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Youth Club

Teenage Fanclub played at Kelvingrove Bandstand last week. It was notable for being their first ‘homecoming’ show since the departure of founding member Gerry Love. Not only was Gerry a fluid bass player and an essential cog in a three-part harmony, he was also the writer of one third of the band’s material. From early highlights such as December and Star Sign, to Radio, Sparky’s Dream and Going Places, Ain’t That Enough and Take The Long Way Round, I Need Direction, Near You and Born Under A Good Sign, as well as Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything right through to Thin Air on most-recent album Here, Gerry’s songs are kingpins in any Teenage Fanclub set.

Arguably, of the band’s three writers, he’s the best. The band’s set on Tuesday was notable for a very large Gerry-sized hole in it and although they’ve chosen to staunchly move forward with the welcome addition of Euros Childs on keys and backing vocals and long-time collaborator Dave McGowan on bass duties, it remains to be seen how things pan out.

Normally I’m flying for a week after a Teenage Fanclub show. I’ve seen them enough times to know a good show when I’ve seen it – the Grand Ole Opry show in 93/94, any number of those early King Tuts shows, the Motherwell show when they started with a new one then threw away the evergreen Everything Flows by playing it second song in, the three Barrowlands gigs late last year – and at will I can replay the best of the set in my mind’s eye. Right now I’m replaying Norman doing the Barry Norman ‘Film…’ theme on the piano at the side of the Ole Opry’s stage while Raymond fiddles in vain with an effect pedal. Since last Tuesday’s Bandstand show though, I’ve felt….nothing. Indeed, I woke up on Wednesday and my first thought wasn’t about the gig the previous night. Until now, that’s never happened and I’m afraid it might be a sign of what’s to come.

If they release a killer album, all will be forgotten. If they rely too much on Raymond’s material, it may well signal the decline of one of our best and most-loved bands.

It’ll also be interesting to see how things go with Gerry. Quietly writing and recording at his own tectonic pace, we may well yet get to hear some of those great old Love songs at one of his shows, where they’d sit perfectly between the choicest of cuts from his Lightships project from a few years back. Imagine the scenario of the Loveless Fanclub going on tour at the same time as a solo Gerry, like splintered factions of an indie Drifters. ‘Norman Blake’s Teenage Fanclub‘ versus ‘Gerry Love Plays Your Favourite Fanclub Tracks‘. It doesn’t bare thinking about.

Pre-Kelvingrove, we were showered with full-force, biblical rain. Real 40 days and 40 nights stuff, it threatened to ruin the gig before we’d even left our shelter under one of the big old oak trees that line the walkway up to the Bandstand. When it lessened to a torrent, we made for the venue where we caught almost all of Nile Marr’s set (very good) and pointed out the superstars of Glasgow’s music scene that littered the audience like a hip double page in a Where’s Wally book while we grooved moistly to the DJ’s tunes that blasted from the PA. I hadn’t heard Sonic Youth‘s Teenage Riot in ages – perhaps last at a TFC show from a few years back, now that I think about it, and in the moment it sounded terrific.

Sonic YouthTeenage Riot

Teenage Riot has that thing where the beginning is all detuned metallic ambience, liquid mercury that’s longer than Thurston’s ubiquitous fringe and with more holes in the backbeat than on the knees of Lee’s vintage 501s. Played loud it really kicks, Kim’s whisper vying for attention with the occasional click of Steve’s sticks. When it eventually gives way to the ragged chuggalugga signature riff it really gets going. Thurston drawls on about Marshall stacks and needing a teenage riot to get him out of bed, like, now, and those twin Fenders clatter away with wonky chorded cool, arch, knowing and slightly smug but ultimately rockin’. It was the perfect tune to play before the ‘Fanclub hit the stage – a Teenage Riot indeed.

