The Lords of the New Church “Like a Virgin” 1985. 12″ single, Illegal Records. Today, August 16th, is Madonna’s birthday (b. 1958) so I’m spinning the best and most irreverent cover of her smash single “Like a Virgin” from 1984. The Lords cover of “Like a Virgin” is fantastically, and purposefully, horrible. Sneering, laughing and belching their way through the pop track, they also manage to make it goth and a bit creepy. The flip side of the 12″ (labelled “Side AA”) has two original Lords tracks: “Method to My Madness” which is a more typical Lords dark goth rocker from 1983, and “Gun Called Justice,” a stark bluesy acoustic track.
The Slits “In the Beginning There Was Rhythm” 1980. Artletty Records, Finland. Split 12″ single with The Slits on Side A. Side B is Delta 5 “Anticipation” and The Pop Group “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way.” All punk/post-punk with a lot of experimental funky dub rhythm. The Slits originally released “In the Beginning There Was Rhythm” as a 7″ single on Rough Trade/Y Records with just The Pop Group’s track on the flip. The Slits were initially an all-women band, though around 1980 two men joined the kinda-revolving door band lineup: Budgie (soon to be part of Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Bruce Smith of The Pop Group; Smith and Budge are both credited with drums on “In the Beginning There Was Rhythm.” The Pop Group’s “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way” is super-infectious punk-funk. The Delta 5′s “Anticipation,” while not part of the original release, is a good complement to the other tracks: heavy and funky bassline (the Delta 5 had two bass players: Ros Allen and Bethan Peters) but with a post-punk detached delivery (and vocals somewhat reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux). Their original single of “Anticipation” came out in 1980 on Rough Trade Records with “You” as its b-side.
Siouxsie and the Banshees “Candyman” 1986. 12″ single. The second single from their album Tinderbox (also 1986), “Candyman” went to #34 on the UK charts. This is quite literally a UK import: we picked this up a couple weeks ago at Flashback Records in London, though I can’t remember if it was from the Islington or Shoreditch location. Though the song’s subject matter is dark and disturbing (it’s about child abuse: “Candyman – oh candyman/ And all the children, he warns ‘don’t tell,’/ Those threats are sold/ With their guilt and shame they think they’re to blame”), the music is propulsive and upbeat, guitar-forward with a jangle that is reminiscent of ‘86 Smiths (played by recent band addition John Valentine Carruthers, previously of the post-punk industrial band Clock DVA) and an upfront bassline. Side B has two songs: “Lullaby,” a more typically lushly gothic Siouxise composition, and “Umbrella,” which has a fairly heavy industrial vibe. Both of the b-side tracks appear as bonus tracks on the 1986 CD release though not on the vinyl edition.
The Cure “Charlotte Sometimes” 1981. 12″ single, Fiction Records. The Cure released “Charlotte Sometimes” as a non-album single about six months after the Faith LP and it went to #44 in the UK. The Cure included it on their 1986 comp Staring at the Sea: The Singles, an album that I listened to rather incessantly in the 80′s (this 12″ is a very recent acquisition, picked up at record store in London). Robert Smith’s inspiration for the song was the “children’s novel by English writer Penelope Farmer, published in 1969. According to Smith: ‘There have been a lot of literary influences through the years; ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ was a very straight lift.’ Many lines in the song reflect lines directly from the book, such as ‘All the faces/All the voices blur/Change to one face/Change to one voice’ from the song, compared to the first sentence of the book, ‘By bedtime all the faces, the voices, had blurred for Charlotte to one face, one voice.’. The song continues: ‘Prepare yourself for bed/The light seems bright/And glares on white walls,’ and the book continues, ‘She prepared herself for bed… The light seemed too bright for them, glaring on white walls’. The title of the single’s B-side, “Splintered in Her Head”, was also taken from a line in the novel. The Cure later released another song based on the novel, ‘The Empty World,’ from their 1984 album The Top.” [Wiki] “Charlotte Sometimes” is a great representation of my favorite Cure music: the early stuff. Rich, dark and gothic. Swirly. Mysterious. “Splintered in Her Head” is also dark, but more ominous with whispers of industrial goth. On the 12″ single, both of those tracks appear on the A side; side B is a very long live version of “Faith” which The Cure recorded in Australia in 1981.
The Heartbreakers “Chinese Rocks/Born to Lose” 1977. 12″ single, UK release. Today, July 15th, is Heartbreakers (and New York Dolls) singer, guitarist, songwriter Johnny Thunders’ birthday (b. John Genzale 1952, d. 1991). Last year we bought this original photo of Thunders by Milwaukee photographer Stanley Ryan Jones at his “The God-Almighty Stanley Ryan Jones $ell$ Out” retrospective.
Jones was one of the few photographers documenting the punk and new wave scene in Milwaukee in the 70′s and 80′s. Sadly most of his work was destroyed in a fire. When we got the photograph of Johnny Thunders signed, we asked Jones to tell us a bit about the picture. It was a show at The Starship (I think, or it was The Palms) and clearly Thunders was stoned out of his mind, about to smoke his cigarette wrong-way-around. Thunders was also not happy about getting his picture taken and was a real asshole about it. What I love about this photo is that his expression – dark circles under eyes and cheeks – clearly tells you everything about Thunders’ mindset (or lack thereof) and health but also you can feel and even smell the “artist lounge” at the club: the gross 70′s plaid couch that reeks of stale smoke through the glossy paper.
