Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Lassitude Festival

Last week's Susan Boyle blog proved the simple Internet logic that if you write about a topic that is hot you get more readers. I'm not sure how many of you reading this only discovered A&Rmchair last week but I can promise you I won't be covering her this week. In fact it will be a very short this week. Why? Because I am devoting my time into staring into space like a person in an Edward Hopper painting. My doctor assures me that this lassitude has been brought on not by the swine flu but by a simple virus. Let's hope that's true. My friend Russell, who's a bigger hypochondriac then I am told me that he wants to contract the swine flu now so he can get maximum medical care and attention. He reckons there won't be the beds and drugs in two or three weeks. Apocalypse dot com.

Anyway there you go, I got another topical reference in this week - my stats are going to go THROUGH THE ROOF.

Frankly, I think I'd be better if I'd spent more time at home with the family last week. Instead I went out to see a play through glass, interview a fashion model and check out Bob Dylan's arse. The latter - which let's face it, is probably not in as pulchritudinous a condition as his re-blossoming career - was most of what we saw of him at the Roundhouse last Sunday. We actually had great seats, really near the stage, but Mr D, now no longer playing the guitar, had positioned his Vox Continental organ sideways on and was facing his two Costello-alikey guitarists. With his back to us. There were moments of greatness: Tangled Up In Blue three songs in, was lovely - a different arrangement which made the song darker and suited Bob's new 'old' voice.

But I was just not very well; coughing and sweating and wondering if I could reasonably lie down on the venue floor. It's not really not fair of me to pass judgement on a 67 year-old who is on a Never Ending Tour while I am struggling to just watch him for one evening but it would have been nice to get a bit of a clue as to who was on stage! The clue is in the name of course, it's the Roundhouse - he was circled by people. But turn around, he did not. In his Guardian review of 2001's Love And Theft album, Alexis Petrides refers to Dylan's grizzled voice as sounding like Papa Lazarou from The League Of Gentlemen. I made the mistake of mentioning this to my friends sitting next to me, which they found amusing, so subsequently the entire show was punctuated by crowings in my ear, "It ain't me, Dave!"

Anyway, I'm still in the land of the unwell so I'm going to stop here but in order that you have something to read - and sticking to last week's A&R decision theme, I will reproduce part of a blog which removed last year for reasons I won't repeat. Older readers may remember it and for that I apologise, others may find it as fresh and amusing as if I had written it yesterday.

See you next week.

I'm aware that you have to sell sell sell in order to get any 21st century attention but I still stand by the psychology of any talent search - a scout wants to hunt and gather; if something lands on his desk in a nice Jiffy with a glossy photograph, a DVD, a 10 track demo and a three page biography complete with accolades from the bass player of a well-known Danish metal act, he will pour the lot into the bin. Believe me, I'm not making it up. If you go into the Atlantic Records offices in The Electric Lighting Station and head for the basement, go to the office in the far corner and look above your head. If you push the central ceiling tiles up, underneath you will find a handful of particularly annoying biographies, unlistened-to demo tapes and other detritus from the early 90s - there is one, as far as I remember, from a would-be Motely Crue from the home counties called Tygertailz. Ah, happy days.

Actually, to be honest, I was a fairly responsible talent scout. I tried to give everyone and everything a fair hearing. Not for me the casual flinging of demo tapes out of the car window at 80mph on the M1. One example of my diligence is that I once received a letter from a certain Richey Edwards asking how he could become an A&R man. The Manics' manager once told me this several years later, I had completely forgotten about it. Apparently, I had written him a very encouraging letter which he'd never forgotten, outlining the best way of becoming a talent scout. He clearly didn't listen to a bloody word I said.

Talking of legends, I also remember getting regular calls from a promoter at the University of London Students' Union, who continually took on the management of terrible no-hoper bands. The reason I took his calls was that he was hilarious - a pleasure to talk to, genuinely nice, with a distinctive, infectious laugh. I still have a covering letter that came with one of his demos; written on headed ULU notepaper, it reads:

Dear Cunts in charge of the record industry,

Your label, or whatever the fuck it is you call it, doesn't half give me the horn.

