The Lines “White Night” 1978

It occurred to me that I should be doing more to promote my band The Lines, soon to release our first “new” album in 33 years…although the material is itself 33 years old, stitched together from archive cassettes. More of that anon.

So I decided to start a new thread within this blog, to re-examine all of our releases, in a strictly chronological order.

White Night materialized in my brain during the frigid winter of 1976-77. A severe bout of ‘flu had me bedridden and feverish to the point of hallucination. A spiral-shaped riff revolved in my throbbing cranium, with a simple 4-note motif threading through. A somewhat wafting melody, which crucially went up as the riff went down, had me realizing, as I awoke from the fever, that I had something quite good.

For a few months me and Jo Forty just played that riff round and round. Sometimes our drummer of the time, Bill Cran, would clatter along. We won some studio time in a competition thrown by Sounds music paper and recorded the first version down in Battersea. It was bad.

Then a character named Hywel Phillips moved into the building (in Highbury, North London). Hywel was rather a good guitarist, certainly by our standards. He was one of those Randy California fanatics you come across from time to time, and hell, I like a bit of Spirit myself. He started playing along to White Night and even added a guitar solo, which I was never totally sure about, it being stylistically perhaps a little backward rather than forward looking, but it undeniably worked well within the context of the song.

When Pete Harker replaced Bill on drums the song started to sound almost tight. At that point, in the spirit of the times, we decided to pool our money and sling it out ourselves. One day in February 1978 we booked a studio called Clubland out in West London that had a combination deal: 8 hours in the studio and 1,000 seven inch records for 300 quid.

And so White Night was born. We hauled that first pressing around every indie record shop in London, and in the process met lots of interesting people. The week it came out Tony Visconti was doing a “celebrity reviewer” gig in the New Musical Express. “The singer is double tracked but he sounds side tracked” he opined, astutely. He complimented the guitar solo and finished by calling it “shunky punk”.

Other reviews were less kind. Sounds called it “crib death”, rather coldly.

Despite such brickbats, this song has remained fairly popular. It has been covered a few times and also re-released, first in 1979 on Miles Copeland’s Illegal label, and most recently this year on the excellent Cherrystones compilation Critical Mass, from Belfast label Touch Sensitive.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Dominique Dalcan “Comment Faut-Il Faire?” 1990

What the heck, I’m going to mess with the timeline again, this time to jump forward, because I rediscovered this song and I think it’s pretty damn great.

There is more to write about 1989, including sessions with Dusty Springfield, as you shall hear. But around this time I am tiring of my subterranean existence and beginning to take fewer studio assignments. Tony Visconti certainly saw the writing on the wall when he closed down his large studio. By the end of the 80s anybody with a cheap computer, a sampler and a synth could make a good enough track in the comfort of their living room, and many were abandoning the studios to do just that.

This blog will similarly slow down some, as I have an Arnold Turboust album to finish. Bear with me though dear reader, for there is still much to tell.

So let’s jump off the Time Tunnel in late 1990, when I was in Belgium to do some mixes for the excellent Dominique Dalcan, who played and sang everything on this song. It was released on the Crammed Discs label run by Marc Hollander; this is a label that has given me a lot of pleasure over the years, not least with its very first release Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine back in the late 70s.

Also major props to Mr Henry Rollins, who played a track from Onze Danses on his KCRW radio show recently, making a Sunday evening drive to the supermarket an unusually magical experience.

S’Express “Mantra For A State Of Mind” 1989

This epic single took a lot of making, in many different studios. Started in the Guerilla Studio at Hampstead, the end of the lease on that property rather put a spanner in the works and it was finished at Swanyard and Good Earth, amongst others. Ultimately the Club Mix was done at the new Guerilla Studio in Crouch End.

Good Earth was Tony Visconti’s studio in Soho, a vibey subterranean place, reputedly haunted. Visconti closed it soon afterwards, citing an influx of Akai sampler-wielding types as having brought about the end. Oops!

This record was criticized at the time for being less catchy than its three predecessors, and it only made 21 on the UK chart. There are those though who appreciate it for the deep, funky, spiritual masterpiece that it is.

Les Rita Mitsouko “Tongue Dance (William Orbit and Mark Moore Remix)” 1989

The temporary Guerilla Studio digs in Hampstead soon became party house central. It was one of those charming old London town homes with wonky passageways and a blue plaque on the front to denote a former occupancy by the great and good, in this case the painter John Constable. There was always a session of some kind going on, generally William Orbit or Laurie Mayer projects, but there was also a retinue of sound designers including Simon Fisher Turner and my old pal Nigel Holland, who could regularly be found attacking pig’s heads with hammers and imbibing alarming amounts of alcohol.

What with all my travels I hadn’t done so much with William for a while. He had released the first of his excellent Strange Cargo album series and had also been going from strength to strength as a remixer. His stupendous remix of the S’Express show stopper Hey Music Lover had resulted in a partnership with Mark Moore that was to produce a lot of great work, starting with this mix for the fabulous french duo Les Rita Mitsouko.

When I was in Paris in early ’86 I saw Les Rita’s Marcia Baïla video and was absolutely blown away. Fred Chichin and Catherine Ringer had made their debut album with german legend Conny Plank and it was superb. Their follow-up with Tony Visconti didn’t disappoint. So I made sure I was lurking around the studio when William and Mark were working on this, and in particular when Fred and Catherine came to visit. That’s me on the funky Juno 106 in this slamming remix.