Gang Of Four – ‘Yellow’ US 12″ EP (Warner Brothers Records, MINI 3494, 1980)

November 28th, 2021

Back in the early ‘80s and my nascent record buying bug began to flourish with a regular wage packet from a Saturday morning job, there were many a tempting release to be found in the record racks of local shops such as 1-Up, The Other Record Shop, Bruce Millers, Easy Rider and the like. The exotic, foreign pressed 12” EPs or mini-album that scooped up tracks from individual 7” single releases and brought them together in a new sleeve design were especially eye-catching. With its bright yellow cover design and stark type arrangement, this positively shouted from the racks. However, it would be some time later before I would come across a copy – before then would be a copy of ‘Solid Gold’ swapped from a school friend and the wonderful ‘Another Day, Another Dollar’ mini-album, found in the second-hand racks of 1-Up, which I have written about before. And far from the expected compilation of tracks from the singles, on close listening there is far more going on, as we’ll see…

Gang Of Four US 1980 'Yellow' 12" EP front cover

^ Gang Of Four US 1980 ‘Yellow’ 12″ EP front cover

In the UK (and various other territories) the Gang Of Four were signed to the  establishment machinery that was EMI Records – however, in the US, they were signed to Warner Brothers Records instead – since the US EMI equivalent, Capitol Records, had passed on the chance to sign the band (a facsimile of the rejection letter having most recently been one of the items of ephemera in the 2021 ‘77-81’ boxed set). So, there was inevitably some leeway for Warner Brothers and their take on how the band’s releases should work – this EP (which isn’t actually called ‘Yellow’, though that has become its unofficially official title these days, not least on CD re-issues). Additionally, when it comes to the music, this EP is not quite as straightforward as its cover credits might indicate. Read the rest of this entry »

Siouxsie and the Banshees – ‘Tinderbox’ UK CD and vinyl re-issues – and album timeline

November 21st, 2021

There’s never a shortage of opinion online about Siouxsie and the Banshees and their work. I’m not one to dive in to it all, but one thing I would pipe up for is ‘Tinderbox’, a personal favourite of mine. I always feel that this album is likely the last Banshees LP to be based on the template that had held sway from ‘The Scream’ onwards and John McKay’s unmistakable and original style. It feels as if a distinct guitar style was passed baton-like from Smith to McGeogh and Carruthers over the preceding albums, but after ‘Tinderbox’, some major surgery would be carried out on the Banshee’s DNA. A re-focus on shifting the guitar element into either a more abstract noise-merchantry role or a supporting role in tandem with the widening emergence of keyboards as the foundation of the sound.

'Tinderbox' 1986 UK LP front cover

^ ‘Tinderbox’ 1986 UK LP front cover

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Duet Emmo – ‘Or So It Seems’ UK 12″ (Mute, MUTE 025, 1983) / French 7″ (Mute/Vogue, VG 108 / 101835, 1983)

November 14th, 2021

This was such a surprising release, completely out of the blue. With three albums already under the project monicker of Dome, an album (‘3R4’) and single (‘Ends With The Sea’) as B.C. Gilbert & G. Lewis, 12″ EP under the name Cupol and the B.C. Gilbert/G. Lewis/Russell Mills exhibition installation soundtrack (‘MZUI’) – evidence witnessed the ex-Wire pair follow a particular sonic path that mostly found its music fashioned from manipulated sound sources – Blackwing studio as instrument in particular – with vocals mostly (but not exclusively) provided by Graham Lewis. Despite the then fairly common default assumption that anything that sounded unusual must be done on ‘synthesizers’, rarely were there much in the way of traditional keyboards and synths to be found on their releases. This release was quite the exception however, no doubt due to the presence of Daniel Miller amongst the ranks.

Duet Emmo 'Or So It Seems' UK 12" single front cover

^ Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ UK 12″ single front cover

The A side is quite the minimal synth track – building slowly from odd keyboard/synth sequences, the Mute Records house style is there to hear, with the unmistakable vocals of Graham Lewis in particularly fine form on top. It is melodic, make no mistake about it – incredibly so compared to much of the preceding, often stark, output since 1980 by Gilbert and Lewis, where you would have little clue as to quite what instrument or sound source was made to produce what you were hearing. Despite the sweetness in melody and vocals, plenty of more discordant elements were still to be found, particularly the track’s intro section and later saxophone. Read the rest of this entry »

Button Badge Goodness: The Police (Part 1)

November 7th, 2021

Over a few posts, here are a few button badges from back in the day – these are all of 1979/80/81 vintage as collected by my younger brother at the time, who was quite The Police fan, also tracking down a good many tasty foreign picture sleeve variations and coloured vinyls – what band they were for that!

The Police - button badge selection A

^ The Police – button badge selection A

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Side by side: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Electricity (FAC 6)

October 28th, 2021

The impossibly stylish sleeve design to the debut single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, ‘Electricity’, was an opening statement of intent by Factory Records, one so unusual to produce that it set the production presses on fire, with the result that the intended press run was left incomplete, apparently. It’s thermographed print was at one time de rigueur for stylish business cards – though black-on-black print as found here was perhaps a little more unusual. Whatever, this release in its original form has been a much sought after item and one you wouldn’t have imagined seeing again in its original form. However, 2019 saw the release of a boxed set of facsimile recreations of the first ten Factory Records artefacts to commemorate 40 years of the label, ‘Use Hearing Protection – Factory Records 1978-1979’ by Rhino Records. Let’s look at the original and recreation side by side…

The 1979 original

The beautifully minimal original cover – it has survived 42 years in good shape now. My copy of the vinyl is OK, hardly blemish free – also, it is a mis-press as it has the side A label on the B side too. Ooops! As for the music… famously, despite having re-recorded both songs at Cargo Studios with Martin ‘Zero’ Hannett as producer, the band insisted that their original somewhat low-fi and wonky version (recorded on the Winston 4-track recorder and produced by the band and then manager Paul Collister (aka Chester Valentino) in the latter’s garage, christened ‘Henry’s’),  was used for the A side. But Tony Wilson insisted that the lush re-recording of ‘Almost’ was used on the B side.

This original ‘Electricity’ as released on Factory FAC 6 can be found on CD in the unlikely source of the ‘Peel Sessions 1979-1983’ CD released back in 2000. Meanwhile, ‘Almost (Hannett/Cargo Studios Version)’ can be found on the 2003 CD re-issue of the band’s debut album.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Electricity (FAC 6) 1979 original - front cover

^ Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Electricity (FAC 6) 1979 original – front cover

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