“Chinese Rocks” and “Born to Lose” are two of my favorite Heartbreakers songs. Both tracks appeared on their only LP L.A.M.F. “Bornto Lose” is by Thunders but “Chinese Rocks” was written by Richard Hell and the Ramones’ Dee Dee Ramone (though there is some dispute about Hell’s contribution to the track; Dee Dee probably is responsible for most, if not all, of the song).
Depeche Mode “See You (Extended Version)” 1982. Mute Records. Today, July 8th, is DM original member, one-time bassist (back when they went by the name No Romance in China), keyboardist and sort-of manager Andrew Fletcher’s birthday (b. 1961). “See You” in its non-extended variant was Depeche Mode’s fourth single (which went to #6 on the UK charts) and they released it prior to its album version inclusion on their second LP A Broken Frame. “See You” was the first single DM released written by Martin Gore, post-Vince Clarke’s departure from the band. It mixes Gore’s predilection for a gothy synth sound with the band’s Clarke era bright synthpop sound. This 12″ single is quite literally a British import: we just returned from a 10-day trip to London where we hit pretty much every single used record store still in business. I think we got this at one of the Reckless Records locations but I’m not sure. The b-side is the non-album track “Now, This is Fun (Extended Version)” which is also tinged with darkness while still employing a light synthpop dance beat.
Dead Boys “Sonic Reducer” 1977, 12″ single. Today, June 4th, is the anniversary of Dead Boys singer Stiv Bators’ death (b. Steven Bator, 1949), killed after getting hit by a car in Paris in 1980. (His ashes were scattered over Jim Morrison’s grave.) “Sonic Reducer” is one of the best early punk anthems ever. First written by Cheetah Chrome and David Thomas while they were in Rocket From the Tombs around ‘74-’75, Dead Boys reworked the track – with some lyrical change by Bators – and included it on their amazing debut Young, Loud and Snotty. The B-side of this 12″ has the cover “Little Girl,” performed live, originally by Syndicate of Sound (garagey psychedelic rock) from 1966 as well as “Down in Flames” written by Stiv Bators and Cheetah Chrome that also appears on Young, Loud and Snotty.
The Smiths “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side” 1985. Rough Trade Records. Today, May 22nd, is Morrissey’s 60th birthday (b. Steven Patrick Morrissey, 1959) and I’ve always felt that this single’s title kinda summed up Morrissey’s persona – this notion reinforced when I read his autobiography Morrissey (2011) a few years back. It opens with the lines “My childhood is streets upon streets upon streets upon streets. Streets to define you and streets to confine you, with no sign of motorway, freeway or highway. Somewhere beyond hides the treat of the countryside, for hour-less days when rains and reins lift, permitting us to be amongst people who live surrounded by space and are irked by our faces. Until then we live in forgotten Victorian knife-plunging Manchester, where everything lies wherever it was left over one hundred years ago…” Uplifting! (not)
“The Boy With the Thorn in His Side” was the first single from the 1986 LP The Queen is Dead, released a full nine months before the album. It was also the first Smiths single to have an intentional promotional music video accompanying the release and the song went to #23 in the UK. It’s a really perfect Smiths song: a blend of melancholy self-loathing and upbeat jangly guitar pop courtesy of Johnny Marr. The B-side has “Rubber Ring” (in my opinion in the just average category for Smiths tunes) and the lovely “Asleep” where Marr plays beautiful piano.
Unfortunately our version is the US edition; the UK version would be cook to have as it is etched with “Arty Bloody Farty/Is that clever…JM” – the line “is that clever” comes from “Rubber Ring” and JM refers to Johnny Marr.
The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?” 1985. Rough Trade Records. I’m still riding high from Johnny Marr’s concert at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee earlier this week, where one of the highlights was his performance of this song, one of my favorites. It’s one of those songs that instantly transports me back to 1985/86, all teenage angst and emo. “How Soon Is Now?” originally appeared as the b-side to “William, It Was Really Nothing” in 1984. After its inclusion on Hatful of Hollow, “How Soon Is Now” got its own single release in 1985 and it went to #24 in the UK (it did not chart in the US, much to The Smiths’ and their label’s – Rough Trade – execs surprise and frustration: Sire Records in the US did little to promote it). This 12″ single is backed with “Well I Wonder” (which appears on the 1984 LP Meat is Murder) and “Oscillate Wildly.”
David Bowie “Fashion” 1980. Promo 12″ so B-side the same as the A-side, with a helpful note to deejays giving the Intro of 27 seconds and a “Fade” ending, while the sleeve indicates that this track probably is good for dancing (It is! A great funky reggae-inspired rhythm; its original title was “Jamaica.”) “Fashion” was the second single from Bowie’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) album. It hit #5 in the UK and went to #70 in the US and its accompanying video was considered to be one of the best from ‘80 (for its time, it IS good but this was pre-MTV and massive music video budgets so it now looks really dated). I love the song’s cool, detached vibe that channels the boredom of the supermodel and, while the lyrics are a bit clouded in their meaning (some theorize that the “goon squad” is about fascism while Bowie himself said it was more about being self-conscious), it certainly seems like a big eye-roll at people taking themselves too seriously.