I suggested to Brendan that we needed selfies behind the kit and candid snaps of our fab four goofing around in the studio like The Monkees, stories of false starts, forgotten parts and flare ups over wrong chords. He encapsulated the whole rehearsal experience in one genius cartoon.
Six Of The Best is a semi-regular feature that pokes, prods and persuades your favourite bands, bards and barometers of hip opinion to tell us six of the best tracks they’ve ever heard. The tracks could be mainstream million-sellers or they could be obfuscatingly obscure, it doesn’t matter. The only criteria set is that, aye, they must be Six of the Best. Think of it like a mini, groovier version of Desert Island Discs…
Brendan O’Hare is best-known as being one of the three drummers who’ve wielded the sticks and pounded the beat in Teenage Fanclub. Between 1989 and 1994, Brendan’s tight but loose scattergunning Moonisms helped define the early Teenage Fanclub sound; loud, melodic and always just half a beat from falling apart. Fanclub shows at the time were a riot of hair and feedback, false starts and between-song random gibberish. I first caught them live when they supported the Soup Dragons at the old Mayfair in Glasgow in July 1990, a mind-melting 28 years ago. That night they were all the things above and more and I was so taken with them I went out the next day and tracked down a copy of Everything Flows, their recently-released debut 7″.
In the subsequent quarter century and more, I’ve been first in the queue whenever there’s a new TFC release and I can count on the one hand how many times I’ve missed a hometown Fanclub show, mainly pre-internet and back in the day when you really had to have an ear to the ground.
I was fairly miffed, let me tell you, to find out one day that Teenage Fanclub and Alex Chilton had set up at the 13th Note the night before for a wee show.
Likewise when a work colleague told me he thought he’d have seen me “last night at the Fannies’ show in the Mitchell Library. They played loads of Beach Boys tunes and stuff.”
Or the night when I was mid-way through the Thursday wheezefest that was 5-a-sides and someone asked why I wasn’t at the Edwyn Collins with Teenage Fanclub gig in Mono that was happening right there and then. There was a lot of Falling, but not much Laughing, let me tell you. That was at the height of the TFC message board too. How I missed that, I’ll never know.
Other than that, I think I’ve been at them all, from King Tuts in Elvis costumes to the Pixies support where the stage collapsed after their set and the show was abandoned, to the rootin’ tootin’ Grand Ole Opry – perhaps the finest show I’ve seen them play, the 3 nights at Oran Mor where they aired much of their stellar back catalogue, the umpteen ABC and Barrowlands shows and everything in-between and since.
I used to be dead proud of my unblemished record of having seen the band perform live at least once a year, until Norman’s relocation to Canada and the inevitable gaps in the touring schedule that came as a result. Having said that, I reckon I must’ve seen TFC over 50 times. They’re second only to the mighty Trashcan Sinatras on the old gigometer, and in November I’ll be creeping ever closer to the TCS by adding another 3 notches to that mighty fine tally mark.
Anyway, back to Brendan.
Brendan joined Teenage Fanclub when they formed from the dead ends of The Boy Hairdressers, a band that featured the songwriting talents of Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley. With the addition of Gerry Love on bass, the 4-piece went quickly to the recording studio armed with a handful of Boy Hairdressers’ songs and a headful of giddy ideas. A Catholic Education was the result; an album that provided a decent introduction to Teenage Fanclub. There were noisy tracks – Heavy Metal, irreverant tracks – Everybody’s Fool, loose approximations of melody, fighting for top billing with the surface noise and coming off second best – Too Involved, Every Picture I Paint, Critical Mass and one bona fide meandering classic, that debut single Everything Flows.
On the album, Brendan shared drumming duties with former/future drummer Francis MacDonald but by the next single, the magnificent noise pop of God Knows It’s True, Brendan had made that shoogly drumming stool his own. Just as a wee dog feels the need to pee up a tree trunk to mark his spot, he even stuck his name on the bass drum where most normal bands displayed their logo. Teenage Fanclub are no normal band though. When second album proper Bandwagonesque appeared, three of the principal members were writing material.
