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Wicker sunset

With more musical genres catered for than any festival has a right to offer, for many the Wickerman Festival is *the* summer festival.

This year’s headliners on the Summerisle Stage – The Waterboys and Tom Odell – will be joined by a stellar line-up including Squeeze, Example, Lulu, John Cooper Clarke, Jimmy Cliff, Neneh Cherry, Sugarhill Gang, The Sonics, The Phantom Band, Withered Hand, The Ramonas and Stereo MCs amongst many others.

If you would like to be one of TWO people to win a pair of general admission tickets, plus car parking for one car, then answer this simple question.

Question: According to the list of Wickerman Do’s and Don’ts on the Wickerman Festival website, what should you dress like? Clue.

When you think you know the answer, email it to jocknroll@gmail.com with your name, address, email address and contact telephone number.

Good luck

Wickerman burning

Obligatory Legal Type Stuff:

1. There are two prizes of a pair of tickets and parking for one car. Travel costs and any other expenses are NOT included.

2. Don’t enter if you can’t go. It’s Friday 24 and Saturday 25 July 2015 – clear your diary for a great weekend in beautiful Dumfries and Galloway. Read all the information on the Wickerman Festival website.

3. Only one entry per person. I’ll be watching.

4. The closing date is midnight on Sunday 7 June. The correct entries will be placed in a wicker basket (see what we’ve done there) and the first two names picked out will win. Once they have confirmed that can use the tickets the names will be published. Any entries received after the closing time, as defined by the clock on the PC in my mancave, will be ignored and then deleted.

5. The prizes have been kindly supplied by Burt Greener Communications – thanks Aarti.

6. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter. So there.

7. No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice. But I have been promised them so we should be okay.

8. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. Especially if you get a bit shouty. I don’t like that.

TeenCanteen - Summerhall 9 May 2015 Gig Poster 3

Summerhall in Edinburgh hosts a series of gigs and events throughout April and May under the collective umbrella of “Nothing Happens Here”.

My personal highlight is the TeenCanteen-curated The Girl Effect on Saturday 9 May 2015. The hosts take a break from recording their debut album to play one or two of their favourite girl group songs. A number of the guests’ selections have already been mentioned on social media but I won’t spoil the surprise for those who haven’t seen the previewed tunes. I can say that there will be modern girl groups as well as tracks from the golden age of girl groups, the 1960s.

For a measly £10 there will be a host of great acts paying homage to their girl group favourites. As well as hosts TeenCanteen you’ll hear selections from Solareye (Dave Hook from Stanley Odd), electro triumvirate Machines in Heaven, The Vaselines’ Eugene Kelly, Broken Records, synthpopsters Flash Talk, Bodyheat, Henry and Fleetwood, The Spook School, Jenny Lindsay (Rally and Broad), The GTs, No More Tiger and the ever-wonderful Duglas T Stewart. That’s a lot to cram in between 1900 and 2200 so get there early. See you down the Slosh Pit!

The event is in support of Scottish Women’s Aid.

Shabam - On The Planet of the Apes

Wendy Pickles, vox humana of The Popguns, one of my favourite jingly-jangly pop bands of the 80s/90s, has been sharing her “Soundtrack of My Life” on her Facebook page and has suggested others may wish to share their own musical choices; selections that evoke good and bad memories or simply mean a lot to them. While I can’t follow in Wendy’s footsteps in choosing a “Song That Made Me Want To Be in a Band” (because I’m not and she is) I’ll try to pick more relevant topics. Not that I didn’t want to be in a band, you understand. I simply had neither the talent, temperament or parental encouragement to make the necessary moves towards becoming the new Jimmy Page or Reg King.

My father, who walked out of my life when I was about 11, and has since passed away, was in the army. This took the family around the world. While I remember nothing of my time in Germany, where my younger brother was born, I have many vivid memories of living in the Chip Bee estate in Singapore. This was the “Army Houses” where all the forces’ families lived. While we weren’t allowed to venture too far, we did have the local open monsoon drains to call our playground. There were no such concerns as what we might pick up from the king-sized rodents we regularly ignored around our feet, it was simply another area of adventure.

My father ran the local youth club, imaginatively entitled the Chip Bee Youth Club. I have two distinct memories of the club. Firstly, there was ignominy of being thrown out of the club by my own father for being caught, dare I say it, kissing a girl. I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 but I was frogmarched off the premises for bringing shame to the family. I don’t know if Paula Simmons remembers that day but I do and I can definitely catalogue it under First Kiss.

It always amazes me how people can instinctively recall the first record they bought. I can honestly say that I can’t remember the first single or album or cassette or eight track I bought with my own money. I remember two of the eight-track cartridges we had – The Carpenters and The Bay City Rollers – but nothing else. What music my dad was into is anyone’s guess.

