Something for the Weekend

Got into a discussion with a couple of folks on the Twitter this week about how underrated Joan Armatrading was/is, especially her 70s albums. Judging by this clip she had a kick-arse band back then too. Bass solo!


Singles Going Cheaply

I wish I could say I was hip enough to have bought Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” when it came out in 1977 but the copy I have is on the cheapo reissue label Old Gold which I bought in the 1980s. I have several of these singles because they were a very easy way of picking up old classics and often had another great track on the b-side too.

You kids might find this shocking but in the olden days you couldn’t just listen to any song ever recorded on your phone or easily find a rare original copy of a record on eBay or Discogs. If you wanted something old and out-of-print you actually had to leave the house and spend an afternoon digging through the racks at second-hand record shops or try and get it through mail order. It was a pain in the arse that required a dedication I just didn’t have.

Cheap reissues were fine with me and I don’t remember ever being bothered by not owning an original of something. That’s partly down to not having the money (I had to buy beer and fags too!) but also because I was young and there was no nostalgia involved in my record buying. I wasn’t trying to resurrect some vanished youth I’d once had by buying artifacts from it. I didn’t care if it was on a certain colour label or had the authentic smell of 1972 about it. I still don’t really.

Back then major labels didn’t give seem to give a toss about their back catalogues. Some had budget album lines like Nice Price, and Super Saver but often licensed their old tracks out to cheap labels like Old Gold, Pickwick, Music For Pleasure, and K-Tel. RCA thought so little of David Bowie’s back catalogue in 1980 they let K-Tel plunder it for the Best of Bowie album, and you could get Beatles and Pink Floyd collections on MFP.

I loved those cheap reissues and comps because they were an easy entree into the history of pop at a time when I was on a Saturday-job budget. These days there’s a heritage industry for pop music and reissues are a huge part of the vinyl market with record companies trying to squeeze every last penny out of their past glories with deluxe editions, box-sets, and overpriced Record Store Day exclusives. Maybe I’m missing some part of the music nerd gene but I don’t bother with any of those either.

Here’s another single I have on Old Gold. A one-hit wonder from 1970 that later became big in Northern Soul clubs.

Download: Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe – Mr. Bloe (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

On the surface “It’s A Fine Day” seems like twee English whimsy but there’s a sad subtext to it which the beautiful video makes more apparent. This has all the yearning heartbreak of a Brief Encounter condensed into three minutes.

The song was written by poet/musician Edward Barton and, sung by his girlfriend Jane, became a hit on the indie charts in 1983. A Rave-y dance version by Opus III was a much bigger hit in 1992.

I’m Brown and I’m Proud

Up to my tits in work this week so here’s a random great track for your listening pleasure.

“La Raza” from 1990 was one of the first Latin Rap hits and I’ve always loved it’s slinky and sexy groove. The title means “the race” and the words are a bragging celebration of Chicano culture in LA. Listening to it makes me want to cruise the barrio in a Lowrider.

Download: La Raza (Cantina Mix) – Kid Frost (mp3)

New Monday

Confidence Man are an Australian group who make bubbly, party-starting dance pop like a modern Deee-Lite with a hint of B-52s. It’s the kind of sound that makes even the most miserable bleeder get up and boogie.

They’ve released a handful of terrific singles over the past couple of years and their debut album Confident Music For Confident People is out next month. Let’s get this party started.

The Old Musical Express

The NME was finally put out of it’s recent misery last week and published it’s final print edition after 66 sometimes glorious years. Like most people I think its Golden Age was when I was reading it which, in my case, was the years from Punk to New Pop. The names of Danny Baker, Julie Burchill, Ian Penman, and Paul Morley are in my personal pantheon of music writers and I can still remember lines from reviews and even whole articles that made a lasting impression like Danny Baker’s interview with The Jacksons, Tony Parsons hero-worshiping Bruce Springsteen, and Paul Morley’s Ian Curtis obituary.

It was an essential part of my late-teenage years and a lot of my attitude toward music even today was shaped by it. I occasionally picked up Sounds, Record Mirror, and Smash Hits (but never Melody Maker for some reason) if they had someone I liked on the cover, but the NME was the one I bought every Wednesday. It was clever, funny, often savage, and also introduced me to a world beyond music of films, books, and politics. Plus there was a usually brilliant Ray Lowry cartoon in every issue alongside great photography by the likes of Anton Corbijn, Pennie Smith, and Kevin Cummings.

I stopped reading it around 1986 because The Face was catering more to my interests by then so I can’t really comment on what it was like after that, but the sea of white rockers on recent covers suggests that they embraced the Laddish and Rockist end of Britpop and stuck with it to the end — hyping the Gallaghers, Pete Doherty, The Strokes etc. ad nauseum. This went against what it stood for in my day (Pete Wylie coined the derogatory term “Rockism” in an NME interview) and out of touch with the fact that the whole RAWK N’ ROLL attitude just seems dated, stupid, and reactionary now. It looked like they were trying to sell the paper to old geezers of my generation and not actual modern teenagers.

But I can understand why they had an identity crisis. Sad to say but you didn’t need the NME anymore. I used to buy albums before I’d even heard them if they got a good NME review (not always with positive results I have to say) but nobody has to do that these days. Nor do they need a list of tour dates, or even music news when a weekly will always be behind the up-to-second rate of the internet. Like a lot of paper publications they struggled to find their way in the new digital world (the NME website will keep going) but, rubbish as the later issues may have seemed, I’m still very sad to see it go. End of an era.

The 1977 version of The Clash’s “Capital Radio” was originally available on an EP that you could only get by mail order from the NME. The rest of the disk was taken up with Tony Parsons interviewing the band on the Tube (the underground railway not the TV show).

Download: Capital Radio – The Clash (mp3)