Tag Archives: virgin records


Frazier front
Typical! (7″ mix) / String // Storm (Live Mix) / Typical! (Live mix) (Virgin Records 10″ single, 1989)

I think of paper and I think of string, I think of everything the postman brings. I think of nothing when you think like this, I think of crosses that we mean as kisses.



Some of the best things in my life have happened to me through the mail,


sometimes in life it’s what’s on the other side is better.



I like small details. Like the fact that the band name logo on the cover in the square at the top, and then the seven separate letters and exclamation point below it are in spot gloss, shiny against the matte sheen of the card, and which are also repeated on the back.

I like the fact that Frazier Chorus songs sing of small things too. It’s an undervalued thematic constant. This is important stuff.

The b-side to the band’s second single on Virgin Records is a small wonder, even more so that they made it themselves away from the bigger budget and record company bluster of the hopeful chart pop song. It wasn’t of course, that elusive chart pop hit. They never had one and yet still it resonates with me.

String is about anticipating something good in the post, as they call it in England, the very idea of which has been a significant part of my life. I found my new life in the USA through the post, beginning over thirty years ago, and then again this next life I live now through the very same thing. My whole day can be dashed if I come home from work and twist my key to open an empty mail-box.

Tim Freeman understands this too. He’s a romantic like me. He’s also the singer and songwriter in Frazier Chorus, a band who were once so unpopular and lacking in credibility that even Nigel Blackwell, leader of the magnificent folk-indie outfit Half Man Half Biscuit, had a pop at them in one of his band’s songs; “Inspired by no one, other groups bore us”, he sang. “How can you say we sound like Frazier Chorus?”

I met Tim Freeman once, one night in a venue in Manchester called The Boardwalk, notable for being the place that Oasis used to rehearse in before they got famous. Like most significant locations in my past it isn’t there anymore.

On this one night I’d bought a ticket to the one and only time I saw them live and was excited to see Tim standing in a small circle of admirers after the show. I’d bought the three singles they’d released from their debut album Sue, and was determined to speak to him as he was on Virgin Records, the same label as my band at the time.

(I didn’t want to tell him that I’d got his band’s first album for free from the record company. I wasn’t sure he’d like that very much.)

I politely stuck out my hand and said to him that I was in a band on the same record label. Intrigued, he said; “Oh yeah? What band is that then?” I told him the name of my band – a name I still struggle to tell anyone about even to this day because it’s so stupid – and he says; “Oh, right.” Pause. “I’ve heard of you.”

Well, that was me done right there and then.

(I’d had a good idea that my time on the record label was going to be brief. There was just always something in the air that made me feel it wasn’t going to be that special for us, hence the reason why I was so keen to rack up on the free stuff. I’d even called a representative from Virgin who was going to meet us at a showcase in Blackpool and told her to bring along a couple of LP records if she could. She did, and one of those two records was Sue.)

It sounds trite to say it now but I really didn’t care what happened to me in my band after that. Tim Freeman had heard of us. That would do nicely for me, thank you very much.

You lot reading this blog might well not have the slightest idea what Frazier Chorus sounds like, and probably don’t even care. Tim Freeman? Who is he anyway? But I expect the chances are very strong that you’ve watched a version of Tim performed in an excellent UK TV comedy show called The Office.

That’s because Tim’s younger brother, the actor Martin Freeman, based the character of Tim whom he was playing – and I love it that Martin’s character has the same name – on his brother in the show. That wonderfully understated, regular everyday nice chap Tim, quiet and lovable, who had a seismic skill at knowing the exact point to glance ever so briefly at the camera, and henceforth won all of our hearts, was based on his elder brother, the almost pop star.

There’s a great UK genealogy documentary series called Who Do You Think You Are that recently featured Martin in season six, searching for his paternal grandfather. I watched the show on You Tube and was thrilled to catch a brief glimpse of Tim in it. (I hope that Martin insisted he could be in there.) Tim had very much gone to ground after three Frazier Chorus albums, and I had no idea where he was or what he was doing.

He’d probably retreated back into normal life; making a cup of tea, or falling asleep on the sofa with the TV on, or sitting at the window watching cars pass by, maybe standing at a bus stop and shivering in the cold, all of which are featured in Frazier Chorus songs.

