Sketches

Vini Reilly’s music as The Durutti Column is among the most special of all that makes up my record/CD/mp3 collection and there’s always more to discover, both in albums I already own and in the parts of his vast back catalogue that I haven’t uncovered yet. In January 1980 Factory released the first Durutti Column album- The Return Of The Durutti Column- a record made up of guitar parts Vini recorded, with bass and drums on some provided by Pete Crooks and Toby Toman, and then knocked into shape by Martin Hannett. Hannett played around with several new toys not least his AMS digital delay unit. The opening song on the record fades in with birdsong (in fact sounds created by Hannett using echo and delay) and as an intro to Durutti Column Sketch For Summer is all anyone needs- a beautiful, simple, almost mystical piece of music.

Sketch For Summer

The first 2000 copies of The Return Of The Durutti Column came with a free 7″ flexi- disc containing two tracks Hannett worked on, bending Vini’s guitar and his own experimental noises into new shapes. The second track on the flexi single is this one, all drones and delay at the start, bent strings and flutter and ambient noise with Vini’s guitar eventually coming out of the murk.

The Second Aspect of The Same Thing

San Pedro

Rikki Turner, former Paris Angel, ex-New Southern Elektrik and The Hurt, is a restless soul who just keeps moving- when one project ends another begins. His latest group is San Pedro Collective, named after the town in California that was home to Rikki’s favourite writer Charles Bukowski (and also home to Bagging Area favourites Minutemen). San Pedro are preparing for a release in July, an e.p. called The Demon Sessions, which will include this song (appearing here in a brief snippet and remixed by The Winachi Tribe).

The Things You See is a collaboration between Rikki and Suddi Raval, with a thundering acid house bassline, plenty of late night, dancefloor vibes and a sultry vocal from Millie MacBean. Also involved are Simon Wolstencroft (ex- Fall drummer), Antnee Egerton of The Winachi Tribe and Manc poet Karl Hildebrandt. The e.p. will feature the original mix of The Things You See and two further songs, San Pedro and A View From The Drowning Pool- the latter is a moody, electronic beast, bleeps and sirens over an 808 and Rikki’s street poetics, spoken word vocal.

Suddi Raval was one half of Together who made two records I hold dear. The first was 1990 rave anthem Hardcore Uproar, piano house, a Star Wars sample and the crowd sounds from a rave in a warehouse at the Sett End in Blackburn.

The second was an unfinished remix Together did of Durutti Column’s Contra-Indications. In 1990 Vini Reilly was experimenting with samplers and drum machines and his Obey The Time album chimed perfectly with the times. Together’s remix was unfinished due to the tragic death of Suddi’s partner in Together, Jon Donaghy, in a road accident in Ibiza. I’ve been coming back to The Together Mix for almost thirty years now and always get chills when I play it. Despite being unfinished Tony Wilson declared it magnificent and released it as a single anyway.

The Together Mix

Rikki’s former bands have all released songs that I’ve raved about here. In 2016 The Hurt released Berlin, a moody Scott Walker via Bowie, collar turned up against the falling Manchester rain.

Paris Angels were from Guide Bridge, near Ashton under Lyne, east of Manchester. Their first single is a legendary slice of 1990 Manchester, a marriage of acid house bass, jangly guitar lines and rattling machine drum with Rikki and Jane Gill’s dual vocals. I once bumped into Jane at the Boardwalk- literally- and she told me to fuck off. Which was probably fair enough- I wasn’t looking where I was going.

Perfume (All On You)

Perfume came out on indie label Sheer Joy and widely played and praised. They followed it with two 12″ singles- Scope and I Understand- before signing to Virgin (who re-released Perfume) and then put out an album called Sundew. Virgin was sold to EMI and a cull saw various bands removed from the label, Paris Angels among them (and PiL too). Which shows what major record labels know.

Obeying The Time

After watching the footage of the Durutti Column playing in Finland in 1981 that I posted last week I went back to a couple of their albums. I’d read an interview with Stephen Street somewhere where he mentioned producing Durutti’s 1989 album (titled Vini Reilly) and I’d read a review of the triple CD re-issue of 1990’s Obey the Time album so there was a lot of Vini/Durutti in the ether. Plus I had another recently taken shot of the River Irwell taken from the same bridge but looking north to go with the one I’d used with the Finland post.

Stephen Street producing Vini Reilly was a consequence of him producing and co-writing much of Morrissey’s Viva Hate and then getting Vini to play guitar over much of it. Vini had a strop part way through the recording and claimed to have written all/most of Viva Hate which he apologised to Street for (but Morrissey uncharacteristically got the hump- if I remember correctly he removed Vini’s name completely from the re-issued versions of Viva Hate). But anyway, I’m not here to discuss Morrissey. Vini Reilly (the album) has one of Durutti Column’s most beautiful moments, one of Factory’s greatest releases, the song Otis, where Vini’s guitar and and his friend Pol’s voice combine with an Otis Redding sample to create an absolute masterpiece. Nothing else quite reaches those heights and the album takes in an array of styles from opera to Spanish guitar.

The following year’s release Obey The Time is a much more complete album, Vini recording with the Hacienda/acid house/Madchester explosion going on all around him and inspired by house music and inspired to use samplers and keyboards. In experimenting with the new technologies and sounds Vini was obeying the time. Usual drummer and Durutti partner Bruce Mitchell only appears on song on Obey The Time. The single that came with the album, where Together (of Hardcore Uproar fame) remixed Contra-Indications as the Together Mix is another DC peak but the one that caught my ears listneing to Obey The Time this time was the second song in, this one…

Hotel Of The Lake 1990

Opening with a Hacienda inspired bassline, some washes of synth and a little guitar flourish Vini takes us on a five minute after hours trip. Two songs later Home provides another for the DC top ten and Spanish Reggae is up there too (despite its admittedly unpromising title ). With several highlights the album works well from start to finish, sounding more complete and followed through than ’89’s predecessor. Hotel Of The Lake 1990 was given its title by co-manager, friend and record label boss Tony Wilson who was on holiday in a cottage by Lake Como that summer and Vini came to him short of song titles. All of which, let’s be honest, is perfect Sunday morning stuff.

Sketch For Vini

I came across this recently, twenty-two minutes of footage of Durutti Column playing live in Helsinki, Finland in July 1981. Tony Wilson claimed that Vini Reilly was a genius, his guitar playing specifically. There isn’t much in this clip to contradict that point of view. Also noteworthy is Bruce Mitchell’s drumming and his sheer joy at playing.

Tracklist- Sketch For Dawn; Conduct; Party; Sketch For Summer; Stains; The Missing Boy.

The gig in Kaivopuisto Park was a Factory themed day out in the Finnish capital. Also on the bill were Kevin Hewick and ACR. In August 1982 a VHS compilation titled A Factory Video was put out in a rather beautiful fliptop box including Durutti Column’s performance of The Missing Boy (Vini’s tribute to Ian Curtis).

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.

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’.