JOHN McKEOWN of THE YUMMY FUR – Song For Ewe

“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. I was at University in Mile End, East London in 1995 at the height of Britpop when Blur played the Mile End Stadium. But I didn’t want to be part of that. I’d had my fill of Blur by then. That wasn’t the kind of DIY indie punk that floated my boat and filled the pages of my fanzine. With a mate, and with some VS zines in hand we went AWOL and headed up to Kings X for an all-dayer where the likes of Bob Tilton and Lung Leg were playing. Wow we were truly outsiders! There were whispers that Trumans Water were coming, but the absolute knock-down favs of the day for me were The Yummy Fur with their sub 2 minute blasts of savvy, sassy, snotty, Fire Enginges-esque punk.

They were Peel favs too and since this was also the time that VS was mentioned by said DJ, in my mind they were kindred spirits. Here some time later with VS now as a blog Jane McKeown of Lung Leg has been on these pages choosing her “song for ewe” by Patsy Cline and when I saw that her brother John was on FB I had to get in touch. I’ve been amused for a while by his social media activity – a mixture of wry takes on our political darkness and recently an appreciation for the “Fosse/Verdon” series which I also much admire.

When I got in touch, it also transpires to be fortuitous timing since The Yummy Fur have a best of on the way called “Piggy Wings” on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records…so I’m chuffed to welcome to Velvet Sheep, John (Jackie) McKeown!

Here’s a new video for “Department”…

A quick primer for The Yummy Fur is:

Their name was taken from the cartoon book Yummy Fur by Chester Brown and they deliver cartoonish wiz-bang tunes.

They’re from Glasgow.

John McKeown is the axis around which the band has revolved from its original run 1992 – 1999.

Members of the group went onto play for other indie luminaries The Male Nurse, The Country Teasers (another band I saw a helluva lot of at the time), and three of Franz Ferdinand.

The Yummy Fur had three albums: Night Club (1996) (on the ace Slampt & Guided Missile labels), Male Shadow at Three O’Clock (1998) and Sexy World (1999). After this John formed wilfully bombastic pop band The 1990s.

The Yummy Fur recorded three sessions for John Peel. He was quite partial to them by all accounts.

They played some reunion shows in 2010 and thankfully they’re back again – with new sessions for Marc Riley, and in-stores in October in Monorail and Rough Trade East (i’ve booked my tix!) plus a mammoth US tour to promote new best of comp “Piggy Wings” – which is sure to be a complete blast.

Here’s a peak at the artwork…

…and without further ado, here’s John’s brilliantly erudite “song for ewe”…you won’t be disappointed. Unless you don’t like Joni Mitchell. In which case, enjoy the words.

“Song for Ageing Children Come – Joni Mitchell (1969)

I heard this song for the first time only this year but it immediately made me think of winter, snow, secret pathways uncovered. The same vibe as Winter by The Fall (‘entrance is uncovered’) but less Icelandic lava / more California magickal.

The chords and melody are like a Victorian clockwork puzzle. The melody drops in from the top of the machine in the form of a shiny metal ball triggering pulleys, levers and trap doors as it descends with a strange inevitability to the release of the chorus which carries it back to the top on a warm jet of steam.

I had to do some research as I was getting such a strong sense of deja vu. Turns out it gets used in the film “Alice’s Restaurant” (1969) which I remember seeing as a kid in the 70s. Specifically a scene featuring a cover of it performed at a funeral in the snow. I wonder if the song really does sound like snow or if I’m actually remembering it from that one viewing forty plus years ago?

Everything about this song flashes me back to tiny glimpses of something obscured in my past. I’m rarely a nostalgic person. If I can remember my past I don’t bother revisiting it much. But some songs momentarily reveal something hidden. Slightly sinister, partly sumptuous. Like a colour you haven’t seen for a long long time and forgot existed. The singer sounds like she’s in a vacuum, some kind of glass box, with day-to-day life going on around her oblivious. Akin to sleep paralysis. You’re speaking but nobody seems to hear:

People hurry by so quickly
Don’t they hear the melodies
In the chiming and the clicking
And the laughing harmonies

It’s all very typical late 60s hippy-dippy witchy music but the chord sequence and melody are so baroque and spooky that it rises above the hair-muzak of Crosby, Stills & Hash etc.

I love Joni. She’s closer to the death world of Forever Changes on this song and that is definitely the place to be in 1969.”

“Piggy Wings” is out on 18 October on Rock Action Records and here’s the details for the upcoming in-stores at Rough Trade East in London…

https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/events/rough-trade-east-the-yummy-fur

and at Monorail in Glasgow… apologies for the unwieldy link.

https://www.monorailmusic.com/album/ff7b41b5-b92f-11e9-9211-22000b754a1f/Piggy_Wings_%3Cb%3EMonorail_Exclusive_with_Bonus_Disc_.html

Plus here’s some zinging flyers for the forthcoming US shenanagins.

CHEERS JOHN! CATCH YOU SOON!

Author: Nick Hutchings

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