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Dominic's Staff Pick: July 16, 2024

Hey there Sorry Staters, what’s up?

We’re crankin’ along here at SSR trying to get through another week of either unbearable heat or heavy thunderstorms. Today as I write it’s coming down so hard, I could have sworn I saw Noah and his Ark sail by. Honestly, I’ll take the rain when it cools things down over the triple digit temps any day. God, I must be British, always talking about the weather. Ha.

So, a quick correction and disclaimer before I go any further. Last week in the newsletter Dr. D wrote in his stellar piece on the mighty Only Ones that I had instructed him on how the Spooky Tooth album Ceremony was the only Tooth record worth F’ing with. That was true for Daniel, but not for other folk and not my opinion on the merits of other Spooky Tooth records. Their first couple of albums are fine late 60s blues rock and before they were Spooky Tooth, the guys were in a cool Mod band called The V.I.P.’s, who released a few singles, including the nugget Straight Down To The Bottom. That band transformed into Art, who released a great psych album on Island called Supernatural Fairy Tales in 1967 that as an original will set you back some change. So yeah, I dig Spooky Tooth, have nothing against them, and think they’re fine musicians and people. Just didn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea. LoL.

Okay, moving on. Just like buses, you can wait forever for a good collection call, but then they come three or four in a row. That has certainly been the case of late and local customers are being treated to some terrific records hitting the bins, with plenty more waiting in the wings. Several of our locals and indeed the staff are currently shopping their kidneys around. I’ll probably mention something cool that I picked up at some point, but tend not to like to brag and flex about records I’ve scored, ‘cos you know? Instead, this week I just want to make you’ll aware of a fun little reissue that we recently stocked.

Vince Guaraldi: It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown

This is the long-awaited issue of the music and cues used for the 1969 TV special created by Vince Guaraldi and his crack group of musicians. There’s a lot to like here if you are a Peanuts fan as I am and if you love the music that went along with the Charlie Brown specials. You’ll recognize the big tunes such as Linus and Lucy, but you’ll also notice the different arrangements and musicianship going on with these takes. The most obvious is the use of flute on the recordings, which is makes them sound even jazzier. Growing up in the 70s both my sister and I loved Peanuts. We had Snoopy dolls, figures, all the comic book collections, and like everyone else watched the TV specials each year. The Christmas and Halloween ones get shown often, but the summer special sometimes gets overlooked. I have a few of the soundtrack records in my collection and at Christmas time here at the store, we almost can’t have enough copies of A Charlie Brown Christmas. I didn’t have this one though, as I believe it is the first time the music has been officially released. There was an RSD pressing earlier in the year, but now a more widely available version on blue vinyl is out there. Although there are thirty-two tracks on the album, it plays at 45 RPM and doesn’t outstay its welcome. The package includes a four-sided insert full of great information about the music and the special and there are plenty of cool images from the show. Well worth it for fans. I just picked my copy up so haven’t read them all yet. Instead of repeating them here parrot fashion, I’ll let you guys read them for yourselves.

Okay, short and sweet this week, but hopefully somewhat appropriate for the time of year. Have a great summer for those north of the equator and we’ll see you around here next time. Cheers - Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: July 8, 2024

Hey what’s up, Sorry Staters? I hope you are all doing well. I know it’s a crazy world out there right now. Elections, sporting tournaments, you name it. Plenty to keep us busy and distracted by. This weekend is also a holiday here in the US; we are celebrating our possible last Independence day. At the same time, we’re experiencing brutal heat waves with the triple digit readings returning. Please people, do not leave your vinyl, kids and dogs in the car.

We recently bought a big collection from an industry guy who, between the late 1970s and early 1980s, must have acquired every promo copy of a new release going. He had all sorts of special promo only 12”s, 10”s and white label pressings. We’ve been pricing them up and selling them over the past couple of weeks. After we had made a couple of passes, I went through again looking for good bargain bin titles and for anything that we might have missed. Among the many decent records I found and brought to the store were a bunch of cool compilations. They were mostly label sampler promo type things and contemporary to the period i.e., late 70s/early 80s. I liked the Urgh! Soundtrack compilation, which had almost all of the artists who appeared in the film. The film itself consisted of just live footage shot at various venues and locations around the world in 1980. There was no narration or talking heads, just the live footage. As for the acts themselves? There isn’t a bad one on there, really. For me, the weakest selection was the very first cut by The Police (which isn’t so bad), but after that you get a ton of great live versions of good songs by good groups. I don’t think it will cost you a lot to buy. This collection had three copies, and I sold two as I was playing it in the store. The third I kept for myself. LoL.

From the same collection was another cool compilation that Columbia records put out in 1982 called Psychedelic Dream. It featured a mix of songs from bigger name bands that Columbia and Epic Records had released in the late 1960s, but also included lesser-known names and songs from records that didn’t sell so well and were, by the 1980s and beyond, quite rare and expensive. So in amongst the stuff from The Byrds, The Great Society, Spirit and The Hollies, you get some cool cuts from the likes of Kak, United States Of America, July, and The Head Shop. Those last four wouldn’t see their records being reissued until years later. So, if you were a punter back in 1982 and took this one home, it probably set you on a quest to track down these more obscure releases. The July album is one of my favorite U.K. 60s psych albums and so to get a couple of cuts from it on this comp was cool. The album jacket sports a third eye graphic with neon colors and cryptic lettering which might mean something and comes with a brief essay of nonsense which ends with, “The secret message lies written in chalk as the rain comes down on the other sidewalk.” Alright. Cool. There’s a track listing and production credits, but no more information. I’m not sure how well this sold and you don’t see it talked about as a cool must have in the same ways that folks talk about Nuggets, for instance, but even if it only draws from a couple of major labels, the track selection is decent and it’s a good listen. Jeff and I gave it a rinse in the store and enjoyed the play back.

Staying with the late 1960s and psychedelic music comes a great reissue of an obscurity from 1969. It’s Twentieth Century Zoo and their album titled Thunder On A Clear Day that originally came out on the Vault label out of L.A. The band themselves were from Phoenix, Arizona and were originally called The Bittersweets, but changed their name on arriving in L.A. to record and being informed that there was already a group on the east coast who had the same name. Apparently, the new name came from a remark made by a girl tripping on acid at one of their shows. The group had put out their first couple of 45s on the local Caz label. These two singles and a couple more that Vault released and then the album in 1969 are the band’s entire output. The album is a nice mix of heavy bluesy psych in a similar vein to Blue Cheer, The Savage Resurrection, The Litter’s Emerge album and of course Led Zeppelin, who were ruling the underground rock circles at the time with their first two albums. The songs that have a more garage-psych sound are the ones that interest me most. Years ago, Sundazed Records put out a 45 that compiled the two A sides from their first two singles, You Don’t Remember and Love In Your Face, plus the B-side of the second, a cover of Tossin’ And Turnin’. It’s been a fave in my collection since buying it. Those two A-sides get included on the album, but I believe they were rerecorded or edited. They sound close, but from what I have read were recorded at different studios. Certainly, the earlier versions didn’t have the sound effects that the album version has. This current reissue adds the B-sides from the two Vault singles whose A-sides are already included on the album, but either due to space, taste or publishing rights does not include the Caz label single B-sides, of which the cover of Tossin’ And Turnin’ is one of them. It’s a shame because the song has some wicked fuzz leads and solos. Otherwise, though, you get the bulk of their best material.

