Having just written about Fire Engines on our new little brother site rippingvinyl.co.uk, it was quite odd to find an email in the inbox from a band called Ambulances. It gets odder with both bands hailing from Scottish Scotland, Fire Engines from Edinburgh and Ambulances – a gently charming six-piece – from Fife.
Reading their briefest of blogs on MS raised a smile with the use of a word that only works from the mouths Scots – magic. I digress. But what’s new?
Writing about music these days is often like shooting fish in a barrel. Your mainstream music journo is no different from anyone with a decent pair of ears and a computer, except they get bylines in publications you’ve heard of. Point is bands do a great job of getting their music out there, but they need to make it super-easy for ‘proper’ music journos and bloggers by doing the DIY PR too, something for the lazy hack to hang their hat on.
Take Ambulances. They’re almost there PR-wise. Here’s what I know. They sound great, thrum in all the right places, there’s a touch of Cocteau Twins and a dash of the Beta Band. It’s gentle stuff, think the mellow end of Spiritualized. From their MS I discovered they’re called Sara, Al, Scott, Graham, Chris and Stephen and they come from Fife. I also know, but only because she has a MySpace, that Sara is at art college doing textiles and says her favourite film is ‘Gregory’s Girl’. Good choice. They’ve had a tickle from 6 Music and there’s an album on the way that was made chop chop, eight days in fact, in the hands of legendary producer Kramer. The question a proper journo would ask is how indie royalty came to produce a wee band from Fife. Sigh.
Hat hung? Right, I’m off to find a band called Police Cars to complete the set.
- There’s the MS, check out the cracking ‘What I Thought Of’ while you’re there please and thank you.
See, we made good with our promise about moving on from 1982. Admittedly we’ve only managed 1981, but it’s a start. Formed in 1980, the Edinburgh four-piece burned so brightly that they were all shagged out by the end of 1981, leaving behind them just three singles, and the fabulous ‘Lubricate Your Living Room’ long one.
‘Candy Skin’, pictured here in full-colour MP3, was their second single and was filed in the very top drawer, the one mark ‘joyous, exuberant racket’. It remains, in our very humble opinion, a pop classic, sounding as fresh now as it did nearly 30 years (gulp) ago.
What it also did all those years was light a musical torch for mainman Davy Henderson. We didn’t stumble across him again until 1988-ish when a visiting lecturer gave a talk about documentary making and showed a pop video she’d made earlier. The band were called Win (check out this super impressive history) and they sounded strangely familiar. Yup, turns out they were one half of the Fire Engines, the Davy Henderson half.
Turns out that they were the same half who somewhere in the late nineties we went on to love again as The Nectarine No.9. But that, as you will probably learn as we continue to stroll down our vinyl path, is a story for another time.
- Look, we know we said the point of this ‘ere site is amazing music you can’t get on download, but sometimes you might just have to indulge us. By crikey eMusic, here’s the lot on download. Amazing stuff.
- There’s also some stuff to listen to on the jolly nice last.fm.
- And then there’s the stuff that you can hold in real life – 2005′s ‘Codex Teenage Premonition’ compile that collects together demos and the like and 2007′s ‘Hungry Beat’, which is essentially Rev-Ola’s long-deleted ‘Fond’ CD by another name.
While rummaging through the vinyl, it was a real treat to unearth the original seven-inch version of ‘Uncertain Smile’ from 1982 (I will get round to stuff that wasn’t released in 1982, honest). I’d forgotten that it is very different to the album version I’ve grown used to over the years.
I was always impressed that the seven-minute album version featured that guy who presented The Tube on piano. He was pretty good. My love for rumbling boogie woogie piano remains to this day thanks to Jools Holland’s appearance on this track. It was also him featuring on this track that made me realise he was the piano player in Squueze. I know, I know.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, about how great the piano is on the album version, while serving up the seven inch version that has no Jools Holland on it at all. Still, it’s my site, which means I can talk about whatever I like. Funny old business.
Download lowdown… - There’s plenty of The The available on download, which is odd because they were on the same label as Altered Images. amazon.com’s download store is good if you’re in the US, iTunes if you’re anywhere else. I’ve got my eye on the 12-inch remix version, which clocks in at nearly 10 minutes. - If you can find the two-disc version of ’45 RPM, The Singles Of The The’, the second disc is crammed full of remixes and is an absolute treat. - If you just fancy listening to stuff, sign yourself up to blip.fm. You can hear the album version on there.
That’s one heck of a picture. Looking at now, you can see why I wasn’t alone in having the most enormous schoolboy crush on Claire Grogan in 1982. Or maybe you can’t. She has always seemed like one of the most beautiful women ever, the fact she’s from Glasgow only helps. This picture isn’t actually from 1982, they were much more punky early doors, less puffa skirt and pink and blue, but still as cute as buttons.
Anyway, to the music. Altered Images served up the most sublime remixes. To this day the Martin Rushent Altered Images remixes are right up there. There’s more where this came from, and no doubt much of it will appear here sooner or later, but I never tire of this remix in particular. If proof were needed I have been listening to it with some regularity since 1982, which is over a quarter of a century. That’s quite a long time.
It’s funny, who would have thought you could look back over the last 25 years and pinpoint a band like Altered Images as being significant. Ask people of a certain age and they are a big part of their musical and, erm, sexual education – the edges do blur when you’re 14. They remain one of my favourite ever bands.
Wonder where the child who counts the track in has got to, a Rushent offspring no doubt, who will be racing headlong towards being 30 by now. If anyone knows, I’d love to hear the story.
Download lowdown… - iTunes has some AI, but too few remixes. There’s ‘Love To Stay’ – twice – from their grown-up ‘Bite’ album, a dance mix of ‘Bring Me Closer’, and an extended version of ‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’, but none are a patch on the early remixes. - A quick glance at 7digital.com confirms there’s little Altered Images in the public domain, save the ‘Reflected Images’ best of… which amazingly doesn’t include the good stuff remix-wise. - Spotted Altered Images downloads somewhere? Mail us at mitts[at]rippingvinyl.co.uk
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