Day 1: Bridge of Spies – T’Pau (An album a day for 10 days)

I was recently nominated in a post on Facebook to post 10 albums, one a day, that mean something to me. The rules were to originally not add a description, and just post the cover, but that’s changed as it’s went on. I’m blowing that *right* out of the water, by only posting an abridged version on Facebook, and then the full waffle on here. After all, it’s the perfect platform!

I’m starting off with “Bridge of Spies”, by T’Pau.

I’ll be very surprised if I’ve never mentioned this album on here before, as it’s one of my favourites. Let’s start from the beginning. I must have been about 8 years old. At that age, I never really had pocket money. Any money I did manage to come by, went on ZX Spectrum games and magazines. I always had an interest in music, but had no way of acquiring it. Funds were dry, and I didn’t have any way of recording stuff from the radio. Now, Chad (yes, the same Chad who often trolls my spelling on here) obviously saw a gap in the market, and sold me a cassette tape. On it was a really badly recorded version of the afore-mentioned album. In fact, I’ve definitely mentioned this on here, as I have a photo of that exact tape already uploaded on here…

Honestly, this recording was shocking. Both sides managed to fit on one side of a C90, but whoever taped it originally had got the sides mixed up, so side 2 played first, followed by side 1. Personally, I like this running order much more. It starts off with the piano intro of “Bridge Of Spies” and finishes with the upbeat instrumental section of “Sex Talk”.

And, for that reason I’m going to give the album another listen, and play the tracks in the order that I remember them…

01. Bridge Of Spies
A great opener, and one of my favourites on the album. Great instrumentals, great vocals. Also contains a false ending which leads into an instrumental section. The album quickly goes into track 2, and until I actually got a proper copy, I always thought that the first opening bars of “Monkey House” were part of this song.

02. Monkey House
Fast-paced nonsense about “mental hygeine”. There’ll be no more dirty looks, and no more dirty looks. Indeed. The lyrics always bring an image of an Orwellian society, though I didn’t know what it was back then. Another instrumental section, and some strangely distorted guitars.

03. Valentine
Onto the slower paced songs now. “Valentine”. I’ve come to appreciate this one a bit more than what I used to. This was the first track in the album to be released as a single. Over here anyway. “Bridge Of Spies” got a US single release

04. Than You For Goodbyes
Probably the low point of the album for me. If I was to fast forward a track, it’d be this one. That’s a thing. Each day, I’ll name a track that I’d fast-forward. Just for funsies. Anyway, it’s a slow plodder that doesn’t get anywhere. Carol’s vocals are still great. The expanded version of this album features “Thank You For Goodbyes Rides Again”, which is an upbeat reworking of the song. Infinitely better in my opinion, though they do just seem to give up half-way through and ended the song. It sould have been so much longer!

05. You Give Up
We’re back to the great songs again. The song starts with what sounds like a hammond organ warming up, and finishes with the same. Another upbeat tune that also has the hammond solo in it. Overall a great track. On this remastered version, you don’t get to hear much of the afore-mentioned organ powering down, as it quickly segues into…

06. China In Your Hand (Reprise)
This was always a strange one to me, as I never really saw the point of its existence. Obviously, listening to the album tracks in the right order, puts this after “China In Your Hand”, but it’s basically the 2nd portion of the album version, shortened, and instrumental. Even when listening to the album properly, it just doesn’t need to be there. Did they have some spare tape?
Was the album running a minute short? “Oh, just stick that on the end”.

07. Heart and soul
As I mentioned before, my original recording of this was really quiet. Therefore, the extended fade-out of the above song, and the long one-note intro that fades in, made it seem like a really long period of silence. I absolutely loved this song. It was like two songs in one. You have the chanting backing vocals, with Carol Decker’s vocals over the top. I listened to this song many times to decipher both sets of lyrics. I even remember writing them out at one point, as I heard them. No idea how accurate they were. Overall a brilliant track.

