Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's Another Year?

I don't have time for a full post today but it hasn't escaped my notice that today is the first anniversary of Mine For Life!

I am a little surprised to report that the most popular album I have posted in that time is Johnny Logan's cheese-fest Hold Me Now. The original post is here.

I'm quite confident I have barely scratched the surface of all the artists, albums, tracks and miscellany I plan to mention - so hopefully I'll be around for a good while yet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Martin Page - In The House of Stone and Light (1995)

Bargain Bin (bah-gayn been) n. An assortment of full price audio recordings that have been neglected to the point of being presented to the public for a few pennies in the hope of earning the store a tax write-off. Generally rubbish, but a few gems linger e.g. Martin Page's In the House of Stone and Light.

I've long suspected that the dictionary definition of music store throwaways would include a specific reference to In the House of Stone and Light, particularly in the US. If you don't believe me, try this scientific experiment: the next time you are in a bargain basement, look for it. I guarantee there will be at least one copy. Trust me, I've seen this one everywhere.

I was browsing in a CD Warehouse with about ten dollars in my pocket about three years ago. A woman at the counter was trying to sell a large number of CD's and as I overheard the conversation she mentioned that even though there were quite a few that the store would not buy from her, she had no intention of hauling them all home again. I came up to her at the counter and casually offered her $5.00 for the contents of her crate, without even looking at the titles. I was like a big kid when she readily agreed and hauled my trophies home. If nothing else, I figured I would have some replacement cases and a few eBay sales. I took inventory and found that my five bucks had purchased 113 CD's of all genres.

To cut a long story short, here's what happened. One of the titles turned out to be a rare album by The Iguanas and I sold that on eBay for $30 within a week. I also sold another 50 or so, and probably made over $150. I kept about 10 titles, gave several more to my brother when he visited, and donated the remainder to charity.

In the House of Stone and Light was one of the few I kept, and it's been a favorite of mine ever since. It's a stylish, contemporary pop album in the vein of Peter Gabriel and featured many well known musicians. Martin Page has a very interesting musical pedigree. New wave fanatics may know that Martin was the brains behind Q-Feel and their awesome synthpop track "Dancing In Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)". Just as much of a recommendation is that he penned many contemporary 80's hits including "We Built This City" for Starship which Blender magazine (rather puzzlingly, I might add) voted as the worst single of all time. Obviously, they have never heard "Agadoo". Or Mr. Blobby. Or "Snooker Loopy". Or, well you get the message. It's really not that bad.

Martin has finally released a follow up, thirteen years later, called In the Temple of the Muse. Do you notice a pattern here? I'm thinking the next one (expected in 2021) could be called In the Vegetable Section of the Supermarket. Just a thought.

Martin Page - In the House of Stone and Light (1995)
  1. In the House of Stone and Light
  2. Shape the Invisible
  3. I Was Made for You
  4. Keeper of the Flame
  5. In My Room
  6. Monkey in My Dreams
  7. Put On Your Red Dress
  8. Broken Stairway
  9. Light in Your Heart
  10. The Door

Official website

Wikipedia Entry

Take Care, Out There

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Various Artists - Shooting Fish Soundtrack (1997)

Appropriately for a post-Trainspotting, post-Brit-pop British indie film, the soundtrack to Shooting Fish contains a selection of second-wave Brit-pop bands and lush Burt Bacharach oldies. It's an entertaining collection, boasting selections from Space, the Supernaturals, Silver Sun, Symposium, David McAlmont, the Wannadies, Dubstar, the Divine Comedy and the Bluetones. Each of the contributions are solid, but only a handful, such as the Bluetones' "Bluetonic," are better-than-average Brit-pop, which means that the soundtrack fails to capture the excitement (not to mention the zeitgeist) of its era, which Trainspotting did effortlessly. Nevertheless, Shooting Fish is a good sampler for Brit-pop fans who want to explore second-level bands they've only read about in the weeklies. Just be warned that some of the bands don't live up to the hype. There can only be so many Best Bands in Britian, after all, and Symposium, Space and the Supernaturals don't necessarily have a fighting chance, especially since Suede, Blur, Pulp, Oasis, the Manic Street Preachers, the Verve and Radiohead are already vying for the title. (from

Is it me or do a lot of "Second wave Brit-pop bands" start with the letter S? Just a thought. A good Soundtrack and a decent little movie, though.

