The Bluetones are, for me, the epitome of sub-par, late ‘90s Indie / Britpop. I don’t know what I dislike more – Mark Morriss’ overly adenoidal vocals, or their propensity to arpeggiate chord progressions with jangly guitars, as if the Smiths and the Stone Roses invented music and left no other choice. Needless to say, I stayed far away from their anorak-wearing warblings of their first album of 1996.
It was only due to laziness – and the fact that I’d just seen Live play live on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury on a sunny Friday afternoon in 2000 – that I caught their set. I remember a lot of Frisbees flying around – heavy blue-plastic ones that looked like they hurt when they hit the occasional festival goer in the bonce – and beach balls flying around in the crowd at the front of the stage.
I also remember the band playing Solomon Bites The Worm, having never heard the song before, and I’m a sucker for a decent guitar riff. I also like lyrics that follow a set pattern – in this case, the days of the week. The other surprise of their set was a cover of the Minder TV theme, I Could Be So Good For You, complete with fumbled piano parts.
I bought this album on my return to Manchester, on white vinyl, with a nice saloon door pop-out on the inner gatefold. Aside from Solomon Bites The Worm and the infectious If, the rest of the material doesn’t really do anything for me. I struggle to make my way through its mostly boring 62 minutes. Like a lot of albums from the late ‘90s, it’d be much better if it was half as long.
My love for AC/DC was founded on the international versions of their early albums, with this being a collection of songs from their first two Australian releases. Now that I live at this end of the world, I keep meaning to hunt down their Aussie originals.
After I bought their 1992 Live album and decided to get the rest of their back catalogue, my OCD collector’s attitude urged me onto buying their albums in order, so naturally I started with this, their (international) debut.
On first listen, I remember thinking that compared to the crunch and bombast of Live, that it sounded pretty weak. Each successive album gets closer to that raw live sound, but here it almost sounds like a different band – like a poorly produced bad covers band playing AC/DC material through cheap instruments. It does have a certain charm though.
To give you an idea of how formative this album was for me, The Jack was the first song I learnt to play on the guitar. I didn’t start with something by Aerosmith – who I’d been listening to for a few years by then – I started with a Blues in E, by AC/DC. To this day, I can’t listen to the song without picking up my guitar and ripping through the solo.
As far as album covers go, the front cover of this is a classic – with a nice drawing of Angus clutching his SG, and an early version of the band’s logo evident in the top left corner – but the back cover is slightly disconcerting. Alongside publicity photos of each band member are fictional letters from the likes of worried parents and school teachers, concerned about the band’s latest exploits with their teenage daughters. At the time, I’m sure this made them sound edgy and dangerous, but in the 21st century with a touch of added hindsight it makes the band sound like a group or marauding paedophiles, parading through Australian suburbs just as the school bells ring out. To further add fuel to this fire, Bon Scott namechecks Gary Glitter in the banal lyrics to Little Lover; and of course the album cover features the band’s lead guitarist dressed as a schoolboy. Oh dear.
I love everything about this album, from the hasty introduction by Ed Sullivan to the constant scream from the fans which never lets up.
It’s a shame this album has never been released on CD – there seems to have been enough pressure for Parlophone to release the LP back in 1977, but this must have been regarded as a mis-step somewhere along the way as it now seems to fit strangely outside the official cannon of Beatles recording.
To my ears, this LP is just as important as any of their studio albums – if only as a historical document of the shows during the height of Beatlemania. The 2009 studio remasters would have been a great opportunity to clean the recording up a little bit more and place it alongside the other albums.
It’s incredibly short at only 33 minutes, but this is in line with the running time of their albums at the time. I love how they start Twist And Shout on the middle-8, and instead of playing the whole song with that section as the starting point, they quickly end it after a minute and twenty seconds, as though they had simply come into the song halfway through.
The liner notes by George Martin add a nice touch, writing a short history of how he was approached to revisit the recordings and produce the record. The only sour point is mention of the current teen heart-throbs of the late 1970s, The Bay City Rollers, courtesy of a comment from Martin’s daughter.
I found this record very recently, and it looks like an original. I paid next to nothing for it too. It fits nicely in my collection next to my Dad’s original copy of Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music (1962).
You can sort of understand why liner notes on the back of LPs died out, but they instantly date a record to a simpler time when a journo’s write-up on the back of a record might be enough to entice a record store browser to make a purchase.
There’s not much else to say about this record except that it’s 37 minutes of Ray Charles singing and playing the piano, which means it’s 37 minutes of awesomeness. There’s something about Ray Charles that makes him effortless to listen to, and this live performance is a nice snapshot of a more sophisticated time when audiences would listen respectfully, and in awe.