It is with a heavy heart that we must suspend the Ruby Tuesday feature indefinitely. But fret not, gentle readers. We hope to resurrect the series in the not-too-distant future. Until then, enjoy that Lilac Time track while you can, because it’s coming down a week from now. D’oh.
That boiiiing sound you just heard was BE Associate Editor Will Harris. He introduced me to this song, you see, and in the process introduced me to one of my favorite albums of all time, so he is surely enjoying this post.
Truth be told, I’m generally not a pastoral pop kind of guy. Yes, there are Kinks and XTC records that I will defend to the death, and I even have a healthy amount of Belle & Sebastian in my CD collection – something I am loath to admit after being shamed by my former coworker Katie a few years ago – but if you’re going to be precious, you damn well better make it catchy, and hooks are the one thing on which the Lilac Time does not skimp. For me, the key is the backing harmony of Claire Worrell; without her, lead singer Stephen Duffy’s clever lyrics and the pedal steel guitar land on deaf ears.
Interesting fact: Duffy agreed to co-write songs with Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page after Page sent him a demo tape. Whether Duffy has made more money from his association with Page than he has on his own, however, is unknown.
Let’s keep this one simple, shall we? It’s a holiday, and we work during enough holidays as it is. Merry Christmas, everyone. Here’s to hoping that Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn will grace us with a new record sometime before we die.
After tumbling down the remix rabbit hole in the mid to late ’80s, the unthinkable happened: the scene changed on me. By the early ’90s all hell was breaking loose in the clubs. House music pretty much wiped my favorite kinds of dance records off the map (mostly dance oriented rock, or DOR as they once called it). That, combined with my remix hero Shep Pettibone’s sudden retirement, left me in no man’s land. EMF producer Ralph Jezzard made some nifty mixes, but he didn’t make enough of them. I slowly stopped paying attention to remixes at that point.
Then one day my old DJ buddy Paul MacDonald sends me a dozen cassettes with assorted remixes and such on it. One of them was called Techno Mixes. Techno, at one point, meant New Order and Nitzer Ebb. By this point it meant Orgy and Moby. This new techno frightened and confused me, but I pressed on. Most of the tunes were pretty harmless, really. They stole lines from movies, TV shows, educational films, what have you, and surrounded them with shrieking synthesizers. There was a tune called “Sesame’s Treat” that amused me. “LSD is the Bomb” had a cool drum track, and someone even sampled the theme to “Halloween” for a song. Meh.
And then I heard “It’s Grim Up North,” and my jaw hit the floor.
Officially credited to the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, “It’s Grim Up North” is the KLF in disguise (though not really in disguise). Released in late 1991, the band had made some inroads on the American charts earlier that summer, but “Grim” was playing a completely different sport than their Top Five hit “3 A.M. Eternal.” Those songs were bouncy: “It’s Grim Up North” was industrial grit, complete with screaming steam whistles. Bill Drummond’s lyrics are nothing but lists of cities in northern England (you can find a list on the song’s Wikipedia page), spoken in bleak monotone. And then, after pummeling and pounding the listener for eight minutes, the drums give way to the hymn “Jerusalem,” steam whistles still screaming in the background. Hell, yes.
The song didn’t convert me to the then-new techno scene, but it did serve as one hell of a last hurrah to my golden age of dance. “Sesame’s Treat,” on the other hand, hasn’t held up so well.
Rare is the girl that has been able to positively school me on music — no offense, ladies, but most girls simply don’t have the passion for it that I have — so when one comes along that can teach me a few new tricks, the lessons have been memorable ones. It is with this piece that I salute Jen Mueller, a onetime college sweetheart who made me one of the best mix tapes I have ever received. Yes, it was an actual tape. Hey, it was 1987. We didn’t even have CD players back then. No, we didn’t add using an abacus. Shut up.
Anyway, to make things even more interesting (for her, anyway; frustrating as hell for me), she covered the track listing in blue marker so I could not read the names of the songs or the artists. Listen and learn, that was the lesson. Luckily, I knew most of the songs or artists — The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears, World Party, Paul Young, Dream Academy, The Stranglers and a killer Thompson Twins mix spring to mind — but a couple of them left me positively baffled. There are songs called “Dark Intentions” and “Deep Blue Sea” that I’m still trying to track down 20 years later, but I was able to weasel the artist name out of one of the unknowns: The Bluebells. Never heard of them. Little did I know, they had broken up two years earlier, though the song she gave me, “Will She Always Be Waiting,” sounded light years ahead of its time. Big, technicolor strings, lotsa jangling acoustic guitars, and harmonies by the pound. It was wonderful. Still is, in fact.
I recently came across a copy of the record that “Will She Always Be Waiting” called home, the 1984 album Sisters. It’s clearly a vinyl transfer — I’m pretty sure there’s even a small skip towards the end — but that actually makes it sound even better to me. Thanks, Jen. My life’s a little better for having you in it, even if for a brief period. I hope you’re doing well.