All posts by David Medsker

Popdose Flashback ’91: Squeeze, “Play”

This album, for all intents and purposes, saved my life.

Here’s the back story: I had just graduated from college in the summer of 1991, I was in Connecticut. Girlfriend was in Ohio. I packed up everything I had and boarded a train to move to Ohio to be with her. But she was under tremendous pressure from her parents to break it off, and by the time I arrived, their smear campaign was clearly working. I rarely saw her, even though we worked in the same mall. I got a job at a record store, and one of the promo CDs that had just arrived was Squeeze’s new album Play. I had always liked the band but never bought any of their records. However, the local modern rock station (97X, holler) was giving it some support, so after hearing a couple songs I liked, I took it home with me and played it in the car of my friend Ed, who’s the only person I know who likes Squeeze more than I do. I vented all of my frustrations to him about the ridiculous predicament I put myself in as we blasted “House of Love,” because damn it, I was living that song. She was full of lies and boredom, a very acidic tongue waggled in her head, we seemed the best of friends, life had just begun…but on the roof a tile began to slip. The house of love caved in, and that was it. Fuck.

The Very Guest Of… Kirsty MacColl

The patron saints of Popdose are an unconventional bunch, to be sure. The big joke among the staff at the annual board meeting, held in Matt Wardlaw’s palatial estate, is that when we finally launch our own music festival, we will reunite Sugarbomb, and our headlining act will be the System. (This after a heated debate, spearheaded by Jason Hare, over the manner in which we honor Michael McDonald. We settled on the honorary title of Chairman of the Beard.) Another artist for whom the staffers share a near-universal love is the late, great Kirsty MacColl, who was tragically killed in late 2000 in a suspicious boating accident shortly after she released one of her best albums, the Cuban-influenced Tropical Brainstorm. (The belief is that a high-ranking Mexican government official was driving the boat that struck her, but a low-level assistant was paid to take the fall in exchange for a reduced sentence.) We pour out a 40 in her honor every December 18.

What makes this all the more tragic is that there were years during MacColl’s prime where she was forbidden from making records, thanks to legal hassles surrounding the dissolution of her label, Stiff Records. (Making this even more irritating was her previous label, Polydor, shelving her second album Real due to lack of interest.) This was good news, though, for anyone working with her then-husband, producer Steve Lillywhite, because MacColl was saying ‘yes’ to every session gig she could find just to get the hell out of the house. Eventually, MacColl was allowed to record on her own again, but thankfully, she continued to help out her mates on the side. Here is a collection of songs that feature the unmistakable vocal stylings of one of England’s finest.

(Special thanks to Kirsty’s fan page for providing me with a comprehensive list of her session work, and to Popdose colleague Will Harris for contributing some of the more off-the-radar songs.)

Jona Lewie, “You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties” (from On the Other Hand, There’s a First, 1978)
You have to think that Ian Dury was a fan of this one. Unapologetically British, with bizarre flashes of whimsy, Kirsty delivers a deadpan vocal in the chorus that is alleged to be her first studio session recording.

Matchbox, “I Want Out” (from the album Crossed Line, 1983)
This didn’t appear on CD until 2005, on the three-disc From Croydon to Cuba anthology, though it originally appeared on Matchbox’s 1982 Crossed Line album. It’s a killer single, though, a rockabilly-ish rave-up with MacColl splitting lead vocals with singer Graham Fenton.