RAINY DAY WOMEN : Frauen Für Schlechte Tage (Monogam 7", 1980).

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Apparently, back in the late 1970s, West Berlin's governing Senate operated a generous policy of offering super-cheap loans of several thousand Deutsch Marks to vermählten frish (newly wed) settlers. Realising it was too good an opportunity to ignore, Monogam Records' founders Michael Voigt & Elisabeth Recker entered into a literal marriage of convenience to finance the pressing of their initial brace of releases, a sequence of excellent NDW/post-punk 7"s that included Rainy Day Women's eponymous debut. Rainy Day Women was Michael & Elisabeth's own project - frigid synths, scratchy guitar, numb vocals - that's them on the sleeve. Definitely not to be confused with the sapless Australian indie featherweights of the same name.

Though it existed for less than 2 years, Monogam found both the time & money to shepherd records by the emerging Einstürzende Neubauten (their debut single in fact), Mania D., Die Haut, Mark Reeder's Die Unbekannten, P1/E, & Rudolph Dietrich (an early member of Kleenex), as well as Rainy Day Women's only other release - an impossible-to-find untitled 4-song cassette with little-to-no packaging or extraneous information.

By the mid '80s, having retired their joint imprint, the Voigts were both moving within Nick Cave's caliginous circle: Michael's People's Records financed the recording of Honeymoon In Red - The Birthday Party's troubled collaboration with Lydia Lunch - but ran out of money before it was completed (the tapes were subsequently mislaid for several years), while Elisabeth dated the (cough) "Black Crow King" for a time following his split with his long-term partner Anita Lane.


DICK CAMPBELL : Dick Campbell Sings Where It's At (Mercury LP, 1965).

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"In 1965 I played in a band in Massachusetts, Dick Campbell & The Scarlets, as a guitarist, lead singer, & writer. We cut a demo album in Boston. A friend of mine had once met Gary Usher (close friend of Brian Wilson & co-writer of his early Beach Boys masterpiece "In My Room") & through him I sent a copy of the demo tape to Gary in California & he liked it. He called me to say he thought he could use some of the songs I'd written with other artists & that I should come to L.A. to write & work with him. That summer I started out by car for California, but stopped in Chicago to see what reaction I might get to the album from the labels there. Vee Jay wasn't interested, & Chess was into black artists, but Mercury liked some of the tunes & wanted to publish them. Mercury particularly liked a couple of my folk rock type tunes, & moreover, since Columbia had Dylan & they didn't, couldn't I write 10 more & they'd cut an album of me singing them? Now, in hindsight, I probably should have continued on out to the coast & gone to work for Usher then & there since most of his happening stuff occurred in the '60s. But instead, I signed a deal with Mercury Records & recorded Dick Campbell Sings Where It's At, which was pretty much a blatant rip-off of Bob Dylan.

To be sure, I was backed up by some very good musicians who have gone onto much bigger things since this project. There was Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, just fresh from recording with Dylan on the Highway 61 Revisited LP. Marty Grebb of the Buckinghams also played guitar & Paul Butterfield was on harmonica. Mark Naftalin (another Butterfield acolyte) played organ & Sam Lay (a member of Dylan's band during his polarising Newport '65 set) was on drums. A kid from a local group called The Exceptions - Peter Cetera - played bass & he later had a brilliant career as the lead singer for Chicago. By the time I got done spinning my wheels in the Midwest (including a tour with The Guess Who, an appearance at The Bitter End, & marriage plus 3 children) it was 1969 before I got out to L.A. & went to work for Gary Usher."

Though much of Sings Where It's At's charm derives from it's audacious & incessant ersatz Dylanisms, further redeeming qualities seep through in due course, Dick's stylistic remit ultimately having been markedly broader than simply replicating "that Wild Mercury Sound" Zimmy was hungrily pursuing. Nonetheless, I'm still unsure as to whether I should listen to it at face value or not - was it simply a better-than-average cash-in, or is there an element of deadpan parody at play, for instance? Wittily satiric titles such as "Despair's Cafeteria", "Don Juan of the Western World", & "Approximately Four Minutes of Feeling Sorry For D.C." allude to the latter, but the entire album is such an entertaining listen that I don't think it really matters as, at half a century old, it's obviously something more substantial than mere kitsch appeal that keeps me tuning in.

Ridiculously, it's never - never!! - been reissued.

The Blues Peddlars


XTC : Live at The Old Waldrof, San Francisco - 25th February 1980 (Radio broadcast).

