I don’t remember seeing them? . . .

Nick (one of our shop regulars) told me the other day that he had found his pile of gig tickets . . . (lockdown time, well used!). We talked about those gigs we had both been at in Stoke-on-Trent, and further afield, then he broached the subject of gigs that he had no recollection of! . . . is there anybody on here that can tell Nick if any of these gigs were any good? . . . I went to a few of them, Embrace in Blackpool was not one of them . . . #HelpNick #toomanypints #forgettablegigs

Saint Etienne – “Foxbase Alpha” (1991)

st etienned new

Right, let’s get this out of the way immediately … WE LOVE SAINT ETIENNE. The haircuts, the sleeves, the nostalgia, the t-shirts, the jumpers, the knowing pop references, Debsey Wykes, the feather boas, etc. Their debut album Foxbase alpha from 1991 remains a unique fusion of 1960s sunshine pop, techno, girl groups and ambient dub. The album hit us like a bolt out of the blue because it arrived during the grunge explosion of the early 1990s and the Strand Records’ boys were never very big on that whole Seattle slacker scene (yes, we do respect Kurt Cobain though … he wore a BMX Bandits T-shirt).

Whilst so many kids were, erm, headbanging to the angst-laced bedroom rock, we were shaking our booty to the Beach Boys pop meets dance sound of Saint Etienne. As mentioned, Saint Etienne’s sound on Foxbase Alpha was so eclectic. You can hear the Brill Building, daisy age hip hop, wall of sound and Belgian new beat in these grooves.

st etienne 2

There is a distinct dub and house culture feel to Foxbase alpha but then there is also a perfect pop sound too. The timeless Nothing can stop us has such a Northern Soul vibe. Bet you can’t keep your feet still when this comes on the decks.

Saint Etienne’s version of Neil Young’s Only love can break your heart will leave you feeling all warm inside and you will also find downbeat ambience (Stoned to say the least), a soul ballad (Carnt sleep) and dub pop (Like the swallow) within the grooves.

This is a super debut of varied sounds and we are currently stocking the reissue LP.

Please note that, in addition to the purchasing option below, we can also offer 1st class postage and next day delivery options as well as click and collect. There is also free local (Stoke-on-Trent) delivery on orders over £30. If you require any of these options, please just contact us.

Saint Etienne – Foxbase Alpha (1991) – new vinyl reissue

This is a brand new vinyl reissue copy of Saint Etienne's debut album from 1991. A fantastic mix of Beach Boys, Dub, 60s girl groups, ambient, techno, etc. The price includes second class postage and packing.

£21.00

 

 

 

 

Lavinia Blackwall – debut album

Vinnie

Any fans of high-end folk pop may wish to pre-order the debut album from singer-songrwriter Lavinia Blackwall via this link; Muggington Lane End album (Bandcamp)

‘Vinnie’ will be known to many as the former singer of Trembling Bells, the Scottish folk group who released several albums and singles between 2009-2018. Vinnie is backed on her solo recordings by a crack team of musicians known collectively as Stilton; Marco Rea (The Wellgreen, Marbles), Seb Jonsen (Helicon, Tomorrow Syndicate) and Jim McGoldrick (The Wellgreen).

Vinnie has a beautifully clear, pure voice and soaring vocal style which has drawn comparisons to Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny in the music press. Vinnie writes remarkable music and lyrics as is evidenced by the singles, Waiting for tomorrow, Troublemakers and current single John’s gone.

Lavinia Blackwall and Stilton are big favourites of the Strand records team. We hope you enjoy them too.

 

 

M.O.R. Specials (1980)

More Specials

In 1979, The Specials released their all-conquering, high-octane, self-titled debut album, produced by Elvis Costello. It was a full-on SKA affair infused with punk energy. In October 1980, the follow up album MORE SPECIALS was released. This was a much more complex bag focussed on Jerry Dammers’ unique vision, with elements of muzak, lounge, jazz and bossa added to the new wave SKA mix. It’s notable that the printed pink sticker on the sleeve covers the letter E in ‘More’ thus leaving MOR (middle of the road). Subtle eh!

