Friday, September 22, 2006

Love that live stuff

Quick update with some live material I've got on the ole hard drive.

Awhile back, one of our loyal readers emailed me mp3s from an Orange Juice gig that took place at Keele University in Staffordshire. The date was Nov. 24, 1982, the same month the band released its second album, Rip It Up.

I've also uploaded some tracks from a Jesus And Mary Chain show that took place Nov. 5, 1985, at a venue known as The Loft in Berlin -- just eight months after the infamous "riot" gig at North London Polytechnic.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Poor Old Soul" and "Flesh Of My Flesh" by Orange Juice, and "Inside Me" and "In A Hole" by The Jesus And Mary Chain.

(Note: Nabbed the above photo from New Wave Photos. Terrific web site -- check it out.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Guitar bands on their way out

So they say, "Why 'Decca Says . . . . ?'" And I say, "Don't you know the story?" It's about The Beatles. You know, The Beatles. The tale been told and retold ad infinitum; you must have heard it somewhere. No? Okay fine, so one more telling won't hurt.

It's New Year's Day, 1962. The Fab Four have zipped down to London for a morning studio audition with Mike Smith, Decca Records' A&R representative. At Decca's West Hampstead Studios in Broadhurst Gardens, the group commits 15 tunes to reel-to-reel tape in less than 60 minutes. A breakneck pace, to say the least! According to the stories, the act that followed The Beatles, Brian Poole & the Tremeloes, were given a contract instead, with part of the reason being their travel expenses would be cheaper (the lads were from nearby Essex). Imagine that rubbish.

Of course, the main reason the Scousers were given a big, fat N-O was on account of A&R head Dick Rowe's opinion of guitar bands. "They are on their way out," he is alleged to have said.

Fast forward 18 years to New Year's Day, 1980. This here tit-head on the keyboard was just two weeks shy of his 16th birthday. My older sis got me a rather nifty present that birthday: The Cure's 7'' single "Boys Don't Cry." I was hooked -- not necessarily on The Cure, but on fetching, chimey, shiny, bouncing, catchy guitar pop. Creation, Cherry Red, Backs, Sarah, Dreamworld, Rough Trade, Pink, el, Egg, Subway Organization, 53rd & 3rd, Fire, Postcard -- I swore by these labels. For the next decade, their tunes provided the soundtrack to my sometimes tumultuous, sometimes tepid life. (Okay, I fib: Mostly tepid.)

So they still say, "Why 'Decca Says . . . . ?'" And I say, "Decca says guitar bands are on their way out. And boy, were those muppets ever wrong."

Here are some '80s tracks that remind me of The Beatles:

"The Queen Of Eyes" by The Soft Boys

"Isn't It A Pity?" by Galaxie 500 ( I cheated a smidge with this one.)

"The Loving" by XTC

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Come, take the waters

In the 1800s, folks from all over England flocked to Leamington, to soothe their various aches and pains in pools filled with salty spa waters. In the 1980s, bands flocked to this quaint town nestled in The Midlands for a different reason: To record.

Leamington was the home of John A. Rivers' Woodbine Street Studios, one of the U.K.'s oldest independent studios. Rivers -- who has worked with everyone from The Specials to Swell Maps to Love And Rockets -- became the producer of choice for many indie bands in the '80s.

To quote Martin Whitehead, from TweeNet: "Most engineers in small local studios had little grasp of what these bands were trying to do at the time and were still trying to produce booming drums, slappy bass, and choppy funk guitars. In the mid 80s, indie bands were very much on the fringe of what was happening and were pretty obscure. A producer who understood them was worth travelling for. Even to Leamington Spa."

Back in the late 90s, TweeNet began compiling tracks from various indie artists that had once recorded at Woodbine Street, as well as other unknown groups with the same infectious guitar pop sound. The result was the The Sound Of Leamington Spa series, which is currently five volumes in length. The series has drawn frequent comparisons to the late 1970s Pebbles compilations, which highlighted hard-to-find Sixties garage rock.

Two Scottish acts featured on the The Sound Of Leamington Spa, Vol. 4 were Glasgow's The Clouds and Paisley's The Church Grims, who I discussed back in early July.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Get Out My Dream" by The Clouds and "Plaster Saint" by The Church Grims.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Music to slosh paint to

For a country known for such unparalleled beauty, Ireland hasn't produced its share of noteworthy painters. There's the impressionist Walter Osborne, the war artist John Lavery, the great colorist William John Leech, the lauded Paul Henry, the man who did for Irish landscape painting what William Butler Yeats did for the Celtic Revival. I struggle to come up with more names; it seems our all-consuming bursts of creative frenzy are inspired by the blank page, rather than the blank canvas.

All this danced through my head as I painted the shed this weekend. I could be a decent colorist, methinks; I wanted to give the old structure something other than the customary coat of white, but the old hag wouldn't have it. "Fuchsia?" she shouted at me. "Are you mad?" I doubt Leech's aspirations were squashed in such a manner.

The great artists were likely inspired by song, but for me, songs serve another purpose, as they make labor's monotony tolerable. The Bothy Band -- which, like the aforementioned Yeats and Henry, were quite influential within its particular genre -- are terrific to paint to. Lively, ferocious, and vivacious, the music keeps my hands moving and my heart thumping.

And you do know what a bothy is, don't you? They are rather simple cottages where, many generations ago, single lads would dwell together. Oftentimes, the young men would hold musical nights, entertaining folks from all over the surrounding region.

Can't say I've ever painted a bothy.

Enough gabbing . . . . Here are two favorites by The Bothy Band: "Old Hag You Have Killed Me" and "Farewell To Erin."

Monday, September 18, 2006

It tastes like chicken

Humankind can be divided into two groups: Those who peel off and eat the crispy skin on a cooked chicken, and those who toss it in the rubbish.

The gentlemen came a-calling at the bar Saturday night, looking to buy the lot of us drinks. Since chicken skin is our species' great polarizer, I asked one of the dudes his thoughts on this matter. His answer would give me a peek into his personality, correct? At least, that's what the women's rags would have told me.

"When I cook my chicken, I pound up some garlic and place it between the skin and the flesh. I also put a few kaffir leaves there, too."

"So do you eat the skin afterwards? Or not? You're avoiding my question."

"Say, would you like the recipe?"

Now listen up: This is Novus Carmen (see the nifty logo above); every Monday I will be bringing you new music that tickles my fancy. I got the dude's number after our bar encounter and yesterday, he swung by the dump and cooked us some Gay Ning Takia. In return, I made him a mix CD; these were his three favorite tracks.

Magnolia Electric Co
"Lonesome Valley"

The Feeling
"Same Old Stuff"

The Feeling
"Never Be Lonely"