Generation X: Valley of the Dolls / Shakin’ All Over

genX_valley
Format: 7″
Label: Chrysalis (CHS 2310)
Country: UK
Year: 1979
Price paid: $4
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

 

In the valley of the dolls skank girls shanking

In the valley of the dolls I saw love vibrating…

‘Valley of the Dolls’ was the second single released from the 1979 album ‘Valley of the Dolls.’ It reached number 23 on the UK charts and was their second highest charting single, bested only by the first single off of VOTD, ‘King Rocker’, which came in at number 11. The B-side ‘Shakin’ All Over’ is a cover of the 1960 Johnny Kidd & the Pirates tune (made famous internationally when it was covered by The Guess Who in 1965.)

The disc was released in a variety of colors from pale butterscotch to raspberry to splatter dirty-rainbow, and many stages in between as chance and the skill of those pouring the admittedly odd mix of vinyl dictated.

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The version displayed here is by far the ugliest (and least expensive) variant. When I first pulled it out I thought ‘baby diarrhea with hints of blood in the stool.’ I’m guessing this is probably not the look they were going for; based on the theme of the song I like to think of it as ‘hot lady flesh’ version.

With its shiny black and hot pink aesthetic, the sleeve foreshadows what would quickly become a New Wave cliche. At this early date, coupled with the giggle-inducing scowls of the bands, it must have been an edgy presentation to contemporary consumers.

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Devo: Fresh / What We Do

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Format: 12″

Label: Warner Brothers

Country: US

Year: 2010

Price paid: $15

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

So fresh it almost makes me want to cry

So fresh it’s givin’ me a second life

A Record Store Day exclusive, the blue vinyl twelve inch was released in advance of the 2010 album ‘Something for Everybody.’ Despite generous press coverage and appearances at such varied venues as the 2010 Winter Olympics and ‘Live! with Regis and Kelly’ the album only managed to squeak in at #30 on the US Billboard 200 (#164 on the UK Albums chart) and ‘Fresh’ failing to chart at all… but Devo’s brilliance can’t really be conveyed chart placings or how many records sold.

If not as immediate and crucial as their early 80s work, ‘Fresh’ is at least on par with their ‘Shout’-era output (1984) and certainly surpassing anything that appears on the lackluster ‘Smooth Noodle Maps’ (1990.) Witty, sarcastic, and consciously disposable. The B-side ‘What We Do’ is arguably the stronger track of the two; the video is an impressively efficient spoof of the band’s most iconic motifs…

Speaking of iconic motifs, the sleeve art is a slick minimalist treat, literally upending the energy dome and reducing it to a vessel for phallic fruit, a delightful bastardization of the band’s most recognizable counterculture emblems. Well played.

Oh, did I mention it’s on blue vinyl?

 

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Devo / The Flaming Lips: Gates of Steel (live)

devo_rsd

Format: 7″

Label: Warner Brothers

Country: US

Year: 2014

Price paid: $7.99

Purchased at: The Soundgarden, Syracuse NY

 

The earth it moves too slow, but the earth is all we know.

‘Gates of Steel’ is a track originally from Devo’s third studio album, 1980’s ‘Freedom of Choice. It made an appearance a year later on the live album and EP ‘DEV-O Live.’ It was not released as a single (until now) and did not chart.

Part of Warner’s ‘Side By Side’ series, this 2014 Record Store Day (RSD) release was limited to 7,500 copies. The Devo version comes from the 1981 ‘DEV-O Live’ EP, while the Flaming Lips version was previously unreleased. Theoretically the single is a tribute to Bob Casale (Bob 2) who died on February 17 this year, but that’s unconfirmed.

Aesthetically there’s not too much to talk about. It’s a silver-colored disc in a clear plastic sleeve… but isn’t that enough? The ‘wrinkles’ in the vinyl are caused by a purposefully uneven mixing of pigment during the pressing process.

Graham Parker and the Rumour: The Pink Parker EP

thepinkparkerFormat: 7″

Label: Mercury

Country: US

Year:1978

Price paid: $4

Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

When the sun go down the moon is near

I’m scared to death ’cause your face appear

Ok I admit it, the real draw here for me is the luscious pink vinyl this thing’s pressed on. I’m not much of a Graham Parker fan; he falls into that Elvis Costello blues/pub rock blue-collar subgenre that I just can’t relate to at this point in my life.

Be that as it may, the man has an impressive back catalog with over forty studio and live albums both with The Rumour and as a solo act. Many from the late 70s to 80s period met with a measure of chart success.

‘The Pink Parker’ EP was his second-highest charting LP/EP reaching #24 on the UK singles charts in 1977 with the tracks ‘Hold Back the Night’ and ‘(Let Me Get) Sweet on You.’ These tracks reached #58 and #107 respectively on the US hot 100.

