Friday, May 08, 2009

Singles Your iPod Needs To Know (Biblically), Part Two

This is the second in From The North's series in which we raid the contents of Keith Telly Topping's MP3 player in search of revelation.

1. The Casuals - 'Jesamine' (DECCA F22784-A). As far as I know The Casuals are the only group from Lincoln ever to have a major hit single! In 1965 they most sincerely won the Hughie Green talent show Opportunity Knocks, leading to a recording contract with Fontana who issued their debut single 'If You Walk Out.' Like a good few others of the Second Division of British beat groups of the era, they found a lot of work touring Europe (particularly Italy). 'Jesamine', a cover of The Bystanders' 'When Jesamine Goes', was issued by Decca in February 1968 and, co-written by Marty Wilde and Ronnie Scott, was a hit five months later. It's a true pop gem, ultimately only being kept off No. 1 by, firstly 'Hey Jude' (yeah, okay, that's acceptable) and then, a week later, by Mary Hopkins (that's a bit more shameful). You can see them performing the song here on Beat Club, I think (judging by the psychedelic camerawork which is very un-Top of the Pops.)

2. Mighty Mighty - 'Is There Anyone Out There?' (GIRLIE RECORDS, XGAY2). No video for this one, just an audio only. Tragic, really as this is an almost classic example of that slightly fey, wistful, brief flowering of Brit Indie/C-86 scene, heavily influenced by The Smiths and Orange Juice. (Singer Hugh McGuinness once reportedly said during an interview that the difference between Mighty Mighty and The Smiths was that 'they write two-minute pop songs and we write three-minute pop songs.' Bit more to it than that, I think, Hughie.) Anyway, this little masterpiece is full of all the usual C-86 trademarks; jangly Rickenbacker guitars and twee vocals with lyrics about - in this particular case - wanting to find a girlfriend who'll drag the narrator round Chelsea Girl. It's a magical thing, really. Morrissey and Marr would've been well-proud. Although they'd probably have left the tinny organ solo off the record!

3. The Red Guitars - 'Good Technology' (SELF DRIVE RECORDS, SD009-A) ... And, speaking of The Smiths, the very first time I saw Mozza and co. live - at the Newcastle Mayfair in 1984 - The Red Guitars were supporting them. And very good they were too. From Hull. They used to play 'Good Technology' in a - conceptually brilliant - medley with Barry McGuire's 'Eve of Destruction.' A howl of disapproval at frightening pace of the modern world ('We've got computers that can find us friends/We know roughly when the world will end') 'Good Technology' was a key record for the early-eighties Indie kid in establishing his rite-on, anti-globalistm anti-thought police, anti-pretty-much everything-credentials. And, remarkably, it actually still sounds good today.

4. Frank Wilson - 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)' (SOUL 35019) The story goes something like this (and it's quite a long one, too, so settle back, get comfortable and grab yourself a cup of tea): Frank Wilson was a Motown writer/producer working mainly out LA in the early 1960s. He wrote a song called 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)', supposedly for Marvin Gaye who recorded a version of it but seemingly didn't think much of it and it remained unreleased. Some months later, Berry Gordy suggests to Wilson that HE have a go at the song which Wilson - a reluctant performer - does, in late 1965, produced by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon (probably in LA, although studio information on this particular recording is virtually non-existent so it could, easily, have been recorded at Hitsville in The Snake Pit). The single was scheduled for release on the Motown subsidiary label Soul on 23 December 1965 and about 200 promotional copies are pressed. But, sometime shortly before release, Wilson has a change of heart. Like Eddie Holland, he feels that he's a producer and not a singer and doesn't, really, want to go to all the bother of going out on the road to promote the single. Thus, he begs Berry Gordy to destroy the copies already made and just forget about the whole thing. Gordy agrees. On 2 January 1966 Wilson, Davis and Gordon record Motown's white soul chanteuse Chris Clark doing a fine version of the song for a planned single release. But, this too only reaches the test-pressing stage (VIP 25034-A) before being consigned to the vaults. Wilson goes back to producing and spends much of the second half of the sixties as one of Motown's most successful writers, working with The Supremes and The Four Tops among others. 'Do I Love You' is completely forgotten about until the mid-1970s when a researcher working for Motown discovers a copy of the single that somehow escaped the purge in the company's archives. He 'acquires' it and subsequently sells it to a British collector in Los Angeles. The collector realises just how good the record is and so presses up some acetate copies and sends them over to a bunch of DJs he knows on the British Northern Soul circuit where the song (often credited to another artist entirely) becomes a huge favourite at the Wigan Casino, the Blackpool Mecca and the like. Eventually, word leaks out about the artist's true identity and Motown's British label, Tamla-Motown, realising they have something of a cult hit on their hands finally release 'Do I Love You' as a single in late 1979 (TMG 1170-A). Meanwhile, the one copy of the original 1965 single known to exist changes hands a couple of time for increasingly outrageous amounts of coin before a second copy is discovered, in Canada in the 1980s. In May 2009, one of these is sold at auction and fetches a world-record price of £25,000. Fortunately, if you want to hear 'Do I Love You' in all its effervescent, stomping, dance-floor glory, you don't have to sell your house and children as it's available on a number of Northern Soul and Motown compilation CDs. By the way, it's also quite possibly the greatest dance record ever made, by anyone. Just thought I'd throw that in as a small additional point. But, don't take my word for it ... check it out.

