American Girl

The news, big and small, is just a mess at the moment, one crushing item after another- Catalonia, Las Vegas, the Tories in Manchester and the whole Boris Johnson circus, the continued existence of Donald Trump, Morrissey’s dullard pronouncements about Ukip- that’s just scratching the surface.  Yesterday brought news of the death of Tom Petty at the age of 66. I can’t claim to be a massive fan but I’m aware of his role and status. I’m fond of Free Fallin’ which struck me as a good tune back in 1989 (and still does) and this is a fucking monster of a song/riff/chorus/sentiment.

American Girl

Julian Casablancas might have been listening to this one in the early 2000s. At the weekend I happened upon the picture of Madonna (at Keith Haring’s birthday party in 1984) and it seemed too good not to use for a post about an American girl.

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Beauty’s Where You Find It

There are plenty of Madonna singles I’ll make a case for, from Into The Groove to Ray Of Light and several in between. I even like American Pie. In 1990 she released two singles that are as good as anything she did, splicing pop with house to stay a step ahead of the rest, and pushing pop music into new places. Vogue is a smart pop song, a dance, a homage to 1920s and 1930s style and Hollywood legend, a light shining on the gay club scene, and a celebration of the dancefloor. The rap section is totally memorable and the rhythm can only have come from producer Shep Pettibone’s exposure to house music in Europe.

Vogue

Justify My Love was a step further, calculated to cause offence and controversy. Co-written by Lenny Kravitz, drums borrowed from Public Enemy (and Clyde Stubblefield originally), it sets off like a train and Madonna’s breathy vocals make it clear there’s only one thing on her mind. The video features the full range of button pushers for the TV censors- scenes of a sexual nature, cross-dressing, BDSM and nudity, all par for the course for Madonna in 1990. The Sex book (with Vanilla Ice of all people) was just around the corner. Justify My Love is a great single in its own right though, a chuggy dance pop monster. The video was banned by MTV (obvs) and to watch it you’d have to buy it on VHS. Until Youtube was invented.

Justify My Love

 

Ciccone

In 1988 Sonic Youth put out The Whitey Album, not very well disguised as Ciccone Youth and in tribute to Madonna Louise Ciccone. Most of the attention was on the record’s cover versions. These had been put out as a single on New Alliance in 1986 and were expanded out for the album. Coming at a time when Sonic Youth were being praised to the heavens for Daydream Nation this was possibly an effective way of defusing some of the hype- some noise, contributions from Mike Watt, jokey covers plus a hip reference to krautrock with the song Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening To Neu! The cover of the album was a photocopied close up of Madonna’s face. Madonna apparently gave her blessing to it, remembering the band from her clubbing and Danceteria days. Ciccone Youth did their Madonna thing on Into The Groove(y) and Burnin’ Up. Someone on Youtube has done the decent thing and set the music to clips of Desperately Seeking Susan (the only Madonna film that is actually watchable).

Better still though was their version of Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love. The video and vocal were recorded in a karaoke booth for $25- D.I.Y. punk rock in attitude, style and cost. It was also a very effective way of sending up Palmer’s video with Kim Gordon singing the song deadpan and dancing with images from the Vietnam War flashing over the top.

This is the standard setter and last word in ironic cover versions. And still sounds great.

Chapter And Verse

I got Bernard Sumner’s autobiography (Chapter And Verse) for Christmas. I haven’t read it yet but have spent some time flicking through it. Bits of it sent me off towards the record collection and to Youtube. Which is where I found this piece of footage from thirty years ago.

January 1984 and The Tube is filmed live from the Hacienda. Onstage are The Factory All Stars who play four songs- 52nd Street’s Cool As Ice, ACR’s Shack Up and New Order’s Confusion (all three together as a medley). Then Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart (sung by Caesar from The Wake). There are way too many people on stage, several singers and a multitude of musicians (including members of The Wake, Quando Quango, ACR, 52nd Street, Bernard from New Order and Marcel King). They all seem to be having a good time and yes, it is a bit shonky but it is very good fun too.

Later on the same evening and also on The Tube a young lady called Madonna will make her first British TV appearance, miming and dancing. There is a story that Peter Hook offered her some cash to dance in the dressing room but I’m sure that’s not true.

Like A Vir…shhh

This Madonna song caused a bit of a stir in the school yards of the mid-80s when it was released- use of the word ‘virgin’ (snigger snigger). Teenage Fanclub covered it in 1991, quite fantastically, smothered in acres of beautiful distortion with sleepy vocals. When JC posted it a good while back at The Vinyl Villain it gained a takedown notice from the DMCA. When he re-posted it much later, he would not even name the song for fear of attracting the attention of the internet police. Sneaky, unnamed and hush hush. You ain’t seen me right.

Like A Secret

Sifting

This is Sifters record shop, in Burnage, south Manchester, known far and wide due to Noel Gallagher immortalising Mr Sifter in Oasis’s early single Shakermaker . I grew up not far from here and have been visiting Sifters on and off since early 80s. It’s the kind of place you can rummage for an hour and come out with seven records having spent less than twenty quid. A fair few years ago, six or seven maybe, I took the kids to Fog Lane Park  (another of my childhood/teenage haunts). I then took them over the road to Sifters and to pacify them while I had at least ten minutes sifting I put them in front of the 12″ rack and told them to choose one each. Whether through luck or judgement both chose acceptably- I.T. settled on The Fall’s cover of R Dean Taylor’s There’s A Ghost In My House- must have been the sleeve- and daughter E.T., only two-ish, wanted Madonna’s Into The Groove. Neither cost more than £1.95. Amongst other things, I bought this damn fine piece of twenty-first century pop…

Crazy In Love

I haven’t been to Sifters for years, choosing King Bee in Chorlton for my out of town second hand record shopping these days. It’s closer (and, whisper it, better). But I miss my trips to Sifters. Is it still there, anyone know? May have to take a drive that way soon.