Category Archives: Flexi

THE LEGEND: 73 in 83 (7″, Creation CRE 001, 1983)

The Legend - 73 in 83

This record is notable for a number of reasons including:

  • It’s the first 7″ release on Creation Records, who of course went on to dominate and reshape the independent music scenes (feel free to argue that point among yourselves) and release records by Primal Scream, Jesus & Mary Chain, Oasis, Jasmine Minks, The Loft, etc…
  • The Legend (often written with an exclamation mark – The Legend! – but nothing so jaunty on this record’s sleeve or labels) is Everett True aka Jerry Thackray, a fine journalist who’s been around for a long time, and who is himself notable in his own right for a number of reasons including:
    • Championing Nirvana and the Seattle/grunge scene right from the start
    • Launching the magazines Careless Talk Costs Lives and Plan B in the 2000s; both excellent magazines, both missed.
  •  Six – six – ‘players’ are credited on the rear sleeve, which is a surprising number if you’ve ever heard the songs. They’re certainly of their time, very sparse, worthy, student-politics-y and, well, pretty poor. Not really a repeat-player, this record, unless I’m feeling like punishing myself.
  • It comes with a free flexi! This is the good stuff, really – a two-song 33 rpm flexi featuring charmingly naive and poppy songs by Laughing Apple (featuring Alan McGee, who of course ran Creation Records and Andrew Innes, who went on to feature in Revolving Paint Dream and Primal Scream) and The Pastels.

The design of the sleeve – a vaguely agitprop-looking and not altogether unpleasant layout – is credited to Communication Blur which was also the name of a fanzine run by Alan McGee in the early 1980s and, presumably, an alter ego for McGee as graphic designer. He’s also credited as one of the ‘players’ as well as getting a production credit here. Busy fellow. Starting as he means to go on, really, as throughout the lifespan of Creation Records he was pretty heavily involved with most aspects of everything.

Update 07/01/14: Thanks to Jerry/Everett for filling me in on a bit of extra detail to do with this record! Apparently the drums and guitar on the record were both played by McGee – the songs came out of a band that Thackray/True and McGee had together for a short time – and the sleeve design was in fact by Ken Popple, the drummer on early Biff Bang Pow! releases. There are lots more True-isms to be had at his excellent blog, The Electrical Storm.

THE BACHELOR PAD/BABY LEMONADE: Girl Of Your Dreams/Jiffy Neckwear Creation (7″, Sha-la-la BA BA BA-BA BA 003, 1987)

The Bachelor Pad/Baby Lemonade flexi

I’ve called this a 7″ in the title up there, but the flexi itself isn’t actually seven inches in diameter like a ‘real’ seven-inch single – it’s slightly smaller, perhaps 6″ in diameter? I’ve refrained from calling it a 6″ though, despite having such a category set up on here, because it’s packaged in a typical wraparound sleeve, the likes of which would house a seven inch single. So that makes sense, eh? My categorisation and pigeonholing technique is unstoppable!

I have several of the Sha-la-la flexis, but none were bought at the time of release and so none come with whatever fanzines they were bundled with. As far as I know, they weren’t each bundled with a specific fanzine – what tended to be the case is that, say, 1,000 flexis were produced, and then batches given to a variety of fanzine folks to give away with their wares. (Indeed, back in my fanzine-writing days, several times I was pleasantly surprised by receiving in the post a batch of unexpected flexis and records, with the instruction to help spread the word by giving them away!)

Sha-la-la was, of course, a precursor to Sarah Records, and indeed many of the bands that appeared on Sha-la-la flexis went on to also release records on Sarah. In the case of this one, though, neither The Bachelor Pad or Baby Lemonade did so. Sha-la-la flexis gave one side each of their wraparound sleeves over to the two bands they featured; the image above shows The Bachelor Pad’s side, with Wilfrid Brambell pictured, he of course of Steptoe And Son and A Hard Day’s Night fame. The Baby Lemonade side is a far more typical indie-pop-wraparound-sleeve kind of image – it shows a Warhol-style repetitive image of a toy ray gun, printed in basic two-colour style.

Let’s use the magic of Google to find out an interesting fact about these two bands.

Searching for “the bachelor pad band” yields an interesting interview with the band, carried out by the Cloudberry Cake Proselytism website/fanzine, that describes some of the fanzine/music scene they were involved in at the time of this record (and before), including reference to the legendary Splash One club in Glasgow run in the early-to-mid 1980s by Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream and Jesus & Mary Chain. It also turns up this great promo video for The Bachelor Pad’s ‘Country Pancake’:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJ0lWp8zJv8]

Lovely!

“baby lemonade band” – the ‘band’ bit is required to sidestep a whole load of Syd Barrett-related results coming up – initially led me to the website of a different Baby Lemonade (this one) and, well, not much else. Anybody got interesting links and factoids to do with Baby Lemonade?