The album opens with a cover of Enjoy Yourself (Later Than You Think) which is pure cabaret calypso with Terry Hall declaring, … I’m Terry and I’m going to enjoy myself first!   After this show tune, comes Man At C&A which is scary nuclear dub with an amazing brass sound. Following this tale of apocalyptic doom comes the uptempo skank of the impossibly joyous sounding Hey Little Rich Girl. Smash hit Do nothing is next – a reggae-tastic stripped down album version of the string-laden single release. The vibes-driven Pearl’s Cafe is a total hoot and side 1’s closer is a cover of Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers’ Sock It To ‘Em J.B. – a northern soul-esque track originally from 1966.

Side 2 is where MORE SPECIALS really hits home. Latin American lounge meets DUB on the staggering spaghetti-western sound of Stereotype/Stereotypes Pt. 2 whilst Holiday Fortnight is a mariachi brass instrumental worthy of a Mexican version of Carry on abroad. The band go all library music and Bontempi organ on the dark lounge of I Can’t Stand It prior to the airport muzak of International Jet Set. Following all that excitement, the album finishes with a laid-back, end of the night, working mens club reprise of Enjoy Yourself (Later Than You Think).

MORE SPECIALS is such an adventurous work featuring an eclectic mix of reggae, lounge, jazz, dub, SKA and Latin American easy listening. Sadly, it probably marked the beginning of the end for the group as Jerry Dammers’ quest (and drive) to deliver an idiosyncratic album that would prove a challenging listening experience somewhat set him apart from the motives of his bandmates.

MORE SPECIALS is one of the few albums I own on vinyl, cassette and CD. I adore it.

Dave

Happy Mondays – Squirrel and G-man … (1987)

Happy Mondays squirrelWell, the complete title is, Squirrel and G-man twenty four hour party people plastic face carnt smile (white out). Released on Manchester’s Factory Records in April 1987, this fantastic slab of industrial funk was produced by ex-Velvet Underground legend John Cale, although I doubt that anyone knows why! It was just the Factory Records way I guess.

The Salford scallies recorded the ten album tracks in December 1986 and it’s a wonderful riot of threatening, edgy, disco-tinged funk. The music and lyrics are every bit as idiosyncratic as Factory Records was. This is independent music made by singularly-minded people for the most unique of record labels.

This raw debut album often gets overlooked for the Madchester-tastic Pills ‘n’ thrills and bellyaches (1990) which is a real shame given that this is the original, unfettered, inner-city sound borne of collective parents’ record collections, young mens imaginations and sheer serendipity. This is the Mondays’ music before celebritE kicked in. Just check out the disjointed jangly funk of Tart Tart

We are currently stocking the reissue album.

Please note that, in addition to the purchasing option below, we can also offer 1st class postage and next day delivery options as well as click and collect. There is also free local (Stoke-on-Trent) delivery on orders over £30. If you require any of these options, please just contact us.

Happy Mondays – Squirrel and G-man … (new reissue vinyl LP)

The 1987 debut album from Happy Mondays. This is a brand new reissue copy. Please note that the price includes second class postage and packing.

£24.00

Gene Clark – No other (1974)

Gene Clark 1

In the mid-1960s, Gene Clark was the main songwriter and frontman for The Byrds. Although Gene departed The Byrds in 1966, his ability to write poignant, emotional and compelling music and lyrics never left him. Gene has an amazing back catalogue of compositions, but 1974’s No other album is arguably his crowning achievement.

Gene Clark certainly had the looks and the talent but he rarely seemed to have the timing or the luck to commercially push on from his time in The Byrds. Gene’s natural ability meant that he retained many supporters in the music business and, in 1974, David Geffen provided Gene with a recording budget of $100,000 to record No other. As you can tell upon listening to the album, every single dollar was well and truly spent.

Gene took the No other songs to L.A. producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye who created an incredibly stylish, opulent and multi-layered sound featuring an army of supporting players. On No other you will hear sophisticated, challenging arrangements featuring gospel choirs and swathes of swirling strings. Gene Clark wrote scores of amazing songs but on No other he seems to reach that little bit higher and dig that little bit deeper with Kaye encouraging him all the way. Of course, beneath the lavish sound we must remember that Gene’s songs are both strong and exquisite. Gene could probably play these songs backed only by a kazoo and they would still sound beautiful and delicate yet simultaneously powerful.

