Sunday, 30 September 2012

500 singles and a bag of KP Skips

In the halcyon days of the mid 1980s, just like the visitors to The Hacienda, a small, dedicated group held their own 24 Hour Party. Ours was in a small church hall in Southwick, Sunderland and was fuelled by industrial amounts of pop, crisps and fish ‘n’ chips.
Now I’ve just finished reading Peter Hook’s enlightening ‘The Hacienda – How not to run a club’ and I don’t recall Irn Bru or KP Skips (at 13p a pack as you can see from this 1985 advert) featuring predominantly at Manchester's finest.

Anyway, as you should know by now if you’ve been paying attention, we played (‘back-to-back’ as DJs say) 500 singles. When we last spoke I left you clinging, precipice fashion, to single number 296 at the bottom of page 9, which I’m sure you will recall was New Edition’s ‘Candy Girl’. I bet you expected that after that, page 10 would begin with a scorcher – well that depends on your point of view, but if you love Anthony Newley you won’t be disappointed.
You’ll no doubt notice my 1980s twin obsessions (in the N to R range at least) of OMD and The Police, the former still treasured and let loose on my turntable from time to time, the latter languishing, in all their coloured vinyl glory, in the loft with spiders, Subbuteo, Scalextric and the famous ‘six pack’ limited edition of blue vinyl singles by The Police. Unfortunately this hasn’t appreciated in value with anything like the speed that I’d hoped and I won’t be retiring on the strength of it anytime soon. So it goes. (With apologies to Kurt!)
Page 10, then, skips merrily from
Anthony Newley - Lifetime of happiness - (sounding for all the world like a young David Bowie……or is it the other way around?, to
New Order  - Temptation - (here’s that Hacienda reference again – I do have more than one New Order single by the way, but all of the others are on 12”
Nick Nicely – The classic ‘Hilly Fields 1892’ much loved by Mark Radcliffe and for a while thought to have a ‘connection’ to Paul McCartney
Klaus Nomi – Lightning strikes - looking a bit like Emcee from Cabaret, but sounding like a man with his knackers in a vice
Gary Numan – ‘On Broadway’ which I think came free with an album
Des O’Connor – I Pretend - at the time (but not now) I owned as many Des O’Connor singles as I did Prefab Sprout singles.
Hazel O’Connor – (no relation) with the ‘classic’ D-Days in which we were convinced Hazel sang all about her time in Dagenham
Odyssey – If you’re looking for a way out (and by single No. 304 many people were!)
The Officeboy – With a woman like you – I knew nothing about The Officeboy then and it’s fair to say that I know even less about them/him now
Mike Oldfield – Guilty (both the title of the single and a general comment on my ownership of it)
Oliver – Good morning starshine – from ‘Hair’ or some similar late 1960s musical remembered more for cast nudity than anything else
One the Juggler – Passion Killer – I think it’s high time we had a ‘One the Juggler’ revival, but I accept that I may be in the minority
Orange Juice – L.O.V.E love, Rip it up, Simply Thrilled Honey – I found my way to Al Green through Orange Juice, so for that, and many other things, thanks guys!
OMD – Seven (count them!) in total – Introducing radios (which was included with the LP Organisation I think), Electricity, Maid of Orleans, Messages, Red frame white light, Souvenir (still in my all-time top 10) and Talking loud and clear.
Ottawan – Hands up – a great Disco ‘crowd pleaser’
Ottway & Barrett – DK 50/80 – a fantastic single, but can’t hear it without thinking of WD40
The Paper Dolls – Something here in my heart – classic and cheesy
Graham Parker - Temporary beauty – I’m listening to the LP from which this comes as I type
Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters (what else!)
Tom Petty – Don’t do me like that (from the days before he wore that strange hat)
Piranhas – Zambezi (another crowd pleaser)
Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi (also hovering around my top 10!)
The Polecats – Rockabilly Guy (as you’ll see when we reach page 13 we have Polecats but no Stray Cats on the list – I can’t explain it either)
The Police – two of them on this page – Bring on the night (black vinyl), Can’t stand losing you (light blue)

