Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn have been the First Couple of Indie for as long as there has been such a thing as Indie, and a lot of us have become adults along with them. The thing I like about these two photos is that you don’t have to have had a successful music career (or still be with your college girlfriend/boyfriend) to relate to the story they tell.
I was a student just a couple of years later than they were and looked the same as they do on the left: the second-hand clothes, the cheap haircut, the white socks. Living in cold rooms and eating tinned food, drinking litre bottles of cheap cider at parties, evenings in the pub putting the world to rights while sinking pints and filling ashtrays. You’re awkward and unsure of yourself, but the freedom of living away from home for the first time widens your horizons and you start to become the person you’re going to be when you grow up.
Then you leave college and take those first steps into the big wide world. If you’re lucky you get a job and have some money in the bank (or an overdraft and credit card bills if you’re me). Your clothes and haircuts get better, you appreciate good food and stop looking like you live on a diet of cold baked beans and roll-ups. Increasing experience and responsibility over the years means you’re no longer a callow amateur but a professional and an adult.
The photos are also a good illustration of the musical trip Ben and Tracey have taken, from fragile acoustic Indiepop to sophisticated electronic club music — the clothes got better there too.
If you’re wondering why presenter David Hepworth found The Pale Fountains’ taste in music so surprising, in those post-punk years it was considered quite a radical act for a young band to be into John Barry and Simon & Garfunkel — they called it the “quiet pop” movement.
Clips of The Fountains (I’ve never called them The Paleys) are quite rare so I’m well chuffed to have found this.
I say this a lot about my old singles but this time I’m pretty sure I am the only one who bought this.
Skat were better known by their previous name The Chefs (and for their lead singer Helen McCookerybook), a short-lived but influential indie band very popular with John Peel. I don’t know why they changed their name to Skat, but they only ever released this one single under that name in 1982 and then split up soon afterwards which probably wasn’t the desired effect.
It’s a fairly straight cover of the Velvet Underground song but it has a nice jangly “indie” sound, a style that The Chefs helped to invent.
Orange Juice’s early Postcard records are rightly held in reverence but their later work gets a little overlooked as a result. Personally my favourite album of theirs is Texas Fever and I remember there being a bit of Dylan-going-electric purist snobbery about them signing to a big label and sounding more polished — like they could keep doing that kind of amateurish jangly indie forever. “Polished” is a relative term of course, their records always sounded a bit off-kilter no matter how many new chords and grooves they learned.
One time I saw them live Edwyn Collins jokingly introduced “Rip It Up” as “our one-hit wonder” and their final single “Lean Period” from 1984 wasn’t a hit either like 99% of their others, but it’s a bouncy and catchy number that should have done better even if it maybe isn’t one of their greatest. I still like it a lot though, a typically snarky Collins love song (and maybe even a sly commentary on his own critical reputation) here given a nice dubby remix by Dennis Bovell in this 12″ version which isn’t easily available anywhere far as I can tell.
Had another stroll down 45 memory lane the other day and pulled this plum out of the singles box. You probably all know the a-side “Plain Sailing” from her 1982 student-bedsit classic album A Distant Shore, but it was the other side I loved more. “Goodbye Joe” is a cover of a Monochrome Set song and is a beautiful little gem of a track. Those were the days when you were more likely than not to find such hidden treasure on the other side of a single. We got our money’s worth back then.
I have posted this track before but I think it was long enough ago — eight years! — to warrant doing it again. Another reason is it’s only available on a rather expensive Cherry Red boxset which is a shame. Such beauty shouldn’t be so rare.
For such a tiny country Scotland has produced a lot of great bands, particularly of the indie kind, and Honeyblood are the latest addition to that long line. The Glaswegian duo of Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar play a more crunchy, alt-90s version of the classic jangly-guitar sound associated with Scottish indie bands but with plenty of the same wit and skill with catchy hooks.
I’m a bit behind the curve with them because this track came out last year along with their self-titled debut album, but better late than never because they’re terrific and so is the album. Highly recommended.
It’s Thanksgiving here in American today. It took me years to get used to having a festive roast turkey dinner in November instead of December but now I like having the extra holiday which makes up for the fact that most Americans only get one day off for Christmas.
I will, however, never get used to the fact that they have their big holiday meal with mashed potatoes instead of roast. I love mash but I always associate it with after-school tea when I was a kid (usually with sausages or fish fingers), and it just doesn’t seem special enough to serve with a roast bird, stuffing, gravy etc. Times like this I think I will always be a stranger in this country no matter how long I live here.
Anyway, happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers. Why not give roast potatoes a try this year?
I posted this song before many years ago but it’s great enough for a repeat.