Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Faith Global "Earth Report" (Survival Records 12" 1982)

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Of all the bands I've ever obsessed over, early Ultravox! come top of the pile. I've blogged about how it all started, and it all came to a glorious head when I was asked to contribute a quote to the sleeve notes for the recent CD reissue of "ha!-ha!-ha!" (My favourite album, EVER.) John Foxx-era Ultravox! made three albums, "Ultravox!", "ha!-ha!-ha!" and "Systems Of Romance", but it's the first two albums that really do it for me. And the common thread running through those two albums? Their original guitarist, Stevie Shears. Stevie was replaced just before "Systems..." by Robin Simon, and while the exact reasons have never really been made clear, it seems as if he wasn't thought to be capable of making the new guitar sounds they wanted, as the band explored differing textures and moved towards a synthesiser dominated sonic palette. That, to me, was a crying shame. It was Stevie's coruscating, amphetamine-drenched waves of guitar that made the early recordings: "Distant Smile" (from "ha!-ha!-ha!") is a great case in point; the two-note riff, on strings stretched way further than sounds necessary, still stands as some of most primal, exciting rock music I've heard. It's Stevie who blazes all across "Young Savage", it's Stevie whose riff lights up "Hiroshima Mon Amour". And they replaced him. Oh well.

After his time in Ultravox (and following a brief sojourn in Cowboys International) Stevie Shears returned to the musical arena with his new band, Faith Global. Comprised of himself, Jason Guy on vocals and associated session musicians backing him up, they released this, their debut single, and a following album "The Same Mistakes" It's a classic slice of early 80's new wave, lots of whooshing synths and earnest vocals.It's let down slightly by a tentative production job, but the melodies are strong and precise, and the tune buries itself neatly in the back of your mind.The entire thing reeks a little of The Psychedelic Furs a bit TOO much, and there's not enough of Stevie's guitar histrionics for me, but I love it nonetheless. The albums great as well, remind me to rip a few tracks from it some time in the future.

And what of Faith Global? Well, like so many of the bands I feature on this blog; nothing much. Stevie doesn't seem to have done anything since, and I can't find any trace of Jason Guy whatsoever. If anyone has any information about either, I'd love to hear it! The single turns up on eBay from time to time, because it's a bit of an adjunct to the Ultravox! story, it doesn't go for huge money, so snap it up if you see it.

Faith Global "Earth Report" (mp3)

Friday, 24 August 2007

Spudeit Dive "Virgin Sands" (Sunken Beauty Records 12", 1983)

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God, I love The Record & Tape Exchange. I know it's Music and Video Exchange now, but it'll always be the Record & Tape to me: I even ended working there for a couple of years when I was between Jobs in the late 90's... Here's a little bit of a history lesson about me and Record & Tape, it meanders a little, but we'll get there, so bear with me...

When I was a kid, I lived in the middle of nowhere, deep in the Wiltshire countryside. If I needed to go and shop for vinyl, it was either an hours cycle ride into Devizes, which basically had a Woolies and a couple of small music shops with tiny selections of records, or I'd have to wait and cadge a lift off my parents if they were going to Bath, Bristol or Swindon. I'd only really get to go shopping for records every couple of months, and even when I did get myself to a shop, I'd never really have a huge amount of money, so all my purchases had to be debated, pondered upon, and agonised over. All of that changed in 1981, when my father got a new job in London, and we moved to Hatch End, out in the North London suburbs. At first I was devastated to be leaving the landscape of my childhood behind, with all of it's memories, it's friendships and it's carefree happiness. This feeling of melancholia lasted about as long as it took me to work out that for about two pounds, I could get on a train, then a tube and be in the centre of Notting Hill Gate, in about an hour. I'd been to the Record & Tape in Notting Hill before, on school trips up to London; but now it could be my local record shop! I was like a kid in a sweet shop for the next six months, and my record collection grew exponentially. The great thing about R&T was it's bargain basement, full to bursting point of great vinyl at stupidly low prices. Because I still didn't really have much money, this is where I concentrated my shopping: buying things on the cheap because I liked the label they were on, because I'd seen positive reviews, because I'd heard them on the John Peel Show. All of this leads to a vitally important fact about the way my taste evolved: because I grew up buying piles of stuff at knock-down prices, it meant I ended up listening to, and loving, stuff that other people had discarded. I was being drawn to the underdogs of the musical world. Records that would otherwise have ended up unloved and alone. Sometimes it felt like a bit of a mission. To be honest, sometimes it still does.

