Category Archives: Stereolab

Weekend Long Player: “Grimsby Fishmarket 4 Norrkoeping 0” by Various Artists

A marvellous cassette-only compilation from 1991, released by a small Swedish label, Records From The Cookie Nose Tower. From the title, it would appear that the concept is that it contains Swedish and British acts, though the scattering of Japanese bands (Bridge, Roof, Venus Peter and Marble Hammock) rather undermines that premise.

Regardless, it’s another sparkling selection of early 90s indiepop, with early and rare stuff from then-or-future Sarah luminaries Blueboy (on what may have been their recorded debut?), Brighter and The Orchids (is this really the first time The Orchids have appeared on this blog? Now there’s an oversight), what in retrospect looks like a jarringly big-name contribution from Stereolab, inevitable appearances by Louis Philippe and Momus, and who is that hiding behind the pseudonym Cerise? It’s only Amelia Fletcher, doing a solo version of Heavenly‘s debut single from the previous year!

Oh, and the Swedish and Japanese bands aren’t bad either. Incidentally, Are You Mr. Riley and The Rileys are the same band, they just changed their name… in the middle of this compilation album, it would appear.

Link: Various Artists – Grimsby Fishmarket 4 Norrkoeping 0 (password: salad)

1. “Eusebio” – Louis Philippe
2. “Song About Girls” – Bummer Twins
3. “Walking Back To You” – The Cherry Orchard
4. “This Friendship Of Ours” – This Perfect Day
5. “Chick House” – Roof
6. “Barriers Of Mine” – Are You Mr. Riley
7. “Silent Sigh City” – Happydeadmen
8. “Shaunty” – Joe Clack
9. “She Fakes Apples” – My Finest Hour
10. “I Fell In Love Last Night” – Cerise
11. “Kymri” – The Apple Moths
12. “Jennifer Anywhere” – The Kitchen Cynics
13. “Room” – Bridge
14. “Turn Over” – Momus
15. “Into the Morgue” – Mary-Go-Round
16. “Next Summer” – Brighter
17. “New World” – Venus Peter
18. “Chelsea Guitar” – Blueboy
19. “Not Unusual” – BJ Eagle
20. “The Light That Will Cease To Fail” – Stereolab
21. “High Rise” – The Cherry Orchard
22. “Windmills And Milestones” – Bummer Twins
23. “Wood Dust” – Joe Clack
24. “Ralph De Bricassart” – Happydeadmen
25. “Time Will Pass” – The Rileys
26. “And When I Wake Up” – The Orchids
27. “Birds of Prey” – Marble Hammock

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The Name Game – 4

I haven’t milked this particular gimmick in over a month, so it’s high time I posted some more songs that share their names with musical acts and vice versa.

Dusty Springfield was a popular target for tributes from the indiepop community in the 1980s/90s… well, I say popular, but that’s based on the fact that I can think of a whopping two examples off the top of my head. Of course one is the ace Chicago indiepop band The Springfields, named after Dusty’s original band, The Springfields. Kind of like how the Chemical Brothers started out as the Dust Brothers, named after the Dust Brothers. Except I think the Springfields managed to avoid any legal threats. In contrast, equally ace janglepopsters The Haywains managed to sidestep any potential confusion by not naming themselves Buddy Holly And The Crickets or anything like that, and simply stuck to singing about Dusty Springfield.

Link: “Breakfast In Bed” by Dusty Springfield
Link: “Dusty Springfield” by The Haywains

I think everyone knows I like Stereolab. Texan experimental rockers Transona Five clearly like Stereolab too. I’ll be honest, I did deliberately pick their most Stereolab-like track for this, but I think it proves my point.

Link: “Estrogen Blaster” by Transona Five
Link: “Transona Five” by Stereolab

And finally, a very clear reference to a well-known performer, but what’s this Scissor Sisters song actually got to do with Paul McCartney? Well, nothing really. But apparently Jake Shears had a dream in which he chatted with Paul McCartney about songwriting, and it would appear that the inspiration he got from this was to name a song after Paul McCartney. You’d kind of hope Macca would have given him better advice than that, I mean, not even Paul McCartney ever named a song “Paul McCartney”. Macca’s own song here is from his 1980 album McCartney II, the one that sold a trillion copies off the back of the rocking single “Coming Up” only for buyers to find the rest was weird synth noodlings which most people only played once. “Temporary Secretary” was a single. It flopped.

Link: “Temporary Secretary” by Paul McCartney
Link: “Paul McCartney” by Scissor Sisters

Pinball Blizzard

The weather warnings are here! Possible snow on the way for parts of Scotland (though so far, my corner looks OK), which prompts me to dig out this Stereolab single from 1996. I bought this on the day it came out, which I think was in November, and then overnight it snowed and the next day I went out stomping around, making footprints in the snow, with the song “Pinball” playing on my… well, it wouldn’t be a Discman, it would have been some lesser brand of personal CD player. Anyway, the point is that since then, I’ve always associated “Pinball” with snow, and in the unlikely event that we do get a covering this weekend, I shall probably go yomping about to the accompaniment of said track again. And so can you!

Link: Stereolab – Fluorescences (password: salad)

1. Fluorescences
2. Pinball
3. You Used To Call Me Sadness
4. Soop Groove #1

Turtle Power

This will shock you: I’ve managed to post something on a significant anniversary! Fifty years ago today, on 1 November 1968, The Turtles released their magnum opus, The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands, in the US. I don’t know when it came out in the UK, though since its lead single (more of which anon) was riding high in the hit parade at the time, I imagine it wasn’t greatly delayed.

