September 7th,1998. The Quest Project. Angel.

If the WordPress gods have aligned, you will be reading this post at 9AM, on September 7th 2018. That’s because, exactly 20 years ago, to the very second, I’d have been in a record shop, in Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange shopping centre, looking to pick up a record. Not just any old record, but to me, one of the best songs that never saw the light of day. Some of you may know the story, but as the majority of my readership won’t be familiar with the original post, I’ll go through it again

It was the summer of 1998. I had just finished college, and had been seconded to a local accountancy firm, or rather the software sales arm of said accountants. They dealt in business software, and to be perfectly honest, I lost all interest in the work placement when I discovered the password for the internet. Mornings and afternoons would be filled with random surfing (Angelfire chat rooms, and improving my poor attempt at an Angelfire website) and doing various other things that simply didn’t involve working, whilst the two people who ran the business disappeared around the local area selling, and installing software. I hated it there.

Whilst travelling home one day, there was a voice, coming through the radio, behind a panio melody. It started off scratchy. The vocals kicked in. “Where’s my Angel? Can you hear me? Can you see?”. They sounded strange. Echoey, and even slightly slowed down. The scratchy piano sample carried on in the background. A drum beat kicked in. More and more dance samples were added, and then the drum beat kicks in. The song evolves, and eventually ends with a cracking little synth melody. I absolutely loved it. the DJ spoke over the end.

“And that was The Quest Project, with their new song ‘Angel’. It’ll be hitting the stores on September 7th”. OK, those weren’t the exact words, but you get the picture. I found out it was a new song, and when I can buy it.

Days passed, and it disappeared off the playlists. Nothing strange about that. At least I knew when it was going to be out.

Days went by, September 7th 1998 turned up. I got out of bed early, with the whole intention of heading to the local record shop and snapping up a copy. It must have been the first time the record shop had ever had a queue outside before the shutters opened. This is how early it was. As I went through the door, one of the assistants was waving a CD in front of the door to verify the theft detectors were working. I rushed to the new releases, and… nothing. Not a single copy.

Surely there must have been some mistake! I’d heard it on the radio after all! I asked the bloke behind the counter. He flicked through a tatty, Biro-filled notebook, looking for the releases. I could just about work out through the barely readable scrawl that there was no track called “Angel” coming out on this day. Surely there must have been some mistake. For weeks, I checked the releases, just in case it had been delayed, or somehow slipped through the notebook of biblical proportions that they kept behind the counter. Nope, nothing, nada. The song disappeared out of everyone’s consciousness, except mine. I played the small recording I;d got off the radio over and over again. I can’t have been the only person to know it.

There was one course of action left. The radio station where I’d heard it in the first place, the now-exists-only-in-name “TFM Radio” in Stockton. I reached out to a producer/DJ named Richard Kell, who said he knew the song, but didn’t know if the station still had a copy. During this time he’d taken over the late-night talk-in. Richard would often use edited versions of some great songs as the music between tak breaks, and one night, I just happened to be hovering over the pause button of my favourite tape recorder… “Teeee – Eeeeef- Emmmmm!” I depressed the pause button. Out came the familiar scratchy piano intro. I let out a scream of excitement. This was a perfect case of right place, right time, and I know the song wouldn’t have been aired if it wasn’t for me asking for it.

And that, as far as I know, was the last time it ever got played on the radio. Now, one thing I didn’t know at the time was that the version I liked, and the one being played on the radio wasn’t the proper version. It was a remix by “Trouser Enthusiasts”.

This made tracking it down just that little bit harder. Thanks to the likes of… ahem… “online services”, I tracked down the original version. It had a slower backing track, slightly different vocals, and sounded a hello of a lot more “jazz-funk” than the version that I knew and loved. Where was that upbeat sound? The progressive melody going through the song? I hate to say it, but… I… wasn’t a fan. In fact, I’m pretty sure I posted on here that it “sounded like shit” to the more upbeat version. Imagine my horror when I actually got an email from a member of the band! This was back in 2003, so I don’t think I’ll be as lucky now, especially since 20 years have passed, but it’d be nice to hear if they’re still around.

A few years ago, Jon Cox, a member of the band, posted the official video on YouTube, explaining that the record company got took over, the track got pulled, and all of the CDs that were already pressed, never saw the light of day. A few did slip through the net, mainly promos, so with the help of eBay, and other sites like it, I’ve amassed a few different versions.