RED CHAIR FADEAWAY/FUDGE: Never Remember/Girl Wish (7″ flexi, Waterbomb! SPLAT 002, ?)

Red Chair Fadeaway/Fudge flexiAh, the flexi. Truly the symbol of all things DIY, cheap and cheerful and not as disposable as one might think. Put a flexi in a wraparound sleeve, as in this example, and print that wraparound sleeve in a single colour, and you’ve got an archetypal indie-pop release. Waterbomb! was a fanzine, if memory served correctly, and they gave out flexis with each issue – and also, unless I imagined this, made more flexis available for other fanzines to give away as well. There’s no date on this record, but I’d position it at somewhere towards the early 1990s. That time must have seen endless charity shop raids for 1960s annuals and magazines, as no end of records like this, and fanzines of the time, featured copied images of happy, free, nouvelle vague-looking females doing their own thing. On this record, there’s one on the front, one on the back, one on the insert within and even one on the flexi itself!

There’s a lot of indie-pop heritage in this little flexi. Members of Red Chair Fadeaway also played in The Carousel, Dandelion Wine, Razorcuts, Talulah Gosh, The Cinematics, Heavenly, Marine Research, The Would-Be-Goods and Saturn V. Members of Fudge were in Engine No.9. Across the lot of ’em, they’ve probably released a hundred records at least, and yet the average fellow in the street wouldn’t have heard of any of these bands. Maybe that’s a good thing? There’s a whole secret world going on in music, all of the time. “My Secret World”, to quote the Golden Dawn…

A friend of mine recently informed me that you can still get flexis manufactured – this is great, I thought they were a thing of the past, a strange anachronism of ‘this used to all be fields’/’I remember the days before CDs’-type old-man chatter. Maybe I’ll get a flexi made… they’re pretty expensive, though!

THE MAGIC SHOP/THE VISITORS: It’s True/Goldmining (7″ flexi, Sha-La-La BA BA BA-BA BA 008, 1987)

The Magic Shop/The Visitors flexi

A flexible slice of indie-pop history, this – the Sha-La-La label was the precursor to Sarah Records; they released a number of flexidiscs that were generally sold with fanzines. They all had fantastically evocative, two-colour wraparound sleeves, which tended to use imagery that was much the style of the time (and the genre): 1960s/1970s-esque pictures of, mostly, groovy-looking women. I imagine that many a set of 60s fashion magazines, along with old Jacky or Blue Peter annuals, were plundered to provide imagery for records and fanzines of the time.

I’ve said that this flexi is a 7″ – it’s actually not quite that wide; it seems to be more like 5.5″. Flexis seem to be a bit more flexible (pun intended) in terms of their size. I’ve seen them at a variety of sizes, from around 4″ up to 11″. However, I haven’t seen a new one for a good number of years now – I wonder if anywhere still manufactures them? In the early 1990s, my friend Rob and I had a plan to start a record label which was to be named Autumn Records. It never happened, but I got as far as investigating the costs of flexi manufacturing – even back then, I only remember there being one or two places in the whole of the UK that would do the job. Happy times, though – I remember that you could supply the music to the flexi manufacturer on cassette tape! None of your super-fancy high-bit-rate mastered-for-vinyl sound files required.

The back of this record’s sleeve (which features The Visitors’ cover – each band got one side of the sleeve) includes contact details for The Visitors: Stuart, Moorcourt Close, Sidmouth. (I’ve cut a bit out of the address – can’t be given out a full address on the internet, can I?) Now, with the magic of Google Street View, I can have a virtual wander around that street – and so can you. Looks quite nice, doesn’t it? I wonder if Stuart from The Visitors still lives there?

GAG/ABLE MESH: Condo 63/Mountaineer/Holiday Faces (7″ flexi, Audacious AUDACIOUS 2, 1993)

A brief meditation on the inherent problems in trying to order records, that feature more than one artist, on the shelf – such as in this example, which I’ve just spent ten minutes trying to find. What’s the best way to go, assuming an alphabetical ordering of records is the baseline requirement?

  1. Arrange in order of the first-named artist quoted on the sleeve?
  2. Arrange in order of the first-named artist to appear on the A side of the record?
  3. Arrange in order of the label name for the record?
  4. Arrange in order of the title of the record?

I use method number four as a rule, but the obvious problem with that is that not all multi-artist records have titles. So in those instances I use method number one as a backup. In the case of this particular record, however, I had decided at some point in the past that the title was ‘Audacious Two’ – seemingly because that was the largest text on the cover. So I’ve exposed a weakness in my system; a flaw: I was fully expecting this to be shelved under G for Gag and it took some time for me to realise otherwise. What to do, to counteract this kind of thing happening in the future?

  1. Give up on any kind of ordering system, and just make my shelves a free-for-all?
  2. Use another system, such as sleeve colour, date purchased, or something else?
  3. Throw all of my records away?

