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Tim Burgess & Bob Stanley Present Tim Peaks

    The Pacific North West and the English North West are damp, mossy, riddled with steep, unexpected valleys, dotted with abandoned mills, and frequently cloaked in mist. Most of the year you’d be wise to wear waterproofs. David Lynch set Twin Peaks in the former; it’s not a great leap to imagine it being re-cast and set in the latter. As for the soundtrack? Well, that’s what this album is about.

    • Charlatans singer Tim Burgess and Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley have known each for three decades now. Aside from a shared love of Factory Records and the Fall, they both consider Twin Peaks to be the greatest TV show ever. They also share a love of cafes, but Tim has gone the extra mile and set up the Tim Peaks Diner, a huge draw at festivals, combining tea, coffee and music. This, then, is a soundtrack for the Tim Peaks Diner after dusk – put a couple of quid in the jukebox and the plangent guitars of Durutti Column, Dean McPhee & Galaxie 500 colour the air.

    • Included here are rare recordings on Factory Records (Stockholm Monsters, the Royal Family & The Poor), and groups that appeared in the wake of the Fall (Blue Orchids, the Fates); from South Wales there are minimal miniatures by Young Marble Giants and the Gist, as well as Gwenno’s ice crystal electronica. Not that the music needs to originate from Britain at all – there are tracks here from Sweden (El Perro Del Mar), New Zealand (the Chills) and the US, too (Chastity Belt).

    • Compiled by Tim Burgess and Bob Stanley, this is the soundtrack to the Tim Peaks Diner after the sun’s gone down, and it contains some of the most beautiful and atmospheric independent music made in the last 40 years. Outside, the mists are rising and the rain is falling; inside, the coffee is hot and the music perfectly matches the mood...


    Britain wasn’t on its own in having a thoroughly miserable 1973: O Lucky Man! and Badlands both found a great year to premiere; Watergate brought America to a new low. But America didn’t still have back-to-backs and outside bogs. Tens of thousands of Britons were still housed in wartime pre-fabs. The bright new colours of the post-war Festival of Britain and Harold Wilson's talk in the 60s of the “white heat of technology” now seemed very distant as strikes, inflation, and food and oil shortages laid Britain low. What had gone wrong? And what did pop music have to say about it?

    Many of the year’s biggest acts had set out on their particular journeys in the most idealistic years of the 60s (Yes, Genesis, the Moody Blues) and still held traces of that era’s promise. For acts such as Bowie and Roxy Music who had emerged in the new decade, one way out of the British malaise was to look into the future, embracing modernism and the space age beyond, a world of electric boots and mohair suits. Another was to draw heavily on the revered 50s, retreating to rock’s unsullied roots while remaining ostensibly current – Wizzard, Mott The Hoople and even the Rubettes managed to reshape the 50s to their own ends, much as Springsteen did in the States, although beyond them lay Showaddywaddy, Shakin’ Stevens, and a sickly nosedive into nostalgic yearning.

    This left a small rump of acts diligently soundtracking Britain’s present, not with a wagging finger but a fuzzy guitar, a primitive synthesiser, and a pitch-black sense of humour. Quite often these records were cut in home studios – many featured the same basic synth (just the one) that Roxy’s Eno and Hawkwind’s DikMik used; the guitarists still played blues progressions picked up from the Stones; and they sometimes touched on glam – the era’s brightest, newest noise – found inspiration in its disposability and its energy, but didn’t have the luxury of a Chinn and Chapman or a Mickie Most to sprinkle fairy dust on their final mix. And outside the studio door were the strikes, the cuts, economic chaos, teenage wasteland – these musicians created music that, intentionally or not, echoed their surroundings. It wasn’t glam, but it emerged from what Robin Carmody has called “the glamour of defeat, the glory of obliteration”.

    The songs on “Three Day Week” amplified the noise of a country still unable to forget the war, even as it watched the progressive post-war consensus disintegrating. We hear shrugs and cynicism, laughter through gritted teeth. Comparing it to the richness of records made just five or six years earlier, you might think musical instruments had been rationed, and that everyone has one eye on the clock, cutting corners to get the recording finished before the next power cut. You picture engineers in donkey jackets, with a brazier by the mixing desk. You hear odd electronic explosions, quacks and squiggles. The pub piano is predominant, with its brown ale, Blitz-spirit, grin-and-bear-it jollity. And under many of these tracks is a barely concealed frustration (sexualised on the Troggs’ ‘I’m On Fire’) and even anger (how else to read ‘Urban Guerrilla’, or the howling and the hand grenade at the end of Stud Leather’s ‘Cut Loose’?). Think of “Three Day Week” as an extended, musical Play For Today.

