'60 Minutes In The Anorak City' - A dissection of a mix-tape.
So quickly did they become retro. Mix-Cds, i-pods and Online Playlists all rapidly eradicated the art of the mix-tape, an art so smugly and erroneously eulogised in Nick Hornby's 'High Fidelity'.
I used to love mix-tapes....not necessarily making them for friends or potential girlfriends, but really just for myself. Small, compact, contained snapshots of a time and place. Reminders of a Summer, or of a girl.....or both! Of all the myriad mix-tapes I've scattered across the land there is still one that I have and still cherish dearly, and still play every now and again. I made the tape in the late Summer of 1988 as a way capturing my state of mind following, what I felt at the time, had been the greatest Summer of my life so far.
The cassette was/is a BASF C-60 and I titled the compilation 'One Hour In The Anorak City', an ironic reference to Sarah Records who had just begun around this time. One of the reasons I still love the tape and dread the day I ever lose it is that it contains several songs that I've long since lost the hard copies of, either because I swapped the record, or I only had a loan of the record at the time, or because it was taped off the radio.
So, on a cold and windy night in Central Scotland, let's relive the Golden Summer Of 1988....the train's about to leave from Platform Twee...........
"60 Minutes In The Anorak City"
1)The Golden Dawn: 'My Secret World'
The cassette begins with what I must have felt at the time would be a perfect little introductory song. The Golden Dawn were on Sarah Records but were pretty atypical of the overall 'Sarah' sound. Their songs were riddled with feedback and they had more in common with The Velvet Underground or The Jesus And Mary Chain, and like The JAMC, The Golden Dawn were from Glasgow. 'My Secret World' barely last two minutes but it is the perfect opener as it alludes to a world that the listener can lose themselves in, and I like to think that this cassette is a little world in it's own.
2)The Sea Urchins: 'Pristine Christine'
Phew! Where do you begin with 'Pristine Christine'? The Magna Carta of all Twee Pop! 'Pristine Christine' was, of course, Sarah One, Sarah's first ever release and it's a perfect start. A twangy guitar ushers us in, but when the drums, tambourine and vocals kick in it's such a rush it's like being pebble-dashed with barley sugar, like the oxygen has turned into candy floss, like you've wrapped the belt around your arm and mainlined pure cane sugar! It's a perfect pop song and it still makes me giddy listening to it. I've seen it for sale in Record Collector for well in excess of £100, but to me it's priceless and irreplaceable.
3)The Bachelor Pad: 'Jack And Julian'
Another band from Glasgow, another burst of feedback. This is an absolutely brilliant song, "Oh, one's called Jack and one's called Julian// One shares a flat and the other is a hooligan// Late at night, a pillow fight...." The song is an absolute mess, there's so much happening, so much distortion....but it all works beautifully. I only have two singles by them, this and 'Do It For Fun' but I treasure them both dearly. I wish they'd been much bigger.
4)14 Iced Bears : 'Sure To See'
On the sleeve of the cassette I have this listed as 'Come Get Me' and this is because of the weird way the songs are listed on the sleeve of the single. Another Sarah Record(Sarah Five if your spodding!) and a truly wondrous one at that. The guitars seem to hover around the track like a sweet tingly vapour, the drums have an almost louche jazzy feel to them, but it's the bass that propels the song forward; a very languid, melodic bass line that practically takes over the song. The vocals and lyrics have that dreamy wistful feel that would come to embody Sarah's output, and the "Don't you want me anymore" refrain is still very moving to me all these years later. A song that improved my life....no kidding!
5)The Primitives: 'Keep Me In Mind'
Okay, okay....so I've dismissed The Primitives a little in previous Blogs, but I really love this track, especially the John Peel Session version which is the version I have on the cassette. In the Summer of 1988 myself and three friends went on holiday to a caravan in Arbroath and one of them had several recent Peel sessions on a tape of his own including The Wedding Present, Big Black, The Cocteau Twins, James and The Primitives....and it's this track that forever reminds me of us all posing furiously amid the caves of Lunan Bay.
