Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Elvis Costello "High Fidelity" B-side that you just gotta hear.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions : High Fidelity

On April 4, 1980 Elvis Costello and the Attractions released the UK#30 hit "High Fidelity" b/w the Van McCoy song "Getting Mighty Crowded". In his autobiography, Costello described "High Fidelity" as, "an incredibly sad, delusion of a song, in which a couple find themselves in different rooms with different lovers, one of them still irrationally believing their pledge will endure both the initial faithlessness and the solace of revenge.

 I had a bit of a Twitter back and forth with Bebe Buell and came away with the impression that there are a few songs about her affair with Costello, including "High Fidelity". There is certainly a female object of obsession that keeps popping up in these songs.

 From Bebe: Of course- there are so many rumors out there- including some started by EC himself. I NEVER thought or claimed that any of the songs on This Year's Model or Armed Forces held me as the subject. Anything after that? All bets are off! EC is famous for denying!

40 Year Itch: Oh! I’m going to listen to Get Happy!! right now!!!

 BeBe: Now you're on the right path!

"Getting Mighty Crowded" is one of my all-time favorite EC B sides and could actually be an honorable mention in my list of 1980's Best Self Isolation Songs list just for the chorus: So you see, it`s getting mighty crowded/ Too crowded for me /It`s getting mighty crowded

The Betty Everett version is at half that speed.

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Lou Reed album his family hates

Lou Reed : Think It Over

In April of 1980, the newly-married Lou Reed released Growing Up in Public and some members of his family never quite got over it.  Before we get knee deep in the hoopla, as one famous band put it, let's take a moment to consider "Think It Over", one of Sweet Lou's sweetest songs. Written specifically for Sylvia Morales whom he married on Valentine's Day, this is a proposal in song.

 Of course even a Lou Reed love song is going to have a little edge. She responds 

"And we really must watch what we say /
Because when you ask for someone's heart /
You must know that you're smart/ 
Smart enough to care for it."

Sylvia encouraged Lou to clean up his act so the recording of this album, at George Martin's AIR Studios on the island of Montserrat became one big goodbye party to his old ways. On hand there weren't so many drugs as alcohol. Mai tais were the cocktails of choice.

The alcohol inspired the only light hearted song on the album. Had I known about "The Power of Positive Drinking" in college in New Orleans, I would have definitely added it to my radio show playlist:

They say, candy is dandy but liquor makes quipsters /
And I don't like mixers, or sippers or sob sisters

On its most immediate level, the new record is a polished package of bombastic rock and  roll — indeed, probably Reed’s best commercial shot since his 1974 Top Ten anomaly, Sally Can’t Dance

False. It was not a hit. Growing Up was his lowest charting album outside Metal Machine Music and the debut. And then there is the rest of the album, filled with mostly bitter lyrics about his parents. I mean, Lou just got ugly.

The opening track,"How Do You Speak To An Angel", has such a happy, upbeat intro you half expect a muppet to start singing . Instead, it's Lou opening with:

A son who is cursed with a harridan mother 
Or a weak simpering father at best 
Is raised to play out the timeless classical motives 
Of filial love and incest

He's not done. In the next song, "My Old Man", he sings:

I didn't want to be like my father anymore 
I was sick of his bullying 
And having to hide under a desk on the floor 
And when he beat my mother 
It made me so mad I could choke

In "Standing On Ceremony", Lou sings about his dead mother.

Reed would admit his father never beat his mother who was very much alive. But these hostile lyrics --which sounded so autobiographical --upset everyone in his family. After Lou's death in 2013 his sister Merrill would write :

The stories (Lou) related  – of being hit, of being treated like an inanimate object  – seemed total fantasy to me. I must say that I never saw my father raise a hand to anyone, certainly not to us and never to my mother. Nor did I see a lack of love for his son during our childhood. Like his son, my father could be a verbal bully but he was loving and inordinately proud of Lou and bragged about him in later life to anyone who would listen.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Records make the power-pop classic "Hearts In Her Eyes" their own

