Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Records - back catalog remasters: Shades in Bed (1979), Crashes (1980) & Music on Both Sides (1982)

It all has to start somewhere, and in this case "it" is my affection for power pop.  Thing was, back in the early '80s I was already tuned in but simply unaware of the genre.  Tommy Tutone, The Romantics and the Knack were heavy hitters on on my FM playlist.  They all qualified as practitioners of the form, but by and large the music overshadowed categorization and nomenclature.  Later on, I became a little more power-pop conscious upon adopting bands like Cheap Trick and Material issue, but I simply wasn't wed to the genre - not yet anyway.  Fast forward to 1996 of thereabouts.  A local record shop had a modest bargain/freebie section near the front cash register.  One afternoon upon checking out, I spotted what appeared to be an advance cassette of The Records Music on Both Sides album.  Since MoBS was a 1982 release, I'm not sure how an ancient promo tape was still lingering around fifteen years after the fact, but whatever, I bit.  I think at that point I was acquainted with the Records signature tune "Starry Eyes."  Other than that I was going into Music... fairly cold.  Turns out I was in for quite a startling treat, and what would turn out to be a quickly growing appreciation and adoption of power pop wholesale.  In fact, that old and worn out tape was such a gateway, I could make the argument that Music... was one of the key impetuses for me starting Wilfully Obscure.  Tonight I'm presenting you with the now out-of-print definitive CD remasters of The Records three proper albums that were reissued by On the Beach Records between 2002-07, featuring a host of b-sides, non-LP goodies and even some live material.  So far as I know these aren't available through the usual digital vendors like Amazon and iTunes, or even Spotify.

In the beginning there was the Kursaal Flyers, a mid-70s UK pub act who churned out a three studio LPs and at least twice as many singles.  The Flyers' featured future Records drummer Will Birch, and towards the end of the Flyers' tenure John Wicks (deceased 2018) on guitar.  After K/F's dissolution in 1977 both men would soon found The Records with bassist Phil Brown (deceased 2012) and guitarist Huw Gower.  The quartet's first single, "Starry Eyes" hit in 1978, and set the table not only for the band themselves, but modern day power pop with it's merger of Wick's jaw-dropping vocal hooks and Gower's jangly chords. 1979's Shades in Bed was the name of the UK version of the Records debut album, which was later released in the States simply as The Records featuring an entirely different sleeve (with less risque cover art) and an alternate track order.  As far as debuts go, it's a sheer corker, featuring alongside "Starry Eyes" another equally strong single, "Teenarama," and a devastating array of deeper album cuts like "Girl," "All Messed Up and Ready to Go," and "Affection Rejected," all of which would be live staples for years.  The Records mightily advanced and perfected what presaging bands like The Raspberries and Blue Ash had initiated, retooling the power pop formula writ large, setting the template for dozens of bands to follow on both sides of the Atlantic. No exaggeration.  The 2002 CD reissue features yet a third variation on the album jacket, and rewardingly an album's worth of bonus cuts.  Tracks 11-14 are covers by Blue Ash, The Kinks, Spirit and the Rolling Stones respectively.  This quartet of tunes was featured on a bonus disc, originally bundled with both versions of the original 1979 album.  We also get some key contemporary b-sides, the album worthy "Paint Her Face" and "Held Up High," alongside the contents of a post-Shades in Bed single - an improved upon cover of the Bay City Rollers' "Rock 'n Roll Love Letter," and another classic original, "Wives and Mothers of Tomorrow." 

Not much time was wasted for the second Records' long-player to make it onto the marketplace, specifically 1980's CrashesJohn Broack's Shake Some Action, guide to Power Pop albums (now in a revamped edition) acknowledges that as good and even seminal as Shades... was, Crashes was the band's crowning achievement, featuring an even tighter performance acumen, plus more importantly a richer and more developed batch of songs.  Despite leading off with another fantastic single, the mid-tempo "Hearts in Her Eyes" (soon to be covered by The Searchers) the album didn't take off on either side of the Atlantic, but Crashes featured a dizzying array of resonant, melodious guitar pop tunes that few bands of the Records ilk have yet to perfect upon - "Man With the Girlproof Heart," "The Same Mistakes," and "Rumor Sets the Woods Alight," all expanding upon the bittersweet affectations that cropped up intermittently on the debut.  Sophisticated, but not the least bit show-offy, Crashes is downright untouchable.  The supplemental material features two knockout b-sides, paralleling anything on the LP itself, "Injury Time" and "So Sorry."  There's also "Vamp," a mainstay of the Records live shows, appearing here in a studio incarnation for the first time, along with another solid outtake, "Faces in the Window."  I'd be remiss not to mention that the album featured a key lineup change - Huw Gower was gone, replaced by Jude Cole.  Topping off the bonus tunes are early takes of "The Same Mistakes" and "Girlproof" while Gower was still in the Records.

