Monday, 5 May 2014

1983 - vinyl villain

Back to some kind of normal.

For the years 1972 to 1979 music was the most important thing in the world to me. I started out like everybody else, glued to Tuesday lunchtime chart countdowns, but soon moved on - what was in the charts and on Top of the Pops was less interesting than other stuff I was finding.  It started with an exploration of early rock 'n' roll, fuelled by the the soundtrack album for That'll be the Day.  Like the David Essex character in the film I was swept away by the combination of Del Shannon and fairground lights.  The sequel, Stardust, was a similar gateway to 60s music. 

There was also a memorable fortnightly magazine (and accompanying Radio 1 programme) called Story of Pop.  One week this had a list of 100 singles you should own, then a list of fifty albums.  Sounds like a challenge!  I accepted that challenge.  Later it was the NME Book of Rock which suffered my updates, corrections and opinionated comments. I was always on the look-out for something new.  I was very open -  I would listen to anything. 

I started going to see bands. At first, for obvious reasons, I only went to see bands I liked. Then, when I was 14 I won some tickets in a Radio City competition to see Supertramp, Joan Armatrading and the Movies.  This was a very significant event in my life.  I didn't like Supertramp.  I was going to see a band that I didn't like.  It opened the floodgates.  After that I would go and see anyone.  This did mean I saw some awful bands - I'm just gonna say Wishbone Ash and Barclay James Harvest and let you draw your own conclusions.  But I started to see some great bands too.

And of course I bought NME every week.  Every week between the one with a free Monty Python flexi disc (May 1974 apparently) and sometime in the early 1980s. NME and the John Peel show were my guides.  Liverpool Empire, Mountford Hall and Eric's Club in Mathew Street became home from home to me. 

But in the early 1980s I fell out of love with pop music.  I had more important things to do - a job, a house, an everlovin' wife.  She, poor thing, was traumatised by a Bunnymen gig in Poole in 1982 - as far as I was concerned these were a bunch of lads who used to drink at the next table in Eric's; my everlovin' wife thought they (and the whole long macced audience) were from another planet.  Music faded into the background, bit by bit.  It wasn't just domesticity that made me give up music. One significant moment was a newspaper ad for a gig, possibly Eric Clapton, maybe Phil Collins, in New York.  According to the ad you could fly out on Concord, stay in a top NY hotel, see the gig and then fly back.  They were selling the whole package.  I remember thinking this ain't rock 'n' roll. Through the '80s I gave up buying records and going to gigs. I did sell a kayak to Simon le Bon.

Which brings me to this:  the second guest posting from Mr Vinyl Villain who is apparently golfing it up somewhere.  Mr VV probably never sold a kayak to Simon le Bon, neither did he fall out of love with pop music in the early 80s.  We've already heard something about his love of Postcard Records recording artists; here's his thoughts on some other sounds of 1983.

Over to the Vinyl Villain

When asked to make a guest contribution or two to this very fine series my first reaction was to go with 1979 but instead I've turned to 1983.
Back in those days, every new year began with all of the music papers highlighting 'the ones to watch' in the coming 12 months. I don't recall any of NME, Melody Maker, Sounds or Record Mirror telling us to watch out for an up-and-coming combo from Manchester. But then again, why should they when The Smiths had only thus far played one gig. History records that the meteoric rise of The Smiths caught almost everyone on the hop.
It was a friend of one of my flatmates who cottoned on first, certainly here in Glasgow. (His name, by sheer coincidence, was Steven). While others may make the claim, I know he bought the debut single, if not on the day of its release, then certainly the first day it reached shops in Glasgow - the two dates may not have been the same thanks to the incompetent way that Rough Trade arranged distributions in those days.

Steven had the advantage of a friend from Manchester who was constantly going on about The Smiths having seen them twice within a few weeks at The Hacienda and at Rafters. So when he bounced into the flat saying that this was a single that just had to be heard to be believed, we sat up and took notice. He put it on the turntable and as he did, the three of us who shared the flat looked at the sleeve in what has to be said was a fair degree of discomfort. Pictures of naked men can be conversation killers…..
The music however, was very quick to win all of us over. Even the b-side was a belting bit of indie-rock that was apparently a live recording with no overdubs which was unheard of for a band so inexperienced. It was a real 'WOW' moment in my life and indeed the lives of my flatmates. Steven played his ace card by handing all of us a cassette copies he had made of both sides of the single such was his confidence we would adore it. But other than that single (a copy of which we all bought - a rarity when most of the time we just swapped things with one another) all we had to keep us going over the ensuing summer months were precious tape recordings two Radio 1 sessions - one recorded for John Peel and the other for David 'Kid' Jensen. The wait for the official follow-up single was long and difficult.

By October 1983, which was five full months we now had a third session on cassette to tide us over. There were four new songs recorded for the John Peel show, three of which we collectively agreed were outstanding but the other was maybe the weakest sounding song so far.

So you can imagine our surprise when it was announced that the weak song was to be the next single. We really thought the band and the record label were making a serious error. The fact is, of course, the single version of 'This Charming Man' was miles removed from the Peel Session version. Within days, The Smiths were no longer an underground secret….and music for millions was never the same again.
Part 2
Channel 4 started broadcasting on Tuesday 2 November 1982 providing an 33% increase in the choice of channels available to UK viewers. Actually, that's not completely true as C4 didn't reach all transmitters for a good few months.

The first week of programmes included, on Friday 5 November, a show called The Tube.

In an an era when music on telly was chart-fodder on Top of The Pops or the odd appearance by an indie band on The Old Grey Whistle Test, this new C4 programme really felt as if it had been sent down on high from the gods. It had presenters who looked and sounded like the sort of folk who went to student unions, it had comedians whose sense of humour made young folk laugh out loud and old folk (ie the over 30s) grunt and stare in disbelief; but most of all it aired loads of great music either performed live in the Newcastle studio or via specially commissioned films and documentaries.
It was in 1983 that the programme really took off and helped launch the careers of many an act - not least Frankie Goes To Hollywood

The first appearance in the above clip I didn't see at the time of broadcast. But the second live studio clip I distinctly remember. The young lady in the black underwear at just before 6pm on a Friday night must have put an awful lot of young males off their tea….
Again, not from another planet, just the next booth at Eric's. 
Thanks VV.
Dangerous Minds recently had a Frankie flahsback.  Read more here. 

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