If the various lockdowns hadn’t have happened, I might not be writing about this song now. The thing is, until the end of 2020, I can’t recall ever having heard it. That’s when, twiddling my thumbs at home, because we were in some Tier or another that meant all the pubs were shut, I was idly scrolling through Facebook when a “Suggested For You” item took my attention.
The Synth World Cup: Forgotten 80-84 was the title of what turned out to be a very interesting group and concept. What was being planned to start early in 2021 was a knockout competition involving a few hundred synth tunes that had never made the UK Top 40. Even better than that, there were YouTube playlists including at least 95% of the nominated tracks so that members of the group could listen prior to voting. All of this organised by a guy called Jeremy who lives in the South-West and has subsequently gone on to run a series of club nights called Computer World down there.
With these playlists featuring everything from near-misses by artists who did have some hits to stuff that was really obscure, and all stations in between, the quality level varied significantly. What I got from it, on a number of occasions, was a “Crikey, that was good, I wonder why I’ve never heard it before” moment. Which is where this comes in.
I can’t recall ever noticing that Japan’s bass player had made a solo album after the group’s demise. I was familiar with a single he recorded with Midge Ure in 1983 (After A Fashion), and I’d heard something by the band Dali’s Car, with which he teamed up with Peter Murphy of Bauhaus – although I wasn’t sure at the time who from each of the bands was actually in that outfit! There were a number of other works that also passed me by, prior to Karn’s death from cancer in January 2011.
Sensitive reached the dizzy heights of #98. It probably wasn’t an obvious fit for radio play, but I like its general mood and somehow or another I do find myself singing bits of it for some time after I’ve heard it. It’s possibly the song I’ve played most over the last couple of years, since I discovered it.
I was surprised to discover when researching this piece that the aforementioned After A Fashion only reached #39 in 1983. This is a track I have played frequently over the last 40 years and is another that seems to get lodged in my head whenever I hear it. So, as a bonus, here’s a link to that as well.
There may well be other discoveries and tracks from the Synth World Cup: Forgotten 80-84 making it into this series. You could say it partly inspired the series. For the record, Sensitive made it as far as the 3rd Round and the overall winner was the rather splendid Let Me Go by Heaven 17. The group continues on Facebook, albeit under a slightly different name and no World Cups currently taking place. It’s a group that has led me in a number of directions and rekindled my interest in B-Movie among others. Here’s a link if you’re interested.
Another Saturday, another visit to Manchester’s Albert Hall. Also another visit to the Pizza Express on King Street, sitting somewhat incongruously among the high-end eateries in that area, such as Gotham, Rosso and other places where you may encounter the less publicity-shy Premier League footballer or soap star. Oh, and Gordon Ramsay appears to be opening a place there at some point, as well.
This time it’s to see Peter Hook & The Light. We’ve seen them a couple of times before at Rewind North, an 80s retro fest that takes place 6-7 miles north of chez TGG. So it’s rude not to go – it’s almost like a local party in the park given the number of people we know from our town who we see there. Hooky and his band have impressed when we’ve seen them. Then again, when others on the bill include someone who used to be in Five Star (One Star?)…. In fairness, it’s a mix of cheesy (ideal for queuing up for food), half-decent and people I would (and do) go and see perform their own gigs.
There are those that dismiss acts such as Peter Hook & The Light and From The Jam as glorified tribute bands. You may well agree with that point of view, and I understand that argument. I take a more generous view, though, that such acts are offering a chance to see a full set of songs from those classic bands with at least one person who was actually involved with the original recordings. I would of course like to see New Order if they were to tour again (*1), but I can’t see The Jam reforming any time soon.
This performance is the third of three consecutive nights at the Albert Hall. On Thursday, they performed Unknown Pleasures and Movement and on Friday it was Closer and Power, Corruption & Lies. I quite fancied Thursday, but a combination of work commitments due to the financial year-end and Mrs TGGs unfamiliarity with the finer points of both albums led us to the sell-out Saturday show where they were to play both of the Substance albums from Joy Division & New Order.