An original of this record has always been tough to see, let alone afford, and for that reason there have been several bootleg pressings put out over the years and a legit CD version, again from Sundazed Records, which has a bunch of unreleased tracks that might have ended up on a second TCZ album had they had opportunity to release one. Although their record was critically well received, and they did tour and play good size venues with the likes of the MC5, their career was cut short when lead guitarist Paul “Skip” Ladd was drafted. The band attempted to find a replacement, but those attempts failed and after a final single release the group officially disbanded in 1970. There’s a good interview with Skip that you can read here.

Take a listen to the tunes here, which includes those singles and B-sides, and snag a copy from us if you dig it. I know I will be.

Cheers - Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: July 1, 2024

Hey there Sorry Staters, how’s your summer going? Enjoying those triple digit temperature heat waves? Perfect for vinyl records, right? So, we’ve been away from your inbox these last few weeks, but with good reason as half the staff make up three quarters of Scarecrow and they were of course on tour in Scandinavia with our favorite Swedes Vidro. No doubt their sections of this newsletter will entertain you with stories of that adventure. The rest of us here at Sorry State are so proud of the band and we hope that some of you reading could catch them at these shows.

Back here at Sorry State the wheels kept turning and the records kept coming as well. As any of you who follow our socials and order from us online or shop in the actual store can testify, there have been some damn good records coming through here. We work hard sourcing these gems for you and although not alone in this endeavor, I think we do okay at it. I’ve worked at some good stores and probably like you all, have visited some great ones across the world too, but I can honestly say I have seen just as many cool ass records come through here as anywhere else. I’m proud, happy and honored to be a part of Sorry State and absolutely nothing makes me happier in a professional sense than when a customer scores a record that means something to them. Whether it’s an expensive collector type record or just a $5 bargain bin record, it doesn’t matter. If they are happy and will enjoy the music, that’s all that matters. In all the jobs I have done in the past, this is the one that gives the most satisfaction as far as providing goods and service is concerned. It means way more than providing a nice cocktail or a steak dinner to someone. Music means more. It’s the most important part of many people’s lives and so when someone leaves here with cool shit that they love it’s the best feeling.

Meanwhile, around the world, so much is happening. Let’s leave politics and war aside for the moment and rather revel in other things that bring us happiness. For sports fans there’s lots to cheer about and watch this summer. Ongoing as I write are the Euros and Copa America for the football fans and the Olympics are about to begin too. Certainly, for football (soccer) fans in the US it’s a good couple of months because you might well have one of your favorite teams or players in a stadium near you. Manchester City will be here in Cary, North Carolina, playing Celtic for a pre-season game. My Worldy DJ partner Matt is excited about that. My Reds will be in South Carolina, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. As of now I don’t have tickets, but who knows, perhaps I’ll make it to one game.

For the radio show these past couple of weeks, Matt and I have been spinning as much music as we can from countries involved in the tournaments. Whilst going through my French section for a selection or two I pulled out an Air 12” to play on the show. This 12 has the songs Casanova 70 and Les Professionals on it and came out in France a year before their classic debut album Moon Safari in 1997. I remember having to special order it as an import. Air, along with other French artists at the time like Kid Loco and Etienne De Crecy, were starting to get a lot of attention and I was all over it. Moon Safari remains one of my favorite records from that time. Shortly after I moved to New York City in 1998, Air came over and played a great concert at the Town Hall, which I attended. Also, around the time of Moon Safari’s release they visited the BBC and recorded a DJ set for the essential mix program. I recorded it and still have those tapes somewhere. They played a lot of cool stuff and set me on the search for a whole bunch of records. What is great about the Casanova 70 12” is that there are two mixes by British producer Brendan Lynch of the title track, who beefs up the drums and adds some samples, noticeably from the Aphrodite’s Child 666 album. They sound great from the loud cut pressed into the 200g vinyl. My favorite of the two mixes is The Secret Of Cool. Take a listen here. Brendan Lynch is one of my favorite producers. He has made some terrific dubs and mixes with Paul Weller and Primal Scream to name two of the bigger names he has worked with. For Deejays, his name on a mix is guaranteed to give a little something extra and that special touch is nicely applied to the Air track. For a few years, this 12” was rarely out of my record bag for gigs. I haven’t spun it recently and so it was fun busting it out for Worldy and even now it gets folks asking about it.

If you check your local listings, you might be lucky to catch Air live, who are out there currently performing Moon Safari in its entirety.

In other cool record news—no doubt one of my colleagues has picked the new record by The Dark called Sinking Into Madness, but let me jump on the praise bandwagon and steer you towards this monster slab of hardcore punk metal thrash awesomeness. These guys could be described as an L.A. punk supergroup as they have in their ranks members of Tozcos and Personal Damage. That should be enough to get your interest alone, but do yourselves a favor and check them out.

I’m still loving the New Town Dream album from Neutrals. So many great tunes on the album. It’s a bit of an easy comparison, but imagine The Jam crossed with Television Personalities and Belle And Sebastian and you’ll be in the ballpark. If those bands do it for you, then I think you’ll like Neutrals.

Okay, back to work. There are more records that need pricing, cleaned and to be listened to. The biggest challenge I have each week is trying to listen to all the ones I want to. Just not enough hours in the day. Sigh.

Thanks for checking in with us and have a great July 4th weekend next week.

Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: June 3, 2024

Hey there everyone. I hope everyone is doing okay. Enjoying your post-verdict weekend, I hope. I haven’t been around these pages for a couple of weeks for which I apologize. Life has been kicking me in the nuts of late and when the darkness takes over it is very difficult for me to function fully and alas getting a staff pick together before deadline didn’t happen. Without turning this into a Dear Diary entry or a therapy session all I will say is that I lost a very close friend last week and that along with another friend of the local scene here passing and another friend having a health scare had me questioning my own mortality and grieving over the loss. Then if I start looking at the state of the country and the world I really fall into a downward spiral of despair. Tough times for poor, marginalized and sensitive people out there.

Anyway, meanwhile back in the world of music and records here at Sorry State, there is always something cool and fun to take your mind off your troubles. Thank the heavens for music. I don’t know where to begin as so much has come in recently to check out. I’m digging the Neutrals album New Town Dream a lot. If you have been following these guys, you’ll know all about their updated take on UK post-punk and DIY aesthetics but for anyone new to them, this second LP is a great place to jump in.

Not new but newish is the return of Britpop group Kula Shaker with their new album Natural Magick. I always had a soft spot for these guys back in the day and liked their 60s Hammond organ groovy sound and mix of Indian flavors. A little bit hippy perhaps and probably way too poppy for most of you punks, but this new album sees the original lineup back and sounding great with some decent tunes on the record.

Another Britpop era artist that hasn’t stopped making new music is Blur’s Graham Coxon, and last year he made a record with Rose Elinor Dougall who was in girl group The Pipettes, under the name of The Waeve. The sound is a blend of 70s inspired folk and prog with some Krautrock moments in a sort of cinematic pop fashion. I’m still getting caught up on the record as we just got it in, but can recommend you investigate.

