Friday, 26 March 2010

Some Remixes and a unique Promo-only vocal

Having said goodbye to Warners, Billy MacKenzie had quickly secured a deal with Circa (a Virgin offshoot) with "Wild and Lonely" being the first of two albums MacKenzie would record and release for his new label. Warners had licensed the old Associates material to East/West in order to release "Popera" - a collection of Associates singles from 1981 up to 1988.
Billy had never really liked the results of attempts to remix old Associates material before (both the remixed Affectionate Punch and the US Sulk remixes being cases in point). However, when Billy heard the four remixes which had been commisioned for an EP to accompany the Popera collection he was thrilled. Those responsible for the work were none other than Thomas Fehlmann and Marathon, some very up-to-the-minute remixers and producers who were riding the 1990 techno wave and twiddling the knobs! With two remixes each of "Club Country" and "Waiting For The Loveboat", the Popperetta EP was released to help promote the Popera compilation.
Of course Billy knew all these teutonic remixer and producer dudes from waaaay back, they had been founder members of Palais Schaumburg along with Holger Hiller (see "Whippets" post). Marathon (also known as "Time Unlimited") were Moritz von Oswald and Ralf Hertwig. Moritz von Oswald had performed drumming duties for the Associates since 1985 and played on Wild and Lonely. Fehlmann went on to become an integral part of The Orb and continues to share duties at the starship Orb controls with Dr Alex Paterson to this day. During a Radio Tay interview in 1992 Mackenzie referred to his Krautrock leanings, namechecking Kraftwerk and confessed to "even listening to Neu!". "Popperetta" was released in December 1990 on 7" and 12" (there are as yet unconfirmed reports of a CD issue as well but no-one has seen one!). 

Oh yeah... and also... the unique vocal on this promo only 12"

Back in the day, in 1987, when Yello were just slipping out "One Second" they gave away a free 12" with the first 2,000 copies of the album. The version of "Call It Love" on the 12" is unique and has an utterly beautiful mix. From Billy's multi-harmonied hums on the intro... to the amazing lead vocal he contributes... from Boris Blank's immaculate production... to the seagull noises... I love it. It is a really, really groovy track. The verse Billy sings turned up later on Outernational's "Feels Like The Richtergroove" but this stonking version of "Call It Love" gives a tantalising hint as to what might lie in that mysterious box of goodies Boris Blank has hidden under his bed.

I will be sipping a glass of champagne or two over the weekend. Billy would have been 53 tomorrow. It is my birthday too!


Sid Law

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Take Me To The Girl

Aaah late 1985... autumn came. I was studying in another country. My best pal sent me over a couple of cassettes of various stuff. Paul Haig, Armoury Show, Skids, Aztecs, Orange Juice and the contents of the latest Associates 12 incher. I wasn't sure what to make of it. My best pal didn't either. We'd kept waiting for Billy and whoever his Associates were now, to produce a blinder, off the wall, Ice Cream Factory meets Skipping album. Instead we got a glossy, very slickly produced single which kinda hinted at the european tinge which made "Breakfast" so great. . It was given a twelve inch mix in the only way 1985 knew how. The B-sides were interesting, a different take on the song called "The Girl That Took Me" a very jazzy, laid back arrangement of the single track. "Perhaps Perhaps" was next, a clubbier mix of the "Perhaps" track. I was then treated to an instrumental version of the single edit of "Take Me To The Girl" and that was it. It was great to get more stuff but it wasn't exactly what I thought I was waiting on...
1985 was my first time living away from home. Of course, I loved it and greatly enjoyed going out drinking late in strange bars and partay-ing. Though granted it was in Northern Ireland and it was the mid 1980's. More peaceful times for Ulster were still a bit further down the road, and the wearing (in downtown Ballymena) of the black Mackenzie-style beret (my best pal had thoughtfully given it to me on my departure) was an ill advised one-off.
Christmas found me arriving back in Glasgow for some partay-ing, fearlessly wearing my beret and "Breakfast" T-Shirt on Byres Road.
I found myself grabbing a groovy looking ten inch version of "Take Me To The Girl" from the first record shop we entered. It had the regular "Take Me To The Girl" single version and "Perhaps Perhaps" (the remixed version from the 12") but I was gobsmacked to find three of the Ronnie Scott's gig tracks from 9 December 1984 on the B-side. They were "God Bless The Child" "Even Dogs In The Wild" and "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot"! The quality was superb! Played unplugged with brushed snare drum, piano, bass and sax, it was a legendary set.
A wee seven inch single then plopped out of my pal's issue of Sounds. It was the "Christmas Cracker" featuring - yup- "Breakfast" live at Ronnie Scotts 9 December 1984. All we needed now was "The Crying Game" and "No" and we had the whole set! Those particular missing tracks never materialised (but they were recorded by Warners) a pity the whole batch didn't make their way out. I saw the whole film of the gig and still have a copy, but the sound fidelity is not as good as the vinyl record releases.

So anyway now having plunged myself back to the strange places my life took me in late 1985 I can tell you that the soundtrack to that autumn and winter was taken up a great deal by these songs. None have been collected on the re-issues. 

All the best

Sid Law