Hurt Me NEW ROSE, 1983; ESSENTIAL, 1995 (CD)
So Alone is the title of Thunders’ best known solo LP, but the New York Doll never sounded more exquisitely alone than on this, recorded in Paris in the winter of 1983. Given his instant association with that squalling, fucked-up electric guitar, the big shock was that Hurt Me was almost entirely acoustic: the solitary Thunders right there in your speakers, shredding the guts from six strings as he worked through his own songbook, throwing in Dolls tunes (“Lonely Planet Boy”) and covers (half-remembered readings of Dylan’s “Joey” and “It Ain’t Me, Babe”) along the way. His sneering street whine higher than ever, Thunders sounded fragile but tough, desolate but defiant. Spellbindingly intimate, although it sounded like it was recorded in a derelict attic.
EXPECT TO PAY:£50 for the vinyl, £30 for the CD
Spring UNITED ARTISTS, 1972; SEE FOR MILES, 1994 (CD)
Among Brian Wilson’s esoteric projects away from The Beach Boys, the group known variously as The Honeys, Spring and American Spring were perhaps closest to his heart: unsurprising, given it comprised his wife Marilyn Rovell and her sister Diane (a significant Wilson crush). Their sole album as Spring (or American Spring, to avoid mix-ups with some contemporaneous prog-rockers) found Wilson providing a few songs, singing harmonies and producing their hushed, mildly uncanny take on MOR; highlights like the superb “Sweet Mountain” would have slotted comfortably onto Surf’s Up. A 1994 reissue on See For Miles, American Spring… Plus, is the one to seek out, with extra tracks including their gorgeously tentative 1973 take on “Fallin’ In Love” (aka the Dennis Wilson song, “Lady”).
EXPECT TO PAY: £40-60, maybe less for the CD, if you can find one…
DAVE AND TONI ARTHUR
Hearken To The Witches Rune
Just before launching her career as a BBC children’s TV presenter, Toni Arthur and her hubby were hanging out in the coven of Britain’s king of the witches, researching folk’s links with pagan traditions. This selection of super-natural ballads was sung with stark, Celtic-tinged accompaniments, as though performed skyclad in a forest clearing: Packie Byrne’s puckish tinwhistle dances across “The Fairy Child”, while Dave added ritualistic bodhrán to “Alison Gross”; “Cruel Mother” – murderous, monotonous – is the most chilling version ever recorded. The cover’s murky photo was taken by producer Bill Leader, whose Trailer catalogue and label rights were purchased by Dave Bulmer of Celtic Music in the early 1980s. In one of the great controversies of British folk, Bulmer has rarely seen fit to make any of this material available again.
EXPECT TO PAY: Around £40
The Marshall Suite ARTFUL/CIRCUS, 1999
Given the chaotic-looking nature of The Fall’s catalogue (myriad labels, shady comps, live sets), it’s surprising to discover that most of it is still in print, with the notable exceptions of their two Artful albums from the late ’90s. 1997’s Levitate, an impenetrable tangle with electronica, turned out to be the last Fall album to feature stalwarts Wolstencroft, Hanley and Burns, the band departing following ugly shenanigans on tour in Ireland and America. The Marshall Suite ushered in a new phase of The Fall that continues to this day: Smith hiring apparently random musicians who sound identical to those they replaced. Something of a mixed bag, it nevertheless featured “(Jung Nev’s) Antidotes”, a glowering techno piece far superior to anything on Levitate; one of Smith’s better rockabilly covers (Tommy Blake’s “F-Oldin’ Money”); and, bizarrely, perhaps his best-known song – “Touch Sensitive”, as featured on Vauxhall Corsa adverts.
EXPECT TO PAY: £30 or so
Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea
Paul McCartney teamed up with UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and UNICEF to organise four nights, post-Christmas ’79, at the Hammersmith Odeon, in aid of a Pol Pot-ravaged Cambodia. This double LP, featuring The Who, The Pretenders, Elvis Costello, Queen, The Clash, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, The Specials, Rockpile, and McCartney’s 30-strong Rockestra, captures the highlights, particularly The Who’s barnstorming “Behind Blue Eyes”, Robert Plant’s surprise Elvis impersonation with Rockpile on “Little Sister”, and The Rockestra’s tumultuous finale – inevitably, a tearjerking, lighters-aloft “Let It Be”. Like so many charity records – a legal tangle with artists temporarily released from their customary labels – this was a one-off pressing.
