Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Saint Etienne "Hug My Soul" Promo Postcard September 1994

Won't you hug my soul? No? Not even if I wrapped a feather boa round my neck and swayed like Sarah Cracknell? Don't run away...

Anyway, here's a rarity - a postcard sent out to publicise a Saint Etienne release (or maybe they just didn't send me anymore... sob). A top release it was as well. "Hug My Soul" was the third single from their third album "Tiger Bay", and a definite improvement chartwise after the number 41 placing of "Like A Motorway", as it reached the giddy heights of 32.  Minus points for the card advertising that very Nineties scam, the premium rate phone number message. Spend a small fortune listening to Steve Lamacq talking to the band and also hear the new single! You know, the one that's on the album you've got already.  The money you'd save not ringing could be spent actually buying the bloody CD. It made Dial-a-Disc seem such a loooong time ago.  Thank you marketing department of Creation Records.   

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Kylie Minogue "Did It Again" Promo Postcard November 1997

Kylie's back! A typical oversized postcard for the postie to deliver advertising the forthcoming release of her brand new single "Did It Again". This was the second single from her second album for the deConstruction label "Impossible Princess". Not that you'd find that album in the shops at that time...

"Impossible Princess" had the misfortune to be scheduled for release shortly after the lead single "Some Kind Of Bliss", a single which was Minogue's worst performing single yet, stalling at number 22. To release a single in the week following the funeral of Princess Diana is bad enough - most single sales dropped as a Nation bought Elton John's dirge of a tribute "Candle In The Wind" instead - but to name your album "Impossible Princess" was disastrous. So the release of the album was postponed, and it would eventually see the light of day in the UK early in 1998, renamed simply "Kylie Minogue" (like her previous album), by which time any momentum of publicity had long since died out, and reviews were mixed but mostly unfavourable. A shame really, as this was the first (and last) album where Kylie would be given her head and be in control of everything, and this was the first real glimpse of the real Miss Minogue. History has been kind to this era of Kylie's pop career, with many of the songs becoming fan faves, and a re-release of the album some years later (with it's proper title reinstated) earned a more positive critical reappraisal from certain quarters of the press. Maybe she was just a little bit ahead of her time.

"Did It Again" turned out to be one of those singles which everybody seemed to like but didn't buy, only reaching number 14 in December of 1997, despite a great video, tons of publicity and some fab remixes across the formats.  Still, the story wasn't over for Kylie, because from this career low, a renaissance was to come just two years later...     

Monday, 28 May 2012

Orbital "Satan Live" Promo Postcard December 1996

"Yes son?"
"What does regret mean...?"

It's Orbital again with a revamp of their number 31 hit from 1991... altogether now... "SATAN SATAN SATAN SATAN!!!!"

By the end of 1996 Orbital were probably as massive as they would ever get, with their most successful album yet "In Sides" and a reputation as one of the best live electronic bands in the UK if not the World. So why not build upon that success by releasing one of their most popular live tracks as a single? Ker-ching. Number 3 hit, and their joint biggest single (alongside the aforementioned "Saint" later that Spring). Of course releasing this in the New Year of 1997 didn't harm it's chart position (see the earlier entry for PSB's "Drunk" for more sneaky Iron Maiden-esque release tactics). Tons of live classics over 3 CD singles. Thank you very much I'll have those.

Orbital "The Saint" Promo Postcard April 1997

Doo doo do doo doo doo doooooo..... dum-de-dum-de-diddly....

What's this? Orbital doing a film theme? Yup, following on in a long tradition of old TV shows remade as shite Hollywood blockbusters, here's "The Saint", a film that was almost but not entirely unlike any of the old series of the show you may remember. Charisma-vaccuum Val Kilmer sleepwalks his way through the film as Simon Templar. I can't tell you anything else about the film as I never stayed awake long enough to know what the hell it was about. The only good thing about it was the revamped theme tune from the Hartnoll brothers, who were obviously dragged in following their "Ipcress File" sampling film noir-ish single "The Box" twelve months earlier. They'd go on to have some form in this area, with good soundtracks for the movies "Event Horizon" and "Beached" from errr.. "The Beach". Oh and their valiant efforts to get the Doctor Who theme gig. "The Saint" was their joint biggest single, reaching number 3 in April 1997. Nice postcard - should have been a t-shirt.       

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Dannii Minogue "Everything I Wanted" Promo Postcard 1997

Woof! It's the lesser Minogue sister! Dannii drops her surname for 1997's "Girl" album campaign, and this postcard was sent out to promote the second poptastic single from it, "Everything I Wanted", an early Xenomania produced effort. The two CD singles featured stacks of remixes along with a poster of a half dressed Minogue, which is always a winner. A half decent single though not as good as the preceding top 5 smash "All I Wanna Do", which was a fantastic pop record on par with Kylie's output.