Yours faithfully,

Ricky Gervais

Thursday, 23 April 2009

You didn't expect that, did you. Did you? No!

Earlier today on Twitter - and who'd have thought you'd ever read a sentence like that here? - music writer Rob Fitzpatrick tweeted this: 'Why do the sort of bands who get "Record Deals" have to sound so depressingly like the sort of bands who get "Record Deals"?'

He's got a point. But - and you'll be happy to hear I tweeted (twat?) this back - more pertinent is how the sort of bands who get record deals always look like the sort of bands who get record deals. In fact, I'd go so far to say that it's more likely that they'll look the part rather than sound it. After all it's easy to make a bunch of cool looking guys sound great than sell a bunch of ugly-stick-prodded losers who write a good tune. Right, kids?

Well, that's the received wisdom, isn't it? And I have to say I'm as guilty as anyone for subscribing to the looks fascism that has always existed in the music business. Or entire entertainment business for that matter. Half of the reason I was excited about Ride was that Mark Gardner was just so good looking. And the reason I, like a lot of people, passed on On A Friday wasn't that the demo didn't have enough strong songs on it - it was that the singer had a paralysed eye and we just couldn't imagine audiences getting past that.

You can see where this is going can't you? Two words: Susan Boyle. The three of you out there in the world who have not yet heard about this singer or seen the clip from Britain's Got Talent - well, here's your final chance. It's astonishing that her clip (almost 13 million views on Youtube as I write) has become such a global phenomenon so fast. People are clearly angry about the way looks are prioritised in pop - just take a look at some of the comments: "IN YOUR FACE. Cowell!" or this one: "look at that ugly girl in the audience who pulls the horrible face when she says she wants to be a professional singer, take the look of ure face you ugly little bitch"

Whilst it's nice to think that someone who doesn't conform to the stereotypical talent show winner levels of attractiveness can create such an impression it's also worth thinking about why people buy music - what gets them excited about music? I could be wrong but my experience is pop music that works, invariably has a dynamic between the music and the way the performer looks. It's a dynamic that doesn't necessarily depend on the performer being good looking but there has to be a relationship between the two things: the looks and the voice. I always asked myself: does the act look like it sounds? So many demos would come in with a very groomed and styled Walkerprint (look it up, people under 30) and a demo which sounded like a different act - like someone dressing up for a job interview to work in a coal mine.

The acts that made it past this first hurdle were invariably ones who had identified something about themselves and were milking that rather than doing what they thought was the best way to get the attention of an A&R man. The majority of acts were getting it wrong on a basic level - like a writer who hasn't found his voice and slips from funny to angsty with no warning or an artist who draws a painfully accurate sketch of a face except there is something slightly wrong about the chin rendering the whole picture comical. Bad artists make art look hard.

Once past the first hurdle the acts who had something unique about them would then be judged on all the arbitrary and unfair things which people who create new art are judged on: lyrics, trousers, colour of cassette inlay... And very often they would get a rejection letter because despite having a spark they weren't ticking as many tickboxes as the A&R person wanted ticking. Sometimes the A&R person would venture forth and see the artist perform live or in as showcase and maybe the Walkerprint would have made them look better than they looked in real life and despite really liking the song, the A&R man couldn't get over the fact that the singer had a receding hairline, or oversized hands or maybe a mannerism involving his tongue poking out of the side of his mouth while he sang. I'm talking generally here - don't for a moment think I was ever this shallow...

But sometimes there was a a magic from the demo that was undeniable. It normally came from the voice. The Verve came through unsolicited - I phoned them up because I really liked the voice. In the end I just didn't like the songs enough but crucially I didn't see a picture of the band - if I had I think I would have taken the unconventionally attractive Richard a bit more seriously. Sometimes it took a visit from a band to convince - I met Crispin from the Longpigs before he'd even formed the group and not only were the three songs on his tape amazing (On And On, Far and one other) he was also cripplingly cool - even when he was flicking the ash from his cigarette into his top pocket during the meeting "Why are you doing that?" I asked "What?" he drawled. "Flicking the ash into your pocket?" "Oh that - it's just an affectation..." I was sold. It didn't harm him that he was ludicrously good looking too but crucially he knew exactly what he was about.

