Yesterday I had a blackout, one minute I was walking down the street in Chester, then the next thing I remember it was 20 minutes later and I was clutching a bag containing Elvis and Black Sabbath drinks coasters and Faith No More Angel Dust, a beautiful deluxe reissue on 180g vinyl* with an LP of bonus goodies, nice sleevenotes** etc. But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about today.
The one moment of clarity I had in the record shop was noticing that the deluxe reissue of The Real Thing had a bit of an obscure track on it that I already owned, ‘Sweet Emotion’ which was only previously released on a Kerrang! flexi disc. By the time I was getting into music flexi discs were few and far between, their 70’s/early 80s heyday long gone, CDs were still a bit expensive at the time to be putting on the outside of magazine covers, apart from expensive classical music mags, still they did appear occasionally. With very average sound quality and a tendency to skip, or just stop spinning^ I assume most were treated as being highly disposable and binned off after a few listens, surely only a real obsessive psychopath with no life whatsoever would keep them immaculately preserved and looked after for over 26 years?
So here is my immaculately preserved and carefully looked after collection of 26 year-old Kerrang! flexi discs. There were two series, Flexible Fiends and Sexy Flexi, I have all the former but only one of the latter ones survived. I think they give quite a neat snapshot of the rock/metal scene at the time, or those on the fringes of it at least – established bands didn’t need to bother with such things.
Fiend 1: Anthrax: Now It’s dark / Disneyland After Dark (D.A.D): Jihad
Anthrax were probably the biggest name at the time on any of these discs. This was the first ever bit of thrash metal I owned, it didn’t make much of an impression then but I like it better now, even though the live recording is a bit scrappy around the edges and it puzzlingly fades out before the track ends.
Happily back in 1990 I’d never had the occasion to hear the word ‘Jihad’ and I remember having to look it up … in a book (yup, that’s how long ago it was kiddies!). I loved this live track straight away and it’s still a firm favourite today, although not as good as ‘Sleeping My Day Away’ which is one of my fave hard rock tracks of the whole era. Nice to see D.A.D using their full name before the Disney lawyers got to them too^*.
Fiend 2: Faster Pussycat: Cathouse / Femme Fatale: Touch ‘N’ Go
This was like Christmas come early for me back in 1989, a live track from my joint fave band at the time. ‘Cathouse’ shows all that was good about Pussycat back in the day, this is ragged, punky, frenetic and highly charged glam rock and so sleazy that I fear I may have just contracted three hideous STDs aurally. This just surprised me by how good it was.
Femme Fatale – bouffy hair, Collagen lips, lots of cleavage so-far so-nothing-you-can’t-get-from-Poison, except Femme Fatale’s singer was actually a chick; well I’m 90% sure, things weren’t so clear-cut back then. This is a studio cut from their debut LP and it’s all very run-of-the-mill workaday stuff. It sounds rather like the kind of identikit rock that always seemed to crop up on the soundtracks of the third instalment of horror movie franchises.
Fiend 3: Balaam & The Angel: It Goes On / Faith No More: Sweet Emotion
I remember Balaam as being a poor man’s cult and coming from the same scene as the likes of Crazyhead et al. This live track is really good, rather pleasing, melodic rock, although they definitely reside on Cult Boulevard, you know turn left after the Sonic Temple – if you pass a man from Bradford dressed as a native American singing about wolves then you (and he) have gone too far. There’s a 12″ single of theirs in my local charity shop, I should go back and buy it on this showing.
This was possibly the first time I’d ever heard a note from FNM, I remember wondering why a band with such prominent keyboards and bass was being featured on a Kerrang! flexi disc and what was with that singer’s nasal voice? heard now it sounds like an interesting transitional piece between The Real Thing and Angel Dust without the latter’s inspired insane genre-bending. ‘Sweet Emotion’ is not an Aerosmith cover by the way, I had hoped it was at the time, it’s an interesting track but not particularly remarkable in its own right; although I’d like to hear it with a better sound than you can get with a flexi disc.
Fiend 4: Vain: Far Away / Tigertailz: Cheap Talk
Anyone remember Vain? they sneaked in at the tail end of the whole glam/hair metal thang and delivered a really good, quite dark (in places) LP, No Respect which I really rated. I saw them support Skid Row and they could certainly cut it live too. This track was a demo for that album and ended up as a polished version on their second LP. I prefer the roughness of this version, this song sounds like it’s all about the burn-outs and casualties that never quite got to the good times Poison were singing about – much like Vain themselves^^.
I’ve always regarded Tigertailz as something of a national embarrassment, I know you’d have thought I’d have been all over a glam metal band who came from 20 miles up the road from where I grew up, but they just weren’t much good, too soft for my tastes. Man the way they looked too, think Look What The Cat Dragged In era Poison’s older, Welsh ex-hooker sisters. Funnily enough, ‘Cheap Talk’ sounds rather good to me now, confident and swaggering, maybe I need to listen again? later in life they cut a really kick ass version of Megadeth’s ‘Peace Sells’, heavy as shit but with a real glam-style chorus.
Sexy Flexi 3: Almighty Wild Angel / Overkill: E.Vil N.ever D.ies
My fave British hard rockers of their era do what they did best, tearing up a great live version of one of their best tracks with some extra bonus swearing. I must have seen The Almighty 5 or 6 times in a three year period and they were never less than absolutely brilliant. This is a good representation of them live too, although not as good as early live LP Blood, Fire & Live.
Overkill? man this is shit awful I’m afraid, high-pitched Pinky and perky style vocals and music that sounds like it was recorded at 45RPM. Still, it’s far better than any music I’ve ever released.
For some reason either I only bought one of the Kerrang!s carrying the Sexy Flexi series (maybe I was at uni then?). It was fun listening to all these tracks again, okay so with the exception of FNM and Anthrax they were all comparatively second division acts but it brought home to me again how the scene sounded, smelt and looked back then. Even the bands I didn’t buy anything by, I can still half remember pictures of them, reviews of and interviews by them all, Kerrang! was my life for a good while, my Wednesday act of worship.
590 Down (still)
*is there actually a correlation between heavy gauge vinyl and sound? or is it just a plot to one day bring down my record shelves?
**SLEEVENOTES!!! Sweet Lord above, I love me a good sleeve note.
^grizzled old hand that I am I know the trick is to put your flexi disc on top of a LP when playing it.
^*also see hardcore band Bomb Disneyland!, can’t for the life of me see why Mickey Mouse objected to that. Still, I liked the fact they changed their name to Bomb Everything!
^^since I’m feeling nostalgic, dig this. It’s very of its time, but I like the bit where the lady strokes the, highly symbolic, snake: