MIX TAPE: VOLUME 1 – SIDE 1 – TRACK 7

Side 1, Track 7:

Total Run Time: 29:00

Talk Talk: Life’s What You Make It: 4 Minutes 29 Seconds: 1985

Life's_what_you_make_it

Having given a great deal of thought to what to choose next I gave up and chose this, because I like it, and although I never had the 7″ I do have a vinyl copy of the album, ‘The Colour of Spring’. Oddly enough I think I just thought of the next track, well that’s a surprise.

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Video:

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What’s in the bag? (85)

Cocteau-Twins-Bluebell-KnollOn the day this album was released I was in Leamington Spa, which in 1988 had three record stores, and I managed to pick up a copy for the going rate of £4.99. We had an Our Price, Woolworths and an independent. I forget what the independent was called, Sound something or other, it was in Gloucester Street, off Bath Street and was a bit ‘High Fidelity”, in that you felt as though you were being judged on every purchase. I didn’t buy ‘Blue Bell Knoll’ from there, I bought it from Woolworths, after looking in the other two and not finding it there. I do miss Woolworths on the high street (it’s all online now) as, not only did they discount records quite often, but they also had a fabulous Pick ‘N Mix for sweets.

‘Blue Bell Knoll’ received mixed reviews upon its release, all of which I ignored, because I didn’t care, for me, The Twins could do no wrong. I pretty much loved everything they had released up to this point and wasn’t even slightly disappointed when I first played the album. I’ve seen some retrospective reviews online as well which don’t place it that highly, claiming that Carolyn’s Fingers is the only real high point, but they miss the point. What we had before this album was ‘Garlands’, ‘Head over Heels’, ‘Treasure’, ‘Victorialand’ & ‘The Moon and the Melodies’ all of which I loved for different reasons. We also had the 12” EP’s ‘Lullabies’, ‘Peppermint Pig’, ‘Sunburst and Snowblind’, ‘Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops’, ‘The Spangle Maker’, ‘Aikea-Guinea’, ‘Tiny Dynamine’, ‘Echoes in a Shallow Bay’ and finally ‘Love’s Easy Tears’. I had all of them on vinyl. Taken all together this was a fabulous back catalogue all released in a 6 year period. However, at this point in time there was no ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’, which seems to be widely acknowledged as the pinnacle of their output, nor did any of the later releases exist. While ‘Victorialand’ and ‘The Moon and the Melodies’ are lovely pieces of work, they are in my opinion, both eclipsed by the return to the full band format of ‘Blue Bell Knoll’.

I have previously had trouble explaining in words just what it is about the music of The Cocteau Twins that I like. The word ‘Ethereal’ is appropriate, but overused and doesn’t encapsulate everything. Here are some words, beginning with Ethereal, shimmering, sparkly, mysterious, enigmatic, mystical, glistening, mystifying, cryptic, dark, bright, obscure, esoteric, transcendental, unfathomable and shimmering again. These are the sort of words that have been used in reviews over the years, but few, if any, that I remember reading mention joyous. There are moments of pure beauty that occur and cause the heart to soar, and I’m not overstating it, there really are. Well, that’s what I hear, I’m sure others think it an unbearable noise.

No. Title Length
1. “Blue Bell Knoll” 3:24
2. “Athol-Brose” 2:59
3. “Carolyn’s Fingers” 3:08
4. “For Phoebe Still a Baby” 3:16
5. “The Itchy Glowbo Blow” 3:21
6. “Cico Buff” 3:49
7. “Suckling the Mender” 3:35
8. “Spooning Good Singing Gum” 3:52
9. “A Kissed Out Red Floatboat” 4:10
10. “Ella Megalast Burls Forever” 3:39
Total length:
35:17

Far from being an ‘also ran’ that some reviewers suggest, Blue Bell Knoll is triumph, which has been an inspiration for the likes of Sigur Ros, My Bloody Valentine, Stina Nordenstam, Tori Amos and more. Robert Smith of the Cure is a fan, and that’s a pretty good recommendation in itself. Here he is saying so himself (admittedly not mentioning this particular album):

