Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Best Pratt Sounds of 2008

One Librarian's Media Advisory

Inspired in equal parts by my friend Chuck, a library regular who writes the music blog Pratt Songs (which features reviews of the records he checks outs from Enoch Pratt's Central Library), and my former co-worker Tyson (who ordered many of the records lauded in Pratt Songs), I decided to jump on the end-of-year "Best Of" bandwagon and list my personal picks for the best records I checked out of Pratt Central's Sights & Sounds Department last year.

I List It Myself

These aren't necessarily new albums released in 2008, merely the best ones I checked out from the Pratt's impressive music collection. They are listed in no particular order and serve as my attempt at a listening Reader's Advisory for those occasions when a patron asks me, "What do you recommend?" or "What have you heard that you like?" (It happens.)

Best Pratt Sounds 2008

  2. (Spoon Records, 2007 reissue)
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    Tago Mago is arguably the best album by Krautrockers Can and certainly their most experimental, with two songs clocking in at 17 and 11 minutes each. It was was originally released on vinyl as a double LP in 1971 and was the first studio album featuring "vocalist"/frontman Damo Suzuki (who replaced the nervous-breakdown-bound Malcolm Mooney). Pratt also owns Can's follow-up to Tago Mago, 1972's Ege Bamyasi.

    (Soul Jazz Records, 2007)
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    This great compilation from the fine-taste arbiters at Soul Jazz Records takes a look at the UK's DIY movement, an independent music genre that flourished in the post-punk era. Its 22 tracks span the years 1977 to 1986, and while a few are obvious or familiar names (Buzzcocks, Scritti Politti, Swell Maps, Throbbing Gristle, Thomas Leer) the rest were complete unknowns to me - but pleasant discoveries, like Kleenex's "Ain't You" and Patrick Fitzgerald's "Babysitter." Sonically, it's a mixed bag, from primal low-tech punk doodlings to to experimental synth noodlings, with funk, dub, electronica and synth-pop to boot. I blogged about it previously (and in more depth) in "Forward Into the Past."

  6. (Hotpie & Candy, 2000)
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    This is easily the blackest, baddest, funkiest, sweetest soul music I've ever heard. But it's by the whitest of whitebreads - Germans!. Hotpie & Candy was a small German label (a subsidiary of Soulciety Records) that released a series of singles between 1992-1995. All of these releases were by a band from Munich called The Poets Of Rhythm whose members included the very un-soulful-sounding Teutons Jan Whitefield, Max Whitefield, Boris Geiger, Till Sahm, Malte Müller-Egloff, Wolfgang Schlick, and Michael Voss. This German funk band (consider that oxymoronic term: German Funk!) recorded under various pseudonyms (Bo Baral's Excursionists, Bus People Express, Karl Hector & The Funk-Pilots, Mercy Sluts, The, Mighty Continentals, The, Neo-Hip-Hot-Kiddies Community, New Process, The, Organized Raw Funk, Pan-Atlantics, The, Polyversal Souls, The, Soul Sliders, Soul-Saints Orchestra, Soul-Saints, The, Syrup, Whitefield Brothers, The Woo Woo's), releasing albums in the guise of "compilations" by "Various Artists" between 1992 and 2002. Ha! Don't be fooled like I was. Despite their tighter-than-James-Brown sound, the Poets remained relative unknowns outside of Deutschland until they were discovered by DJ Shadow in 2001; Shadow helped bring them to the attention of London's Ninja Tune records, where their Define Discern release reached a broader Western audience. For more info, see my blog post "Kraut Funk."

  8. (Astralwerks, 2006)
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    For the longest time I ignored this CD, until I realized it was affiliated with James Murphy of the very clever LCD Soundsystem. In fact, DFA Records is the New York City-based independent techno/electronica record label founded in 2001 by Murphy along with Tim Goldsworthy and Jonathan Galkin. (According to Wikipedia, the label's original name was Death From Above Records, but was changed to DFA following the September 11, 2001 World Trade center attacks - for obvious reassons!). Because DFA has an distribution deal with EMI, they get to remix a number of major label acts, including the Chemical Brothers, Le Tigre, Hot Chip, Gorillaz, Goldfrapp, Nine Inch Nails, and Fischerspooner. I thought this was going to be nothing but same-sounding techno babble, but it's surprisingly good and full of variety.

  10. (Astralwerks, 2006)
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    DFA's follow-up remix edition is even better. Listening to Le Tigre's "Far From Home" while chugging coffee really gets my engine running during the morning commute.

  12. (Minty Fresh, 2006)
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    I love this record of snappy French pop-punk sung by the very skinny, very sassy, very sexy chanteusse Isabelle Le Doussal. I thought they were relatively obscure until I saw a TV commercial using "Je Ne Te Connais Pas" to sell BMWs! Advertisers must like this Prototypes-for-commercial-success band because their "Who's Gonna Sing" was previously used to hype the Apple iPod Shuffle. My fave tracks are "Gentleman" and "Danse Sur La Merde" ("Dance On the Shit"). If you like Plastic Betrand, perky pop or sexy French girls (and who doesn't?), you'd like this album too.

  14. ( Soul Jazz Records, 2002)
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    Rather self-explanatory: Reggae meets Disco. And it works, especially on Blood Sisters' "Ring My Bell" and Carol Cool's "Upside Down." Plus Reggae meets Hip-Hop with Xanadu & Sweet Lady toasting away on "Rapper's Delight" and Reggae meets R&B when Derrick Laro and Trinity give Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" the dancehall makeover. Good times, mon, good times!

  16. (Soul Jazz Records, 2004)
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    This is "disco" before it became a pejorative term associated with John Travolta, polyester pants and wide open collar shirts. Yes, there was a time when it was cool (and more R&B/Soulful)! In fact, Gallery impressario Nicky Siano - Studio 54's most famous DJ - preferred the terms "dance music" or "house party" for the legendary underground soirees held at his SoHo loft. Artists represented here include Genie Brown, The Temptations ("The Law of the Land"), The Supremes ("I'm Gonna Let My heart Do the Walking"), The Trammps ("Love Epidemic"), The Isley Brothers ("Get Into Something"), The Bar-Kays, Bill Withers, Gloria Spencer, vernon Burch, Loleata Hollway, (Delaney-less) Bonnie Bramlett (!?), Brenda and the Tabulations, and Exuma and Zulema (the latter of which sound like skin diseases). Oh, and a Pointer Sisters song "Yes We Can Can" which pre-dates Barack Obama's slogan by some 25 years!

  18. LIVE AT THE OLYMPIA, PARIS 1971 (Polydor, 1971)
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    Listened to this while stuck in a monstrously long line at the vehicle emissions center and it helped me overcome my stuck-in-park road rage. This live concert captures the Godfather of Soul at the height of his powers, with a tight band (including Bootsy Collins on bass!) and hilarious band interactions. Standout tracks include Phelps "Catfish" Collins' scorching guitar solo on "Ain't It Funky Now" and JB's vocal mania on "Sex Machine" (why this classic, with its invocations to "Get on up! Get on the scene like a sex machine!" hasn't been used in Viagra ads is beyond me - too subtle perhaps?). I was giddy by the time the technician hooked up my exhaust pipe, and not from the fumes.

  20. (Columbia/Legacy, 2005)
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    The soundtrack from Martin Scorcese's definitive Dylan documentary. Exactly the kind of exhaustive musical retrospective you'd expect from fanboy Marty.

  22. RARE AND UNRELEASED 1961-1991
    (Columbia, 1997 reissue)
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    Being a Dylan devotee, I already had this, but I was happy to see the library get all the Bootleg Series releases. This 3-disc one is the best (I especially love "Mama You Were On My Mind" and "Suze (The Coughing Song)," an instrumental punctuated only by Dylan's phlegmatic hacking at the end, of which he comments "That's, uh, the end"), which is saying a lot considering subsequent Bootleg Series releases include the 1964 Philharmonic Hall concert, the legendary 1966 Royal Albert Hall show (which elicited the famous cry of "Judas!" when things turned electric), and the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

  24. (Warner Bros., 2003)
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    Sometimes you need some relaxing, ambient background music to chill down with after a long day at work. This is that music. I hadn't explored Metheny's back catalog until I saw him on Elvis Costello's talk show Spectacle, but I figured that if Elvis vouched for him, he must be OK. Once again, Elvis did not steer me wrong. Instead of the jazzy fusion stuff for which he is better known, this is straight ahead acoustic virtuoso material. Dare I say it? It's beautiful.

  26. (Rev-Ola Bandstand, 2007)
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    I had only heard of Mickey Baker thanks to my friend Kenny Vieth, who played me Baker's 1950s Mercury Records session work when he was backing Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five - the standout track was "Caldonia '56," a remake of Jordan's '40s hit that transformed the jump blues original into pure, unadulterated rock 'n' roll. It was one of those guitar sounds that, the minute you heard it, you knew it was the work of a stylist, someone different from the pack - like the first time you heard Hendrix, or Carlos Santana, or Roger McGuinn. A sound unlike all others. Unique. "Caldonia '56" is rightly included here, along with selections representing Baker's work in a number of genres, including country, blues, R&B, rockabilly, rock 'n' roll and, of course, his 1957 Top 40 hit as Mickey & Sylvia "Love Is Strange" (a tune written by Bo Diddley and featuring Sylvia Vanderpool, who would go on to be an '80s rap proponent at Sugar Hill Records).

  28. (EMI, 1996)
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    I'm just glad the library has at least one Hawkwind record (thanks Ty!). The Space Ritual Alive in Liverpool and London was the UK space rockers 1973 live album, which famously features "Sonic Attack" (written by sci-fi author Michael Moorcock and narrated here by Robert Calvert) and an iconic LP cover by radical Brit graphic artist Barney Bubbles that looks like something out of a Kenneth Anger film. You gotta love a record that has songs/concepts like "Orgone Accumulator" on it!