This record is just such one of those purchases. I'd heard it on the John Peel show in 1983, taped it, loved it, memorised its details. One day shortly after that, it turned up in the basement of 38 NHG. I remember it cost me 40p. It's a fantastically dark record (I referred to the early 80's doom-rock that was everywhere in this post and this is the record I was promising to dig up and post for you) It's saturated with earth-shuddering bass, and it's liberally covered inwhat sounds like waves of church organ (or at least, an approximation of it) to give it that authentic Gothic feel. It's Bauhaus-y in it's sense of drama and scope, yet there's a little less glamour, and slightly more psychedelia in there.... And what on earth are the lyrics on about?

"Virgin Sands, walk over us.....swaying in the wheat"

Existential angst doesn't get more daft than that, does it? It's wonderfully overblown in it's vision and execution. I also remember Peel remarking on that line, and getting SERIOUSLY caught out by the ending, which seems to have been engineered specifically to frustrate him (make sure you listen to the end of the track, you'll see what I mean.)

And what of the band themselves? Well, nothing. Nothing at all. there's no real record of them on the Internet, bar this entry on Discogs. I don't recognise any of those names, and they don't seem to have done anything else. It's frustrating that there's no way of verifying whether the information is true or not.... Anyway, whatever its provenance, it's a truly great record, and deserves it's moment in the blog-spotlight.

(And as a little post-script, I still shop in 38 NHG, was just in there on Tuesday night. I bought "Amour Amour" by the Mobiles. It cost me 10p. Old habits die hard)

Spudeit Dive "Virgin Sands" (mp3)

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

King Kurt "Zulu Beat" (Thin Sliced Records, 1982)

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Thanks to a post that Mick put up, where he described a single by The Tubes as being his favourite coloured vinyl got me thinking: what was my favorite coloured vinyl single? Well, it's a toss-up between "Paranoid" by The Dickies on the clearest clear vinyl EVER ( it's like a piece of glass) the Plasmatics "Monkey Suit" and "Butcher Baby" both on splatter vinyl.... Or could it be the Luminous vinyl copy of "Moving Targets" by Penetration? I got several copies of that, one to keep, one to sell, and a couple which were totally mashed and cost me mere pennies. These last copies are for my walls; they function like nightlights-when you switch the lights off, they emit a nice calming glow :)

But I guess my real favourite is the record above: King Kurt's splendid "Zulu Beat" It eventually sold about 20,000 copies, and if those had all come in one great big bunch, they'd probably ended up on TOTP; as it was, the record was a bit of a labour of love-released in batches of around about a thousand, trickled out over a few years, with different covers, sleeves, and in different coloured vinyl. There's a wonderfully comprehensive list of all the variations here. The copy above is from the "Sick-th" edition, in a wonderfully pale pink vinyl, with splatters of other colours: every time I remove it from its sleeve, it brings a smile to my face.

The record itself, if you've never heard it, is unashamedly primal rockabilly. It does sound like it was recorded in a wardrobe, but the sense of daft confidence oozing from it's grooves manages to overcome any shortcomings in the quality of the sound. And to be honest, it sounded GREAT when it was blaring out of the speakers of (so it seemed) every student nightclub I went to between 1982 and 1986.

King Kurt are, unfortunately, very poorly represented by CD reissues, there's a lot of dodgy live CD's and the like, it's caveat emptor if you're in the mood for shopping- but should you wish, fill your boots. The band themselves appear to be back after a long hiatus, check them out on myspace.

King Kurt "Zulu Beat" (mp3)

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Fallout Club "Wonderlust" (Happy Birthday Records, 1981)

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I really need to get a new Scanner, don't I? Oh well. Here's another slice of rare early-80's electropop, and a poignant little tune, to boot.

"..And if we must, return to dust....then let it be; but give me just this moment...."