6)Felt: 'Christopher Street'
A bit of a departure this one. Usually Felt would fit in perfectly with the songs here, but this track is from their atypical 'The Pictorial Jackson Review' album and has a bit of a Bob Dylan-'Positively 4th Street' feel to it. A very strident track with lots of swirly Hammond organ runs, it may seem a little out of place, but I'm glad it's on here.
7)The Sea Urchins: 'Sullen Eyes'
One of the B-side tracks from Sarah One, and more than a little similar to David Bowie's 'Sound And Vision'(albeit on a much smaller budget!). A really beautiful, emotion-tweaking song. Bizarrely the only song from Sarah One I didn't include on the tape, 'Everglades', is now my favourite Sea Urchins song. Sarah One may be worth a lot of money to collectors, but it's emotive sentimental value to me is off the scale.
8)Another Sunny Day: 'Anorak City'
It only lasts about 99 seconds and it comes on a 5" clear vinyl flexi-disc that was attached to a fanzine called 'Sarah Four'. It has a two-note guitar solo that breaks my heart every time I hear it, and it ends in a blast of feedback. It's SO good that I named the cassette after it. Anything else you need to know?
9)The Magic Shop: 'It's True'
Another flexi-disc. This came on the legendary Sha-la-la Records label and I probably got it with some now long discarded fanzine. This was the only track they ever released and, as I'm pretty sure the flexi-disc will by now be unplayable, it's inclusion on this cassette is all the more poignant and vital.
10)The Visitors: 'Goldmining'
This was on the other side of The Magic Shop's flexi-disc, and again this was the only track The Visitors ever released at the time. It's quite a bitter little anti-marriage song and I love it. A few years ago Matineé Records released the band's collected home recordings, so strong was interest in them. Again, it's inclusion on here is something I'm very thankful for.
11 Meat Whiplash: 'Don't Slip Up'
And so Side A comes to an end with a track I've already written about extensively enough in a previous Blog.
1)The Vaselines: 'Rory Rides Me Raw'
"Galloping through the morning dew// There's only one thing that I wanna do to you// And it's true that we're gonna do it soon", a homoerotic paean to horseriding (yeah right!!) by Kurt Cobain's favourite band. In a paralell world this song would be Number One for weeks and get played at Lady Di's funeral.
2)The Dragsters: 'I'm Not An American'
From Greenock if I remember, although there's scant info on them on the Internet! Over a Marychain-esque buzzsaw attack comes a litany of American cliched naffness which I'm going to let speak for itself as I just love it: "Batman, The Shadow and the Silver Surfer// Another crummy lyric and a dumb pop tune// Only Manny, Moe & Jack are gonna know what I'm after// A ticker tape parade and a place on the moon// Drive-ins, vitamins, cable, Las Vegas// Cutting down a cherry tree and blaming a slave// Cosmetic surgery and medical trousers// There's no room for me in the home of the brave// Hip-hop and pinball and snow by the order// Beer drinking hippos and warm apple pie// Weird bearded gurus and tuxedoed dentists// A round of applause for the presidents who die// Empire State Building and the Grand Canyon// Building a home on Geronimo's face// Spray painting the subway and rapping your ears off// Without any legs I'll be last in the race// Ice cream and pool halls, the mob and the Klan// Bonnie & Clyde on the NBC news// Ding-dongs and folks songs, Star Wars and guns// America the beautiful, the home of the blues// Game shows for hobos, the Star Splattered Banner// French Fries and G.I.s in Budweiser shorts// 24 hours of 24 hours, the American dream in a foreigner's heart...."
I loved it then and I love it now!
3)The Bodines: 'God Bless'
The Bodines track 'Therese' was included on the NME's infamous C-86 compilation and is a pretty good song, but this was their debut single from a year before and came on Creation Records in the customary wraparound paper sleeve....and it's fantastic! "God bless everyone in this whole world but you!" Oh yes!!