Here at Sorry State, we are always working hard to make sure we have one of the best selections of used records for shoppers to browse through at our store. Each week our used new arrivals drop is met with great anticipation by our loyal local friends and those of you out on the socials. One of the ways that we get good records is from you are friends and customers. Y’all have good taste, but sometimes need to downsize or trade in for something new and we always welcome helping in that regard. This past week one of our regulars and longtime supporter of us and the local scene brought in a few records to trade, and I later went through them after Jeff had processed them. There was one by the group Servotron which I had to snag. I’ve had this record in my Discogs cart for a while now, but hadn’t pulled the trigger as the price was a tad high once tax and shipping had been factored in, and I generally always try and see whether I find things in local stores or indeed when they come to us. So, thanks David for saving me a few bucks and getting this record onto my turntable.

Servotron were a band active in the mid to late 90s and were based in Athens, GA. They released a string of singles, an E.P. and two full length albums. Their sound was a science fiction inspired blend of new wave, synth-punk and garage, all based around the concept of them being robots. Each group member assumed the identity of a different robotic lifeform and collectively they used the form of music to disseminate their ideas. Live performances and interviews had them stick rigidly to this mock ideology. They preached robot domination and machines revolting against human oppression and encouraged humans to replace their weak bodily flesh with cybernetic enhancements. They dubbed this ideology the SRA (Servotron Robot Allegiance). Cool. I’ve wanted to replace parts of my broken body with bionic robot parts for years. I mean it worked for Steve Austin.

Servotron weren’t the first band to use this type of schtick as their gimmick. The obvious comparisons are to Devo and Kraftwerk and to the lesser known Zolar X. That last band were a cool L.A. band from the 70s who dressed like aliens and spoke in their own alien language and played a Glam Rock sound. Servotron owe a little to all of these forbearers and to the local scene that they came from. You can hear some B-52’s in their sound. For lovers of quirky pop that’s a good thing, right? Dotted across single B-sides are some choice covers including Genetic Engineering by X-Ray Spex and Electric Avenue by Eddie Grant. I haven’t got any of these 7” s yet, nor the 10” E.P. Spare Parts, but will be keeping a look out.

My introduction was through first album No Room For Humans which came out in 1996 that I picked up last year sometime, and now I have the second album from 1998 titled Entertainment Program For Humans (Second Variety). Having listened to the first album more times it is at the moment my preferred of the two, but I’m sure I’ll be digging the second just as much.

With all the recent talk about AI, now seems a perfect time to get into a band that was all about this type of stuff, albeit from a 90s viewpoint when the internet was still a toddler. Also, as I mentioned the idea of replacing decaying body parts with robot parts doesn’t sound so bad to me. With all due respect to anyone who has lost limbs in accidents or in war. I certainly am not making light of their experience. I’ve just always been a sci-fi guy and did love the Six Million Dollar Man as a kid.

There is a live performance on YouTube which I’ll leave a link to here. Check it out to see the robots in action and to catch some of the banter between them and the crowd. It’s quite funny.

No time for a deeper dive as I have to catch the deadline, not that I know too much more about the band other than two of the members were in Man Or Astro-man?, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with things very much. Also of note is that the band did record a session for John Peel, which was broadcast on the 21st of May 1997, and features a typical great introduction from John. Check it out here.

Okay friends, all the best. We’ll see you back here when Scarecrow return from their European adventure. Godspeed to them and thanks to you all for your support and for loving music as much as we all do.

Cheers- Dom

R.I.P. Kevin and Christopher.

Dominic's Staff Pick: May 6, 2024

What’s up Sorry Staters? Today, as I write, it’s May 4th, so, May The Fourth Be With You. As a Star Wars fan, I thought it appropriate to make my staff pick thematic with the day. So, let’s discover Patrick Gleeson’s Star Wars on Mercury Records from 1977.

First off, this is not a hard to find or pricey record by any means. I found mine cheap in a bargain bin, but as with many similar records it punches above its weight. The current Discogs median is just $5, to give you an idea. But don’t ever let that put you off being curious about a record’s worth. I’ll throw up many $1 records as examples of music that is far superior to a lot of junk that gets passed as music these days and has the nerve to charge punters $50 plus for the pleasure of owning it. But the price of new records is a discussion for another time and place.

Back to Star Wars. I went to the opening weekend screening of the film back in 1977 as an eight-year-old kid and went back several times over the course of that summer. Over the years, I watched the original trio of films many times over, in all their versions. I’ll admit to not being a huge fan of the prequels when they first came out, but have warmed to them over time. I’d say the same about the sequel trilogy, although I have only seen each of those just the once. Not being a Disney subscriber, I still have not seen the Mandalorian series or any of the other animated Star Wars universe films and shows. Whilst living in New York, I had the opportunity to go to the premiere for one of the prequel films, which was more memorable for me standing in line with the nerds because that was when Triumph the Insult Comic Dog filmed a great segment having fun with some of the folks there. None of my party were dressed in costume, so were spared the potential ridicule, but we were thrilled to see Triumph and his handler Robert Smigel doing their thing as we were big fans. Around about that time Smigel had his TV Funhouse show on Comedy Central, which only ran for a season, but was comedy gold in my opinion. Seek it out if you can. Anyway, all this to say that I like Star Wars and honestly any sci-fi TV series or film set in space. Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Who, you name it and I’m probably into it. A big part of the enjoyment for any of these has always been the music and, as I have mentioned many times in these pages, I am a big soundtrack fan and collector. Hence me naturally being drawn to this version of the Star Wars music.

So, the first thing to say about this record is that it is not a simple note-for-note rerecording of the original John Williams score by someone trying to make a quick cash in. There were a few of them in the wake of the film’s success and sci-fi in general. My record collection has several such examples. A lot aren’t that bad. Most people know the one by the artist known as Meco and his Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk. That’s a good one and again easy and cheap to find if you’re into this type of stuff. The Patrick Gleeson version was recorded in July and released in August 1977, just two months after the release of the movie. Gleeson wasn’t responding to the movie like the average movie goer and fan; he had anticipated the release ever since George Lucas began discussing its production back in 1975. In fact, Gleeson, confident in his ability and knowledge of synthesized music, put himself forward to be the one who would score this new movie for Lucas. Obviously, that task fell to John Williams and the LSO after Williams was recommended to Lucas by his directing pal Steven Spielberg. But the idea of Gleeson being the one to produce the music wasn’t just wishful thinking on his part. Over the previous eight or so years, he had made a name for himself within the music industry for his pioneering use of synths and electronic music. Gleeson was an English professor at San Francisco State who had been dabbling in early electronic music during the mid 1960s. In 1968, partly in support and sympathy of protesting students, he gave up his position to become a full-time musician. After hearing Wendy Carlos’s pioneering record, Switched On Bach, he took some money his dad lent him and bought a Moog synthesizer. Soon after, he founded the Different Fur Recording Studio, which initially provided a space for him to record music for independent film and low budget television. Within a short time, his reputation brought him to work for a lot of musicians, particularly in the jazz field, who were experimenting in future sounds for their music. The biggest name being that of Herbie Hancock, who hired Gleeson to set up synth pads for him to use. On meeting Gleeson and seeing him at work, Hancock asked him to play on the recordings rather than teach him how to play the synths. Gleeson ended up joining Hancock and his band for the recording of Crossings and then Sextant, and would appear at some live gigs playing the synth patterns live, something that was very new back then. Through his work and success with Herbie Hancock, Gleeson would make connections with lots of similar minded musicians, including Charles Earland and Eddie Henderson, who utilized his synth work on their albums.

