STRAWBERRY STORY: All For You (7″, Daisy Chain SRT8KS1422, 1988)

Strawberry Story - All For You

Strawberry Story were a very, very twee band who epitomised the late eighties/early nineties anorak/cutesy scene. Floral print dresses, high speed buzzsaw guitars, dinky female vocals and rat-a-tat biscuit tin drums were the order of the day. In hindsight this whole ‘scene’ (disparate though it may have been) was somewhat cloying and, in its own way, outstandingly pretentious and insular. But then, what scene isn’t? Punk rock led to post-punk led to C86 led to twee led to indie-pop led to riot grrl led to the international pop underground led to a constantly bubbling-under alternative to the alternative music scene…. not a bad heritage, really. I always liked the fact that despite being unutterably cute and bouncy, this kind of band were part of something that was defiantly outside of the mainstream.

Another Strawberry Story record to this one was, I think, the first record I ever purchased through the fanzine/postal network. Back then I didn’t have a chequebook, and had to ask my parents to write me a cheque from their book in return for a couple of pounds. Turns out, as I quickly learned, it would be totally acceptable to tape a couple of pounds to a piece of cardboard and post that off with a letter instead of using the more formal banking system – and that was pretty much how I operated within this scene from those early days onwards.

I was very excited to find this record being sold through some mail-order catalogue or other back in the day, as it was (and still is, natch) the very first Strawberry Story release. My copy has a telephone number written across the AA-side label, for somebody called Paul. The number has an 0609 dialling code – where is/was that? This was pre-mobile phones being in popular usage, and I don’t believe it would’ve been some kind of premium rate number or something like that. It doesn’t seem to be any dialling code that’s in use these days, however. At the time, I never had the front to call this number up to see if I would find myself speaking to – gulp – a member of Strawberry Story. I couldn’t have taken that excitement at the time!

(By the way, readers: still no turntable for me so far. My eBay purchasing plans have seen me drawn in to an uncomfortable landscape of Second Chance Offers and what may or may not be scams that need to be avoided. More news on this soon, I hope – and fingers crossed it’s good news).

Well, this is unfortunate.

This is a dead turntable.

Yesterday evening, at around 9.00 pm, my Technics SL-BD22 turntable ceased to be a functional part of my hi-fi setup. The old gal has been making creaking sounds upon starting up her motors for ages now, but finally the end of the line has been reached. The lights are on, but nobody’s home – literally. Well, not literally; nobody lives inside the turntable. But a light is still coming on. It’s just that the turntable has lost its ability to turn. It’s now just a table. And not a particularly sturdy or useful one at that.

I was listening to the stupendously excellent double album compilation New York Noise at the unfortunate time of the technological demise. I hope to pick up where I left off as soon as a reasonably-priced replacement can be sourced. Let me at it, eBay. I keep reading about the resurgence of vinyl, so let’s hope it manifests itself in the alternative form of cheap, yet awesomely excellent quality, second-hand turntables. Normal service – and the playing of records – to be reinstated soon; I hope.

FALCO: Emotional (LP, Teldec 6.26380 AS, 1986)

This album was given to me as a gift by my friend Moira, after she returned from a European holiday. I must admit that I haven’t listened to it more than once, as it’s not that good. I get the impression that Falco was – in his own mind, at least – much more than just “that ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ bloke.” This record suggests somebody who takes themselves very seriously; the steely gaze of the cover’s photograph reflects what I remember to be some particularly portentous, serious music. Serious, yet still generally in the form of relatively lightweight synthetic pop, of course.

There’s nothing wrong with taking yourself seriously, it’s just that in this particular instance I’d have preferred for Falco to have produced an album full of nothing but ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ clones. That would have been great. Even more, perhaps his ‘clever’ side could have been indulged with a side-long remix of ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ with that sampled repeated bit of vocal at the start, repeated endlessly:

‘Rock Me Amadeus Rock-Rock-Rock Me Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus Amadeus…’ etc.

Now that would have been daring and bold.

Thinking about ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ has transported me back to the mid-1980s, and for some reason triggered a memory of the low-fi remixes I used to create myself. I would use my ghetto blaster (what young hipsters nowadays would refer to as a ‘boombox’, I expect), with its twin tape decks, to play through taped recordings of songs on Tape A, and carefully use the stop/start/record buttons to construct a new version on Tape B. This was an exceptionally long-winded process, but I remember that the outcome actually wasn’t that bad. I was particularly pleased with a triple-length version of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’. I’d love it if that tape turned up in my things somewhere, one day.

MAXTON GRAINGER: Samosas! (7″, Kabukikore Special Editions KKSE02, 2003)

If you look very closely at the dog image on this record’s cover, you will notice that it bears the all-too-familiar pixellated look created by one of two situations:

  1. A JPEG that’s been saved at too low a quality
  2. A low-resolution image that’s been blown up in size.

I suspect the first as the image looks to have ‘artifacts’ – blurry blocky bits that mask detail. Not sure why they’re called artifacts. As usual though, Wikipedia can help, although it just explains what they are, rather than why they are so named.

Artifacts aside, I like this artwork. If I was really clutching at straws I might suggest that it is a precursor in style and content to Shellac’s Excellent Italian Greyhound sleeve: white background + dog. But that would be pushing at the edges of what’s possible in reality, I feel. No offence meant to Kabukikore, but I doubt that Steve Albini has ever seen this record’s artwork, as the label that released it is very, very tiny. That doesn’t stop it being interesting and exciting, though. Anything but. I would say that, however, as it’s a label run by an old pal of mine, who calls himself Crayola but I know that he’s really called Simon. Why would anybody ever change their name from Simon? That baffles me.

Crayola/Simon was somebody I knew waaaay back when, as we both used to dabble in the surprisingly vibrant and creative Telford music scene. I still distinctly remember seeing him play a gig where he performed a faithful cover version of Syd Barrett’s ‘Rats’ – as a huge Barrett fan now, and even more so back then, this was exciting to me. In an example of how the independent music world is a funny old thing, Crayola/Simon later popped up playing in a band with another guy I knew through the fanzine network of the early 1990s. These two people were from completely different cities, and I knew them entirely separately. And they were brought together by music. Beautiful!

A final word: I love this record’s name. ‘Samosas!’ – it’s like the vegetarian teetotaller version of ‘Tequila!’.