Sketch For Vini

I’ve been playing a lot of Durutti Column recently. Their second album, 1981’s LC, has been on a lot, as has 2010’s Paean To Wilson, the 1984 12″ single Without Mercy (two long form musical pieces recorded at Tony Wilson’s suggestion with students from the Royal Northern College Of Music), the recent re- release 7″ single Free From All The Chaos dropped through the letterbox not long ag and I keep returning to 1989’s Vini Reilly album.

In an attempt to pull some of this together into one place I’ve put together an hour of Durutti Column songs in the mix below, this selection all from the 1980s, and called it Sketch For Vini 1. It’s not meant to be definitive or a Best Of The Durutti Column, just some of my favourites stitched together, starting with some of Vini’s early work with Martin Hannett, then him being joined by Manchester legend Bruce Mitchell and the expanded line up in the mid-80s with viola player John Metcafe and Pol singing. Some of these songs are ones I’ve been listening to for the best part of three decades now and still don’t get tired of- Sketch For Summer, Otis, For Belgian Friends, Bordeaux Sequence, Jacqueline, Sketch For Dawn 1. There’s something unique and very affecting about Vini’s endlessly inventive guitar playing, his tone and sound, his use of echo, delay and chorus, and despite what Tony Wilson said about it, his voice too. I’m going to follow it with Sketch For Vini 2 at some point, going into the 90s and beyond. The Mixcloud player won’t embed- ongoing problems with the new Blogger- but you can find it and listen here. Hopefully it’ll hit the spot for a bright autumn day in September.

  1. The Second Aspect of the Same Thing
  2. Sketch for Summer
  3. Jacqueline
  4. For Belgian Friends
  5. The Missing Boy
  6. Enigma
  7. Tomorrow
  8. All That Love And Maths Can Do
  9. For Friends In Italy
  10. Otis
  11. When The World (Live in New York 1986)
  12. Bordeaux Sequence
  13. Sketch For Dawn 1
  14. Home
  15. Real Drums- Real Drummer

I’ve Been Waiting To Hear Your Voice For Too Long Now

You’d expect a song called Sunrise to be a lament for the night just gone maybe or music trying to replicate the bliss of the feeling of the sun’s rays on your face first thing, possibly the walk home after a night well spent. In 1985 New Order’s Sunrise was something else, possibly the angriest and most aggressive thing they recorded. It’s a full band performance starting with moody keyboards and an immediately distinctive, upper register Peter Hook bassline and then Bernard’s scratchy, raw guitar, an angry urgent sound, harking back to their previous band but definitely bathed in the New Order’s mid- 80s light. Speed, tempo, rhythm- lots of speed and some bile too. Bernard sings at an enemy about communication failures, insults and injuries and being the subject of hatred. It’s all very specific.

‘Why did you never speak my name in front of my family
You gave a gift then you took it away’

‘Your name might be God but you don’t say that much to me’

‘We might be your black sheep
But you forgot us a long time ago’

Hooky’s bass rises and falls, the guitar lines go ever upwards, Gillian’s synths add weight and Stephen pushes everything on to its conclusion, the pile up at the end and the crash from going too fast, Sumner’s guitar finally finishing in distortion as he thrashes away at the strings.

Sunrise 

This version recorded live at The Hacienda in December 1985 shows the song’s power played live and the effect it had on their fans- and the playing of the four members together, a modern rock band when they fancied it, as well as dance pioneers.

 

Lotta Continua

More Durutti Column, a band who have been soundtracking my life for the last few weeks. This song comes from LC, Vini’s follow up to the debut Durutti Column album, The Return Of The Durutti Column. LC was recorded at home onto a TEAC four track and one of the sounds of the album is tape hiss- not that it spoils it, it’s just there. LC opens with the stunning Sketch For Dawn 1 and near the end comes The Missing Boy, Vini’s tribute to Ian Curtis. In July 1981 Durutti Column played at a festival in Kaivopuisto Park, Helsinki, along with ACR and Kevin Hewick. Fifteen thousand Finns had the pleasure of watching Vini and Bruce Mitchell. This clip of them playing The Missing Boy is mesmerising, Bruce watching Vini playing while keeping the rhythm. At one point Bruce has an expression on his face which suggests he can’t quite believe what they are creating (the part from roughly four minutes forty onward is especially good).

Never Known is a highlight of LC, a few minutes of Vini’s delicate guitar playing and a reverb- laced drum machine. There’s also Jacqueline, a song written for and named after the wife of Bruce Mitchell.

Jacqueline

LC stands for Lotta Continua, the struggle continues.