And so to page 11
The Police – five on this page – Don’t stand so close to me (black vinyl), Message in a bottle (green), Nothing Achieving (black), Roxanne (red, I think), Walking on the moon (back to black)
Popular History of signs – Justice not vengeance – a great single, but otherwise, in the words of Manuel, ‘I know nothing’
Postman Pat – Postman Pat – in which Pat and his black and white cat, Jess, deliver the mail in Greendale
Prefab Sprout – Lions in my own garden (exit someone) – I love music and I love brackets, so tracks with brackets are some of my most favourite
The Pretenders – Kid – I know many don’t agree but The Pretenders get on my nerves a bit
Judas Priest – Take on the world – in which a man with more than a passing resemblance to Tim Brooke-Taylor dons studded leather and belts out a big tune.
Prince – Little Red Corvette – a diminutive genius
Private lives – Memory of your name – I refer you to my previous comment re. Manuel
The Psychedelic Furs – Pretty in Pink – a 500 list high point I think
Public Image Ltd – Public Image – in which a former hero of punk music generally makes a lot of noise, but somehow ends up making a classic single
Q-tips – Tracks of my tears – in which a future major star (Paul Young) renders a half passable version of a classic, but only half passable
Queen – Bicycle race – of all the Queen singles, still I suppose it could have been worse!
Racey – Some girls – under-rated geniuses (the handwriting changes here you'll notice, with Susan taking over the duty for a while)
Gerry Rafferty – Get it right next time – not his best but still pretty great
The Ramones – Rock n Roll High School – One of the 10 best punk singles? Discuss.
Ray, Goodman and Brown – Special Lady – you may or may not know this one, but believe me Des O’Connor (No 302) is better
Chris Rea – Tennis – I’m sure even Chris would agree that this isn’t one of his best
Reluctant Stereotypes – She has changed (not you) – a rare and beautiful thing (with ‘Ben Shirtman’ on the b-side if I remember rightly)
Rezillos – Top of the pops – Please remember that this ism on the list when you see BA Robertson in 5 singles time
Cliff Richard – two from his good period (i.e. about 50 years ago) – Move it and Please don’t tease
Jonathan Richman – New England and Morning of our lives – my views on Jonathan (he’s the greatest living American) are well known
BA Robertson – Bang bang – it’s no ‘Kool in the Kaftan’ but you can’t have everything
Tom Robinson – 2 4 6 8 Motorway – or should that be TRB? In which a BBC 6 Music DJ sings (with gusto) about a motorway
Rocker’s revenge – Walking on sunshine – fantastically dubby (regardless of my spell-checkers’ protestations this should be a real word)
The Ronettes – Frosty the Snowman – The best Christmas single? The Darkness may not agree
Roxy Music – Jealous Guy and Trash – in which Bryan (with a Y) whistles and embraces the punk spirit respectively.

And that’s it for pages 10 and 11 – Join us soon for 12 and 13 featuring The Rubinoos, Neil Sedaka, The Skids, Slik, Soft Cell, Sparks and the incomparable Swans Way.
While typing today I listened to ‘Another Grey Area’ by Graham Parker and ‘Indiscreet’ by Sparks, both on lovely vinyl.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