The second memory of the Youth Club was the seemingly endless stream of Planet of the Apes movies shown there on a Saturday morning. Assuming it was 1974 by then the club would’ve been able to access the original Planet of the Apes and the four cinematic sequels. They probably showed other movies but none of them registered with me like those five. As is usually the case with high-profile franchise films and TV shows there were records related directly to them or independently produced novelty spin-off records. One such record was by a group calling themselves Shabam. In 1974 the band released a cash-in single called “On The Planet of the Apes”. This was a favourite at the Youth Club but when we moved back to Scotland I managed to “borrow” it for my own record collection. A collection that, at the time, consisted of one solitary single.

The record label featured the names of Hiller, Sheridan and Lee but in those pre-internet they meant nothing to me. Only when my love of 60s music was ignited in the early 80s did it finally dawn on me who these people were. Tony Hiller was a songwriter but also manager and founder of the group Brotherhood of Man in 1969. The first original band split in 1971 after some success but Hiller kept the band going and the second incarnation would feature Martin Lee and Lee Sheridan as the male half of the foursome and the unrelated Nicky and Sandra Stevens complementing the guys.

It would be four years until they struck gold at the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest in The Hague when Save All Your Kisses For Me would storm to victory and give the band the first of their triumvirate of UK number 1 singles.

I emailed Tony Hiller via his website about the song, asking for information about how it came to be and why the name Shabam. It was only afterwards that I realised Tony is actually 87 so I may not get a response. Indeed, since I started to write this piece a few weeks I still haven’t heard from him. I changed tack and tried to contact Martin and Lee, first via their website (“Professional enquiries only”) and finally via Facebook. This latter move was successful and I received the following reply (I don’t know if it was from Martin or Lee):

No special story I’m afraid other than the fact that the Apes were so big at the time and it seemed a good idea to write a song about them. SHABAM was just a name that sounded good and lent itself to the situation. So glad you liked the record.

So there you have it. An unknown song to many but one that will always have a special place in my heart. As this Planet of the Apes Wiki page shows Shabam weren’t the first, or last, to cash in on the success of the Planet of the Apes.

For those you don’t know the song, and why would you, you can catch it on YouTube where Tony Hiller posted it.

Art School Dancing
My partner-in-crime from K107FM, Ally Gourlay, presented his annual Hogmanay Hundred shows in December, compiling his listeners’ votes into an end of year chart. Throughout the year his show, Art School Dancing, blends a wonderfully eclectic mix of the new and the old, the kind of mix you rarely hear on any radio, let alone ‘the mainstream’. The Hogmanay Hundred chart, which doffs its cap to John Peel’s Festive Fifty, reflects this. So if you’re looking two excellent shows (split into three three-hour chunks) to soundtrack an afternoon clearing out the kids’ playroom or while enjoying that new book you got for Christmas then you won’t do much worse than these shows. Hosted by K107FM’s John Murray on his Mixcloud page. Enjoy!

Part 1 (Numbers 100 to 61)

Hogmanay 100 part 1 Art School Dancing by Cronullajohn on Mixcloud

Part 2 (Numbers 62 to 30)

Hogmanay 100 part 2 Art School Dancing by Cronullajohn on Mixcloud

Part 3 (Numbers 29 to 1)

Hogmanay 100 part 3 Art School Dancing by Cronullajohn on Mixcloud

For maximum enjoyment I suggest you listen to them in customary chart rundown order, beginning with Part 3, leading on to Part 2 and ending, not unnaturally, with Part 1.

Due to Ally’s well documented circumstances this Hogmanay Hundred may well be his last but he can be happy in the knowledge he has left behind a fine testament to his work on Art School Dancing and the exposure he has given, particularly to his listeners, of some wonderful new bands. Bands we might never’ve heard of otherwise.

You can tune into Art School Dancing with Ally Gourlay every Monday night on K107FM.

“Another year over, a new one just begun”

Halcyon Days - Cover

Here’s my summary of my own personal 2014.

PERSONAL HIGHS

Some of my favourite moments weren’t about me but my daughter. Seeing her achieve great things (not “great” in the grand scheme of things but great on a smaller scale) made up for a year dominated by a lack of work and a lack of money. I may have missed out some things but I’ll add them as they come to me.

