How about some shoegaze? (Not a question you should ever ask in real life, incidentally.) Moonshake were founded by Dave Callahan (usually credited, Morrissey-esque, just by his surname), formerly of C86 band The Wolfhounds, and was initially co-fronted by him and guitarist/vocalist Margaret Fiedler. Moonshake had a pretty turbulent career – they only managed one full-length album, Eva Luna, before the tension between Callahan and Fieldler’s different approaches tore the band apart, and Fiedler went off to form Laika, while Callahan continued Moonshake with more jazz influences and no guitars. Many fans of the Eva Luna-era Moonshake found Laika more to their laiking (sorry) and simply ignored everything Moonshake did post-Fiedler. Their loss; the later Moonshake albums are worth investigating in their own right.
But not right now, because for this post we’re going back to the start, and 1991’s literally-named First EP. Four tersely-titled songs and a curious, kinda folky reprise. Worth a place in any shoegazer’s collection.
Moonshake: First EP (Creation CD, 1991)
Over the past week I have been busy chasing up matters with various Trading Standards departments. (My tip to anyone thinking of reporting a scam to Trading Standards: don’t bother, it will waste years of your life and achieve nothing.) Unfortunately as this has occupied a lot of my time, the next part of the Fun Boy Three series is not yet ready. There will however be
a replacement bus service an alternative post tomorrow. It won’t be the alternative post I first thought of, because the happily resurrected Methods Of Dance blog just posted the single I was going to do, with extra remixes as well. But there will be an alternative alternative post tomorrow. And in the meantime…
You’re getting a full album today. Rock The Dock was a benefit album for the families involved in the 1995-8 Liverpool dockers’ dispute (a somewhat cursory article can be found on Wikipedia, obv.). Let’s be honest, for the most part the social history is more interesting than the music. It’s got “Lazarus” by The Boo Radleys on it, which can only be a good thing, but that was already nearly six years old. Really, I only bought this for the final track. And after a first listen, only played the final track.
Although it wasn’t a big hit, “Come Together” by Primal Scream is a song I guess will be familiar to many readers, in either its Andrew Weatherall or Terry Farley remixes, as respectively featured on the UK and US versions of Screamadelica. Fans may also know the mixes by Creation-signed dance act Hypnotone and balearic beatmongers BBG. But an original mix? Nowhere to be found. Which makes the promise of a previously unreleased “original version” on Rock The Dock rather alluring.
The only fly in the ointment is that while the “original version” featured here is probably the closest thing we’ve got to the pre-Farley/Weatherall “Come Together”, it’s almost certainly not a true first pass. The big clue is that it credits producer Brendan Lynch and engineer Martin Heyes, which suggests it was at least spruced up around the time of 1997’s Vanishing Point. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting version, worth having in its own right. The rest? Let’s put it this way, nobody was giving away their best material here.
For this one, I’m giving you the lot in one convenient zip file, or you can download whatever takes your fancy individually. So if you just want the Primal Scream track, be my guest.
Various Artists: Rock The Dock (UK Creation CD, 1998)
Link: Irvine Welsh – Introduction
Link: Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger (Live)
Link: Cast – For So Long
Link: Smaller – Aimless
Link: Beth Orton – Best Bit
Link: Dodgy – Found You (live acoustic version)
Link: Chumbawamba – One By One
Link: The Boo Radleys – Lazarus
Link: Ocean Colour Scene – Foxy’s Folk Faced
Link: Doxx Band – The Line
Link: Paul Weller – So You Want To Be A Dancer
Link: Billy Bragg – Never Cross A Picket Line
Link: Rumbletrain – Haunted
Link: Lovers – Transparent
Link: The Chemical Brothers – Setting Sons (live)
Link: Gene – Cast Out In The Seventies
Link: Primal Scream – Come Together (original version)
Since the weekend appears to have snuck up on us again, here’s some instrumental space disco and some space surf and just some general stuff with “space” attached to the front of it from Kim & Buran, the musical project of St Petersburg resident Slava Zavyalov, who took his nom-de-disque, or whatever the Russian equivalent is, from a pair of space pilots in Soviet-era cartoon film Mystery Of The Third Planet. To begin with, his music was quite cartoony too, but it turned more serious later on. Today’s tracks are taken from his third album, 2006’s “My Humanoid Friend”, wherein the cartoony elements were still present but starting to be subsumed in a sleeker disco sound.
