Vinyl Friday

Vinyl Friday (on Saturday) #24: Echo & the Bunnymen “Silver (Tidal Wave)” 12″ single

P1010134

“Silver” is probably my favourite Echo & the Bunnymen single. I love the soaring strings and the rolling ending of “la”s. It’s just a toasty-warm single filled with so many glimmering buts to it that I love. I don’t own many 12″ singles, but this one is probably one of the more loved ones, even if it isn’t exactly the best release of the song.

The 12″ release of this single adds an additional song that wasn’t on the 7”. “Silver (Tidal Wave)” is pretty much an extended version of the 7″ single by about two minutes. The song continues as an instrumental in the beginning before McCulloch’s singing comes in. Personally, I don’t think this adds anything to the song. If it were an extended mix or strictly an instrumental, it would probably be a better release, but this sounds like the record just sort of skipped.

Side 2 is essentially what was on the 7″ release of the single, just on one side. “Angels and Devils” is SUCH a great tune. It’s an excellent B-side and I think it compliments “Silver” quite well. But Ocean Rain is one of the best Echo & the Bunnymen releases, so none of this is really surprising.

When I was studying abroad at the University College London, I took a weekend trip by myself up to Manchester. A few of my friends were headed to Scotland on a school trip while others were leaving to visit friends who were studying abroad elsewhere in the country. Seeing Manchester was always a dream of mine, so I decided to trek ahead by myself. I couldn’t imagine doing something like that now, and I probably walked through plenty of places I shouldn’t have been, but at that point in my life I had no idea if I would ever get the chance to visit the city ever again.

I planned a massive talking trip for myself to go around the entire city to see iconic places like the Salford Lads Club (the building that appears on the sleeve of the Smiths album The Queen is Dead) and FAC251. But I only lasted about two steps outside my hostel before I found a great record shop to unload all my cash in.

The guy at the shop was super great. I don’t know if he was chuffed because a. I was a customer b. a girl c. foreign or d. obviously someone who would buy anything given to her, but he was a really pleasant fellow, even though I couldn’t understand a single word he said. I thought since I was in Manchester, I would buy a bunch of records from Manchester bands.

Echo & the Bunnymen are from Liverpool.

But still, I thought it was plenty cool and not worth leaving behind. As my husband said while I was listening to this: “Silver is such a tune.” And it is, isn’t it?

P1010135

Advertisements

Vinyl Friday #23: Adam and the Ants “Kings of the Wild Frontier”

P1010254

People love to hate Adam and the Ants. Actually, there are plenty of anti-Adam Ant quips throughout music and it’s culture – especially in late-70s, early 80s punk. NME journalist infamously tore Dirk Wears White Socks apart and (incorrectly) called Adam a Nazi-sympathiser. And of course, another example being Captain Sensible’s single “Wot” where he ‘raps’, “Well, hello Adam, where you been? / I said a’stand aside ’cause I’m feelin’ mean / I’ve had a gutful of you and I’m feelin’ bad / ‘Cause you’re an ugly old pirate and ain’t I glad.”

According to an interview with the Captain in 2001, he just admitted that he couldn’t figure Adam out. Which is fair enough because Adam Ant’s music is strange and silly. But I do like a good dose of both, so his music with the Ants always worked for me. In fact, once it grew on me, I really love the 1980 album Kings of the Wild Frontier. 

This album was released after Malcolm McLaren stole away the “Ants” from the band’s debut album, Dirk Wears White Socks. It’s a pretty well-known story that the band was essentially refurbished to be the band for Bow Wow Wow. This could have been a blessing in disguise as Adam procured guitarist Marco Pirroni, who still works with Adam – most recently on his 2013 album.

The US version of the album (which this copy is) includes two tracks instead of “Making History” – “Press Darlings” and “(You’re So) Physical”. This is one of those times where I think the US lucked out with a UK band release. And I can say with sure confidence that this album is pretty superior to the follow-up, Prince Charming.

