SOME VELVET SIDEWALK: Generate! (LP, K KLP 62, 1997)

Some Velvet Sidewalk - Generate

This record was bought about three or four years ago at a shop in Oxford called Avid. That shop has now very sadly closed down, due I believe to ever-increasing rent gradually edging them out of being a viable business. I spent many happy hours in there browsing their shelves – which included a whacking great ‘indie/punk/post-punk’ kind of section, and an upstairs room with boxes upon boxes of interesting seven inch records. They had a long-term great deal on offer, with (as memory serves) any three records costing a tenner. Marvellous. Makes me regret that I didn’t spend more tenners in there, really, as perhaps that would’ve helped in some small way to contribute to their not closing down. Still, hindsight, and all that…

Normally I wouldn’t have bought a record with a crappy-looking sleeve like this one, but Some Velvet Sidewalk are great, and K Records are great, so the combination of the two is double great. I’m very, very slowly piecing together a collection of K’s releases, but there are so very many of them that it’s kind of a long-term project.

JACK HAWKINS & THE SOUNDS OF THE 70’S: Psychedelic 70’s (LP, Plexium PXMS 1012, ?)

Jack Hawkins And The Sounds Of The 70's - Psychedelic 70's

I can’t get enough of these easy listening albums that purport to capture the whacked-out psychedelic mayhem/’Swinging London’-vibe/disco excitement of the 1960s and 1970s. That’s lucky, as there were seemingly thousands upon thousands of them released through that time, and they’re the staple happy find of many a charity shop search. Pretty much every time the most psychedelic part of the album is the cover, as in this beautiful example, with a foxy/terrifying hippy chick as seen through the filter of either heavy LSD dosage or a jobbing middle-aged art director’s take on synaesthesia. There’s also a psyched-up saxophone floating around by her head, for some reason. Bad trip, or something, I guess.

Of course, these albums are very rarely a lost slice of psych madness. Instead, they tend to be – this example included – a collection of covers and ‘original compositions’ played super-competently by a group of session musicians. Interestingly, this is a live album, recorded (according to the rear sleeve) at the Locarno Ballroom, Blackpool, by ‘one of the most popular bands in the British Ballroom’. Happy times! Even more interestingly, Jack Hawkins and his band are in the Michael Caine movie Get Carter, playing ’30-60-90′, which is happily included on this album along with thirteen further tracks that blend in to one another, each transition augmented by ecstatic crowd sounds. A right old barnstormer of a show it sounds, too! It’s not far off sounding like a Spencer Davis Group show, at times…

THE MIGHTY SAGUARO: Run (7″, 50,000 Watts Recordings 50KW/TMS/7/001, 2003)

The Mighty Saguaro - Run

This record I picked up at a gig featuring The Mighty Saguaro and other bands who are by now long forgotten. They may still exist, don’t get me wrong; it’s just that my memory is not good for that kind of thing. The Liverpool-based (I think) band were really rather good; indeed the early ’00s was a very good time for this kind of post-rock-tinged noise before it got all tired and clichéd and frightfully mainstream, darlings. I have a recollection that the record was cheap too, like maybe only £1.50 or £2, which is always a good selling tactic. It’s pressed on that super-heavyweight vinyl that feels like a 7″ dinner plate. So much more impressive than one of those cheap-ass lightweight records that’s favoured by corner-cutters but is in fact one step down from a flexi. All of the problems of a flexi, none of the charm and mystique of a flexi.

Googling the band’s name to see if they’re still in existence, I’m pleased to report that The Mighty Saguaro is in fact a type of cactus. Who said indie rock couldn’t be educational? Beyond cactus facts, there’s precious little else to read about, which makes me think that the band is now no longer operational. The record label website stated on the back sleeve is no longer operational, either, nor is the band’s own website. Why, it’s like they never existed. But they did. I saw them. And I have this record. I don’t believe that the whole thing was some kind of moon-landing-style conspiracy put-up job.

Interesting to note that the band’s website URL is a proper, real, actual URL – I guess Myspace wasn’t the dominant force it is now, back in 2003?

