My Record Collection 184

Squeeze – were the quintessential English, or London actually, band.   Fantastic songwriting from Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook.  The band also contained at times such luminaries as Jools Holland (see H) and Paul Carrack.  They wrote and performed great and individual songs – and sung in an English accent too.  They had a handful of hits.  They spanned the late Seventies through to the early Nineties, and are still going I believe.  I have 2 collections – first up is Greatest Hits (1992) which covers their best known period.   So many great singles  – ‘Take Me I’m Yours’, ‘Cool For Cats’, ‘Up The Junction’, ‘Labelled With Love’ and ‘Pulling Mussels From A Shell’.  But really almost every song is a blast.  Great stuff.  I had picked up a couple of later CD singles and then saw Up The Junction – a much later collection of their tracks – most were not hits, but good anyway; best of which are ‘Goodbye Girl’, ‘Annie Get Your gun’ and ‘Electric Trains’. 

The late great Viv Stanshall – first came to fame in The Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band.  The Bonzo’s were a regular feature in The Sixties and included Neil Innes (see I), sadly passed away too.  Paul McCartney (see M) produced their biggest hit – ‘I’m The Urban Spaceman’.  Viv was the main vocalist and occasional ‘Euphonium Blower’; he even appeared in the film Magical Mystery Tour, singing ‘Death Cab For Cutie’.  I saw him solo one night on The Old Grey Whistle Test, a crazy comic genius.  But after the Bonzo’s split in the early Seventies Viv was a bit lost.  He wrote songs for Steve Winwood, and did the famous ‘Outros’ on Tubular Bells – but, a chronic drinker, he struggled to record much.  He had a few bands which struggled with his drinking and inconsistency.  He also recorded a few comic sketches with Keith Moon for John Peel  – one of which ‘Sir Henry’ was deemed good enough for a whole album – Sir Henry At Rawlinson End (1978) was possibly the best thing he ever did.  With a cast of weird characters – all voiced by Viv – and a handful of ribald and esoteric songs, the album is a treasured part of my collection.  Sir Henry was a brilliant caricature of English landed gentry, full of prejudices (those nancy-boys are on the lawn) with his unforgettable manservant ‘Old Scrotum’, the wrinkled retainer.  An absolute tour de force.  A few years later a film was made of this starring Trevor Howard (I saw this and was disappointed). But the album remains as a testament to this frail genius.  An album of songs Teddy Boys Don’t Knit came out in 1981.  This is quite esoteric, to say the least.  A few whimsical ditties sung in a falsetto, a couple grunted in a quite rocky style – and the occasional banderole nod to eccentricity.  Best are ‘Ginger Geezer’, ‘Possibly An Armchair’ and the delightful and melodic ‘Terry Keeps His Clips On’ (bicycle clips, which seem to have intrigued Viv no end).  Only for the cognoscenti, not the faint-hearted.  His final recorded album was a feeble and almost unlistenable ‘Sir Henry At Ndidi’s Kraal’.  The music is actually mostly quite good, but Viv’s vocals are often mumbled or so out of tune with the music as to be hard to discern.  The story is that Sir Henry is sent on an expedition to South Africa to negotiate with an undiscovered Zulu tribe.   Many of Sir Henry’s jokes are both unfunny and racist.  And I only play the record out of respect for a lost spirit.  Viv died in a house fire in the early nineties, probably caused by a cigarette and drunkenness.  A sad end to a remarkable talent.

Starsailor were, and possibly still are, a band formed in the late 90’s.  Their only real success and my only album is Silence Is Easy (2003).   A remarkably easy listen, this could have been written and sung any time since the early Seventies to now.  It is also famous as the last record in which Phil Spector was involved in producing before his conviction for manslaughter and subsequent unhappy death.  He was I believe supposed to roduce the whole album but only manged 2 tracks.   A really nice record, but  a touch samey.  Best songs – the title song, ‘Some Of Us’ and ‘Four To The Floor’ 

Stealers Wheel – Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty (see R) were friends growing up in Paisley.  Both had been in local bands.  In 1972 they got together with 3 other musicians and formed Stealers Wheel.  They recorded their eponymous album in 1972.  It was an instant hit, and one of the singles ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ was much later picked up by Tarantino and became a hit all over again.  It was a brilliant record.  Great songs and produced by American team, Leiber and Stoller.  I did have this album and the follow-up Ferguslie Park, by which time they were a duo.  At the time I didn’t even know they had made a third record.  I bought their Greatest Hits on CD (and have just ordered a box set of their three albums – unplayed as yet).  Well, what a pleasant record…I do like (because I know so well) the songs from the first 2 albums. Especially ‘Late Again’, ‘You Put Something Better Inside Me’ and ‘Johnny’s Song’.  What a pity that the band suffered from bad record deals and poor promotion, and maybe a touch of irascibility from Gerry, who went on to some success as a solo artist.

Steely Dan – I first heard them on a cassette called FM, a compilation of new American music in 1976 (Tom Petty also featured), the title track was by Steely Dan.   I have heard the few hits over the years, but never bought any albums.  I do have a Greatest Hits – which is okay.  But far from essential.

Stereophonics – another one of those bands I thought I might like…based largely on their version of ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ (which is very similar to that of Rod Stewart (see S).  I bought the album Just Enough Education To Perform.  It is okay but I get tired of the whiney voice and samey sound.

VIV STANSHALL John Peel 6th April 1991 - YouTube