Sketch For Vini

I’ve been playing a lot of Durutti Column recently. Their second album, 1981’s LC, has been on a lot, as has 2010’s Paean To Wilson, the 1984 12″ single Without Mercy (two long form musical pieces recorded at Tony Wilson’s suggestion with students from the Royal Northern College Of Music), the recent re- release 7″ single Free From All The Chaos dropped through the letterbox not long ag and I keep returning to 1989’s Vini Reilly album.

In an attempt to pull some of this together into one place I’ve put together an hour of Durutti Column songs in the mix below, this selection all from the 1980s, and called it Sketch For Vini 1. It’s not meant to be definitive or a Best Of The Durutti Column, just some of my favourites stitched together, starting with some of Vini’s early work with Martin Hannett, then him being joined by Manchester legend Bruce Mitchell and the expanded line up in the mid-80s with viola player John Metcafe and Pol singing. Some of these songs are ones I’ve been listening to for the best part of three decades now and still don’t get tired of- Sketch For Summer, Otis, For Belgian Friends, Bordeaux Sequence, Jacqueline, Sketch For Dawn 1. There’s something unique and very affecting about Vini’s endlessly inventive guitar playing, his tone and sound, his use of echo, delay and chorus, and despite what Tony Wilson said about it, his voice too. I’m going to follow it with Sketch For Vini 2 at some point, going into the 90s and beyond. The Mixcloud player won’t embed- ongoing problems with the new Blogger- but you can find it and listen here. Hopefully it’ll hit the spot for a bright autumn day in September.

  1. The Second Aspect of the Same Thing
  2. Sketch for Summer
  3. Jacqueline
  4. For Belgian Friends
  5. The Missing Boy
  6. Enigma
  7. Tomorrow
  8. All That Love And Maths Can Do
  9. For Friends In Italy
  10. Otis
  11. When The World (Live in New York 1986)
  12. Bordeaux Sequence
  13. Sketch For Dawn 1
  14. Home
  15. Real Drums- Real Drummer

Lotta Continua

More Durutti Column, a band who have been soundtracking my life for the last few weeks. This song comes from LC, Vini’s follow up to the debut Durutti Column album, The Return Of The Durutti Column. LC was recorded at home onto a TEAC four track and one of the sounds of the album is tape hiss- not that it spoils it, it’s just there. LC opens with the stunning Sketch For Dawn 1 and near the end comes The Missing Boy, Vini’s tribute to Ian Curtis. In July 1981 Durutti Column played at a festival in Kaivopuisto Park, Helsinki, along with ACR and Kevin Hewick. Fifteen thousand Finns had the pleasure of watching Vini and Bruce Mitchell. This clip of them playing The Missing Boy is mesmerising, Bruce watching Vini playing while keeping the rhythm. At one point Bruce has an expression on his face which suggests he can’t quite believe what they are creating (the part from roughly four minutes forty onward is especially good).

Never Known is a highlight of LC, a few minutes of Vini’s delicate guitar playing and a reverb- laced drum machine. There’s also Jacqueline, a song written for and named after the wife of Bruce Mitchell.

Jacqueline

LC stands for Lotta Continua, the struggle continues.

In 1991 Durutti Column played at Cities In The Park, a festival in Heaton Park, north Manchester, in memory of the recently deceased Martin Hannett. Sunday’s line up featured a slew of Factory acts- ACR, Revenge, Cath Carroll, The Wendys, Electronic, Happy Mondays- plus De La Soul and 808 State. The weather was good and everyone had a good time. Durutti Column played in the middle of the afternoon, their subtle minimal melodies drifting out over the park. Cities In The Park was filmed and later released on video- my VHS copy is long gone but I bought it when it came out and rushed home to play it, hoping to spot myself and my friends in it somewhere, even if only fleetingly. No such luck. A friend on social media is in it, bobbing about in the crowd, in fact he appears in the crowd during the Durutti Column clip, dancing away at two minutes forty five behind the man standing still with a frown on his face. The Youtube clip won’t embed but Durutti Column playing Fado is here. The song starts with some of Vini’s trademark guitar finger picking, fed through an echo space unit, and his singing. It builds over several minutes, Bruce coming in at two minutes and then joined by some haunting (sampled) backing vocals, and by the time Vini is strumming the main riff over and over the song is completely entrancing. By the time Fado came out on an album, 1994’s Sex And Death, Factory had collapsed. Tony Wilson tried to relaunch the bankrupt record company as Factory Too (ironically a subsidiary of London Records, a final kick in the teeth). Factory Too was a vehicle for Durutti Column albums as much as anything else (anything else being albums by Space Monkeys and Hopper) and continued until 1998.

