published: 6 /
In our series, in which our writers write about ten songs that made them love a favourite band or artist, Dixie Ernill writes about his favourite songs by recently reformed 80's indie pop act the Brilliant Corners, with additional comments from their front man Davey Woodward
My love of music began in the mid 80s with the Smiths, the Housemartins, James and Cud before I was drawn into the indie-pop fanzine buying world and became an obsessive buyer of 7” singles. In the pre-internet days this was my way of discovering new music, and at often only 99p a pop it was more affordable than it is now.
Somewhere along the line the name the Brilliant Corners came on my radar and in order to find out what they sounded like I bought their current 'The Pope, The Monkey and The Queen' single from RPM records in Newcastle, where I was ‘studying’ at university at the time.
'The Ghost of a Young Man' (1990)
In truth the A-side of 'The Pope, The Monkey and The Queen' didn’t grab me at first, but the B-side had something about it – more immediate, more pop with intriguing lyrics too - and as such 'The Ghost of a Young Man' turned me on to arguably Bristol’s finest indie-pop band.
Davey Woodward: A certain happy floating feeling was about, wanted a dreamy repetitive song, this was it.
'Delilah Sands' (1987)
A few months later I found the 'Delilah Sands' single in the bargain bin at Vinyl Exchange in Manchester. This song is an indie-pop classic, and was the catalyst to me going out and buying the band’s entire back-catalogue over the next couple of years. I remember dancing round the bedroom and singing along to the ‘ba-ba-ba’s’ within a couple of plays. I love the line “I’d bite you if I had the teeth”. It certainly struck a chord with the shy teenager I was then.
Davey Woodward: I am still not sure what this song is about, think I was angry about something. I know I wanted to use a kind of surf vocal thing and that's why the chorus is ba ba ba's.
'Meet Me on Tuesdays' (1986)
The first LP I bought by The Brilliant Corners was their singles compilation, 'Creamy Stuff'. It was an ideal starting point that highlighted how the band had progressed from the punky rockabilly sound of their first two singles to the psychedelic indie-rock of 'Love It I Lost It'” and 'The Pope, The Monkey and The Queen'. The middle period in the band’s history, between 1985 and 1988 was probably their best loved phase, with '“Meet Me on Tuesdays' being the crowning moment.
Originally taken from the almost perfect slab of 12” vinyl that is the 'Fruit Machine' EP, 'Meet Me on Tuesdays' has remained my favourite song ever since. It’s a breathless ball of energy with stunning lyrics, and I am yet to play it to anyone who’s doesn’t instantly like it. When I asked Julie Stansfield out for a drink in about 1992, I insisted we met on a Tuesday at 8 o’clock because of a lyric in this song...I also remember being slightly disappointed when I turned twenty-one because of the lyric “Not yet even twenty-one and feeling very used” and most recently I insisted that the covers band that played at my 40th birthday party learned the music, so I could sing it (rather badly).
Davey Woodward: This song is one of a long line of girl trouble songs I have written. It's also about feeling inadequate, out of depth worried the good bits will fall apart but happy they didn't.
'Trudy is a Squeal' (1986)
“All I ever wanted was a room, some books and Trudy” is a wonderfully simple declaration of love that is taken from 'Trudy is a Squeal', yet another classic from 1986, recorded at the same time as 'The Fruit Machine' EP, but not released until it appeared on the B-side of the 'Brian Rix' single in 1987. It is very similar to 'Meet Me on Tuesdays' in its energetic urgency, and hence it’s utterly ace.
Davey Woodward: Wanted to do a real noisy song after the pop of 'Rix', and this was it. Lots of bendy strings - got Postcard written all over it. That's a good thing.
'Growing Up Absurd 'was the band’s debut (mini) LP and one of several highlights was the gentle ballad 'Mary'. It was a massive nod to Dylan, Reed and Haig, but still one of Woodward’s finest songs. Seemingly about under-performing in the bedroom with an older lady...
Davey Woodward: Mary really existed but she was not at all like in this song. Written from my time living in a shit hole in Stokes Croft in the early 80s.
