Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Architecture & Morality

I Love 1981 pt. 24

Ok, I give up. I can't do it. I just can't write find the words for any kind of comment or review of this album, other than: It's perfect. It's faultless. It changed my life.  It changed a lot of people's lives. It has saved lives. It changed how I listened to music. It's got two songs about Joan of Arc. They're both perfect. It's got an instrumental title track, halfway through side two. This album moves me. There's nothing better than this album. Not by OMD and not by anyone.
If you've never listened to this album you should. Now. Buy it, borrow it, steal it. Just get it. Just sit and listen to it. Listen to it good and listen well.

Surrender yourself to Architecture & Morality.

01 The New Stone Age 3:22
02 She’s Leaving 3:28
03 Souvenir 3:39
04 Sealand 7:47
05 Joan Of Arc 3:48
06 Joan Of Arc (Maid Of Orleans) 4:12
07 Architecture And Morality 3:43
08 Georgia 3:24
09 The Beginning And The End 3:48

(these videos are for sampling only. You MUST listen to the whole album in its entirety.)

The New Stone Age

Joan of Arc

Architecture & Morality

Friday, 23 December 2011

Countdown To Christmas : Mike Oldfield - In Dulci Jubilo

Always thought this was more of a Pagan type song but turns out it is a bona fide traditional Christian tune, dating back to the Middle Ages, no less with 'Ii dulci jubilo' and the rest of the original words being a maceronic (good word) mix of Latin and German.
In 1975 ye good olde 'trad Dad' Mike Oldfield brought the tune into ye moderne age - forgetting all about the words - with this jolly interpretation of In Dulci Jubilo which gets duly pulled out at folkie Christmas gatherings, and quite rightly too. Our Mike does so like to do things all on his own, and here's a classic video performance using 'modern' film techniques to show him playing all the instruments at the same time. Must have been hell to synch back in the 70s.
So, good Christian men (and women).. Rejoice! .. and jig around a bit too to the multi-instrumental talents of Sir Mike of Oldfield....take it away Mike:

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Countdown To Christmas : The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping

Back to the eighties, and here's a jolly festive 'rap' (get it?) about single Yank chick who isn't too keen on Christmas, gets "world's smallest turkey", forgets cranberries then meets man of dreams in store whilst purchasing said berries. End of.
The song was only  a minor hit in 1982 although seems to have become a kind of 'noo-wave' cult track in the meantime, covered by the Spice Girls among others. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be any official video or performance so here's one someone's very kindly done with all the lyrics: very handy for your Christmas karaoke party.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Saint Etienne - I Was Born On Christmas Day

Top Christmas tune from almost the only "nineties" band worthy of my aural attenton, albeit somewhat inconsistently. Not sure what I dig most about this song: the duet-vocals, the lyrics ("..getting moody after Halloween.."), the beat, the two-note guitar solo, or that lovely melancholic keyboard line which was probably played on one of those melodica things you blow into (see New Order - Your Silent Face). 

Anyway nothing about this song is not amazing, and here's a vintage TOTP performance from 1993 with guest vocalist Tim Burgess and our Sarah in a smashing party dress. Roll the tape....

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Countdown to Christmas : John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir - Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

Amazingly hard to find a decent video to this one on youtube, although an healthy amount of shit videos and shit cover versions, and even this "official" one got the spelling and artist all wrong.
Anyway here it is . .needs no comment, save that sadly its message is as valid today as it was forty* (yes, 40) years ago. War is over, no it ain't. The only ever totally cool use of the "Xmas" abbreviation.

*released in 1971 in US and 1972 in UK, fact fans, even though the billboard campaign dates back to 1969 even.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Let's get together again

A bit slow on this one but old muckers Vince Clarke and Martin L Gore are getting together again to make music as VCMG, almost 30 years after Clarke quit Depeche Mode leaving Gore with all the song-writing duties.

As with many band splits it's been beneficial to both parties over the years,as proved by the global success of ver Mode and Clarke's relatively smaller yet nonetheless important career with Yazoo and Erasure.

Anyway here's the official blurb on the new stuff:
VCMG is the fruit of initially tentative discussion and subsequent enthused collaboration where Vince and Martin, both influential as pioneers in electronic music, get to exercise their lifelong love of the genre as the techno inspired VCMG. The first release is an EP entitled Spock. EP1 / SPOCK will feature remixes from Edit-Select, aka Tony Scott, the UK DJ / producer and founder of EditSelect Records whose previous remix credits include Speedy J, Death In Vegas and Gary Beck; Regis, British techno musician Karl O’Connor, member of the Sandwell District collective and co-founder of Downwards Records); DVS1, Brooklyn based producer Derek VanScoten (Radiohead / Sleigh Bells / Emancipator); plus XOQ, the alter ego of Californian Überzone / Q, who mixed the VCMG album.

VCMG - Spock [Pitchfork Exclusive] by Mute UK

Call me a sad nostalgic, but it's not  a patch on the "old-school" Vince n Martin stuff:


Monday, 5 December 2011

Music for collectors

I don't usually talk about films, as I'm not really much of a 'film-buff' as they used to be called, but don't get me wrong I do like a good flick now and then, especially if it's got some decent music in it.

