Random jukebox – The Shamen

Lots of interesting underwear from The Shamen here, including some nice leopardskin underpants. This is Comin’ On.

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The Shamen – UV

The Shamen always seemed pretty daft and short-lived, and so it’s odd to think about reviewing one of their albums two whole decades after its release. Odder still, when that album is UV.

This was their final release, following two years after their final release on One Little Indian, Hempton Manor. The story goes that they were trying very hard to get themselves released from that contract, but having done so, The Shamen were effectively over. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that UV is a little uninspired at best.

Opening track Mercury offers little new. The beats are, perhaps, a little more house-inspired than previously, but otherwise this could have fit well on Axis Mutatis (1995). That’s a good thing – Axis Mutatis was a great album, but it’s perhaps surprising that three years later they were opening an album with something so similar.

The album had launched with the single Universal, but oddly The Shamen have never quite seemed to be able to bring their own ideas into full fruition without a little help (as witnessed by all the Beatmasters remixes of singles which turned out to be so much better than the originals). So it is that 187 Lockdown‘s handiwork on Universal is what really brings it to life. With that, it’s a great mix of deep house, and the dance/pop crossover that The Shamen were so good at.

The mix of interplanetary and old world references were one of the things that had characterised Axis Mutatis, accompanying tracks that were probably very good for taking drugs to, and so having got the single out of the way, UV settles back in with more of the same. Palen (K) is a very good instrumental, driven by a huge acid bass line. Nothing new, but nothing bad either. Beamship – Brief Sighting is a short beatsy thing that doesn’t seem entirely sure what it wants to be.

You’ll experience a brief moment of joy as I Do sounds a lot like Ebeneezer Goode for exactly one note, and having got past that, it’s a pretty good song, with some nice vocal work but the lyrical drivel that you should absolutely be used to by now. As with a lot of The Shamen‘s own production work, it almost works. Imagine how good this would have been if The Beatmasters had been allowed to get their hands on it.

Pop is next, a big, slow instrumental that takes some inspiration from preceding albums Hempton Manor and Arbor Bona Arbor Mala, the exceptional bonus disc that accompanied Axis Mutatis. It’s not quite as good as any of that, but having accepted that this is a bit of a career retrospective album, it’s good to have a nod to it here.

One of the more misguided things on this release are the multiple versions of Universal, which does make it feel as though it was thrown together pretty quickly from a few random leftovers. 1999‘s version is pretty poor – all the interesting parts of the earlier version have been removed, and replaced with dull house beats, and not a lot else. Even the fade at the end seems to have been slapped on in less time than it took the track to play.

Sativa ’98 is an updated version of an underground 12″ that the duo had released the preceding year, and it’s another pleasant house instrumental, taking a lot of influence from those preceding instrumental albums again. It’s the sort of thing that I feel I’d enjoy more as a single track on an obscure vinyl white label – on an album, or on this album anyway, it just doesn’t quite seem to work.

Serpent is typically daft, but it’s probably the best track on here actually. Again, there’s nothing particularly new here, but it does at least show The Shamen at their best – silly lyrics against great, banging dance music. My apologies for the use of the word “banging” there, but it seemed appropriate.

Next is Mr. C‘s club mix of U Nations, which seems to be different from Universal, although it’s not entirely clear how, as some of the lyrics are shared between the two. I’m not sure my brain can cope with this, but at least some of it appears to be borrowed from Universal, which makes it the third time they’ve put it on here. Is that really necessary?

For Marca Huasi, we get an exploration of drum and bass, territory into which The Shamen had strayed a couple of times before, and you feel as though they almost know what they’re doing, but it doesn’t completely work here. It’s good, but it’s not great. The Technical Itch mix of Sfynx is better, an instrumental, still drum and bass, but they haven’t tried to mix a song into it, so it’s clearer what it’s trying to be.

Finally, we get Metatron, which particularly seems to be echoing Axis Mutatis, but this time they do it well, with the slightly frenzied beats and lyrics that are probably as silly as ever, but aren’t really audible. And then the album draws to a close. So UV isn’t a bad career retrospective for The Shamen, but it’s probably a good thing that they never followed it up – there’s little new here apart from the discovery of house beats.

This album is no longer available new, but you should be able to find second-hand copies floating around.

NME Poll Winners 1952-1992 (Part One)

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that we’ve spent the last few weeks working through the history of the NME Polls, from 1952 to 1992. It’s a long and complicated history, and one that pretty much encapsulates the first forty years of modern popular music in the UK. So as a side-step, it’s worth taking a couple of posts to look at them, award by award.