    The Three Day Week itself – which only lasted eight weeks, but was the nadir of a four-year-long depression – had been a result of the Tory government’s limit on pay rises in October 1973 and the miners strike that followed. Back at the start of 1972 the miners had struck for higher pay and won, averting Prime Minister Edward Heath’s threat to introduce a three day week in manufacturing and industry to hold on to energy reserves. By late 1973, though, the miners had slipped from top of the industrial wages league to 18th. Amid strikes by civil servants, medical staff, railway and dock workers, the miners went on strike again. The Three Day Week proper lasted from New Year’s Day to 7 March 1974. TV shut down at 10:30. Power cuts and blackouts in homes across Britain meant the sales of candles and torches soared. Old soldiers tutted. The Army were on standby. And, nine months later, there was a spike in the birth rate.

    For the younger generation, however, the Three Day Week is not remembered as a period of woe. Power cuts were fun! Who wouldn’t like the idea of a three day week? More time to play! It was also easy for kids to confuse pop culture and politics when the Prime Minister was Ted Heath and the leader of Britain’s biggest union, the TGWU, was Jack Jones. Even the TUC’s leader Vic Feather sounded like the bassist from a RAK act. There is also the folk memory of the period being a high-water mark for the power of trade unions, who seemingly always struck for higher pay and won, a dreamtime for many on the left. The second miners strike brought down the Tory government – what a time to be alive! Margaret Thatcher was only education secretary at this point, the hated “milk snatcher”, and no one had a crystal ball to see what the Tory reaction might be several years down the line.

    The records on this collection were almost all released as 45s, sent to shops in cost-cutting plain white paper bags, and – thanks to the oil shortage caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict – pressed on thinner vinyl than you’d have had ten years earlier. On every level, they felt as if they were being recorded and released under wartime restrictions. Many of these tracks were B-sides, recorded in haste, with no commercial forethought or relevance to the A-side, because, as Peter Shelley recalls, “You’d made the wild assumption that no one would ever play it”.

    Why did the music end up sounding this way? There had been a general sense of decline in Britain since the turn of the decade – not only in industry but in film, art, fashion, and in people’s expectations. You could trace its roots further back to 1968, when the collapse of the Ronan Point tower block in East London sounded a death knell for modernist dreams. Or to 1967, a year for which Swinging London has prevailed in popular memory over Cathy Come Home, but which should be remembered for the devaluation of the pound and the capital's nationalistic dock strikes as much as Alexandra Palace’s 14 Hour Technicolour Dream. By 1972, everything new – be it a brick wall or a terylene suit – was a shade of brown or orange, and the smell of sweat and odour-hugging man-made fabrics (not only clothes but carpets and curtains) was dominant. The worsted mills of Bradford and cotton mills of Manchester were fast disappearing, and the mix of wet wool, chimney smoke and boiled cabbage that Shena Mackay recalled being London’s olfactory default in the 60s had been replaced by weeks-old fag smoke, BO, and something plasticky you couldn’t put your finger on.

    Few of the songs on “Three Day Week” are politically direct: the Edgar Broughton Band had been Ladbroke Grove rabble rousers at the tail end of the 60s, but their ambitions sound entirely blunted on the monochrome hopelessness of ‘Homes Fit For Heroes’; Phil Cordell’s ‘Londonderry’ is diffuse, but it was an odd place to single out for a song title in 1973; Pheon Bear appears to be losing the will to live even as he shouts himself hoarse on ‘War Against War’. The ambivalence of the Strawbs on ‘Part Of The Union’ – a #2 hit – is entirely in keeping with the pub humour and shrugging cynicism of the era. So there is a little agitation here, but there is plenty of gleeful irreverence. One more drink? What have we got to lose? The government’s on its knees and we might all be out of work tomorrow. Quick, somebody, get on the piano before the lights go out again.

    BOB STANLEY.

    Various Artists

    Jon Savage's 1969-1971 Rock Dreams On 45

      Unlike the previous volumes in Jon Savage’s series of year-based 2CD compilations, which featured music from an expansive mixture of genres, this latest edition spans three years of 100% rock.

      In the late 60s, British pop and youth culture began to fragment into tribes. There were many reasons for this: social class, economics, and events within the music industry itself. The success of the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper” confirmed the primacy of the album over the single for the smart end of white pop, which was undergoing a prolonged dalliance with psychedelia and the drug culture. Hard mods disdained this trend, cleaving closer to the soul, Motown and Jamaican music that they danced to. By 1969, this began to harden into tribal warfare, as skinheads and hippies found themselves on opposite sides of the subcultural divide.

      The divisions had always been there, even at the height of the supposedly classless mid-60s. I was an unrepentant rock fan. That was my tribe. I still bought Motown and reggae hits, but they were the hits: there was no deeper exploration. After Radio Caroline had gone, I’d lost most of the connection to black American music as part of the wider pop experience that I’d had in 1965, 1966 and 1967, even 1968. Thus streamed, I hunted the bins all over London for singles on Island, Elektra and Track.

      On these singles, sound, attitude and, on occasion, lyrics were all important. They are expressions of a moment in time, when youth conflated purchasing power with political power. Looking into the future to a world they would fashion differently from that of their parents, they felt free to speak what was on their minds with the expectation that it might be listened to and have meaning. Here you have darkness and light, devilment and the searching for god, the escape to the country and the desire for rousing, primal rock’n’roll.

