A Month all about Names – #9 – Billy

Billy Whizz/Blue 1 – Spacemen 3 (1991, Fire Records, Taken from ‘Recurring’)

Billy Whizz you may recall was a cartoon strip that ran in the Beano.  Billy had an ability to run very fast indeed.  In fact he was so fast that in one cartoon, Billy was being interviewed on television about something that was happening in Beanotown.  Billy asked the TV reporter when the interview would be played on TV and the reporter told him it was going out live.   Billy ran home so fast that he was able to be home to watch himself live on the telly.  He was so fast that he could effectively be in two places at once. 

I like to think that Jason Pierce was reading the Beano when he sat down and wrote the track ‘Billy Whizz’, which is closing track on Spacemen 3’s final studio album ‘Recurring’.  I like to think that Pierce was so impressed by Billy’s can do attitude and his positive thinking that he decided that the bequiffed speed merchant would be the perfect role model to patronise in song.  

Of course, it might just have been that Pierce was using drugs at the time that he wrote it and that he wasn’t a fan of the Beano at all, but I find that impossible to believe.  Although, at the time The Beano was of course going through its ‘Drug Phase’ and continuously published comic strips where  the heroes were given names were synonymous with drug use.  Smackhead Pete for instance, a story about a boy Pete who had an extremely flat head from all the things that got dropped on his head.  Mary Jane was a strip about an extremely lazy girl who was simply too tired to get out of bed and finally Special Agent K was about a boy who worked as a spy for the government and had a weapon that made people’s legs stop working.

There are quite a few songs in the music library that have ‘Billy’ in their title.  Here are just three that I have picked at random.

First up Peter Hook’s short lived New Order bass heavy side project Monaco, who had some minor success in 1997 with their debut album ‘Music For Pleasure’. 

Billy Bones – Monaco (1997, Polydor Music, Taken from ‘Music for Pleasure’) – The vocals for the majority of the songs on ‘Music for Pleasure’ were provided by David Potts, with whom Hooky also performed with when he was in the band Revenge. 

Next up some classic PJ Harvey.

C’Mon Billy – PJ Harvey (1995, Island Records, Taken from ‘To Bring You My Love’) – ‘To Bring You My Love’ is despite being PJ Harvey’s third album, actually considered to be her first as a solo artist and ‘C’mon Billy’ was the second single to be released from it. 

Finally uncompromising experimental noise rap from Death Grips. 

Billy not Really – Death Grips (2014, Third World Records, Taken from ‘Niggas On The Moon’) – the fourth Death Grips album was a double album released over six months, the first instalment was called ‘Niggas on the Moon’ and it heralded a slight change of pace from the band.  Previous records were intense and bruising affairs, the musical equivalent of a mouthful of broken teeth.  This one was more the musical equivalent of a gap toothed smile, although it’s still abrasively addictive though.

Tomorrow – Angela who holds a grudge over nothing.

A Month all about Names – #2 – Jane

Hey Jane – Spiritualized (2012, Double Six Records, Taken from ‘Sweet Heart, Sweet Light)

Fans of Spiritualized will know that they are no strangers to songs that clock in at well over seven or eight minutes.  They will know that Jason Pierce revels in constructing a song that has multiple layers and sections, that experiment with different instruments, sounds and moods.  Fans will also know that Pierce is hardly a fan of the radio edit and so if he wants a comeback single to be a nine minute epic, then it will be a nine minute epic and that’s that. 

So when, ‘Hey Jane’ the first taste of their seventh studio album, was released and its nine minute running time was announced, fans rubbed their hands with glee and strapped themselves in for ride, because judging by the bands other lengthy songs (‘Cop Shoot Cop’, ‘Medication’, Feels So Sad’) it was likely to be mind blowing.

Sure enough we were right, ‘Hey Jane’ is a marvellous affair.  It’s all crunchy guitars, swooping soundscapes and a killer chorus.  About halfway through the song does this sort of mid song flip that throws the song upside down and the fires up again near the end into a harmony tinged singalong. All nine minutes of it are incredible but then again its Spiritualized and I’m almost bound to say that given how much I love them.

The album that followed ‘Hey Jane’ was just as stunning, the songs that it contained were full of big sounding choruses and harked back to some of the more muscular songs that were found on ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Let It Come Down’.  Almost all the fragility of the band’s previous album had been swept away. 

Three more ‘Jane’ songs for you (well four actually)

First up New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem and their acoustic version of ‘Antonia Jane’.  A song which they stuck on their 2011 B Sides album. 