Susan Boyle clearly knows this too. The Rev. Angela Tilby on Thought For Today this morning isolated the fact that Boyle sang with authority - she knew she had a great voice and no amount of criticism was going to take that conviction away. As she said in front of the judges, she'd just never been given the opportunity. And isn't that the way so many of us feel? Did I write that last sentence? Blimey, stop me before I start openly weeping.

Anyway, you can tell that this woman knows she's good from her eyes - the usual talent show crazy desperation is absent, she's just happy to be on stage singing. And the dynamic, how does my theory fit with her - does she look like she sounds? Well, actually yes. If she was trying to be Beth Ditto or Michael Jackson then her age announement would have warranted the cruel titters she got. In fact after she says she's 47 she does a mock sexy gyration "And that's just one side of me!" and we are briefly back in familiar talent show freak territory. But she's not a freak, she knows who she is, she doesn't want to be La Roux, she wants to be Elaine Page and even though the world of musical theatre that Paige emerged from is just as body fascistic as the record business, you can imagine Lloyd Webber getting her into one of his shows like that. She'd be perfect.

But the people who love the whole IN YOUR FACE, Cowell aspect of the Boyle saga have been fooled. Of course Cowell knew about her before the show was filmed - he was raving to Max Clifford about her a week before it was aired and I'd imagine that most of those involved with the show knew what they wanted out of the performance. I mean listen to Dec crowing to the camera "You didn't expect that did you?" when Boyle starts singing - it's clearly scripted. And Cowell's raised eyebrows of surprise as Boyle's goes into full throttle are about as believable as Roger Moore. He is probably already working on song choices for her album - he's publicly said she could have a number one in the US. The clip is a massively manipulative bit of telly - it lulls you into expecting to see another freak, showing cutaway shots of all those audience members who are not in on the secret rollling their eyes to their neighbours "Who does this old fatty think she is?" then turns on a sixpence using gently lifting ooohs and ahhhs and spontaneous clapping as Boyle starts. Yes, the voice is good but the reaction is too fast. And who started that standing ovation? Some prudently distributed runners? Cynical? Moi?

The IN YOUR FACE, COWELL brigade who want the 'ugly little bitch' in the audience to "take the look off her face" would have done the same had they been in the audience that night. It's human nature, or at least modern human nature; we are a deeply shallow and cynical generation prone to judging people on their appearance. The violent emotions of the Boyle reaction was manipulated by the direction of the show but also by the guilt felt by everyone who would have dismissed Boyle from the moment she bounded onto the stage.

There was a euphemism used in A&R departments about artists who had slipped past the ugly police and made it onto the roster - unconventionally attractive. And actually some of the biggest stars are genuinely unconventionally attractive - Shane McGowan, Jarvis Cocker, Michael Stipe... But more often that not, singers lean towards good looks. Have a look at your record collection - how many unconventionals or just plain old boots can you find? For a brief moment in the Bob Harris part of the 70s there was a value placed on musicianship over looks but mostly pop music is about style, fashion and looks, it's about being young and sticking it to the man and all the other cliches. So even literate, 'serious' pop stars like Dylan, Cohen and Mitchell (J) were supremely attractive - all the icons from Marley to Strummer to Morrison (J) to Gaye were gorgeous but, just for the record, here is a Top 10 of Pop Boyles - but before you read it, remember that whilst none of the below are or were heartbreakers, they all have it - they look like they sound, no one else is like them and all the better for it.

10 Joe Cocker
9 Mama Cass
8 Van Morrison
7 Elton John
6 Shaun Ryder
5 Lemmy
4 Meatloaf
3 Ian Dury
2 Beth Ditto
1 Thom Yorke

PS: Next week, I annexe the Sudetenland.
PPS Check out Mike Skinner's Susan Boyle remix with a Donk on it

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Rock 'n' Roll Replacement Bus Service

The one-armed scouser in the AC/DC T-shirt is waving a crumpled can of Stella at us all: "Hoosh going to get me a ticket for asheedeeshee? Come on you cunts!"