The first one is the 6 track promo., catalogue CIDDJ 715 There’s no cover art for this one, as it was just a plain brown CD sleeve. It contains the radio edit of the Trouser Enthusiasts mix, along with 4 other mixes, and a remix of their earlier single “Initiate The Creative”

The second one is CD1 of the single (CID 715) . At the time, if everything had got released as it should, this would have been the one I’d bought, and as you can see by the tracklisting, there’s no “Trouser Enthusiasts mix. This was back when CD singles were a luxury item to me, earning a mere £45 a week whilst in college, so if I’d picked this one up, I’d have been somewhat disappointed.

CD Single 2 (CIDT 715) contains only two tracks, and comes in a sleeve. The original, and the elusive Trouser Enthusiasts mix. It’s just the radio edit again, so both tracks are on the promo CD mentioned earlier. This one proved the most difficult to find. In fact, I paid nearly £8 back in 2015. There is a three track version that comes in a jewel case, but I don’t have that one. I believe mine was actually an import.

The song was also released on 2x promo 12″ singles. (12 ISX 715 DJ) This was the first version I owned and contains the full length version of the Trouser Enthusiasts mix. There’s no timings on that page, but I believe it clocks in at just under 9 minutes. This is, to me, the best version. There’s also a dub version. I don’t really care for the “Dillon and Dickins” mixes also on there, and I don’t have a digital copy of those.

The other one (12 IS 715 DJ) is a slightly extended “album” version of the original, and the “Live at Fatboy J’s Remix” is the same version that’s on the CD single.

It comes as no surprise that there was no album released, and “The Quest Project” disappeared, all going their separate ways. Sian Evans, the lead singer went on to be a part of “Kosheen”.

Das ist a nice keyboard!

OK, well I know that the last proper blog post (ignore the Facebook one) was about keyboards. Well, you’ll be excited to know that this one is too. Of course, you only have to scroll down slightly to find the “absolute bargain” with that Dell keyboards.. a little bit of spit and polish (rather, a load of Cillit Bang, and even more of those disposable blue cloths), and it was back up and running.

Anyway, Thursday, is of course, market day. I’ve mentioned this many times. Sometimes, I weep when I find a badly treated CD that I’ve been after, sometimes I laugh at the prices that some of the stall holders charge, and sometimes, I swear in disbelief at the bargains that can be had, when the person just doesn’t know what they’re selling.

So, I was on an early shift at work. It was sunny, and all of those two things combined mean that I headed off to the flea market. You gathered that, otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this now. The first stall is always a hive of miscellany. My eyes were immediately drawn to a box of records. No surprise there, but the next box along stopped me dead in my tracks. The records no longer had any significance. There were keyboards. and there was one that stood out in particular. A huge one. A single keypress immediate;y informed me that this was no ordinary keyboard, it was mechanical. The satisfying clack of the key. The overall look of the beast. The fact that it looked practically brand new.. There just had to be a catch somewhere.

I grabbed it instantly, and went over to the guy selling them. £2 each. What? Money exchanged hands, and I walked away with a keyboard. I had no idea if it worked. I walked through the town clutching this keyboard, I must have looked a complete wally., but I don’t care. A mechanical keyboard for less than the price of a pint.

It’s actually perfect timing. Some of you have noticed when I’m typing something that there are double characters especially Cs and Ys. It appears that those two switches are possibly on the way out. They might just need cleaning, or they might need replacing entirely. One thing I know is that it’s not easy to do, so I was sort-of hesitating over getting a different keyboard. I suppose this will have to do for now!

Right, so far, I’ve raved about my purchase. I do have a couple of reservations about it. It’s a touch-type keyboard, meaning that none of the keys have marks. It’s completely blank. One thing is though, I’m typing using it now, and the words are flowing like beer from a keg. There are obviously the odd mistakes, but they creep into my typing anyway. Using this might actually improve my already fantastic typing abilities. Ahem.

Another thing is that… I’m not sure it’s a genuine product. It’s by Das Keyboards. A name I’ve actually heard of. This one is apparently the MX3000. There is a Cherry keyboard of very, very similar design, though checking out the Youtube videos on it, It looks better made, I’ve had Cherry keyboards in the past that have had different branding on them, so it might just be a case of that.

Just look at how plain the logo is though.

I’m not going to rip it apart to find out to see if there’s anything more identifiable on the parts inside,, but I do know that the switches are Cherry branded

There’s also the fact that it’s an ANSI keyboard (American), as opposed to the ISO (UK) standard. It’s not much of a problem, but the smaller return key, and you can only get to the backslash by pressing AltGR and # as there’s no dedicated key for it. Seeing as I use the backslash key a lot MIGHT prove an annoyance, but I’ll wait and see.

I’ve been using this as my main keyboard since Thursday now, and I’ve had absolutely no other issues with it. I’m surprised how quickly I got used to not having letters on the keys. As I said, maybe this will improve my typing, maybe I’ll get sick of it and fling it in the cupboard with the other 5,000 keyboards that I own.

