Wednesday, April 8, 2009

For all my old Rough Trade friends

A BBC documentary on the history of Rough Trade. Worth watching.

Updated impressions after viewing 80% of the show:

Nothing at all about the US branch of Rough Trade, which is a pity, as both the San Francisco shop and the American label had a huge impact in their own right. The Grant Ave. and later, the 6th St. Rough Trade deserves their own documentary; wonder if it will ever be made. Steve Montgomery, who we see an awful lot of in the beginning here, was more or less forcibly ousted by the San Francisco Rough Trade, which reorganized itself as a collective until the UK parent company imposed a management structure on them later; it's a fascinating story that deserves to be told. (And then, there's the German Rough Trade, the only branch of the company which never went bankrupt...and yes, as a former Rough Trade Deutschland recording artist I have a personal interest in learning more about them, obviously)

My, Geoff Travis certainly becomes elusive when any financial issues come up.

In retrospect, it's highly amusing when the company goes into a big dramatic identity crisis over Scritti Politti's "The Sweetest Girl": "Oh my God, we're betraying our vision by putting out a slick pop record!" If you listen to that song now, it sounds like an outtake from Rock Bottom more than anything, which is no surprise since Robert Wyatt himself played keyboards on the single. Later, of course, Scritti Politti moved into serious helium-voiced 80s cheese with semiotic pretensions, but at this stage, they hardly sounded like commercial pop at all. Funny.

Liked seeing Mayo Thompson and Shirley O'Loughlin and others give their take on the history. And what a great bunch of footage of the Raincoats, Fall, Wyatt, Stiff Little Fingers and more. Oh yeah, and the Smiths too. (At the time they came out, I was more appreciative of their role as Rough Trade's cash cow than their actual music, but looking at them now, I have to admit they really were a dynamic little band for a while.)


Ian Schultz said...

Early Scritti Politti are great, I have the cd which collects all the early singles and the early version of The Sweetest Girl is a good pop song.

Another thing they don't mention is the other label Geoff Travis had called "Blanco y Negro Records" which was mainly just for The Jesus & Mary Chain so The JAMC would have control of their music but still be signed by a major label, which was Warner Bros., they also released Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins), Dinosaur Jr. stuff as well.

Very good documentary though.

and The Smiths were a damn good band.

Ian Schultz said...

On a unrelated note... I think you might have been at this show :-)

Scroll down the page...

J Neo Marvin said...

I like "Skank Bloc Bologna" a lot. Some of the other early Scritti songs sound like less impressive versions of that one, but to fair, I haven't heard them all! I also like the B-side of "The Sweetest Girl", "Lions After Slumber", where Green just rattles off a list of things that are his: "My diplomacy, my security, my hope and my ice-cream", etc. etc. etc.

I totally forgot about Blanco y Negro. You're right.

The Smiths were a good thing for sure. I just have to take Morrissey's voice in small doses. Not making a judgement here; it's just me. There is nothing more subjective than how the individual ear responds to an individual voice, and logic has nothing to do with it. For instance, I think Antony is an interesting artist on an objective level, but his voice makes me want to climb the walls.

J Neo Marvin said...

Yes, that was my first Clash show, where I met Joe and asked him what the lyrics to "Last Gang In Town" were.

IanSchultz said...

Speaking of The Clash, I would love to get a Clash II shirt just so I can fuck with people but they are so expensive, would love to find a Sandinista one as well.