Released 16 months or so after A Catholic Education, Bandwagonesque was a few short months away from, yet light years ahead of, the debut. The harmonies that would soon come to define the band were pushed to the fore. String sections and brass parts helped drag it above and beyond the scuzzy indie rock of its contemporaries. Guitars still fizzed and the drums still hammered like a blacksmith on an anvil, but Bandwagonesque was radio-friendly power-pop in excelsius, finishing the year at the very top of the ‘Best Of The Year’ lists ahead of such also-rans as Nirvana’s Nevermind and REM’s Out Of Time. You knew that already though.
Brendan played on the follow-up, Thirteen, the misunderstood forgotten child of the Fanclub family. By the band’s own admission they went to the studio with half-finished choruses and ideas rather than fully developed songs. Not that you’d know if you listened to it. It lacks a bit of Bandwagonesque‘s sparkling punch and Grand Prix, the album that followed, knocks it for six, but as a standalone album, Thirteen is still miles ahead of most other band’s best work. Any album that contains the swooning Norman 3 or the frantic knee-trembling Radio or the Neil Young-isms of closing track Gene Clark is hardly in the ‘duffer’ category. Following the Thirteen tour, Brendan left the Fanclub due to ubiquitous ‘musical differences’ and was replaced by former Soup Dragon and fellow North Lanarkshire guitar band alumni Paul Quinn.
Brendan would join TFC briefly later on; on the 2006 tour when the band played Bandwagonesque in its entirety for the first time, it was Brendan who was brought in on drums. And at those Oran Mor shows a couple of years later, Brendan nearly knocked me over in his haste to get to the stage to join the band for an impromptu – although how impromptu I’m not exactly sure – run-through of The Ballad Of John & Yoko. I suspect he may also have more than a bit-part to play in the Catholic Education/Thirteen shows later on in the year……
With Teenage Fanclub’s back catalogue due for imminent release and subsequent reappraisal I thought it might be quite good to ask Brendan if he’d like to ‘Sophie’s Choice’ the Teenage Fanclub back catalogue and narrow it down to an impossible 6 of the best. His reply was immediate and positive.
I’d love to do that. A lot. Very lot.
And so, over the course of a week or so, Brendan whittled an outlandish task down to a definitive half-dozen. Fanclub freaks might be a bit surprised…
I’m kinda uniquely placed to try and talk my way through this but I’ve not written more than 100 words since I left school. In the 17th century.
I’m mad for the intricacies of the songwriting process. What better way then for me to spend some time than by trying to write about one of my very favourite bands and six of their songs?!
The Teenage Fanclub.
I’ll use letters instead of numbers because there’s no hierarchy to this list.
Some songs are perfectly recorded, the band so synchronised that the subsequent overdubs all nestle into the song like the band played it all live.
I’ve no idea how this was recorded but it feels like you’re hung in a hammock, floating within the song, within the mix. Norman leads us, pied piper-esque, towards the most beautiful big set of pastoral doors, kicking them in to reveal the most uplifting synth solo since ever.
I rarely find myself imagining driving to a song but this song IS driving in Scotland. It really just is.
It’s A Bad World
Raymond has a tendency to hide around musical corners and dazzle you as you pass by. I guess I’m saying he’s like a musical flasher, managing to make even the most sensible of timings unusual and quirky. (I’m not sure how the flasher analogy is working on that point.)
This song is so controlled yet so chaotic. The guitar tones allow you to hang on to their arms, either side, whilst the frankly incredible bass playing (and bass sound) plays keepie uppie with your arse. With false ‘Highway to Hell’ moments to boot this one just makes me want to bounce about, happy being a marionette controlled by the maestro’s fingers.
Take the Long Way Round
A beautiful Gerry introduction to his world at the beginning of this song. A hypnotic psychedelic twister of a “previously on Gerard Love” recap allowing you to settle in for the trip.
Jangle sunshine pop like it really should be done. I’m not sure that anyone else’s world is quite like Gerry’s. This sounds like a band having some fucking fun. Why wouldn’t you be? I mean you got Gerry singing about some wistful sunshine hippy shit (I’d imagine), slapping you with a cracker of an indie-jangle chorus.
