Picture sleeve for the promotional release of the "Silver Morning" single.
Brian Eno was born on May 15, 1948 in Woodbridge, Suffolk, and was educated at St. Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswitch; at Ipswitch Art School; and at the Winchester School of Art, graduating in 1969. His professional music career began in the early 1970s as a member of the glam/art rock band Roxy Music (1971-73), initially operating the mixing desk, processing the band’s sound with a VCS3 synthesizer and tape recorders, and singing backing vocals, but eventually appearing onstage as a performing member of the group, often flamboyantly costumed. He quit the band after the promotional tour was completed for their second album, “For Your Pleasure” (1973), due to disagreements with lead singer Bryan Ferry and boredom with the rock star life. Eno embarked on a solo career, initially releasing a series of electronically inflected pop albums: “Here Come the Warm Jets” (1974), “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)” (1974), “Another Green World” (1975), and “Before and After Science” (1977). He also produced a number of albums of highly eclectic and increasingly ambient electronic and acoustic albums, and is credited with coining the phrase ambient music, low-volume music designed to modify one’s perception of a surrounding environment. His efforts at composing ambient music began to consume more of his time, starting with “Ambient 1/Music for Airports” (1978) and “Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks” (1983). The latter album yielded the single “Silver Morning” b/w “Deep Blue Day”. This is today’s featured single.
The music on “Apollo” was originally recorded in 1983 for a feature length documentary movie originally entitled “Apollo” and later re-titled “For All Mankind”. The original version of the film had no narration, and simply featured footage of the Apollo moon missions accompanied by Eno’s music. The music on the album is thus a sort of ambient spacescape. “Silver Morning” is an instrumental track (as are all the tracks on the album”, in which Daniel Lanois’s pedal steel guitar provides the primary instrumentation, giving the song a warm, melodic, lazy feeling, conveying a sense of weightlessness quite effectively. With the pedal steel guitar, this track sounds not unlike one of the Grateful Dead’s side projects, and is an enjoyable listen.
The B-side of this single, “Deep Blue Day”, was included in the original “Apollo” soundtrack, but left out of the re-release of the film. Although the original version of the film had a limited theatrical run in so-called “art house” movie theaters, audience response was lukewarm. The filmmakers felt that the film could do better if it reached a wider audience, so they re-edited the film, added narration, re-structured the music and re-titled the film. As a result, several songs originally on the soundtrack were not included in the re-released version, including “Deep Blue Day”. Nonetheless, it is a compelling piece of music. In this case, the keyboards provide much of the lush, ethereal musical atmosphere, although Lanois’s pedal steel guitar adds texture to the composition, giving the track just a hint of a country flavor. This music won’t shake you to your foundations, but it is an evocative piece.
This single (catalog #: EGO 12) was issued on EG Records. There was a picture sleeve issued with this single (shown above). “Apollo” was one of two albums Eno would release in 1983; the other was “Music for Films Volume 2” (which contains some material also contained on “Apollo”). His next project was a collaboration with ambient musician Harold Budd entitled “The Pearl” (1984); next came the compilation albums “Benenungen” and “Benenungen II”, both released in 1985, along with his next album of all-new material, “Thursday Afternoon”. He would not release another album for seven years, with production work seemingly dominating his schedule. “Nerve Net” (1992) represented a return to more rock-oriented material, with heavily syncopated rhythms and a touch of jazz, which still retained Eno’s ambient sensibilities.
Picture sleeve for The Jam's "A Town Called Malice".
