Alternative Versions – #18

Kung Fu (live at the Wireless 2008) – Ash (2008, Echo Records, Taken from ‘1977 Collectors Edition’)

Kung Fu (Album Version) – Ash (1996, Infectious Records, Taken from ‘1977’)

The ‘Live at the Wireless’ album by Ash is rather marvellous.  It was originally released in 1997 about a year or so after ‘1977’ came out and is a live gig that the band did in Australia that was broadcast live on air.   I remember buying a copy on vinyl from a record shop just off the Charing Cross Road.  It has one of the best starts of any album ever.  A mike crackles and suddenly an Irish voice blurts out “Hey, We’re fucking Ash”

and just before the guitars kick in, another voice (the radio show host) can be (just about) heard to say

“Oh, Dear god, no”. 

Then you get some heavy breathing and then ‘Kung Fu’ just explodes into life.  It is incredible and considering it’s a live album, full of raw vocals, and at times tinny and badly recorded, that is a very rare thing.  

I love ‘Kung Fu’ I think its probably my favourite song by Ash.  I love the fact that they used the picture of Eric Cantona kicking that football thug on the cover of the single, I love the sampled thwacking noises at the start of it, I love the way the chorus sticks in your mind long after it has finished, all of it is brilliant. 

But there is just something about the wireless live version that I adore more than all that.  Maybe it’s the fact that its played at breakneck speed, maybe it’s the sheer raw energy that revolves around it.  So, with two days to go, the gap closes back to just one point – Alternatives 8 – Originals 9

Ash were tremendous live when they were touring ‘1977’ I saw them at the Town and Country Club in London and came away clutching the head of a cardboard Darth Vader, like it was my most prized possession, which, considering it had been launched into the crowd about ten minutes earlier and then ripped to pieces like it was a piece of meat thrown to some hungry dogs, it clearly wasn’t – yet I took a boot to the back of leg to get that Darth Vader head.   24 hours later I’d left it on Chris’ sofa, never to be seen again.

There are a bunch of other great versions of Ash songs on the ‘Wireless’ album, including these two blasts of brilliance : –

Oh Yeah (Live at the Wireless) – Ash (2008, Echo Records, Taken from ‘1977 Collectors Edition’)

Goldfinger (Live at the Wireless) – Ash (2008, Echo Records, Taken from ‘1977 Collectors Edition’)

The ‘1977 Collectors Edition’ is as it happens a thing of beauty as well.  It gives you 65 Ash songs spread out over nearly four hours, as well as the Live at the Wireless album you get a bunch of tracks recorded at the Reading Festival in 1996, a load of old B Sides, cover versions and early demos and stuff. 

Stuff like this

Girl from Mars (4 Track – Demo) – Ash

Jack Names the Planets (La La Land 7” Version) – Ash

(Both taken from the 2008 ‘1977 Collectors Edition’)

Tomorrow – Death in Vegas

A Month all about Names – #13 – Jack

Glass Smash Jack – EMF (1995, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘Cha Cha Cha’)

Let’s rewind the clocks today to 1995 and listen to ‘Cha Cha Cha’ the third studio album by EMF and look in particular to the last track, ‘Glass Smash Jack’.  Right at the start, you can clearly hear Stephen Fry introduce the song in his best General Melchett voice before EMF come in with their trademark half shouty sing/speak tracks that is accompanied by some crashing guitars, thumping drums and jerky synth sounds. 

With about two minutes left, the guitars stop crashing and the drums stop thumping and all that is left are little sampled bleeps and stuff and suddenly rather unexpectedly the voice of Stephen Fry then begins to read a poem of sorts, it kind of sounds like Fry is reading it in time to the music.  Then it all dies down and that is that.  It will never be a question in any pub music quiz that I go to but should it ever come up, the answer to the question “Who is the last person to speak on the third EMF album?” is Stephen Fry, the erstwhile semi reclusive comedian and actor and renowned hater of singing (he famously said in interview that he has a voice like a drain and will rarely, if ever, sing  in public – although saying that he does it all the time on ‘I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue’)

It of course begs the question.  How on earth did EMF or their people for that matter persuade Stephen Fry to guest on their third album?  In 1995, Fry would have been a big star, it was just before he made the film ‘Wilde’ but he would have been well known to fans of Blackadder or A bit of Fry and Laurie (talking of which the sketch in which Fry and Laurie send up Countdown remains to this day the funniest thing that BBC 2 has ever shown).  The mind well and truly boggles.  It is without doubt one of the most bizarre cameos in musical history.

