First of all… For the sake of honesty, I’m putting the whole album up. I could be dishonest and only put the best songs out there but I’ll put everything out. Secondly… The sound quality isn’t brilliant. All the songs were recorded on a four-track tape recorder without any EQ or effects – so it’s pretty basic, as was the equipment used. I’ve done a little noise reduction but otherwise these are just how they sounded back in 1993.
Some context. “The beauty shelter” was issued in April 1993, having been recorded over the previous two months. Some of the songs were newly written but some were older, or adapted from other songs. The album title came from me mis-reading a sign of a beauty parlour in Llanrumney – on Newport Road – while on the bus to the Stats Office where I worked.
This song was originally written in June 1992 and recorded very badly around that time. This version was recorded in March ’93. It’s about seeing someone who has such passion for what they are doing that you feel stunned. Sort of. At least that’s how it was in June ’92. By the time I recorded this in January ’93 it had changed slightly into a song of devotion for someone. It’s slightly about M, then. The recording quality is abysmal, not helped by the fact that it’s all my brother’s acoustic guitar, which was cheap, old and crap – as was my microphone. And then I go and spoil it all with a horrendous drop out noise on a vocal track (second verse I think) which any sensible person would have corrected. But still people liked the song – someone in the Stats Office compared it to Simon and Garfunkel. I laughed and laughed and laughed. One last thing to mention – I ended up quoting this song in “Past caring”, one of the first Cloud Minders songs, a kiss-off to M – “It isn’t you that matters anymore, it’s me that matters now I know the score”. See link for that at the end of the page.
Written and recorded in Feb ’93, this was just an exercise in “What follows this chord?”. Therefore the similarity to “Stephanie Says” by The Velvet Underground is entirely co-incidental. Nice chord changes, nice melody, nice acoustic guitar solo, nice sentiments (not about anyone). Nice.
Another song with a history. I frequented a bar on Penarth seafront called Luciano’s and performed my first gig there in September 91. It was such a success that one of my friends decided to set up a small cabaret group to perform there, alongside a few musical artists and myself. I was meant to perform at the first night but pulled out due to illness but I did attend it – it was really good, the comedy and cabaret were interesting and frequently funny, the music was OK too. And one friend raved about it to the company’s face then slagged them off to me later. So I wrote a song about it called “If God is watching me” which I performed there the following week. I liked the tune and rewrote it in late winter ’93 for this song. The lyrics were totally rewritten and about another friend who would get drunk and moan that he was between girlfriends, while some people had yet to even have a girlfriend (that would be me then). And yes it does sort of sound like “No more heroes”. By this point I’m starting to work out how to use the portastudio and it sounds a bit better than previous recordings. I like this song’s energy. I just wish I hadn’t over-extended one syllable at the end.
Written in the autumn of 1991 in response to the aftermath of the “What happens next” EP from September – I have crush, write five songs for her, hand her tape, she loves songs but says “Let’s be friends”. This song is very very vaguely related to “Little fury things” by Dinosaur Jnr, at least in my head. Maybe no-one else can hear it. Features a better recorded acoustic guitar and two electric guitars through my shitty 3W amp – noticeable for the amazing wheezing sound it made when nothing was playing through it. I like this song.
This is another song that had been hanging around. The chords were from summer 89 and “The buck stops here”, written about the politics within the company I had a temporary job with. Then in 91 it became “Camouflaged clouds”, and there is a fifteen minute recording of this at the last Final Ecstasy rehearsal in May 91 where the ‘real’ guitarist Dave Blake and myself thrash this song into the ground. So I recorded this in January 93 and just layered the hell out of it. I wish I could go back to the master four track tapes of this because there’s so many overdubs and things going on in the background. Nice recording. My first recorded swearing too.
I’ve just realised that this is my “Brotherhood”. The first five songs – side one – were all guitar songs, and side two was the electronic side. This is a nothing song. There’s lines about different people in there, and some interesting thoughts. But it’s nothing. It’s all about that sampled repeating drum sound at the start. And if you’d heard “Where does love end?” from late 91 then that says the same thing with the same chord sequence and far better. Recorded March 93.
This was a mistake. I’d had the lyric for a while, at least six months by the time I recorded it in March 93… One of the musical artists in the Luciano’s cabaret scene were a duo called C.R.Edit – the initials stood for Colin and Richard – and they wanted to be Penarth’s Pet Shop Boys. Colin stood behind two keyboards and Richard stood and sang. And once or twice I was Johnny Marr and Barney Sumner for them, on some Electronic songs. At the final Luciano’s night we played as a three piece – “Opportunities”, “What have I done to deserve this?”, “Getting away with it” and “Freak scene”. Anyway I remember showing Richard the lyrics to this and him saying “God, that’s good”. He lied. It’s a song about M. And there is a far better version of this on “Honest and worthless”. This version is shit.
In ignorance of bliss
On the other hand… In my personal opinion this is one of the few songs I’ve written that I like. The lyric is totally about M and has lots of personal references to stuff going on in the Stats Office at the time – there’s a verse about market testing, that precursor to outsourcing, how her department was going first then mine second. And there’s my first use of sampled beats – from a Future Music CD – then those contrasting synth lines at the end… To me, it’s perfect. Recorded March 93.
Recorded April 93. That’s my Roland SH3a pulsing away, then me adding tons of synths over the top. And an anguished vocal. I really did feel like this. Pointless tosh in retrospect.
I wanted a happier ending than that. So I played the last instrumental – “My last lost melody” – at the end of “Back from the rains” by Eyeless In Gaza a few times and tried to pick up that vibe. Only I didn’t really, it turned into this with strange guitar chords and odd tonalities. And yes in retrospect it does share some similarities to “Babies” by Pulp but I’d not heard it at the time… Unless they played it when I saw them support St Etienne that spring. Anyway… It’s another song for M. I heard she was getting some stick from her workmates so it’s a song of support. It was the peculiar chords in this song which earned me the nickname Burt (as in Bacharach) from Paul K when we formed the Cloud Minders. We took this song, snipped an iteration out of the chorus, added a middle eight and you can hear that here. That’s me with my back to the camera. 😎