The Jam formed in Woking, Surrey, U.K. in 1972 with a fluid lineup that consisted of Paul Weller on guitar and vocals together with various friends at the Sheerwater Secondary School. They played their first gigs at Michael’s, a local club. The lineup began to solidify in the mid 1970s with Weller (bass), Bruce Foxton (rhythm guitar), Steve Brookes (guitar) and Rick Buckler (drums). In their early years, their sets consisted of covers of early American rock and roll songs by such artists as Chuck Berry and Little Richard. They continued in this vein until Weller discovered The Who’s “My Generation” and became fascinated by Mod music and lifestyle. Eventually Brookes left the band and was not replaced. Weller persuaded Foxton to take over as bass guitarist, and Weller became the band’s sole guitarist. The Jam soon gained a following around London playing minor gigs. Although they were considered a punk band, in many ways they stood out from their punk peers, wearing neatly-tailored suits and playing professionally. Indeed, they were labeled by many as “revivalists”. They were signed to Polydor Records by Chris Parry in early 1977. In April of that year, Polydor released The Jam’s debut single, “In the City”. In early May, the band released its debut album, also called “In the City”. After their non-album single, “All Around the World”, reached the U.K. Top Ten, the band was pressed by Polydor to record more material. Thus their second album, “This Is the Modern World”, was released in November 1977. The album got mixed reviews; while some critics were not impressed, many hailed it as a progression from the first album, praising the stylistic variety. They followed this up with a non-album single: “News of the World”, released in March 1978. Around this time, Weller was listening to old Kinks albums and the band recorded a cover version of “David Watts” for their next single, which they followed up with “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight”. Their third album, “All Mod Cons”, was released in November 1978. This was followed by two more non-album singles (“Strange Town” and “When You’re Young”), and eventually the “Setting Sons” LP, which became their first album to chart in the U.S. (peaking at #137). The Jam kicked off the 1980s with a double-A side single “Going Underground” b/w “Dreams of Children”. “Sound Affects”, their fourth album, was released later that year, which contained psychedelic pop. The Jam abandoned the psychedelic pop of “Sound Affects” for their next two singles, “Funeral Pyre” and “Absolute Beginners”. Their fifth (and final) album, “The Gift”, contained songs influenced by soul, R&B and funk, including the #1 hit “A Town Called Malice” b/w “Precious”. This is today’s featured single.
“A Town Called Malice” was the beginning of Paul Weller’s obsession with Northern soul, one which would continue when he launched the Style Council in 1983. The song starts off with a Motown-type bass line, soon joined by an thumping percussion, and an organ somewhat reminiscent of the Spencer Davis Group. The instrumentation is soon joined by Weller singing a typical Jam-type working class drama, with a hint of optimism: “Better stop dreaming of the quiet life cos it’s the one we’ll never know/And quit running for that runaway bus cos those rosey days are few/And stop apologising for the things you never done/Time is short and life is cruel but it’s up to us to change this town called malice.” The track chugs along with the economy of a typical pop song, clocking in at a mere 2 minutes and 57 seconds, but even so, there’s a very brief instrumental break about 2 minutes into the song; the organ is featured prominently throughout the track. The result is a song that is derivative, yet bouncy and entertaining, and arguably one of the best singles of 1982. It is certainly one of The Jam’s best singles.
"A Town Called Malice" single without the picture sleeve.
The B-side, “Precious”, is a funky song that epitomizes the move away from the simple three-chord music of the band’s first two albums. Funk bass lines and wah-wah guitar effects featured prominently on “The Gift”, along with jazzy influences such as brass sections and saxophones, and nowhere is this more noticeable than on “Precious”. Weller forgoes the typical social commentary on this track, which is essentially a love song: “Your precious love – that means so much/Will it ever stop or will I just lose touch/What I want to say – but my words just fail/Is that I need it so I can’t help myself/Like a hungry child – I just help myself/And when I’m all full up – I go out to play”. “Precious” is the longest song on “The Gift”, clocking in at 4 minutes and 13 seconds, and this provides an opportunity for an extended (by the standards of early 1980s British pop) instrumental break, which gives the horn section a chance to shine, as the funky-sounding bass chugs along. Then we get one last lyric before the song ends abruptly with Weller’s concluding grunt. Overall it is not as notable a track as “A Town Called Malice” but is definitely better than the typical B-side. The 12-inch version of the single contained an extended version of the track.
The single (catalog #: 2059456) was released on Polydor Records on January 29, 1982. It was issued with a picture sleeve (shown above). It was the band’s third number one single in the U.K., and was number one for three weeks, keeping “Golden Brown” from The Stranglers out of the top spot. EMI, The Stranglers’ record company, objected to the sales of both the 7-inch and 12-inch versions of “A Town Called Malice” being aggregated to calculate sales, claiming that The Jam’s fans were buying both formats. Following a farewell tour of the U.K., Weller disbanded The Jam and went on to form the Style Council. Bruce Foxton released a solo album and joined Stiff Little Fingers in 1990, and remained with them until 2006. Rick Buckler formed a band called Time U.K. and in 1986, he and Foxton released a single under the name Sharp. To date there has been no reunion of The Jam, and Weller has publicly expressed his lack of interest in any kind of reunion. Foxton and Buckler, however, have played together in a band called From The Jam, which plays Jam material.
