Archive for the ‘Blur’ Category

Cockney Rebel

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Listen: Mr. Soft / Cockney Rebel

Early on, Cockney Rebel were inconveniently caught somewhere between glam and suave Roxy Music, despite being nothing near suave visually. A US slot supporting for The Kinks on their SCHOOLBOYS IN DISGRACE tour, and getting a bit of ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)’ radio play, didn’t change their US fortunes much, well, not at all.

This was a time when The Kinks were struggling, on the tail end of their has-been to legend penance. They could hardly help themselves, let alone Cockney Rebel.

We saw the show at SUNY Brockport, in the gym. Despite being permanently affixed to stage edge, drooling for The Kinks to transcend us into heaven, every last pal in all directions loved Cockney Rebel’s set. The band seemed genuinely surprised.

‘Mr. Soft’ never saw a US 7″ release, despite EMI giving them a few serious gos with several tracks. Not that such a British centric tune would have changed their fortunes in America. Therefore acquiring a UK pressing needs be a must for every responsible citizen.

Despite nary a mention that I can recall, it seems blaringly obvious Blur honored this band’s many ideas. Good choice fellows.


Monday, January 24th, 2011

Listen: Sorted For E’s & Wizz /Pulp
Sorted For E's & Wizz /Pulp

Dave Bedford from Fire Records in London became quite a good friend during my days with Island in the early 90′s, as I’d be in town for two or three week stays at a time. We had, and still do have, similar tastes in both the past and present. Logically, he and I share a vinyl addiction but more importantly, a natural chemistry about so many things. Kind of like that occasional person you meet and within hours, feel as though you’ve known your whole life.

Never did Dave make a suggestion about a band that wasn’t eye to eye with my tastes, so when he nudged me rather relentlessly about seeing Pulp in December ’91, somewhere along Portobello Road near the Rough Trade shop on Talbot, in a small pub, I was interested. Apparently, they were looking to get out of Fire and really worth checking out.

Why not? Howard was in town, so I suggested we all meet up there, see the band and have some food together. Howard brought David Field and a few friends as well. Everyone was in.

Before leaving the Island office, I asked a some of the A&R guys to join. Pulp were deemed damaged goods at that point, having gone from indie label pillar to post for several years, treading water and considered to be at a low point of no return career-wise. My invitations were met with disinterest and I’m sure a few rolled eyes once I turned away. No worries, I was planning my exit a few months down the road to start The Medicine Label. Just trying to be nice fellows.

The pub was miserably empty when Pulp went on, maybe thirty people tops. Most dwindled off after a few songs, even our posse, sans Dave Bedford, decided to go down the road for a drink and wait for us to finish having a look.

I was in awe. They seemed fantastic. Dave was right. Jarvis (one of the best radio presenters in the world at the moment btw) doing his routine, fitted out in a wide wale brown hip hugger corduroy suit replete with white belt. Literally straight out of a Scott Walker photo essay, no surprise there.

Next day in the office, I couldn’t shake the previous night’s show. They were clearly too English to try working with for US only, and the London office were sternly not interested. No one was waiting for me to walk away before rolling their eyes now. So I just drifted off rather defeated, accepting I was born in the wrong place, wrong time to do anything professional with Pulp, just needed to be content staying a fan.

Six months later, I was setting up my label through Warner Brothers in Los Angeles, and the new regime at Island UK were signing Pulp.

Good for them. For my money, the band’s first proper Island album was DIFFERENT CLASS, a picture perfect creative culmination of all their new found confidence yet not so distant hardships at being kicked about for years. DIFFERENT CLASS become a stake in music history’s timeline.

“Sorted For E’s And Wizz’, having maybe the best title ever for a song and despite being spotlighted by the mainstream press as obviously drug related, hurled itself to #2 in the UK singles chart. Not initially, which was frustrating, but eventually pressed on 7″ vinyl, the single finally graced the library shelves. Fun and funny as it is, there’s some chilling lyric bits and all too true. A desert island single. Hands down.