Inspiral Carpets "Uniform" Promo Postcard 1994

It's the start of the end. The last "proper" single from the original reign of ver Carpets. "Uniform" was the final single from their final album "Devil Hopping", before they broke up the following year, and it's lowly position of number 51 reflects the diminishing popularity of the band. It's not as if the single wasn't value for money with a great cover of "Paranoid" and several mixes and versions of tracks from the album. Bloody foul sleeve design though.

Erasure "Erasure" Promo Postcard October 1995

Oh dear. Erasure exit their "Imperial Phase" and enter the "difficult mid career dip". It's never good when a band who have been going for a while release an album with the same name as the band. It's either a lack of new ideas, or "this is the real us" and what follows is an album of self indulgent turgid toss. Erasure fell somewhere inbetween with this eponymously titled release, complete with odd cover painted portrait. The dance floor stompers of the past were mostly absent, apart from the sublime "Fingers and Thumbs", replaced with thoughtful ballads and slowies like "Sono Luminous" and the lead single "Stay With Me". Most tracks clocked in over 5 minutes and Vince has long passages of synth noodling throughout. It's probably a fan fave but didn't really grab me. Like Pet Shop Boys' "Release" album, "Erasure" was probably an album they had to get out of their system, and if it had sold in great quantities we would have had more of the same, but it didn't, so it was back to the stompers, albeit with less commercial success than before.

Pet Shop Boys "I Get Along" Promo Postcard

A great little card reproducing the artwork from PSB's second single from "Release", the album that now seems to be the anomaly in their recorded output. It's almost their "mid-career crisis" record, a low key traditional sounding (for any other band) affair, and appears to be something which they had to get out of their system. It's certainly odd looking as regular designer Mark Farrow wasn't involved in any way for the first and last time during their years recording for the EMI label. The song "I Get Along" is an Oasis-a-like plod-along, it's lyrics alluding to the then fraught relationship between Tony Blair and his New Labour colleague Peter Mandelson after the latter resigned from the Cabinet following a major scandal. All a bit dull truth told.

Of more interest on the CD singles are the fab live tracks from a Radio 2 gig, with a blistering "Love Comes Quickly" and a fantastic more traditional sounding (for this band) Blank & Jones remix of  their preceding single "Home and Dry". The UK tour advertised was an interesting affair also, reflecting the stripped back sound of it's parent album by being PSB with real musicians, and no silly costumes. It worked brilliantly, but it's interesting they haven't repeated this since. An experiment with only partial success.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Radiohead "Meeting People Is Easy" Promo Postcard 1998

A promo postcard letting us know that there's a new video coming out featuring a film by Grant Gee about the popular beat combo Radiohead. A barrel of laughs to be sure - "A Hard Day's Night" it ain't.

Paul Weller "Out Of The Sinking" Promo Postcard October 1994

The third coming of Paul Weller... frankly the public had written the former Jam front man off after the demise of The Style Council, who today in the cold light of 2012 seem like the most unlikely band project ever to grace the charts - what on Earth was going on there, and how did they manage-stroke-get away with it for six whole years?. Weller quietly found himself a record contract with Go!Discs, and plugged away with a couple of "back-to-basics" solo albums, the eponymous first of which found critical acclaim but average sales; the second, 1993's "Wild Wood" doing far better, gaining widespread plaudits and considerable commercial success, with three singles gracing the top 20 (in fact, whilst looking this up I've noticed he's actually had a staggering thirty-one top 40 solo singles over the period from May 1991 to April 2010.) 

With the boom in British rock music handily coinciding, Weller's commercial reawakening along with namechecks from the likes of Liam and Noel Gallagher placed him in the bizarre position in the media as the so-called "Modfather" of Britpop. "Out of the Sinking" was initially an interim single released in the Autumn of 1994 between "Live Wood" (the inevitable stop-gap live album) and 1995's soon to be mega selling "Stanley Road", before being re-recorded for that album, nicked by Sky as theme for Sunday Football, and then re-released on the back of that. And a cracking good single it is.  

This is a promo postcard sent out in October 1994.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Erasure "Cowboy" Promo Postcard 2000

Erasure's new album! Hurrah! Err.. hello? Anybody there? Nope, the general public had fallen out with Erasure by 2000 and were selling to the fan-base only. The days of instant top ten hits seemed well and truly over. It's not surprising really, as "Loveboat" was the third average album in a row after "Erasure" and "Cowboy". And just look at the cover. Awful. The lead single "Freedom" was okay, and made a dint in the top 30 by reaching 27, but it seemed Vince and Andy were doomed to get left in the 20th Century.

Fortunately, after a few years off, Erasure's fortunes were revived in 2003 with a cover of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill", and the second chapter of their career began in earnest, becoming more successful as a top live act than selling albums and singles.     

Embrace "Hooligan" Promo Card 1999

Whatever happened to Embrace? There's been no sign of them since their 2006 England World Cup song. Ah well, the mysteries of pop. Here's a card publicising their kazootastic single "Hooligan" from their "as yet untitled second album" which would go on to sell considerably less than their "half-million selling" "The Good Will Out". Embrace CDs are available in all good charity shops and Cash Converters stores nationwide. Usually. 