But yeah, no letters!

Oh, well, thank you Facebook.

Well, thanks to Facebook’s changing of the rules, apparently, I can no longer update Facebook when I do a blog post. OK, I know it’s not regularly anway, but it was still a nice feature to have. Seeing as it apparently stops working in about 20 minutes, this ccould be the last blog post on here you’ll EVER see. Not really, I’ll just manually post shite instead, and I can probably free up crap by uninstalling Jetpack, which is now completely redundant to me.

You probably should ignore this post, it’s not a work of art.

Car boots, football, obscure tapes and manky keyboards

hmmm. It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update. I’ve had a bit of writers’ block. Well, I wrote a couple of things, but they just ended in vitriolic rants about certain people. Thankfully, however, last week was a week off work, so I’ve had time to catch up with things that I love. Record collecting, for example.

The last couple of weeks have certainly been part of a record collecting binge. This is the first time since I was a kid that I remember having such a long, hot summer, and since the weathermen have guaranteed long, hot weekends, I’ve been able to arrange trips to car boot sales with Chris. Last week, it was Seaham, and the week before was Sedgefield.

Now, I’m sure I started typing about the Sedgefield one, but I can’t find any trace of it, so I mught have dreamt it, but basically, I bought lots and lots of CDs and records. £2 entry fee, which wasn’t too bad. I just remember knocking out some crap jokes. A guy selling plants, and I said to Chris “they’re mint, them”. Of course, it was an actual mind plant. Shris laughed. the guy behind the stall said he must have been easily amused. I was just happy that someone else heard the joke. On another stall, I commented that one of the CDs he was selling was Absolute Garbage I had to spell it out to the store owner, who seemed to be slightly offended that I happened to be slagging off one of his CDs. No mate, just a crap pun.

It seemed to close early, as most of the people were packing up to go see England play. By the time I’d got home, they’d scored 5 goals. Turned out to be a great day overall.

Another week passed, and it was time flr the first Middlesbrough record fair. This was the first one for two years, and it was nice to have it back! Unfortunately, the day ended in absolute disaster… hanging around for three hours for a lift, only for my lift’s battery to run flat, and having to get the bus home anyway. I was fuming, and my foot went up like a pudding because of it. Great times.

I did bump into Glen – a fellow blogger and ex-work colleague whom I’ve not mentioned on here for what must be a decade, vut we had a bloody good catchup for about an hour. Preally nice to see him again.

Sunday arrived, and another visit to a car boot sale was arranged. Chris wanted some “tat” for “something” – saying what he wanted, and what for might actually spoil a surprise for someone, so I won’t say what. Of course, there’s absolutely no chance that the person involved will ever read this blog, but you never know. Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, we turned up, nice and early at the car boot. Roughly 9AM. There were a queue of cars waiting to get in and set up, but not many buyers. Had we got there too early? Well. Turns out that if you’re a buyer, it costs you £5 to get in before 11:30. the doors then close between 11:30 and 12:30, meaning if you want to get in early, you pay an inflated price. If you want to pay the cheap price, you’ve got to then queue for an hour, and miss out on potential bargains. Crafty.

Seeing as there were very few stalls set up, and it didn’t look that big anyway, myself and Chris went to Sunderland. Honestly, you’ve heard of ghost towns. You’ve never seen a ghost town until you’ve walked around Sunderland city centre at 9:30. My word. Even the pigeons were hobbling about, looking like they had hangovers.

I couldn’t bear the thought of being in Sunderland for any time longer than I needed to, so I quickly abandoned the idea of hanging around there for two hours, then queuing in the baking sun. Instead, I bit the bullet, paid myself and Chris into the car boot at the inflated price. Damn them. their cunning plan worked.

Unfortunately, there seemed to be more stalls selling absolute garbage than music, which, to me was a little saddening, although I did come home with quite a few CDs, a Zodion SS6 photocell for a streetlight, and a cassette tape for a format I don’t actually own…

Ah yes, the humble DCC. I remember, as a kid, I picked up a copy of Q magazine from 1993, that had a huge article on DCC. I mainly got it because it had a free CD on the front. As I’d only picked up my first CD player the Christmas before, any type of cheap CD to expand my music library was always welcome. Though, as a snotty teenager, the articles went more in-depth than what I liked. I think I’d only stopped getting comics at that point. Still, I was interested to see if this format ever made it into the wild. It didn’t, DCC sank without a trace (at least in your everyday consumer spectrum anyway) and I never ever saw one for sale.

That is, until I bought the one above. the guy had three for sale, one unwrapped. He’d clearly, at the time, bought these by accident, thinking they were just standard cassette tapes. I like to think he’s been carrying these to boot sales every weekend since the 90s and this is the first time he’s sold one. Probably not though.