Track Listing:

  • Hold Back The Night
  • (Let Me Get) Sweet On You
  • White Honey *
  • Soul Shoes *

* live tracks, both from ‘Live At Marble Arch’ Bootleg

The sleeve art has a real ‘Stiff’ feel to it, looking like it could have easily been released by that indie label during the period. This may not be a total coincidence; Parker would have several recordings on the label between 1980-1982 including ‘The Up Escalator’ in 1980 (SEEZ23.) In 1975 (two years before this EP’s release) Parker recorded several demo tracks with Dave Robinson; Robinson would found Stiff Records shortly thereafter. Nick Lowe produced for Parker around this time and also acts as producer for the two live tracks on this EP. Lowe (probably best known for his1979 hit ‘Cruel to Be Kind’) was the first ever artist to release a single on Stiff (BUY1- ‘So It Goes’) in 1976.

thepinkparker2Also of note on this sleeve is the weird black dot at the lower left on the front, which looks totally out of place. The EP was originally released in the UK on the Vertigo label; when released in the US in 1977 by Vertigo the art made it through with only minor regional changes. A year later the EP was re-released in the US, this time by Mercury. They hastily covered up the original Vertigo logo and called it a day. The backside of the sleeve fared a little better, as the ‘artist’ tasked with making the modifications took more care when swapping out the various logos.

Other than these few cosmetic differences, the sleeve art on all three is basically the same. Oh, did I mention that fans in the US got the better end of the deal as their versions (both Vertigo and Mercury) are on neon PINK VINYL?

 

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Ian Dury and the Blockheads: Sweet Gene Vincent / You’re More than Fair

iandurry_sweetgene

Format: 7″

Label: Stiff (COU-B/BUY 23)

Country: Belgium

Year: 1977

Price paid: $4

Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

‘Sweet Gene Vincent, there’s one in every town

And the devil drives ’till the hearse arrives and you lay that pistol down’

‘Sweet Gene Vincent’ was the first (and only) single released from Dury’s first LP, 1977’s ‘New Boots and Panties!!’ It never charted, but songs like this can’t be measured in record sales…

iandurry_sweetgene2The single’s theme is- non too surprisingly- about 1950’s rockabilly artist Gene Vincent, who’s contributions to early rock are considerable. Vincent’s death in 1971 was a major impetus for Dury to form Kilburn & The Highroads; his admiration of Gene was life-long and he often played the song up until his last gig in 2000 (he died in March of that year.) The B-side ‘You’re More Than Fair’ is a rather raunchy song sung in a mock-Jamaican accent; it dates back to the Kilburn days and is still performed live on the Blockheads set (as of 2008.)

The domestic UK single was released without a picture sleeve. This Belgium pressing for better or worse has unique art. Clever concept or not, it’s an ugly gray uninspired clumsy thing. The one saving grace is the sweet yellow vinyl within. I was also amused by the glaring typo. I have absolutely no idea what the clothespins are in reference to!

iandurry_sweetgene3This is a scan of what looks to be some sort of clip-able coupon located on the back of the sleeve. It’s tiny (only about three-quarters by half an inch) and knowing Stiff’s sense of humor the offer/promotion implied probably never existed.

The Stranglers: Something Better Change EP

stranglers_something

Format: 7″

Label: A&M

Country: US

Year: 1977

Purchase price: $4

Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

“Don’t you like the things that I say? Don’t you like the way I seem to enjoy it when you shout things but I don’t care?”

This EP was a US-only release, containing tracks from their first two albums in an attempt maximize exposure to an American audience. Sadly it failed to win over listeners and never charted. Although the band had an amazing twenty three singles that broke the UK top 40 singles and seventeen UK top 40 albums they never once charted in the US.

Track listing:

  • Something Better Change
  • Straighten Out
  • (Get a) Grip (On Yourself)
  • Hanging Around

Tracks one and two are from the band’s second LP ‘No More Heroes’ while three and four are from their first ‘Rattus Norvegicus’, both released in 1977. The song ‘Something Better Change’ reached #9 onthe UK charts, the band’s fifth highest charting single (tied with 1983’s ‘European Female.’)

stranglers_something3The sleeve is classic British punk, or at least it’s a fair attempt by a major label to codify some of the counterculture’s motifs. A shocking red and black color scheme envelopes a leather-clad band; superimposed collage eye lend a touch of DIY to the affair. One of the primary draws of this single however is the luscious pink swirl vinyl, which I hear ranges from almost pure white to a rich pink. My example is mostly white with only a few wisps of pink.

 

Despite the coolness factor of the vinyl, not insignificant age (over 35 years!), and historical importance this single is inexpensive and readily available.

