I’m very pleased to announce that the Frankie Goes To Hollywood box set I co-designed last year with Philip Marshall and Ian Peel for Union Square Music has just been nominated for an award in the ‘SPECIAL CATALOGUE RELEASE OF THE YEAR’ category in the AIM (Association of Independent Music) awards. We’re up against Oasis, Bjork, Imogen Heap, The Pretty Things and the Cities of Darkscorch boardgame – fingers crossed. Regardless of whether we win or not it’s also been announced the Ninja Tune HAVE won the ‘Innovator Award’ so well done Matt, Jon, Peter and everyone involved in the label.
If any of you have young children you’ll probably be familiar with Minecraft, the computer game where you can build whole worlds and adventure around without all the usual shoot ’em up, dodge the obstacles, collect the gems and battle the boss-type things (although you can do all that too if you want). It’s like virtual Lego and each self-generating land is populated by all manner of creatures who each have their own quirks. I always remark on the music when my kids are playing it, a collection of short, ambient piano pieces which remind of Satie, Eno or Budd and makes for a refreshing change from the usual repetitive manic mayhem associated with most games.
Now the soundtrack – by Daniel Rosenfeld aka C418 – has been released on vinyl and CD by Ghostly International, or the first volume has anyway – subtitled ‘Alpha’. Vinyl fiends take note: the first run of the LP (1000 copies) comes in transparent green after which is switches to black and the sleeve is a lenticular version of the graphic above. It’s available digitally for just $4 from C418‘s Bandcamp page which has previews of all tracks and the second volume, ‘Beta’, follows at some point in the future.
In the short film which debuted last week that The Vinyl Factory made about my flexi disc collection I briefly talked about Flexipop! magazine and this week’s entry is dedicated to the publication rather than any one flexi disc. Flexipop! was a unique magazine that existed in a unique time and it deserves a special mention in UK pop publishing history. From 1980 to 1983 it was independently published, created by a couple of ex-Record Mirror journalists – Barry Cain and Tim Lott – and a small team who took the bull by the horns and flew by the seat of their pants. Each monthly issue came with a free flexi disc attached to the cover (excepting later issues – more of that later).
The mag straddled many different music genres and artists and wasn’t afraid to mix and match without much of a thought for any sort of core audience. At a time when it was competing against the newly launched, ultra-cool i-D and The Face (which they lampooned), the weekly triumvirate of The NME, Melody Maker & Sounds and the bi-weekly Smash Hits, it managed to somehow occupy a spot of its own, coming on like a sleazy big brother to Smash Hits, rising from the ashes of the end of the previous decade. The Punk movement was largely dead by this time, the main bands having moved on, had chart success or split. Synth Pop, New Romantics, a Rockabilly revival, Ska, the Blitz scene, Goths and what would later become known as post-punk and new pop were the order of the day. It was still very much a music business in transition from the DIY spirit of the late 70s to the blatant commercialism that would later consume the pop charts from the mid 80 and it was those years – some of the most interesting in the 80s – that Flexipop straddled.
The magazine focused primarily on the Pop charts with an eye on the independent labels too and the gimmick of a free disc with each issue was the bait with which they sold their brand. Each disc was a new, exclusive recording as well, not something available elsewhere, which immediately appealed to fans of whoever was the featured artist that month. The discs were manufactured by Lyntone in London and many big artists of the time featured over the magazine’s three year span: Soft Cell, Toyah, The Jam, The Selector, Motorhead, The Boomtown Rats, Blondie, XTC, The Cure, Genesis, Depeche Mode… even Bucks Fizz!
The first issue I ever bought was #4 for the Adam & The Ants cover version of ‘Y.M.C.A.’ – re-imagined as ‘A.N.T.S.’ – and reading it was a shock for an 11 year old. This was probably my first encounter with a more adult style of writing, complete with swearing, as well as the seedy cartoons of mag designer Mark Manning (later to transform himself into Zodiac Mindwarp) and the violent bloodbaths that were the monthly photo story.