In 1976, Gleeson released an album called Beyond The Sun, which was an electronic take on Holst’s The Planets. The album, with liner notes by Wendy Carlos, was nominated for a Grammy. So, with all this behind him, Gleeson released his most commercial album the following year with the Star Wars record. On the album, the songs are based on the John Williams originals but given a much different treatment. In places, the themes are recognizable, but in others not so much. Also, although much of the music was created using synths, humans are utilized throughout. Particularly drummers, and some damn fine ones, too. Billy Cobham and Harvey Mason are two names that any 70s jazz fusion head should be familiar with. There are also vocals provided by a singer named Sarah Baker (who I couldn’t find much about) and the early use of a Lyricon (a synthesized wind instrument) played by Lenny Pickett, who would later lead the Saturday Night Live Band.

The album comes with a two-sided insert with notes from Gleeson explaining the technical details of the recordings along with his thoughts on the project. He says himself that he thought he was the one who should have scored the film, although he doesn’t knock the work of John Williams and understood why Lucas went the direction he did. Gleeson would eventually fulfill his ambition to score music for a Star Wars project when, in the 80s, he contributed to the Ewoks TV show. His resume is full of notable work, be it for soundtracks or contributing to other artist’s albums. If you start to look, you’ll see his name popping up in the credits of a lot of records. If Herbie Hancock thought he was cool and smart, then you know he must have been.

Okay, gotta catch the deadline. Go check this one out whether you’re a Star Wars fan or just a lover of interesting electronic music. Or both. Here’s a link.

Cheers - Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: April 30, 2024

Greetings Sorry Staters. Thanks for clicking on the ol’ newsletter again this week. It’s been a busy one for us. Last Saturday was Record Store Day and a good day for the store. Thanks to all of you who came out in person or bought something from our webstore. Participating in RSD is quite a financial investment for small independent stores and a bit of a gamble, so we appreciate you guys choosing us to snag those hot titles for you.

Gig wise, we’ve been busy too. Last Saturday was the benefit gig to help the innocent people affected by the war in Palestine. Thank you for turning up and supporting that. Terrific sets from the bands. Then this past Monday we were delighted to host our friends Deletar from France on the Raleigh leg of their current East Coast tour. They’re great—on and off stage. We couldn’t be happier to have their record on our label. Cheers to Ultimate Disaster and Paranoid Maniac and Shaved Ape and Meat House and Starving Bomb and Scarecrow for the great sets they played. Tonight (Thursday) we see Collate play with our good friends De()t supporting. Good times.

If that wasn’t enough for my diary, this Sunday I will be spinning records at a local art space’s fundraiser event which should be fun and then in addition to my weekly radio show Worldy on The Face Radio we will also participate in International Jazz Day with a special program broadcasting early on Tuesday morning at 8 AM. Any of you reading into Jazz might want to tune in. Not only to our show but to the host of other great presenters that will be broadcasting throughout the day.

For my pick this week, I am going to pull one from the RSD releases that I was glad to get a copy of. It’s the album Burned by Electrafixion. Originally released in 1995, this is the first time on vinyl. Electrafixion were the band formed in 1994 by Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant of Echo And The Bunnymen after they had buried the hatchet and resumed their friendship. Things had been frosty between the two ever since Mac left the Bunnymen back in 1988. The group would carry on, releasing the underrated Reverberation album in 1990 sans McCulloch, but the lack of interest in that record and the fact that McCulloch had a solo album out competing with it meant the end of the Bunnymen. The tragic death of drummer Pete de Freitas in 1989 from a motorbike accident also hastened the end of the original group. By the time they came back together those five or six years later, the musical landscape had changed a fair bit. Grunge and alternative rock were ruling the airwaves, and Sergeant was looking to play a bigger guitar sound to match the times. That being said, Electrafixion are not Metallica or Nirvana. Perhaps a bit of The Cult or other cowboy boot rock types would be a closer comparison, but despite all that as soon as you hear Mac sing, you think Bunnymen. That’s who they are, and that’s what they’re going to sound like. Indeed, the project only lasted for the one album as the guys soon realized that they were still writing songs that sounded like the Bunnymen, and when original Bunnymen bass player Les Pattison returned to the fold, they were all set for a reformation. The first new material from the boys seeing release in 1997 towards the tail end of the Britpop years. McCulloch and Sergeant have since kept the good ship Bunnymen sailing and have been touring this very year.

Back to the Burned album. There were a couple of singles lifted from the album, which included live versions of some songs. A four track E.P. titled Zephyr preceded the album, which contained the song Burned, which doesn’t appear on the album despite the title. It’s a good song, too. I had the CD of it and the album on CD when they were released, and now having finally got the album on vinyl I need to find that E.P. on wax too. I do have the 7” single to the track Lowdown, which is one of my favorite songs from the record. Honestly, there isn’t a bad song on the record in my opinion, although I admit to being biased. I liked the record when it came out and almost thirty years later, it still hits the spot. Glad to have it on vinyl now.

The memorable cover art incidentally came courtesy of Anton Corbijn, the Dutch photog known for his work with U2, Depeche Mode and later to direct a film on Joy Division.

Also, of note (for me at least) is the fact that two of the songs were co-written by Johnny Marr. His hand is most noticeable on the song Lowdown. He and McCulloch had been toying with the idea of forming a group together, but in the end it was just his songs that carried on into Electrafixion. Probably only enough room for one guitar god in the group.

Alright, gotta leave it here. Check the record out if you aren’t familiar with it, especially if you’re an Echo fan. I think you’ll like it.

Cheers - Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: April 22, 2024

Greetings Sorry Staters. Thanks for taking the time to read our newsletter and for all your support. Whether that’s from reading this, using our webstore or visiting us in person. It means a lot. You guys treat us so well. One of you even calls on each of our birthdays to wish us the best. How nice is that? Talking of birthdays, one of the gang, Seth, celebrated the other day (soz I couldn’t come out) and had people over. He took the opportunity to give Daniel this totally amazing diorama of the Sorry State store that is so f’in cool. Like a fantastic, detailed doll’s house but full of miniature punk and metal records instead. We’re still figuring a way to display it at the store, but will post pictures once we have it installed properly. Nice one Seth.

Another busy week for us at the store made especially so by Record Store Day, which will have happened by the time you are reading this, but right now it’s Thursday for me writing and we still have several boxes of RSD titles to be delivered. This year the day falls on 4/20, which should make it fun if you live in a part of the country where enjoying the herb won’t land you in jail. For those of you reading outside of the United States, I understand how confusing it is to look at America and figure out how life and citizens’ rights can change drastically depending on which state or even county one lives in. Trust me, it’s a major head fuck for many of us and now with the attack on women’s rights going on it’s just getting worse. Please dear God can the voters make all this Maga shit go away in November? Please.

Back to Record Store Day. Without getting into a big debate about the pros and cons of it, I still feel there is cool stuff getting released. As a music lover first and foremost, and someone who’s preferred listening format is vinyl records, I appreciate when an unreleased piece of music is made available or when a super rare and hard to find record gets repressed. If they do it right and keep the price accessible, then what’s not to like? Anyway, did you find something cool for yourself? I’ve got my beady eye on one or two things, so we’ll see whether I’m able to snag something once the day is done. It does seem that there are a few things we ordered where we didn’t get as many copies as we wanted. Such is the case with more and more stores getting in the game. No big deal.

