Amoeblog

One album wonders: Shop Assistants' Shop Assistants

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 18, 2014 07:31am | Post a Comment
SHOP ASSISTANTS - SHOP ASSISTANTS (1986) 


In this week's installment of One album wonders we look at the Scottish band, Shop Assistants. On the eve of the Scottish independence referendum they were officially named on of the Top 50 Scottish bands of all time (see Top 50 Scottish bands of all time).

The band formed in Edinburgh in 1984, originally as Buba & The Shop Assistants). The original line-up was Annabel "Aggi" Wright (vocals), David Keegan (guitar), Sarah Kneale (bass), Laura MacPhail (drums), and Ann Donald (more drums). Stephen Pastel produced, provided the artwork, and sang back-up on their debut single, “Something to Do" on the very short-lived Villa21 Records. Soon after Pastel nicked Aggi for his own Glasgow-based band, The Pastels.


Aggi's replacement was Alex Taylor and with the line-up change came a shortening of their moniker to Shop Assistants. Shop Assistants debuted with Shopping Parade EP in 1985, released on on The Subway Organization, run by Martin Whitehead of Bristol-based band The Flatmates. Its lead track, "All Day Long" was described by Morrissey as his favorite single of the year" which is the sort of endorsement that should, but never did, make a band's career.


Donald quit shortly afterward and without her the band recorded and released "Safety Net" on Keegan's own 53rd & 3rd Records. In 1986, another of their songs, "It's Up To You,” was included on the NME’s now famous scene-making C-86 cassette. 


Having achieved some independent success Shop Assistants next signed to Chrysalis Records, the Blue Guitar Records imprint of which was credited on their sole full-length album, Shop Assistants. Considering its quality, it performed surprisingly poorly commercially. In 1987, Taylor disbanded the band in and formed The Motorcycle Boy with former members of Shop Assistants and East Kilbride's second-finest, Meat Whiplash. They also proved to be one album wonders, releasing just Scarlet in 1989.


In 1990, Shop Assistants reunited -- albeit without Taylor (or Wright, for that matter). This time around original bassist Sarah Kneale assumed vocal duties and the line-up additionally included the addition of Margarita Vasquez-Ponte of Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes on drums. The new lineup released “Here It Comes” and “Big 'E' Power” in 1990 before again splitting up and after which another member (this time David Keegan) defected to The Pastels. 
*****

The 50 Best Scottish Bands of All Time

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 16, 2014 03:12pm | Post a Comment


By now you and I have heard the arguments for and against Scottish independence from the UK but as someone who has naturally bristled like a thistle when diasporic people argue passionately and ill-informedly about another country's political situations (which they are thankfully powerless to effect) I'll keep my political opinions to myself. What I will do instead is far more frivolous purposes -- that is list the best Scottish bands of all time.


*****
 


Given its small population, Scotland has produced a fairly shocking amount of great music. Sure, there have been occasional English bands of note -- almost always from the north -- but I've always taken Anglophiles' preference for all things (assumed to be) English over English language pop from anywhere else as proof of a terminal subcultural defect. It's not really fair to blame England for Anglophiles any more than it is to blame Nirvana for Puddle of Mudd but I suppose it's because so many of the helmet-haired horde mistakenly think that I am one of them that they so vex me. How could I not be an Anglophile when I drink more tea than the average North African, enjoy curry in all of its Asian forms, and my favorite writer is Irish

I wouldn't describe myself as an Albaphile either -- as I generally like things because they're good and not because of where they're from. Scottish bands are generally good, too. I'm not a fan of The Beta Band, Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Eurythmics, The Exploited, Franz Ferdinand, IdlewildMogwaiPaolo NutiniThe Proclaimers, The Reindeer Section, The Rezillos, Snow PatrolStealers Wheel, Texas, and Wet Wet Wet although it's possible that I just haven't heard the right songs yet. 

About a decade ago I noticed the sudden appearance of Bobby Gillespie clones and detected a concurrent rise in appreciation of Scottish pop I suggested to more than one Britpop DJ (Britpop in the American catchall sense referring to all post-Phil Collins British music not sung by Seal) that they give Parklife a rest for just one night in just do a set entirely comprised of Scottish pop... or Kiwi pop -- or better yet, both together! It seemed that Scotland and their pop music might blow open the artificial dichotomy of Anglophila vs. Anglophobia and soon we'd all be enjoying music from beyond the Anglosphere altogether!