Just in case you don’t know much about The Cocteau Twins, here’s some history culled from Wikipedia:

Guthrie and Heggie, both from Grangemouth, Scotland, formed the band in 1979. At a local disco called Nash they met Fraser, also from Grangemouth, who would eventually provide vocals.[3] The band’s influences at the time included The Birthday Party, Sex Pistols, Kate Bush, and Siouxsie and the Banshees.[citation needed] The band was named after the song “The Cocteau Twins” by fellow Scotsmen ‘Johnny and the Self-Abusers’ (who later renamed themselves Simple Minds; the song “The Cocteau Twins” was also re-penned as “No Cure”). Their debut recording, Garlands (released by 4AD Records in 1982), was an instant success, as was the subsequent Lullabies EP.[citation needed]Around that time, NME‍ ’​s Don Watson compared the style of the band to goth bands like Gene Loves Jezebel and Xmal Deutschland.,[4] while SPIN magazine’s Sue Cummings compared it retrospectively to Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus.[5]
Heggie left the group after the tour that followed the 1983 release of the band’s second EP, Peppermint Pig.[3] He subsequently joined Lowlife. The band’s sound on its first three recordings relied on the combination of Heggie’s rhythmic basslines, Guthrie’s minimalist guitar melodies, and Fraser’s voice; the Cocteau Twins’ next full-length LP, Head over Heels, relied solely on the latter two.[3] This led to the growth of the band’s characteristic sound: Fraser’s voice, by turns ethereal and operatic, combined with Guthrie’s effects-heavy guitars.[3] Guthrie has often said that he is far more interested in the way the guitar is recorded, than in the actual notes being played, though he later admitted the effects and layering were due to his own technical limitations.[6]
“The Cocteau Twins are still the best by far at the 4AD ethereal dreamscape, thanks largely to the extraordinary voice of Liz Fraser. Somehow she’s found a voice that falls completely outside ‘Rock’ or ‘Pop’.”
– Simon Reynolds, New Statesman, 1987[7]
In 1983, the band participated in 4AD’s This Mortal Coil project (this spawned a cover version of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren” performed by Guthrie and Fraser), and during their work for that, they got to know multi-instrumentalist Simon Raymonde (formerly a member of Drowning Craze), who joined the group later that year.[3] In 2012, Dawn French selected “Song to the Siren” on Desert Island Discs as, in her words, “The song that made me fall in love again”.

There is a much more comprehensive history of the band here if you are at all interested:-

http://www.cocteautwins.com/html/history/

Back when the Cocteau Twins were still a band there really weren’t that many TV performances to watch. I had some videoed and I bought a few bootleg VHS tapes, the quality of which was truly terrible, but until ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’ you just didn’t see much of them. This is why I bought a ticket to see them live in Birmingham, unfortunately, for a number of reasons that weren’t my fault, circumstances colluded against me resulting in me missing the concert, which still annoys me now, and it was over 20 years ago. I never did get to see them.

Let’s talk lyrics for a moment, just to confirm that they don’t really matter here. Elizabeth Fraser uses her voice more as an instrument, a provider of melody, than as a vehicle to convey words. I have listened to the opening track of this album hundreds of times and I have never bothered even attempting to understand a single word of what is sung, it is of no real consequence, however, as I was writing this I thought I would see if anybody else had, and they have. Now it is best read as you listen to it, wherein you will possibly agree with me, that they aren’t quite right, but close. Try it:

Blue Bell Knoll
Each is not my love, moan I for what
I make up hundreds so I know how to make love
There, you can have my youth, I know I have loved
Started to see him, till when I married him
To yearn admits you’re outside to me
Grow up
I have seen these all my life, perhaps a lot more
And I have been so naive
All move and try he knew not
And your spangle, how it hurts and I have feelings
To yearn admits you’re outside to me
Grow up
To yearn admits you’re outside to me
Grow up
SONGWRITERS
FRASER, ELIZABETH/GUTHRIE, ROBIN/RAYMONDE, SIMON

Not far off I think, but the ‘Outside to me’ bit is highly questionable. Now I will never think of it again unless somebody mentions it. Although, I did stumble across an interview with Elizabeth Fraser who explains that some of the lyrics are, in fact, complete gibberish.