Working as Project Manager with John Reed of Cherry Red Records on the One Thousand Violins compilation CD “Halcyon Days: The Complete Recordings 1985-1987”
Appearing on Fifteen to One (three shows)
Contributing to the Fife Free Press’s FP 100 guide to Fife’s all-time Top 100 bands
The Popguns returning to the studio and a new Popguns t-shirt and badges
Interviewing the wonderful Earl Okin and seeing him perform at a house concert in Leith
Going to Yorkshire with the girls for the opening stage of the Tour de France
Being TeenCanteen’s road manager for their GoNorth Festival appearance
Daughter making an appearance on stage during a Fringe show.
Daughter passing her Level 1 piano exam
Daughter being a winner in a local art competition and having her painting (of East End Park) on show in the local Wetherspoon’s hotel and appearing in the local press
Getting a job, albeit on a temporary contract
Joining the Dunfermline FC Football Fans in Training (FFIT) programme to try to lose weight and improve my general fitness
Seeing Felicity score her first goal for Bayside.
Meeting Simon Napier-Bell
Finally get a job, albeit temporary, and making some wonderful new friends there

PERSONAL LOWS

Work and health, or a lack of them, dominated 2014. No job, or sign of one, and no unemployment benefit of any kind to ease the pain made for a long year. I genuinely believed that my working days were over and I was on the employment scrap heap. I am, however, finishing the year in gainful employment and I hope that having survived two culls of temporary staff I can do enough to extend the uncertainty into 2015. As much as I’m perfectly happy in my own company I have enjoyed the week day badinage of my new work colleagues, both temporary and permanent. My dream of a paid job in radio has gone and I have accepted that.

Badly spraining my ankle again in January (second time in 3 months)
Not getting on Pointless, The Chase or an audition for Tipping Point
More back problems (March/April)
Weight gain
No job or benefits (for 15 months)
The demise of Jacques Caramac and the Sweet Generation before I got a chance to see them live
Scotland not gaining independence
Leaving K107FM – sadly left with no choice.
Having gained employment it was heartbreaking when so many of my new work colleagues were let go.

READING

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Due to the amount of time I spent preparing radio shows I didn’t have much time to read, this is despite being out of work for most of the year. With no home for my radio show on the horizon for 2015 I hope to remedy this situation. The books on this list were all bought or given to me at some point this year or last Christmas. I have read some of them but the others sit piled high beside the bed. I WILL get round to them. I promise.

“Creation Stories” by Alan McGee (thanks Andrea)
“Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star” by Tracey Thorn
“Autobiography” by Morrissey
“How Music Works” by David Byrne
“Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop” by Bob Stanley
“There’s Only One Sauzee: When Le God Grace Easter Road” by Ted Brack
“Simply Thrilled Honey: The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records” by Simon Goddard
“Songs In The Key of Fife” by Vic Galloway (thanks Gaz, Catriona and Chowk)
“Stone Free” by Andrew Loog-Oldham
“Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay: The Beginning of the Music Business” by Simon Napier-Bell

FILMS ENJOYED

I tend not to visit the cinema much these days. The price of tickets and the feral behaviour of people put me off a long time ago. People can’t seem to sit for two hours without stuffing their faces with overpriced crap or check their electronic device of choice every ten minutes or indeed both. Having a young daughter also means that much of the fare I’m expected to watch features talking animals, animation or both. I’ve never been one for catching the latest blockbuster – I’m usually ten years behind – so the few films I have enjoyed are usually on TV, particularly documentaries.

Frozen (cinema)
The Muppets Most Wanted (cinema)
Alpha Papa (TV)
Those Glory Glory Days (TV) – daughter loved this
The Thin Blue Line (Netflix)
Oliver (TV)
Indie Game (Netflix)

MUSIC ENJOYED – COMPILATIONS

Much of the music I’ve been buying or adding to wish lists has been to furnish my radio show, hence the large number of compilations. I particularly enjoyed the Keep Lookin’/Looking Good sets, which were the follow-up to the original Looking Back box set.

Looking Good – 75 Femme Mod Soul Nuggets (RPM)
Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers of the 1960s (Ace)
Book a Trip 2: More Pop Psych Sounds of Capitol Records (Now Sounds)
Round The Gum Tree: The British Bubblegum Explosion (?)
Bouffants, Beehives and Backcombing (Rock History)
The Beatles – On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2 (Apple)
One Thousand Violins – Halcyon Days: The Complete Recordings 1985-1987 (Cherry Red)
Piccadilly Sunshine Volume 17 (Past and Present)
Mojo – Small Faces and Friends (Mojo)
Crispian St Peters – The Pied Piper: The Complete Recordings 1965-1974 (RPM)
The Cookies – Chains: The Dimension Links 1962-1964 (RPM)
The Scorpions – Hello Josephine (RPM)
Kiki Dee – I’m Kiki Dee: The Fontana Years (RPM)
Hello Everyone: Popsike Sparks from Denmark Street 1968-1970 (RPM)
Scared To Get Happy: A Story of Indie Pop 1980-1989 (Cherry Red)
The Association – The Association [Expanded version] (RPM)
Keep Lookin’ – 80 More Mod, Soul & Freakbeat Nuggets (RPM)
Daniel Wylie – The High Cost of Happiness

MUSIC ENJOYED – SINGLES/DOWNLOADS

TeenCanteen - You're Still Mine single
I much prefer a physical format in my grubby hands but there were a number of great download-only tunes I bought this year. Having said that, Honey by TeenCanteen was my favourite tune of the year and that came out on a cassette, albeit a beautifully packaged one.

