Monday, September 20, 2004

Somebody should do a Please Kill Me-style oral history about Rough Trade and the bands on the label. I mean, could it get any better than Metal Urbain, Stiff Little Fingers, Raincoats, Pop Group, Slits, Delta 5, Robert Wyatt, the aforementioned Virgin Prunes, Cabaret Voltaire, Essential Logic, The Red Crayola, Pere Ubu, Young Marble Giants, and a dozen other greats I'm forgetting? What a track record.

One of the more complex bands on the label was This Heat. You can find a good discography HERE, a web site HERE, and a good article HERE. With roots including Gong and Henry Cow they were not your average post-punk band, having formed in late '75/early '76. They did some early sessions recorded with Ghanian percussionist/flautist Mario Boyer Diekuuroh that were released on a split tape with Albert Marcoeur (and have not yet been officially reissued). You can hear clear indications of the "free" parts of the first LP in this leadoff track and this other short piece.

After the first (great) 1979 LP on Piano, self-titled This Heat, they released a (great) 12", "Health And Efficiency", that was on the Piano label, but (again) distributed by RT. The second (also great) 1981 LP Deceit was a proper Rough Trade release. All readily available these days along with a disc of Peel Sessions, Made Available. In another weird bit of synchronicity, Saturday night I saw the amazing band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum do a freakin' COVER of "S.P.Q.R.", from Deceit. Whoa.

Live This Heat documents exist, but not in any easily available form. The best is the 1980 "Live in Krefeld" cassette, bootlegged as Cold Storage. Decent sound and this super unreleased track (not titled). Then they broke up.

Charles Hayward formed Camberwell Now, Charles Bullen formed the Lifetones, and Gareth Williams went to monasteries in India. This is where things get complicated. I'm skipping the Lifetones because I was never that impressed. Camberwell Now were fairly well-known, and were blessed with a comprehensive CD reissue courtesy of Recommended Records. However, this brings us to one of this week's themes: the art of the reissue. In this particular case, I feel that there are two mistakes on the CD. One was to leave out the Meridians EP's "Trade Winds", an instrumental bridge between "Cutty Sark" and "Pearl Divers". Although space was tight, it hurts that the vastly inferior "Greenfingers" B-sides are here instead. The decision to include the yummy remake of Meridians' "Splash" ("Resplash"), is a good call, as is the killer comp track "Daddy Needs A Throne" (previously only on a Touch cassette). But I guess there wasn't a CD plant that could get closer to 80 minutes and include the haunting "For Those In Peril On The Sea", from the same Sub Rosa comp LP as "Resplash". Oh, it hurts. At least Sub Rosa put it on a CD overview of the comp series.

My other favorite post-Heat artifact is a mysterious tape. The person I got it from, an old-school tape trader, had it as a cassette by Gareth Williams entitled Flaming Tunes. Apparantly never released on vinyl, it has been bootlegged on the After The Heat CD with Hayward and Lifetones tracks. Some confusion seems to exist, but I do NOT think that these recordings are the short-lived post-Williams This Heat lineup (which did play live and possibly record). The whole tape is great in this joyous post-Eno way, and since Williams died a few years back it'd be nice if this got reissued. Comments, anyone?

"Beginning The Hours"
"The Sky Is Full Of Stars"

Tomorrow we turn to the last Rough Trade band of the week, the Raincoats, for a cautionary tale of what happens when major labels reissue records...

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