Morgan Howell’s exhibition of super-sized 7″ singles in Snap Galleries captures the magic of old 45s in a unique way. He cleverly recognises there is something quite perfect about having one song on one side of a record. It becomes the focus of attention.
My brother in law just cleared out his loft and found a big bundle of fifty or so 7″ singles. “Would you like them?” he asked, with a tired, all-or-nothing air of a man strongly debating whether it wouldn’t just be easier to throw them into a skip. I was hardly going to allow any skip-throwing to take place without a quick sift-through, so I agreed to take on the burden. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it…
You can quickly built up a picture of someone’s life from their single collection. There are the early, childhood novelty singles: The Wurzels‘ pastiche of “Una Paloma Blanca“, ” I Am A Cider Drinker”, a QPR single “We’re Going Up” which is highly embarrassing for an Arsenal season ticket holder to admit to having (presumably the following year’s song was “We’re going back down”), and both Scottish and English football team singles which do little but confirm that no matter how useless both sides are at football, there will always be something they are worse at.
Then some classic pop singles (ABBA, John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, Adam Ant, Shakin’ Stevens, Right Said Fred, and Bananarama) which no
home skip should be without.
Finally, there’s the serious stuff. The boy becomes a teenager. Buys coloured, limited edition vinyl to assert cache of “cool” with peers. In this case, it has to be said, of indie bands I have never heard of, mixed with a few I had, but whose catalogue I wasn’t familiar with.
So what else could I do? I decided, over the course of a few evenings, to play these singles and perhaps make some new discoveries beyond a) that there wasn’t half some turgid indie pop made in 1991 and b) like their cider, The Wurzels’ music hasn’t improved with age.
Many of the records were from the start of the 1990’s. A couple were familiar and very welcome additions to my collection – Primal Scream’s Dixie Narco EP from the Screamadelica era was a highlight as was Manic Street Preachers’ “You Love Us” (sadly not the rare Heavenly Records version but the later Columbia label version).
All good, but I wanted to discover something new. I took five records at random, stacked them like musical vertebrae five-deep over the spindle of my old Steepletone record player and secured that L-shaped plastic arm over the top. I like playing singles on a stacking record player. Very mechanical it is. The whole process is the sixties equivalent of a shuffle button.
After a couple of fairly dismal tunes (an instrumental Depeche Mode b-side was particularly turgid), World of Twist’s Rolling Stones cover “She’s A Rainbow” was welcome. Not Earth-shattering, but fun, and an unlikely cover version. Mega City Four, Lush and Mudhoney kept things moving, but what made the while thing worthwhile was hearing Jesus and Mary Chain‘s “Far Gone And Out” which turned out not only to be a belter of a tune, but was also the very first Jesus and Mary Chain song I have ever heard. Yes, I know. Remiss of me to say the least, but I had them pegged as a band that, when I was at school, was only liked by weird looking types who looked like Noel Fielding (I include both sexes), wore mainly black, too much eyeliner, avoided eye contact and smoked cigarettes in the furthest end of the playground. That’s right: Teachers.
Sorry, no – I mean Goths.
I have to say it was quite a revelation. I did more truffling of their back catalogue later, and after listening to “Reverence”, suddenly Black Rebel Motorcycle Club didn’t quite seem the innovative pioneers of experimental sound I had always assumed them to be. That’s a joke, by the way.
Jesus and Mary Chain hail from East Kilbride in Scotland and was the brain child of two brothers, William and Jim Reid. They combined simple pop songs (see the Velvet Underground) with fuzzed up guitars and were signed by Alan McGee of Creation Records. One of their alumni is Bobby Gillespie, who went on to form Primal Scream.
I’m a bit late to the Jesus and Mary Chain party. Indeed, I am someone-clearing-out-their-loft late. But sometimes it’s better late than never. Perhaps I’ll drop a line to the Reid brothers to apologise. In the meantime, I have a lot of catching up to do…
Record #227: Jesus and Mary Chain – Far Gone And Out
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