With such a complex history, it’s hard to trace the winners of a particular category through time, so I’ve taken a few liberties here. Essentially anything that seems to be roughly the same category has been treated as the same thing. Also, for the year ranges, there are a few missing years here and there, so for instance 1967-1970 could mean anything between 2 and 3 wins, but it definitely isn’t 4, as we have no information for the poll results from 1969, or even any meaningful confirmation that the poll took place.

Best and Worst Single, Video and Album Categories

Here are all the winners for specific singles, videos, and albums, including the wonderful “Best Dressed Album” (later “Best Dressed Sleeve”) award.

Best British Disc / Single

  • 1959 – Cliff Richard – Living Doll
  • 1960 – The Shadows – Apache
  • 1961 – John Leyton – Johnny Remember Me
  • 1962 – Frank Ifield – I Remember You
  • 1963 – The Beatles – She Loves You
  • 1964 – The Animals – The House of the Rising Sun
  • 1965 – The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  • 1966 – The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby
  • 1968 – The Beatles – Hey Jude
  • 1971 – Mungo Jerry – In the Summertime
  • 1972 – George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
  • 1973 – Golden Earring – Radar Love (World) & The Who – 5.15 (British)
  • 1975 – Bad Company – Can’t Get Enough
  • 1976 – Thin Lizzy – The Boys are Back in Town
  • 1977 – Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen
  • 1978 – The Clash – (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
  • 1979 – The Specials – Gangsters
  • 1980 – The Jam – Going Underground
  • 1981 – The Specials – Ghost Town
  • 1982 – The Jam – Town Called Malice
  • 1983 – New Order – Blue Monday
  • 1984 – Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax
  • 1985 – The Jesus and Mary Chain – Never Understand
  • 1986 – The Smiths – Panic
  • 1987 – Prince – Sign O The Times
  • 1988 – The House of Love – Destroy the Heart
  • 1989 – The Stone Roses – Fool’s Gold
  • 1990 – The Charlatans – The Only One I Know
  • 1991 – Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • 1992 – Suede – The Drowners

Best Dance Record

  • 1982 – Wham! – Young Guns (Go for It)
  • 1986 – Cameo – Word Up
  • 1987 – M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up the Volume
  • 1989 – Happy Mondays – WFL

Worst Record

  • 1991 – Bryan Adams – Everything I Do (I Do It for You)
  • 1992 – The Shamen – Ebeneezer Goode

Best Music Video

  • 1982 – Madness – House of Fun
  • 1983 – Michael Jackson – Thriller
  • 1984 – Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes
  • 1985 – Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere

Best Long Player / Album

  • 1971 – The Beatles – Let it Be
  • 1972 – T. Rex – Electric Warrior & John Lennon – Imagine (tie)
  • 1973 – Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  • 1975 – Rod Stewart – Smiler
  • 1976 – Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the Same
  • 1977 – Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks
  • 1978 – The Jam – All Mod Cons
  • 1979 – The Jam – Setting Sons
  • 1980 – The Jam – Sound Affects
  • 1981 – Echo and the Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here
  • 1982 – The Jam – The Gift
  • 1983 – Elvis Costello – Punch the Clock
  • 1984 – Cocteau Twins – Treasure
  • 1985 – The Smiths – Meat is Murder
  • 1986 – The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
  • 1987 – The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come
  • 1988 – R.E.M. – Green
  • 1989 – The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
  • 1990 – Happy Mondays – Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches
  • 1991 – Primal Scream – Screamadelica
  • 1992 – R.E.M. – Automatic for the People

Best Dressed Album / Sleeve

  • 1973 – Yes – Yessongs
  • 1975 – Yes – Relayer
  • 1976 – Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the Same
  • 1978 – The Rolling Stones – Some Girls
  • 1980 – The Jam – Sound Affects
  • 1981 – Echo and the Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here
  • 1982 – Siouxsie and the Banshees – A Kiss in the Dreamhouse
  • 1983 – New Order – Power, Corruption and Lies
  • 1984 – Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome
  • 1985 – The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash

Media Categories

The group of media awards, for radio, TV, films, and venues, are particularly fascinating, since other award ceremonies rarely have anything like this.

