Winter Hill

It’s pretty bizarre driving past Winter Hill at the moment, as I do on my way to work every day- the hillside is on fire and has been since last week. Two fires converged and although the main fires have now been contained the peat is still burning, smoke still visible for miles. The whole hillside is smouldering.

Winter Hill has a long history dating back to Bronze Age burial sites and has been the site of several air crashes, including one in 1958 which killed 35 people, an Isle Of Man to Manchester flight crashing near the summit. There was a crash in the 1920s and then during and after the Second World War Spitfires and Hurricanes went into the hillside fairly regularly. The TV mast seems to attract them rather than warn them off. There have also been several alleged UFO sightings, one involving a farmer and ‘a dark object hovering close to the ground’ as recently as 1999.

I posted this before back in October 2016 but it’s begging for a re-post. A Certain Ratio’s tribute to Winter Hill was the closing song on their 1981 To Each… album, a 12 minute instrumental trip based around an intense, alternating 2 note drone. Donald Johnson plays drums like his life depends on them while the rest of ACR blow their whistles. Hannett mans the controls.

Winter Hill


Over Again

The Charlatans 2017 album Different Days seems to have been a bit of an opinion splitter. A bunch of good songs with a few skippers is my view- not as good as Modern Nature but better than some of the albums that they put out in the 00s. The newest single from it, Over Again, came out on green vinyl just after Christmas (to match the green Sproston Green sweatshirt modelled above). Over Again is a breezy, lighter than air kind of song, driven by some early 90s drums.

It’s been followed by a remix by Bagging Area favourites A Certain Ratio, a loose limbed groove with Tim’s vocals intact and added whistles and squiggles. The end section in particular could have come straight from ACR:MCR. Put it with the Barry Adamson one they remixed last year.

I’ve Been Looking For A Certain Ratio

So said Brian Eno, providing Manchester’s most enduring group with a name. I’ve seen them play live three Decembers running now, in a basement in Blackburn last year and at a sparsely attended show at the university the year before. Saturday night’s gig at The Ritz is close to full, a sign that being on a big label (Mute) brings promotion and rewards. The core members of ACR have been playing together now for nearly 40 years so it’s no surprise that they as tight as can be. It’s also good that having seen them play shows in fairly close succession, that they are still changing the arrangements of the songs, extending them and mucking about with outros and middle parts. Singer/bassist Jez is suffering from sciatica, having to sit down at times, but there are no half measures. During the encore he dedicates the gig to the memory of Duncan O’Brien, technician and friend to the group who died this year. On the balcony teenage daughters of the band dance and take photos. On the floor it’s mainly the 40 plus crowd. In the toilets someone says ‘for a moment there, I thought I was back in Hacienda’.

In looks and sound I’ve often thought that ACR’s short back and sides haircuts and clipped funk could have made them the perfect house band for a club in Weimar Berlin. Arriving on stage to  the ACR:MCR intro tape, they kick off with the early stuff, drawing us in with taut basslines and staccato guitar parts and Donald Johnson’s mesmeric drumming. Just when it begins to feel like it might be little too austere, just a tad too ’81, they turn the gig on a sixpence and hit us with 3 slices of late 80s dance-pop; 27 Forever, Won’t Stop Loving You and Good Together. Suddenly the greying but up for it Mancunian crowd are dancing with Denise’s singing front and centre. Then we get Be What You Wanna Be and Shack Up, two pieces of Manchester music as essential as anything anyone else has recorded in the last 40 years. The final song is as it always is- Don and Martin Moscrop swap places, Martin on the drums and Don slapping fuck out of a bass guitar, with everyone else on cowbells, whistles and bongos. They tour next year, another sign that Mute’s money has brought them some freedom. The re-issued album campaign is already underway.  I have a friend, who I reconnected with a year ago, who made me a compilation tape back in late 1986 or early 1987. On it was this song, one that I’ve been listening to now for 30 years. Hearing the stepped, jerky funk of Do The Du live in 2017 is just as good as hearing it on a C90 was then (thanks for that Darren). Do The Du was originally released on The Graveyard And The Ballroom, a Factory Records cassette from 1980.

