Category Archives: 12″ single

Sheriff Jack • The Complete Works [Vinyl] or: “How I Learned to Stop Wondering and Love the Internet”

Note: I started this article with a great idea and the best intentions. While wrapping it up I discovered some info that, had I known it at the outset, would have greatly changed this story. More about that at the end…

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think SHERIFF JACK came to me in some fever-crazed dream. Nobody seems to know who or what he/she/it is, there’s basically nothing about him/her/it on the internet (no web page, entries on music blogs and sites, etc.), so he/she/it might just be a figment of my frazzled imagination. But: I have all four record releases (I know of) that were issued under the name, and I know I’m not making it/her/him up. So, you’ll just have to believe me and read on – or move along to something easier to digest.

Let’s go back thirty plus years to 1986, for it is then that Jack shows up for the first time on record at the Seattle college radio station (KCMU, now KEXP) where I once DJed. Supposedly Sheriff Jack’s first release, a 12″ EP called Let’s Be Nonchalant duly enters the station’s current releases bin. Four songs are on it, including such bizarre titles as “Buy Everybody a Cake” and “Buttered Slice of Democracy,” so naturally yours truly (a sucker for oddball song titles) needed to know more. And it was – and is – difficult to describe. It sounds slightly power pop or new wave, in the guitar-driven sense, but with just enough of that mid ’80s snare-in-your-face on it to be slightly distracting. That, and the guy sort of sing-yelling the lyrics. The record was produced by Pat Collier, who was known at the time for his work with Robyn Hitchcock and The Soft Boys, and as a member of the band The Vibrators (“Baby, Baby”). And the release came out on Midnight Music, which had also released Hitchcock and Soft Boys records. Kinda mysterious in those pre-internet days, and try as I could, I couldn’t figure out who this Sheriff Jack was. But, being in my early 20s and easily distracted, I bought the record but shelved it and the info search and moved on.

A few months later, out comes a full-length album, Laugh Yourself Awake. Where the first release had the tiniest amount of credits on it, this record had all kinds of credits but some of them seemed made up. Ever heard of a guy named Ted Aerialcruise who plays trumpet? Well, he’s on these two records (and the next one). The album itself carried on with the hard-power-pop yet very British tunes, this time with titles like “Bird-Oh!” (super slicing guitars) and “Cock Anne at Marjorie’s Door,” and even a cover of Big Star’s classic, “Back of a Car.” BUT… this time we get a slight biographical bit about Jack: “This stuff written, arranged, played and sung entirely by a bipedal humanoid known as Sheriff Jack… recorded in Alaska.” Well, I knew that “Alaska” was actually a recording studio in England, frequented by – you guessed it – Hitchcock, The Soft Boys and producer Collier (credited this time with “knobtwiddling deluxe; high-gloss finish”). There was a management contact phone number on the cover, but calling across the Atlantic just to find out who these people were was neither doable nor affordable then. Again, I enjoyed the eccentric English (I assumed) college rock (as we loosely classified anything without a solid genre description attached to it). The weirdo subject matter continued, the slightly yelled/sung vocals did, too, and the altogether unique guitar sound of Sheriff Jack continued to delight me and (hopefully) whoever heard it via the radio station.

Another few months later, the same performer/ producer/label team turned out a 4-song EP entitled Everybody Twist, which featured the title song (from Laugh Yourself Awake) and three more oddities (“Bold 3,” “Values for Your Culture” and “Something Cold”). Some sort of life form named Uncle Beastie sang “Something Cold,” a dirgey tune with a lower register lead vocal that comes off as fairly ominous; aside from this one, the EP is really an extension of Laugh Yourself Awake. I added this record to my Sheriff Jack collection thinking that maybe, if he/she/it/they put out further records, eventually some solid facts would emerge. Or I’d move on to some other obsession.

Then, in October 1987 another Sheriff Jack album appeared, the cleverly titled What Lovely Melodies! I know the date because the copy I bought locally HAD A PRESS RELEASE BIO IN IT. Thanks to whoever was sent a promo copy and sold it right away with the bio still inside! That press release details previous and current Sheriff Jack records as well as their release dates and catalog numbers. And! FICTITIOUS BIO INFORMATION. Shit! I’m sure ol’ Jack wasn’t really “the prodigy son of an Alabama hobo” or that he was the “ex-leader of Iceland’s leading protopunk garage loonies The Icebreakers.” I get that they wanted to keep Jack’s identity a secret, but how long could they keep up such a ruse?