08. I Will Be With You
We’re back to the slow ones, but this one isn’t bad. Happy memories of listening to this, playing on the c16 that Chad sold me after I blew up my Speccy. This song was always the fore-runner to the big hit…

09. China In Your Hand
A song written about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which “plucked violin” synths throughout. Recorded in two versions, one for the radio-friendly single release which is shorter, faster and clocks in at a minute shorter. This album version is more structured. Again, that’s personal opinion. I guess you like whichever version you grew up listening to. This was mine. I also have the demo version, and another strange version I found on a really cheap compilation, which was really good. So that, er, makes 4 versions. This one’s the classic though. Listening to it gives me an image of the blue dusk sky, as me and my dad cross over the Peterlee flyover in his works Transit van, with this playing on the radio. Odd, seeing as I’ve heard it so many times in so many places – that’s the one that my brain decides to commit to ROM.

10. Friends Like These
The song that follows the big hit. An absolutely lovely little ditty, and a great tune. Starts off with the opening bars of “Abide With Me”, then into another fantastically crafted tune, and the most sing-along chorus of the full album. This was also available on the “China In Your Hand” CD single, though they fade it out for some unknown reason. There’s not even any mix between this and the final track, which is…

11. Sex Talk
Released as a single, but recorded as a live version and under the name “Intimate Strangers”. This one was always a mystery to me, as even as a kid, I heard the lyrics “I don’t know when I got so wet”. Obviously at the time, not knowing exactly what the song referred to (spoiler: it’s about two people who called one of those 0898 sex lines, and are clearly mastu(YES, We get the picture – Ed.)), I didn’t know what that meant. The lyrics booklet had it printed as “I don’t know how I got through it”. Oh, I think we know which one’s correct, don’t we! Can I check those fingernails? (Too far, Jamie. – Ed.) Ahem. The track finishes with a brief instrumental section, and that’s it. That’s version of the album I grew up with.

—————–
So, that’s the album. I’ve got nothing else to do so I might as well give a little bit of info on my purchases of this album. First off was an original tape off the Hartlpool flea market, probably back in 1995 or 1996. Think I paid a quid for it. Everything was original. I go and play the tape, and some arsehole had taped Pink Floyd over the top. Absolutely fuming. Bin!

Next up was the LP. This was the first time I’;d heard some of the songs as they were supposed to have sounded. My record player probably wasn’t the best at the time, but it was as close as I was going to get. Next up was the CD. A bit scratched, probnably from the flea market again. Played perfectly though.

At some point, I picked up the “Demos” album that was released. As far as I know, this only came out on (official) MP3 download, which I purchased) though some of the tracks made it onto the 37-track expanded version of the Bridge Of Spies album, and the 4-disc Virgin Years” compilation, both of these I also own.

Right, so that’s day one over with. I hope you found it informative. Probably not, but thanks to the lockdown you’re going to have 9 more days of this crap. Be lucky, stay well, keep off the streets, don’t touch each other, remember to have your pets spayed or neutered and warning: this surface may be hot. See you tomorrow! Maybe.

Charity Shop mysteries – Waterfront – E.P.

Hello, and welcome to a new feature. Since I’ve been hunting through the charity shops, I’ve garnered a liking for “mystery” CDs. these are CDs from bands that I’ve never actually heard of, bands who never made it big, and independently produced CDs. You know those ones, people who got together in their mate’s garage. It all started a few years ago when I unearthed that Jean Bennet Record waaaay back in 2011, and over the years I’ve had comments from many fans of Jean, found out more than I thought I ever would, and learned that she’d had a more interesting life than I’d ever realised.

Since then, my charity shop travels would often unearth little gems like that. CDs without catalogue numbers, barcodes and even record labels. CDs produced in small numbers, that somehow make their way into the charity shops.

Of course, I’m not buying them just for their music, but to also hopefully shed a bit of light on the band itself, do a little bit of research, and hopefully one day this page will turn up in search results and return some happy memories for those concerned and know that someone, somewhere has a copy of their music.

One reason I’m doing it, is because of the Myspace fiasco that occurred a couple of years back. Myspace was a place where this exact type of band could upload their work, share it with family and friends, and of course, fans. Some time a couple of years ago, the Myspace media player fell silent. Thanks to a “server migration”, terabytes of music and countless tracks by these unsigned bands went up in virtual smoke. To this day, I still don’t believe that this archive of hard work and dedication could have just gone, without warning, with a single click of a Myspace emloyee’s mouse, bit it happened. It’s gone..