TeenCanteen – Honey (SWALK)
Tuff Love – Junk EP (Lost Map)
Attic Lights – Orbison (Elefant)
Lenzie Moss – Let’s Take The Day Off (Newtown)
TeenCanteen – You’re So Mine/Vagabond (Neu! Reekie!)
Be Like Pablo – Julianne/The Post-It Song (Stray Cat)
BMX Bandits – My Girl Midge (Elefant)
Emma Kullander – Unveiled EP (Barne Society)

NEW MUSIC ENJOYED – ALBUMS

 

002
Some old favourites – Roddy Frame, The Orchids, The Popguns – returned with wonderful new albums this year which was most gratifying. I’m looking forward to TeenCanteen’s album due for release in 2015.

Jacques Caramac and the Sweet Generation – The Highs and Lows of Jacques Caramac and the Sweet Generation (Everyday Life Recordings)
Randolph’s Leap – Clumsy Knot (Lost Map)
Withered Hand – New Gods (Fortuna Pop)
Roy Moller – One Domino (Stereogram)
mylittlebrother – If We Never Came Down (Self-released)
Roddy Frame – Forty Days of Rain (AED)
Morrissey – World Peace is None of Your Business (Harvest)
The Orchids – Beatitude#9 (Acuarela)
The Popguns – Pop Fiction (Matinee)
The New Mendicants – Into the Lime (XPT)
Alvvays – Alvvays (Transgressive)

GIGS/EVENTS

TeenCanteen - Single Launch
Last year’s record-breaking* gig frenzy it was always going to be difficult to top it and so it proved. A need to tighten my financial belt, particularly in light of my inability to bring in any money meant I had to be very selective about who I saw live. (*According to my Gigs spreadsheet)

Kid Canaveral/Malcolm Middleton/Randolph’s Leap (Stereo, Glasgow)
Earl Okin (House Concert, Leith)
A Band Called Quinn – “Making Time (remix)”
The Wedding Present – The Greenside Hotel, Leslie
TeenCanteen (Hootananny, Inverness during goNORTH festival)
TeenCanteen/The Just Joans (Henry’s Cellar Bar, Edinburgh – single launch)
Be Like Pablo/Wonder Villains (Electric Circus, Edinburgh)
“Tubespotting” with Geoff Thomson (Electric Circus, Edinburgh)
“Always Be Rolling” with James Cook (Bar 50, Edinburgh)
“Adventures on Air” with James Cook (The Counting House, Edinburgh)
The Silver Birches/Clipper (The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh)
The Orchids/Bodyheat (The Glad Café, Glasgow)

BEST MUSIC RADIO SHOW

Despite the diet of dross served up by most commercial stations and some uninspiring programming in parts of the BBC, there are still some great radio shows out there and here are my favourites, which I tune into regularly.

Sound of the Sixties (Radio 2)
Art School Dancing (K107FM)
Alan’s Midweek Madhouse (Radio Saltire)
45 Forever (K107FM)
John Cavanagh’s Soundwave (Radio Six International)
Fraser Thomson (YOUR Radio/XFM Scotland)
Jim Gellatly (XFM Scotland)
Steve Stanley’s The Now Sound (LuxuriaMusic.com)
Andrew Sandoval’s Come To The Sunshine (LuxuriaMusic.com)
Forgotten 80s (Absolute 80s)

TV ENJOYED

I’ve split the shows I’ve enjoyed this year into sub-genres. Anyone who knows me will vouch for my love of all things trivial and quiz-related. Here are the shows, off the top of my head, that I recall enjoying in 2014. Some may have been watched on catch-up from the end of 2013. I’ll add any others that grab my attention during the festive season.

Quiz/Game Shows: Pointless (BBC1), University Challenge (BBC2), Only Connect (BBC4), Who Dares Wins (BBC1), Tipping Point (ITV), Mastermind (BBC2), The Chase (ITV), Two Tribes (BBC2).

Children: Katie Morag (CBBC), Hacker Time (CBBC), Our School (CBBC).

Drama: Ripper Street (BBC1), Mad Men (Sky Atlantic), Boardwalk Empire (Sky Atlantic), The Newsroom (Sky), House of Cards (US, Netflix), Columbo (repeats on various channels), Top of the Lake (BBC2), Peaky Blinders (BBC2), Death Comes to Pemberley (BBC1), The Booth at the End (Netflix), Orange is the New Black (Netflix), Breaking Bad (Netflix), Line of Duty (BBC2), Fargo (Channel 4), Suits (Netflix), The Bridge (Netflix)

Reality: The Great British Bake-Off (BBC2), Gogglebox (Channel 4), Fried Chicken Shop (Channel 4).

Factual: Speed with Guy Martin (Channel 4).

