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The legend of Sid Vicious is both the most alarming paradox in rock history, and the single event of pure cliche on the punk landscape. His only solo album, Sid Sings, is simultaneously the best and the worst punk record ever made. Worst because it offers nothing more than a potty selection of badly recorded cover versions. Best because in his innocence, Sid's take on rock and roll was the most refreshing thing that had happened since Elvis met Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. In a technical sense it is truly appalling, which is the whole point, and yet it possesses more a potent rock and roll spirit than any record made since. Sid, meanwhile, remains tragic, comical, uplifting, sorry, genuine and crazy. Remember how, at fourteen/fifteen/sixteen, he was an icon to you, a latter day James Dean, a mythical figure of rebellion and freedom and energy. Then remember that he died aged just twenty two, while you grew up, and suddenly he becomes a sad figure, easily led, hopeless even. But somehow, deep down, he is still all the things he meant to you at fifteen. Sid was a Pistol, and that still counts for a hell of a lot. That's why, however cynical you may be about John Lydon these days, you still trust him and cherish him, and believe in him as the real thing. The Sex Pistols meant everything, just as The Clash meant nothing, not really, when you think about it. Sid, of course, had none of John Lydon's integrity, determination or genius. But you could always tell that he really did know what he was about and what he was doing. Then there's the pre-Pistols Sid myth. That he was already punk figurehead numero two (after Uncle Johnny) before he even joined the group. Perhaps it was the Banshees set at the 100 Club Punk Festival in 1976, the relationships with Chrissie Hynde and Nico, or his truly righteous bludgeoning of Nick Kent with a bicycle chain at The Roxy. Or maybe The Flowers of Romance, the band he fronted that included Kieth Levene (PiL) and Viv Albertine (The Slits). Then there's the Pistols stuff, and The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle, and Nancy, and heroin, and New York, and suicide. Plus, lest we forget, his final resting place, the arrivals lounge, Terminal 2, Heathrow Airport, where his mother dropped the urn, and the air conditioning blew his ashes all over the airport staff. And, of course, Sid and Nancy. Together these things are the story of a pop legend, a live fast, die young bonafide star. But, ironically, Sid Sings, the only album that legitimately bears his name as a solo project, is generally overlooked in the saga of Sid Vicious. Why? Because it's a slippery bastard of a record, that's why. Because it manages to either confirm or refute all of your preconceptions about him, depending on what they are. Because Sid Sings, true to the spirit of his former band, is everything. Therein lies the essential pummelling of "My Way", "Something Else" and "C'Mon Everybody", side by side with "Chatterbox", "Search and Destroy" and "Born to Lose". A more dizzy, delerious dose of sheer rock and roll urgency you would be hard to name. It is every bit as magnificent as it is crap, a triumph of almost deliberate failure.
1977 Never Mind the Bollocks 5
1978 The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle (double album) 3 (single album) 3
1979 Some Product (interviews and archive) 3
1979 Flogging a Dead Horse (singles and B sides) 4
1994 Kiss This: The Best of the Sex Pistols 5
1996 Filthy Lucre Live (the 1996 reunion show at Finsbury Park, London) 5
SID VICIOUS ALBUM
1979 Sid Sings 5
All the above released on Virgin Records in UK and WEA in USA
Search and Employ: The Definitive list of Pistols exploitation records... (vinyl only)
The Original Pistols Live
Recorded at Burton on Trent, 1976, there are two versions of this record. The version that appears on EMI's Fame reissue label has a colour cover, and is a better cut than the original version.
The Best of the Sex Pistols Live
Bootleg, purple cover, on Bondage Records (catalogue number BOND-007), side one is actually the same show as the above, although uncut. Side two, however, is the San Francisco Winterland gig, 1978. The sound quality of both shows is excellent. Rare, but worth the hunt.
The Adrian Boot Interview Picture Disc
Very, very rare. Side one is Sid and John, side two the whole band. These are not the same interviews as the offical Some Product album, and are uncut. A serious treat for serious fans.