Something very strange happened to The Fun Boy Three in the summer of 1982. The first hint of it came when they turned up for a brief cameo, 1:52 into this Madness video:
Yes, that’s pop’s great stoneface, Terry Hall, laughing his head off. And amazingly, this wasn’t a one-off! All of a sudden, Terry and his bandmates were smiling in photos. Consider, for example, this absolute shocker of a sleeve image for the Japanese release of “Summertime”:
Um, anyway… we’ve got some music to digest as well. And another cover version – this time going all the back to 1934 and George Gershwin‘s “folk opera”, Porgy and Bess. Not that long ago I suggested that Robert Burns‘ adaptation of “Auld Lang Syne” may be the biggest hit song of all time. But when it comes to songs that are still in copyright, “Summertime” really is the biggest hit of all time, at least in terms of the sheer number of recorded versions out there. Of course, it helps that there are plenty of recorded versions of Porgy and Bess, but there are also literally thousands upon thousands of standalone covers of “Summertime”. Its lyrical and musical evocation of a hot, lazy summer has proven irresistible to performers from all genres. It’s not exactly an obvious match for The Fun Boy Three, though, so why did they do it? According to Terry Hall… “because Nicky liked it and came up with a nice classical arrangement for it”.
Nicky? Aha, yes… Big changes were afoot for The Fun Boy Three. The first album’s minimal, percussion-based arrangements were partly born out of necessity. Of the three members, only Lynval Golding actually played an instrument, and at that stage they didn’t want to bring in a lot of session musicians. But for the second album they were striking out in a new direction, and the first step was to recruit… well, someone who knew what they were doing, basically. That someone was keyboard player, arranger, and new FB3 musical director Nicky Holland, formerly of The Ravishing Beauties with Virginia Astley. And that “classical arrangement” meant that for the first time, The Fun Boy Three were supported by a full band. Holland (keyboards and backing vocals) and Annie Whitehead (trombone) would go on to become part of the backing group for FB3’s second and final abum, while the single also benefitted from the talents of Caroline Verney (cello), Nick Parker (violin) and Frances Lynch (backing vocals).
I suspect Holland is the unsung hero of The Fun Boy Three, phase two, but I don’t think she did them any favours by choosing “Summertime” as a song to cover. The reviews dismissed it as a throwaway (and worse), and to be honest, it is a bit dull. I mean, it’s pleasant enough – it would take a real effort to go badly wrong with “Summertime” – but it feels like a bit of a try-out. Because, well, it is.
The B-side is a bit bonkers in its instrumentation, but arguably a stronger track – and certainly a better representation of The Fun Boy Three as a group. A year on from “Ghost Town”, “Summer Of ’82” finds FB3 surveying the social landscape again, and finding that “hatred’s becoming an annual event”, while also taking a pop at the well-to-do for their disregard for the less-well-to-do. There’s no extended version of “Summer Of ’82”, so just three single tracks this time:
“Summertime” made the lower end of the top 20, as was becoming customary for FB3 singles, and really it deserved no more. A look at the chart for the week that “Summertime” peaked at number 18 reveals many of the acts that Terry, Lynval and Nev could consider their peers – Madness of course, but also Dexys Midnight Runners (sitting proudly at number one with “Come On Eileen”, and soon to do the same in the USA), Bananarama, fellow ska-scenesters Bad Manners, and The Bodysnatchers spin-off The Belle Stars – all of them enjoying bigger hits than FB3 were.
“Summertime” got a more spirited rendition when the augmented group played it in concert for The Old Grey Whistle Test in the spring of ’83, in a medley with previous B-side “The Alibi”:
As an aside, FB3 weren’t the only high-quality hitmaking group of the era to release a disappointing and moderately-performing cover of a song from Porgy & Bess. This track from The Age Of Consent, with the coda lopped off, would become Bronski Beat‘s christmas single for 1984:
Next time: Pop and politics. That old chestnut.
A classic that everyone should know today. Shannon‘s 1983 hit “Let The Music Play” was, according to Wikipedia, “one of the first tracks to sync together a TR-808 [drum machine] and a Roland TB-303 bassline”. Don’t worry, I’m no tech-head either. In layman’s terms, it sounds like early house music. Actually, no… it sounds like peak-period ’88-9 house music, it just happens to have been done earlier. And as far as I’m concerned, it stands up with the best of them. Not only is it a groove that makes you move, but “he’s dancing his way back to me!” is one of the great moments in pop.
I was actually a bit surprised (and impressed) to learn that this went to number 8 in the Billboard Hot Hundred, because it doesn’t feel like a mainstream hit to me. Shows you how much I know. They got a good return on the two dollars and eighty cents they spent on this lavish video, then:
“Let The Music Play” has attracted a lot of remixes and covers down the years, but I haven’t heard any that come close to the excellence of the original. You don’t need any of them in your collection, but you do need this:
Shannon – Let The Music Play (1983 single)
- Orlando, for it is they, emerged from short-lived Sarah Records band Shelley.
- It was mainly a vehicle for songwriter Dickon Edwards (he’s the blond one on the sleeve).
- The not-blond one on the sleeve is singer Tim Chipping.
- They got lumped in with the supposed “romo” movement, despite “romo” only ever existing in Simon Price‘s imagination.
- However, Orlando were quite obviously in a different league to other supposed “romo” bands such as DexDexTer, Minty, Plastic Fantastic, Hollywood, InAura and yes, even Sexus.
