Masterpieces and forgotten releases from Neil Young, The Who, Bowie and more, still hard to find today…
BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION
Music For Stowaways
Following their exit from the Human League (and before heading chartward with Heaven 17) Sheffield synth-stabbers Martyn Ware and Ian Gregory unleashed this album of icy instrumental electronica. It was uncompromising, experimental stuff, on one hand harking back to the Human League’s stark “Dignity Of Labour” EP, and yet somehow foreshadowing much of Warp Records’ output 15 years later. Featuring an early, stripped-back version of Heaven 17’s debut single “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang”, Music For Stowaways (the ‘Stowaway’ being the original brand name for the Sony Walkman) was only ever issued on cassette in the UK – although a limited export vinyl version with five of the album’s tracks and bonus song (“A Baby Called Billy”) was pressed.
EXPECT TO PAY: £20, worth it if you’ve still got a working tape player…
THE POP GROUP
For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?
(Rough Trade, 1981)
The Pop Group were, of course, anything but. Bristol teenagers into James Brown, free jazz and radical politics, their name was a Trojan Horse to sneak the band into the mainstream and cause, as vocalist Mark Stewart put it, “an explosion right in the very heart of the commodity”. If debut LP Y, recorded with dub producer Dennis Bovell, couched their vision in quasi-mystical terms, its 1981 follow-up (never officially reissued on CD) was the stuff of direct action. Poetry took a back seat to polemic – “Nixon and Kissinger should be tried for war crimes!” squealed Stewart – but their white-hot funk was more caustic than ever, while “One Out Of Many” marked a collaboration with spoken word group the Last Poets.
EXPECT TO PAY: £40 for a decent vinyl copy, as long as it’s got the four original posters
(United Artists, 1972; See For Miles, 1994)
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…