Original Soundtrack - Shooting Fish (1997)
  1. Me And You Vs The World (Space)
  2. Beautiful Alone (Strangelove)
  3. Day Before Yesterday's Man (Supernaturals)
  4. Golden Skin (Silver Sun)
  5. Twist (Symposium)
  6. Neighborhood (Space)
  7. What The World Need Now Is Love (Jackie De Shannon)
  8. I'm A Better Man (David McAlmont)
  9. Body Medusa (Supereal)
  10. Friends (Wannadies)
  11. Bluetonic (Bluetones)
  12. Do You Know The Way To San Jose (Dionne Warwick)
  13. In Charge (Dubstar)
  14. To Be The One (Passion Star)
  15. In Pursuit Of Happiness (Divine Comedy)
  16. Shooting Fish (Stanislas Syrewicz)


Nostalgia Trip: Comics of the 70's (Part 1)

Here are some comics I remember from the 1970's.

"Look out for Look-In!"
I mainly remember Look -In because it was the magazine my sister got every week. It had something for everyone - pin up posters of Barry Sheene and David Essex for the girls, comic strips of Space 1999, Sapphire & Steel and The Six Million Dollar Man for the boys. Lots of TV shows. Movies. Sport. Music. A bit of everything. I remember looking at the TV listings which were quite complicated because many different regional networks showed different shows - for example, everyone raved about Tiswas but we never got to see it. There was Grampian, Thames, Anglia and our local channel, Channel TV. There are two websites devoted to the magazine - John's Look-Out [now defunct] (which has a large selection of covers and other info) and the Look-In Picture Strip Archive.

Similarly titled, but quite different, was Look And Learn. This was a comic I would read while visiting the dentist or find at a jumble sale. The magazine had quite an old-fashioned, 1950's look. There were a lot of historical stories, which I don't really remember (I wasn't much of history fan back then) but there was also The Trigan Empire, a very ambitious and fantastically illustrated comic strip. The strips I remember were drawn by Oliver Frey, who went on to produce the covers for computer magazines Crash! and Zzap64! in the mid-80's.

The rights to the magazine are now owned by Look And Learn Ltd, and they have a comprehensive website here.

Who doesn't remember Desperate Dan and his cowpies, or Korky the Cat, or even Bully Beef and Chips? Did you know that The Dandy is the world's longest running comic, and still exists today? Bet it costs more than 4p though!

Between this and The Beano, there were always chortles to be had. Now, where did the chortles go? Sometimes, I feel like I'm a frickin' pensioner, man. What do six year old boys read these days? Maybe it was a British thing. Anyone else care to comment on what they read when they were kids?

Some basic Dandy information here, and the official website is here.

I've run out of steam for now. Next week In eight years' time I'll post Part 2.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random 80's Wednesday

Tears For Fears - Wino (7" Single, 1981)
Robert Hazard - Escalator of Life (From Robert Hazard EP, 1982)
Interview - The Adventurers (From Interview, 1980)
Colour Code - Dance With The Times (12" Single, 1984)
Seven - Stranger Than Fiction (7" Single, 1984)

The TFF track is a particularly rare B-Side, which has yet to be released on CD. I've been hanging out at the Tears For Fears fansite Memories Fade. Did I mention that Curt Smith has released a new solo album this year? Amazing how many new releases seem to slip by these days. Sad to read about the untimely passing of Robert Hazard last week. A Philadelphia legend, no paragraph can ever be written about the man without including the fact that he wrote "Girls Just Want To Have Fun". I wonder if Miley Cyrus knew that when she recorded her cover version. Interview is a band I know very little about, but I believe they released a couple of albums. I'm betting that the premier 80's US Power Pop blog has more information on them. The Colour Code track is an absolute classic, I can't believe it's taken me nearly a year to feature it. This is the Blue Mix. I don't really know anything about the Seven track. Another one I picked up from Torchomatic back in the day. Good sleeve too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

