A Month all about Names – #5 – Charlie

Good Grief Charlie Brown – Carter USM (1990, Big Cat Records, Taken from ‘101 Damnations’)

This week wasn’t supposed to be all about cartoon characters, it just seems to have turned out that way (so far).   Anyway, Charlie Brown is, for those of you who live under rocks, the hero (is he a hero, or a bit of a loser?) of the comic strip ‘Peanuts’ that has graced various media outlets since November 1950.  When he was first introduced Charlie Brown was four years old.  He made it to his eighth birthday by 1963 and has stayed that age ever since.   He is of course the owner of Snoopy, a white beagle who is prone to wearing sunglasses and being associated with TShirts that suggest that a dog wearing shades is just about the pinnacle of being cool.  Is not cool, it is just cruel and Charlie Brown should probably be banned from keeping pets if he is going to just plonk shades on their face and let them wander off willy nilly. 

He is also the worst baseball coach in the history of baseball coaches.  If no one minds I’ll skirt over the fact that Coldplay also have a song called ‘Charlie Brown’ – I’ve listened to it so that you don’t have to – and its garbage, you can thank me later.

‘Good Grief, Charlie Brown’ is a track from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine’s debut album ‘101 Damnations’.  It is a sort of play on the fact that “Good Grief” was Charlie Brown’s catchphrase and the inevitable cartoon series usually ended each episode with him saying it after some form of comedic event had unfurled hilariously.

‘101 Damnations’ is a strange beast, because unlike its successor, the quintessential, nearly perfect ’30 Something’, it hasn’t aged that well and its nowhere near as much fun.  It’s also not as polished as ‘1992: The Love Album’ but it doesn’t matter hugely because it still has something of a naïve, DIY charm and it still contains songs of such anthemic quality that you can pogo yourself stupid to them in your lounge and not feel remotely self conscious about it. 

There is a whole host of Charlie (and various differently spelt versions of that) songs in my music library.  Here are just three.  The first two are from different ends of the indie pop spectrum.  Colour TV’s ‘Charlie’ is an absolute indie pop monster.  The sort of track that just nibbles away at your earbuds quietly until you find yourself humming it for the next three days.  It is all kinds of brilliant but I’ve told you all that before.  

Charlie – Colour TV (2021, Tip Top Recordings, Taken from ‘Is That You’)

The second one is from New York’s Bodega and it is a deeply personal sort of track about a friend who drowned.  There are poignant lyrics about a body being “covered in leaves” and it ends with the sound of someone coughing and the gentle lapping of waves against a shore.  Its marvellous.

Charlie – Bodega (2018, What’s Your Rupture Records, Taken from ‘Endless Scroll’)

And finally one from the alternative spelling crowd, its controversial, public information advert sampling, rave behemoth ‘Charly’ by the Prodigy.  It comes from a time before they went all heavy rave metal and still wore stupid hats and did gigs in abandoned warehouses on rural Essex industrial estates.   It’s infuriatingly brilliant and is considered now by many to one of electronic music defining moments. 

Charly (Alleycat Remix) – Prodigy (1991, XL Records, Taken from ‘Experience’)

Up Next Jasper, but outside it will still be Wednesday.

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #1 (1991)

The recent rundown of the best tracks of the year has sent me into some sort of musical nostalgic revelry.  I have for the past month or so been compiling list of playlist of my favourite tracks from every year since 1991.  These may or may not turn into some sort of series over the coming months but until then, over the next few weeks I will present five or six tracks one from each year 1991 to 2021 of the songs that made my end of year top tens.

Let’s start with music that is now well over thirty years old, and if that doesn’t make at least one of you feel utterly ancient then I’m going to give up and go and live out my days in a comfy home and watch daytime telly.

1991 was a landmark year for me, for a start it was the year that I became a proper music aficionado.  It was the year I started going to gigs with mates and the year that I kind of threw off the shackles of childhood and starting investigating girls, cigarettes, alcohol and staying out later that ten pm. It saw, according to last three pages of my old CDT text book, brilliant life changing music releases from Nirvana, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Leatherface, The Wonderstuff and the KLF but the track that topped my singles of the year list was this: –

Pearl – Chapterhouse (1991, Dedicated Records, Taken from ‘Whirlpool’)

Which is still sounds brilliant today.  The drum sample, the whispered vocals, the feedback laden guitars, everything.  In the summer of 1991, shoegaze sounded fresher and more exciting than pretty much anything that I had listened to before.  That was of course until the Reading Festival when Nirvana arrived on a Friday afternoon played before Chapterhouse and killed the scene dead.