The mag had taken a leaf out of girl’s magazines like My Guy, Patches and Jackie and decided to run a photo story featuring assorted pop stars and friends in each issue. These gore-fests usually involved some form of torture, mutilation or bloody death in one way or another and ended up getting the magazine banned from WH Smiths stores at one stage. Aside from the photo stories they hardly ever ran the standard interview pieces, instead opting to go for more quirky, quickfire Q&A pieces (‘Lifelines’), features on childhood (‘Testament of Youth’), star’s everyday lives (‘Welcome To The Working Week’) or Top 10s and single reviews.
They also didn’t shy away from the twee either, a double page Abba spread appeared as did a pairing of Berni Nolan (of The Nolan Sisters) with Jello Biafra (The Dead Kennedys) and it was this sense of fun and irreverence that became its trademark. The ban effectively ended up killing the mag by 1983 though, halved sales, caused by the refusal of Smiths to stock it for two months, meant that the flexi had to go and a last minute re-brand with Kris Needs at the editorial helm couldn’t save the day. Their final issue featured Aleister Crowley on the cover (the interior piece was written none other that Current 93‘s David Tibet) and was dubbed issue 666 in his honour.
What was remarkable, looking back, was the access they had to the stars of the day and the situations they managed to get them into as a result. The photo stories are the biggest shock – Depeche Mode being whipped by a dominatrix for instance – but Paul Weller being gagged by Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler as well as dressing up as a mad professor are things you didn’t see elsewhere. A full page kiss between Boy George & Jon Moss in 1982? It would be over a decade before the relationship between the two was publicly acknowledged so they obviously felt at ease with the publication.
A few months back, whilst researching this piece, I found a whole site dedicated to the magazine, set up by the original team who created it. Not only is it a treasure trove of content, covers, cartoons and other assorted crap but they just released a book – imaginatively entitled ‘Flexipop! The Book’, what else? – chronicling the history of the mag and reprinting a ton of content. Best of all, it comes with a brand new flexi featuring Spandau Ballet and Marc Almond! All the images in this piece are from it and you can grab a copy right here – it’s a blast of nostalgia the likes of which we’ll not see again I can tell you, even if some of the scans are a bit ropey here and there. Also on the site is Barry Cain’s blog with a ton of interviews well worth trawling through.
Pretty much the best quality version of the animated intro from the 2 hour + The Grateful Dead Movie from 1977 I can find on the web. It was created by Gary Gutierrez who “had already apprenticed at John Korty’s Mill Valley studio as an animator of children’s films, creating and directing live action and animation for “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company,” before working on the Dead’s animated sequence. He continued working withe band on various projects of theirs, including the surreal title sequence for the CBS revival of “The Twilight Zone” television series (1985), for which (Jerry) Garcia composed the score.” *
* Info from www.nightflight.com
UPDATE: There’s a good minute of the intro in very high quality over on Vimeo on the trailer for the film.
If you haven’t been watching Rick & Morty on Adult Swim then you’re in for a treat and there’s a whole season to wade through before diving into the second. Essentially a riff on the professor and Marty McFly from Back To The Future it’s an animated, NSFW time travel adventure that always goes two steps further than you think it will.
Definitely not child-friendly in parts either and I wish these figures were real. Here’s a favourite clip from season 1 that has nothing to do with the main characters…
and a psychedelic music video from season 2…
…and a Simpsons intro cameo.
The fabulous Jane Weaver has a new digital single out in the form of ‘Mission Desire’, one of my favourite tracks from last year’s album, ‘The Silver Globe’. Check the video for it above too, featuring French cartoon Marie Mathematique which serves as a trailer of sorts to a forthcoming DVD on Finders Keepers. There will be a split 7″ arriving soon shared with another Bird artist: Cardiff’s Tender Prey.
Also just released and already on the turntable is an offshoot recording, ‘Neotantrik Globes’ – teased at the end of ‘The Amber Light’ 2xCD extended album. It’s a 1-sided LP with an ambient collage recorded live late last year by Andy Votel, Suzanne Ciani, Sean Canty and featuring Jane’s vocals and other parts from the record.
Delia Derbyshire‘s radio programmes with Barry Bermange from the mid 60s are great works of wonder, forward thinking and as relevant today as 50 years ago. Until now I was only aware of ‘The Dreams’ – an unnerving 5 part exploration of various themes people experience in dreams set to Delia’s dark ambient soundscapes. But earlier today I discovered there are actually four separate programmes, created in 1964 and ’65, on the subjects of God, The Afterlife and Growing Old.