Quite by chance the other night I came across The Collector, a 1965 film starring Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar, which was being shown on late night telly. It's quite a scarey story about creepy loner and butterfly collector Freddie (Terence Stamp) who kidnaps art student Miranda (Samantha Eggar) just for the hell of it and keeps her prisoner in the cellar of his posh Tudor home (Freddie had suddenly become rich by winning the pools some time hence).

It's a great film in a 1960s kind of way, with some interesting outdoor shots in London and a small English village, although what struck me most was the music used during the film in great quantities and to great effect. Getting to the closing titles I saw that the soundtrack was done by none other than Maurice Jarre, father of Jean Michel, who did quite a lot of film music in his time, and who sadly passed away a few years ago. Here's a taste of Jarre's work with the 'theme' I found on youtube. I'd love to locate the full soundtrack album if it's still out there.

NB "The Collector" not to be confused with a 2009 American horror movie of the same name which is probably nowhere near as good.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Singles round-up

I Love 1981 - pt. 23
With so many great albums out this time in 1981, let's have a quick look at some of the better singles of the time which may otherwise have escaped our avid attention:

Soft Cell - Bedsitter
an excellent follow-up to Tainted Love this was Cell's preview of the new album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, and a taste their rather seedy view of the early 80's society. More synth-pop greatness and  the 12" was even better.

New Order - Everything's Gone Green
The low-profile band's second single  was released in November and, typically, not included on their debut album Movement released around the same time. Gritty electronics mix with trademark bass-guitar riffs and electro-steady drumming, plus the usual enigmatic lyric (and title). A blueprint for their later electro-dance numbers to follow. Again , there was an excellent 12" extended version.

Scritti Politti - The "Sweetest Girl"
More from the indie scene, as championed by John Peel, but also making it onto other radio shows although sadly not onto the telly or into the charts.

ABC - Tears Are Not Enough
One band who did make it out of indie-obscurity into the big time were this erstwhile electronic experimental outfit from Sheffield (Vice Versa), now the glitzy and funky Treveor Horn-produced ABC. They would go to make one of the biggest albums of the 80s and this was their debut which got to number 19:

Laurie Anderson - O Superman
And here's the weirdest of them all: an experimental eight-minute long experimental semi-electronic minimalist piece that made it to Number 2  in October (held off my the only slightly less batty "It's My Party" by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin). Proof that in those days you could still experiment and be successful. Again championed by Peel it was perhaps understandably shunned by other national DJs. Contains the line ""Cause when love is gone, there's always justice / And when justice is gone, there's always force / And when force is gone, there's always Mom" . .still don't know what she was on about.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Japan - Tin Drum

I Love 1981 - pt. 22
It really is quite amazing how many great albums were released in this latter part of 1981. Not that I wish to play down any albums released earlier or mid-year but there just seems to be a concentration of greatness in these last couple of months. Must be something to do with the stars and the planets. Maybe not.
Moving swiftly on from The Human League's Dare (and missing out an all important album, leaving it until last, can you guess what it is readers?) here we have Japan's magnum opus Tin Drum released at the end of November.
As most of you will know it was their last studio album (until the Rain Tree Crow project a decade later) and their most successful commercially. Quiet Life (1979) and Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980) had gained much critical acclaim and had done quite well for the Catford glam-boys, but ironically it was Tin Drum which took them to super-stardom, albeit briefly, and mucho chart success - both with the album and no less than 4 singles taken from it - and then on to cult status.
They'd got off to a slow start with the new sound in the summer with The Art of Parties single which enjoyed modest success, and is the album's opening track albeit in a remixed form, the sound now blending in better with the faux-chinois and electronic sounds of the album. I say 'electronic' but to classify it as synth-pop (as some do) is both crass and unjustified. Apart from Sylvian's now characteristic voice (somewhere between Bowie, Ferry and Iggy Pop) the Japan sound is also characterised by the late Mick Karn's bendy fretless bass, the steady but creative drumming by David Jansen and, last but not least, Richard Barbieri's 'electronics'. (Guitarist Rob dean had since left the band)
Japan: just having a laugh out of the studio. 
Problem was however that although Japan had at last 'found' an amalgamated and unique sound, as a band itself they weren't working. Basically (or so it has been said several times) each member of the group was going into the studio, doing their own thing then leaving again, without even so much as a 'howdya do' or a quick cuppa with fellow members. It was then obviously up to producer Steve Nye to put it all together.
While today in the days of 'e-mail bands' and swapping ideas and lyrics over the interweb and such that may not seem so difficult, back in the day it would have made for a very disjointed and tedious process indeed.

However the album itself does all come together quite wonderfully, and may even be considered a kind of concept album taking in sounds, moods and lyrics with an oriental theme. The band had finally come to write an album that - almost - befitted their name. Titles like Canton, Visions of China and Cantonese Boy may sound corny especially when listed on an album by a band called Japan, but they represent some of the finest pop moments of this and indeed any other band of the time. Oddly, Visions of China as a single didn't do very well chart-wise. Previous label Hansa had hastily re-issued the 1979 Quiet Life single over the summer, as well as a retrospective album Assemblage, perhaps creating some consumer confusion and pre-empting sales for the new album and material. (Japan's singles back catalogue is rife with re-issues and re-purposed tracks). In fact it wasn't until the release of the superb Ghosts as a single in March of 1982 - and that TOTP performance - that things really got going for Tin Drum, giving it a longer run for its money in the charts. From its release right up until the end of June 82, Tin Drum was rarely out of the Top 40.

