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).

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

I Was Standing By The Ocean When I Saw Your Face

Released the same year as yesterday’s Shark Vegas song New Order put out two non-album singles in 1987, True Faith and Touched By The Hand Of God. True Faith was the chart smash, the crossover hit with the award winning video but Touched… has long been its equal to these ears. The juddering synth bass intro was written by Hooky, waiting around for the others to arrive at their rehearsal studio, their timekeeping being a long standing gripe of Hooky’s. Tellingly in Substance Hooky notes that ‘Barney was happy with it’. From there on in the full band contributed to fleshing it out. Originally Touched… was recorded for the soundtrack of the film Salvation!, a parody of televangelism (a straight to VHS release). New Order recorded several other songs for the soundtrack and then had Arthur Baker remix Touched… for its release in December 1987 as a single. There’s an effortlessness about it, synth-pop disco brilliance, which makes it favourite of mine, Hooky’s bass well represented and Bernard’s lyrics seeming to carry the weight of personal experience.

Touched By The Hand Of God

Kathryn Bigelow’s video, shot at their Cheetham Hill studio and intercut with MTV video pisstake snippets, is a hoot- all the group dressed as a hair metal band (and Hooky in his normal clothes).

I’m sure if, like me, you were there at the time, you really don’t need me to tell you that this single is 30 years old and that, as people like to point out, in 1987 a single that was 30 years old then would have been released in 1957 and etc etc. Where did the last 3 decades go? When did we all get so old?