And speaking of lineup alterations, one of colossal proportions was on deck for the third and final Records platter, Music on Both Sides.  Not long for life as a Record, Jude Cole's stint was over by 1981, and in his stead, new lead axe-slinger Dave Whelen was brought aboard.  However the far more significant development involved new frontman, Chris Gent.  While Wicks maintained his role as guitarist it was decided upon, apparently on the band's own volition (per the liner notes), that The Records needed a more prominent mouthpiece to advance them commercially.  While not particularly known post or pre-Records, Gent was an appropriate "replacement" vocalist with a commanding but not overpowering set of pipes who more than did the bands new tunes justice, even if the vast majority of them were still written and composed by Wicks and Birch.  Ironically, the album that introduced me to the band (this one) didn't feature their original singer in his key role, however the songs didn't suffer in the least, and were largely on par with Crashes.  "Heather and Hell," "Keeping Up With Jones," and "Clown Around Town," if not perfect-tens, came within spitting distance and were out-and-out catchy as anything the band offered prior.  Both Sides lead-off (and I believe sole) single featured none other than Paul Carrack on keyboards, but interestingly enough the anthemic b-side, "Your Own Soundtrack" took on something of a life of it's own in the years following it's release.  Not so much by the BBC, but by fans like myself who really ended up taking to it - so much so that for the reissue of Both Sides it was reassigned as the first song on the album itself, not merely as a bonus cut! And rightfully so.  As for the bona fide supplemental selections, we get four original demos with Wicks singing, including the heretofore unreleased "On Time."  A clutch of randomly plucked live cuts ("Starry Eyes" among them) are bonus-ized as well, including The Records collaborating with Jane Aire of the Belvederes on "Lovin You Ain't Easy."  While vinyl copies of Both Sides are virtually worthless, the CD re-ish is going for exorbitant asking prices on all the usual sites.  In 1982 the group called it a day, reuniting in 1990 for a song on a Beach Boys tribute album.

For the time being I'm sharing these as 320 kbps MP3s, but will consider lossless versions at some point if demand is great enough.  Don't hold your breath.

Shades on Both Sides/The Records
01. Girl
02. Teenaramas
03. Girls That Don't Exist
04. Starry Eyes
05. Up All night
06. All Messed Up and Ready
07. Insomnia
08. Affection Rejected
09. The Phone
10. Another Star
11. Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her?)
12. See My Friends
13. 1984
14. Have You Seen Your Mother Baby?
15. Starry Eyes (45 version)
16. Paint Her Face
17. Roch 'n Roll Love Letter
18. Wives and Mothers of Tomorrow
19. Held Up high
20. Teenarama (remix)

01. Hearts in Her Eyes
02. Girl in Golden Disc
03. Rumor Set the Woods Alight
04. I Don't Remember Your Name
05. The Same Mistakes
06. Man With a Girlproof Heart
07. Hearts Will Be Broken
08. Spent a Week With Your Last Night
09. The Worriers
10. Guitars in the Sky
11. Injury Time
12. Vamp
13. So Sorry
14. Faces at the Window
15. The Same Mistakes
16. Man With a Girlproof Heart

Music on Both Sides
01. Your Own Soundtrack
02. Imitation Jewelry
03. Heather and Hell
04. Selfish Love
05. Clown Around Town
06. Not So Much the Time
07. Keeping Up With Jones
08. Third Hand Information
09. Real Life
10. King of Kings
11. Cheap Detective Music
12. Everyday Nightmare
13. Your Own Soundtrack (demo)
14. Not So Much the Time (demo)
15. Third Hand Information (demo)
16. On Time (demo)
17. Insomnia (live)
18. Affection Rejected (live)
19. Starry Eyes (live)
20. Lovin' You Ain't Easy (live with Jane Aire)


draftervoi said...

I digitized my master cassette of the Records live at the Old Waldorf. It's still up over at VooDoo Wagon, in case anyone is interested.

spavid said...

Cool. Thanks draftervoi.

Fabio D. said...

LOSSLESS demand?
Count me in!
Thanks anyway.

Kouzie said...

Great stuff here!

Jim H. said...

all great stuff, thanks! On "Music on Both Sides". singer Chris Gent had been previously been the lead singer in a pop band called The Blue Meanies, with ex-Sparks/Jet/Radio Stars bassist and songwriter Martin Gordon......there was one UK 45 "Pop Sensibility in 1980, and a cd comp later on......just for background info!!!! :)

popthinker said...

Thanks, Spaz. Great stuff, indeed. Thanks for offering any format.

Bruce Brodeen said...

What can be added to the utter transcendence of the Records for the power pop idiom? Gawd, I love all three of these so dearly. I still pull out "Music on Both Sides" more often than the other two despite its plodding, muddy mix but that's just a personal thang. Adding to what Jim said, Martin Gordon is a great archiver for his bands' works, reissuing them over the past 15+ years in many forms. The Jet material is absolute MUST for any "Kimono"-era Sparks fans and, of course, Radio Stars. There's a whole album of Blue Meanies material Gordon put out in 2006 under the name "Pop Sensibility".