In other store news, we recently acquired a decent cassette tape collection. Jeff teased with a glimpse of some last week. Lots of cool Metal, Indie, Alternative and hip-hop titles and covering the 90s era where vinyl versions of some of these either don’t exist or were pressed in small quantities and can be tough to find. Tapes, although having their own shortcomings, can sound great and for the most part are a cheaper way to collect music than vinyl records. We’ll be putting these guys out on the floor as space permits over the next week or so. Local tape heads come through and check them out. I snagged one by female rapper Antoinette that I didn’t know about from 1989 called Who’s The Boss? I liked it. Good funk sample-based stuff similar to Salt ‘N’ Pepper and MC Lyte. Recommended. There were also a ton of cassette singles which I am still trying to match covers with tapes. I found a Public Enemy Fight The Power taken from the Do The Right Thing soundtrack. Cool ‘cos it has the extended version on it.

Vinyl wise, we got a bunch of cool stuff in this week. Obviously, the latest Taylor Swift was top of everyone’s want list, but in addition to that I can highly recommend the Montaña record. These guys are from Spain, and you can read all about them in Jeff’s staff pick elsewhere in this newsletter if you haven’t already. Cool post-punk stuff.

My pick for you though is the reissue of the Aspirations album by Australian punkers X. A killer record that will fit right in with your Saints, Radio Birdman and Victims LPs. We just got in a repress of this record from the good folks at Dirt Cult Records.

X were from Sydney and formed in 1977, recording their debut in late 1979 for a 1980 release. Original pressings have been tough to score over the years, but several labels have kept it in print, so finding one isn’t too tough, but due to the quality of the music any version has become desirable, hence this most recent pressing being made available to satisfy the marketplace. I don’t own an original,but have a repress from the early 00s. To be honest, I only discovered the band for myself in the 90s from hearing the single I Don’t Want To Go Out on a compilation. My radar was already tuned to the Australian scene, although my preferences were for the 60s groups in the main. However, anything like Radio Birdman and The Saints from the punk era hit the spot too.

X chose their name at the same time that the Los Angeles X were forming and both bands were unaware of each other. The Australian X was formed by bass player Ian Rilen, who left Rose Tattoo (he would rejoin them later in the 80s), and guitarist and vocalist Steve Lucas, guitarist Ian Krahe and drummer Steve Cafiero. The band played the Sydney scene and quickly became popular with those clued up on the punk music coming from the UK and USA. Krahe became known for his guitar playing style whereby he didn’t use a pick and would bloody his hands thrashing away. He would sadly pass away before the band recorded Aspirations. So as a three piece and with Lobby Loyde of Rose Tattoo producing, they recorded their debut, apparently in five hours. Loyde would end up in the producer’s chair for X’s second and third albums later in the 80s. Most people seem to agree that their second LP At Home With You from 1985 is their strongest record, but there is something about the raw, short and sharp impact of their debut that appeals. It is short too, just over a half hour but in the world of punk that almost seems like a double album opus. My favorite track is I Don’t Want To Out, which has a great funky bass line and a funny vocal chorus. That cut was selected for a single release and good luck trying to find one of those. There are a lot more good songs on the album: opener Suck Suck followed by Present and then Simulated Lovers are all worth the price of admission. They even make like The Jam and throw in a cover of the Batman theme for good measure.

If you dig this period of the band and like good Aussie pub rock/punk, then definitely check out Live At The Civic ’79, which was released by Dropkick Records 2004. It’s a good quality recording done for radio at the time. In addition, Dirt Cult have put out a 7” E.P. called Hate City that has tracks recorded as early as 1977 and are the only ones to feature the original four-piece line-up. We have a few available along with the current repress of the Aspirations album. Check ‘em out. My only complaint with the current reissue of the album is the changed artwork and the lack of any insert with band and track information. Not that you need a full bio necessarily with the internet, but some details and some photos might have been nice. Still, the music is what counts, and Aspirations is a great punk record worthy of any collection and this version will deliver the sounds to you if nothing else. The artwork change was apparently sanctioned by only surviving member, Steve Lucas, so it is with reason and not bad, but I prefer the original.

Okay, I must stop here and get this in before deadline. Thanks for reading.

Cheers - Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: April 15, 2024

Hiya Sorry Staters. Nice to have you join us for this week’s newsletter. It’s been one hell of a week here and across the country. Basketball, eclipse, nut job Magas enacting horrendous one hundred plus year old laws controlling the rights of women to have autonomy over their own bodies, you name it. It’s all going on. Wacky stuff.

Last week, as Jeff spoke about in the newsletter, we received a visit from Zander Schloss, bass player in the Circle Jerks, who kindly hooked us up with tickets for the show. I was looking forward to going, but left the shop that night to find my car with a flat tire, and by the time I had the donut on I was in no mood or shape to deal with everything that seeing a show at The Ritz involves. All reports back were that it was a killer time.

Then, to cap the weekend off for me, I woke up Sunday morning with a swollen eyelid, which got progressively worse all day. By Monday morning, I looked like a wasp and a bee had a stinging competition on my eye. I think it is getting better now and hopefully by the weekend I’ll be back to normal. Ha!. Normal. What is that?

Tons of cool shit coming through the store again this week. We got new stuff, used stuff and reissues of old stuff. We’ve all been digging the three albums by Dead Ends. My favorite is the first, but read Jeff’s deeper dive into how these records sound and the story behind these guys.

For my pick this week, I would like to recommend a cool reissue we got in from General Speech. It’s the short-lived band Puncture and their 1977 one-off single for Small Wonder (the label’s first release) called Mucky Pup b/w Can’t Rock & Roll (In A Council Flat).

The other day Usman was talking to us about the song Mucky Pup and how he had thought it was an Exploited song, only to learn it was a cover. Indeed, the tune was covered by The Exploited for their Punks Not Dead album. In Usman’s defense, the song is probably best known from this version and because it wasn’t stuck at the end of the record, why would you think it was a cover? My exposure to the song came via the B-side, which I can recall hearing on a John Peel show back in the day. That was confirmed just the other week when I pulled up Peel shows on YouTube for something to listen to and I heard that song. I’ve always wanted a copy of the 45, but even though Small Wonder pressed at least three thousand copies, it has been in demand and commands a decent price. I’ve got both sides of the 45 on two different compilations, though. A Small Wonder singles collection and a KBD type boot called Neighbor Annoyer.

I like Mucky Pup, but for me it is the B-side that is the winner. I like the humor of it, perhaps. Also, the use of a wonky keyboard and the synth sounds that are on both tracks add a little something extra. Both songs are great and a classic example of what the kids in Islington were up to in the late 70s. Good stuff. Small Wonder, the label and shop based in Walthamstow, East London, was like Chiswick Records and the shop Rock On. Along with Stiff Records, these three independents released countless seminal early punk singles. But I don’t need to tell you guys that.

There’s not too much to say about the band. They only put out this one single, but gigged regularly for the year or so that they were together. Guitarist Jack Stafford changed his name to Jak Airport and played with X-Ray Spex and enjoyed some success with them. On the Bored Teenagers website, bass player and vocalist Steve Councel talks a little about what the others in the band got up to post Puncture. Click here to read that brief piece.

We have a few copies of the reissue here in stock. I’m not sure how limited they are, but as with all these things my advice is to snag one sooner than later.

Cheers - Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: April 8, 2024

What’s up Sorry Staters? Can you believe it’s April already and Easter has happened? We’ve already had a taste of summer with a blast of warm weather here this week. May we have a few weeks of spring please? March Madness is about to conclude on Monday and unfortunately our NC State Wolfpack didn’t make it to the final, but played great all the way and we’re very proud around here. Unless you follow Duke or Carolina, that is. Ha! Not that I follow college sports too closely, but being local, I’ll get into the spirit of things.