Here is the second ‘Invention for Radio’ as the pieces are known, ‘Amor Dei: Vision of God’, a four-parter that pits believers against non-believers to show two sides of people’s perceptions of God and worship. Each is set against a minimalist soundtrack, choral and calming – an incredible work, originally created for BBC Radio 3. There’s more info on delia-derbyshire.net with links to the other inventions as well as pretty much anything else you want to know about her work.
Big News! I’ll be present at the inaugural 45 Live night at Factory in Plymouth on September 26th alongside Boca 45 and Pete Issac. You know the concept by now, all vinyl, all 45s, all night. That doesn’t just mean Hip Hop, Funk, Soul and Latin either, I’ll be chucking in plenty of Psyche, Rock, Beats, Pop, Electronica and Acid too.
The fantastic Augustine Kofie released a book out of his work in June that totally passed me by. Via ZERO+ Publishing it’s a 164 pg hardcover with 100 colour plates in an edition of 1000 and you can get it here.
Keeping with a pop group theme for August (The The were last week) here’s a flexi disc about flexi discs and Russian manned space flight with no actual music on it. Given away free with early copies of The Human League (Mk.1)‘s ‘Dignity of Labour’ 12″, it’s an untitled disc which is sometimes known as the ‘Fast flexi’ due to the label it was released on and consists of Oakey, Ware and Craig-Marsh talking in the studio with their manager about what exactly they should include on the free disc.
It’s briefly mentioned in a short film recorded at my studio the other month by The Vinyl Factory for their new series, The Enthusiast, and you can catch a glimpse of various discs from my collection that have already been featured plus a few yet to come…
(Warning, I do swear right at the start and if you want to hear the porno flexi that plays briefly in full, it’s here)
I’ve been away for the last four days at Camp Bestival with the family but it looks like biggest news of the weekend is this monster. The Rammellzee ‘Cosmic Flush’ project just gets better and better and is shaping up to be release of the year if it continues like this. Here’s the blurb: “Part 4 in Rammellzee‘s Cosmic Flush project brings together Doze Green and Edan, two heavyweights who need no introduction. Pre-orders are now live, limited to 500 copies with 250 signed print editions.”
Here’s an oddity that you don’t hear much – a rare The The track given away free as a flexi disc with the Melody Maker in 1983. ‘Dumb As Death’s Head’ is an early Matt Johnson composition and, to my knowledge, this is the only place that it was officially released. You can hear a musical link to the earlier MJ solo album, ‘Burning Blue Soul’ and similar era tracks that later turned up on B-sides like ‘Leap Into The Wind’ or ‘The Nature of Virtue’.
What makes this special is that it’s been included in some track lists for the unreleased / scrapped ‘Pornography of Despair’ album – what was to be The The’s debut LP and a forerunner to ‘Soul Mining’ – and is certainly from the same time period. The version I found on YouTube was so terrible as to be almost unlistenable so I’ve encoded it again and cleaned it up although there are odd bumps and a jump at the start but such is the nature of flexi’s. I found my copy at a car boot sale in Surrey back in the late 80s, a time when locating something as ephemeral as this was a lot harder than it is today. Not hard to find now though, there are several for sale through the magic of Discogs as I type.
(Above): Jimmy Page tries out his new Roland gear and the new 303 and 606 are released in May, 1982.
(Below): A full page illustration for a huge tech special pull out in Sounds and an ad for an electronic compilation called, ‘Machines’.
(Above) – Two ads from separate pages for a Japanese release – Sounds had a big thing for Japanese music in the early 80s and championed it where few others did. (Below)” The Sound Burger is released in April 1983.
(Above) A rare Brian Bolland image for Forbidden Planet sans the “People Like Us Shop At…” line. (Below) An even older advert when FP was in Denmark St.
UPDATE: Martin Ward just sent me several snaps of original bags he still has. The one of the old man in the circle is one of my favourites, would love to have that on a T-shirt. That bottom one of Zirk for Eternal Comics may well be Garry Leach actually, not Bolland.
