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Sunday, 12 September 2010

~Kitten Wine~#17: The Grandfather Brothers(and the mix-tape that begat them)

And so we return to the art of the mix-tape.

As I've said in previous Blogs, thanks to Nick Hornby's 'High Fidelity' mix-tapes have become symbols of smug twattery, a way of saying "My taste in music is far superior to yours! Hear listen to this and see how much greater than you I am!" But there are times when mix-tapes are essential, and we're going to look at one now that pretty much became the foundation upon which the whole 'Streetlamp' universe was built.
So it's back to High School then.....

In the last days of High School Griff had joined/formed a band with three others and called themselves The Cakes. I could only look on with seething frustration as I desperately wanted to be in a band myself. I began pestering Griff for a place in the band but every position was taken. I would have been happy to even have just operated the tape recorder for them, so urgent was my desire to be involved. To his credit, Griff persuaded the others to let me join, originally on keyboards but I would have played anything at that point....I just wanted IN!

To give me some kind of idea where The Cakes were at at this point, Griff compiled a mix-tape of where he felt the band were heading. The first few tracks on the cassette were fairly pedestrian second-wave-of-Punk type guff; things like Infa Riot, Chron Gen, The Violators and The Adicts(who once hilariously played on 'Cheggers Plays Pop' as The FUN Adicts...oh how we laughed!). But there were other, decidedly more left-field tracks on the tape that sewed seeds that would continue to flower over 25 years later.
You see we were of that generation for whom Punk was the first REAL music we all got into, and whilst I never really ventured too far beyond The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers and The Damned, Griff and the other Cakes pursued the whole second wave enthusiastically, while I got into the more poptastic world of Adam, Dexys, Kraftwerk and Tenpole Tudor.
And it was these more left-field choices that drew me in and which, when The Cakes ended and Griff and I pursued a different musical avenue, would form the basis of our new project....The Grandfather Brothers. So let's look at the tracks that led us to here....

First up, and the first one that REALLY jumped out of the tape, The Slits and their cover of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine'. This really made me sit up and pay attention! Of course the original is one of the most familiar and overplayed tracks EVER bit this new take was slithery, sexy and sinister all the same time. Already the cogs were turning....

'For My Country' by UK Decay was a remarkable track....all chanted vocals and pounding drums, it was originally mistaken as some kind of Nationalistic right-wing defiance before it was revealed to be an anti-Falklands War stance....a Punk 'Shipbuilding' in a sense. It's often been difficult to pigeon-hole UK Decay, I've often seen them listed as Goths(hardly?) but probably Post-Punk makes more sense.

Then came one of the oddest tracks on the tape....'Pagan Love Song' by The Virgin Prunes....where to start? The Virgin Prunes hailed from Ireland and were friends of U2(but let's not hold that against them), they were a kind of arty Goth/Punk theatrical type of outfit with a men-in-frocks thing going on. Main vocalist Gavin Friday would later work with The Fall and The Man Seezer before releasing records under his own name. 'Pagan Love Song' sounded positively other-worldly at the time.
(I couldn't find a studio version so you'll have to make do with this ropey live version!)

Next came a couple of tracks that forever sum up that period of time for me.
First up, 'The Masque' by The Dark. I remember that we really loved this song, and I think a part of me really hoped that this is what The Cakes would sound like one day, urgent but with a doomy delivery. Listening to it again now, I'm surprised by how '70s' it sounds! All Glam-y compression and pub-rock sounded better at the time!

And then there was 'Movements In Time' by The Paramedic, I'm sorry but I know virtually nothing about this band, it may have been the only thing they ever recorded, I have no idea. But I played this song to death. For years I had it on one of my own mix-tapes and it was immediately followed by 'Leave Me Alone' by New Order, and for years these two tracks back-to-back were the sound of my final days of school. Proustian doesn't even scratch the surface.

I've left one track till last, not because I think it's the best but because it's one of only two songs The Grandfather Brothers ever recorded. Yes, we recorded a cover of Demob's 'No Room For You'.....and again, listening to it years later, I'm not sure why! Again it has a very 1970s feel and isn't particularly well sung....but we covered it so we must have REALLY liked it at the time.

And so, from this unlikeliest of sources did we find ourselves in The Grandfather Brothers. This was our chance to move away from the cul-de-sac of Punk and adopt a more experimental tone. I was able to bring my love of the more experimental Indie music such as Cabaret Voltaire, The Passage and The Surface Mutants to the table. We tended to record using multiple tape-recorders(there were no computers in them days!) and I was forced to play both drums and bass(actually the top four strings of a standard guitar) and attempt backing vocals whilst Griff played guitar and sang. As I can't play bass or sing, the project folded quicker than we expected. Aside from our cover of 'No Room' our only other song was called 'Typical Rebel' and was an attack on the lack of creative ambition within the Punk movement.
And that was it.....

For nearly 25 years....

For, when in 2007 Griff and I decided to make music together again, we saw it as our chance to finally DO The Grandfather Brothers thing properly! We even toyed with the idea of resurrecting the name, but somehow it didn't sound so ironic we called ourselves ~Sighrens~ and the rest is history(or 'current' I should perhaps say). So ~Sighrens~, and perhaps to a lesser extent ~Lost Gloaming~ is The Grandfather Brothers Part 2.

And all from a scabby C-60 cassette!


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