I'm such a compact disc whore. A few days ago I bought a bunch of dollar CD's, including two double CD promo packs, which I only got because I needed some new double CD cases and it was actually cheaper than buying an empty case. This one set was called Kill Your Radio and has 44 tracks of varying quality in a multitude of genres produced by Erika Records in conjunction with OC Weekly, some kind of California cultural newspaper-slash-website, back in 2002. Preparing to throw the inserts and the discs in the bin, I gave them a brief spin in the car first and discovered to my surprise that a few were actually quite decent, particularly if you like power pop in the vein of The Primitives or Fountains of Wayne. Unsurprisingly, however, I don't think any of them have taken iTunes by storm. See what you think of these:

Sideswipe - Crucify Me
Scarlet Crush - Tune In, Fade Out
Kerry Getz - Little Victory (my favorite, I think)
Goldenboy - Sing Another Song For the Winterlong
Walter Clevenger & The Dairy Kings - Radio Sea
Halo Friendlies - I'm All Eyes (my second favorite)
The Von Steins - Cosmic

**Up next: salvaging the best of Uncle Gonzalez and the Polka Accordion Mafia Play the Hits of Kenny Chesney - am I good to you guys or what?

Justice For Kirsty

Watching the video for Billy Bragg's video to "Sexuality" last month was a poignant affair, featuring as it did the irrepressible Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals and all-round delightfulness. Then, the latest issue of Q had a large feature on her famous duet with the Pogues which was also quite touching. I decided to feature a minor hit single on Random 80's this week and then discovered that, eight years after her death, Kirsty's family is still trying to obtain justice or at least a satisfactory explanation as to the circumstances of the tragic speedboat accident that claimed her life. [UPDATE: The campaign closed at the end of 2009.] The whole affair is so terribly sad. Kirsty was one of the first pop stars I fell in love with, thanks to the single cover of "A New England". She is one of those artists that have released so many great albums and singles, but never really got all the recognition she deserved.

You can find more details at (The campaign has now closed.)

Here's a few Kirsty-related bits 'n' bobs.

The official website, an obvious starting point.

Kirsty's mum has written a book about her life and death, Sun On The Water, available at Amazon.

There's an impressive three-disc Anthology From Croydon To Cuba, also available at Amazon.

Here's the video for "Innocence", which I had never seen before.

And on Top Of The Pops performing "Days":

Random 80's Wednesday

Bolland and Bolland - You're In The Army Now (from The Domino Theory, 1981)
Radioheart featuring Gary Numan - All Across The Nation (12" Single, 1988)
Yello - Of Course I'm Lying (12" Single, 1988)
Rainbirds - Blueprint (from Rainbirds, 1987)
Kirsty MacColl - He's On The Beach (7" Single, 1985)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Secession - A Dark Enchantment (1987)

This album has been posted elsewhere, and recently too, but I have a great story to tell about how I came by this particular item in my collection.

I've traded CD's on eBay since 2000, so I have a good idea about which 1980's CD's are worth more or are harder to find. During a buying spree in 2004 I won A Dark Enchantment in an auction for a very reasonable $32 - and before the end of the year I had resold it for about $70, if I remember correctly. Prices for out of print CD's keep going up, so I was content to have ripped the album to my mp3 player and didn't actively seek out another copy. I did like the album a lot, though.

Fast forward to the summer of 2006. I was going through the complicated process of becoming a US citizen, and had an appointment for an interview with the INS in Memphis, TN. Memphis is about three hours from where I live, and two hours from where I used to work, so I planned on taking the day off to go down there. I'm not familiar with Memphis at all, having been to Graceland only once before.

The INS office was actually in the suburbs of Memphis and finding the exact exit was confusing, so that when I got close enough, but could not find the right street, I started looking for a gas station to get directions.

My normal philosophy, as a self conscious English twit, is to quickly scan the map books available for purchase to get my bearings instead of coming across like a clueless tourist. However, the gas station I found was in a very run down area of town, with security windows, and I was sufficiently intimidated that I left the store none the wiser as to where I needed to go. Just next door, however, was a run down thrift store in aid of some local charity group. I figured that they might give me directions, not to mention that I am, at heart, a thrift store junkie.

