Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The Impossible Years "Scenes We'd Like To See" (Dreamworld 12", 1983)

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First off, a slight apology for the lack of posts, I guess i'm going to have to try and make up for lost time and post as much as possible over the next couple of days.

Next, it looks like I made it onto Hype Machine! To anyone who has arrived at this small outpost of musical whimsy as a result: welcome. Today's post relates to the TV Personalities , but mainly to Dreamworld Records, the Label that Dan Treacy set up after Whaam! records had folded. (Full history lesson here ) My connection with Dan goes back to my days at University, where I was friends with a guy called Colin Gregory. Together with his best friend from Sheffield, Dave Walmsley, they had been in a band called The Page Boys, putting out one single ("My Kind Of Girl") on Whaam!. During the course of our time at Uni, they decided to form a new band, and I actually joined them for a few weeks. I'm not sure we even had a name, though we may have been Jonathon's Chocolate Factory for a few days (!) and we restricted our musical output to furtive rehearsals in empty lecture halls where we practiced the fruits of our new venture. These included a synth-led instrumental called "Gnat In A Storm" and a song called "Telephone" which was dominated by, you guessed it, the sound of a telephone ringing. After a few weeks of this, it became clear that their ambition was greater than mine, so I left them to it. I joined my best friend Nick in a situationist art-punk duo called The Violet Wardrobe, and Jonathon's Chocolate Factory became 1000 Violins. Obviously, I kept in touch, and when I left Uni, I would follow the Violins around when they came down to play gigs in London. This led me to the TVP's, and my eventual position as sometime doorperson at Dan's club, The Room At The Top, in Chalk Farm. All of this led to my "C86 years" and I'm sure I'll get into that at some later date, but for now, let's return to Dreamworld.

There's been a compilation of Dan's output on the Whaam! imprint (here; essentially a reissue of the vinyl "All For Art...And Art For All!" compilation, with some TVP's demos tacked on), but there's no sign of any compilation of the stuff that appeared on Dreamworld. Indeed, when I saw Dan in the late 1990's , he was trawling round second-hand shops, trying to collect some of the missing links in the Dreamworld discography, with a view to just such a compilation. Unfortunately, other events got in the way, and it would be a few more years before Dan got himself sorted out (further details here) so I'm guessing the compilation remains on hold. Dreamworld was a poppier label than it's more psychedelic predecessor, and boasted some great acts: The Mighty Lemon Drops, 1000 Violins, and Go! Service/Blue Train, better known today as It's Jo And Danny. But some of the releases are a little more obscure; I can remember that the records Dan was trying to find and complete his compilation were the Jane Bond LP, and Dreamworld's first release, and the subject of this post, "Scenes We'd Like To See" by The Impossible Years. It didn't attract as much attention as other Dreamworld releases due to the fact that it's creators were the other side of The Atlantic: whereas The Mighty Lemon Drops could come down from Dudley at a moment's notice and play The Room At The Top, The Impossible Years were stuck in Philadelphia. Consequently, not many people got to hear this EP, which is a great shame. It's a beautifully constructed selection of songs, blessed with chiming guitars, sunny harmonies, poppy optimism and killer melodies. the best two tracks on the EP are "Attraction Gear", a fuzzy, psychedelic love song, and "Flower Girl", a fuzzy, psychedelic......oh you get the picture. The record itself is in the Bible for £12, though due to it's relative scarcity, I guess a price of anything up to double that would be fair.Looking around, I i notice there's one on sale on the 'bay for a fiver, which is an absolute steal, if anyone out there likes these mp3's enough to want to purchase the EP, I suggest you do so sharpish, it won't be there for long.

The Impossible Years "Attraction Gear" (mp3)

The Impossible Years "Flower Girl" (mp3)

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The Muscle Shoal "Accept Yourself" (Mush Recordings 10", 1991)

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Here's another of those records, rather like The Bicycle Thieves single I posted, that I know nothing about. Well, not quite nothing, but hardly anything... When I worked in Rough Trade, in the late 80's, one of the people who was in and out of the shop every now and again was someone who managed this band, The Muscle Shoal. He lived near the shop, somewhere in W11, and that's all I can remember: even his name escapes me. I presumed at the time that the band were based in West London as well, though I never found out for sure. At that time, in 1988, they'd released one single, a 12" called "Summer's Here" and that was it. It was an insanely catchy slice of jangly pop and it's never been far from my record player, but I was convinced that was all they ever recorded. However, a few years ago, on one of my regular trawls through the bargain basement of The Record And Tape Exchange, I found this. It's dated 1991, which is rather odd- what were they doing for three years? I certainly don't recall reading about them, or hearing of any releases in that three year period... My best guess is that here was a band, full of hope and confidence, who released a strong debut single, got some record company interest, got a publishing deal, and promptly got lost inside the record business machine. Hey, it happens. This 10" single seems to have been self-financed, and looks like it was the band tidying up the loose ends on a career that never really got started.

Due to the myriad of references to the Muscle Shoals, they're a band who are also completely un-googleable. Like I say, all I have are two singles. The debut ("Summer's Here") will have to wait until I can locate it, but this single is almost as good : it's a piece of jangling pop wonder, with great harmonies, great lyrics (clever use of except/accept) and that all-important sense of self-belief. And i know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: if anyone out there can shed any more light on this one, do let me know.

The Muscle Shoal "Accept Yourself" (mp3)

The Muscle Shoal

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Gangway "My Girl And Me" (Irmgardz, 1986)

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Now that, is UNQUESTIONABLY, my favourite picture sleeve of all time. I mean, just look at it! I still can't pick it up without a big daft grin on my face. Consider this a challenge: if anyone else out there can find a better sleeve, i'd like to see it.

It's 1986. i'm working in Our Price Records, Watford High Street. My partner in crime is charming young man called William Learmonth. Together, we are "High Fidelity" before Nick Hornby ever thought of putting pen to paper. We charm all the young girls into submission with a combination of winning repartee, devil-may-care attitude, and most importantly, the best records we can lay our hands on. The sort of songs that, when played, will make those self-same girls approach the counter, fluttering their eyelashes, to ask us: "Oooh, this is lovely, what is it?"

Well, what this is, is one of the greatest slices of slightly-camp, lounge pop ever created. It's the sort of record that should have been on Compact records, should have been recorded by Mari Wilson, was The Divine Comedy but better, was My Life Story but with more pop hooks...it was the sort of record that should have been a huge hit, but wasn't. Gangway were a highly accomplished Danish band, whose career should have been kick-started in this country by "My Girl And Me", but, inexplicably, it wasn't. They signed to London records over here and the single was re-recorded in 1988 (by David Motion, who did Strawberry Switchblade, Intaferon, and...ahem a couple of Jesus Jones songs...) and was totally ruined. The flow of the original, it's wit and swagger seemed to have been lost. And as if that wasn't enough, the wonderful sleeve was replaced by THIS, which is, quite frankly, totally shite.

Here's the video of the re-recorded version:

Overall, it's just one of those songs which somehow fell through the cracks. How and why seems to be a combination of bad luck, bad timing, and the capriciousness of the music business. At least it'll have it's moment in the blog-spotlight. I suspect that "My Girl And Me" will have a longer life in the blogosphere than it ever would have had in the normal charts. Enjoy.

Gangway "My Girl And Me" (Original Version) (mp3)