All At Once

I passed up the opportunity recently to push my thumb on on a piece of clickbait I saw on my phone entitled ‘are Oasis the best ever band from Manchester?’ ‘Don’t be ridiculous’ I thought, ‘of course they aren’t. In fact Oasis aren’t even the best band Burnage’.

The honour ‘best ever band from Burnage’ lies with Stockholm Monsters, a little known band who formed in 1980, signed to Factory and released several wonderful records before splitting up in 1987. Their debut, 1981’s Fairy Tales single, was produced by Martin Hannett. Wilson loved them for a while before the Happy Mondays replaced them in his affections. Peter Hook took them under his wing and produced their 1984 album Alma Mater. Their sound is very mid 80s indie- jagged, trebly guitars, cheap keyboards, the occasional trumpet and a non- singer on vocals (I mean this as a compliment. Non- singers on vocals are often my favourite singers).  In 1984 they put this single out (and in typical Factory/ 80s indie style the B-side called National Pastime is just as good- I posted it in January 2018).

All At Once

Later on they worked drum machines and New Order’s Emulator into their sound and in the face of press and record buying public indifference bid farewell with a single called Partyline, a song that starts off wonky and unsure of itself, sparse bassline and swells of one fingered keyboards before it explodes into melody in the chorus. This performance on Granada TV is low key but entrancing, a glimpse of band who should be far better known than they are.

Partyline was their parting shot, a 1987 single on Factory (FAC 146 fact fans). It was produced by Hooky under the Be Music guise that members of New Order used for production work. There’s plenty of reverb on the drums, too much probably heard now in 2019, and the instruments seem to be in competition with each other, overloaded and fighting for space, it’s all very busy and singer Tony France is straining at the top of his register. But I love it, it’s flawed but somehow perfect, and it’s got a spark, a spirit and a heart that you can look for in any of the Oasis albums from [insert date here] onward and won’t find.

Partyline (Partylive Mix)

Burnage, for those who don’t know, is a suburb of south Manchester, bisected by a dual carriageway called Kingsway. I grew up in Withington, its neighbouring suburb a short walk west. As well as Stockholm Monsters and the Gallaghers Burnage was/is home to loads of people I went to school with, former Manchester United captain and Busby Babe Roger Byrne (who died in the muinich air disaster in 1958), actor David Threlfall and Dave Rowbotham, a former member of Durutti Column and The Invisible Girls (sadly murdered in 1991).

I Just Want To See Your Face

Section 25, from Poulton- le- Fylde near Blackpool, formed in 1977, enthused by punk and its possibilities. In 1979 they shared a stage with Joy Division at Blackpool’s Imperial Hotel and from there were invited by Rob Gretton to play at the Russell Club in Hulme and then on to signing to Factory. By 1983 an expanded line up were heading towards the future, away from post punk guitars and into electronic dance music. Their 1984 single Looking From A Hilltop, produced by Bernard Sumner and ACR’s Donald Johnson under their Be Music name, is one of the best records Factory released, a proto- techno/electro masterpiece, dark synth- pop, Moroder on the Golden Mile, with whip crack backwards drums, low slung bass and an icy vocal from Jenny Ross.

The album From The Hip, has one of Peter Saville’s most beautiful sleeves- the poles on the front cover use the same colour wheel code he’d used on the Power, Corruption And Lies and Blue Monday sleeves. The Megamix version of Looking From A Hilltop on the 12″ made it’s way to New York’s clubs and to the early Chicago house scene. Along with Marcel King’s Reach For Love and 52nd Street’s Cool As Ice, Looking From A Hilltop proves that it wasn’t all just about New Order at Palatine Road in 1984. The version I’m posting here is from a session Section 25 did for David Kid Jenson at the BBC, 10th May 1984.

Looking From A Hilltop (BBC session)

Tell Me

This is another pop gem from the Factory Records back catalogue, a 1984 single from Life. Andy Robinson was New Order’s guitar technician and would become their manager later on following the death of Rob Gretton. He put Life together with Graham Ellis and singer Rita Griffiths and put out four singles, two on Factory and two on Factory Benelux before calling it a day in 1986. Tell Me is bright and breezy synth-pop, fizzing with ideas, a minor gem in a back catalogue that is stuffed full of them, produced by Be Music. In this instance Be Music was Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert and it isn’t a million miles from the sound they would make as the Other Two.

Tell Me