Monday, 19 May 2014

If you believe your dreams will come true…… Marion

Certain bands can take you right back to the place you first heard them weather its Pulp with Lip-gloss or Are You Blue Or Are You Blind by The Bluetones, there are bands who can take you right back there. The band I’m talking about today are one of these and it’s track eight on their debut album that takes me straight back to 1995. I was 17, I was wearing a Sleeper T-shirt and I was standing in the middle of a record shop in Torquay in South Devon when I first heard the single, and boy did it sound fantastic.

I would like to introduce……. Marion

The classic Rough Trade Records would release the band’s debut single Violent men which would gain them their first fan base before moving on to sign for London records right at the beginning of the Britpop explosion in the latter part of 1994. In their second single Sleep we find the band releasing quite possibly best single from their forthcoming debut album and possibly the first Britpop single using a harmonica! The single storms along with the blast of pure harmonica and a guitar riff hiding behind it ready to pounce and punch you right between the eyes. The song sounded like no other in 1995 with its self-importance strut, Distortion overlays and lead singer Jamie’s Perfect vocal.
Now we come to what I believe is Marion’s greatest glory, they went and released the single Toys For Boy’s and with it a single cover that would dress my bedroom wall. The song begins with an opening riff that sounded like nothing else at the time and when the drums kick in you know they mean business and let’s be honest this is want Marion was all about for me. I always thought Marion were a cross between Gene and These Animal Men after a heavy session of speed! Marion were at the top of their game and with their quite brilliant performance of I Stopped Dancing on the BBC’s Britpop Now television program they were gaining quite a fan base. With the release of the singles Lets All Go Together and Time the band would release their debut album This World And Body to critical acclaim and one of my all-time favourite albums from the period. Their debut album is one of only a handful of album I’m my collection I would have given my right arm to have had written. The whole album is chock full of sweaty speed freaked sing-alongs with one of the best vocalists from the Britpop generation.
So we waited two years for another glimpse of what the band would come up with next and they would go on to release the single Miyako Hideaway. Sounding like a completely different band altogether but also sounding like the Marion we knew and loved. With their second album The Program they seemed to have a slight groove going on and the opening track is a belter. A song that I would imagine Rick Witter from Shed Seven would love to shake his Maracas to whilst swinging his hips. The opening track The Smile is one hell of an opening track and quite ballsy not just to change their sound but to place it at track one.   

I’ll be honest now, I hate the last 95% of all the write ups that I do for this blog because most end the same way. Yep 1997 happened and Marion’s second album was released in March 1998 and despite being made up of songs that reflected a band going through change and diversifying their sound the album didn’t even chart in the UK. They disbanded a year later and Marion as a band were no more. Lead singer Jamie Harding was recording music but nothing was released whilst the most of the other band members were involved in the music industry in some sort of way.
Until 2006 when Jamie and guitarist Phil Cunningham started working together and started write new material for a possible new band. A one off show was planned to debut new songs and old material from the Marion back catalogue and they decided to keep the bands original name. The band played several more shows and each time the shows sold out to bigger crowds. But this crazy thing called life keeps getting in the way of Marion’s success and the band hit problems including their new bassists Che breaking his neck and Jamie being admitted to hospital needing open-heart surgery due to a blood condition.  Fast-forward to 2001 and with a shuffle around of members I’m pleased to announce that the original line up has reformed and started to play again. The Marion website has not been updated since 2012 but Jamie has been hosting an Indie night in Manchester and quite regularly updates his official Facebook account.

So do yourself a favour and go hunt down eventing Marion. You’ll find a British band with one of the most distinctive singers from the 90s being backed up by a band who played with such passion and enthusiasm. The energy that the band portrayed weather in the studio or playing live (One of the greatest bands to play at the Phoenix festival in 1996) shone through every note sung, every string plucked and every drum skin hit.

Not just another British band but a band who helped put Britain on the musical map of the world and showed how it should be done.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

She dreams of a fast getaway.... Sleeper

Just another female fronted band?

No actually! In fact the band I’m writing about today would go on to be the epitome of Britpop and would show that it wasn’t just blokes that could front successful indie bands.

I would like to introduce …… Sleeper

Many people remember the bands that first got them into music and whilst some of us dabbled into certain music genres at an younger age that we would like to forget (Hip Hop and Metal were mine!) there are bands and musicians that picked up your ears and lead you away from the school of sheep that told you was cool at the time.  For me bands Like Whiteout, Elastica, Menswe@r and echobelly were bands that I found on my own but without Sleeper I don’t think I would have the excitement to peruse other acts. Once again I found myself tuning into the Radio 1’s Evening Session and upon hearing the single Swallow i found myself being knocked back by the spunkiness of it all and had whilst having visions of what the lead singer looked like! Then they released my favourite sleeper single Delicious with its sordid lyrics and its spangled guitar all played at a furious pace and as a teenager I always thought Louise Wener was singing about me.
So we find ourselves in 1995 and we find the British public opening its arms to bands coming out of each and every corner of the land and Sleeper would be top of the cue and to seal the deal they would release the song that would push them into the limelight, they went and released Inbertweener. From the early singles reaching the heady heights of the mid 70’s in the UK single charts the single would be sitting pretty at number sixteen and would be a fitting introduction to the forthcoming album Smart. The single would set the tone for their debut album and their sound that would continue through all their albums with its witty lyrics and punchy choruses. Like some other bands of the time Sleeper would have the knack of writing songs that were so very British with themes including  Fashion, sordid sex games, staying out all night and just getting pissed. With the release of their debut album Smart we find the band all over the music press and also splattered over the chests of teens with the explosion of band t-shirts that were being sold at every gig by EVERY band that toured around England. Even though my Sleeper T-shirt didn’t fit me too well I wore it with pride and would be found wearing it at the front row when they played the Phoenix festival in mid-1996.

Things went better and better for the band when they released the single What do I do now and would give them their highest chart position sitting nicely at number 14. It would also be forever found on Britpop compilation albums till the end of time and quite rightly so as it’s a bloody classic. With its infectious chorus and lyrics that would resonate in every teenagers mind at the time we find a song about heartbreak, longing and wanting to be loved. It would also be of the many songs that the band would be remembered fondly for and would even go on to be covered by Elvis Costello.  So with the forthcoming 2nd album on the horizon the band would release one of their highest charting singles and like the single What I Do Know before it would become a sleeper anthem. Sale of the century would be the 2nd single of the new album The It Girl and would chart at number ten and would also feature a cover of the Blondie song Atomic that the band had recorded for the Trainspotting sound track that would further more seal Louise Wener as the queen of Britpop.

So yes it’s about that time that I start writing about the dreaded year of 1997 and the demise of one of my favourite bands of the era. The band would go on to release two more singles and their last studio album Pleased To Meet You and would disband in 1998 although the band would go on release a greatest hits album in 2007.

So there you go, we have another casualty of the Britpop implosion of 1997 and a band that would be sorely missed. But we should take the rough with the smooth and rejoice if that fact that for a small time they would enjoy the success that they deserved and would leave 3 fantastic albums.  And they are one of the sole reasons i am writing this blog and why i am telling their story so they will never be forgotten.

Wow 797 words and not even a mention of the Sleeperbloke   Doh!

Check out the single Inbertweener for a hidden gem of a song called Disco Duncan. You just might find it to be the greatest ever B-side ever released!