The bio writer did do a pretty good job of describing SJ’s sound: “[It includes] all manner of aural perversion from sick and silly little songs to gruesome guitar meltdowns… It’s all here, fine pop music with a left-field twist to spice it up.” Okay, we can work with that. “Can’t Resist a Melody,” the ostensible title track, takes another crack at it: “What lovely melodies! / And they’re driving me CRAZY / Though I know what I’m doing is sinful / But I do it anyway ’cause I’m really odd…” The sound on this record expanded to include some slightly R&B and even vaudeville tunes among the quintessential Jack palette. Did I mention some of the other titles? “Pink Ducks”? “Dada Art Attack” (“it’s like riding a horse in a cul-de-sac”)? “The Buddha with the Runny Nose”? Okay, there you go.

As far as I know, that was Sheriff Jack’s last gasp. Well, it’s now September 2017 and I have no further information about him. But somewhere in the back of my head, as I was finishing this little exercise in demon-exorcising and seeming futility, I hear, Marsh, did you try EVERYTHING? Wait a minute… we have Discogs now! Type in Sheriff Jack and you get an entry listing an alias of Lewis Taylor. Turns out this guy was once part of the Edgar Broughton Band (late ’60s/early ’70s UK semi-prog rock) and, after his tour of duty as Sheriff Jack, put out records under his own name. Well, I’ll be. Read further and you’ll see that Taylor later changed his name to Andrew Taylor (ahem, do you remember a character from ’60s US television, who was a sheriff, named Andy Taylor??) and has played bass under that name with Gnarls Barkley.

I’m sorta speechless.

At this point, all I can say is: I’m going to attempt to reach Mr. Andrew “Sheriff Jack” Taylor and see about getting an interview with him. This time, as my trusty sidekick, I will have the internet to help me track him down.

4/5 (Let’s Be Nonchalant, Midnight Music DONG 20, 1986), 4.5/5 (Laugh Yourself Awake, Midnight Music CHIME 00.21 S, 1986), 4/5 (Everybody Twist, Midnight Music DONG 29, 1987), 3.5/5 (What Lovely Melodies!, Midnight Music CHIME 00.34 S, 1987)

You can hear Laugh Yourself Awake on Spotify. However, I don’t have an account so I can’t check to see if it’s still up.

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David Bowie • BOWPROMO [12″ Single Box Set]

Another Record Store Day release, and one that was heavily anticipated and criticized, BOWPROMO is a box set version of a DAVID BOWIE rarity. What was once upon a time a promotional record with one side dedicated to rough mixes of tunes that mostly ended up on Hunky Dory, this RSD version features half of that record along with era ephemera included in a nice little clamshell box. Let me clarify.

I say “half” a record because the original promo was dedicated to two artists, Bowie and a female singer named Dana Gillespie. A management stablemate of Bowie’s, her songs comprised the other side of the record, which was sent out to drum up interest in GEM Management’s two artists. For this release Gillespie’s songs – her side of the record – were removed, so we have a one-sided 12″ with half an album’s worth of prime David Bowie. The mixes of these songs are different from what ended up being officially released (five of the seven tracks ended up on 1971’s Hunky Dory), and are therefore officially interesting to Bowiephiles around the world. The mixes’ original master hasn’t survived into the 2000s and so these were culled from an actual pressing of the promo – and they sound quite good. In fact, listening to these songs, which include “Oh! You Pretty Things,” “Kooks” and “Queen Bitch,” makes me want to give Hunky Dory another try. I have a copy somewhere (I believe the Virgin CD reissue), but as the latest batch of Bowie vinyl reissues has been so good (I never got a chance to review Diamond Dogs, but it’s a stunner!) I may just have to pick it up on record. I can tell you that all of the songs here are epic, including “It Ain’t Easy,” which is muscular as hell, and “Bombers,” which finally saw release on the Rykodisc CD version of HD.

david bowie bowpromo labelPackaging on BOWPROMO is first-rate – as it should be, considering the pretty penny they charged for it. Picked up for fifty bucks locally, the release comes in a thin box that houses the one-sided 12″ (nothing pressed on the other side) which comes in its own cover sheathed in green wrapping paper, plus a manila envelope with color photos of our boy-ie, and a press release-style printout detailing the differences in these mixes from their official released versions, as well as info on the original promo release. Many have complained online about the fact that there are only seven songs here, but this presentation is worth the $50 I got it for. Whether it’s worth more or less depends on you, more or less. One might consider the old adage “a fool and his money are soon parted,” as one person did on one of the music blogs I read, but who’s to say what constitutes a fool-ish action? If I think it’s worth what I paid, then you are a fool to consider me a fool. (And I’m dying to finish this with “And I pity the fool!”)

5/5 (Parlophone)

You can see the original press release for this reissue on David Bowie’s web site.