Wooohoo! Sunshine Lanarkshire-styles. 70’s summer skies break into an impromptu acapella in a bus shelter. Harking back to a time when cigarettes didn’t kill you and you’d almost completed your Panini World Cup sticker book.
For me, it’s a holy trinity within one of the greatest albums of all time.
I’m not sure how long this song is. I always play it twice. It somehow manages to fuse a sombre, plodding nature with an upper layer of melodic loose-o-tronic guitar work.
By my calculations this song is either useless or suicidal if used in conjunction with jogging apparatus. As an example of harmony singing, however, it’s second to none.
I Don’t Care (“Fuck negative Raymond!”)
There’s something really Euro-Glam about this to me. Metronomic insistence allowing for the usual beautiful Fanclub harmonies to float just above the song enabling a trance-like state to occur wherein journeys, and their afterglow, are explained to you. And you understand. Perhaps only briefly.
I know!!! ALL from Songs From Northern Britain. I really do think it’s one of the greatest albums of all time. Sublime.
I Need Direction
For when you need a bit more Gerry sunshine in your life. Bubblegum pop done with the style, fashion and execution of true masters. The chime of the guitar break. The under-shimmer of the Hammond. Holy Tits, Batman, there’s not many musical buttons it doesn’t flatter with its pushing. The apparent effortlessness of the performances on this song are what make it so special for me.
Wow! Who’s going to argue with that? Former drummer picks 6 tracks, none of which he plays on, 5 of which are on the same album. 1 x Norman, 2 x Raymond, 3 x Gerry. It’s a great list. Feel free to add your own chosen 6 in a comment below.
You should probably visit/revisit Gerry‘s Six Of The Best from 7 years ago. You’ll find that wee beauty here.
No writing recently as I’ve spent the past week away on a school residential trip. Well, 4 schools’ trips to be exact. It’s the final hurrah before the P7s leave their lofty position as top dogs of their respective primary schools and enter the local secondary as the smallest fish in a much bigger pond. The trip is organised as a bonding session, as a way of getting to know the chancers and cheek merchants who’ll form your peer group for the next 4 years at least. It was a great trip, all be told, my 6th tour of duty at the same place and, as before, a trip like none of the previous ones. I sat last night like a burst baw, beer in hand and hardly bothering to drink it.
Despite the fact that you’re most definitely very responsible for these children 24 hrs a day, every day for a school week, and you’re in their company from the moment the first early riser surfaces (6.00am was this week’s record, though it was no later than 7 on the others), until the last laugh has echoed down the dormitory corridor at 11.30pm, it is a very enjoyable week. My personal highlight was yesterday morning when we went out as a school group and sped across the Firth Of Clyde on a handful of speedboats. A pod of dolphins had followed our procession and at one point, one of the dolphins swam alongside one of the boats. The kids were able to lean overboard and touch it, much to their delight (and the disappointment of the others who’d found themselves on the ‘wrong’ boat).
The instructor driving the boat asked me if we’d prefer to go and see the seals next or head further round and push the vessel to the limits of its speed. “Can’t we do both?” I was thinking, although I replied, “Whatever you think’ll be best….the kids’ll enjoy either.”
“Easy come, easy go,” came the reply.
And with that, an earworm was born. And it’s been my earworm ever since.
As it turned out, we did do both; we zipped across the top of a blustery channel before thrillingly and somewhat dangerously sharply turning 270 degrees to head for the rocks where the seal colony lived. My knuckles were white but I had GW McLennan’s tune spinning in my head as we headed for the seals. “I see my friends on fire….I might even have struck the match,” And there they were, playing up to the nautical tourists like well-trained zoo animals, the wee ones appearing and disappearing from the water, heads like black Labradors, the big fat one seemingly slobbed on the highest rock until we floated closer and it belly flopped into the oily sea. “You gotta take the moon from the trees, you gotta hide it in your room…”
We then turned again and our skipper edged forward into full throttle. There was an audible gasp for breath as the speedboat hit light speed, children gripping just that wee bit tighter than before. And still that tune played in my head. Weird! “You gotta hold it til it burns, you gotta make it easy come, easy go…” Even a sudden, unexpected mouthful of salt water couldn’t stop it.