It was pretty run down, just a very average, small store with bundles of this and that. On autopilot, I headed for the music section, which consisted, as is typical in these places, of broken empty cases, a Celine Dion CD Single, something by Backstreet Boys, maybe a copy of Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack with the cover missing. You know the sort of thing.

In the middle of this shoddy pile, to my amazement, was a pristine copy of A Dark Enchantment on CD.

You could say I was excited. It even had the original import sticker and price tag on it - in other words, it was in the original case. I have no idea how it ended up in a tiny Memphis thrift store.

The price tag was an equally thrifty $1.00. I felt a little guilty handing over the money, but they were so thrilled to sell me anything that they happily gave me directions as well. One day, I have decided, I will go back there with a bunch of twenties. But, to the victor goes the spoils. I can't tell you how many times I have gone into the same kinds of places and found absolutely nothing of interest. Kind of like prospecting for gold, I guess.

Bear in mind that this is an album that was released in England in very limited quantities, and never had a US pressing. And yet, a copy managed to find its way to me, perhaps the only person out of half a million people or more in that area who would recognize it's true value, as a result of randomly pulling off the interstate at the wrong exit (I had overshot, as it turned out, and had to go back to the previous exit - and made my appointment with time to spare).

So no matter what, this one is staying with me.

Secession - A Dark Enchantment (1987)
  1. Eventide
  2. Promise
  3. Love Lies Bleeding
  4. Sneakyville
  5. Winifred
  6. The Box That Holds A Secret
  7. Ocean Blue
  8. Radioland
  9. The Magician
  10. Love Lies Bleeding (Reprise)
  11. The Wolf
  12. Eventide (Theme From A Dark Enchantment)
  13. All The Animals Come Out At Night
  14. Michael
  15. Havoc
  16. Promise (Dub)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Merrick and Tibbs - Call of the Wild (1982)

Merrick & Tibbs - Call of the Wild

1. Call of the Wild
2. Call of the Wild (Extended Mix)
3. Tiger Tiger


Forever immortalized in the song "Ant Rap" (Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee, Gary Tibbs and yours tru-ly), Gary and Merrick (real name Chris Hughes) went from being the bassist and drummer with Adam & The Ants to producing a one-off single project in 1982.

Chris Hughes went on to perform with Tears For Fears and others before become a producer. Gary Tibbs is now the bassist for the reformed new wave outfit The Fixx.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Random 80's Wednesday

The Daintees - Roll On Summertime (7" Single, 1982) Legal Download
The Promise - Glasshouse (12" Single, 1985)
The Blue Nile - Stay (12" Single, 1984) Legal Download
The Blow Monkeys - Forbidden Fruit (12" Single, 1985) Legal Download
The Damned - Edward The Bear (12" Single, 1985) Legal Download

Yes, Random 80's is back, back, BACK!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Classic Track: Bizarre Love Triangle

It's been about 20 years (give or take) since I fell in love with New Order courtesy of the fantastic Shep Pettibone remix of "Bizarre Love Triangle" as included on the Substance compilation.

Seeing as I heard the same track on a rerun of Cold Case today, it seems like a good time to revisit and celebrate a musical masterpiece.

New Order - Bizarre Love Triangle (Shep Pettibone Remix)

A true modern classic, I knew it had been covered by Frente! and Stabbing Westward with some success, and then discovered several other cover versions that run the gamut from industrial-techno to piano ballad, to whimsical acoustic readings. There have also been a slew of remixes, some by New Order themselves. Here are just a few:

Gravity Jones - Bizarre Love Triangle

New Order - Bizarre Love Triangle (Crystal Method Remix)
Devine & Statton - Bizarre Love Triangle
Charlotte Martin - Bizarre Love Triangle
Stabbing Westward - Bizarre Love Triangle
New Order - Bizarre Love Triangle '94

INXS - Elegantly Wasted (1997)

In the late 1980's, bands like U2, INXS, Poison, and Def Leppard dominated the musical landscape. With the arrival of Nirvana's Nevermind in 1991, though, the old school formula for success disintegrated. 'Hair bands' and musical showmanship fell out of favor, replaced by a return to raw, hard-hitting, punk-inspired music. Thematically, songs moved away from love and sex to the more dark emotions of alienation and rage.