RAZORBLADE SMILE: This Accurate Pain (7″, Chocolate Narcotic CHOC 01, 1992)

Razorblade Smile - This Accurate Pain Razorblade Smile - This Accurate Pain (label)

Another artefact from the mire of early-to-mid-nineties indie-pop that I got myself so deeply into: I’ll never have enough seven inch singles in wraparound sleeves with photocopied inserts, even if the wraparound sleeve in this case sports a very unpleasant image that looks like it was printed out from an Atari ST with a low quality dot matrix printer. Which it very possibly was. More attention should be paid to the hand-done lettering on the record’s label, which is lovely. I’ve included a photograph of the label so that you can bask in its glory.

As I recollect, Razorblade Smile was the band of Pete Dale, who’d later run the often inspiring Slampt record label and who still performs to this day as Milky Wimpshake. If any of those facts are incorrect, I apologise. I think it’s him, though. There is some handwriting included on the photocopied insert design that looks very much like his – we used to write letters to eachother around the time of Slampt, and the handwriting style of him and a lot of other people is still deeply imprinted into my consciousness. (You don’t get that kind of visual memory from an e-mail, do you?)

For fun, I’ll type out the manifesto-esque prose from the insert, and leave it up to you to decide whether it’s cringeworthy or passionate:

In a way there’s two types of politics.

One is personal – your emotions, relationships, attitudes towards other people. For me, that’s the level that this record is on. But there’s another level – outside the pub door, outside the bedroom window, THEY make decisions that effect [sic] you, me and EVERYONE. If WE don’t pay attention to what’s going on then it’s no wonder that decisions get made that favour the powerful and make life even more difficult for everyone else.

Knowledge is POWER.

If we know what politicians are up to and why it helps us control them. It takes effort for the people to control the politicians in an imperfect “democracy” like ours, but if you’re not going to bother to try then how can you complain? So TRY.

LAST PARTY: Fax Me Wacko Jack Seed (7″, Dishy DISHY 3, 1993)

Last Party - Fax Me Wacko Jack Seed

Dishy Records fell under my indie-pop-record-buying gaze due to their first release being by Hellfire Sermons, whose releases I eagerly hoovered up in the early nineties. As was very much the done thing for me at the time, I continued to buy subsequent releases from the label, and this not only bolstered a growing seven inch record collection but also introduced me to some bands and music I’d never have investigated otherwise. I seem to remember that this Last Party release was something of a coup for Dishy, at least as much as their flyers and whatnot made it seem. It was as if they were some kind of underground legend and it was a Big Deal that some new songs were becoming available. To this day, I still don’t know anything at all about the band beyond the existence of this record, so maybe there’s a whole tranch of enjoyable music out there still to check out. One day, perhaps, one day…

This record is numbered – it’s number 472 of, if memory serves correctly, 500 copies. The number is handwritten onto a small silver star which is then stuck to the back of the sleeve. That might seem insignificant, but having been involved in the hand-numbering and hand-finishing of even small-run record releases myself, I feel the need to say kudos to whoever at Dishy sat numbering 500 small silver stars and then stuck them onto to 500 record sleeves. These personalisation things always seem like a good idea until you get into the actual work, but hey, once that’s done you realise yes: they were good ideas. Hard work maketh the record, or something.

CUD: Purple Love Balloon (12″, A&M AMY 0024, 1992)

Cud - Purple Love Balloon

So here’s the second Cud record I’ve written about on here thus far: I think they’re the first band to achieve this dubious honour. It’s not particularly a surprise, as I have a lot of Cud records. I’m sure that more will be mentioned here. In fact, I even have two formats of this release – the twelve-inch you see above as well as the seven-inch release. True fandom, is that not?

As with the previously-mentioned Cud record, this one is from the time when A&M were liberally showering them with money to wrap their releases in all kinds of gimmickry. As such this one is on clear vinyl, it’s numbered (a ‘limited edition’ of something like 10,000 copies…) and it comes along with a push-out-the-pieces Cud mobile, lovingly illustrated by Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl – and later Gorillaz – fame. My push-out-the-pieces mobile has its pieces firmly un-pushed, by the way.