Best Disc Jockey

  • 1955-1957 – Jack Jackson
  • 1958-1959 – Pete Murray
  • 1960-1963 – David Jacobs
  • 1965-1972 – Jimmy Savile
  • 1973 – John Peel
  • 1975 – Noel Edmonds
  • 1976-1980 – John Peel

Best Music Radio Show

  • 1975-1976 – Alan Freeman
  • 1977-1992 – John Peel

Best TV Show

  • 1965-1972 – Top of the Pops
  • 1973-1977 – The Old Grey Whistle Test
  • 1978 – Revolver
  • 1979 – Fawlty Towers
  • 1980 – Not the Nine O’Clock News
  • 1981 – Coronation Street
  • 1982 – The Young Ones
  • 1983-1984 – The Tube
  • 1985 – The Old Grey Whistle Test
  • 1986 – The Singing Detective
  • 1987-1988 – Brookside
  • 1989 – Blackadder
  • 1990-1991 – Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out
  • 1992 – Have I Got News for You

Best Film

  • 1978 – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • 1979 – Quadrophenia
  • 1980 – The Elephant Man
  • 1981 – Gregory’s Girl
  • 1982 – E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • 1983 – Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
  • 1984 – Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • 1985 – Letter to Brezhnev
  • 1986 – Mona Lisa
  • 1987 – Angel Heart
  • 1988 – A Fish Called Wanda
  • 1989 – Dead Poets’ Society
  • 1990 – Wild at Heart
  • 1991 – The Silence of the Lambs
  • 1992 – Wayne’s World

Best Club / Venue

  • 1986 – Town and Country Club
  • 1989 – The Haçienda
  • 1990-1992 – Town and Country Club

Best Fashion Item

  • 1989 – Flares
  • 1990-1992 – Dr. Marten Boots

People Categories

In later years, the poll included some odd nominations for people, often outside of the world of music, which provide an interesting window on the past.

Most Wonderful Human Being

  • 1976-1977 – Johnny Rotten
  • 1978 – Sid Vicious
  • 1979 – John Peel
  • 1980-1983 – Paul Weller
  • 1984 – Arthur Scargill
  • 1985 – Bob Geldof
  • 1986-1988 – Morrissey

Klutz/Prat/Creep/Bastard of the Year

  • 1975 – Steve Harley
  • 1977 – Freddie Mercury
  • 1978 – John Travolta
  • 1979 – Gary Numan
  • 1980 – Margaret Thatcher
  • 1981 – Adam Ant
  • 1982-1989 – Margaret Thatcher
  • 1990-1991 – Saddam Hussein
  • 1992 – John Major

Best Dressed Male

  • 1979 – Gary Numan
  • 1980 – Adam Ant
  • 1981 – Michael Foot
  • 1982 – Paul Weller
  • 1983 – David Bowie
  • 1984 – Paul Weller
  • 1985 – Morrissey

Best Dressed Female

  • 1982-1983 – Siouxsie Sioux

Worst Dressed Person

  • 1985 – Bob Geldof

Most missed Dead Person

  • 1976 – Jimi Hendrix
  • 1981 – John Lennon

Political and Real World Categories

These are some of the oddest categories – I’m honestly not sure what the “Hype of the Year” category was all about, but it is interesting to see just what was catching people’s eyes at the time.

Event of the Year

  • 1977 – Death of Elvis Presley
  • 1980 – Death of John Lennon
  • 1982 – The Jam Split
  • 1986 – 1986 FIFA World Cup
  • 1987 – Nuclear Agreement
  • 1988 – Nelson Mandela’s Birthday Bash
  • 1989 – Revolution in Eastern Europe
  • 1990 – Margaret Thatcher’s Resignation
  • 1991 – The release of the hostages
  • 1992 – Bill Clinton winning the US election

Pin-Up/Sex SYmbol/Object of Desire

  • 1978 – Debbie Harry
  • 1986 – Joanne Whalley
  • 1988-1989 – Wendy James
  • 1990 – Betty Boo
  • 1991-1992 – Toni Halliday

Bad News of the Year

  • 1987 – Another Conservative Victory at the General Election
  • 1988 – US Election Result

Hype of the Year

  • 1985 – The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • 1989 – Batman
  • 1990 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • 1992 – Madonna – Sex

That concludes part one of the summary of NME Poll Winners. Next week, we’ll look at the artist categories.

NME Poll Winners – The 1990s

For the first half of the 1990s, the NME Poll continued as a quiet annual newspaper poll, focusing very strongly now on indie rock, and ignoring pretty much everything else that was going on in the world of music. But then, in 1994, it suddenly went public, relaunching an annual awards ceremony, The NME Brat Awards. More on that later, so for now, here are the last three years of poll results:

NME Readers’ Poll 1990

  • Best Single: The Charlatans, for The Only One I Know
  • Best LP: Happy Mondays, for Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches
  • Best New Band/Artist: The Charlatans
  • Best Band: Happy Mondays
  • Event of the Year: Margaret Thatcher‘s Resignation
  • Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Radio Show: John Peel
  • TV Show: Vic Reeves‘ Big Night Out
  • Film of the Year: Wild at Heart
  • Club or Venue: Town and Country Club
  • Hype of the Year: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Fashion Item of the Year: DM Boots
  • Bastard of the Year: Saddam Hussein
  • Object of Desire: Betty Boo
  • Word/Phrase: ‘You wouldn’t let it lie!”