4)Slaughter Joe: 'She's So Out Of Touch'
Joe Foster was involved in the whole Whaam! Records/Television Personalities scene of the early 80s and, as such, when Alan McGee started Creation Records he had Joe on board with him. As Slaughter Joe, Foster released the very Mary Chain-alike 'I'll Follow You Down', a very rough and raucous record indeed. That he followed it with this, a quite remarkable track very akin to The Velvet Underground's 'Sunday Morning' or 'Stephanie Says' confounded everyone. A very beautiful piece of music indeed!
Ever wonder what would happen if you crossed The Smiths with Crass? Probably not....but the effect would probably resemble the music of McCarthy; strident jangly pop music with extreme left-wing political subject matter as lyrics. This is another anti-American track which suggests that I was in a bit of a Pinko phase at the time. "This is my melancholy// My Country is a colony// Our once proud nation bowed beneath a baseball bat// Beneath an ice cold Cola can// English men, rise again// Throw off the yolk of the shake and the Coke" goes the vitriolic lyric before a flurry of shimmering guitars and then, "Away shallow USA// Britons shall never be slaves// Cleansed of your bases and your trivial TV// We'll be all the things we used to be". Yay Stalinism! The track comes from their 'The Well Of Lonliness' 12" E.P. Definitely a band for rediscovery!
6)Baby Lemonade: 'Real World'
Once again I have the wrong song title written on the sleeve....I've written'Secret Goldfish' but the track is actually 'Real World'. Baby Lemonade only played a handful of gigs, virtually all in Scotland, and they were contemporaries of Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes, releasing this song on Narodnik Records and having it produced by Douglas Hart of the Jesus & Mary Chain. Again this is very reminiscent of The Velvet Underground's 'Sunday Morning' which can only be a good thing.
7)The House Of Love: 'Nothing To Me'
Everyone thought they were going to be huge!
I saw The House Of Love for the first time in the Autumn of 1988 and the buzz behind them was enormous. Seen as the obvious successors to The Smiths, front man Guy Chadwick had his very own Johnny Marr in bonkers guitar genius Terry Bickers. How did they fail? Perhaps releasing three albums all called 'The House Of Love' didn't help, and perhaps scoring a dreadful own-goal by releasing a pretty dull album(their first for major label Fontana) when they had the whole world's attention didn't help. But this was a track on one of their Creation 12" E.Ps and it remains my favourite song by them. They played it at that first gig and it was, for me, the highlight of a fantastic show.
8)The Fizzbombs: 'Sign On The Line'
The Fizzbombs were a kind of Scottish Indie Supergroup, formed from members of Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes, Rote Kapele and The Shop Assistants. This was another release on Narodnik Records. Guitarist Margarita Vasquez-Ponte was also the drummer in Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes and when my band supported them in 1987, I borrowed her hi-hat as mine was completely knackered. A nice claim to fame.
9)The Pastels: 'I Wonder Why'
10)The Revolving Paint Dream: 'In The Afternoon'
11)Razorcuts: 'First Day'
12)Meat Whiplash: 'Here It Comes'
And so we have a run of four songs, all of which I've written about in previous Journals here which I hope shows how important these songs are to me.
13)Reserve: 'The Sun Slid Down Behind The Tower'
You would get the feeling that I put this compilation together in a deliberate manner; beginning with a little introduction and ending with a song about the sun setting at the end of the day, but I don't really remember it being like that at all. Maybe it was all subconcious. Anyway, this is a track from another flexi-disc that while being on Sha-la-la records, featured two bands on Sombrero Records, Reserve and The Siddleys . While I really love this track, I wish I had put The Siddeleys track on it too so that they would have been scorched into my psyche like the rest of the bands here. Unfortunately I never heard anything by The Siddeleys again till many years later and thought they were fantastic....all those years I could have been listening to them. Oh well.
And that's it....a 60 minute snapshot of my life in the late Summer of 1988. I love all of these bands and I love this cassette, and I dread the day something happens to it and I can no longer play it.
Till then.....once more with feeling!