500 singles and a brief history of Sunderland record shops

I thought I’d start this blog with something a little bit different – a musical history lesson. Or to be more accurate a little bit of detail to let you know where most of the ‘500 Singles’ came from. Now my memory is not too great but almost all of the discs came from record shops in Sunderland (with the exception of ELO’s ‘Sweet talkin’ woman’ which was bought in Keswick while on a school trip, XTC’s ‘Towers of London’ bought in Nottingham (Virgin I think), a handful bought in Whitby while at Scout camp and the odd one or two from shops in Newcastle).
At the time (late 70s to mid 80s) the record shops that I can remember in Sunderland went something like this;
The Record Rack – a second hand record shop in Hylton Road, within walking distance of our house. I loved this place and it had a major effect on my musical tastes for the short time that it traded. This is where I traded in my Yes, Genesis and Rush LPs for Magazine’s ‘Play’, Penetration’s ‘Moving Targets’, X-Ray Spex’ ‘Germ-free Adolescents’ and the first three Roxy Music LPs. I got loads of singles in here too, and even once found a copy of ‘Reward’ by The Teardrop Explodes on the pavement when halfway home from here. They used to fold bigger brown paper bags into 7” single sized covers and stamp ‘Record Rack’ on them with a rubber stamp.
The New Record Inn – A brilliant shop in Sunderland’s High Street (beside the legendary ‘Old 29’ pub) that sold ex-jukebox singles without middles (I now know that this is called ‘dinking’ apparently) at 10 singles for £1. They also seemed to be the only shop in Sunderland that sold Crass singles, but as one had a picture of rubber sex doll on the cover I never bought any! (in fact I used to hide my Boomtown Rats ‘Tonic for the Troops’ album because one track had the word ‘bugger’ on it! This may also explain why I was one of the last people I knew to own a copy of ‘Never mind the bollocks’). Both the New Record Inn and the Old 29 were demolished many years ago.
The Spinning Disk – This shop in Derwent Street (or Olive Street I could never remember which was which!) was a…….CHART RETURNS SHOP. If you ever wanted coloured vinyl, picture discs, T-shirts, double pack etc, etc, this was the place to get them.
Bergs – On the corner of Blandford Street and Maritime Terrace, the owner used to buy imported LPs and sell them cheaper than the other record shops in the town. My Spanish import of Genesis’ ‘Trick of the Tail’ came from here (which I later traded in at Record Rack) as did my copy of Blondie’s ‘Parallel lines’ (which I’m pleased to say I still have!). Incidentally just around the corner from Bergs was Josephs, the toy shop that didn’t like children to visit.
WH Smith – Beside the railway station, this was never the first choice for records, but I did once return three copies of Elvis Costello’s ‘Armed Forces’ there when they all jumped on my record player. It was also the place where I bought Spandau Ballet’s 12” single of ‘To cut a long story short’ on its first day of release, encouraged to do so by Radio 1 DJ Peter Powell. I was an avid listener to the old 275-285 mw in those days.
Woolworths – Also gone now of course, Woolworths was more of a chart singles only shop, but of course once singles dropped out of the chart Woolworths were keen to shift them fast and cheap!
HMV – In High Street at the time (in The Bridges now) and the only one of the shops on this list that still sells music. Once, just after the release of Scritti Politti’s fantastic single ‘The Sweetest Girl’ I visited HMV when they happened to be playing it. One of the learned assistants told another “It’s not as good as the old Scritti though is it”. For a while my only real ambition was to work in this shop (and not in Laws stores on Southwick Green as I did at the time)
Anyway back to the list I suppose! Pages 8 and 9 clearly include a major numbering mishap as you can see. They also include the usual suspect list of classics, lost masterpieces, guilty pleasures (a phrase not used at the time of course!) and downright embarrassments. Time has been kind to some (Joy Division, Lori & The Chameleons, Magazine for example) and not so kind to others (King Trigger, Marilyn and Multivizion)
There are lots of instances on these two pages where I only owned one single by a particular artist, although for many I have since corrected this sorry situation. Page 8 continues where page 7 left off, with Tom Jones (two of them), Joy (who?), only one by Joy Division (in my defence I had a few Joy Division 12” singles though), The Kalin Twins (‘When’, obviously), two by The Kane Gang (who were local heroes), Mick Karn’s ‘Sensitive’ (still one of my all-time favourites), Jane Kennaway, Nik Kershaw (2), Kid Creole & The Coconuts (also 2), King, King Trigger, Kraftwerk, Die Krups, Landscape (the classic ‘Einstein a go-go’), David Lasley, Thomas Leer, Leisure Process, Linx (2), Little Anthony (‘Tears on my pillow’ – my love of Doo-wop started early!), Little Tom (a sort of punky Tom Jones impersonator), Lori & The Chameleons (2), The Lurkers, M (3) and finally Billy McKenzie. A pretty strange mixture I think you’ll agree.
Page 9 runs from Madness’ ‘Our House’ through to New Edition’s ‘Candy Girl’. In between are classics such as Eddie Maelov and Sunshine Patteson’s ‘Lines’ and Magazine’s ‘A song from under the floorboards’. Also on page 9 – Marilyn, Bob Marley & The Wailers (2), Robert Marlow, Peter Marsh, Marshall Hain (bought at the Record Rack), Lee Marvin, Carolyne Mas (a lost pop classic?), Susan Maughan, Kate & Anna McGarrigle (2), The Members, The Midnight Choir, Stephanie Mills, Miro Miroe, Modern Jazz (the wonderful ‘in my sleep (I shoot sheep)’), Modern Romance, The Monkees, The Monroes, The Mood, Gary Moore, Motorhead, Multivizion, Munich Machine (essentially Giorgio Moroder – brilliant), Musical Youth, Naked Eyes, Nash the Slash, Bill Nelson and ending with the aforementioned New Edition.
That’s all for now – another post soon, hopefully. Incidentally The Icicle Works’ Birds fly (whisper to a scream) on the record player as I type.

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