Bordeaux Sequence

In 1987 Tony Wilson decided that Durutti Column needed modernising so he bought Vini Reilly a load of new electronic instruments and machinery- sequencers, drum machines and so on. Vini sat up all night trying to work out how to use them. The result was The Guitar And Other Machines, just recently re-issued in expanded form by Factory Benelux. I treated myself to it. The original album was one of the first DC records I bought and this expanded edition adds a lot to my now fairly worn vinyl copy. Vini’s guitar playing and Bruce Mitchell’s drums still dominate but set against the new sounds of 87. Occasionally it sounds a little dated, a bit too bright, or the sequencers judder a little, but mainly it sounds like Vini revitalised and energised, in touch with the then present. Like a lot of DC albums, there are great moments and a couple of so-so songs but the overall effect of the whole album from start to finish is the thing. At the heart of it is Bordeaux Sequence, a total joy, with some gorgeous cello halfway through and Vini’s wife Pol on vocals. The drum machine pads away while Vini’s fingers work their magic.

Bordeaux Sequence

How good is that?

The new box has 3 cds- the original album expanded with 3 bonus songs Vini recorded with Jez Kerr and Simon Topping of A Certain Ratio. One of them, 28 Oldham Street, pays tribute to the building that would become Dry Bar in 1989 (recently closed down). Another, LFO Mod, is a cracking piece of experimental guitar and drum machine. Disc 2 rounds up related releases including the wonderful Italian only e.p. Greetings 3, some ‘sporadic recordings’ from that time, the follow up to 28 Oldham Street (30 Oldham Street) and a cover of White Rabbit. Disc 3 is almost worth the price of admission alone, a recording of Durutti Column  live at The Bottom Line in New York in October 86 and two songs from their appearance at WOMAD in 1988. You can buy it here.

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One Christmas For Your Thoughts

I’ve completely avoided Christmas songs up to now this year- they/it’s been really annoying me- but I finished work yesterday and don’t have to go back until Monday 8th January. And that is very good indeed.

So, Saturday before Christmas and everything that entails. Last minute shopping. Return trips to the supermarket for that one item they didn’t have or you’d forgotten. Queuing to get in the supermarket carpark (although you knew you should have walked you thought it’d be ok). Writing cards for people who live nearby who you’d decided you wouldn’t post to this year but then one from them dropped through the letterbox.

Forget all of that and spend a few minutes with Vini Reilly and an achingly beautiful piece of music from The Durutti Column.

One Christmas For Your Thoughts

One Christmas… is a close cousin of the magnificent For Belgian Friends. It was recorded in 1981 but not released until 1985, coming out on Les Disques du Crepuscule, a Belgian label based in Brussels that put out records by Factory acts (along with its subsidiary Factory Benelux).

86 Palatine Road

A flat in this house on Palatine Road was once the home of one Alan Erasmus. In 1978 he co-founded Factory records along with Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton. Martin Hannett and Peter Saville soon joined. The label operated out of this flat throughout the 1980s, a short distance from where I grew up. The tales of Factory Records and its bands are the stuff of legend- no contracts, fifty-fifty split between label and bands, the artists own the music, the Hacienda must be built, Ian Curtis, So It Goes, Granada TV, Joy Division, New Order, the numbering system, A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column, Section 25, Stockholm Monsters, The Distractions, Crispy Ambulance, 52nd Street, Quando Quango, The Wake, James, The Railway Children, The Royal Family And The Poor, Miaow, Happy Mondays, the Factory egg timer, die-cut sleeves, tracing paper sleeves, no band photos on the sleeves,… In 1990 Factory moved out of 86 Palatine Road and into Factory 251 in town.
Yesterday a blue plaque was awarded to 86 Palatine Road in recognition of Factory’s cultural, civic and artistic importance. Shaun Ryder unveiled the plaque. Of course given that he demanded the destruction of the Hacienda to  prevent it becoming a museum piece Tony Wilson may not have approved of this recognition of a piece of Manchester’s musical history. But if buildings are going to be awarded blue plaques for the part they played, then this is as deserving as any.
There are so many songs that illustrate Factory’s brilliance in the 80s. On this song Otis, from Durutti Column’s 1989 album (named after its creator Vini Reilly), Otis Redding’s voice is sampled along with vocals credited to Vini’s friend Pol. Reilly’s guitar playing is fluid and lighter than air, echo on the arpeggios underpinning and enveloping the spectral Otis vocal- ‘another sleepless night for me’. And then ‘come back, come back’.