Antonia Jane – The Gaslight Anthem (2011, Sony Records, Taken from ‘B Sides’) – ‘Antonia Jane’ is a cover version of a Lightning Dust track (Lightning Dust are a Black Mountains off shoot band and make gentle alt country and piano inspired music and are worth checking out – here’s the original, which is far better.

 Antonia Jane – Lightning Dust (2009, Jagjaguwar Records, Taken from ‘Infinite Light’)

Next up are Jacksonville’s Black Kids, and their track ‘Hurricane Jane’ which was the fourth single to be released from their 2008 debut album ‘Party Traumatic’.  In 2008, Black Kids looked set for world domination but it took nine long years for a second album to emerge and by that time music had moved on.

Hurricane Jane – Black Kids (2008, Columbia Records, Taken from ‘Party Traumatic’)

Finally for today, Ms Polly Jean Harvey and the track ‘Me-Jane’ which is taken from Polly’s rip snorting second album ‘Rid of Me’.

Me – Jane – PJ Harvey (1993, Island Records, Taken from ‘Rid of Me’)

Nearly Perfect Albums – #48

Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea – PJ Harvey

Let’s be honest, damn near any of PJ Harvey’s albums could have been contenders for this series.  I mean I can take or leave the piano led mumblings of ‘White Chalk’, and bits of ‘Uh Huh Her’ are a little too claustrophobic, but the rest, are all firmly embedded in the section of the library I reserve for records called ‘Essential’.

In fact up to about a month ago, the PJ album selected for this series was going to be the all conquering ‘Let England Shake’ but then a PJ music marathon over Christmas changed all that.  For a while I plumped for ‘Dry’, and I sat ready to wax lyrical about its feral intensity but then ‘The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore’ came on and gave me lines like

Speak to me of heroin and speed/Of genocide and suicide/Of syphilis and greed

 and there could only be one winner.

The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore – PJ Harvey (2000, Island Records)

Because ‘Stories…’ is just stuffed to bursting with brilliance.  Its overflowing with ideas, with images, it has this almost primal urgency about it that doesn’t just need your attention it prods you aggressively on the shoulder repeatedly just so you can’t possibly ignore it even if for some reason you wanted to.  It is an incredible album, the way the guitars clang on ‘Is This Love’, the way Polly’s vocals soar, whisper, growl and yowl on ‘A Place Called Home’, the way that ‘We Float’ literally floats around your speakers especially that line where she questions herself “We just kind of lost our way” before the chorus just shimmies into view all sparkly and gorgeous. The way that ‘You Said Something’ is deliberately the most Patti Smith song that Patti Smith never recorded.

A Place Called Home – PJ Harvey (2000, Island Records)

We Float – PJ Harvey (2000, Island Records)

You Said Something – PJ Harvey (2000, Island Records)

About halfway through the record we come to ‘This Mess We’re In’ and here you get the third of three guest vocals from Thom Yorke (the first and second are blink and you’ll miss it vocals to ‘Beautiful Feeling’ and ‘One Line’).  Around ninety seconds into that song, you hear Thom Yorke take an audible breath and then he croaks

Night and Day I dream of making love to you now baby

and it is delivered in such a way that you can almost picture PJ standing there in the studio grinning and telling everyone that she actually got Thom Yorke to sing that.  You also wonder if the whispery ambience that swirls around that song in some way inspired future Radiohead releases.  Maybe.  It’s great regardless.

This Mess We’re In – PJ Harvey (and Thom Yorke) (2000, Island Records)

One more song that I want to mention is possibly one of the most overlooked PJ Harvey songs.  ‘One Line’ is perhaps, well, for me at least, the one song of this album that brings the whole record together.  An album that has songs about love, sex lust, frustration, desire and general living is summed up in one beautiful line in track four.

And I draw a line to your heart today, to your heart from mine/One line to keep us safe”

It’s the one point on this record where things seem calm and for want of a better word, normal. 

One Line – PJ Harvey (2000, Island Records)

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #2 (1992)

1992’s end of year list was scrawled on a piece of paper that was tucked inside an old folder that I was using for my ‘Business Studies’ course.  The fact that there was more writing about music in that folder than there was about Business Studies probably tells you everything you need to know about what I thought about studying Business Studies. 