On reflection and after careful consideration, I can tell you with a calm sense of urgency that none of these three suggestions…

  1. Will ever happen.

So I’m stuck with my system and all of its wonderful foibles.

Anyway. I’ll never tire of records and fanzines with this kind of look – the single-colour printing and layouts made up of typewritten text and pasted-in imagery drawn from all kinds of sources (clip art, old comics and magazines, photographs, drawings). I remember that when I bought this flexi through the mail from the chap in Bedford who released it, I was immediately impressed with the idea of packaging a fanzine around a record. Not that it was a particularly original or devastatingly new idea, but it allows in this case, where the fanzine is in 7″-sleeve-sized format, for ease of shelving amongst other records. Despite the aforementioned problems that this may create.

The flexi is great, a clear sliver of plastic containing music from Gag, who were brilliant in a Captain Beefheart-gone-indie-pop kind of way. The fanzine is a decent read, too – stuff on Henry Rollins, bits about Gag and Able Mesh, some personal ‘slice of life’ bits of writing and a few reviews. I always like reading reviews in old fanzines as they remind me of all of the links and networks that used to exist. In this case, the reviews include opinions on a marvellous old fanzine called The Melody Haunts My Reverie and the first release on Imperial Recordings, whose releases I’m sure I’ll randomly come to on here at some point. There is much to say about that label and its releases, when I get to it.

HULA HOOP/HOOD/BLAIRMAILER: 3 Band Flexi With… (7″ flexi, Tangled TANGLED 006, 1993)

Flexis are cool. People don’t make them that much any more, as far as I know. Maybe it’s difficult to make them these days. Maybe I should investigate, and if I can, just make a flexi for the hell of it. And hey, if I did, it might be like this one, as it’s a good one. Not only does it involve Hood, everybody’s favourite band that nobody has heard of but who are really very good indeed, but also Hula Hoop, who I remember did an excellent split album with Boyracer, and Blairmailer, who I  remember were something of a big (indie) deal in Australia in the early nineties.

This flexi came free with a fanzine called Open Your Eyes, amongst other things – back in the crazy early nineties there were all kinds of hook-ups and cross-promotional activities going on, with flexis being given out free with several fanzines, fanzines given out free with flexis, and so on. That fanzine was very, very well written and I distinctly remember it as being the first place I ever read the phrase ‘post-rock’. This may not mean much now, as the phrase is attached in one way or another to pretty much every independent band that doesn’t sound like Coldplay of the past ten years. But it was a strange and mysterious new phrase back then – which I think was attached to not what you might expect (the often-referred to as ‘slowcore’ of Slint, Codeine etc) but instead to the gliding modern swoops of Trans Am and the noisy tension of Rodan. Actually, Rodan were kind of post-rock-meets-slowcore, but there I’ll end my categorisations before I tie myself in pointless pigeonholing knots.

I’ve actually got several copies of both Open Your Eyes and the associated Hula Hoop/Hood/Blairmailer flexi – for reasons I can’t exactly remember; but very possibly due to my vague plans once to act as an independent distributor and hence buy in several copies of a thing in order to sell it on (for no profit, by the way) after that. Anyway. If anybody reading this wants a copy and can stump up a couple of quid to cover postage, let me know, and I’ll ‘hit you up’ as they say.

SHOP ASSISTANTS: Here It Comes (7″, Avalanche AGAP 001, 1989)

Shop Assistants - Here It ComesCan’t remember where or when I bought this record, but I do know that it was some second-hand record shop where I got excited about stumbling across it – along with another Shoppies single ‘Big E Power’ – not only ‘cos I like the band but also ‘cos the sleeve is sooo much the perfect instance of indie pop packaging. Fold-over sleeve, two-colour printing, crappy quality, it’s got it all. And – joy of joys – it even includes a free flexidisc! This kind of magic just doesn’t happen any more. Hell, the sleeve even states ‘Thanks to Stephen Pastel’!

The Shop Assistants were a great band, emerging from the mid-80s C86/indie-pop scene with all the requisite items in place. Jangly, fuzzed guitars? Check. Soft, slightly off-tune female vocals? Check. They represent a time before indie-pop grew up, and when ‘indie’ meant something rather than a style of music. Avalanche Records was, I believe, a label that grew out of a record shop – and whilst I never visited the original Edinburgh store, I’m sure I’ve been to an Avalanche in Glasgow and presume that it’s connected.  (However, this was in the late 1990s and therefore the store was rather more CD-focussed than I’d prefer…)

My tip for playing flexidiscs: place a 10p piece on either side of the central spindle hole. This’ll stop it flapping about and/or slipping around on the turntable. I’ve been doing this for so long now that my 10ps are the old-fashioned, larger ones that are now out of circulation! Happy days.