“SONG FOR EWE”
with CATHAL COUGHLAN of THE FATIMA MANSIONS

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“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.

Today it’s the Irish singer/songwriter, leader of two killer cult concerns Microdisney & the legendary The Fatima Mansions, Melody Maker cover star, mate of Sean Hughes, collaborator with Luke Haines, fan of Scott Walker, spoof-artiste of Telstar comps – the unmistakeable timbre and gravel-gravitas of late 80s/early 90s poster boy, please genuflect at the indie altar of Cathal Coughlan!

Just before I started writing Velvet Sheep zine on a BBC Model B computer and photocopying it with the copier my Mum & Dad bought me for my 18th, I used to religiously buy both the NME & Melody Maker as my only connection to an underground music scene from the ‘burbs of the North Kent riviera (Gravesend) and one of the people oft venerated as a scene hero was Cathal Coughlan and his band The Fatima Mansions (around the time of their ’92 classic “Valhalla Avenue”, when I was a mere slip of a 17 year old)

I used to dream of heading up to town to see them, but by the time I’d convinced the folks I’d be safe flying solo up in town (after taking Dad with me to interview Rosa Mota at the Bull & Gate and 4AD band Underground Lovers at the Powerhaus), The Fatima Mansions weren’t playing, and me and Phil my school bud (and now VS blog cohort) went to see Sultans of Ping FC instead. Close but no cigar. Or should I say jumper?

Never mind, I’ve made up for it now by finding Cathal amongst some mutual FB friends, and he agreed to choose a “song for ewe” to my immense pleasure. But first here’s a blast of his explosive stock-in-trade:

I asked Cathal what he was up to that day:

“Present activities are slight. I’m singing as part of Imagining Ireland at the RFH tonight, but after that, the road is one of toil and fog. C”

Surprisingly, Cathal is the first to choose this next artiste as his “song for ewe”, it’s a real garage hero, with a lesser known tune from the left field, so without further ado, it’s over to our man, close friends possibly get to call him CC (not TC):

“Vince Taylor/Jac Berrocal: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Station”

Vince Taylor was a British-born, American-raised rock ‘n’ roll singer (amid the thinning air of the early 1960’s), who wore a mean leather catsuit and wrote “Brand New Cadillac”. Along the way, Vince’s was a trajectory characterised by beneficial accidents leading to major popularity in France, and not-so-beneficial incidents of mental illness and pharmacological mishap.

Jac Berrocal is a French trumpeter, vocalist and sound artist. I have no idea how he encountered Vince, but between them they concocted what is simultaneously the most ridiculous and the most sinister 4:42 in the history of ‘pop’ music. It’s no exaggeration whatever to say that there’s nothing else like it. In the world.

I’m not going to spoil it by giving a blow-by-blow reconstruction, but the key elements employed are: thin slivers of what might once have been rockabilly instrumentation slowed, unprocessed, to the point where notes no longer connect to one another; a very weird set of pronunciations of everyday words; no singing, just mannered, possibly opiated speech; and (we’re told) a musical bicycle wheel.

They say that Vince, particularly at the point where his illness led to his declaring – onstage, wrapped in a sheet and deadly serious – that he was Jesus Christ, was the inspiration for Ziggy Stardust. That’s as may be, but this track, despite its apparent mid-70’s origin, sounds more like the inspiration for the scarier parts of Bowie’s final masterpiece, “Blackstar.””

THANKYOU MR. COUGHLAN, A FANTASTIC CHOICE…