Everyone on the tube - many of whom are doing their best to hide their own AC/DC clothing -busy themselves with copies of London Lite. The man starts singing along to whatever is playing on the headphones under his enormous furry hat: "We'll bring the house down!" He leans conspiratorially into the man sitting next to him, "Will you get me a ticket for asheedeeshee? Come on, you've got some influenshe.. I can tell.... (singing) We'll bring the house down. What stop is acdc? Where am I am getting off?"

The man, rictus grin forming, tells him

"You'll get me a ticket, right? OK?"
"Sorry, no, I'm not getting off there.."
"No! You rotter... (to the rest of the carriage) Whose gonna get me a ticket? Come on you cunts! You rotters! Goodbye to jane!"
He turns to the man with the guitar case standing next to him, "You're a musician... you'll get me in. Come on, I need to rock!"
He leans into the man next to him again
"Goodbye to jane! Slade... Noddy Holder... he nailed them. Proper singer... Donington 1981... nailed them. Not like Asheedc. Acdc are shite! Veins on his neck wherever he shings.... Noddy nailed them. (To the rest of the carriage) Whose going to give me 50p? I've got five pounds, If someone gives me 50p I can get in ... They know me at Wembley! They know me at Hammersmith! (to his now visibly sweating neighbour again) Where are asheedeeshee playing again?"

I get off at North Greenwich and start making my way along with thousands of others to the O2. I'm meeting some friends here - we've been invited to see AC/DC by a mate at Sony and there appears to be some sort of luxury meat dinner thrown in too. I eventually find the restaurant, Gaucho, inside the vast dome and am guided - and glided - by super efficient, super polite staff to a private room where Sony guests are being given champagne and scallops. I'm still thinking of the one armed AC/DC fan who needed to rock. He wouldn't have fitted in amongst the surf and turfers here but he definitely deserved to see the band more than a lot of the porcine businessmen who seem to using tonight as an excuse for entertaining their clients.

It makes sense, I suppose. Back in 1981 when our drunk friend saw the band at Castle Donington Monsters Of Rock he was probably surrounded by a lot of beery 16 year olds who went on to do very well in business. Now those same boys - if they still have jobs - are being reminded of their youth in corporate boxes by cunning companies treating them to a jolly in order to solicit more orders.

Meanwhile in the private room everyone is talking about the record business. I'm talking to my old friend Emma about the lifetime we've known each other. Like me, she used to work at Warners, now, like me, she's got kids and worries about the financial crisis and the environment. Unlike me she still works in the music industry. She thinks the record business will survive but after having seen The Age Of Stupid, she's not so sure about the environment. Apparently at a screening of the movie hosted by Ken Livingston, the ex mayor told the audience in his introduction that the US government have just completed work on a bunker for 2 million people in New York as they are preparing for the Gulf Stream to do its worst to Manhattan in a Katrina style.

Whilst this is uniquely ominous and as Emma said, more disturbing to learn than anything in the film itself, it is somehow hard to balance a desire to do less to upset the environment with an interest or career in rock. Emma's family decided not to have a holiday in California the very next day which is admirable but she is behind the scenes in the music business - what about Angus Young and co and all their pyrotechnics? Would AC/DC mean as much if they went green? I say this because I was invited to do another Radio 4 column last week about Neil Young's Fork In The Road - a concept album about his Lincvolt project where he is converting his old Lincoln Continental to make it environmentally friendly. This is a worthy concept and coming from a fella who is famous for having burned rubber from Canada to California in a hearse called Mort, almost poetic. But is it rock? The album is kind of dull - the tunes aren't up to much and lyrically, well it's just too didactic. My piece is actually about the cars in pop music and how ultimately, how every car themed song is about shagging. Although the BBC wouldn't let me use that word, it's too rude apparently - the piece is going out this week so tune in weeknights at 7.15 BBC Radio 4, pop pickers!