Some of these bands took it upon themselves to produce CDs, so thankfully, their music lives on. This first one is exactly one of those bands affected by the Myspace server blackout, so at least 4 of their tracks survive into the 2020s.

This is a CD that I just picked up today. It’s a CD that has their Myspace site on the back cover, and it’s the whole reason that spurred me onto start these, as I knew their music would have been affected by the loss. And, indeed they were.

This one comes from a band called Waterfront. Their Myspace link is still active, but as I predicted, the link to the music has stopped working.

Here’s a couple of pictures of the artwork, and CD. I promise my photography will get more professional as this goes on (No it won’t – Ed.)

The inside of the CD sleeve reads as follows:

Waterfront are:
Sam Willoughby – Vocals & Guitar
David Dowling – Guitar
Pip Coates – Bass & Backing Vocals
Tim Carr – Drums & Backing Vocals

with
Mark Broughton – Keyboards

Recorded @ Digital Gardens on October 24-26 2007
Engineered by Johanas Rawlinson
Propduced by Waterfront
Additional Production by Johanas Rawlinson

Thanks to Matthew Brown, Mark Broughton, Johanas Rawlinson and all our friends and family

All songs written by Waterfront
Copyright Sam Willoughby
All Artwork by Matthew Brown

The CD is a professionally printed CD-R, with decent quality inlays and CD label. There’s no catalogue / matrix numbers anywhere on the disc or packaging. There’s a link in the Myspace profile to “Polinta CD manufacturing”. This could be a coincidence, however, as they’re based in Malaysia.

The four tracks on the CD are as follows…

1 For You (04:05)
2. New Life (04:09)
3. Far Away (04:02)
4. Hate To Say it (04:12)

I have, of course, had a play of it. The first two tracks or my favourite. I could probably get away with playing “For You” on loop for a while and not get sick of it, it’s got some nice acoustic guitar bits and decent bassline to it.

But, what became of the band? Apart from the Myspace profile, very little. It’s proved more difficult than I imagined to track down anything about the band at all. Normally the place where it’s recorded is a good start, but nothing for “Digital Gardens” that I can see in the UK Obviously, it’s coming up to 13 years since this CD was recorded, so anything could have happened. A shame, as I’ve really enjoyed listening to this CD. Had it playing the entire time I’ve been typing this.

EDIT: I’m aware there was a late 80s band called Waterfront. These aren’t the same people.

Let’s Go To Misterland

I’ve been buying music again. Seeing as this blog’s been going on for 20 years, I’m bound to have touched on this subject before, but seeing as I can’t remember, I’m sure you, my dear reader won’t recall either. Today, I’ve had good reason to revisit this subject… so how did my love for music begin, and how did it flourish into what could be classed an a compulsive collecting disorder, or something?

Some of my earliest memories are in my dad’s car. I’m sure he had a particular tape that had “Hang On Sloopy” by The McCoys taped onto it. I’d go so far as to say this was my first musical memory. I’m sure at this point, I must have shown some interest in music, as for Xmas 1984, I got my first ever record player. It was a Fisher Price jobby. Beige in colour, with an orange turntable, and a massive orange tone arm. I have a photo somewhere, but unfortunately, you’ll have to make do with a photo of me opening my presents on what may have been the same day, or it may have been the year after.

Gosh darn it, I’m close to reminiscing about that brown sofa now. Anyhoo. Xmas came, and I got a small selection of records, all perfectly suited for a child of this age…

“Do They Know It’s Xmas” – It’ll have been the most popular record at the time.
“We All Stand Together” – Paul McCartney and The Frog Chorus
“Child’s Play” – a BBC record containing tracks interesting for kids, including the Dr. Who theme, some stories, and a couple of tracks containing Floella Benjamin.
“The Mr. Men Songs”. Featured Arthur Lowe. Another BBC record. Originally released on Pye records
“Stories from Playschool”. A spoken-word record, containing, as it suggests, stories from Playschool.