EXPECT TO PAY: £15 or so
From The Lion’s Mouth
KOROVA, 1981; RENASCENT, 2001 (CD)
As post-punk began to evolve into a more windsept and epic kind of music, Adrian Borland and The Sound seemed well placed for stardom, a passionate and dark-hearted antecedent of Interpol. But while their second LP, From The Lion’s Mouth, still sounds like a crucial document of the era, the success never arrived: Korova
put its wallet behind the more photogenic Echo & The Bunnymen, and support dwindled further when the label was swallowed by its parent company, Warners. Borland tragically died in 1999, and The Sound’s six great albums have only briefly been available on CD since.
EXPECT TO PAY: £25 for the vinyl, more like £60 for CD
MY BLOODY VALENTINE
Ecstasy And Wine
It has been nearly two years since Uncut reviewed the remasters of Loveless and Isn’t Anything, though both have still not made it to the shops: the problem allegedly being Kevin Shields’ failure to deliver his sleevenotes. In comparison, Ecstasy And Wine’s total unavailability has gone generally unnoticed. A comp of an EP (“Strawberry Wine”) and a mini-album (Ecstasy), both from 1987, it showcased a band scurfing off their goth past and moving towards something more original. At times – on “Strawberry Wine” itself, say – the music was a diffracted version of the era’s jangly indie. At others, though – on the monolithic “Clair”, especially – Shields had already formulated the obliterating noise pop for which he would become known.
EXPECT TO PAY: £25
Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead
WARNER BROS, 1974
After the decline and fall of his Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Stanshall surprised everybody with this unexpectedly swampy Afro-funk tinged solo debut, featuring members of Traffic with African percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah. But his bosses at Warners were confounded by the content: a voodoo curse against the industry; bitter vignettes of washed-up, preening showbiz types (“Redeye”); misanthropic portraits of the artist’s alcoholic/chainsmoking dishevelment (“Bout Of Sobriety”, “Yelp, Bellow, Rasp Et Cetera”); and Pythonesque odes to his todger (“Prong”, “How The Zebra Got His Spots”). Disgusted by their refusal to press more than 5000 copies, Stanshall trashed a boardroom and secreted a bag of bluebottle maggots behind the Warners president’s radiator. An online petition, begging the label to re-release it on CD, has been signed by 2200 names to date.
EXPECT TO PAY: A rather surreal £70
AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB
RETOUCH, 1987; DEMON, 1993 (CD)
California was the record on which Mark Eitzel found his voice. It was 1988, and American Music Club had made two albums, neither of which had made any great impact. By the time they convened to record their third record in Tom Mallon’s San Francisco demo studio, AMC had begun to knock their influences into a manageable shape.
“I knew what California wasn’t more than I knew what it was,” says Eitzel. “It was not going to be a punk rock record. It was not going to be Americana. It was going to be something else.”
The sound of the record – sometimes delicate, occasionally exultant, employing poetic imagery and occasional country stylings courtesy of pedal steel player Bruce Kaphan – was the product of the varied tastes within the band. “Mostly what we liked was English music,” says Eitzel. [Guitarist] “Vudi was a huge Echo [And The Bunnymen] fan, I was Nick Drake and Joy Division, and Danny [Pearson, bass] was more Carter Family and straight-up country and Neil Young. I’m not sure where Tom [Mallon] was.”
Communications between Eitzel and drummer/producer Mallon broke down after Mallon left AMC, taking the copyright of their first four albums with him. Eitzel remains bemused by the record’s unavailability, but his assessment of Mallon’s contribution to it is generous. “Mallon controlled everything. This was before computers – we were recording on pretty rudimentary gear, and he did a great job. He taught me how to sing in the studio. He made me sing more in tune, he made me sing quieter. It was actually really important to me.”
Eitzel still plays several songs from California in his live set, notably the melancholy “Western Sky” and the disappointed love song “Firefly”. He reprised the Drake-ish “Last Harbor” on his last European tour. “I was ripping off Nick Drake: his guitar playing, but more just his feeling. He’s singing from the horizon that’s always fading. There’s always that kind of beauty.”
Happily, Mallon plans to re-release those four AMC albums before the end of the year and, having listened afresh to California, considers it to be “fantastic. It siphons all the air out of the room.”
Eitzel believes securing a reissue is more important than the historic rifts within the band. “The fractious stuff doesn’t matter to me. Mallon is a pretty honest gentleman, actually. He’s a good person. All I want is the record out.” ALASTAIR McKAY
EXPECT TO PAY: £25 if you just can’t wait
THE JUSTIFIED ANCIENTS OF MU MU
1987 (What The Fuck’s Going On?)
