Sixty for 60: 6. LoneLady

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my Facebook friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am now 33 years older than a 27-year-old when she died. Enough folk came forward for this to make for a reasonable idea for a blog series.

Time for David Laurie to make a recommendation – ‘(There Is) No Logic’ by LoneLady. David writes, “This. Is. A. BOP.” And. He Is Right. LoneLady herself writes, Switching out her Telecaster guitar for electronic hardware, using sequencers, synths and sampling – LoneLady creates her playful, punchy take on electro with darkly humorous lyrics inspired by Medieval ‘Memento Mori’ paintings. And. She. Is Right. Too.

I’m not sure grading comments like they’re answers to a year 9 French test is the right way to go about evidencing a passion for new music, but I’ll overlook it if you can.

She says, “I live in a tower block next to the Mancunian Way, on the edge of the city centre. It’s a lively place: a kaleidoscope of beats, echoes, and adventures invigorate the viaducts, empty mills, shuttered streets and small pockets of spaces and buildings that still seem to have their own magic inner life. As if the city itself were a labyrinthine all-night club.”

You know all those delicious Tiny Desk concerts that keep popping up in your YouTube feed (maybe not yours) and how you keep imagining they encapsulate the spirit of live music? You remember the debut (and only) Silicon Teens album, a very early release on Mute Records, full of retro-futuristic bleeps and electronic squiggles, reimaging rock’n’roll for space age generation? You recall how fun it was to play along with ‘Computer Love’ by Kraftwerk on your pocket calculator? (I never did either, but I can imagine it must have been rare good fun.) What significance do you attach to the words (and phrase) “thin-sounding”, “jagged”, “darkly humorous”? Like a Casio version of St Vincent minus the overarching sense of entitlement. And so forth.

From Manchester. I believe myself and LoneLady crossed paths there 20 years ago. I may have my dates wrong.

This. Is. Indeed. A. BOP.

How NOT to write about music – 164. The Distractions

The Distractions - Nobody's Perfect

The last six mornings now, I have been listening to the two CDs that make up the reissue of The Distractions near perfect 1980 debut album Nobody’s Perfect.

Comfort music.

Despite the fact the reissue boasts 34 extra tracks, The Distractions didn’t actually have that many songs beyond the album – there are a handful of magical singles (including one of the three greatest singles ever released on Factory Records) and loads of alternative mixes (all worth lingering among) and early stuff (one song sounding wonderfully like Kleenex), a rather sparky attempt to engage with the early 1980s new cool (brass, etc), some needless reggaefied zeitgeist mixes…

Comfort music. I have several other albums currently wrestling for my attention on the morning train to Clapham Junction – most notably these two, and this one – but none fill the peculiar need I have right now for comfort, for reassurance that some stuff remains constant, that life continues unabated no matter what fear is disseminated among us, and you can still draw solace and joy and hope from it. These are strange times, the smell of fear all around is palpable, and we need to draw comfort where we can. Last week, some Course Leaders experienced an unusual spike in attendance in classes at BIMM London – and we suspect it is because students are looking to draw solace from certainties, that stuff remains constant, even that – despite the best efforts of our leaders to prove otherwise – leadership can be a decent thing,  that…

Same reason I enjoy eating my way through a box full of Maltesers at five am, and am binge-watching my way through seasons of Sabrina The Teenage Witch (and also love the new Taylor Swift album), I suspect.

Comfort music.

On the reissue, there is even a new stereo mix of the album included (a labour of love, clearly) that aims to capture the band as intended – and why  not? It is rare indeed that something this pure and magical and unsung comes along, and some of us have been waiting for near four decades for this album to be given the treatment it deserves.

It is hard to pin down highlights when near everything is a highlight, when near everything is supercharged comfort music. There is the Chelmsford-devouring debut 12″ You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That … a record that I first heard when I was 17 or 18, a record that to this day I cannot listen to without being reminded of a) the radiogram in my parents’ living room, b) leaving the house late morning to sit the first of my ‘A’ Levels, c) hope and awkwardness and an uncomprehending ability to cope on any level of social interaction at all, d) a darkened room staring out into a courtyard waiting for friends to knock on my door but they never do.

They never do.

Chelmsford, 1979
I had a summer job at Cundell’s Corrugated Cardboard factory, a 20-minute bike ride away from my parents’ house in Rothesay Avenue, where I shared a bedroom with my three brothers. I preferred the morning shift, starting at 6am working through to 2pm. I was used to getting up early, due to my paper round of seven years. Mornings were fresher. All you did for the job was stand at the end of a conveyor belt, one other bloke stood opposite. You’d wait until about 43 sheets of cardboard had come down the chute, counting patiently, stack them neatly, and shove them down the belt to another bloke, who’d throw them on a palette. Within days, my hands were a welter of paper cuts. We’d smoke just to keep ourselves awake: frequently only the burning stub of a cigarette between our fingers would remind us of where we were. I’d sing along loudly to The Jam’s ‘When You’re Young’, tears of frustration running down my face. I’d been turned down by eight universities, the new term had already started. I thought I was stuck there for life.

I still loved my punk rock, my pop music. I still dared to dream that romance existed, that there was a future outside the 9 to 5. I had to believe that. I would play my vinyl upstairs on my Dansette when my brothers weren’t around, laying out all the seven-inch coloured vinyl on the floor (I stole to finance my habit). I played my 12-inchers and LPs downstairs on my parents’ 70s radiogram, a monstrous, cheap, ridiculously tinny affair – but at least you could stack them. I devoured the music papers with the zeal of a late-come fanatic. All of them, every week. (I also had a day job at a newsagents.) I bought records on the writers’ say-so, and because I liked the covers.