Loads of tracks in the music library that have ‘Jack’ in the title, here are a four of them, starting with Parquet Courts Tribute band Bodega and the tremendous ‘Jack In Titanic’, which is taken from their also tremendous debut album ‘Endless Scroll’.

Jack In Titanic – Bodega (2018, What’s Your Rupture? Records, Taken from ‘Endless Scroll’)

Next up, some early Ash

Jack Names The Planets – Ash  (1994, Homegrown Records, Taken from ‘Trailer’) – when Ash first burst on the scene, nearly 30 years ago (and that will make some of you feel utterly ancient, the fact that Tim Wheeler is 45 years old worries me deeply, because it means I am nearly 50) they were one of the most exciting bands to have emerged in years.

Next up, some very early Mark E Smith

Fiery Jack – The Fall (1979, Step-forward Records, Taken from ‘Dragnet’) – which was according to Sounds magazine, the sound of The Fall jumping head first into the world of rockabilly.  They also said it was ‘practically perfect’, which it isn’t, although it is very good in a typically ramshackle way.

Next up, bringing it full circle, we will end with another Stephen

Amberjack – Stephen Malkmus (2020, Matador Records, Taken from ‘Traditional Techniques’) – which sees rocks greatest Stephen (yes he is, face facts, other Stephen’s, and you never know that might actually be a series on day – ‘Stephens in Rock’) embrace folk music and do it remarkably well.

On Monday Diane who may well cruise down Rober Street

The One Word Countdown – #42

This Keeps Happening….

Someday – The Strokes (2001, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘Is This it?’)

Points 101

By strange quirk of fate, ‘Is This It?’ is getting the Nearly Perfect Album treatment at the weekend (sorry spoiler!) so apologies for the Strokes overload over the next couple of days.  So you can read all about why that record – and this track for that matter is so good then. 

‘Someday’ was the last song to reach the magical 100 points figure because up until the last vote came in, the Strokes sat just outside the Top 50 but then it received its highest placing of all and that bumped it up the chart a bit.  It is about where it should be if you ask me.  High enough to recognise the importance and the impact of The Strokes over the last 20 years, but low enough so it doesn’t look silly – besides there are plenty of other songs higher than this which will do that.

‘Someday’ is I think one of the more poppier tracks on ‘Is This It?’, and it is perhaps kind of obvious why the band decided to release it as a single some eighteen months after the band had dropped the first album.  It is a very friendly record, and if you ask me it has a hint of the ‘It’s Not Unusual’ about it, although I can’t quite see Julian Casablancas swivelling his hips as the crazy ass drums kick in.  For a starter Julian Casablancas, at the time, at least, wore jeans that were at least two sizes too skinny for him and swivelling anything in those would have probably meant a double hernia operation and six months off touring.

There were at least two other Strokes tracks that were in running for selection the first one, was on the list for some time until I shelved it quite late on.

Reptilla – The Strokes (2003, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘Room on Fire’).  ‘Reptilla was the second single to be released from the second Strokes album ‘Room on Fire’ and is one of their finest moments.

Juicebox – The Strokes (2003, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘First Impressions of Earth’) which caused a little bit of controversy when it first reached the shelves because MTV (or whichever equivalent it was back then) refused to play the video due to some perceived sexual content (it features a DJ getting off by being urinated on, if I remember rightly).  It also remains to this day The Strokes biggest hit in the UK.   It was also the first Strokes song to enter the American Top 100.  It is remarkable how much more successful The Strokes were in the UK when compared to their homeland.

There are an awful lot of awful records that are called ‘Someday’.  Nickelback, M People and OneRepublic have all recorded songs with that title, but we don’t want to go there.  Instead, here are two songs called ‘Someday’ by two acts that have already featured in the lower echelons of the countdown.

