Thursday, 27 September 2007

Chuck Wagon "Rock'n'Roll Won't Go Away" (A&M Records 1979)

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When I was a little Punk Rock kid, many years ago, The Dickies were one of my favourite bands ever. I was too young to see that the press thought they were a bit naff, didn't have much street credibilty, but I didn't care. The silly cover versions made me smile, the buzzsaw guitar riffs made me pogo around my bedroom, and the coloured vinyl 7"s were teenage objects of desire. So, for me, the Chuck Wagon single became something I just had to have.

here's a little background info on Chuck: he was born Bob Davis, and was one of the founding members of The Dickies, playing keyboards, saxophone and guitar. This single shows that the manic punk fun of The Dickies wasn't all there was to Chuck- it's a wonderfully mellow snippet of early synth-pop, with backwards-treated vocals hinting at someone perhaps more shy than a showman cavorting around the stage in a punk band. In the middle of the band's success, Chuck had some sort of major problems with his girlfriend and sadly committed suicide. This single is the merest hint of what sort of talent we lost.

The record itself is also notable for being one of the trickiest Dickies-related items to find. Copies of "Banana Splits" are ten-a-penny, and most of the rest of the bands catalogue is never much more than an ebay auction away: however, this single bombed spectacularly, and as a result is hardly ever seen. It was released as a purple vinyl 7", but i've got a stock copy on black vinyl, as well as a stamped promo copy (also on black vinyl).

Chuck's death affected me quite a lot as a kid, I felt like some of the fun had been taken from my musical world: certainly it seems as though The Dickies themselves were similarly affected- drugs and other problems saw them fall into a slump after Chuck's death that would take them the best part of a decade to ride out. Here's a little footage of Chuck/Bob, which has been posted up on youtube. R.I.P.

The ever-reliable Captain Oi! records have reissued most of the Dickies essential albums, full details are here. the band themselves are still going, and have a myspace.

Chuck Wagon "Rock And Roll Won't Go Away" (mp3)

Victims Of Pleasure "When You're Young" (Rialto 1982)

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Well, here's another single from Victims Of Pleasure, this time it's their debut single "When You're Young". My copy isn't the first issue (which came out on their own label) but the reissue on Rialto, from the following year. I've blogged about VOP before, of course (they were the subject of the first real post on this blog) but this post is as much about the genius of Colin Thurston, who produced this single. My 1980's were defined by quite a select band of producers: Martin Rushent, Martin Hannet, and Colin Thurston. He produced "Secondhand Daylight", the second Magazine album, and after that I was hooked. his slick, sometimes glacial productions shimmered across the rest of the decade, impressing and amazing me every time. For someone whose style was always supposed to be somewhat detached, impersonal and aloof, there's a warmth and honesty that draws me to Thurston's work.

And what of this particular song? Well, its sense of open-eyed wonder and naive optimism still gets me every time. This was how I felt about everything in the very early 1980's: disappointment and not reaching all your goals wasn't part of my mindset- everything seemed not just possible, but probable. Some of that hope and confidence still drips from the grooves of this (slightly scratchy) single.

Victims Of Pleasure "When You're Young" (mp3)

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The Last Chant "Run Of The Dove" (Chicken Jazz Records, 1981)

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Here's yet another of those records that I know absolutely nothing about. I'm sure that I bought this single (in Record & Tape Exchange, obv.) because it was on Chicken Jazz, who'd released the Waterboys single "A Girl Called Johnny". (though this single came first). I remember being somewhat disappointed with the single when I first got it, but when the middle of the 80's rolled round, the fact that it was basically an EXACT copy of the Velvet Underground meant it scored some major points and stayed in my collection. It's a piece of dark, brooding psychedelia: it broods and builds, swells and surges: it's a quite extraordinarily confident record, which seems all the more confusing when nothing further was heard from its protagonists. Sometimes, great bands have enough power and drive to get that one great single out: then no more. It's the Mayfly principle at work. Live fast, die young, and leave a wonderful 7" piece of vinyl that people will blog about for years to come.

And yes, that's my digital camera that's made the sleeve look so bad. I apologise. One of these days, I promise I'll get a scanner. As ever, if anyone out there has any more info on the band, let me know.

The Last Chant "Run Of The Dove" (mp3)

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Phut Phut Splodgenik "86, The Year Of The Bean" (Completely Different Records 1986)

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The main criteria for bunging stuff up on this little blog has to be: 1) Is it unavailable on CD? 2) Is it suitably difficult to find, therefore people might be interested in hearing it? As long as tunes fulfill those two criteria, they're in. This tune scores particularly heavily on point 2). Let me explain......

