Madonna – The First Album 31st Anniversary

It’s a big anniversary today for Madonna fans – today marks the 31st anniversary of The First Album. I just love this album, one of the finest debut albums ever by a pop/electronic artist. All of the songs on the album do sound very similar and it’s Madonna’s least varied album, but there’s something irresistible about those scrappy and raw synths. And it’s got bucket-loads of charm and energy to boot. I far prefer it to Like A Virgin (my least favorite Madonna album). ‘Holiday’ and ‘Borderline’ still stand up as two of the definitive classics of the 80s and two of Madonna’s best singles. However, my favorite track on The First Album is ‘Physical Attraction’. It’s the first underrated Madonna gem and the best album track from her first three albums. It would have done brilliantly as a single I think. Whilst it seems to be a pretty popular song with fans, it’s never featured on any of her tours. On Youtube there’s just a few early performances in clubs recorded in 1983. I would love to see more of The First Album performed on tour actually – Holiday has featured heavily on her set-lists over the years but I think it’s time to hear something like ‘Everybody’ again or the aforementioned ‘Physical Attraction’. Honestly – I don’t think that will happen, which is a shame because The First Album still stands up really well after all these years.


Michael Jackson – ‘P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)’ demo

Following the release of Xscape, I’ve been rediscovering my love for Michael Jackson’s other unreleased songs and demos, of which there are many lost gems. One in particular that stands out is the demo version of ‘P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing) which surpasses the Thriller version. The two songs sound very different with only the title providing any real link between them. The original version was co-written by Michael Jackson and Greg Phillinganes although Quincy Jones rejected it and co-wrote a new version along with James Ingram. A bizarre decision which is underscored by the popularity of the demo. The released version of ‘P.Y.T’ is a slice of frothy pop-funk which does sound very much of its time. It’s an enjoyable dance number though it’s still one of Thriller’s weaker offerings. In its original form it’s a slick mid-tempo ballad, something that Michael Jackson excelled at. This version of ‘P.Y.T’ would definitely have held its own on Thriller. The sleek production has also aged immeasurably better than the final released version. It’s better than the final version in every way really and it still sounds fresh. If Justin Timberlake recorded vocals over the original demo and released it right now, it’d be a smash hit. It’s little wonder that Will.I.Am’s 2008 remix of ‘P.Y.T’ for Thriller 25 was actually based on the demo and not the final version given that it still sounds contemporary. Thankfully the demo version itself was officially released on 2004’s The Ultimate Collection along with other rarities. To this listener though, it’s simply sheer madness that it wasn’t released in 1982 when it should have been.

Soft Cell – Torch

A very underrated duo. Tainted Love is a classic but Soft Cell have so many better songs in my opinion. One of these being their hit single Torch. Torch – which reached #2 in the UK singles chart in 1982 – was the biggest hit self penned hit Soft Cell had. Well deserved too – the song is fantastic. Torch was a non-album single though it features on remastered deluxe editions of both Non Stop Erotic Cabaret and the remix album Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing. What I absolutely adore about Torch is the feeling of authenticity it has. Everytime I listen to it I can just picture what those seedy clubs in London would have looked at. It’s incredibly effective in that regard. Lyrically, I think Torch is about feeling a deep connection to a musical performance. The irresistible arrangement is what makes Torch special for me though. I just love the saxophone and I love how very uncluttered the whole song sounds. It’s incredibly danceable without having to do t0o much. Very effortless stuff indeed. The 7″ of Torch is really good but the extended version (which clocks in at nearly nine minutes) is far superior. Just an excellent song from a duo that really deserve more praise.

A Trip To The Market

ImageToday was a Sunday with a difference. I went to St Georges Market, situated in Belfast city center. I had a great time. The atmosphere was great, there was a brilliant variety of stalls and the food was delicious. I had my first paella today and it was divine. Almost as divine as my trip to the vinyl stall.

It was the only record stall there, but it had such a good selection I didn’t need another stall. On display, I found a mint condition original pressing of Sandinista! by The Clash. I simply couldn’t refuse – even the original sticker was intact. It looks, quite simply, perfect. I bought it and it’s now set to became a most treasured item in my ever-growing Clash collection.

Sandinista! aside I also found a few other gems. There were a few New Order vinyls, but the one I settled on in the end was the 12″ of Confusion. Again, the condition was simply marvelous. The other vinyl I bought was Disco by Pet Shop Boys. It was perfect looking also – all the vinyls at the stall looked great really. Disco was one Pet Shop Boys vinyl I was particularly keen to get so I was delighted to find it this early. My next vinyl record trip will be on Tuesday where I’m going to Ballymena. I’ve never been there before, so it’ll certainly be something different. Very much looking forward to that!

My New Vinyl Endeavour

This is a post I’d never expect I’d ever write. I’m a heavy CD buyer, but I’ve never collected vinyl. That is, until about two weeks ago. My dad was looking at his music collection and in doing so, he unearthed his old vinyls, which he hadn’t seen in goodness knows how long. Me and Dad have a fairly similar music taste so a lot of albums I love were discovered. Tango In The Night by Fleetwood Mac, Graceland by Paul Simon and Songs From The Big Chair by Tears For Fears being just three examples. Needless to say, I was in my element.

They were just three vinyls in a larger batch he gave to me. The 12″ of Blue Monday has become a particularly prized item in my music collection. It got me thinking though because a few months ago a family friend kindly gave me about a dozen Madonna vinyls. And I have a very limited amount of vinyls myself that I bought in a now closed down vintage store here in Belfast about two years ago. I’ve no turntable so I’ve not been able to hear any of it. And I’ve always wanted one to.  Getting this influx of records has made me finally bite the bullet: at long last, I’m going to get a turntable and start a vinyl collection!

