Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Clandestine Classic XX - She Gets Out The Scrapbook

The Wrong People - an album you need to ownThe twentieth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

I wanted to feature something a little bit extra-special for the twentieth post in the Clandestine Classic series. So what have I gone for? A band that you probably don't remember. An album that you probably don't own. And an album track, rather than the accompanying hit single. See? Extra special.

The band in question were Furniture. Formed in 1979, various line-ups recorded a couple of early mini-LPs, but it wasn't until the mid-80s when the line-up settled down and the band signed to Stiff Records that things started to happen (you already know this isn't going to end well, don't you?). The band's third album, The Wrong People, featuring new tracks and re-recorded highlights from the first two mini-LPs, was released in 1986. Lead-off single Brilliant Mind hit the Top 30 and, I think (though I may well have misremembered) garnered Furniture an appearance on Terry Wogan's thrice-weekly TV chat show. Things were promising. But... there's always a but, isn't there? Stiff Records had liquidity problems, and couldn't produce any more copies of the album after the initial pressing of 30,000 copies sold out (which happened quickly, on the back of Brilliant Mind). No CD copies were produced at all, and this was 1986, when the CD was really starting to take off - the new-fangled digital format was tailor-made for the rich musical tapestries that Furniture were weaving, yet the two never came together. This was a travesty, really, because the songs on the album are complex affairs, marrying restrained jazz inflections with honed pop sensibilities and distinctive vocals.

But never mind though. I bought a copy of the album on cassette so, unlike you, I know how good every single sodding track on it is. Sadly, cassette tape doesn't age well, and my Wrong People is oxidising at an alarming rate. Better hurry up and share something from it with you then, eh?

Choosing today's classic was hard, because there are so many outstanding tracks on the album. I could have chosen Brilliant Mind, but you've possibly (probably, if you listen to 6Music much) heard that already. I could have chosen the agenda-setting opener, Shake Like Judy Does, the up-tempo next single Love Your Shoes, the angry ode to jealousy that is Make Believe I'm Him or the heartbreaking paean to lost love, I Miss You. In fact, you could argue that the first six tracks of The Wrong People are as strong an opening as you are likely to find anywhere. Now if you were counting you'll have noticed I've only mentioned five tracks so far... which brings us nicely to today's offering, track four on side one of The Wrong People: She Gets Out The Scrapbook.

Yes, it's long (around six minutes). Yes, it's downbeat (but then it does chart the unravelling and eventual painful end of a relationship). But it also has skilfully crafted lyrics (this really is a piece of flash fiction set to music), a layered vocal performance, a beautiful piano line and a total change of direction after about two and a half minutes. All in all, this is my kind of love song. Maybe it's yours too. Love lost is still love, after all.

It took Furniture three years or so to extricate themselves from Stiff. They signed to Arista, recorded the Food, Sex and Paranoia album (which I also have on disintegrating cassette) and gave it another go. Singles were released but flopped - all momentum had been lost. Two fifths of the band went on to form, and have more success with, Transglobal Underground. All that was left of Furniture was a memory of what might have been and the PRS cheques that Brilliant Mind will always deliver.

But then, finally... Cherry Red records picked up The Wrong People, repackaged it with some bonus tracks (B-sides and demos, mostly) and gave it the CD release it has always deserved. Now I know I eulogise about every song in the Clandestine Classics series, but if you don't own this album already I really can't emphasise enough how much your life will improve if you do. So go and buy it now while you still can.

I didn't really expect to find too much for the naughty downloaders amongst you, and I wasn't wrong. But YouTube at least lets you listen to this incredible song, and sample a flavour of an incredible album. And no, incredible is not an word I use often, which hopefully tells its own story. Enjoy.


  1. The Man Of Cheese20 March 2013 at 16:13

    First bloody rate sir. I'd forgotten about this absolute classic album - as you rightly say every song a cracker. I remember when this track would make you just stop and reflect...and that was in the days when there was not a care in the world to be had. Now it's movingly poignant. The blog reminded me that I still have the copy you did me in my car so I went straight out and put in in the CD player to find it would no longer play. On inspection the middle layer of the CD has developed some sort of crazy bubbling - bring back C90s!!!

    1. In a moment of serendipity, The Man Of Cheese and I found a Furniture track (Brilliant Mind - what else?) on a pub jukebox at the weekend. And mate - I'll do you another copy.