THE SOUP DRAGONS: Hang-Ten! E.P. (12″, Raw TV Products RTV 121, 1986)

People often bang on about the fashion/style wasteland of the 1970s, but I’d suggest that the mid-to-late 1980s were in fact one of the darkest times in Britain’s sartorial history. I remember, as a naive teenager, sporting the horrific combination of a pair of sand-coloured chinos*, a striped shirt and a reversible bomber jacket with one orange and one black side. This was beautifully topped off by some over-gelled hair, approximating some kind of Nick Kamen ‘do, but gone horrifically wrong.

And here, on the sleeve photograph of what is actually a rather good record, we see The Soup Dragons combining some utterly bizarre and misguided stylistic decisions, that could only have come out of this time in history. To wit:

  • Paisley shirt/tartan tie/braces/tartan trousers combination
  • Christmas-present-from-Auntie patterned sweater, worn underneath patterned cardigan
  • Shirts tucked into jeans, Jerry Seinfeld-style
  • The holding of a Slinky by one band member: what is this supposed to mean? Is it wacky? Is it kooky?
  • The clock is set at a quarter past ten. Why is this? The record’s name is ‘Hang-Ten!’ – not ‘Hang-Ten-Fifteen!’ or ‘Hang-Fifteen!’
  • The expressions on the band members’ faces: in all but one instance, look deep into these faces and you’ll see boredom, uncomfortableness and a strange feeling of arrogant dumbness.

But still! I do like The Soup Dragons even if, as previously mentioned on here, their entire career seemed to hang onto the coat-tails of Primal Scream, and even though they have wrapped this release in such a ridiculous photograph. We’ve all done silly things in our past, and we’ve all worn silly clothes. The Soup Dragons at least redressed the balance with some excellent sleeve artwork that would come out after this release. And not least because they seemed to quickly decide against putting themselves on their covers…

*As an aside: ‘chinos’? Where did this bizarre, ridiculous name for a style of preppy, boring trouser actually come from? According to Wikipedia, the word refers to the type of cloth. But I’m not sure I buy that – the word seems forever tied to a light sand coloured loose-fitting trouser that painfully encapsulates the entire concept of ‘smart casual’.

SUEDE: Animal Nitrate (12″, Nude NUD 4T, 1993)

Sleeve designed by Andrew Biscomb & Peter Barrett. I only picked this record up a couple of years ago, along with a couple of other Suede 12″s, from an Oxfam shop. I recall though, way back around the time this came out, thinking what a nice sleeve design it was – very simple, very effective, and with a vague bit of thought behind the imagery. This was somewhat out of kilter with many ‘indie’ record sleeves at the time, which would often focus more on either trying to make unhip band members look hip, or going down the ‘pure abstract’ route. Looking up Biscomb & Barrett on the internet now, I see that they designed sleeves for a variety of other artists too – Luke Haines, The Auteurs, and (horror of horrors) Simply Red amongst them. Quite an odd selection of clients!

Back at the time of the record’s release, along with other Suede 12″s – a flurry were released within a couple of months, as far as I remember – I recall this and a couple of other Suede sleeves hanging on the wall of a room in the house of a chap called Jigger. Well, that wasn’t his real name, but I can’t actually remember his real name. His was a house of choice of post-pub shenanigans – smoking, drinking, chatting, etc. I thought the sleeves looked cool up on his wall. I’m not going to put my Suede sleeves up on a wall – too much collector/catalogue-r mentality going on in my mind for that.

Suede later went on to work a lot with Peter Saville for their artwork. Saville’s cool, but I never much dug his work with Suede, it was a little too neo-cool for my tastes, too much mock airbrushing and shininess. A couple of years ago, I was having a band practice break outside a rehearsal studio in London, and who should pop out of the studio door but Mr Suede himself, Brett Anderson. This alone didn’t really fill me with excitement, but he then answered a mobile phone call with ‘Hello, Mr Saville,’ and I was somewhat overwhelmed with fanboy tremors at being – sort of – right next to Peter Saville. I kept a lid on it, of course, and maintained my exterior cool. I would’ve loved to grab the phone though and somehow blag a design job with Saville with a combination of guile and charm. Never going to get that opportunity again…

VARIOUS: By The Fruits… You Shall Know The Roots (3LP, Time-Lag/Eclipse FRUITS/ROOTS, ?)

