Terminal Jive

Creative projects by Abigail Ward

Tag: 1992

Imperfect Motion – early 90s daydream indie and imitations thereof

Last Sunday I did an ‘in conversation’ event in Shrewsbury with writer and historian Jon Savage. The subject was baggy/Madchester/The Stone Roses, and Jon’s recent compilation ‘Perfect Motion – The Secret History Of Second Wave Psychedelia 1988-93’, which offers a different take on that brief dayglo period.

I am something of a Madchester sceptic. I was too young to appreciate the first wave and by the time I started going out around ’93 it felt like tired music that belonged to the people I wanted to avoid – thick lads who would bang into you on the dancefloor for kicks.

When it came to DJing at the event I decided simply to play some records that meant a lot to me at that time, and some more recent stuff that is audibly in thrall to that era.

Idjut Boys – Dub Shine (2015)

This came out on the Idjuts’ ‘Versions’ album from last year. Does it for me.

Kirsty Maccoll feat Johnny Marr & Aniff Akinola – Walking Down Madison (1991)
‘It’s not that far…’

I miss Kirsty. Can you imagine what she’d have to say about the current political climate?

Steve Mason – Words In My Head (2016)
Will you love me when I fall?’

Just seemed to fit. The ‘words in his head’ aren’t up to much, admittedly.

The Boo Radleys – Lazarus (1993)
‘While those around me are beaten down each day…’

Their masterpiece. Boos guitarist Martin Carr lived in Preston (my hometown) at this time. In our social circle there was much discussion about who’d seen Martin last, where it was (Action Records?) and if he’d said anything. Desperate times indeed.

The House of Love – Feel (1992)
‘Twenty-five/sick of life’

I was 14 when the ‘Babe Rainbow’ album came out. I first heard ‘Feel’ on Mark Goodier’s Evening Session. I played it to death that year, along with ‘Automatic For The People’ and The The’s ‘Dusk’. My Maths teacher at the time was content to let me listen to my Alba walkman at the back of the class during most of his lessons. I learnt a great deal.

Saint Etienne – Avenue (1992)
‘Oh how many years is it now, Maurice?’

So perfect I can’t bear to write about it.

Prefab Sprout – Let There Be Music (1993)
‘Hey Jules and Jim/I wrote the hymn to Ecstasy’

From Paddy’s lost 1993 album ‘Let’s Change the World with Music’, which he wrote, performed and produced at his  Andromeda Heights studio in County Durham. Intended to be the follow up to ‘Jordan: The Comeback’, but not released until 2009. Utterly beautiful.

Electronic – Getting away With It (Extended Mix)  (1989)
‘I’ve been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose’

I nearly went for Greg Wilson’s 11-minute edit, but managed to curb myself.

Lake Heartbeat – Mystery (2009)
‘You said love would last…’

Swedish band recommended by my old Piccadilly Records comrade Andy McQueen, the king of wistful melodic pop. Dan Lissvik (Studio/The Crepes) on guitar.

Ducktails – International Dateline (2012)

Lovely instrumental from the ‘Flower Lane’ album.

Cashier No.9 – Oh Pity (2011)
‘Burnt out at the fine old age of seventeen’

Underrated sunshine pop on Bella Union. These lot now make music under the moniker exmagician.

Whyte Horses – The Snowfalls (2014)
‘Just keep on running for the morning’

So contagious. Gets wedged in your head to the point of irritation. Coming soon to an advert near you. They’re from Manchester dontcha know.

Primal Scream – Higher Than The Sun (1991)
A higher state of grace’

Recommended to me in about 1993 by an older boy I thought was the coolest of the cool. (He was a towering bellend in actuality.) Saw the Scream for the first time at Glastonbury in 2005. They whizzed me round the cosmos and back, but to be fair I had just ingested two very large hash truffles. I became convinced that ‘Swastika Eyes’ was about Paul O’Grady.

One Dove – Breakdown (Cellophane Boat Mix) (1993)
‘And the small hours are hard to bear’

I don’t think this mix (by Weatherall, of course) reached me at the time. Got into it via the Boy’s Own retrospective from 2013. Gorgeous.

