Day 5 – Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells II

Surprisingly, yet another entry that’s been influenced by long-time reader, and my far the most imaginative troll on this site, Chad. The year is 1992. I’d only been collecting records for just inder a year, so the name of Mike Oldfield was a bit unknown to me. The only music of his I was aware of, was his single “Moonlight shadow”.

“Sentinel” was the lead track on the album, which was released and remixed as a single. Around this time, Chad had picked up a copy of the afore-mentioned album on tape. I distincly remember its blue background, and yellow tube on the front. I only remember hearing the first track of the album, and was surpried to find out how differnt it was to the version released as a single. I think it was the first experience I’d had with an album version of a rack being different to the single version.

Sadly, around that time came the worst period of my life. and I remember, a few days after this particular thing happened, I went into Hit Parade on York Road, picked up the single version of “Sentinel”….. and “Tetris” by Dr. Spin. I’m guessing grief made me make some strange musical decisions that day.

At some point, I picked up the original Tubular Bells album. Admittedly, I wasn’t really a fan. I must have been about 14, and the two long passages of music didn’t really keep me entertained as much as, say, Pato Banton’s “Baby Come Back”, or whatever was in the charts back then. No idea what happened to the tape

Many, many years later, I found a 2nd hand copy of Tubular Bells 2. I was intrigued to hear what the full album sounded like, after only hearing the first track in its entirety. Needless to say, the fact that I’m writing this now proved just how much I liked the album. It was great. Much more polished, a lot less experimental. The two long passages of music still existed, as none of the tracks have gaps in between them (except, of course where you need to change sides).

There are some great hidden gems in there, and although a few singles came from the album, Sentinel was the only one that had any type of chart success – sentinel reached number 10, “Tattoo” reached 33, and “The Bell” reached 55.

“The Bell” is possibly my second favourite track on the album. Alan Rickman is featured as the “Master of Ceremonies”. though there are many different versions, with other people doing the role of the MC, such as Bully Connolly, MC Otto who is a German comedian. One version also has Vivian Stanshall reprising his role from the first LP. Unfortunately he wouldn’t be able to carry this role on in the third in the series, as he died in 1995. There were no MC tracks on the third album.

Interestingly, Alan Rickman isn’t credited on the album

I’m not going to do a track-by-track section as you really have to listen to the album in its entirety. Plus, they’re tedious as hell to type out

Day 4 – The Auf Weidersehen, Pet Soundtrack

The 1980s was a time of uncertainty for the British Isles. Margaret Thatcher was in power, the coal mines were on the brink of closing, and things really didn’t look rosy. In 1984, a new TV series started, featuring the exploits of 4 labourers from around the country, all applying for jobs in Germany, and ending up in a building site in Dusseldorf., with *hilarious* consequences. Anyway, I could babble on about the plotlines and characters for hours, but I’m up early for work in the morning, and seeing as I haven’t done one of these for a while, I thought I’d continue it.

A very early memory of mine comes from this first showing. At the end of one episode, the sound started going all wobbly. Amazingly, thanks to the power of youtube, someone captured this very fault onVHS, and uploaded it to Youtube albeit from a different ITV region…

Now, for some reason I believed that “Do not adjust your set” type messages were actually there, because if you DID adjust your set, it would blow up., so every time something like this happened when I was a youngster, it used to scare me. Obviously, it’s 2020, and I now know that faults like this were caused by a master tape fault, or a dirty video head… either way, something was causing the video player to lose its tracking, and not able to keep the correct tape speed. Two memories of the show stuck with me… that fault, and the last episode of season 1 where “the hut bornt doon”. Oh, and of course, the theme music.

In (possibly) the summer of 1988, ITV started to show abridged 30 minute episodes, cutting the 1-hour long episodes in half. I remember watching, and liking the show, and also the two theme songs. It was one of the few shows at the time that used a completely different theme for the beginning of the show, and the end. I still have recordings of the theme that i’d grab off the telly, holding the tape recorder up to the telly. At the end of these episodes, the announcer would remind us that the soundtrack was available to purchase on LP.

Later that year, one of Chad’s freinds, Darren, who was several years older than me, said he had the afore-mentioned LP, and would I like a copy. Well. Of course I would. I handed him a cassette tape, and he returned, a few days later, with this…

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The writing’s mine, by the way, written several years later

It’s a very old photo, and again, I’m sure I’ve blogged about this before, but bollocks to it, I might touch on something I missed out previously. Plus, seeing as we’re in lockdown, it’s something to do, innit?

This was the night before I was going away for my first holiday to Sandy bay, and obviously the tape would come away with me. It would be played in the car ad infinitum. The tape would return to Sandy Bay, up to our last visit in 1992.