    Check this item in Pratt catalog

    I'm still exploring this one, but right off the bat I was fascinated to hear something other than the usual samba and bossa nova beats coming out of Brazil. Apparently there was a pretty happening post-punk scene in Sao Paulo in the '80s (does this mean there was also a punk scene in Brazil? If so, I also missed that the first time around), including acts like As Mercenarias, Patife Band, Gang 90, Chance, Harry, Akira, Gueto, Cabine, Muzak and Smack. And I had to hear what a band that calls itself Fellini sounds like (the answer: Fellini-esque!).

    Here's how the Soul Jazz Records site describes this release:
    "The Sexual Life of The Savages" traces the story of a set of Brazilian groups who took their inspiration from US groups such as ESG, Liquid Liquid, Arto Lindsay (himself a Brazilian) and DNA, James White and The Contortions as well as UK groups such as A Certain Ratio, The Pop Group, Joy Division, Gang of Four, Cabaret Voltaire and New Order. With groups like LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, Chicks On Speed, Le Tigre, Liars, Radio 4 and other contemporary punk/dance bands taking their influences from this period, the music of these groups (all of whom have remained unknown outside of Brasil until now) will be a revelation. The title from the album relates to the complicated relationship Brazilian musicians have with the music of the US and their ironic perception of how Brazilian music is seen outside the country."


  32. ANTHOLOGY 65-73(Trojan, 2005)
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    I was never really a fan of formulaic Reggae, but Ska's a different matter, and this is pure '60s ska. "Storm Warning" is the signature outstanding song, but fun TV and movie-themed ditties like "El Casino Royale," "Batman," "Napoleon Solo" and "Top Cat" also stand out on Disc 1, which is dedicated to Trinidad "Rock Steady" guitarist Lyn Taitt's work with the Jets. Disc 2 anthologizes his later work with other ska and Rock Steady artists.

  34. (Daptone Records, 2007)
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    I had never heard of Sharon Jones until I saw a short film at last year's Maryland Film Festival about the aftermath effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (Ben Mor's Help Is Coming) that had a smokin' soundtrack that seemed to fit the city's musical heritage perfectly. The spunky funky song I remember liking was by none other than...Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings! I subsequently learned that the Dap-Kings were Shanghaied by Amy Winehouse to be her backing band in the studio and on the road. This is sassy and brassy neo-soulful fun, sung by a woman whose Old School voice knows from world-weary experience, with "Tell Me" the standout track for me.

  36. (Downtown Records, 2008)
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    Thanks go to my gal pal Bridget for recently turning me onto this one. I had repeatedly looked at the cover - which featured a woman of indeterminate ethnicity (African-American? Hispanic?) spewing gold out of her mouth - and wondered what it was all about. But it took Bridget burning me her copy to clue me to its wonders. I don't know how to classify the music much beyond the library catalog's own generic designation of "underground dance music." There's some dub, some electronic beeps and buzzes, some rock, some pop. And the lyrics to the lead-off single "L.E.S. Artistes" ("You don't know me/I am an introvert, an excavator") were inspirational enough to provide Bridget with the name of her blog. I'm so hopelessly out of it as far as new music goes...I subsequently learned what everyone else in the world already knows: that Santogold is the stage name of of Philadelphia singer Santi White and that her songs have already been deemed democraphically hip enough to be used in commercials for Bud Light Lime, VO5 hair products and video games. Santi White has a great voice - she sounds unlike any other contemporary singer to these ears - and her music is what I imagine Beck would sound like if he took female hormone pills. This is fun and upbeat pop ideal for commuting.

  38. (Hollywood Records, 2006)
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    I usually hate these popular TV show soundtracks that are filled with tracks by the type of soundalike indie rockers that make up college radio playlists, but this one stands out for including Go Set Go's "I Hate Everyone" - the best song I heard all year and the one musical manifesto I would claim as my theme song for life ("Some stupid chick in the checkout line is paying for beers with nickles and dimes/And some old man clipped some coupons and argued whenever they wouldn't take one/And all I wanted to buy was some cigarettes but I couldn't take it so I just left..."). And this is just the "clean" radio version! As I listened to more of the album, I also starting digging Ursula 1000, the lounge music project of DJ Alex Gimeno, whose "Kaboom" sounds like Pizzicato Five sampling Serge Gainsbourg's "Comic Strip" with Japanese singer Izumi Okawara (of J-popsters Qypthone) doing her best Brigitte Bardot impression. Another DJ turned pop star, Anya Marina, sings like Ginger on Gilligan's Island in the way-clever "Miss Halfway" ("All my friends in LA got jobs on Melrose Place/I play Replacement songs and sigh "Waitress in the Sky"). Also delighting my ears were KT Tunstall's acoustic "Universe and U," blue-eyed soulster/Target pitchman Jamie Lidell's evocation of Otis Redding on the rhythm-and-bloozy "Multiply" and The Chalets' "Sexy Mistake," which conjured up memories of Veruca Salt singing "Seether" (too bad these Irish chicks disbanded last year: Erin Go Blah!)

  40. (Interscope Records, 2008)
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    Last, but certainly not least, is Beck's latest to round off my Top 20 year-end countdown. Thanks go again to my friend Bridget for clueing me in to this return to form by the world's only cool Scientologist. Don't get me wrong - I love Beck, but his last couple of releases were hit-or-miss affairs to me (sorry, I missed hearing The Information other than "Nausea," which the local college radio station played ad nauseum; everytime I tried to grab it somebody else checked it out), with nothing approaching the sweep of such flawless albums as Odelay and Midnight Vultures (the two Beck works I find myself most enamored of to this day). But this one is solid, Jackson. Modern Guilt, produced by Beck and Danger Mouse's Brian Burton, features two collaborations with Cat Power and standout tracks in "Orphans", "Gamma Ray" and "Youthless" and the moody "Chemtrails." And the title song may just be my secondary theme song ("I have modern guilt/I'm ashamed of what I've done" pretty much describes my days as a public access TV producer!). OK, I'll backtrack and try out The Information now (hey, I finally caught up with Lost by watching four seasons in the last two months) so I can once again be engaged with Contempo Pop Culture.

Related Links:
Pratt Songs blog
introverted excavator blog

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Phil and the Blanks

Big Fish Chokes Before Swallowing Little Fish

Big Phil is done at Chelsea. All that's left for Roman Abramovich to do is fill in the blanks with the name of the next gaffer to manage his under-achieving millionaire's club.

I came to this realization 15 minutes into Chelsea's FA Cup third round replay against Division One's Southend United when the lowly Southend-on-Sea Shrimpers went up 1-0 on a corner kick that exposed the mighty Blues current state of disarray.

You see, Luiz Felipe Scolari had promised to ditch man-to-man marking in place of a zone defense (a la Liverspool skipper Raphael Benitez) after Sunday's humilating 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the Red Devils at Old Trafford, yet the Blues (or Piss-Yellows in this case, as Chelsea was wearing their away kits) looked like the proverbial chickens-with-heads-cut-off as they ran about willy-nilly on this first defensive set piece. Southend's Junior Stanislas lofted a ball into the box and captain Adam Barrett leapt to head it home between the clueless Alex and Anelka. Despite Chelsea camping out in Southend's end of the pitch for most of the first half and out-shooting them by two to one, Southend almost went up 2-0 nil as the game approached halftime. Only a brilliant Cech save kept Chelsea from being done and dusted at that point. Alas, at the other end, the Southend goalie made a serious blunder right before the half to let Chelsea even the score and get right back into the game, with Michael Ballack scooting a loose ball past the out of position keeper into an empty net. From that point on, it was all academic as Salomon Kalou, Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard added second half strikes.

Despite the final score of 4-1, Chelsea once again had egg on its face, looking like a lower division club on that first foray in zonal marking. Who cares that they steadied the ship and got the result they should have from the start? The ship shouldn't have been rockin' to begin with. Big Phil's gotta be having an ulcer by this point of the season and I'm sure he's lost the faith of his players. He chewed them out royally at halftime, though Didier Drogba wasn't there to hear it - he was (rightly) left behind after his dreadful performance against Man U. at Old Trafford.

Monday, January 12, 2009

This Sporting Life

A Weekend Voyeur's Monday Morning Quarterbacking

I did nothing but watch sports this weekend. (Well, and eat and drink - while watching sports!) Sure, the Ravens game was on everybody's radar here in Baltimore, but for those of us with GOL TV and the Fox Soccer Channel, there were some high-profile matches on offer Saturday and Sunday. Like Manchester United hosting Chelsea at Old Trafford and David Beckham making his AC Milan debut before a packed house of 80,000 fans in Roma (say what you will about old Becks, but he guarantees a mass of ass in the stands!)

Seeing Red, Feeling Blue

In the English Premiere League, which for my money has superceded Spain's La Liga as the world's best domestic league the past two years (besides the Big Four clubs at the top, you now have Aston Villa, Everton - and even Wigan! - fighting to qualify for the chance to play European football!), the big money match was Chelsea at Manchester United. Usually these big club clashes are a boor, predictably ending in a draw as neither side wants to risk a defeat by going all out, and the first 45 minutes looked to be following this set scenario. Then Man U got a beautiful Cristiano Ronaldo header from a corner kick just before half-time! An officiating blunder nullified the goal, so the Red Devils regrouped for a corner kick by Giggsy that resulted in...another goal! This time a Vidic header, roughly 10 seconds later!

