Category Archives: Wraparound sleeve

EVEN AS WE SPEAK: One Step Forward EP (7″, Sarah SARAH 49, 1991)

Even As We Speak - One Step Forward EP

Australian band Even As We Speak were an ambitious lot, in the context of the often-lazy, often-detail-rather-than-big-picture world of indie-pop. This EP, for example, plays at 33 1/3 rpm rather than the usual (for Sarah Records, at least) 45 rpm – yet it still only contains one song per side. What does that mean? Why, that Even As We Speak were a veritable prog-rock behemoth of a band – comparatively speaking. These two songs are pretty long, pretty inventive, and include forays off in various directions (including pseudo-New Order style electronic tinges), turning them into tiny epics rather than mere simple tunes.

It was all leading up to their later Sarah album, Feral Pop Frenzy, which was – at the time, and possibly even now – outstandingly ambitious. It had seventeen songs, ran (I think) for over an hour, and was a proper ‘journey’ of an album, and one that even hinted at Concept Album status, with melodic references popping up from song to song.

At their heart, and in their overall sound, Even As We Speak were proud indie-pop badgewearers. I do remember thinking around the time of their releases, though, that they were somehow different – one of several bands at the time that hinted that whilst indie-pop, as we all know, don’t stop, there’s no reason why it can’t be experimented with and pulled in different directions. How grown up!

The photograph of saucepans on the Factory Records-design-style cover is credited as ‘Yukino’s Saucepans, by Akiko’. I wonder if that was Akiko who ran Sugarfrost Records at around the same time…?

I did a quick search on eBay for ‘feral pop frenzy’ and there’s a vinyl copy for sale at £29.99. I won’t link to it, in case the auction has ended by now, but I will link to the seller – Oscar The Cat’s Records – who is worth mentioning as they include within their product photographs a cat, presumably Oscar.

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?

THE GOLDEN DAWN: George Hamilton’s Dead (7″, Sarah SARAH 17, 1989)

The Golden Dawn - George Hamilton's Dead

Another seven inch single on Sarah Records. I guess there’s a stronger chance of such releases being the ones that pop up as a randomly-selected choice, because there are a lot of them in my collection!

This The Golden Dawn isn’t the 1960s The Golden Dawn, of course, who released the outstanding psychedelic LP Power Plant. Perhaps I’ll talk about them on here at some point in the future – it’s all in the hands of the random number generator, as you know… This The Golden Dawn do have a bit of a psychedelic edge, I have to admit, although it’s shot through with a healthy dose of indie-pop simplicity and lightness. The Golden Dawn and 14 Iced Bears were two of the Sarah bands that I liked the most – they seemed to have a slight edge that took them beyond the most straightforward indie-pop, and in their case it took them into a somewhat 60s-tinged edge that pressed my buttons during the early ’90s. (Of course, the entire C86, indie-pop and fanzine scene had a rather healthy obsession with the 1960s – but generally it seemed to take the form of the imagery or personalities of the time, rather than directly influencing the music).

As with most of the Sarah releases before roughly SARAH 40 or so, this record included a poster insert. It shows The Golden Dawn with a selection of high-contrast monochrome photographs, which reflect the style (and, more specifically, haircuts), that were so popular around the time because of bands like Jesus And Mary Chain and Primal Scream. At this time, all that a good band photograph needed was a couple of bowl haircuts, a paisley shirt or two, a slightly otherworldly look around the eyes and a lot of contrast.

The other insert included in the record is one of Sarah’s ‘also for sale’ lists, in the form of a long, thin, folded piece of paper. Even at the time of this record coming out, SARAHs 1 through 10, 13 and 14 had all sold out. The rest were still available, though, for the fantastic price (including postage) of just £1.70 apiece. The insert also reports that Heavenly’s ‘I Fell In Love Last Night’ was just about to be released – a record that would nicely bridge the gap between the ‘old days’ of Talulah Gosh and the new sound of Heavenly, who would become intertwined with Riot Grrrl and quite heavily influence a lot of bands and musicians.

THE CAROLINE KNOW: Nail (7″, Bus Stop BUS012, 1990)

The Caroline Know - NailThis is one of a little batch of records that my Dad once bought for me. He was away on a trip in America – I forget where, New York perhaps? – and decided that I might like some records as a holiday gift. This was a most wise decision! Enterprisingly, he made his way to a record shop and asked the owner to recommend a few records based on some facts about what I was into at the time: I liked indie-pop, I liked seven inch singles, and I seemed to like those records with wraparound sleeves that came in plastic bags. The shop owner picked out around five new releases that fitted the bill and, well, it was a great gift to receive!

