Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Clandestine Classic XVII - Purple Love Balloon

Purple Love Balloon cover artThe seventeenth 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.

You know the trouble with reputations? That good ones are hard to earn and bad ones are hard to lose? Well, that was always Cud's problem in my view. For though I must stop short of calling them "Leeds' finest" (that soubriquet belongs to The Wedding Present), here is a band that emerged at the tail-end of the 80s, became beloved of a certain John Peel, and released a succession of excellent albums in the early nineties. And yet...? Why were they not bigger? Why did Carl Puttnam and his merry band not achieve more?

Part of the problem, I think, is that they became perceived as being a bit jokey - not quite a comedy band but in some ways not too far from it. Having song titles like Only (A Prawn In Whitby) probably didn't help matters much. Nor did songs like today's Clandestine Classic either, from August 1992 the critically overlooked Purple Love Balloon. For a start, there's the euphemistic title and sleeve art, a sleeve which also, lest we forget, included the following instructions for caring for your very own Purple Love Balloon: "Use from early spring to late winter with any suitable equipment. Transplant careully, while under the influence, into package and store at 18-21C (65-70F). Remove any side shoots and use 14 times a day. Feed regularly and provide plenty of liquids especially in hot weather, a dry atmosphere and warm conditions. Can also be used outdoors, in gardens, in parks or in the shelter of a sunny wall. Start using once inflated, fully formed and as soon as it has reached an acceptable size."

So, what do we have, here, really? Post-C86, pre-Britpop, indie-boy guitar-pop, yes? Well, yes, to an extent. But the secret to a lots of Cud's success, such as it was, and certainly to the success of today's Classic, is that these indie boys could get a bit funky. I mean, really, properly. Listen to that bassline. And that jangly guitar motif. These boys could play. Okay, so over all that musical loveliness you've got some bloke intoning in an unrepentant Northern bark (and I like that it's unrepentant) that he wants to take you high, in his purple love balloon. So yes, the lyrics might be described as a bit silly. But then this is Cud, after all...

Rightly or wrongly (which itself sounds like a Cud song title), Purple Love Balloon shifted 50,000 copies and made it to a heady number 27 in the charts. I know, quite an indictment of today's chart and its requisite sales figures, but anyway. You can find Purple Love Balloon on the remastered Asquarius or, better still, on their double-CD anthology Rich and Strange. And whilst I actively dislike Myspace, they at least provide a way of listening to Purple Love Balloon, and here it is:

Find more Cud albums at Myspace Music

And what would a Clandestine Classic post be without a video from YouTube? Well, luckily for us all Cud briefly reconvened in 2008 for a couple of gigs in that there London, so here's a live rendition of Purple Love Balloon. Not sure you should still be wearing those trousers though Carl...