much that I’ve gone out to buy the album on the back of it.

If you held a knife to my throat though, I might admit to a liking for albums by Parquet Courts and Arctic Monkeys, both acts who are neither new nor up and coming. I  listened a lot to the Gwenno album when it was released and I should’ve taken a chance on the Gulp album when I saw it at half price last week, but as far as new music goes, I think that’s about it. Under his Radiophonic Tuckshop moniker, Glasgow’s Joe Kane made a brilliant psyche-infused album from the spare room in his Dennistoun flat – released on the excellent Last Night From Glasgow label – so if I were to suggest anything you might like, it’d be Joe’s lo-fi McCartney by way of Asda-priced synth pop that I’d direct you to. Contentiously, it’s currently a tenner on Amazon which, should you buy it via them, is surely another nail in the HMV coffin.

2018 saw the readership of Plain Or Pan continue to grow slowly but steadily in a niche market kinda style, so if I may, I’d like to point you and any new readers to the most-read posts of the year. You may have read these at the time or you may have missed them. Either way, here they are again;

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  • An article on the wonder of The Specials‘ b-sides.
  • Songs about snow and inclement weather.
  • Some words on the punk Beatles. Pete Shelley was very much still alive at the time of writing and retweeted the article.
  • A look at how the best reggae musicians steal the best soul tunes and make them their own.
  • Lush’s Miki Berenyi talks us through some of her favourite music. The most-read thing wot I wrote this year.
  • Stephen Sondheim , Leonard Bernstein, Tom Waits and Pet Shop Boys. Here.
  • First thoughts on Arctic MonkeysTranquility Base Hotel & Casino.
  • Why Eno‘s Here Come The Warm Jets should be in everyone’s record collection. Here.
  • Skids’ Richard Jobson waxes lyrical about Bowie. Here.
  • Some words on the quiet majesty of Radiohead‘s How To Disappear Completely.
  • Brendan O’Hare, loon drummer and all-round public entertainer in Teenage Fanclub chooses his favourite Teenage Fanclub tracks. Here.
  • The punk poetry and free scatting jazz of Patti Smith. Here.
  • A first-timer’s guide to Rome.
  • Johnny Marr live at the Barrowlands.

Feel free to re-read, Retweet, share etc.

 

See you next year.

Hard-to-find

Hooklines And Thinkers

In the first wave of punk’s angry snarl, I can only imagine Buzzcocks were a breath of fresh air. Not for them the stare-down-the-lens-of-the-camera Lydon sneer or the guttural, phlegmy Strummer howl. Instead, Pete Shelley stuck to his Mancunian roots and inflected/infected his vocal with a camp twist, one eyebrow permanently arched while stealing side-long glances at the camera like a not-that-hard-to-get Saturday night tease down the Wheeltappers And Shunters.

If The Undertones were The Ramones on happy pills, Buzzcocks were the punk Beatles. Most punk acts played a ham-fisted, snot-encrusted take on Chuck Berry’s 12 bar blues. ‘This is a chord. This is another. Now form a band‘, to paraphrase the famous slogan. With a Buzzcocks’ record though, you’re never far away from a weird and wonky chord or an unusual time signature or a proggy sound effect. Buzzcocks mattered.

Overarchingly, Buzzcocks were all about the three minute thrill of the pop rush. I challenge you to pick a Buzzcocks’ track that’s not a few seconds away from a brilliant hookline, be it a singable guitar riff, a perfectly-placed drum fill or a wobbly backing vocal. Buzzcocks really knew the value of a melody. It might’ve been hidden behind a same-sex symphony and the happy clatter of twin guitars, but it was always there.

These Promises (ah-ah)…

Reality’s a dream (ooh, ooh, ooh)…”

I just want a lover like any other, What Do I Get? (clang clang)…

BuzzcocksWhat Do I Get?

 

The whole of What Do I Get is basically Punk Go The Beatles, from the fade in and giddy rush of the verses via the triple vocals in the chorus and middle 8 down to the “tricky guitar solo!” in the middle. By the breakdown at the end, the whole band have come in on flat backing vocals, Shelley’s off and ad-libbing his “at all at all at all at all” vocals and the whole 2 minutes and 57 seconds comes to a perfect end with a none-more-Beatles “you-ooo!” and major 7th chord. It don’t get much better than that, if y’ask me.

BuzzcocksNoise Annoys

Buzzcocks ability to make melody matter (even on the baiting Noise Annoys) is why Singles Going Steady still sounds fantastic 40 years later. It’s basically The Beatles in flares and M&S v-necks.

In the serious world of discussing records, it’s not really the done thing to champion a Greatest Hits compilation, but drop the pretence for a minute. Singles Going Steady should be in every record collection. As, for that matter, should Complete Madness, Snap! By The Jam, Blondie’s Greatest Hits and maybe even The Best Of The Beatles (copyright Alan Partridge). But you knew that already, eh?

 

(C) Kevin Cummins

(C) Kevin Cummins

Hard-to-find

Never Mind The Buzzcocks

Telephone Operator by Pete Shelley gallops along like a post-punk, electro mash up of The Osmonds’ Crazy Horses and Take Me I’m Yours by Squeeze. Shelley is in full-on sneering-camp mode and as the record plays, you can just picture him looking side-on to an imaginary camera, left eyebrow slightly raised, arch and knowing.

It’s post punk and therefore post Buzzcocks, but it’s lost none of the key ingredients forever associated with his part in the punk Beatles – a nagging riff (played on synth rather than guitar), a melody with more hooks than a metre of Velcro and a sensational production courtesy of Mancunian marvel Martin Rushent. The track practically bursts out of the speakers with its room-filling throb. I think you’d like it.

Pete ShelleyTelephone Operator

pete shelley telephone 7

There’s also a Dub Version that can be found in the darkest corners of the ‘net. I’m not certain in what capacity it was released as it doesn’t appear on the b-side of the 7″ I have. It’s hardly essential – lots of echoey guitar riffs, some bloops and bleeps and sweeping synths, but sadly, none of the magic that makes the original version such a brilliant record.

Pete ShelleyTelephone Operator (Dub Version)

Telephone Operator is taken from Shelley’s second solo LP, XL-1, a loose-concept album that originally came with a programme that allowed you to play it via your ZX Spectrum (the iPad of 1983, kids), where lyrics and graphics would appear on-screen in time to the music. Ahead of the game, then, although the record buying public failed to engage with it. Four weeks after release, XL-1 had dropped out the charts, never to be seen again. Telephone Operator was the ‘big’ single from it, crashing in at a lowly 66 before vanishing likewise.

Despite this, Shelley’s post-Buzzcocks output is quite interesting and definitely worth investigating. He knows his way around a pop melody and has a sound that is defiantly his. The Buzzcocks may be the act that keeps him in new shoes, but there’s plenty other interesting stuff with his name attached to it.

*Bonus Track!

Here‘s long-gone nobodies Big Dipper with their take on Homosapien, Shelley’s first solo single and a song that suffered from a BBC ban at the time due to some fruity lyrics and allusions to same-sex sex (‘Homo Superior, In My Interior‘).

Big DipperHomosapien

pete shelley bw