Creating this spiritual singer-songwriter classic took time and the ‘project’ ran over budget. This displeased David Geffen greatly. As a result, he provided no money for promoting the LP and so the album went criminally ignored upon release. In fact, No other remained misunderstood for c.20 years until interest in this outstanding piece of art began to grow. There was a dawning realisation that No other could no longer be casually dismissed as a piece of seventies cocaine-fuelled excess, but that it was a timeless work of great beauty, intensity, spirituality and emotion. It is no exaggeration to consider No other alongside Love’s Forever Changes and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks.

4ad Records have released a remastered version of No other with the first ever 5.1 surround mix of this album (created at Abbey Road).

We are currently stocking the reissue album.

Please note that, in addition to the purchasing option below, we can also offer 1st class postage and next day delivery options as well as click and collect. There is also free local (Stoke-on-Trent) delivery on orders over £30. If you require any of these options, please just contact us.

Gene Clark – No other (1974) – Brand new vinyl reissue

New vinyl reissue of the 1974 classic on 4ad Records. The original tapes have been remastered at Abbey Road to create a 5.1 surround mix of the LP for the first time. Please note that this price includes second class postage and packing.

£20.00

Growing up in Stoke’s record shops

record shops

From c. 1978 or so onwards, a trip to some of the records shops of Stoke-on-Trent became a weekly activity for the boys from Strand Records. This was usually a Saturday morning jaunt although after school was an option too if you got a wriggle on before shop closing time! We flew solo at first but from 1984 we hunted in packs!

The three towns visted most often by us were Hanley, Stoke and Longton. The main shopping centre for Stoke-on-Trent is Hanley and there were some key record shops located here;

  • Mike Lloyd Music was originally based on Percy Street and this was arguably the epicentre of punk and rock in Stoke. Mike Lloyd was also a concert promoter and so you would buy your gig tickets here both for Stoke-on-Trent gigs (mainly at Hanley’s Victoria Hall) but also for concerts taking place outside of the city (with coach travel if needed). In the mid 1980s, a considerably larger Mike Lloyd Megastore opened on Brunswick Street.
  • Lotus Records was in the Piccadilly Arcade and it seemed desperately cool with very trendy staff. This space is still a record shop – Music Mania
  • Terry Bloods was situated on the corner of Piccadilly and Cheapside and was based on two floors just like Lotus.
  • In addition to the above big hitters, WH Smiths had a decent independent records section for the time and Woolworths always had good sales. There was also Our Price in the Potteries Centre and HMV moved into the centre during the early 1990s too (it’s still there today). You could also get some records from Fantasy World (a kind of forerunner of the Forbidden Planet sci-fi/comic shop). We bought Dead kennedys’ Too drunk to f*** on 7″ from there. There was also Clay Records on Hope Street whch was a shop and a record label (Discharge were one of their artists).

The wonderful British Record Shop Archive has entries for both Mike Lloyd Music and Lotus Records. Here’s a photo of Strand Records’ Ken outside Lotus in 1988.

Lotus records

Stoke town also had a Woolworths and the marvellous Legendary Lonnie’s located on Church Street (although it moved along London Road later on). Lonnie Cooke is a music legend and he once stood for the Raving Monster Loony Party in Stoke!

In Longton there was Bevan’s, which had the strongest record shop smell ever. This family business was located on the Strand (where Strand Records is situated) and they were great for stocking the entire hit parade as well as ordering records and providing a range of styluses.

bevans

In Longton’s Bennett Precinct, you found Disco 1 which later became Replay Records which later became Musique (or maybe the other way around?). You also had Tony Denson’s on Market Street which is where Strand Records’ Dave bought The Specials’ Gangsters. Of course, there was also the ubiquitous Woolworths further along Market Street.

Here is a photo of Strand Records’ Dave outside Mike Lloyd’s Megastore, Hanley in 1997.

MLM Dave

We realise that memories fade and so there were probably other record shops that we have forgotten about. Any comments are most welcome. For example, there was a downstairs record shop in Longton on the Strand but we can’t remember the name (Editor’s note: we now know it was called Madcap Records). There were various record stalls that popped up in indoor markets too but it was all so long ago.

Here’s a couple more bag designs for Mike Lloyd Music. These were the smaller bags for 7″, CDs and tapes.