In 1991 Durutti Column played at Cities In The Park, a festival in Heaton Park, north Manchester, in memory of the recently deceased Martin Hannett. Sunday’s line up featured a slew of Factory acts- ACR, Revenge, Cath Carroll, The Wendys, Electronic, Happy Mondays- plus De La Soul and 808 State. The weather was good and everyone had a good time. Durutti Column played in the middle of the afternoon, their subtle minimal melodies drifting out over the park. Cities In The Park was filmed and later released on video- my VHS copy is long gone but I bought it when it came out and rushed home to play it, hoping to spot myself and my friends in it somewhere, even if only fleetingly. No such luck. A friend on social media is in it, bobbing about in the crowd, in fact he appears in the crowd during the Durutti Column clip, dancing away at two minutes forty five behind the man standing still with a frown on his face. The Youtube clip won’t embed but Durutti Column playing Fado is here. The song starts with some of Vini’s trademark guitar finger picking, fed through an echo space unit, and his singing. It builds over several minutes, Bruce coming in at two minutes and then joined by some haunting (sampled) backing vocals, and by the time Vini is strumming the main riff over and over the song is completely entrancing. By the time Fado came out on an album, 1994’s Sex And Death, Factory had collapsed. Tony Wilson tried to relaunch the bankrupt record company as Factory Too (ironically a subsidiary of London Records, a final kick in the teeth). Factory Too was a vehicle for Durutti Column albums as much as anything else (anything else being albums by Space Monkeys and Hopper) and continued until 1998.

 

Love Sent From Bordeaux

I found this video clip a few days ago, Durutti Column playing in Manchester Cathedral in 1985. The song is Bordeaux Sequence, a beautiful Vini Reilly song, one of his best and the performance as you’ll see is stunning. The footage, filmed onto video tape, is astonishing too, the close ups of parts of the cathedral, it’s stained glass and statues, and the expanded mid- 80s Durutti Column, a stick thin Vini in white shirt playing guitar, viola player John Metcalfe (whose contribution is immense), vocals by Vini’s then partner Pol and the ever wonderful Bruce Mitchell on drums. Words can’t really do justice to the clip- one of my friends on social media said that ‘parts of (the video) had me holding my breath’ and I know exactly what he means. He also said that the film clip looks like it could have been made decades ago or yesterday which is also true.

The song started life on 1983’s Another Setting album, recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, with Vini singing in his fragile, whispery voice and sparse drums from Bruce. By 1985 it had been fleshed out as seen above, with viola, keys and Pol singing instead of Vini. When he came to re- record the song it was with Stephen Street in the producer’s chair and the album was 1987’s The Guitar And Other Machines (the other machines of the title were samplers, sequencers and drum machines), renamed as Bordeaux Sequence. In 1988 Durutti Column played at the WOMAD festival in St Austell, Cornwall. Former ACR and Swing Out Sister’s Andy Connell played keyboards but they performed without Pol. Vini sings the song instead. It’s another breathtaking live take on the song (originally released on a four song single in 1989).

Bordeaux Sequence (Live at WOMAD 1988)

‘In France you are sleeping
I wish I could see you
It’s always this way
Love sent from Bordeaux’

The picture is Stretford not Bordeaux or St Austell, less romantic but closer to home.

Sketch For Summer

Sketch For Summer is the opening song on 1980’s The Return Of the Durutti Column album, a three minute introduction to the work of Vini Reilly, a song combining simplicity and beautiful, languid guitar playing.

Sketch For Summer

In 1980 Durutti Column suddenly became a solo project when the rest of the band dissolved overnight, about to record an album. They had appeared from the remnants of a local punk band called Fast Breeder and contributed two songs to Factory’s first release, A Factory Sample. When Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus arranged for their debut album to be produced by Martin Hannett, three members walked out leaving guitarist Vini on his own. Not believing that a one man group would be allowed to record nevermind  release an album Vini had to be coaxed by Hannett into getting out of bed but over a few days Vini played guitar and Hannett played echo unit, delay and drum machine. Vini told Hannett that he didn’t want the ‘distorted, horrible guitar sound’ and Martin went on to get sounds out of Vini that no one else was doing. Hannett then pulled three days worth of guitar playing into shape and a nine track lp was created that Vini didn’t beleive would appear even when Wilson gave him a white label copy of it.