Lo and behold, my wish is finally coming true -- well, the wish to hear an all-Scottish set*** -- and all it took was the possible dissolution of the United KingdomClub Underground, a Chinatown-based dance club named after England's most famous rapid transit system, will be throwing (regardless of outcome) a Scottish Tribute Night (sorry, "Nite") on Friday, 19 September at Grand Star Jazz Club.

And drouthy neibors, neibors meet - Drinking and dining and drinking at the Tam o' Shanter Inn

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 19, 2012 09:55pm | Post a Comment
Tomorrow I'm dining at the Tam o' Shanter Inn in the Northeast LA neighborhood of Atwater Village. I needed to write about something and haven't yet been able to finish my piece about Irvine so here you go...


A tam o' shanter is a 19th century nickname for a traditional sort of brimless, usually wool, Scottish bonnet topped with a toorie (pom-pom). It, in turn, is named after "Tam o' Shanter," the eponymous hero of the poem by the late, great Robert "Robbie" Burns written in 1790.

"Tam o' Shanter" is part of a once-popular, comic, chiefly British poetic subgenre known as the "Wild Ride." The best known example of which is Lord Byron's "Mazeppa. " A later example is William Cowper's "The Diverting History of John Gilpin." 


 


In the Our Gang films, Spanky wears a tam o' shanter. In the opening sequence of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, the titular heroine wears one -- known (because she's a woman) as a "tammy" or "tam."



The Tam o' Shanter Inn was opened by Lawrence L. Frank, Walter Van de Kamp, and Joe Montgomery in 1922 as Montgomery's Country Inn and is one of Los Angeles's oldest restaurants. In 1923, though Montgomery left the partnership, the restaurant was re-named Montgomery’s Chanticleer Inn. In 1925 it was transformed into a Scottish restaurant (although the restaurant also serves English cuisine such as Yorkshire pudding) called The Tam o' Shanter Inn.





The restaurant was reportedly the first to offer "car service deluxe" in which waitresses would serve car-obsessed patrons in their automobiles, beginning in 1935.



Lawrence Frank went on to establish Lawry's Restaurant in 1938 in Beverly Hills with Walter Van de Kamp after marrying into the latter family (the one behind Van de Kamp Bakery). The same year they began selling Lawry's seasoned salt in retail shops.


In 1950, Frank's son, Richard N. Frank, was added to the ownership staff. He added the "ale & sandwich bar," and in 1968 changed the name of the restaurant to "The Great Scott." It remained The Great Scott until 1982, when it reverted to The Tam o' Shanter. 



More than just a Scottish restaurant, the Inn was meant to have a thoroughly Scottish theme. It was probably the simulacrum as much if nor more than the food that turned Walt Disney into the restaurant's best known champion. It was designed by Hollywood set designer, Harry Oliver. That's certainly the main reason that I go! Other famous frequenters reportedly included Dorothy and Lillian GishDouglas FairbanksFatty Arbuckle, Gloria Swanson, John WayneMary PickfordRudolph Valentino, Theda Bara, and Tom Mix -- though the list of celebrity fans seems to grow each time a new menu is published.

Although I was just there a couple of weeks ago, I will return tomorrow night!



Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippeny, we fear nae evil;
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!?

(from "Tam o' Shanter")

*****

Become a fan of Eric's Blog on Facebook!    
&a

Alasdair Roberts Chats About His Beautiful New Album Spoils

Posted by Miss Ess, June 4, 2009 04:32pm | Post a Comment
Drag City recording artist and Scotsman Alasdair Roberts' new album Spoils is one of the best I've heard all year. It's a lyrically dense, elegant and complex album with trad folk touches. One of its best qualities is its natural ease -- it manages to sound both organic and dense, positively medieval and modern at the same time. Roberts has been creating eloquent, idiosyncratic albums for quite some time, since 1994 to be exact, at first with the band Appendix Out and then simply under his name for the past 8 years. He was rather famously signed to Drag City after handing Will Oldham a tape of his music back in 1995, and his musical career has blossomed on since then. Spoils feels like the culmination of the sound he has cultivated since his first solo album. It is well worth tracking down and listening to repeatedly. My interview with Alasdair follows.


Miss Ess: When and how did you begin writing songs?

Alasdair Roberts: At 15 when I saw footage of the Hindenburg disaster on television and heard the pain in the presenter's voice saying, "Oh, the humanity." I then wrote my first proper song called "Autumn."

ME: What records from your youth have stayed with you most strongly?

AR: Early eighties pop singles. "Karma Chameleon" by Boy George; "Don't Leave Me This Way" by the Communards. "Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth.

ME: Whose music inspires you? Whose words inspire you?