Here are a couple of promo videos from Blue Bell Knoll and a live concert which isn’t great footage but it’s a really nice quality soundboard recording.

9.2/10

MIX TAPE: VOLUME 1 – SIDE 1 – TRACK 6

Side 1, Track 6:

Total Run Time: 24:00

UB40: Food For Thought: 4 Minutes 10 Seconds: 1980

ub-40-food-for-thought-sleeve-80s

I was pondering where to go next with song choice and decided to go somewhere that would, perhaps, be unexpected. I like early UB40, from back when they had something to say, before they became a covers band. I’ve said here before that ‘Signing Off’ is a really good album, certainly their best in my opinion, so this is off that. Now what next?

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MIX TAPE: VOLUME 1 – SIDE 1 – TRACK 5

Side 1, Track 5:

Total Run Time: 20:00

Squeeze: Up The Junction: 3 Minutes 09 Seconds: 1979

squeezeup_the_junction_cover

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I would think that ‘Cool for Cats’ is probably their best known song from this era but I just think the writing is better on ‘Up The Junction’ and really very British, which I like. I think I may have had ‘Cool for Cats’ on 7″ vinyl at one point. Looking at their back catalogue now, perhaps they should have been much bigger than they were as the writing is just brilliant at times.

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Side 1:

1. Echo & The Bunnymen – The Cutter

I used to have a bit of a downer on Echo and the Bunnymen (for those that don’t know, Echo was the drum machine), mostly due to a feud they had with The Teardrop Explodes, although I only ever read The Teardrops side of the story, well, the Julian Cope side of the story actually. I’d always liked this track, and ‘The Killing Moon’, but never explored their catalogue much further until a few years ago. I missed out. I should have not been such a bloody fool and let the music do the talking.

2. The Psychedelic Firs – Sister Europe

My first introduction to the Psychedelic furs was with the release of ‘Forever Now’ back in 1982, which caused quite the stir amongst the circles I used to be a part of. I went backwards through ‘Talk Talk Talk’ and the eponymous debut album. There are a number of tracks that I could have chosen from these three albums, which is the best of their output in my opinion though I stopped listening to anything new by them in about 1987, such as ‘Dumb Waiters’, ‘Into You Like A Train’, ‘Pretty in Pink’ of course and almost anything from their debut. I decided not to choose anything from ‘Forever Now’, but instead plumped for ‘Sister Europe’ from ‘Talk Talk Talk’, then I changed my mind to ‘Imitation of Christ’ and then back to ‘’Sister Europe’!

3. Julian Cope – The Greatness & Perfection

Taken from what is probably my favourite Cope album, ‘World Shut Your Mouth’, which doesn’t contain the song of the same name. This was the first release by Cope after the break up of The Teardrop Explodes and it could easily have been a Teardrops song.

4. XTC – Senses Working Overtime

Back in the days when I used to buy 7″ vinyl, I had this, along with a couple of their other singles. I also had the album ‘English Settlement’, which I think was a double. I’ve never been a massive XTC fan as I found that I couldn’t get along with a lot of their tracks, but when they were on it, they were really on it and this was a great single.