The Records : Hearts In Her Eyes

With Jude Cole replacing Huw Gower, The Records recorded this power pop version of the song they gave away to The Searchers, releasing it in April of 1980. Like Crashes, the album that would follow, the single lacked promotion and remains a cult item despite Stereo Review naming it Album of the Month. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Cramps release their slithering, stunning debut album

The Cramps :  Garbageman

On April 1, 1980 The Cramps released Songs The Lord Taught Us, described by the NME's Paul Rambali in this way: "It shivers ands shakes, it slithers and crawls and it throbs and trembles". Only 9 of the 13 tracks on this psychobilly stunner are original, including "Garbageman" which announces the band's trash aesthetic with the lines "You ain't no punk, you punk/ You wanna talk about the real junk? " 

The legendary video below was shot at midnight in a crypt near Shepperton, Middlesex in ten minutes.

With the help of producer Alex Chilton, Songs was recorded the summer before at the Sam C Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis. "We just kept pinching ourselves," guitarist Poison Ivy says. "We couldn't believe we were there. " The sessions were a mess.  The label ran out of money. The engineers wanted nothing to do with Chilton. Eventually after months an dmonth of mixinng, the album came out with what Lux Interior refers to as "swimmy sounding".

Creem's Robot A Hull  was one of the critics who loved the album, declaring:

"The album recalls every forgotten sleazy diner, every stinking bus terminal, every weather-beaten drive-in you've been in or dreamt of. It unleashes a noise so loud, so uncontrolled, so jittering and shivering with the nightmares of a thousand-and-one restless nights, that one may be moved to run in panic, switch on the lights, and cower in the nearest closet.

The Village Voice's Robert Christgau wasn't so pleased. He graded the album a B-, writing:

From the time they stormed a jaded--hence novelty-hungry--CBGB two or three years ago, they've been a joke that wears thin before it's over. "TV Set" and "Garbage Man" and a couple of others are everything they're supposed to be--archetypically rockin', outrageously funny. But when the songs are neither or even only one, the band's inability to sing, play, produce, or prance around your living room detracts significantly from your pleasure. Then you stop listening altogether.

The Cramps toured England with The Fall, whose frontman Mark E Smith told Lux he "shouldn't bother with all that Kiss theatrical shit. You don't need it". But The Cramps were always about putting on the best live show possible. They won over England. ( the debut ranks #15 on NME's Top Albums of 1980 list)
 Next would come an American tour . And then in May, guitarist Bryan Gregory quit the band.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 1980: The Albums We Missed

Billy Joel: You May Be Right

Wanting to rock out in concerts and inspired by punk and new wave music, Billy Joel writes harder edged songs. "This was probably the most fun album that I ever made," Joel says. "It happened fairly quickly. The band loved playing. Audiences loved the material and we were on a roll." The cover features Joel's own house. Glass Houses would top the album charts for four weeks, selling more than 7 million copies.

Genesis : Misunderstanding

The band's breakthrough album, Duke tones down some of the band's far out prog rock tendencies while providing radio programmers with singles like UK#8 "Turn It On Again",UK#48 "Duchess" and US#14 "Misunderstanding", which must have been inspired by the failure of Collins' marriage.  Perhaps the best of the trio era, though not comparable to the Gabriel led albums.

Warren Zevon : Gorilla You're A Desperado

Bad Luck in Dancing School, Zevon's follow-up to Excitable Boy lands flat. His life is pretty much out of control at this point,  but he'd make up for it before the year is out with a powerful live album.

10cc : Welcome to the World

The follow-up to Bloody Tourists and the last 10cc album I ever bought, Look Hear sounds nothing like the band that excited me so much in the mid-70's.  Eric Stewart may have still been recovering from the auto accident that damaged his eyes. Graham Gouldman couldn't carry the rest of the band. Rick Fenn even contributes a pair of songs. Mostly banal, sometimes awful.

Stiff Little Fingers : Nobody's Heroes

Is Nobody's Heroes the last straight punk album? Though they moved out of Belfast, the Irish rockers are still one of the most passionate bands playing. "At the Edge" is a UK#15 hit. The title track would be another single backed with "Tin Soldiers".

