Those nice people at Toppermost suggested that I write about The Durutti Column a while ago. In fact it was one of the first names that was suggested by them to me. I mean, why did they think I might like Durutti Column? Was it my Twitter name – @durutti74? Or my email address durutti244? Surely not? (The numbers signify catalogue numbers incidentally in the Factory Records numbering scheme, you can look them up later. Or I suspect that some of you may know them anyway.). Or maybe the fact I’d written about them already.
Last time I wrote on the blog I was a little worn out on writing, and it probably showed in what was published. So writing about one of my favourite bands, indulging myself by diving into a huge back catalogue, picking a top 10 songs – it was all a pleasure. I’ve tried not to repeat what I said about DC before, it’s more of a straight history of the band, and it’s quite long too. But it’s worth a read if you like that sort of thing. The link is here
What I found when I was picking the top 10 was that I was slightly limited by what was available on Spotify because there’s always a playlist with each Toppermost. There doesn’t have to be, but it helps to prove your point to a newcomer to DC music to say “Here’s ten songs you can hear”. It didn’t help that three key Durutti LPs were missing from Spotify, and that “Without Mercy” isn’t the full album but the two excerpts that are on the “Valuable Passages” compilation. Picking ten songs was also tricky because there is such a huge and wonderful back catalogue to choose from. As such I’ll pick an additional ten songs (actually eleven cos I cheated) here which I would have included if (a) they were available and / or (b) I could have picked 20 songs. Or 21.
So, an additional ten (or so) Durutti Column favourites.
1 – “For Belgian Friends” from “A Factory Quartet” double LP, 1981
A one off collaboration with Donald Johnson from A Certain Ratio on drums. The first time Reilly returned to piano. He wanted the piano to sound like a guitar and his guitar to sound like a piano. A simple melody but very effective. A favourite which was hard to drop from the real top 10.
2 – “Never known” from “LC” LP, 1981
The sound of murky marshes, light fading, trains passing by at dusk, words incomprehensible, but the feeling is clearly audible. “LC” is a total classic album. Every home should have one.
3 – “Spent time” from “Another setting” LP, 1983
“Another setting” isn’t regarded as a classic DC album but I love it. This album closer is all about that sustained guitar, that Fender Rhodes and the fragile singing.
4 – “Saudade” from “Amigos em Portugal” LP, 1983
Reilly made this LP in one day in an unfamiliar studio in Portugal. Some themes would be developed on “Without Mercy” and “Circuses and bread”, but this little gem got tossed aside. It sounds too simple, but is still gorgeous.
5 – “The aftermath” from “Artists for animals” compilation LP, 1986
Another high point of their 85 peak. Slow and solemn, like a funeral march, and Reilly’s guitar sounds like it’s shaking from the grief. And he does that mandolin solo thing too. Stunning.
6 – “Catos Con Guantes” from “Our lady of the angels” EP, 1987
A seven minute Spanish guitar workout with additional viola and marimba interjections from time to time. Beautifully recorded, it could go on forever.
7 – “William B” from “Vini Reilly” LP / “Real drums real drummer” from “The Sporadic Recordings” CD, both 1989
Two versions of the same melody. “William B” is just pure guitar and strange vocal samples, both echoing into the distance. “Real drums real drummer” is Reilly and Mitchell racing each other to the end of the song, Mitchell rolling around the drum kit with abandon, Reilly bashing out chords and melodies, the same daft tune…
8 – “Contra-indictions” from “Obey the time” LP, 1990
Drum machines, chirping sequencers, Italo House piano patterns. Is this Durutti? Then a characteristic echoing guitar bursts through, perfectly placed, and you go “Of course it’s Durutti!”
9 – “Only love” from a free CD given away with “Total Guitar” magazine in 1995, added as an extra track on “Fidelity” reissue on LTM
Yes, it’s obscure. Yes, it’s good. A kind of remix of “The rest of my life” from “Sex and death”, this is just an incredibly haunting guitar refrain, some spooked choral samples and a hint of a vocal. But it’s very effective.
10 – “Drinking time” from “Time was gigantic…when we were kids” LP, 1998
Because sometimes Durutti Column can stun me with a real song with a structure, a tune, a full vocal and a heartfelt sentiment. And sometimes it can sound too personal, like the listener is intruding on someone else’s life.
So there’s more Durutti favourites. Ask me tomorrow and there could be a different ten.
If I can stop arguing with myself about Durutti Column songs, I should point out I’ve started another blog post which may take some time to complete as it covers a lot of ground musically and in terms of timespan, then there’s another piece looking at my parents’ record collection in the late 70s (they didn’t go disco) and a few bits and pieces I’ve got lying around to finish, and another Toppermost I’ve promised to write… So lots to look forward to in the future. Last year I said I’d take a summer break and I didn’t. This year I really will take a summer break. In the meantime, thank you for all your comments and support and linking in to my random meandering, especially those who link through their blogs. I still can’t believe I get away with it!
Next time – the importance of rules.