NME Readers’ Poll 1991

  • Best Band: R.E.M.
  • Best LP: Primal Scream, for Screamadelica
  • Best Single: Nirvana, for Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • Best New Band: Kingmaker
  • Best Venue: Town and Country Club
  • Best Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Bastard of the Year: Saddam Hussein
  • Film of the Year: The Silence of the Lambs
  • Radio Show of the Year: John Peel
  • Fashion Item: DM Boots
  • Event of the Year: The release of the hostages
  • Object of Desire: Toni Halliday
  • TV Show: Vic Reeves‘ Big Night Out
  • Worst Record: Bryan Adams, for (Everything I Do) I Do It for You
  • Word/Phrase: “You fat bastard”

NME Readers’ Poll 1992

  • Best Band: R.E.M.
  • Best Album: R.E.M., for Automatic for the People
  • Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Venue: Town and Country Club
  • Single: Suede, for The Drowners
  • Worst Record: The Shamen, for Ebeneezer Goode
  • New Band: Suede
  • Event: Bill Clinton winning the US election
  • Fashion Item: Dr. Martens
  • Bastard of the Year: John Major
  • Hype of the Year: Madonna, for Sex
  • TV Show of the Year: Have I Got News for You
  • Word/Phrase of the Year: “Not!”
  • Film of the Year: Wayne’s World
  • Radio Show of the Year: John Peel
  • Object of Desire: Toni Halliday

See also

The Shamen – Boss Drum

In 1992, The Shamen were truly in control of their careers. The five years that came before had been turbulent, as they journeyed from indie to pop-dance

Fifth album Boss Drum opens with the self-produced version of the title track, later released, in reworked form, as the third single from the album. Most of the singles were remixed at the hands of The Beatmasters, and frankly those that weren’t do suffer noticeably. So the album version of Boss Drum is a bit dull and noisy, particularly when compared to the single.

For L.S.I.: Love Sex IntelligenceThe Beatmasters were at the helm as producers, and this is consequently brilliant. Mr. C‘s rap is typically awkward, but hey, these were the early 1990s – pretty much nobody in the UK was an expert at rapping back then. This was released as the first single in June 1992, and immediately hit number four.

With seven singles from a ten-track album, there’s little room for anything else here, but Space Time is one of the few album-only tracks. It did appear on The Face EP in remixed form, and with some acid chirps it’s a bit deeper than some of the other tracks on here, but ultimately it isn’t really anything special.

Librae Solidi Denari literally means “pounds, shillings, and pence” in Latin, but you have to wonder from the initials and some of the other tracks on here whether it took its inspiration from another source. It’s a pretty dull tribal instrumental that also made it onto The Face EP and the subsequent remix album Different Drum.

Then comes the number one hit Ebeneezer Goode, released just a couple of weeks before the album appeared. In a curious step, listeners of the LP version get The Shamen‘s own (vastly inferior) version, whereas on the cassette and CD you get an extended version of The Beatmasters‘ single version. It’s a great track, very much of its time, and yes kids, it is about drugs. Don’t do them.

The second half of the album kicks off with the final single, Comin’ On. If there was ever a track that needed to be reworked by The Beatmasters, this is definitely it. On the album, it’s a dreadfully misguided attempt to sound Indian (or possibly West Indian? It’s difficult to tell at times – or perhaps that’s the joke?) full of silly voices and sitar samples and descriptions of people as “yellow” (was that really ever acceptable?) It would be hard to believe that this seemed funny to anyone, even shrouded by illicit substances as they probably were when it was recorded.

But amazingly, there was a good song hiding in there. The 1993 single version strips out all the silly and racist bits and turns it into something quite brilliant. The Beatmasters, it seems, are indeed capable of magic.

They also had their hands on the single version of Phorever People, released just in time for Christmas in 1992, but in this instance the album version holds the song together well. It’s followed by the dreadful album-only track Fatman.

Things do improve towards the end though, with the pleasant instrumental Scientas, which could have only been improved if it had been a bit more melodic, and finally the eight-minute single Re:evolution, featuring the drug-inspired ramblings of neophilosopher Terence McKenna.

