Friday, April 14, 2006

Seeing is believing

I was just five when Orange Juice ushered in the short-lived Sound of Young Scotland scene with the release of their debut single, "Falling and Laughing." Too concerned with Mr. Green Jeans and "Battle of the Planets," I couldn't point out Glasgow on the multi-colored globe sitting in my bedroom. Orange Juice was something I washed down my Theo-Dur with every morning and Fire Engines were what my neighbor, Mr. Gaffney, drove for a living.

Everything I've since learned about that scene I've gleaned from books, music publications, and various sites on the Internet. All have countless photos to offer, whether it's of the concert or candid variety, and while it's terrific to see a bootlace tie-wearing Roddy (left) or a fresh-faced Edwyn (above), there's nothing quite as telling or captivating as video. Unfortunately, discovering footage from this bygone era was difficult, not on account of it necessarily being rare, but because there was no proper outlet for widely distributing it.

Until came along, that is. The California-based web site is, as a recent newspaper article succinctly put it, "Capitalising on society's shortening attention span and growing exhibitionism to establish itself as a window into popular culture." Four months ago, users were posting 8,000 videos a day and viewing roughly three million. Today, those numbers have jumped to 35,000 posted videos a day and over 35 million watched.

Separating the chaff (typically created and posted by today's bright and imaginative teenagers) from the wheat may take a little time, but it's worth it. Here are a few must-sees I unearthed, all from those heavenly music days close to three decades ago.

See it for yourself. "Blue Boy" by Orange Juice. Clips and pics of Edwyn Collins mixed with lasses who look like extras from a Robert Palmer video.

"Sorry For Laughing" by Josef K. Rates about a 10 on the weird scale, thanks to the gelatinous green substance featured throughout and Paul Haig dry-humping the torso of a life-sized doll.

"Walk Out To Winter" by Aztec Camera. Decked out in shades, Roddy Frame and his crew perform on the BBC's long-running "Old Grey Whistle Test."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

'If you're going to lead people . . . '

In Frances Ford Coppola's adaptation of Rumble Fish, the character dubbed The Motorcycle Boy, played by B-list beefcake Mickey Rourke, tells us, "If you're going to lead people, you have to have somewhere to go."

You listening, Alex Taylor and Eddie Connelly? Okay, that's a tad harsh, laying the onus for Motorcycle Boy's relative demise upon the romantically linked couple that helped create the band. But one can't help but wonder how things would have played out had the group possessed more direction . . .

Motorcycle Boy came together in 1987, when Taylor -- ex-lead singer for Shop Assistants -- hooked up with bassist boyfriend Connelly, as well as Connelly's mates from Meat Whiplash: guitarist Michael Kerr and drummer Paul McDermott. Guitarist David Scott completed the quartet.

The group had an auspicious start: They scored a No. 3 hit on the UK indie charts with their debut single, "Big Rock Candy Mountain," nabbed a much coveted spot opening for The Jesus And Mary Chain on tour, and were frequently lauded in the weekly music papers. Unfortunately, they had already peaked; over time, general disorganization among their ranks led to an eventual break-up. At one point, Taylor and Connelly attempted to solider on just the two of them, even venturing down a new road and converting the band's sound from rock to dance, but that failed.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Big Rock Candy Mountain" by Motorcycle Boy.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Kiss, kiss Molly's lips

Kurt Cobain's adoration for The Vaselines has been well documented. He evoked their name in countless interviews, covered three of their tracks, even persuaded them to reform and play during a Nirvana swing through Edinburgh in 1990. (In the liner notes to Insecticide, Kurt unabashedly admitted to being nervous when first meeting them.) Thanks to Cobain, many have chortled, The Vaselines' two songwriters -- Eugene Kelly and Francis McKee -- never have to work again.

The Vaselines' patented amateurishness and childlike approach to crafting music was clearly evident on "Molly's Lips." McKee's vocals simply shine, as she blushes about the thrill of a young peck (and how they can hold sway over the recipients), while a minimal guitar line bounces in the background. Further adding to the sense of youthful wonder are the regular toots of a bicycle horn.

There are two Nirvana versions of the song. The first was cut live (with old drummer Chad Channing) in February of 1990 at The Pine Street Theatre in Portland, Oregon. As the story goes, Sub Pop Records wanted to release the song as a single. Cobain was opposed, saying the version was middling at best. However, Nirvana owed the label one last release (as part of its buyout deal which landed the band on DGC) and so it eventually hit stores in January of 1991, with the flip side being "Candy" by The Fluid.

A second version of the tune was recorded during a Peel session in October of 1990. This one made its way onto both Insecticide and Hormoaning.

Heat it for yourself. Download: "Molly's Lips" by The Vaselines. Also, take a listen to Nirvana's Peel session version, which is worlds apart sonically, yet still maintains the original's charm.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Heavy mental music

So their press kit tells us they met in an institution. Creativity and mental illness . . . It's been said they make strange bedfellows, right?

Whether or not the germ that became The 55's was actually planted in a loony bin is open to debate, but this much we do know: The band takes a somewhat frantic approach to its music making. Quite simply, The 55's all over the place, as they dabble in country, blues, folk, and rudimentary rock. Never long enough, however, to take note of their influences.

"Was that a tickie of Johnny Cash I heard in there?" "Not sure; still trying to figure out if that was a bit of Dylan in that last one."

The 55's, who hail from Edinburgh, made their debut with the four-song EP, Before The Judge Turned Us To Shadow. The title hints at more lucid days, before the ole neurons stopped communicating efficiently, before the Maker covered all with the shroud of insanity. Before those days spent in the institution.

The band's patchwork hybrid sound was then expanded to the tune of 16 songs on Cobra. Noxious, biting, skulking -- it was a strong debut from one of Scotland's more promising acts.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Height Of Nashville" by The 55's. Think of Sons And Daughters' "Fight" on greenies, and with a dash of American West flair.