I know next to nothing about The Caroline Know. Based on some information gleaned from the sleeve and insert that comes with the record, let’s fire up the ol’ internet to see what we can find out:

  • The band is called The Caroline Know: Seems that they were based in Northampton, Massachusetts, although the contact addresses on the record suggest otherwise. They did live in New York; after that, Northampton. They have a MySpace page.
  • The band includes people called Stephen Rand, Les Labarge and J Loenstein: Very sadly, Stephen Rand passed away earlier this year. My condolences to his friends and family. The J stands for Jim: Jim Loenstein. Google tries to alter this name to Lowenstein.
  • According to the sleeve, the band could once be contacted by writing to 226 East 2nd Street, 4B, New York: Look, that’s here.
  • According to the insert, the band could also be contacted by writing to 102 Bedford Avenue, 2R, Brooklyn, New York: That’s here. Looks nice! I like Brooklyn. There’s a place called Turkey’s Nest Tavern on this street as well; I wonder what it’s like? According to Yelp, they do alcoholic drinks in a jumbo size, and offer an absinthe margarita!

I’ve quite a few records on the Bus Stop label, and they’re one of the labels that I’d like to gradually collect everything from. There’s a partial discography, and brief introduction to the history of the label, here.

MELT BANANA: 666 (6″, Level Plane LP37, 2002)

Melt Banana - 666Yes, you read correctly – 6″. A six inch single. I had to go and create a new WordPress category for this post, and everything. I think within my collection I’ve got 5″, 6″, 7″, 9″, 10″ and 12″ records. So, a few gaps to fill. The five inch is almost impossible to play on an automatic turntable, as the arm is so close to the centre when beginning a side, it lifts up and retreats straight away. Six inches, however, just about works. I’m not sure if anybody has ever broken the 12″ barrier and created records that pretty much won’t fit on any standard turntable that exists, but if they have, I tip my hat to them. Such pointless exploits are the very reason I enjoy collecting weird and wonderful records.

Melt Banana: what a band. Relentlessly experimental and innovative noise; what’s seemingly random is – I hope – carefully constructed. I think it’d have to be, because it always tends to work, and if it was just some folks messing around and making noise, well, it’d just sound too chaotic, and not in a good way. That’s what a lot of people don’t think through when they throw ‘it’s just noise’-themed insults at music like this. It’s not just noise, it’s music that’s different to other music.

I’m not sure if I have ever seen Melt Banana play live, but my mind seems to be pinging into action and telling me I have. No recollection where, or when, however, which makes me wonder if it’s a false memory that I’ve created purely because I want to see them play live so much. There have been a few bands who have utterly blown me away with invention and entertainment in a live context – Hella, Battles and Boredoms spring to mind – and I feel like Melt Banana would be another such experience.

I first heard them some time ago when I used to tape-record tracks I liked the sound of on John Peel’s show, which would inevitably result in cut-up snippets of his chat accidentally making their way into the recordings. This was just such a case, and I can clearly remember him telling me how what he’d just played was from a Melt Banana album named Scratch Or Stitch. I kept that snippet of chat for reference. I miss John Peel.

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!

TILLMANNS: Run EP (7″, Fraction Discs FRACTION 001, 2006)

Tillmanns - Run EPThis is one of those mysterious records that I’m sure any ardent record collector will have several examples of. I have literally no idea where it came from – I certainly don’t recall purchasing it – and I don’t know who Tillmanns are, or why a release on Fraction Discs was something I’d be interested in. The record does come housed in a wraparound sleeve, which is often (in the case of records I own, at least) a signifier of some kind of indie pop. According to this review I just found, that seems to be very much the case.

Because the internet is a wonderful thing, I can visit the URL on the back of the sleeve and, although it doesn’t tell me much beyond the fact that Tillmanns have other releases, I can then find my way to the Fraction Discs website, which makes it clear that the record label is very much a continuing thing, and that Fraction Discs is in fact a shop selling all kinds of indie pop releases. You could even buy this Tillmanns record from them, if you wanted to, for 45 SEK, which, according to Google, is equal to around £4.36.

I like the artwork on this record’s cover. It’s a good use of a single-colour print*, setting up a graphic style which has an pleasantly abstract feel to it but which seems to carry some meaning. To me, this looks like the side of a large boat – does that make sense? According to the sleeve, the artwork is by Jörgen Svensson – possibly this guy, who looks to be rather a well-established Swedish artist.

Well, a mostly single-colour print. The Fraction Discs logo on the reverse of the sleeve contains a tiny little red-coloured segment, which doesn’t look as if it was coloured in by hand, but is in fact part of the printing. I respect this: accepting the cost of printing an extra colour (which won’t have been insubstantial, in the scheme of things) to make sure that the logo is displayed correctly.

THE ELEMENT OF CRIME: The Things You Do For Love (7″, Soul Static Sound SOUL 2, ?)

The Element Of Crime - The Things You Do For LoveI really like this record’s packaging. A simple, cardboard sleeve, with a folded-over photocopied sheet of paper glued on, and – on the back of the sleeve – a hand-stamped Soul Static Sound logo and catalogue number. This was a second-hand purchase – from, as I remember, a record shop in Wellington, Telford called Langland Records, which used to have a small box of second-hand seven-inch singles on its counter. The shop is still there, I think, in a different and smaller location, but when I was growing up I used to enjoy visiting it regularly. It was my go-to shop for records during my formative years of getting into what was then more genuinely called ‘indie’ music – back when that term meant something, grumble grumble. It was also directly opposite my pub of choice The White Lion, and its owner would often be brought pints from across the street to make his working day more, um, relaxed.