And talking of cars, shagging, and burning through the environment like it's a king size Rizla, here we are watching the explosions and screeches of Angus and co hitting the stage. Alongside various lucky invitees in our corporate box - including the head of Domino Records which is both confusing and refreshing - we watch the band who look no different from how they must have looked to our one-armed friend in 1981: Brian Johnson in cloth cap stalking the stage, punching the air, Angus Young in the schoolboy outfit, natch. But the massive screens either side of the stage act like enormous Dorian Grey style paintings freed from the loft: Johnson looks every bit in his sixties, the veins are popping on his neck with every vocal effort, Angus Young is small and sprightly but underneath that cap - which after four songs is discarded along with all of his clothes bar the shorts and shoes - he is a wispy haired secondary school teacher; I imagine him covered in chalk dust, talking about Brazilian coffee production - oh no! Double geography with Mr Young!

But he knows how old he is. There is no Mick Jagger 'laughter lines' self delusion with Angus. And that is ultimately why despite seemingly only having one idea (a riff and some lyrics about naughty women) AC/DC manage to be such fun - they don't talk themselves too seriously. As an giant inflatable Rosie looms over the reproduction of a crashed train and Brian Johnson sings Whole Lotta Rosie, I lean over and say to my mate from Sony, "Is this where pop music all ends?" "No!" he replies completely in earnest, "This is where it begins!" And he's right, this is no different from people going to see old bluesmen in the sixties and seventies - these guys have seen it all and are still playing 12 bar blues - admittedly while dressed a schoolboy. And that's why they can get away with calling their 175th single (who's counting?) Rock 'n' Roll Train. Anyone else would get laughed out of the playlist meeting, AC/DC get played by Zane Lowe alongside Ladyhawke and The Killers.

Apparently before Sony started the campaign for the album Black Ice last year, they organised a special show for all the territories. Key execs were flown to New York then given a ticket to travel on the 'Rock 'n' Roll Train' to a venue in Philadelphia. Except when the train arrived at Philly, it transpired that the venue was still 25 minutes away from the station. So minibuses had to be organised to cover the last leg - a rock 'n' roll replacement bus service if you will. One senses that despite it being off message, Angus would have found this absolutely in keeping with the band's bubble bursting humour. After all this is a man 7 years shy of being 60 who does a mock striptease and shows the audience his boxer shorts at the end of it - AC on one cheek, DC on the other. I hope our drunk friend was there to see that.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Now That's What I Call Unrecouped

I'm going in. This time I'm looking for tracks by the Honey Smugglers, for My Jealous God, for anything by Syndicate* (don't look for a footnote, that's how they wrote their name in 1989) for Swimming With Sharks 0r maybe for Airhead. Perhaps I'm even looking for Ultrasound or Gay Dad. Actually, I've found Gay Dad! Result! But the others... no, they're not there and most likely never will be.

I was trying to make a Spotify A&Rmchair playlist which would have given you a go on loads of bands who were good but never made it. Some of them (Ultrasound for example) you may have heard of, most of them (Airhead?) you probably won't have unless you've been paying too much attention. And while everyone goes on about how you can't get Pink Floyd or the Beatles on Spotify - as if anyone needed these artists on any more formats - I think it's much more of a shame that you can't get all the flawed greats that have been lost over the years.

Relax, I'm not going to bang on about Spotify again here. Actually, no, I was going to say one thing; make one frankly and possibly foolish admission: I quite fancy Roberta from Spotify. Have you heard her yet? She voices their adverts, sounds in her late 20s maybe early 30s, is quite well spoken and sounds intelligent and genuine. I want to believe her when she says she hopes I'm enjoying Spotify. But wait, The Word magazine have gone and ruined it for me - they too (well, Andrew Harrison) are taken with Roberta and they've gone and interviewed her and got her photo. Yes, she is very attractive but no, she is not, as I thought, a voiceover artist who was picked by Spotify's ad agency to represent the brand values of the company - she actually does work for Spotify. I feel ashamed of being so cynical.

The last couple of times I've listened to iTunes at home I have genuinely missed her voice popping up every four or so songs. But that is probably more a sign of the fact that I haven't listened to iTunes hardly at all since Spotify.

