It is pretty awful, but…
Way back in the mists of time, I noted that I see “Lopez” by 808 State posted on blogs quite often, but not the other singles from the Don Solaris album, “Bond” and “Azura”. I posted “Bond” at the time and said I would post “Azura” if it turned up among my disorganised backups. Well, it has. So here it is. Lyrics and vocals by Louise Rhodes out of that there Lamb. Mmmm… minty.
I was going to write something terribly out-of-character and real-worldy and not-musical-at-all about the systemic impotence of Trading Standards, but maybe some other time. I think I need to make a few FOI requests first.
Unfortunately, as I’m not writing about that, I’m left without anything to pad this post out with.
I don’t know anything about the guy behind this. I would guess he’s a DJ and part-time Belisha beacon salesman, collects umbrellas, speaks Farsi, Tagalog and Klingon, and has a false leg made of cheese. But I am just guessing.
This is mainly generic 90s progressive-trance-house, but head straight for “The Difference Mix”, a piano-heavy choon that actually lives up to the “Discobug” title.
Freakyman – Discobug ’97 (CD single, 1997)
Helen Shapiro‘s story is well known – the early part of it, anyway. Discovered soon after her fourteenth birthday, Helen was the girl with the deep powerful voice that didn’t sound like it came – or could come – from one so young. Impressed with his new charge but despairing of finding suitable material, EMI producer John Schroeder penned the perfect introductory single himself: “Don’t Treat Me Like A Child” hung about the top ten for ages in the spring of 1961 and was followed by two huge number one hits (written by Schroeder and fellow producer Mike Hawker), the soulful ballad “You Don’t Know” and the pastiche of the US girl group sound “Walkin’ Back To Happiness”.
If 1962 didn’t quite deliver the same level of success, it was still a pretty good year – another couple of top ten singles, a successful debut album Tops With Me, above-the-title film roles in It’s Trad, Dad! and Play It Cool, acclaim from reader’s polls in the music press… all this, and she was only just getting started. But then… well, it all kind of petered out for young Helen. In early 1963, she was the headliner on a package tour, with The Beatles way down the billing. By the tour’s end, The Beatles were the biggest band in Britain and Helen Shapiro was looking passé – a “has-been at sixteen”, as a notorious headline had it.
And yet, when you look at what was around the corner – the emergence of r’n’b and soul-influenced singers like Sandie, Lulu, Dusty, and let’s throw Cilla into that mix too – Shapiro should have been ideally placed to benefit from the new trends. Even during her early run of pop hits, EMI were keen to demonstrate their young star’s versatility, and Shapiro more than rose to the challenge of different styles, as showcased on the 1961 EP Helen (issued while “Walkin’ Back to Happiness” was still high in the charts) on which she tackled a clutch of jazz standards, 1962’s self-explanatory A Teenager Sings The Blues EP, and the 1963 country LP Helen In Nashville. Time and again Shapiro showed her vocal chops, but her EMI paymasters never followed through, leaving each of these experiments as one-offs – gimmicks, basically. After Helen In Nashville came a set of covers of already over-familiar American pop songs, 1964’s Helen Hits Out!, and that was her last album for 14 years.
But quietly, Helen Shapiro kept plugging away at it. A few singles a year, often favourably reviewed in the music press, but no hits. The girl who had been such a sensation at 14 had reached the unimaginably advanced age of 20 when she cut this single, her last for EMI. The B-side went on to become a northern soul favourite, and the A-side, penned by Manfred Mann‘s Paul Jones, is a bit of a lost classic too. Maybe it would have been a hit if given instead to someone like Dusty Springfield or Petula Clark? The latter’s career resurrection must have given Shapiro some hope for her own, and indeed after being dropped by EMI, Shapiro ended up as Clark’s labelmate on Pye, where presumably somebody believed they could work the same magic again. But it didn’t happen.
Nowadays, many of Shapiro’s late 60s singles are recognised as “ones that got away” and change hands for insane sums. This one, buoyed up by the northern soul connection, will set you back £100+ if you can find a copy in decent nick. Fortunately, it’s also on a compilation CD for a tenner… or here for free!
I did remonstrate with those responsible, but from the look on their faces, I think they would have considered it a win if I’d died. It would probably have been a win for the world in general too, considering that the result of my continued existence is a selection featuring both My Chemical Romance and Gracie Fields. Nobody wants that. But you’re getting it anyway.
Link: They Might Be Giants – Dead
Link: Suede – He’s Dead
Link: Therapy? – Dead
Link: Komeda – Dead
Link: Gene – For The Dead
Link: My Chemical Romance – Dead!