Someday – Ash (2001, Infectious Records, Taken from ‘Free All Angels’) – Ash of course received ‘No Votes’ with ‘Goldfinger’.

Someday – Kylie Minogue (2003, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘Body Language’) – Kylie finished 58th with ‘Slow’.

The Great One Word Title Countdown – The Nil Point List

Paparazzi – Lady Gaga (2009, Interscope Records)

Ever felt unloved?  Ever felt like the world hated you? Ever felt like if someone was asked to make a choice between punching either you or Piers Morgan in the face, that they would choose you? Ever been accused of pooing in your dads slippers, when it was clearly the puppy sitting next to the slippers with a smug grin on its face…..?

Welcome then to the Nil Point List.

The Nil Point List contains all the songs on The Great One Word Title Countdown that didn’t pick up a single point from any of Musical Jury.  Songs that were laughed at, ignored, ridiculed, thrown out with the bath water and then made to shop at Primark until they never darkened our doors ever again. 

Songs, that even now after nine days of assessing the final results, sorting them into tables, checking the votes and then rechecking just be to be absolutely sure that I hadn’t missed anything I still can’t quite understand how no one voted for them because they are all stone cold classics. 

Maybe I accidentally sent the list out in Russian or something.  Who knows?

Until we do, let’s look at five unloved One Word Titles, starting with the tune at the top ‘Paparazzi’ by Lady Gaga.  I’ll be honest there were two reasons why ‘Paparazzi’ was on the list, firstly is because it’s a great record, although it plays second fiddle to ‘Poker Face’ and ‘Bad Romance’ in Gaga classics.  The main reason though is when compiling this list, the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa made Gaga cry was on Channel 4 and it’s hilarious and therefore Gaga had to be included.

Yeah (Crass Mix) – LCD Soundsystem (2004, DFA Records)

 I know. The fact LCD Soundsystem didn’t get a single point in this hugely scientific and groundbreaking contest only confirms that those that did are brilliant songs and that your ears are going to be in for a proper treat over the next few months.  Well that or the Jury don’t have a fucking clue what they are talking about.  I very nearly ripped up the results and cheated when I found this out.

Goldfinger – Ash (1995, Infectious Records)

I mean I really don’t know.  Perhaps the Jury all simultaneously read ‘Gold Digger’ by Kanye West and simply avoided it.  Although that would mean ignoring the fact that a) Gold Digger is two words and that another Kanye West song was also on the list (but – spoiler – didn’t do very well either, although better than Ash did).  Again, I very nearly cheated.

Strasbourg – The Rakes (2004, Mercury Records)

You know that time where you pop a song onto a list because you know that one of the jury loves the song and you are utterly convinced that they at least will give it some points.  Well, they didn’t.

Dreamer – Livin’ Joy (1994, MCA Records)

One of (I think) seven records to reach number one that were on the long list and easily the best of them all.  A personal favourite of both Mrs SWC and Mini SWC and it didn’t get a single point. You may as well go down to local blind school and hide all their sticks you heartless bastards.

The Never Ending Playlist – Week #5

22. Shining Light – Ash (2001, Infectious Records, Taken from ‘Free All Angels’)

After receiving rather mixed reviews for ‘Nu-Clear Sounds’, their second album, Ash, sensed commercial decline.  Fearing their careers were over before they reached 22, they returned to their native Northern Ireland and effectively went back to basics.  The result was a clear and resounding success.  Gone was the disjointed, overly heavy, unfriendly garage rock sound that the band explored on ‘Nu-Clear Sounds and in its place was a return to the radio friendly indie power pop brilliance of their earlier work. 

Which was excellent news.  Only the news was unexpectedly better, because the third album ‘Free All Angels’ was bigger, more janglier and more tuneful than anything that they had recorded before or afterwards for that matter.   It went to the top of the UK album charts, spurned five Top 40 singles and charted across the world.  Take that commercial decline. 