As already mentioned the album spawned four hit singles, plus a fifth if we consider the live version of Canton released from Oil On Canvas in 83, although my favourite remains the marvellously tongue-in-cheek Still Life In Mobile Homes, an up-beat number which opens side 2 and has everyone on fine form, as well as some gorgeous female-nipponic wailing and a great screechy guitar solo. Enjoy!

Berliner Bowie

Falling behind with all regular posting I'm afraid, not least the David Bowie Story ones, depsite the fact that I've been getting through David Buckley's book quite quickly.
Anyway blog-fans we're up the the "Berlin years" now, ie. the famous "Berlin-trilogy" albums Low, "Heroes" amd Lodger which take us up to 1979. Much to my disappointment Low wasn't actually made in Berlin, or not all of it at least. He started it off in rather more luxury surroundings in Switzerland before moving up to Berlin, thus meeting up with Brian Eno and various Krautrockers and local musikers.
It's probably my (and many others') favourite Bowie period as the music really does seem to gel at last, and although much removed from the punk/new wave scene emerging during those years these albums are a wonderful melange of solid rock and electro-experimental doodlings. He also did two albums with Iggy Pop in this period, so is also one of his most artistically fruitful to date.
Anyways to cut a long-ish story short here's a selection from each album, avoiding the more obvious songs, apart from Boys Keep Swinging off Lodger, mainly because it's the only one I like plus there's a zany performance/sketch off the infamous Kenny Everett Show from 79.

from Low:

from "Heroes":

from Lodger:

Thursday, 17 November 2011

One I made earlier

video: Watching A Bulding On Fire - John Foxx And The Maths
Here's a video I started putting together some time ago and finally got round to finishing off. It's a mixture of footage from Truffaut's film adaption of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, and John Foxx's video for He's A Liquid, from 1980.
For those who don't know, Bradbury's novel is a story set in the not too distant future, where books are basically banned off the face of the earth and any that are found have to be burned, and those responsible for reading or keeping them duly punished. The story follows the relationship between 'fireman' Guy Montag (Oskar Werner) and his relationship with Clarisse McClellan, played by the ever gorgeous Julie Christie. 451°F is the temperature at which book paper burns. Enough said.

In making my video, the 'fire' association between the film and the song is obvious, although of course the former is more about books as opposed to buildings. The line "someone is in the room", instantly reminded me of the original Foxx video and, like most of the Maths album, the song has much of the sounds of Metamatic so the Liquid video sequence fitted like a glove, also given the man meets woman scenario as Foxx's voice interchanges with that of Mira Aroyo of Ladytron on Watching, who co-wrote it.
I had considered using the excellent new remix of Watching A Building On Fire, but it's longer and has a slightly different structure so would've meant re-doing the whole thing.

Here's the video - and the song. It's quite long but please stick with it til the end if only to see the scene as sampled below:.

original version of Watching A Building On Fire available here
original video of He's A Liquid here

Monday, 14 November 2011

Shake your Boots

Hurrah! Some good news at last on the new music front. Blackpool synth-queen Little Boots is back with a new single Shake. It's been over two years since her electro-fantastic debut album Hands, and despite some worrying moments where LB (real name Victoria) was apparently lacking some inspiration, she's back with a blinder.

It's modern, it's dance-orientated and it's instantly catchy...but despite all of that we rather like it here at LiM.
Shake has already been previewed on the net and on the wireless last week and is now up for sale at i-tunes and all those sorts of places.

Anyway you can party down and shake your boot-y right now thanks to this soundcloud thang with the radio edit ..or there's even a really cool "record player" longer version on youtube. Awwwww.


Friday, 11 November 2011

From Station to Earth

The David Bowie Story pt.5
Well it's the mid-70s and Bowie, now The Thin White Duke, continues his cocaine-fuelled L.A./U.S. trip (pun intended) and proceeds to record his tenth studio album Station to Station. He was also working on the movie The Man Who Fell To Earth, Nicholas Roeg's film interpretation of the sci-fi novel by Walter Trevis, with Bowie acting and attempting to write a soundtrack in his L.A. home. But perhaps more about the movie anon, cos I haven't seen it for years.

The soundtrack idea was however abandoned and thus Station to Station came about. Or at least that's what seems to have happened since our David was so off his head all of the time that he remembers practically nothing of the period ("I know it was in LA because I've read it was"). Apparently it was at this time however that he started to take an interest in Krautrock, especially Kraftwerk, although to be honest not a lot of that transpires on this album.

Station to Station is however very much a transition (transit?) album, taking us out of the US soul Golden Years are still firmly rooted the "plastic soul" of Young Americans. The cover of the 50's song Wild is the Wind is my fave Bowie vocal performance to date.
dance fix and back towards a more European, nay Mittel-Europa, phase. The title track itself is two songs joined together at the hip, with a very much more European feel, whereas tracks like the hit
A memorable live tour followed, for which Bowie had originally wanted Kraftwerk as support band. Sadly, this never happened for technical reasons.
The period is also notorious for Bowie's alleged penchant for all things Nazi, culminating in an apparent "nazi salute" to a crowd of fans on his arrival at Victoria Station in London in May 1976. Among the crowd was a young Gary Numan (né Webb), who also denied said gesture.  "All you need is some dickhead at a music paper or whatever to make an issue out it ...." said Bowie, which is exactly what the NME did.