MLM bags

These really were great days for the Strand Records boys. From ’84, we’d generally meet up in Hanley and then wander from bargain bin to bargain bin. Initially of course, our individual crate digging had been for classic albums (e.g. Legendary Lonnie provided Strands’ Dave with almost all of the Beatles albums) but over time we moved on to the slightly more obscure Factory Records releases, Rough Trade, Creation, 4AD, Kitchenware, C86 material, Sarah Records, hip hop imports, Sub Pop, Heavenly, etc. We bought oh so many LPs, 12″s, picture discs, 7″s, double-packs, cassettes, cassingles, blank TDK tapes, patches, badges and posters.

The record shop was a big part of our education, leisure time and cultural development. As music supervisor Gary Calamar states in Record store days (2010), “The record store was a place of escape. It was a library and a clubhouse”.

Boy did we seek sanctuary and learn and have fun.

The Pooh Sticks – 1988 7″ box set (2019)

Pooh Sticks 1

What a gorgeously packaged reissue item this is from Swansea’s jangly power pop indie ‘kids’ . . .  THE POOH STICKS. 

This release is a limited edition expanded version of a box set originally released by Fierce Recordings in 1988. This new version features five different coloured 7” singles.

Unlike the 1988 version, which included A-side singles only (each with an etched B-side), this 2019 edition includes the corresponding B-sides, plus a 24-page booklet. All of the B sides were recorded in 1988 and four of them have never been available before. The other track, the California Punk-esque Hard On Love, was released in 1989 on a flexi-disc and has never been available in any other format.

Tracklist: 1-2-3 Red Light / Double ShotHeroes And Villains / Life’s A Gas, Heartbreak / Sex Head, I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well / Hard On Love, Indiepop Ain’t Noise Pollution / Knock Three Times

It’s a limited release so when it’s gone, it’s gone. Dive in below pop fans!

Please note that, in addition to the purchasing option below, we can also offer 1st class postage and next day delivery options as well as click and collect. There is also free local (Stoke-on-Trent) delivery on orders over £30. If you require any of these options, please just contact us.

The Pooh Sticks – 1988 boxset (5 x 7″ vinyl plus booklet)

This is a brand new limited edition boxset featuring five coloured vinyl 7" singles and a 24 page booklet. Please note that the price includes second class postage and packing.

£48.00

 

A song for these times . . .

Chinofeldy

Chinofeldy “Stay home”

“Stay Home” is the new single from Chinofeldy, which is the brainchild of Joe Kane and Marco Rea, two of Glasgow’s most prolific songwriter/producers.

With help from psych-folk legend Lavinia Blackwall and a host of fab friends and lovers from around the world, Chinofeldy have crafted a heartfelt anthem for our times. Written and recorded over a weekend in lockdown, “Stay Home” was realised by bouncing tracks across time and space resulting in an epic production!

All Proceeds from Bandcamp donations for the single go to the NHS covid-19 appeal.

Share the love folks . . . @chinofeldy @marcorea1 @vinnieblackwall

#Stayhomesavelives

The Orielles – Disco Volador (2020)

Orielles

Earlier this year, Halifax’s THE ORIELLES released their second album, Disco Volador and boy was it celebrated. In fact, the Strand Records staff enjoyed a shop outing to see the band perform at the Sugarmill in Stoke-on-Trent and it was desperately exciting.

In broad terms, the sound is ‘cosmic pop’ but this does not really do justice to the sheer eclecticism of Disco Volador‘s adventurous aural landscape. This ambitious album feels like a voyage into the past, present and future of music … particularly the future. The LP is a fusion of funk, disco, space rock, library music, Balearic beats, dream pop and samba with the spirit of Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem also present.

The song structures often feel quite unconventional, with the listener unable to anticipate the twists and turns particular tracks will take. The experience is groovy and fun. Just dig that astral plane and check out the wonderful Space Samba

Please note that, in addition to the purchasing option below, we can also offer 1st class postage and next day delivery options as well as click and collect. There is also free local (Stoke-on-Trent) delivery on orders over £30. If you require any of these options, please just contact us.

Disco Volador – The Orielles (vinyl LP)

The band’s second album from 2020. An intoxicating mix of pop, disco, space rock and samba. File under ‘Essential’. Please note that this price includes second class postage and packing.

£22.00