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SIMON SAYS...

Foreword/forewarning: this is the first piece of music journalism I ever wrote. At the age of 16, while still at school, I sent a letter to the local newspaper, The Barry & District News, complaining that there was nothing in it for young people and it was just full of obituaries and ladies' skittles results (which it truly was). I wasn't angling for a job, but they wrote back to me with a challenge to see if I could do any better. The result was a weekly pop column called Simon Says (their name, not mine), which ran for two years between the summers of 1984 and 1986.

Putting this first effort online is a bit like showing baby pictures, and obviously I cringe at a lot of it. Nevertheless, some perverse compulsion makes me want to share it. It's interesting to see that I'd already picked up the bad habit of using 'journalese' (phrases like "first solo outing", "a creditable comeback" etc) from reading the music press. I suppose I thought that's how you were meant to write, so I did. The simple, declarative statements ("the lyric is sensitive", "the words are witty") show that I had yet to hone my descriptive skills. I also flinch at the juvenile over-use of exclamation marks (my fault), the often-peculiar punctuation (which I'm going to ungallantly blame on the Barry & District's subs), and the desperately unfunny alliterative gag about pop stars buying football clubs. I've left it all intact, warts and all. No Stalinist revisionism here.

I have no idea why I found Lloyd Cole's name so remarkable (the apparent pun on the word 'locomotion' impressed me far more than it deserved to). I'm also baffled by the "hint of something harder, like The Alarm or The Clash" that I heard in "Perfect Skin", which really isn't there at all. I can only assume that I'd heard the song once on the radio, and it had mutated in my imagination. My review of "Hole In My Shoe" by Neil doesn't read like a 9, does it? I can only put that down to some residual tribal loyalty as a rabid Young Ones fan. Christ, how gracious of me to haughtily concede that Bob Marley was "the King of Reggae", eh? Oh, and if I'd known what my own genetic code held up its sleeve for me, I might have been a bit kinder about the bald bassist from Re-Flex.

On the plus side, my tendency towards waspish irreverence and sarcasm is already starting to show, I'm mostly still in agreement with my musical judgement, and it's comforting to see that I was already banging on about the Soviet Union, and sneaking in a party political broadcast for CND, in my very first column.


The weirdest thing, though, is my review of "When Doves Cry" by Prince. It's long been a foundation stone of my superhero origin myth as a Prince fan that I heard that song on the radio, never having heard anything by him before, and it blew my mind instantly. Looking at this review, this wasn't the case, on two counts. Firstly, I give it a good review, but not a great one. Furthermore, I evidently had (negative) preconceptions about Prince, perhaps based on hearing one other song ("1999", most likely), or seeing photos in Smash Hits and finding his look off-putting somehow. Clearly he, and it, grew on me. Big time.

With those disclaimers - and a reminder that I was JUST A KID, so be gentle with my younger self - I'll leave you to read on.

Simon SaysSIMON SAYS... (published in The Barry & District News, Thursday 12th July, 1984)


Hi, I'm Simon Price and from now on I'll be writing a weekly column containing reviews of singles and L.P.'s, pop news, and features aimed at the young people of Barry.


SINGLES


Lloyd Cole and the Commotions: Perfect Skin (Polydor). A great debut single by a group with a wonderful name (is his name really Lloyd Cole?), which sounds similar to Orange Juice, Haircut 100, The Bluebells (hardly surprising, as the band features ex-Bluebell Laurence Donegan on bass), with just a hint of something harder, like The Alarm or The Clash. The words are witty and well-used, and sound as if they weren't intended for the top 20. If there's any justice, though, that's where this will be in a few weeks. RATING - 9.


Difford and Tilbrook: Love's Crashing Waves (A&M). A creditable comeback by the two main members of the sadly underrated (and success-starved) Squeeze. It has a definite 1960's Tamla-Motown feel to it, and at times sounds especially like Stevie Wonder. Something tells me this won't be a hit, but then the best records never are. RATING - 9.


Alison Moyet: Love Resurrection (C.B.S.). This is the first solo outing by 'Alf', one-time lead singer of the excellent but short-lived Yazoo. I hate to say this but Alf's voice seems to have lost that rough edge we all know and love. This is a slick production with plenty of pretty synth-riffs here and there, but the actual melody of the song is only apparent after several hearings. A competent vocal performance and, if this was by someone unknown, I'd probably praise it. But it's not, and we've come to expect better from Alf . . . it all makes me wonder whether it's worth waiting 18 months for. By the way, I hear Alf is planning a tour soon with "real musicians" (i.e., more brass and less synthesisers)-an interesting change of style to look forward to. RATING - 7.


The Mighty Wah!: Come Back (Eternal). Modest as ever, Pete Wylie returns after a year since Wah! released the epic "Story of the Blues" with an equally memorable single, which seems to be receiving enough air play to ensure that it becomes a hit. Technically there is no doubt that Wylie can't sing, but it sounds great and that's what really matters. RATING - 8.


Neil: Hole in my Shoe (WEA). If you accept this purely as a comedy single, then it's only half as good as the Young Ones, but that still makes it twice as good as anything else around (sorry Alexei!). It seems as if Neil (real name Nigel Planer) is out to make a celebrity of himself. He's released a book, is always on T.V and radio, and now he's made a single. I just hope he doesn't turn out like Tracey Ullman. The musicianship is slightly below that of the Traffic original but it's meant to be, and when was the last time you laughed at a Traffic record? RATING - 9.


Ultravox - Lament (Chrysalis). Fun-loving Midge and the laugh-a-minute lads come back with an aural ordeal which sounds like the ever so serious and dramatic "Visions in Blue". Come on, lads, where's the tune? RATING - 3.