Station to Station has recently been issued in a special triple CD set - original album remastered plus the legendary Nassau concert. Get it.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Scary movie

I don't really like horror films much, mostly because I don't actually enjoy being scared. The Shout looks quite good though, not least cos it has John Hurt as an avant-garde composer type, late 70s, who experiments with sound effects and various electronic sources in his secluded Devon studio, doing some pretty weird and wonderful stuff with microphones, electronics and tape-recorders. Cool.

 Hurt looks quite Bowie-esque, I thought. Alan Bates and Susannah York, who died earlier this year, also star. Be afraid.

- thanks to Island of Terror for first pointing this film out to me.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Human League - Dare

I Love 1981 - pt 21
Well it's late Saturday afternoon in November 1981 so what better way to get the party started then getting all tarted up for the night whilst listening to the sounds of The Human League's breakthrough album Dare.
Like Speak & Spell there's already been so much written about Dare - seminal synth-pop album etc., especially in the wake of the recent electro-revival (La Roux et al) and an overall re-evaluation of the genre, now taht almost all pop music is made with electronic instruments.
Band leader and lead vocalist Phil Oakey has often described it as 'over-rated' but there's a little false modesty going on there as it still remains their most successful album to date and their most exploited during the live performances which they still seen very fond of doing. No Human League gig could ever be complete without a rendition of Don't You Want Me, and other Dare racks such as The Sound of the Crowd, The Things That Dreams Are Made Of, or even Darkness which have all recently been performed live.
Shiny synth-pop aside, what ultimately clinches it for the album is its strange mixture of upbeat pop (although still not in the region of the Mode's 'ultra-pop') and darker moments as in I Am the Law and Seconds. Dare managed to carefully tread between the two creating something for everyone: Darkness is a perfect sing-along pop song yet deals with one of our deepest fears, Do or Die will have us up and dancing yet its sci-fi scenarios ("alsatians fall unconscious at the shadow of your call..") are at once chilling and just a bit daft (cf. earlier League tracks such as The Black Hit of Space). Love Action (I Believe in Love) may have one of the catchiest riffs of them all yet deals with the pain and suffering of broken relationships we can somehow all relate to. And this is Phil talkin'.

Considering all that it almost seems a shame that the cheesy yet evergreen Don't You Want Me has to close it all, although it was in fact deliberately tacked on at the end as a 'joke' song. It's a complete pseudo-American soap-opera scenario (Oakey was inspired by A Star is Born for the lyric) which translated so well into the video-with-a-stroy-line format which was just coming into vogue.

All homage of course to the late Martin Rushent's production and overall technical contribution, not least the introduction of the Linn drum machine which finally gave the League, and electronic pop, the programmable beats they so strived for in earlier years (I nearly cried when I first heard Love Action - I thought they'd used 'real' drums..).
It was still early days though: "The programming took hours and hours and we were constantly battling the primitive and unreliable technology," said Rushent in 2008. But no matter: "I spent 28 hours straight writing and programming the brass parts for Hard Times and another 24 hours recording them. Didn’t mind a bit, had a wonderful time."..which is exactly what ultimately transpires on Dare.
So just put on your best party gear, plenty of jewellry and make up (men too), add your voice and have a wonderful eighties-time to the sounds of Dare.

For more on Dare and its making, see The Black Hit of Space's excellent 30th Anniversary Special.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Black music / white boy

The David Bowie Story pt.4 which our David promptly turns his back on glam rock and plumps instead for a full-immersion in American black music in Philedelphia, USA of all places and invents 'plastic soul' (his phrase).
Gone was the glitter and make-up of Ziggy Stardust and all that the character ensued (including accompanying musicians such as Mick Ronson) and in was a more 'sobre' look and a new approach to music, adopting and adapting the American (read 'black') soul sounds to effectively create the first successful white singer of the genre. Many British white singers would emulate this approach in the not too distant future, becoming especially fashionable in the early 80s: from Paul Young to Tony Hadley, from Rick Astley to Boy George.

The ensuing album Young Americans (1975) was a big success in America of course although initially threw a lot of glam-Bowie/Ziggy fans, especially in the UK,  who were still not yet used to Bowie's habit of changing styles and persona. An edited version of the title track became his biggest US Billboard hit up to then. Despite its groundbreaking plastic or white soul style the album sounds a little dated today. His cover of The Beatles' Across the Universe, a late addition, sticks out like a sore thumb and can only be attributed to his new found friendship with fellow-Brit-in-the-USA John Lennon with whom Bowie co-wrote Fame, the album's closer and other hit.
His cocaine habit (nay, addiction) continued of course and TV appearances for which the US producers and audiences craved, were often marred by Bowie being completely off his head on coke.

He was also very thin, and very white...

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

I Love 1980 - appendix 9

A rather late addition to the I Love 1980 series, but a good excuse to feature the excellent Sounds of the 20th Century which has been running on Radio 2 now for some weeks.
For those who are not familiar, the hour long show has been featuring consecutive years each week, starting from 1951, mixing news and current affairs items with popular music of the year, and usually there are some damn excellent choices too.
The series reaches 1980 this week so among news of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the consequent US boycott of the Moscow Olympics, embassy hostages, and "The Lady who is not for turning" it's top tracks from Blondie, UB40, The Jam, Bowie, Gabriel, Abba and many more. The 1980 programme also more or less opens with the death of Ian Curtis and closes with that of John Lennon. Never thought about those two dying in the same year.

