Northside: My Rising Star


Factory 1990.  FAC298


Everything Starts With An A has had an absolute frenzy lately of posting Factory stuff, so here’s a modest contribution to the project from me.

Northside were very much part of the Madchester baggy thing which was all good fun when I was a student, although quite a departure from Factory’s more usual arty output.  They seem to have been mostly forgotten about, but this single still stands up well I think.

A Certain Ratio: Sextet


Factory 1982.  FACT55


I’m slightly too young to have got into ACR when they were at their peak.  Or maybe I just wasn’t cool enough as a teenager.  Whatever the reason, this is the only ACR I have, and “Hint” requested it, so here goes.

I guess you could call this album indiefunk.  They have two very proficient bass players and some imaginative percussion, but they don’t quite leave behind their post-punk roots, so they end up with an effective combination of two styles you’d think should be kept apart.  Having said that, it’s very much of it’s time, but for me that adds to its appeal.  There are elements of jazz here, as there so often is in funk (someone’s been listening to Miles I think) and some latin percussion here and there.  It’s eclectic, innovative and very well played.

For more ACR, Everything Starts With An A is the place to go.  He’s far more knowledgeable about the band than I am, and has posted a lot more (although not this album).

Thick Pigeon: Too Crazy Cowboys


Factory 1984.  FACT 85


This album is something of a forgotten chapter in the history of Factory.  It was the band’s only album, although there were also a handful of singles.  Label aside, this release has a few claims to fame: firstly Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris, half of New Order play on the album, composer Carter Burwell went on to score all the Coen Brothers films, while the singer, Stanton Miranda worked with Kim Gordon pre Sonic Youth and appeared in Silence Of The Lambs among other well known films.

On to the music.  Well, it’s 80s synthpop, but there’s rather more too it than that, as you’d expect from its provenance.  The New Order sound is obvious in places, and the genre is taken somewhere which is by turns avant garde and really quite dark.  It’s very much of its time, but I think the artistic merit of the album shines through anyway

Steve Martland: Steve Martland


Factory 1989. FACD266


I noticed this morning that the composer Steve Martland died last week aged 53 of a heart attack which saddened me.  His first album is unavailable, so I thought I’d post it as a belated tribute.

It was released as part of a short lived Factory project to release classical music, aiming to appeal to a new audience.  I wanted to hate it, after all, what the hell did Tony Wilson know about classical music?  Fancy packaging and marketing with no substance I thought.  It turns out I was only partly wrong.  I don’t think Wilson did know much about classical music, and often the inane sleeve notes emphasised the point.  He even managed to spell Erik Satie wrong on the cover of one.  However, knowledgable or not, he certainly had an ear for it, and the series, which I eventually ended up buying most of for buttons second hand was consistently good.

I’m not sure Wilson really succeeded in bringing this music to a new audience – they didn’t sell well, but it kind of worked with me.  I was already receptive to this stuff, but not knowledgeable enough to know what to buy – this series gave me a reason to jump in.

The style of the release was new, at least for the genre, with Martland looking like a cross between a gay pinup (don’t know whether he actually was gay) and a guitarist from an Indie band.  It made a change from the usual dour looking classical releases, but whether it helped sell them I’m less sure.  It may well have put off more people than it attracted.

This CD isn’t a particularly easy listen, but it is worth the effort, especially Babi Yar, the piece he’s perhaps best known for.  It’s loud and discordant but has an energy which draws you in.  Although it’s played by an orchestra, to me it has more in common with the far reaches of jazz.  Whatever, it makes for a worthwhile listen, although it’s hopeless as background sound.  Listen to it properly or don’t bother.

RIP Steve.

Morrissey and The Durutti Column: I Know Very Well How I Got My Note Wrong


A very peculiar release, this one.  It came free with the first UK pressing of The Durutti Column’s 1989 album Vini Reilly, both on a 3″ CD and 7″ vinyl.

The Vincent Gerard and Steven Patrick on the cover are of course Vini Reilly and Morrissey, and the single track is an out-take from Morrissey’s first solo album, Viva Hate.  The single track, I Know Very Well How I Got My Note Wrong is a version of the Morrissey track I Know Very Well How I got My Name which appeared not on Viva Hate but on his first single Suedehead.

The track itself is beautiful.  As a song it’s a highlight of Morrissey’s solo career and Vini Reilly’s guitar work is, as always, amazing.   It lasts for around 90 seconds before Reilly hits a bum note and both laugh.  It’s a shame the track was never completed in this form; it works much better than the Suedehead version.

Vini Reilly has fallen on hard times lately.  He’s always suffered from poor health which has deteriorated with age, and he’s fallen victim to the gross injustices of the UK’s disability living allowance system.  It reached a point where he was in danger of losing his home, but fortunately (inaccurate) publicity around his plight prompted fans to step in and donate money to clear his debts.  As The Guardian pointed out at the time, that a musician as important to Britain’s musical heritage as this should be reduced to such a state shows how little art is valued.  More details of this story are on Reilly’s web site.

If you want to listen to more Durutti Column music, and you should, of course Vini Reilly is the obvious companion to this post and is a favourite of mine.  It’s available in an expanded double format (although without the track presented here) from his web site. The usual recommended starting point though for his work is 1982’s LC, and absolute classic which everyone should own. However, like much of Reilly’s sprawling and neglected back catalogue, it’s out of print. It’s not hard to find second hand copies from the usual places.

Morrissey? Well the completed version of I Know Very Well is most easily found on the remarkably cheap triple HMV Singles compilation, and Viva Hate is widely available.  Of course his best work was with The Smiths, whose work is now much more appealing since the Johnny Marr approved re-issues superceded the appalling sounding WEA versions.