Fast forward a week. If I haven’t bored you already, the weekend was quiet. I didn’t actually go anywhere. Mainly because I couldn’t. My guts were in absolute tatters for 4 days. No idea what caused it, It was a slightly toned down version or what happened to me when I was about 17. I’ll not go into it, but trust me, if I needed to go to a fancy dress party, I could have swallowed some gravel and went as a shotgun. Not nice at all.

Tuesday was the day when I finally mustered up the courage to leave the house safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be splattering my jeans. I’d made it my resolution to visit every charity shop in Hartlepool. The first stop was The YMCA shop, where I picked up probably my 2nd best purchase of the day… “No Sound Without Silence” by The Script. Not the type of album I’d normally see myself go for, but when I was in Amsterdam a few years ago, it was the only CD that was played on the coach, and I ended up liking it. Not enough to pay any decent money for, but for 50p, I couldn’t go wrong. It also has the theme to “Mrs Brown’s Boys Da Movie” on it… Terible film, great theme. Sorry.

I travelled from one end of the town to the other. While I was waiting for the bus, I heard a young chav lass shout “Fuck off” to her child. The child was below full speaking age, and was happily gibbering away to his mother Her response… “Oh, yeah, yeah. I had one of those, but the wheels fell off”. I had to laugh.

Towards the end of the day, I headed to the town. In one of the charity shops that shall remain nameless. A lad was looking at some CDs, went to the counter with 3 CDs, but the manager saw he was holding 4 just a minute earlier. Unknown to her, he’d put one back, but it was too late. She’d asked to check in the bag he was carrying. Well. You should have heard it. Not from him, but his mother, who was elsewhere in the store.

“Are you the manager? What’s your head office number? I’ll be reporting this! Do you know how much I spend in here? You didn’t apologise for looking in there”

There were so many things wrong with her argument. Now I know a little about customer services, after being in a role like this, but at the end of a telephone.

Point number 1. You can report staff all you want to a head office. If they’re double checking to make sure that stock hasn’t been stolen, then they’re always going to side with the member of staff. That’s your job. Point number 2. Shops are shops. If you’re offended by someone doing their job, then fuck off. Don’t come back. Don’t buy products from them ever again. If you dropped down dead tomorrow, the charity won’t fold. They won’t be looking out for you, as they stand underneath a big “TO LET” sign with a key in the shutters. No, ther people will buy stuff.

I did feel sorry for the manager behind the counter. I just rolled my eyes, as the complaints echoed out of the store and down the street. It’s probably water off a ducks’ back, but still.

Sorry, I went off on more of a ran than I intended there. I just hate rude people. Anyway you’ll notice that the Script CD was only the 2nd best purchase of the day. I’m sure you’re dying to know the best….

A keyboard. Yes, one of those things that you type into. One of the stores had a plethora of keyboards dumped under the CDs. Now, these were dusty old things. It was clear to see that there was a nice Dell keyboard underneath all of the tat. It looked practically brand new, but with the dust, and a very small amount of key wear.

Now, some places state that keyboards have more bacteria on them than toilet seats. I’ve not looked into that statement in any great detail, but it’s always had me a little wary over 2nd hand keyboards, but at £1.75, this was too good to miss. the knife didn’t come with it, by the way, it was just a make-shift key puller.

It had occurred to me, while approacting the wrought iron gates and gravel driveway or Mercuryvapour Towers, that this keyboard was probably hiding something. Why was it practically unused? Off came the keys, aaaaand….

Oh holy Christ! What the fuck is that? My god, I’d just gotten over a stomach infection, it looked very much like I was on course for another one. I have no idea what this stuff was. These Dell keyboards have drain holes, so thankfully, whatever it was only got caught under the F keys. Out came the Cillit Bang. The smell coming from the muck was ungodly. At a guess, from the colour and the smell, I’d have to say it was vomit, but I’ll never know. After an hour of scrubbing / spraying / wiping down with antibacterial stuff., it came up looking absolutely brilliant, and I can confirm that it actually fully works, because I’ve been typing on it for the entirety of this post!

Ugh. Thank you, Europe.

Oh, look! I have one of those cookie bar things! You know the things that, by law, bug you on every website you visit? Yeah, I’ve got one too. Sorry.

One thing though, is that on a PC screen, it’s not too distracting. It’s a little bit more obnoxious if you view it on your phone. I just hope it doesn’t drive away both of my readers. And, if you post a comment, it mentions something about a third party (Akismet) checking your post for spam. It saves me a job, and it’s just shy of deleting 100,000 spam comments on the site in the 15 or so years I’ve been using it.

I hope it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of reading the no posts I’ve posted recently.