Thursday, August 17, 2006

In their own words

"Punks. They stopped The Pistols! See them tomorrow at the Burns Howff, Glasgow."
-- From an advert announcing an April of 1977 gig by The Jolt. (Courtesy of The ModPopPunk Archives.)

"There was a great sense of something happening in Scotland. We felt that anyway and the gigs used to be really great. There was a spirit of being part of some sort of revolution."
Singer/guitarist Robbie Collins on the U.K. punk scene. (Courtesy of Punk 77.)

"If London's burning, Glasgow's razed."
-- Lyrics from the song "Mr. Radio Man."

"Really its the other way about. It takes guts to go out on a limb, but some people turned their backs on us because we went."
-- Drummer Ian Sheddon on The Jolt being accused of "selling out" following the band's move to London. (Courtesy of Punk 77.)

"We're wearing these suits out of genuine affection for other groups who had that style."
Bassist Jim Doaks on The Jolt's penchant for wearing 1960s era Decca LP jackets, clothing associated with the Mod movement. (Courtesy of Punk 77.)

"Having (we thought) survived The Jam comparisons, we would like to say we do not rip off The Jam. But if you just glanced at us, it might appear that way."
-- From a letter The Jolt penned to the Record Mirror regarding reviews of The Jolt's first album. (Courtesy of The ModPopPunk Archives.)

"Considering what our roots are what we've done is take our influences and move them on. Maybe it comes over sounding a bit safe, but I think that's a lot to with the production."
-- Collins on The Jolt's eponymous debut.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "What'cha Gonna Do About It" by The Jolt. A cover version of The Small Faces' debut single, which was a top 15 hit back in 1965.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Revisiting The Gold Blades

So I received a little missive from Ian Thomson yesterday, guitarist for Arbroath's The Gold Blades, a band that dabbled in guitar pop during the late 1980s.

Here is Ian's take on the group, which consisted of himself, Lynn Nicoll (vocals), Wendy Henderson (guitar and backing vocals), Gordon Will (bass), and John Weir (drums).

We were rather amateurish. We only practiced once a week, and this was in Gordon's house. His mum would bring us juice and biscuits! None of us could really play our instruments too well. John was probably the most competent, but he still had his limitations. Gordon never really mastered the bass and as far as I'm aware never really played it after the band broke up.

Since the band broke up, everyone seems to have gone their own way. Wendy and Lynn are both single mums in Arbroath, John lives with an artist/lecturer in Dundee, I'm a teacher in Lancashire, and Gordon is a computer expert in Broughty Ferry.

I've not seen Gordon or Wendy for years and rarely see John. The only one I see is Lynn, because she is my sister-in-law. Nepotism was an interesting part of The Gold Blades' story. Gordon went out with Lynn at the time of the band, Wendy is Lynn's cousin, and John was living with Wendy's sister!

Unfortunately no photos exist of the band. Just download a photograph of Arbroath Smokies [see above] to illustrate the story if you decide to go ahead with it.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "The Sun Seems To Shine In The Depths Of My Heart" by The Gold Blades. Nicoll's vocals are like a gentler, more restrained version of Alex Taylor's, who sang with both The Shop Assistants and Motorcycle Boy. Fittingly, The Gold Blades supported the latter group during a gig at Edinburgh University. That, and airplay on Radio Scotland was, to quote Thomson, "As big time as it got."

(The group's MySpace page has the above track available for download, as well as two others.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Leading a 'Velvets existence'

The Beta Band were once described as The Velvet Underground of the 1990s, on account of the act's influence upon its contemporaries surmounting the actual number of records sold. I mean shit, even members of the celestial Radiohead considered themselves ardent fans: Yorke and crew had the Edinburgh act open for them during their 2001 summer tour; in the studio, Radiohead even expressed an interest in crafting "a Beta Band-type record."

The group's debut release came in July of 1997 with the EP Champion Versions. One aspect of the album that garnered attention was the eye-catching, cut-and-paste sleeve design, which was rather fitting since The Beta Band became known for employing a similar approach with its music.

Pick a genre and The Beta Band's members likely dipped their hands in it: folk, electronica, hip-hop (a bit unusual for a Scottish act), country, prog rock. But as with a collage, the key when listening to The Beta Band is not focusing on individual pieces within the assemblage of different forms, but on the new whole that was created. And more often than not, that new whole was fucking extraordinary.

Ultimately (and ironically), it was the aforementioned "Velvets existence" that did the group in: At the end of 2004, The Beta Band officially broke up, the frustration over much critical praise but no commercial impact cited as the main reason why.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "She's The One" by The Beta Band.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Work for it

In this piece penned for the The Guardian, Dave Eggers writes about the lengths him and his cohorts would go to satiate their Anglophiliac music addictions.

"When my friends and I wanted something like The June Brides," Eggers writes, "or, say, Icicle Works' Love Is a Wonderful Colour picture disc, we had to ride our bicycles 22 miles, to Evanston, the closest college town, where stood Vintage Vinyl."

Of course, Eggers and co. had to bike those 22 miles because there was no other way him and his friends could procure that hard-to-find June Brides EP. The tiny college music shop, weekly publications, traveling record shows, exchanged mix tapes -- these were the only tools an indie fan had during the pre-Internet days.

Today, if one wishes to give The June Brides a whirl, they only need visit a database such as the All Music Guide, find the name of a release, and then log onto a music-sharing program such as Soulseek. No hassles, no disappointments, no 22-mile bike rides.

Music has never been so readily accessible and this has resulted in those fans of the zealous variety becoming sonically inundated if they so choose to (my new music folder has just under 1,000 mp3s). Of course, when one is bombarded in such a manner, the natural inclination is to give a set piece of music a few listens, make a quick conclusion (yea or nay), and then move onto the next batch of mp3s. Rinse, repeat.

However, one thing hasn't changed since Eggers was puffing away on his Huffy to Vintage Vinyl: When one does haul in that prized catch, there among the undulating sea of downloaded music, the strong feelings of satisfaction and entitlement still surface. The band that tickles a fancy like few others -- unearthing them may not be as exhaustive, arduous, or expensive as it once was, but it still elicits those Damn it, I found them and you didn't type responses.

At least, that's how I feel when discussing the little known act that grew up around Jasmine Terrace in Aberdeen, a seaport city where individuals of the "scruffy" variety were dubbed "minks."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Veronica" by The Jasmine Minks.