Nirvana featured in the Top Ten as well, with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ being placed quite low at Number Seven.

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana  (1991, Geffen Records, Taken from ‘Nevermind’)

At number two in my rundown that year was this:-

The Concept – Teenage Fanclub (1991, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Bandwagonesque’)

It was the brilliant run of singles lifted from ‘Bandwagonesque’ that made me start to enforce the One Song per Band rule, because below ‘The Concept’ at Number five was ‘Starsign’ such was the draw of ‘Bandwagonesque’ at the time.

Elsewhere in the Top Ten at Number Three and Nine respectively were these two blasts of indie pop marvellousness.

Size of A Cow – The Wonderstuff (1991, Polydor Records, Taken from ‘Never Loved Elvis’) – I listened to ‘Never Loved Elvis’ again the other day and I’d forgotten just how must reliance there was on fiddles and mandolins running through it.

After the Watershed – Carter USM (1991, Rough Trade Records, Single) – Of course, Carter USM would be catapulted into musical history a few weeks later when live on TV at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, Fruitbat would suddenly fly through the air and rugby tackle a clearly baffled Philip Schofield to the floor.

The One Word Countdown – #15

I think it’s time to cook a meal….

Bedsitter – Soft Cell (1981, Some Bizarre Records, Taken from ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’)

Points 148 (Adjusted due to a tie)

The reason that ‘Bedsitter’ that is even included in this rundown is all down to Saddam Hussain. 

Well sort of.

In 1991, Carter USM, released the single ‘Bloodsport for All’, a seething, ranting track about racism in the army.  It looked set to be the breakthrough commercially that Carter needed.  That is until Saddam invaded Kuwait and the first Gulf War occurred because everyone wanted to protect some oil fields (or they were murdering innocent people, I forget which reason is used these days) and the BBC stopped playing records about war and stuff.  On the B side of ‘Bloodsport…’) was a cover version of ‘Bedsitter’ (well it was Bedsitter spliced with a section of ‘Torch’ if I remember rightly), and because of the ban the BBC played ‘Bedsitter’ instead (until they released that right at the end Jimbob can memorably be heard shouting “Fucking Arsehole Bastard”) and then stopped playing it altogether.

Bedsitter – Carter USM (1991, Rough Trade Records, Taken form ‘Bloodsport for All’ Single)

Torch – Soft Cell (1981, Some Bizarre Records, Taken from ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’)

‘Torch’ was by the way the only other Soft Cell song that was considered for this rundown, although to be fair, it was always going to be ‘Bedsitter’.

It was Carter’s version that made me check out the original version and the subsequent album ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’, which I dutifully borrowed off my friend Chris and gave back to him about a year later.   30 years later it is an album that I still play on a regular basis.  I love ‘Bedsitter’, that tingly synth solo at the start, Marc Almond’s strained vocal, its evocative, and the lyrics that talk of isolation, loneliness, poverty.  All of it is brilliant.

There is of course an extended version of ‘Bedsitter’ which I think first appeared on the twelve inch.  It includes a section about five minutes in which Marc Almond sorts of half raps and half speaks his way through a kind of jazzy interlude.  It’s an interesting departure from the album version.

Bedsitter (extended version) – Soft Cell (1981, Some Bizarre Records, Taken from ‘Non Stop Cabaret Deluxe version’)

‘Bedsitter’ was the second of three memorable singles released by Soft Cell in 1981 and 1982, the first being of course, ‘Tainted Love’ and the third was ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’, which when I finally get round to listing the greatest 12 inches of all should featuring very high indeed.

Say Hello Wave Goodbye (12” Version) – Soft Cell (1982, Some Bizarre Records, Taken from ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret Deluxe Version’)

The One Word Countdown – #20

Welcome to the Top 20…..

Rent – Pet Shop Boys (1987, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘Actually’)

Points 136

Its not often I want to be reminded of 1987, what with Thatcherism, AIDS, rampant unemployment and the inexplicable rise to fame of a whole host of awful bands.  However, one of the greatest things about that year was ‘Actually’ by Pet Shop Boys.  An album that I had a physical fist fight with my brother over, as he wanted to listen to it first on his new Walkman and so did I. (he won, I waited, sulking in the lounge, moodily reading Smash Hits, whilst rubbing my arm where the Chinese Burn still stung). 

‘Rent’ was one of the finest singles that the Pet Shop Boys released and considering just how many fine singles they did release, this is really saying something.   But the thing I remember most about ‘Rent’ – apart from this superb verse: –

“You phoned me in the evening on hearsay / And bought me caviar / You took me to a restaurant off Broadway / To tell me who you are “.