It was kind of inevitable really. ‘Shining Light’ is textbook Ash.  Addictive power pop with a huge chorus designed to conquer festivals, indie discos and every radio station from here to Alaska.  It is a straightforward enough love song that reminds us that when things are bad we always have the good times and the good things are brilliant.  It stormed into the Top Ten and Ash were one of the biggest bands on the planet again.

Here is one of the B Sides should you wish to listen to it

Warmer Than Fire – Ash (2001, Infectious Records) – Actually a cover version of a song by instantly forgotten indie band Little Hell (so forgettable that Songwhip has precisely zero links to their songs)

The Ramshackle Brilliance of the Chart Show Indie Chart #1

The indie chart rundown on Saturday Lunchtime Music Programme ‘The Chart Show’ was brilliantly ramshackle and had a real cobbled together feel to it, bands names were often spelt wrong, the wrong videos were played for the wrong songs, the snippets that appeared on the screen would seem to be made up – for example

When he is not performing on stage, singer Robert Smith likes hot air ballooning over Cheshire, walking his poodle Trevor and challenging his wife to a jaffa cake eating contest”.

But it was for about five minutes every three Saturdays, indie music heaven and some genius has plopped a load of these on You Tube, if I had a hat, I would tip in your direction Sir.

What I thought would be fun is to select a random Chart Show Indie Top Ten, obviously I can’t show the videos – but I can talk about the music that features within the You Tube Clips if that makes sense ….I’ve started with the chart from March 11th 1995. 

So cue the weird fairground horse carousel montage that they used to introduce the chart……

The first three records are all going down the chart and we are treated to about ten seconds of each before a big FFWD button speeds them off.  They are all by acts who start with an E.  Eat Static are at ten, and looking by them, they have probably ingested a fair few E’s of the own, they are replaced by Edwyn Collins who is replaced by this

Waking Up – Elastica (1995, Deceptive Records)

After Elastica is another band who start with an E.  Eight Story Window.  Now in 1995, I was all over the music scene, I was at the time probably arranging gigs and I was definitely receiving around thirty different records a week to review for the student rag.  I have never heard of Eight Story Window, not then and not now.  Why the Chart Show played this I have no idea.  Songwhip appear to have nothing by Eight Story Window so I can’t post anything by them –  but I can guarantee you wouldn’t have liked it anyway.  

After about two minutes ‘I Will’ by Eight Story Window is booted (that by the way is the most press that Eight Story Window have had in 26 years) and they are replaced briefly by ‘No More Affairs’ by Tindersticks, which is going up the chart, it doesn’t stop it getting the boot after about eight seconds where it is replaced by

Rattled By The Rush – Pavement (1995, Matador Records)

Which is also going up the chart but we only get to hear ten seconds or so before that too is booted for another climber.  I mean they could have played that or indeed the track at four instead of Eight Story bloody Window.  The song at number four is

Kung Fu – Ash (1995, Infectious Records)

As you will see as this series progresses, Ash and Pavement would appear to be indie’s Poison because they seem to be on every single indie chart run down that I’ve watched.  Even when they have stopped releasing records.

After nine seconds, ‘Kung Fu’ gets the heave ho and is replaced with number 3 which is

Solitary Party Groover – Drugstore (1995, Roadrunner Records)

Which again is going up but is not played.  Drugstore were very much underrated and are much missed around these parts. 

When I watched this video for the first time, I was genuinely excited by what could be in the top two – this is March 1995, the height of the all conquering Britpop, surely we are getting Oasis or Pulp or Blur (or the ones signed to an indie at least)….Nope we are getting Salad.   And not good Salad either – and I’m fairly sure by the time this was released Salad were signed to a major.  

Drink the Elixir – Salad (1995, Island Records)

Which thankfully leaves the screen quickly and ushers in the Number 1 indie record and again its massively disappointing.  Britpop Boo Radleys were not a great thing.  I think even they would agree with me.

Wake Up Boo – Boo Radleys (1995, Creation)

They get the full video treatment the snippets tell us that Sice from the band likes being thrown over the edge of Niagara Falls in a barrel and that Martin Carr is a Morris Dancer at the weekend and then it too is fast forwarded and something by The Corrs come on.