Third Time's the Charm: Berbatov's one-touch was sublime

The late goal seemed to deflate the Blues, who went on to get hammered 3-0 after Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov added second half strikes. (Chalk up Berbatov's goal to Scolari - he had just put in bewildered sub Di Santo, and within seconds the clueless 19-year-old lost the veteran Bulgarian striker in the penalty box, allowing the unmarked Berbatov an easy score from a set piece.) Hate to say it it, but this old-fashioned ass-whuppin' effectively ended Chelsea's title hopes. It was a confidence-sapping, soul-crunching defeat for Big Phil's boys in Blue, Chelsea's worst result at Old Trafford in 15 years. Even worse for Scolari was the sight of his nemesis the "Special One" (Jose Mourinho) in the stands smugly observing his former club being outclassed by Man U. (The two have often clashed in the past, dating back to the days when Mourinho was coaching FC Porto and Scolli was the Portugeuse national team gaffer.) The writing was already on the wall for London's runnerups, who finally lost at home this season and suffered inexplicable draws at Stamford Bridge against the likes of Fulham, Hull City, Stoke City and West Ham. They've won just one of their last six matches and have now lost to all their rivals in The Big Four.

The Special One was not amused by Scoli's follies

And the thumping had to scare Liverpool as well. Much as I thought this was the Reds' year, Man U. - love 'em or hate 'em - just has too much talent in that squad to be ever be ruled out of the EPL title; it's theirs by rights, de facto until someone wrests it from their dead, cold world-class footsies. Rooney, Tevez, Berbatov, Evra, Ronaldo, Ferdinand, Scholes, Nani, Neville, Carrick, Giggs, the fleet-footed Park. Boy Howdy! (And I'm not even including the injured Owen Hargreaves, who would start for any team in any league around the world when healthy.) If I sound like a Man U fan, I'm not - far from it, but I give credit where it's due. "Slur" Alex Ferguson is a grumpy old git, but that focker sure knows how win year-in, year old, assembly line style.

Chelsea has a great squad, but other than ex-Porto Portuguese international Jose Boswinga (who Man U was hot to sign), they didn't pick up any new talent to supersize their 2nd-best squad of the last two years. Deco? He has his days, but I thought he was finished when Barcelona unloaded him. He's not the answer in a midfield that boasts Frank Lampard, Ballack and Joe Cole, but sorely misses Michael Essien and Claude Markalele. And much as I love Didier Drogba, out for most of the season with injuries, the Cote d'Ivoire striker was absolutely rank on Sunday. I know he's rehabbing, but he's far from in-form, and Anelka and Kalou should start ahead of him until he stops playing like he's from Cote de Rust.

Drogba was dreadful

Beckham Getting His Kicks at AC Milan

Beckham marks Roma's John Arne Riise

David Beckham only got "average" grades from the stingy Italian media following his AC Milan debut against Roma: 6 out of 10. But they may have missed the point. Becks hadn't played in a couple of months, was playing his first game with a new team (a veteran team pretty set in its ways), and played 89 minutes despite being basically inactive before his arrival. Factor in that the game was a sell-out in Roma (80,000) and that Beckham Milan shirts are going for roughly $90, and you get the vibe that Becks in northern Italy is a match made in heaven.

I think Beckham enjoyed once again playing with and against quality stars after suffering through two seasons with the worst team (the L.A. Galaxy) in the worst domestic league (MSL) in the world - even Brandon Donovan saw the light and escaped to Bayern Munich recently. It's great to want to be a savior for a noble cause (saving American soccer), but at the end of the day, good players don't want to waste what good years they have left toiling in what amounts to the minor leagues. Star light, Star bright, as Madonna would say.

I thought Beckham had a good game, lots of crosses, corner kicks, intelligent play. It's a sticky wicket, his arrival, because it means that Andrea Pirlo - the Italian Beckham, a playmaker whose set pieces rival the Englishman's - was relegated to plaing defensive midfielder for most of the game. But Beckham always plays hard and is a team player. Sure, he's lost a step (he'll turn 34 this May) - his lack of pace was highlighted during a late run at goal when the Roma defenders easily cut him off - but his addition to Milan makes them the new Galaticos of Italy - the Geritol Galacticos, mind you. Kaka, Ronaldinho, Pirlo, Seedorf, Beckham. Not a bad midfield, if rather well-worn: two former FIFA Players of the Year and all international players who represent their national teams. Clarence Seedorf is still a superstar (he's also an ace sports commentator, one who can speak in Dutch, Spanish, English and probably Italian) - a consistent playmaker responsible for most of Milan's offensive creativity - but he's on the far side of 30 now. Ronnie shows flashes but is definitely past his prime (maybe he lacks motivation, having done and won it all before). Kaka and Pirlo are tireless pitch warriors but are not getting any younger and their bulldog enforcer Gattuso is out injured. When you add in mercurial veteran Filippo Inzaghi and returning son Andriy Shevchenko up front, this is indeed an old team, if not yet AARP Milan.

Of course, Milan should have won the game, a 2-2 draw that saw them squander a 2-1 lead build on back to back goals by their lone youngster, the Brazilian Pato (yes, The Duck!), thanks to a porous defense. Paolo Maldini is a legend and still has the legs, but c'mon, the guy turns 40 this year and Nesta's long gone. This team needs a strong back four!

I love AC Milan and Beckham's addition adds a spark to a Old Guard-transitioning-to-Youth-Movement team suffering through another under-achieving season (too many draws!). Give 'em time, Milan martinets! Or, as the The Gazzetta dello Sport reported, Beckham gave the Rossoneri "ninety minutes that nobody expected" and "played hard, crossed, shot and helped with humility. For his debut it was enough."

Check out highlights from the match and see for yourself:
AC Milan 2, Roma 2 (YouTube)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Dutch Treat for Tennis Fans

Federer and Blake Elicit Wows in Macau

The Old School/New School Showdown of Champions

Cable channel surfing last night, I came across a tennis match between Roger Federer and James Blake in Macau, the former Dutch colony near Hong Kong in Southeast China. I watched with interest because, even though Federer pretty much owns the young American in head-to-head play, the world No. 10-ranked Blake famously beat the now-No. 2-ranked Federer in Beijing at the Summer Olympics to deny Roger's bid for a Gold medal in singles. Federer won this Far East rematch 6-4, 6-4, but the score didn't come anywhere near reflecting the closeness of the match or the amazingly high quality of play between the two superstars - or the fun.

Yes, fun! Tennis is considered a dull, elitist sports by most of the world, yet this was the "loosest" two sets of tennis I had ever seen in terms of entertainment. If only more tennis matches were played with the carefree abandon and risk-taking of this match! It was quite a treat after the nail-biting tension involved in watching the Baltimore Ravens eke out a 13-10 win over the Tennesee Titans in the NFL playoffs only hours before (yes, I watched a football game - I'm not a fan, but I'll root the Ravens on in the playoffs, if only for economic recovery reasons - these games really help beer sales at liquor stores and ensure packed houses at area bars and restaurants!)

Roger plays "Spin the Racquet," Mac and Borg travel back in time

Federer and Blake smiled and joked between points, made countless between the legs shots, and even showed off their racquet-spinning skills. James Blake is a fairly emotional fist-pumper, but I had never seen Roger "Mr. Cool" Federer incite a crowd to start clapping before. Wait a second...was this is some sort of exhibition match, I wondered? Indeed it was, a Tennis Channel encore presentation of the November 2008 East Asian "Showdown of Champions" exhibition series in Kuala Lumpur (Maylasia's capital city) and Macau (which holds the dstinction of being both the first and the last European colony in China) that paired matches between current stars Federer and Blake with a Classics Redux edition pitting 49-year-old John McEnroe against 52-year Bjorn Borg (the former rivals fittingly split their two matches - Mac winning 7-6 in Kuala Lumpur and Borg equalizing 7-6 in Macau - so that their lifetime head-to-head record remains even-Steven). Just for good measure, the series also featured a Yanks versus Europeans doubles match pitting Johnny Mac and Blake against Federer and Borg. No word on the results, though conventional tennis wisdom holds that the world's all-time best doubles team is John McEnroe and Anybody.

Some highlights from the Federer-Blake match are shown below, courtesy SF TV:

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Secret Saved My Life!

...and other reviews by Ari Brouillete

A former co-worker e-mailed this Amazon customer review of Rhonda Byrnes' Oprah-hyped self-help book The Secret because she believed (as I did) that it was written by someone we know, someone with a similar writing style and sense of humor. It turned out it wasn't, but it turned me on to the funniest reviewer I've ever read on Amazon, Ari Brouillette of Kensington, California. Not content to skewer the claptrap self-help genre with his Secret testimonial, Ari has also commented on Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Dr. Philip M. Parker's The 2007-2012 Outlook for Public Building Stacking Chairs Excluding Bar, Bowling Center, Cafeteria, Library, Restaurant, and School Stacking Chairs in India (is this for real? Do people write books like this and do people buy them for $500? I thought it was some parody published by the folks at The Onion!), and even offers enthusiastic feedback (!!!, to be exact) on a galvanized metal water bucket someone was selling on Amazon. Ari is a smartass - and I love him. For your reading pleasure, I've reposted Ari's Greatest Hits below. (And I eagerly await his review of Dr. Parker's inevitable follow-up study Outlook for Bar, Bowling Center, Cafeteria, Library, Restaurant and School Stacking Chairs in India.)

The Secret
by Rhonda Byrne
Atria Books/Beyond Words (2006)
The Secret saved my life!
December 4, 2007
By Ari Brouillette

Please allow me to share with you how "The Secret" changed my life and in a very real and substantive way allowed me to overcome a severe crisis in my personal life. It is well known that the premise of "The Secret" is the science of attracting the things in life that you desire and need and in removing from your life those things that you don't want. Before finding this book, I knew nothing of these principles, the process of positive visualization, and had actually engaged in reckless behaviors to the point of endangering my own life and wellbeing.

At age 36, I found myself in a medium security prison serving 3-5 years for destruction of government property and public intoxication. This was stiff punishment for drunkenly defecating in a mailbox but as the judge pointed out, this was my third conviction for the exact same crime. I obviously had an alcohol problem and a deep and intense disrespect for the postal system, but even more importantly I was ignoring the very fabric of our metaphysical reality and inviting destructive influences into my life.