But onwards to the playlist. I was looking for all these long forgotten bands because last week I went to a see a group fronted by a guy who used to be in an act I once signed to Indolent. Westpier were not one of the bands who made it big in the wake of Britpop. I seem to recall they once played a show at the Falcon where they were supported by Embrace. Anyway, there was an intial buzz possibly caused by the fact that the debut single was pretty good - I can still hear Jo Whiley's voice on daytime Radio 1 straight after having given it an exclusive, saying, "That moves me!" I still haven't worked out what she could have meant but I took it as a positive. Unfortunately, it didn't move many punters into record shops and after doing a short tour and recording some more tracks my memory of their career gets hazy. I know that the ridiculously handsome guitarist Carl went on to play in Kylie's band on a world tour but I only kept in touch with the manager.

So there was Carl, still handsome, up on stage last week with, somewhat bizarrely, the former manager on keyboards. It was a fine show and one I am ashamed to say I left early because I had another show to attend which seemed important at the time. But it got me thinking, not only are there all the groups who never got a deal - and I'll be doing a blog on those very soon - there are all the bands who make up the 90% of record company signings who never make money.

Common wisdom has it that the artists who get record deals then go straight to the bargain bins are by definition not very good. But this is myopic. Quite often they aren't very good, it's true, but some of them are there due to bad timing, bad luck, wrong single choice or simply that Jo Whiley's producer decided they didn't like the record. Or in Westpier's case did.

So who would be on the A&Rmchair playlist of bands who never made it but deserved to? Well, I could put a whole load of stuff I signed, which I think might be cheating. Having said that there are a couple who must be included. I'll include one I think should have made it and partly because I don't feel fully responsible for signing them - I picked them up after they'd been dropped by Go Beat - Wubble U. Their single A Bit Like U - was actually championed by Steve Lamacq on his show who played it on advance release. As it turned out, it was in advance of them being dropped and the single never got released. In my more positive moments I imagine it being used as the soundtrack to some cutting edge witty TV advert and netting everyone involved unlimited shedfulls of cash. Then I come back down to earth and remember that last year when Isosceles' track Get Your Hands Off was used in an Oxy spot cream TV advert the money paid would just about have covered a weekend family break.

I'll start this playlist now - where there are no existent links I'll try and upload the song if I have it. And of course, anyone reading this list thinking "Hey I know the guy who used to play vibes in My Jealous God!" is advised to be in touch immediately. Incidentally, I've had so many mails and Facebook messages from people saying they can't work out how to leave Comments here that I suspect there might be something wrong with the software. Again, anyone more intelligent than me (clearly not difficult) please leave a message explaining how to do it.

So here's a short playlist we shall, of course,call: Now That's What I Call Unrecouped

1990 Honey Smugglers - Listen
Fronted by a genuine talent called Chris Spence, the HS were touted by the folks who ran The Sausage Machine and who went on to form PJ Havery label Too Pure. It's a shame that the HS signed to Fiction and never really cracked it. This track is worth the cost of admission alone, though. You can read all about the making of this demo and lots more about the band on drummer Steve Dinsdale's blog. Clearly he's either got a better memory than me or he was keeping a diary during those late 80s early 90s days. The demo that Steve writes about was paid for by me with East West's money.

1989 Syndicate* Baby's Gone
This Scottish band were on EMI in the days when EMI boasted Talk Talk and River City People and were enjoying success with Food signing Jesus Jones. And talking of Food, one half of that label, Andy Ross, was still occasionally writing about music for Sounds as Andy Pert. He wrote an absolutely raving five out of five for the Syndicate* album which I immediately went out and blagged off a friend at EMI. He was right - and it still sounds great. I know nothing about them and I'm afraid to find out more in case it puts me off them.

1987 Swimming With Sharks - Careless Love
This was sisters Inge an Anete Humpe who sang mellifluous German ballads without sounding mawkish. And there are two words I don't often use. Inge was onto her solo career by the time I joined WEA which had released SWS. She didn't have any solo success either. By the way, did you know that the current overused term du jour Ear-wormy is originally from the German Ohrwormig

