heard on the wire

You can’t justify it, not a word

Wah Nah Poo

Pete Wylie encapsulates everything that bemuses me about popular music. Despite being one of the greatest singers of the last 30 years, yet he remains a marginal figure, famous, or at least reasonably well-known, for a single top 10 hit, yet worthy of much wider acclaim.

In large part, of course, it’s his own fault. Despite an ego the size of his home town, Liverpool, he has restricted himself to just five studio LPs in a career that began in the late 1970s.

And that from a man who, it has been said, believes that if there were only seven minutes left to live, you should spend three of them recording a song.

Originally released as a single by Wah! Heat! in 1980, this song made it’s way onto Wylie’s first LP a year later, by which stage he’d dropped the Heat! from his band’s name.

It’s an LP that you can’t help but notice: the brutally typographic cover; the title, rendered as an equation; and above all, once you’ve stripped everything else off, Wylie’s soaring, amazing voice, so out of place yet perfectly placed.

In a career spanning more than 30 years, has recorded little more than half a dozen LPs’ worth of songs, but songs so good that many were recorded as The Mighty Wah!, the name given to him by John Peel. It was a rare accolade and this is truly a mighty song.

It’s 11.53pm.

Wah! :: Seven Minutes to Midnight ⬇ box.com

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This blog post started with an idea that came to me on the way back from the pub: I blog each five-star record that shuffle throws up, the follow it with four-, three- and two-star tunes that are somehow related, however tenuously. And therein lies an immediate problem.

Now if I’d had rather more foresight, choosing a related, four-star track at this juncture would have been easy. Unfortunately I didn’t and have already posted the two songs that would have fulfilled both criteria: Makaras Pen’s Opus 7 and the Jam’s Down in the Tube Station at Midnight. Strictly speaking that’s a five-star and I could have plugged this four-star hole with the inferior version from the All Mod Cons LP, but where’s the fun in that?

So rather than Woking, it’s to Hull that we head, home of the Red Guitars, whose 1983–1985 BBC sessions have latterly been collected as Seven Types of Ambiguity. Tenuousness hasn’t got anything on me.

This track was recorded with the band’s original singer, Jerry Kidd, who left the band in 1984, after the release of their first LP, Slow To Fade. They were never quite the same after that, though the Robert Holmes-fronted Tales of the Expected, released in 1986, has much to commend it.

Red Guitars :: Steeltown ⬇ iTunes

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Wonderful world, terrible song
Everything’s gone horribly wrong
Cars are too fast, ’cause the drivers are slow
Joy-ride boy died and I think to myself
From Magdalene to Sellafield
There’s scant regard for how we feel
Sheep are green, dead roses too
I know it sounds bleak, but, hey, don’t despair
’Cause even men with steel hearts love to see a dog on the pitch

Half Man Half Biscuit :: Even Men with Steel Hearts ⬇ iTunes

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The trouble is these days you never see a dog on the pitch, though I have seen a fox run the length of the pitch at Fulham, which is more than Dimitar Berbatov ever did.

The aforementioned Jam, unquestionably one of the finest bands of all time, have contributed a handsome eight five-star songs and 15 four-stars to my iTunes collection, so it might come as some surprise that Paul Weller’s Woking trio have also managed more than 30 tracks that barely warrant a second listen.

But I can’t think of another band who achieved the heights the Jam did after first releasing two thoroughly mediocre LPs, In the City and This is the Modern World. Sure, the bands early singles were good, but the albums are lacklustre and uninteresting, even this cover of a Wilson Pickett classic. It all stands in marked contrast to what was to come later.

The Jam :: In the Midnight Hour ⬇ iTunes

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As for one star, that’s for tracks I never want to hear again. Should I ever run out of disk space, they’ll be the first up against the virtual wall.

This isn’t one of them, rather a number three hit for Wah! in 1983 that’s worth a few stars of anyone’s appreciation.

Wah :: Story of the Blues ⬇ box.com

Audio MP3

 


Related posts: Here’s some stuff to keep your mind off things; You just can’t believe the joy I did receive.

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heard on the wire is a blog about music old and new, but mostly new. It occasionally uses 21st century file formats that may not be supported by 20th century web browsers. For best results use Safari or Chrome. And If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider buying a copy of your own.

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