My fourth day in prison was the first day that I was allowed in general population and while in the recreation yard I was approached by a prisoner named Marcus who calmly informed me that as a new prisoner I had been purchased by him for three packs of Winston cigarettes and 8 ounces of Pruno (prison wine). Marcus elaborated further that I could expect to be [...] raped by him on a daily basis and that I had pretty eyes.

Needless to say, I was deeply shocked that my life had sunk to this level. Although I've never been homophobic I was discovering that I was very rape phobic and dismayed by my overall personal street value of roughly $15. I returned to my cell and sat very quietly, searching myself for answers on how I could improve my life and distance myself from harmful outside influences. At that point, in what I consider to be a miraculous moment, my cell mate Jim Norton informed me that he knew about the Marcus situation and that he had something that could solve my problems. He handed me a copy of "The Secret". Normally I wouldn't have turned to a self help book to resolve such a severe and immediate threat but I literally didn't have any other available alternatives. I immediately opened the book and began to read.

The first few chapters deal with the essence of something called the "Law of Attraction" in which a primal universal force is available to us and can be harnessed for the betterment of our lives. The theoretical nature of the first few chapters wasn't exactly putting me at peace. In fact, I had never meditated and had great difficulty with closing out the chaotic noises of the prison and visualizing the positive changes that I so dearly needed. It was when I reached Chapter 6 "The Secret to Relationships" that I realized how this book could help me distance myself from Marcus and his negative intentions. Starting with chapter six there was a cavity carved into the book and in that cavity was a prison shiv. This particular shiv was a toothbrush with a handle that had been repeatedly melted and ground into a razor sharp point.

The next day in the exercise yard I carried "The Secret" with me and when Marcus approached me I opened the book and stabbed him in the neck. The next eight weeks in solitary confinement provided ample time to practice positive visualization and the 16 hours per day of absolute darkness actually made visualization about the only thing that I actually could do. I'm not sure that everybody's life will be changed in such a dramatic way by this book but I'm very thankful to have found it and will continue to recommend it heartily.

The 2007-2012 Outlook for Public Building Stacking Chairs Excluding Bar, Bowling Center, Cafeteria, Library, Restaurant, and School Stacking Chairs in India
by Professor Philip M. Parker, Ph.D.
Chaired Professor of Management Science
Icon Group International (2006)
Dr. Parker has written a masterpiece!
November 12, 2007
By Ari Brouillette

I first discovered Dr. Parker's brilliant analysis and forecast of Indian stacking chair consumption while completing my thesis on the roll played by wheel based ergonomic office chairs in workplace fatalities. In particular, I found fascinating the statistical modeling employed by Dr. Parker to determine governmental stacking chair purchase requirements for the year 2011, which is well know to be the year that the Indian Civil Service Entrance Exam switches to a "Standing Only" testing methodology. Indeed, after months of careful study I can find only two obvious faults with the findings put forward by Dr. Parker. Firstly, and far more seriously, while Dr. Parker's analysis included over 2600 Indian municipalities, his thoughtless exclusion of Indian bowling allies cuts short any possible insight into the scarcity of stacking chairs and the effects on Hindu-Muslim bowling alley violence. Perhaps the infamy of the religious riots in Pune, following Mohinder Singh's perfect 300 game in 1998 led to this exclusion, I only hope that this obvious gap in analysis does not alienate future generations of readers and lead them to repudiation this otherwise thoughtful and deeply insightful study. My final criticism has to do with the quality of the publication and lack of full color illustrations. The choice to use black and white illustrations may be in keeping with the scholarly focus of this publication but I find it hard to distinguish between the Duo and Cello stacking chairs featured prominently on pages 316-318.
Finally, I must comment that Dr. Parker's treatise on stacking chairs has reinvigorated my own personal interest in furniture based consumption modeling and the related effects on the medical industry. I have recently begun a study of metal folding table usage in the southern United States and the corresponding rise in emergency room visitation. I won't provide any spoilers in this forum, but I can't help but tease the fact that I have found a widespread correlation between metal folding table usage at Baptist picnics and emergency room visitation for trauma in the distal and proximal interphalangeal joints. I encourage the many fans of this book to check back soon for my own publication.

Wanderlust: A History of Walking
by Rebecca Solnit
Verso (2002)

A Walk to Forget
December 5, 2007
by Ari Brouillette

Let me preface this somewhat negative review by stating that I come from a family of walking enthusiasts and I myself am an avid collector of all literature dealing with personal locomotion. I must therefore judge this effort via comparison to the great pantheon of walking literature and not merely as an isolated effort. If you are a walking neophyte this book may well be the catalyst that sparks your interest for further study but I would not suggest this work as a thorough or exhaustive study of two legged ambulation. Indeed, this scant 335 page work rarely delves beyond walking and completely fails to examine other forms of personal transport such as tottering, strolling, or even waddling. It must therefore suffer in comparison to the exquisite detail in Sarah Bernhardt's "One leg too few: A history of hopping", in which the author painstakingly details and diagrams the kinetics achieved by Anthony Cumia, the only one legged person capable of moseying. It also suffers from a very sparse history of walking and does not cover any of the critical walking related achievements from our rich colonial times. I believe that most readers will be greatly displeased to know that no mention is made of Margaret Brent's trailblazing non-stop saunter from Philadelphia to Boston or the ensuing legal trials that resulted in her convection and lengthy incarceration for inciting civil unrest by "walking in a salacious and wanton manner". While most historical treatises on American women's suffragist movements make no mention of the early campaigners for equal walking rights I certainly expect more from a novel claiming to be a "History of Walking". I know that the casual reader may take offense to such detailed scrutiny but it is a great sense of passion for the subject which guides my critical eye.
Dover Parkersburg 610 Galvanized Metal Water Bucket (2-Gallon)
Sold by Denny And Kathys Ace ($5.99)

This Bucket Changed My Life!!!
May 13, 2003
by Ari Brouillette

The highly versatile Dover Parkerburg 610 2- Gallon Galvanized Metal Water Bucket was recommended to me by my neighbor Jim Anchower. Jim is something of an amateur consumer products testing buff and assured me that when it came to galvanized buckets the Dover Parkersburg reigns supreme! Jim had previously turned me on to the the Swiffer WetJet Mop Total Cleaning System and the Hoover Quik-Broom S2561 so I knew he wouldn't [mess] around when it came to my metal bucket needs.

At first glance the Dover Parkerburg 610 is clearly a step above the competition, the smooth galvanized exterior is indicative of the more modern electrocoat process which produces much less surface bubbling and insures a uniform surface. Jagged Edges? Not on this baby! Also of note are the two horizontal ripples which are placed 6 inches from the base. A simple structural analysis and crush test showed the slight corragative additions to be more than simple decorations, they actually produce an increase in tensile strength of 35.8% when compared to smooth walled galvanized buckets of the same carrying capacity.

Although I have used the Dover Parkerburg less since installing our new fangled "Water Closet", I display it with pride, knowing that I own the best 2 gallon galvanized bucket in town.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Photo Flash

I saw this amazing photo while flipping through fashion designer Vivienne Tam's beautifully illustrated book on Chinese culture China Chic (ReganBooks/HarperCollins, 2005). The book was marked down to $8 from $26, and I subsequently learned this edition was out of print to boot, but I must confess I picked it up for this photo alone, which mesmerized me and made me mutter a stupified "WTF???" I mean, China's a traditionally conservative nation, and was especially so in its pre-Olympics, pre-global economic power days. Like during its Maoist heyday, circa the Cultural Revolution (which this photo looks to be from). I wondered: is the woman a prostitute, a Shanghai Lil? Is she flashing some party official or dignitary? Or is she trying to hitch a ride from the mini-Mao dude in the golf cart, using a variation on Claudette Colbert's thumb-with-benefits technique from It Happened One Night? Or is she mimicking Marilyn Monroe's iconic upskirt moment from The Seven Year Itch?

Skirting the issue?

And speaking of Mao, I love how his head, hanging from a banner on the background wall, seems to hover over the woman's shoulder. Is the Chairman inadvertently getting a sneak peek? And were any of the soldiers marching in the background checking her out during her "I see London/I see France" flash? If a picture is worth a thousand words, some pictures are worth a thousand questions.

(Incidentally, China Chic - far from being risque photoflipper for prurient minds - is a fascinating book about Chinese fashion, culture, iconography and language. I highly recommend it!)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Perfect Unpop

Peel Show Hits & Long-Lost Lo-Fi Favorites Vol 1 - 1976 to 1980
Various Artists
Cherry Red Records

"I just want to hear something I haven't heard before." - The John Peel Credo

I picked this up at Soundgarden over the weekend on the strength of seeing The Mo-Dettes' "White Mice" on CD. I had heard this rare, oddball single on The Last Stiff Compilation...Until The Next One, a great 1980 Stiff Records compilation that was never released on CD...

The Last Stiff Compilation...Until the Next One

...and recalled it was really good, so when digitally remastered opportunity knocked, I snatched it up and I'm glad I did, though the Mo-dettes pale against the brilliance of some of the other artists represented here, highlighted by Swell Maps ("Real Shocks"), The Boys ("Brickfield Nights"), The Bears ("On Me"), The Wasps ("Teenage Treats"), The Carpettes ("Radio Wunderbar"), and the Monochrome Set, whose "He's Frank" is easily the best thing on this platter.