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Pink Floyd • Interstellar Overdrive [12″ single]

Pink Floyd Interstellar Overdrive RSDRecord Store Day 2017 brought with it a plethora of pleasing platters and the first one I’m writing about is this PINK FLOYD 12″ single. Yes, it’s a single of one of the band’s earliest works, “Interstellar Overdrive”. This isn’t, though, the studio version you’ve thrilled to on their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, but an earlier recording that has never seen the light of day (on vinyl) until now.

Recorded in late 1966 in a studio in Hertfordshire, England, this 15 minute take has much to offer. Take its sheer length: I can’t think of too many bands that were doing quarter-hour songs at that point, which may be why the original, official release was shaved to under ten minutes. Yet, the fifteen minutes gives the band even more room than usual to stretch out. Syd Barrett gets to wail on his Telecaster, slipping in and out of lockstep with bassist Roger Waters and drummer Nick Mason, while keyboardist Richard Wright plays some seriously demented organ pads full of distortion and contortion. Chaos reigns supreme! Also, the instrumental song’s “chorus”, the descending chord progression that anchors the song, is played to a curious drum beat – seemingly taken directly from Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking”! I’m not kidding. The backbeat played by Mason is just like that boom-ba-boom, boom-ba-boom pattern we all know and love.

Package-wise, this is mostly a winner. The record comes in a nicely designed Hipgnosis cover, complete with printed inner sleeve, poster and postcard showing the Floyd in a saturated, black and white photo taken by Irene Winsby for Melody Maker. The only con? Well, it’s a one-sided record. I mean that literally. There’s nothing on the flipside except smooth, black vinyl, completely unladen by any sort of a groove. Isn’t it just like Pink Floyd? Wasting an entire side of 12″ vinyl. On the other hand, arty types that they are/were, they give us a poster and postcard we aren’t likely to actually use (why, that would decrease the release’s value, RSD dorks!) just because they can. And I kinda like that. After side one’s blistering 14:57, you see, there’s not much you can follow it with.

4/5 (Pink Floyd Records)

The following video (assuming it’s still up) is from a documentary by Syd Barrett buddy Anthony Stern, purportedly the first use of the 14:57 take of “Interstellar Overdrive” on the above-reviewed release. There’s more information on this recording here.

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Paul McCartney & Wings Vs. Timo Maas & James Teej • 1985 (Single)

1985-480x480There are so many Paul McCartney fans who’ll buy whatever the man puts out – and then bitch about what a ripoff it is, or how he could’ve been more generous with the bonus tracks or yadda yadda yadda! Truth is, I’m pretty glad he bothers to put out anything at all. I haven’t bought everything that’s come out (news to my wife!), and I’m a bit behind on getting the releases I do want, but his new releases are still something I look forward to. Some are hits, some are misses…

1985 is a new single that is based on the 1973 song, “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” which was the final track on the legendary Band on the Run album. Remixed by Timo Maas & James Teej, 1985 is a 12″ single or download (which I’m basing my review on; the physical release isn’t available until 5/27) that was first released a couple months ago as a white label promo (limited to 300 copies, see image below). They were real sly about the artist credit but these days trying to keep something a secret is a losing battle; the word was out that it was a Macca-sanctioned release within moments. Super Deluxe Edition reported, “They [Maas & Teej] clearly utilise stems from the original multi-track, meaning that this can only have been created with McCartney’s cooperation,” (SDE’s original post here) and that must be the case because there’s no way someone could have remixed the track to this degree without having the original multitrack files to work from.

R-8321072-1459302729-5449.jpegI think 1985 is pretty cool. The Radio Edit version is concise, taking most of the strengths of the McCartney & Wings track and creating an imaginative remix. The piano track is practically a no-show, though, so the tune is carried more by Macca’s bass line. The Club Mix and Remix versions are longer, naturally, than the “edit” and approach the subject from different directions; I prefer the Remix for listening though both versions are fairly similar.

McCartney’s been a fan of the electronica for a long time – he quietly released his first stab at it, credited as The Fireman, in 1991 – so it’s not a case of “Hey, that old guy’s trying to be hip by proving he’s into the latest thing. Isn’t he adorable?!” Since then he’s done two more Fireman releases (all of which were created with his buddy, Youth) and a 2LP remix item titled Twin Freaks in collaboration with Freelance Hellraiser in 2005. If you’re not a fan of the remix, or of the way they mashed up The Beatles on the Love project for Cirque de Soleil, you may not like 1985. But since the download is only three bucks, you could easily get a preview of the tracks before plunking down the money for the 12″. I’m grateful that my favorite musician of all time is still with us, treating us to sometimes old, sometimes new, sometimes borrowed or blue versions of the music I grew up with. I can’t imagine a world without Paul.

Though I bet my wife can…

3/5 (Virgin/EMI)

Here’s a clip of Wings in 1974 doing “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” from the longform film One Hand Clapping, which wasn’t released until the super deluxe Band On The Run reissue in 2010.

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