Of course, I’ll need to be limited with my vinyl. I’ve got around about 500 CDs, and there’s just no way I can possibly replicate that on vinyl. It’s just not financially feasible. So I’ve set myself some limitations. For now, I’m only going to collect Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, The Clash/Joe Strummer and Factory Records vinyls (New Order, Joy Division etc). Amazingly, it doesn’t seem too difficult to do. I’ve discovered a great shop in Belfast city centre (situated in Wellington Place) called Dragon Records. I’ve already bought about six vinyls from there. For Factory Records and The Clash/Joe Strummer, they’ll be my main source. I’ve actually already bought some Clash/Joe Strummer and New Order records from there. I’m going to a few other places in the next couple of days too. I’m looking forward to seeing how this new found hobby progresses!

Fleetwood Mac – Ricky

I’ve been listening to this very unusual song a lot over the past few days. Ricky is the B-side to Little Lies, which was released in 1987. I’ve always maintained that Buckingham-Nicks era Fleetwood Mac were more musically adventurous than they get credit for. Ricky underlines that point (as if Tusk wasn’t proof enough). It’s definitely the most experimental song from their Tango In The Night period. So much so that I’m not even sure how well this would fit on Tango In The Night. I think it’s best left as a B-side. Everything about this song is strange, from the arrangement to the vocals. Christine McVie is borderline unrecognizable here, but her voice blends so well with Lindsey’s. There isn’t much in the way of lyrics but the few there are, are continuously repeated throughout. It makes the song feel like it’s longer than what it actually is. That minor qualm aside, I’m really developing a strange liking for this curious little B-side!

Bryan Ferry – Kiss and Tell

I’m in a rather 80s mood today (yes, even more so than usual) which prompted me to listen to the Bright Lights, Big City soundtrack. I really enjoy the movie – anything that has both Michael J. Fox and Kiefer Sutherland gets two thumbs up from me. The soundtrack is terrific too. It’s one of my favorite movie soundtracks ever really. One of my most favorite songs being Bryan Ferry’s Kiss and Tell. The song just epitomizes the character of Tad Allagash (Kiefer Sutherland’s character) in Bright Lights, Big City I think.

I have to own up now: I’m not actually a fan of Roxy Music. They’re one of those bands I think I really should like but I just don’t connect with them. Maybe I just need to give them more time. Kiss And Tell though I love. I can listen to it repeat quite easily (and I’ve done that). It’s Bryan Ferry’s seventh solo album Beta Noire and was released as the second single from the album in 1988. The song was written in response to Jerry Hall (once Bryan Ferry’s girlfriend) who had written a tell-all book which had contained some less than complimentary things about him. It’s got a very slick and moody feel which makes for addictive listening. It’s mysterious and very alluring. It really ought to have been a bigger hit – it only reached #41 in the UK singles chart. An excellent song and it may just be enough to entice me to give more Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry material a listen!

Pet Shop Boys – Two Divided By Zero

I thought I would take a moment to acknowledge this excellent song. I was listening to Please earlier, the debut album by Pet Shop Boys which I haven’t done for a while. In doing so I remembered just how much I love Two Divided By Zero (the opening track). It doesn’t have the finest melody you’ll ever hear on a Pet Shop Boys album and it does sound rather dated.  Crucially though it does have great lyrics. Here, the song’s narrator wishes to run away to New York with their lover. Hardly a cutting edge concept but what elevates the lyrics is the metaphor of two being divided by zero.  Firstly, two divided by zero is mathematically impossible. You can’t divide by nothing, and nothing divides this couple. The idea of something being divided by nothing is a ludicrous concept, as is the idea of the couple not being together. It’s an incredibly clever – not to mention unconventional – spin on things. And really rather romantic too. Both of the Boys acknowledge that it’s this song along with Love Comes Quickly that came closest to the sound they were trying to achieve with Please. It’s actually Neil Tennant’s favourite song on the album. It’s certainly one of my favourites too!

Year Highlight: Depeche Mode – Soft Touch/Raw Nerve

Finally, another surprise of sorts. I’m a big Depeche Mode fan but I’ve found their albums made following the departure of Alan Wilder to be rather patchy affairs. To be honest – I had given up hope of them reaching the quality of their best records ever again. That is until Delta Machine came along. It’s a strong album and the best that they’ve ever made without Wilder. Soft Touch/Raw Nerve is quite an unusual Depeche Mode song. It’s a hybrid of rock and electronic music which is hardly new territory for them, but it’s never sounded quite like this. It’s hard to describe, it sounds like two songs in one almost. Very contrasting. It’s a shame this wasn’t a single, because I think it could have done quite well actually. It certainly wouldn’t have sounded like anything else in the charts that’s for sure.

That’s my seven random songs of the year selected. I hope you enjoyed them. On this final day of 2013 I’ve got a few more posts I want to make, so I’ll definitely be back later!

Discovery: Cyndi Lauper – The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough I’ve become more than a little addicted to this song after I watched The Goonies for the first time last night. I prefer to call it by its original title of Good Enough, as it was titled when original written. The Goonies ‘R’ was only tacked on for marketing purposes. I just love this uptempo and rollicking slice of synth-pop. It’s bubbly, bursting with energy, much like Cyndi Lauper herself. So much so, I can’t understand her dislike for the song. In a 1996 interview she said she hated it and it never appeared on any of her albums prior to 2003’s The Essential Cyndi Lauper. It’s still a very popular song with her fans though. I think it’s very underrated. “Good enough for me” indeed!