The Julee Cruise story begins, as so many great “dream pop” stories do (see also The New Vinyl Villain Imaginary Compilation Album #54), with Ivo Watts-Russell refusing to license This Mortal Coil‘s version of “Song To The Siren”. On this occasion, the person seeking permission was director David Lynch, who wanted to use it in his 1986 movie Blue Velvet. Forced to find an alternative, he asked composer Angelo Badalamenti to come up with something to capture the same mood, and the result was “Mysteries of Love”, performed by the then unknown Julee Cruise.
If anything, “Mysteries of Love” was rather better-received than the actual movie and it led to Badalamenti and Lynch writing an entire album for Cruise. Floating Into The Night appeared in 1989, to generally positive reviews, and sold decently well off the back of Lynch’s cult following. It might have remained a one-off cult curio, however, but for what happened next: Twin Peaks. Teaming up with writer Mark Frost, Lynch adapted his cinematic style for television, creating a supernatural murder mystery that became one of the benchmark shows of its era, and once again Badalamenti was brought in to provide a suitably eerie musical accompaniment. The easy part was coming up with the show’s theme music – Badalamenti went back to Floating Into The Night and simply used the instrumental track from the song “Falling”. The original vocal version became a hit single, boosting sales of the Cruise LP (as well as the official Twin Peaks soundtrack, which included two other songs lifted from her album) and leading to a further Cruise-Badalamenti-Lynch album, 1993’s The Voice of Love.
Those collaborations remain Cruise’s best known work, but she’s been active on and off ever since. There are only two further albums under her own name – The Art Of Being A Girl (2002) and My Secret Life with former Deee-Lite chap DJ Dimitry (2011) – but also a bewildering number of guest appearances and stray solo works, such as this R.E.M. cover from the 2002 “chillout” compilation HedKandi Winter Chill 06.02.
While it’s interesting to actually be able to make out the words, I think she doesn’t quite commit to it enough – there are moments (particularly at the end of verses) where she’s too obviously being influenced by Michael Stipe‘s delivery. The other problem is that at this tempo, it drags on too long – it could certainly stand to lose the superfluous chorus at 2:52.
Frazier Chorus is another one of those also-ran late-80s / early 90s bands for whom there seems to be quite a bit of fondness in the blogosphere, or at least the bits I wander in and out of. A band who attempted to make pop music while avoiding the usual guitar-bass-drums set-up, and preferring small-scale slice-of-life dramas to anything that might feel like an actual statement, I suppose it’s not so strange that they were once on 4AD, though having discovered them through the Virgin-issued cult classic “Dream Kitchen”, it still seems a bit weird to me.
Anyway, before going to Virgin and falling just short of the Top 40 about a million times (still half a million less than Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, though), Frazier Chorus did indeed make their recorded debut for 4AD. “Sloppy Heart” came out in October 1987, the very month that 4AD had a freak number one with MARRS‘ “Pump Up The Volume”. Did this single follow it into the top 40, thereby cementing the label’s new-found commercial fortune? It did not.
All three songs on this 12″ were subsequently remade for Frazier Chorus’ debut album Sue – I reckon the remake of “Typical!” improved on the original, but I prefer the 4AD versions of “Sloppy Heart” and “Storm”.
Link: Frazier Chorus – Sloppy Heart (4AD version) (password: salad)
1. Sloppy Heart
Let’s do the obvious (though also the most tenuous) one first. Soul classic “Want Ads” by The Honey Cone was a US number one in 1971 and has inevitably been covered by a whole load of other people since. But here’s the original, which according to Wikipedia features a young Ray Parker Jr on rhythm guitar. And I know what a huge selling point that is.
The second song was also an American number one, the last of the 1970s in fact. But this time I haven’t gone for the hit version (by Rupert Holmes), but instead for a more recent cover by Jack Johnson, who actually pronounces the ñ in piña colada. So one for the linguistic pedants out there.
I suppose writing about personal ads does rather lend itself to the set up – punchline approach heard in “Escape”, and that’s used even more blatantly in my final song of the day. “Two For The Price Of One” is the token Björn-sung track on Abba‘s final studio album The Visitors, and is quite a departure from the notoriously gloomy mood of much of that album. That may be why a lot of people seem to interpret this as much darker than it really is. Also, a lot of people seem to take the title literally and assume it’s about prostitutes, which I’m pretty sure is not actually the implication.
I’ve never really got into Win. The arty alternative pop quintet from Edinburgh released two albums in the latter half of the 1980s and got rather popular in Scotland off the back of “You’ve Got The Power” being used in a TV advert for McEwan’s Lager. However as I was growing up in Southern England at the time, I don’t have that association. I know them more for their second album giving its title to a blog full of pretentious guff, which is one reason I’ve become rather suspicious of Win.