      Rock in the US and the UK encompassed male braggadocio, anguished reflection, sincere if not naive protest, stonking riffs and loud, distorted guitars. Much of it was blues-based, particularly in 1969 as the back-to-the-roots impulse of 1968 worked its way through the sharp end of rock, but a year or so later some of it became wilder, stranger and even more basic – looking forward to what a truly 1970s white teenage music could be: that groundswell that eventually burst out in mid-decade onwards.

      There was no real name for this period but, just before glam, it was an era of massive riffs, overloading guitars, mindless yet heartfelt protest, goblin chants and a general mood of questioning, exploration and disillusion. While many songs from this period have become generational clichés, it is hoped that this collection will help you in hearing them afresh. They were new once, like we all were.

      JON SAVAGE.

      By mid-1968 there was a growing consensus that something had gone horribly wrong with the American dream. The nation’s youth had loudly made their feelings clear, but now the older, pre-Beatles generations began to look at the country – with urban riots, Vietnam, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy – and wonder what the hell was happening. This album includes rare classics (The Beach Boys’ ‘Fourth Of July’), lost masterpieces (Roy Orbison’s seven-minute ‘Southbound Jericho Parkway’), and forgotten gems by some of the biggest names in the business (Elvis Presley’s ‘Clean Up Your Own Back Yard’).

      Reactions to America’s existential crisis ranged in subject matter from divorce (Frank Sinatra’s ‘The Train’) and the break-up of the nuclear family (The Four Seasons’ ‘Saturday’s Father’), to eulogies for fallen heroes (Dion’s ‘Abraham Martin and John’), sympathy for Vietnam vets (Johnny Tillotson’s ‘Welfare Hero’), the church’s institutional racism (Eartha Kitt’s intense ‘Paint Me Black Angels’), and even questioning the ethics of the space programme (Bing Crosby’s terrific ‘What Do We Do With The World’).

      Compiled by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, State Of The Union follows on from their highly acclaimed English Weather and Paris In The Spring compilations. With clear parallels between today's fractured country and the USA fifty years ago, this is a fascinating condensation of what Americans were thinking when they turned on the TV, or the radio, or simply walked down Main Street in 1968.

      “Paris In The Spring” is a collection of the new music, put together by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, that emerged from France between 1968 and the mid-70s, an extraordinary blend of several previously independent strains – French chanson and yé-yé, American jazz and funk, British chamber pop – shot through with the era’s underlying mixture of optimism, uncertainty and darkness. This is the first collection of its kind, released on the 50th anniversary of the Paris uprising.

      Serge Gainsbourg – a jazz pianist with a chanson past and a pop present – was in a position to play a key role in soundtracking France in flux over the next five years. His “Histoire de Melody Nelson”, with its heavily atmospheric arrangements by Jean-Claude Vannier, was the acme of this new, unsettling French sound. “Paris In The Spring” includes other equally dazzling Vannier arrangements (for Léonie) and Gainsbourg compositions (for Jane Birkin and Mireille Darc).

      Prior to 1968, 60s French pop had been dominated by yé-yé, the country’s unique brand of upbeat pop, a world of primary colours, minijupes and discothèques (a French invention, after all). Its stars either faded fast after May ’68 or adapted to the new era: Jacques Dutronc (‘Le Métaphore’) and France Gall (‘Chanson Pour Que Tu M’aimes un Peu’) discovered a moody side they had previously kept hidden, while Françoise Hardy released the Brazilian-influenced, after-hours classic “La Question”, from which we have picked ‘Viens’.

      New bands like Triangle emerged, influenced by Soft Machine and Gong who became regulars on the Paris club scene. French library music from Janko Nilovic and film soundtracks (François De Roubaix, Karl-Heinz Schäfer) reflected the era’s edginess. All are represented on “Paris In The Spring”, making it a continental cousin to Stanley and Wiggs’s hugely popular 2017 Ace compilation “English Weather”

      The second “Bluesin’” volume in the “By The Bayou” series concentrates on musicians from South Louisiana and South East Texas discovered and recorded by J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler. These two giants of the post-war recording scene were supreme talent-spotters. They knew the sounds that appealed to the local record-buying public, their target audience. What they couldn’t have known, or even guessed at in their wildest fantasies, was that the appeal of their recordings would last so long and encompass the globe. They probably thought it was just a passing fad when Mike Leadbitter in the late 60s, and then Bruce Bastin in the early 70s, made pilgrimages from England in search of the music, its artists and the label owners. Now here we are, over 60 years later, still uncovering blues masterpieces from their catalogues.

      So ready yourself for transportation to a steamy Louisiana night, on the back porch or in a pulsating juke joint. Get a grip of that air guitar and bend the strings along with masters such as Lightnin’ Slim, Classie Ballou and Guitar Jr. This is music that has fired the imagination of legions of fans from all walks of life around the world for more than 60 years. It’s a pure delight to bring you a whole compilation of little-known or unheard performances from bosses of the genre, captured at their peak.


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