Sid Vicious: Drugs Kill/Sex Pistols: 1976 Demos
Ever wondered where "I Wanna Be Me" and the Rock'n'Roll Swindle version of "Anarchy in the UK" came from? The demos are superb, alas the quality is not as good as the official releases, but there are a lot more tracks. There are also a lot of audience recordings from the 1978 US tour. The Sid side is largely ripped off from Sid Sings, however.
Sid Vicious and the Vicious White Kids
Sid's only solo appearance in the UK, recorded at the Electric Ballroom, London, 1978. The Vicious White Kids were Glen Matlock on bass, The Damned's Rat Scabies on drums, and Steve New (Rich Kids, Pretenders) on guitar. Thankfully this is now availible on CD, the vinyl having all but disappeared since the late Eighties.
Never Trust a Hippy
One of McLaren's Glitterbest bootlegs, this is largely exploitation in terms of the tracks, but still a very collectable item. It is easily the best of the Glitterbest releases, of which there were several.
The Bollock Brothers presents Never Mind the Bollocks
A rather fun tribute to the classic Pistols album. A black cover, in the style of Jamie Reid's original yellow and pink.
The Ex Pistols feat. The London Synthphoney Orchestra: Land of Hope and Glory
Is it or isn't it? The great lost Pistols single, or a highly convincing hoax? Tentatively released on "Virgina" records, what is certain is that the producer (credited as "Posh Pen Bollocks") was Dave Goodman, who produced the Pistol's 1976 demos. John Lydon denies all knowledge of it... The B side is an excellent piece of avant-garde punk titled "The Flowers of Romansk". Once widely available, this single has seemingly disappeared in recent years.
Cash Pussies: 99% is Shit
A bonafide cult classic, you can still get the tee shirt, but its a struggle to find the record. The cover is that famous picture of Sid with a severe nosebleed. The A side ends with a genuine recording of Sid predicting his and Nancy's imminent deaths...
the smiths nick drake joy division
the smiths:where we begin
You know what I'm going to say. I hope you do. If not, I wonder why you even listen to music. The Smiths were singer Morrissey, guitarist Johnny Marr, bassist Andy Rourke, and drummer Mike Joyce. The Smiths were the most important British band of the eighties, the most important band since The Sex Pistols. I'm not arguing how good they were. That's not the point.
The point is that, for their entire career, The Smiths were completely unchallenged as the most significant and worshipped band on the planet. That such an archetypal English band should become so headspinningly large overseas is a sublime example of the universality of music itself. America was otherwise engaged in it's long haired soft metal and spandex LA bubblegum, yet even there The Smiths reigned supreme (Morrissey still does).
The best way, of course, to understand The Smiths is to simply examine their records. Despite the acrimony that followed the split, nothing changes the fact that they never recorded so much as a duff note (except on purpose). Morrissey and Marr have now resolved their differences, but, following the bitter court case, which the duo lost to Mike Joyce, a reunion is not a likely thing. The Smiths, we can be almost certain, are gone for good. Lucky, then, that the shops are still open.
The Smiths - albums
1982 The Smiths 3
Includes Reel Around the Fountain, Hand in Glove, You've Got Everything Now. Oddly, The Smiths' debut is the only record that they ever made that doesn't entirely work. John Porter's production is somewhat lacklustre, and while the songs themselves are excellent, The Smiths just doesn't soar as their subsequent records would. But, it was only the first record, thus at the time nobody was complaining.
1983 Hatful of Hollow 5
Includes William It Was Really Nothing, These Things Take Time, How Soon is Now?, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. Recorded in sessions, Hatful of Hollow captures The Smiths at their raw best, far outclassing their debut to become a true testament to their originality and energy. Hatful of Hollow is The Smiths album that changed music forever, cutting, as it did, right through the Eighties' gloss to establish itself as the new rallying point for a generation. Also includes alternate, much improved versions of Reel Around the Fountain, Hand in Glove and You've Got Everything Now, and numbering a staggering sixteen tracks in total. A lifechanging record.