Through clever marketing, some 80s bands like REM and U2 not only survived, but thrived in the new grunge-influenced market. INXS, on the other hand, fell on hard times. Due to a rift with their then label, Atlantic Records, promotion of the band altogether stopped in the early 90s. In 1992, the band released their most experimental and powerful album, the critically-acclaimed masterpiece Welcome to Wherever You Are. Without Atlantic actively promoting the album to MTV and radio, though, the album fell flat, and INXS became unfairly labeled as an "80s band." 'When we finished Welcome, we really believed in that album, but we knew that it would be the end of us in the United States for awhile. But you gotta do what you believe in. You gotta roll with the punches,' lead singer Michael Hutchence recently said. A year later in 1993 the band released Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, an album recalling their ska/punk roots and R&B influences. Though considered a flop, INXS refused to allow current trends to dicate terms to them. Whereas other bands were busy ripping off the latest style, INXS maintained their artistic integrity, while still managing to remain relevant.

INXS' new LP, Elegantly Wasted, the band's first effort in four years, is a stirring and passionate album, filled with experimentation. It also, of course, maintains INXS' trademark sound. The album opener, "Show Me (Cherry Baby)," is as hard-rocking as the band has ever been, with screeching guitars and heavy drums. The title track is reminiscent of the band's number one hit, "Need You Tonight," while "Everything" recalls such hit ballads as "Not Enough Time." Though an undeniable feeling of familiarity surrounds the new album, there is also a sense of the band having a new sense of purpose and fresh outlook on the future. Hutchence's vocals have never sounded better in his career, and combined with the rich, hook-laden music of the Farriss brothers, the album assuredly takes its rightful place as one of INXS' strongest efforts ever.

Stand-outs on the album include the experimental "We Are Thrown Together," an intriguing mixture of sitar and guitar, the gospel-inspired "Searching," and "Shake The Tree," a song other rock bands like U2 can only dream of ever writing. On "Don't Lose Your Head," written for Liam Gallagh er of Oasis, Hutchence angrily cries, "You wake up in the morning with a starf*ck for a friend, the things you do are so in tune with what you said you hate," and on the album finale, "Building Bridges," INXS delivers an emotional closer that leaves the listener gasping for more: "Are you comfortable in your skin? When does the strip begin?" INXS has sold over 20 million records in its 20 year career and Elegantly Wasted shows the band is as vibrant and relevant today as ever. (Neil Kothari)

INXS - Elegantly Wasted (1997)
  1. Show Me (Cherry Baby)
  2. Elegantly Wasted
  3. Everything
  4. Don't Lose Your Head
  5. Searching
  6. I'm Just a Man
  7. Girl on Fire
  8. We Are Thrown Together
  9. Shake the Tree
  10. She Is Rising
  11. Building Bridges
  12. Shine (Bonus Track)

Babybird - Ugly Beautiful (1996)

Prolific Englishman Stephen Jones, AKA Babybird, has the mind of a cynic and the heart of a romantic. Ugly Beautiful, his major-label debut, is a crafty contrast of splendiferous pop melodies and biting lyrics. The songs are all simple and repetitive, lacking much in the way of tempo shifts and bridges. But Ugly Beautiful bobs, thanks to a balance of lively rock, moaning balladry and otherworldly trip-hop, embellished with swelling strings, chiming music boxes and warbling keyboards. And lyrics like "Are you Jesus without the nails? ... Are you Paris without snails?" make Babybird more than just the latest U.K. fad. Watch out, Morrissey. (Rolling Stone, 1997)

Babybird - Ugly Beautiful (1996)
  1. Goodnight
  2. Candy Girl
  3. Jesus Is My Girlfriend
  4. I Didn't Want To Wake You Up
  5. Atomic Soda
  6. You're Gorgeous
  7. Bad Shave
  8. Cornershop
  9. King Bing
  10. You And Me
  11. 45 And Fat
  12. Handsome To Be Homeless
  13. July
  14. Baby Bird

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