Is the video.

The video for ‘Rent’ was directed by Derek Jarman, and it starred professional Liverpudlian Margi Clarke and in a surprising casting decision the 7th Marquis of Bath as a couple who are hosting what looks like an exclusive dinner party.  Margi is being largely ignored by her pompous fella and gets increasing fed up with all the glitz and glamour going on at the dinner party (video has lots of shots of over eating and general gluttony).  Eventually Margi gets up and leaves and jumps in a car – driven by her very dapper looking chauffeur, drolly played by Neil Tennant (like he was going to play it any other way).  

He drives her to Kings Cross where she meets a waiting Chris Lowe, they embrace and that is that.  Only is not, because this is the Pet Shop Boys and they don’t work like that.   The video is shot in reverse so you get the end first and the beginning last, so it starts with Margi embracing Chris Lowe and ends with the dinner party starting. 

Of course we can’t talk about ‘Rent’ without mentioning this version of it, which, some say, betters the original – and memorably changes the verse above to “Fulham Broadway” , includes a sample from episode twenty one of Thundercats (just in case you didn’t know that) and rants about the Poll Tax at the end.  This also allows me to drop in that around October I’m going to be doing a series of cover versions that are better than the originals. 

Rent – Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine (1990, Big Cat Records, Taken from ‘Rubbish’ 12”)

Here is another Pet Shop Boys cover that might not make it on to that list

West End Girls – We Have Band (2009, Naïve Records) (takes you to a You Tube Video)

100 Songs with One Word Titles (65 – 61)

Did you guess which song from yesterday placed the highest.   It was ‘Tender’ by Blur but only just as ‘Lately’ by Sea Power reach number 9 on two separate lists (and was, despite a few lower placings, largely ignored by everyone else!).  Todays poser is which of the five tracks listed appeared in the most individual lists?  We start today with some hip hop straight outta erm, Long Beach.

65. Regulate – Warren G feat Nate Dogg (1994, Def Jam Recordings, Taken from ‘Regulate…G Funk Era’)

‘Regulate’ starts with Warren G driving alone through the eastside of Long Beach (I’ve no idea if this is rough or not) he is in his words “looking for women”.  But then he sees some dudes playing dice and tries to join in, but these dudes are bad dudes because they pull guns on him and rob him, and poor old Warren thinks he’s going to die.  Luckily for him, Nate’s in town, he’s looking for Warren.  Nate is so damn fine that a car full of women crashes just by being near him.  Nate finds Warren, shoots at the robbers.  Warren and Nate then drive back, pick up the women and go back to the Eastside Motel for a cheese and wine party.  All that in four minutes and eleven seconds.  Marvellous.

64. Hello – The Beloved (1990, East West Records, Taken from ‘Happiness’)

Put aside the fact that ‘Hello’ is a totally brilliant slab of early nineties indie house pop for one moment.  It has to be said that any song that features Liverpudlian working class soap hero Billy Corkhill in the same breath as combative Crystal Palace midfielder, Vince Hilaire and also namechecks creepy chocolate maker Willy Wonka, game show king Leslie Crowther and comedian turned god botherer Tommy Cannon deserves a place in any chart, let alone this one.

63. Sennen – Ride (1992, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Today Forever EP’)

I once got caught in a downpour that can only be described as biblical.  The sky went very black, thunder clapped all over the place, and for about two minutes hailstones the size of well massive hailstones fell from the sky and turned the road into a slippery field of small ice rocks.  I was at the time about 100 metres from my office and after hail stones I decided to peg it.  I was listening to music at the time and ‘Sennen’ came on and suddenly the rain and how wet I was getting didn’t matter, its that good a song.

62. Wildfires – Sault (2020, Forever Living Originals Records, Taken from ‘Untitled’)

 “Thief in the night, tell the truth. White lives, spreading lies. You should be ashamed. The bloodshed on your hands. Another man. Take off your badge. We all know it was murder Murder, murder, murder.”

Pretty much says it all.  Stark, haunting, political and brilliant.

61. Rubbish – Carter USM (1990, Big Cat Records, Taken from ‘Rubbish’ 12 inch)

In January 1992 I saw Carter play a secret gig at the Venue in New Cross, it was on the back of the re-release of ‘Rubbish’.  At the time it was in the Top 20 and it was utter carnage.  It remains one of the best gigs I have ever been too, but of course, this being here begs the question

What do you think of countdown so far…? 