Comedy: Lilyhammer (Netflix), Yonderland (Sky 1), VEEP (Sky Atlantic), Psychobitches (Sky Arts), Big Bang Theory (E4), Mike and Molly (Comedy Central), Silicon Valley (Sky Atlantic).

Sport: Tour de France (Eurosport), Mosconi Cup (Sky Sports).

Critic: Andrew Collins: Telly Addict (Weekly TV review on Guardian website)

FAMOUS ENCOUNTERS

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Simon Napier-Bell (Edinburgh Book Festival)
Ian Rankin (Record Store Day)
Simon Goddard (Record Store Day and Simply Thrilled book launch)
Malcolm Ross (Simply Thrilled book launch)
Johnny Nelson (Harrogate Fan Park during Tour de France)
Dynamo and Andrew Collins (Edinburgh Filmhouse)
Susan Calman and Ramon Rangamathan (Flick at Edinburgh Fringe)
Arthur Smith (Edinburgh)
Earl Okin (House Concert, Leith)

HEROES OF THE YEAR

Ally’s lust for life in the face of a terminal illness has been an inspiration. Fraser and Andrea continue to do great things in radio and, in Andrea’s case, TV too. The Orchids and The Popguns proved on record, on stage and in person why I still love them so much.

Ally Gourlay
Andrea MacKinnon
Fraser Thomson
The Orchids
The Popguns
Earl Okin
John Carter
One Thousand Violins

TV/RADIO APPEARANCES

027
My only successful game show application turned into three appearances, albeit not as successfully as I’d’ve liked. I’m not sure what we have to do to get on Pointless having had two had two unsuccessful auditions.

Fifteen to One x 3 (Remedy Productions, Channel 4)
Also applied for The Chase, Pointless (with Kirsty), The Link (with Mark) and Perfection

COMPETITION WINS

Beatles pizes
Not the most fruitful of years when it came to competition wins but again this was down to the amount of time spent preparing radio shows. Starting with the Advent comps I’m slowing getting back into it, with three wins under my belt in December already. Long may it continue in the new year. My daughter has chipped in with a few wins too.

12 Penfold Blackheart golf balls
£20 (took a few months but I got it!)
Horrible Histories “Scary Special” DVD (Flick)
Josef K – “The Only Fun in Town” badge
The Beatles – On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2 CD
You Me at Six “Cavalier Youth” CD
Soxtrot Funky Socks (K)
Hue and Cry – Remote: Major to Minor (3-CD, DVD and book)
Josef K badge
The Beatles Home Furnishings (stool, 2 prints, mouse mat, 2 mugs, key ring)
Family Pass for Chessington World of Adventures (F)
Beach Boys Promo CD
Match Attax Starter Pack
Elliot Minor 7” Picture Disc (Radio West Fife)
Horrible Histories – Series 1 DVD
Cobra BioCell Stand Bag (Golf)
Two badges (Tom Morton’s quiz)
Dog Friendship Collar with a matching bracelet and lead
A set of gardening tools

BOARD GAMES

001
We’ve always loved board games in our house and have about 80+. However over the last two years we’ve expanded our gaming horizons. Our favourites this year have been as follows:

Ticket to Ride (USA and Europe, including expansions for both)
LabyrinthSettlers of Catan
Uno
Who Knows Where?

MOANS OF THE YEAR

I’m not going to bother with any moans this year because, quite frankly, there are too many. Most probably involve drivers, Tesco, employment agencies and people who insist on using gigs as a soundtrack to their own (probably dull) conversations but I’ll let it go. Sort of.

I’ve no idea what 2015 will bring (who does?) I’d settle for some sort of contentment, a regular wage and a happy family. I don’t think it’s too much to ask, is it?

Paul

Halcyon Days - Cover

In February this year I’d heard that Cherry Red Records was planning a retrospective on one of my favourite bands, Sheffield’s One Thousand Violins. The band existed from 1985 to 1989 and was split into two distinct halves, each with a different frontman and each lasting two years. The new compilation was going to concentrate on the first two years, when the band were on Dan Treacy’s Dreamworld label, and briefly Report, in the UK and Philip Boa’s Constrictor in Germany.

I hadn’t originally planned to get involved but it became apparent that Cherry Red were missing some songs from their preferred tracklist and it just sort of “happened”. Guitarist and main songwriter Colin Gregory, while in discussion with Cherry Red, pointed them in my direction as a possible source of rarities. Fortunately, I have almost everything the band put out, including many live bootlegs, rare flexis and demo compilations sent to me by Colin back in the day.

Below are my original sleeve notes, which were tweaked slightly by joint project manager John Reed of Cherry Red. In the same way that the final CD has “alternative” versions of the band’s output I though I’d share my own original mix of my sleeve notes as an alternative to the ones published in the excellent booklet with the CD.

