Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #9 (1999)

On New Years Eve in the small seaside town of Teignmouth, people used to dress up in fancy dress.   For some reason hoards of people descended on the town and took advantage of the towns many pubs.  Around 9pm a grand parade would take place and prizes would be given out to the best costumes.  It was always a fun evening my friends and I would usually wander around the towns charity shops before hand buying up the most garish and awful clothes and then hit the town.  In 1999 I’m fairly sure I wore a blonde wig, a multi coloured shirt and some bright red cord trousers, just because I could. 

At around midnight people would emerge from the pubs and wander onto the beach and see in the New Year with cheers, snogging and back slapping.  After that most people would mooch off home or back into one of the late night pubs.  In the centre of Teignmouth is a small pedestrianised area called The Triangle (it being oblong shaped, it made sense to call it that) and smack in the middle of that is a large fountain, which lit up and made the water look various different colours (it is now switched off and grass grows out of it) and there in that fountain is where at 1230am on January 1st 1999 I saw Batman and a giant chicken having a marvellously drunken (and wet) scrap.  Moments like that can easily make you think that it was going to be a great year.

The record that topped my end of year chart around 360 days later wasn’t a single but was comfortably the greatest single piece of music I heard all year and if I recall correctly might well have been the first track that I played in the year 2000. 

Streets of Kenny – Shack (1999, London Records, Taken from ‘HMS Fable’) – which I’m sure you’ll agree still sounds all kinds of wonderful.

In second place was a track that if were lucky enough to have ever been given a lift by me anyway in the second part of 1999, you would have heard about eight times as it featured on nearly every mixtape that I made for the car.

Dirge – Death in Vegas (1999, Concrete Records, Taken from ‘The Contino Sessions’)

In the summer of 1999, I went on holiday to Malta and during a day trip to its crumbling capital Valletta I stumbled across a small market and there tucked away in the corner was a guy selling clearly bootlegged versions of the latest releases.  Which was where I picked up my copy of Moby’s all conquering ‘Play’ album for the princely sum of two Euros.  At Number five in the 1999 chart was this slow paced dance classic from that album.

Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? – Moby (1999, Mute Records, Taken from ‘Play’)

Elsewhere in my Top Ten, the usual blend of big beats, guitars and hip hop.   Primal Scream were at six (and should have been higher probably) with a remix and The Charlatans scraped into tenth position with their seven minute epic ‘Forever’.

Swastika Eyes (Chemical Brothers Mix) – Primal Scream (1999, Creation Records, Taken from ‘XTMNTR’)

Forever – The Charlatans (1999, Island Records, Taken from ‘Us and Us Only’)

League Two Music – #5 – Crewe Alexandra

Sunchyme – Dario G (1997, Warner Records, Taken from ‘Sunmachine’)

I was chatting to a Crewe fan a few months back at a conference I went to.  He was annoyed because Crewe, like Gillingham, had just been relegated to football’s equivalent of a small market town’s public toilet, League Two.  This in itself didn’t bother him that much, Crewe spent most of last season at the bottom of League One and it was pretty much a formality from March onwards.  What really annoyed him was that “those bastards at the Vale” getting promoted.

Crewe, when I was much younger, was a team that it was difficult to not like, they under the stewardship of Dario Gradi played attractive football.  They always produced excellent players that were constantly snapped up by bigger clubs (the likes of David Platt, Seth Johnson, Danny Murphy all emerged out of Crewe’s youth system).  They were perennially unfashionable, played at a tiny ground that was largely held together by straw and sticks and stuck in the middle of a massive train intersection.  It was romantic in a stupid football way.  As recently as 2005, Crewe were an established Championship side and no one begrudged them that it was great to see sides like Crewe competing with sides like Sheffield United and Sunderland.

There’s always a but.

The romance of Crewe has long been forgotten due to a sexual abuse scandal involving a convicted abuser who worked at the club in the nineties.  The club were heavily implicated and whilst it has wholeheartedly and unreserved apologised for its mistakes (mistakes which led to key figures from club including Dario Gradi being banned from football and the resignation of the club chairman) it is difficult to even care about Crewe Alexandra Football Club.

Musically, the dance trio Dario G originate from Crewe and even named themselves after Dario Gradi.  They reached the top three in 1997, with their single ‘Sunchyme’ and have released tracks with the likes of Shirley Bassey and Clean Bandit, which is another reason to hate them.

Crewe doesn’t appear to have a massive musical heritage.  For instance, one of its most famous musical sons is Adam Ricketts, who was famous for being an actor with a six pack.  So in order to retain some credibility I have looked at the nearby area, which gives a much better choice.