When I got home last night, and the children and missus had been kissed and hugged and the dust had settled on the stories to tell and the washing had been put on and the case returned to the loft and the beer was in hand, the next thing I did was reach for Teenage Fanclub’s recent version. It was spun to within an inch of its life for about 40 minutes, one play after another, until my mind was rested. It’s a great version; faithful to the original, delivered by Gerry and wrapped in honeyed harmonies from Norman.
Sadly, no studio version remains available in mp3 format. You’ll need to have a copy of the fairly limited ‘I’m In Love’ 7″ if you want to hear it in all its warmly-produced glory. There is however, a rather good live version doing the rounds, recorded at last December’s Barrowlands show.
Teenage Fanclub – Easy Come, Easy Go (Live at Barrowlands, 3.12.16)
As a studio version, it could sit very easily on any of TFC’s stellar albums, especially last year’s ace ‘Here‘ LP. It could also sit nicely on a Lightships release, should Gerry decide once again to step away from Fanclub duties and go solo for a bit. He’d certainly be made very welcome to do so.
Indeed, Easy Come, Easy Go was the product of a solo record to begin with. Grant McLennan’s first output since the split of The Go Betweens (they’d reform briefly a decade or so later, before McLennan’s untimely death) was the Watershed album. It’s a record I’d never heard until I backtracked from Teenage Fanclub’s b-side and heard the original for the first time. In all honesty, The Go Betweens, as pleasant and melodic and literate as they are, didn’t really do that much for me. I appreciate them ‘n all, I just wasn’t crazy about them. For this, see also Belle & Sebastian. But I digress…. A solo record by someone from a band who I thought were just OK was never going to be high on my list of ‘must hears’. More fool me.
GW McLennan – Easy Come, Easy Go
I dare say it’s a terrific LP, packed full of Antipodean jangling pop, although as I’ve reasoned above, it needs proper investigating before I’m fully qualified to really say so. In its original form, Easy Come, Easy Go sounds exactly like a Teenage Fanclub track even if, when it was written in 1991, the Fannies were still favouring Marshall stacks over Fender Twin Reverbs and were more akin to fuzzy Ravenscraig rockers than the Bellshill Beach Boys they were still to become. Certainly, Watershed as a whole and Easy Come, Easy Go in particular are clear influences on the TFC sound. And for that I really should sit up and take more notice.
“It’s Saturday night in the Barrowlands! Where else would you rather be!?!” asks Norman Blake to the partisan home crowd. He’s greeted with a huge cheer. Aye, this gig had all the makings of a classic; a much-loved band, a new album currently hovering around the higher echelons of many ‘Best Of The Year’ lists, a back catalogue of killer songs and social media ablaze in the days running up to the show with desperate pleas for any spare tickets for the home-town gig in The Best Venue In The World (us Barrowlands stalwarts are fiercly protective of our venue – on the right night, there’s nowhere else like it on the planet). With the exception of the Trashcan Sinatras, I’ve seen Teenage Fanclub more times than any other band. From King Tuts and the Grand Old Opry to the SECC and back again. In Motherwell. In Edinburgh (more than once, too). Supporting Neil Young and Pixies. I’ve been to numerous TFC shows in all manner of places. I think last night was my 43rd show, and as such, I’m fairly well qualified to judge a Teenage Fanclub show. So why did I leave the gig slightly (just slightly, mind) underwhelmed and a touch (just a touch, mind) disappointed?
It certainly wasn’t due to my brief conversation with minor pop celebrity Duglas T Stewart of the BMX Bandits. “Will you be doing a wee turn later, Duglas?” I ask, nodding in the direction of the stage. “I might be having a wee turn later, but I won’t be doing one, no…”
Maybe it’s where we chose to stand. Years ago I’d have made my way to as close to the front as possible, fingers crossed that I would still have 2 shoes on by the end of the gig. More recently, at the back, on the wee lip that borders the sprung dancefloor has become a favourite spot for middle-aged short arses like myself, but when the only spot that remains happens to be slap bang in the middle of the main thoroughfare for the bar, by the 3rd song in I was wishing I was that gung-ho Barrowlander of old. I would’ve gone for it too, but I was wearing reasonably new desert boots and I didn’t want to risk it.