THE SOUND OF MU(SIC), 1987
Considering the notoriety they’d later achieve as the KLF, it’s sometimes easy to forget the significance of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s thrillingly deviant assaults on the British music industry as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu. But everything for which they became infamous in the 1990s – the provocative art statements, establishment baiting and wilful destruction of their back catalogue – can be found in their earliest collaboration, The JAMs.
For Drummond – a former A&R man and one-time manager of Echo And The Bunnymen – and Cauty, guitarist with one of Drummond’s signings, Brilliant, their plan was revolutionary. Nothing less, it seemed, than to make an album that pillaged the entire continuum of rock’n’roll, using sampling technology to recontextualise popular music.
“We wanted to make an album that in some way would be a British response to what hip hop artists were doing in the States,” explains Drummond today. “It gained instant infamy status due to our wholesale use of sampling. None of which we had sought to get permission. We were artists and artists have the right to use whatever they can lay their hands on to make their art – that was our rationale.”
Released in June, 1987… found Drummond and Cauty – under their aliases King Boy D and Rockman Rock – sampling everything from the Sex Pistols to Scott Walker, an edition of Top Of The Pops and, most famously, ABBA, on “The Queen And I”.
It was the Swedes who proved to be the JAMs’ undoing. “ABBA’s publishers took exception and requested that we destroy all copies of our album immediately, or they would take legal action against us,” Drummond recalls. “Jimmy and I thought we should sit down with Benny and Björn and have a discussion artist to artist…”
So Drummond and Cauty drove to ABBA’s Polar Studios in Stockholm, carrying with them what they claimed to be the album’s remaining stock, plus a gold disc of 1987… to present to the band. Failing to find ABBA in residence, they instead presented the gold disc to a blonde prostitute they pretended was band member Agnetha Fältskog “fallen on hard times” before heading back to London – stopping to burn the records in a field outside Gothenberg around dawn.
“I just wished it had been a massive bonfire – hundreds of thousands of our records all going up in flames,” sighs Drummond. “Instead we just had a couple of boxes with us and even then some of them we forgot about. We didn’t discover that last box until we were back on the ferry home. We had to throw them off the back. Burial at sea is never as good as proper funeral pyre. The Vikings had the right idea by combining the both.”
But this wasn’t the last of 1987… In October, Drummond and Cauty issued 1987 (The JAMs Edits) with the offending samples removed, replaced by great tracts of silence, interrupted by sudden bursts of beats or Drummond’s acerbic social commentary. The only sample remaining from the original was The Fall’s “Totally Wired”.
“We never thought about even attempting to get permission,” adds Drummond. “Nowadays there is a whole section of the industry based on dealing with the ‘clearance’ of samples. Back then they would have just said no…” MICHAEL BONNER
LINE RECORDS, 1981; RAZOR & TIE, 1993 (CD)
The creepy remakes and covers that comprise Bach’s Bottom were cut in Memphis’ Ardent Studios in autumn ’75, which might make this set look like a candidate for the great, lost fourth Big Star LP. It’s not: Chilton never fully endorsed producer Jon Tiven’s decision to release the sessions, yet when four songs filtered into the punk underground via a 1977 Ork Records EP, listeners found the results quite punk rock. Acrimony between Tiven and Chilton ensured that Bach’s Bottom has a complex history: that Ork EP was succeeded in 1981 by a German vinyl issue, and then by 1993’s expanded CD version. While the CD added, crucially, Chilton’s finest post-Big Star single, “Bangkok”, it also contained some controversial, later overdubs by Tiven himself.
EXPECT TO PAY: Depends on the version. £10-20, maybe?
Transformer ELEKTRA, 1968
A Harvard mathematician, Stoughton played the Boston folk circuit in the early 1960s before coming under the spell of John Cage’s musique concrète. While certain songs – “The Sun Comes Up Each Day”, say – are musically reminiscent of Tim Buckley at his most extreme, Transformer also contained experimental sound collages. Never on CD, vinyl copies are becoming scarcer – but Transformer is scheduled for digital re-release in the summer ahead of Elektra’s 60th anniversary.
EXPECT TO PAY: £15, if you find one!
22 JEAN RITCHIE
None But One SIRE, 1977
Ritchie’s Singing The Traditional Songs Of Her Kentucky Mountain Family (1952) was Elektra’s first folk album, sung in the purest of voices, accompanying herself on a dulcimer. Ritchie would record for all the key NY folk labels before taking a break in the late ’60s. With None But One, she resurfaced, perhaps surprisingly, on Sire. She adheres to the expected traditional songs and instrumentation – albeit in a more ensemble setting with family and friends like Eric Weissberg adding additional guitars, mandolins, even drums. Mary Travers, Susan Reed and Janis Ian add their voices – “Wondrous Love” a wonderful choral piece. Only discontinued on CD last year – grab one while you can.
