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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Pillows and Prayers, the Cherry Red Compilation 1982 May 14, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’m amazed to see that this slot has never covered Pillows and Prayers. And why not? I have no idea. But once upon a time, back in the day, fado fado, when we wuz young, compilations – record label compilations were a necessary, even welcome, part of music listening for years. For the sad so and so’s like myself, and I’ll suspect a fair number of you, they were an essential additional element, particularly in a pre-internet, pre-YouTube, world where the sort of music one liked never got airplay bar – say – on Fanning or Peel, where NME and Melody Maker and Sounds were insufficient in terms of information. Where the appetite for new music outstripped the capacity of the then available delivery systems to provide it and where for the most part one felt like a soldier lost behind enemy lines surrounded on all sides by corporate pop music or larger and more popular genres that managed to elbow some room for themselves.

So compilations were a necessary shot in the arm. They were cheaper too. Usually half or less than the price of a ‘normal’ album. And there was a lot of comfort in their range. You’d have to like something. I’ve mentioned before a number of them. There was the Irish Guru Weirdbrain comp from the 1980s. Very garage band. Very good. NME and Melody Maker released compilations themselves and they ranged from okay to excellent. The glossy music magazines had yet to manifest but when they did they were pretty good too, though on occasion they could be puzzlingly diverse (I’m thinking of you Vox, purveyor of tapes with The Field Mice and Megadeth on them. I often wondered was I the only person who enjoyed them both more or less equally). Record labels hitched their star to the magazines, or released them themselves. There was a fantastic One Little Indian sampler my mate David had which I still cherish. Wire, the Shamen and other luminaries from the early 1990s.

Creation Records were no slouches either, I’ve got a post on Doing it for the Kids from 1988 lined up, but there was another less famous one a few years prior to that entitled. Sounds of the New West from Uncut which looked at all things alt.country in the late 1990s was another influential one for myself (and a post is half-written on that too).

Anyhow, the point being that compilations were great. But none was greater in the 1980s than Pillows and Prayers from the Cherry Red label. This was, as it were, the platonic ideal of a compilation. No student flat was complete without it somewhere in the background (art student that is). It’s range was… wide. Jangly jazzy guitars – step this way for the Monochrome Set garage psyche revivalism… why look it’s… steely indie guitars, step forward Felt. Marine Girls and Everything But the Girl – why Cherry Red you flatter us. Keen for something a bit more electronic. Here’s morose Thomas Leer with his sheds worth of keyboards. That too predictable, well try the Passage. A bit of poetry, Attilla the Stockbroker and his nearly but not quite John Cooper Clarke schtick (that’s a bit unfair, always liked a bit of AtS I did). No metal, God forbid. But a touch of post-punk in the shape of the Nightingales for those not quite able to get over 77 – still barely half a decade in the past when the album was released.

There’s Eyeless in Gaza at their most…er… wobbly… yeah, on No Noise. Perfect. Five or Six and strummed guitars and the oddly nostalgic Portrait. How very appropriate. To be honest, the tracks I liked best were the Passage, Eyeless in Gaza and Felt and the weirdly Vini Reilly-like Everything But the Girl track On My Mind. Kevin Coyne was good but not quite my thing, Joe Crow’s Compulsion was interesting and a nice touch having a Quentin Crisp track. Experimental classical? Piero Milesi. It’s soft music, in parts, and none the worse for it, but it is also overwhelmingly male. I’m a big fan of Tracy Thorn but she and Marine Girls are the only female voices on the record – albeit she appears in three different incarnations – and that feels like a missed opportunity.

And the effect of all this was… well, good for record sales more widely one imagines and for myself the pushing back of the parameters of ones musical universe. Now granted I never stopped listening to ver Rock and metal throughout this period, but I have to admit that it was a learning experience. An add-on, if you will. And most welcome for it.

It was released at 99p – a master-stroke which as Allmusic noted kept it in the charts for 5 months. A second ‘disc’ was released much more recently but it feels superfluous. The first was the one.

Five or Six – Portrait

Eyeless in Gaza — “No Noise”

Thomas Leer – All About You

The Passage – XoYO

Piero Milesi – Modi II

Felt – My Face is On Fire

Marine Girls Lazy Ways

Everything But the Girl – On My Mind

The Nightingales – Don’t Blink

Attila The Stockbroker – A Bang And A Wimpey

Comments»

1. anarchaeologist - May 14, 2016

I was sure this one had been covered too! I remember buying it in Base X on Bachelors’ Walk and being pissed off at being charged £2.99 when 99p was printed on the sleeve. Still and all, it was worth every penny. For me it was the first time I’d heard Felt but the biggest turn on was actually Kevin Coyne! I ended up getting most of his stuff over the years and there’s a particularly good lp he did with Dagmar Krause called Babble which still gets a spin every few weeks. As an English bluesman (for want of a better term) he stood out from the fey indie-kid stuff, although that’s not to knock EBTG. Joe Crow’s ‘Compulsion’ though was the stand out and I’ve never been able to track down anything else he’s done. It semed to sum up my life for … well, a 25 year period which probably hasn’t ended yet! I tried to see the Nightingales last year in London but the guitarist had a nasty accident involving a finger and the gig was called off. Robert Lloyd turned up however and an entertaining few pints were had. The lp they released last year is worth getting hold of if you like this kind of stuff.

The second CR compilation wasn’t released on vinyl but you could get it cheaply enough a few years ago with P&P as a double CD. It’s a less eclectic collection but one of the tunes was by a bloke called Kevin Howick which is difficult to describe … semi-acoustic jazz-punk? When I finally got his lp it was mostly shite apart from the track I’d heard before. Such is the nature of compilations …

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WorldbyStorm - May 14, 2016

So true re compilations, I can’t tell you how many dire albums I got on the strength of one good song.

That’s interesting re Coyne. I must give him a listen. Compulsion was really interesting but as you say where did he go?

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sonofstan - May 14, 2016

Marjorie Razor Blade is THE coyne album for me. Same breath and and breadth as Trout Mask Replica

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anarchaeologist - May 14, 2016

Oh! you’re right. A Trout Mask Replica for the East Midlands… I’m very proud to say that I’ve recently had c. 150 people dancing to Eastbourne Ladies. I’ll see what I can do with the Captain the next time!

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sonofstan - May 14, 2016

Ha! Wanted to post Eastbourne Ladies, but on a rather poor sounding live version on you tube.

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