Nope, it wasn’t that. Despite the flow of people (who goes to a gig to spend their night walking parallel to the stage while staring at their phone for most of the night? A debate for another time…), I had a perfect view. Slightly stage right, facing Gerry and looking across the top of the audience’s heads.
Maybe it was the choice of songs. The setlist was strong – a decent mix of new material (5 songs from the new LP) and a choice selection from the Fanclub’s stellar back catalogue, including band perennials Star Sign, Ain’t That Enough, Sparky’s Dream, I Don’t Want Control Of You, and The Concept, songs that between them have a combined age of half that of the Rolling Stones, but still sound as fresh as they day they were first commited to vinyl.
‘Borrowed’ from the Teenage Fanclub Fanclub Facebook page. Credit where it’s due.
Nope. Nothing wrong with the songs they played and how they sounded. Is there any finer sight in music than when the three principal members of Teenage Fanclub step up to their mics and sing as one? No, there’s not. The vocals sounded really terrific. The Concept, with it’s big 70s soft rock outro sounded fantastic. Fanclub-tastic, even. And the opening one-two of Start Again followed by SometimesI Don’t Need To Believe In Anything was perfect, the latter’s Harper’s Ba-ba-ba-ba-zarres and woah-wo-ohs and sudden stop particularly thrilling to these ears. Elsewhere, Raymond’s rediscovery in the joys of the whammy bar were put to good use, with liberal sprinklings of divebombing twang on the newer material. At one point, he and 5th Fanny Dave indulged in a spot of beautiful twin axe attack harmonising guitar, which had me shouting “Thin Lizzy!” to no-one in particular. The reserved crowd even risked a spot of dad dancing during Don’t Look Back, at that moment the Barrowlands momentarily transformed into The Best Venue In The World.
My complaint is two-fold. Firstly, much of the set was badly structured. Norman changed his guitar after every song which meant that while long-term guitar tech Guitar George wandered on and off with the Gibson or the Casino or the Mustang, the others shuffled around with silent tuners and little in the way of audience interaction. The Ramones could’ve played a whole set in the gaps between the songs.
The order of the songs was wrong too. A Norman song followed by a Gerry song followed by a Raymond song, and so on. Nowt wrong with that of course. With 3 top-class songwriters in the band, this is probably the most democratic way to do things. But it’s the Raymond songs I have a problem with. For me, always the weak point on the albums, they fail to cut it live too. They spoil the flow. Upbeat. Upbeat. Downbeat. Upbeat. Upbeat. Downbeat. Just as you’re getting into it, here comes another introspective Raymond jangler. Or a guitar change. Not even the honey-coated harmonies from Norman and Gerry could rescue things. It was great to hear the long-lost Verisimilitude again, with Norman’s guitar elevating it to greatness. It was even fine to stick My Uptight Life in the middle of the set, sandwiched between the chugging rush of It’s All In My Mind and The First Sight, one of the new album’s highlights. But these songs were played instead of others, not as well as.
Given this was the 2nd-last night of the tour…in the Barrowlands…in front of family, friends and the long-time faithful, I expected a Did I Say, or a Broken, or a Radio, or a God Knows It’s True with Brendan back on drums, or….. y’get the idea. So many great songs at their fingertips and the band chose to sludge the set up with a wee handful of mid-paced clunkers. And ditto for the encore. Here was the band’s chance to turn the years back and remind us why on their night they’re untouchable. Instead, the 4 song finale was like the rest of the set; two classics bookending a couple of set fillers. As great as the wee Grant McLennan cover is (it’s a cracker) and as soaring as the magnificent Everything Flows undeniably is, that’s why I’m feeling slightly let down this morning. Just slightly, mind. Maybe you’ll get a different set at the ABC tonight. Unusually for me, it’s a Fanclub show I can’t make. I hope it’s a cracker.