Listen again to this week's programme here until Thurs. 3rd November, when it'll be time for 1981 at 10 p.m. GMT.

Official Radio 2 page here
Unofficial series blog here
and on twitter

Friday, 28 October 2011

Depeche Mode - Speak & Spell

I Love 1981 - pt 20
Phew! Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks what with one thing and another so not much time for 1981, sorry to say. But there are three, four or maybe more blockbuster '81 albums coming up before Christmas so better get cracking.
First up, here's Depeche Mode's debut album , Speak & Spell, released in early October, although mysteriously it took over a month to get into the charts when, like a newly elected Prime Minister, it went straight in at Number 10. Boom boom.

I won't go into the in-s and out-s of the album much as all us Depeche-fans know you either love it or hate it. I love it. Not only was it 'ultra-pop' ( (c) Vince Clarke) but also a great combination of perfect pop and punk ethic - after all it was a group of lads who just got together, formed a band, did some live stuff locally and made a record, and what's more put it out on an independent label, unlike say the Sex Pistols who sold out to the majors. Added bonus: it's all synths and drum machines. Ace!

Anyway here's a real treat: the Dizzy Deps doing the 'pretty boy' song What's Your Name off the album live in Chincester (Chichester?) recorded for a telly programme called Off the Record, of which I have no recollection. I see most of this gig is online. Boys say go!

PS: take a moment to read Sophia Deboick's excellent appraisal of Depeche Mode and their relationship with native new town Basildon in The Quietus this month.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Peel Life

pic: Keeping It Peel
Well, after I blogged about the new John Peel sessions compilation album Movement last week, blow me down if it isn't John Peel Day this very day. A world celebration of the great man and his life, work and music tastes. Much activity on twitter and so forth and a lot of good stuff coming out of it. While sites like Keeping It Peel are doing just that, it is rather sad that the BBC haven't updated their John Peel "online tribute" since September 2007 and are quite happy to confirm it too.

While searching for stuff on youtube I was pleased to see that Peely even went on This is Your Life (in 1996) and it was nice to see him in a totally spontaneous and joyful mode, as opposed to his intentionally stiff and sarcastic TOTP presenter-persona, which is really the only way we used to 'see' him. His radio-style was also, deliberately dry and sarcastic, but we loved that.

Here's the first part of said 'Life' episode with Michael Aspel popping up at the end of a TOTP show, and Peely being whisked away to the studio and a video message from none other than Mr. David Bowie. Nice one.

Again, many thanks John.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The rise and rise of David Jones

The David Bowie Story pt. 3
Almost forgot my ongoing potted history of Bowie, with info mostly gleaned from reading David Buckley's Strange Fascination.
Well we're just about up to the Ziggy Stardust period (1972-74), and so much has been written about it already I won't go into it, other than say I never really took to it much and still don't "get" the whole thing. Mind you, had i been slightly older at the time I may well have "got" it when watching Bowie/Ziggy and friends doing Starman on TOTP. According to Buckley it was a seminal moment (ah the power of telly!) in the rise of Ziggy Stardust, especially the moment in which Bowie/Ziggy points his finger straight into the camera and wiggles it around a bit while singing "you-ou-ou", upon which millions of British teenagers promptly swooned and were won over to the cause. They then dutifully went out and bought loads of glitter, glam clothing, oh and the record, the following Saturday. Here's said clip - watch out for that moment at around 1:37...

Love it or love it not, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars certainly assured Bowie's success, after much faffing about, and left a legacy that would influence so many for many years to come. In fact mention of the TOTP epiphany moment reminded me of the first time I - and many others - saw Tubeway Army, or rather Gary Numan, a Bowie-fan himself doing Are Friends Electric? on the show in 1979... he didn't point his finger, and we didn't faint, but the effect was basically the same.: things would never be quite the same again.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Now then, how many of you remember staying up "late" (after 10 p.m. was "late") to listen to the John Peel radio show of a weekday night, late 70s/early 80s? Well, for the uninitiated John Peel's nightly show was the place for the real alternative post-punk music that was going around at the time - you'r hear stuff here that you would not hear anywhere else, not even on Kid Jensen. Most of the stuff was so obscure that it basically remained such although the late, great Mr. Peel was famous of course for championing (he even championed the verb "to champion") many an obscure band who then went on to become quite successful, eg. Siouxsie & the Banshees, Generation X, XTC, The Undertones, The Jam, Joy Division and the like.
Each night Peely also featured usually two different "sessions", ie. bands who had gone in to the BBC studios to record three or four tracks especially for the show. These were often religiously taped and duly bootlegged, although many have already seen the light of day since as official releases (OMITD, Ultravox, Gary Numan, New Order to name but a few).

Anyway here comes possibly the first official  'Best of Peel sessions' release: Movement brings together many of those bands and more from the all-important 1977-1979 period. There's quite wide range of styles, not just the new-wavers but also ska from the likes of Madness, The Specials and Selecter and reggae from UB40, Aswad and Steel Pulse - all styles which were covered by Peel.