This meant that we knew the set list in advance, and with the New Order album definitely getting more play in our house, I did have to double-check the Joy Division running order. Handily, I did get an email with the running orders and what was included in the encore during the course of the day! I guess it’s useful for those who drink a lot at a gig and can’t remember what they’ve heard, and also a useful aide memoire for someone who wants to write about it afterwards. For the record, I rarely drink alcohol at a music event – largely because I’m a picky real ale drinker and most venues don’t sell anything I like.
The first set is pretty no-nonsense. Straight on stage, a quick “it’s good to be home” and then on with Warsaw. There are pauses only for dedications prior to Transmission and Atmosphere – the former for Tony Wilson and the latter for Nora Forster. All too soon, we reach the end of the set with a song who’s intro always gives me goose bumps – Love Will Tear Us Apart. You don’t really need me to tell you the response it gets from the audience.
After what I recall was only around a 15 minute break, the band are back out to work their way through the somewhat lengthier New Order set. There’s certainly a greater element of the crowd joining in with the songs here – I put it down to a combination of alcohol consumption and familiarity. Everything is delivered in an energetic way and Hooky is taking a regular wipe of the forehead with a towel. The nature of the Albert Hall does mean that it gets a lot warmer in there as the evening progresses – I know the same can be said of many venues, but it seems more noticeable here. We reach the encores and as well as the published Regret and Crystal, we also get Vanishing Point.
Gig over, milking the applause. Hooky takes his shirt off. He’s ten years older than me, but I have a lot to do if my physique is to be as good as that at 67. He then throws the shirt into the crowd. Mrs TGG tries to work out how many people will leave with a piece of that very sweaty shirt.
All in all, an enjoyable evening. We knew what we were getting and the band delivered. What it did allow was a chance to see how the sound of early Joy Division evolved into the New Order mid-80s style, courtesy of them being played by the same group of musicians in chronological order in a live setting. It also struck me (and I’ve no idea why it hasn’t before) that all the way through there’s been a focus on simplistic song titles, with very few having more than a couple of words.
Here’s some old footage of them doing Transmission.
(*1) On and off, it’s taken me a couple of days to write this piece, during which time I’ve learned that New Order have announced some UK dates later in the year. Nearest so far is Leeds, but if anything closer to home is announced and we’re free on the date in question, I may end up doing a bit of compare and contrast.
Saturday 1st April 2023, chez TGG, sometime before the City v Liverpool match. “You’re not seriously going to wear that. I thought you’d chucked it out. Where’s it been? Does it even fit you?” Mrs TGG was once again taking a dim view of my antics. Incurring her wrath on this occasion was the fact that I had not, as she supposed, disposed of an old T-shirt that she was never very fond of. A band T-shirt. One that I acquired back in 1990. More than that, I planned to wear it that evening whilst watching said band at the Albert Hall in Manchester. The offending item was (and still is) a fading yellow T-shirt with a crazy cow’s head on it and the legend “MOO!” printed underneath. Yes – we were off to see Inspiral Carpets.
This was their first tour since 2015, their first tour without drummer Craig Gill, who sadly passed away in 2016.This was them back in Manchester for the first time since December 2015, at what is a great venue. It’s the sort of place that can generate an amazing atmosphere (most recently experienced by me when watching Sparks there just under 12 months ago). More into, if you’re unfamiliar with it:
The good news was that the T-shirt does still fit me – I tried it on more in hope than expectation if I’m honest, but that was it, my mind was set and even continued grumblings from my other half weren’t going to stop me.
We arrived in good time and were near the front of the inevitable queue that snakes along Peter Street, up on to Bootle Street and beyond. We also spotted Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, in the vicinity – hadn’t realised he was a fan, but I suppose by the law of averages there must be some politicians who have reasonable taste in music.
The doors opened at 7pm and once inside, DJ Dave Sweetmore was already on stage playing a mix of 80s and 90s classics that fitted the evening, mostly from Manchester-based acts.
Support act Stanleys were on at 7:45pm. They are from Wigan – as both they and Dave Sweetmore mentioned to us. They were a good fit. Jaunty indie-style music that wasn’t pushing any boundaries, but was pleasant enough to listen to. They played what they said was a new song called Maybe, which I liked, but I can’t find a YouTube link to it, so you’ve got this instead.
After that DJ Dave was back, ramping up the popularity level of the tunes as we headed towards the 9pm arrival of Clint Boon and co.