1986 finds me working in Our Price records, more often than not at its two branches in Watford. I was a cocky little kid, and not above telling the shop managers which records they should and shouldn't be ordering from the reps. The reps were the mobile salesmen from various record labels, who would pass by our shops on a weekly basis, park their Granada estates outside and stagger in with an armful of promotional stock. They would then attempt to coerce you into ordering as many copies as possible of their priority acts for that week. Often, the deal would be sweetened with the rep passing over FOC (free of charge) stock, so the shop would make a clear profit, or else we'd end up with some Belouis Some slipmats, or a Danny Wilson promotional T-shirt (oh, the glamour.) On this visit, the rep for Pinnacle had, amongst a pile of other stuff, this little beauty. It's Max Splodge (surely you guessed that?) of Splodgenessabounds "fame", in one of his many attempts to repeat the success of "Two Pints Of Lager...." This time, the target of his attention was Sigue Sigue Sputnik. "The Year Of The Bean" is a barely-disguised pastiche of "Love Missile F-111", with a lyric attempting to join the Sputnik vision of cold, robotic modernity to the 100th birthday of the Baked Bean. And it's therefore got LOADS of fart noises on it. These, it has to be said, are funny the first time you hear them, but lose their, ahem, sparkle soon afterwards. Perhaps the central failing of the record is that it seeks to try and make SSS funny, when in truth, they were doing a pretty good job of it themselves, albeit unintentionally.

So far(t), so good. The rep played the single in the shop, the manager thought it was daft, so did I; but I reckoned it would sell. So, I got the rep to put us down for 3 copies, and asked if we could get one now, and put it out in the racks. The rep went out to his Granada, coming back with a disconsolate look on his face. "Sorry lads, that's the only copy they gave me. You can buy it now, if you're desperate" Well, we weren't desperate, but we bought it anyway (it was always good to look after the reps, you'd get paid back somehow, in the future). As it turned out, I was wrong about the single: no-one wanted to buy it. Except me. Yes, over the course of the next few weeks, I became rather attached to it's juvenile charms, and persuaded the manager to let me have it as a staff purchase. We put it's number down on our order sheet, next to the three copies that we still hadn't received.

And they never turned up. I can remember phoning in the Pinnacle order over the next few months, spouting a long list of catalogue numbers down the phone "Rough Trade RT 121 for 6, Demon 56 for 10......" and every time I got to this records catalogue number "....and Mad 03 for three copies..." the computer would just emit a squawk and the girl on the order desk would say "I'm sorry, that's no longer on our lists" It had vanished. But now, it seems that it never even made it as far as the record buying public anyway: according to this it seems to have been the victim of a record company that went into liquidation, and hardly any copies ever saw the light of day. Rumour has it that Max Splodge himself doesn't even own a copy. If that's all true, I'm guessing that the copies that were given to reps were the only ones to reach the public, if indeed they ever did. If the record had a thousand-copy print run (fairly standard) there would probably have been around 50 copies which were given to the reps to drum up interest. My copy is one of those. Whatever, it's probably one of the rarest records I've got, as well as being one of the silliest. If anyone else out there knows anything more about this particular slice of buffoonery, you know where I am.

Max Splodge is still very much with us, his myspace is here. There's a great Splodgenessabounds reissue, which you can get here containing pretty much all you'll ever need (including the 40 seconds of GENIUS which is "Yarmouth 5-0")

So, to finish, enjoy, but be warned: may contain fart noises.

Phut Phut Splodgenik "86, The Year Of The Bean" (mp3)

The Bicycle Thieves "Ghost Dance"/"Louise" (Clear Spot Records, 1986)

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I just can't resist a request, so for Nick (see the comments on the Faith Global post), here's a forgotten gem from 1986. I got this single from a bloke I knew called Roger, who'd been putting on some gigs at Queen Mary college in Mile End in London. I'm not really sure why I was up there paying him a visit, but i found myself in the promoters office, with it's requisite detritus of singles, posters, fanzines, flyers, gaffa tape and overflowing ashtrays. Roger sat me down, and while we were chatting, said "Hang on, have a listen to this, it's by a band I'm sort of looking after at the moment" He played me "Louise" and I absolutely loved it. So much so that I begged him to let me have a copy. "Sure" he said, rooting around his desk for a spare. "Actually, that's the only copy I've got at the moment, you can have it if you like" So, it was secondhand when I got it, and it's obviously been played a little *too* much, but it's been one of my most cherished records from that day to this. It's a driving, heartfelt slice of pop melancholia, with a melody The icicle works would have killed for, and just the right amount of chiming Rickenbacker verve and swagger. It's actually the B-side to this single, but take it from me, it's easily better than the other side.

And what of The Bicycle Thieves? Well- and I'm sure you won't be surprised, nothing.I've got a 12" by the band which came out on Waterfront records a few years later, and it's not a patch on this. There's no record of them anywhere on the Internet. If anyone out there knows anything about them, I'd dearly love to know.

The Bicycle Thieves "Louise" (mp3)