"Hooligan" reached number 18 in the charts way back in November 1999 and is still rather good. You'll note that the bottom of the card implores you to return the enclosed reply card and include your e-mail address if you've got one. Oh dear, it was the beginning of the end for promotional mail-outs...

Monday, 26 March 2012

Heineken Music Festival, Preston - Flyer 1994

A flyer publicising something you don't see these days. A free music festival.

This was I think the second Heineken Music Festival to be held in Preston, and a grand line up it was. Of course, idiot me doesn't go on the Saturday to see Oasis. Oh no. I think it was The Boo Radleys headlining that put me off.

But I did go down to Avenham Park and braved the pouring rain on the Thursday to see my faves Inspiral Carpets, supported by the (then) little known Shed Seven, who I'd seen earlier in the year supporting Suede at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. The Inspirals were promoting what turned out to be their final album "Devil Hopping" and were in fine form for a band close to splitting up.

I can't remember much about Baby Chaos (there was a promo card for them which I sent off) but the Sheds and Inspirals were excellent, and the big tent leaked the  alarmingly.

Don't forget - large cans from only 89p.

Blur "Beetlebum" Promo Postcard 1997

Wow. We never expected this. Blur shed their "cheeky chappy music hall" image and go lo-fi. Signifying a back-to-basics approach seemingly led by guitarist Graham Coxon, "Beetlebum" placed Blur back at the top of the Britpop Premier League after a few missteps with "The Great Escape" allowing Oasis to barge in and sit in the driving seat as Britain's biggest band.

"Beetlebum" went straight in at Number One, their second to do so, the previous being the notorious "Country House" during the Britpop battle of Summer 1995.

The artwork from here on is a departure from the preceding years. No more spoofs of beer mugs or condom packets. Here we've got someone lying in the leaves looking well out of it, reflecting the lyrical content.

Full marks again for issuing it on 7" red vinyl, and look at the tour dates. Cheap and available by queueing only. Those were the days, eh kids?

Pulp "Common People" Promo Postcard 1995

A small card to tell us that Pulp have a new single out. The pre-release "buzz" for this was massive - "Common People" was going to be the smasheroonie of 1995. It seemed to be Pulp's time to take the spotlight, with Blur and Oasis taking a time out before the release of their new material later that Summer.

And the buzz wasn't wrong. This was their best single yet, lovingly packaged in a sleeve by the awfully talented Designers Republic. It stuck at Number Two, but became Pulp's biggest hit and their (and probably Britpop's) anthem.

The stakes had been raised. Your call Albarn & Gallagher.

Oasis "D'ya Know What I Mean?" / "Be Here Now" Promo Mailouts

"As you may have heard, Oasis are back." There read the tag line on the latest Oasis mailing list promotional card, and in the mid-summer of 1997, you couldn't avoid them. A now legendary ridiculous publicity campaign would begin here with the first single "D'You Know What I Mean?" and then the accompanying third album "Be Here Now". Overblown isn't the word. And really, although nothing could live up to the hype generated by Creation and the media (most of whom slagged "Morning Glory" and got caught out of step with the public taste by it's massive success), the record wasn't that good. Not bad by any means, but in need of someone during the making of it to take the band aside and say "no". No to seven minute songs with interminable feedback intros and outros, no to overdone guitar solos, no to Johnny Depp, no to songs that two years earlier wouldn't have made an extra track on a cassette single.

"Be Here Now" was and remains a bit of an own goal. It could have been brilliant, had Noel saved some of his better songs for the album and not tossed them off as extra tracks on singles. Or if someone had decided to edit the bloody thing down to a reasonable length. As Noel admits now, it was a creation of the rock and roll lifestyle in which band had now found themselves immersed - open the CD box and you expect a couple of grammes of coke to fall out of the booklet. It was a product of indulgence and everybody got swept up in giddy excitement. I was as guilty, having been there since day one when "Supersonic" was released one gloomy Monday in 1994. I couldn't wait to hear the new stuff - would they up their game in the same way Blur did earlier in the year with "Beetlebum" and the "Blur" album? It was promising... "D'Ya Know What I Mean?", overlong as it was, was a classic Oasis chugging anthem, and sounded great LOUD. The signs of something amiss were apparent listening to the rest of the CD single... "Stay Young" had a great Liam vocal but treaded old ground musically and lyrically, "Angel Child" stayed a demo for good reason and the cover of Bowie's "Heroes" was abysmal. Where's the quality control?

And the album was no better really. Six good tracks, the rest poor. I won't state what they are, it's obvious. Never write a song with "Pie" in the title. Honestly I can say I've never played the CD all the way through since I bought it. Actually I can say that for all their following albums as well.

So that was Oasis then. As big as they would ever be, but from here it would be a slow, slow bumpy ride to the inevitable split.

I wish I'd ordered that boxset though.