John Scott mentioned the other week that his musical choices are largely informed by the current weather, and I think many of us can agree on that. I know personally that as soon as the sun is out and the temperature rises, my record selections often favor more tropical fare shall we say. Although I have never been a surfer, I have always had a soft spot for surf music. In particular, the tougher edge surf guitar sound that also combines a sci-fi space-age element. If it sounds like Batman with a theremin and Star Trek theme vocals, I’m interested. Add a cover with rocket ships and aliens on it, even better. We have all that and Elvis on my recommendation for you this week. It’s In Space by The Hamiltones on Swimming Faith/Big Neck Records. Not to be confused with the R&B group of the same name that hail from here in North Carolina.

The Hamiltones come from Buffalo, New York and have a demo tape dated from 2015, so have been around close to a decade now. Their first full length LP, Dracula Invitational, 1791, was released in 2021 and In Space is their second. Just like that first LP, which was the soundtrack to a fictitious Dracula movie, this album is also a soundtrack to an unmade movie. As the title suggests, this one concentrates on space and aliens rather than vampires. Musically, the palettes are similar. Surf guitar a la Dick Dale, The Ventures etc. but mixed with some sci-fi sounds of the sort you’d find on soundtracks to drive-in B-movies from the 50s and 60s. I do the band and the record a disservice by breaking it down quite so basically, but you get the gist.

Perhaps because retro reissue label Sundazed Records used to be based in Coxsackie, NY and served the local populus with good surf and garage records for over two decades, there are more than a couple decent surf combos from the area. Who knows? Buffalo has an active music scene representing many stripes of the rock ‘n roll beast. Indeed, Hamiltones main man John Toohill wears many caps himself, chief among them being the brainchild behind HC Noise band Science Man. That’s probably his most recognizable band, but not the only one. He’s also in Ismatic Guru and Brute Spring to name two other projects. These are more synth-punk and industrial sounding, with some weird psychedelic stuff mixed in.

Back to The Hamiltones and this record, In Space. As I mentioned, it’s a soundtrack to an imaginary film about moon people, music made in space, and a CIA cover-up plot involving aliens and Elvis. The package to the record is ace. The outer jacket apes an old Phase 4 Stereo LP with suitable images of the moon and a space capsule. Inside the gatefold, we are treated to a cartoon painting of a wild party scene on the moon featuring go-go dancing Barbarella alien girls, flying saucers, laser shooting astronauts and assorted alien characters. Even Dracula makes an appearance. Besides the record, which features an awesome synth tone locked groove that could play in a new age crystal shop all day and no one would notice, there is a manilla envelope purporting to be a CIA file. On opening, we find a secret dossier and a seven-inch single with sounds from The Moon People. Listeners are encouraged to play the record between the two sides of the LP to enjoy the full experience. I gotta say, I love shit like this. It appeals to me on so many levels and I certainly don’t consider myself any kind of authority on sci-fi and alien conspiracy theories or surf music, really. It’s the music that’s the main sell here, and that delivers handsomely, in my opinion. This could have come out in the 60s or any time after, and checks all the right boxes stylistically and more. No matter how much of a sci-fi or surf fan you are, I think you’ll find plenty to like and enjoy on this platter. Easier for you to listen and decide yourself, so hit this link here to check it out. Say hello to the Silver Surfer for me when you hang ten past Saturn’s rings and don’t stare directly at the sun during the eclipse.

Later - Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: April 1, 2024

Hiya friends. I hope you are all doing well and had a happy Easter. I miss being a kid and going on Easter Egg hunts. Back in the day, my sister and I would eat our body weight in chocolate eggs and bunnies. Apart from one year when our dog ate all our booty while we were having lunch. He ate everything, wrappers and all and amazingly wasn’t sick. LoL. Good times.

Anyhow, we appreciate you checking in with us again this week. Between all the hot new slabs coming through, new and used, it’s a good time to visit the store in person or do a little online shopping. There aren’t many better ways to spend your dough than on music if you ask me, other than spending it on your loved ones and giving to charity.

A few weeks back, I recommended the soundtrack to the cult teensploitation movie Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, which I hope was a good steer, especially if it was new to you. This week I am going to stay in the soundtrack section if that’s alright. Along with music library records, soundtracks are still one of your best picks for discovery: fresh, cool music and sounds that perhaps you haven’t heard before. I could go on and list numerous reasons soundtracks appeal and why music lovers and record collectors seek them out. Ignore at your loss. Anyway, the other day as I was going through my soundtracks, I stopped to look at the one for Cornbread, Earl And Me. It’s an American film from 1975 that sports music composed and produced by Donald Byrd and performed by jazz-funk group The Blackbyrds. It’s damn funky in places. I hadn’t listened to it in a good while, but had recently just watched the film for the first time and now I feel I like the music even more, which is one of those appeals of soundtracks. As we are amid March Madness and have three local teams in the sweet sixteen (at the time of writing) it seems an appropriate time to pick a basketball related record. I will just add that, although I don’t follow basketball too closely and am an in no way what-so-ever an athlete that plays, I always appreciated the game. Back in my school days, we had a couple of cool gym/sports teachers and one time they took some of us kids to go see The Harlem Globetrotters on a visit to Britain. It was a cool experience and stuck with me. Later, when I came to America, I began following The Lakers, but not too seriously. But I digress…

If you are unfamiliar with the film, I highly recommend you watching it. The story is set in an urban environment like Chicago or a similar city, where a local kid, Cornbread, is a budding basketball player destined for success, fame and fortune. He is played by real life basketball star Jamaal Wilkes who, at the time of filming, was Rookie of the Year in the NBA and playing for the Golden State Warriors. He went on to win a championship with them in 1975, the year the film came out, and a further three with the Lakers in the 80s alongside Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

In the movie, his character is friends with two younger boys, one of whom was played by Laurence Fishburne, making his film debut. It’s quite an impressive debut also. In the film, during a heavy rainstorm, the friends challenge Cornbread to see how quickly he can run home from the corner store they are sheltering in. I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, but a mix up in identity results in Cornbread being shot by the police and the rest of the film deals with the fallout from that in the community and how it affects the lives of the young friends and his family, etc. It’s very emotional stuff and sadly, as we all know, still happening today.

I did like the film and if you have seen and enjoyed similar films such as Claudine and Cooley High, which were released at the same time, then I think you will like it also. Those two films have great soundtracks also, with Curtis Mayfield producing Claudine and Cooley High, sporting a nice selection of Motown classics along with original music from Freddie Perren, who was a Motown staff producer.

Here in the store, whenever we get a Blackbyrds album, or a Donald Byrd record, they don’t stick around long. For good reason, as they are good. In recent weeks, I have been hearing them a lot as I know John Scott likes them and he has been playing them. The soundtrack for Cornbread, Earl and Me came out right in the middle of a great run for the Blackbyrds. That same year, their classic album City Life had been released and would be followed the next year by Unfinished Business and the year after that by Action. I like Action a lot and can recommend any of their 70s albums without hesitation. If a good dose of jazz-funk is what you are looking for, then you’ll find plenty of it on these albums.