In the early 90s, there was no finer sight in music than when the three frontmen from Teenage Fanclub stepped up to the mic as one and filled the room with honey-coated harmonies that surfed across the top of their ramshackle fuzz. Lest we forget, in the year that saw both REM’s Out Of Time and Nirvana’s Nevermind released and racking up gazillions of sales, Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque sat proudly at the top of Spin Magazine’s ‘Albums Of The Year‘ list. And rightly so. Bandwagonesque is classic Fanclub; a welding together of God-sent melodies with a clanging calamity of sweet-sounding guitars. To achieve the overdriven sound that defines much of the album, the band had the amps turned up as loud as they would go, put behind a closed cupboard door and close mic’d up. The effect is a cobweb-dusting thing of beauty, but you knew that already.
On account of their ability to conjure a slightly wobbly three-part harmony out of thin air, fans of the band renamed them The Bellshill Beach Boys. Lazy writers at the time were less generous, waxing lyrical about the band’s obvious debt to the three Bs – The Beatles, The Byrds and Big Star.
This was the first time I (and I suspect many others) had ever encountered the names ‘Big Star‘ or ‘Alex Chilton‘ and the hastily re-released #1 Record/Radio City twofer that followed on the heels of Bandwagonesque confirmed that Teenage Fanclub had indeed tipped their hat in the particular direction of their 70s idols. Other bands are guilty as charged when it comes to blatant sticky-fingered plagiarism, but Teenage Fanclub were clever enough not to steal whole songs, lock, stock and barrel from Big Star. The overall mood though of Bandwagonesque, from the mid-paced strumming and guitar sound to the uplifting melancholy that sticks itself to many of the tracks (The Concept is essentially a sad song, but it’s sky-scrapingly magnificent. Likewise, December and Guiding Star) is very Big Star. Nowt wrong with that of course.
Bandwagonesque remains an early high point in a discography embarrassingly rich in high points. Will the new album ‘Here‘, released in just over a month, have the same impact? Going on the strength of the lead single I’m In Love, with its trademark harmonies, fancy chords and Thin Lizzy-ish guitar solo, the early indications are good, but let’s remember that Bandwagonesque was released a quarter of a century ago. That Teenage Fanclub are still releasing records to an always-appreciative audience is fine in its own right.
Alex Chilton and Teenage Fanclub would play a few shows together. They also released a limited single via the NME, where Alex was backed by TFC on one side, and TFC were backed by Alex (kinda) on the other. At some point or other, (I’d like to imagine it was during the sessions for the NME single, though we’ll maybe never really know), Alex and TFC ran through a gloriously ragged live take of Bandwagonesque‘s Alcoholiday.
Alex Chilton – Alcoholiday
The track is credited purely to Chilton, but if you listen carefully between the clanging chords and underneath Alex’s world-weary, 30-a-day Marlboro-coated voice, you’ll be able to make out Norman Blake’s ooing and aahing backing vocals. It’s a beautiful thing. Perhaps even more beautiful than the original….
Teenage Fanclub – Alcoholiday
Teenage Fanclub have also dipped more than a toe into the extensive Chilton back catalogue. An early US-only single from around the time of Bandwagonesque saw them zip through a brilliant version of Free Again, replete with a kazoo solo, a key change and seemingly, the kitchen sink.
Teenage Fanclub – Free Again
Free Again is a post Box Tops Chilton three chord boogie that would first see the light of day on 1977’s The Singer Not The Song EP, from a period in time when no-one seemingly gave a damn about Alex. Given the shambolic mess that made up the EP, this was also a period in Chilton’s life when he seemingly didn’t give a damn about folk either, but that’s another article for another day.
Somehow, some way, Plain Or Pan has turned 9. Or, to be more accurate, is just about to turn 9. But at this time of year, when you can never be entirely sure if it’s Sunday morning or Thursday night and inspiration goes out the window along with routine and work ethic, it’s tradition that I fill the gap between Christmas and Hogmany with a potted ‘Best Of‘ the year compilation, so I’ve always made this period in time the unofficial birthday for the blog.