Grandmaster and Melle Mel: White Lines (Don't do it). (Sugarhill). A curious mix of fifties pop and eighties electro-disco, this. Here the furious five are at their most forceful, putting a rap warning about the dangers of heroin addiction over an infectious bassline. This is also, by far, the most commercial tune they've released to date, which should help put their message across. It's been around since last autumn and has rarely left the top 75. The sad thing is that it's been partially banned by Radio 1 - it's restricted to chat shows. Will someone tell me why? RATING - 9.


The Jacksons (featuring Mick Jagger): State of Shock (Epic). Like his duets with Paul McCartney, it is only Michael's voice which makes this worthwhile. What exactly does Mick Jagger do here? His vocals are subdued and he might as well not have turned up at the studio. The stop-start rhythm and Tito's slightly heavy Stones-style guitar reminds me very much of "Beat It." I can't hear this without thinking of the Jacksons' internal feuding and this only increases my frustration in waiting for something NEW from Michael. RATING - 7.


Re-Flex: Couldn't stand a Day (EMI). Here they are again, the latest and most dreadful in a growing line of would-be Durannies. They try ever so hard to be pretty-boys, but they've got no chance with that bald bassist. This song is a tuneless mess of crash-cymbals and post-New Romantic guitar riffs. The sooner this band disappears without trace, the better. RATING - 0.


Bob Marley and the Wailers: Waiting in Vain (Island). One Love? Definitely. Buffalo Soldier? Maybe. Waiting in Vain? No. This is not worth releasing. No-one can deny that Bob Marley was the King of Reggae, and songs like Jamming, Could you be Loved and No Woman, No Cry, prove that. But this was one of his less noteworthy singles and, despite the pleasant summery feel, this is almost wallpaper music and its re-release stinks of money-spinning by Island. RATING - 5.


Prince and the Revolution: When Doves Cry (Warner Brothers). I never thought I'd hear myself praising a Prince single, but this is different. Prince, the man with the Michael Jackson meets Dead or Alive image, has long been the idol of the dance-floor funk clique, but has yet to penetrate the U.K. top 40. This is America's number one and I can see it doing nearly as well over here. All I can detect on this single, apart from the vocals, is a sole high-pitched synth and a drum machine, but surprisingly it doesn't sound empty. The lyric is sensitive and the tune is simple but beautiful. RATING - 8.


ALBUMS


Rolling Stones: Rewind 1971-84 (EMI).

I have to point out before I start that this is the third Stones' Greatest Hits to be released in quick succession, the others being "Story Of The Stones" and "Success". Neither of them is the definitive collection. The period covered here includes "Brown Sugar," "It's Only Rock and Roll" and "Emotional Rescue," but the chances are you'll prefer "Satisfaction," "Paint It Black", "Ruby Tuesday" - all absent here. This isn't even half the story. RATING - 4.


Spandau Ballet - Parade (Reformation).

Despite what you'll have been told elsewhere, this is dreadful compared to their "True" album and is by far their worst album to date. They've tried to harden and quicken their style by adding more guitar but it's been at the expense of melodies. The disappointing "Only When You Leave" is the opening track, and some of the better tracks are "Highly Strung" and "Always in the Back of My Mind". They've lost their distinctive style and sound anonymous and unpolished. RATING - 5.


Various Artistes: Let the Children Play (Panic Records).

At 3.99 for a double album this has got to be worth investigating, especially when the money goes to a good cause, the anti-nuclear movement. Two sides each are devoted to music and alternative comedy. The music ranges from the spine tingling (Billy Bragg, Poison Girls) to the dull (General Public, Peter Gabriel) and from studio perfection (Madness, Mari Wilson) to rushed jobs (Flying Pickets, Captain Sensible). The comedy also varies from the hilarious (Andy De La Tour, Alexei Sayle, John Dowie) to the unfunny (Norman Lovett, The Joseys). Overall the quality is erratic but this L.P. is well worth the money. RATING - 7.


TOUR DATES (Cardiff)


Spider. - New Ocean Club, August 1st.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions. - University, October 10th.

Depeche Mode. - St. David's Hall, October 10th.


POP NEWS


Scots rockers BIG COUNTRY are recording a second L.P. to be released in September. Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Michael Jackson have both been given a thumbs-down by the USSR - Soviet spokesmen say "the Russian people are gravely offended by the portrayal of them as aggressive and belligerent" of the Frankie video and "he is nothing but a great showbiz swindle" of Michael. Seems Frankie have their fair share of enemies these days. Julio Iglesias is trying to buy his ex-soccer club Real Madrid - what next? Marilyn buying Man. Utd.? Limahl buying Liverpool?

U2 have released a video of their famous Red Rocks concert entitled "Under A Blood Red Sky" lasting 61 minutes and featuring 12 songs. Gary Numan is starting his own label - Numa Records, with demo tapes he's received from bands who have been turned down by everyone else. Echo and the Bunnymen are going on tour in September and October. Should be a bundle of laughs.

Also recording an L.P. for release, David Bowie, Iron Maiden are embarking on a "World Slavery Tour" in September and an L.P. "Powerslave" even sooner, the theme being the Egyptian god Horus. Makes a change from death, devils and leather, I suppose.

Thompson Twins are releasing a limited edition 26-minute cassette of "Sister of Mercy" and three other tracks. Meanwhile, Jools Holland releases "Black Beauty" as a single, and Grandmaster Flash and Grandmaster Melle Mel both have Greatest Hits L.P.s out.

I would like to hear from any youth clubs, sports club, discos, etc. which could be mentioned in this column.

That's all for now, more next week!





















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