I was away most of the weekend and was saddened to hear of the death of Don Joyce of Negativland. As a foremost practitioner of the cut up and a campaigner for the right to sample he was one of the pioneers. I never met him but Negativland were and are one of the bedrocks of the cut up/collage/sampling genre from their records to their Over The Edge radio shows. Here’s ‘Yellow, Black & Rectangular’ from ‘Escape From Noise’.
Their ‘Helter Stupid / The Perfect Cut’ is one of my favourite cut up records and their backing of releases like Jon Oswald‘s Plunderphonics anthology is admirable. Walking past a shelf of ephemera we have in the house today I spied this little set of badges nestled amongst them, half hidden, probably included free with a bunch of cassettes that I ordered from their website back in the midst of time. RIP Don.
Vicki Bennett aka People Like Us knew Don well and dedicated a radio show to him just last week and you can read Negativland’s heartfelt statement after his death on the KPFA radio station blog, home of Over The Edge.
Bookmark it should you ever need to politely decline a request for your services when there’s no budget.
Produced by Scofield Editorial, Inc.
An absolute gem of an album recently surfaced on Trunk Records – ‘Galactic Nightmare’, a kind of low budget War of the Worlds first released on cassette in 1986 and now transferred to a double vinyl album with gatefold sleeve, printed inners and extra art. There’s a nice story behind it on the Trunk website and I love that GN logo above – so 80s. Only 500 copies on double vinyl, sold out on the label website but they have digital if that’ll do you. A real special one-off as only Trunk can do, look out for it, here’s a short preview…
Looking forward to this in October. “A curated selection of classics, rarities and unreleased tracks from the On-U Sound vaults by DJ & Audio Visual artist Trevor Jackson (aka Playgroup / Underdog), renowned for his Metal Dance compilations of industrial-dance on Strut Records, having worked with the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Four Tet via his Output Recordings Label, and a recently released acclaimed multi edition album of his own music (FORMAT) via The Vinyl Factory.
This is the electro-fried avant-garde side of On-U Sound. Whilst still containing the dub DNA that define Adrian Sherwood’s productions, these tracks document a period when this sonic vision was realised through saturated sheets of electronics, reverberating drum machines and extreme chopped-up tape edits.
Fully annotated with sleevenotes that tell the story behind each track. Features 3 completely unreleased tracks (inc. a crucial early cut by Neneh Cherry) and 6 tracks that have never been reissued on CD or digital (inc. the amazing debut recording by a pre-Massive Attack Shara Nelson).”
Available on as a 2CD / 27-track set, or a 3LP edition that has 20 tracks on the vinyl plus the additional 7 tracks from the CD as part of the download card. Pre-Order Here: (there’s a nice T-shirt bundle available too)
1. Ace Of Wands / The Missing Brazilians
2. Over Board / Dub Syndicate
3. Off The Beaten Track / African Head Charge
4. Chemical Specialist / Creation Rebel & New Age Steppers
5. Asian Rebel /Suns Of Arqa
6. Animal Space / New Age Steppers
7. Parasitic Machine / Alan Pellay
8. Quit The Body / The Chicken Granny
9. Stebeni’s Theme / African Head Charge
10. Dead Come Alive / Neneh Cherry & The Circuit*
11. When Tonight Is Over (US Thunder Mix) / Atmosfear
12. Loudspeaker (alternate version) / The Circuit*
13. Dee Jay?s Program / Fats Comet
14. Now What? / Tackhead
15. Move / Keith LeBlanc
16. Dub Storm / Fats Comet
17. Stopping And Starting / Voice Of Authority
18. Latin Temperament / African Head Charge
19. The Wrong Name And The Wrong Number (DJ Battle) / Mark Stewart & the Maffia
20. Kunta Kinte Dub / Singers & Players*
21. Melody Dub / Bim Sherman
22. Aiming At Your Heart Pt.2 / Shara Nelson & The Circuit
23. Forty Winks / Playgroup
24. Drilling Equipment / Dub Syndicate
25. Radial Drill / New Age Steppers
26. Quicksand Beach Party / The Missing Brazilians
27. 77 Emerging Strips / Little Annie*
* Previously Unreleased