The One Word Countdown – #14

This bed is one fire……

Laid – James (1993, Fontana Records, Taken from ‘Laid’)

Points 151

I’d gone off James in 1993, largely because ‘Seven’ was so utterly ghastly and I’d discovered bands that I didn’t have to travel to a theme park to see live.  So, I was mildly disappointed when sitting round the Christmas Tree in the winter of 1993 when I slowly unwrapped a CD copy of ‘Laid’ in the hope that it might be a Buffalo Tom album.  It was a present from my uncle, the last time I’d seen him I’d been wearing a James shirt and he’d remembered that I must have liked them. 

I still hadn’t forgiven James for ‘Seven’ and so immediately placed ‘Laid’ on the shelf and made a note to take it to record shop and exchange it for something good in a weeks time.  A day later I went to a party. It was a good party, all my best friends were there and about half through someone stuck on a new mix tape and the raunchy opening of ‘Laid’ (the song) filled the room and it sounded incredible, it sounded like the James that didn’t sound like U2 (i.e when they were very very good).  It was song that all my friends were singing the words to, friends that not one year had mocked me for even daring to say think ‘Born of Frustration’ wasn’t that bad (it is that bad by the way).   It sounded brilliant and downed my drink (vodka and lime I was 18 come on, give me a break) and smiled and that was the exact point I forgave James for having the audacity for trying to be successful. 

Although I still haven’t found the time to forgive them for ‘Wah Wah’ or Tim Booth personally for all the nonsense he did with Angelo Badalamenti.

I Believe – Booth and the Bad Angel (1996, Fontana Records, Taken from ‘Booth and the Bad Angel’)

‘Laid’ was another sort of Marmite track, as it featured on less jury members votes than most of the records in the Top 25 (apart from ‘Rez’) but where it did score it did so very highly.  It was never voted at the top but scored twice in the Top Three and at least four times in the Top Ten.  It didn’t please everyone though, one Jury Member (Number six) said “I’m disappointed by the James choice, there are loads of songs better than ‘Laid’, ‘Sometimes’ for instance would have been in my Top Five, and ‘Stutter’ even higher but ‘Laid’ with its deliberately provocative chorus really annoys me, so I am ignoring it with the hope that everyone thinks the same”.

Well they didn’t although another Jury Member said almost the same thing about ‘Sometimes’, so just for you two moaning minnies.

Sometimes – James (1993, Fontana Records, Taken from ‘Laid’)

Give It Another Spin – #2

Seven – James

Ring the Bells – James (1992, Fontana Records)

I hated ‘Seven’ when it first came out.  For years I had been singing the praises of Booth and his band of troubadours.  I had been begging people to listen to the intricate folky brilliance of ‘Stutter’ or the majestic pop of ‘Gold Mother’.   When they finally did (thanks largely to ‘Sit Down’ conquering the hearts and dancefloors of the nation) I stood there with a smug look of my face that read “Told you”. 

Then they returned a few years later with ‘Seven’, an album so bland that could you place it next to the semolina in the supermarket and very few people would be able to tell the difference.  The smug look on my face was replaced by one of embarrassment and the record was quickly pushed to the back of the cupboard, never to see the light again.   I remember the trumpet that blurted itself through most of the bloody songs being one of the most irritating things that I had ever heard.  Andy Diagram (the trumpet player) had gone from being the Trumpet Triumph has was on ‘Gold Mother’ to a Brass Bellend in two short years and I thought he was a bastard because of it.

Sound – James (1992, Fontana Records)

Now, I can’t remember the last time I listened to ‘Seven’ all the way through but I might have been at University – I definitely found a copy on vinyl in a second hand shop in Woking for a £1 so it was probably then.  I still hated it because I don’t have that record anymore. So, some 27 years later, has my opinion changed.

Slightly.  For starters, I don’t hate it nearly as much as I did.  I think this is probably because James, don’t mean as much as to me as they did back in the early nineties.  In 1992, James felt like my band, and the songs on ‘Seven’ simply lacked the punch and pull of, well anything, that they had recorded before and I felt massively let down by them, but you know they are just a band.

What is clear is that the singles, particularly ‘Born of Frustration’ and ‘Sound’ aren’t as terrible records as I first though they were.  Admittedly they haven’t aged massively well but as James songs go, they are ok, worthy of adding to any collection of James songs.  ‘Born of Frustration’ is certainly far better than I remember it being.

Born of Frustration – James (1992, Fontana Records)

It’s the album tracks that still bother me, songs like ‘Don’t Wait That Long’ and ‘Live A Love of Life’ are still overblown, bland monsters that sound like they were recorded specifically for the Radio 2 audience that the band had become accustomed to.  Elsewhere ‘Next Lover’ tries to hawk back to the more folky early James sound that we might have heard on say ‘Stripmine’ but its not quite the same, Booth sounds too bitter, too angry and way its way too forced.

Live A Love of Life – James (1992, Fontana Records)

Oh and there is still too much bloody trumpet.

In Praise of the Band TShirt #1

Not Me

Come Home – James (Fontana, 1990, Taken from ‘Gold Mother’)

In Christmas 1990 Santa gave me a James T-shirt not dissimilar to one in the picture above. I think I wore it non stop for about a month. I thought I was the coolest kid about (in reality I was awkward, socially naïve, sported a haircut that was worryingly like a mullet (well I trying to grow it long), and had only just got round to removing the Milli Vanilli cassettes from the drawer full of tapes I had). It was a worn like a badge of honour, even though I had to explain to curious grandparents who James were and had to tell complete strangers about twenty times that I wasn’t called James.

Of course back then James sold more T-shirts than they did records, to the point that my T-shirt was neither cool or unusual because loads of people were wearing them, including bizarrely my P.E Teacher, Mr Arnold. The ‘es’ of the logo could sometimes be seen underneath his white shirt.

Mr Arnold was too many a complete bastard. Largely because he made us do laps of the sports field in the freezing cold or kicked footballs at us if we spoke whilst he was teaching us on the pitch. He also bowled a mean leg break, something I found out in the annual staff vs pupils cricket match, when he sent my middle stump flying just as I was getting comfortable on 7 not out.

Anyway, one school disco, I turned up in my James T-Shirt and this would have been about a week or two before ‘Lose Control’ came out and us cool indie kids (there were four of us, two James T-Shirts, one New Order shirt, one Clash Shirt) sat on the benches at the back and tried out best to look cool and pathetically fail in any attempts to impress girls, when over walked Mr Arnold, a pissed off look on his face, because he had to babysit half drunk teenagers on a Friday night and not be down the pub beating people up, which we guessed is where he spent most of his Fridays (like all P.E Teachers, right?).

Lose Control – James (1990, Fontana Records, Taken from ‘Gold Mother’)

I’ll be honest, we’d had a can of cider each and we had a slightly hazy look about us because of it – it would have probably have been Merrydown Cider lifted from my dads cupboard and downed in about two minutes on the way to disco. We quickly stuffed our mouths which polo mints, and tried to not to look scared when Mr Arnold sat next to us.

“Two things”, he said with a Northern growl, we shuffled along a bit in case he tried to kill us with his bare hands. “Firstly, James are on the John Peel Show next week, you should probably check it out.” A pause. A double take. “And secondly, because you four appear to have developed decent taste in music, I shall choose to ignore the fact that I saw you drinking cider down the alley behind the butchers before the disco, have a good night, lads, remember Peel next week.” and with that he wandered off to harass a lad wearing some Fila Trainers.

Sit Down – James (1991, Fontana Records, Single)