20 April 2006

La Granja - Magia En Tus Ojos

We conclude Yay Yay Billy Bragg Rah Rah Rah Week with She's Got A New Spell sung with Spanish lyrics.

From La Granja's Azul Electrica Emocion album, it doesn't appear to be a translation - Magia En Tus Ojos means 'magic in your eyes'.

[MP3 deleted to make room for new ones. Sorry! Post your email address in Comments if you'd like it emailed you]

17 April 2006

Paul Young - Man In The Iron Mask


Oh I am a bad man. Here it is, when it should surely be consigned to the dark corners of the record collection that only get visited in order to settle bets.

On the B-side of the Tomb Of Memories single, Paul Sodding Young slaughters Billy's early heartbreaker. I suppose there's worse covers out there. I mean, I've heard Anita Dobson's jaunty uptempto cover of You've Lost That Loving Feeling. At least Young respects the tempo and gravity of the tune, even if he's not really got the chops for it.

This twat was commonly called soulful in the early-mid 80s, yet with hindsight his voice is anything but, a startlingly paperthin small-range shallow rasp that makes Sinitta look talented, a sort of one man Robson & Jerome trying too hard.

Yet Squeeze's master songwriters Difford and Tilbrook grace the A-side of this single with backing vocals. Fuck knows what that's all about.

Go listen to Billy or X-Mal Deutschland's version, see how they deliver proof - as if we needed it - that Paul Sodding Young should be strung up by his conkers.

And there's more. You think this is weird? Try Young's cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart. I'm not making it up, it really exists.

For now, soil your ears with Paul Sodding Young's ritual dismemberment of Man In The Iron Mask. Sorry. I haven't felt like this since I uploaded Deacon Fucking Blue's cover of Julian Cope's Trampolene.

Another Bragg cover in a couple of days!

[MP3 deleted to make room for new ones. Sorry! Post your email address in Comments if you'd like it emailed you]

13 April 2006

X-Mal Deutschland - Girl In The Iron Mask

889 708-7 (7"), 889 709-1 (12"), 889 709-2 (CD)

Wow, have you seen the new Billy Bragg reissues? They're doing them all as double discs with every extra track we know and a few we don't. Billy and Johnny Marr in Billy's front room in 1986 doing Back To The Old House, A Lover Sings and the Stones' The Last Time!

I've just got the swanky box set and it's superb.

Billy's not only released non-album B-sides, he's put a lot of exclusive tracks on compilations over the years.

I'd planned to post a wonderful yet obscure version of Man In The Iron Mask from a 1984 compilation LP called Jamming! A New Optimism. It's better even than the album version, with a gorgeous plaintive trumpet solo. But nope, that's on the new reissues.

So, it's time for other people's takes on it.

On the single of I'll Be Near You, 4AD-ers X-Mal Deutschland did this version with a gender change in the lyric. It appears to have only been released on this single, and only in Germany. Talk about rare.

They give it the gorgeous solemn stillness and ache of Bragg's original with a tender softness of vocal delivery.

Pop back in a few days for another cover of the song.

[MP3 deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]


Oh, there is actually a bit of unreleased Bragg available for download. He's just - like only just, like recorded it on 22nd March - rewritten Dylan's Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol in memory of Rachel Corrie. It's downloadable from here

04 April 2006

Birdland - Hollow Heart

LAZY13 (LAZY13T 12")

Birdland were a breakneck amphetamine firecracker of a band. Four guys from the English midlands with peroxide bobbed hair, shrill, pacey, feedback sodden yet melodic, like Psychocandy on 78rpm.

A big influence on the early Manic Strret Preachers, their 1989 debut single Hollow Heart blazed so bright. The 12" had three songs on the A-side, all crashing into each other in a wail of feedback, no gaps. And that's exactly how they played it live.

I saw this band devotionally. I first went cos a friend recommended it and you got a free live LP. What a great idea! In the days before burnable CDs, bands just did not give away their music at gigs. Birdland figured that to press up a one-sided vinyl LP with no outer sleeve was cheap, if it's live there's no recording costs, and it'd surely bring enough extra punters in to cover its costs. And yet it's not a con-gimmick, everyone gets something worthwhile. It worked on me.

God, they were fucking incredible. Fast and guitarry, taking punk speed, 60s Stones cocksure energy, Patti Smith art-primal attitude, and shooting out these white hot shards of kinetic force with something soaring and pop in there.

The later singles had their merits - good songs and a lot of energy - but sounded somewhat two dimensional. There was a full-surround fury to the live shows that only the tracks on Hollow Heart and its follow up Paradise get close to.

It's like when you listen to Merseybeat bands like Gerry & The Pacemakers or Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas and they all sound so twee, but it doesn't take a big effort to mentally scrub them of their record company gloss and put them in leather jackets belting out rock n roll to a sweaty walled Cavern and see what the fuss was about.

When Birdland's album came out I hitch hiked round Britain following the tour, 13 gigs in 15 days. Every one amazing, though often radically different vibes. Sometimes an hour and a half and five triumphant encores. Sometimes the gear goes wrong ten minutes in and they'd smash everything up and leg it.

The first 10,000 copies of the album, incidentally, came on white vinyl, white label, in a plain white sleeve with 'BIRDLAND' printed on the front in white (you have to tilt it to the light to read it). Oh fucking yes. They were great for that sort of thing - singles coming with a limited edition 4-track EP version with posters and a badge and what have you.

No band can sustain such power and intensity for long, so we can't really lament their passing. We should just be glad that we have those blinding screaming early singles like Fuzzbox's XX Sex or Birdland's labelmates The Primitives' Stop Killing Me.

Birdland hit that thing in a way that no other band ever quite did. Still sounds so incredibly exciting and explosive, an amphetamine pessary of a record.

[MP3 deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]