Simple Lives Yeah

Back in 1988/89 The Stone Roses were a blast of fringes, flares and winter coats coupled with psychedelic, insurrectionist guitar pop and abstract expressionism. They also had a tendency to take the tapes they’d recorded their songs onto and play them backwards. These backwards experiments created four songs, all four of which are headspinning adventures in sound. I remember reading an interview with the band where Ian and John spoke about for fun they used to drive out to the airport, park up near the runway and lie on the bonnet of the car while jumbo jets took off overhead (hallucinogens may have been involved). I seem to recall them saying that the backwards songs were partly an attempt to get that kind of sound on disc.

The first released fruit of these studio experiments was the Elephant Stone 12″ single, out in 1988 (Elephant Stone sounds more and more to these ears like one of the shiniest gems in their back catalogue, especially the 12″ mix). Full Fathom Five (named after a Jackson Pollock painting) is Elephant Stone backwards, vocals and music, Squire’s guitar lines recognisable, the trippy shoom-shoom sound of backwards cymbals a constant with Ian’s menacing backwards vocals.

Full Fathom Five

Released the following year (round about now in 1989) the Made Of Stone 12″ had two B-sides, the acoustic ode to oral sex that is Going Down and Guernica. Guernica is the music from Made Of Stone backwards (minus the drums) but with new vocals, sung forwards, smothered in reverb to sink them into the track. ‘You wanna hurt me stop the row’ Ian sings, and ‘we’re whores, sit down, we’re whores, that’s us’ (and the line at the top of this post). The driving guitars and bass of Made Of Stone sound immense backwards and it sounds like there may be some extra guitars or feedback added by Squire to double up that ghostly, rushing sound. It’s not unlike hearing them in a wind tunnel (or underneath the engines of a jet plane taking off). Guernica was produced by The Garage Flowers, an alias they used when producing themselves, and it’s no surprise they took the backwards experimentation further. Like Full Fathom Five, Guernica is named after a key 20th century painting.

Guernica

The third backwards B-side was Simone, only available in 1989 on a U.S. import 12″ (I Wanna Be Adored). It was this point, standing in HMV in ’89 that I realised I was in deep, about to cough up £8.49 for a 12″ single with only one song on it I didn’t already own. Simone is Where Angels Play reversed, a backwards version of a song that wouldn’t be put out by the group until Silvertone released as a B-side in 1991 in an attempt to milk the cow while it tried to sue them. Simone is a trip, shimmering and moody with guitar lines coming out of the inky blackness, no drums, the faintest, echo-laden whispers of vocals and then throbbing rushes of rhythm guitar. A swirling psychedelic stew. Play all three backwards songs back-to-back for full on backwards fun.

Simone

The ultimate backwards song was Don’t Stop, a song that graced the debut album, Waterfall backwards with cowbell, new drums and words, perfectly pitched (and perfectly placed, following on from it’s forwards version). I wrote about it last year, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the events of May 1968. It’s here. I said then that to write the lyrics for Don’t Stop John listened to Waterfall backwards through headphones and wrote down what Ian’s backwards vocals seemed to suggest, creating with one of the best set of lyrics on any Stone Roses song. You better stick Don’t Stop on after the first three for full effect.

The Mirror

The Mirror, 12th March 1932

Sleeping Woman By A Mirror, 1932
We had a few days staying with friends in South London and took in trip into central London on Tuesday which gave me the opportunity to see the Picasso 1932 exhibition at Tate Modern (for free too courtesy of friend’s Mum’s membership card. The Picasso show is amazing, gallery after gallery of paintings done in a year long creative burst (inspired by his love affair with a younger woman Marie-Theresa Walter). Along with the paintings are sculptures, drawings, sketchbooks and a few paintings from earlier on in his career, arranged to re-create the one man show he held in Paris in 1932. Some of the portraits, large canvasses, were completed in one single afternoon sitting. The speed and intensity of the work is jaw dropping as is his use of colour. The paintings become darker towards the end, a recurring rescue of a drowning woman dominating (in the autumn of 1932 Marie picked up an infection swimming in a sewage infected river). It’s on until 7th September. It frazzled my head a bit to see so many of these pictures together and close up. Well worth a trip out.
There are quite a few songs that mention or are about Picasso. Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers are at the top of the pile.
Coming out of South London our SatNav decided to take us north up to the Thames, though Crystal Palace, Norwood, Tulse Hill, skirting the edge of Brixton, and then crossing the river at Hammersmith Bridge. I don’t think it was the fastest way out of the city. Maybe it knew the M25 was at a standstill. Or maybe it knew that having crossed Hammersmith Bridge we’d turn right and see Cheyne Walk and Edith Grove, home to the 60s Stones, the World’s End Estate (home to Joe Strummer and where he wrote London Calling, by the river) and then turn up Gunter Grove (the infamous home of John Lydon and the base of Metal Box-era PiL). All seen through the window of the car while negotiating London traffic. I think London Lee of Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop fame knew this part of London well. Anyway, thank you SatNav for showing it all to me.

Destroy Us

Life has been somewhat busy recently, the last few days especially. This post is a bit lazy. But better to post lazily than not at all. This is Timothy J. Fairplay’s remix of Le Carousel’s Destroy Us from earlier this year.

Destroy Us (Timothy J Fairplay Remix)

Avery Mix

Daniel Avery- his fine new album Drone Logic is out now and was mentioned here last Thursday- was the guest for BBC Radio 6’s 6 Mix on Friday night. You can listen to it on the iPlayer (and probably find a d/l of it if you have a scoot around the internet). It’s an electronic delight including The Horrors, Death In Vegas, My Bloody Valentine and a whole load of good people who, let’s be honest, we’ve never heard of. A good mix of things- a bit like Picasso’s twinning of striped t-shirt with checked trousers.

If you’ve not been before Friday night regular George has started a blog- Jim McLean’s Rabbit. It is a splendid mish-mash of music related stuff, including records he no longer owns and other musings. You should give it a go. Tell him I sent you.

My Lucky Number’s Three

I haven’t got a lucky number. Lene Lovich’s 1978 hit Lucky Number straddles a fine line between quirky pop genius and irritation, falling just the right side. So many hooks in one song- the new wave intro and verses, the ‘ah-oh-ah-oh’ vocal bridge, the African hi-life guitar part just after that. It always sounds a bit what would happen if Talking Heads attempted writing a genuine pop song.

Lucky Number

I Am A Lazy Get, She Is As Pure As The Cold Driven Snow

Belle and Sebastian’s best known song, thanks to the power of TV, done live at the 1999 Bowlie Weekender- racing along with a life of it’s own and the odd tuning issue but totally wonderful all the same.

The Boy With The Arab Strap (Live at Bowlie Weekender 1999)

Fifteen Hundred

A multiple celebration post today.

I finish work for Christmas today. Two weeks off. Thank the Lord for that.

This is my fifteen hundredth post. The 2903 comments from you lot are a large part of what makes it all worth while. Otherwise it really is just me pissing into the internet wind.

And this song turned up in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday night (deservedly won by Bradley Wiggins, though I’d like to have seen David Weir make the top three). Someone at the Beeb is clearly a soulie- The MVPs super-upbeat Turnin’ My Heartbeat Up. I’m no expert when it comes to northern soul but I like to dabble.

Turnin’ My Heartbeat Up