Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Gary Numan - She's Got Claws

I love 1981 - pt. 16

Wooaahh! .. this one ripped its way into the charts 30 years ago like there was no tomorrow..and indeed there wasn't really as it more or less disappeared as soon as it came.
Numan's return to vinyl and to the charts was a brave change of style, adopting a more funky attitude to his tardemark "colder" electronic sound of previous oeuvres. A shock for fans? Perhaps, but it the music was accompanied by a change of "look" which most followers seem to take to straight away .. baggy trousers, clean white shirt fixed at the top by yer mum's brooch, topped with yer Dad's trilby and Bob's your Gazza.
But back to the music She's Got Claws featured a much more refined sound aided by Mick Karn's trademark bass which had already been giving that touch of class to Japan's records for a good few years. The sound would also characterise the ensuing Dance album, which took a lot from more refined bands like Japan, and not just by stealing the bass player. He even revisted in his own track Metal, turning it into a sarcastic and somewhat bitter commentary of the "new romantic" scene, renaming the track Moral. Not entirely fair, as such artists were already catching up with him and indeed in many cases overtaking him.

was Numan's first not to be accompanied by a tour, and Gazza probably disillusioned many with his new approach, but it was also arguably his last great creative album. We wouldn't see or hear Numan as interesting as this for a long, long time.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Which one's Pink?

Get ready for a Pink Floyd revival onslaught from now until at least the end of the year, and beyodn, as loads of re-issues of the band's back catalogue are planned in various formats under the Why Pink Floyd? banner, as well as a new compilation CD A Foot in the Door.

UK music monthly MOJO celebrate the band (again) in their October issue (out now?!?!) with big feature and a double CD with cover versions of tracks off Floyd mega-albums Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here all by contemporary artists most of which we've never heard of, save for The Orb and the mighty John Foxx and The Maths.

Read the story about Foxx and Benge's cover of Have a Cigar in an exclusive interview on the Metamatic website. You can listen to the CD track in this youtube clip, although MOJO have since announced that they got the wrong version out (doh) and you can download the correct one free from their site here.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Human League - Hard Times/Love Action - Soft Cell Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go?

I Love 1981 - pt 15
In which Britain experiences it's first major synth-pop summer and the 12" single with extended dance mixes finally takes on as a mainstream musical art form.

The Human League first advertised theirs as featuring "a disco mix and odd mix, two separate very long versions of both songs". Major ground breaking here in more ways than one. Firstly it features the B side Hard Times before the A side Love Action, and secondly the B side is a kind of instrumental variation on the A side picking up only on the female 'hard times' vocal parts from the main song. Easier to listen to than explain.
The opus is a combination of The Human League's new style dance music with meaning and the late Martin Rushent's production skills who helped them achieve their distinctive sound not least by introducing them to the Linn drum machine. Lyrically, Phil Oakey is the tough Northern bloke (albeit with jewellry and make-up) who comes out with his hard times story "I've been a husband and a lover too..I've lain alone and cried at night...I feel the pain..." but ultimately gives in to, er, temptation, the 'love action' transmitted by.... who? The Daily Mirror published a gossip style story about his broken marriage and his affair with one of the girls (or both? ..can't remember) and we were even treated to a photo of his shock-horor-probe pierced nipple! Love Action ( I Believe in Love) is classic League of course and the one that got them to number 3 and well and truly on the road to fame (and we still haven't had Don't You Want Me yet).

Although Soft Cell were very much in the synth-pop catchment area their electronics were a tad more minimal and seedy compared to the League's lush production. No matter though as their cover of two Motown numbers remains a classic in its own right to this day. Again it's a 'segue' type long mix cleverly bringing together the two songs in a new style electro-dance bonanza which meant DJs could rest for a bit while the punters danced on.
Like The Human League's "instrumentals" 12" B side, theirs also fetaures a dubby trippy instrumental mix which became the blueprint for so many dub/dance crossover re-mixes for years to come. Tainted Love became a number 1 single in 17 countries and even broke the US top 10 in 1982. Famously however the duo made relatively little money from sales of the single as both sides were cover versions, leaving many royalties to their original owners.
Not bad going though for the archetypal odd couple (see Sparks) Marc Almond and Dave Ball who had recorded it as a make-or-break single for Phonogram. Northern Soul from Leeds for the new electronic age. Beep beep!

Thursday, 4 August 2011