Friday, 29 June 2007

Contrasting Strangers

You know when you haven’t got much time so you feature a record you don’t know much about and therefore don’t need to spend a lot of time typing? Well, this is one of those but don’t let that put you off – it’s a good one in the gloomy eighties tradition fairly similar in style to early Black (aka Colin Vearncombe) material.

The Light was Brian Atherton who sings and plays all keyboards. He had previously been a member of Box of Toys who recorded a session for John Peel’s show in 1983.

Other contributors to this record are Linda Wright on backing vocals, Des Tongue on bass, Jerry on guitar and Mr Small on oboe. The oboe gives it a slight China Crisis feel.

mp3: The Light - Contrasting Strangers

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Remember the David Essex showcase?

Not surprised really. It was a talent show that ran on British television for several weeks in 1982. The contestants were not the usual X-factor or American Idol style wannabes, many of the acts (perhaps all of them) already had recording contracts (Thomas Dolby and Mari Wilson being two I remember). Each week we were invited to vote for our favourite and the last episode was the grand final featuring all the previous winners.

It was won by Philip Jap and I remember thinking he was a worthy winner destined for greater things: He sounded a bit like David Bowie, did robotic dancing and that being stuck behind a sheet of glass mime thing (stop me if I’m being too technical) and his records were (over)produced by Trevor Horn, the producer of the moment.

It never happened for him but he did have two minor UK hits: Save Us (No 53 in 1982) with it’s too busy bassline so typical of it’s era (mp3 below) and Total Erasure (No 41 in 1982) see video clip from the David Essex Showcase below. After three singles and one album he appears to have vanished without trace – I couldn’t even get a decent picture of him for this post.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Silicon Teens

Remember the Silicon Teens? Four teenagers, Darryl, Jacki, Paul and Diane, who did cover versions of old rock’n’roll classics on their synthesizers, right? Well, that was the official story. In reality it was Daniel Miller, owner of Mute records and according to my memory Frank Tovey (aka Fad Gadget) was also involved but I can’t verify this.

Miller released two singles and one album, Music For Parties, under the Silicon Teens name. Here are the two singles.

Friday, 22 June 2007

More classic Todd

For more classic Todd Rundgren checkout Retro Music Snob

Retro Music Snob (Mp3's ): Retro Music Snob Tunes: 70's Gem By Todd Rundgren "We Gotta Get You a Woman"

A Wizard, A True Star

It’s a lonely life round here being a Todd Rundgren fan. Since I "discovered" him in the late 70’s I have failed to convert any friends or family members to the cause. The weird thing is I think to myself “what’s not to like?” Great singer, composer, arranger and producer, multi-instrumentalist, encompasses many musical styles including pop, blue-eyed soul, prog rock, psychedelia, electronic, heavy rock, even comedy songs. I think maybe that’s his problem – many of the fans of Something/Anything were baffled by the follow-up A Wizard, A True Star and many fans of his heavier proggy stuff probably found the poppier material too lightweight. Me – I like it all (nearly), especially the albums where he mixes all the above styles (Wizard and Todd are good examples). If you bear in mind that his main influences appear to be British invasion bands, Stax & Motown and psychedelia I think it’s easier to understand his music. Of course, there have been some less successful efforts but no-one can accuse him of resting on his laurels.

Since his highly prolific 70’s heyday there have been some lean periods but just when people are thinking of writing him off he comes back with another winner (Nearly Human in 1989 and Liars in 2004).

If you want to know more look here and here.

Today is Todd’s birthday so I thought I would celebrate by featuring some of my personal favourites. As with me previous post I am not attempting to sum up his whole career – just offering a few highlights.

mp3: Todd Rungren - Love Of The Comman Man (1976)
A classic track from the Faithful album.

mp3: Utopia - Communion With The Sun (1977)
Prog Todd. Somewhere I’ve got a brilliant 1977 review of the Ra! album by a pompous Charles Shaar Murray type who hates it with a passion (mainly because it’s not punk) and was particularly upset by the line “Ra! Holy synthesizer” which admittedly is a bit daft but, you know, lighten up, man!

mp3: Utopia - Lysistrata (1982)
An anti-war Greek comedy, written in 411 BCE by Aristophanes summed up in a two minute pop song.

mp3: Todd Rundgren - Something To Fall Back On (1986)
From the A Cappella album. Read the story of this album here. For some reason this failed to be a huge hit.

mp3: Todd Rundgren - The Waiting Game (1989)
Melodic song from Nearly Human.

mp3: Todd Rundgren - Sidewalk Cafe/Izzat Love? (1974)
Electronic and pop Todd combination. In 1978 I wanted to get £25 from my dad for some headphones (a lot of money in those days) so I took my Todd album to the shop and played these tracks to him. He liked the stereo trickery and left the shop with his wallet £25 lighter.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Add some music to your day

I’m sure there are hundreds of blogs celebrating Brian Wilson’s 65th birthday today but I couldn’t let it pass without adding my contribution. The word genius is overused these days but in Brian Wilson’s case it is entirely justified. There have been several books written by people much more eloquent than me about it so I won’t even try to compete on that level. I’ll just let the music do the talking with four (almost) random selections.

mp3: Beach Boys - Kiss Me Baby stereo version of the classic Beach Boys Today track.

mp3: Beach Boys - Wonderful from the Smile sessions.

mp3: Beach Boys - Time To Get Alone Carl Wilson singing a Brian Wilson song - possibly the best combination in popular music.

mp3: Beach Boys - Til I Die

Buy Beach Boys and Brian Wilson here. Most of these albums are available for £5 if you shop around.

