Monday 24 June sees the release of an indiepop-tastic 5-CD compilation, Scared To Get Happy – A Story of Indie Pop 1980-1989, from Cherry Red Records celebrating a decade of all manner of underground indie schmindie from the 1980s. A Nuggets for the now generation, Scared To Get Happy will remind me (and you) of old favourites, as well as tracks by bands that somehow passed us by at the time. The bountiful British pop pick ‘n’mix promises to avoid the much-compiled tracks of certain bands, although its appropriate that seminal tracks like “Up The Hill and Down The Slope” and “Shine On” do make an appearance. Such a shame that Sony wouldn’t allow a different Primal Scream track, as short and sweet as Velocity Girl is.
John Reed of Cherry Red, whose idea the box set was, gave me an interview for my HND in Radio earlier this year. I only used a small part of it for the final 8-minute feature, which also included contributions from Wendy Pickles (nee Morgan) of Popguns and BMX Bandits crooner-in-chief Duglas T Stewart. The piece went out as part of a live Planet Pop magazine show featuring studio guests TeenCanteen, whose charming, honey-dripped pop harmonies would’ve fitted in well to this box set. I’ve posted a link below to the short Planet Pop pack as well as the full interview as I feel the latter provides a fascinating insight into the processes – physical and thought – that went into seeing Scared To Get Happy become a reality.
Here is the Full John Reed Interview.
Much of the music featured on the mammoth 134-track package soundtracked my teenage years and beyond, with many tracks remaining firm favourites to this day, especially the Scottish bands featured (and there are loads of them) and the jingly-jangly stylings of Popguns. As you can see from the opening photo (from October 1991) I held them in such esteem that I wore a long-sleeved Snog t-shirt on my ever quiz show appearance, Fifteen to One. This was in an age before dress code restrictions – no logos, no small checks, no red – on television game shows. Being fortunate enough to win said show I won nothing more than another go in the next series. My t-shirt of choice was supposed to be the Sarah Records cherry t-shirt but for reasons that are too dull to go into I ended up wearing a red Sultans of Ping Where’s Me Jumper? effort. I blame this for my subsequent defeat, as well as a man named Tom Jones but that’s a story for another time.
A launch gig for Scared To Get Happy takes place this Saturday, 22 June 2013, at 229 on Great Portland Street and should make for an interesting flashback to more innocent times. Some of the music was dismissed at the time by non-believers as twee but to me it’s always been the purest of unsullied pop.
I made the decision early on in the year that the launch gig would be a reward to myself for completing my HND, which I duly did. Train tickets, gig ticket (well, one of those annoying email type things) and accommodation is booked for what promises to be a nostalgia-fest. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how many men (and women) of a certain age will be squeezed into stripey t-shirts, cardigans and anoraks. I’m having my own wardrobe crisis as to what a cool, indie dad of a certain age should be wearing!
The other dilemma is which bands to go and see on the night. I’ve never been to this particular venue before. It’s split into two rooms, with five bands playing in each. My decision as to who I want to see early on in the evening is pretty much set in stone but it’s at 9.30 when the decisions need to be made. I haven’t seen Popguns live since 1995 at a sparsely attended King Tut’s gig (understandable as Morrissey was across town that night at the Barrowlands) and it’s an astonishing 25 years (seriously?) since I saw The Primitives support Echo and the Bunnymen at the Edinburgh Playhouse. I also have loyalty to Duglas T Stewart and his latest rolling incarnation of BMX Bandits, who I’ve seen about a dozen times since the late 80s. What to do, what to do… Here are the stage times, what would you do?
7.00pm to 7.30pm – THE WOLFHOUNDS
7.45pm to 8.15pm – MIGHTY MIGHTY
8.30pm to 9.15pm – BRILLIANT CORNERS
9.30pm to 10.15pm – BMX BANDITS
10.30pm to 11.15pm – THE PRIMITIVES
7.00pm to 7.45pm – YEAH YEAH NOH
8.00pm to 8.45pm – 14 ICED BEARS
9.00pm to 9.45pm – BLUE ORCHIDS
10.00pm to 10.45pm – POPGUNS
11.00pm to 11.45pm – JUNE BRIDES
It’s easy to complain about certain bands being missing from the box set and also the launch gig but there are good reasons in both cases, as detailed by John in the interview above. I mean, who could turn down a gig drumming for The Boomtown Rats? I heard that The Orchids had been invited and turned it down, which is disappointing. They’re still on the go and still gigging although they continue to be release records at Blue Nile pace. My only foray into gig promotion was with The Orchids in Edinburgh in 1993. The less said about that night, the better.
While I know a lot of the tracks featured on the collection, I’m as intrigued by the songs I haven’t heard or the output by the bands I don’t know. I’ve not been fortunate enough to get a preview of the final set but Andrew Collins has and as an NME journalist of the time he was closer than most to some of the scenes and sounds. His Velocity Rapture piece is an enjoyable trip down memory lane.
The Pooh Sticks, whose Indiepop Ain’t Noise Pollution inspired the title of this blog, were due to play but pulled out. Thankfully the song remains in the set. As do tracks by some of my favourite ever bands, not just of the 80s: The Room (who morphed into the equally marvellous Benny Profane), Prefab Sprout, Friends Again, The Woodentops, James, McCarthy and Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes (one of whom, like me, has appeared on Countdown). While classmates at high school were arguing the merits or otherwise of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Wham!, I was listening to Postcard and Kitchenware bands. My first musical loves Aztec Camera are also represented but clearance for any of the Postcard tracks was not forthcoming so we’re left with debut hit Oblivious. I’m particularly pleased to see One Thousand Violins represented as they were the band I saw live more than any other, around 19 times. I was about to head off to Germany with them, where there were well thought of, only for them to split somewhat acrimoniously.
With such a huge task, there are bound to be casualties, with the tracklist changing on a regular basis. So there’s no place in the indiepop squad for The Vaselines, Avo-8, Yeah Jazz, The Golden Dawn, Korova Milk Bar, Nick Nicely and, still going strong, The Pastels. Maybe there will be Another Story of Indie Pop and those on the bench can make an appearance. We’ll just have to make do with this wonderful assortment of indiepop tracks to gladden the heart of any hopeless romantic of a particular age and maybe some new romantics too. To cut a long story short, you should buy it.