My own pedantic obsession saw me check with lead singer Colin as to whether this song had a “the” or that song had parentheses. I figured if I was to be involved I wanted everything to be ‘just so’.  This was an underappreciated band and, after much discussion between John and I, three songs – Halcyon Days, You Ungrateful Bastard and Candleman – are repeated on the final CD in different version due to a desire to include “everything” and that’s as it should be.

There had been the briefest of discussions about it being a double but due to “difficulties” it was felt more appropriate (and less complicated) to stick with an all-killer no filler single disc.

If I Had a Sleeve Note

There’s no rhyme or reason why some bands escape the shark-filled pool of pop to the safety of the shore of success while others drown, kicking and screaming for anyone who’ll listen. One Thousand Violins never made it back to dry land. Like so many bands before and since they have their hard luck stories and tragic tales of what might’ve been. But these psychpop-soaked guys coulda, shoulda been champions.

Colin Gregory and Dave Walmsley met through mutual friends at an ice skating disco in the early 80s and became inseparable. “David and I became instant best friends…His mum used to have a cheap organ thingy at home and we would mess about on it. As soon as I managed to play “Are Friends Electric” on it with one finger I knew I had to start a band and live music…so we did”, remembers Colin.

Their first adventures in sound, while they were living in Dave’s home town of Halifax, saw them join up with Dan Treacy’s London-based Whaam! label and in September 1983 the double whaamy 7” of You’re My Kind of Girl and In Love With You, with Colin on vocals, was unleashed (another track Honey would appear on the label’s All for Art and Art for All compilation). The demise of Whaam! in 1984 – did Wham!, the band, really pay them off for £15,000? – saw Colin and Dave follow the Television Personalities very own pied piper to his new venture with Dreamworld Records.

Their common love of all things 60s took them to a year of “hanging around Carnaby Street dressed as mod psyche-out freak brothers” before they moved back up North to Sheffield. Not being from Sheffield they never really fitted in: “We weren’t part of their scene. We started our own little thing and were quite insular. The other bands just ignored and blanked us”.

Meanwhile they continued to play Anarchists’ balls in derelict steel work and squats as “The Landlords” before hooking up with Sounds journalist Roger Holland, who helped co-manage the band along with Dave and Dan while Colin concentrated on music. “He decided to write a full page review for Sounds of a gig we never actually played and called us ‘The Surf Pistols’”, laughs Colin. They also made a flexi (1000 copies) but hid them under a bed and forgot all about them. This rarer than rocking horse poo release was “Failed Bankrupt Businessman”. Stuart Cant, the pearly king of Edinburgh’s indie scene in the 1980s and owner of a copy, remembers the flexi as “not a great record but very funny”.

John Wood was soon recruited as vox humana after Colin and Dave heard, and liked, his Scott Walker-esque timbre on a cassette. Initially the multi-tasking Colin played/programmed bass and drums – a Roland TR808 drum machine fact fans – but Sean O’Neill (“he looked like he should have been in Dollar”) was enlisted to play drums on the band’s first John Peel session. However, Sean departed and a new rhythm section of Darren Swindells (bass), who had answered an ad posted on the wall of Sheffield’s Leadmill, and Peter Day (drums) were added to give the band a fuller, more potent sound.

The band’s name came by way of the opening line of Orange Juice’s Consolation Prize – “a thousand violins will play it for you” – and Colin liked it so much he penned Like One Thousand Violins, which appeared on the b-side of Dreamworld debut 12” Halcyon Days. It would end the year nestling rather cosily between The Woodentops’ Well Well Well (48) and The Shop Assistants’ shambling anthem All Day Long (50) at the lower end of John Peel’s Festive Fifty. No mean feat for a b-side. This was also where I came in.

I’d always been a sucker for 60s music and modern pop that was influenced by it and this new cosmic beat group were the perfect combination. However, it wasn’t until September 1986 I first caught them live. Aforementioned Violins uber-fan Stuart Cant – he’d seen them supporting his favourite band the Television Personalities and fell in love with them – had been making fanzines and running club nights and gigs for years and his Speed 3 club, in association with Jeff Duffy, had brought One Thousand Violins to Scotland’s capital on a number of occasions, as well as Glasgow, Stirling and Perth. During a drunken penniless walk home from Edinburgh to my sleepy suburban home – some 8 miles away – I spotted a poster for one of their promotions, a One Thousand Violins gig (supported by The Fizzbombs) at the Onion Cellar, a club run at The Mission on the capital’s Victoria Street. It was to the start of an obsessive relationship during which I would see the band over 20 times, more than any other. I’d never slept in so many bus and train stations for one band – Perth, Newcastle and Manchester being some of my more salubrious dusk hangouts.

John Peel was a big fan and following their well-received first session in September 1985 they returned to Radio One in November the following year for another four-song set. It wasn’t until the run up to this session and their recently-released second single, the non-stop guitar-driven, keyboard-soaked shuddering express ride of Please Don’t Sandblast My House, that I first saw them live (22 September 1986 to be exact) as they played wherever and whenever in support of it.