Be sure to check back on Friday when I will be celebrating the birthday of another musical hero.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

By special request (sort of)

According to site meter one of my hits today was from somebody searching for Farmer’s Boys Phew Row. This is the 12-inch version of their 1984 single Phew Wow! I didn’t include it on my Farmer’s Boys post but I do have a copy so this is for unknown reader from Durham, North Carolina (although site meter locations are notoriously unreliable).

The single came with a competition entry form to win Stan’s Mini (see picture).

Be warned this is for Farmer’s Boys completists only.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Heaven help you now

I’ve mentioned before how I tend to group records (and CDs for that matter) by genre and feel. I never understood people putting them in alphabetical order, after all when did you last think “I must listen to something beginning with A”?

I only mention this because if you liked the last song (Fiat Lux) it was next to Heaven Help You Now by Paul Haig and they do have a similar feel, so featuring that song seems like the logical next step.

Paul Haig, of course, was formerly a member of Josef K. That band may be legendary and seminal but for my money this record is better than anything they ever did.

mp3: Paul Haig - Heaven Help You Now

Buy Josef K here and Paul Haig (who has just released a new CD) here

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Let there be light

On Friday I promised Davy H that my next post would be my number 1 lost classic from the 80’s so here it is. Can it possibly live up to such hype? You decide.
mp3: Fiat Lux - Blue Emotion

Fiat Lux were a band from 1982 to 1985 whose members were David P Crickmore, Steve Wright and Ian Nelson (brother of Bill Nelson). They released six singles and one mini album called Hired History.

Two of their singles were minor UK hits with Secrets reaching number 65 and Blue Emotion peaking at 59.

Blue Emotion, their 4th single, has long been my favourite “forgotten” single of the 80’s. If you haven’t heard it before I think it is in the same vein as The Cure’s The Walk and New Order’s Thieves Like Us without particularly sounding like either of them but you get the idea, they wouldn’t sound out of place on the same CD compilation.

You would have thought that by now somebody would have gathered Hired History and all the singles and b-sides and produced a definitive retrospective CD of this great band but it hasn’t happened yet. Needless to say if it ever does I thoroughly recommend it and if I’m still blogging I’ll give it a plug.

Sadly, Ian Nelson died on 23rd April 2006, his 50th birthday. I was fortunate enough to see Ian Nelson once playing keyboards and saxophone for Bill Nelson’s Red Noise back in 1979. You can also hear his contribution on several Be-Bop Deluxe songs, perhaps most memorably the sax solo on Ships In The Night.

For more information on the band take a look at the fan website

Finally, here is a performance of Blue Emotion from a European TV show. Apparently, this single was top 10 in some more enlightened countries in Europe (and New Zealand).

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Have you heard the rumour?

I’m still in an unbelievably generous post half term holiday mood so I’m going to give you the third big treat in a row. Right next to my Cowboys Internatonal singles (see yesterdays post) are a pair of singles by The Rumour, which means that apart from being from the same time period I also considered them to be thematically similar. This may seem surprising when you consider they were Graham Parker’s backing band and included old pub-rock stalwarts Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont (guitar/vocals) from Ducks Deluxe, and Stephen Goulding (drums/vocals) and Andrew Bodnar from Bontemps Roulez. However, for their 1979 album for Stiff, the politically incorrectly named Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts they went all euro on us. I haven’t heard the whole album but the two singles Frozen Years and Emotional Traffic are excellent. I haven’t got around to digitising the latter yet, but here for your listening pleasure is the moody and unexpectedly synth heavy Frozen Years.

You may be able to get a copy of the album here.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


I’m in a good mood so I’m going to give you two great songs in one day and follow my Ken Lockie post with an excellent 1979 single from his band Cowboys International. The only way I could spoil you more is by buying you all Ferrero Rocher.

If you enjoy these tracks you should be able to get them here and here.
There's a short but informative wikipedia entry here.

Did you miss me?

I’m back and fully chilled after a week away so what’s been happening while I’ve been gone? I’ve spent the last couple of days catching up with some of my favourite blogs and Teenage Kicks is going from strength to strength but the rest of the world’s gone mad. Davy H seems to have started something with his Toto post. Now the Tutu Vicar is posting Asia and the Alan Parsons Project. Guy’s, I’ve got something worse that I genuinely used to like but I’m not going to spoil my first post in over a week – just be afraid, it’s only a few days away.

Meanwhile, JC is blogging whilst on holiday!! The idea of even suggesting that to my other half fills me with dread, hence my enforced silence.

I’ve got a treat for you today – a song I always associate with hangovers and Mike Read. Readers of a certain age in the UK will remember he was the Radio One breakfast DJ in the early eighties. I remember hearing this song several times in a semi-conscious state and never catching the name of the band. Eventually I found out it was Today (or possibly Today Today) by Cowboys International. To this day I haven’t managed to get a copy of it. What I do have is a re-recorded version that was given away as a bonus single with Cowboys International main man Ken Lockie’s solo album The Impossible and it’s a classic piece of new wave pop with kitchen sink production – strings, a harp, brass, harmonies etc all supporting the catchiest melody you’re likely to hear this year. From memory it sounds pretty much like the original. If you haven’t heard it before it reminds me of the Lightning Seeds. Oh, and it’s a great summer song too.