Lucky Dip

This jolly tune was a regular play on Junior Choice when I was a kid, and hearing it 40-plus years later still takes me back to my bedroom on a damp Sunday morning listening Ed Stewart on the radio. Gives me the warm fuzzies it does.

Download: The Laughing Policeman – Charles Penrose (mp3)

I knew this was an old record but had no idea it dated back to the 1920s.


Indie Soul Boys

For a while in the early 80s the hot musical talk was all about “soul” and “passion” (especially in the NME) and you couldn’t move for bands adding horn sections to their records and referencing Marvin Gaye. I’m not sure where it came from — Paul Weller? Paul Young? Spandau Ballet? — but there was a definite shift to more classic soul influences which was soon exploited by the Levi’s 501 commercials. It was something of a conservative step backwards from post-punk but I still liked a lot of the records.

Even the indie world was influenced by this trend. The Kane Gang were a trio from Newcastle whose first single “Brother, Brother” came out on the small Kitchenware label (home of Prefab Sprout) in 1983. Like a lot of British blue-eyed-soul it sounds a bit weedy next to the records that influenced it and is more “Indie Funk” than Funkadelic but it has a good groove, especially in this rare longer 12″ version. 

Download: Brother Brother (12″ version) – The Kane Gang (mp3)

B-Side Beauty

Roxy Music hid this gem away on the other side of the 12″ single of “Take A Chance With Me” in 1982. It’s an extended remix which takes the Avalon highlight on a 7:40 minute journey and listening to it makes me think their comeback albums would have been more interesting if they had pushed the songs in this expansive direction.

From “The Bogus Man” to “Manifesto” Roxy were always very good at long, atmospheric instrumental passages, so imagine the chill soundscapes of Avalon or the pulsing sequencers of “Same Old Scene” stretched out into more trippy, hypnotic territory. I think the results would have been terrific.

Download: The Main Thing (Dance Mix) – Roxy Music (mp3)

Photo: Showgirls in Las Vegas by Sammy Davis Jr.

Something for the Weekend

Disco didn’t produce many great bands because that’s not what it was all about, but Chic must be one of the greatest in any genre — certainly one of the best rhythm sections ever — and they produced some marvelous records for other people too. Not that I give a shit about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but the fact that they’ve been nominated 10 times and failed to get in is a sad indictment of those rockist wankers.

Candid Camera

This photo of my mother looks like a still from a Hitchcock movie. Her short blond hair has something of a Kim Novak and Janet Leigh vibe, and the off-camera stare gives it a curious, anxious edge as if she’s just seen Anthony Perkins with a kitchen knife.

I’ve always thought this was an unusual picture, and not a little mysterious. I recognize the location as the hallway of my grandparent’s council flat in White City, but I’ve no idea why it was taken. These days people are constantly taking photos of even the most humdrum aspects of their lives, but in the past the camera usually only came out to record events and gatherings: on holiday, a party, a wedding etc. This would have been shot on my Grandmother’s Box Brownie which was the first cheap, snapshot camera and enabled photos like this, but why photograph my mother staring into space in a hallway, not even looking at the camera?

The truth is probably quite mundane — using up the last frame on a roll of film? — but I like to think someone in the family was being arty and liked the light in the hallway, or perhaps my mother was a budding Cindy Sherman.

Every picture tells a story, but I think this one will remain a mystery.

Download: Girls On Film (Night Version) – Duran Duran (mp3)

Manchester, So Much To Answer For

Even Mike Leigh at his most misanthropic couldn’t have come up with something as grimly excruciating as this. Don’t miss “One of Great Britain’s top recording groups” about 3 minutes in, and stay for Charlie Williams making racist jokes. After that it somehow manages to keep getting worse. 

We occasionally watched Wheetappers & Shunters at home and I don’t know what is more depressing: The show itself or the sad thought that I might have actually found it entertaining.

Free Fourplay

The NME released 38 compilation cassettes between 1981-88 that could be bought cheaply by mail. Some of them, like C81 and C86 became famous and era-defining. Less well known is the short series of 7″ vinyl EPs they gave away in the middle of the decade. Unlike the tapes these were included free with the paper which must have caused headaches to make sure they didn’t end up at the newsagents broken into little pieces. I had all of them at one point, but the only one I still have is Fourplay from September 1986 (where the hell did the others go?)

As a snapshot of 1986 this is a very strong quartet of tracks. The Miles Davis is taken straight from his divisive Tutu album while, as far as my ears can tell, the Mantronix and Elvis tunes are slightly different mixes to the originals. Only the Billy Bragg sounds like it’s a different recording. Sadly my crappy old copy sticks right at the end of that track so I’ve had to fade it out. Sorry about that. My favourite of the four was (and is) the pile-driving Mantronix tune which still blows my socks off.

Download: Hardcore Hip Hop (NME version) – Mantronix (mp3)
Download: Uncomplicated (NME version) – Elvis Costello & The Attractions (mp3)
Download: Honey, I’m A Big Boy Now (NME version) – Billy Bragg (mp3)
Download: Splatch – Miles Davis (mp3)