With The Cardigans on hiatus, 2001 saw Nina Persson branch out with her own band, A Camp, featuring her husband Nathan Larsson together with, at various stages of the recording, Niclas Frisk and Mark Linkous. The country-tinged songs were quite unlike what The Cardigans had been doing up to that point, though those who’d been paying attention to Larsson and Persson’s soundtrack work would have been less surprised. Being happily married didn’t seem to dull Nina’s tendency toward cynical lyrics about the darker side of love, though.
The country stylings spilled over into The Cardigans’ next album Long Gone Before Daylight, and anyone who loves that album (I think it’s their best) should certainly check out A Camp’s two long-players, A Camp (2001) and Colonia (2009). To get you started (or fill in the gaps), here’s all of A Camp’s officially released non-album tracks: three honest-to-goodness B-sides, three quite different versions of tracks from the debut album, and three covers…
Angel Of Sadness (Out On The Porch Version)
Song For The Leftovers (Radio Version)
Train Of Salvation
My Misery Is A Mystery
Such A Bad Comedown (Version 1 – The 1998 Recording)
Us And Them (Pink Floyd cover)
Boys Keep Swinging (Dave Bowie cover)
I’ve Done It Again (Grace Jones cover)
Download: A Camp Uncollected (Mediafire) (re-up)
It tends to take me bloomin’ ages to write these posts, and I go on so much that I’m always a bit worried about the whole “dancing about architecture” thing. So I thought I would have a go at writing a post in the time it takes to rip and upload my chosen tracks.
So, Win. The band, not the concept. Actually I probably should know more about Win, but I’m not a native Scot and so missed out on the whole thing where they almost had a hit with “You’ve Got The Power”. Still, armed with a CD compilation someone made for me a few years back, I have ripped some tracks… and just realised they don’t quite match the 12″ single I thought they did, because according to Discogs the 12″ mix didn’t actually actually appear on the 12″ single at all. Brilliant. So, instead of the actual 12″ single, what I’m posting here represents the 12″ single as it clearly ought to have been. That’s my excuse, and if you don’t like it, tough.
Oh yeah, anyway… this is one of the singles from Win’s first album Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon). According to Discogs, “Win were a Scottish band from the 1980s. Formed by Invalid Artist after the demise of Fire Engines.” Good old Invalid Artist, I really dug his solo album Entry Not Found. In any case, Win were an arty alternative pop band. I imagine some of them went to art school. What you need to know is that “Shampoo Tears” has an earworm of a riff and a lyric that I’m pretty sure isn’t meant to make any sense whatsoever. And one of the B-sides is a T.Rex cover.
Link: Win – Shampoo Tears (12″ mix which as we’ve already established isn’t actually a 12″ mix at all)
Link: Win – Shampoo Tears (dub mix, we’re on fairly safe ground with this one. Sorry about the surface noise, it’s the only rip I’ve got)
Link: Win – Empty Holsters (B-side version)
Link: Win – The Slider
I would say that went about as well as could be expected.
The track that sparked today’s post might fall into the category of “guilty pleasure” but hearing it made me smile at a time when little else did, and that earns it a place here. Don’t judge me too harshly, but it’s “Run Runaway” by Slade.
Actually, some would class Slade‘s entire output as a guilty pleasure, but that’s doing them a disservice. Look beyond Dave Hill‘s ridiculous outfits, the (surprisingly short-lived) mizspeld titlez gimmik, and the ubiquity of that CHRISSSSSST-MAAAAAASS! song, and you find a pretty solid rock band with a catalogue of great songs that most groups would sell their own drummer for.
But one thing I think Slade could have capitalised more on, is the electric violin. It powers two of Slade’s most fondly-remembered (by me, at least) hits, “Coz I Luv You” and “Run Runaway”, and you would think such a distinctive sound would be used more. But no. Bassist and chief tunesmith Jim Lea wasn’t shy about taking to the piano, but his violin didn’t get out of its case much. Still, when it did, the results were always worth a spin. So here is an alternative history of Slade in five electric violin solos (if we’re being picky, there isn’t really a solo in the fourth one, but hey)…
In the beginning there was The ‘N Betweens. Guitarist Dave Hill and drummer Don Powell started the group, and then poached bassist Jim Lea and singer Neville “Noddy” Holder from other bands. Having gained a reputation as a live act, they signed to Fontana, and on the instruction of A&R man Jack Baverstock, changed their name to Ambrose Slade. It was under this name that their first LP, Beginnings, appeared in 1969. Two-thirds covers (including Steppenwolf‘s “Born To Be Wild”, which would remain a mainstay of their live set for years to come) to one-third original material, Beginnings was a bit of a false start. But the venture did allow Jim Lea to wield his bow on a couple of tracks, including this one, the first to feature the soon-to-be-familiar Holder / Lea writing credit. Its folkiness is definitely not the Slade we would come to know:
Having failed to make much impact with either Beginnings or its follow-up Play It Loud, Slade finally broke through in 1971 with their heavily-reworked version of “Get Down And Get With It”, a number they’d picked up from Little Richard (and originally mistakenly credited to him instead of the actual writer, Bobby Marchan). For a follow-up, they turned to one of their own songs, and were rewarded with a number one hit – the first of six. “Coz I Luv You”‘s liberal use of the violin helped it stand out, and of their phenomenal run of hits, to my mind it’s one of the ones that’s aged best. You know you luv it really.