Link: Gracie Fields – He’s Dead But He Won’t Lie Down
If you don’t have time for all seven (and who does?), I would recommend… well, Gracie Fields, actually. A perfectly good song of defiance. I think it’s the 1941 version, which must make it the oldest track I’ve shared on this blog so far.
Well, someone had to mark his passing by posting this…
Moonshake have featured here before, with their first EP. Today, their last proper single.
I say “their”, but by the time “Cranes” came out in 1996, Moonshake were down to only one original member, David Callahan. Original co-leader Margaret Fiedler and bassist John Frennett had gone off to form Laika, taking producer and unofficial fifth Moonshaker Guy Fixsen with them. And drummer Mig Moreland had jumped ship to join original shoegazers Moose.
“Cranes” was the first and only single from the album Dirty & Divine, which pulled back from the jazzier stylings of previous post-Fiedler LP The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow. Actually, it pulled back from complex arrangements in general, sticking largely to percussion (live and sampled), bass, saxophone and of course Callahan’s vocals. It works surprisingly well.
B sides are another album track “Gambler’s Blues” and a mostly instrumental remix of “Cranes”, re-titled “Night Tripper 2”. There was a previous “Night Tripper” (it was on a bonus 7″ accompanying an Indie Top 20 compilation) but as far as I remember, it was an unrelated track.
Moonshake – Cranes (UK CD single, 1996)
A bunch of blogs on the blogroll to the right of this post (and down a bit) did a Coldplay theme yesterday, which has prompted me to (at last!) get around to writing something I’ve been toying with for ages.
I’ll get to the Coldplay link in a bit, but the first thing you need to know is that I’m a qualified Exercise To Music instructor, and back in the day I used to teach my own classes. When you’re picking music for exercise classes, you have a few options. If you’re a hack, you can buy not just the music but your whole class from a soulless international corporation like Les Mills® or Zumba®. Alternatively, you can buy pre-mixed, PRS-cleared compilations of workout music. There are masses of these compilations marketed specifically to exercise instructors. People who aren’t in the business would probably be surprised at what a huge market this is.
The third option is to pick your own music. MCPS’s introduction of the Pro Dub licence helped a lot here, as for a couple of quid a week you can make your own compilations for use in exercise classes. Unsurprisingly, this is the route I chose.
And my playlist was… eclectic. At one stage I was making a point of featuring music from as many different countries as I could. At the peak, I think I had eleven different countries represented in the space of about 13 songs, which is pretty impressive. I also tried to get different styles in. Some Mexican banda next to Kaiser Chiefs and Verdi‘s Anvil Chorus. Basically, I put together the sort of exercise class I would like to go. It was great. Well, it was great for me, anyway.
Using music professionally does entail a slightly different perspective to listening as a fan, though. There is an element of music having to be useful. There was no onus on me to use songs I didn’t enjoy, but I suppose I do enjoy a lot of these more than I otherwise would, because I had good routines to go with them.
So anyway, here are some classics from the classes…
Firstly, a really good song to open with, from electropopster Little Boots. Steady 120bpm, nice long intro to say hello and open the class, good clear sections of regular length. For listening pleasure, it doesn’t displace the Dimitri From Paris remix in my affections, but it’s perfect for the job.
“Headphones” would typically lead into this, raising the tempo a bit. I named one of my classes “Got To Move!” after this song, and having done that, I felt I had to include it. I found this on a compilation, and know nothing of the band. If anyone can provide any details, please do. For those wanting some movement pointers for this song, I have one word for you. Grapevine! Actually, I think this one suffers most from not having any choreography with it. If you’re not dancing, it’s probably a bit irritating. Sorry.
It’s been a few years since I taught these classes and I thought I would have forgotten the choreography, but actually it’s (almost) all coming back to me as I revisit the tracks. This retro V V Brown number was always a lot of fun and going through the dance now (though this office isn’t really big enough to do all the kicks in), I kind of wish I was still teaching. One thing that did annoy me a bit about this song was that I choreographed a routine which involved rotating 360 degrees during each verse, but there are three verses, so I ended up going clockwise twice and anticlockwise once, or vice versa, instead of the same number of times each way. Most people wouldn’t think about this, but it bothered me quite a bit, because when you’re teaching exercise, you should always do the same repetitions to each side. So yeah, I broke the rules a bit for this one.
Link: V V Brown – L.O.V.E.
