#541 ‘(How To Be A) Millionaire’ by ABC (4 June)

Album: single, 1984; How To Be A… Zillionaire!, 1985

 

Justification: Dammit, I can’t get this out of my head at the moment.

Zillionaire was ABC’s third and least successful album, although it did give them a US hit with ‘Stay With Me’. That was basically the only other song on this album – seriously, it’s a remarkably slapdash disc – which was made more or less entirely by singer Martin Fry and keyboardist Mark White after the original line up of the band disintegrated.

And look, the artwork's pretty amazingly garish too.

And look, the artwork’s pretty brilliantly garish too.

Ostensibly there were two other members of ABC at this point: US photographer David Yarritu and Eden (aka UK style journalist Fiona Scott-Morgan). They were both musicians, but that wasn’t why they were there: they were recruited purely because they looked hip and stylish, especially in the cartoon form that was to be the look of this project. Indeed, there’s some doubt as to whether either actually appeared on the album at all: most if not all of the album was completed before they were on the payroll and their supposed vocal appearances on ‘A to Z’ sound to me suspiciously like Fry’s voice sped up.

Their involvement was also to be very short-lived since Fry was diagnosed with Hodgins’ disease while on the promotional trail for this album, forcing the band into hiatus while he underwent treatment before he and White returned with Alphabet City two years later.

ABC still exist, sort of: it’s now just Fry and occasionally original drummer David Palmer doing the nostalgia circuit, with White having apparently left the music biz to concentrate on reiki: the well-known science of pretending to have magical energy healing powers.

I’m not even entirely sure this album was released in Australia – I certainly looked for it at the time without success, which might say more about the stocking priorities of suburban Adelaide record stores in 1985 than it does about Mercury’s hopes for the disc locally – and only stumbled across it in a secondhand place down the road a few months ago.

I was near-pathetically excited since I’d built it up in my head as being Their Lost Masterpiece rather than, as it turned out, ABC’s Learning-To-Use-A Fairlight Album For Which They Forgot To Write Any Proper Songs.

It’s frustrating that …Zillionaire is so patchy because its lead single single is utterly glorious: Fry and White’s over-the-top 80s production perfectly suits the song’s simultaneous celebration of and disgust in the artificiality of wealth, and Fry’s wryly distracted delivery works beautifully on couplets like ‘Larger than life and twice as ugly / If we have to live there, you’ll have to drug me”.

And let’s face it: living in Sydney and being in the demographic that obsesses over whether or not ever owning a house is even remotely possible, the opening and closing line “I’ve seen the future / I can’t afford it” does have a certain frustrating resonance.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2012: Goth went briefly mainstream with Siouxsie & the Banshees’ ‘Kiss them for Me’.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…

536. Arcadia: Election Day (7 March)

537. Ride: Like A Daydream (23 May)

538. Shivaree: Goodnight Moon (15 Aug)

539. France Gall: Laisse Tomber les Filles (22 Aug)

540. The Apples in Stereo: Energy (24 Oct)

#539 ‘Laisse tomber les filles’ by France Gall (22 Aug)

Album: single, 1964

Justification: Much as I adore this song, I’m reasonably certain that I didn’t hear this version first. I’m pretty sure it was a cover, either by April March (who also did it in English under the title ‘Chick Habit’) or Fabienne Delsol, during my early 2000s Françoiz Breut-inspired pledge “OK then, I wish to only listen to French female singers from here on in.”

france-gall-laisse-tomber-les-fillesIt was an intense if somewhat short-lived passion, since I don’t speak a word of French and finally just wanted to hear some lyrics I understood, but it did introduce me to Françoise Hardy, Jane Birkin, Jacqueline Taîab and so on, but the one that I got borderline obsessed with was France Gall.

She was 17 when she released this single, written by her for Serge Gainsbourg, and it was an immediate hit. The two had a falling out later in life when she blamed him for deliberately sabotaging her career by writing sexually suggestive songs with saucy double meanings, to which the only serious answer is “you do know that he’s Serge Gainsbourg, right?”