Listen: Disco 2000 / Pulp
Disco 2000 / Pulp

Fuck me, did this sound good compressed as hell via Radio 1′s signal and coming out of the car dashboard. Those opening chords had every shotgun seat occupant diving for the volume dial. Involuntary reaction.

Listen: Disco 2000 (7″ Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (7

I seem to remember this single mix being done for the US. God knows why. I mean, the band came over and supported Blur in ’94, thereby building a nice following and deserved airplay, but of course radio…..

The Blur / Pulp tour played at New York’s Academy. Remembered this well, it was Corinne’s birthday, September 29, 1994. Seeing Pulp was a perfect present, she loved them from day one. Only problem being she wanted to do something or other straight afterwards, hence dragged my ass out just as Blur were hitting their third number. Bummer, but it was her birthday.

Listen: Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp

Nice thing about the above ‘Disco 2000 (7″ Mix)’: it gave Island an excuse to press up a jukebox single, basically the trend amongst the labels at that time. These singles were low end design, paperless label, large center hole and very limited, literally for jukeboxes.

It was coupled with ‘Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix)’, a near eight minute techno club version that made it’s way onto a rather nice promo 12″ some months earlier. The 12 was played a lot, like a real lot, in the house on the Dual stacking turntable I’d bought at the Warner Brothers Records used equipment sale for employees. $10, and still works like a charm to this day.

One of Pulp’s crowning moments was headling an all day event at Finsbury Park on July 25, 1998. It was a Saturday, I desperately wanted to get back home after a week in London, but decided it could be worth pushing my flight back by a day. Turned out being one of my better decisions in life.

Graham Coxon

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Listen: Freakin’ Out / Graham Coxon GrahamFreakin.mp3

I always thought Graham Coxon played more like Jimi Hendrix than anyone, even Robin Trower, on Blur’s ‘There’s No Other Way’. I don’t think he repeated the sound though – not sure as I never listened to the band’s albums.

Back in the day, although it does seem odd to put it that way but….back in the day when Jo Whiley held the morning shift on BBC Radio 1 – at the time, they really cranked alternative rock stuff, this got played a lot. It became a favorite.

I’d been meaning to play it for ages, but only just stumbled on this unfiled copy. Still sounds pretty great, a touch more on the hard rock guitar side than I recall, but a fave nonetheless.

Brett Anderson

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Love Is Dead / Brett Anderson

Listen: Love Is Dead / Brett Anderson 01 love is dead (01).mp3

My first time seeing Suede was March ’92 in Brighton, opening for The Fall. I’d missed them the night before and was in a state. I loved their demo that had been made at the Island studios just before I left the label. After the show, I was jaw dropped and wide eyed. This was the real deal. They captured the ultimate British sound, bringing to the grooves, well, all the poison of London. Suede hit me dead center – I realized what I’d been waiting for. Even though it’s not that long ago, I harken back to that early 90′s period with Blur, Pulp, and The Stone Roses getting their footholds in pubs along Ladbroke Groove and Camden Town. Still, for me, Suede glistened above them all. Never did they disappoint live. No small contribution coming from Mat’s bass on that front. Brett had the physical swagger, and Mat the rhythmic. I really wanted to sign them and so took the band round to meet all the Warner Brothers people in Burbank a few months later. It was a memorable trip – these English guys very out of place in LA – and for their first time ever. We crammed into a rented convertible (that somehow I ended up with) and went to Santa Monica Pier, stopping at a few garage sales along the way, everyone wearing long sleeves and pants in blazing California sun. Before leaving town, the earthquake of ’92 hits. It’s pretty freaky driving to LAX without one working traffic light on the way, yet risking it just to get home. Even though he started out with a bang, Brett’s writing just kept getting better and better. COMING UP, their third album, is a masterpiece. A formula was patented and kept working. So it’s brave and commendable that Brett chose a more stark and personal path for his solo releases. He’s begun to establish himself as a songwriter and singer of real depth, his voice more powerful than ever. This solo single, his first, was a nice treat on release. Don’t know what I was expecting, so the unexpected really worked – it’s a much played favorite.