I Have Twelve Inches

I could have sworn I’d posted this track before but it appears I haven’t so here it is, one of the best singles of the 1980s. A lot of you will know this well but lots won’t as it wasn’t a chart hit.

Working Week were part of a whole wave of early 80s bands influenced by Jazz and Bossa like the Style Council, Sade, and Everything But The Girl — a trend they helped start as former members of Weekend. For a time Jazz was the trendy thing among London scenesters, centered on the Jazz Room at the Electric Ballroom in Camden whose dancers are featured in the video of this track. I remember clubs back then playing Art Blakey and Astrud Gilberto while girls were dressing like they just stepped out of a French New Wave film, but I don’t know how much of a big deal it was outside of London.

Usually the “Jazz” influence on these bands went no deeper than a smoky saxophone and shuffling beat, but Working Week were more serious about the genre than the rest as shown on their 1984 debut single “Venceremos (We Will Win)” which was made to raise money for the Chile Solidarity campaign protesting the regime of Pinochet in that country.

There was a lovely 7″ “Bossa” version of the song but the real action was in this 10-minute “Jazz Dance” edition. Starting with melancholy vocals by Robert Wyatt and Tracey Thorn it segues into a passionate turn in Spanish by Claudia Figueroa (who doesn’t appear to have done anything else), then it’s off to the races with fiery solos by Larry Stabbings and Harry Beckett. It still sounds dazzling today.

Download: Venceremos (12″ version) – Working Week (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

I had a mate at school who was an absolute Slade fanatic and claimed to have seen Flame 13 times. He used to tell me what a great (and loud) live band they were and watching this I believe him.

Runaround now!

I loved this show so much when I was young, mostly for the way Mike Reid took the piss out of the kids. I remember him asking one if he got his hair cut at Sainsbury’s.

Lots of stamp collectors in this bunch. Bless.

This is one of the best singles by The Cardigans, from their 1998 album Gran Turismo.

Download: My Favourite Game – The Cardigans (mp3)

Auto Eroticism

Unlike a lot of men I’m not really a car person. Living in London I didn’t need to drive and didn’t learn how until I was 30 and had moved to Florida where you have to if you want any sort of life. As a result I don’t really equate them with freedom or girls like in the Springsteen songs and see them mostly as things to get you from A to B. Not that I don’t appreciate a beauty of a classic car like an E-type or Mustang (and wouldn’t say no to owning one), but I don’t get erotically aroused by them like the bloke in Queen’s “I’m In Love With My Car”.

There are a lot of pop and rock songs about cars but few make them as blatantly sexual as this. Written by drummer Roger Taylor, it’s hysterically over the top but there’s something gloriously ecstatic about it that I’ve always loved. With its lines about “pistons a pumpin'” and “my hand on your grease gun” it’s almost, um, Ballardian in its erotic fetishization of cars.

I first heard this when it was the b-side of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and kids at school would sing “I’m In Love With My Bike” to it. We knew all the girls loved a nice Chopper.

Download: I’m In Love With My Car – Queen (mp3)

I Love Your Live Action

If it’s Tuesday it must be another concert at The Sinclair in Harvard Square (best venue in the Boston area). This time it was Angel Olsen whose stagecraft has come on in leaps and bounds since I last saw her two years ago. Her six-piece band were all in sharp suits, the lighting was dramatic and thought-out, and Angel herself seemed more like a genuine rock star than the simple girl-with-guitar she was before.

Not only were the band dapper but they were a crack unit, especially on the rockin’ numbers where having three guitars gave them real power. They played an absolutely ferocious version of “Shut Up Kiss Me” that was one of the best performances of a song I’ve heard in years. Add that extraordinary voice of hers on top and you’ve got quite the live powerhouse.

My only gripe was being a little frustrated by the pacing of the show. She started and finished with uptempo numbers and in between was a lot of ballads. Not that these weren’t great but so many in a row can be a drag and leave your feet itching for something to tap to. Storming rockers like “High Five” gave the crowd such a buzz I was dying for her to play another one, especially as she has a band that can really tear the roof off. But any misgivings I had were blown away by the encore, a stunning one-two punch of “Intern” and “Woman” with Angel playing synth against moody lighting, and the band building to an intense crescendo which the ended the show on a massive high.

As you can see from the terrible photo up top I didn’t have a great view (the place was packed) so I didn’t shoot any video again. This is from a few nights before in New York. Heart-stopping stuff.

Something for the Weekend

I love the Small Faces but I’d forgotten that they reformed for a few years in the 1970s. The quality of this video is pretty bad but it’s still well worth watching. Steve Marriott is in fine voice and is such a cool dude he even looks good with that hair and mustache.

Lucky Dip

This was The Bangles’ follow-up single to “Manic Monday” but it was only a minor hit. One of my favourite records of theirs though.

Download: If She Knew What She Wants – The Bangles (mp3)

Photo: Julie Christie by Michael Ward, 1963.

I Love Your Live Action

I went to see Sleigh Bells for the first time last week. I knew it would be an intense and VERY LOUD affair so I  planned to enjoy the show from a distance, well away from what I imagined would be a mad crush at the front churned up by their eardrum-battering guitars and sledgehammer beats. As they say in the movies, I’m too old for that shit.

That was the plan anyway. Instead I found myself drawn to the front by the sonic and physical energy of the band which sucked me in like a vortex. The main generator of that energy was dynamo lead singer Alexis Krauss who threw herself around the stage like a possessed doll and was one of the best I’ve ever seen at getting an audience revved up and involved in the performance. Cooly observing from the back wasn’t an option and I happily joined the mass of sweaty bodies rocking their socks off near the front.

Sleigh Bells don’t really pace their show, they start at 100mph and keep the pedal floored the whole way, with guitars dive-bombing and programmed drum beats punching through walls. Add to the mix the disorientating strobe light they use and it’s quite the sensory experience, like being hit by waves of white noise and light. Hard to pick a highlight when it was all so much of a singular assault, but I did have a good fist-pump to “Minnie” and enjoyed Alexis crowd-surfing to “Crown On The Ground.”

I thought I would come out of the gig feeling old, but instead I felt invigorated. My ears were ringing for days and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

As usual I was enjoying the show too much to shoot any video myself so here’s a clip from a few nights previous in New York.

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com





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