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

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Fifteen

There are two significant events today, June 14th 2018, one personal and one international. The first one, close to home, is the 15th birthday of number two child/number one daughter Eliza. Once, as the picture shows, she was young and cute and happily wore a Clash t-shirt. Now she is 15, growing up into a young woman and probably wouldn’t wear a Clash t-shirt.

Every summer in recent years we’ve driven to France with a stack of music. I get accused of hogging the car stereo. Not true obviously. Finding songs we can all agree on is a bit of an artform. Last summer we got there on this one- I’ve got to say, I think this is a tune. So you can have this one as your birthday song Eliza. Happy birthday.

One of Eliza’s presents is Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 on 7″ (which she should have opened by the time this is posted). So here’s your birthday bonus song…

We survived our first ‘proper’ teenage house party at the weekend, a mixed group of 15 of them in our garden, with music, dancing, shrieking and  ‘controlled’ drinking (you can control what they drink in your house- more difficult to control what some of them have drunk before they arrive). Apart from some minor damage to our already patchy lawn there was no harm done and much fun had. The party playlist was dominated by 80s pop, some disgraceful 80s soft-rock and some more contemporary stuff. Back in 1985, when I turned 15 this was the UK’s number one single…

19 is groundbreaking in its own way and genuinely memorable, and kept at the number one slot by regular releases of remixed versions. Vietnam was big in the mid-80s. A decade on from the end of the war people were getting to grips with it, what had happened and what it meant. I read somewhere recently that the average age of the combat soldier in Vietnam wasn’t actually 19 but 22. But that doesn’t really change the message of the song or the fact that if you were poor, uneducated or black you were far more likely to end up in Vietnam than if you were wealthier, educated and white. Does it Mr. Trump? Coincidentally I played it to my Year 11 class recently as part of their depth study on The Vietnam War. They weren’t very impressed if truth be told, the sounds were too dated and quaint, the stuttering vocal too cliched and the female backing vox too cheesy. But they took the message and the visuals in.

The other event today is the start of the World Cup, Russia 2018. This is my 11th World Cup. I have some vague memories of Argentina ’78 aged 8, memories of the final at least, which I was allowed to stay up and watch some of. Spain ’82 is the first one I really  remember- in the picture above Bryan Robson celebrates after scoring against France in England’s opening game. Mexico ’86 was a blast, taking place during my O Levels, the magnificence of Diego Maradona in his prime, England out in controversial manner and an epic France v Brazil game. Italia 90 was ace, mixed up as it was with New Order’s World In Motion, No Alla Violenza, Toto Schillaci, Roger Milla and an England run to the semi-finals.

Twenty-eight years on, this is still the only world cup record that really matters.

‘Love’s got the world in motion and we can’t believe it’s true’.

World In Motion (No Alla Violenza Mix)

Bordeaux Sequence

In 1987 Tony Wilson decided that Durutti Column needed modernising so he bought Vini Reilly a load of new electronic instruments and machinery- sequencers, drum machines and so on. Vini sat up all night trying to work out how to use them. The result was The Guitar And Other Machines, just recently re-issued in expanded form by Factory Benelux. I treated myself to it. The original album was one of the first DC records I bought and this expanded edition adds a lot to my now fairly worn vinyl copy. Vini’s guitar playing and Bruce Mitchell’s drums still dominate but set against the new sounds of 87. Occasionally it sounds a little dated, a bit too bright, or the sequencers judder a little, but mainly it sounds like Vini revitalised and energised, in touch with the then present. Like a lot of DC albums, there are great moments and a couple of so-so songs but the overall effect of the whole album from start to finish is the thing. At the heart of it is Bordeaux Sequence, a total joy, with some gorgeous cello halfway through and Vini’s wife Pol on vocals. The drum machine pads away while Vini’s fingers work their magic.

Bordeaux Sequence

How good is that?