This triple album could be seen as an important part of the early development of a now-popular ‘new psychedelic folk’ scene. I’m not sure when it came out, but it was several years ago, before all kinds of mainstream attention started getting paid to weirdo neo-folk singers and bands who were picking up the strands left by John Martyn, Vashti Bunyan, Nick Drake et al. Much of that mainstream attention may well also have been due to the trend for such music being used to flog mobile phones in TV/cinema advertising, but I’ll gloss over that for now, lest I smash my computer to pieces in rage at the thought of another ad showing a happy, diverse mix of bland (brand) ciphers acting FREE! and NATURAL! by signing up to a particular pay-monthly plan with a multinational telephony company.

The artists featured on this collection get a single album side each. They are:

  • Six Organs Of Admittance
  • Jack Rose
  • The MV/EE Medicine Show (with Chris Corsano)
  • Dredd Foole
  • Fursaxa
  • Joshua & Kemialliset Ystävät

…and that’s a rather impressive line-up, isn’t it? The packaging is real nice – a needlepoint-style image printed onto textured paper that feels almost like fabric, which folds out to create a giant poster. Naturally, I haven’t folded out the poster in order to stick it up on my wall; I’m too much of a record packaging preserver to defile it in that way. Sometimes I like to unfold it for a look, though, before putting it carefully back as it was.

Time-Lag Records, run from Portland, Maine, USA, were one of the two labels that put out this collection. They’re run by the brilliantly-named Nemo Bidstrup, who has always been amazingly friendly and pleasant to deal with by e-mail (I have bought a lot of his wares over the years). He not only runs one of those labels whose releases sell out pretty much instantly, but also stocks all kinds of excellent ‘outsider’ music in his shop. I would link to his website, but it seems to be undergoing some kind of transformation right now, and hence isn’t working so well…

Once, I went to a gig in Oxford which featured Taurpis Tula supported by a band, whose name I forget, that I in advance discovered counted Nemo within their ranks. It was great, but afterwards shyness took hold and I didn’t introduce myself, despite having corresponded with the guy just days before the show, hinting at my being there. Pretty lame, not taking advantage of perhaps the only time ever that I would have had the chance to say ‘hello’ in real life.

Taurpis Tula, coincidentally, were a duo featuring David Keenan, who is in some ways the Scottish Nemo Bidstrup – he runs a shop (Volcanic Tongue) stocking all kinds of weirdo musics, and he’s a musician himself. He also writes for the Wire magazine, amongst other publications. There are a lot of these multi-disciplinary outsider artist type people out there. I like the ideal – being interested in stuff, rather than a particular thing.

Jack Rose, who features on here, sadly died last year, which was an incredibly sad surprise. I saw him play in Oxford once too, and shyness didn’t overcome me that time – I had a brief chat and shook his hand after seeing an extraordinary set. I value that meeting now. He died aged 38.

C JOYNES: The Running Board (7″, The Great Pop Supplement GPS29, 2008)

Here’s an interesting situation. For the first time, my random number generator has pointed me at a record that I know I own, but which has become misplaced in my carefully-arranged (or perhaps, not so carefully arranged) A to Z seven inch shelves. It’s just not to be found. Can’t find it either under J (my first instinct) or under C. It’s not even near the places that it could or should be. This is mysterious, as I know that I have not lent it to anybody, and I certainly haven’t thrown it away or sold it. I rarely lend records to people (not least because people rarely have record players these days); and I haven’t gotten rid of a record since an unfortunate incident involving the cheap sell-off of a pile of now-rare-as-hens-teeth hip-hop albums that I (in hindsight) erroneously offloaded in the early nineties.

So, the photograph shows a patch of ground where the record would have been placed if it had been found. The tags and categories used for this post are either drawn from memory or from the spreadsheet I used to catalogue my records. That spreadsheet includes information about inserts, numbering, and so on. Should I be embarrassed at having such a spreadsheet? I’ll tell you know, it was incredibly enjoyable to put together. I assembled it ostensibly for insurance purposes – should burglars ever feel like making off with one of the most extraordinarily difficult and heavy things that they could choose to – but in reality, I put it together as a way for me to comprehensively reminisce about them all. It was that process that led me into starting this blog, in fact.

Anyway. If I ever track this record down, I’ll update this post accordingly. As it is, a couple of points to leave you with:

  • I can’t remember what C Joynes or this record is like at all. I vaguely recall some kind of scrappy fingerpicked guitar folk music.
  • The record is on the always fine The Great Pop Supplement label, so if you could see the packaging and inserts, you’d surely agree that it’s a nice looking artefact.