Of course, I picked up the soundtrack album, both on CD and LP. I was surprised just ow many differences there were in the two.

So, onto the tracks themselves. I’m only going to concentrate on side 1 of the LP, as Side 2 is just incidental music from the show. Darren didn’t record this, as cassette tape was a finite resource at the time, and to be honest, it’s not particularly interesting unless you have a knowledge and interest of the show. I’m also going by the original LP, as the CD has some minor differences, mainly the track order and lengths.

01. THAT’S LIVING ALRIGHT
The end theme to Series 1. Released as a single, and got to, I believe number 3 on the charts. It was featured on Now That’s What I Call Music 2. There are three versions of this I know of. The first is the one used on 12 out of the 13 episodes of the show. Episode 10 uses a different revision. This is also the episode that broke down as mentioned above. I always assumed that the tape fault had damaged the audio, so they had to hurriedly re-record it for future showings. Turns out this wasn’t the case, as if you listen carefully, this is also playing that dodgy version, so I’m at a loss as to why this version is different.

The third version is the partially re-recorded one. A strange one this, as it exists back in 1984, it’s used in his TOTP performance. Every second line is re-recorded, and sounds different to the original. No idea why this version was used on TOTP, as the original version clearly still existed.

02. BREAKIN’ AWAY
This was the intro to the show, and stayed the same all the way through. the first episode’s version is edited, and omits the “Not tryin’ a run” section. the first episode does, however, have the full guitar instrumental. The record fades after 25 seconds where it ends after 36 seconds in the programme.

It was this exact song that got me into looking for full versions of songs. I’d listen each time it was on and see if they’d play an extra bit of that guitar instrumental. The CD version fades out even earlier.

03. BACK WITH THE BOYS AGAIN
Undoubtedly my favourite theme of the show. Chuggy electric guitars, hint of piano, a great little track. Used for series 2, and Slightly re-recorded for the show, depending on the length of the credits, with the final episode having it played in full.

The same version is on the CD release.

04. GET IT RIGHT
A completely different version was used on the show for most episodes. The version on the show is a re-recording. the drum track remains the same, but the vocal and guitar are slightly different, with a slow instrumental ending, This was never aired in full (though I can recall a very long version being played on one of the abridged 30-min episodes) – the longest version of this instrumental features in episode 10 (Scoop).

Episode 1 also uses a different version, but this never used the official intro. Episode 3 uses this released version, with the 2nd verse faded out and used as the instrumental

05. THE SEVEN AGAIN
Used in Series 2, episode 2, one of the two songs that was used just once in an episode, and also one of the few times were a song needed LESS cowbell. It was re-edited for the soundtrack with the cowbell dropped way back in the mix, a slightly different arrangement, and an instrumental added. Fades early on the CD release. Probably my least favourite of the 6, but it still has its own charm.

06 TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT
Featured in Series 2, episode 5 and the last time an original song would be used in this series. The LP has the complete version, the show uses the instrumental after the first verse and chorus. the CD cuts out most of the song.

So, in conclusion, if you were after this I’d track down the original LP (Towerbell Records (1986), AUF 2), failing that, the CD, if the above shortfalls aren’t much of a concern (Prestige Stage + Screen , CDSGP0201)

Day 2(ish): The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby & The Range

OK, so this isn’t technically the second day, I didn’t post anything yesterday or the day before, but meh. Sit down, as this one’s a long one.

Once again, this is an album I’ve talked about quite a few times (I’ve probably mentioned the title track many, many times), but I’ve never gon through exactly why I like this album, and considering we’re in lockdown still, I might as well go through every single little detail of why I liked the title song so much… Strap in, this is going to be a long one (that’s what she said!)

Way back in 1986, Bruce Hornsby released his debut album, and the lead single was its title track, The Way It is. I can pinpoint the first time I ever heard the song. It was a Sunday morning and I was 6, we were going along Davison Drive, past Holy Trinity church. I remember hearing the piano section in the chorus, and not liking it. That was that, or so I thought. As the months went by, it became to be used a lot on TV, especially the instrumetal sections. Out of a song that’s 4 minutes and 58 seconds in length, a good three minutes of it is fully instrumental. Its most prominent use was showing the football league tables on Grandstand, where the instrumental section at the end of the song was looped. By this time, I was about 7 or 8, and began to like the song. In fact, I loved it. Obviously, the never mentioned its name.

Hartlepool hang on for dear life, as usual, while Bruce plinky-plonks on the background

At that age, I couldn’t ask anyone what it was called. Nobody knew what I was on about. It began to become an obsession. I still have vivid recollections of Saturday afternoons, the smell of roast pork wafting through the house, the big light blaring in the living room because it was winter and getting dark at 4:45.

