Monday, August 29, 2005

Things you had forgotten, things that couldn't last

In this remembrance, Claudia Gonson explains how Merritt profoundly influenced her musical tastes in the early 80s and how they loved music from the early days of Rough Trade. Rough Trade began as a shop in 1976, and two years later, Rough Trade - the record label - was spawned; the shop and the label separated into two distinct entities in 1982. The discography of Rough Trade Records is sprawling, eclectic, and frequently mind-blowing. It was home to several bands mentioned previously here, including Young Marble Giants, Rainy Day, the Dream Syndicate, and Opal, and several 6ths singers had releases on Rough Trade, like Robert Scott (with the Clean and the Bats) and Dean Wareham (with Galaxie 500). Merritt has expressed his appreciation for several Rough Trade artists, including Morrissey (of the Smiths, of course), Mayo Thompson and the Red Crayola, the Raincoats, and Weekend.

After Young Marble Giants disbanded in 1981, main songwriter Stuart Moxham formed the Gist while singer Alison Statton teamed up with guitarist and fellow Cardiffian Simon Booth to form Weekend. Soon after, they were joined by Spike, on guitar and viola, and the outfit recorded three singles and an album (plus a live mini-album) for Rough Trade during their brief career together. Upon listening to this week's selections, it's immediately apparent that Weekend sounds nothing like Young Marble Giants, as Weekend uses a breezy jazzy approach with layers of nylon-stringed guitars, saxes, and strings.

Alison describes the band's sources in this article excerpt from 1982 in Sounds:
"...we have three different influences coming through, I'm still very into folk music and ballads, as I was in the Giants (though now I'm playing bass too), whereas Simon's into the jazz thing and Spike's off on a tangent all his own."

Simon explains, in the same article, that while he worked in a London jazz shop, he cultivated an appreciation for jazz from the be-bop era of the 50s. This may be true, but the pop jazz that Weekend plays reminds me more of the laid-back Brazilian bossa nova of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto, rather than 50s be-bop.

With one of the most gorgeous guitar intros ever, "The End of the Affair" begins La Varieté, the sole (proper) album by Weekend and one of Merritt's favorites. Thanks to Vinyl Japan, if you buy their re-issue of La Varieté (which includes the '81 Demos EP) along with the singles/live compilation Archive, then you have nearly everything. "Drumbeat for Baby," another track off La Varieté, is presented here with its slightly longer 12" version, which is available on Archive.

Now, if you will, take a look at the cover of Archive (which was originally the cover of the "Past Meets Present" 7" single). Look familiar? The watercolor painting was made by Wendy Smith, who also created the cover art for...Distant Plastic Trees and The Wayward Bus by the Magnetic Fields. Smith is also responsible for the cover of La Varieté and the photo on the cover of Colossal Youth by Young Marble Giants.

Weekend - "The End of the Affair"
Weekend - "Drumbeat for Baby"


Blogger Ernest said...

Here's an excerpt from a Merritt interview, where he discusses Weekend and the scope of 69LS:
Wolk: Were there any styles on the lists that you didn't want to try?
Merritt: Are you familiar with Weekend? Their album was LA VARIETÉ [1982], French for variety program, and on the back it explained that LA VARIETÉ was everything except heavy rock. In homage to that, I thought I would deliberately exclude heavy rock. I'm perfectly capable of doing heavy rock, of course. Every small child is perfectly capable of doing heavy rock. But I capriciously left that one out as a tribute to Weekend -- a really oblique, completely unnoticeable tribute.

10:36 PM  

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