'Why Do You Have to Go Out with Him When You Could Go Out with Me?'(1988)
'Why Do You Have to Go Out with Him When You Could Go Out with Me?' - we’ve probably all thought it, but the Brilliant Corners were savvy enough to write a song about it! It was the last of their great indie-pop singles before they moved into the harder sound of 1989's'Joyride' and 1990's 'Hooked' albums. Bob Morris’ drumming and backing vocals by the first lady of indie-pop, Amelia Fletcher, enhance this record even more. The b-side, 'Shangri-la' is a belter too.
Davey Woodward: Very factual. Almost every lyric actually happened in real life.
'I Never Said That' (1986)
Being late to the party, meant that I had a whole back catalogue to track down and the long deleted 'What’s in a Word' album was unearthed at a record fair in Newcastle in circa 92/93. It was the original blue sleeve version and cost me about £4, but it had, understandably, been well used. Whilst most fans cite 1988's 'Somebody Up There Likes Me' as the definitive Brilliant Corners album, I love the energy and rawness of the eight tracks on 'What’s in a Word'. 'I Never Said That' is my favourite on the album, even though the indie chart smash of 'Brian Rix' is also on there.
Davey Woodward: Another one where I was in quite a dreamy mood. Somewhat confessional.
'Heaven Inside Her' (1990)
Despite the success of ploughing the indie-pop furrow that the band enjoyed between about ‘86 and ’88, with lots of press coverage, sell out gigs home and abroad, indie chart hits and the occasional TV appearance ('The Tube' and 'The Chart Show'), they didn’t want to stand still.
1990’s massively undervalued album 'Hooked', which was inspired by Woodward hitching across Europe to Romania with just a trusty guitar, included some of the band’s most enduring songs. As much as I love the immediate pop of their earlier records, I think, on a desert island, this would be the one LP of theirs that I’d take if I had to choose due to its depth, variety and fascinating lyrics. “Look out for the devil’s spies/They’ll call you sexy and gouge out your eyes” is just one of many examples. It’s lifted from the gorgeous 'Heaven Inside Her'.
Davey Woodward: Another break up/make up song. The Go Betweens were always a big influence on me and this has some of them. The song Hemmingway’s Back is complete Go Betweens!
It wasn’t until 1993 that I finally got to see the band play live. They seemed to have pretty much gone into hibernation after the release of the 'Creamy Stuff' compilation in 1991 and then to my surprise they suddenly re-surfaced with a brand new album 'A History of White Trash' that was financed in part by a Japanese business man who disappeared almost as soon as the record was released. His disappearance putting paid to a possible trip to play some gigs in Japan. Thankfully the band did play some UK dates, but didn’t venture further North than the Princess Charlotte in Leicester.
I, however, borrowed my mum’s car, grabbed a mate and drove down from Bury (and back again with flat tyre!) to watch the gig. 'I Like It Here' which was taken from the new album and reminded me of the easy pop of 'Teenage' and 'Delilah Sands', was the standout song.
Davey Woodward: In a way this song was an amalgamation of all the good bits of pop songs I had written. Upbeat, but with a kind of um fatality to it!
'Arlington Villas' (1986)
Having finally collected all the band's officially released material, I began tracking down bootlegs of concerts and through this I hooked up with Uwe Weigmann, an avid fan from Berlin (and co-founder of Firestation Records). We swapped letters and tapes and one of the things he sent me was some Peel sessions that the Brilliant Corners had done back in the mid-80’s (all the band’s BBC sessions would eventually be released by Vinyl Japan a few years later), and amazingly there was a number of unreleased tracks on them. It was like I’d struck gold – remember the internet hadn’t really taken off then. One of the tracks was 'Arlington Villas', and I couldn’t believe that a song this good hadn’t been released! On a cricket tour to Bristol, I even found a terrace called Arlington Villas and Davey confirmed the song was connected. Over the years I have managed to track down some more unreleased songs (most of which were finally released on last year's 'Heart On Your Sleeve' compilation that I worked on with Cherry Red). The common theme is the high quality.
Davey Woodward: Gosh I have to admit to having a hard job transporting myself back to this one. In fact I can't!
The band recently reformed for a year of gigging, which comes to an end in Bristol in September, but if you are in the North on Saturday July 5th, they are playing at the Ruby Lounge in Manchester...