I heard it ONCE on the radio around that time. Going down Warren Road. For some reason, I thought it was called “Run For The Hills” or something like that. Obviously, that’d be a dead end. then, back in Xmas 1989, I caught part of the song on tape. At this point, I didn’t know if it was the right song or now. It was a piano instrumental, but part of the middle bit. In fact, the sectrion from 2:40 – 2:49 if you’re playing along at home. I played this tape to within an inch of its life, still not knowing if that was the song or not. Sometime after this, I got to learn the titile, sadly I can’t remember how. I think some kid sang it and played the piano on “Going Live”. No footage of this exists on Youtube that I can see.

April 1991. BBC’s coverage of the Grand National used a full portion of the song! I always tape the Grand National, so the video was ready. I rushed over, pressed record, aaaand I’d accidentally recorded Tyne Tees instead of BBC1. I could have cried. In fact, I probably did. What should have been the runners and riders played to this tune resulted in 2 minutes of The Chart Show. Aaargh. Was I ever going to get a decent recording of the song?

Some time later in 1991, I caught, purely by chance, the first 15 seconds. It was being used by TFM to advertise their “200 best songs”, where listeners would vote for their best songs. I still didn’t know if this clip was “The Way It Is” or not, after never hearing the intro. It did sound really similar through. For some reason, this was printed in the local paper. There it was! I finally had the name and the artist! Which… I promptly forgot. I guess when I was 11, I thought my short term memory was better than it is, and within minutes I’d forgotten. Bugger. No idea why I didn’t think of keeping that piece of paper, or at least write it down somewhere.

So, I was back to square 1. A couple of years passed, and we’re in 1993. I wqas spending a sunny Saturday out in the car with my dad. He used to mend and deliver tellies, so I would often join him in his jaunts around the north east. I would listen to the radio while he would go in, and do what he needed to do with the telly. The radio was tuned to Atlantic 252. All of a sudden, the intro came on. Oh my god. Would this be it? The song played, and I must have lost about half a stone, dancing around in the van. Both sections I had on tape were from the song! I was over the moon. Unfortunately, they had a habit of playing a bunch of songs then never saying the title and artist, exactly what they did in this situation. At least I knew of a radio station that had a copy.

I would then listen to Atlantic 252 at every given opportunity. One day, my dad was off work so he picked me up from school at lunchtime. On goes Atlantic 252, and on comes the song! It was a short drive, so we get home, I burst through the door, run upstairs and manage to get the last minute or so on tape! YES! Again, no artist or title. Damn you, afore-mentioned radio station! This time, I had enough audio to play people to see if they knew it. As I mentioned, this was 1993. It was after my mam had died, and my nanna was still living with us. We had a home help called Trina, who I played the song to… “Yeah, it’s Bruce Hornsby & The Range”. FINALLY! After years of searching, I finally had the artists’ name. I’d heard it a couple of times on the radio after that, again on this same station. I managed to tape a slightly longer portion of the song, albeit with a deafening high-pitched tome over the top of it. Atlantic 252 was broadcast from Ireland (hence its name) on long wave, so you’d often get plenty of interference on there. Now, to track down a copy.

Summer 1993 came. We’d planned a family trip to the lakes. A friend called Steven was going to come too, but the night before he spewed up a load of jumbo sausage and chips, so unfortunately couldn’t make it. The day went ahead anwyay, and was a pretty standard day out. Me and my dad ended up in a shop that sold tapes. There it was, the holy grail. An actual real, no foolin’ copy of the tape. Unfortuanely, this was at the end of the day. My money had dried up. I asked my dad if he could buy it for me, and I’d pay him back with what little pocket money I’d earn over the following couple of weeks. He refused. He wouldn’t even put it on his card, saying he didn’t have enough money on it. I was devastated, and I left, having to put the tape back from whence it came. It literally felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Something I’d wanted for most of my childhood was right in my hands, and it was being denied.

I’ll never know if Daddykins had enough money on his card or not. He probably won’t remember anything of the day, but this hurt me pretty bad.

Fast forward a few months. December 9th 1993. This was not long after my birthday, and I finally had some money to call my own. I remember going to the shooping centre. This was my first visit to the shopping centre after the glass roof had been installed, and how bright and shiny it all looked. I went to Woolworths, and browsed the tapes section. There it was! And I finally had my own money to pay for it. BANG! DONE! My long search was over. A stereo, uninterfered copy of my favourite song. Ibviously, there were other songs on the album, which I’ll get to shortly.