The glued-on paper has long since become unglued – indeed, it was that way from when I purchased it. This has revealed that whoever glued it on did so using criss-cross lines, and a single square outline of glue, which is – to anybody familiar with glueing – a normally excellent technique. Perhaps they used something that wasn’t built to last, like Gloy. I always used to prefer Cow Gum, but – unfortunately – I think that’s unavailable these days. Perhaps because of the outrageously noxious fumes it would release, that would turn one’s glueing session into impromptu glue-sniffing. Actually, perhaps that is why I used to prefer it, rather than for its sticking capability.

The Element Of Crime was a UK Riot Grrl-related outfit, featuring (I think) members of Huggy Bear. Let’s see what the internet has to say. Aha! It turns out – according to this blog, at least – the band included members of not only Huggy Bear but also Linus, Blood Sausage, Skinned Teen and Sister George. Pretty cool – at least to anybody into that whole scene in the early nineties. That was a fun time, and a lot of records were released back then. It was like bands released records just for the sake of the music, or to reinforce a point they had to make, rather than with some kind of career in mind. Does that still happen?

AMERICA-UK: There’s A Place (7″, Easy! Tiger MUSE001, 1997)

America-UK - There's A Place

1997, the year of Tony Blair’s Labour Party victory in the general election… and the year of release of this single. Some kind of political statement is being made, perhaps, with the cover art (unless it’s just a sly interpretation of the artist’s name). Tony and Cherie, eating a tasty burger, Tony wearing a tie patterned with the American flag. On the back, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bill sporting a Union Jack bowtie, Hillary with a half-drunk pint of bitter. What does it mean? Something, I’m sure. The cross-pollination of ideas between the UK and the USA, or something more cynical. Who knows?

I know who knows. The guy that did the cover art. That guy is, in fact, also the guy that released this record. I think his name was Jon, but at this point, honestly I can’t remember. Let’s just assume that Jon was (and indeed is) his name. I met Jon at a fanzine convention that was part of the 1997 Sound City event that took place in Oxford. I lived in Reading at the time, and met up with a fellow fanzine writer named Kim to visit the convention. Jon was a nice fellow, we had a good chat, and I was very impressed by his illustrations – as I recall, this record wasn’t out at the time, but he had available a selection of his fanzines that all sported examples of his fine illustrative (and typographic) style.

At the time, I was running my fanzine Circle Sky and asked Jon if he’d contribute some illustrations to a future edition. He agreed. Good stuff. Now, remember, this was pre-internet for the most part, and in hindsight I’m pleased and impressed that it led to a postal ‘conversation’ that ended up with my receiving two excellent original ink-on-paper illustrations of Primal Scream and Mogwai, to go with articles on those bands that I was running in the fanzine. I still have them somewhere. I should dig them out.

Useful information: Now, at the time of writing, it’s obviously not pre-internet, so I can link to this. It’s diskant’s ‘Mogwai Artzine’ from 1998, to which Jon – as I can now confirm his name to be – contributed a (different) Mogwai illustration. You can see it here. It’s good, isn’t it? I also contributed to the Artzine, as did several other people – some of whom I still know, some of whom I don’t. It’s nice that stuff like this got put together and published, I think.

CONFETTI: Whatever Became Of Alice And Jane (7″, Sunday SUNDAY 012, 1992)

Confetti - Sea Anemon EPIt doesn’t get much more cutesy indie-pop than Confetti. If it does, Sunday Records probably released the records involved. As well as several Confetti singles, they also put out releases by the Fat Tulips, Strawberry Story and Po! in their early days. The American-based label, whose postal address situates them in the excellently-named Rolling Meadows, Illinois, were in the early nineties the USA’s go-to imprint for UK indie-pop, before developing further to put out work by all kinds of international popsters (with a slight emphasis on the American and Australian).

Bizarrely, one of Sunday’s early releases was a now somewhat sought-after flexidisc by Slowdive, collecting two perky, tweeish tracks, ‘Beach Song’ and ‘Take Me Down’, on a richly blue-coloured disc in an appallingly minimal sleeve. I guess that Slowdive were right on the very edge of the twee/indie-pop scene at the time, but I doubt Sunday would’ve expected them to go on to sign to Creation and become, in a small way, legendary.

This record’s sleeve highlights one of the odder habits of early-90s indie-pop, the use of extraordinarily faint colours when having a single-colour sleeve printed. I’ve got a lot of records whose cover imagery is barely visible because of this trait; the pop (music) psychologist in me might suggest that this reflects the timid nature of the music within, and the idea of a secret world available only to those ‘in the know’. Or… maybe it was just cheaper to print this way, who knows.

Upon retrieving this record from my shelves and examining the inserts within the sleeve, I see that it may actually be called the Sea Anemon EP, rather than ‘Whatever Became Of Alice And Jane’, which is the title of the lead track. A chink in my otherwise faultless recording of details in my ‘My Records’ spreadsheet? No! Surely not! I blame that printing – it’s almost impossible to make out the EP title on that front cover. Darned indie-popsters!