1984 Meat is Murder 4
Includes The Headmaster Ritual, That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, What She Said. The Smiths were prolific, making the persistant high quality of their work all the more impressive. When Meat is Murder was released, The Smiths were firmly established as the most happening band in Britain. With it, they became one of the most commercially successful bands in the UK. Not as outrightly stunning as it's predecessor, it's still superb, and rightly regarded as a classic.
1985 The Queen is Dead 5
Includes I Know it's Over, Bigmouth Strikes Again, The Boy With the Thorn in His Side, There is a Light That Never Goes Out. The Smiths hit their peak with The Queen is Dead, becoming massive all over the world. In America it became the biggest selling album by a UK artist in the Eighties. A phenomenon, The Queen is Dead is widely regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made, and has probably become as influential as Hatful of Hollow. All of the elements that made The Smiths so special are here employed to breathtaking effect, making The Queen is Dead one of the most moving and inspired records you're ever likely to hear.
1986 The World Won't Listen 4
Includes Panic, Shoplifters of the World Unite, Sheila Take a Bow, Asleep. Following The Queen is Dead must have been one of the hardest jobs in the history of pop. This, however, was a safe enough bet, as it features a string of certifyably classic singles. Panic became the group's biggest hit, reminding people that The Smiths were ultimately a rebel band. The famous refrain of "Hang the DJ!" was exactly what millions wanted to hear, just as the Pistols' "No future" had been a decade earlier.
1987 Strangeways, Here We Come 5
Includes I Started Something I Couldn't Finish, Girlfriend in a Coma, Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before, Paint a Vulgar Picture. There was trouble a-brewing as Morrissey's relationship with Johnny Marr became strained to breaking point. Marr took time out to play on Talking Heads' Naked album, much to the annoyance of Morrissey, who felt The Smiths' album should take priority. Despite the infighting, the record didn't suffer. Although The Smiths split before it was released, the album itself undeniably captured them on top form (as usual). Morrissey's personal favourite, The Smiths final outing is still as good as it gets.
1988 Rank (Live in London 1986) 4
The Smiths, recorded live in concert during their 1986 tour. Augmented by second guitarist Craig Gannon, who later recorded with Morrissey before joining Rourke and Joyce in The Adult Net, the band fronted by ex-Fall guitarist Brix Smith. As live albums go, it's a winner, just because it's the official record of such an important group's live sound. As a Smiths concert, however, it's a tad average.
nick drake:enigma variations
Nick Drake is an enigma. Twenty five years after his suicide, he is now pop's fastest growing cult figure. Unlike other rock casualties, his death does not seem to be the primary reason for the continued interest in the man. A recent BBC documentary, Searching for Nick Drake, unwittingly highlighted the most probable reason: Absolutely no one knows anything about him. Despite three albums, all of them cult classics, Nick Drake is still one of pop's best kept secrets. In his short career he rarely performed live and hated public appearances of any kind. Consequently, there is hardly any footage of him anywhere. His public profile makes Syd Barrett look like Noel Gallagher. Yet, as a cult figure, he is second only to Barrett, thus arguably on a par with Scott Walker. Yet, whilst Syd Barrett and Scott Walker both began their careers in a flurry of commercial success, Drake never attained this. Shortly after the release of his final album, Pink Moon, in 1972, he fell into the depression that had been threatening to consume him for years. Despite hospitalisation and medication, he never recovered. After more than a year as a virtual recluse in his parents' home in the Midlands, Nick Drake took his own life in 1974, still widely unknown outside of his small and loyal fanbase. His death was hardly acknowledged by the UK music press, his three albums already deleted.
