Known as the English Beat in the Americas, the British Beat in the Australia, The Beat were a big part of the groovy side of the so-called post-punk/new wave era, certainly at home in Britain, with the dub mix of Mirror in the Bathroom a nifty little number that was effective on the dance floor, in the background at parties, in the car whilst negotiating traffic. Which has always been the special appeal of dub to me – music which is mostly absent words, yet moving in a particular direction anyway. Something to do with sound-tracking the ongoing corrosion of the so-called Western World. And it’s fun.
Second of two in a row from the same King Crimson 7-inch single, though Philip Random first heard both Groon and Cat Food via the 1976 compilation Young Persons Guide to King Crimson. “I still get a chuckle at the thought of a track like Groon being allowed anywhere near a record with pop ambitions. Not that it actually charted or anything. Just the idea of it. And the execution. King Crimson being not just one of the brainiest outfits ever (care of main man Robert Fripp), but also one of the best in terms of pure chops and articulation, regardless of who was in the line-up at the time. Subsequent live versions of Groon would prove to be longer, deeper excursions, but I’ve always preferred the original’s tighter, sharper, more compact assault.”
“Is there a bad track on London Calling? Is there an average track on London Calling? Brand New Cadillac is neither, of course. Brand New Cadillac is The Clash tearing through an old Vince Taylor b-side, unleashing the kind of old school rock and roll fervor that Bruce Springsteen could only dream of.” (Philip Random)
The Boo Radleys didn’t get much notice at the time (certainly over here in the Americas), and what notice they did get tended to be for the wrong stuff), but if you were in the right place in 1991-92-93, tuned to the right frequencies, you were lucky enough to know a godlike, noisy and powerful pop that could cause actual changes in the weather. Maybe if they’d bothered to put something as gobsmackingly ascendant as At The Sound of Speed on an actual album as opposed to burying it on the b-side of an EP, things might have played out a little differently.
Nifty jam from April Wine, one of those Canadian rock outfits that didn’t get heard much around the world, but got piles of national radio airplay through the 1970s, only some of it bureaucratically mandated. But they never played We Can Be More Than We Are. You had to actually had to own the Canadian pressing of the album for that one (or find a copy of the Gimmie Love 7-inch and flip it to the b-side). Cool groove, hot licks and then a phone call, some stoner on the line, looking for an easy break into the record biz, but all he gets is some free advice. “You can be more than you are.”
The Clash telling it like it was in 1979 (and now for that matter). Got a problem with the weight of the world? You’re just not thinking, grooving, acting fast enough. In fact, they were so prolific (and good) at the time that they dropped Groovy Times as a b-side. First band since the Beatles to be that hot. And probably the last.
Donovan b-side from before he started up with smoking banana peels, going all sunshine superman. The image is of a young back country Scottish guy doing a pretty solid early-Dylan-beat-vagabond thing, then stumbling into London just in time to catch things at the brink of starting to swing, trying to make sense of it, digging the slowness.
Brian Eno and friends deliver a nifty bit of funked up coolness (with samples*) from 1977. The friends being Snatch, the best two woman punk band you’ve probably never heard of, Brian Eno being, as always, way ahead of his time (sampling wouldn’t really be a thing for better part of a decade). RAF first showed up as a b-side to Eno’s King’s Lead Hat single, and later on First Edition, a nifty little 10-inch album that was packed full of precisely the kind of modern music that caused arguments. (*Yes, some of those samples come from a Baader Meinhof ransom message that was delivered via public telephone call. Those were the days.)
XTC was never a band that was afraid to pursue a little open experimentation in the name of pop. Smokeless Zone was a b-side that came our way via 1982’s Beeswax, which was all b-sides, all worth troubling your ears with.