Related story: as a spirited teenager doing an A-Level art class, I was asked to produce a poster to ‘advertise a product’. Naturally I put together an A2 poster promoting Cud’s then-recent song ‘Eau Water’, lovingly hand-rendered with a beatifully-illustrated tap and flowing water, created using an actual paint-and-compressed-air airbrush. Yes, these were the days before Photoshop ran the world. Proper, this-takes-hours-longer-than-it-really-should, art!

CICCONE YOUTH: The Whitey Album (LP, Blast First BFFP 28, 1988)

Ciccone Youth - The Whitey Album

I bought this album in around 1990 in, believe it or not, Birmingham’s HMV – this was back when record shops carried records and some of them carried records that went beyond the charts and into weirder territories. Back when living in Telford I would make many weekend trips to Birmingham, with one of two aims:

  1. Buying records
  2. Buying comics

My destinations would be very similar each time, as follows:

Records

  • Swordfish: still there, I believe
  • Tempest: also still in existence
  • HMV/Virgin Megastore
  • Second City Sounds: long gone, this was a great independent shop hidden away in a corner of town that shared a road with the strange combination of a School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (as far as I remember) and some seedy adult shops. They had a copy of the Sea Urchins’ ‘Pristine Christine’ on the wall which I coveted regularly
  • A couple more shops whose name I forget – one down near a university building, outside which I saw Roy Wood walking past one day, and one way up past the square with that angled metal man sculpture
  • Oasis: not the women’s clothes shop or the band, this was Birmingham’s answer to Affleck’s Palace, a multi-floor treasure trove of stalls and shops selling anything from clothes to organic food to records to junk

Comics

  • Nostalgia and Comics: I loved this shop and spent countless hours diligently working my way through its shelves and storage boxes. Often I’d return with literally armfuls of comics
  • A strange little second hand book/magazine shop that was in a semi-underground plaza in a location that I’ve entirely forgotten: their selection was hit and miss, not least because the comics often seemed to get mixed up with the more, er, adult titles

This is the original issue of The Whitey Album which has since been re-released. For a semi-joking side project it’s surprisingly good, and bears repeated listens, not least because of the endless cultural touchpoints that are dropped in throughout. In 1990 I didn’t get the reference to Neu!, or the subtle nod to John Cage’s ‘4’33″‘. Now I do. I don’t know if that makes me better informed or less receptive to learning new things. Maybe both?

VARIOUS: The Sorted E.P. (7″, Sorted SRS003, 1994)

The Sorted E.P.

I picked up this 33rpm compilation 7″ in the mid-nineties because of the Prolapse track that’s on here – a demo version of ‘P.D.F.’ that is, I believe, unavailable elsewhere. Not too sure of any details about the other three bands on here – Fish From Tahiti, Gonzo Salvage Co. and The Mighty Silence – although I seem to remember FFT popping up on a compilation tape that I purchased at around the same time. Maybe they were one of those ‘compilation bands’; there were many of them. Bands that would always figure on compilations but never quite get around to releasing their own record. Compilations, tapes especially, would often be assembled from demo tracks, so I guess that the phenomenon of ‘compilation bands’ makes sense because of that.

As an aside, whilst 7″ records, and other similarly-sized records, generally fall beautifully into organisational logic, compilations are always something of a fly in the vinyl ointment. There are several ways that they can be catalogued, for example:

  1. By compilation title. Fine for this example, not fine for others that have no titles
  2. By artist. But which to choose? The first listed on the sleeve? Or the first to play on Side A?
  3. By date of release. Logical, but impossible to search through
  4. By colour. A beautiful concept, but sadly lacking in practicality
  5. By quality of artwork. In the case of this example, it’d be at one end of the spectrum: I’ll leave it up to you to decide which
  6. By label. This often crosses over with the title – here, for example, we have ‘The Sorted E.P.’ from Sorted Records – but relies on remembering the label of a compilation at a glance, which can be trying
  7. By no criteria whatsoever: throw them all in a pile and hope for the best.

My chosen method is a combination of (1), (2) and (7) above. It works for me.