What’s in the Bag? (84)

tumblr_l31v3qPFk01qblvhbo1_500BoC’s second studio album, Geogaddi, was released in 2002. I had it on MP3 for years and turned to it when I needed to concentrate on something, not because it is background music, but because I had come to know it so well. As I have fallen back into the habit of buying vinyl I decided to pick it up when I saw it in the record store as a triple gatefold (I don’t know what the triple of a gatefold is, Tri-fold?). The album itself is a series of tracks interspersed with vignettes, such as ‘Dandelion’, which contains a long sample of Leslie Nielsen narrating a documentary on the Galapagos Islands titled ‘Dive to the Edge of Creation’:

When lava pours out near the sea surface, tremendous volcanic explosions sometimes occur
In time, submarine sea-mounts or islands are formed
When lava flows underwater, it behaves differently
A new contraption to capture a ‘dandelion’ in one piece has been put together by the crew
The preparation for a dive is always a tense time
When lava pours out near the sea surface, tremendous volcanic explosions sometimes occur

The Galapagos Islands are known as the place where Charles Darwin constructed his initial theories of evolution and began the writing for the Origin of Species. The dandelion that is referred to in the sample is not a flower, a fish, or a lava formation, but is instead a cluster of organisms that is so complex that much of its biology is still unknown. These “ocean dandelions” are a multitude of different organisms that come together and work for a singular purpose. All this in 1 minute and 15 seconds of the album.

BoC are a duo from Scotland, brothers in fact, Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin. They started young, experimenting with recording techniques from around the age of 10, layering cut up samples in a tape machine of found sounds over their own music. As they hit their teenage years they were in several bands until, in 1986 Marcus was invited to join Mike’s band, which became Boards of Canada. They were named after the TV documentaries by the National Film Board of Canada that, apparently, they saw as children.

‘Geogaddi’ as an album title does, according to BoC, have a meaning but they have not disclosed what it is, preferring instead to allow the listener to decide for themselves, me, I have no real idea, other than Geo is taken from the Greek word for “ground” or “earth” (ge), and is common to many words dealing with the Earth, such as geology. Gaddi is the name of a nomadic Hindu tribe from Himachal Pradesh, in northwestern India, also the surname of two father-and-son Italian painters of the early Renaissance, Taddeo Gaddi (c.1300-1366), and Agnolo Gaddi (c. 1350-1396). The work of both artists is largely concerned with angels, saints, and the Madonna. Gad is a Biblical name, belonging to one of the Tribes of Israel, a son of Jacob, and a prophet of David. Gad was also the name of an ancient pagan god worshipped during the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BCE. Gad itself refers to luck in Hebrew; its root is in the ancient Hebrew term for to divide or to share (as in fate being “meted out”). So maybe, just maybe, the title refers to the relationship between the Earth and Religion, but it’s probably just something they made up!

Mike Sandison: “Usually, our titles are self-explanatory, but this record’s title is a composite that has more than one meaning. We have a meaning we understand from it, but it’s up to listeners to choose their own meaning. I suppose the nature thing has an indirect effect on us while we’re writing, because we’re out here in the country most of the time. We’re both heavily interested in science, too, which crosses over into nature and probably comes through in the music.

There have been many theories about the album, mainly around themes of Satanism, which aren’t helped by the running time being 66 minutes and 6 seconds, although they have already admitted that they did this deliberately on the suggestion of Steve Beckett as they thought it would be funny.

When we were discussing the length of the silence [Warp Records owner] Steve Beckett actually suggested to take it to a total 66 minutes 6 seconds, because then everyone would think it’s the devil who made the album. And we just laughed.

If anything, the music does seem to me to be about the links between mathematics, the natural world, science and religion. For example, the short opening track, ‘Ready let’s go’ contains a recording of a radio signal from Jupiter called an “S-Burst”, which has been slowed right down. These S-Burts sound like a handful to pebbles thrown on a tin roof (or popcorn being cooked). The bursts each last for a only a few thousandths of a second and occur at rates as high as several dozen per second. Then we have ‘Music is Math’, BoC have expressed on numerous occasions their interest in the links between music and mathematics and this particular track is, apparently, a musical palindrome. ‘Gyroscope’ contains samples the Conet Project which compiled various recordings of “number stations” and shortwave radio transmissions. And so on and so forth. You can look into the tracks on this album as deeply as you like and you will find things about the tracks that you may not have originally realised where there, but you can also listen to the whole thing as a rather pleasant musical experience and not worry about any of the themes that are woven through it.

