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.

So Many Crumbs And Monkeys

Over the lifetime of this blog I’ve written posts about five Durutti Column songs- Sketch For Summer, Sketch For Winter, Otis, The Missing Boy and The Together Mix- which coincidentally would be pretty close to my top five Durutti Column songs if I were asked to make a list. This song is proof though that Vini Reilly continued to write and record minor classics long after the collapse of Factory Records and well into the 21st century. The album Sunlight To Blue…Blue To Blackness came out in 2008 and is well worth tracking down. This is a beautiful little tune, the pitter patter of drums set against Vini’s unique guitar sound and softly sung vocals.

So Many Crumbs And Monkeys

Missing

Vini Reilly has had a rough time recently with health issues and major financial problems. One of his Durutti Column masterpieces LC is currently being re-released with twenty odd extra songs. LC is an lp I already own twice, once on vinyl and once in a 90s re-release version on cd. I don’t think I’ll buy it for a third time but if anyone from the Manchester scene deserves some cash to go with the talent it’s Vini, so maybe we should put our hands in our pockets. This song was written for the missing boy, Ian Curtis. New Order, ACR, Durutti Column and Tony Wilson were all around a pool somewhere in the US in the early 80s and Vini said to Tony ‘You know who’s missing don’t you?’ As well as Vini’s beautiful guitar this song features some very fragile Vini Reilly vocals..

The Missing Boy

LC stands for Lotta Continua- the struggle goes on.

The Seaside Town They Forgot To Close Down

Bagging Area loves The Smiths, from their first recorded note to the end of Strangeways, Here We Come. Except Golden Lights, no likes that. Bagging Area is somewhat choosier about Morrissey’s solo career, which has had more ups and downs than a two year old on a trampoline. The first few records were promising- Suedehead was a great ‘You can’t knock me down’ first single, Viva Hate had many good moments (Everyday Is Like Sunday particularly, Late Night Maudlin Street still hits me, a few others as well). The appearance and guitarwork of Vini Reilly and Viva Hate’s high points can’t be a coincidence. Last Of The International Playboys was a proper, Smithsy single that still sounds great today. After that we parted company me and Moz until a flirtation with Your Arsenal (mainly the ace glam stomp of Glamorous Glue)and then didn’t get back together again until his post 2000 rebirth with You Are The Quarry, the better Ringleader Of The Tormentors and then Years Of Refusal. There are individual solo songs I’ve heard and liked but I don’t own any other Morrissey solo lps apart from a best of.

Everyday Is Like Sunday is superb late 80s indie pop. A cracking tune and playing with a great lyric invoking the truly melancholic state of the English seaside town out-of-season. It also echoes Sir John Betjeman with his ‘come friendly bombs and fall on Slough’ line.

Everyday Is Like Sunday

Betjeman recorded much of his poetry including this, The Licorice Fields Of Pontefract, set to music in fine style. I’ve been looking for this on 7″ for years.