The City Life album, which contained the much-sampled hit Rock Creek Park, is probably the best remembered album from the group that was formed in 1973. They were Howard University students inspired by jazz trumpeter and already legendary Donald Byrd, who wanted to take students from the academic world and expose them to the real world of music and life. They took their name from an album Byrd had released previously on Blue Note Records. That album and many of Byrd’s classic 70s records were produced by the Mizell brothers, Larry and Fonce, who were themselves Howard alumni.

Production and composition for Cornbread comes from Donald Byrd himself. The record is a mix of jazz-funk with a couple of ballads and 70s cop crime theme moments like the cut Riot, which RZA sampled for a Ghostface Killah track. Bass player Joe Hall shows his funky chops throughout, and his intro to the song One-Eyed Two Step would have Howard from The Mighty Boosh in jazz-funk bass heaven. If you know what I mean.

Overall, a fun listen and a good album, one that possibly gets overlooked when folks talk about the group’s music. Should be easy to find a copy, although we haven’t had one come through here recently, despite getting most of the other albums by the group regularly.

Alright, back to it. Thanks for reading. If you get the chance, watch the film if you haven’t already, and definitely get the Blackbyrds music in your life.

Cheers -Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: March 25, 2024

Hey there Sorry Staters, I hope things are well with you and thanks for taking the time to catch up with us here. Daniel works ridiculously hard on getting the newsletter out to you and packing it with as much vital, cool, interesting and fun stuff as possible each week and all of us here are proud to contribute in any way possible. I look forward to reading my colleagues’ picks and reviews each week just as much as you all do. I hope that is not a vain assumption and is true. I must apologize for my lack of contribution last week (and even as I write potentially this week) as I have been going through some stuff and it just has made writing and thinking straight even more difficult than normal. I end up junking more “staff picks” than I end up finishing. I have a bad habit of writing what looks more like diary entries and self-examinations than reviews and opinions on records. No one wants to read my laundry list of woes and problems. We all got ‘em. So best just shut up and try to keep carrying on.

Easier said than done sometimes, as I can get trapped in the dark corners of my mind very easily and spiral ever deeper and darker if I dwell on things too much. What always brings me back from the edge though is the reminder that all around the world there are people and animals who have it much worse off than I do, and that I should be extremely thankful for what I have and for where I live, etc. Although news stories about bad things aren’t good for the mind and can make you sad, we need reminders that others have it much worse off. The situation in Ukraine and Gaza and the poor people there, especially the innocent children who are suffering is just awful. It’s always the children who suffer the most in these wars and such. Those who survive will carry the scars for the rest of their lives. The psychological impact is huge and will be a heavy weight on their backs as they proceed through life. Not the ideal way for anyone to enter adulthood.

Children suffering in times of war is not the best lead-in to a staff pick, but for this week this is how it is going down as I wanted to talk about the album Help, a charity album released in 1995 by Go! Discs to raise funds and awareness for War Child, a charity set up in 1993 to bring aid and relief to the children caught up in the then ongoing war in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavian countries.

The other week, whilst over at my DJ partner Matt’s house to do our radio show Worldy, I was flicking through some of his records and saw that he had a vinyl copy of the Help album. I didn’t realize that it had been reissued in 2020 to mark the 25th anniversary. The original 1995 vinyl pressing isn’t that hard to find nowadays with Discogs and the internet, but over the years I have rarely seen a copy in a shop, especially here in the States. I do still have my original CD copy that I bought with the track listing cut out from the NME, as at the time of producing the artwork the tracks and sequence had yet to be determined. More on that in a second.

I would argue that not only is Help the best charity album ever, but it is also one of the best documents of the musical landscape in Britain and Ireland during those heady Brit Pop years. Add the compilations made of the Later… With Jools Holland TV show where acts performed live and in the round with the other guests watching and one done for Radio One’s Evening Session with Steve Lamacq and Jo Wiley as prime sets of 90s UK Brit Pop bands.

In 1995, the British music scene was flying high, literally and metaphorically. Other than one or two older and established artists, notably Sir Paul McCartney, every artist and act that participated on Help were at their respective peaks and in their purple patches of creativity.

The idea was to have all the acts record their contributions on a Monday and have the album in the shops by Saturday. Inspired by John Lennon’s Instant Karma and the concept that music should be made and released quickly like newspapers. Easier said than done, of course, and to be successful, something that required many, many people to be on board and coordinated and working together. Back in 1995, this was even more difficult than it would be now. Electronic communication and advances in recording that we take for granted now simply didn’t exist then. It was all done the old-fashioned way, through phone calls and meetings, in recording studios, in art studios, in the press and on television. Not forgetting the manufacturing and distribution parts too. Quite the undertaking and that it happened at all is amazing, but that it turned out so good is down to the commitments from the artists and the incredible hard work and hustle from the people behind the scenes.

For the 25th anniversary of Help, a documentary podcast was made that detailed the whole process from idea to physical reality and interviews are done with the key players and most of the artists. It is a good listen and recommended. I learned so many interesting facts about who had a part in making it happen, who were the driving forces behind it and stuff like having to get the RAF involved to fly the albums to Europe to get them there on time. I mentioned having to cut the track listing out of the paper. That was because there wasn’t enough time to get the finished sequence printed on the artwork or even inserted after the fact. So, when you bought the CD on that Saturday, 9th of September 1995, it was a bit of a mystery listen. The music press and Daily Mirror gave free pages that following week to print the track listing for people to cut out. Seems so strange that that had to be considered and worked out, but back then graphic design and artwork was still done by hand and photographed. Modern computer apps could have that done in a second now. Talking of the artwork, the cover was done by John Squire of The Stone Roses and the back cover art provided by 3-D from Massive Attack. Liner notes were written by Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic.

Almost all the music for Help was indeed recorded that previous Monday at studios around Britain and other locations around the world, with just one or two exceptions. Finished tracks were then mixed and sequenced by Brian Eno. In conjunction with the album, there were also two single E.P.s that contained further tracks by additional artists like Black Grape and Dodgy and P J Harvey, who were not included on the original twenty track album.

There were lots of exciting and exclusive tracks on the record. Coming out after that summer where the news had gone silly over the Blur vs Oasis war, it was a big deal to have both bands on the same album together. The Oasis track was a reworking of a B-side that featured celeb friends Johnny Depp and Kate Moss on vocals.

The Manic Street Preachers covering Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head was the first fans had heard anything from them since the disappearance of band mate Richey Edwards and the death of their manager. Their Everything Must Go album would come out the following year.

Radiohead amazed everyone with their contribution. Their track Lucky was the first clue where they had gone sonically and would be central to OK Computer, the album they would release almost two years later. It said something about them that they would give away their best material at the time to a charity record. Regardless of whether or not you are a fan, this track blew people’s minds when they heard it here first.

I’ve always loved The Boo Radleys, and in 1995 they were riding high on the success of their hit Wake Up Boo. They wrote a great song especially for the record and apparently it was one of Brian Eno’s favorites.

Sinead O’Connor just made the deadline and fortunately so because her cover of Ode To Billy Joe is sublime. A definite highlight.

Bowie loving Suede do a nice job covering Shipbuilding, the Elvis Costello & Clive Langer song written about The Falklands War and released by Robert Wyatt originally.

Orbital named their song Adnan after an actual war refugee that returned to the area and was later killed.

The Charlatans and The Chemical Brothers mark their friendship with their first professional collaboration on Time For Livin’.

Stereo MCs sound just as cool and contemporary now as they did then. Their track Sweetest Truth is a marvelous modern soulful tune done only the way they could at their best.