"Roundabout" 45 RPM single.
It’s safe to say that when two of a band’s signature tunes are collected on one 45 RPM record, it’s a prime candidate to become the featured single of the day. Such was the case with a Yes single released in 1972. The band that would eventually become known as Yes was formed by vocalist Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire in London, England in 1968. Squire had been in a band called Mabel Greer’s Toyshop with vocalist Clive Bayley, drummer Bill Bruford, and guitarist Peter Banks. Bayley left the band, as did Banks, but Banks returned after only three weeks, and the band added organist/pianist Tony Kaye. Now Anderson, Banks, Squire, Kaye and Bruford were in the lineup, and Banks came up with the name Yes, with the rationale that the three-letter name would stand out on posters. The band soon distinguished itself by taking other people’s songs and turning them into expanded, progressive compositions (e.g. their cover version of The Byrds’ “I See You” from their debut album). Their second album, “Time And A Word” (1970), featured a 30-piece orchestra. Before this album’s release, Peter Banks was fired and replaced by Steve Howe. “The Yes Album” (1971) was the first Yes album to consist entirely of original compositions by the band and the first to be produced by Eddie Offord. After the release of this album, Tony Kaye was either fired or quit; he was replaced by highly-regarded session musician Rick Wakeman. With Wakeman on board, the classic Yes lineup was complete, paving the way for the release of “Fragile” (1972), which spawned today’s featured single: “Roundabout” b/w “Long Distance Runaround”.
“Roundabout” is arguably Yes’s most recognizable song, and it exists in two forms: an 8 minute, 32 second version included on the album, and an edited, 3 minute, 27 second version featured on the single. And the single was rather successful, peaking at number 13 on the Billboard singles chart. “Roundabout” featured all the elements of the classic Yes sound, with longer instrumental passages, firmer bass guitar playing from Chris Squire, and sublime, even abstract lyrics. It opens with an ominous sounding note (sounding like a piano note played backwards) and a classical-sounding acoustic guitar. This section lasts about 40 seconds before launching into the song proper, and for once I can’t say that the song is built around a simple guitar riff – rather, the melody is busy and erratic (and fluid). When the song reaches the first occurrence of the chorus, the wisdom of bringing in Wakeman becomes apparent as his percolating, ethereal keyboard (at times it resembles the sound of a church organ) floats effortlessly above the guitar din. About 4 minutes into the album version, Wakeman gets a chance to shine with a brief keyboard solo. 4 minutes and 55 seconds in, we get a recurrence of the opening melody, with Anderson softly singing the chorus: “In and around the lake/Mountains come out of the sky and they/Stand there”. [Well, mountains don’t come out of the sky, but who can argue with such lyrical flair?] This gives way to yet another distinct passage, with a much lengthier keyboard solo, weaved in between a Steve Howe guitar solo, which in turn leads us to the end of the song, with a rocking version of the chorus followed by the band dreamily singing “Da da da da/Da da da” into the classical guitar strumming the closing melody, bringing us full circle. Even by the lofty standards of 1970’s progressive rock, one has to admit this is a rather elaborate piece.
“Long Distance Runaround”, by comparison, is relatively simple, although there’s a lot going on here as well. As one critic has noted, in the context of the album it initially seems no more significant than any of the shorter pieces on the LP that are sandwiched in between the three epics “Roundabout”, “South Side Of The Sky”, and “Heart Of The Sunrise”, which together account for about two-thirds of the album’s total running time. Perhaps this is why the song was relegated to the B-side of this single. It begins with a guitar and a keyboard playing an upbeat melody in unison, joined shortly by the rhythm section (Squire’s bass once again plays a prominent role). Steve Howe’s guitar incisively cuts through the song’s melody with a remarkable economy – he sounds as if he is racing towards the song’s finish – and Anderson’s vocals are delivered with a dreamy indifference that somehow seems appropriate for the lyrical content (“Cold summer listening/Hot colour melting the anger to stone”). The song is not at all like some of the more ornate pieces in the band’s repertoire; even so, the insistent rhythm of the song was a good indication of the direction the band would eventually take.