The Distractions’ ‘You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That’ 12-inch on TJM was one of my favourites. The four songs had such energy, melody, enthusiasm, awkwardness – it was The Undertones, but somehow more on a level I could relate to, no tongue-in-cheek ironies here. I loved the rough, clearly unfinished production, the way it made the songs seem way more human and personal. The lyrics spoke directly to me.

“Well, I won’t miss you when you’ve gone/And I won’t talk behind your back/The time will come when you look back and see/If the time should come when you have a reason to come back/Well, do what you want, it doesn’t bother me,” Mike Finney sang in his trembling Mancunian accent. (Most of the songwriting, but by no means all, was managed by guitarist Steve Perrin.) Man, I so wanted to say those words to even one person – one girl – that might have some sort of regret because they’re didn’t notice me… trouble was, I couldn’t even find one. So I kept playing the music regardless, imagining myself into situations that were entirely unobtainable. Guitars churned and spun, the drums rattled and thundered in their own intimate way, and throughout those damn melodies soared and hurt and twanged at my heart strings…

“When I saw you last night/I got too close again/Though we stayed apart/I clung to you like glue/And though I tried so hard to prove to you I wasn’t giving in/I forgot to give you time to prove it too,” The Distractions sang on ”Nothing’, before a minimal guitar solo as great as anything even from the Buzzcocks or The Jam – damn, I knew how that felt. There was such jubilation present, too: impossible to hide on the rampant closing song ‘Too Young’ that soared and burnt and scoured and ran wild with the  exhilaration of being young like even anything from way up in Scotland (Restricted Code or The Scars, for example). These, for me, were my pop star gods – it didn’t matter whether they sold 100 or 10 million records. These were my pop star gods.

It was the music alone that kept me going through that long hot, turbulent, deeply troubled summer.

Song of the day – 200: The Distractions

Then there was this – with quite honestly (at 1.52) the single greatest drum part in the history of recorded music.

Bit of detail

The Manchester band were label mates with Joy Division in the late 1970s before they were signed to Island Records by legendary A&R man Nick Stewart (he signed U2). Nick is actually putting out this reissue on his own label which brings the story full circle 40 years on. Nick remembers it well:

“In 1979 I went up to Manchester to meet Tony Wilson of Factory Records, with whom I forged a firm friendship. Joy Division weren’t interested in signing to Island Records, so Tony suggested I check out another local band who’d just recorded a single for Factory called ‘Time Goes by so Slow’… I loved it from the moment I heard it… and quickly struck a deal for The Distractions to join Island. My first signing!”

The band split in 1981, and released a wonderful follow-up a few years later in 2012.

I wrote about that here.

In the months since I was sent an advance promo of End Of The Pier, it’s found its way onto my iTunes playlist several times – shy and unannounced like a former drunkard of a friend – and each time, I stop what I’m doing momentarily and listen, surprised, caught unawares again, wanting more, wistful, wishing that I could stop this relentless chase, this thrill of the new when no one nears me gives a fucking second glance at what I do. The music I make this days, when I make it, is clearly me: this hesitation, this clumsy renewal with the heart of pop music serves The Distractions well, very well.

Comfort music.

How NOT to write about music – 84. A Certain Ratio


I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand,
Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?

How NOT to write about music – 84. Joy Division

No, fuck it. This is still How NOT to write about music – 84. A Certain Ratio

No apologies. I want you to step outside the boundaries.


This is the true heart of darkness. An unrelenting gaze, inward-turned. Hopeless, relentless. No relief, no let-out. Building and building. Terrifying. Bleak. Helpless. No light enters. No light escapes. Murder on the dance floor. A psychic dance hall. All that is left is disbelief, the aftermath. I try to catch some memories, but jealousy just creeps back into my mind.

Increasingly, I find myself listening to collections of early acr cassettes and singles on the train up to Clapham Junction. The volume is too low and fails to blot out the outside world (“reality”) but even if the volume was 1,000 times louder and shattered my eardrums it would still fail to blot out the outside world. All the talk right now is centered around one of A Certain Ratio’s better-known late 1970s contemporaries – and that’s nice, it’s always good to see the one linear version of history reinforced time and time again by the same people (what’s the matter, didn’t Topping kill himself?) – but this is the music I return to, time and time again, in my futile attempts to blot out the world. I wish I could.

I only wish I could.

This is the true heart of darkness. An unrelenting gaze, inward-turned. Hopeless, relentless. No relief, no let-out. Building and building. Terrifying. Bleak. Helpless. No light enters. No light escapes. Murder on the dance floor. A psychic dance hall. All that is left is disbelief, the aftermath. I try to catch some memories, but jealousy just creeps back into my mind.

The band’s two founder members (Simon Topping and Peter Terrell) left in 1982.

Unknown Pleasures is a great album sure, but it isn’t even the greatest album on Factory Records.

As I look back
my murky past
was packed but
I know nothing I can do about it
I tried to carry some memories
but jealousy just creeps back into my mind
I work all day
I drink all night
My life is just an angry blur
A home, I’ve always wanted a home
I’ve always wanted a home of my own,
I’ve always wanted a home.
A wife, with eyes of green
And soft white skin,
To bear me a child.
I’ve always wanted a child
A child, who is good and strong
That would never go wrong
I’ve always wanted a child
I was present at my child’s birth,
I was there, to see him open his eyes
I always wanted a child.
His back, his back is coarse.
And his legs are bent,
I’ve gone over to my wife.
You’ve given me the wrong child
I don’t want him to die in the home that I own
I don’t want him to die
I don’t want him to die,
In the home that I own.