Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Teenage Wildlife

Rooting through a box of records at a car boot sale in May last year I enquired as to their price, only to be told by the very nice lady seller that they were "Two pound for the big 'uns, a pound for the little ones".  I bought two "big 'uns", the first of which was Reproduction, the debut album by The Human League.

The Human League - Reproduction (1979)

Reproduction came out in 1979, before Martyn Ware and Ian Marsh split to eventually form Heaven 17, and pre-dating the addition of vocalists Susan Ann Sulley and Jo Catherall.  It's an austere album with equally bleak song titles e.g. Circus Of Death, State Human, Blind Youth, the latter containing the dreadful couplet,

"Dehumanisation is such a long word,
It's been around since Richard the third".

Yikes!  The mood is overwhelmingly dystopian, with themes of fear, isolation, frustration and disappointment explored.  Although dark in tone there's sufficient melody, and it ends with the restrained minimalism and sweet bleeps of Morale... You've Lost That Loving Feeling, a deadpan but surprisingly effective cover version.

Reproduction didn't chart on release but climbed to no. 32 when reissued in August 1982 on the back of singles The Sound Of The Crowd and Love Action from the upcoming Dare. 1980's Travelogue also returned to the album chart.

The second big 'un, also two pounds, was released the following year:

David Bowie - Scary Monsters..... And Super Creeps (1980)

Scary Monsters..... And Super Creeps returned David Bowie to the charts in 1980, following the critically lauded but relative commercial failure of the Berlin trilogy.  The phrase "his best since Scary Monsters" has been trotted out in reviews of his albums ever since, probably for good reason, as it's pretty blimming great.

It opens with the sound of a film projector, a "one-two, one-two-two", then the voice of Michi Hirota speaking Japanese, the English translation of which Bowie shrieks back at her; "Silhouettes and shadows, watch the revolution, no more free steps to heaven, it's no game".  What follows is a dense art rock, glam-pop revolution, shot through with astringent percussion and Robert Fripp's squawking guitar.  Bowie's past is referenced time and again; Scream Like A Baby features Laughing Gnome vocals, Major Tom makes his return in Ashes To Ashes, and the intro to Panic In Detroit also returns during Up The Hill Backwards - but backwards!

Side 1 is ridiculously good, so the second half was always going to be a let down, however accomplished.  The weakest link is a cover of Tom Verlaine's Kingdom Come, but by any other standard Side 2 is still excellent overall.  Teenage Wildlife, with its dig at the new wave movement set to a "Heroes"-echoing backdrop, encapsulates the way in which Bowie uses his past to reflect on the present.  His first broadcast of the new decade concludes with an exhausted reprise of It's No Game featuring Pete Townsend on guitar and ending with the sound of the projector's tape cascading noisily onto the floor.

During another May car boot sale last year I picked up a few records from a stall selling them at 3-for-£5, always a good way of shifting stock quickly.  One of those in the stack I bought was True Jit by Zimbabwean group Bhundu Boys.

Bhundu Boys - True Jit (1987)

Now signed to Warner Bros, this was their first major label release following a pair of albums on Discafrique Records.  It was seen as a departure from their original sound, with lyrics in English as well as their native Shona, plus the incorporation of more Western-sounding production.  The follow-up Pamberi was even less well received and then a series of terrible disasters befell the group, including the deaths of three members from AIDS-related illness.

I can't comment on their earlier work, but I really like this album; its ringing guitars, infectious polyrhythms and cheery brass make for great summer listening, whether or not they in fact constitute true jit.

I've been building up my 70s Elton John collection over the past year, and I bought Rock Of The Westies a few months ago for £1.

Elton John - Rock Of The Westies (1975)

This was Elt's 10th album and his last studio release on Dick James Records (and MCA in the US) before joining his own label Rocket Man Records the following year in time for the release of Blue Moves.  It reached no.1 in the US, as did lead single Island Girl.  The inner sleeve sports amusing bios of all eight band members, including Caleb Quaye, half-brother of Finley.

Inner sleeve

Elton's reads,

"A boring little musician who has risen to fame without the aid of payola.  He only has four chords ('People' Magazine) and he is prone to getting fat at Christmas.  Supports Watford (H-E-L-P!)."

Inner sleeve

The album is a rockular affair with just two ballads, and some sterling riffs and solos from guitarists Quaye and Davey Johnstone.  It isn't as tight or as driven as Captain Fantasic, and must have come as a bit of a letdown after its immense predecessor, but considering it arrived just five months later this can be forgiven.  In any case it's a decent addition to his 70s canon, and very much worth having.

At a car boot last month I found a very nice crop of 1970s albums, all in lovely condition and reasonably priced.  One of them was Derek and the Dominos In Concert, and it cost £3.

Derek and the Dominos In Concert (1973)

This double LP was recorded over two nights at New York's Fillmore East in 1970, and consists of long jams and shorter cuts (not that short, though - the briefest is Presence of the Lord at 6:10) ranging from energetic, soulful, and dare I say it even funky R&B, to Clapton's familiar slow blues rock.  The powerful rhythm section of Carl Radle on drums and Jim Gordon on bass drive things along, with Clapton's thankfully widdle-free guitar supported by Bobby Whitlock's invigorating playing on piano and Hammond (I do love an organ).  It may be an Allman-free zone, but I'm thankful it's also free from the over-familiar Layla.  Be warned, though, there's a veeeeeeery extensive drum solo on Let It Rain, but despite this, the 17 minute long version remains astonishingly good.  Six of the nine tracks were later included on 1994's Live At The Fillmore, along with four other recordings.

I'll end with a record I bought last summer for a pound, Tamala Meets Tijuana by the Tequila Brass:

The Tequila Brass - Tamla Meets Tijuana (1971)

When Tamla met Tijuana they seemed to get on quite well, as this Music For Pleasure recording by the usual anonymous session musicians isn't half as bad as I'd hoped feared.   Despite the tacky cover it's one of the more restrained examples of the genre, beginning with a very smooth How Sweet It Is and an equally Easy Tracks of My Tears.  The version of My Guy is more comical with a 70s sitcom theme kind of vibe, and The Happening, which opens Side 2, is a great fit for the Tijuana treatment.  Not so Dancing In The Street, which due to the nightmarish arrangement doesn't sit happily at all, but luckily it's followed by another Supremes winner Stop In The Name Of Love, which works really well within the format.

The album can be found for mere pence on Discogs, and if you've a taste for Tijuana or a penchant for parping, this groovesome disc belongs in your collection, filed under 'C' for cheese.

The sleeve notes boast of Tamla Meets Tijuana, "A more exciting combination would surely be difficult to find".  They've obviously never heard the Torero Band's Tijuana Nursery Rhymes.

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