One main problem with this setup, is that this was a real record player. It played real records, from a real stylus. Sadly, after years of playing everything from Band Aid to biscuits, the turntable finally gave up the ghost. The player “went into storage”, also known as the black bin bag at the side of the road, and most of the records suffered a similar fate. As my childhood grew, I’d moved onto tapes, or rather, taping stuff off the radio, outgrowing these kid’s records.

Fast forward to 1991. My dad brought home a music centre from work. Not sure how he got hold of it. Maybe one of the customers wanted shot of it? Don’t know. Either way, it ended up in our possession, and I was thrilled to finally have a proper music system. It then came to see what records I had to play on it…

I had a choice of either “The Mr. Men Songs” or “Child’s Play”. The rest had went to the great jukebox in the sky. I still have tapes of me doing pretendy radio stations from back in the day featuring selected tracks from these two records. Eventually, these scratched kiddy records went out of circulation, for the final time, eventually becoming part of experiments involving light bulbs and sharp things. Years and years passed, and about 5 years ago, I founf the Mr. Men record smashed under a ppile of old boxes in the cupboard. It was then that I started regretting my actions. A small part of my brain gnawed away at me, wanting to hear some of those songs again. I thought it’d be interesting to hear them with a proper setup, not like the mono little record player, and not like the jumping, scratched mess I forced the music system into playing.

Turns out it’s been particularly hard to find in the second-hand market. Most copies probably just got scratched or thrown away, when the child grew up. After all, it’s not going to win an Ivor Novello award any time soon, but thankfully, I never grew up, and there’s been a little part of my brain dedicated to its memory.

Over the years, I learned it was arranged by Keith Mansfield… the very same guy who composed so many BBC themes, and who gives his name to the KPM music library (I believe). The lyrics were written by Roger Hargreaves himself.

Well, after years of searching I finally found a copy… on tape! Yesterday, I was in Northallerton, which Chris, and after spending more time and money than I really should have in a certain brilliant record shop, I headed round the charity shops. the last one I went into was the Blue Cross shop, near the end of the high street. The CDs weren’t up to much, so I had a look through the tapes. There it was, in all of its plastic glory. The sticker said £1.49. Oof. I’ve paid much more for much worse so I waddled off to the counter, with tape in hand. Turns out it was only 20p, and I only had a tenner, after I’d fed the parking machine gods all of my loose change earlier on in the day. Chris had disappeared outside by this point so I sheepishly handed over The Queen, and while the lady showed the trainee cashier how to use the till, I explained pretty much everything I typed above.

SO, yeah. It’s a bit of an embarrassing purchase, but there’s just something about those 1970s graphics and that BBC logo that will always hold a place in my heart. I’ve yet to play it… it came out in 1979, so no idea what 40 years have done to it.

And yes, I’m well aware that it was originally released on Epic Records back in 1976. It says so on the cover. Oh, here, have some photos of it. (This is your worst closing line ever – Ed). Oh, shut up.

As of December 2019, I’ve played and converted this. It really is as catchy as I remember. In parts, anyway.

ITV Racing music

Do you watch the racing on ITV? Do you like the double-bassy, mute-trumpety music they use when introducing the runners and riders for each race? Do you wish you could own a copy of this music, or at least stream it on somewhere like Spotify? Well, now you can!

It’s title is… Drum Roll Please…. “Les Fleurs” by 4 Hero, released on their 2001 album “Creating Patterns”.

I’ve been after it for ages, so I thought someone else might have been too, hence the blog post. Turns out I’ve had the exact track on a compilation CD for ages and never realised. Minnie Riperton originally performed the song in 1970.

Also, the flutey music they use when going into a break (not part of the main theme, which is also pretty flutey) is the instrumental version of “Go Do” by Jonsi.

The actual theme was composed especially for the program, and to my knowledge, has never been commercially released.

We will return you to your scheduled programming shortly. *cough*.

UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long, thanks to the reliability of Discogs, I’ve got the single in my collection now, which contains the instrumental version.

2nd hand MP3 players!

