Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The V.I.P.'s - I Need Somebody To Love

Record 1 - A. Need Somebody To Love

Record 1 - B. One More Chance

Record 2 - A1. Stuttgart Special

Record 2 - B1. Who Knows

Record 2 - B2. Janine

THE V.I.P.'S (United Kingdom)
Need Somebody To Love b/w One More Chance
Plus bonus "Beat Crazy EP" - Stuttgart Special b/w Who Knows/Janine
GEM (GEMS-43), 1980

The VIP's released a string of terrific and very diverse singles in the early 80's. This one is my favorite, as it really showcases how dynamic the band was. "Need Somebody To Love" and "One More Chance" are pure power pop perfection with strong musicianship, crisp, clear recordings, beautiful instrument tones, and tight harmonies. The single came with a bonus "Beat Crazy" EP which features more straight forward punk tracks "Stuttgart Special" and "Who Knows" which are almost unrecognizably performed by the same group. The EP finishes with the ever so catchy "Janine."

These tracks along with the rest of the band's singles were all compiled on a short-run import LP entitled "Beat Crazy." Their entire works are impressive, spanning the musical spectrum with should-have-been power pop hits like "Quarter Moon," a cover of "Hippy Hippy Shake" to appease the mod following they unintentionally acquired, and more comedic songs like "Causing Complications" as seen below.

"Need Somebody To Love" was comped on Powerpearls #8.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Jags - Dumb Blonde

A. Woman's World

B. Dumb Blonde

THE JAGS (Scarborough, England)
Woman's World b/w Dumb Blonde
Island (WIP-6531), 1980

The Jags released a 12" EP, two full length albums, and five singles in the few years they were a band. Pretty much everything they put out is worth owning, and being that they were on a major label, the vinyl is fairly easy to find and usually inexpensive. Of all the bands that adopted the quintessential early Elvis Costello vocal style, the Jags really perfected it, adding clever, witty lyrics, strong musicianship, and hooks galore.

Lead vocalist/guitarist Nick Watkinson and long time pal John Alder (lead guitar/vocals) started a songwriting partnership in early '77, which eventually evolved into forming a band in the summer of the following year. After a brief period of rehearsals in Wales, the group moved to London and secured a contract with Island Records after just three gigs! Shortly after that, with their second bassist Steve Prudence in tow, they went from playing lousy support gigs to hitting the road on their own headlining club tour. But difficulties finding the right drummer persisted, including fist-throwing altercations on stage, until they found Alex Baird (who played with Midge Ure in Stumble, and later in the Banned -> does anyone know if this is the same Banned that did the "Little Girl" and "Him Or Me" singles?).

The first Jags release was a four song 12" featuring "Back Of My Hand" and "Single Vision," which were later released as a single and re-recorded for their debut album "Evening Standard," but the 12" also had two tracks which never appeared elsewhere, "Double Vision" and "What Can I Do." The "Back Of My Hand" single had a 10 week chart life in the UK, peaking at number 17. At the time of its release, that is all they had recorded and it was some time before "Evening Standard" was put out.

"Woman's World" was their second single and it grazed the charts for one week before falling off. This is my favorite single because not only is the A-side excellent, but I think the B-Side is one of their best songs and it's only available on this record. The band later released one more single off their first album, "Party Games," but it never charted.

"No Tie Like A Present" was the bands second LP, and they produced two singles off that one, which both failed to chart as well: "I Never Was A Beach Boy" and “The Sound Of G-O-O-D-B-Y-E.” Island mis-credited the song "Here Comes My Baby" as the band's own, when it was originally penned/performed by Cat Stevens and later a hit by the Tremeloes. Their sophomore effort isn't as strong as their earlier work, as I believe the band was starting to crumble with personnel changes, the addition of keyboards, and a slight change in musical direction (admittedly trying NOT to sound like Costello), but it's still enjoyable.

"Dumb Blonde" was featured on Powerpearls Volume 2.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back To Zero - Your Side Of Heaven

A. Your Side Of Heaven

B. Back To Back

BACK TO ZERO (London, England)
Your Side Of Heaven b/w Back To Back
Fiction (FICS-004), 1979

Back To Zero were forerunners of the British mod-revival movement. Formed in 1978, they lasted just a short while with various line-up changes and only have this one single to carry their legacy. But what a terrific pair of songs they left in their wake.

The record was produced by Chris Parry, who also did outstanding work with the Purple Hearts, on his own Fiction Records label. Fiction, which is now owned by Universal, is best known for boosting the career of the Cure. Back To Zero was one of the earliest singles released on the label.

During their heyday, Back To Zero played regularly with Secret Affair, The Chords, Purple Hearts and other great mod bands of the time until they vanished in 1980. "Your Side Of Heaven" was comped on a terrific mod revival collection called Unsung Heroes, released on Unicorn records in 1988.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Sidewalks - Natalie

A. Natalie

B. Whoever Said That You Was Cool

Natalie b/w Whoever Said That You Was Cool
Flying Scooter (FSR-001), 1981

Giving birth to The Shivvers, The Haskels, The Wigs, and many others, Milwaukee was a hot bed of fresh, creative, musical talent in the late 70s. The Sidewalks were no exception. Formed in the summer of '79, they drew motivation from new wave standouts such as Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Joe Jackson, as well as punk groups like The Ramones and The Clash. They also shared a love for British Invasion bands including The Kinks, The Who, and The Stones. Over time, they defined their sound by playing obscure pop covers alongside original songs in the same vein musically, but with socially relevant lyrics.

Though the band persevered for a three year period with several line-up changes and numerous trips to the recording studio, this single remains the only material the band released before their demise. It received local acclaim and airplay, and was even distributed by Bomp, but the band never got the break they needed and eventually gave up. Both sides of this record are pure pop perfection and it's a shame the band was not more successful.

Several years ago, Hyped2Death released an entire retrospective CD of the Sidewalks recorded material, entitled "Ryhthm Kids." A few years later, Italian label Rave Up issued it on LP in a limited run. Most recently, the band released a collection of material themselves called "Here Are The Sidewalks," which is available through CDBaby and Itunes. It's the first time their material has been available as digital downloads. I highly recommend picking it up as the rest of this band's material is exceptional and deserves to be heard.