Pete Paphides never stopped dreaming of owning Ian Broudie’s 2004 solo album on vinyl. His new label, Needle Mythology is re-releasing the “Tales Told” album after fifteen years of hurt…
Big In Japan form in Liverpool in 1977 at the height of punk, featuring a lead singer, Jayne Casey, who performs with a lampshade on her head.
They meet at the strangely named Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun where Jayne acts in a lead role (without lamp shade) in Illuminatus – a science fiction-themed stage play lasting 24 hours.
As if Liverpool hadn’t suffered enough.
Bill, on set design, and his friends Phil and Kevin form a band. Ian, who played guitar in the Illuminatus production, joins and is followed by Jayne and her friend Holly.
Are you taking notes?
Having formed the band, they record seven songs in two years and split up.
Their biggest setback, aside from a lack of success, is when Julian Cope starts a petition in Liverpool’s infamous Probe Record shop asking them to split up.
Of course, Big in Japan never even release any music in Japan. They are not so much *not* big in Japan, as Entirely Unknown in Japan.
So far, so punk.
Alphaville took the idea and ran with it seven years later, but at this point all we have is another mediocre band singularly hopeless at recording anything that might resemble a number one single.
What makes Big In Japan worthy of note therefore is what the members of the band do next. Because the majority of them will go to number one in the charts.
There’s Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford. They will form Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and in 1984 will have three consecutive number one singles.
Pete Burns will work at Probe Records, be rude to everybody and then get to number one in the charts spinning right round as Dead Or Alive.
Bill Drummond. He’ll start the Food record label and record the debut singles by The Teardrop Explodes and Echo & The Bunnymen, then get to number one in the charts on his own with The Timelords and the KLF and will even write a book about how to get to number one. Then, he’ll burn a million pounds in cash in the name of art. What a guy!
Which goes to show you can be, on the face of it, in a distinctly average band and later in your career, still make some incredible music. Your best work may yet be ahead of you.
This, if nothing else, ought to give succour to members of the Pigeon Detectives.
The final number-one-scoring former member of Big in Japan to mention is Ian Broudie.
A Liverpudlian through and through, (born in Penny Lane), Broudie knew of a photographic gallery called Open Eye, funded by the Arts Council, that contained a small recording studio where unemployed people could make recordings.
(You have to hand it to the seventies. It might have been grim, but they still had recording studios for the unemployed in Liverpool).
Broudie began recording acts, including the aforementioned Echo and the Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes, on his friend Bill Drummond’s Food record label.
After producing Icicle Works and The Fall, Broudie wanted to have another bash at pop success under the name of The Lightning Seeds. It was 1989.
The rest is history. Melancholy but uplifting singles such as “Pure”, “Change”, “Lucky You” and “The Life of Riley”. Number one albums, a regular slot on Match of the Day’s background music (fee payable: £1.40 per episode) and, with Three Lions, England’s best footie anthem, and the song that took him to that number one slot, twice.
He went on to produce Sleeper, Dodgy, The Coral and The Zutons and in 2004 made a solo album called Tales Told.
This latter album didn’t hit number one, and was a more gentle, acoustic recording compared to the indie sheen of The Lightning Seeds, featuring members of The Coral and a Zuton or two.
Many of the songs were first takes:
“I think it’s fresh because it’s the first time they are ever performed. They were all done pretty quickly” he said at the time.
“Tales Told” is an album that stands out in Ian Broudie’s oeuvre as it was written at a difficult time in his life – during a divorce – and so it contrasts with The Lightning Seeds’ tendency towards optimism. Broudie’s writing has always had a sadness to it (even “Three Lions” is about how it’s the hope that kills you when supporting your team) but in “Tales Told” there is a rawness that The Lightning Seeds might have polished away, and an acceptance of circumstances not going your way.
The album was never released on vinyl, much to the chagrin of the next person in our story, the music journalist Pete Paphides.
Pete resolved to set up a record label that would specialise in albums that hadn’t had a vinyl release, or which were now unavailable on the format. In other words, release the albums Pete wanted to hear on the format he wanted to hear them.
The label is called Needle Mythology, and its first two releases – on CD as well as vinyl – are Ian Broudie’s “Tales Told” and Stephen Duffy’s 1997 album “I Love My Friends”.
(Stephen Duffy deserves an entirely separate article, but in the interests of time let’s reduce his career to “founded Duran Duran, had a hit with “Kiss Me”, released some truly great albums as The Lilac Time, then co-wrote one of Robbie Williams’ better LPs, oh and his solo work is great”).
The albums are released on 10th May, and can be pre-ordered via the SDE website via this link – which also provides further details of the story behind the Needle Mythology label and the two releases. You can also find a limited run of signed copies from this source.
Alternatively, if you like to support independent record stores, there are signing events planned in London where you may be able to strong-arm Broudie and Duffy into a personalised signing (sign up to Pete Paphides’ and the Needle Mythology Twitter accounts to get a heads-up) You can also pre-order copies at Resident Music and Rough Trade.
I asked Pete about why Ian Broudie’s “Tales Told” album remains under the radar despite all the mainstream success he had…
“In commercial terms, Tales Told was never going to compete with anything that Ian Broudie put out in the mid-90s, but you don’t make a record like that with the intention of having hits.
It’s an album of simple songs about complicated emotions written and recorded by someone who had undergone some massive life changes. The Lightning Seeds had gone to ground and Ian had separated from his wife. So, it’s the sound of someone feeling somewhat punch-drunk in emotional terms.
I don’t think Ian even knew what he was going to do with the songs when he was writing them. He was up in Liverpool, producing early sessions by The Coral and The Zutons and getting them to play on some of his new compositions, purely on an ad hoc basis. Some of the songs are just Ian on his own, and on these you get to hear what a brilliant acoustic guitarist he is.
You can also hear Liverpool soaked into these songs, in the same way that you can hear it on records by The Pale Fountains and Shack (both of whom he produced) and The La’s.
When Tales Told came out in 2004, it was pretty far removed from Ian’s “brand”. But, actually, songs like Lipstick and Song For No-One aren’t so far removed from Lightning Seeds songs like Pure and Change – the latter two are desperately willing a perfect moment to last forever; the former two show you what happens when real life lays waste to that romantic idealism.”
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