Wednesday 18 October 2017


Since the gig at Oran Mor just under a fortnight ago I have been immersing myself in all things Michael Head.  From the very early days of  the Pale Fountains, through Shack and the Strands stuff up to the ep and single with The Red Elastic Band and all the time waiting not very patiently for this week's long time coming Adios Senor Pussycat to be delivered by Ted the Postie. In fact since Monday I have been listening to Shack exclusively while painting. I'm on holiday, of course I'm painting what else would I be doing.

All of this got me thinking as to why I haven't posted more stuff by Mr Head. Of course the blog is named after my favourite Pale Fountains track which has featured on here in all mixes more than once,  another Pale Fountains song, Shack only once! and the Elastic Band stuff a few times. I'm not sure if it is the music snob unconsciously coming out in me in the fact that he is mine and a small band of obsessives little secret and I want to keep it that way, smug in the knowledge that Head is a special talent . But I don't think so as I would like as many people to know about how absolutely bloody brilliant a song writer and recording artist he is and then maybe this would help towards Michael Head getting the appreciation and perhaps renumeration he most certainly deserves, although I'm not sure he craves. A few times I have had Shack tunes in my head and thought,"I will post that" and then got distracted by something else and it wasn't the time.

So I think over the next few weeks I will rectify this situation by posting a good few of my favourite things. I may even have a pop at a couple of ICAs for JC, one on the Pale Fountains and the other on Shack, the later I know will be a very difficult proposition.

The only way to start is with possibly the unluckiest album of the 90s, the second Shack album, Waterpistol. This is often referred to as a "great lost album" which it probably is but I really don't like that category, as I have seen lots of albums which were neither really lost nor that great being hailed in this manner. I have also seen it being referred to as "the greatest album that you don't own", hyperbole? Probably but it is fucking tremendous, however I think I will stick with my categorisation.

The story of the album is one which if you wrote a screenplay around would probably seem a bit far fetched. Waterpistol was recorded in Star Street Studios in 1991 and produced by Chris Allison. Shortly after eventually getting Head to finish the tracks the studio went up in flames along with the master tapes of the album. But the bad luck didn't stop there, no Shack's record label then went bust. Fortunately all was not lost as Allison remembered that he had a DAT of the master tapes, but again, more lucky white heather,  they had been left in a hire car when the producer had been on vacation in the United States. When he realised that he had lost the only surviving copy of the recordings, months later,  Alison contacted the hire company and eventually tracked down the missing DAT. Although by this time the band had broken up, Head had fallen victim to depression, who wouldn't have, and also heroin addiction. And therefore it looked like that was it for the second Shack album.

Fast forward to 1995 when the tapes find their way to Marina Records, a German independent record label that specialised in releasing UK indie artists. they had already released albums by Paul Quinn and The Independent Pop Group and The Bathers (which JC and Brian probably own) amongst others and brought out the album initially on cd and then on vinyl in 1999.

On release the album was highly praised by critics but was missed by the record buying public who were all in thrall to the latest big thing "Brit Pop". The album was re-released in 2007 and again failed to catch the attention of a wider audience.

If you like jangly guitar music, I guarantee that you will love this album. It has been said that there is quite a bit of Stone Roses influence on the album and Michael Head himself prior to the recording sessions that he was influenced by the likes of The Charlatans and especially the Stone Roses album at the time and was heading in that type of direction.

Shack - Mr Appointment


George said...

This is a tremendous song, Drew

George said...

I've been thinking who they remind of, and now I have it - it's The La's.

The Swede said...

I for one would be grateful for a couple of well curated ICAs to help bring me up to speed on an artist to whom I really haven't paid enough attention over the years. I did pre-order the new LP though and am looking forward to it immensely.

Stan says... said...

"possibly the unluckiest album of the 90s" - Says it all really.

Swiss Adam said...

Its a very good album.

Rol said...

Great story. I have a couple of Shack records, but not this one. The story alone made me want to own it.

Echorich said...

Few albums can live up to or fight off the hyperbole coming from either the positive or negative wings of criticism.
Waterpistol is nothing less than a gem and really, it is quite priceless. I could wax on and on about the merits of Waterpistol, but just check out opener Sgt. Major and you have pretty all the evidence you need. I get the calls that there are influences from Stone Roses and other bands who were of the time of Waterpistol's creation, but Michael Head is lightyears ahead of the majority of his contemporaries in the songwriting department. I feel that over the last 25 + years he has showed himself to be one of Pop/Rock music's great bards.

I'll finish with one short story from my recent vacation to Cadiz...

On my previous jaunt to London, in March of this year, my two best mates and I were indulging in a good deal of fancied up Japanese street food and sake and the idea of where would you like to vacation next came up. I offered up Cadiz as the song of the same name on Michael Head And The Red Elastic Band's 2014 EP is one of those songs I haven't been able to shake for 3 years now - it is that simple and good - Well at the end of September the three of us found ourselves in Cadiz with little more agenda than to soak up the city, lots of Tapas, Rioja wine and Manzanilla Sherry. One lazy late afternoon we were enjoying another bottle of local red wine and I decided to put on my ALL THINGS MICHAEL HEAD playlist to soundtrack the setting sun over the rooftops of Cadiz....well my friends got to hear Cadiz for the first time and they immediately understood what I was on about and as the playlist travelled through Head's career, he gained two more fans and painted wonderful pictures for a lazy Spanish vacation evening.

papa stew said...

Waterpistol has been firmly in my top 3 "go-to" albums for a fair while now. The other two out of interest are UB40's Signing Off (before they lost their way and frankly became an embarrassment to mention) and Costello's King of America. That is my comfort when needed. Keep up the great work!