“Oh how I need the world, but do you really need me at all?”

The hipsters of Sheffield and London may not have taken to them but Scotland and Germany did, where they would play many times in their all too brief existence. Indeed I only saw eight gigs during the whole of 1987 and they were all Violins’ shows and all, bar a trip to Manchester’s Boardwalk, were north of the border.

Extensive tours up and down the UK and Europe with nothing to promote were becoming frustrating. Dreamworld’s cottage industry was not to be rushed and it would be almost another year before Locked Out of the Love-In would arrive to positive reviews. The band had become as renowned for their song titles as they were for their music. Had this been a conscious decision? “Yes it was, probably the best bit!” While Dan Treacy had shown the band the Halcyon Days cover as a fait accompli, they took a trip to the derelict steelworks at Attercliffe with some flowers and designed Locked Out of the Love-In themselves and it serves as the inspiration for the cover of this collection.

Following an audition at the YMCA on Sheffield’s Eccleshall Road, Ian Addey replaced Peter Day in the spring of 1987 as the band tried to build on their (indie) chart success, Please Don’t Sandblast My House peaking at number 11. While Dreamworld’s marketing machine was grindingly slow, Philip Boa’s German Constrictor label offered a greater sense of urgency and managed to release an album, a mini-LP – bringing together some singles tracks – and the aforementioned chart-middling You Ungrateful Bastard single during their tenure.

The band’s final release for Dreamworld, the psychedelic pop-fest Locked Out of the Love-In, also troubled the chart scorers (number 13) and the band seemed set to build on this steady progress. Their first single with pseudo-major hucksters Report Records, If I Were a Bullet (Then For Sure I’d Find a Way To Your Heart), also proved to be the last with them and also the last to feature John. A difference of opinion over his desire to contribute to the songwriting, which Colin, and to a lesser extent Dave, had dominated, saw a parting of the ways and the end to the first chapter of the band.

John departed with a heavy heart. “As much as I loved the excitement of singing on stage with them, I had to grow up a bit and get a life, as they say. I don’t think I would have been very convincing singing much of the songs that came after me anyway, I wasn’t ‘far out’ enough, and I was far too earnest. It was going to take more than my fare of pots of tea and a plate of fancies to reach the required altered mind state to pull off the likes of ‘Hey Man, Your Granny’s Digging My Love Bus, But My Trip Is Fully Booked’.”

The new chapter would bring in another German tour, this time with a new singer, Vince Keenan, although this wasn’t a unanimous decision. “I wanted Colin to take over the vocals…I always thought his vocal sounded soulful” – Darren.

Darren remembers his time with the band with much fondness, “As a group we weren’t always on the same page, yet despite our differences we did on occasion create magic, which is what making music is all about, and I’m proud of us for doing that.” Ian put it in simpler terms, describing his Violins adventure as “cool and groovy”.

In anticipation of joining the band on one of their wild German tours, I got my first adult passport only to find out that the band had split. This was in the autumn of 1989. Many people have great memories of One Thousand Violins. I’ll never forget Stuart and I, with the band, being chased out of an Oxford University “Spring Fling” by a man with a cleaver having earlier that night been on stage singing harmonies, which was a wonderfully typical evening in the company of One Thousand Violins. Gone (but not forgotten) is the sound of happiness.

“I won’t keep you any longer”

Paul Johnston (aka Misery Guts)

Halcyon Days: Complete Recordings 1985-1987 brings together all of the band’s released tracks with Dreamworld, Constrictor and Report as well as rare tracks from compilations and a flexi.

Colin Gregory now runs a chain of coffee/sandwich shops in Sheffield.
Dave Walmsley died of cancer in 1992.
John Wood went on to form The Chrysalids and a retrospective called Neither Love Nor Money was released in 2012.
Darren Swindells runs Sing and Play The Easy Way in Galway, Ireland offering music lessons and instruction and still plays regularly.
Ian Addey works for an NHS Trust in Abertawe, plays guitar, brews beer and keeps bees.”

I’m pleased that the CD has been so well received. As well as helping to put the CD together I was made an admin for the band’s Facebook page set up by John. I want to thank everyone who has ‘liked’ the page and made a contribution, however small. I especially want to thank Colin, Darren, Ian and John from the original for agreeing to be interviewed by me by email. It was great to catch up and share our collective memories. Ian was also a great help in providing information like dates for gigs so I could update my gigography. He also provided many photos, as did the aforementioned Stuart Cant who toured many times with the band, including trips to Germany. (I was also about to go to Germany with them and had ordered my passport when I found out they had split – a sad day).