Spiritualized – Run (1992)
‘They call me the breeze / I keep rollin’ down the road’

I saw Spritualized at the free Heineken Festival on Avenham Park, Preston in 1993. I’d arranged to go with my best mate but at the last minute she opted to go to a house party, drink Thunderbird and attempt to divest herself of her virginity instead.  Initially I was a bit scared to be on my own in the moshpit, but the gig was really something: intense and unforgettable.  I think I had to endure the Sultans of Ping FC before they came on. In later years I found Spiritualized rather ponderous and grandiose.

The Orb – Blue Room (1992)

Ah…The Orb. I had a real soft spot for them up to about 1994. I still listen to a fair amount of dub techno, mainly Deepchord and Rhythm & Sound, but these producers owe a debt to Paterson, Cauty et al. Famously samples Mad Professor’s ‘Fast Forward Into Dub’. The Orb caused controversy by appearing on Top of the Pops to promote the Blue Room. Instead of performing, Alex Paterson and Kris Weston played chess.

Primal Scream – Uptown (Andrew Weatherall Mix) (2008)
‘Back in the office, cage, a factory line’

I loved the straight version of ‘Uptown’ when it came out, especially Mani’s bassline. I first heard the Weatherall mix in DJ and producer Kelvin Andrews’ car on the way to an after party in the early hours. When the strings hit, I was so overwhelmed I vomited explosively into Kelvin’s glove compartment. He was a true gent about it, but this track will forever be tainted with the memory. 

Mark Seven – Sermon (Serotonin Edit) (2007)

So perfect an Ecstasy record it’s almost manipulative! ‘Sermon’ is a Mark Seven edit of Sheila Stewart’s ‘It’s You’ from 1988, which came out on the aforementioned Kelvin Andrews’ Creative Use label.

Faster

manic-street-preachers-faster-epic

[From the vaults: a blog for Pop ‘Til You Drop, 2011]

“I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer

I spat out Plath and Pinter…”

A fortnight ago, whilst working my penultimate shift on the counter at Piccadilly Records, I was rendered flustered and giggly by the sudden appearance of James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire from Manic Street Preachers. They were in Manchester, it transpired, to perform a secret gig at Night and Day Café. I haven’t listened to the Manics for years, but seeing them up close and personal in the record shop environment made me ponder the influence of their music on my teenage years.

When ‘Generation Terrorists’ first came out in 1992, I was still, at fourteen, an enthusiastic attendee of my local Free Methodist bible group. I was troubled by all the usual teenage questions about evolution, mortality and morality, and persuaded, for a time, by the adults around me, that the answers could be found, if not in the dense and bloody Old Testament, then certainly in the eminently accessible, and rather funky, New. When, one Sunday, my bible group leader – a not unlikeable lad in his early thirties – pulled out a copy of ‘Generation Terrorists’ and cited it as an example of all that was wrong and evil in the world, I felt spasms of both shame and excitement. My sister owned the record and we’d been playing it for weeks.

Trying to work out how you really feel about things as a teenager is like starring in your own complex and slightly hallucinogenic detective story. You pull in clues from all manner of sources, to compare, contrast, reject. You believe what you think you ought to until you can’t any more. On the one hand I had the fluffy platitudes of Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still water”), which made Christianity sound like a really nice day out in the Lakes, and on the other I had the Sylvia Plath quotation from the back of the ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ twelve inch: “I talk to God but the sky is empty” – a much more accurate description of what I was actually experiencing.

Thinking that Plath may be able to shed some light on the matter, I went to Waterstone’s one day and picked out ‘Ariel’, a slim volume – the only one I could afford – and immersed myself in it for weeks. Not the frothiest of reads, it has to be said. And not much help on the God front. But that’s what the Manics did. They forced you to investigate. Richey and Nicky spewed out reference points incoherently and indiscriminately, like cultural muck-spreaders, inviting their fans to work it out for themselves. It seemed like they were desperate to tell us something, but what?

Pre-internet it wasn’t easy to track down all those writers, those thinkers, those mysterious mind-shapers. Trips to the library were all part of the detective work: “Thus I progressed on the surface of life, in the realm of words, as it were, never in reality.” (Camus/’Love’s Sweet Exile’ sleeve.)

We got Henry Miller inside the ‘Generation Terrorists’ sleeve: “The tragedy of it is that nobody sees the look of desperation on my face. Thousands and thousands of us, and we’re passing one another without a look of recognition.” (I won’t forget reading ‘Quiet Days In Clichy’ under the duvet in a hurry.)

