The Boomtown Rats “The Fine Art of Surfacing” released 40 years ago today, October 9th, 1979 (at least I’m pretty sure it was – Wikipedia’s date of June 2nd 1979 is most definitely incorrect as virtually every other website says October). Post-punk/new wave with a heavy dose of organ and sneer, The Fine Art of Surfacing was Boomtown Rats’ third album and it went to #7 on the UK charts. The record has the Rats most famous track, “I Don’t Like Mondays,” which went to #1 in the UK and to #73 in the US as the lead single from the album. It received pretty decent airplay on US radio stations, though not so much in San Diego as the subject of the song was a 1979 school shooting that occurred in that city by Brenda Ann Spencer, who gave the reason for her violence as “I don’t like Mondays.” That song is a classic, but also great are “Someone’s Looking at You” (#4 UK), a song about Bob Geldof’s burgeoning infamy with political activism; “Diamond Smiles” (#13 UK), a track about suicide; and the spacey new wave song “Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero).” Our version of The Fine Art of Surfacing seems to be an original as it has hidden tracks – Side A is a bunch of creepy laughing that goes through the run-out groove and Side B has a weird voice saying “That concluded episode three. We will return…” with then a door or something closing.
Siouxsie and the Banshees “The Passenger” 1987. Wonderland Records. 12″ single, “lllllloco-motion mix.” The single version of “The Passenger” – a fantastic cover of Iggy Pop’s version from 1977 (on Lust for Life, released as a single in ‘98) – appeared on Siouxsie and the Bashees’ 1987 all-cover album Through the Looking Glass and went to #41 on the UK charts. About a million other artists have covered “The Passenger” (well, not exactly, but there are a lot, and I do like the 1997 version by Lunachicks that’s on the We Will Fall: The Iggy Pop Tribute record), and Siouxsie’s is the best. Her voice is a great counterpoint to Pop’s masculine monotone growl, all clear soaring gothic gloss and mirrors, and a whole lot of horns. Pop quite liked Siouxsie’s rendition, stating, “She sings it well and she threw a little note in when she sings it, that I wish I had thought of, it’s kind of improved it. The horn thing is good.“ The “lllllloco-motion mix” is significantly longer than the single – I think about double in length – and seems to have even more horns plus what I think are tubular bells (well, bells at least). The B-side has two tracks, “She’s Cuckoo” and “Something Blue,” a lush lament that is perfectly and gothically sorrowful.
Public Image Ltd. “Album” 1986. I’m spinning PiL’s fifth studio album in honor of Ginger Baker who died yesterday, October 8th, at age 80. Baker played drums on Album and I can only imagine the energy in the recording studio between Baker and John Lydon, both of them “gingers” known for their strong and often volatile personalities. Despite what could be viewed as an ironic partnership given Lydon’s punk background vs. Baker’s classic blues-rock pedigree (as an April Fool’s joke in 1981, NME wrote that Baker was joining PiL), I’m pretty sure in Lydon’s autobiography that he said working with Baker was a good experience. Baker, renown for his crushing drum solos and flamboyant style, bashes the shit out of the rhythm section on Album, most especially on “Fishing,” “Bags,” and “Ease” and he was a great match for Lydon’s lyrical fury. Baker did not play drums on either single released from Album, “Rise” (#11 UK charts) and “Home” (#75 UK); Tony Williams (drummer for Miles Davis) recorded the drums for those tracks.
Echo & The Bunnymen “People Are Strange” from The Lost Boys soundtrack, 1987. 12″ single, UK import, 1988/1991 release. “People Are Strange” is, of course, a Doors cover that Echo & The Bunnymen recreated rather faithfully (and Ray Manzarek produced) for the opening sequence to one of my favorite 80′s movies. (Back in the day rumor had it that one of the punks filmed on the Santa Cruz streets was one of our friends who had run away to California, but I’ve never been able to spot him in any of the scenes). The B-side has three more covers, recorded live, that are slightly less faithful to their originals though still quite respectful, all great and Echo’d up: “Paint It Black” (Rolling Stones), “Run, Run, Run” (Velvet Underground) and “Friction” (Television). That last song in particular is notable because I’m not a big Television fan but Echo & The Bunnymen’s cover is hard-driving (well, to be fair, the original is as well), melodic and a bit Talking Head-ish with notes of neo-psychedelia thrown in. These three tracks, along with “People Are Strange” also appear on Echo & The Bunnymen’s 1988 EP New Live and Rare; the live songs were recorded in Sweden for a radio show in April 1985.
Has a Shadow “Sorrow Tomorrow” 2017. Fuzz Club Records, limited edition on red vinyl. Psychedelically dark wave, Has a Shadow is two-piece from Mexico; if they recorded this in the late 70′s or 80′s, they would have felt right at home with the post-punk goth rockers of that era (Joy Division, Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy). This is my first listen of Sorrow Tomorrow as Joe just picked this record this past weekend and so far I’m fairly intrigued. It’s the band’s second LP and has some similarity to dark stoner-rock bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (especially the late-night driving tune “Cul de Sac”) as the music is very dense and trance-like but the prominent 60′s psychedelic organ gives it a bit more for the ear to grab onto and not totally fall asleep, even though I can’t understand anything (more because of the growling voice than any language issues). I especially like the opener “Sorrow” and the rockers “The Flesh,” “Attack of the Junkie” and “Not Even Human.” Some tracks go a little too shoe-gazey for more taste, like “Vampire Kiss” and “Horror Will Grow” (those titles alone reinforcing any doubt as to their goth influence). The recording quality with all the fuzzed out guitar, psych synths and beats is also surprisingly good considered that Sorrow Tomorrow was at least partially recorded at vocalist/guitarist/organist Daniel Graciano’s home. There was some question about keeping this record or letting it go – my vote: it stays.
The Stranglers “6 Songs” 1986. Comp EP, Liberty Records, Greek import. Today, August 28th, is Stranglers’ vocalist/guitarist Hugh Cornwell’s 70th birthday (b. 1949). UK pub rock goes punk goes new wave/post punk, this EP is a collection of singles from the 70′s through 80′s. On Side A: “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy,” which went to #18 in the UK in ‘78 and appeared on their LP Black and White; “Strange Little Girl,” a single from ‘82 that hit #7 (UK) and was originally written back in ‘74, the year The Stranglers formed; and “No More Heroes,” one of my favorite Strangler songs, all swirly keyboards, which went to #8 and was the title track from the 1977 album No More Heroes. On Side B: “Golden Brown,” a decidedly unpunk single that hit #2 in the UK in early ‘82 (their highest chart hit), it’s a sweet Donovan-esque lilting number with baroque harpsichord, some psychedelic guitar and saxophone; “Hanging Around,” definitely more of a rocker which appeared on their 1977 debut Rattus Norvegicus; and “La Folie,” an ephemeral 1982 single from their album of the same name (released in late ‘81) which went to #47 in the UK and was sung in French by bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel.
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.