The Turtles suffered a lot of ups and downs to get to this point. To begin with, there was The Crossfires, an instrumental group playing surf music. By 1965, that style was falling out of fashion, and the group was ready for a new direction and a new name. They signed with the recently-formed independent label White Whale Records, took the name The Turtles, and aligned themselves with the folk-rock trend then being spearheaded by Bob Dylan and The Byrds. They had a top ten hit first time out with a version of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”, but successive singles charted lower and lower, and the tide was not turned by experiments like the self-penned proto-psychedelia of “Grim Reaper Of Love” and a breezy, cheesy rendition of the British wartime standard “We’ll Meet Again”, posted here a few months ago. They also started shedding members, losing both drummer Don Murray and bassist Chuck Portz.

But then, as if by magic, everything started coming together. A demo acetate by songwriters Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon yielded the song “Happy Together”, and new bassist Chip Douglas devised a suitably radio-friendly arrangement, which duly went to number one in the States and was also a hit elsewhere (including the UK, where it was their first chart entry). Gordon and Bonner proved to be an excellent match for The Turtles, providing a string of further singles including their biggest British hit “She’d Rather Be With Me”.

You’d think that White Whale would be delighted with The Turtles’ newfound success, and indeed they were. But their plan to keep the hits coming was to reduce The Turtles to a duo of singers Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, fronting records played by session musicians. This proposal did not go down well. In fact, so keen were Kaylan and Volman to avoid such a fate, that they deliberately went in the opposite direction, all but abandoning the use of outside songwriters, and henceforth listing their original material as group compositions, the credit and profit split five ways. And with this new policy in place, The Turtles delivered their fourth album, Battle of the Bands, parodying various popular music styles, from surf to psychedelia, from country to… themselves.

And so we get to that hit single. Take the floor, Howard Kaylan…

It was never intended to be a straight-forward song. It was meant as an anti-love letter to White Whale, who were constantly on our backs to bring them another “Happy Together.” So I gave them a very skewed version. Not only with the chords changed, but with all these bizarre words. It was my feeling that they would listen to how strange and stupid the song was and leave us alone. But they didn’t get the joke. They thought it sounded good. Truthfully, though, the production on “Elenore” WAS so damn good. Lyrically or not, the sound of the thing was so positive that it worked.

There are some who insist that “Elenore” needs to be heard in its mono single mix, but to be honest I think the stereo separation of the album version adds an extra layer to the parody, and I love the moment the drums come crashing in…

Link: The Turtles – Elenore (LP mix)

Interestingly, “Elenore” was in the UK top 20 at the very same time as both “Eloise” by Barry Ryan and “Jessamine” by The Casuals. And “Lily the Pink” by the Scaffold, for that matter. I’m guessing there may be an unusually high number of women with those names celebrating their fiftieth birthdays right about now.

There’s at least one other well-known song on Battle of the Bands. Before joining the Turtles, Chip Douglas had toured as a member of Gene Clark‘s backing group, and one of the numbers they played was “You Showed Me”, an unreleased song Clark and Roger McGuinn had written for The Byrds. Douglas tried playing it for The Turtles on a harmonium with a broken bellows, and had to slow the tempo right down, thereby accidentally creating the basis for The Turtles’ arrangement, which became the first available recording of the song (and I suppose likely prompted the 1969 release of The Byrds’ early demos, including “You Showed Me”, as the album Preflyte).

Link: The Turtles – You Showed Me

A less famous but ultimately quite profitable track is this one-and-a-half minute throwaway:

Link: The Turtles – I’m Chief Kamanawanalea (We’re The Royal Macadamia Nuts)

And yes, the title is “Chief” even though the lyric says “King”. This one had to wait for the sampling revolution before it came into its own, but since the mid-80s its drums have been sampled on a lot of records… such as these:

Link: De La Soul – Say No Go
Link: Pizzicato Five – Go Go Dancer
Link: Stereolab – Metronomic Underground (Wagon Christ Mix)

Shall we have one more? This is The Turtles’ bluegrass parody. The song first appeared as the B-side to the 1967 single “She’s My Girl” (top twenty in the States, but did nothing in the UK), before being heavily reworked and twanged-up for Battle of the Bands:

Link: The Turtles – Chicken Little Was Right

Stereolab get yperactive

Some Stereolab goodness/oddness today. The London-based Anglo-French-Australian postkrautartrockpop group always went down well with John Peel show listeners (as well as with Peel himself, of course), and in 1996 they placed two tracks in the Festive Fifty: “Cybele’s Reverie” from the excellent Emperor Tomato Ketchup LP, and today’s featured track, “Les Yper-Yper Sound”, one of the B-sides to the single release of “Cybele’s Reverie”.

STEREOLAB-tim-kent

I strongly suspect that the #50 placing for “Les Yper-Yper Sound” represented a combined vote for LYYS itself and the album track “Les Yper-Sound”. They’re recognisably the same composition, but very different treatments – LYYS is a lot heavier than LYS, a lot more drone-oriented, and of course lacks vocals. Also supporting the “combined vote” theory is that some of the votes will no doubt have been for the session version from February of that year, which went under the title “Les Yper-Sound” but was structured as one of those two-part things that Stereolab were terribly fond of, starting with what would become LYYS before segueing into the song proper. Personally, I favour the pure instrumental “Les Yper-Yper Sound” version (the “proper” vocal version is one of the weaker tracks on the album), but here are all three for your listening pleasure.

Tracks

  • Les Yper-Yper Sound (from “Cybele’s Reverie” single)
  • Les Yper-Sound (from Emperor Tomato Ketchup)
  • Les Yper-Sound (Peel session version Feb ’96 from ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions)

Download! (password: salad)

And while you’re downloading that, enjoy this wonderfully bizarre clip from Chicago Access Network Television’s Chic-A-Go-Go show featuring Stereolab’s Mary Hansen being interviewed by a rat, and the weirdest dance party ever.

I’m not sure they’re actually dancing to that song…