EXPECT TO PAY: £15
Paradise Don’t Come Cheap
GEE STREET, 1996
Entire generations have grown up in the shadow of gangsta rap, blithe to the existence of other forms. It’s a crime, then, that this low-slung classic is now available only on Japanese import. For their ominous second LP, New Yorkers Nosaj and Sebastian took hip hop out of the city and dragged it into the dusty Southwestern hinterlands, adding opiated brass, wah-pedalling guitars and the kind of growled flows that made Ol’ Dirty Bastard sound lucid. Cypress Hill and their dope-addled Spanglish are, perhaps, one contextual touchstone; Jimi Hendrix gets a namecheck. But the heaviosity of their breaks and breadth of New Kingdom’s fear and loathing still stuns, 14 years later. A work of urban outsider art, too long neglected.
EXPECT TO PAY: Paradise might not come cheap, but this will, at £5…
Death Wish II – Original Soundtrack
SWAN SONG, 1982
In the lacuna following John Bonham’s death, the Zep guitarist was asked by his Buckinghamshire neighbour Michael Winner to soundtrack the second of his new shoot-em-up franchise starring Charles Bronson. Assembling a motley bunch of British rock survivors – Dave Mattacks, ex-Pretty Thing Gordon Edwards and Chris Farlowe, plus, improbably, the GLC Orchestra – and spanking a gleaming new Roland guitar synth, Page hunkered down in secret, delivering a set of cues that “hit the button totally”, according to Winner. Tracks vary from scudding Houses Of The Holy power-rock (“City Sirens”), testicular riffology (“Jam Sandwich”, “Hypnotizing Ways”), orchestral dissonance (“Hot Rats And Photostats”). Apart from a long-gone late ’90s import, this feverishly composed Zeppelin footnote has never been reissued.
EXPECT TO PAY: £20, ballpark
From Gardens Where We Feel Secure
HAPPY VALLEY, 1983; ROUGH TRADE, 2003 (CD)
Daughter of the composer of TV’s The Saint theme, and Pete Townshend’s sister-in-law, Virginia Astley intended her pastoral ambient suite to evoke the passage of a timeless English summer day. Over gentle, minimalistic drifts of piano, string quartet and woodwinds, she and co-producer Russell Webb (The Skids) spliced field recordings taken from the Oxfordshire countryside: distant church bells, a creaking swing, ticking clocks, plashing oars, bleating livestock and twittering skylarks. Originally issued on Astley’s own Happy Valley via Rough Trade, Geoff Travis’ operation finally put out a CD in 2003; now deleted, it, too, has become highly collectable.
EXPECT TO PAY: £40 should do it
Apple Venus Vol 1
COOKING VINYL, 1999
An example of how relatively new records can slip through the cracks,
Apple Venus and its partner piece, 2000’s Wasp Star – as well as their boxset incarnation Apple Box – are presently only available second-hand. On first release, this was XTC’s first material after the band broke free of their contract with Virgin, and represented the sound of Andy Partridge’s new-found creative freedom, mixing skewed McCartney pop with daintily avant-garde orchestration and devil-in-the-detail lyrics about harvest festivals. The rights have reverted to Partridge, but it seems there is a pretty simple reason why it’s not in print. “I think it will be available again,” a source tells us, “but it was pretty expensive to do…” Meanwhile, all of XTC’s Virgin-era catalogue – even offshoot psych project The Dukes Of Stratosphear – is freely available, an irony Partridge would probably appreciate.
EXPECT TO PAY: £5 for the CD, £30 for vinyl, and £50 for the lovely Apple Box
Join Together VIRGIN, 1990
This odd live double caught The Who in one of its stranger incarnations, trundling across America in 1989. Daltrey, Entwistle and Townshend are bolstered by Deep End, the latter’s back-up troupe for his proposed Iron Man tour, which instead morphed into a Who reunion trek. Hence two drummers, a brass section and full choir. Townshend, apparently suffering from tinnitus, seemed content to play acoustic, with youngster Steve Bolton on lead. Disc one is all Tommy, but disc two is the keeper, with horn-sodden versions of “Love Reign O’er Me”, “Join Together” and the little-heard “Trick Of The Light”. The album peaked at 188 in the US and barely scraped the Top 60 over here. Which, with another 10 live LPs since, hardly makes its reissue a top priority.
EXPECT TO PAY: £20 for the CD, the vinyl has sold for double