Creative projects by Abigail Ward

Tag: Kirsty Maccoll

A host of heavenly angels

I woke up at five-ish this morning, for some reason thinking about Kirsty Maccoll. I have always been a huge fan of her voice and writing, and have an intense weakness for those spectacular, sparkling harmonies.

I was very troubled by her death, and it continues to crop up in my mind from time to time. Listening to ‘Days’ is almost unbearable – I’ve dashed out of many a shop to avoid hearing it since. I braved it this morning, though, and remembered how much I love the production: those rimshots at the beginning, really live and ‘roomy’ compared to the relative dryness of the vocal. The bass in at 0.36, and a subtle build to full, shiny, pop majesty – layers of complexity sounding like simplicity itself. And Johnny, of course.

What really murders me about the song, though, is its stoicism. We have Ray to thank for that. It should be called ‘Days (or How the English Grieve)’.

When I was a teenager I used to borrow tapes from the library. Kirsty’s ‘Galore’ was pored over. When you folded out the sleeve there were various plaudits from people she had worked with. I remember reading Morrissey’s in his idiosyncratic handwriting: “She has great songs and a crackin’ bust.” 

What the fuck would Kirsty think of Morrissey now? Can you imagine? He wrote about her death in his morbidly unputdownable autobiography. Apparently he was the one who suggested she visit the Mexican resort in which she eventually lost her life.

After ‘Days’ I played something I haven’t clocked before: the 12” version of ‘A New England’. Wow! Talk about a host of heavenly angels – it sounds really festive and does exactly what an 80s extended mix should do. It’s fucking amazing. I’m guessing it’s arranged by Steve Lillywhite. To all those people who can no longer bear to listen to The Smiths, dive in for joy.

“I don’t feel sad about letting you go, I just feel sad about letting you know.”

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.

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