This being Factory in 1980 and Wilson being Vini’s manager the entire early Durutti Column is covered in Situationist jokes and references. The group’s name was a reference to an anarchist unit that fought in the Spanish Civil War. The album’s title, The Return Of The Durutti Column, was taken from a 1967 Situationist poster. The initial run of the album came in a sleeve covered in sandpaper, another Situationist joke, borrowed from Guy Debord, an album that would over time destroy the rest of your record collection. All of this is very Factory, very knowing and part of the legend but listening to Sketch For Summer is the whole deal in itself, a song that fades in with Hannett’s birdsong, created on one of his delay boxes, and then a drum machine smothered in echo and tape hiss before Vini’s guitar playing arrives. Melodies played through some chorus and echo FX pedals, and little runs of notes, lyrical without words, the repeated refrain around two minutes thirty and then the run out with the drum machine and the birds is just perfect.

Isolation Mix 15: Songs The Lord Sabre Taught Us Part Two

Two weeks ago I posted my fourteenth Isolation Mix, The Songs Lord Sabre Taught Us, an hour of music from Andrew Weatherall’s record box, as featured on his radio shows, playlists, interviews and mixes, mixed together seamlessly (vaguely). Today’s mix is a second edition, fifteen songs he played, raved about or sampled, most of them first heard via him (I was listening to Stockholm Monsters before I was a fan of Mr Weatherall, a long lost Factory band who made a bunch of good singles and a fine album called Alma Matter and also the best band to come out of Burnage). It’s a tribute to the man and his record collection that there are so many great records from his back pages to sift through and then sequence into some kind of pleasing order. Rockabilly, dub, Factory, post- punk, krautrock legends, Weller spinning out through the Kosmos…

Cowboys International: The ‘No’ Tune
Sparkle Moore: Skull And Crossbones

The Pistoleers: Bank Robber

The Johnny Burnette Trio: Honey Hush

Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze: Dubwise

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry: Disco Devil

African Head Charge: Dervish Chant

Big Youth: Hotter Fire

Colourbox: Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse

Stockholm Monsters: All At Once

Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit: How Much Are They?

White Williams: Route To Palm

Paul Weller: Kosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats)

A R Kane: A Love From Outer Space

Chris And Cosey: October (Love Song) ‘86

Do It Long Long

This has bubbling around on social media and some DJ mixes for a few weeks and has now been released digitally with a vinyl release to follow- Ewan Pearson’s remix of Hallelujah, the lead song from the Mondays breakthrough release at the tail end of the 80s, the Madchester Rave On e.p. Across three different mixes Ewan has taken parts from the 7″ version (the MacColl mix where Kirsty’s husband Steve Lillywhite pushed her backing vocals forwards a bit and smoothed out some of the sheer lunacy of the Mondays’ sound in ’89) and some of the Club Mix (where Paul Oakenfold and Andrew Weatherall sampled some chanting monks, added some Italo piano stabs and dusted it down for dance floors) and added a snippet of Tony Wilson talking about twenty- four track recording. Shaun sounds as dangerous and off it as he did thirty years ago over the enormous re- figured bassline and Mark Day’s guitar lines still sound unique. The past rebuilt for the present. Double double good.

Given that this song was produced in its original mix by Martin Hannett, sung on by Kirsty MacColl, released on Tony Wilson’s record label and remixed by Andrew Weatherall it’s also a tribute to four people who have gone before their time.

This five minute edit version is good, a five minute bug eyed dance but if you’re going to go full Bez you’re going to want the nine minute mix, available from all the usual places. There’s a nine minute dub mix too.

Just so you can compare and contrast, here’s the Oakenfold/ Weatherall remix from 1990, the Monday’s ramshackle Little Hulton funk streamlined and intensified, hypnotically.

Hallelujah (Club Mix)

I Said I Couldn’t Hit It Sideways

Sister Ray is a seventeen minute, recorded in one take avant- rock dance song that completes their 1968 album White Light/ White Heat. Lou Reed said that it was done ‘as a joke- no, not as a joke… but as a scene of total debauchery and decay’. It was intended to be confrontational. The group agreed to keep playing for the duration and leave in whatever mistakes were made. The engineer pressed record and then walked out. Reed and Sterling Morrison batter the fuck out of the riff and John  Cale plays organ hooked up through a distorted guitar amp. The guitar playing is simple and percussive and completely overloaded and the organ is completely in the red, distorted and wailing.

Sister Ray

Lou Reed had written a lyric about ‘a transvestite smack dealer’ and in the song a bunch of drag queens take some sailors home… and start shooting up on smack and having this orgy when the police appear’. In the song Lou’s characters include Doc and Sally, Rosie and Miss Rayon, a sailor who’s dressed in pink and leather, Cecil with a new gun with which he shoots a sailor and makes a mess of the carpet and amongst all this Lou drawls about  ‘I’m too busy searching for my mainline/ I couldn’t hit it sideways’ and ‘she’s too busy sucking on my ding- dong’.