If the whole concept of Vinyl Friday wasn’t pretentious enough, I have to say that the cassette version of this album is probably a bit more significant in my life-story than this vinyl copy.  I had a friend when I was in my high school days who had a pretty bad-ass car. Bad ass meaning it had a tape player, which was cool. My friend and I unloaded loads of cassette tapes on this poor girl, so we always had something great to listen to in the car.

I bought this album at the same resale store where the cassette was bought. For the longest time, I could really warm up to the band. For the longest time I only knew the title track, and I never warmed to it’s sound. But it was hearing the album in it’s entirety that I began to understand the band’s sound a bit better. They’re a lot more playful than “Kings of the Wild Frontier” would lead someone to believe.

This album sounds fantastic on vinyl. It’s obviously a bit of a battered copy, and it skips quite a bit but I still appreciate the sound all the same. But each time I listen to it, it reminds me of being young, howling along to Adam Ant in crappy cars in the back country roads of Wisconsin.

P1010255

Vinyl Friday #21: The Smiths “The Smiths”

P1010167

The Smiths. The loves of my life. My favourite band since I bought this album when I was just turning 15. It was the band that turned my life around in such a dramatic way. A band that changed me like no other. Growing up with only cornfields, cows and hicks (a word I had forgotten existed until this moment), a band that referenced unknown writers and played such intricate, yet accessible music was a revelation. They became my solace in a world I knew I would never fit into. While many bands helped me gain the courage to go out into the world, The Smiths were the band that gave me confidence that somewhere there was a world that I belonged in and I would some day find it.

But there’s something strange about loving the Smiths. It’s something that I mostly noticed when I first studied abroad in London. When I told someone that I loved Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce people just… stared. I later would understand that saying your favourite band was the Smiths was one of the most cliched things you could say. Apparently at some point the band had had a cultural comeback and it had been something I missed entirely. In some ways it almost became embarrassing to admit my love for them. A band with so much beauty and keep layers became something to not share. This is something I really do hate to admit because I am firm believer in loving whatever the hell you want when it comes to music.

For a long time I stopped listening to the band (which was a dramatic change from my university days when I would listen to each album in its entirety at least once a week). Thankfully there’s plenty of other music in the world to fill my time with, but no band has ever filled my heart the same way the Smiths have. I kept a copy of Simon Goddard’s The Songs That Save Your Life by my bedside table for over five years. Goddard’s book is a song-by-song analysis and backstory to every Smiths’ recording. I read the entire thing then proceeded to read it whenever I wanted to. I don’t think I could stomach doing that for any other band. But I think it’s very much overdue that I write about the debut album from this Manchester band.

The Smiths, along with Strangeways, Here We Come, is a pretty grossly over-looked album for an iconic band. Within recent years, I’ve seen countless articles pop up about how this 1984 album is their worst by far. As a completely biased woman, I can’t possibly pick a “weak” album out of the four. Because each is excellent and crap in different parts and ways. But to say The Smiths is the worst still baffles me even as I write this. But as the story goes, this is really the second version of the album. The first being recorded with producer Troy Tate (which can be listened to on bootleg). The producer on the final product was John Porter. This version of the album was released after being recorded in fits and starts – to no one’s satisfaction.

That being said, I’m quite fond of the way it sounds. It’s quite distinct from the middle two albums and certainly worlds away from the production on the fourth and final release. For the longest time, I never bought and Smiths albums on vinyl. I stuck to constantly playing the CDs I bought at Exclusive Company – I was completely convinced this was a band that I would only buy their albums if I found them used in a shop. I needed to be a part of a longer history of the physical record.

