“SONG FOR EWE”
with MARTIN BRAMAH of
BLUE ORCHIDS & THE FALL
“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.
Today’s guest is a founder member and guitarist of one of my favourite bands of all time, The Fall. Many have followed him, but not many have matched him. Legend has it that he would have been their singer, had it not been for Mark E. Smith’s inability to play the guitar. “Live At The Witch Trials” features his spidery fretwork, humour and writing all over it and it still sounds fresh today. He left The Fall, with fellow founder and then partner Una Baines in 1979, to form a second cult Manchester band Blue Orchids, also Peel favourites, where he’s sung some classic pop tunes that if you haven’t heard already you should immediately check out (“Work”, “The Flood”. “Disney Boys”) and written some memorable lyrics including the unforgettable “spent a year with no head/felt fine” (“A Year With No Head”). It’s an honour to include on Velvet Sheep one of my musical heroes, the inimitable Martin Bramah.
In the last edition of “song for ewe” a long time supporter of Velvet Sheep fanzine Gary Walker the founder and former boss of Wiiija Records wrote an eloquent and evocative piece about a favourite track he’d enjoyed lately and it was “Frightened” by The Fall from the aforementioned “Live At The Witch Trials”. Gary picked out Martin Bramah for particular praise: ““Frightened” – perhaps not so obscure, but also not their best known song – seethes paranoia and alienation as The Fall did at their peak. I love the drum sound and Martin Bramah’s frenzied, scratchy guitar playing carries me away every time.”
Not long before I met Gary in the early 90s, Martin Bramah had opened an unlikely chapter in the history of The Fall by re-joining the band. After Mark E Smith split from Brix, it paved the way for a founding and prodigal son to rejoin the fold, where he played on another high watermark album in their discography, 1990’s “Extricate” (which features the brilliant and surprisingly only Fall song ever to top Peel’s Festive 50 “Bill Is Dead” and the song which is currently my ringtone, “Telephone Thing” a track which genuflected towards the Hacienda).
I have recently been playing the Cherry Red records comp of Blue Orchids tracks “A Darker Bloom” on repeat, and it is chock full of great tunes. If you like The Fall think of their most coherent, least esoteric tunes, and substitute Mark E Smith’s bar-room brawler lyrics for more plaintive, reflective bedsit drama, backed by Bramah’s trademark guitar and a swirling Hammond organ only heard to similar effect since by the Inspiral Carpets and you have a handle on the genius of Blue Orchids.
Martin also has a band called Factory Star, but it is Blue Orchids who are very much back on the agenda, which pleases me greatly. Here’s the latest news straight from the great man’s mouth:
“Blue Orchids have a new album in the can: ‘The Once & Future Thing’.
Which will be available on vinyl and CD.
I am also reissuing my 2008 solo album: ‘The Battle Of Twisted Heel’ on vinyl for the first time.
Both albums are currently at the pressing plant, awaiting a release date.Will keep you posted”.
Compare the pictures of Martin on this feature, the old one on “A Darker Bloom” and the current one at the top, and he hasn’t changed one bit, so I can’t wait to hear the new album as I’m sure his acerbic wit and vitriolic spit hasn’t diminished one bit either.
Given Gary Walker’s choice for “a song for ewe”, it seemed poetic to follow with Martin’s choice, and I was intrigued to know what a man at the heart of two post punk units and once part of Nico’s own backing band would choose as his own “song for ewe”, so without further ado, it’s…
Over to Martin:
‘I’ve Got A Dollar’ by Jimmy Dell. RCA Victor 1958
“I love the dumb exuberance of this blue collar classic.
‘I’ve got a dollar – meet me on the corner’, sings Jimmy…
It reminds me of growing up on the streets of north Manchester, where the kids would try and impress by using American slang; ‘lend us a dollar’ or referring to the police as ‘Feds’.
I think it’s his carefree attitude to money and the lack thereof that makes me so fond of this rockin’ record.”
THANKS SO MUCH TO MARTIN BRAMAH! YOU’RE THE MAN.