It’s Wonderful

A few weeks ago Strictly Rockers did a guest posting as part of The Vinyl Villain’s Imaginary Compilation Album series, a ten track compilation of the Durutti Column. Strictly Rockers focused on the Factory years and did a great job. I had been planning my own Durutti Column ICA and didn’t get around to completing it but it wouldn’t have been too different from SR’s. Mine would have included-

Sketch for Summer
Otis
For Belgian Friends
The Missing Boy
Home
Contra Indications (The Together Mix)
Silence
Sketch For Dawn

Which gets me to eight songs and two to mull over. SR stuck to the Factory releases and I had intended to include some post-Factory material. Since Factory went bust Vini Reilly has put out at least fifteen albums for other record labels including the short lived Factory Too. I wouldn’t pretend to have an expert knowledge of them all but have kept my hand in, dipping in and out over the years. 2008’s Sunlight To Blue… Blue To Blackness had a beautiful little tune called So Many Crumbs And Monkeys which was on my ICA shortlist. A principal contender for my ICA would be this one from 2006’s Keep Breathing album which a friend posted on social media a few days ago, reminding me of it. Before I go any further, just give it a spin…

See?
I don’t know where to begin with this song- it defies description. Heavy bursts of rhythm guitar. Soaring melodies. A voice floating in and out. Tremelo. Vini’s own voice whispering in the background. All building upwards towards the light. Stunning. And proof that Vini’s well continued to contain deep water long into his third decade of making ‘silly little tunes’. The rest of Keep Breathing has plenty of other brilliant moments too.

I have no idea if anyone makes any pennies off their Factory recordings anymore- who owns them? New Order got a record deal elsewhere and their back catalogue gets re-issued all the time. Happy Mondays got their stuff licensed or bought up by a major. Does the rest of the Factory roster see any cash for their music? I have no idea. However this album and this song are commercially available at various legal download sites, which I should imagine Vini benefits from. Vini has been hit by poor health and financial trouble in recent years and is currently unable to play the guitar which is incredibly sad for such a unique, talented and expressive artist. So I’m not giving you a free download of this- if you like it, and I’d be surprised if you didn’t, go and give Vini some of your cash in exchange for It’s Wonderful. Cos it is.

Home

In the film 24 Hour Party People Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson has a conversation with God, at the end of the film on the roof of the Hacienda the night it closed down. God assures Wilson that what he’s done is going to go down in legend but that it’s a pity he didn’t sign The Smiths. God also tells him he was right about Mick Hucknall (‘His music’s rubbish’).  Wilson finishes the conversation by saying that The Durutti Column make very good chill out music. Which they do- but there’s something about Vini Reilly’s music that lifts it above the realm of the chill out, there’s some real emotional heft to his songs- happiness, sadness, loss, tragedy, melancholy, ecstasy (both kinds). Vini is often dismissive of his music calling it ‘trash… with the odd spark occasionally that seems to work… by accident. I never know whether it’s any good or not’.

On his 1990 album Vini worked with the new technology available, programmed beats largely rather than Bruce Mitchell’s live drums, sequencers and synths and with less guitar than previously. The album is a triumph, showing Vini’s ability to make great, inventive and moving instrumental music. This song is one of my favourites from it. I’ve been trying to narrow down Durutti Column’s work to ten songs, partly with one of The Vinyl Villain’s imaginary compilation albums in mind, but it’s proving difficult.

Home

Sketch For Dawn

Durutti Column have been running through my musical choices a lot in recent months. This song is a beauty. Perfect guitar playing, much of which doesn’t sound anything like ordinary guitar playing, with Vini’s fragile vocals and Bruce Mitchell’s understated drumming adding to the dreamlike quality. I don’t have the song as an mp3 on the hard rive right now and it’s getting late so here’s some Youtube videos. These two clips are interesting when compared. The first is from the remastered edition of the album LC, a little more focused and punchy than the original 1981 release

The original, below, has a burst of the Youtube uploader’s VHS static at eleven seconds and is much more subdued and atmospheric. The footage of Vini is pretty nice. LC was the second album following debut The Return Of The Durutti Column, self produced on a four track TEAC. The title LC is latin, Lotta Continua- continuous struggle, the struggle continues.

Belgian Friends

 

Factory Friday, Durutti Column. Vini Reilly has made something near thirty albums as Durutti Column (him, usually drummer Bruce Mitchell, occasionally a few others). Inside those albums are hundreds of songs, that have attracted a wide variety of labels- post punk, modern-classical, jazz, dream pop- but as Vini has said, and I paraphrase, ‘I don’t know why people get so hung up about forms, they’re all just silly tunes innit?’

In amongst all those hundreds of ‘silly tunes’ there are some moments of brilliance so beautiful words cannot do them justice. For Belgian Friends wasn’t even on a proper album, appearing on the compilation release A Factory Quartet (FACT 24) alongside songs by Kevin Hewick, The Royal Family And The Poor and Blurt. It later turned up on Domo Arigato too. Donald Johnson of ACR plays drums on For Belgian Friends, and his rhythms give it a dancier sensibility, while Vini’s guitar and piano play intertwining melodies. Martin Hannett is at the controls.

For Belgian Friends

This fan-made video is good fun.