Orange Juice always claimed they wanted to be pop stars — one of the reasons they moved from Postcard to Polydor — but they were too spiky and independent to turn into Haircut 100. One of the times I saw them live Edwyn Collins jokingly introduced “Rip It Up” as “Our one-hit wonder”. Another time he announced it as the next number, the crowd cheered loudly, and they proceeded to play another song instead. So I’m guessing he was ambivalent about it, though I’m sure the money was nice.
So it seems typically perverse for them to put out a 12″ edition of their big hit that didn’t play up the more commercial, dancey aspects of the song (like the Chic-inspired beat) or wasn’t even the extended version from the album. Instead they offered up the “Punk Club Version” which is rougher than the original and a little like how it might sound if they were still on Postcard records. Those bloody Bolshie Glaswegians.
There are some extended mixes of records that drag on too long and outstay their welcome, or chop up the song until it bears little relation to what you loved about the original version. This, however, is one of those 12″ singles I have that I think of as the Platonic Ideal of what one should be. It’s a just-right seven minutes long, keeps the original intact, then goes long highlighting one of the best things about the record: the wicked bassline played by Freddie Washington. Perfect.
I must have either been stupid or didn’t listen closely enough when this single came out in 1980 because I had no idea it had a gay subtext even though I actually bought a copy of it.
Townsend dedicated the song to the Sex Pistols and it was seen as a tip of the hat from an old rebel to the new generation which I thought was all there was to it. But lines like “Rough toys, under the sheets” and “Tough boys come over here, I wanna bite and kiss you” not only play up the homoerotic undertones of many youth cults — all those peacocks preening in their sharp suits and leather jackets — but apparently also Townsend’s own sexuality which he has been a bit ambiguous about regarding this record. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Whatever it’s about (and it doesn’t have to be about any one thing) it’s a terrific record and was his biggest solo hit. The video is rather great too, Pete cavorting with Mods and Rockers in a snooker hall.
22-year-old Melina Duterte is something of a musical wunderkind. Recording under the name Jay Som, she writes, produces, and plays every note on her releases. After spending 10 years honing her skills in her bedroom, she uploaded some self-made songs to Bandcamp on a whim which brought her immediate attention.
Now she’s put out her debut album proper Everybody Works which, although also made in her bedroom, is an incredibly accomplished record showing a dazzling range. From bouncy pop, wistful indie, to fuzzy rockers, it’s sound of someone picking and mixing from the kaleidoscope of pop and is an utter joy to listen to.
Was (Not Was) were a brilliantly eclectic group who, despite being critical faves, sadly only bothered the pop charts on a couple of occasions during the 80s and 90s. One of those times was the terrific House groover “Shake Your Head” in 1993 which featured the unlikely duo of Ozzy Osbourne and actress Kim Basinger on vocals. This wasn’t all that unusual for Was (Not Was) who had a penchant for unexpected guest vocalists like Mel Tormé, Wayne Kramer of MC5, and Frank Sinatra Jr.
“Shake Your Head” originally appeared on their 1983 album Born To Laugh At Tornadoes in a very different version where Ozzy had the only vocal. However, they did record a demo featuring Ozzy with a young singer on the cusp of fame called Madonna. They never used it because, according to Don Was “I’ve always imagined the vocalists as extensions of ourselves, and I couldn’t relate to female vocals being our voice.” Though I’ve also read it was because they didn’t like her vocal and didn’t think she had much of a future.
Fast forward to 1993: Madonna is a superstar, and Was (Not Was) are putting together a best-of compilation album and think it would be good publicity to put out her original vocal on the new House mix of the track by Steve “Silk” Hurley. Unfortunately she refused to let them release it (perhaps she was miffed they’d rejected her 10 years before) so they turned to Kim Basinger who did have some musical previous having recorded an unreleased R&B album in the 80s that is rumoured to have been produced by her then-boyfriend Prince.
This version has never been officially released which is a shame, though much as I love Madonna I have to say I think the Kim Basinger version is better. Madge’s voice wasn’t the greatest in her early days and she sounds a bit wonky at times. Still a great record though.
The Bishops were a Pub Rock band originally called The Count Bishops whose raw style made them one of the links between that scene and Punk. Like many other bands of their sort they were more popular live than on record, but they did make the charts in 1978 with this punky version of “I Want Candy”.
I have the single on a 10″ disc which was quite a novelty format at the time (at least to me) so I might have bought it just because of that before I’d even heard it. Glad I did though because it’s a terrific record and my favourite version of the song. It was also issued on a 6″ disc which I think is even cooler and would’ve bought instead if I’d seen it.