Of note to LiM is the inclusion of  Being Boiled by The Human League, recorded for their only session in 1978 which has never had an official release, only bootlegs. So here's hoping it's been properly dusted down for the occasion. It's a unique version in that it's kind of half way between the original Fast version and the radically re-vamped Holiday '80/Travelogue version. Well, Blind Youth geeks will know what I mean anyway.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Advanced Maths - 3

The John Foxx & The Maths tour kicked off last night from the intimate surroundings of the Assembly Rooms in Leamington Spa. The line-up of John Foxx, Benge, Hannah Peel and Serafina Steer suffered a few first-night nerves (according to Brigid Burke's excellent blog posting) but with a track-list which included some of Foxx's electro-classics from Metamatic (No One Driving, Underpass, Plaza, Burning Car, He's a Liquid), others from his Ultravox days (Hiroshima Mon Amour, Dislocation, Just For a Moment) and selected new tracks from the cracking 2011 album Interplay (Summerland, Evergreen, The Good Shadow, Catwalk), they couldn't really go wrong, and indeed they didn't.
The band and entourage are already on their way to Poland to play at the Unsound Festival in Cracow. Chris & Cosey ex of Throbbing Gristle also on the bill. The Maths' UK tour resumes next Thursday in Bristol.

Respected on-line music magazine The Quietus has uploaded a new JF & Maths track Where You End and I Begin feat. Tara Busch, who is the support act on most of the tour. (soundcloud link). The track comes from the new album The Shape of Things, available at gigs only for now.

Here's video footage of He's a Liquid performed at Leamington Spa last night, as filmed by Mateybloke who also took some rather good photos. (wonder what Mr B. Currie makes of the violin playing!)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Sound of The Future

(click for bigger)
Here's an interesting snippet from a feature in Smash Hits magazine of 30 years ago (as ever, thanks to the truly wonderful Like Punk Never Happened archive). A Beginner's Guide to the Human League who were just on the brink of becoming totally massive; in fact the feature/interview focuses on the imminent release of new album 'Dare', which has already been preceded by three hit singles, including the current Open Your Heart.
The 1981 section of the a.m. guide is of course incomplete for 1981 - perhaps not even the mighty League (and the immodest Phil Oakey) could have guessed what was just around the corner..
The question mark over 1982 is somewhat foreboding however, but fair-do's, they did manage a couple of great singles. More anon.

So open your heart, dare to feel and add your voice...

Monday, 10 October 2011

Of birthdays and weddings

Yesterday was John Winston Ono Lennon's birthday, and as he was born in 1940, most mathematicians will tell you he would have been 71 years old, if he hadn't been so brutally shot and killed in 1980, when he was 40.
Loads of people around and the world will have remembered him yesterday (oops..) by playing Imagine, but I listened to The Wedding Album instead.
John and Yoko got married in Gibraltar on 20th March, 1969.

Funnily enough his old mucker Paul McCartney went and got married for the third time on the same day as aforementioned birthday, which is a bit in bad taste if you ask me. I wonder if a) he did it on purpose as a way of remembering the man who made him famous in the first place, b) a way of distracting people from the fact that it was Lennon's birthday so as not to get all the limelight, or even c) he'd forgotten it was his bloomin' birthday. Whatever it was here's a couple of pics of the happy couple thanks to the very excellent Beatles photo blog. She's quite nice isn't she?

The Man Who Wore a Dress

The David Bowie Story pt. 2
Moving swiftly on in our David Jones mini-biography (part 1 here) we find the young David still struggling somewhat in his apparent mission to become an arty-folky-spaced-out-rock-n-roll-star, meeting a lot of interesting people but making a few mistakes along the way.
Since his debut album, Bowie had met and worked with Lindsay Kemp, dancer choreographer and all round arty-bloke who taught him a lot about body movement, theatre and mime (although Kemp didn't like that term much). This more or less resulted in Bowie making the Love You Till Tuesday mini-movie, which included a new song what he had written called Space Oddity. He even did a special scene for the movie to accompany the song, effectively making it one of the world's first purpose made 'promo-videos'. The song also went on to become Bowie's first hit in 1969, despite a veto by the BBC who thought it would bring bad luck to the impending Apollo mission which was to put a man on the moon for the first time. The song was inspired by space travel, Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey released the previous year, and was also an apparent allegory of a drug-induced 'trip'. Far out man, planet earth is blue. Whatever it was, it was Bowie's first taste of stardom, even though he was to remain a 'one-hit wonder' for a few years yet. The album obtained modest success but in its confused use of styles and subject matter, the NME rightly described it as "vastly incongruous".

But on with the 70s, and a new rather nihilistic lifestyle for Bowie who had also met up with the flamboyant American citizen Angela Barnet, whom he would marry and soon have a child together. They resided in the "art deco/art nouveau"-decorated  Haddon Hall in Beckenham, where they would frequently entertain musicians, artists and various nightclubbers in a totally, er, free and open way. Bowie had in fact manged to assemble a group of trusted musicians to form something like a proper band and in 1970 released The Man Who Sold the World, his third album which featured a more 'rock' style although still leaning towards the folk-psychedelia of previous work, Bowie was still trying to find his way in the new decade and the changing world. In the UK the album fared even less well than Space Oddity and failed to spawn a hit single, even though the title track would be bizarrely re-purposed for a cover version some years later for British petite-chanteuse Lulu.