How, then, did Nick Drake become a legend? Joe Boyd, the American producer who forged his reputation in the UK with Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne", had become the house producer at Island Records shortly before Drake joined the label in 1969. After the singer's death, he led a campaign to have Drake's catalogue reissued. This gained much credibility when Kate Bush became successful in the late 1970s. Bush was highly vocal about her love for Nick Drake's music, and Island reissued his seminal Five Leaves Left to the kind of critical acclaim that had not previously been afforded it. It grew from there. In time, all three albums would become best-sellers. When Strange Fruit Records began to issue twelve inch EPs of past BBC radio sessions in the 1980s, Drake's Peel session became one of the most highly regarded of them all, giving his reputation a further boost. Numerous fanzines began to make appearances in the classified sections of the British music press, and Drake's music became widely covered by budding new performers. Frequent airplay gave Island the confidence to finally issue the records on CD, and they compiled a special CD, a "beginner's guide" to the music of Nick Drake.
A quarter of a century after Nick Drake decided to leave, his reputation is secured. His music has had a far reaching influence, an influence that is likely to be felt all the more as his star continues to rise. Whilst Drake's own story is certainly a tragedy, there is no sense in which his music is a failure. The recent, acclaimed biography of the man (written by Walker/Barrett biographers Mike Watkinson and Pete Anderson), has gone some way to clearing up the mystery that inevitably surrounds such a private figure. It is, of course, only the official version of events, as much as we have the right to expect. There is only one way to know Nick Drake. Three albums don't take up much space. It's the least he deserves.
Nick Drake - albums
1969 Five Leaves Left (Island) 5
1971 Bryter Layter (Island) 4
1972 Pink Moon (Island) 5
joy division:from a distance
It's been drawn to my attention that, in the full four years that you've been logging on to these pages, we haven't once granted you the profile that you've most wanted. Much has already been written and said about Ian Curtis and Joy Division. It would be difficult to add anything that a Joy Division devotee does not already know. Deborah Curtis' biography of her late husband, Touching from a Distance, is indeed both one of the best rock biographies ever written, and one of the most important. It would be impossible to give an adequate account of Curtis' extraordinary and complex personality without a great deal of either conjecture, or sheer plagiarism. Then again, it would a failure of duty not to at least point you in the direction of Joy Division.
New Order were of course, three quarters of Joy Division, with the addition of Gillian Gilbert. They became one of the most successful British groups of the eighties. Hugely influential in their own right, despite massive commercial success their presence inevitably lingered in the shadow of their past. The legend of Joy Division and the cult of Ian Curtis are one and the same. In a sense, Joy Division represent the common ground between Nick Drake and The Smiths, both of whom are also profiled this month.
Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Steve Morris comprised the majority of both Joy Division and New Order. Ian Curtis was lead singer of the former from 1977 until his death in May 1980. In his lifetime Joy Division released only two albums and a handful of singles. They toured exclusively in the UK and Europe, their schedules frequently interrupted as Curtis became increasingly ill with epilepsy. Yet, even during their short career, Joy Division were acknowledged as one of the most intense rock bands ever seen, and Curtis was worshipped by his public. The band were signed to the now defunct but once revolutionary label, Factory Records, based in their native Manchester. Factory boss, TV presenter and club owner Tony Wilson was the man who put everything on the line for Ian Curtis. Manager Rob Gretton was Joy Division guru, a master and servant who remains the envy of every rock band in the business. Without Gretton and Wilson Joy Division would probably have never made a record that anyone remembers, let alone become the phenomenon they now are. But Joy Division's greatness lies in the grooves of the records they made, immortal and timeless because of one man, producer Martin Hannett. Hannett would later become the principle figure in The Invisible Girls, breaking further ground in his work with Pauline Murray, Magazine and Nico. As Joy Division's producer, Hannett's job was to capture the spirit of a unique and emotive musical happening, centred on the voice and words of Ian Curtis. Although Hannett himself died of heart failure in the early 1990s, his legacy defined an entire genre of industrial rock music. His style was similar to that of the great Connie Plank, but Hannett had a better understanding of the punk dynamic. Plank became the last word in early eighties industrial pop production, both sparse and polished, clever yet simple. Hannett embodied much of the same, yet he was given to a raw sound that made him the perfect choice for Joy Division. He gave Curtis room to soar, and soar he did.