While this is the noisy side of The Velvets at their most extreme the song when played live was often the one that would get the audience up out of their seats dancing. There are multiple live versions out there lasting for up to and beyond half an hour, like this one recorded live at The Matrix in San Francisco in 1969. Starts out slow and sparse and builds but with a noticeably different feel compared to the album version.

Sister Ray (Live)

I’m fairly sure though that the first version I would have heard of the song would have been a cover, probably this one by New Order at Glastonbury in 1987. They had played Sister Ray live as Joy Division and there’s a version on Still which I might have heard earlier but I know I had a tape of the 1987 Glastonbury set because it was recorded by Radio 1 and transmitted as part of their Live In Concert series and I taped the set straight from the radio. New Order’s version is a comparatively short eight minutes and is a bass, guitar, drums finale after a set chock full of mid 80s dance- pop brilliance that opens with Touched By The Hand Of God and takes in Temptation, True Faith, Your Silent Face, Every Little Counts, Bizarre Love Triangle, Perfect Kiss and Age Of Consent. The group kick up a solid racket, sounding quite like Joy Division in parts, Hooky’s ascending and descending bass riding in and out of the mix and Bernard making up the words as he goes along and then sampled voices being dropped in at the end. It captures the spirit and intention of Sister Ray as Lou and The Velvets set out to I think.

Sister Ray (Live at Glastonbury 1987)

Antwerpen

We should have been in Belgium this week, a few days in Antwerp and Brussels for my fiftieth, frites and beer, cafes on squares, some browsing of record shops and some sightseeing. We’ll have to see if we can get there for my fifty- first. In 1980 Vini Reilly wrote this beautiful, shimmering, fluid piece of  abstract guitar music. Produced by Hannett and with ACR’s Donald Johnson on drums

For Belgian Friends

This cover version by Dream Lovers came out back in 2017, an even more blissed out, laid back version than Vini’s original.

Belgium also says Belgian new Beat, proto- house music built on juddering drum machines, wonky basslines and vocal samples. Most of this music is the best part of thirty to thirty five years old. Selecting one track from random out of a forty three song compilation called The Best Of Belgian New Beat Vol. 1 brings up this by Chayell from 1989, a moody synth monster with a voice intoning ‘with a girl like me’.

Don’t Even Think About It

50

I am fifty today. When we were young, people who were fifty seemed to have reached an old age but I don’t know if I now feel as old as they seemed then. It’s just a number I suppose, and I’ve been to quite a few 50ths in the last year and none of those people seem old, but reaching the half a century mark makes it sound quite old. Lots of aspects of the world of 1970 do seem like a very long time ago. I haven’t really been much bothered about this as the months and weeks have shortened and there have been lots of other things that have been more pressing and more important but I did wake up yesterday morning thinking, ‘fuck, this is the last day of my forties. Fuck’. Any way it’s here, I am fifty.

Factory Records numerical cataloguing system is a good place to stop in today as any. FAC 49 was a single by Swamp Children, produced by Simon Topping. It’s successor, FACT 50, came out in November 1981, New Order’s first album- Movement. The sleeve is a beautiful Peter Saville design with the sideways F at the top (F for Factory) and a sideways L at the bottom (L being the Roman numeral for 50). The design was borrowed from an Italian Futurist poster by Fortunato Depero. In the US it was released in a brown and ivory sleeve.

The cassette cover, the most throwaway of format artefacts, was beautiful too. I always liked how Factory placed the barcode down the spine on their tapes. Post- modern, probably.

The album isn’t much rated by the band and they admit to being confused musically, off balance due to the loss of Ian’s presence, voice, lyrics and ear for spotting riffs. The position of being singer had been resolved to some extent although Hooky sings lead vocals on two songs. Gillian had joined enabling Bernard to sing and play guitar, something he couldn’t do simultaneously at gigs, and she’d add depth on guitar or keyboards. They also found themselves at odds with Martin Hannett, who was deeply affected by Ian’s suicide and deeply into a mess of drink and drugs. They produced themselves after Movement. There are some really good sounding guitars, bass, keys and drums on Movement but the songs on the whole don’t stick long in the memory after playing them. There are hints at their future sound and brief flashes or moments but nothing that really matches the songs released as singles and B-sides before it, Ceremony, Procession, Mesh, Cries And Whispers and Everything’s Gone Green. Except the opener, the only genuine moment of greatness on FACT 50, three minutes of post- Joy Division perfection. Bernard and Hooky’s echo- laden guitars wrap themselves around each other, up and down and in and around for the intro. Stephen comes in drums adding momentum before they all lock in and take off at 53 seconds and then it really is post- Joy Division New Order in full flight. Hooky’s vocals suit the song too, indebted to Ian but looking for a way out.

Dreams Never End