5. The Natural-Ites & The Realistics - 'Picture On The Wall' (REALISTICS RECORDS, RR02-A). Another one that I've got listening to The John Peel Show to thank for (number ten in the 1983 Festival Fifty, fact fans!) A reggae hymn in praise of the holiest himself, The Lion of Judah ('Him sit upon de seat of justice/Protectin' de poor and de weak and de fadderless'), 'Picture on the Wall' is devotional music of the kind that actually should be played in every school assembly. More stuff like this and there'd be far less atheism about! Nottingham band, The Natural-Ites made something of a stir in the mid-eighties with their fine blend of regular reggae topics filtered through a British inner-city perspective. The backing of The Realistics, utilising a nice horns riff, gives the band a traditional roots-reggae feel which ran contrary to the chart-friendly dancehall business that was reggae's mainstream at the time; closer to Misty than Aswad or Sugar Minot, if you will. 'Jah is widdin' I.' Here they are on The Tube.

6. The Wild Swans - 'Revolutionary Spirit' (ZOO RECORDS, Cage 009-A) On Liverpool's legendary Zoo label, The Wild Swans were one of numerous off-shoots from The Teardrop Explodes, formed by keyboard-men Paul Simpson and Ged Quinn. Their debut single, 'Revolutionary Spirit' from 1982 is swooping masterpiece of acoustic guitars, lush keyboards and melodic vocals. Financed by the Bunnymen's drummer Pete de Freitas (who also played on the record), the single received critical acclaim (it was yet another Peel Festive Fifty Top Tenner) and soon developed cult status, capturing the youthful optimism and wry humour that existed on the Liverpool Indie scene in the early post-punk days. Tragically, the label collapsed just as the single was released. The Wild Swans eventually became The Lotus Eaters and had a couple of hits, before reforming and, I believe, are still going today. This one has beautiful, vivid, impressionistic lyrics ('Cease your foolish dream we have come to banish the land/I stand as Saint Sebastian with love for a higher command' and 'Now our hope is dust, so strange and absolute/Nestling in sweet sorrow is the saviour of our youth.') Magical.

7. Altered Images - 'Don't Talk To Me About Love' (EPIC EPC3083-A) Quite possibly the best 'break-up song' ever written. Ah, Clare. Lovely Clare. I would've walked into a withering hail of gunfire for Clare Grogan once upon a time. Actually, truth be told, I still probably would! Anyway, no doubt for 'guys of a certain age', this'll bring back some fond - and perhaps moist - memories: There's also a Top of the Pops appearance that you can find if you look on YouTube which is okay although the dreadfully forced jolly atmosphere and people throwing streamers about is somewhat incongruous for song with such sad sentiments ('When the whispering died/She cried/Never once to recover'). Some nice Rickenbacker work on display, though. Produced by The Sweet and Blondie guru Mike Chapman, a deserved top ten hit in 1983 (the band's last) and featuring a painting of Big Joe Turner on the sleeve. Class all the way.

8. Paris Angels - 'Perfume (All On You)' (SHEER JOY Sheer 002/T-A) Perhaps the ugliest band in the history of the world but they made one of THE great singles. Manchester's Paris Angels produced one of the ultimate baggy anthems, a perfect synthesis of sixties-jangle and Balearic-disco topped with Jane Gill's, ahem, angelic (s'cuse the pun) backing vocals. It was 'single of the week' in the NME, played repeatedly on Peel and stayed in the Top Ten of the UK Indie Chart for most of the glorious party summer of 1990. There are actually two completely different versions of this song - the 'jingle-jangle-morning-mixed-with-Joy-Division' indie-kid original ('Perfume') and the epic, extended six-minute polyrhythmic dance mix ('All On You') both of which can be found on the same twelve inch single. This is the video for the former. See what I mean? Not the prettiest bunch in the world, are they? Albeit, I do love the video. It's like a bunch of scallys got given twentyfive quid and camcorder and were told to get a bunch of their mates together in the local youth club and 'make a video!' The cheapness and the energy of the thing are, actually, its salvation. On the other hand, this is a remixed (and a bit shorter) version of the latter: Epic! A heathen shimmering beast of a single. After scraping the bottom of the charts with their debut, the Angles signed to Virgin and released two or three other great singles (the follow-up to 'Perfume', 'Scope' was also a gem) and one fabulous LP (Sundew) but never made it as big as 'Perfume' suggested that theywould and they were eventually dropped by the label in 1992. Guitarist Paul Wagstaff was later in Black Grape.

Next time of Songs Your iPod Needs To Know, we shall be going all mainstream and populist and featuring singles by The Jam, The Clash, The Isley Brothers, The Bee Gees and ... The Luddities.

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