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Mute Vorwarts compilation

mute

Format: LP

Label: Mute (stumm440)

Country: US

Year: 2011

Purchased at: Soundgarden, Syracuse NY

 

‘Try to ride on waves of activity in every direction, you’re the center and you’re always free in every direction.’ – Junip

Mute was and is a seminal British indie label with roots stretching back to the late 70s. Artists that have appeared on the label include Depeche Mode, Erasure, and Nitzer Ebb.

Released as a vinyl/CD pack, I only picked up the vinyl. I can’t remember exactly what I paid; it was probably not over $5- CD or no, I’ll buy succulent colored vinyl LPs at that price all day long! It’s a hand numbered (#32 of 1000) Record Store Day EX, released on April 16th, 2011.

This is the US version, which contains the following tracks:

  • mute2Junip ‘In Every Direction (White Sea Remix)’
  • Big Deal ‘Locked Up’
  • Josh T. Pearson ‘Singer To The Crowd’
  • Liars ‘Greyscale’
  • Can ‘Millionspiel (Edit)’
  • S.C.U.M. ‘Summon The Sound’
  • Moby ‘Be The One’
  • Mick Harvey ‘The Ballad Of Jay Givens’
  • Polly Scattergood ‘Silver Lining’

The CD has identical tracks, with the addition of bonus track ‘Noise Activity’ by Simon Fisher Turner / Espen J. Jörgensen. The UK version does not include the Moby track, but includes two additional tracks, Grinderman’s ‘Heathen Child (RAK Session) and ‘The Gutter’ by Yann Tiersen.

The press release sums it up rather concisely: ‘Mute’s first ever Record Store Day exclusive release is a limited edition LP on orange colored vinyl, containing rare, exclusive, unreleased tracks from a slew of Mute artists, old and new. This LP comes with a CD insert that contains a bonus track from longtime Mute artist Simon Fisher-Turner. Featuring the new Mute logo, each LP is a hand numbered edition of 1000. Vorwarts means “Forward” in German. This compilation represetns the next step forward for the newly-re-independent Mute. The London-based label was owned by EMI for several years and re-established its independence in October 2010.’

The package design is a class act inside and out, exactly what would expect from a Mute product. The design conveys the cool minimalist tone of the tracks, the orange wax a juicy treat at the center.

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Liz Phair: Supernova / Combo Platter

lizphair_supernova

Format: 7″ (blue vinyl)

Label: Matador

Country: US

Year: 1994 Paid: $2

Purchased at: Square Records, Akron OH

 

Your eyelashes sparkle like gilded grass

And your lips are sweet and slippery like a cherub’s bare wet ass

‘Supernova’ was the first single to be released from Phair’s second album, 1994’s ‘Whip-Smart.’ It reached #6 on the US Alternative chart, #78 on the Billboard Hot 100, and remains her highest-charting song to date. It was nominated for ‘Best Female Rock Vocal Performance’ in the 37th Annual Grammy Awards, but she lost out to Sheryl Crow.

The sleeve design is colorful and adequately sparkly, but unremarkable in a generic way- not atypical of many indie sleeves of the period. The vinyl, being electric blue, bumps the cool factor up considerably however.

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Ian Dury: What a Waste / Wake Up and Make Love with Me

Format: 7″ (yellow vinyl)

Label: Stiff (BUY 27)

Country: Belgium 

Year: 1978 

Price paid: $4 

Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

I didn’t realize until I got it home that this was on yellow vinyl. Also didn’t realize that this is a Belgium pressing- for some reason Belgium got no fewer than four (!) versions of this single, while the UK only got one. It came in black, orange, yellow, and brown/yellow. My copy has a few brown specks in it which at first thought were defects, but they’re most probably left over splatter from the brown/yellow version.

‘BUY 27’ means that this is the 27th single released by Stiff. If you’re interested here’s a list of their singles, which have always been very well documented:

Stiff: The Discography

The single peaked at #29 in the UK charts and was Stiff’s biggest chart topper up until that time. It was Ian’s policy not to include previously released singles on LPs, so this single does not appear on any album.

Dury died of metastatic colorectal cancer on 27 March 2000, aged 57.

Gary Numan: Miracles / The Fear

Format: 12″ (red vinyl)

Label: Numa/RRT (NUM 13)

Country: UK?

Year: 1985

Price paid: $6 

Purchased at: The Record Archive, Rochester NY

Gary Numan has put out a TON of stuff over the years. And yes, he’s still active. I have some of his early vinyl and a spattering here and there, but I’d in no way consider myself a ‘completist.’

The cover art is rather lame, but I was swayed by the red vinyl (it even says RED VINYL on the cover, just to let you know.) Apparently this 12″ also came in both black and white, or at least the 7″ did. The backside is a cute dedication to his band and road crew for their support during his ‘Fury Tour 85.’ Based on that, this single may have been exclusively for sale at live gigs? Just guessing here.

This single only reached #49 on the UK charts. Obviously this is a Gary working beyond his ‘sell date.’