In the current vinyl revival we don’t seem to hear a great deal about the seven-inch. Granted, the occasional thing is being issued and reissued on the format but generally the LP has taken almost full ownership. HMV, for one, has barely any 7″ singles in stock. John Peel said it was his favourite format (remember his famous record box?), and in our household back in the 80s– and I’m sure many others– we’d buy loads of them. When we got our first turntable in 1983, a modern-y one to replace the old seventies antique, it was the 7″ single that we immediately sought out.
These items I picked up in a second-hand record and vintage clothes shop on Botanic Avenue. I also mulled over buying a still-in-pretty-good-nick CD copy of Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Grand Prix’ but its blue case put me off, as I could find no evidence that the album was originally put out this way (I’m snobbishly fussy like that).
“The House Of Love were a damn fine band in their day”, says I, holding up a copy of ‘Don’t Know Why I Love You’, one of the singles just plucked from the pile that I was about to buy. “Yep, they’d a song called ‘Beatles And Stones”, responds the bloke behind the counter. “But that’s not one of their better ones”, I quickly reply. This leaves the dude sort of floundering. “They’d another, what was it, ‘Christine’?” Better. But, just as he’d finished speaking, what do I come across, but only a copy of said 1990 hit single ‘Beatles And the Stones’. And what’s this, that cracking, MOTD goal-of-the-month-friendly instrumental ‘Love IV’ on the flip. Crucially, both singles are in great nick (not a mark on the, albeit quite lightweight, vinyl). And still kept in protective plastic covers. Also most crucial.
Both singles– fetching only 2 quid a pop– two of four released back in 1989 and ‘90, and lifted off their most successful LP, the ‘Butterfly’ album, which took ages to record. (Seems a lot for a group like this. I mean, who are they, Madonna?) This was back when the previously shimmering HoL began to rock it a little bit more, their career benefiting from the oncoming commercial success of the ‘Manchester’ sound, meaning indie music beginning to seriously crossover into daytime radio and more regular slots on TOTP. There was something in the water back then. As frontman Guy Chadwick told BBC Radio 1 in April ‘1991: “If a band like James can make it to number 2 then we’ve all got a chance”.
Before I leave the shop, I tell the bloke the one about the time Chadwick marched into the offices of the NME around a year after he made that statement on Radio 1 and, a bit worse for wear (or so the story goes), demanded to be put on the magazine’s cover instead of “fucking Faith No More”. A story that has many little sub plots. HOL’s indie-darling phase was by now a thing of the past, American grunge music had overtaken British indie as the cool thing that the kids wanted, and, of course, the fickle mood of the music press.
UPDATE: After all this time it has occurred to me what the ‘put the V in Vietnam’ lyric means (peace sign?). Turns out– to my surprise– I was by no means the only one who had for years overseen this. Now the track makes more sense, while also improving by at least 27%.
this piece first appeared on now deleted blog in 2018