One day I was totally stunned when I saw the complete collection of albums, along with several other “Best Of…”s and Rank at a resale shop. Being pretty young at the time, I didn’t have all the money to buy the complete lot at the time. So I hid the albums. Yes, I was that dick. But it worked. Every two weeks after payday I would return and buy the next piece. Unfortunately, many of them are now damaged beyond playing ability (to put it politely, never ever ever ever ever let a drunk ‘borrow’ your record collection for five months). Thankfully this one survived relatively unscathed. Maybe it’s due to the unpopularity of the album. I’d like to think so because at least the album and I are on the right side of music justice.

P1010168

Vinyl Friday #20: The Dream Syndicate “The Days of Wine and Roses”

IMG_0007

This is by far one of my favourite, if not my favourite Paisley Underground album. The Days of Wine and Roses was the first album by The Dream Syndicate, originally released in 1982. It’s a fantastic album that, like many of its time, is grossly over-looked by far too many.

The Dream Syndicate, like many bands in that scene, there is a heavy psychedelic feel to the album, particularly opening song and single “Tell Me When It’s Over”. But Dream Syndicate sound different than their contemporaries in one way in particular: the lyrics. While bands like The Bangles were heavily influenced by pop music, Wynn and co sound mature in the college-radio way.

Wynn’s song writing is fantastic. I think it’s unfortunate that his type of voice doesn’t really appear in contemporary music. “Halloween”, the only track written by guitarist Karl Precoda, clocks in at six and a half minutes. It’s a really eerie and haunting tune, and not only because of the guitar solos. The lyrics are some of the more unusual and sinister-feeling to come out of the Paisley Underground era.

Bassist Kendra Smith’s name may be familiar a one. She and guitarist David Roback (formerly of fantastic Rain Parade) would later form the band Opal after the Dream Syndicate’s demise. Smith would later be replaced in Opal by Hope Sandoval, and the band changed their name to Mazzy Star. Opal’s only studio album, Happy Nightmare Baby, is well-worth a listen. Smith’s voice is great. She sings the lead vocals on “Too Little, Too Late”.

When reading about the band, I always see the Velvet Underground influence being mentioned. The feedback and manic feeling might be behind the reasoning. Maybe it’s because everyone needs to mention it, but I really hate that comparison. It bores me to tears. While I’m sure it’s very flattering to be compared to Reed and co, the band remind me much more of Television and their intelligence and complexity or the way that Jonathan Richman sort of sing-tells his songs. Either way, this band was something really special. I suppose that’s why so many have gone back to reassess what they were.

This is one of those albums that I didn’t know if I would ever find used somewhere. I bought this baby brand new at the Exclusive Company in Milwaukee when it was re-issued in 2011. Turns out that the original pressings aren’t very difficult to come by. It’s a shame I didn’t put two minutes of research into this before purchasing, but as soon as I saw this album in the shop, I knew I had to have it.

The Exclusive in Milwaukee is a pretty nice little shop. I would always drag my unloved albums there to sell to buy an upgrade. Admittedly, there was a lot of shit in my collection, but thankfully I was willing to sell albums that were in high demand. The money I made off selling the unloved jokes allowed me to buy this. Not the most interesting of stories, but this is by no means the most interesting of records (music aside).

I’m always surprised that there aren’t more people obsessed with this band or this album. The Days of Wine and Roses fits in perfectly with the Paisley Underground while also succeeding in doing something entirely different. This is the magnum opus of The Dream Syndicate, but they have a body work work so worthy of the time and effort to listen to. If you haven’t listened to it yet, what the hell are you doing reading this? Get a move on.

IMG_0008

Vinyl Friday #18: A Flock of Seagulls “Listen”

P1010169

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time now, you’ll know that I have a massive soft spot for A Flock of Seagulls. I’ve had my rant about “one-hit wonder” bands (which is what they are considered in America, but not in their home country of the UK), so I probably don’t need to go back down that road because I’ll never come back. They were a much disliked band at the time, understandably,but I am a woman of the modern era and I will like what I please.

Listen was released in 1983 off the back of a pretty successful first album. Though nothing they ever did would ever compete with “I Ran (So Far Away)”. It is a shame, but writing one of the most successful and iconic singles of the 80’s is nothing to sniff at.

