SIOUXSIE & the BANSHEES – “Dear Prudence” (Polydor) 1983
AZTEC CAMERA – “Just Like Gold” (Postcard) 1981
FIRE ENGINES – “Get Up And Use Me” (Codex Communications) 1980
TEARDROP EXPLODES – “Passionate Friend” (Mercury) 1981
ORANGE JUICE – “Poor Old Soul” (Postcard) 1981
CHINA CRISIS – “Christian” (Virgin) 1982
This 45, released September 1983, was an unexpected foray into psychedelia by a band more associated with the ’70s punk rock scene in England, but by ’83 they had developed a more complex sound and had undergone a few personnel changes.
One such change was the introduction of Robert Smith from The Cure on lead guitar. He took over duties from John McGeoch and persuaded the band to record The Beatles classic ‘Dear Prudence’.
The Siouxsie and the Banshees version is a much quicker assault with Robert Smith’s guitar to the fore. During this period he was solely using a Vox Teardrop Mark VI. Producer Mike Hodges also uses the technique of phasing or ‘skying’ as it’s sometimes known to create that otherworldly soundscape.
I remember their performance on “Top Of The Pops”, I’m presuming this appearance would have been sometime during October 1983, and on a Thursday evening. Afterwards, a nineteen year old me, would have swallowed a couple of ‘black bombers‘, then jumped on the bus travelling into Sunderland to meet the lads.
The young teen Roddy is back with a pairing of love-lorn ballads, earlier versions too, with the original line-up of Aztec Camera. I prefer these recordings on Postcard rather than the embellished and cleaner numbers on the album “High Land, Hard Rain”
The acoustically charged and the almost shouted vocals of “Just Like Gold” was a strange choice for an ‘A’ side and has never been re-issued in any format, nor too the 45 version of “We Can Send Letters” – Roddy Frame has refused in the past. So, get out in the wild and find an original copy, it’s probably the best thing you could ever do, your record box deserves it.
Both sides recorded at Castle Sound Studio, Edinburgh, during January 1981. Speaking in NME, Roddy expressed great pride in his choice of debut single. “I don’t think I could improve “Just Like Gold” in any way. I spent a long time trying to sound un-clichéd. There’s no chorus in it, nothing’s repeated.”
The antithesis of what was about to happen in the eighties is encapsulated within the grooves of this slab of ear piercing noise from the Fire Engines. This is a prime example of post-punk DIY record production. They recorded an entire set in a bungalow in Fife. Total cost was apparently £46. That was about the cost of one of Simon Le Bon’s posh tins of Elnett hairspray. Two tracks were then chosen to create their debut single.
“Get Up And Use Me” is full of chaos, no particular melody to talk about, and is an unruly assault on the senses which will annoy, and is meant to. It’s also a record that could have been released on Postcard, Alan Horne wanted to sign them but they probably told him to clear off back to 185 West Princes Street.
The other side, “Everything’s Roses” is another tuneless antidote to that awful new romantic bollocks. The lead guitar is all over the place but it’s got a ton of power, the singer, David Henderson sounds like he’s very hungry and shouting for his dinner, this is about as anti-pop as it got in 1980.
The Teardrop Explodes were seemingly always in the music press, they were hyped to the max and in Julian Cope had someone who could be articulate, scathing but oh so very lovable and quirky. He was also heavily into UK 60s psychedelia and mid sixties garage from America.
“Passionate Friend” is radio friendly pop with memorable bubblegum style ‘bah, bah, bah, bah’s, not heard since the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express. A sure fire hit right? Only just, it scraped into the top thirty, but earned the group a Top Of The Pops performance.
“Christ versus Warhol” is unique strangeness and experimentation on the other side, not sure what the hell is going on here? Is it a shoot-out between Jesus and Andy Warhol. The words are hard to decipher but I think Julian Cope is going on about these two artistic wonders of the world, one skilled and quick fingered with a bag of bread, the other with a pot of acrylic paint.
More Orange Juice please! Up next “Poor Old Soul”, a bouncy pop number with rather basic drumming, this could have been so much better with a lot more imagination on the skins.
My copy didn’t come with the postcard insert with handwritten lyrics and cat cartoon designed by Edwyn Collins. So thanks a lot, to the bastard who swiped it, then sold the record. I hope the Postcard cat logo comes to life and batters your face with it’s drum-sticks. Do I hold a grudge? . . . . . . Yes!
. . . . . . “No more rock and roll for you” . . . . . .
Ah, “Christian” by China Crisis. The short period in the early eighties when British boys went all foppish and dreamy. I was slowly ambling up that garden path myself, if truth be told.
I bought this single back in 1982 when it came out and I must be slowly but surely re-programming my mind and ears after decades of brutal garage punk because this is a fine dream-pop number. I never thought I’d say that again, especially with something with a predominate synth beat. But it’s subtle and melodic and brings with it a reflective and haunting atmosphere.
Very well done to China Crisis, a simple song with a wonderful arrangement. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad in the 80s being all twee and sweet.