She won Eurovision in 1965, worked with Giorgio Moroder in the early 70s, became a stage perofmrer and a political adovcoate for humanitarian causes, and is still performing to this day – although she’s supposedly not a fan of her early stuff. Which is fair enough, since a 66 year old woman is probably going to give songs like ‘Baby Pop’ a certain terrifying gravitas.

But dear god, this song is amazing. By which I mean that bassline and brass is amazing: what else is even there?

Oh, and it means “leave the girls alone”, sort of. Basically a stop-running-around-or-you’ll-be-sorry song. Sounds far better in French.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: The still glorious Clouds: ‘Hieronymus’.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2012: The evocative, haunting ‘ROYGBIV’ by Boards of Canada.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE

534. Belle & Sebastian: Sleep the Clock Around (8 Nov)

535. Electronic: Getting Away With it (20 Dec)

536. Arcadia: Election Day (7 March)

537. Ride: Like A Daydream (23 May)

538. Shivaree: Goodnight Moon (15 Aug)

#538 ‘Goodnight Moon’ by Shivaree (15 August)

Album: I Oughtta Give You A Shot in the Head for Making Me Live in this Dump (1999)

Justification: I’ve said this before, but I have never regretted picking up a record on the basis of its title. And this album has a freakin’ great title.

Shivaree I Oughtta Give You a Shot in the Head for Making Me Live in this Dump_ShivareeShivaree had one moment of success, and it was this song.

The reason you’re going “oh, I know this…” is probably the end credits of Kill Bill Volume 2, or one of the approximately six billion other soundtracks upon which it has appeared, because it manages to be country without being too country. The album actually mixes things up in a gloriously unusual way (‘Bossa Nova’ has drum loops and noise breaks more typical of hip hop than the three chord country strummer it otherwise would have been) and in a perfect world Shivaree – and especially singer/songwriter Ambrosia Parsley – would be scoring entire seasons of True Detective.

Sadly, record company problems and internal turmoil stalled things before they began: their second album never got a US release and the band was over by the time they shrugged out their fourth album in 2007.

Still such a great album, though. And it was pretty much the gateway drug for a whole lot of music I now adore, from Calexico to the Handsome Family, so I owe it a lot.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN… oh, there’s never been a 15 May entry. Well, there you go.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…

532. Guided by Voices: Teenage FBI (27 Aug)

533. The Cowboy Junkies: Sweet Jane (1 Nov)

534. Belle & Sebastian: Sleep the Clock Around (8 Nov)

535. Electronic: Getting Away With it (20 Dec)

536. Ride: Like a Daydream (25 May)

#537 ‘Like A Daydream’ by Ride (23 May)

Album: Play EP, Smile mini-album (both 1990)

Oooh! Pretty!

Oooh! Pretty!

Justification: Ride have already been in here twice so I don’t need to explain how not seeing them in 1991ish remains one of my greatest regrets, how their first few EPs and first two albums are damn near flawless and everything else until their 1996 split is largely arse, and how little I care for everything that the members did subsequently: the Animalhouse, Hurricane #1, late-period Oasis, Beady Eye, the lot.

Except for when I saw Loz drumming for the Jesus & Mary Chain at V Festival. That was genuinely awesome.

Anyway: shoegaze has been heavily on my mind of late because  I’ve got a pre-release of the new Sounds Like Sunset album and it’s freakin’ magnificent. And that’s put me in the mood for walls of washy guitars, dreamy vocals and bands that sigh winsomely at their effects boards. They’re also one of the very few bands that I’d genuinely love to see reform, because I feel like the expectations would be gratifyingly low.

I saw Mark Gardener and his terrible hat do a tribute to Going Blank Again in 2012, backed by US psych rockers Sky Parade, and it was ghastly. Although they were supported by the then-just-reactivated Underground Lovers who comprehensively blew them off the stage. First time I heard ‘The Au Pair’. Amazing.

