KAKUTOPIA

Radioactive Sparrow – Absolute Bollocks: The Sparrow Archives (1980-81)

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There are only really two tracks on here that warrant the faux grandeur of a retrospective ‘archives’ album compilation. The first, ‘River River’ is the earliest surviving Sparrow recording. The very first recordings were done at the beginning of 1980 on a light blue Boots C90 cassette. The band loved this tape and would play it constantly in Bargefoot’s room, driving the rest of his family up the wall. One day, his sister took the shattering step of taping over pretty much everything on that C90 with random audio from BBC Radio 4. A total disaster, despite which Bargefoot hung onto the tape purely for the historical significance of its physical history. Sometime in 1983, he discovered, quite by accident, that there was one remaining track surviving on the tape, which is the one that opens the album here. As a historical document, it illustrates fairly well the working practice for those early sessions: Ozzy Oskins would announce the upcoming song (kind of a cross between radio continuity and concert banter, a habit maintained throughout the band’s history); Bargefoot would pass him a randomly selected piece of homework before starting up some typical rock riffing from scratch; Ozzy would sing passionately, close-up into the only mic recording the whole thing. The result is this strangely intimate experience of hard-rockin’, good-times rhetoric issuing bland accounts of daily life (in this case, invented ones from a French text book).

The other important song is ‘Run Hard.’ It is the only surviving track from the unfinished, fully composed album Criminal Records, which the band spent many months working on during 1981, after jettisoning their inspiringly tone deaf lead singer. Having fired Ozzy, Boyes, Bargefoot and Cox spent some time misguidedly trying to be a proper band. The whole of the Criminal Records album was written, with 80% of the lyrics provided by Dai Cox, and about half the songs got recorded by DI-ing the electric guitars into a stereo system and overdubbing voice and percussion via playback and open mic. Such was the level of engagement that Bargefoot has never forgotten the music, and, with this in mind, Tony Gage volunteered in 1990 to reconstruct the lyrics from the fragments Bill could remember. Using the only two unused Cox songs (‘Brute Force’ and ‘Powerdrive’) as his guide, Gage brilliantly inhabited the mind-set of a 14-year-old school boy and finished the reconstruction. The idea was (and remains) to realize these songs in a studio space some time. For the moment, ‘Run Hard’ remains the touchstone.

The remainder of the album is made up of scraps from non-music sessions and alternative versions of early classics like ‘Appley Dappley’ and ‘So Strange’. Really, this album should be expanded to include the whole archive of prank calls session banter out-takes (here represented by ‘Ring M. Bennett’ and ‘Decebelle’).

Tracklisting:
1) River River
2) Dill Sings
3) Cornelius – Live
4) Absolute Bollocks
5) Hard Times (In The City)
6) Eddie Interlude
7) Run Hard
8) Ring M. Bennett
9) So Strange (No. 10)
10) Appley Dappley (End Bit)
11) Decebelle
12) Anal Entry (Live)
13) Beouw
14) Bargefoot From Nicaragua

Personnel:
Bill Bargefoot, Ozzy Oskins, Brooce Boyes, Dai Cox

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Written by Gustav Thomas

September 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm

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