The new box has 3 cds- the original album expanded with 3 bonus songs Vini recorded with Jez Kerr and Simon Topping of A Certain Ratio. One of them, 28 Oldham Street, pays tribute to the building that would become Dry Bar in 1989 (recently closed down). Another, LFO Mod, is a cracking piece of experimental guitar and drum machine. Disc 2 rounds up related releases including the wonderful Italian only e.p. Greetings 3, some ‘sporadic recordings’ from that time, the follow up to 28 Oldham Street (30 Oldham Street) and a cover of White Rabbit. Disc 3 is almost worth the price of admission alone, a recording of Durutti Column  live at The Bottom Line in New York in October 86 and two songs from their appearance at WOMAD in 1988. You can buy it here.

National Pastime

Drew wrote a post a while ago saying that blogging often seems to be about exposing the obscure, bringing to light long forgotten songs and the ones that got missed. In the spirit of that here is an absolute lost gem, a Factory Records B-side by Stockholm Monsters, straight outta Burnage. This song was the flipside to All At Once, released in June 1984.

Opening with clattering drums and a low slung bass, then get a beautifully naive topline and a wonderful non-singer’s vocal. Produced by Peter Hook and lost by a record company who wouldn’t pay for pluggers and promotion because they believed the music would sell itself. If this was the only song they’d released, they’d still more than deserve a place in a version of mid-80s indie scene. A little slice of perfection.

National Pastime

Happy Christmas

 

Top Of The World

The Christmas edition of the NME used to be a big thing. Now the NME is given away for free by the doors in Top Shop but it was always a big deal back in the day. Double sized (88 pages!), albums and tracks of the year, alternative rock stars and indie bands in fancy dress, Shaun and Bez pissed and stoned… enough to keep you going through the long hours when there’s nothing to do at a family Christmas.

In 1989 The Stone Roses were the NME’s band of the year and it flew them out to Switzerland for photographs on top of a mountain. That year they had done a nationwide tour picking up converts on a daily basis, put out their debut album plus 3 singles, and played two era-defining gigs (at Blackpool in August and Ally Pally in November, plus Top Of The Pops). The two album based singles had B-sides that were as good as most of the album tracks (Made Of Stone in March had Going Down, She Bangs The Drum in July had Standing Here and Mersey Paradise). In November they put out the double A-side of Fool’s Gold and What The World Is Waiting For, a game changer if ever there was one. They would never be that good again and in some ways 1990 would do for them- they stalled and lost the lightness of touch and sureness that in 1989 had put them on top of the world.

This Is The One

A year later NME’s writers crowned Happy Mondays as the band that made 1990 tick. In the summer Step On made them pop stars. In November they put out Kinky Afro, produced by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne, a move that found them with a sound perfectly suited for the times and with a lyric that is unmatched. The extended Euromix (by Oakenfold and Osborne) made its way onto various releases (the USA and Australia both got the Euromix). My mp3 version is from The Factory Tape that came with Select magazine in 1991.

Kinky Afro (Euromix)

I’ve not posted Low’s Just Like Christmas yet this year, something I have done most Decembers at Bagging Area. It is a delight, from the rattling drums and sleigh bells to the sweetly sung words describing the band travelling from Stockholm to Oslo in the snow while on tour.

Just Like Christmas

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas, whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re doing it. See you in a few days for the post-Christmas lull.

One Christmas For Your Thoughts

I’ve completely avoided Christmas songs up to now this year- they/it’s been really annoying me- but I finished work yesterday and don’t have to go back until Monday 8th January. And that is very good indeed.

So, Saturday before Christmas and everything that entails. Last minute shopping. Return trips to the supermarket for that one item they didn’t have or you’d forgotten. Queuing to get in the supermarket carpark (although you knew you should have walked you thought it’d be ok). Writing cards for people who live nearby who you’d decided you wouldn’t post to this year but then one from them dropped through the letterbox.

Forget all of that and spend a few minutes with Vini Reilly and an achingly beautiful piece of music from The Durutti Column.

One Christmas For Your Thoughts

One Christmas… is a close cousin of the magnificent For Belgian Friends. It was recorded in 1981 but not released until 1985, coming out on Les Disques du Crepuscule, a Belgian label based in Brussels that put out records by Factory acts (along with its subsidiary Factory Benelux).