I love this period (1976-1980) in British indie rock, the punk and early post-punk era of The DIY Single that offered unknown regional bands like The Subway Sect, Vibrators, Au Pairs, Swell Maps, Young Marble Giants, The Monochrome Set - and yes, the Mo-dettes - the chance to get played on John Peel's BBC Radio 1 program and use the exposure to get released on small indie labels like RAK, Dining Out, Waldo's Records, Rabid, Rough Trade, Stiff, Radar, Vindaloo (!) and the like. To paraphrase a David Bowie anthem: Anyone could be heroes, just for a day. But as much as I loved punk (full disclosure: I once played in a musically-challenged band of two-chord wonders fitting the "punk" description), post-punk was even more exciting and full of variety than its predecessor. Or as Television guitarist Tom Verlaine phrased it in "Ain't That Nothin'": "I love disaster, and I love what comes after."

Unfortunately, while punk has been well-covered in numerous tomes and compilations, there's a dearth of information about the post-punk period other than Simon Reynolds' essential bio Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-1984 and Hyped2Death Records's Messthetics (covering UK DIY bands) and Teenline (covering US DIY bands) CD comps. But now comes this compilation, whose mission statement is simple: "Perfect Unpop is based on a dangerous assumption: that if you were ever touched by British DJ John Peel’s enthusiasm for spiky 70s pop, those fantastic three minutes of energy defined a generation. You know classics like “Teenage Kicks” or “What Do I Get”, but here’s a compilation that draws on some more obscure but equally compelling slices of post-punk goodness. Variety is the spice of life and here’s a collection of John Peel favourites a little less likely to crop up on your iPod but no less likely to win a place in your heart."


Track Listing:

1. Tours - "Language School" (Tours, 1979)

"Language School" by Dorset's Tours was John Peel's second favorite single (after The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" - which he famously requested be played at his funeral) and he played it for 50 consecutive nights when it came out. Amazingly, this marks the first appearance on CD of guitarist Richard Mazda's a-Peeling ditty that anticipated the '80s mod revival. It's hard to decipher the Limey accents, but lines like "French dresses make me feel alright," make me think the song has something to do with randy locals exploring foreign tongues. The flip side continues the obsession with "Foreign Girls". Thanks to the airplay afforded them by Peel and fellow Radio 1 DJ Mike Reid, Tours found themselves in the midst of a bidding war between Virgin, Polydor, Sire and EMI records, eventually signing with Virgin in 1979 - but the association was shortlived as an agument between the band and the label led the other founder/leader Ronnie Mayor to quit.

Mazda goes zoom zoom: Mazda later became an in-house producer for IRS Records (working with the likes of The Fall, The Birthday Party, Wall of Voodoo, The Fleshtones, Tom Robinson, Alternative TV, Yello, Suburban Lawns and Brian James) and, 10 years after handing this single to John Peel, wrote the Billboard No. 1 "How Long" for Ultra Nate. After he went bald, Mazda become a character actor on stage and screen; look for him in Quills, Sleepy Hollow, The World Is Not Enough, Shakespeare in Love, Saving Private Ryan, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. And be sure to check out his website:

The Mayor of Mumbleton: Post-Tours, brogue-heavy singer Ronnie Mayor formed The Biz ("On the Beach"), got sacked and then went solo, releasing the single "Can't Wait 'Till The Summer Comes" (not to be confused with The Undertones' "Here Comes the Summer"!) He then disappeared Down Under in Australia, where he immersed himself in "world music".

Tours Personnel:
Richard Mazda: guitar
Ronnie Mayor: vocals
Steve Jeff: bass
Mark Spiers: drums

2. The Vibrators - "Whips & Furs" (RAK, 1976)

He drives a black cadillac/Whips and furs in the back. These Old School pub rockers jumped on the punk rock bandwagon when they renamed the driving "Dance To the Music" as "Whips & Furs" and put it on the flip of their first, Mickey Most-produced single "We Vibrate". It certainly complimented their wink-wink band name and made them seem nasty boys, but don't worry, this is an innocuous Chuck Berry rocker all the way. I think the Vibrators tried to come off as nastier than they were - like The Stranglers - with song titles and subject matter hinting at kink and S&M.

In fact, back in the day, my old punk band Thee Katatonix covered their song "I Need A Slave" because our frontman Adolf Kowalski (pictured left) - who always had impeccable taste when it came to covers - found the title sufficiently provocative to merit addition to a setlist that already boasted songs like "I Don't Wanna Marry a Dyke" and "(I Sure Miss My) Foreskin". But I digress...As Mark Deming (All Music Guide) mused about the Vibrator's pub rock roots, "Were the Vibrators real punks? Maybe not, but then again, were the Stranglers? Or Eddie and the Hot Rods? Even more to the point, was Steve Jones? Plenty of rock careerists jumped onto the punk/new wave bandwagon in the wake of the Sex Pistols' success (and more than a few folks, like Jones, stumbled into the new movement by accident), but unlike most of them, the Vibrators took to the fast/loud/stripped down thing like ducks to water..." So true, and though they later famously backed guitarist Chris Spedding ("Pogo Dancing"), who also plays on this single, the Vibrators were singer-guitarist Ian "Knox" Carnochan's band, and this song dates from his days in an outfit called Despair.

Knox: vocals, guitars
Pat Collier: guitars
John Edwards: bass
Eddie: drums
Chris Spedding: guitars

3. Subway Sect - "Ambition" (Rough Trade, 1978)

I won't be tempted by vile evils, 'cause vile evils are vile evils! - Vic Godard

The greatest Sect since Downliner Sect ("Glendora") wrote this song considered the greatest single by a band never to have an album. I had heard a lot of hype about how great this band was, and also about how little musical ability Vic Godard's charges had, but you could certainly fool me on the latter. I was pleasantly surprised and wanted to hear more. Or as CD compiler Derek Hammond put it: "The Subway Sect weren't 'poor'. They were rich with nothing."

According to Wikipedia, Godard retired from music in the mid-80s to become a postman, with the remnants of his Sect lineup going on to form JoBoxers ("Just Got Lucky"). He got back into music in 1990 after reading New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders' obit, inspiring him to write "Johnny Thunders" and ten other tracks that ended up on The End of the Surrey People LP. The drummer on that album was former Sex Pistol Paul Cook, bringing full circle the Pistols influence - Godard having formed Subway Sect in 1976 at the suggestion of Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, who wanted another band for the line-up of the 100 Club Punk Festival. (McLaren subsequently fobbed off management of the band to Clash puppetmaster Bernie Rhodes.)

Vic Godard/Subway Sect Website

Vic Godard- singing, warbling
Robert Symmons- guitar
Paul Myers- bass
Paul Smith- drums 1976
Mark Laff - drums 1977-1978
Bob Ward - drums 1977-1978

4. Young Marble Giants - "Final Day" (Rough Trade, 1980)

"When the light goes out on the final day, we will all be gone having had our say."

Pleasant croonings from Alison Statton quietly backed by her Welsh bandmates (whose ranks included the brothers Philip and Stuart Moxham), this debut single from the short-lived Cardiff legends (1980-1981) has been described quite rightly as "one of the the biggest tiny songs in musical history". Think Mo Tucker in The Velvet Underground's "After Hours" or "I'm Sticking With You." (Or, subject-wise, think Morrissey's "Every Day Is Like Sunday.") According to Simon Reynolds, Young Marble Giants made "music by introverts, for introverts," seeking a sound, in the words of bassist Philip Moxham, like "a radio that's between stations, listening to it under the bedclothes at four A.M., these fantastic short-wave sounds and snatches of modulated sounds." Guitarist-songwriter Stuart Moxham likened the interplay of his muted strumming technique (in which he rested his strumming hand on the strings to lessen vibration) and his brother's melodic bass playing to "musical knitting".

Inspired by an Ian Fleming short story and the government-sponsored civil defense film Protect and Survive (1975) - and with atmospheric drone courtesy of jamming a matchstick in the keyboard (how very DIY!) - YMG's best-known song is a testament to the virtues of Keeping Things Simple, from its brevity (clocking in at a scant minute and a half) to Statton's subdued, matter-of-fact delivery.

Surprisingly, Statton's contributions were a reluctant after-thought. Stuart Moxham didn't really want her in the band, despite the fact that she was Philip's girlfriend and was voted the eight-best singer of 1980 by NME readers. In Rip It Up and Start Again, Reynolds quotes Stuart declaring "Alison's not a singer! She's someone who sings. Alison sings as if she was at the bus stop or something." Ha, just goes to show how wrong musicians can be, for it's Alison Statton's natural phrasing and calming tone that lures the listener into this fine tune.

Young Marble Giants are on MySpace (isn't everybody?)

Philip Moxham: bass
Stuart Moxham: guitar
Alison Statton: vocals
Peter Joyce: drums

5. Kleenex - "Hedi's Head" (Rough Trade, 1978)

It could be said of Swiss artchick kollective Kleenex (later known as LiliPUT) that, like The Ramones, they only knew how to play one song - but it was a good one, in the same quirky, fun and minimalmalist spirit of the Gabba Gabba Hey boys. That said, this non-sensical experiment in chord progressions is merely a reprise of "Ain't You" from the 4-track EP Switzerland's first all-girl punk group sent John Peel in 1978. Love the bird-squawking vocals ("Eee-Eee!"). Bonus: features the mysterious, elusive "H" chord!

In 1979, Kleenex changed their name to LiliPUT following a legal challenge by Kimberly-Clark, makers of Kleenex and other consumer products. (Interestingly enough, in Switzerland, Kleenex wasn't associated with facial tissues - it was a tampon brand name!)

LiliPUT Wikepedia entry.

Regula Sing: vocals
Marlene Marder: guitar
Klaudia Schifferle: bass
Lislot Hafner: Drums

6. The Bears - "On Me" (Waldo's Records, 1978)

How did I never hear about The Bears, a Watford band formed in 1976 by ex-Wire guitarist George Gill that took its name from Yogi Bear cartoons (original band name: Smarter & The Average Bears)? Besides Gill (who was sacked when Graham Lewis and Robert Grey joined Wire), The Bears also boasted another, later Wire alumnus in saxophonist Kris Kershaw.