I like the track – actually I like it a lot, particularly some of the remixes on the single from The Future Sound of London and others, but bluntly, he is talking total nonsense. Even the first sentence, “If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed,” doesn’t really make sense if you stop and think about it. I’ve really tried – I’ve been listening to this song for at least two decades now, and ultimately I’ve had to just conclude that the whole thing is gibberish. But close your eyes, try not to listen to the actual words too carefully, and maybe imagine you’ve injected a lot of cannabis pills, and you can enjoy it as an intriguing, experimental piece of music. Which is reasonably true for the album as a whole actually, on balance.

But in the end, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The CD version of the album gets you a couple of additional dub versions of Boss Drum and Phorever People, but honestly it isn’t worth the bother. Save yourself the money and just get the singles album The Shamen Collection instead.

If you do fancy a copy of Boss Drum, it is still available here. It’s worth taking a few minutes to enjoy the reviews first.

Artist of the Week – The Shamen

In the penultimate artist of the week slot back in 2005, we covered The Shamen. As always, apologies for any unintended inaccuracies, plagiarism, or hyperbole.

The story of The Shamen goes back to the early 1980s, when Colin AngusPeter StephensonKeith McKenzie and Derek McKenzie formed the group Alone Again Or. In 1986, they metamorphosed into The Shamen, and released the debut album Drop, a groundbreaking and decidedly early Madchester-style fusion of guitar riffs and dance rhythms, shortly after the release of which they were joined by Will Sinnott.

Two members down, the second album In Gorbachev We Trust saw them move more into dance territory, but only a year after its release, Will Sinnott drowned off the Canary Islands. Angus, now calling himself Mr. C, reformed the group, and they moved truly into the mainstream with 1991’s En-Tact album, heralded by such huge hits as Move Any Mountain and Make it Mine.

In 1993 their Boss Drum album saw them turn almost entirely pop, releasing drug-inspired hit after drug-inspired hit, but it also saw their long-term fans deserting them in droves, so their return in 1995, Axis Mutatis, was a much more sombre affair. Fusing new age idealism with deep dance rhythms, it truly is a much  overlooked mid-90s masterpiece.

The follow-up Hempton Manor came out the following year, and saw them dramatically split with their record company after no singles were released. The follow-up best of album The Shamen Collection was a minor hit, but is essentially made up of tracks off the Boss Drum album.

Their last album UV followed in 1998, and was a very deep and dark house-filled affair, with dark beats and the occasional lighter moment. Following very little interest for this project, the group disappeared into cyberspace, leaving very little trace behind except a legacy of late 80s and early 90s dance hits. These days Mr. C continues to DJ and release solo material.

Bizarre search engine terms – 2017 edition

I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to the statistics for this blog, to be honest, but roughly once a year, I like to take a peek through and see what crazy search engine terms people have used to get to the site. Here’s a selection…

jnrinxs

I love the idea of a junior version of INXS. Perhaps you’re thinking of Michael Hutchence‘s daughter, whom UK tabloid The Daily Racist seem to have been obsessed with for some time, disturbingly describing her as “remarkably beautiful” when she was just fifteen.

Thanks, by the way – I just lost comfortably half an hour Wikisurfing about the sad tales of Paula Yates and her family.

robin hood trevor horns

You might be thinking of Batman, who’s a similar sort of historical character I believe. Trevor Horns produced Seal‘s Kiss from a Rose in 1994.

have madness rever won a brit award

Astonishingly, they rever haven’t – they have three nominations to their name, but that’s it. Check out my list of BRIT Award Losers here.

royksopp the understanding rubbish

Definitely not. Royksopp the understanding quite exceptional.

fascinating facts about the brit awards

That’s a subjective term, but I found these pretty fascinating. And these. And also these.

alison moyet cat deeley forum

This sounds like a great event, which all of us should thing about attending. The closest I can find is that time someone pretended to be Alison Moyet on Stars in Their Eyes.

1990 brit awards who returned awards

That would be Fine Young Cannibals that you’re thinking of. Because nobody really liked Margaret Thatcher.

smashie and nicey shamen

No idea about this one. I’m assuming it’s a clip which may or may not exist, but if you do manage to find anything, please share it with the rest of the class.

trevor pinnock songs of the auvergne

In an extreme moment of self-doubt, I actually searched this blog to find out what that takes you to. The answer lies in the 1984 BRIT Awards!

Well that was fun, wasn’t it? See also: the 20162015, 2014, and 2013 editions.