Fancy a Fup?
Shop Around Ö part 35
I was sitting on a train the other day on my way into work, trying to read this blokeís paper over his shoulder. Unhelpfully he got rather huffy, and did that irritated rustling of the paper warning thing. And stop making up your own punchlines. This was not one of those awkward occasions when the important nugget of news you need to read just happens to be on the same page as Charlotte Churchís saucy seaside snaps. That sort of thing does happen. Actually, this week, after getting my hair cut, I popped into the cheap bookshop near Waterloo, and found a terrific cheap CD in there, called Mondo Bossa, which had to be bought. Unfortunately the cover did have a striking shot of a young lass rather lacking in the clothing stakes, so yup I had to endure the oh-so-knowing superior sneer of the sales assistant. And you are tempted to justify yourself and say: ďLook pal this CD may look very dodgy but itís got France Gall doing 'Zozo'i, the Gimmicksí 'Ye-Me-Le', and Fred Johnson doing 'A Child Runs Free', and a lot more for £4.99, so actually Iím the cool one here alright?Ē

Anyway, that page I was attempting to read was about a one-man show at the Edinburgh Festival, where someone called Guy Pratt was wowing the crowds with tales of rock star life, and the headline was something about The Who. Iím sitting there thinking: ďGuy Pratt. Hmmm, why does that ring a bell? Guy Pratt. Wasnít there a Guy Pratt in some group I used to like? Was it a group called Speedball? Werenít they a mod-ish group from Brighton 1979-ish? Wore military style tunics and shaggy haircuts? Didnít Tony Fletcher used to push them in his Jamming! fanzine? But does anyone even know of Speedball now? Am I making this up?Ē I was tempted to ask that bloke with the paper. He looked like the sort who might know. Probably saw them supporting the Purple Hearts down the Wellington (just over the road from the bookshop we were just talking about funnily enough). Probably not actually. So I didnít.

Of course these days itís easy to put your mind at ease. So I put Speedball and Guy Pratt into Google, and sure enough there were at least two matches. One of which was a link to a Tony Fletcher/Jamming site, which I shall have to investigate, and the other was to a mod archive, which also looks fun. But, hey, I was right. Guy Pratt was in Speedball. Not a lot of people know that. I mean, I may have finished reading that Belle and Sebastian history this week, and started tormenting myself about how exactly that whole B&S thing passed me by, and I may wonder why I have never actually knowingly heard the Libertines, but I do know all about Speedball! Trouble is, I really donít know if this is a good thing or not.
I donít think it helped buying the Rock Snobís Dictionary either this week. And I of course only bought that because Steven Dalyís involved, and have just been enjoying Steven Dalyís sleevenotes to the Orange Juice Glasgow School compilation. In case, youíve not seen it the cover defines a rock snob as ďa pop connoisseur for whom the actual enjoyment of music is but a side dish to the accumulation of arcane knowledge about itĒ. So, thatís alright then, or is it? The book is surprisingly great, and is full of pithy, bitchy, wonderfully witty and indeed knowing briefs on so many of the things music obsessives seem to take for granted. I would probably punch anyone that called me a rock snob, but I have to confess there were times I felt like saying: ďDo they mean me? They surely do!Ē Like, ďyeah the Gang of Fourís first album was okay, but it couldnít touch the energy of the Peel sessions.Ē Well, laugh however much you like, it also happens to be true.

I like the way also itís acknowledged how the boundaries of snobbery are shifting constantly, and todayís snob is ďby definition, in touch, and thus his fear of calcification ensured that he kept up with developments in hip hop and electronica as surely as he collected Syd Barrett bootlegs.Ē Fair enough, but what it could also go on to say is that once it might have been cool to brag about knowing the Velvet Undergroundís 'Venus In Furs', but now itís cooler to adore Barbara McNair singing the title number of the Venus In Furs film, and oozing sultry soulfulness writhing around on the nightclub floor. But things change, and new obsessions emerge.

It doesnít say itís okay to buy the first Neil Young solo LP because Patrice Holloway contributes backing vocals, nor does it help explain if itís okay to like Serge Gainsbourgís reggae excursions, and indeed the recent versions thereof, but it covers some great ground. Itís a fun book, but Iíll be snobby and say itís not as much fun as Barry Giffordís Out Of The Past (a great guide to 100 film noir classics) or Gene Sculattiís long-lost directory of Cool. What is interesting, given the involvement of one Steven Daly, is the absence of much from the UK pop underground beyond punk, and in particular the avoidance of mention of say Postcard Records, Vic Godard, and Ze.

What would have been tempting would be to include the great lost Subway Sect LP or the Orange Juice Ostrich Churchyard recordings in the lost masterpieces section. Or an additional section on characters kicked out of groups, where something has been irretrievably lost, like Rob Simmons (Subway Sect), Mick Finkler (Teardrop Explodes), and James Kirk (Orange Juice).
Getting into this role play thing, I might even aver that it would have been good to include more electronica, because for the past 20 odd years thatís where most progress has been made. Being totally biased, any snob worthy of the name would include a mention of A Man Called Adam, if only to irritate a greater number of snobs. And the snob in me does balk at buying a compilation called Space Tranquil, which is billed as "an atmospheric collection of mellow eclectic moods ÖĒ, but it is mixed by A Man Called Adam, so I was brave.

The first track on there is actually L. Pierre, so there is a link to Arab Strap and B&S and all that, with 'Jim Dodge Dines At The Penguin Cafť'. It sounds like something off one of the old A Man Called Adam compilations as it happens (check out the Other Stuff series), but the title is enough to set snobsí pulses racing isnít it? Jim Dodge is probably my favourite writer, and I never know whether to be pleased or offended when I see copies of his beautiful Fup around for next-to-nothing. Iím always tempted to stockpile copies, and walk the streets offering copies to beautiful people, but Iím scared of being hit if I ask the sweetest beat girls if they fancy a Fup.

The whole compilation, by the way, is a summer soundtrack to cherish, but the real joy is finding two new A Man Called Adam related tracks. One is allegedly from a forthcoming Sally Rodgers LP called Madmen and Lovers on AMCAís own Other label. Can this be true? Wow! The other is a track by Meugler, which seems to be a moonlighting AMCA. I get excited by such things, because AMCA are almost as frustrating as Jim Dodge when it comes to refusing obstinately to release new product in any sensible diligent manner, choosing instead to do wonderfully unorthodox things like contributing to community projects, teaching schoolkids about DJing skills, getting into songwriting seminars, and just about anything other than being a Hit Factory. I approve thoroughly, but grow tired of snaffling around for treasures like the ones on this mix-CD.

One of the great numbers on this CD incidentally is by Noze, and is compared to Moondog mischievously. Now I know ďthe old dogĒ is shortly to be the subject of a salvage operation by our great favourites Honest Jons, so I think itís fair to say thatís another name omitted from the Rock Snobís Dictionary that everyoneís going to be dropping again afore long. Damn thatís more vinyl Iím going to regret selling on. Wonder if anyoneís got a Speedball compilation in the works though?

© 2005John Carney