Anyway: with public demand for a Ride reunion pretty damn low (although they did get back together in 2001 for a Channel 4 thing on Sonic Youth) and Andy Bell having affectionately ruled out ever doing Ride again, I suspect they’d be a bit more humble and “let’s have fun with this” than a lot of reunions. And let’s be honest: hearing ‘Vapour Trail’ or ‘Leave Them All Behind’ played properly – and loud – would be perfect. Also, this.

This was the first or second Ride song I ever heard (first is either this or ‘Chelsea Girl’ from the first EP), and it’s certainly the only one I could play.

I used to pull it out at my endless solo slots at Merlin’s café in Belair in the early 90s around the point where I had otherwise completely forgotten everything else I knew. When you get to relatively obscure Ride and Carter USM covers, you know you should probably call it a night.

Incidentally, the girl in the video is neatly representative of every woman I had a crush on for the period 1990-1993.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE DISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: Swoon to the still-gorgeous, heartbreaking ‘Like a Motorway’ by St Etienne.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE DISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2012: We can probably stop waiting for Operator Please to reactivate, but ‘Logic’ is still a killer song.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…

532. Guided by Voices: Teenage FBI (27 Aug)

533. The Cowboy Junkies: Sweet Jane (1 Nov)

534. Belle & Sebastian: Sleep the Clock Around (8 Nov)

535. Electronic: Getting Away With it (20 Dec)

536. Arcadia: Election Day (7 March)

#536 ‘Election Day’ by Arcadia (7 March)

Album: So Red the Rose, 1985

Justification: First up, hi. Yeah, it’s been a while. Sorry for the delay and so on, but if you go to my other site at andrewpstreet.com you’ll see that I’ve been pretty stupidly busy for the last little while. But let’s get this thing back into shape for the time being.

Oh yeah, they all dyed their hair black. Gotta say, it's working for Simon.

Oh yeah, they all dyed their hair black. Gotta say, it’s working for Simon.

Alrighty: I was a pretty one-eyed Duran Duran fan in the 80s. They were the one of the first bands I really fell in love with and I followed them diligently when they took a break (back in the days before such things were called “hiatuses”) and did other projects: bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor formed the awful Power Station with Bernard Edwards from Chic and Robert Palmer, and the rest of the band – frontman Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor – formed the world’s most pretentious band and did one largely average album (“the most pretentious album ever made,” according to Le Bon).

However, this single was amazing. Sure, it shows that ‘A View to a Kill’ hadn’t got Rhodes’ love for big keyboard stabs out of his system, but for once Le Bon’s largely ridiculous lyrics were kind of awesome (“he’s moody and grey, she’s mean and she’s restless” pops into my head more often than I’d like, as does “are you aware you’re being illegal? It’s making your saviour behaviour look evil”). The way that he drifts in an out of the song was also structurally interesting – you think he’s finished a verse and then no, here’s an extra bit that’s effectively the punchline.

It’s also worth pointing out that Le Bon’s never had great intonation but he’s hitting blue notes almost exclusively here: he’s never quite in tune, but never actually horribly out of it either. It makes a weirdly compelling effect in the chorus when he’s doing three and four part harmonies with himself and not nailing a single one of the lines – and yet it works amazingly well. This is something we’ve lost from autotune, that Beatles-y sound of people not quite locked in but sounding gloriously and appealingly human.

Sure, the Grace Jones spoken word bit smacks of “oh yeah, we really need do something for the bridge,” but the rest of the song kills.

It’s also significant in that this video is the moment where Rhodes broke his career-long streak of looking awesome and largely dignified, which is impressive for a man who often sported pink hair and mimed saxophone in the ‘Rio’ clip. Here he pouts and preens, somwhere between a Skeksis from The Dark Crystal and a goth Taylor Dayne. And yes, that’s William Burroughs. Ludicrous.

