Say It Loud ‘No!’

I woke up recently with Pete Wylie’s single Sinful running through my head. Sinful came out in 1987, a hit that saw him return to Top Of The Pops with Josie Jones and three backing dancers dressed as nuns.

Ace isn’t it? The song, the Zeus B. Held production, what looks like Paul Weller’s pop art Rickenbacker, the performance, the presenters (John Peel and Janice Long), the sheer Wylie spirit. I’ve posted the Top Of The Pops clip before but shockingly, and in a clear breech of the bloggers convention that all music blogs must post Wylie or Wah! at least once in any given calendar year, there hasn’t been any Wylie or Wah! to date in 2019.

Sinful

Here the same line up perform/mime on Wogan. Magic.

I’ve got an uneasy feeling that we’re all going to wake up on Friday morning in a very unpleasant state. There isn’t anything I’ve seen over the last few weeks that makes me feel optimistic about the result of the election and I think we going to be saddled with five years of Tory rule with a lying, racist, homophobic and vacuous Prime Minister.

In 1982 Pete Wylie, then operating under the name Wah!, wrote a song called The Story Of The Blues. It was partly in response to the then Conservative government and the portrayal of life and unemployment under that government in Alan Bleasdale’s series The Boys From The Blackstuff. The Blues of the title can be interpreted as the Tories. The first part of Wylie’s song is an exhortation to people who are about to give up, who have been kicked and kicked again, to be positive and strong, to organise and resist.

‘First they take your pride
Turn it all inside
And then you realise
You’ve got nothing left to lose

So you try to stop
Try to get back up
And then you realise
You’re telling the story of the blues’

Wylie was also expressing his frustration with his record company and the way they were trying to market Wah! and reduce the multi-faceted, rough edged group down into a single, shiny marketable product. Everyone hated their record labels in the 1980s didn’t they? It was par for the course for those inspired by punk to sign to a major for the advance and the distribution and then face battles in everything they did.

Wylie and Wah! recorded an extended version which took the pop single, full of female backing vocals and violins, further with a long spoken word section- The Story Of The Blues (Talkin’ Blues) and they run as one song on the 12″. In this section Wylie blasts the news media for selling Thatcher’s economic policies and for criticising people, young people especially, for being unemployed, as if being in the dole made you less of a person. These were all big issues in the early 80s- unemployment, the right to work, the destruction of manufacturing industry and the jobs that went with them, the throwing of people onto the scrapheap.

‘…well that’s my story and I’m sticking to that. So let’s have another drink and let’s talk about the blues. Blues is about dignity, it’s about self-respect, and no matter what they take away from you – that’s yours for keeps. I remember how it was, how every medium – T.V. and papers and radio and all those people were saying: ‘you’re on the scrap-heap, you’re useless’, and I remember how easy it was to start believing that. I remember how you’d hear people take it for granted that it was true – just ’cause someone with an ounce of power said so. And that’s a problem now, too many oddballs, too many pocketbook psychologists and would-be philosophers with an axe to grind. But there’s a solution, it’s not easy, but it’s a matter of coming to terms in your heart with situation you’re in, a matter of choosing how things go for you and not having things forced upon you. There are plenty of forces against you, forcing you against your will, your ideals – you’ve got to hope for the best, and that’s the best you can hope for – you’ve got to hope against hope… I remember something Sal Paradise said, he said: ‘the city intellectuals of the world are debauched from the full body blood-of-the-land and are just rootless fools’. So listen, when the smile, the condescending pat-on-the-back comes and says: ‘we’re sorry, but you’re nothing, you’ve got nothing for us and we’ve got nothing for you’, you say: ‘No’, and say it loud: “NO!”, and remember, people who talk about revolution and a class-struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love, and what is positive in the refusal and constraint…since people have a corpse in their mouth…”

In 2013 the I’m A Cliche Edit Service website presented an unoffical re-edit of The Story Of The Blues, credited to It’s A Fine Line (Tim Paris and Ivan Smagghe). This is a killer re-working of Wah!’s original with a long looped opening section, the backing vocals fading in behind the violins and then Wylie’s words. The last few minutes are quite heady and when you get to the end it’s very easy to just click replay and listen to it all over again. Several times. Even better, it’s still available to download for free.

I was going to go full Pete Wylie and post Come Back and Imperfect List as well but maybe we should come back to them another day. Come Back is a political love song, an anthem and call to arms and Imperfect List a purging, a shitlist of all the things Wylie and Jones hated (two versions, one in 1990 and one in 2013). But I think I’ll come back to them another day.

Here She Comes Again

rimal Scream’s 1986 B-side Velocity Girl is a perfect piece of guitar pop- bright, spindly, quickly strummed guitars rushing all over the place and Bobby Gillespie’s tribute to the girl with ‘vodka in her veins’. The song is short, just eighty eight seconds long, but has had a huge influence. It was a cornerstone of C86 and on hearing it John Squire went away and rethought how he played guitar and wrote songs (Made Of Stone being one obvious result).

Primal Scream are about to release another best of compilation and unlike 2003’s Dirty Hits which took Loaded as the starting point the new singles album , called somewhat depressingly Maximum Rock & Roll, goes back to their roots with Velocity Girl, Gentle Tuesday, Imperial and Ivy Ivy Ivy all included this time around. Velocity Girl is to be put out as a 7″ single too so if you missed out first time around, time to get down the record shop and pick a copy up. Douglas Hart has made a video for Velocity Girl, combining footage of Edie Sedgwick with Bobby miming to camera in 2019 (I think I would have been happy with more Edie and less Bobby or at least Edie and a 1986 Bobby). Velocity Girl, it goes without saying, is a fucking fantastic song.

In July 1986 Primal Scream did a session for Janice Long and recorded this version of Velocity Girl, a version which has an extra verse that just about takes it to the two minute mark.

Velocity Girl (Janice Long Session)

Four Eleven Forty Four

The last day of August is always depressing- the end of summer, end of school holidays, changing seasons, nights drawing in, all that stuff. We need something heroic and valedictory to see us through- and Pete Wylie is the answer I think. I was going to post Sinful, his 1987 single, a real fists in the air, all together now moment, but while looking for that I found this one (also a single from 1987).

Fourelevenfortyfour

Otherwise known as 4-11-44, a love song and one of those songs that can convince you Wylie is some kind of genius. The roots of the phrase 4-11-44 are in the African American community of the USA in the 19th century. 4, 11 and 44 were popular numbers chosen when gambling on illegal lotteries,a three number gig that rarely came up and would therefore give a large payout. According to Urban Dictionary and at least one other source, the numbers are slang for the penis, particularly among Black Britons.

Oh go on then, here’s Sinful as performed on Top Of The Pops back in ’87, presented by Peel and Long, with Josie Jones (sadly no longer with us)  and 3 dancers dressed as nuns (which brought a complaint from Mary Whitehouse). We need more of this type of thing.