Interest for Bowie grew with the album in the US however, and a promotional tour was organised in the early months of 1972, where the artist frequently showed up wearing a ("man") dress as on the UK album sleeve, exploiting his 'androgynous' tag and generating much interest. The trip was also fundamental in Bowie 'discovering' two American artists Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, as well as meeting Andy Warhol, with whom he shared a revolutionary approach to art.

Bowie returned to the UK to make another album Hunky Dory, released just before Christmas 1971, which was perhaps his most commercially viable to date with songs like Changes, Oh You Pretty Things and the epic Life On Mars?, all of which would later become Bowie 'classics'. Critics were generally enthusiastic although the public still couldn't quite handle the quirkiness and eccentricity associated with the artist which runs throughout the album. Although Hunky Dory now stands as a milestone in his career and the development of 'art-rock' and many other genres, Bowie was still very much finding his way. Referring to Hunky, Bowie declared many years later "I'm getting it, I'm finding my feet. I'm starting to communicate what I want to do. Now: what is it I want to do?".

Friday, 7 October 2011

John Foxx - The Garden / Ultravox - Rage in Eden

I love 1981 pt.19
Hate to have to lump these two albums together but they are of course related in more ways than one, sharing more than just the vicinity of their "birthdays".
Warning: I'm going to say some unfavourable things about the Foxx album. Don't get me wrong, I'm (officially) one of the world's biggest Foxx-fans, but The Garden just didn't do it for me, and thirty years on still doesn't. "There's a difference between creating your own distinctive sound and doing the same thing over and over again. John Foxx falls the wrong side of that line" : Ian Cranna said that in Smash Hits, not me but I couldn't have agreed more.
"I'd grown tired of being a frozen electrician"
After the ground-breaking revolutionary and utterly stupendous Metamatic, issued at the very dawn of 1980, John Foxx had gone to Italy to "thaw out", rubbed shoulders with the likes of film director Antonioni, tasted a bit of la dolce vita and came back to create what was essentially a re-working of his previous sound with Ultravox. Even the title of the the album's second track 'Systems of Romance' is re-cycled from his third album with the group, and who is to say he hadn't already written the track for the band. Tracks like When I Was a Man and You Were a Woman, You Were There and Walk Away may as well have had former band-mates Chris Cross, Warren Cann, Billy Currie as well as Robin Simon, who was in fact brought in on some tracks, playing their respective instruments on them, so close they are to the 1978 Ultravox sound with Foxx on vocals.
The fountains, squares and colonnades of Italy had rubbed off efficiently only in the opening Europe After the Rain and the post-Metamatic walking tours around England reflect in the closing title track, two songs which are essentially the album's saving grace. True, Foxx had already anticipated his move from the Ballardian underpasses and concrete jungle dystopias of Metamatic with the interim single Miles Away (there's a new man at the edge of me..making new plans for the rest of me), but few followers expected such a sharp turn-around in the underpass as they got with The Garden. OK, Ballard was still there with the images of overgrown cities and buildings and churches the like, but the warmer and more organic sounds seemed less suited to Foxx as he had established himself as a solo artist.  "After 1981 everyone and his dog went electro, so I became Max Ernst dressed as Lord Lost, exploring the overgrown and abandoned city of London. To a psychedelic ecclesiastical disco soundtrack." Shame really. Nice booklet though.

 John Foxx & friends perform Systems of Romance live in 1983

The new eighties Ultravox on the other hand  rarely looked back on their Foxxy past and together with Midge Ure, Messrs Cann, Currie and Cross continued their rise to popularity and household name-ness with Rage in Eden, released two weeks before The Garden. Smash Hits, this time under the pen of Johnny Black, was equally scathing in their review stating that the album "was too bland to satisfy", favouring instead Numan's Dance, but this time they were wrong! Ultravox had good songs, Conny Plank at the helm to make one heck of an album. The Thin Wall had already announced it's tougher, edgier feel vis à vis Vienna, yet it was stomping tracks like The Voice, We Stand Alone and I Remember (Death in the Afternoon) (singled out by Black, to his merit) which push Rage along and we our attention is even maintained during the 7 minute long Stranger Within,and the closing, agonising angst of Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind Again).

At the time I don't think there was no real sense of competition between the two artists and their respective albums, but in retrospect it was Rage in Eden which had the upper hand. True, Ure-vox were pompous and just a tad pretentious in form and style yet they somehow managed to carry it off, at least for now. For the moment they were the ones who were taking electronic music into some sort of mainstream audience, and arguable "merit" in itself but it got them lots of radio play and onto Top of the Pops a lot and we loved that.  RAge in Eden was quality new-music in huge quantities, adequately packaged by Peter Savile, the perfect match to their neo-thirties-cum-futuristic style.
No Ultravox album would be as good as this ever again, proof of that being the amount of tracks from Rage that are played live to this day - Thin Wall, I Remember, We Stand Alone, Rage in Eden and not least The Voice with its spectacular burundi-esque 4-man drum-pad finale.

Ultravox perform The Voice live in 1984

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Kate goes Wild

Kate Bush will publish her new single next week. Wild Man will also be previewed on Radio2's Ken Bruce Show on Monday 10th October. The release comes ahead of the new album 50 Words for Snow out in November, when it might even snow. List of international pre-order sites here, although too bad if you live in Burkina Faso.

