Home (Sheer Joy, 1990)


Home r

100 Burton Road is an imposing red brick house located in Manchester’s West Didsbury. Flat 3 is where the Sheer Joy record label grew out of while the understated Home became its first ever release, a memorable snapshot of a baggy and optimistic time, or the future.

Swirl’s Burst would later get a 7″ release on Playtime in 1992. It starts Home, a hesitant and heartfelt slice of voyeuristic longing from the people would go on to form Bandit Queen. From indie to dance: New Fast Automatic Daffodils and the motoring funk of Jaggerbog – which they totally nailed on a Peel session the following year. Dtox – Make It Real follows, beginning like The Shamen before unveiling itself to be an early M People prototype. +The Rainkings formed in 1989, by original Inspiral Carpets members Stephen Holt and David Swift. Take is a plaintive tune, sounding like The Wild Swans. Taking baby steps are the Paris Angels with the nagging, grow-on-you shuffle of Stay.

World Of Twist formed in 1985 and underwent a number of changes before Tony Ogden moved from behind the drums to front of house. A demo tape circulating released in early 1990 saw waves being made and a recording contract with Circa Records followed. First single, The Storm is marvelous, a trippy psychedelic excursion that’s certainly one of the era’s craziest diamonds. A cover of The Rolling Stones’ She’s A Rainbow, originally issued as the B-side of The Storm would become a hit in its own right during 1992. Yet another strong tune is Inkwell, a brooding early effort from the Milltown Brothers while the very mysterious Rig’s Thud cuts like a moody Gang Of Four fronted by Shaun Ryder.

Most people’s exposure to Theme From Error-Orrori was on The Fall’s 2001 compilation A World Bewitched. It was recorded in Martin Bramah’s flat. According to Bramah in an interview with The Biggest Library Yet, about seven versions of the song were recorded onto tape, and it had been MES who suggested giving the song to Sheer Joy. The track was frequently used as an opener for concerts c.1990. Elsewhere Peter Hook’s mob Revenge drop the dramatic instrumental Wende. Lizardly, we bow out with What? Noise and the jagged Waiter. They were sound engineers (Tim Harris, Julia Adamson and Chris Nagle) working at Strawberry Studios in Stockport where many Home’s tracks were recorded.

Favourite tracks
World Of Twist – The Storm

New Fast Automatic Daffodils – Jaggerbog

Lest we forget
Mark E Smith, M Beddington, S Hanley, S Wolstencroft – Theme From Error-Orrori

Posted in Pop UK | Leave a comment

The Hit List (Dover, 1990)

The Hit List

The Hit List r

“The Hit List is for the discerning music lover. It is a unique collection of sharp songs from bands who are right at the cutting edge of today’s music.” (Mark Goodier)

The Hit List is an odd one. A short 12 track album which was released on the Dover label during the spring of 1990, it was quickly discounted in my local record shop and cost me £5.99 – cheap for a CD in those days as cassette was still king. Assisting Goodier was Mick Wilkojc with the album concept developed by The James Grant Group of Companies. The BBC Radio 1 logo appears on the back of the inlay and the following labels are thanked: A&M, London, Go! Discs, IRS, Ghetto, Phonogram, Island, Ensign, Polydor and Chrysalis.

And there’s sleeve notes!
Wet Wet Wet – Sweet Surrender: “The Wets are a good example of how much a group can achieve if they possess real talent. In five years they have gone from being unsigned to one of Britain’s best live bands. Sweet Surrender was the curtain raiser for their recent Holding Back The River album.”
The Beautiful South – Song For Whoever: “The secret of The Beautiful South’s success is their uncanny ability to write great pop melodies with a twist in the lyrics. If they continue to be as creative, they’ll keep on having hits as big as Song For Whoever.”
Then Jerico – Sugar Box: “Then Jerico, led by the charismatic Mark Shaw, have an army of fans and a repertoire of superbly crafted songs. It was their last album, The Big Area, which showed their developing skill – particularly on this song Sugar Box.”
Lightning Seeds – Pure: “Sometimes stars move on to be record producers – but Ian Broudie’s career went the other way. Having worked with Echo & The Bunnymen, amongst others, he used the experience he gained to record his solo album Cloudcuckooland – and this perfect pop song Pure.”
The Bible – Honey Be Good: “Loved by true music fans, The Bible still wait for the hit they deserve. Their self-titled album contains many outstanding songs – including Honey Be Good.”
One 2 Many – Downtown: “Downtown was a huge turntable hit – in its time, one of the most played records on the radio. It was also an American number 1 and started a promising career for One 2 Many.”