A chorus of “Moo”‘s greeted the band as they walked out on stage and off they went, launching into early single Joe to get things under way. The 17 song main set and 3 song encore leaned towards their earlier output, although all 3 singles from 1994’s Devil Hopping made an appearance and one track from the 2015 comeback album as well. The latter (Let You Down) had a recording of Dr. John Cooper Clarke played in and from the former, the barnstorming I Want You had the words from Mark E. Smith as part of the intro.
What was apparent as the evening progressed was the reaction from the crowd, which was getting more and more boisterous. This was clearly finding its way to the band. Clint Boon said that when he first went to a gig at the Albert Hall, he was regretting that the Inspirals would never play there, but now it had actually happened it was a great experience, and one can only assume was exceeding his expectations. This was certainly becoming a superb homecoming gig.
The closer for the main set was Dragging Me Down, one of their better-known songs and one which was performed with oomph by both band and crowd alike. The band departed and guess what – there was a lot more Moo-ing from the crowd. Of course there would be. Even the video screen at the back of the stage kept displaying the word. Until suddenly it didn’t. Suddenly Craig Gill’s image appeared and there was film footage of him in happier times, with “Craig Gill 1971-2016” displayed at the bottom. You can only imagine the reaction from the crowd.
The band reappeared and announced that there would be a guest drummer for the first song of the encore (Commercial Rain) – Craig’s son, Levon. He came on, drumsticks in hand, did a “Manchester!” shout to the mike and took his place on the drum stool. He did his old man proud – the drumming gene has been passed down. What a great, and emotional, reception he received when he stepped down.
Next in the encore was a cover of 96 Tears (as included on their 1988 Planecrash EP) and a shout out to local radio personality Mike Sweeney, a long-time supporter of the band. They rounded off with the soaring Saturn 5, singing-along levels so loud that it’s a wonder that the venue still has its stained glass windows fully intact.
I’d expected a good night, but this was great, and once again the Albert Hall’s unique environment had contributed to the experience. We skipped the after show party at the Deaf Institute (I still have my unused wristband that I was handed whilst queuing), where Clint Boon was going to be doing a DJ set, and demonstrating commendable levels of energy. Mrs TGG had an 8am start on Sunday and as out-of-towners, we travel in via Metrolink from the Park & Ride at East Didsbury. Sadly the later trams never started up again after Covid.
I hope they won’t leave it too long before touring again as I could really do with another night like that. I’ll leave you with Commercial Rain and some old footage.
I was going to call this series The Underachievers, but that almost felt like it was being critical of someone, be it artist, record company or even the Great British Record-Buying Public. That isn’t what I’m trying to do. It’s meant to be more a celebration of songs I’ve liked over the years, but which, at their initial time of release at least, didn’t capture the hearts and minds of too many other folks.
To qualify, a song must have:
a) been released as a single in the UK
b) failed to make the UK Top 40 Singles chart – ever (unless I make an exception and allow a very low Top 40 placing)
c) been feted by me to various people over the years – with reactions ranging from “I can see why no-one bought it” to “did you know they’re still together – fancy seeing them?”, and most stations in between.
And so to #1…
Around 15 years ago, there was a flurry of 80s Lyric Quiz things flying around the office. These generally had some of the more interesting excerpts of songs from that decade that we were then invited to guess. Obviously most were taken from the well-known material that is still played on retro stations around three times a day (so I’m told – I rely on people who are subjected to this sort of stuff in their workplaces to keep me abreast of such developments. I’m so glad I work from home apart from a couple of days per month).
One lyrical excerpt I’d love to have seen in one of those quizzes was: “and when I die, will you build the Taj Mahal, wear black every day of your life – I doubt it”. It certainly beats the vast majority of the lyrics that did make the cut. But it wasn’t there, because it comes from a ditty that only ever got to #51 in 1989, and that was via a re-recording after two earlier peaks of #87 (1986) and #86 (1987). All of these were released on Chrysalis, but there was an earlier 1986 release on Backs Records. It seems there were others out there who really believed in this one, not just me. Looking at Discogs, I seem to have the 1986 Chrysalis version, which is reassuring, because that’s what my memory was telling me. Wikipedia seems to recall it slightly differently however, noting only the Backs release in 1986, and not the Chrysalis one that I actually have. I know this because the 1987 release had a different sleeve.