AR: Many, many musicians. Some fantastic Romanian buskers in Glasgow city centre today. Fiddle and accordion. I am constantly amazed at how many great musicians there are everywhere who don't receive the credit they deserve. At the moment, Hector MacAndrew. After that I'll listen to Monteverdi. Everything I hear at one turn makes me want to quit and otherwise makes me want to improve my own art and keep going.

Words-wise, recent reading has been a lot of poetry from the so-called Metaphysicals to Wallace Stevens, Sorley MacLean in translation, Geoffrey Hill, David Jones, as well as the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, Colm Toibin's translation of the Cattle Raid of Cooley, the Poetic Edda, writings of Mircea Eliade, Kerenyi and Emma Jung's book on the Grail legend. That kind of stuff.

What Scottish rock and folk artists are your favorites?

There are so many -- singers like Lizzie Higgins and her mother Jeannie Robertson, Davie Stewart, Elizabeth Stewart, her aunt Lucy Stewart, Duncan Williamson... Dick Gaughan, the earlier records particularly.

How did Appendix Out's first single on Palace Records come to be?

Will Oldham heard some four-track recordings and handed them on to the guys who ran Palace Records. They put out the first two songs on the tape -- I front-loaded it so that the hits were first.

What kind of connection do you feel you have with Will Oldham's music? It's like you both are able to mingle aspects of your countries' deep rooted, native sounds with something completely your own...

Maybe some kind of similar attraction to the song form and engagement with singing as a means of "expression." An awareness of what's gone before and an attempt to reconcile that in creating something new. An element of metaphysical and philosophical exploration. Similar straddling of intellect and idiocy.

What comes first for you with your songs: music or lyrics? What was your writing process like for Spoils? The songs all seem connected in a beautiful way.

A mixture of both -- I take notes of lyrics all the time which eventually become songs. Guitar parts come separately -- I experiment a lot with different tunings. I'm aware by now that I'll never have the greatest guitar chops, so it's been a concern to try and forge a distinctive guitar style via the use of scordatura, which makes me sound like a better player than I actually am. Half the Spoils songs were written in a crazy summer blurt of activity; then I went on tour and the other half were written afterwards.

Where was your new album recorded? How did you decide on the instrumentation? Do you hear the songs in your head before you record or do you spontaneously bring them together in the studio?

A small analogue studio called Green Door in Glasgow. Great engineers Sam and Emily. Re: instrumentation, I had an idea that the record would be 'syncretic' -- yoking together apparently oppositional belief systems and/or musical approaches, so I brought together musicians from a lot of different backgrounds; all great musicians in their respective fields, all fairly well superior to me instrumentally...


Your songs are clearly influenced by ancient tales/imagery. What first exposed you to mythology? What about it appeals to you?

I don't know; it seems like a fertile area for the generation of ideas; the mythospheres of the world. It's not about escapism or nostalgia, it's more about the way that matters ancient can still have relevance today, and perhaps eternal relevance, although that's probably fanciful.

You are touring with Bert Jansch this summer in the US! Which album of his is your favorite?

I have been listening a lot to his record Avocet recently... beautiful.

What records have you been listening to lately?

A lot of stuff on tour -- Avocet... Fonotone boxed set... Abner Jay... Dexy's Midnight Runners, Kitchen Cynics, Alban Berg as played by Anne-Sophie Mutter, Bach's Magnificat, Jock Duncan, William Parker's Double Sunrise Over Neptune, Chain and the Gang, Hector MacAndrew, Gaelic Bards and Minstrels by William Matheson, Wagner's Parsifal, Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate... etc.

What song describes your life right now?

"It's the World's Gone Crazy (Cotillion)" by Waylon Jennings. My own new song "Scandal and Trance," which treats of the current global economic meltdown.

What is an album that you love that you think more people should hear?

Bris by Nils Okland. The Noah's Ark Trap by Nic Jones.

What has been your best record store find?

Double Shirley Bassey live LP in my local charity shop.

Thanks for taking the time to do this. Come to San Francisco sometime soon!

Would love to come back!


Due to popular demand:

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, June 12, 2007 01:01pm | Post a Comment
I don't know why people have to contact me via myspace when they could show me some mad props in the comments field on amoeba.com/blog!!!  But ... whatever. I love you!

Here it is, you lazy internet tweedles: Mouth and MacNeil!!!!!


Of course, when Uni and I perform this song, there will be much much less sexual tension, though no one can eradicate the sensual power of this song! If you are in Scotland, Paris or arounds about England, check Uni's myspace page for tour dates in your area! Don't miss out on this magical extravaganza!!

Ding!

-- Brickly