Sunday, 22 November 2009

Some Associated Perhaps Tracks

Perhaps was a bit of a long wait after Sulk. Rankine's departure, tales of MacKenzie's excesses and the paucity of any new material only seemed to suggest that it was all falling to bits. A few frantic Radio One sessions for Peel and Jensen only seemed to bear this out with fairly chaotic tracks like
"Helicopter Helicopter",
"Don't Give Me That I Told You So Look" and a twisted piece of proto-electro-disco called "Perhaps". One session was simply Billy and Howard Hughes doing "God Bless The Child" and "This Flame". I taped all those sessions and wondered what on earth was going to emerge as an album in the end. It was "Those First Impressions" first. A shimmering eight minute twelve-inch beauty which mysteriously did nothing chartwise. Then "Waiting For The Loveboat" a less commercial, twisted thing did even less chartwise.

Billy did some truly extraordinary publicity appearances to promote these singles. A "Number 73" kids TV appearance with Sandi Toksvig and Professor Stanley Unwin. Then a bewildering interview on The Tube with Lesley Ash on board the HMS Unicorn in a dry dock in Dundee only reinforced Billy's aloofness and cynicism. When the last Perhaps single "Breakfast" slid out in January 1985 it was heralded by a live performance on The Oxford Roadshow introduced by a possibly intoxicated Richard Jobson shouting "Awww fuck off" just before the string quartet started the song. In mitigation... it was Burns Night...
(A pal made a great tape from the headphone socket on his telly directly into the line-in on his cassette deck. I transferred this to CD years back. The travelogue is first, then there follows a simply stunning live version of Breakfast with the string quartet (plus Jobson's shout of encouragement). In my own ever so 'umble opinion, this version of Breakfast totally eclipses any other. Period.)
A rather good quality MP3 of the whole shebang is here.
In the wee travelogue about his hometown of Dundee, Billy laughingly describes his gaunt and anorexic bandmates being fattened up with deep fried oatmeal puddings from the chipshop. He speaks affectionately of his hometown and walking his dogs up in the Sidlaws. He makes a real defining statement about staying in Dundee (as opposed to London) "Home's home... and that's it." This performance and interview is about as far as you can get from the whole popstar/Spandau/Duran chart nonsense which prevailed at the time. It was no surprise that "Breakfast" stiffed badly. Aside from two more poorly recieved singles, one more in 85 (Take Me To The Girl) and one in 88 (Heart Of Glass), by January 1985 that was really it for the 1980's for The Associates...

When Perhaps finally saw a re-issue on CD in 2002 there were no extras from the 12" versions, b-sides or anything. Warners instead gave us Billy's career stalling, previously unreleased 1988 Glamour Chase album as part of a 2CD set with Perhaps. Maybe it was too much, too little, too late to have gone all out on a really cool package of goodies... but there was consolation in having "Empires Of The Heart" on CD at last. There was still plenty of space left on the Perhaps CD to have crammed on a shedload of extras but Warners chose not to.

2 comments:

  1. That ORS performance was what convinced me that Breakfast was a great song just waiting to be a massive worldwide number 1. But you're right, sadly none of the officially released versions could touch it.

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  2. The piano shines on the live ORS version, Billy's vocal cuts like a diamond and the string quartet swoops, swaggers and swoons the listener through song every which way. The Ronnie Scotts version was by the same line up but recorded a month earlier (and much better) by WEA than my mate with his mono TV link up! ( its on the Sounds Christmas Cracker 7" and on this post here http://whippetatthewheel.blogspot.com/2010/03/take-me-to-girl.html )
    In my opinion, in comparison, the album version and in particular the 12" version really struggle with the synth (rather than real strings) and the piano / beatbox accompaniment.
    Dont get me wrong, the released versions of "Breakfast" still outshone the rest of the chart-pop-fodder-pack that year by many miles and the song and Billy's vocal is still a wonder.
    But for me there is a point in the ORS performance where Billy sings "Exchanging worlds, arranging days" and just for a moment the rest of the world just disappears. A moment of revelation. An epiphany. Breathtaking stuff.

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