I found this 7″ not long ago while on another trawl through the treasure trove that is the Myponga Markets, and proceeded to play it far more times than anyone could justify. I’m pretty sure my dame was delighted by this decision.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: It was the Suede reunion we all wanted, briefly, with the Tears and ‘Refugees’.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2012: Ian Dury’s boy Baxter and the nightmarish video of ‘Francesca’s Party’.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…

531. The Shangri-Las: Give Him A Great Big Kiss (23 Aug)

532. Guided by Voices: Teenage FBI (27 Aug)

533. The Cowboy Junkies: Sweet Jane (1 Nov)

534. Belle & Sebastian: Sleep the Clock Around (8 Nov)

535. Electronic: Getting Away With it (20 Dec)

 

#535 ‘Getting Away With It’ by Electronic (20 Dec)

Album: single, 1989; Electronic (reissue), 1994

Justification: I still remember the first time I heard this – the dream supergroup of Johnny Marr from the Smiths, Bernard Sumner from New Order, with Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys (and, as it turned out, drums by David Palmer of ABC and strings arranged by the Art of Noise’s breakthrough genius Anne Dudley). I mean, it was basically like a bunch of my record collection had melted together.

And yes, I could absolutely go a nice whiskey right now.

And yes, I could absolutely go a nice whiskey right now.

It’s also the best thing they did. Most of the first album’s pretty great, but the drop off is abysmal after that (1994’s Raise the Pressure is notable for Sumner writing the lyrics while dosing himself on Prozac, which made them even more godawful than usual) – and I didn’t know this at the time, but the lyrics to ‘Getting Away With It’ were Tennant and Sumner taking the piss out of Marr by writing as Morrissey-like stanzas as they could (“I’m walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose”, ‘However I look it’s clear to see / I love you more than you love me” – genius!).

The initial band didn’t last long – proper duties interfered, with Marr joining The The and Sumner with New Order, and Tennant never returned after the first album. They did two more discs, but all the important stuff’s on the first one.

I kinda wish this was the only thing they did. Then they would have been perfect.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: The weird, sad story of Phil Judd and the coulda-been-huge Schnell Fenster, via their magnificent ‘Whisper’.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…

530. The Lightning Seeds: Ready or Not (11 July)

531. The Shangri-Las: Give Him A Great Big Kiss (23 Aug)

532. Guided by Voices: Teenage FBI (27 Aug)

533. The Cowboy Junkies: Sweet Jane (1 Nov)

534. Belle & Sebastian: Sleep the Clock Around (8 Nov)

 

 

#534 ‘Sleep the Clock Around’ by Belle & Sebastian

Album: The Boy With The Arab Strap, 1998

Justification: You know how every so often you’ll hear a song and get a sudden rush of intense, crippling emotion? This came up on my Spotify playlist the other day and I was briefly paralysed.

Belle_sebastian_-_the_boy_with_the_arab_strapI’ve talked about it a lot on here before, but back in the late 90s/early 00s most of my social life revolved around a club that my then-girlfriend-now-ex-wife and my youngest sister (two different people, just to make clear) DJed at in Adelaide. B&S were a frequent favourite on the CDJs back them, and this got more than a few spins.

And for a moment on the 431  to the city from Glebe Point Road I was back in the smoke-filled environs of Stix Pool Hall on a Thursday night in 2001, surrounded by people I loved and naturally figured I’d be friends with forever, drinking watered-down beer and dancing to a large chunk of my record collection.

That group has now scattered to the winds – London, Montreal, San Franscisco, New York (and, for one of us, currently Cebu in the Philippines) – and those of us still in Australia mainly live in Melbourne and Sydney now. I’ve no idea if Stix still exists, and I’m in infrequent contact with most and zero contact with a few of those people. But for a while there, it was glorious.