We got Marlon Brando: “The more sensitive you are, the more certain you are to be brutalised, develop scabs, never evolve. Never allow yourself to feel anything, because you always feel too much.” (‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ sleeve)

We got Ballard: “I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror.” (‘Mausoleum’ sample)

The work of all of these people, and many more, became familiar to me through the Manics. Their music inspired my jubilant descent into atheism and its attendant vices – an experience entirely comparable, I suspect, to being born again, and one for which I shall forever be grateful.


(The Manics perform ‘Faster’ on TOTP – watch out for Vic and Bob)

In terms of actual songs, for me, ‘Faster’ is the Manics’ best – as lean as they ever sounded, stripped of the pop metal excesses of their previous albums, but still angry as fuck. The sample at the beginning is John Hurt in ‘1984’: “I hate purity, I hate goodness, I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.” I love JDB’s guitar solo, which pops up unexpectedly in the last minute of the song, so waspish and wonky. In an interview, the band said they’d been listening to Magazine, Wire and Gang of Four. You can tell.

On June 9th 1994, the Manics opened Top Of The Pops with an incendiary performance of ‘Faster’. At the time they were wearing a lot of military gear, in tribute, they said, to The Clash. JDB was sporting a paramilitary-style balaclava with JAMES sewn on it. He looked like he’d been working out. Many viewers felt the band were aligning themselves with the IRA. The BBC received 25,000 complaints.

Four months later I saw the boys play Manchester Academy. They’d covered the venue in camouflage netting and were still in their army and navy shop fatigues. They came on to a ricocheting loop of the last phrase in ‘Faster’: “So damn easy to cave in! Man kills everything!” It was a powerful gig. Loud, mean, genuinely unsettling. Richey was there. Rake thin, of course, naked from the waist up, hanging over his upturned mike stand like the original James Dean in ‘Giant’.

Another four months on and he was gone, leaving behind a second ‘Holy Bible’ for me to pore over. With themes including prostitution, American consumerism, fascism, the Holocaust, self-starvation and suicide, it proved only slightly less punishing than the first.

Love Will Save The Day

[From the vaults: a blog for Pop ‘Til You Drop, 2011]

“When you’re feeling full of doubt
And fear has got you in a bind
Love will save the day…”

I have done my best throughout my life to avoid the work of Whitney Houston. That never-ending winter of 1992 still casts a shadow. There was I, fifteen years old, miserable, watching ‘I Will Always Love You’ on The Chart Show for the umpteenth week, just yearning for something (anything) else to hit the number one spot. And there was Whitney, splay-legged, hands in that saintly clasp, wobbling her jaw to achieve maximum vibrato… God, she made me want to slash my armpits with boredom. No wonder records like this sounded so good.

But recent events have forced me to re-evaluate one tiny section of the Twitney back catalogue. At the second Pop ‘Til You Drop back in April, my partner in crime DJ Danielle Moore dropped ‘Love Will Save The Day’. I had just wedged myself into the toilet and was happily adding to the graffiti (I <3 Shep Pettibone) when the disquieting realisation that I was enjoying a Whitney Houston record hit me. Then, seconds later, lettuce barely shaken, I found myself careering around the dancefloor like an inebriated farmhand whilst paying customers looked on aghast.

By coincidence, last Monday evening, during an extravagantly lubricated Spotify session here at Pop Heights, ‘Love Will Save The Day’ surfaced again, confirming my suspicion that the tune is a wig-lifting, wab-wobbling, gusset-splitting anthem of titanic proportions, in spite of its cloying ‘message’.

The next day, after a couple of light ales, I was persuaded by my Whitney-loving friend to investigate the White Vest album further. One fraught listen off cassette on a car stereo, during which I left bite marks on my own fist, revealed there is little else on there for the taking. Whitney’s version of ‘I Know Him So Well’, performed with her mother (somewhat inappropriately), sounds like two car alarms arguing in an empty turbine hall. ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’ is another wallpaper-stripping ballad that Ms. Houston approaches with all the subtlety and restraint of a newly promoted drill sergeant. The whole album is plastered in the kind of electric piano that makes you feel like you’re having the contents of a Cadbury’s Creme Egg squeezed into your earhole as you listen. It really does make a girl want to smoke crack.

Which I almost did, back in 1993, when eventually Whitney was knocked off her perch by this:

Hard times indeed.

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