Not that anyone but myself should care really; blogs come and go with alarming regularity and I’ve steadfastly refused to move with the times (no new acts here, no cutting edge hep cats who’ll be tomorrow’s chip paper, just tried ‘n tested old stuff that you may or may not have heard before – Outdated Music For Outdated People, as the tagline goes.) But it’s something of a personal achievement that I continue to fire my wee articles of trivia and metaphorical mirth out into the ether, and even more remarkable that people from all corners of the globe take the time out to visit the blog and read them. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, one and all.
Since starting Plain Or Pan in January 2007, the articles have become less frequent but more wordy – I may have fired out a million alliterative paragraphs in the first year, whereas nowadays I have less time to write stuff and when I do, it takes me three times as long to write it. To use an analogy, I used to be The Ramones, (1! 2! 3! 4! Go!) but I’ve gradually turned into Radiohead; (Hmmm, ehmm, scratch my arse…) Without intending it, there are longer gaps between ‘albums’ and I’ve become more serious about my ‘art’. Maybe it’s time to get back to writing the short, sharp stuff again. Maybe I’ll find the time. Probably I won’t.
The past 9 years have allowed me the chance to interview people who I never would’ve got close to without the flimsy excuse that I was writing a blog that attracted in excess of 1000 visitors a day (at one time it was, but I suspect Google’s analytics may well have been a bit iffy.) Nowadays, it’s nowhere near that, but I still enthusiastically trot out the same old line when trying to land a big name to feature. Through Plain Or Pan I’ve met (physically, electronically or both) all manner of interesting musical and literary favourites; Sandie Shaw, Johnny Marr, Ian Rankin, Gerry Love, the odd Super Furry Animal. Quite amazing when I stop to think about it. You should see the list of those who’ve said they’ll contribute then haven’t. I won’t name them, but there are one or two who would’ve made great Six Of the Best articles. I’m not Mojo, though, so what can I expect?
A quick trawl through my own analytics spat out the Top 24 downloaded/played tracks on the blog this year, two for each month:
Michael Marra – Green Grow the Rashes
Wallace Collection – Daydream
Jacqueline Taieb – Sept Heures du Matin
The Temptations – Message From A Black Man
New Order – True Faith
Bobby Parker – Watch Your Step
Jim Ford – I’m Gonna Make Her Love Me
Doris – You Never Come Closer
Ela Orleans – Dead Floor
Mac De Marco – Ode To Viceroy
Teenage Fanclub – God Knows It’s True
Iggy Pop – Nightclubbing
George Harrison – Wah Wah
Magazine –Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again
Future Sound Of London – Papua New Guinea
Bob Dylan – Sad Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands (mono version)
Richard Berry – Louie Louie
REM – Radio Free Europe (HibTone version)
The Cribs – We Share The Same Skies
Johnny Marr – The Messenger
McAlmont & Butler – Speed
Talking Heads – I Zimbra (12″ version)
Style Council – Speak Like A Child
Darlene Love – Johnny (Please Come Home)
And there you have it – the regular mix of covers, curios and forgotten influential classics, the perfect potted version of what Plain Or Pan is all about. A good producer would’ve made the tracklist flow a bit better. I just took it as I came to them; two from January followed by two from February followed by two from etc etc blah blah blah. You can download it from here.
See you in the new year. First up, Rufus Wainwright. Cheers!
There’s a tiny wee Teenage Fanclub renaissance taking place just now. Last week saw the 20th (the 20th!!!) anniversary of the release of their Grand Prix LP, the album many consider to be unmatched by anything else in the band’s brilliantly rich and epoch-defining (well, in my house at least) catalogue.
And also just last week, the band came together in Manchester to play a stadium show with Foo Fighters, warmed-up for with a 2 hour show the preceding evening in a small venue in Yorkshire. By all accounts the band were at their very best. Even Dave Grohl took time out from international rock star duties to sing their praises to Foo Fighters’ audience.