That’s pretty much it. On Decmber 27th 1994, I tracked down a copy of the track on CD, thanks to Dino Entertainment’s “Rock Anthems”. Track 5, disc 2. I always remember the advert played a section of a house burning over the song. I later learned that this was never in the video, so no idea where they dragged that up from.

Fire! Smoke filled rooms… oh, hang on, wrong song.

Obviously, I’ve picked up a CD copy of the album since then. In more recent times, it came back to prominence, thanks to 2Pac’s song “Changes”, which makes heavy use of Hornsby’s composition. Thanks to this resurgence, the song is no longer hard to track down, and is in every “classic hits” radio station’s playlist. For that reason, it doesn’t quite have the same impact to me that it once had, but I hope you found this interesting. Almost 1500 words in, and I haven’t even got the the actual album yet.

Here goes…

01. ON THE WESTERN SKYLINE
Interestingly, on all of the UK / European CD copies of this I’ve seen, has this titled as “On The Western Sklyline”. Even the re-released version with the 74321 catalogue number has this typo. The US pressings with the yellow back have the right spelling, so do all of the LP versions.

Anyway, it starts off with a country vibe. More fiddles than a [insert libellous joke here]. I like this one a lot more than I used to. Mentioned a streetlight. Gets a bonus point for that. Overall, a nice little song, even if it doesn’t seem to do anywhere.

02. EVERY LITTLE KISS
One of the songs off the album to be released as a single. This is the longest song on the album. It starts off with a piano intro very similar to “the Way It Is” According to Wikipedia, The introductory passage of the song quotes Charles Ives’s work “The Alcotts” (another wikipedia page says “Piano Sonata No 2” so fight amongst yourselves about which one is correct.

This was also the first song to be released as a single in the US, though it didn’t fare too well. It was released as a single over here too. The B side contains a different version of “The River Runs Low”… more on that later. The other track is an intrumental remix of “the Way It Is”. This also has piano instrumental sections, which are cut down for the 7″ single release. the 12″ has this full version on it. An instrumental version cann be found on the CD single of the next track, so with slightly different percussion, and about 20 seconds longer.

03. MANDOLIN RAIN
Arguably, Bruce’s second biggest hit, though it only reached 70 in the charts over here. Don’t mind it, but it does sort-of plod on a bit. The single version apparently checks in at just under 4 minutes long, and this one is just under 6.

04. THE LONG RACE
Another good, poppy little song. Guitar, accordion, drums… but no piano? The only song so far that doesn’t have a piano solo on it. Maybe on the entire album? Strange that all of the times I’ve listened to the album I’ve never noticed that before. And that’s side 1 complete, if you’re listening to the tape or album.

05. THE WAY IT IS
See above. I’m not going through all that again.

06. DOWN THE ROAD TONIGHT
Possibly my favourite song about going to see a prostitute ever (Sorry if you’ve turned of from a Google search for the phrase, you’re in for a disappointment). It’s “OK”, I guess, but a bit slow and doesn’t really go anywhere. If you play this song at 45PRM instead of 33RPM, it genuinely sounds much better. The exatra speed improves it immensely, and stops it feeling too “ploddy”. Features Huey Lewis on Harmonica and backing vocals

07. THE WILD FRONTIER
More of a country feel to this one, and a bassline that seems to get in the way quite a bit. I’m find it hard to find a track to skip with this album, but I’d probably have to go for this one, as it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album. No piano in this one either. It sounds strangely disjointed.

08. THE RIVER RUNS LOW
The slowest track on the album, entirely piano, synth and vocal. It was never always like that, as the first pressing of the album has a different version on it, that has more of a beat to it. This alternate version is the one that’s featured on the B side to “every Little Kiss”. I can see why they re-recorded it though. Each album needs a slow ballady type track, and the original version doesn’t really do this.

09. THE RED PLAINS
Possibly my favourite song about someone’s house burning down. Or a wildfire. Not quite sure. If you flipped the “The Way It Is” single over, this is what you got. My second favourite track on the album by far. Probably the catchiest song and album Finished with a 90-second guitar and piano instrmental. A great way to close off the album.

Well, there we have it. This lockdown’s allowed me to dump more memories onto my blog. I’m pretty much burned out after three hours of typing, so I’m going to play some more pinball, and think of what to post tomorrow(ish). I’ve not really scanned it for typos either, so feel free to bombard the collents if you spot any. Ah, who am I kidding? Nobody’s read this far!

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.

It’s August 1st! That must mean it’s… EQUITES DAY!

I wrote this post back on August 1st 2018. It was so bad, I never let it see the light of day. Fast forward a year later, it’s still as terrible, but as I haven’t written anything for two months, I thought you might as well see it.