I’ve typed a few times about radio rallies. They’re basically markets for new and old amateur radio equipment, computer bits, and box upon box of various other electronic hardware that have served its useful life. Still, there’s nothing wrong with digging through these boxes of miscellaneous flotsam to see if there’s something that’s worth looking at, or giving a second home.

You may remember I pulled out a perfectly working voice recorder last year for £1. Now, due to the fact that the headphone port on my phone is broken (or rather, there’s half a newspaper stuck in it, which won’t shift), I’ve been using this voice recorder as an MP3 player. The slight problem with it, is that it’s an absolute beast. The microphone on top of it makes it look like a taser, so I don’t like getting it out in public (oo-er). It was still serviceable, however, so I wasn’t really in the market for a new one

Today was the first radio rally of the year, in Ripon. Chris came with me, and right in the middle of a box of trash, he spied a little box. “MP3 Player 4Gb”. Of course, the burning question is, did it come home with me?

Pffft. Of course it did.

It’s one of those little “chewing gum” MP3 players, without any type of screen, or other functionality. The guy wanted £3 for it. I talked him down to £2. Finally, those years of watching re-runs of Bargain Hunt have finally paid off. My first successful haggle!

It came with everything it should have done. Manual, mini (not micro) USB cable, and Of course, the in-ear headphones. I don’t think they’ve been used, but I’m going to nuke them from orbit, just to be on the safe side. As you can see, it’s badged with the Alba name, and has the model number MP420008UK. Anybody that knows anything about hi-fi would probably projectile vomit at the mere mention of the word “Alba”, but if it wasn’t for my original Alba music system, which I got for Xmas 1991, and the CD player in 1992, I’d probably not have the same interest in music that I do now. The hi-fi is long gone, but the CD player still works. , or it did the last time I plugged it in anyways.

So, anyway, back to this MP3 player. What’s the first thing you do with any type of 2nd hand storage media? That’s right, you plug it in, check to see what the previous owner had on it! I think I’m safe publishing this. It’s an MP3 player. I don’t think they’re going to be listening to their personal documents through this.

It seems this MP3 player had a very easy life, as there were only a few files on it. The majority of the drive seemed to contain the same random data string, so it was either like this from the factory, or the previous owner wiped it using a utility. This was entirely possible, as due to the .trash-1000 folder, the previous owner was using Linux. It didn’t come back with anything other than the few tracks that were already visible. The rest of the 17 files were just random system files.

Oddly, a lot of German-named tracks. Edith Piaf too. Coincidentally, Chris was with me when I saw her grave in Paris. Funny how these things come together like that.

So, I’ve typed all of this, but does the bloody thing work? Yes, is the short answer.

Cosmetically, it’s in mint condition. No obvious wear, and the serial number sticker isn’t worn at all. As this has spent (what looks like) many years stashed away, I’m not sure how healthy the non-replaceable battery is going to be, but it charged without an issue.

I formatted it, and copied three, songs to it. They’re the first three instrumental versions from the “Pandora’s Box” version of Hell Frost, by The Unguided, if you were wondering, and yes, it works great. Despite it only being 4Gb, that’s plenty of space for the short bus journey to work. It certainly lasted the whole time it took me to type this.

In conclusion, I’m pretty happy with this purchase. It’ll certainly last me until I upgrade my phone. Now, to choose what other crap to fling on it!

EDIT: October 2019 – It’s appeared to have developed a loose/dirty power switch, where a knock or a jolt will turn it off. It might just need a clean, or it might have just been thrown about once too often. I’ll see how it goes. 6 months use out of a few quid. Not bad.

Hartlepool Record fair – just a few days to go!

What’s black, 12 inches long, and guaranteed to bring a smile to my face? Yes, that’s right. A record.

And on the end of that terrible, and actually non-factual joke (I collect singles mainly), I’m happy to announce that for the first time this millennium, the lovely little fishing village of Hartlepool is getting its own record fair! (Would help if I mentioned the date. It’s this Sunday, March 31st. Oops)

It only seems a mere 20 years ago, since I was rummaging through boxes, buying “Morning Train (9 to 5)” by Sheena Easton, because I thought it was the *other* “9 to 5″, you know, the one by Dolly Parton. Little did I know that those particular memories would be the last ones I’d make for 20ish years, and I’d have to satisfy my record hoarding hunger through other methods, and other towns with their own record fairs.

