You’d think having a hit record would mean he could afford a shirt with buttons.
This is a classic example of the 1970s AM pop which sounds glorious blaring out of the radio of a big old American car when you’re driving to the beach on a sunny Florida day. It really does, I know from personal experience.
Advertising laws in Britain permitted beer and wine to be sold on television but the harder stuff could only be advertised on cinema screens. So before a movie (and after the Pearl & Dean intro) you would get ads for Gin, Scotch, and Vodka — and even cigarettes until 1986.
The most memorable were the ones for Martini vermouth (my mother’s tipple along with Cinzano) which sold a vision of the jet-set high life with exotic locales to match any Bond movie. All these ads for Mobdro illicit, adult products added to the feeling that going to the pictures was a grown-up thing to do (at least it was before all movies were made for teenagers), so even if you were sitting in some shabby fleapit of a cinema sucking on a Kia-Ora you still felt dreadfully sophisticated.
Download: International Jet Set – The Specials (mp3)
Niki & The Dove are a Swedish duo whose new album Everybody’s Heart is Broken Now channels the synth and drum effects of the 1980s. There are a lot of acts raiding that era at the moment but these two do it without sounding like hipsters playing kitsch games. It has a sleek but emotional sound that owes a lot to the R&B jams of that decade, and with the raspy voice of lead singer Malin Dahlström crooning over the shiny chrome surfaces it often sounds like a Stevie Nicks record produced by Prince (sigh).
This year is really taking the piss. I swear the death of Victoria Wood has upset me almost as much as Bowie did. She was one of the greatest comedy talents Britain has ever produced, but on a personal level she means a lot to me because my mother loved her and I have many happy memories of watching her TV shows with her. My mother could quote Victoria Wood lines the way I could with Monty Python in my teens, so I’m sad for more than just the loss of a great comedy writer and performer.
Though Wood made her name in the 1980s she existed outside of the London-centric, politically-edgy “Alternative” comedy crowd and created her own brilliant comedy universe. She was never as fashionable as them and, even though her humour could be cruelly accurate and cutting, she had a Northern working class warmth that made her less hip, but she was funnier and for longer.
She was also an influence on Morrissey, especially this song she wrote in 1978 which inspired parts of Rusholme Ruffians, and her “they didn’t know what drugs were” line in the intro may also sound familiar.
Download: Fourteen Again – Victoria Wood (mp3)
This 1981 single is the last one Post-Punk squawkers Essential Logic released. A year later Laura Logic quit the music biz to join the Hare Krishnas with old buddy and former X-Ray Spex bandmate Poly Styrene.
They could be quite atonal at times but this is a sweet, bouncy record that’s about as pop as they ever got. Probably why I bought it and still have it.
Download: Fanfare In The Garden – Essential Logic (mp3)
Apparently they reformed — as everyone does these days — in 2001 but I haven’t heard any fruits of that.
Some new t-shirts on sale. Couldn’t decide between “Glam” Bowie or “Low” Bowie so I went with all of them. I started working on a Bowie design last year so there was going to be one this Spring anyway, I just wish they hadn’t ended up being posthumous.
As usual they’re only $14 for a limited time so buy one now, or two!
If you’ve never heard this version before you should lend it an ear, it’s very different.
Download: Rebel Rebel (US single version) – David Bowie (mp3)
This song is such a classic, gut-wrenching, heartbreaker. Wonderful to hear them do it live.
The leading songwriters of Punk were considered the voices of their generation but there were times you couldn’t figure out what they were singing because the records didn’t come with lyrics and the production values weren’t exactly models of pristine clarity. You would think that if you wanted to start a revolution it would help if the kids could understand the manifesto, right?
This was especially vexing with The Clash because of Joe Strummer’s phlegmy, mouthful-of-marbles delivery. I don’t know if The Westway Wonders considered lyric sheets to be bourgeois indulgences or CBS wouldn’t shell out for inner sleeves, but they didn’t include one with an album until London Calling which made the publication of The Clash Songbook in 1978 such a big deal — we could finally understand what Joe was barking about on “White Riot” and “Complete Control”.
It included the words and chords of every song on their debut album plus all the singles and b-sides to date, and we studied it like it was the Bible or Rosetta Stone. To us, Strummer/Jones were way better than some poncey “poet” like Bob Dylan and I remember loving how snappy, sharp, and even jokey a lot of the lyrics were.
In retrospect it might not seem very fan-friendly to make them shell out £3.50 (in 1978 money) for a book of lyrics they could have got free with the records — especially for a value-for-money band like The Clash — but it was a nicely-done project and worth buying. According to the book’s designer Pearce Marchbank (best known for his design of Time Out) the band supplied all the images and even created the type which makes me imagine Mick and Joe staying up all night with a stencil kit and a Dymo Labelmaker.
Nowadays you could just look the words up online but that’s kind of boring when you can get this terrific print artifact for a reasonable price at the usual places since it was reissued a few years ago. Volume Two designed by artist Derek Boshier is excellent too.
Here’s a couple of those b-sides in the book.
Download: Jail Guitar Doors – The Clash (mp3)
Download: City of The Dead – The Clash (mp3)
This is the first record Ultravox made with Midge Ure. I quite liked the Vienna album at the time but wasn’t all that keen on them after that. Not sure what their critical rep is these days but I’ve a feeling even Gary Numan is cooler than they are now.