Way back around 1990 Teenage Fanclub supported Sonic Youth at the Barrowlands. I remember little of Sonic Youth’s show other than I blame it for the onset of tinnitus I now have, but I remember it fondly for TFC playing an octane-hopped version of God Knows It’s True, a maelstrom of wild guitars and wild hair, wild drummers and mild-mannered men in control. The version they played last week though – second song in, funnily enough – I’ve forgotten already.

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, Get This!

Plane Or Pan

I have a distinct memory from the mid 70s of being plonked in front of the telly to watch what must’ve been a repeat of Concorde’s maiden flight, all far-off (and far-out) shimmer and vapour trails and soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac‘s Albatross. It would be years later before I knew what the music was, but it fitted the imagery perfectly. The one note pulse of the bass and drum beat like the wings of some giant bird (an albatross, I suppose, now that I think about it) while the atmospheric cymbal splashes and swoops and sweeps of the slide guitar mirrored the way Concorde banked up and away to the right after take-off. The main riff is , I think, the reason I’m a total sucker for a harmonising guitar. On Albatross, the twin guitars harmonise practically throughout; tasteful and understated and nothing like the peacocking poodle rockers who appropriated it as their own in the coming years.

concorde

Living closed to Prestwick Airport, our skies were regularly ripped apart by Concorde’s impressive thunder. No matter how many times we’d seen it before, the school playground would be full of parka’d kids pointing at the sky. If the nose was up, the plane had just taken off. If the nose was down, it was coming in to land. That was playground fact. No matter how many times I’d seen it before, the same thing always happened. The world around me would fade away. The focus of everyone’s attention would magically drop into slow motion and Albatross would start playing in my head.

Fleetwood MacAlbatross

One time (1984 perhaps) the actual Space Shuttle re-fuelled at Prestwick, piggybacking atop a jumbo jet. Even then, as we stood, mouths agape and pointing towards the most exciting thing in the world, the slow motion blues of Albatross played in my head. I still didn’t know it was called Albatross at the time, or who it was by, or anything about it, but it was inextricably linked with man-made flight and Concorde. It still is.

For such an iconic tune, it’s surprising to find Albatross hasn’t been covered more than it has. Perhaps it’s the reverence in which it’s held that excludes respectful musicians from butchering it. Hank Marvin could never resist the lure of that twang though, so it’s not surprising to find The Shadows have their own sterile, Asda priced version kicking around like Val Doonican in the 100 Club. It’s not hard to find, but you won’t find it here.

lee-ranaldo

More interesting is the version by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, accompanied by fellow noisy Fender bender J. Masics. It’s soulful, respectful and sounds exactly as you might expect…

Lee Ranaldo Band feat. J. MascisAlbatross

Maybe it’s the textured layers of feedback, or the liberal dosing of effect pedal chaos, but it’s amazing version. I like to think that if (as rumoured) Concorde takes to the skies again, it’ll be this version that plays in my head if I ever catch it in the skies above Ayrshire.

Perhaps even more interesting than the version above is the remix/reinterpretation/call it what you will by ambient producer Chris Coco. A self-titled tastemaker, DJ, broadcaster, producer, music curator, musician and journalist, (phew!) Chris has been at the forefront of dance music since the acid house days in the 80s. At the start of the new millenium he co-presented Blue Room on Radio 1, a show that gave a platform to left-of-centre and new, emerging dance acts. I’m not the most qualified of people to write about such a show, but if you’ve ever been into warped-out, dubby, spacey, downtempo dance music, chances are it first appeared here. That Chris would then go on to become Robbie William’s Tour DJ of choice should not be held against him.

Chris CocoAlbatross

This 11+ minute version of Albatross is magic. Beatless and atmospheric, it takes the original, coats it in a sheen of tinkling electronica and processed trickery and stretches it for maximum blissed out effect. I doubt Peter Green ever had any idea his original would end up in such an altered state, but if it had been him and not Dave Gilmour who’d ended up playing with The Orb a few years back, we may well have had a whole album like this. Imagine that!