It’s the series where I post three songs on a common theme. Today’s theme is finding out your childhood sweetheart who you’ve lost touch with has become famous when you see their picture in a magazine. Yeah, it’s a bit mundane but I guess it had to come up sometime.
So here we have three songs telling very much the same story, but each one taking their creators’ signature approach. So Kraftwerk are disapassionately robotic about it…
Link: Kraftwerk – The Model
While The J. Geils Band give it the bombastic American rock treatment…
And Thomas Dolby makes it into something about the cold war because… y’know, it’s Thomas Dolby…
And all of these songs became popular in 1981-2. Kraftwerk’s is older (it’s from their 1978 album The Man-Machine) but became a hit in 1981 after it was used as the throwaway B side to “Computer Love”, only to be picked up by Wonderful Radio One and become much better known. Although interestingly, when BBC Four did a documentary about Kraftwerk a couple of years ago, it didn’t mention “The Model” at all… yet we got “Talk” by Coldplay pretty much in full because it copied the riff from “Computer Love”. Interesting editorial decisions there…
Well, not exactly maximum, and who the hell is going to get that reference anyway? But you know that thing where you wake up with some odd song in your head? That happened to me the other day, and for some reason it was this, the 1987 debut from Detroit geek Derrick May, alias Rhythim Is Rhythim. Still, a pioneering techno classic is not the worst thing to have inexplicably pop into mind. Last week, I woke up with Dill’s song from The Herbs in my head.
Link: Rhythim Is Rhythim – Nude Photo (password: salad)
1. Nude Photo
2. The Dance
3. Move It
The answer is: yes, but honestly I just don’t feel like posting anything christmassy. So something by The Jesus And Mary Chain is about as close as you’re going to get from me, and they only get a pass because they’re doing a song about a different time of year altogether. I would have suggested that the mid-April singles market is somewhat less lucrative than christmas, but this was their biggest hit, so what do I know?
Link: The Jesus And Mary Chain – April Skies (double 7″) (password: salad)
1. April Skies (7″ version)
2. Kill Surf City
3. Mushroom (live in Nuremberg 1986) (Can cover)
4. Bo Diddley Is Jesus
Pizzicato Five and Flipper’s Guitar are the two bands usually credited with pioneering the 1990s shibuya-kei movement: an eclectic retromodernist approach to music that strongly influenced Japanese pop for a few years. I’ve shared some Pizzicato Five before, both here and in the form of an Imaginary Compilation Album for The New Vinyl Villain, so here’s the other side of the coin.
Where P5 looked to disco, Motown, and French pop for their inspiration, Flipper’s Guitar took their main influences from jangly guitar bands in the UK indiepop scene: Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Haircut 100 (after whom they titled a song), The Pastels and of course Orange Juice, from whom they nicked the title of this album, “Three Cheers For Our Side”. Their name was also an oblique Orange Juice reference, being suggested by the jumping dolphins on the cover of their first LP You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever.
Flipper’s Guitar weren’t around for very long: this debut album appeared in August 1989, and they’d split by the end of 1991. The debut wasn’t particularly successful at the time, and by the time the follow-up arrived, the original quintet had been reduced to its creative core duo of Keigo Oyamada and Kenji Ozawa, otherwise known as “The Double Knockout Corporation” (geddit?). The photogenic boy duo proved a much more marketable proposition, particularly with them now performing exclusively in Japanese and exuding an edgy irreverence in media appearances, and their second album Camera Talk, and third, Doctor Head’s World Tower (which picked up on the UK’s newly-trendy baggy and shoegaze scenes) went on to gather both critical acclaim and commercial success. And then they split, abruptly and acrimoniously, leaving a slate of already-advertised tour dates unfulfilled. And they’ve never reformed since. Oyamada went electronic and achieved cult popularity in the West – particularly as a remixer for other acts – under the name Cornelius; Ozawa also had a solo career of less international standing.
But back to the album in question, made when they were still a five-piece (you’ll notice original keyboard player Yukiko Inoue contributing female vocals here and there). You can play spot-the-influence or just enjoy a Japanese take on British indiepop. If you like this, the other original albums are worth checking out too (though I warn you, they are mostly in Japanese), along with the live album On Pleasure Bent, which improves on many of the studio versions.
Link: Flipper’s Guitar – Three Cheers For Our Side (password: salad)
- Boys Fire The Tricot
- Coffee-Milk Carzy
- My Red Shoes Story
- Exotic Lollipop (And Other Red Roses)
- Happy Like A Honeybee
- Samba Parade
- Sending To Your Heart
- Goodbye, Our Pastels Badges
- The Chime Will Ring
- Red Flag On The Gondola
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 mentioned Ruth’s Refrigerator before in connection with Ruth Miller’s other band Po!, and here’s a full LP. A supergroup made up of various luminaries from the Leicester art-rock scene, they issued two albums, of which this from 1992 is the second. In a way, they actually released three albums, since the vinyl and CD editions of A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass are almost completely different recordings. This is the vinyl version, which also has an exclusive song, a cover of Wire‘s “Outdoor Miner”. Everybody was covering that song in the 1990s.
This is lo-fi indiepop, quite twee with often nonsensical lyrics. In the case of “Examine The Insects And Hit Them”, the song had featured on their first album Suddenly A Disfigured Head Parachuted as an instrumental, with flippant non-appearing, unmetrical, lyrics on the inlay, and then they re-recorded it for this album using those lyrics. The other songs, I have no explanation for.
Link: Ruth’s Refrigerator – A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass (vinyl version) (password: salad)
1. Moulted Fur From A Labrador
3. Gosh, What A Lot Of Umbrellas
4. Duck Pond
5. What We Waited for And Where It Was At
6. Ducklings #1
8. Examine The Insects And Hit Them
9. Ducklings #2
10. Accordian Music
11. Mr Misery
12. Outdoor Miner
13. My Head’s On Fire
14. Barry Baked Bean Is Back
15. And One More Thing
16. A Science Bar
“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)