Like this for instance

Sprosten Green – The Charlatans (1990, Beggars Banquet Records, Taken from ‘Some Friendly’)

Tim Burgess, the singer with The Charlatans was born in the nearby town of Northwich, which is only a short hop up the A533.

Even closer to Crewe is Winsford.  An excellent band called The Luka State come from there.  They narrowly missed out on the No Badger Required 2022 Top 40 with their excellent single ‘Bring Us Down’ – which is as good a reason to post it as you will ever need.

Bring Us Down – The Luka State (2022, AntiFragile Records, Taken from ‘The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same’).

All of which brings us exhaustedly to this weeks previously unheard of band who are not from Crewe at all

Queen – Seagoth (2022, Bytes Records)

100 Songs with One Word Titles (70– 66)

Did you guess right?  The two tracks from yesterday that topped two individual sets of votes were ‘Columbia’ by Oasis and ‘Atlas’ by Bicep.  Interestingly the two people who voted those two songs at the top of their respective lists were the youngest members of the musical jury.  None of the songs today troubled the tops of any individual lists but all of them did score at least one Top Fifteen placing.   Todays quest is to guess which of these scored the highest individual placing.

Let’s kick off with a bit of classic shoegaze

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

In the Guinness Dictionary of Indie when you get to ’shoegaze’ there are only seven words used to describe this particular genre.  They are “Go and Listen to ‘Pearl’ by Chapterhouse” and then there is a picture of Chapterhouse on stage at the Purple Turtle heads bowed, stage covered in effects pedal, smoke machine primed and everyone who can be seen is wearing some form of stripey jumper.  A song so good it defined an entire genre and whilst Ride may have sold more records and generally had better tunes (spoiler see tomorrow for proof), they would have killed for a song as addictive and beautiful as ‘Pearl’.

69. Lately – Sea Power (2003, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’)

Clocking in at nearly 14 minutes, you would expect ‘Lately’ to be the longest song in this list, but without giving too much away, it isn’t quite that.  It is wondrously epic though.  It starts slowly as a sort of love song, rising and just as it sounds like its all going to come crashing in, it collapses.  Of course it re builds and then collapses again, like a musical house of cards.  Then it finally does kick off and lyrics about Neolithic and Jurassic rock take over as it descends into chaos.  Utterly marvellous and disappointingly low.

68. Tender – Blur (1999, Food Records, Taken from ‘13’)

I saw Damon Albarn live last year in a cold old church in Totnes High Street.  He was promoting his latest solo album.  At the end of the gig he came back on to play three Blur songs, he played ‘The Universal’, ‘End of A Century’ and ‘Beetlebum’ accompanied by a string quartet and despite their stripped back quality it all felt decidedly average.  However, had Albarn played ‘Tender’ accompanied by a string quartet I would have gone away thinking ‘Gig of the Year’ easy, because ‘Tender’ is far and away the greatest thing Blur the band, or any of its members in their post Blur lives, have ever recorded.

67. Sidewalking – Jesus and Mary Chain (1988, Blanco Y Negro Records, Taken from ‘Barbed Wire Kisses’)

When the Jesus and Mary Chain first recorded ‘Sidewalking’ they were unsure it would ever be released.  It was after all a bit of a departure from their normal sound.  It dabbled in samples (famously it samples a hip hop drumbeat) and beats that was quite unexpected.  Of course Jim Reid, said that there had always been a hip hop element to his music.  Everyone else had obviously struggled to hear it over the previous five years’ worth of records.

66. Then – The Charlatans (1990, Situation Two Records, Taken from ‘Some Friendly’)

I should have been at school when I bought ‘Then’ on 12 inch.  I’d been to the dentist and my dad had bumped into a mate of his called Irish Joe (he was from Sevenoaks) – he gave me a fiver and pointed me in the direction of the bus station.  I was 15, school was about a mile walk away and the bus stop was next to the record shop and it would have been rude to not at least look inside.

Music Found in Charity Shops – #7

Between the 10th and 11th – The Charlatans

Found Oxfam Exeter for £2.99

Weirdo – The Charlatans (1992, Beggars Banquet Records)

The Exeter Oxfam shop is more of a second hand book shop than a charity shop.  It has three rooms dedicated to them.  Right at the back of one of them is a small area where the music can be found, which is where I picked up this little gem.

Of course, ten years ago, the Oxfam shop in Exeter had an entire room dedicated to just music, and I would often be late for the train or meetings because I’d spent an hour in there flicking through the vinyl or the CDs.  For a long time, it was the best second hand record music shop in Devon.

