In the Sixties records were actually worth something. People went out and bought a seven inch piece of plastic and they treasured it, which they don’t seem to do any more. We’re trying to bring back that precious element.
Johnny Marr, Sounds, November 1983
By 1984 The Smiths, who had been releasing 7 and 12 inch singles as quickly as they had been writing and recording them, had accumulated a large amount of songs. One in particular was unlike anything they had written to date. Marr, Rourke and Joyce had been working on an experimental demo titled Swamp in the studio san Morrissey. It was built around a solid strummed riff, slowed chord progression, accompanied by multiple ambient drum and bass. A high note arpeggio, from Marr’s guitar, heard at the end of each verse created the melody. Once the Morrissey penned lyrics were added, The Smiths had created something distinct and entirely unparalleled.
How Soon is Now?
Hatful Of Hollow, much like Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, is a compilation of non album b-sides along with the 1983 Peel and Jensen session recordings of songs that appeared on their debut album. Many think, myself included, that these earlier recordings like Reel Around the Fountain, Handsome Devil and, Still Ill are superior to the album version, and capture the initial energy and spark of the bands first kiss. This compilation also enabled them to strike a second time while the iron was still hot. The mix of new and old recordings all in one place and reasonably priced (at a time in the UK when unemployment was at a record high of 12%) came out just in time for Christmas.
So stay on my arm you little charmer
Morrissey – Hand in Glove
Just who was courting whom? Early in 1983 Johnny Marr and Stephen Morressey met for only the third time and wrote their first two songs together, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and the haunting Suffer the Children, which echoed the horrors of the Moore Murders outside Manchester England in the early 1970s.
This month and year marks the 30th anniversary of the debut single by the Smiths, the post punk band that forged the guitar driven new wave sound coming out of the UK in the 1980s. The remarkable historic song writing duo of Morrissey and Marr would be rocky and short lived, only lasting 5 years, but it would produce some of the best music of the decade. Some might argue that U2 was the prominent British band to emerge in the 1980s as they were already on the scene by 1983, but the Irish rockers, who’s sound was more grandiose and political, even at that early date, did not sit well with the local independent music community in England. Other bands like Echo & the Bunnymen, Big Country, and Orange Juice would not enjoy the same consistent long term success as The Smiths who signed with indie label Rough Trade that same year. By signing the band cemented a five record deal and insured the financial box office success of the fledgeling label.
The Smiths debut album was powered by the mega hit single Hand in Glove. All the music on this album is raw and gritty. The lofty, mature and sexually explicit Morrissey lyrics are well grounded in the brilliant, jangly, hard driven sound of Marr’s Rickenbacker.
The second album by the New York Jazz/Rock sensation Blood Sweat & Tears was every bit as theatrical and soulful as the first. The two big differences was the changing of lead vocalist and founder Al Kooper with David Clayton Thomas, and several hit singles including You’ve Made Me So Very Happy, Spinning Wheel, And When I Die. This album, simply titled Blood Sweat & Tears sold three million copies, and won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1969.
Thomas’ voice is incredibly similar to Chicago’s founder Terry Kath, and this incarnation of the band with its brass, keyboards and guitar could be a twin brother. The album also tips its hat to blues rockers Traffic with Smiling Phases and Cream with the almost 12 minute closer Blues pt2. It is a solid conceptual snapshot of the the time period. However for me the highlight here is Spinning Wheel. “That’s some good Cow Bell!”
Chet Baker is in his prime here in 1955. Topping Down Beat and Metronome polls as one of the best Jazz trumpeters, Baker is a cross between the good looks and finely chiselled features of James Dean, and the warm tonal, golden sounds of Bix Beiderbecke. His life would parallel the sad path of both those icons, as excess and drug addiction would rob him of both his looks and voice later in life. But here Baker with his newly formed quartet cooks up these standards, and the classic title cut, to create a great set of west coast jazz.
In 1956, the greatest American composer of the 20th century met one of the greatest female interpreters of music at the time to create Today’s Runner. This one is like a fine wine to be sipped and savored. Blue Rose is a truly vintage affair.