Do The Du

This is the one that got everyone singing along on Saturday night. We can argue about whether the original version (here) or the Bernard Sumner remix is the best, but this is the version they’ve been playing live.

‘When you’re sick and tired
Of everybody lying to you
You just want to walk away
Walk right into better days’

The Big E

River’s Edge

I found this picture I took a few years ago, the River Irwell again but somehow I managed to get it and everything around it entirely in blue. No filters. So one more river post to complete the week- I was thinking of songs that mention rivers (Nick Cave and Kylie, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Sugar’s The Act We Act) but you can flog these blog things to death if you’re not careful.

This song is from A Certain Ratio’s 1989 album Good Together, released following their move to a major label (A&M) in search of funds and a hit. Hits evaded them. But Good Together is a good album, a song based record but a little over polished possibly, and they went several steps beyond it with the following year’s ACR:MCR, an album which was soaked in what was happening in the clubs.

ACR are playing The Ritz in December and then a UK tour in March. I’ve seen them twice in recent years and will do again next month- they are well worth seeing if they’re playing anywhere near you.

River’s Edge

I Love You Because You’re Different!

I was going to give the Marvel thing a rest but I’ve got several great frames still to use and it’s given the writing of posts a new lease of life for me and I don’t ignore those kind of things when it comes to trying to find something to say every day.

Barry Adamson, a man who has played bass with both Magazine and The Bad Seeds, had several first rate solo albums and a bunch of soundtracks (including The Beach, Lost Highway and Natural Born Killers), has a new e.p. out next month- remixes of his Love Sick Dick 6 track e.p. Love Sick Dick was a kind of modern, urban blues for 2017. One of the remixes out next month is by A Certain Ratio.

Martin Moscrop, ACR’s guitarist and trumpeter, describes the remix as more of a collaboration. ACR built up a new track, with drums, 303, guitar, keyboards and trumpet, dropping in Barry’s vocals, chopped up, and the backing vox. The remix is tagged ACR:MCR Rework and the reference to their 1990 masterpiece is spot on. This sounds like a continuation of the sound of that record, lovely uptempo grooves with Barry’s vocals on top and an extended funky end section. Very good indeed.

ACR have recently signed a deal with Mute and a series of reissues has started, with Good Together and ACR:MCR due next year.


A couple of weeks ago Echorich wrote an A Certain Ratio imaginary compilation album for The Vinyl Villain, a ten song ACR primer. I was going to do it but was slower off the mark than Echorich. Then I thought about just sending in an ep’s worth as an extra, a Sextet maybe, but when I thought about it, it was easy to find another ten songs from ACR’s rich and varied back catalogue. So my ACR:ICA was posted at The Vinyl Villain yesterday. You can find it here. One of the things mine and Echorich’s versions show collectively and was commented on by JTFL is how far ‘the band morphed over time but still sounded like themselves’. They remain very underrated and outside certain circles a very unknown group but they are much loved- and were/are musically significant too.

Your Blue Eyes was a 1989 single and opened the major label album Good Together. It is classy Mancunian pop. This vinyl rip has a couple of seconds of wonderful crackle before the song starts. As we all know, life has surface noise.

Your Blue Eyes

Right Back

Jez Kerr, frontman and bass player for A Certain Ratio, has had an on-off solo thing going on for a few years. ACR have signed a deal with Mute and are planning a series of re-releases plus a new album so the solo thing is probably off for the moment but I revisited some of his solo tracks from 2012 recently and there are a couple you might like and may not have heard.

Reason I Feel Like An Alien has a dreamlike melody and an ACR-like vocal but this is more meditative and lost than ACR are. There’s another version which is even spacier but I can’t find a link to it right now. The video is pretty hypnotic too.

Rip You Right Back rides in on noises and a mechanical rhythm and stays right there, with Jez’s monotone vocals sinking over the top. In different ways I can hear the influence of Brian Eno in both songs. The pair are off an album called Numb Mouth Eat Waste which you can still pick up in the usual places.