The band were formed in Cambridge in 1985 and the name I always associate with them is that of Boo Hewerdine, who wrote the song along with Tony Shepherd. Hewerdine has gone on to have a lengthy solo career, and my recollection is that there has been significant acclaim for his solo output, although I must confess to not having explored it too deeply.
Would that solo career have happened in quite the same way if Graceland and subsequent singles had fared better sales-wise?
For me, Graceland sounded a little Smiths-y, which is probably what drew me to it in the first place – and may well have turned others off it. I think it’s the pick of The Bible’s output prior to their break-up in 1989 (they have reformed twice since then and appear to be an entity at the time of writing). It lags well behind later single, Honey Be Good, in terms of Spotify plays though, which surprised me. Of course mentioning the word Graceland in 1986/7 would have prompted people to mention the then current Paul Simon album of that name, whose global success far eclipsed this humble track. I like both, but given the choice of only playing the one, this wins hands down.
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I’m fairly sure I was aware of The Go-Betweens before I landed at Uni in 1984. Aware of their existence, that is. I was reading enough of the music press to be aware of many bands from whom I’d heard no output – indeed in some cases, I probably still haven’t. But as I recall it, the press coverage around The Go-Betweens had always been fairly positive.
Therefore, I was rather delighted one day when browsing the Uni radio station record library, looking for something that I’d decided to play, when I stumbled across The Go-Betweens’ debut album, Send Me A Lullaby. Not that I realised at that point that it was their debut. I found some spare studio time to give it a listen at some point and quite enjoyed it, but no more than that. Nevertheless, it was good to see an album from a couple of years earlier released on Rough Trade in the collection, as there were still plenty of prog-rock loving Engineering students around, and the record library reflected this.
My next recollection of hearing The Go-Betweens was when I Just Get Caught Out appeared on an EP that came free with Sounds (research tells me this was on 28th February 1987). According to the sleeve notes, this had been specially recorded for the EP. This was the second track on the B-side of said EP, following offerings from The Cult, The Fall and The Adult Net (who may also feature in this series at some point). For a free EP, it was one of the better ones I’d acquired in this manner, but it was track B2 that I kept going back to for another listen.
That version of I Just Get Caught Out was not the version that ended up on their next album, Tallulah, which is a shame as I prefer it. But that album and follow-up, 16 Lovers Lane, cemented The Go-Betweens as the sort of band I’d enthuse about to other people – usually to complete indifference. I re-listened to Send Me A Lullaby and got a lot more from it this time, and I investigated the albums in between that I’d missed.
And then they only went and split. How dare they? I’d only just got into them. I felt royally cheated.
So that is why, upon learning of a debut solo release from Grant McLennan around 18 months later, I rushed out to purchase the album, without having heard anything from it. I can’t fully recall what the 25 year-old TGG was expecting from the album – I imagine it would have been something that picked up where The Go-Betweens left off. Listening to it now, it doesn’t exactly do that, and I guess that’s what I thought back then as well. The difference is that now I can appreciate the album on its own merits, but in 1991, in the context of the relatively recent demise of The Go-Betweens, I’m not entirely sure I would have been capable of doing that.
It’s certainly one that following the initial flurry of plays after buying it, didn’t trouble the cassette player of the Fiat Uno I had at the time. That, I think is the reason that I was keen to revisit this so early in this series. Basically, I don’t think I was mature enough to appreciate an album like this at that time.
The one song I did remember from the album without any prompting was “Haven’t I Been A Fool”, the first single taken from it, I now learn. I was however a little surprised that my memory had failed me, as I thought it was the lead track, but it isn’t – it’s the second track on side 1. This is one that I had added to a couple of playlists on Spotify as for whatever reason, it has stayed in my head despite not playing it for a number of years. The first track is actually Word Gets Around, which is a decent way to kick things off.
Listening through the album, the track Black Mule had me singing along to it well before the end, dredged from somewhere in the back of my brain – did I actually play this album more than I’d realised? Listening now, the standout track is Easy Come, Easy Go, which bizarrely, I had absolutely no recollection of whatsoever. This was also apparently a single. Once I’d played the album in its entirety, I went back and picked out favourite tracks for a further listen – all of the above plus Sally’s Revolution and Putting The Wheels Back On (which has surprisingly few plays on the aforementioned streaming service).