As a tie-in to our I Love 1981 series let's remember how gorgeous Kate was thirty years ago in this little number .. in the song Sat In Your Lap, I mean.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Rubber Band Boy

The David Bowie Story pt. 1
In an attempt to fill in quite a few gaps in my knowledge of the artist that is David Bowie, I've started reading David Buckley's exhaustive biography Strange Fascination.
Reading through the first few chapters I was intrigued by Bowie's eponymous 1967 debut album, often dismissed as risible and naive, and even completely batty.
Not necessarily so, however, I'm pleased to say as, therein lie by a surprising collection tiny colour folk-cum-music-hall-cum-pop songs which recount the rexpectives stories of some strange quintissentially English characters and situations. When discussing 'very early Bowie' many will cite the skeleton-in-thecupboard that is The Laughing Gnome although these songs - recorded earlier still - go beyond that. Hardly the stuff that rock stars and rock albums are made of, there's hardly a lead guitar in sight, yet wind instruments and percussion, for example, are used to full effect. Our young Bowie was already so obviusly striving to be something different from the rest.
Famously David Bowie was released on the same day as The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper and although very much in its shadow (what 1967 album isn't?) it goes some way to sharing its Englishness, both often harking back to pre-WWI styles and imagery updated for the new psychedelic age.
The 20 year old David Bowie was still some way from 'glam rock' and even Space Oddity yet we must savour this debut album for its pop-single sized portraits such as Rubber Band (below), Love You Till Tuesday (exhumed in the 80s), and Silly Boy Blue. Unsurprisingly many of them were made into a mini-film in 1969 before the big Oddity breakthrough.  We Are Hungry Men, Join the Gang and She's Got Medals touch on heavier themes, later to be explored by a more mature Bowie. Stay tuned.

a much better and more detailed review of David Bowie can be read here at Anorak Thing.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Advanced Maths Pt. 2

More updates on the John Foxx front. News is now out of a new double CD album by the Man and his Maths, a matter of months after the release of the debut Interplay.
The Shape of Things will be on limited release at the upcoming JF&M live shows and via the official website. It's a double disc set with new tracks on the first disc and a series of remixes of Interplay faves on the second. Although coming out so close to its predecessor, it's said that The Shape of Things will be "rougher and more experimental than Interplay". Crumbs!
As a taster, here's Talk also available to download via Artrockertv / soundcloud here- apparently it features Electro Harmonix DRM16 drum machine, and the Moog and Paia modular synths, so there.

Here it is in youtube form, as uploaded by polterter

Friday, 23 September 2011

Heaven 17 - Penthouse & Pavement

I Love 1981 - pt 18
So here's another one of those "classic 80s" albums, although if the truth be known Penthouse and Pavement didn't really have such a major success or impact at the time. It's an album of two halves - literally. The 'penthouse' side being the slik 'uptown' funky style which was coming back into fashion, and the darker 'pavement' side which was heavier on the electronics and darker lyrics, obviously harking back to Marsh & Ware's Human League days (you can easily imagine Phil Oakey singing these instead of Gregory).
Fascist Groove Thing is an uneasy opener, lingering somewhere between the two worlds - an early attempt at electronic funk with the lefty politically aware lyrics, driven along nicely by John Wilson's bass, as is much of the 'penthouse' side, boosted by the newly discovered Linn drum and, thankfully, some lighter lyrics. The funk-pop triptych of the title track, the non-charting single Play to Win and closing Soul Warfare lulls us into a false sense of "uptown" optimism before the needle lifts. A possible dance soundtrack to the shiny new 80s Britain.

Over on side two however it's more doom and gloom and grim late-70s: more Callaghan than Thatcher, more cold war than cool. Nothing wrong with that of course, as Heaven 17 - citizens of the People's Republic of South Yorkshire - knew only too well. Let's All Make a Bomb and Height of the Fighting are an ironic take on modern warfare, as advocated by the reigning Thatcher-Reagan alliance, while Song With  No Name touches on the alienation of the modern artist in a fast changing world, with echoes of the Human League's darker sci-fi scenarios. We're Going To Live For a Very Long Time is the best take on born-again religion you'll ever find, and the final run out groove repetition on vinyl - unreproduceable in any other format - is a clever means of hammering a message home à la Billy Graham et al.

Problem is of course that Heaven 17's irony was never quite appreciated and au contraire was often taken on face value. From the faux-business brochure cover art to BEF's sales-pitch slogan, they were often misinterpreted as being part of the new yuppy culture - young, urban, professionals on the up, emerging from the grim-up-North pavements to the penthouse world of an emerging nouveau riche Britain. As it turned out Heaven 17  would take some time before they actually found their balance, but they would have their day later and duly became household names.
In hindsight, Penthouse and Pavement does remain a classic 80s album as demonstrated by its albeit premature 30th anniversary celebration in 2010, with live shows and a full blown re-issue, extra tracks, DVD etc. Heaven 17 and BEF now prepare two live shows at London's Roundhouse on 14th &15th October next. They're going to live for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....for a very long time....

edit: a big "Holà!" to going underground and we refer you to that rather spiffing blog for HEAVEN 17: THE STORY OF 'PENTHOUSE & PAVEMENT' videos