 

Love Sent From Bordeaux

I found this video clip a few days ago, Durutti Column playing in Manchester Cathedral in 1985. The song is Bordeaux Sequence, a beautiful Vini Reilly song, one of his best and the performance as you’ll see is stunning. The footage, filmed onto video tape, is astonishing too, the close ups of parts of the cathedral, it’s stained glass and statues, and the expanded mid- 80s Durutti Column, a stick thin Vini in white shirt playing guitar, viola player John Metcalfe (whose contribution is immense), vocals by Vini’s then partner Pol and the ever wonderful Bruce Mitchell on drums. Words can’t really do justice to the clip- one of my friends on social media said that ‘parts of (the video) had me holding my breath’ and I know exactly what he means. He also said that the film clip looks like it could have been made decades ago or yesterday which is also true.

The song started life on 1983’s Another Setting album, recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, with Vini singing in his fragile, whispery voice and sparse drums from Bruce. By 1985 it had been fleshed out as seen above, with viola, keys and Pol singing instead of Vini. When he came to re- record the song it was with Stephen Street in the producer’s chair and the album was 1987’s The Guitar And Other Machines (the other machines of the title were samplers, sequencers and drum machines), renamed as Bordeaux Sequence. In 1988 Durutti Column played at the WOMAD festival in St Austell, Cornwall. Former ACR and Swing Out Sister’s Andy Connell played keyboards but they performed without Pol. Vini sings the song instead. It’s another breathtaking live take on the song (originally released on a four song single in 1989).

Bordeaux Sequence (Live at WOMAD 1988)

‘In France you are sleeping
I wish I could see you
It’s always this way
Love sent from Bordeaux’

The picture is Stretford not Bordeaux or St Austell, less romantic but closer to home.

Sketch For Summer

Sketch For Summer is the opening song on 1980’s The Return Of the Durutti Column album, a three minute introduction to the work of Vini Reilly, a song combining simplicity and beautiful, languid guitar playing.

Sketch For Summer

In 1980 Durutti Column suddenly became a solo project when the rest of the band dissolved overnight, about to record an album. They had appeared from the remnants of a local punk band called Fast Breeder and contributed two songs to Factory’s first release, A Factory Sample. When Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus arranged for their debut album to be produced by Martin Hannett, three members walked out leaving guitarist Vini on his own. Not believing that a one man group would be allowed to record nevermind  release an album Vini had to be coaxed by Hannett into getting out of bed but over a few days Vini played guitar and Hannett played echo unit, delay and drum machine. Vini told Hannett that he didn’t want the ‘distorted, horrible guitar sound’ and Martin went on to get sounds out of Vini that no one else was doing. Hannett then pulled three days worth of guitar playing into shape and a nine track lp was created that Vini didn’t beleive would appear even when Wilson gave him a white label copy of it.

This being Factory in 1980 and Wilson being Vini’s manager the entire early Durutti Column is covered in Situationist jokes and references. The group’s name was a reference to an anarchist unit that fought in the Spanish Civil War. The album’s title, The Return Of The Durutti Column, was taken from a 1967 Situationist poster. The initial run of the album came in a sleeve covered in sandpaper, another Situationist joke, borrowed from Guy Debord, an album that would over time destroy the rest of your record collection. All of this is very Factory, very knowing and part of the legend but listening to Sketch For Summer is the whole deal in itself, a song that fades in with Hannett’s birdsong, created on one of his delay boxes, and then a drum machine smothered in echo and tape hiss before Vini’s guitar playing arrives. Melodies played through some chorus and echo FX pedals, and little runs of notes, lyrical without words, the repeated refrain around two minutes thirty and then the run out with the drum machine and the birds is just perfect.

Antwerpen

We should have been in Belgium this week, a few days in Antwerp and Brussels for my fiftieth, frites and beer, cafes on squares, some browsing of record shops and some sightseeing. We’ll have to see if we can get there for my fifty- first. In 1980 Vini Reilly wrote this beautiful, shimmering, fluid piece of  abstract guitar music. Produced by Hannett and with ACR’s Donald Johnson on drums

For Belgian Friends

This cover version by Dream Lovers came out back in 2017, an even more blissed out, laid back version than Vini’s original.

Belgium also says Belgian new Beat, proto- house music built on juddering drum machines, wonky basslines and vocal samples. Most of this music is the best part of thirty to thirty five years old. Selecting one track from random out of a forty three song compilation called The Best Of Belgian New Beat Vol. 1 brings up this by Chayell from 1989, a moody synth monster with a voice intoning ‘with a girl like me’.

Don’t Even Think About It

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.