29 June 2009

Second Hand Record Dip Part 36 - The Food Christmas EP

Food Christmas EP

Who: Jesus Jones, Crazyhead and Diesel Park West
What: The Food Christmas EP
Label: Food
When: 1989
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Cost: 50p

Say what you like about David Balfe, but nobody has anything much good to say about him.  The ex-Teardrop Explodes keyboard player has had plenty of mud slung at him in Julian Cope's fantastic biography "Head On", which painted the apparently "bug eyed" man as a cowardly, tantrum throwing, lisping sleazeball.  Even the Yorkshire Ripper gets better reviews than that.  

Once The Teardrop ceased to be, Balfe went on to music management, taking on Strawberry Switchblade (who also have absolutely nothing good to say about him here - enjoy those revelations about him persuading Jill Bryson to become Mike Read's boyfriend so their records got played on Radio One.  I suppose you've got to try).  Then he formed Food Records, with the somewhat Thatcherite slogan "Let us pray!", and eventually made millions signing Blur.  Who despised him, incidentally. 

It would be something of an overstatement to claim that Balfe hit the ground running with his label, however.  Many of his earliest signings such as Crazyhead, Diesel Park West and Brilliant seemed like peculiar choices for what was clearly supposed to be some sort of world-beating project, and unlike many of its competitors, the label did lack any sort of particular identity.  Crazyhead were dirty, filthy grebos who played basic rock and roll, Diesel Park West a slick, eighties modernised take on west coast psychedelia, and Brilliant an early Stock Aitken and Waterman project who made a few OK-ish singles before Jimmy Cauty went off to form the Jams and the KLF with Bill Drummond.  Only when Jesus Jones arrived did the label seem to have something going on, and even they had to wait some time for their first hit.

In short, I doubt there were many people out there who were fans of Food Record acts in the same manner that people collected Creation Records or Sarah Records issues, which makes this EP a little unusual.  It's a project where Food Records bands cover other Food Records bands, so we have Jesus Jones covering Crazyhead, Crazyhead covering Diesel Park West, and Diesel Park West covering Jesus Jones.  One can only assume that there was a cynical hope that fans of all the bands would go out and buy the record and it would chart highly - but this failed to occur, with the EP only managing one week at number 63.

This is definitely an interesting curio, though, but perhaps not as adventurous as it could be, and I suspect that's for a very simple reason.  Bands love messing up or recreating other bands songs, but they'd be extremely cautious about shitting on their own doorstep and offending their labelmates - so what you get here is some very cautious sounding cover versions.  The most interesting of the bunch is Diesel Park West doing a Byrdsian take on the messy "Info Freako" and removing the buzz, noise, samples and clutter from the original, and still making it sound like a good song.

Naturally, Balfe these days lives in a house, a very big house, in the country, and probably couldn't care less that the Blur number one in question is about him.  Whenever he appears on the television to be interviewed I expect to see a reptilian man with flashing red eyes on the screen, and instead observe an amiable bearded chap shuffling around jovially, which always seems like a surprise given his press.  I personally doubt that Balfe is worse than most music industry pundits, and it sometimes seems as if his biggest mistake was to allow himself to get too close to the musicians he was doing business with.  Unless, of course, you know differently...

1. Jesus Jones - I Don't Want That Kind of Love
2. Crazyhead - Like Princes Do
3. Diesel Park West - Info Freako


Cocktails said...

Ah ha, I have a copy of Jesus Jones' 'I don't want that kind of love' somewhere on tape and I never, ever knew that it was off this ep or that it was a Crazyhead cover!

At last year's Open House I went to see a modernist flat in Highpoint, Hampstead which was open for the day. A very nice and friendly man showed us around his house, enthusing about the architecture and family life in a modernist building. His walls happened to feature a couple of Graham Coxon and Julian Opie originals, as well as a framed bill poster featuring the (terrible) lineup of Diesel Park West, Crazyhead and Blur.

I figured out afterwards that the generous home-owner must have been Mike Smith, Head of A&R at EMI, then MD at Columbia. Nice man (or at least nice architecture fan).

23 Daves said...

Well now you know!

Did Mike Smith ever have any direct dealings with Julian Cope? My understanding was always that any music industry types who ended up working with him usually fell out with him surprisingly quickly, although that may just be something Copey wants us to believe.

Cocktails said...

I have absolutely no idea if Mike Smith worked with Julian Cope. I suspect not since I think he mostly worked with major labels that Cope preferred to avoid. Someone must be tolerating him though!