Monday 16 May 2016

Old Music: Win - Super Popoid Groove

Today I’m turning my attention to a Scottish act who shone oh-so brightly but oh-so briefly in the mid 80’s, releasing some bafflingly brilliant singles and two sweetly fantastic, lyrically oblique, trashy pop albums. This blog might be mainly about new music, but the chances are that for most readers this old band will be a new (hopefully top-notch) discovery.

The name of these Edinburgh based upstarts was Win, and they were formed by Davy Henderson and Russel Burn who were previous members of The Fire Engines (who more recently were covered by Franz Ferdinand) together with Ian Stoddart, Simon Smeeton, Emmanuel Shoniwa and later William Perry.

The two albums were Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon) from 1987 and Freaky Trigger from 1989 which received rave reviews from critics at the time. “An alluring lucky bag stuffed with candy, sex oblique jokes and cartoon funk metal,” wrote Stuart Maconie before going on to give it 10/10 in the NME. “These are the ten best songs Salvador Dali never wrote,” he added. “The immaculate pop conception,” raved Sounds. “One of the few jewels that shine out of this bad, bad world,” said List. The critics loved it. The public (mainly) never heard it.

It just didn’t happen for the band. The first album failed to chart, the second reached the giddy heights of number 51 in the UK for one week. Every one of their quirky, ideas stuffed singles didn’t make the top 75, except for Super Popoid Groove (a song which I’ve been sneakily referencing on this blog for years) which hit number 63. You can see the video below, with the band wearing bizarre supersize coats and singing of "chewing gum baby for the ears, a dashing young valium to soften the fear" make of that what you will. It's first-rate bonkers.

Win - Super Popoid Groove (Video)

Frankly I find this lack of success unfathomable. Shampoo Tears, Dusty Heartfelt, What’ll You Do Till Sunday Baby and You’ve Got The Power, which did find some favourable outcome soundtracking a rather odd TV advert by McEwan’s brewery (see below), seemed genuine contenders, with an intelligently arty buzz-pop sound that found reference to ABC, Prince, Heaven 17 and Marc Bolan. But by 1990 the band were dropped and split.

Win - McEwans Lager Advert (includes extract of You've Got The Power)

Maybe they were just a little too out there for the masses. After all, this was a band who had songs called It May Be A Beautiful Sky Tonight But It’s Only A Shelter From A World At Risk, What’s Love If You Can Kill For Chocolate and Mind The Gravy. Lead singer Davey once described what an ideal Win gig would be like: “Win should ideally have 30 humans on stage dressed in pink riot gear and have a musical director.”

What Win left behind was some of the most wonderful pop music that most of the world has never heard. It’s why I’m writing about them. If they weren't on your radar till just now (statistically the chances of that are high), don't pass them by.

You can hear the whole of Freaky Trigger on Spotify (click here). Considering it was recorded in the 1980’s its production still sounds remarkably sharp and the songs, of course, still sound subversively fun.

Copies of Uh! Tears Baby occasionally crop up on E-Bay and the CD version fetches anywhere between £30 and £100 (there are more copies of the vinyl floating around). I’m keeping everything crossed that one day someone somewhere makes that record more easily available. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the few lucky enough to have picked up the CD of this waaaay back (and even that took a search of every Edinburgh 2nd hand record store every damn week from 1988 to 1991, after the new copy that had sat in the racks in the Virgin Megastore disappeared the week before I got my first CD player), but _Uh Tears Baby_ is one that I still feels deserves a 2CD re-release, freshly remastered and with all of the appropriate B-side and 12" mixes, and a 16 page color booklet with all the single artwork, full lyrics (yeah, I know what Win lyrics are like, but still...) and a band retrospective. Will it even happen? Probably only if the rights revert to the band or something like that. I wish I had more solid links to give, but from memory, Cherry Red *did* try to get the rights to put this one out on CD after their re-release of _Freaky Trigger_ in 2012 or so but something happened to prevent it. I seem to recall it was a case of whoever held the rights at the time wanted just way too much for Cherry Red to be able to afford to license it. Might be Alan Horne (since it was on his Swamplands vanity label and Horne has a reputation for being a capricious and unpredictable outright bastard at times), might be whoever acquired the rights to London's back catalog (recent releases of Blancmange's back catalog, also on London, were limited to CD only due to licensing costs).

I'd rather hoped 2017, being 30 years since the album came out, we might have seen some rights revert and a license and release happen, but it's getting a bit late in the year for that now. Problem is that the longer the rights-holder demands unreasonable amounts and the album stays in limbo, the fewer people are left who haven't found a clean rip of the CD somewhere. Me, I'd buy a new CD release of the album, even if it was just the basic CD, in a flash, just to insure myself against the fact that my CD is now a full 30 years old, but I'd much prefer to see somebody give the album a little "extended bonus tracks re-mastered re-release" love. I can wish...

Al C