Within a few short years of penning those particular opening lines, the co-writer and singer of this song was gone. Trevor Herion (that's him on the sleeve) committed suicide sometime in the mid-80's. Details about Trevor are a little sketchy, but there's a small site here

"Not much, if anything at all is known about the life, work and tragic death of Trevor Herion, he was an Irishman in his mid 20s living in a squat with members of The Psychedelic Furs when he was first discovered as a replacement for the lead vocalist in a band called The Civilians. After the break-up of The Civilians he was to go on to form a band called The Fallout Club. After the dissolve of The Fallout Club, Trevor released a handful of singles and one truly terrific album called Beauty Life in 1983. Sadly a few years later, apparently suffering from severe mental troubles, he took his own life."

This single is also notable for being one of the first real Thomas Dolby productions (he produced the song, as well as co-writing it) Also featured is Matthew Seligman, who would go on to work with Dolby, as well as various other musicians, from Morrissey and The Stereo MC's, to David Bowie.

It came out on Happy Birthday, which is a label I don't know a great deal about; they released a couple of Fallout Club singles, as well as one by Low Noise (another Dolby project) and of course, the album "Pleasure" by Girls At Our Best. Herion himself released a couple of solo singles, one called "Kiss Of No Return" which came out on a German label called Imperial, and eventually, a solo album "Beauty Life". One of the singles from that album has been posted up on youtube (it's not actually a video, just a rip of the song)

The song itself is a wonderfully sprawling piece of melancholy electropop, Herions slightly gauche, yet heartfelt vocals cascading across the mariachi trumpets and pulsing syn-drums. It was released on 7" and 12" (I have both), but it's this 12" version that really shines.

Buy new Thomas Dolby stuff here. There's also links to the rest of his site, which contains loads of info and a blog..............

Fallout Club "Wonderlust" (12" Version) (mp3)

Friday, 17 August 2007

Ed Sirrs "I Think I Think Too Much" (Oval, 1979)

I'm on a roll today, aren't I? Two posts in one day! Such is the impatience and enthusiasm which results from being new to the mp3 blog game :)
And my over-exuberance is your gain, that's for certain. not only do you get the unreleased Age Of Chance track below *points down*, but you can also have this much-overlooked gem as well.
Ed Sirrs is one of this country's most respected music photographers, working with some of the best musicians in the business. He shot some of Nirvana's most iconic images, as well as being heavily involved with photographing The Manic Street Preachers ( it was Ed that shot THAT image of Richey with "4 Real" carved into his arm)
He also photographed my band many times, though quite why I never asked him about this record, I'm not sure.
"I Think....." is a great little slice of punked-up electro-dub, coming over like a restrained Dr Mix & The Remix, with that little drum machine gently pulsing away, and the buzzing synth line over the top....if it had to be strictly defined, I suppose it might be labelled "no wave".
Ed does a nice line in self-deprecating vocals, bemoaning his own lack of success and good fortune. Ed, you're too modest. The single crept out in 1979 on Charlie Gillet's Oval imprint, never really reaching the wider audience it deserved. If you see one these days, it'll probably set you back somewhere between £10-20.

Ed Sirrs "I Think I Think Too Much" (mp3)

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Hobbies Of Today "Metal Boys" (Waxworks, 1979)