Never Ending Playlist – #33

Here’s Where The Story Ends – The Sundays (1990, Rough Trade Records)

Back in 1991, I owned ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’ the enigmatic debut album by the Sunday.  I had it on tape. Well it was a copy and it was left in my bedroom by one of my brothers mates.  I assume it was one his mates, it certainly wouldn’t have been my brothers because in 1991 he was going through his Goth phase, and he was interested in then was trying to look like the singer from the Fields of Nephilim and listened to really awful Alien Sex Fiend albums.  So what I should be saying is that back in 1991, I stole a battered badly taped version of the debut album by The Sundays from a mate of my brothers.

Hearing ‘Here’s Where The Story Ends’ again, got me thinking about that cassette and that got me thinking about other cassettes that I ‘might’ have inadvertently stumbled across in the midst of time and two occasions sprang to mind.  I do want to point out that I’m not and never have been a serial stealer of cassettes, but……

In 1990, whilst out mucking around with my mate Chris we came across a car that had clearly been stolen and dumped along a track in the woods that behind his house.  Being the two sensible 15 year old lads, we obviously ran to the nearest phone box and told the police that it was there, after we’d rifled through the car and nicked anything worth nicking from the stolen Renault 19.  For me this was a copy of ‘Ex:El’ by 808 State on tape.  

I’m sorry if that was your car.   I guess all I can do is play you a tune.

In Yer Face – 808 State (1991, ZTT Records)

In 1994, after a House Party in Maidstone, I borrowed a 12” of ‘Heaven Sent An Angel’ from a mate called Justin.   I got it home and found a cassette of the ‘The Great Rock n Roll Swindle’ by the Sex Pistols tucked inside the cover.  I didn’t put it there, but I also didn’t give it back when I handed back the Revolver 12”. 

I’m sorry Justin, I guess all I can do is play you a tune.

My Way – Sid Vicious (1979, Virgin Records)

Perhaps it’s karma but I once left my cassette copy of 101 Damnations on a train at Strood in Kent as I dashed to grab a connection.  I never saw that cassette again. 

24 Minutes to Tulse Hill – Carter USM (1990, Big Cat Records)

Nearly Perfect Albums #2

30 Something – Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine

The second record in what I think might be quite a lengthy series is ’30 Something’ –  the remarkable second album by South London’s Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine. This is a 9 and a half out of ten kind of album, it loses the half point because I think is a tad too short. Saying that next week I will probably knock a point off because it was ‘too long’. So what I do know…

Falling on A Bruise – Carter USM (1991, Rough Trade Record, Taken from ’30 Something’)  

About forty minutes into my first ever Carter gig the room went totally silent.  The only light you could see was on the stage and it was highlighting Jim Bob’s face, (he’s the singer in case you didn’t know) and he was singing or rather speaking the bit at the end of ‘Falling On A Bruise’. 

Some you win and some you lose/I’ve spent my whole lifetime falling on a bruise/And if I had the chance to do it all again/I’d change everything

Before that moment, and if you ever went to those ’30 Something’ era Carter gigs, you’ll know what I mean, it had been carnage, absolute carnage, with about 1000 people all stagediving, moshing, pushing, shoving, and jumping up and down in seemingly the same two metre square bit of dancefloor.  There was one guy, I’d say he was a punk because he had a shaved head, Doc Martins and was wearing a New Model Army Tshirt and pencil thin black jeans, who had been going mental on that dancefloor.  During ‘Bloodsport for All’ I saw him pick a younger lad up and actually throw him into the dancing throng, whether the younger lad wanted that, I know not.

Bloodsport For All – Carter USM (1991, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ’30 Something’)

Anyway, as Jim Bob delivered that poignant line about the mundanity of loneliness and depression I glanced over at New Model Army guy, and he had tears in his eyes.  He was physically welling up. I’d like to think that it was due to sheer beauty of the world beaten poetry that had just been delivered on stage and not because he’d hurt his hand or something.   Two minutes later they’d ripped into ‘Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere’ and New Model Army Guy was throwing himself around again so I think my guess was right.

Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere – Carter USM (1991, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ’30 Something’)

That I think is the beauty of ’30 Something’, its not just the songs that went with it.  It is the way the lyrics ‘spoke’ to a generation of people who felt left down by their luck or who had been touched by the sadness of life but always had that flicker of optimism in the face of adversity.  It is a record that one minute you can throw yourself around a room too, whether it be to the glam rock disco sledgehammer that is ‘Surfin’ USM’ or the tremendous pop sentiments of ‘Shoppers Paradise’ and the next minute can you be at one with your thoughts to tracks like ‘Falling On A Bruise’. 

Shoppers Paradise – Carter USM (1991, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ’30 Something’)

It’s a remarkable record, bold, brilliant and best of all nearly perfect.