Thalia is a huge star in Latin America, apparently she’s the Latin Madonna. Though I think of her more as the Mexican Kylie. I used a few of her songs, usually upbeat dancey ones, but this was a good slow one to give everyone a breather, and I gave it some simple choreography too, basically just walking to three points of a triangle and shaking your hips at each one. Man, that sounds awful, doesn’t it? It was a bit of a respite for everyone including me, though.
I nearly forgot the Coldplay connection, didn’t I? This cover of “Viva La Vida” by Swedish Idol alumnus Darin (Sweden’s equivalent of Will Young, essentially) is a solid mid-tempo track to which I set a bunch of standard old-school aerobics moves. And for anyone who thought the orchestration on Coldplay’s original was masking a weak song… well, there’s no orchestra here, and I think this completely different treatment supports my assertion that it’s simply a bloody good song.
Link: Darin – Viva La Vida
Back to the latin pop, and a song that is frankly bonkers, and which accordingly was blessed/cursed with an energetic and tricky combination of hand and feet movements. Also, from an aerobic dance perspective, the sections of this one are really in the wrong order, which always confused people, including me sometimes. It all adds to the fun, though.
And one more for today. As Earth, Wind and Fire nearly sang, do you remember / the two-hit career of September? She did the “Smalltown Boy”-sampling “Cry For You” and… that other one, whatever it was. It wasn’t this, which I don’t think was ever officially released in the UK. Oh how fickle the British marketplace is. Anyway, after beginning with Little Boots, I don’t suppose anyone ever noticed my subtle bookending of the aerobic dance section with two songs on the same theme. I thought that was quite clever. Key choreography pointer in this one… from 3.20 to the end, FREESTYLE! Oh man, I miss doing that stuff.
More tunes from my aerobics career some other time, probably…
The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu formed on 1 January 1987, and by 1990 they’d put out two albums under that name, had a number one hit as The Timelords, published a book about it, adopted the even more mysterious moniker The KLF, attempted a road movie, recorded and scrapped a Pet Shop Boys-inspired soundtrack album for said movie, released the minimalist original versions of what would, a remix or twelve later, become their global megahits “3 AM Eternal”, “What Time Is Love” and “Last Train To Trancentral”, and completely failed to meet Abba.
Two things had been clearly established. Firstly, at any given moment, there was no telling what they might do next. And secondly, whatever it was, it was going to be interesting.
At that particular point in time, what they did next was release Chill Out, an “ambient” album supposedly depicting a journey up the US Gulf coast, although apparently that concept was imposed on it after they’d recorded it. It’s rather lovely, and it’s definitely not dance music. It’s… well, chill out music.
Chill Out was supposedly divided into 14 tracks (tracklisting on Discogs), though it was conceived and originally released as a single continuous piece. I’m giving you the album split into the two vinyl sides:
The album has been a popular target for bedroom remixers over the years, and here are two. Firstly, this from someone calling himself Bovine Boy, who apparently didn’t use any of Chill Out itself, but instead tracked down the original samples and recombined them to make his own version…
And here’s a full track-by-track remix that did the rounds a few years ago. I’m sorry to say that I don’t know who did this, and I don’t have the track titles. I do remember the titles were twisted versions of the original titles, stuff like “I Once Heard Witchita Lineman Was A Song”. Also, it’s (1) a zip file, because my efforts at recombining the tracks into a continuous sequence didn’t work very well, and I thought it was a bit much to have to download 14 tracks individually, and (2) only in 128 kbps quality because that’s all I have. I normally prefer to share at 192 or above but this one still sounds OK. I suspect it was only ever shared in 128 in the first place.
Prolapse are a hard band to describe. According to Wikipedia, they played “a mixture of punk rock, krautrock and shoegazing styles”, which I suppose is as good a description as any. Certainly as good as any you’ll get from me. Although they would sometimes go off into an ambient instrumental, their main selling point was the interplay between vocalists “Scottish Mick” Derrick and Linda Steelyard. Singing at cross purposes, in fact often appearing to be performing two different songs, their double act gave Prolapse at their best a menacing intensity.
At times they could also be funny, as on this magnificent rant about how everything in the 1980s was crap. I don’t think it was, but Scottish Mick delivers his put downs with such brio that it would be rude to argue. And possibly inadvisable.
Also, for the third track on this CD, they cover Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, so, y’know, respect.
Prolapse – Deanshanger (CD single, 1998)
Deanshanger, incidentally, is a place. Printed in the tiny circle in the middle of the CD tray on the digipack it says, “it’s near Milton Keynes”. I don’t think it has much to do with the song, since very few of Prolapse’s titles ever did.