The Pop Group: We Are All Prostitutes

The cover of The Pop Group's How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder looks like a newspaper and it is indeed a document of its times, profiling Thatcher's England and the crisis in Northern Ireland. Upon the re-release of this risky, funky, jolting album Mark Stewart told “Our stance is shared across the globe,” says Mark Stewart. “I just feel that millions are asking the same question. What gives the one per cent the right to disrupt, exploit and take vast amounts of cash from the chaos and smokescreens they create? Now in this time of proxy wars and false flag attacks, now more than ever I say, for how much longer do we tolerate mass murder?”

Monday, March 30, 2020

Talk of the Town and other great singles from March of 1980

The Pretenders : Talk Of The Town


On March 30, The Pretenders returned to the UK charts  at #26 with "Talk Of The Town" b/w "Cuban Slide". The song peaked at UK#8 and was immediately embraced by critics like David Hepworth who wrote:

"Talk of the Town" represents the kind of risk more bands should take more often; an undisciplined, almost jazzy sort of ballad thingy with a vocal that hovers above brilliant guitar textures. It takes three plays to pull you towards it and kisses you full on the mouth on the fourth.

The name of the song is inspired by a London nite club. The lyrics are inspired by a kid who would hang outside the clubs when The Pretenders were touring that Hynde says she never talked to"

It's not my place to know what you feel 
I'd like to know but why should I? 
Who where you then? Who are you know? 
Common laborer by night, By day highbrow 


The UK #39 hit "Rough Boys" is the first single from Pete Townshend's Empty Glass. Known for its homoerotic lyrics, the song's meaning has been altered by Townshend several times. 

A #72 ht for Fischer Z who would go on to sell two million albums across Europe.

Popular pub rockers Slaughter and the Dogs wear their Springsteen influences on their sleeves.

The all-female Bodysnatchers hit UK#22 with their cover of Dandy Livingstone's "Let's Do Rock Steady". They'd spend the summer touring with their two-tone label mates The Specials and the Go-Gos.

NME described Graduate's single single as an "energetic little beast of comedic intent, with a nice line in machine-gun burst guitar jabs. Difficult to tell which Elvis they mean, the old one should be fairly two-tone by now anyway." In a few years the band will break up and members Curt and Roland will reform as Tear For Fears,

This Rough Trade single is a real grower by art rockers Swell Maps.

It's kind of a toss-up. Which American rockabilly trio from New York State is going to hit it big? Buzz and the Flyers or Stray Cats? Our money is on Buzz.

The new XTC single has a reggae beat and some fine bass playing by Colin Moulding, but the re-worked B side from Drums and Wires,  "Ten Feet Tall", is ten times better.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Undertones return to the charts with "My Perfect Cousin"

The Undertones : My Perfect Cousin

On March 30, 1980 The Undertones posted a new single in the UK charts. "My Perfect Cousin" made its debut at #51. It would reach #9 in both the UK and Irish charts and rank #30 in the 1980 NME Singles of the Year poll.

Directed by Julien Temple ( who would go to work with David Bowie and the Rolling Stones), the classic music video features the Undertones roaming around Derry and playing tabletop football at the O'Neill house.

The song is apparently about a real life cousin if a band member who is not really named Kevin, and has nothing to with The Who's Tommy character "Cousin Kevin". It's another band that gets a mention:

His mother bought him a synthesizer 
Got the Human League into advise her 
Now he's making lots of noise 
Playing along with the art school boys

Bassist Michael Bradly tells Penny Black Music:

There is a theory that ‘My Perfect Cousin’ was a hit because there was a strike at ‘Top of the Pops ‘that spring, so people didn’t realise how ugly we were and we didn’t put people off! No, we had a great year. The record we were really proud of. I remember when the LP chart positions came out we were at the O’Neill’s house in Derry.

Feargal came in after being on the phone and he said “Number 6!” and it was just a huge deal for us. We were just in Derry and we weren’t even doing anything. These days a band would be doing every hamster promotional wheel out there. We were in Derry just going “Ah, the record’s out today, great!”

Writing for Smash Hits David Hepworth sez :

The lyrics are lovely and it's delivered with the kind of spirit that you naturally associate with the Undertones, but I can't help wishing they'd let us hear some of the slower, more satisfying material that they've got stashed away.

The new album, Hypnotised, is just three weeks away.