Great number elevens

This is a follow-up to my recent article looking at a dozen classic tracks that feature at number nine in the running order on the original album that they were released on. I’ve skipped ten and gone straight to number eleven, mainly due to not being able to write one of these every month!

I’d like to again acknowledge Scott D. Hudson’s inspiration, who has used this theme for some of his weekly radio shows called The Ledge that I have listened to as podcasts. He is based in South Dakota, doing a show for Real Punk Radio that I’ve been following since earlier this year.

I was touched when heEleven gave a couple of shout-outs to my ‘number nines’ blog on his radio show, even changing the show he was due to broadcast to do a ‘number eights’ show at the end of August, which you can listen to here.

I’ve selected a dozen tracks again, to reflect the number of months in the year, and to make it fairer if I ever repeat this for January or February! Eleven is to some extent an easier number to do than nine, as there are far fewer albums that stretch to eleven tracks as opposed to nine, so I’ve not had to cruelly leave off as many favourite songs.

However, these are not necessarily my dozen favourite track 11’s as I’ve tried to have a bit of variety as before, although I realise it’s all a little bit white boy indie in the end, and they are presented in no particularly logical order, but here goes…

1. We Have The Technology by Pere Ubu (from The Tenement Year, 1988)

This was the opening single from Ubu’s first album since reforming after six years away, and first release while signed to a major label. Quite why Fontana thought they’d manage to sell a load of Pere Ubu records is a mystery, though they tried their hardest, even lip-synching to this song on the Roland Rat: The Series TV show. I wonder what the Saturday teatime BBC1 audience thought of this number.

2. Jetsam by The Bats (from Fear Of God, 1991)

This comes from the Kiwi band’s third album, one of very few bands from that era to still keep the same line-up to this day. The rather gloomy lyrics contrast with the subtly lovely jangle pop.

They remain one of my very favourite Antipodean bands of all time, whom I went to see at the Powerhaus in Islington back in November 1992 – interestingly (?) just four days after seeing Aussie G.W. McLennan, then ex-The Go-Betweens, in West Kensington. In fact, The Bats was the last paid gig I went to solo for more than seven years!

3. Put Away by The Fall (from Dragnet, 1979)

Of course The Fall are in this list. This is the final cut on their second album, previously recorded (and indeed miles better) for a Peel Session (which is what is below) a year before. There’s some great electric piano from Yvonne Pawlett on the Peel version, with some typically superb guitar work by the vastly underrated Martin Bramah. Current BBC 6 Music DJ Marc Riley plays bass on the Peel version, moving to guitar in time for the album.

4. China Pig by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band (from Trout Mask Replica, 1969)

One of the more tuneful (if not even remotely commercial) numbers from this very influential, challenging album, Beefheart’s third. It was in fact an improvised blues, taped on a cassette recorder (and you can tell) at the house where the band all lived.

The album is sufficiently hard work that I once sold it after initially failing to get into it (back when it was actually a challenge to track it down on CD), then realising it was far too important for me to give up on it so lightly. It’s certainly not a record that finds its way into my ears all that often, but it is unlike pretty much everything else I have ever heard, and is worth the extra effort required to appreciate it.

5. Tell Me What You See by The Beatles (from Help!, 1965)

A great track from my least favourite Beatles album, written by Paul, with great backing vocal support by John. It features some unusual percussion in claves played by Ringo, and George on güiro, a kind of Latin American gourd, while the guitar jangles in the foreground. There’s also a brief instrumental break from a Hohner Pianet, a type of electric piano.

6. Joe’s Kiss by Amsterdam (from The Journey, 2005)

A live favourite that was finally recorded on Ian Prowse’s band’s first proper album, having not appeared on Attitunes or The Curse. Prowse called it “the best song on the record and maybe the best song I’ve ever written”, which is some claim considering it also features his probably still best known number Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?

He’s almost certainly wrong as the album also included Takin’ On The World, The Glorious Day, Nostalgia and You’re A Phoney, although all are probably better on the previous, self-released records. Can’t believe I’ve not seen Prowsey in action for over three years.

Ian McNabb plays guitar on this track on the record. This is a video of a gig at the New Picket (now District) that I attended back in May 2009.

7. Great British Exports by The Nightingales (from Mind Over Matter, 2015)

The post-punk Brummies have now released six albums since their reformation in 2004, in addition to the three they put out first time around. This track is off their latest release, from earlier this year, with those great exports including a good cup of tea, Mumford & Sons and the slave trade!

This is one of the poppier numbers on what is a fine addition to their much-bigger-than-you-think catalogue. They’re a band I first got into due to them often being described as the Midlands’ version of The Fall, a fairly reasonable comparison.

8. 22 Going On 23 by Butthole Surfers (from Locust Abortion Technician, 1987)

I first came across Butthole Surfers when this track reached #44 in John Peel’s Festive Fifty in 1987, though I didn’t get round to buying the album for another three years, when I bought three in the space of two days in a second-hand shop in Sheffield.

It was the closing track on their third, intriguingly titled album and is based around samples of an American phone-in show, with cattle braying at the end. It features a stunning, freaky guitar solo from Paul Leary.

9. Big Sleeping House by Microdisney (from Crooked Mile, 1987)

A much overlooked band, who are actually mentioned at the beginning of Roddy Doyle’s book The Commitments, but not in the movie of the same name.

This is the penultimate track on their third album proper, and first for Virgin Records, produced by The Patti Smith Group’s Lenny Kaye. They sound remarkably mainstream and tuneful, but beneath the commercial veneer lies the viciousness of Cathal Coughlan’s lyrics.

This is an audio recording of them live at the Town & Country Club (now the O2 Forum) in Kentish Town in 1986.

10. Time Thief by Pale Saints (from The Comforts Of Madness, 1990)

The closing track from their debut album. I saw them at The Leadmill in Sheffield when they were touring this record, and then supporting The Boo Radleys at the Astoria in London two years later.

Like many of their shoegaze contemporaries, the band suffers from the rather weak lead vocals, by Ian Masters, with Graeme Naysmith’s guitar the key feature of their sound, including this track.

11. Map Ref. 41°N 93°W by Wire (from 154, 1979)

This was released as a single from their third album, which was so titled as they had played 154 gigs up to the point of its release. The map reference in question is actually Centerville in Iowa and came out of bassist Graham Lewis’s geography studies at school.

Lewis said, “the title was conceptual… notionally the very centre of the mid-west…I guessed and found a place called Centerville nearby… this seemed appropriate, poetical yet hardly scientific.”

As was inevitable at the time, it got nowhere near troubling the charts. It’s so not-really-all-that-odd that it could have been at least a minor hit, in different times, benefiting from Colin Newman’s multi-tracked vocals.

By the way, how have I only literally just now discovered that My Bloody Valentine covered this back in 1996?

12. Wurlitzer Jukebox by Young Marble Giants (from Colossal Youth, 1980)

A gorgeous, sparse post-punk album by this Welsh band, that was once named by Kurt Cobain as one of the five most influential records he had ever heard.

This is just one of many genius tracks off this utterly unique and brilliant album. Never heard (of?) them? Remedy that immediately by watching this typically stilted performance on Something Else, where you can see the audience rather bemused by it all.

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Here are ten of these dozen on Spotify:

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