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.

Bring It Home To Me

On a Factory tip recently I dug out my double disc re-issue of A Certain Ratio’s Sextet, their second album, released in 1982 and their first without Hannett at the controls. Hannett was dumped as producer by New Order, Durutti Column and then ACR too which can’t have done much for his state of mind. Sextet- so called because they’d recently become a six piece band- is full of good songs, heavy noir vibes and that Mancunian funk. The song that leapt out me was Knife Slits Water, a single from the same year and on CD 2 it’s long B-side Kether Hot Knives. I’ll save the B-side for another time.

Knife Slits Water takes the group’s dark funk, particularly foregrounding Donald Johnson’s drumming, a large dollop of echo on the kick drum creating a very futuristic dance sound, some busy bass and the distant but tough vocals of Martha Tilson, lyrics she wrote about sex and sexual politics. Tony Wilson’s vision of ACR as white boys playing funk, clad in ex-army khaki with short back and sides and whistles, is perfectly realised here. In 1981 the group had done a Peel Session- Skipscada, Day One and Knife Slits Water- and that’s the version I’m posting here. They were years ahead in ’81 and still sound like that now.

Knife Slits Water (Peel Session)

The other Factory album that I was rediscovering was Section 25’s From The Hip album, a Bernard Sumner produced 1984 lost classic and it’s single Looking From A Hilltop, one of the greatest of all Factory’s releases. But again, let’s leave that for another day. The pictures above were taken in Section 25’s hometown Blackpool on Sunday afternoon, the modernist arches of the amusements centre in brilliant Fylde coast sunshine.

Double Double Good

2019 is going to be a year of 30th celebrations marking three decades since various albums and singles were released that shaped popular music and culture. By 1989 things were starting to happen for Happy Mondays. Bummed, their masterpiece, came out in November 1988 and sold slowly but steadily. From it’s Central Station Design cover to the nude on the inner sleeve, from Martin Hannett’s echo and delay drenched production to Shaun William Ryder’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics, Bummed looked and sounded like no other record (although plenty of other records would soon be released that were inspired by Bummed).

The penultimate song is Do It Better and at only two minutes twenty-nine seconds it’s the shortest song on the album. Musically it is miles from late 80s indie, Mark Day playing chords that other guitarists wouldn’t even consider and Paul Davis’ tinny keyboard swirling around over some drums that sound like they were recorded in a different room through an open door. Over this unholy stew Shaun chants ‘On one, in one, did one, do one, have one, in one, have one, come on’ before letting loose with…

‘Swapped the dog for a cold cold ride
It was deformed on the in but deformed on the outside
Stuck a piece of crack in a butcher’s hand
Demanded he give me my cat back
Don’t purchase me coz I won’t work
I gave away my oil and the seeds in my boots
There was a boom in the room as the papers marched in
He built himself together then sat down’

There’s a second equally surreal verse before he goes back to the ‘on one’ chant but this time extending it – ‘have one, have two, have three… good good good good, good good good good, good good good good, double double good, double double good’. Before being called Do It Better, the song’s working title was E.
Do It Better

Do It Better was a live favourite, a monstrous, circling stomp. Thirty years ago today the group went into Maida Vale studios to record a session for John Peel, putting down versions of Do It Better, Mad Cyril and Tart Tart (broadcast a week later, 28th February 1989). For some reason, despite buying every Mondays single during this period I never bought the Peel Session and don’t have an mp3 of it either. It’s thirty seconds longer with Shaun’s tambourine shaking away and the keyboards leading the groove. Double good.

A Double

In past years on music blogs October 25th was Keeping It Peel Day (October 25th being the day he died in 2004), a day to celebrate the life and music of the man. I remember this largely because October 25th is also my wife’s birthday.

This photograph/meme was doing the rounds a couple of weeks ago and I love it. In the spirit of the meme and for Keeping It Peel Day- Peel supported and loved both bands- I offer you a Joy Division song recorded by New Order in 1998 for a Peel Session.

Isolation

Isolation contains one of Ian Curtis’ most distressing lyrics. The second verse has for a long time seemed to me like where he knew he was moving towards the place he ended up in on 18th May 1980.

‘Mother I tried please believe me,
I’m doing the best that I can.
I’m ashamed of the things I’ve been put through,
I’m ashamed of the person I am’

Musically Isolation is immense, Stephen’s urgent electronic drums, Hooky’s driving bass and Bernard’s keyboards which bring a bit of light into the shade. The second half of the song receives a real shot of adrenaline when the ‘real’ kit and hi-hat come in, propelling it onward. On Closer, Joy Division’s second album, it is a breath of fresh air, a few minutes of aural relief following the claustrophobic, intense and unsettling opener Atrocity Exhibition. If you can ignore the content of the lyrics. The New Order version above is well worth your time, an update and upgrade, a merged musical version of Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald, both black and pink.

And happy birthday to Mrs Swiss (Lou), a fan of The Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwald’s dancing.

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.

 

An Exciting Tale Of Defiance, Fury And Romance

Someone asked me if I had digital copies of these three songs. I do. So here they are. Sabres of Paradise in session for John Peel, March 13th 1993, recorded at the Sabres basecamp and not released anywhere officially. These rips came from the much missed Ripped In Glasgow website. The audio quality is much better than rips from radio to cassette to mp3 sound like you’d think they should be. The three tunes are all excellent and the recording session dates from after the Haunted Dancehall album so are pretty much the last thing the band did before Weatherall moved on to Two Lone Swordsmen.

Stanshall’s Lament

Blackfriar’s Sunday

Duke On Berwick

Keeping It Peel

Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of John Peel. Webbie (from Football and Music) organises this internet event annually, paying tribute to Peel and his life and the music he loved. This track isn’t from an actual Peel Session but it has John introducing the song on the radio,a bit of waffle in those familiar tones, and then Sheet Taft (Glasgow based, Creation Records, post-acid house outfit) and the long, languid, dubby and somewhat trippy Kali.

Kali