Me and Teenage Fanclub go waaaaay back. To 1990 to be precise. That summer, I caught them supporting the Soup Dragons in Glasgow’s Garage, bought Everything Flows on 7″ a few days later and set off on a proud run of buying each record on release day and catching the band play live at least once a year every year until 2014, when they had the audacity to play a rare gig at the refurbished bandstand in Kelvingrove Park on the same night I had chosen to book Glenn Tilbrook to play a tiny venue in Irvine. Glenn was good…..but he wasn’t Teenage Fanclub. Not that you could tell, but I’m still irked somewhat that I missed the bandstand gig that night.
When the TFC started out, they were ramshackle to the point of comedy. Their gigs, a right ramalama of long hair and Marshall-stacked riffs, were punctuated by false starts, broken strings and the erratic antics of Brendan on drums. Lurking underneath the friendly shambles though was a set of melody-rich songs doing their best to burst out of the confines of the plaid shirts and band in-jokes.
Teenage Fanclub – God Knows It’s True (single version)
Second single God Knows It’s True is a little lost jewel in an embarrassment of riches. The bridge between the gaffa taped DIY of A Catholic Education and the power pop sheen of Bandwagonesque, God Knows It’s True is rough-’round-the-edges indie rock; guitars-turned-up-to-10 and howling like Neil Young in the eye of a hurricane, with a saccharine-sweet minor key chorus that repeats ad-infinitum to the end. As it’s playing just now I can picture the band on stage in King Tuts, guitars slung low and heads bowed lest the 3 frontmen clatter their heads off of Tuts’ roof.
“God knows it’s true, but I think that the devil knows it too.” CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! Der-Der-De-Der De Duh-Duh-Duh-Duh-Duh!
Teenage Fanclub – God Knows It’s True (Peel Session, August 1990)
By the time Bandwagonesque came to be committed to tape, the band were in a rich vein of songwriting form and had taken to recording their valve-driven amps at full volume, mic’d up inside cupboards so as not to blast out any windows within a 20-mile vicinity. But you knew that already.
An interesting metamorphosis has taken place over the course of the band’s career. The hair, once “down my back” has crept slowly upwards. Add an extra member who can enhance the live sound with subtle keys and all manner of instrumentation and stick some necessary yet tasteful spectacles on the faces of half the band and Teenage Fanclub now resemble a quintet of slightly trendy science teachers, the kind of teacher who’d be equally at ease telling you the properties of the most obscure chemical elements in the Breaking Bad titles and be able to point out a major 7th chord on Love’s Forever Changes LP. Then shuffle on and rock out at the end of year school prom.
And as the hair has shortened, so too have the guitar solos. They’re still there, but they’re not at the forefront of everything anymore. The focus these days seems to be on the melody and the power of the backing vocal, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. There’s no finer sight in live music than when the 3 frontmen step forward as one to harmonise the opening lines of About You. None.
Teenage Fanclub – Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything
Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything from the aptly-named Shadows LP (where the band have been in the intervening 5 years since its release) sums this up brilliantly. A softly sung vocal from Gerry builds into a brilliantly-layered harmonising ba-ba-ba outro, creating a super soaraway sunshine pop song. Beach Boys by way of Bellshill, if you will.
The next TFC LP is due at some point this year. Whether the guitars have regained their room-filling volume, or whether the vocals are now competing for ear space with flutes and strings, I don’t mind. Nor, I suspect, do the legions of getting-on-a-bit-now men (and women…women like TFC too, y’know) eager for a new slice of Fanclub action. I cannae wait.
Dave knows the score
Useless TFC facts with tenuous links to this writer:
1. Both Gerry and myself are West of Scotland Our Price alumni. Despite numerous training days and the parochial nature of the job, we never knowingly met at the time.
2. Gerry contributed to this rather fine 6 Of the Best many moons ago. I met him quite by chance afterwards when he was DJing in a pub and I thanked him heartily for participating. My Fanclub fanboy conversation was such that he missed the start of the 7″ he’d queued up to play next on the turntable. Jam Master Jay he is not.