Let’s get the formalities over with, If you’ve found this through Google, or something similar because I mentioned the record fair in Hartlepool (sutble), and you want to know how to get there, then it can’t be easier. If you’re coming by train, head out and look for the big church. Walk towards the church, and look for a zebra crossing on your left. That’s Tower Street. Walk about 100 yards along that road, and there’s be a building on your right that looks like a smaller church. That’s it. That’s the Studio, and that’s where the record fair is. It’s really easy to get to.

I’m also not affiliated whatsoever with the record fair runner, I’m just over the moon to have one in my home town again, and if the fair is well attended, there’ll be more, and I’ll be a very happy bunny.

We now return you to your usual programming, of me rambling about crap that happened recently, and yes, mainly record fairs.

So, erm… yeah. How to sum up 20 years aof record fairs. For me, they go way back. Pretty much my entire adult life. The late 90s were a strange time for music. Vinyl record sales were dramatically on the decline, CDs were still the in-thing. Music downloads were something done illegally, and streaming was something you did in a dark alley on the way home after 15 pints in the pub.

The art of the record fair was also in decline. It never truly died off, but it’s safe to say it went into hibernation. Fast forward many years. I’d lost my hair, my beer gut took pride of place around my midriff, and all of a sudden, vinyl was back in vogue again, and so, the humble art of the record fair returned.

I think the first one I went to (in the recent batch) was back in 2013, then the owner of Betterdaze (a record store in Northallerton), arranged one. It must have had a good attendance, as more were arranged, along with others in Northallerton. Looking back through the collection, I’ve came back with some cracking stuff from all of them. I mean, who could turn down a 12” pressing of “Seven Tears by The Goombay Dance Band, on clear yellow vinyl? Not me! I picked it up from Middlesbrough on 12th September 2015.

Recently, I’ve travelled as far as Leeds, just to get toa record fair. They was an ordeal. Absolutely worth it for the German pressing of “Downtown” and “Another Man“by One 2 Many. In fact, you can view all of the records I bought that particular day.

So, in conclusion, yes, if you attend this record fair, there is a very high possibility I will be in attendance. Say hello. Actually, no, don’t. I don’t mix well with strangers, and I’m out the night before, so there’s a strong chance I’ll be hanging out my hoop, and not willing to talk to anyone.

If you do go, I hope you find some bargains!

RIP Mark Hollis

Less than a minute ago, I learned of the sad and untimely passing of Mark Hollis, the lead singer of Talk Talk, definitely one of my favourite bands of all time.

Wow. I don’t know what to say. I found the news completely by chance. I have a site bookmarked that lists the most recent pictures to flickr, and someone posted a picture of a Talk Talk single cover. “Wooh, I like that song”, I thought, as I randomly clicked. Up came the hashtag #RIPMarkHollis

I… I’m speechless. This post will be strewn with errors, and I don’t know if it will “make it to air” any time soon, as I’m not sure if the battery will last, but… my word.

I’m just typing a stream of consciousness right now. I genuinely loved a load f their stuff. Teearly stuff, like the single “Talk Talk” (demo version was called “Talk Talk Talk Talk”) to the commercially acceptable “It’s My Life”, the dark and grungy piano loop of “Life’s What You Make It”, which is upthere in my all-time favourite songs. There was, of course, its utterly deplorable 1990s remix (which I own a copy of), completely disowned by the band – to the point that when they released “A Sides and Besides”, they took the piss out of it, and included the original 12″ mix, with the liner notes reading something like “Trust us, this one’s better”.

Another favourite is “Pictures of Bernadette”, and the altogether weirdness of “Happiness Is Easy”, with its strange, almost lacklustre choir of children singing some of the lyrics, and bass line that just goes anywhere it wants in parts.

I’m keeping a low profile on social media at the moment, as it jolly well sucks, but this news has made me break out the keyboard. It’s my life, don’t you forget.