- In fact, I would even go so far as to say that they were better than I Dream Of Wires.
- And yet, “Just For A Second”, which is quite simply one of the greatest pop records of the 90s, was completely ignored by all and sundry.
- Their album Passive Soul is great too. You should check it out.
- Number 6 is a very obscure joke and I’m sorry.
- I’m not really.
Orlando: Just For A Second (UK CD single 1996)
The full-length version is the one to prioritise here. There’s no real point to the edit unless you happen to be a radio producer in 1996 looking to shave a minute off a record that, being a radio producer in 1996, you’re not going to play anyway. And yes, the interview really is done in that annoying way with the speech in one channel and music in the other.
OK, so it had the benefit of being released in the dead week after christmas, but still… perenially underachieving oddballs The Sugarcubes, having a top 20 hit? It is a cracker of an indie-dance single, mind:
The Sugarcubes – Hit (UK CD single 1992)
When The Cardigans released their Best Of album in 2008, it was thoughtfully packaged as a double CD. The first CD was the singles (plus a few favourite album tracks), and a fantastic collection it was too. The second helpfully collated most of the non-album B-sides, minus the covers, live tracks and remixes. Noticeably though, the second CD was rather light on material from the period of their biggest album, 1997’s Gran Turismo. There’s a simple explanation for this: across the three singles, only one non-album song, “War”, was released as a B-side during that campaign (and it duly appears on the Best Of in two versions). The rest was live tracks and, especially, remixes.
The singles from 1996’s First Band On The Moon had dabbled in remixes, Todd Terry providing them for “Been It” and “Lovefool” (mainly for the American market) and Ian Pooley for “Your New Cuckoo”. But for Gran Turismo, The Cardigans went remix-crazy. All three singles – “My Favourite Game”, “Erase/Rewind” and “Hanging Around” – were supported by an assortment of remixes, and in Sweden there was even a five-track EP, Gran Turismo Overdrive, with mixes by Martin Landquist, a.k.a Nåid. His mix of “Erase/Rewind” also features here, though it’s not the main reason I’m sharing this particular CD.
For me, the standout track here is the remix of “Explode” by Marco Manieri, done in a Kraftwerk/OMD style. Even for a band who liked to change their musical style a lot, this stands out as quite different to anything else that ever bore The Cardigans’ name. It’s gorgeous and one of my favourite Cardigans tracks, even though they’re hardly on it.
Also here as a bonus, and a contrast to “Explode”, is Dimitri From Paris‘ somewhat bonkers synth-disco (morphing into mock-turnablist cut-up shenanigans) version of “Erase/Rewind” itself. Dance yerself dizzy.
May 1982. Two top ten hits done and dusted. With Bananarama moving on, it was back to the day job for The Fun Boy Three. And rather oddly, back to ska. Even in its brassless album version, “The Telephone Always Rings” could easily be mistaken for The Specials.
The album, The Fun Boy Three, had emerged back in March while “It Aint What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It” had been riding high in the charts. It arrived to mixed reviews; those who thought “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)” was a one-off experiment and were expecting a poppier album would be disappointed; the LP as a whole skewed toward the darkness and the drum-heavy style of the debut single and then took it even further. It was a bold statement and a distinctively different album but you wouldn’t say it was packed with potential singles. Maybe the extreme minimalism of “Life In General (Lewe In Algemeen)” (drums, vocals and nothing else) could have been a hit – it would certainly have caught radio listeners’ attention, assuming it got played in the first place – but really there was only one choice.
If “The Lunatics” had been a bit of a scream against the world in general, “The Telephone Always Rings” was a rather more mundane moan about how the life of a popstar isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Musically, “The Telephone Always Rings” was a bit of a throwback to The Specials – which may well have been deliberate, considering that lyrically it saw the Fun Boys’ dissatisfaction with life in their old group bubble to the surface. Perhaps it was a bit of a send-up, as well as a signal that they could still do the ska thing as well as their old group – when they chose to.
Anyhow, Leicester group The Swinging Laurels (not to be confused with Coventry band The Swinging Cats, two of whose number would later join Terry Hall in The Colourfield) added brass, and appeared with The Fun Boy Three to promote the record on Top Of The Pops and other shows.
Also on the single was a rather fun non-album B-side, “The Alibi”, with a railway rhythm, an intriguing if minimal lyric, and some scatting that may have been intended for Bananarama to sing.
Both songs drifted into extended dub sections on their respective 12″ mixes.
For completeness and comparison, here’s the original brass-less version of TTAR from the Fun Boy Three album:
And an alternative version of “The Alibi”. I can’t remember where I got this from, but it matches a track labelled “The Alibi (rare version)” on YouTube, where one of the commenters says it’s from the NME freebie tape “Mighty Reel”. Seems plausible, as it appears to be the only alternative version listed on Discogs:
Next time: Smiles all round! No, really.