The album also featured a new track from the great KLF under the guise of the One World Orchestra. They rework the theme to The Magnificent Seven and add samples including vocals from DJ Fleka from Serbian radio B92. Despite its creators not being that proud of the finished track in so far as musical quality, it was used as a jingle on Serbian radio and later a theme tune that became attached to the resistance as a protest anthem so went on to have a life of its own.

I was working on the ships during this time and was sailing around Italy and visiting Venice. It was hard to comprehend then that just hours from where I was, there was a war going on and so much terrible suffering happening to people. The world up to then had been almost ignoring the conflict. It seems shameful in retrospect that the media was more concerned about who was better between Oasis and Blur than the fact that children were being shot by snipers. Thankfully, through organizations like War Child and the success of the Help album things changed and much needed relief was provided. The Help album alone raised well over a million pounds. One note about that, the British Chart compilers wouldn’t include the album on the charts, as it was a compilation. It made number one on the compilations chart and would certainly have charted on the regular album chart if included, and probably would have made number one too. That decision to leave it off undoubtedly cost the charity thousands in lost sales.

As did also the inexplicable decision by Radio One not to play the single E.P., which caused it to stall at number 51. Nonetheless, the album was a huge success and not only raised money that was put to great use but put the conflict and suffering of the people there on to the front pages of the papers and into the TV news programs. Finally.

Subsequent albums have been released for War Child since then. In 2002, there was 1 Love released with the NME. That had various bands and singers cover their favorite songs. I would be lying if I said I liked everything on this one, but there are one or two good takes for sure. The follow up to Help called Heroes that came out in 2009 isn’t bad. That one has current artists covering songs by older classic artists. There are some nice versions on there. Beck doing Dylan. Lily Allen doing The Clash’s Straight To Hell with Mick Jones. Hot Chip taking on Joy Division and Yeah Yeah Yeahs covering The Ramones. All good takes in my opinion.

2003 saw the release of one called Hope, and in 2005 there was an album titled A Day In The Life. Again, these feature a variety of artists playing originals and doing covers. I admit that I am not familiar with these last two and don’t own them, but they both have artists that I like, so I’ll be checking out both collections in the future.

Regardless, they are all for a great cause, and if you can buy one or donate to the charity directly, you’ll be helping a child somewhere and that’s never a bad thing. For the vinyl lovers out there, it appears that all five of the War Child albums are available on wax, having all received recent pressings. I think I might pick up the Heroes one myself next.

Okay, I need to stop here and get this over to Daniel so that I don’t miss the deadline again. Thanks for reading and I hope someone might enjoy discovering or rediscovering some of this music. It seems crazy that almost thirty years have passed since the release of Help. Sadly, the world still has the same problems that needed addressing then. All we can do is stay informed and try to support good causes, whether they are local or global.

Before I go, I discovered a Channel Four TV documentary on Help which you can watch here.

Cheers- Dom

Dominic's Staff Pick: March 12, 2024

Hello, hello Sorry Staters. How’s it going? Good to be back with some words about stuff for the newsletter. I was a bit under the weather last week and couldn’t get it together in time to include a recommendation for you. My apologies. Not that there isn’t ever something cool in the store to talk about and I probably have one or two records lying around my apartment that I could tell you are good. I enjoy talking about records and nerding out over shit with friends and customers in the store and spinning them out at gigs but have always struggled to put thoughts on to paper. I really admire my colleagues here at Sorry State for their ability to write interesting pieces. I try. I watch Jeff here just tap tapping away at the keyboard and five minutes later he’s written a killer review on something and meanwhile I am staring at a white screen. LoL.

This week my listening has been all over the place. We had some big orders delivered recently packed full of interesting and cool records. Third Man Records continue to release good stuff for instance. We got some cool Jazz and Soul titles that they have and some new things too. I’m currently getting into Hotline TNT whose latest album, Cartwheel, they have released. I’m way late for this party so y’all are probably up on them already, but if you aren’t and 90s Shoegaze is your thing, then you might want to check ‘em out. They don’t hide the influences at all and go as far as referencing Teenage Fanclub on the record’s hype sticker. Yep, this is exactly what the record sounds like. Early Fannies mixed with other Creation Records bands, particularly My Bloody Valentine. Normally I stay away from newer bands when they are so obviously ripping a certain sound. I’m not into cosplay and civil war re-enactment either. However, I do have a soft spot for this genre and absolutely adore Teenage Fanclub, so Cartwheel hit the right notes for me. Certainly not reinventing the cartwheel, but there are some good tunes on the record.

What I really want to highlight this week though are a series of killer mixtapes that we got in from World Gone Mad. On actual tape. Very cool. Some of the titles I believe we stocked before, but there are a couple of new ones. I’ve stated many times before how much I love compilations, and a carefully curated mixtape is the best thing going for any music lover. These are all collections comprising rare and underground punk, darkwave, post punk and other alternative sounds from singles released mostly in the 1980s. Each one concentrates on a different part of the world and country. If you are hungry for music that you probably haven’t heard before or own on other compilations or as original singles, these tapes are for you my friend. Tons of great obscure tracks that outside of their own countries and within collector circles have rarely been heard.

So far I have listened to the Polish, Yugoslavian, South American, Japanese and Finnish ones. There’s one from Russia, Greece and Columbia that I still need to check out at the time of writing this. The Japanese one is a double tape and has a lot of great stuff on it. Its scope is the entirety of the 1980s and stops in 1991. I recognized a few names like OXZ and Inu, but most of the records were new to me. Working here with Usman has several perks, but one of them is that he knows his Finnish and Scandinavian punk better than anyone and so has hooked me up with some killer tapes himself. I’ll need to compare the World Gone Mad one with his.

So far I would say the Polish one has been my favorite overall, but there’s so much cool music spread across all of these that the Internationalists like me out there will probably want all of them.

There’s something very pleasing for me hearing somewhat familiar musical styles sung in a language I don’t speak. Often lyrics can get in the way of the emotion of a song, so when you don’t understand the words your brain can just concentrate on the music. Usually, you’ll be feeling the song in the way the artist intended, but sometimes you’ll make up your own meaning to the lyrics and interpret the song in a different way and individual to yourself. Or something like that. I guess the point is, don’t be afraid of stuff you don’t understand and know. There’s more to the world than just Los Angeles, New York or London. Obviously. As cool music lovers with refined tastes, you all knew that and don’t need me telling you, but if you fancy a trip around the planet without getting your passport out, these tapes are the perfect way to do it.

I’ll need to compare the track listings with other compilations like the Bloodstains series to see whether there is any overlap, but even if there is, these are mixtapes and not just straight forward compilations. Aaron at World Gone Mad, who I believe compiled all of these, has put a lot of effort into the track flow and sound quality. Just stick ‘em in the deck and press play. Old school. I wish I still had a tape player in my car to blast these on my commute.

My apologies for not giving you a deeper dive into all the tracks and telling you cool factoids about the artists. I’d be lying if I told you I knew much anyway. Like I said, almost all these tracks are new to me and are obscure even for much more seasoned collectors than myself. But don’t worry about it, take a chance. I’d say perhaps start with the Japanese one, the Polish one, and the Finnish one first and then if you are needing more go for the Yugo and South American next. We’ve got the Greek one running right now and it has some good stuff so far.

Gonna leave you there and make sure I don’t miss the deadline this week. Thanks for reading and as always, thanks for your support.

Cheers - Dom