Belle & Sebastian, meanwhile, are no longer making records that I particaularly love, certainly not to the degree of their first three, but dear god they’re good live. Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure the version on this fan video is the BBC Sessions take, which is about 20% more lively than the original.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: PiL were comprehensively declaring that ‘This Is Not A Love Song’.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2012: The late, great Elliot Smith and ‘Son of Sam’.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…

530. The Lightning Seeds: Ready or Not (11 July)

531. The Shangri-Las: Give Him A Great Big Kiss (23 Aug)

532. Guided by Voices: Teenage FBI (27 Aug)

533. The Cowboy Junkies: Sweet Jane (1 Nov)

534. Belle & Sebastian: Sleep the Clock Around (8 Nov)

#533 ‘Sweet Jane’ by the Cowboy Junkies (1 Nov)

Album: The Trinity Sessions, 1988

Justification: This has been on my mind a lot since Sunday’s tragic news, since this is the song that made me fall in love with the music of Lou Reed.

"I don't know, could you make the photo a little harder to distinguish?"

“I don’t know, could you make the photo a little harder to distinguish?”

Discovering music wasn’t easy back in 1988, especially if you were a school kid in Adelaide. It’s one of the huge advantages of the modern age – a 15 year old curious about this Velvet Underground band they’ve heard so much about can be listening to them for free in seconds, but at this point in history you either needed to know someone with the record you could tape it from, or plonk down full retail price for a disc and hope you were wise to do so.

The other interesting thing that happened because of this, by the way, was that the music you had was a lot more important to you because you had either made an effort or spent quite a bit of money.

The bands that I loved at this time – the Cure, the Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, Models, the Jesus & Mary Chain, They Might Be Giants – were more than just the stuff I listened to, they were part of my DNA. I remember walking past a guy in a Public Image Limited t-shirt in Marion Shopping Centre and thinking “I’ll never be cool enough to listen to PiL”, so much was my sense of identity wrapped up in music. If you were going to wear the t-shirt, you had to have the records; and getting the records required a commitment that you couldn’t  give to just any old band.

And I’d heard Lou Reed before – I knew ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Satellite of Love’ and didn’t especially care for any of them, I knew the Velvets were massively influential but at that point in time I hadn’t heard any of their stuff, at least not knowingly, although I had a very clear idea in my head what they sounded like (which turned out to be largely wrong, though that’s another story).

But then a Canadian indie-blues band recorded an album using a single microphone in a Toronto church, which changed everything.

This was the song that made the Junkies’ career. The Trinity Session was a spooky, late-night record and their cover of the Velvets ‘Sweet Jane’ was about the only cover of which Reed spoke approvingly. It helps that Margot Timmins’ voice sounds like honey, which brings out the melancholia in Reeds’ lyrics, although they do kind of stuff up the bridge – but even so, I bought this on 7″ and spun it obsessively, and it was this that made me want to explore what else its songwriter had to offer.

It also made me explore what the Cowboy Junkies had to offer, which was a good deal less – although I did interview Margot once circa Lay it Down in 1996, and she was very nice. She also said something about how she never went for the big, showy vocals on record so she’d have somewhere extra to take the songs live, which I thought was a very interesting perspective that would, surely, lead to more boring records. Like, say, Lay it Down.

This song was used to great effect in Natural Born Killers and several other films where whoever’s doing the music licensing has gone “OK, we can’t afford Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’, what other options do we have?”

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Let’s be clear, there are few songs more affecting than ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: Enjoy one of the world’s poppiest masturbation metaphors: ‘Flagpole Sitta’ by Harvey Danger.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…

528. Black: Wonderful Life (16 Apr)

529. Bruce Springbean and the S-Street Band: Born to Add (17 May)

530. The Lightning Seeds: Ready or Not (11 July)

531. The Shangri-Las: Give Him A Great Big Kiss (23 Aug)

532. Guided by Voices: Teenage FBI (27 Aug)

 

#532 ‘Teenage FBI’ by Guided by Voices (27 Aug)

Album: Do The Collapse, 1999

Justification: It’s probably their single best known song, thanks to playing it on Buffy and it being part of their short-lived period of being on a sorta-kinda major label – well, ish – and recording with Ric Ocasek and being total sellouts, man. And, because it’s catchy as hell, this is where I first fell in love with GBV before diving back into the catalogue.