As well as helping John with the Facebook page, I updated the band’s page on http://www.45cat.com, which an excellent musical research site for information on singles (I used it a lot for my radio shows). The One Thousand Violins’ page is HERE and I also contributed to their Wikipedia page.

I hope everyone gets as much enjoyment out of the CD as I did. The band were a big part of my life in the mid to late 1980s and I still, to this day, hold them dear to my heart.

I’ve put together three one-hour specials of modern Christmas tracks. These shows were originally to be broadcast over the festive period on K107FM but as I am longer a member of the station I have posted them up online on Mixcloud for you to enjoy at your leisure. These tracks come from the late 1970s up to the modern day. I’ll be posting up three separate three-hour selections of 60s Christmas offerings in due course.

A Very Modern Christmas #1

Where The Action Is #70 - A Very Modern Christmas #1 by Jocknroll on Mixcloud

1. Fountains of Wayne – I Want An Alien For Christmas (Atlantic 1997)
2. Guille Milky Way & The Jelly Jamm Sound Orchestra  – Holding Hands Around The World (Elefant 2012)
3. The Kinks – Father Christmas (Arista 1977)
4. Chris Squire and Alan White – Run With The Fox (Atlantic 1981)
5. Low – Just Like Christmas (Kranky 1999)
6. Manic Street Preachers – The Ghosts of Christmas (Download 2007)
7. Tracey Thorn – Joy (Strange Feelings 2012)
8. Eels – Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas (Dreamworks 1998)
9. The Primitives – You Trashed My Christmas (Elefant 2012)
10. Badly Drawn Boy – Donna and blitzen (Twisted Nerve/XL 2011)
11. April MArch & Los Cincos – Last Train to Christmas (Sympathy For The Record Industry 1998)
12. Saint Etienne/Tim Burgess – I Was Born On Christmas Day (Heavenly 1993)
13. Modular – El Viaje Magico De Santa Claus (Elefant 2012)
14. The Wedding Present – Holly Jolly Hollywood (Vibrant 2008)
15. BMX Bandits – Let’s Make Christmas Love (Elefant 2012)

 

A Very Modern Christmas #2

Where The Action Is #71 - A Very Modern Christmas #2 by Jocknroll on Mixcloud

1. Attic Lights/Cerys Matthews – Santa’s Girlfriend (Island 2008)
2. Julian Casablancas – I Wish It Was Christmas Today (Rough Trade 2009)
3. A Band Called Quinn- Snowblind (Download 2011)
4. Cocteau Twins – Winter Wonderland (Fontana 1993)
5. The Webb Brothers – Everyday is Christmas (Unissued 2000)
6. Dropkick – Scampi for Christmas (Sound Asleep 2007)
7. Farrah – Christmas in Cancelled (This Year) (Download 2005)
8. The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping (Ze 1981)
9. Half Man Half Biscuit – All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit (Probe Plus 1987)
10. Holly Golightly – Christmas Tree On Fire (Damaged Goods 2006)
11. KT Tunstall – Mele Kalikimaka (Christmas in Hawaii) (EMI 2007)
12. Three Wise Men (aka XTC) – Thanks for Christmas (Virgin 1983)
13. Fountains of Wayne – The Man in the Santa Suit (Atlantic 1997)
14. Hannah Peel & Tunng – Hey Santa! (Static Caravan 2010)
15. Allo Darlin’ – Only Dust Behind (Where It’s At Is Where You Are 2012)

 

A Very Modern Christmas #3

Where The Action Is #72 - A Very Modern Christmas #3 by Jocknroll on Mixcloud

1. Teenage Fanclub – Jesus Christ (Creation 1997)
2. Allo Darlin’ – SPACE Christmas (Self-released 2009)
3. Shonen Knife – Space Christmas (Seminal Twang 1991)
4. Saint Etienne – Come On Christmas (Heavenly 2003)
5. The Magic Theatre – Christmas Lights (Elefant 2012)
6. Sufjan Stevens – Put The Lights On The Tree (Asthmatic Kitty 2002)
7. The Long Ryders – Christmas in New Zealand (Island 1985)
8. Davitt Sigerson – It’s a Big Country (Ze 1981)
9. Mitchell Musuem – Stop The Cavalry (Unknown 2009)
10. Squeeze – Chrsitmas Day (A&M 1979)
11. Rufus Wainwright – Spotlight on Christmas (Nettwerk 2002)
12. Cocteau Twins – Frosty The Snowman (Fontana 1993)
13. Ron Sexsmith – Maybe This Christmas (Nettwerk 2002)
14. Randolph’s Leap – One More Sleep Til Christmas (Olive Grove 2013)
15. Dan Lyth – Maybe This Baby Could Save Us All (Moojuice 2009)
16. Jo Mango – As A Child I Awoke (Olive Grove 2012)

Feel free to let me know what you think of the shows and tracks, either here on on the Facebook page at Where The Action Is (Radio Show).

 

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