"Your house is burning down, what do you save?"
It's become the question that bulks out most interviews I read now; when I was growing up it used to be: "The four-minute warning has just sounded, what do you do?" . The answer was invariably that you'd kiss your loved ones/pets/schoolmates etc and tell them how you'd always loved them and you'd see them on the other side. But now, all that seems to have been superseded by this "saving stuff from the flames" business. And it's always stuff. Possessions, valuables, whatever. It's a measure of how materialistic we've become, I suppose: we used to worry about kissing our loved ones goodbye, now we worry about how we'll get that HUGE plasma screen out of the lounge before the flames ruin the screen.
Well, let's just apply the "saving stuff from the flames" argument to the one thing that all of us vinyl freaks out there would rather not think about- the record collection.
It's a scary thought, isn't it? What would you save? For the most part, I wouldn't be that bothered (yeah, right) seeing as most of the old punk stuff is now on CD, most of the rest of the collection is available somewhere on line.......
Of course, there's exceptions. I've got a couple of Lee Perry acetates with unreleased dub mixes which are completely irreplaceable, and most of the old Ska and Rocksteady sevens would have to be saved...oh, and the old-school hardcore 12"s, and the Lemon Jelly "Soft Rock" 7"......
Oh bugger.
This isn't going at all well, is it?
Right. Let me come out and say definitively, that my Hobbies Of Today single would really be one of the only things I'd save in the event of an unforeseen conflagration. What is it? Well, it's nothing, really. A long-forgotten 7" from a band from Manchester. Look at that sleeve! the lettering on the hand-printed cover was done with those plastic stencils you bought from John Menzies! The label (Waxworks) was a vehicle of convenience for this particular release, and I never saw anything else on it......
The driving force behind the band was Kevin Hobbi, who appeared to release at least one solo single after Hobbies Of Today's demise(it's somewhere in here, and will cost you £100): the band only recorded this one single, and had a track on a local compilation LP (I remember that from looking at adverts in the back of Sounds) and that was it.
And, there's the rub. That's why I'd save this particular piece of vinyl from the flames. I bought this in 1979. It came from the Small Wonder mail order catalogue-I can remember buying it with a copy of The Only Ones "Another Girl,Another Planet", with the "Flower" sleeve, and some other punk singles, whose identity are lost in the mists of time. I remember getting the postal orders from the Post Office, and the wonderful burst of excitement when the postman turned up with my single a couple of weeks later...and that copy that arrived with the postman, in 1979, on my doorstep in Wiltshire, is the only one I've ever seen. I've looked in an awful lot of record racks over the years, hell, I've even WORKED in second-hand record shops, yet I've never seen another copy.So that's why it escapes the flames; not because it's the greatest record ever made, but because I know I'd never replace it.
But why does it matter so much to me? Because it's just such a great little song: it's in the combination of that amateurish drum machine with the synths buzzing over the top- it's in the way the melody strains to go up a note when it reaches the chorus,it's in the wonderfully constructed harmonies, and most of all it's in the utterly unforgettable guitar riff....this record has haunted me since I first heard it, and it haunts me still.
If you ever catch me staggering out of a burning building, I'll be spluttering, coughing, wiping the soot from my eyes, and clutching a copy of this single.

Hobbies Of Today "Metal Boys" (mp3)

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Tuesday, 14 August 2007

English Subtitles "Tannoy" (Glass Records, 1981)

We've done some of the lighter, poppier, electropop of the early 1980's; it's time to get just that little bit darker....
English Subtitles released one single on Small Wonder "Time Tunnel" (It's available on the Small Wonder Punk Singles Compilation CD), then this single, a flexidisc which came out on Crepuscule and finally a compilation album which contained one side of their studio recordings, and a live set on the other side.
This single is just WONDERFUL, a doomy slice of malevolent goth-rock, full of foreboding and self-loathing; Karl Burns from The Fall plays drums on the track, but not many other details survive....
"They're calling my name, over the Tannoy, they're paging me...what do they want? What do they want?"
Hey, who knows. One thing is for sure, the singer (whose name escapes me) wasn't just putting on this display of paranoia for show: he genuinely had some severe "issues". The single comes with a facsimile of a newspaper cutting, detailing an "episode" he had whilst on a tube train-this culminated in him driving a six inch nail right through the palm of his own hand, whilst he calmly collected the resultant flow of blood on a sheet of plastic. This pool of blood was used for the sleeve of the single (see above). Classy.
1981 was chock-full of doom-rock like this, remind me to dig out some more for you (I've got a 12" by Spudeit Dive called "Virgin Sands" which would fit the bill.....) but for now: enjoy :)

English Subtitles: "Tannoy" (mp3)

Friday, 10 August 2007

Camera Obscura "Destitution" (Small Wonder 1983)