Link: Slade – Coz I Luv You
Two years later, and Slade were at the height of their powers, and confident enough to experiment with something very different: a number inspired by Holder’s love of jazz and paying tribute to Django Reinhardt‘s influential Quintette du Hot Club de France. It was briefly considered as a single in its own right, but they thought better of it and instead hid it away on the B-side of formula glam stomper “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me”. The single may have been a throwaway, but it went to number one, so a lot of people must have played the flip side at least once. And at least a few of them will have gone on to check out the work of Stephane Grappelli as a result…
Five years later, we find Slade in the midst of their “wilderness years”. They’re not at rock bottom yet – “Okey Cokey” is still a year away – but Slade are clearly seen as yesterday’s men. Glam rock contemporaries Sweet and Suzi Quatro have both bounced back from apparently dead careers with big hits that year, yet Slade remain completely out of fashion. Latest album “Whatever Happened To Slade” is a return to form, but nobody’s buying it. Nobody’s buying this standalone 45 either, which is a pity because I bet they would if this had said “10cc” or “Electric Light Orchestra” on the label instead of “Slade”. Bit of a lost classic.
ACT 5: 1984 – All things to everyone?
By the time “Run Runaway” came out in 1984, Slade’s fortunes were looking good. Their latest LP The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome had been well received and spawned their biggest hit single in a decade, the christmas number two “My Oh My” (IMO not really worthy of its success, but anyway). At the same time, they were finally starting to get the attention they’d always sought from the American market. The time they’d spent trying to crack the States in the 1970s had infamously been less successful than they’d hoped (their biggest Hot Hundred entry of the decade, “Gudbuy T’Jane”, topped out at an underwhelming #68), but their electrifying stage act had influenced a generation of rock stars who now lined up to sing their praises, while Quiet Riot‘s top five cover of “Cum On Feel The Noize” (and the subsequent realisation that Quiet Riot didn’t have the original material to match it) suddenly made Slade a marketable commodity in the USA.
When “Run Runaway” hit the UK top ten in early ’84, Slade were in the States, preparing for a tour supporting their old midlander pal Ozzy Osbourne. Alas, it wasn’t to be. After a warm-up gig in San Francisco, Jim Lea took ill, with what turned out to be hepatitis C, and Slade pulled out. “Run Runaway”, supported by an entertaining video (the inclusion of a kilted pipe band and a bald man toting a caber being enough to convince most viewers that they were in the Scottish Highlands, though it was actually filmed at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire) made the US top 20 anyway, and both “My Oh My” and the US configuration of …Syndrome, retitled Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply, went top 40.
In retrospect, the cancelled tour was the beginning of the end for Slade. The original line-up never toured again, and although the official split didn’t come until 1992, Slade effectively ceased to exist even as a studio act after 1987’s slick but hitless You Boyz Make Big Noize. The big dumb fun of “Radio Wall Of Sound”, effectively a Jim Lea solo effort, was issued to promote a greatest hits compilation in 1991 and reached a respectable number 21, allowing Slade to bow out on a relative high. (Nobody remembers the final final Slade single, “Universe”, so we’ll gloss over that. And before anyone mentions it, Slade II never happened, OK?)
So there you have it, Slade in four-and-a-bit violin solos. To finish off, here’s a song with no violins, but a great one all the same. Taken from the soundtrack Slade in Flame, it reached number 2 in 1974 and is (apparently) Noddy’s favourite Slade song. One of mine as well.
Link: Slade – Far Far Away
You remember Touch And Go, right? It was a big beat / latin thing basically made up of David Lowe of BBC News theme semi-fame and a couple of sessioneers. Discogs reckons veteran music journo Charlie Gillett was involved too, which I didn’t know until ten minutes ago, and… well, to be honest, I have no idea whether it’s actually true. Anyhow, their big hit was “Would You…?” back in 1999, which was followed by a not-very-successful album, I Find You Very Attractive, and a couple of flop singles, of which this was the second and last. Weirdly it does not appear to credit Willy DeVille at all despite the obvious quotation of “Spanish Stroll”.
The electro-dub-pop wing of the 4AD empire, Colourbox were another one of those cult-ish bands that never quite broke into public consciousness – except of course for that one time when they were hidden behind the banner of MARRS. The success of 1987’s “Pump Up The Volume” was rather a pyrrhic victory, given that the lawsuits, and the weight of expectation, resulted in Colourbox never recording again.
Although it seemed to have come out of nowhere, “Pump Up The Volume” was merely the cap on five years of inventive, genre-melding records stretching back to 1982’s “Breakdown”. Today, you get the 1986 reissue of their 1983 mini-album “Colourbox”, not to be confused with the 1985 full-length album… “Colourbox”. Let’s face it, they weren’t great at picking album titles.
Actually, it’s a bit more than just a reissue, as 4AD took the opportunity to get a few more previously 12″-only tracks out on CD for the first time, more than doubling the length. To clarify, the original mini-album makes up tracks 4-7 here. Take a listen and tell me that Big Audio Dynamite (debut single: October 1985) weren’t taking notes. The first two tracks are singles from 1986, the last is a single from 1983 (a remake of their 1982 debut), and track 3 is the B-side of track 2.
Link: Colourbox – The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme
Link: Colourbox – Baby I Love You So
Link: Colourbox – Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse / Shoot Out
Link: Colourbox – Shotgun
Link: Colourbox – Keep On Pushing
Link: Colourbox – Nation
Link: Colourbox – Justice
Link: Colourbox – Breakdown (1983 12″ version)