It's hip, you know.

Oddly enough, it’s the GBV album that sounds least like a car crash.

So, given that it was their hit and all, why the hell can’t I find a video for it?

It’s possible that there just plain isn’t one, but I’m fairly certain I recall one involving Bob Pollard being chased, Beatlemania style, but maybe the band hated it and have deep-sixed it since. Or maybe it’s one of those weird licensing things where it’s locked in a bankruptcy vault with the rest of TVT’s assets. Either way, you’re making do with a live version.

And just to destroy all of my indie cred, I really do love both the GBV “sellout” albums. Much as I adore Under the Bushes, Under the Stars and Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, obviously, my most played album of theirs is still Isolation Drills. When I was going through my divorce, ‘How’s My Drinking?’ and ‘The Brides Have Hit Glass’ were on pretty high rotation there.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2012: The newly-solo Juliana Hatfield gave us the lovelorn classic ‘Everybody Loves Me But You’.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…

527. Hefner: The Day that Thatcher Dies (9 Apr)

528. Black: Wonderful Life (16 Apr)

529. Bruce Springbean and the S-Street Band: Born to Add (17 May)

530. The Lightning Seeds: Ready or Not (11 July)

531. The Shangri-Las: Give Him A Great Big Kiss (23 Aug)

 

#531 ‘Give Him a Great Big Kiss’ by the Shangri-Las (23 Aug)

Album: Leader of the Pack, 1965

Justification: Oh sure, I knew who the Shangri-Las were. ‘Leader of the Pack’ was one of those songs embedded in my DNA thanks to my parents singing it around the house for as long as I can remember (and it being used for a Choc Shake commercial in the 80s, which didn’t endear it to me any), but for some reason it took until this week for me to go from “oh yeah, they had some singles” to “this band were demented and brilliant!”

Leader_of_the_Pack_(album)

Before you ask: yeah, there were technically four Shangri-Las, but most of the time it was Mary and Betty Weiss and either Mary Anne or Marge Ganser, depending on the time. Yes, the band had identical twins who subbed for each other. That’s freakin’ awesome.

Specifically, until I was watching GoodFellas and ‘Remember (Walking in the Sand)’ came on and I went “Wow, that’s a weirder song than I remember, I should get a best-of – hey, here’s one on iTunes for ten bucks.”

Thus are minds blown.

The only disappointing thing about the version in the video is that it lacks the magnificent spoken word intro “When I say I’m in love you best believe I’m in love: L-U-V,” which I recognised immediately: it’s David Johansen’s introduction to the New York Dolls‘ ‘Looking For A Kiss’  from 1973. I didn’t realise that he was paying tribute to these fellow Brookynites from a decade earlier, but goddamn,  it makes sense: just watch these two sets of teenage Noo Yawk sisters freakin’ belting this out. Sassier teens are hard to imagine outside of a terrible sitcom.

Also, why don’t more songs have a little chat in the middle? “What colour are his eyes?” “I don’t know, he’s always wearing shades.” COOLEST BAND EVER.

So yeah, sometimes it takes me several decades, but I get there eventually.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Regurgitator’s mighty ode to the joys of video gaming, ‘Black Bugs’.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: Throwing Muses’ Kristin Hersh has the biggest hit of her life by stepping out solo for ‘Your Ghost’.

AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…

526. The Pogues: If I Should Fall from Grace with God (15 Mar)

527. Hefner: The Day that Thatcher Dies (9 Apr)

528. Black: Wonderful Life (16 Apr)

529. Bruce Springbean and the S-Street Band: Born to Add (17 May)

530. The Lightning Seeds: Ready or Not (11 July)