Second Time Around

Candy Opera

It’s a Saturday morning in July in 1983, the sun has risen, I’m in Harum Records in Muswell Hill, London N10 and the hangover is kicking in like hell.
We were at the Dominion last night watching Nick Heyward and The Bluebells, managed to get last orders in at the pub across the road, caught a lock-in then walked home.
Scuffed trainers withstanding the five miles flew by as we looked at the stars, talked rubbish and climbed the hill back home: Everything flies by when you’re young and in love.
And I didn’t mind the walk because my girl loves Nick and you know what he wasn’t too bad.
The Bluebells were great as well.
There were tunes and melodies and we danced and we danced and we danced…
But now I need a bacon butty, a cup of tea, even a pint but first I’m having a mooch.
There’s an album that came out on Tuesday that sounds right up my street. It’s a “Pop classic” claimed Time Out magazine.
A “Truly great debut album”, “A slice of pure pop for now people”, “The New Merseybeat”, claimed the inkies.
I just know that I need this album in my life; if not to soothe my soul at least my hangover and when my girl comes around later we’ll put it on the stereo and we’ll dance and and we’ll dance and we’ll dance…
So I mooch and I see it straight away in amongst the new releases.
A gatefold sleeve, black and white, a touch of grey, a touch of blue and a photo of a guy with a guitar, sat on a rug studying the frets, hair flicked, neat shirt, blue jeans.
And there on the front of the album the name of the band: Candy Opera.
Candy Opera and their new album 45 Revolutions Per Minute.
It looks great and I can’t get the money out of my pocket quick enough to pay the old hippy Alan behind the counter.
Home to the flat, up the stairs with my new album – in the black and white plastic bag – in one hand and a bacon butty in the other, I open the door, put the vinyl on the turntable, drop the needle and sit back with a brew, a bacon butty and wow…
It is beautiful.
What a Way to Travel, The Good Book And The Green and Religious and onwards.
It is truly beautiful, absolutely right for the moment.
I lay back and I think of my girl and how tonight we are going to dance and dance and dance to this.
But before that – as the brew hits the spot – I pick up last week’s NME and I read about the band and the album.
They have it bang on as they say: “This Liverpool band – for that is where they are from – are going to change the world.
“This kaleidoscopic early 1980s world is ready to welcome in this classic four-piece steeped in the symphonic pop of Love’s Forever Changes and The Beach Boys’ Surf’s Up.
“Taking such influences as a template, alongside contemporaries such as Aztec Camera, The Pale Fountains and Prefab Sprout.
“They are of their time, a beautiful band that wears the heart of 80s Liverpool on their sleeves.
“This is the Liverpool of jingly, jangly mornings sat in the front room – of song-writing leader of the band Paul Malone’s ma’s front room on the tough Phythian Estate in Liverpool’s Kensington district – learning all the tricks of Mr Lee.
“Listening without prejudice to The Monkees and Karen Carpenter while his older brother plays The Beatles upstairs.
“Soaking it all in: The music the environment and the whole vibe around at the moment.
“As Paul said in an earlier interview with us: “Where I grew up, it was a so-called impoverished area but my childhood was very happy, very insular, the world was within a street.
“As a kid, I didn’t really feel affected by the poverty.
“It wasn’t ’til later, when I went to other areas and saw how they lived, that I realised the differences. So, my environment was really the main inspiration for songs.”  

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: 9/10

And what songs they are.
I listen and I listen again and I play Left, Right and Centre again and again and again and it is truly beautiful.
I go the fridge and I pour myself a Red Stripe just as my girl rings the doorbell.
Before I know it she has hold of the album sleeve and she says: “We saw these last year”, and I say I can’t remember but she swears we did, supporting somebody – who she can’t say.
She says we loved them and she puts the record on and we start dancing and we dance and dance and dance and drink and drink and drink until we are exhausted and fall asleep in each others arms but not before she says this is the best album of the year.
“I’m going to write a letter to the NME and tell them that 45 Revolutions Per Minute by Candy Opera is “The best album of 1983” and I laugh, tell her she’s probably right, tell her I love her and we’ll sort tickets to see them on Monday for when they play in town in a week or so.
Music is great at the moment, we are all young and happy and in love and life is indeed good…

But of course that was then and this is now.
And not all of the above is true.
We did going watching Nick Heyward one Friday in July and we spent many, many Saturday nights dancing and dancing and dancing in my flat in Muswell Hill.
But it wasn’t to Candy Opera.
They didn’t have a 9/10 album review in NME nor was there a vinyl copy in Harum Records.
Somehow it just didn’t happen and thirty-five years later listening to these beautiful, truly beautiful songs – lovingly unearthed and compiled by Firestation Records of Berlin and available on limited edition 18-track CD and deluxe 16-track vinyl –  it is hard to understand why it didn’t happen because the compilation is a lost gem that points to a million what-might-have-beens.
So why didn’t it happen?

Probably a host of reasons, they certainly tried as they worked their way through various line-ups and a variety of sounds but after a decade ploughing their own stubborn furrow and despite interest from EMI and Go! Discs, Candy Opera called somehow got left behind and called it a day in 1993 with only a fistful of demos to their name.
Like many I knew the name and when I was awakened to all this back in October 2017 my initial thought was, “I think I saw them back in the day” and maybe just maybe I did.
It is a long time ago, my dancing days are over but I saw snippets about them with the  occasional mention in the Everton fanzine When Skies Are Grey as they remained a rumour, a whisper and a quietly lost legend that the occasional online leak could only hint at.
But now we can all sit back, lie on the bed, have a brew and a bacon butty and listen to this perfect, utterly perfect album 45 Revolutions Per Minute.
This is thanks to  Firestation Records when last year the Berlin-based purveyors of indie obscurities behind  chanced upon those same demos and it was love at first listen.
The label’s founder Uwe Weigmann tracked down Malone and co and found a band who hadn’t made music for a very long time saying: “I first read about the band some years ago, on a forum for The La’s, and from this point on I was very interested to hear the band’s music.
“Then a friend of mine told me that some Candy Opera songs were on YouTube.
“The first I listened to was What A Way To Travel.
“A couple of minutes later I was sure that I wanted to work with the band: 45 Revolutions Per Minute is the perfect pop album, in my opinion. It is an absolute masterpiece.
As Paul says three-and-a-half decades on from that “lost” NME interview: “When the label got in touch it just all seemed a bit surreal to me, it was a big surprise but I was glad that somebody finally recognised our worth.”
With the band on board they unearthed a spate of recordings that span Candy Opera’s entire history, the result is 45 Revolutions Per Minute.
While the songs that make up this exquisite package – that comes with extensive sleeve notes and archive photographs – sound both of their time and way, way beyond it: On the surface the arrangements sound simple, but there is depth there too, with Malone’s lyrics wrapped up in a sweetness that recalls a more innocent age.

It’s been a long time coming but this is a belated introduction to a very special band sired during Liverpool’s 1980s golden age which has taken almost thirty years to happen.

And you know what the NME got it wrong all those years ago: it’s a 10/10 and as my girl would have said, ‘‘The best album of 2018’.

https://soundcloud.com/firestationrecords/candy-opera-what-a-way-to-travel

Buy it here

 

 

2 thoughts on “Second Time Around

  1. This is the best piece of writing on the band ever. From all of us candy opera and firestation remarkable and thank you . People who have this imagination and flair deserved to be heard the story the plot everything is perfect.

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