Overall then I was pleased to have revisited Watershed. It was never going to be a replacement for a new Go-Betweens album back in 1991 and if I did expect that perhaps it was me being the fool, but there is enough of their sound there (not really a shock), whilst to me, it does go somewhere slightly different.
What I didn’t do was purchase any further Grant McLennan solo albums – they have now joined the lengthy Things I Need To Listen To list (which exists only in my head – were I to write it down, I fear it would be a never-ending task). I was however fully on board for the Go-Betweens reunion in 2000, until Grant’s untimely death in 2006.
And what of Robert Forster? Somehow his pre-millennium solo output had avoided my radar until I started fact-checking this article. Guess what’s also now on that very long list.
There wasn’t meant to be such a long gap between the Taking Stock post and this one. Life.
I notice the colour on my photo isn’t the best – that’s down to me taking a shot in poor light rather than having left the cassette exposed to bright sunlight for a number of years!
After setting up this page as long ago as 2017, it took until the 19th December 2022 before I actually posted anything on it. I’ve had plenty of ideas and created numerous lists over the five year gap. I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to start typing that evening, but I have found that stationing myself at the PC in the titular study and listening to and writing about music and various linked experiences has been quite helpful in coping with a number of stresses, including the ongoing situation with my mother’s health.
After a break during the second half of January, when I was routinely falling asleep at the times when I’d wanted to type something, I was glad to get back to it. What also pleased me was that visitor numbers actually increased upon my return, which was not what I’d been expecting at all. However, I feel that the quality of recent posts hasn’t perhaps been that great, and one or two pieces have felt like a bit of a chore when I was writing them. This seems to be borne out in visitor numbers, which have dropped off a cliff since the beginning of March. Not that I can complain – I’ve not been visiting my usual blog haunts that much in the last month or so either. I’m writing this primarily for myself, as a way of formalising my thoughts and memories about music, but I’d like to think I can do that in a way which others find entertaining. There are a couple of recent posts that I can barely re-read myself, so why should I expect anyone else to look at them?
So where to go after 18 posts and 21 YouTube links?
I have listened to another Cassette Album, so that is most likely the next thing I will write about, and I made a lot of notes whilst listening. I’m not sure if everything will make the cut, but it was one I picked out as something that I really wanted to revisit after a long time of not playing it, so I do want to do it justice.
There will be some more Seen ‘Em Live – including a couple that I’m really looking forward to writing about if the gigs are half as good as I’m hoping they will be.
I also want to start a new series – The Underachievers. This will focus on records that for whatever reason failed to make the impression in terms of UK Chart position that I feel they should have done. It may be that they did well in other countries or have done well years later or whatever. My blog, my rules as to what constitutes underachievement. Obviously this will be time-locked to the period when I took an interest in what was actually making the Charts, so that will feature music from the 20th Century. I’ve got five song titles noted down so far – and many more in my head.
And then there is what seemed like a good idea at the time – picking something from the Discover Weekly playlist based on matching the date and the number on the list. It had its moments, but last week it threw up a Top 10 hit from 1987. A song I hadn’t consciously heard in 36 years. A song so awful I opted not to share a link or write anything about it. A song that I hope I don’t hear for another 36 years (if I make it that long, I will be 92 and will probably be past caring).
But Discover Weekly will stay with different rules, and it may not necessarily appear every week. My focus with this now will be genuinely on something I haven’t heard before that’s made a positive impression on me and that I feel I want to share. I will be taking into account the full playlist and not just the track that matches the date. Bear in mind I don’t listen to the radio all that much these days, so my knowledge of new stuff is not what it was. My definition of “new” is pretty much anything recorded since 2010! Comments mocking my levels of being out of touch will of course be warmly welcomed. There was a song from 2017 on this week’s list that may feature, but I want to play it a couple more times before I decide.
So after Taking Stock, hopefully there are treasures still unlocked.
At which point Echo & The Bunnymen become the first act to feature twice on the blog.