As continued with the first album, A Flock of Seagulls continue with their spacey vibe. The songs literally have zooms and twinges from synths that are really fun to listen to in Stereo. The rumbling in the beginning of “2:30” always delights my ears because of how unusual it is. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough variation in sound that lets down the album a bit.

Now I don’t think Listen is superior to their self-titled debut, but I am particularly fond of the dream-like quality of this album. “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph)” is seriously one of my favourite songs ever. When I lived in Milwaukee I would always walk in the fog listening to this song. It touches a strange part of my heart that often makes me cry. It is a bit wasted, though, as the first song of Side A. It would have been so nice placed later as either the closing track or as a surprise tucked away in the track listing. The fourth single off the album, “(It’s Not Me) Talking” that does the closing. A cool song but the energy off that single really should have been placed elsewhere.

This copy of Listen was found in my favourite antique shop. Of course it was in my favourite booth with the mannequin lady (she’ll pop up in more stories, to be sure). This lonely soul resided in my favourite New Wave bin. A Flock of Seagulls are hardly the best in the bunch, but I could never pass up the opportunity to listen to “Wishing” on vinyl. In my searches, I’ve rarely found A Flock of Seagulls’ albums while searching in Wisconsin. I’m not sure what it’s like in the UK, but I imagine it would be a much more successful hunt.

I do love the sound of this album on vinyl. There is so much to be added by listening to it with the pops and hollowness of humming speakers. Especially the synth bits in tracks like “What Am I Supposed To Do”. This is very much a lonely album. I love crawling up to it and listening to it. I suppose the uber-80’s-ness of the album won’t be to too many people’s taste, but I will keep championing the album.

P1010170

Vinyl Friday #17: Simple Minds “Once Upon a Time”

P1010246

I always get the feeling that it’s pretty uncool to like Simple Minds. I’m not sure why, though. Of course “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is an absolute classic tune, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with genuinely liking them as a band.  Anyway, despite its terrible album name, Once Upon a Time is a decently good album with some solidly composed songs mixed in with fantastic singles. “All the Things She Said” isn’t pretty good for some rocking 80s snapping dance moves (you know what I’m talking about), but “Alive and Kicking” is the golden song. It’s one of my favourite songs ever.

And yes, I will willingly admit this, I do listen to that song many times when I’m trying to tell myself “I can do it!” The song is pretty much my equvilant to those bad motivational posters that everyone’s mom’s post on Facebook. Now that I think about it, the music video – which was filmed in New York state – is set in a place that looks perfect for a nice motivational saying:

I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday! I’m going to make the rest of my life the best of my life!

Or something. I just did a quick search for motivational quotes because apparently my mind is too full of other useless information. But this whole album just sounds of early-Sunday light sounds. It’s easy to pass it off as fluff, but as I’m re-listening to it while I write, this is actually better than I remember. Certainly a great seventh album. Better than a lot of other bands’ seventh albums.

It’s pretty apparent from the photos that this album is a pretty weird copy. For one, this is apparently from the Beloit Public Library. I don’t even know where Beloit is, but thanks to a quick Google search, it’s apparently in the very south central part of Wisconsin – a couple hundred miles away from where I picked this up. I found this baby in the back of this really weird thrift store my friends and I would frequent in high school.

This isn’t like a nice Goodwill-type thrift shop, but one of those religiously-based ones that sometimes has great vintage blouses, but is mostly full of scarf belts and overly-worn terrycloth bathrobes. Their media section in the back is a literal hell. Full of tapes, N*Sync compilation CDs and the scariest record section. People scoff at the album selection at most thrift stores, but this is literally the worst of the worst. Everything there goes for 15 cents because the selection usually consists of albums that not even Lawrence Welk would want.

