Friday, August 04, 2006

The story of Creation (part 9)

Edward Ball had the distinct privilege of working with two individuals who are often regarded as being a tad nutters: Alan McGee and Dan Treacy. Lucky him.

Ball joined Treacy as one of the founding members of the seminal act Television Personalities. The group formed in August of 1977, the same month Elvis died. ("We started the Television Personalities because we'd killed Elvis," Ball joked in this interview. "He'd become fat, redundant, and useless.")

Gigging 'round London with the TVPs brought Ball in touch with McGee, who was kicking off The Living Room club nights and later, Creation Records. During his years associated with the label, Ball recorded with Biff Bang Pow!, toured with The Boo Radleys, and even released his own material.

Hear it for yourself. Download: CRE 239: Edward Ball - "The Mill Hill Self Hate Club," (CD5), 1997.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Paging Ian Thomson . . . .

Procuring information on indie Scottish acts of the punk, post-punk, and new wave variety rarely presents any problems. Rekindled interest in said bands, thanks to frequent name-droppings by contemporary artists (hello) and a slew of recent compilations, is one of the main reasons why. Fast forward a tad to the Smiths-saturated, C86-dominated world of the mid- to late-80s, and well, your trawling efforts for info get a bit less fruitful (see this post).

Comps such as Egg Records: An Introduction To 1988 - 1991 and 53rd & 3rd's AGARR Retro: Fun While It Lasted, Part II have done an admirable job packaging some eighties Scottish guitar pop into one neat and tidy bundle, but releases such as these are indeed rare.

Which brings us to The Gold Blades. Information on this late-80s Arbroath outfit is limited to what's listed on its MySpace page: member names, influences, and a quick rundown of how the fivesome came together. (As well as a clever reference to any future plans: "The next bit of new music from us will probably be from our offspring.")

I've been in touch with guitarist Ian Thomson in the past (though briefly), so I dropped him a line, asking him to string together a few sentences on The Gold Blades. In the meantime, listen to this. (The group's MySpace page has the below track available for download, as well as two others.)

Hear it for yourself. Download: "The Day I Went Down To Texas, Part 3" by The Gold Blades.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Remembering a TOTP highlight

After 42 seasons, well over 2,200 episodes, and 87 Status Quo performances (egads), the long-running BBC music program "Top Of The Pops" aired its last show Sunday evening.

The one-hour finale featured memorable clips from the program's four-decade run, as well as many former presenters, including Sir Jimmy Saville (decked out in a gold tracksuit and looking very much like the Crypt Keeper), Dave Lee Travis, and Mike Read.

According to recent numbers, "Top Of The Pops" -- long shunned by some (The Clash) and subtly mocked by others (The Rezillos) -- had seen its audience shrink to just one millions viewers, which was a far cry from the 15 million it would regularly attract during its heyday in the 1970s.

One of highlights for the long-running program aired in the spring of 1996, when Giffnock's Bis became the first unsigned band to perform on "Top Of The Pops" (playing the fittingly titled "Kandy Pop"). Barely old enough to legally have a pint, the trio -- comprised of keyboardist/vocalist Manda Rin, guitarist Sci-Fi Steve, and his younger brother, John Disco (guitar) -- became instant media darlings with the U.K. music press.

However, just as soon as the furor commenced, so too did the backlash, as the public quickly grew tired of the band's sophomoric nature, its pseudo cultural movement dubbed Teen-C Revolution, and in some instances, its Huggy Bear-meets-Sarah Records-meets-New Wave sound.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "What You're Afraid Of" by Bis.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Allow me to ramble on . . .

This post here, as well as some recent ruminations on the use of The Jesus And Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey" during the final scenes of Lost In Translation, got the few marbles in my head to rolling.

We all have personal soundtracks: the Crowded House tape playing on her chic, hot pink boombox during your first kiss, the gangsta rap mix bumping at thunderous levels while you cruised the strip in your buddy's beat-up lemon Fourth of July weekend, the batch of grunge ditties that middling cover band pottered its way through during college graduation-related bacchanalia.

However, I've discovered that once I get past the true watershed moments of teenage and immediate post-teenage days, the music-attached memories are rare. I think back to the wedding reception I attended last summer; in the bathroom, members of the bridal party huddled around the urinals and expressed their general distaste for the music being played. "We need to hear fuckin' 'Black,'" our fratboy-turned-groomsman said, missing only his customary white ball cap. "Remember all those nights we spent hanging in your car, listening to that album?" I'm certain I spent numerous run-of-the-mill evenings on some lost weekend doing the same when I was 19; I just can't recall them.

I'm about to turn 32 (part of the inspiration for this little exercise) and what I've discovered is, as the years stack up, music and the past have become more adept at entwining themselves into a neat little double helix of a memory. Sure, some of the life moments are already noteworthy, snatches of the past I would recall even without the accompaniment of music -- this on my CD player during that bucolic drive from Killarney to Galway, or this song playing as I clung to the last scraps of hope during the ninth inning of Game 4 -- but countless are significantly less so.

The brisk, October Sunday spent raking leaves with this on the headphones. Pre-dawn walks on the beach, pushing a baby carriage, accompanied by this. A languid, slushy commute where only this kept my eyelids open.

Is there a reason for this phenomenon? The aging process, and as a result, one becoming keenly aware of his own mortality -- that's it, right there. As the days amble by, the desire to stockpile memories is exacerbated; for at the end of all things, recollection is a chest to treasure.

Often, I ask myself, "Years from now, will I ever remember this day, this moment?" when both the day and the moment are of the particularly innocuous variety (like today), and not likely to be forever stamped into my mind. But with a well-placed tune in the background, or two, such endeavors are indeed possible.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Just Like Honey" by The Jesus And Mary Chain.