And so it takes until the 10th of these before a track doesn’t get added to a playlist. I’ll be honest – I like 10cc. I grew up in Manchester and Stockport and so from an early age, saw them as a “local” band. In my twenties, I even drank occasionally in the pub across the road from their Strawberry Studios (where I’m Not In Love was recorded).
I was probably too young to realise that the band had split and that by the time Dreadlock Holiday hit #1 in 1978, two members of the band had already recorded an album of their own. In fact, I’d have been totally stumped if you’d asked me to name any members of the band. But then, I was 12 in 1978 – and I could only name a couple of Sex Pistols because I’d seen their names printed in a suitably frothing-at-the-mouth article in the Daily Mail.
It wasn’t until 1981 and the Top 10 success of Under Your Thumb, that I got to know the names Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. That’s a tune I still like a lot and the cod soul of follow-up Wedding Bells is OK as far as I’m concerned. I purchased their parent album Ismism. If I put it on the turntable today, two tracks would be a lot more crackly than the rest of the album. I’ll leave that there.
I became aware of this track around the tine that Under Your Thumb was being played on the nation’s airwaves. Presumably some enterprising DJ decided our knowledge of the duo needed broadening.
It had been released a couple of years earlier to complete indifference in the UK, but bizarrely made the Top 10 in both Belgium and the Netherlands. For me, it’s an OK song, but I find it slightly irritating – a bit like the occasional 10cc album track. So that’s why it won’t be making its way onto any of my playlists.
This is of course an early example of the video-making that would give Godley & Creme a parallel career.
As a footnote, Lol Creme has recently been playing in the Trevor Horn Band. A group that performs Video Killed The Radio Star, Two Tribes and Owner Of A Lonely Heart without batting an eyelid. Trevor Horn will introduce Creme as “this old specimen” and then the band do a great version of Rubber Bullets. I’ve caught them a couple of times at Rewind North.
Those of you who read #4 in this series will be familiar with a former work colleague who was a major fan of Super Furry Animals (and may well still be, but I haven’t seen or heard from him in 22 years). He and some of the music press of the time, were also swept away with the band who featured at #13 on 13th Feb playlist. To be honest, I didn’t really get it at the time.
I’m not entirely sure I get them now. I did purchase the follow-up single, Bring It On, but it’s spent many years in an inaccessible box, which perhaps tells you how I feel about this band. Nothing wrong with them, but there seemed to be a whole load of hype around them – and they were never seriously going to be the new Blur or Oasis.
As someone who gets ever so slightly obsessed with numbers, this has been added to a playlist of songs that peaked between 31 and 40 (#35 in 1998). It’s pleasant enough, but the hype at the time did the band no favours.
Still playing catch-up with this (and I have things to say about each track so I am going to persevere). This was #6 on the 6th Feb playlist. I don’t intend to say much about the song or the artist, as both will be well-known enough I’d have thought, with the song being a UK #10 hit in 1974.
What I may just need to explain is why it’s ended up on my “Discover” playlist. It’s down to me and the rules I’ve put around the numerous playlists I’ve created. I won’t bore you with all of them, but I’ve limited the number of songs by a particular artist on many, in order to provide variety when I listen. I do chop and change tracks from time to time as well.
My main playlist started out as a simple Top 200 tracks of all time, limited to two per artist. Then it got a bit of mission creep. So much so that the mission blew right off course and it now boasts 1,839 tracks with a maximum limit of five tracks per artist. It’s name is a nod to Douglas Adams: The Increasingly Inaccurately Named Top 1,500. I was going to cap it at 1,500 at one point – then I figured I’d be spending half my life trying to work out what to remove when I realised I’d missed something that I now I really wanted to add.
If you’ve followed my ramblings above, you will have deduced that this does not feature in my top five Stevie Wonder tracks of all time, so it’s not one of the 1,839. I have also never set up a specific ’70s Soul playlist. My wife would probably like that, so maybe it’s one to look into at some point. Luckily, I do have a catch-all for anything that I can’t add to a playlist due to my rules, so it’s joined It Just Don’t Fit – an understandably esoteric collection of tunes.
I did think about listing the top 5 Stevie Wonder tunes, but it might be more fun to have that as another thread and discuss why those are my favourites, along with other artists have made it to five tracks on the master list. I should also reassure you that I Just Called… and Ebony & Ivory are not present.
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