Thankfully the collective ignorance of the people in Northern Wisconsin meant that this actually good album found its way into the mix. Once Upon a Time for 15 cents, literally the cheapest find in my collection. Since it was at one point a prisoner of a library (imagine borrowing albums from a library now-a-days), the sleeve has been torn up completely to fit into its special little plastic case. I like to think this casing keeps the sleeve protected, you know, despite the fact that some horrible person completely deconstructed this album like a savage. But bonus points because there is still the old school envelope in the front full of stamps from the dates checked-in and checked-out. I can confirm that this was a pretty popular with the kids in Beloit.

This is the grand joy of buying second-hand albums. Who was the little devil that owned this before? Did he rob the Beloit Library of their 80s new wave selection? Did the Beloit Library finally have enough of the burden and cast their albums to the wind to scatter and spread across the state? Oh I’ll never know, but I like to think whoever had this was cheeky enough to kick it off a library and never ever return it.

On a completely unrelated note, I always forget that Simple Minds are Scottish. That just makes then that much better.

P1010247

Vinyl Friday #15: Bow Wow Wow “See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah! City All Over, Go Ape Crazy”

P1010146

Like several punk bands in London during the late 70s, Bow Wow Wow were led (see “created”) by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. Produced to sell Westwood’s New Romantic line, the band was composed of several Dirk Wears White Socks-era members of Adam & the Ants and the young Annabella Lwin.

See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah! City All Over, Go Ape Crazy has to be one of the most unnecessarily long album titles ever. Their first album, Your Cassette Pet, was released on EMI, and after a falling-out the band went to RCA for their sophomore effort. The story of this album cover is now famous (and probably utterly and completely manufactured like much of Britain’s music was at the time).

Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe served as the inspiration for the cover. The painting depicts two men having a luncheon with two women: one nude and one lightly-dressed. The painting at the time was controversial and even was initially rejected by the Salon. Drawing upon that controversy, the cover of See Jungle! depicts the band in a similar outdoor setting, including a nude Annabella Lwin, who was only 15 at the time.

The cover would then go on to be featured again on their EP The Last of the Mohicans. This copy I have is the “alternative” version of See Jungle! After a Scotland Yard investigation into the photograph, the US release featured this cover – one with a clothed Lwin. What never made any sense to me was the fact that they wanted a band that was constructed to sell clothes would have the only female in the band nude, but what do I know know about the inner-workings of show business?

Idiotic controversies aside (the music never really got as much attention as the photo did), this is a pretty good album. Annabella Lwin was someone I wanted to grow up to be when I was a teenager. There was so much attitude there. She was ferocious, girly and sassy – all things I still have yet to manage to become. But the band combined surf, “jungle beats” and the chanting cries of young British youth.

I do think the band seems to be constantly over by their “I Want Candy” cover. For the most part they still remain a sort of one-hit-wonder. They’re a pretty harmless band that were much more effortlessly cool than a lot of other pop groups at the time. “I Want Candy” is a pretty obnoxious song, to be completely honest. But a lot of what is on See Jungle! is a lot better, it’s just a shame that no one seems to want to listen to it anymore. There are some great singles here like “Go Wild in the Country.”

I found  this album in one of the suburban cities outside of Milwaukee (no clue which one, but they’re all essentially the same place anyway). I bought it on my last ever Record Store Day outing in 2013. My then roommate and I had been out since 7 in the morning and it was utter chaos at every record shop we went to.

On a whim, we went into a small shop. It wasn’t strictly a record shop, nor did they have any sort of sale going on but we entered any way. The place was full of old VHS tapes and other odd knick-knacks. In the middle was an arrangement of records that spanned from the obsucure to the truly awful. My roommate and I searched every bin and we both walked away with some interesting bits. This was one of them.

I always promised myself I would go back to that store, but I doubt it would still be there if I ever had the chance to visit again. It had such a strange vibe that it must be owned by a wizard and only appears on a full moon to those who are worthy. P1010147