Joy Division's debut album, Unknown Pleasures, was recorded at Strawberry Studios, Stockport, in just one day in 1979. Hannett mixed the whole thing the following day. In those two days, Joy Division and Martin Hannett completely pinned down one of music's most immediate and enduring sounds. Had Joy Division only ever recorded the one album, they would still have been a momentus influence. At the time, it was a revelation, a record that finally rivalled John Lydon's Public Image Limited in post punk regeneration, a soundtrack to the lives of those that could glimpse the world through Curtis' eyes.
Joy Division's reputation and profile grew in parallel with Ian Curtis' personal problems. His epilepsy made performing live a terrible frustration, yet he would vent this frustration on stage, becoming seemingly carried away in the intensity of the experience. He would regularly terrify an audience out of their skins with his "dead fly dance", stage moves that seemed to both mock and mirror his illness. Some believed him possessed, and in sense they were right. As a live performer, Ian Curtis was without equal, but at great cost to himself. He was a married man, with a young daughter, and seem destined for international stardom. Yet he continued to push well beyond safe limits with both his performances and songwriting.
Joy Division's second album, Closer, found Curtis finally caught in an inescapable spiral of self-destruction and musical genius. It was made at London's Britannia Row Studios, and was a far more complicated affair than it's predecessor. Yet, once again Hannett focussed the project, allowing the music to dictate it's own destiny. For his part, Curtis completely dominates Closer. The group give him more space than before, and the overall landscape is one of lyrical intensity the like of which has arguably never been surpassed. For a generation now, Closer has won accolade after accolade, many citing it as one of the best albums ever made. It would be hard to disagree. "Masterpeice" seems like feeble description of it. Almost twenty years after it was released, there has hardly ever been a word spoken against it. It would seem that to do so would be to jepordise all credibility. Closer really is that good.
Although it is entering the realm of conjecture, it still seems fair to say that Ian Curtis gave his all on Closer. He was dead before it was released, just six weeks after it was completed.
On 25th April 1980, Joy Division shot a video for a projected single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart".
On 2nd May, Joy Division performed at Birmingham University. The set was recorded for a future live project, some of it later emerging on the Still album. During the band's set, Curtis seemed more unhinged than ever. At one point he walked off stage, something he often did. This time he did not return. He had, it would seem, confided to some his wish to leave the band, indeed to quit the music business.
In the early hours of 18th May 1980, Ian Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen of his home in Macclesfield, just one day before Joy Division were due to fly out for their first US tour. John Peel announced Curtis' death on his Radio One show. Fans held vigils. A legend began.
Joy Division albums
1979 Unknown Pleasures (Factory, reissued London) 5
Disorder/Day of the Lords/Candidate/Insight/New Dawn Fades/She's Lost Control/Shadowplay/Wilderness/Interzone/I Remember Nothing
1980 Closer (Factory, reissued London) 5
Atrocity Exhibition/Isolation/Passover/Colony/A Means to an End/Heart and Soul/Twenty Four Hours/The Eternal/Decades
1981 Still (Factory, reissued London) 5
Exercise One/Ice Age/The Sound of Music/Glass/The Only Mistake/Walked in Line/The Kill/Something Must Break/Dead Souls/Sister Ray (live)/Ceremony (live)/Shadowplay (live)/A Means to an End (live)/Passover (live)/New Dawn Fades (live)/Transmission (live)/Disorder (live)/Isolation (live)/Decades (live)/Digital (live)
1988 Substance (Factory, reissued London) 5
Warsaw/Leaders of Men/Digital/Autosuggestion/Transmission/She's Lost Control (full length recording)/Incubation/Dead Souls/Atmosphere/Love Will Tear Us Apart/No Love Lost/Failures/Glass/From Safety to Where/Novelty/Komakino/These Days
1989 Peel Sessions (Strange Fruit) 5
Both of Joy Division's Peel Sessions on one record.
1995 Permanent: The Best of Joy Division (London) 4
Adequate but wholly unnecessary compilation. You have to own the albums, you just have to.
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