House Of Love – I Don’t Know Why I Love You: “The House Of Love are a great guitar band who really know how to craft songs without any compromise. Their album called House Of Love is their first for a major label – and well worth hearing.”
The Alarm – Sold Me Down The River: “If ever a band deserve huge success, it’s The Alarm. Mike Peters leads the group who never fail to deliver a stunning live set and a very strong album – this song is a fine example from their latest album Change.”
Texas – I Don’t Want A Lover: “Texas feature the astonishing vocals of Charlene Spiteri and the fine guitar playing of Ally McElhone. Their popularity extends into Europe and America and it’s well worth checking out their debut album.”
Love And Money – Strange Kind Of Love: “Another example of fine Scottish talent, Love And Money have been working at their own distinctive brand of guitar soul for several years and they get better all the time.”
And Why Not? – Restless Days: “Not many groups start their career in the top 40 with their debut single, but it is nothing less than And Why Not? deserve. They may be young but they’re a musical force to be reckoned with as you’ll hear on their album, Move Your Skin.”
Waterfront – Cry: “Phil Cilia and Chris Duffy have a talent for great pop songs – often appreciated more in the States than at home in the UK. Cry is the beautiful, smooth-sounding song which was an American number 1 and a British top 40 hit.”

The opening brace of songs have similarities. Both open their respective albums and originally ran for just over six minutes before being edited down for single release. Wet Wet Wet had a tough debut to follow – the sparkling Popped In, Souled Out – so it was almost inevitable that Holding Back The River would fall somewhat short. The music video for the charming Sweet Surrender features the band performing in a dark blue background with various women dressed in red Arabian clothing swimming in midair. Meanwhile the original sleeve of Welcome To The Beautiful South featured artwork by Jan Saudek. This was subsequently withdrawn to “prevent the hordes of impressionable young fans from blowing their heads off in a gun-gobbling frenzy, or taking up smoking.” I still have the original poster which I got from KG Discs when I bought the LP during October 1989 – funded by the ESF grant. Next are Then Jerico and the windswept Sugar Box that – now – really pulls on the heart strings. Sorry for describing it as “Marillion gone wrong” before.

There’s a whole sophisti-pop thread running through The Hit List. If you’re so inclined, check out Shattered Dreams, my virtual box set of the genre. We move onto the pristine perfect pop of Pure, first fruits from the Lightning Seeds. Now that’s a song that takes me back to late summer of 1989 when everything seemed possible. Equally evocative is Honey Be Good, a wistful lost gem from The Bible. A memory from Joe Teegee: “First heard this in 1989 – first car, first proper girlfriend, life was so sweet. This album was superb, this song was the best on it. Just amazing.” Elsewhere The Alarm and Texas both rock out while One Two Many – I can’t believe it’s not Bruce Hornsby. The neat piano sound on Downtown is a delight. Back to smooth: the blue-eyed edgy soul-fuelled Strange Kind Of Love from Love and Money remains one of the late 1980s most underappreciated tunes. You need Heartlands for the 7″ edit. And like a reggae Bros, And Why Not? with Restless Days. Waterfront opened for Donny Osmond during his ’88-’89 comeback tour. They had no connection with Simple Minds but Cry is a superb sophisti-pop sleeper.

The House Of Love’s I Don’t Why Know Why I Love You was their second successive single to stall at #41. A re-recorded Shine On would break the curse the following spring. I Don’t Know Why I Love You is a stormer with guitar playing that stops you in your tracks; it reached #10 in John Peel’s Festive 50 of 1989. Sadly it’s not the elusive 7″ version here. Cherry Red did a good job with their debut album which has had its fair share of reissue, repackage etc. So I’d be delighted if they could tackle the second one – known as Fontana or The Butterfly Album. You’d need three CDs and this is what I think should be included:

Disc 1: The House Of Love (1990)
01 Hannah
02 Shine On
03 Beatles And The Stones
04 Shake And Crawl
05 Hedonist
06 I Don’t Know Why I Love You
07 Never
08 Someone’s Got To Love You
09 In A Room
10 Blind
11 32nd Floor
12 Se Dest

Disc 2: A Spy In The House Of Love (1990)
01 Safe
02 Marble
03 D Song 89
04 Scratched Inside
05 Phone
06 Cut The Fool Down
07 Ray
08 Love II
09 Baby Teen
10 Love III
11 Soft As Fire
12 Love IV
13 No Fire
14 Love V

Disc 3: Single Mixes and B-Sides
01 Never (12″ Version)
02 Safe (Original Mix)
03 I Don’t Know Why I Love You (7″ Version)
04 Secrets
05 I Can’t Stand It
06 Clothes
07 The Spy
08 Shine On (Full Re-recorded Version)
09 No Fire (Original Mix)
10 Allergy
11 Rosalyn
12 Rouge
13 Scratched Inside (Alternate Mix)
14 Beatles And The Stones (Remix)
15 Phone (Acoustic)
16 Marble (Original Mix)
17 Glorify Me
18 Baby Teen (Radio Edit)

“Your face is a foreign food.”
Guy Chadwick, last of the great romantics.