“Uhhh, what?” I hear you ask. No, don’t worry, it won’t mean anything to anybody but me, and you’ll have to forgive me for going into a long, drawn out ramble about something that’ll mean nothing to anyone else, but then that describes the vast majority of posts in here.

“Equites” was an arcade game, pusblished by defunct software company Apha Denshi in the mid 80s. It was a relatively novel vertical shoot ’em up, where you controlled a ship that could either walk along the ground, or fly in the air, and you had to shoot things, though you probably worked that out by the name “shoot ’em up”.

Now, to be honest, it was a rare game. I’ve only ever seen one copy in the wild.

Let’s fly back to the very late 80s. Exactly this time of year, every year, we would go to Sandy Bay, a caravan site I’ve mentioned before, on the outskits of Ashington. Every night, there would be a supervised disco thing for the kids, called the Sandy Bay Smilers Club. You know the score. You’d get put in a room with loud music that served pop and crisps, and some adults would tell you to not play with the fire doors. In the corner of this room were (usually) four arcade cabinets. Lady Bug, Frogger, Mag Max, and a little dusty one in the corner that was never switched on, without a name.

None of these were maintained very well. Ladybug had a monitor fault, which meant it was too blurry to see for the first 10 minutes. You could kick Frogger, and get 99 credits. Mag Max refused to boot up most of the time with a “RAM TEST NG” error, and the little mystery one was Equites.

Now the reason why it was usually switched off is, of course, it didn’t work properly. It had intermittent faults, all absolutely fascinating to me as a 9-year old, whose only experience in computers had been the ZX Spectrum, and it’s limited pallette.

I’d switch it on, wait for the CRT to warm up. If I was lucky, I’d get to see the game’s self test screen..

I’d get a good new minutes out of playing it, but then things would start to go wrong. Graphics would go wonky, things would stop working as they should, and eventually it would crash. It was the crash modes that held the most fascination for me. Sometimes the selftest would go red, and it wouldn’t boot up any further.

Sometimes it would crash with a text error on the screen. Now, knowing computers like I did back then, if a program brought up an error message and stopped running, you could LIST the program and see how it worked.

When this particular game crashed, if you waggled the joystick enough, you could get letters to appear underneath the error.

Could I possibly work out a combination that would list the source code of the game? Well, here’s a typical “crashed” error message…

Now, playing around with MAME, I can’t find any way to enter a character after these error messages appear. It’s possible to get the error messages to appear by randomly corrupting a saved state file, the game crashes and the “CPU” hangs. Therefore, my conclusion is that the movement of the joystick/cabinet caused my a loose/faulty chip, would insert corrupted data into the RAM, eventually causing the game to crash with the error, and that my constant “waggling” would corrupt the next byte following the end of the error message, making it look like it was typing something, but was nothing more than the faulty chip corrupting the next byte of memory after the error.

OH MY! I really need to tetype that paragraph!

Anyway, as far as I know, things didn’t end well for Equites. We stopped going to Sandy Bay, except for one fleeting visit in 1994/95ish. We were in the area visiting one of my dad’s freinds, and decided to pop round and have a look. The Smiler’s club had been demolished, along with the shed that was once the arcades. It’s more likely that, due to the dwindling popularity of the older games, and the unlikeliness of them being repaired properly, that they just ended up getting carted off to landfill, or just left in there when the buildings got demolished. I like to think that somewhere, there’s a shed, with all of the old games I used to play there, all fully restored and working, but I doubt that’s the case

And, so, this is why August 1st, to me, is known as “Equites Day”. In conclusion, a mildly entertaining arcade game, brightened up infititely by triggering things you were never meant to see anyway!

I also vote August 3rd as being “World’s Worst Blog Post Day”

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”.

Strange radio interference from the 1980s.

How’s this for a niche post? Yes, I’m looking at YOU, my dear readers, to help identify some interference we used to receive on local radio stations. Now now, that would be too easy. No, this is taken from an off-air recording I made in 1989.

I used to hear this a lot, and I used to tape off the radio a lot, but this is the only recording I know of, of this particular interference. Yes, I know, I’m not going to discover aliens eith this particular tape, and there’ll be a logical explanation, but I simply don’t have it.

My personal thoughts? It’s the hospital pager system. At the time, I lived a mere stone’s throw from the local hospital, and seeing as these recordings were made on a little Saisho twin cassette deck thing, it’s possible the aerial could have been pointing in that direction? The interference lasts almost exactly a second, and seems to ramp up in strength. All of the recordings have this same characteristic.

So… erm… any ideas?