Still, here’s the first, pretentiously-titled (uh-oh!) album. It includes “You’ve Got The Power” and also a version of “Super Popoid Groove”, which reached the heights of #63 in the UK Top 75 singles chart compiled by Gallup for Music Week and the BBC. (According to the recent BBC Scotland documentary series “Rip It Up”, “You’ve Got The Power” also sold well enough to enter the top 75 but was excluded due to suspicious buying patterns, i.e. all its sales were in Scotland. Which may be true. It’s a good series, by the way… it’ll probably turn up on BBC Four soon.) “Un-American Broadcasting” and “Shampoo Tears” were also singles. The B sides of “Shampoo Tears” are here.
Link: Win – Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon) (password: salad)
1. Super Popoid Groove
2. Shampoo Tears
3. Binding Love Spell
4. Un-American Broadcasting
5. Hollywood Baby Too
6. Empty Holsters
7. You’ve Got The Power
8. Charms of Powerful Trouble
9. It May Be A Beautiful Sky Tonight But It’s Only A Shelter For A World At Risk
10. Charms reprise
11. Baby Cutting
12. Shampoo Tears (remix)
13. You’ve Got The Power (remix)
“Mummie Don’t” was the product of Jimmy Cauty‘s collaboration with Alex Paterson as the first incarnation of The Orb, circa 1988, and I suppose that had they released it at the time, it probably wouldn’t have become the stadium house megahit that The KLF ultimately turned it into. Or alternatively, if Cauty had pushed it in that direction with The Orb, then The Orb’s musical development might have taken a quite different path. Oh, so many “what if”s. What actually happened was that the first official version emerged as a KLF single in May 1989, and the original “Mummie Don’t” remained unheard until its inclusion on The Orb’s 2005 out-takes collection, Orbsessions Volume One. And in between there was that hit version. Which I’m not sharing today, nyah nyah.
Link: The Orb – Mummie Don’t
And here for comparison is the version that The KLF released as a single in 1989…
1990s New York alternative rock-hip-hop combo Soul Coughing released three albums before their acrimonous split and this was the lead single from the last, El Oso. Mike Doughty‘s lyrical style reminds me a bit of Karl Hyde from Underworld, though he’s fairly restrained on this particular track. Ashley Beedle provides four quite similar remixes.
Link: Soul Coughing – Circles (mixes) (password: salad)
1. Circles (Radio Mix)
2. Circles (Radio-TV Mix)
3. Circles (Extended)
4. Circles (Extended instrumental)
5. Circles (Album version)
Ace halfway-spoken-word thing from 1997 by writer and… can we call him a performance poet? He performs poetry, after all… Kirk Lake, backed by Jacques, the side-project of Anthony Reynolds and Matthew Scott of Jack. Well, on the first two tracks he’s backed by Jacques. On “£10,000 Dog” support comes from sample-delica (if that’s a word) artist Ed DMX, and he’s got his own band backing him up on “Dementia Pugilistica”. Quirky and witty.
Link: Kirk Lake / Jacques – Five Finger Discount (password: salad)
1. Five Finger Discount
2. All The Clocks Have Stopped
3. £10,000 Dog
4. Dementia Pugilistica
Here’s a twee pop band I’d have liked to hear more from. I don’t know much about Tada Tátà except they’re from Sweden and I think they’re sisters. But I’m not even sure about that. Anyway, they released a self-titled EP and a single, “Susie”, in 2009-10 and then just stopped. This, however, is their original demo. A couple of rinkydink guitars, some glockenspiel (or now I think about it, maybe a child’s toy piano?) and the odd intrusion of a drum machine rhythm.
All these songs reappeared on the EP in new versions, though the version of “Sticky Dumb Gum” on the EP was very similar to the “cello version” here and may even be the same recording, just differently EQ’d.
Link: Tada Tátà – Demo (password: salad)
- Sticky Dumb Gum
- The Brigade
- Sticky Dumb Gum (cello version)
- Hit The Wall
After making a big deal of their 1986 breakup, four out of the seven original members of Madness (Graham McPherson, Cathal Smyth, Lee Thompson and Chris Foreman) promptly got back together, made a tiny change to their name, and released this self-titled 1988 album. It pretty much carries on from where “Mad Not Mad” left off, which may not be considered a good thing, considering that MNM is generally disliked for its over-reliance on synths and drum machines. Those remain very much in evidence here, and the trend away from the “nuttiness” that made them famous is also marked. Lead vocals are split almost equally between McPherson and Smyth.
Link: The Madness – The Madness (password: salad)
Flowered Up were nearly killed by hype. Indeed, I’m not sure it was even “nearly”. They arrived in the midst of the baggy boom with a sound not entirely unlike Happy Mondays, and got on the covers of the music press before they even had a record out. To which the whole world responded, “you’ve got to be kidding”.
So maybe they were derivative, and maybe their annointing as the Next Big Thing was partly due to the fact that they were conveniently London-based rather than somewhere oop North. But they still made some great records: “Weekender” of course, but also a string of singles leading up to that classic, including this…
Link: Flowered Up – Phobia (password: salad)
- Phobia (Extended Play)
- Phobia (Paranoid Mix)
- Phobia (7″ mix)