First off, let's make one thing quite clear: it's not that Camera Obscura (not that there's anything wrong with them, I'd just hate people to get the two mixed up)
This Camera Obscura were a duo, Peter Oldroyd and Nigel James, from York. This single was their highpoint, and if truth be told, was their only real proper recorded output. They contributed a track to a compilation album called "Directions" which is utterly impossible to find...(I've been looking for quite a while)
"Destitution" was the last proper single to be released on Pete Stennet's legendary Small Wonder imprint, and made a decent showing in the independent charts on its release in 1983. There was a fair amount of A&R interest in the band, but nothing ever came of it.
Interestingly enough, for a band with such a slender catalogue and such a truncated career, there's an excellent history of the band on a site they've put up themselves:
Camera Obscura History.
Interestingly, the band appears to have had a recent burst of activity, which resulted in the production of an album of early demos being issued. It's a limited edition vinyl album, and is available here.
Sadly, the tracks on the single have never been re-issued anywhere, as a consequence it's another one of those postpunk electro-pop classics which now commands quite a high price on the secondhand market. It's a bit of a surprise to me really, I see copies of this single far more often than something like Puncture's "Mucky Pup" which was the first Small Wonder 7", but hey ho.
The song itself is another one of those timelocked early 80's synthpop classics. Just the right amount of alienation and melancholia in the lyrics, and crucially, lots of syn-drums, so you could air-drum along in your bedroom.
It's been a week for cult electro-pop hasn't it? Now I've given you a trilogy of synth tunes, I'll be casting the net a little wider next week, but for now; enjoy this, and have a great weekend.

Camera Obscura "Destitution" (mp3)

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Panorama "Dream Home" (Kamera, 1982)

Pete O'Dowd (aka Pete Petrol) was Spizz's foil in Spizz Oil and Spizz 77, and would continue to play a role in the group on and off until he relocated to New Zealand sometime in the early 1990's.

This record was Pete alongside Jim Solar (also a Spizz member) who seemed to have joined up (whilst on hiatus from Spizz? who knows) sometime in 1982.

It's a radical departure form all the Spizz stuff, being in fact, a fairly faithful copy of the first couple of Depeche Mode singles. If you could whack Dave Gahans vocals over the top, it would have been a double "A" side with "Dreaming Of Me". What I love about it is the sense of experimentation: 1981-2 were fertile times for synth experimentation, the technology was new, yet becoming readily available- and just as with Punk 5 years previously, there was a glorious slew of people just "having a go". This sense of breathless enthusiasm permeates the entire song, there's a confidence and a swagger to it's metronomic heartbeat.
Also, it sums up the times quite well:

Tinny beat? check.

Glacial vocals? check.

Lyrics dealing with the theme of urban alienation? check.
And all of this on a label more used to relasing singles by The Fall!
It's an oddity, to be sure, but I had no idea it was valuable as well, maybe because it's never been issued anywhere else) Mine was bought in 1982, in a pack of "10 singles for a quid". Vinyl Tap have got a copy, if you'd like to buy it-it'll set you back thirty sheets. Crikey.
Spizz stuff on Amazon: Here.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Victims Of Pleasure "Jack And Jill" (Rialto, 1982)

This was the first thing I ripped when I finally got a USB turntable; simply one of my favourite records ever.
Not a great deal is known about Victims of Pleasure: they put out one single "When You're Young" on their own label (Victims of Pleasure #VOP 1) which was picked up for a reissue by Rialto records shortly after. They had a few tracks on the "Live at the 101 Club-Off The Cuff" compilation, then another 12" single (which i've NEVER seen) then nothing.
But the interesting thing about this single is it marks the beginning of Virginia Astley's career: that's her on the rich, swooping piano lines which fill the chorus. i'm not actually sure whether she was on the first VOP single or not, but on "Jack And Jill" you can't mistake her, she's the person who lifts this little piece of electro-pop from workaday into the realm of pure genius.
It's a slight little song: two synths a drum machine, voice, and then of course, that piano. There's hints of "Isolation" in there, but if i'm totally honest, the piano always makes me think of "All Creatures Great And Small"
I've loved this record since I bought it (20p in the Record and Tape in Pembridge Road!) and it's never far from my ipod.

OK, let's get this party started.

My name's Iain. I help to run Shadowglobe, I used to be a DJ on Xfm (R.I.P.) and a musician as well.
And, since the latter part of the 1970's, I've been an avid collector of records that only I seemed to love. So, just to put that to the test, I figured it was time to start up a little mp3 blog, to share some of those tunes with you.