I certainly don’t believe that this is a ‘Satanic’ album, it may be touched upon but in context with the the other themes and not as an overall theme in itself. Furthermore, so what if it is? As I don’t believe in all that it makes no difference to me.

Oh, and of course, there is a lot of backwards bits and pieces on the album which is something the Devil loves, he’s a bit of a DJ in that regards.

If you haven’t heard it, do try it, if you haven’t heard it in a while, put it on again, it is a wonderful piece of work.

No. Title Length
1. “Ready Lets Go” 0:59
2. “Music Is Math” 5:21
3. “Beware the Friendly Stranger” 0:37
4. “Gyroscope” 3:34
5. “Dandelion” 1:15
6. “Sunshine Recorder” 6:12
7. “In the Annexe” 1:22
8. “Julie and Candy” 5:30
9. “The Smallest Weird Number” 1:17
10. “1969” 4:20
11. “Energy Warning” 0:35
12. “The Beach at Redpoint” 4:18
13. “Opening the Mouth” 1:11
14. “Alpha and Omega” 7:02
15. “I Saw Drones” 0:27
16. “The Devil Is in the Details” 3:53
17. “A Is to B as B Is to C” 1:40
18. “Over the Horizon Radar” 1:08
19. “Dawn Chorus” 3:55
20. “Diving Station” 1:26
21. “You Could Feel the Sky” 5:14
22. “Corsair” 2:52
23. “Magic Window” 1:46
Total length:
66:06

Here’s a series of videos that make up the entire album, which somebody else put together, which saves me doing it.

9.1/10

What’s in the bag? (83)

A couple of weeks ago I was rooting through the crates of used vinyl in my local record store and I found ELO – Out of the Blue, an album that, as a child, I had really wanted but couldn’t afford. As a double it was out of my price range (I would have been 11 at the time) but I did later manage to buy a copy of Discovery in 1979 from WH Smith in Didcot, which I had to take back because it jumped, and then take back again because the replacement jumped in exactly the same place. I eventually changed it for something else entirely, though I can’t remember what.

Out of the Blue was harvested for singles and it is these I remember most, Turn To Stone, Mr Blue Sky, Wild West Hero, Sweet Talkin’ Woman and It’s Over, though they could probabaly have manage at least two more hits from album tracks they didn’t release as singles.

Here is Mr. Blue Sky, a video which I saw so many times was a kid, well, it felt that way, it was certainly on Top of The Pops several times:

Electric_Light_Orchestra_-_Out_Of_The_BlueI didn’t know that side three was a Symphonic Suite titled ‘Concerto for a Rainy Day’, which consists of “Standin’ in the Rain”, “Big Wheels”, “Summer and Lightning” and finally “Mr. Blue Sky”. I only found out when I looked it up on Wikipedia.

ELO are perhaps not the trendiest band ever, and there was a time when people would list them as a Guilty Pleasure, but I don’t really believe in Guilty Pleasures when it comes to music, people can like whatever the hell they want and have no need to feel any guilt over it. Especially when it comes to ELO, as they have written some wonderful pop/rock songs and, for me at least, they are evocative of a period in my life when I was discovering music and really didn’t care what anybody thought of my choices.

You can certainly hear how Jeff Lynne was influenced by the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees and the Beatles, in fact, he was mad about the Beatles and sometimes it feels that he’s spent a lot of his career trying to re-create Sgt. Peppers, perhaps Out Of the Blue is exactly that for ELO. The production is full and lush, filled with strings and is meticulously done, which seems to be a bit of a trademark for Lynne.

Listening to the album again, after almost 40 years since it’s first release is quite wonderful as it doesn’t seem to have aged at all badly. The tunes are catchy, memorable and really well crafted. If you were only ever going to buy one ELO record I’d certainly recommend it. Although ‘A New World Record’ runs it close.

Here is a full concert filmed in 2001, it has all the hits!

8.75/10