For appearing on a short-lived subsidiary – run by Patrick Moore (a.k.a. writer Philip Hoare) – of Les Disques du Crepuscule.
For the simple fifties-era line drawing of two boys in shorts chosen to decorate the cover of a record released at the height of post-punk.
For the parenthesis in the song’s title. I like parentheses in song titles. See also the Clientele’s ‘(I can’t seem) to make you mine’.
For the angelic voice of the young Michael Head. You should hear his live version of Bacharach and David’s ‘Walk on by’, surreptitiously added as a secret track to the Longshot for your love compilation on which this single also appears.
For the way the song begins at a canter and ends at a gallop.
For Andy Diagram’s wonderful trumpet-playing, and for the fact that he and Mick are still making music together thirty years later.
For the perfection of the sound and the strings – bittersweet rather than syrupy – so confidently included so early in a recording career. First time out, in fact.
For being better than the later version on Pacific Street, which is fine in its own way, but being longer somehow doesn’t have quite the youthful élan of the earlier single version.
For the fact that there’s always something on my mind too. It’s the perfect song for the natural born worrier who loves fluid, graceful, timeless pop music.
What a spread. If you’re a fan of Shack, Michael Head & the Strands, the Pale Fountains, or John Head as a slowly emerging and wonderful songwriter in his own right, then accept the Captain’s invitation and sit down for a dinner that would have satisfied Admiral Lord Nelson himself – downloads of live performances, sessions, and demos dating from this year all the way back to a live performance by the Paleys in 1981. I’m working my way through them from either end, and there are treats aplenty. That Paleys show – at Plato’s Ballroom in Liverpool – is as gloriously ropey as it is historic (they dared to start with a flute solo! In 1981! Five years after punk!); Mick bellows like a bull at times.
John Head’s solo performance from the Port Eliot Festival earlier this year shows that sooner or later he is going to produce a solo LP to match all the wonderful albums of song writing assembled by his brother over the years. It includes a great song, ‘1967’, reversing the usual point of view about meeting your hero – in John’s case, Arthur Lee of Love.
Then – now somewhere in the middle of the story, and the downloads page – there are the legendary Shack Kitchen demos (more accurately recordings or run-throughs, I would say), throughout which the Head brothers prove themselves just as adept as XTC at donning sixties garb, and – most exciting of all – the demos for The magical world of the Strands. Inevitably somewhat plainer than in their final, perfected forms, the demos nevertheless exert a fascination of their own. You can see why the man behind Megaphone was willing to risk his money on a musician who in 1996 had fallen out of favour.
It’s like Andy Partridge’s Fuzzy warbles, except online and gratis. Shacknet, we salute you.
While we’re on the subject, here’s a 2003 Stylus article by Nick Southall about The magical world of the Strands which pretty much perfectly captures what makes it one of the greatest records ever made.