According to the Website, "Like Wire they went in for minimalist song riffs but unlike Wire clearly had a sense of humour and the absurd" with songs about dropping bags of flour off tower blocks on peoples heads as well as "snipers, getting yourself killed, living in a car and so on."

Their subject matter seemed prophetic, as original singer Mick North and his mate Pete Perspex of The Paper Doilies were killed in a car accident in September 1977. Then, in January 1978, George Gill and his girlfriend were beaten up by a group of punk-taunting hooligans. But the band soldiered on, replacing North with ex-Paper Doilies singer John Entrails (whose nasally vocal style calls to mind early Brian Eno) and recording their debut single "On Me" before calling it a day in November of 1978. As punk77 summed up Watford's third-best maestros (after homeboy Elton John and Wire), "The Bears suffered from infrequent recordings, line up changes and personal disasters which is a shame because they were a bit special and should have had more success. Punk wasn't all about anger and shouting and The Bears showed some real individuality."

Post-Bears, the rhythm section of Ron West and Cally Cameron went on to form The Tea Set, whose "Cups and Saucers" (from the Cups and Saucers EP) turns up on Hyped2death Records's Messthetics CD compilation series.

George Gill: guitar
Kris Kershaw: saxophone
Ron West: bass
Cally Cameron: drums
John Entrails (ex-Paper Doilies): vocals

7. Wreckless Eric - "Whole Wide World" (Stiff, 1978)

Ah, Wreckless Eric (aka Eric Goulden), the pride of Newhaven, East Sussex, England was one of the first artists signed to fledgling Stiff Records and remains best known for this ditty which, more than two decades after its release, was included in Mojo Magazine’s list of "The best punk rock singles of all time" and "Top 40singles of the alternative era 1975 – 2000". That said, I much prefer his "Take the Cash" and if I never hear "Whole Wide World" again in my life, it wouldn't be too soon - it's just turned up on too many Stiff/New Wave/Punk compilations. It was also covered later by Laptop and The Proclaimers.

Historically significant, but the first of two duds (the other being The Prefects' perfectly unlistenable "Going Through the Motions") on this compilation, as far as I'm concerned. Fast forward!

8. Swell Maps - Real Shocks (1979)

Birmingham's lo-fi avant-garde standard-bearers Swell Maps released four singles and two albums during their 1977–1980 heyday, all platters reaching No. 1 on the British Independent charts. The creation of two lads originally from from Solihull, the Brothers Godfrey - drummer Epic Soundtracks (Kevin Godfrey) and singer-songwriter-guitarist Nikki Sudden (Nicolas Godfrey) - Swell Maps were pioneers of the post-punk DIY movement and later influenced '80s "C86" bands (named after a 1986 New Musical Express cassette compilation of indie label bands, C86 became a musical shorthand for bands featuring jangly guitars and fey melodies), not to mention Sonic Youth and Pavement.

OK, swell, but what about the song, the Maps' third single on Rough Trade? With lines like "So you seek to destroy, everything was planned" and "Everything I've seen, it doesn't change a thing," the song might well be talking about the whole Pistols-led punk rock phenomena, but in the CD liner notes, bassist Jowe Head posits the idea that the song's use of such sensitive and "antique charms" as piano and acoustic guitar helped "push the DIY element in the growing independent scene into more diverse territory." It certainly has one of the most brilliant middle eights in recent memory, a contrapuntal mood swing featuring a piano solo over Epic Soundtracks' rock-steady beat.

And the cover of the single (pictured above right)? "We adapted the image of the amplifier on the front from a Josie and the Pussycats sticker I found," says Head. "But don't tell anyone."

Things didn't pan out so swell for Maps post-postpunk: Epic Soundtracks died of unknown causes at the age of 37 in 1997 and Nikki Sudden died - suddenly - of a heart attack in his sleep on March 26, 2006 after a concert in New York City. Jowe Head sang "Real Shocks" at Sudden's memorial service.

Swell Maps are on MySpace.

Nikki Sudden: guitar, vocals
Epic Soundtracks: drums, piano
Jowe Head: bass, vocals
David Barrington: guitar
John Cockrill
Richard Earl

9. The Out - Who Is Innocent? (Rabid Records, 1979)

I had never heard of Manchester's "not-quite-punk powerpop" group The Out or their leader, the Wrexham, Wales-born "Guitar George" Borowski, which is exactly why Derek Hammond's liner notes rightly exclaim, "Life can be so unfair. George Borowski plays like a demon squeezing out inspirational tunes so sweet they can make you feel physically seven stones lighter...and all he gets remembered for is being patronised by a bald bloke with a bandana." That bloke would be Mark Knopfler, whose Dire Straits song "Sultans of Swing" sent a shout out to the Out maestro as follows:

Check out Guitar George, he knows all the chords
Mind, he's strictly rhythm, he doesn't want to make it cry or sing
Yes, and an old guitar is all he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing

Besides Knopfler, The Doves, Radiohead, Teenage Fanclub (with whom he later played) and The Pixies (whose Frank Black says "I have never seen a rock and roll performer so completely connected with what he was doing on stage") are also fans...but, as Moz would say, the world won't listen. This despite GG being able to trace his lineage to Sergei Rachmanikov, (he's a great-nephew of the legendary Russian composer), touring with Meat Loaf (!), and having a half-brother (Tim Borowski) who plays for German football club Bayern Munich (OK, perhaps only I'm impressed by that last one).

Going by this track, George should be more famous, especially given this single's Jam-like mod energy. But as Q MAGAZINE blurbed it: "Guitar George Borowski, one of the hitherto-unacknowledged people, products and 'things that have helped shape rock'n'roll… and a commemorative verse in Dire Straits' 'Sultans of Swing' - such has been the life of Mr. Unsung Personified."

Speaking of Q, read their "Guitar George" interview with Borowski, in which he explains how he came to impress Mark Knopfler one night in Manchester:

"We had the job of opening for the bands at a place called Rafters...When Dire Straits played, Mark Knopfler came over to me and said, 'That's a great guitar sound you've got. How come you don't play solos?' The thing is, I can't really play solos, I just play chords. He had a go on my guitar; it was a piece of plywood with two pick-ups and a reject neck, but it sounded teriffic. I said 'You can have it if you want, it's only worth eighteen quid.' And he was like , 'Oh no, no, I can't take it.' That was about the long and short of it, really.

Well, "Who Is Innocent" may be the short of it, but the Sgt. Peppery montage picture sleeve provides the hours-long of it. I'm still trying to figure out who's who (as well as who's innocent!); click on the image above to enlarge.

Besides being immortalised in song, touring with Meat Loaf and Teenage Fanclub, and getting steady work as a session guitarist, Borowski was in a ton of bands, including his post-Out group, Captain Swoop & the Fabulous Wonderfuls, whose "Tonight Could Be the Night" single can be found on Hyper2Death Record's Messthetics CD series. He still plays with the lads and has his own Manchester radio show.

George Borowski on Wikipedia.

George Borowski's Website:

George Borowski on MySpace.

George Borowski & The Fabulous Wonderfuls on YouTube.

10. Eater - Thinking Of The USA (The Label, 1977)

North London punks Eater took their name from - of all sources - the Tolkienesque hippie gibberish of an early T. Rex song ("Suneye" from 1970's T. Rex: "Tree wizard pure tongue, the digger of holes, the swan king, the elf lord, The eater of souls, Lithon the black, The rider of stars, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the eater of cars”) and their second single "Thinking of the USA" was included in a leading British music magazine’s list of the "best punk-rock singles of all-time" in 2001. Though I can't agree with that hyperbolic statement (I tend to agree with another critic's assessment of them as "run-of-the-mill dole queue punk rock"), it's not a bad song and name-checks such Eater influences as The Velvet Underground and The Heartbreakers alongside notorious Yank celebs Richard "Watergate" Nixon and then-topical spree killer Gary Gilmore (who on January 17, 1977 became the first person executed in the United States after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a new series of death penalty statutes): "Walter Lure comes from the USA, Lou Reed comes from the USA, Richard Nixon comes from the USA, Gary Gilmore comes from the USA". This was probably as close as Eater came to irony. (Gary Gilmore was most famously name-dropped in one-chord wonders The Adverts' UK Top 20 hit "Gary Gilmore Eyes".)

Eater released five singles and the self-descriptive long-player The Album before splitting up in 1979. Andy Blade, who once shared an apartment with The Cult's Billy Duffy, later published a book about his rock and roll career called The Secret Life of a Teenage Punk Rocker (2005). Drummer "Dee Generate" joined the band as a 13-year-old in 1976, introduced to the lads by The Damned's Rat Scabies.

Andy Blade: guitar and vocals
Brian Chevette: guitar
Ian Woodcock: bass
Roger "Dee Generate" Bullen: drums

Eater bio at

Eater bio at The Pop Mod Punk Archives.

11. The Disco Zombies - "Mary Millington"

OK monotonous meanderings salvaged by the outro psych guitar solo. Shame, because the Disco Zombies' subject is more interesting than the song itself. Mary Millington was a Brit porn actress who took her life in 1979; too bad Nick Lowe didn't show the Zombies how to pull off a "Mary Provost"-style witty-ditty on this single.

According to the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB):
"Mary Millington [pictured at left] had trained to become a veterinary nurse, but a chance meeting with infamous London photographer John Lindsay changed her life. Under Lindsay's influence, Mary started to pose nude in dozens of photo spreads in British glamor magazines. From this she progressed into illegally made hardcore porn films. In 1974 she met up-and-coming publisher and film producer David Sullivan, and very soon she became the most recognizable nude model in the UK. Sullivan relentlessly promoted her through his magazines and starred her in his 1977 movie Come Play with Me (1977). The film ran for 201 weeks at one London cinema and broke box office records throughout the country. Other movies followed, but Come Play with Me still stands as the longest-running film in British movie history. Unfortunately, as Mary's fame increased so did her reliance on drugs. Persecuted by the police and becoming more and more paranoid about her looks, Mary tragically committed suicide on 19th August 1979."

