It hasn't stopped raining all day here, so I spent much of the afternoon recording this mix from vinyl. Yeah, I have a lot of the tracks in digital format as well, thanks to CD and download reissue action, but not all... and it was nice to keep the crackling grooves theme across the whole thing. Ostensibly recorded for Jessel's fine MySpace project, it may yet appear there as well, who knows (well, Jessel obviously, duh...). Download the mix in fuzzy MP3 format here. Listing plus assorted notes below:
July Skies: The Softest Kisses – from the At The Height of Summer 7” on Roisin Records 2000
This 7” was my first introduction to the sound of July Skies and will always be a treasured possession as a result. All four tracks from the single have since appeared on various July Skies CD collections. This will forever be the soundtrack to the summer sun burning through the morning haze as the steam train rattles past on the track behind the house.
Meets Guitar: The Great Slip – 7” on Johnny Kane records 2001
Johnny Kane was one of the great labels, and this was just one of the sublime 7” releases. Meets Guitar and July Skies records are all infused with the spirit of a seductive, hidden and mythic England; the England I see in my daydreams when I cycle through Devon lanes.
Sabine: Marra – from the Kometen Melodies 7” on Audrey’s Diary 1993
Audrey’s Diary released classic singles from Black Tambourine, Bomb Pops and Veronica Lake amongst others in the early ‘90s. And amongst the others was this split 7” by Thumbling and Sabine; Sabine being basically Chip Porter, who ran the label. Fine Krautrock influenced instrumental noodling.
Appliance: Concentration To Brightness – from Organised Sound 10” EP on Surveillance Records 1997
Continuing the instrumental orientation, this is from the first Appliance record, on their own Surveillance label. Appliance are perhaps the only local Exeter band that I have ever really been a big fan of. They went on to sign with Mute and made a string of excellent records. There is talk of a retrospective box release of session tracks etc. Fingers crossed.
Peter Thomas Sound Orchester: Raumpatrouille (Space Patrol) from Orion 2000 10” EP on Bungalow Records 1996 (track originally released in 1966)
The Appliance gang were regular guest DJs at out Living Room club in Exeter back in 1997, and this is the kind of thing we often played there. Peter Thomas released several records of orchestrated Pop standards in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but it’s his Space Patrol soundtrack that I like the best.
Herzfeld: Do You Want This Job Or Not? - From The Sack 10” LP on Duophonic Super 45s 1994
What Malcolm Eden did next… after the end of McCarthy we all know that Tim Gane went on to fame with Stereolab. Less well known is what Malcolm Eden did: one 7” and this 10” LP for Duophonic. Typically political and succinct.
McCarthy: Red Sleeping Beauty – 12” on The Pink Label 1986
This remains one of my favourite records. A perfect marriage of soaring sonic beauty and sharp political ideology. It still sends shivers down my spine whenever I hear it. I loved the sleeve for the 12” of this too, with the spot varnish dots on black.
Wolfhounds: I See You – b-side of Cruelty 7” on The Pink Label 1987
Wolfhounds and McCarthy will be forever inseparable in my mind, and in many others’ too no doubt. This cover of a Byrds track (from Fifth Dimension) was on the b-side of the Cruelty single, which sported another fine Andy Royston sleeve.
Catapult: Sink Me – 12” on September Records 1988
Catapult were from East London and had connections to the Wolfhounds crew. One 7” and this brooding three track 12” for the September label were their sole releases. The September was another mighty label, with a brace of magnificent releases.
East Village: Cubans In The Bluefields – 12” on Sub Aqua 1988
That 1987/88 era seemed to spawn so many great records and groups. I fell in love with East Village the moment I saw the sleeve of this record in the racks of A1 in Glasgow. Sticking it on the stereo only made that love more intense.
Ninotchka: I’ve Got Wings – 7” on Grimsey 1997
Andrea’s little Grimsey label was a gem, and this 7” by Ninotchka was one of the most precious sparklers in the collection. I struggle with a lot of what people call ‘dreampop’ or ‘shoegaze’, but it always seemed to me that this Ninotchka record managed the perfect balance between blissed out noise and melodic Pop sensibility so much better than any of the groups normally associated with those scenes.
Popinjays: Don’t Go Back – 12” on Big Cat Records 1988
Popinjays made at least one album for One Little Indian, but they somehow lost the shimmering mystery of this three-track debut in the process.
The Beloved: A Kiss Goodbye – from the Happy Now 12” on Flim Flam 1987
Before they became sun drenched doyens of the Balearic scene The Beloved were a kind of proto-New Order guitars meet dance band, releasing a string of sublime singles on the Flim Flam label, each of which has a solid place in my heart. This track was from the third of those.
April Showers: Abandon Ship – 12” on Big Star Records (subsidiary of Chrysalis) 1984
If pushed, I would probably have to opt for this as my favourite Pop record ever. I read about (and fell in love with) April Showers in a fanzine, at least a year before this, their only record, came out. I cannot describe the excitement when I saw it in the racks of the HMV store in Glasgow one day in 1984, and that same thrill remains every time I hear it.
Sunset Gun: Can’t Cloud My View – from Be Thankful For What You’ve Got 12” on CBS 1984
1984 was an important year for me, for a whole host of reasons. There were so many great records and so many memories that bubble under the surface of the grooves. Sunset Gun were one of those great Glasgow groups that have been forgotten, I think, mainly because they signed to a major label. If their records had been released in editions of 500 on an ‘indie’ they would now be talked of in hushed tones. They didn’t, and they aren’t, but they should be. Oh, the fact that they had a bit of that (now terminally unfashionable) ‘Glasgow White Soul’ sound probably hasn’t helped of course.
Friends Again: Why Don’t You Ask Someone - from South Of Love 12” on Mercury Records 1984
Friends Again were cast in a harsh light by some as being Postcard wannabes. I never agreed. I still recall being captivated on first hearing them on the radio one dark night, and incredibly enough that same radio moment is captured in the middle of this track which rounded off their final release. It’s a neat circularity; their first and last moments in one song. The second part of this track is particularly magical, with those lines about being too drunk to hold on and suede jackets not keeping out the cold. Still brings a tear to my eye for all kinds of reasons.
The Bathers: Latta’s Dream – from Unusual Places To Die LP – Go! Discs 1987
What Chris Thompson did next. After Friends Again split Chris recorded as The Bathers, and was never better than on this 1987 debut set. This track contains the immortal line “born and raised by sugar cane, she plays guitar like Tom Verlaine”.
Everything But The Girl: Easy As Sin - b-side of Mine 7” on Blanco Y Negro 1984
More from 1984… This would be a prime candidate for Daniel’s ‘backed with’ series. My friend Alan and I argued for ages over which was the better version of this song: this one, with Tracey taking lead vocal, or the one with Ben singing that appeared on the flip of the ‘Angel’ single a year later. But this was the first I heard and so remains my choice.
The Claim: Picking Up The Bitter Little Pieces – 7” on Esurient 1989
The Esurient label was perhaps the label I had the most emotional attachment to back in the late ‘80s; was the label that had the perfect understanding of the Pop process. The Claim, like labelmates Emily and Hellfire Sermons, remain one of the great lost groups and their Boomy Tella set one of the great lost albums. Sadly talk of a Claim retrospective collection fizzled out years ago. Someone should rekindle the flame.
Famous Times: Something To Believe – 7” on Heavenly 1997
With vocals by Alan Tyler of Rockingbirds, this is a gorgeous downbeat number. Recorded with Sean Reed in the Famous Times (hence the name) studios in Hackney, it is another gently sparkling part of the Heavenly firmament.