Like Tim’s Virgin Records label-mate Colin Moulding from the mighty XTC, who would have been recording Oranges and Lemons and Nonsuch as Frazier Chorus were working on their two albums for the same label, Colin too sang of the simplicity and joy of normal everyday life, like sitting and waiting for the postman to call.

If you think you might want to know Tim better, or to see if he even looks like his younger and more famous brother, you can squint at my scan up there because that’s Tim in shadow behind the letter ‘C’ on the cover; hiding from the spotlight and barely noticeable, shrinking back into nothingness again.

He’s a wonderfully underrated songwriter is Tim Freeman, and you could do a lot worse than to hear him.

You could start with String.

It’s such a sweet and quiet place to begin.

Handling the Big Jets

3. The Members #1

The Sound of the Suburbs / Handling the Big Jets (Virgin Records 7″ single, 1979)

They play too fast, they play out of tune, they practice in the singer’s bedroom. The drum’s quite good, the bass is too loud, and I… can’t hear the words.


Record Shop Shots’ original idea was intended to be an internet radio show, albeit under a different name that never ventured further than a vague idea in my head. The emphasis here is on vague. I had no idea how to actually create an internet radio show, despite making cursory inquiries to a couple of people who had done it themselves once or twice along the way.

But I did have a name for it and a concept too, and that kept the idea in the to-do file for a short time.

Quite a few years back I’d read one of the first forays into books written about collecting vinyl records. Its name was Vinyl Junkies by Brett Milano, written in 2003, which now seems a longer time ago than it actually was. The catch line on the cover was a quote from musician Steve Wynn; “Makes me wish I’d kept my turntable”, it said. I can clearly recall a time when that was a statement many people spoke as they lurched in droves towards the compact disc.

There’s a quote on page 14 of the book by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, another keen collector, who captured most eloquently my own modus operandi;

“When you’re a collector, you’re creating order out of this chaotic information”, he says. “That’s necessary in a way, and it caters to creative impulses. There’s something I really like about the archival nature of it – you’re gathering information that falls below the radar, so it becomes less ignored. That’s why I separate myself from, say, Beatles collectors. Collecting mainstream material is a different thing, more like collecting toys, more object-oriented. I’m more interested in defending the cultural value of music that’s not allowed into the mainstream. That’s more of a renegade practice.”

I like it. That’s exactly how I feel about buying records. He nailed it exactly. I’m having that.

I got it too. I got a name for my radio show. Renegade Practice Radio. R.P.R., even.

I love it.

Now I just need a theme song to open the show. It has to be an instrumental of something that would be easy to read that exact quote over and yet would also crescendo effectively. I knew just the one.

Handling the Big Jets by The Members. It’s on the b-side of their biggest hit Sound of the Suburbs, and starts out quiet and builds to a rocking riot. I even recorded the 49 seconds of intro via my mini-disc player and it worked perfectly with the text. Then I waited for further inspiration to visit.

Months passed and of course it never happened, and now all I have left of the plan is the music, and the record itself.

Take a look at that cover image up there, an absolute triumph of design. Malcolm Garrett of – in this instance – Affluent Images, excelled himself. Each single sleeve he would design (chiefly for Buzzcocks records) would for a time feature a different word beginning with the letter ‘A’ next to the word ‘Images’, and that was his shtick. It’s also how the band Altered Images got their name, from the single sleeve of Promises by Buzzcocks. True story.

The Sound of the Suburbs single by The Members comes in what I later learned to be called a die-cut sleeve, in that it has a window in its cover, allowing the viewer to see through the clear vinyl 7″ 45 to the back of the scene, in this case an excellent collage of exaggerated English suburbia. Also noteworthy is that the title and producer information of the record is scratched into the clear plastic in place of a typical paper label. It’s the only time I think I’ve ever seen that for a record label. (Fast forward to some decades later and the now fairly prevalent use of a full side of etching on the unplayable side of a double vinyl set. Quite a common occurrence in record manufacture these days is that. I have quite a few of those to marvel at.)

The back sleeve of the single is also impressive design. Let’s throw it into the mix here as a bonus;

The Sound of the Suburbs/Handling the Big Jets (Virgin Records 7" single, 1979)

In the background top left we have a faded-out shirt, featured more prominently on the cover of the band’s debut album three months later, plus typical home appliances like a food-mixer and a hairdryer, and finally the jet airliner from the cover flying over the suburban house featured in the song.

Classic design and concept cohesion strategy right there.

Wonderful stuff.