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One of the first & best British new wave bands, XTC scraped into the U.K. charts a handful of times during their long & turbulent "career in rock" but never quite captured the greater listening public's imagination or gained the support of the (then) all-important serious music press, earning themselves the undeserved (& peculiarly English) epithet of "irreverent underachievers". Hailing from nethermost Swindon - "a gritty little concrete industrial blob" as their agreeably eccentric frontman Andy Partridge once painted it - this unabashedly provincial ensemble formed in the early 1970s & stumbled along under a succession of ill-considered handles (Zip Code & The Helium Kidz, Star Park, Skyscraper, The Snakes), before settling on "XTC", around the same time that they discovered punk & began mailing demos to John Peel. Stylistically scattershot - much to their record company's chagrin &, ultimately, to their own fiscal detriment - their first two Virgin albums came & went in a squabbling maelstrom of Farfisa-infested, adrenalin-chraged post-punk power-pop. Merely frenetic on vinyl, their new wave-era live shows could be heart-stoppingly ferocious, wildly accelerated affairs, as this cudgelling FM radio broadcast affirms.

Recorded (yet again) at San Francisco's Old Waldorf Music Hall on 25th February 1980, the first show of a 2-night residency, XTC's set herein is an unusual selection of classic early singles ("Making Plans For Nigel" had recently scrambled into the top 20 in the U.K. & Canada), superior LP tracks (Real By Reel", "Battery Brides", "Complicated Game", the little-heard "Crowded Room"), & a few rarely-performed B-sides (I don't think I've ever heard them play "Heatwave" or "Instant Tunes" before). It's split fairly evenly between Partridge & his prudent songwriting foil Colin Moudling, & the disparities between the duo's compositional styles couldn't be more pronounced: inserting Colin's measured "Ten Feet Fall" (incidentally their debut U.S. 45) between the spasmodic double-whammy of Andy's "Scissor Man" & "Heliopter" here illustrates how melodically divergent the two of them were. At their finest - & particularly during Go2 or Drums & Wires' most inventive moments - early XTC sounded like a breakneck hybrid of Devo & The Kinks, minus the former's absurdist mechanised theatrics of course, but steeped in the unassuming parochial essence of Ray Davies' pebble-dashed lyrical Everywheresville.

Following XTC's dissolution in the early 2000s, Colin retreated into wilful non-musical obscurity & hasn't seemed to be in much of a hurry to talk to anybody since, but there are dozens - perhaps hundreds - of Andy Partridge interviews online. I recommend you do yourself a massive favour & read all of them, beginning with this relatively recent & particularly candid one. Then go & check out his inimitably unorthodox boutique record label. He may be a certified garden shed looney & a walking disaster area but I can't help liking him.

Set-list: (Intro tape) / Beatown / Real By Reel / When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty / Life Begins at the Hop / The Rhythm / Meccanik Dancing (Oh We Go!) / Heatwave / Scissor Man / Ten Feet Tall / Helicopter / This is Pop / Battery Brides (Andy Paints Brian) / Statue of Liberty / Instant Tunes / Crowded Room / Are You Receiving Me? / Complicated Game / Making Plans For Nigel.

n.b. Eternal gratitude (once again) to Mr. Hammer.

● Instant Tunes


ROBERT FRIPP : Mark Radcliffe session - 12th November 1996 / Robert Reads Hardy - 15th December 1996 (Radio broadcasts).

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On the one hand, the lifespan of this post may only amount to a matter of scant minutes as Herr Fripp is notoriously exacting with regard to copyright (& who can blame him, it's his livelihood after all?). On the other, all of these tracks were originally recorded for the BBC & have been "officially" released in the past as digital loss leaders c/o King Crimson's own DGM website. So who knows, perhaps he'll turn a blind eye on this occasion?

Performed live on 12th November 1996 for Mark Radcliffe's Evening Show (at the Beeb's since-demolished Oxford Road studio in Manchester), these 4 relatively brief (but nonetheless remarkable) Frippertronic exercises are book-ended by amusing & enlightening chats with stand-in host Stuart Maconie, Radcliffe & his his sidekick Lard (ex-Creeper Marc Riley) both having cryptically absented themselves on the night in question.

Fripp appeared on Radcliffe's show again the following month, reciting a quartet of Thomas Hardy readings in his rhotic Dorset burr for broadcast on 15th December, accompanied by his own gentle ambient soundscapes. Apparently only a couple of the poems were used on the night, but I've been able to include the complete set here - thanks once more to DGM's cavernous annals - with Robert's own potty-mouthed introductions intact.

If you're so inclined, a dumbfounding myriad of King Crimson & Fripp-related paraphernalia (including hundreds of hours of historical recordings unavailable elsewhere) are available from DGM's vast & constantly expanding archive. I recommend you peruse Robert's minutely detailed online diary while you're there, though sadly it only seems to updated sporadically nowadays.

● Horse Trumpets