Favourite tracks
Lightning Seeds – Pure

Waterfront – Cry

Lest we forget
The Bible – Honey Be Good

Posted in Pop UK | 6 Comments

Product 2378 (Telstar, 1990)

Product 2378

Product 2378 r

Back in 1990, Product 2378 caused a bit of a stir. “Soulless and mainstream” major labels like Telstar weren’t supposed to release indie compilations and their mere presence in the marketplace put plenty noses out of joint. See here and there. Those four digits in the title refer to the catalogue number while the kettle is a masterstroke in blandness, a two fingers to the purists. This concept would be repeated some months later with the fantastic Rave.

It’s a flying start as The Wonder Stuff (then on the crest of the Hup! wave) treat us to non-album single Who Wants To Be The Disco King? Released at the beginning of March 1989 and a real bastard to find over here. I managed to tape it off Larry Gogan’s Top 30 show and cherished the hissy recording for ages. They hated pop of course (remember Astley In The Noose?), with this track aimed squarely at the dull music business. “Over and over and over and over, the radio’s on but I don’t hear a song”, the complaint goes. Naturally, in retrospect they were wrong but at the time it was a swirling three minute delight. Next comes another track from the early part of the previous year – one that used to accompany Leaving Cert study – New Order’s Vanishing Point. A most interesting choice seeing as it wasn’t a single but was the highlight of Technique. As Pelagalli says “This song destroys the barriers of time. This is sublime.” A tune that’s languid and fist-pumping all at once.

I saw the Jesus & Mary Chain tour Automatic. It really was a remarkable record, plenty guitars, bass, and a perfect drum machine with very little distortion. Loads of attitude and strong, upfront songs. “This video is the junction of goth, grunge, surf, industrial and classic alt” murmurs Evin Paauwe of Head On, a seriously stylised rock number that the Pixies would subsequently cover on Trompe Le Monde. Meanwhile the Wedding Present’s first single on a major label (RCA) was to become their crowning glory and one of the greatest tracks I’ve ever heard. Kennedy with its massive drum sound reached #33 in the UK charts and was loved by both metalheads and rockers as well us indie kids. I remember a huge Anthrax fan, Bill Somers praising it endlessly. Anytime it’s played in public, the dancefloor goes crazy – my wedding, friends’ weddings, my 40th etc. You can read more about that era in my review of Indie Top 20 Volume 3 – War Of Independents. My 12″ single came with a free poster that I sadly stuck on my bedroom wall with sellotape.

After such a brilliant opening quartet of tunes, it was inevitable that Product 2378 would drop a little in quality. Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It is also an RCA release, taken from This Is The Day…This Is The Hour…This Is This. The music video features Clint Mansell and Graham Crabb singing the song against various changing backgrounds while in other parts the rest of the band members perform the song with stacks of televisions behind them. One of the most memorable samples is “Let’s get down to it, boppers…”, taken from the 1979 film The Warriors, truly a cult classic. It would also inspire Renegade Soundwave on the dancefloor-killing monster Ozone Breakdown (B-side of Probably A Robbery):
“Good news, boppers.
The big alert has been called off.
It turns out the early reports were wrong, all wrong.
For that group that had a hard time getting home, sorry about that.
I guess the only thing we can do is play you a song.”

“We’ve been courteous.” Mad Cyril was one of Bummed’s many gems; an amazing rolling bassline. Martin Hannett at the flight desk. While the album was released at the end of 1988, sales throughout 1989 and beyond were strong, hugely enhanced by the Top Of The Pops appearance that November. Next up is another find – New Model Army’s Brave New World from 1985 – and the rare 12″ mix to boot. This is the only place to find it digitally. Bleak yet uplifting. It’s followed by another oldie, the Weather Prophets’ Almost Prayed (1986 / C86), a sublime VU homage done in a jangle style. Move forward to see Morrissey step into the arena with The Last Of The Famous International Playboys. The artwork features Moz (7), up a tree in Chorlton-on-Medlock while Mike Joyce, Andy Rourke and Craig Gannon play on the record which mythologises the notorious yet loveable Ronnie and Reggie Kray. It was released shortly after my 17th birthday and reached #6 in the UK. Bona Drag (possibly the finest ever Morrissey release) compiled the single in late 1990.

They’d later collaborate on Interlude but for now, Siouxsie & The Banshees’ Peek-A-Boo follows Morrissey, an enchanting and elliptical slice of carnival goth. Read about Monkey Gone To Heaven, Joe and Dizzy in my review of Indie Top 20 Volume 7 while the useful Indie Top 20 CD88 has the lowdown on Crazyhead. Elsewhere All About Eve’s December is intense stuff, ethereal and haunting: “Here’s a Victorian tin, I keep my memories in.” That would have been an ideal closer for a 56 minute LP but Telstar had other ideas and tacked on the sprawling Bombay Mix of The Mission’s Tower Of Strength which loses about 65 seconds but still runs 10 minutes plus. Kudos to Mark Stent for the wonderful orchestral touches and classic Indian drums, a doom-laden symphony of endless, endless.

Favourite tracks
The Wedding Present – Kennedy

The Jesus & Mary Chain – Head On

Lest we forget
The Wonder Stuff – Who Wants To Be The Disco King?

Posted in Pop UK | 3 Comments