My 1992 Top Ten was very indie heavy something that wouldn’t change until around 1995, but it’s still even today a very good list.  Some of the entries are in different coloured pens as well, which probably means I was doing something like revealing a different song every day or some such nonsense, but sat at the top ten, in blue and underlined was this: –

Medication – Spiritualized (1992, Dedicated Records, Taken from ‘Pure Phase’)

‘Medication’ is an astonishing record, it starts all whispered and vulnerable sounding but descending into a complete avalanche of guitars, feedback, and crashing drums.  It is classic Spiritualized, and whilst it may not be their finest moment and ‘Pure Phase’ may not be their greatest album (it kind of bridges a gap between their two monoliths and gets overlooked because of it, well by me at least) back in 1992, it sounded incredible.

1992 was of course, the year that I somehow managed to get myself a proper girlfriend, one that would shape my world for at least the next 16 months on and off and much of the top ten (and tomorrows) is heavily influenced by her and my friendship grounds as well.  For instance at Number Two was this: –

Summer Babe – Pavement (1992, Big Cat Records, Taken from ‘Slanted and Enchanted’) – which is a record that I still utterly love and was a record that she introduced me to. It is a track, for a reason that I have long since forgotten, that I always play every time I sleep somewhere new, this is mostly done via headphones now, but when I moved into my halls at university, it was played very loudly.

Elsewhere in that Top Ten at numbers four, seven and eight respectively are tracks by other bands that I still love today more than thirty years after first hearing them

Sheela Na Gig – PJ Harvey (1992, Too Pure Records, Taken from ‘Dry’) – the first time I head PJ Harvey I was eating a bowl of Rice Krispies.  She was the featured artist on a Channel Four breakfast programme and her debut album ‘Dry’ was everywhere at the time.  By the end of that day I had ‘Sheela Na Gig’ on 12” and it remains in the vinyl cupboard today.

Creep – Radiohead (1992, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘Pablo Honey’) – Near the start of 1992 I went to London to see Kingmaker, the train was late and by the time I got to the venue (which I think was the Town & Country Club) the support band was near the end of their set.  That support band was Radiohead and even though I saw three songs, they were still someway better than an entire Kingmaker set.

Reverence – Jesus and Mary Chain (1992, Blanco Y Negro Records, Taken from ‘Honey’s Dead’) – In December 1992, I saw the Jesus and Mary Chain at Brixton Academy and it was and still is one of the greatest gigs that I have ever been to.

The One Word Countdown – #36

If you put it on…..

Dress – PJ Harvey (1992, Too Pure Records, Taken from ‘Dry’)

Points 107 (Amended after tie)

In 1992, Polly Harvey first appeared on the cover on the NME.  It remained to the day it stopped printing, one of its more controversial covers (even more controversial than the infamous Elton John crack pipe cover*) with the letters page (‘Angst’ as it was called then) spilling over in two pages for three weeks with debate and discussion about it. 

It wasn’t the fact that Polly appeared topless on the cover (back to the camera), that much was apparently ok.  What caused the umbrage amongst the record paper buying public, was that Polly had the absolute temerity to stand there on the cover of the bestselling weekly music paper, with an unshaven armpit clearly on display.  Such harlotry caused much wailing and gnashing of the teeth, from the knuckle dragging brigade.  After these goons had finished wiping the froth from their mouths, they called called for Polly to be burnt at the stake for crimes against music and for generally being a witch.

‘Dress’ was Harvey’s debut single, and whilst she (or her press people did at least) fashioned herself firmly in the riot girl camp, it is ultimately a song about femininity and the struggles women face (and as a man dangerously close to knocking on the door marked ‘50’ I am perfectly positioned to talk about this).  It’s still furious though, as she viciously taunts the man who bought her “beautiful dresses” through a series of demented guitar hooks and an excellent Pixies-ish loud quiet dynamic.

If that wasn’t enough to, two months later she released ‘Sheela Na Gig’ a song that talked abut “Ruby red lips” and was poppy enough to earn a smidgeon of radio play until the media twigged that she wasn’t talking about those sort of lips and promptly stopped playing it.

Sheela – Na – Gig – PJ Harvey (1992, Too Pure Records, Taken from ‘Dry’)

Several PJ Harvey songs were considered before I plumped for ‘Dress’ including two more from ‘Dry’

Victory – PJ Harvey (1992, Too Pure Records, Taken from ‘Dry’) – although I actually prefer the Peel Session version so I would imagine I have linked that.

Water – PJ Harvey (1992, Too Pure Records, Taken from ‘Dry’)

There was one other song called ‘Dress’ that deserves a brief moment of your attention, from a pop star who might cite Polly as a major influence**.

Dress – Taylor Swift (2017, Big Machine Records, Taken from ‘reputation’)

* This never happened.

** she also might not – given that this song is (very) allegedly about Ed Sheeran