1989 Boys Wonder - Goodbye Jimmy Dean
Another Warners family act, this time twins Ben and Scott Addison. What were WEA doing wrong in the 80s? Did they not listen to me when I said "Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Tikaram"? Boys Wonder were originally signed to Warner's imprint Sire, which as anyone vaguely interested in pop knows, was run by legendary artist collector Seymour Stein. He is still around - I last saw him in a Kensington pub, deep in conversation with the man who signed the Enemy. My good friend Michael and I saw them in Manchester when we were students and I can still remember two of their songs (Lady Hangover and Elvis 75) from having heard them only once. They were dropped and then picked up by Rough Trade who put this out in 1990. It predates the rock pastiche of the mid nineties by five years but manages to rise above it like to exist in a world of perfect pop. Ben and Scott went on to have success with Corduroy but for my money - and I'm not just saying this - they never bettered their Boys Wonder songs. Oh and they were in the year above me at school. How cool is that? Well, OK, but I think it is...

1999 Gay Dad - To Earth With Love
A lot of you will remember this lot as they're existence wasn't that long ago (only 10 years ago. Arghhhhhh!) And indeed a lot of you may have dismissed them as hugely hyped and massively disappointing. Wrong, wrong, diddly wrong. This is the opener from their debut non-selling album Leisure Noise (they signed for two albums FIRM so London Records had to pay for album number two - ouch!) and remains their finest hour - not a million miles away from Boys Wonder in its flagrant referencing of classic rock, it has a nobility to it which, as I wrote here a few weeks ago, still gets those back of neck hairs going.

1991 Airhead - Funny How
This lot were originally called The Apples then Jefferson Airhead but had to change their name when they signed to Warners in the early 90s. They didn't do as well as another major label 'Head' band who changed their name, though. Also unlike Thom Yorke and co, Airhead decided that a sense of humour was the best way of ingratiating themselves with Radio 1. But their big hope Funny How, didn't make the charts and they were dropped shortly after releasing their debut album. But despite its humour, Funny How's hookline contains just as much self deprecating poetry as Creep: "Funny how the girls you like never fancy you, funny how the ones you don't do."

1986 Salvation Sunday Cold Grey Eyes
Weird another family outfit, namely Joanne and Steve Winterbottom. They were signed to Polydor in 1986 years before I started in A&R and I saw them live by accident at the Tunnel Club in Deptford - normally the venue for Malcolm Hardee's comedy club where hecklers from all over South East London would roll up for their cruel sport. Salvation Sunday were not great live but this odd riff-based single is a genuine classic, and I defy you not to get a shiver down your spine as the singer hits that final note on Eyes.

1993 Honky - The Whistler
Ok, a confession, I did actually sign this lot. Although, when I signed them they were called Club St Louis and we dropped them after one single. I discovered them in the unsolicited tape box and immediately drove up to Doncaster to meet them. They turned out to be two lovely chaps just out of their teens one white, Matt and one black, Kye who were making very melodic hip hop. Let's Go Lazee flopped and so I was never allowed a chance to release the follow up which was mixed by none other than Mark Stent (the man who mixes everyone from KLF to Madonna to Oasis) and sampled Breakout by Swing Out Sister. After ribbing me for how bad my label was ("East West? More like Least Best!") they went on to sign to .... WEA - effectively the same company. And while this time they did get on The Word (click that link) and release an album, they still never had the success they deserved.

1996 Wubble U - Petal
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, it's another one of mine, OK?! But listen, I haven't uploaded that song I mentioned above so you'll have to do with Petal, which they were touting on former label Go Discs before I signed them. We remixed it and made this amazing video, which got constant play on MTV in the days when people actually watched the channel. Unfortunately MTV viewers probably thought: What a bunch of complete FREAKS and avoided making a purchase that week. Petal is lyric-free but does feature specially recorded guest vocals from Stanley Unwin who you might recognise from the Small Faces Ogdens Nutgone Flake album. But the band could write amazing Dury-like words when they put their mind to it and A Bit Like You proves that: "I like a girl who talks with her mouth full, who's clever and nubile and won't cane me mobile... " Produced by the Ben and Andy Boilerhouse, it's frankly miles better than their zillion-selling Texas album.

I'm going to stop for now because you're probably already full of unsuccessful music but rest assured, I will return with more of this so be warned!

Here's an A&Rmchair Playlist of some more successful things, which I'm enjoying right now.