Friday, March 24, 2006

All in the family

Linda Reid -- kid sister to The Jesus And Mary Chain's William and Jim Reid -- once confessed to being the black sheep of her family. All because she doesn't drink.

Linda's stone cold sober forays into music-making came via her typically fully pissed older brothers. Jim asked her to record a B-side during the Stoned And Dethroned sessions. That song was "Mo Tucker," and it ended up finding its way onto Monki, the last album The Jesus And Mary Chain released before William left the group during a 1998 tour.

During the recording of the track, the drunks and temperate got along just swimmingly. So, would the little sister like to further her budding musical career and join her brothers for an entire LP? Why certainly. And just like that, Sister Vanilla was born.

The Reids brought along a few pals of theirs for the sessions: JAMC bassist Ben Lurie, members of Earl Brutus and Tompaulin. Oh, and Stephen Pastel, who just happened to be the frontman of Linda's favorite band. (The song "Pastel Blue," off Sister Vanilla's New Pop Art, is a tribute to the singer.)

Naturally, Stephen and Linda ended up cutting a song together: "The Two Of Us" (which Jim also recorded with his post-JAMC band Freeheat.) According to stories, the session was a tad awkward in the beginning, as the fan shyly fawned over her idol (meanwhile, Jim and his thirsty cohorts passed around a bottle of brandy). "When you're first introduced," Linda said afterwards, "it's like: I don't want to talk to you, I prefer just to look at you."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "The Two Of Us" by Sister Vanilla.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Star bound for the Lone Star state

It's a song that harkens back to the Postcard era. To a time of DIY ethos, unbridled energy, and child-like innocence and amateurism. To a time when Orange Juice were just four chums trading Velvet Underground records, donning Davy Crockett-style coonskin caps and playing the theme song from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" at gigs, cutting tracks in a ramshackle Paisley studio with an accordion expert named Mr. John McLarty -- having grandiose pop dreams featuring a London flair and setting.

Orange Juice's "The Day I Went Down to Texas" -- recorded four years after their breakthrough with Postcard -- was an allegory for heading to London. The capital was where U.K. bands relocated to secure that much sought-after record deal, nab a few graphs in the music papers, become part of the thriving club scene. London meant two things to dewy artists: fortune and glory.

Surprisingly though, Orange Juice stuck it out in Glasgow during its early years. "They were Glasgow-based for quite some time," said Norman Blake in a Leon McDermott piece, "and the legacy of Postcard is that people tend to stay here as opposed to moving to London to look for a record deal. There's an infrastructure here which simply didn't exist then, and people are more confident of seeing themselves as Scottish bands."

By 1984, Orange Juice had finally made the move. Singer/songwriter Edwyn Collins took up residence in a 1930s semi-detached on Hanover Road in Willesden. The House of Camp it was dubbed, and some rather bizarre and sophomoric things went on there, to say the least. (The sleeve for Texas Fever, which features the aforementioned "The Day I Went Down to Texas," will provide one with clues.)

Collins didn't remain in London long, however. Orange Juice was through by the beginning of 1985 and three years later, he moved to Cologne, Germany, pursuing other endeavors. Furthering his search for fortune and glory.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "The Day I Went Down To Texas" by Orange Juice.

Monday, March 20, 2006

That 'true punk spirit'

Jim Kerr once said Johnny & The Self Abusers were merely a human jukebox, using other act's material to land gigs. One can only wonder what song from their tiny clutch of covers they were performing when the sparse crowd at Glasgow's Saints and Sinners finally went nutters. "Blitzkrieg Bop" by The Ramones? How about "Waiting" by Doctors Of Madness? (Or was it Eno's "Baby On Fire?" Yeah, we didn't think so either.)

The ruckus caused at the St. Vincent Street pub in February of 1977 was one of the seminal, early moments in Scottish punk. Sure, it wasn't on par with Bill Grundy's sit-down chit-chat with The Sex Pistols, but it did help shape the fledgling movement and serve as a herald to listeners all over the U.K. that Scotland would soon be a player (albeit, a small one) in the punk scene.

Following the gig (only the band's second) -- which either descended into some pint-glass-smashing and furniture-breaking, or a full-blown riot; depends on what one reads -- punk bands were banned outright from Saints and Sinners. It was no shock, really, based on the city government's feelings at the time. Thanks in part to hellfire-and-brimstone philippics from the pulpits that were the daily tabloids, the ultra-conservative Glasgow District Council had essentially made the city a no-go zone for U.K. punk acts. (By many accounts, the first English punk band to perform in the city was The Damned, who played in March of 1977 in support of T-Rex.)

Eight months later, Johnny & The Abusers released a song dedicated to the infamous events of that gig. And on the day of the single's release, the six-piece band from Toryglen -- in a move that certainly had the hipsters drooling and citing the act's "true punk spirit" -- called it quits.

(Side note: As many already know, several members of the group went on to form Simple Minds. In 2005, that act returned for a show at Saints and Sinners, which is now called King Tut's.)

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Saints And Sinners" by Johnny & The Self Abusers.