London's Disco Zombies released two singles and an EP before disbanding in 1980; their best known release was their second single, "Drums Over London"/"Heartbeats Love".

Geoff Dodimeed: bass
Mark Sutherland: lead
Andy Fullerton: drums
Andy Ross: guitarand vocals
David Henderson: vocals

12. Mo-Dettes - "White Mice" (Rough Trade, 1979)

Self-released as their first single in 1979 on Mode records and later picked up by Rough Trade, "White Mice" spent 5 weeks at No. 1 on the Indie charts. Like Kleenex, the Mo-Dettes are Slits devotees featuring an English as a Second Language singer mumbling broken English sentiments like "Don't be stupid, don't be limp" (words to live by, to be sure) over a minimalist backbeat. What weird, speech-impediment vocals - is it possible chanteusse Ramona had two tongues in her mouth? As the CD liner notes put it: "She's singing pidgin-Swiss without taking the gum out of her gob."

Nevertheless, John Peel loved them, describing the Mo-Dettes sound as "the musical equivalent to those children's TV programs where you make a model of the Battersea power station out of egg boxes". The Mo-dettes got further exposure on BBC Radio 1, DJ John Peel's show on 28 January 1980, broadcasting versions of "Norman (He's No Rebel)", "Dark Park Creeping", "Kray Twins" and "Bitter Truth". Further sessions followed on 26 August 1980 and 11 July 1981.

Girls Night Out: The Mo-Dettes

Besides the mumbly Ramona, the rest of the Mo misses included American guitarist Kate Korus, drummer Kate Miles-Kingston, and teen runaway Jane Crockford on bass - the latter a former squat-mate of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. (It's who you know that counts in Show Biz.)

Ramona: vocals
Kate Korus: guitar
Jane Crockford: bass
June Miles-Kingston: drums

13. The Outcasts - "Self Conscious Over You" (Good Vibrations, 1979)

John Peel loved his Irish punk bands, so it's no surprise Belfast's Outcasts - so-named because these bad boys were once banned from five clubs in one week - made his playlist. In fact, The Outcasts were label mates of Peel's beloved Undertones on Good Vibrations Records and, like the the 'Tones, were formed by brothers - Greg, Colin and Martin Cowan. "Self Conscious Over You" was the title track of their album on Captain Oi! Records. Some blogger described the song as "’50s malt shop sentiments over a super scratchy sounding, hip-shakin’ punk swinger" and I suppose that description serves as well as any.

According to the blog In the Crowd!, The Outcasts were far from shrinking violets when it came to self-promotion: "A little self-publicity didn't go amiss as was evident on the night they ran onto the stage at an Elvis Costello gig at the Ulster Hall, grabbed the mic off 'The Specky One' and shouted "We're The Outcasts, buy our single!"

The Outcasts broke up in 1985 after three albums and numerous singles.

The Outcasts on Myspace

The Outcasts - The Punk Singles Collection (In the Crowd!)

The Outcasts - The Punk Singles Collection (Record Collector Magazine)

Greg Cowan: bass, vocals
Colin Cowan: drums
Martin Cowan: guitar
Colin "Getty" Getgood: guitar

14. The Wasps - "Teenage Treats" (4-Play Records, 1977)

Another Saturday back on top, liggin around the Oxfam shops
Grim deacying rows of streets, it's time you gave your nose a treat

The Wasps hailed from the Walthamstow 'hood of Northeast London and obviously had a good, self-deprecating sense of humor, as evidenced by the text on the back of their debut single: "One exciting new wave quartet will explode out of nowhere like Walthamstow with high energy music... but until then you will have to settle for The Wasps."

"Teenage Treats" is a catchy little powerpop confection, but unfortunately singer Jesse Lynn-Dean (like many frontmen at the time) had the then-in-vogue habit of rolling his R's like Johnny Rotten. The Wasps had two of their songs included on the Live At The Vortex compilation in late 1977 and released the album Punkryonics (good luck finding it!) and one more single ("Rubber Cars" on RCA) before disbanding. Despite "Teenage Treats" getting lots of attention via John Peel's show, The Wasps decided to spend the next seven months recording tracks for a tentative album. As Lynn-Dean recalled in an interview with Punk77, "The deliberate layoff to be honest was the brainchild of our manager at the time who wanted to showcase the band to major record companies and secure a deal. The band was never happy with the idea and it stopped our momentum at a time when we were going like an express train. All the members of the band loved playing live and it was a very frustrating period and the beginning of heavy management interference against the bands wishes and this is when all the problems started."

Jesse Lynn-Dean later went solo and released an ill-fated single "Do It" b/w "My Boyfriend's Back In Town" on Creole Records in 1979.

The Wasps - Mod Pop Punk Archives

Johnny Rich: drums
Steve Wollaston: bass
Del May: guitar
Jesse Lynn-Dean: vocals

15. The 45s - "Couldn't Believe A Word" (Stiff, 1980)

That's the 45s U.K., veterans of south London's pubrock circuit who should not to be confused with the all-girl punk trio from Annapolis, Maryland of the same name - the latter outfit so strapped for equipment they actually borrowed the dustbin-worthy gear of my old outfit Thee Katatonix when we played gigs together. In fact, our Annapolis gig with these gals earned us our worst-ever - and hence most beloved - review in the Arundel Living Sun ("New Wave band revels in playing songs wrong," July 24, 1980): "Such a vile feeling we had not experienced since our last anchovy pizza with extra anchovies...there was very little in the way of musical ingenuity. There was a whole lot in the way of perverse anger...we left the bar wondering who would have mercy on us after having been subjected to the band that adds assault to insult." And we were the headliners, folks!

So, in other words, it's highly unlikely that anyone would mistake the 45s from across the pond with the minimalist Annapolitans who the Baltimore City Paper described as "somewhat more artful than the Shaggs and somewhat more artless than the Raincoats"; in fact, these Blighty blokes are pure Powerpop, with melodies akin to Pezband or early Rubinoos. Originally university students from Newcastle upon Tyne, where they initially busked and later performed in pubs under the name The Famous Five, the Geordie lads headed south to London with a demo tape of "Couldn't Believe a Word," catching the eye of Chopper Records. But despite the single becoming "Record of the Week" on John Peel's Radio 1 playlist (as well as influential music papers like Melody Maker), Chopper Records was a small label with limited distribution; it was hard to get hold of it! But thanks to hearing it on Radio 1, Stiff Records contacted the group and subsequently brought the single out under their label. Alas, the 45s' lone single for Stiff remains infamous for being "the lowest selling Stiff single ever"! Bollocks, I say! The single may have stiffed, but this hook-friendly tune is far from lame!

Phil Johnstone went on to co-write and produce three albums for Robert Plant. He is still in the music business and owns a studio in Devon, England.

The 45s are on MySpace.

Mod Punk Pop Archives: 45s Bio

James Wood: bass, vocals
Phil Johnstone: keyboards, guitar, vocals
Paul Metcalfe: drums, vocals
John Warrener: guitar, vocals
Mick Blowfield: saxophone

16. Glaxo Babies - "This Is Your Life" (Heartbeat, 1979)

This is your life/Such a boring story.

Bristol's recalcitrant Glaxo Babies have written the story of my life it seems.

"This is your life, this is your boring life...drink your coffee, read Death of a Salesman...and don't forget the wife!" intones singer Rob Chapman, while a background chorus of "Dream, work, sleep, eat/Dream, work, sleep, eat" is intersperced with tape loops from some TV nature program. Not quite happy-go-lucky and cheerio sentiments, to be sure. This clever aural montage was the title track from their 1979 EP on Heartbeat, a subsidiary of Cherry Red Records.

After two albums, the band were forced by British drug company Glaxo (now GlaxoSmithKline) to change their name to Gl*xo Babies.

You see, at the turn of the century, Glaxo was Joseph Nathan and Co.'s registered trademark for dried milk and in 1908 the company published its famous Glaxo Baby Book, an infant care booklet that begat the familiar "Glaxo Builds Bonnie Babies" advertising slogan. And Bristol's Glaxo Babies weren't exactly, well, bonnie.

Guitarist Dan Catsis went on to play in The Pop Group between 1979 and 1980. Wish I'd seen his legendary 1978 Ashton Court Festival gig with the Babies where he played his guitar with a vibrator!

I'd like to track down some more Glaxo Babies, if only to hear their "Who Killed Bruce Lee?".

Glaxo Babies are on MySpace.

Tom Nichols: bass
Dan Catsis: guitar
Geoff Alsopp: drums
Tony Wrafter: saxophone
Rob Chapman: vocals

17. The Prefects - "Going Through The Motions" (Vindaloo, 1980)

I absolutely abhor this dud. The only motion this sounds-trocity elicits is head over bowl, heaving. Clash manager Bernie Rhodes concurred, calling them "amateur wankers" (inadvertently providing the title of a later retrospective album, 2005's The Prefects Are Amateur Wankers on Acute Records), but John Peel championed Birmingham's minamalist punk provocateurs after discovering them on the Clash's "White Riot" Tour, where they played such reductio ad absurdum numbers as the seven-second, two-chord "I've Got VD" ("Help me please help me I'm so weedy I've got VD please help me I'm so weedy I've got VD!"). This was their lone single before they became The Nightingales; the band acquired legendary status in the UK because no records were released until they had split up.

According to Punk77, they were especially reviled in their hometown, singer Robert Lloyd recalling that "Birmingham hates The Prefects; there's certain pubs we can't go in, otherwise we'll get glasses thrown at us." (Guess that's tit-for-tat for a band that wrote songs like "Birmingham's a Shit Hole"!)