Thirty years is a long time in music.  Back in 1992, The Charlatans released their second album.   When it was released it received mixed reviews from the press and for some unknown reason the band found themselves subject to something of backlash. 

But that was a long time ago, because now ‘Between the 10th and 11th’ is considered, quite rightly, as the hidden gem in the bands extensive back catalogue, a record that is, as it happens, far superior to its better known predecessor ‘Some Friendly’ and probably only bettered by ‘Tellin’ Stories’.

‘Between the 10th and 11th’ is a wonderfully eclectic record that sways between psychedelia and the more typical organ dominated sound of their first album, but its more spacious, there is more guitar for a start and Tim Burgess’s vocals sound fantastically polished across it (for which a degree of thanks should laid at the door of producer Flood I suspect).  Its’s a chock full of brilliant tracks.

‘Weirdo’ for instance, , it’s just insanely good.  That crazy horse swirly organ sound that dominates it, to Burgess’ wonderfully drawn out vocals “So much to know aboooouuut”.  Its such a tremendously unhinged blast of techno rock.

The other single from album that stands out is ‘Tremelo Song’, which remains I think as underrated as the album itself.

Tremelo Song – The Charlatans (1992, Beggars Banquet)

But of course, its not just the singles that stand out, “Can’t Even Be Bothered’ is a gorgeous song.  Easily the best thing on the album, and very close to being the bands finest moment ever.  The way it switches between sounding weary in the verses to the angry and brash in the chorus, is stunning

Can’t Even Be Bothered – The Charlatans (1992, Beggars Banquet Records)

The other track that stands out is ‘Page One’, which is one of those album tracks that leaves you scratching your head and wondering why on earth the band (or record label) didn’t release it as a single in its own right.  Marvellous.

Page One – The Charlatans (1992, Beggars Banquet)

The Ramshackle Brilliance of the Chart Show Indie Chart #3

This week 17th August 1991 and at number seven

Sploosh! – Ozric Tentacles (1991, Dovetail Records)

In August 1991 my mate Chris and I went on a day trip to Broadstairs in Kent. There is nothing particularly exciting about Broadstairs in Kent, Charles Dickens wrote Bleak House there and I think the comedian Lou Sanders may come from there. None of these two things were the reason we went there. We went there because Chris had found out from somewhere that the Ozric Tentacles were playing a secret gig there in some run down theatre. The only song that I had ever heard by the Ozric Tentacles was ‘Sploosh!’ and I only went because it beat hanging around the Medway Towns for another afternoon.

Our plan was simple. Go down on the train around lunch time spend the afternoon on the beach pissing about, find the gig and catch the first train home in the morning. Literally nothing could go wrong.

Only, the rumour about the gig was bollocks. We found the theatre and it told us proudly that live at the theatre that night was something called “A Tribute to Cilla…”, which was almost certainly not the Ozric Tentacles. Yet we were still utterly convinced that this gig was going to happen. Particularly when Chris decided that the long haired bloke hanging around in the gardens behind the theatre was ‘one of the band’. Turns out he was just a drunk who hung around in the park behind the theatre.

We got suspicious when around eight pm old grannies started to turn up at the gig and not one of them was wearing anything tie dyed or looked like they had dropped some acid. By half eight we’d wasted about six hours moping around Broadstairs, spent all our money on rubbish chips and some ale that Chris managed to get some half drunk off licence owner to sell him and so we caught the train home.

At Faversham an old lady got off the train and as she stood up, a packet of marshmallow biscuit things fell out her bag and landed on the seat next to me and she never noticed as I slide my coat over them. Its not often that an illicitly gained packet of biscuits is the highlight of your day.

The rest of the chart show indie chart that week was in places pretty good, here are the edited highlights

At Ten – Indian Rope – The Charlatans (1991, Dead Dead Good Records)

A non mover at eight – Flying – The Telescopes (1991, Creation Records)

At four, spelt incorrectly but played nearly in full was ‘Run’ by Spiritualized but as I’ve already posted that song, let’s post the B Side. Incidentally the snippets about the band genuinely say that their hobbies are “Drinking, Whinging and Sleeping”. (the other song played was ‘Mind’ by The Farm, but its The Farm, and I’d rather punch myself repeatedly in the face than listen to that again).

I Want You – Spiritualized (1991, Dedicated Records)

At three, sadly going down the chart was

Move Any Mountain – The Shamen (1991, One Little Indian Record)

And at Number One….which was largely ignored because back then Mudhoney apparently didn’t do videos, was…

Let It Slide – Mudhoney (1991, Sub Pop Records)