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.

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I Like That, Turn It Up

Yargo have appeared in my social media timelines a couple of times recently so it’s time to revisit them here. I’ve written about them before, a band barely known outside Manchester but who really should have been bigger. There’s a dearth of decent pictures on the internet too and while searching for an image for this post I found the one above, a ticket for a 1990 gig at Manchester International 1 where they were supported by Rig (who I wrote about at the start of this year here and who had my mate Darren on guitar).

Yargo were a four piece who defied pigeonholing mixing blues, soul, funk and reggae, and a singer (Basil Clarke) with the voice of an angel. Several of them had previously been in Biting Tongues, another unsung Manchester band. This song, from the album Bodybeat, has brushed drums and jazzy guitar licks before moving into a sort of dub/film soundtrack area.

Another Moss Side Night

In 1988 they put out a single with singer Zoe Griffin called The Love Revolution (Manchester, 1988- ‘ten thousand people committing no crime… we’re dancing away’). Basil’s voice floats over an ACR style house groove on this very nice Justin Robertson remix.

The Love Revolution (Justin Robertson’s Scream Team Remix)

They received their most widespread coverage in 1989 when their song The Other Side Of Midnight was used as the theme tune to Tony Wilson’s late night Granada music TV show of the same name. As well as some legendary appearances by some definitive Manchester guitar bands OSM enabled Tony to broadcast a party from Victoria Baths soundtracked by A Guy Called Gerald (starting at 6.15 with Voodoo Ray).

And from the end of the series in July 89 a stunning show from the old Granada Studios building, a live rave with Gerald again, T-Coy (Mike Pickering and ex-ACR man Simon Topping) and the Happy Mondays at their chaotic peak. But you know,  it’s 1989, the crowd are the real stars.

Wilson

Tony Wilson died ten years ago today. His legacy is all over this city and (probably) in your record collections and on your hard drives. Manchester and pop culture is a poorer place without him. I’ve posted Mike Garry and Joe Duddell’s tribute to Tony before but Mike Garry’s words about him and the world he was part of are always worth hearing again.

The Worm Has Definitely Turned For You

The Madchester Rave On e.p. is best known for the musical dance riot that is Hallelujah but there were three other songs on the disc- Holy Ghost, Clap Your Hands and the one here which gave the record its name. Rave On is a swirl of keyboards and guitars mashed together by Martin Hannett, some funk slap bass, massively echo laden drums and Shaun Ryder giving it the full on stream-of-consciousness through his centre parting vibe. Various phrases bubble up- we know how to do it, you’re a walking miracle, well the worm has definitely turned for you. I can’t decipher it all, I may have misheard some of these (for the last twenty seven and a half years) and the usual lyric websites aren’t much help and maybe that’s for the best because the not knowing and the guessing is all part of the fun. I suspect they’re mainly about taking drugs. No one else sounded like this then and hasn’t since really.

Rave On

Cities In The Park

Just over twenty five years ago Factory Records put on a two day festival in Heaton Park, Manchester, in memory of Martin Hannett who had died earlier that year. Day One, Saturday August 3rd, included Buzzcocks, Paris Angels, Ruthless Rap Assassins, The Railway Children, OMD and The Wonderstuff. Day Two, Sunday, was almost entirely Factory acts- Happy Mondays, Electronic, ACR, Revenge, Durutti Column, The Wendys and Cath Carroll plus De La Soul, 808 State and New fast Automatic Daffodils. There were two day camping tickets- but who would want to camp in Heaton Park?

We went on the Sunday. It was hot. I met my brother there, who came in when some of the crowd outside pushed the fence down. He had a ticket but just fancied coming in through the fence. From memory Durutti were good but a bit lost in a giant field, Revenge were a bit iffy (Hooky playing bass, singing and whacking the syndrums repeatedly, probably trying to overcompensate for the bad blood between him and Bernard Sumner, New Order’s split and their relative positions on the bill). ACR were good, 808 State really moved the crowd, De La Soul were shouty. Electronic were imperious, especially when the Pet Shop Boys turned up on stage and you scanned left to right and saw key members of New Order, The Smiths and PSBs all together for one song. It’s shame they played live so rarely.

The whole event was filmed and a video released which I bought but no longer have. Here’s a scene setter…

And here an enthusiastic Tony Wilson interviews Johnny Marr, Rowetta, Shaun Ryder and Bez…

This Youtube uploader has labelled this as Electronic live in London  but it’s definitely Heaton Park.

Happy Mondays were by 1991 a stunningly effective if very unlikely stadium band. Kinky Afro rocks. No, it doesn’t, it grooves.

You Used To Speak The Truth But Now You’re Clever

When I posted Boom, a Happy Mondays B-side from 1988, a couple of weeks ago I flipped the 12″ over to enjoy the A-side shortly afterwards. If I could only have one Happy Mondays song it would be Wrote For Luck, their essence distilled into a gloriously fucked up but funky racket. Shaun’s lyrics are his best, full of truths and wit, and Horse’s guitar part is from some other place entirely. Martin Hannett’s production makes perfect sense. Shaun said of working with Hannett it was the only time the producer was more out of it than the band. You could have the album version, the various mixes, the W.F.L. Oakenfold and Vince Clarke versions, any of them. In October 1988 The Bailey Brothers shot a video for the in Legends discoteque in town. It is also a work of genius- fill a city centre club with your mates, get them refreshed and roll cameras. Shaun’s facial expressions tell the story in themselves.

Midnight

I found this twenty four minute time capsule while looking for this morning’s Yargo clip- a special edition of Tony Wilson’s The Other Side Of Midnight TV show from the summer of 1989. Mike Pickering’s T-Coy, A Guy Called Gerald and Happy Mondays playing live down at Granada Studios. A party, as Wilson says, with the emphasis on part-E. As ever, the crowd (their clothes, hairstyles and dancing) are the real stars.