The Prefects (

The Prefects (Wikipedia)

Robert Lloyd: vocals
Alan Apperley: guitar
Eamon Duffy: bass
Dave Twist: drums

18. The Carpettes - "Radio Wunderbar" (Small Wonder, 1977)

On September 12, 1977, The Carpettes released their debut EP, Radio Wunderbar. Besides the great title track, about John Peel's fellow DJs on Radio One, the four song EP contained "How About Me and You", "Help I'm Trapped" and "Cream of the Youth". (None of these songs appeared on their debut album, but "How About Me and You" was later released as a single.) Though their MySpace page lists them as being based in Glasgow and Sunderland, the Carpettes were originally from the Newcastle side of the Tyne, not Sunderland "Mackems". They disbanded in 1980.

Official Carpettes Website:

The Carpettes are also on MySpace.

Neil Thompson: guitar and vocals
George Maddison: bass
Tim Wilder (replaced Kevin Heard): drums

19. The Tights - "Bad Hearts" (Cherry Red Records, 1978)

Legalise the treatment/Harmony at home.

Kicking off like a carbon copy of The Damned's "New Rose" ("I'll give ya my heart, I'll give ya my heart"), "Bad Hearts" soon turns into a mid-tempo Buzzcocks rocker, like one of Steve Diggle's songs from A Different Kind of Tension. According to Wikipedia, The Tights hailed from Worcester in England's West Midlands and released a scant two singles in two years on Cherry Red Records - "Bad Hearts"/"It"/"Cracked" (1978) and "Howard Hughes"/"China's Eternal" (1978) - before calling it a day. After John Peel played their debut on BBC Radio 1, "Bad Hearts" placed sixth on the UK punk chart, while their follow-up "Howard Hughes" (featuring a cover sleeve of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts's limo) did ever better, reaching as high as number four on the same chart.

The Tights Official Site.

Of course The Tights are also on MySpace.

Rob Banks: guitar
Barry Island: bass and keyboards
Rick Mayhew: drums
Malcolm Orgee: vocals

20. The Monochrome Set - "He's Frank (Slight Return)" (Rough Trade, 1979)

He's got secular joy, he's a peculiar boy
But now the lustre is gone, the peculiar boy is no more

These peculiar boys may be no more, but their lustre certainly lives on. This is an absolutely cracking tune with brilliant lyrics (I especially love the line "He's got precious youth/But forsaken, forsooth" - I mean, how many songs have the word "forsooth" in it? Love it!) from Stuart Goddard's old backing band (then known as the B-Sides) - before he went off to start Adam and the Ants. According to Wikipedia, the original Monochrome Set line-up consisted of Indian born singer/songwriter Bid (real name Ganesh Seshadri), Canadian guitarist Lester Square (real name Thomas Hardy!), drummer John D. Haney, and bassist Charlie Harper. (The band went through several bassists in the next few years, including Jeremy Harrington, and Andy Warren of Adam's Ants).
Many considered experimental filmmaker Tony Potts to be the band's "fifth member" due to his live collaborations with the band, which included set designs and film projections.

The flipside of "He's Frank" was "Alphaville," an homage to French New Wave darling Godard (Jean-Luc, not Stuart of Adam Ant fame).

Here's a 1990s reunion version of "He's Frank" I found on YouTube.

Official Web Site

Monochrome Set - MySpace.

21. Au Pairs - "It's Obvious" (1980)

Ball-busting feminist aesthetics never sounded so irresistably danceable as it did in the hands of the Au Pairs, Birmingham's preeminent humorless artrockers with the perfectly balanced yin-yang lineup of two lads and two lasses. "It's Obvious" was their second single, taken from their debut album Playing with a Different Sex. As led by uber-serious Lesley Woods, the Au Pairs made Gang of Four sound fun by comparison. But there was no knocking their rock-steady beat and angular guitar riffs - they were exciting and stimulating, even if Woods' shrill anti-sexist intonations could shrink any two-fisted male chauvinist's knob to the size of a cocktail weenie.

Lesley Woods: guitar and vocals
Paul Foad: guitar/vocals
Jane Munro: bass
Pete Hammond: drums

22. Sinatras - "Happy Feeling" (Dining Out Records, 1980)

There's a bunch of bands named after Hoboken homie Francis Albert Sinatra, including some indie rockers from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Scotland's Sorry and the Sinatras and The Trashcan Sinatras. Talk about an extended family! I have no idea which one this is, but I suspect it's John Barrow's mates from Leicester, England, who have the MySpace page listed below.

The Sinatras on Myspace

I'd also like to know who the lass is on the "Happy Feeling" picture sleeve at left (very Smiths-like!).

"Happy Feeling" was the first song ever written by Sinatras frontman Tommy Sinatra (Tom Hamilton). Besides getting their "Happy Feeling" single played on John Peel's radio program (where he quickly became Record of the Week), the Sinatras were invited to Radio 1's studios to record four tracks ("Finding Your Own Level," "That Shape," "New Clothes." and "The Chameleon Complex") on November 28, 1981. It also led to touring gigs with Adam and the Ants, Belle Stars, Altered Images and U2. According to the blog Bimby's Windy Weather (which features an excellent collection of post-punk picture sleeves), The Sinatras released a full-length album Betrayal in 1984 on Strike Back Records.

Journeyman sax player John Barrow (who doesn't appear on this single) also played in The Newmatics and Swinging Laurels and wrote the book How Not To Make It in the Pop World. Visit his MySpace page for more info.

Tom Hamilton ("Tommy Sinatra"): bass, vocals
Neville Hunt: guitar, backing vocals
Rob Grant: lead guitar
Phil Birtles: Drums

23. The Boys - "Brickfield Nights" (NEMS, 1978)

The Boys were one of the first bands on the fledgling London punk scene and had the distinction of being the first-ever UK punk band to sign an album deal - with NEMS in January 1977. They would have been the first UK punk band to release an album, as well, but the record company delayed release of their 16-track debut The Boys until September 1976, giving The Damned that honor with Damned, Damned, Damned (The Damned also released the first punk single, "New Rose"). Formed by musicians that had previously played in such bands as London SS (whose alumini went on to ply their trade with The Clash, The Damned, Chelsea and Generation X) and Hollywood Brats (London's version of The New York Dolls), they ended up recording four studio albums and eight singles in their 1976-1982 heyday, including recording Christmas-themed music under the name The Yobs (get it? - "The Boys" with the “B” and the “Y” rearranged).

Released on February 10, 1978, "Brickfield Nights" (b/w "Teacher's Pet") is considered to be The Boys' finest moment. Their attention to harmony and melody on songs like this led some in the Brit press to christen them "The Beatles of Punk." And, just like the Beatles, they enjoyed early success in Germany, especially thanks to the efforts of the band Die Toten Hosen.

Boys who like girls, who like Boys who like...

According to Wikpedia:
"Although The Boys never achieved massive commercial success, their music legacy has been carried on by influence. German punk band Die Toten Hosen championed their music for more than a decade, covering several songs and introducing new fans to The Boys. They also recorded cover versions of two songs, namely First Time and New Guitar In Town for their album "Auf dem Kreuzzug ins Glück - 125 Jahre Die Toten Hosen". In the late 1990s, Japanese band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant had a massive hit with a Boys cover. This prompted the re-release of several Boys albums with encouraging international sales (more than 30,000 albums being sold in Japan alone). A Boys tribute album was also released featuring 13 bands from around the world. The Boys also influenced the cult power pop band The Exploding Hearts, who performed and recorded in the early 2000s."

The Boys Official Website:

The Boys - MySpace

"Brickfield Nights" - Live 1978 (YouTube)

Matt Dangerfield: guitar, vocals
Duncan 'Kid' Reid: bass, vocals
Casino Steel (Stein Groven): organ, piano, vocals
Honest John Plain: guitar, vocals
Jack Black: drums

24. Blue Orchids - "The Flood" (Rough Trade, 1980)

The debut release of Manchester's Blue Orchids was a double A-side record which also featured the song "Disney Boys." I never heard of these Mancunians, but I guess I should have, since their ranks were derived mainly from The Fall. That would be Martin Bramah, Una Baines and Rick Goldstraw, representing three of the countless ex-Fall members sacked by Mark E. Smith (all having appeared on the Fall's debut Live at the Witch Trials LP). John Peel used to wonder aloud what happened to musicians who "fell" out of favor with The Fall - "I don't know if [Mark E. Smith]'s killing them or what..." - and The Blue Orchids provided a partial answer to that query. According to, "It began when Martin Bramah teamed up with Una Baines to form the group’s creative nucleus. Bramah’s voice whether wailing, shouting, calling or just talking is always looking for a different angle, another way of being. Una’s inspired, strung-out keyboard playing, flowing and soaring, weaving around Martin’s inventive, discordant guitar patterns. The overall effect created a madcap cathedral of sound. Paul Morley, when reviewing their second single “Work” said, “They rave but they are not mad.”

The name of the band came from Manchester's "Punk Poet" John Cooper Clarke, who envisioned a group then calling themselves The Blessed Orchids "as a bunch of haemophiliacs raised by alsaition dogs on a council tip, the weediest gang in Salford! Somehow, the Blessed became the Blue and these rare and fragile blooms were born."

Their revival of the Hammond Organ allegedly influenced other Manchester bands like Inspiral Carpets (the band Oasis' Noel Gallager used to roadie for).

According to Wikipedia, the Blue Orchids later toured with Nico, erstwhile Teutonic chanteusse with The Velvet Underground, serving as both backing group and opening act. When Rick Goldstraw decided to cast his lot with Nico, new bassist Mark Hellyer was recruited as a replacement.

Blue Orchids - MySpace

Una Baines: keyboards and vocals
Martin Bramah: guitar and vocals
Rick Goldstraw (aka Eric Random): guitar, bass
Steve Toyne: bass
Joe Kin: drums

Related Links:
Keeping It Peel (BBC Radio 1 - John Peel Links)