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 Everett True

Song of the day – 104: The Vaselines

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Being Everett True doesn’t have that many advantages these days.

OK, so it got me into QUT to do a PhD in music criticism and teach some very cool students: allows me the occasional free download link from record companies I love: means I am still befriended by lonely Goth girls in Buttfuck Idaho: gets me the odd column in ace magazines and websites. And means I can still wind up those wankers and anonymous trolls who think it’s both smart and clever to make sneering, vaguely homophobic comments on music forums. Um… not sure where I’m going with this.

Ah, I remember. I was going to finish the paragraph off with a massive BUTT. I mean, but.

BUT it does mean that, being Everett True, I get to hear The Vaselines’ new album (only their second in 20 years) in advance and bask, secure in the knowledge that only me and – fuck it – those dweebs from Pitchfork (presumably) know how fucking great and true and funny it is, months before you proles out there can decide for yourselves. Hmm. Small consolation one might say, for having no money. Still, what I lack in economic capital I make up for in cultural capital – right kids? Kids? Where you going…? Come back! I introduced Stuart Braithwaite to his future wife, you know! I  got my head shaved by Urge Overkill. Joey Ramone once instructed me not to “rock the ground”… kids?

Ah fuck it.

Here’s the first single. Listen and learn, kids. Listen and learn. The album rocks where it shouldn’t but also rocks where it should and I’m not sure I can ask for more than that. The best song from where I’m sitting is the title track, incidentally – but this one is rather fine too: sarcastic and harmonic and childishly irritating and ace, and repetitive and lengthy. And I still fancy Frances something rotten.

Here’s the full transcript of the sleeve notes I wrote for their Sub Pop reissue last year (reprinted from an earlier blog entry).

What was your motivation for forming The Vaselines?
Eugene: To have our pictures on the front cover of an album. And show off my red Epiphone guitar.
Frances: We had no motivation. We just had a creative itch to scratch. We were thinking more about starting a fanzine and then we gave the band a bash.
Your music resonated with a sexual charge that often seemed at odds with its peers. Fair comment?
E: We both had a sense of humour that was way down in the gutter and loved a double or even triple entendre. Many of the bands at the time were ‘pretend’ virgins and acting up their twee side. We wanted to scream, “We’ve just been shagging”. Juvenile, I know, but we were juveniles now I come to think of it.
F: You might think that, but it was certainly not our intention. We just liked good clean smut.
How did Vaselines Mark 1 differ from Vaselines Mark 2?
E: Vaselines Mark 2 was less of Stephen Pastel’s influence. Like little Macauley Caulkin, we’d been left Home Alone and we wanted to turn the stereo up. We became more spontaneous live, as before we had to play with a backing tape. With Charlie on drums and James on bass our live shows were messy and noisy.
F: It was less twee. We just got a bit more butch.
What drew you towards the Divine song?
E: We were fans of John Waters’ films. They seemed cheap and nasty with colourful characters who couldn’t act that well. Charlie my brother was always a strong influence on me when it came to music, art or movies and he had quite a few of the films on VHS. HiNRG music really appealed to us and we used to go along to gay discos to dance to it.
Are you a fan of other people’s covers of Vaselines songs?
E: Liam Gallagher once said to me, “You should never let anyone cover your song better than your own version”!!! I love all the versions of our songs, from Nirvana to The Pooh Sticks.
F: To be honest, I haven’t heard many, but anything would be an improvement on ours.
What was the most surprising aspect of your ascent to cult fame via proxy?
E: That 20 years on there are still people who remember us and love the records. Frances and I had no ambitions for ourselves, or our music, when we made the records back in the Eighties. It was something to do while we were working out what we would be doing for the rest of our lives, career-wise. Very few copies of our records were originally pressed up so we weren’t planning or hoping for a hit single and an appearance on Top Of The Pops.
F: I didn’t realise we had ascended to cult fame…really, my life is very humdrum.
Who wore the trousers in The Vaselines?
E: We both had one leg each in a pair of leather trousers, although Frances doesn’t take shit from anyone. I take the shit then plan how to make the deliverer eat it slowly later on.
F: Better ask Eugene that one, but I think he’ll say me. But he is passive-aggressive so I think it was him, although he often wore my panties…
What would have been the main inspirations behind the early Vaselines sound?
E: The Pastels, Jesus And Mary Chain, Pussy Galore, Sonic Youth, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, Sixties garage, punk rock.
F: My first favourite band was Soft Cell, my favourite song, ‘Sex Dwarf’. I think we were Soft Cell without the keyboards and the dog collar and the sleaze.
Are there any songs you’re particularly embarrassed by/proud of – and why?
E: I’m a bit embarrassed by ‘Teenage Jesus Superstar’ because of some of the lyrics but have to remind myself that I’m not in the song. It’s some snotty young git who thinks he’s it. I like ‘Jesus Doesn’t Want Me…’ but wish we’d written a second and third verse. On the whole, I can still listen to our record and not cringe or get a hot flush.
F: For a long time I couldn’t listen to ‘You Think You’re A Man’. The orgasm at the end was Stephen and Eugene having a good time. Afterwards they said they faked it and were eating jam doughnuts. They didn’t even give me one.
How did it feel playing in front of a crowd of rabid Seattle-ites in 2008 [as part of Sub Pop’s 20th Anniversary celebrations)?
E: Fantastic. Loved it even though I was having a technical nightmare of a show as my amp starting making horrible buzzes just as Mudhoney finished their last song and we were beginning. Between each song I was trying to find the problem while watching the clock tick down on our set. But it was a beautiful, magical day and I feel so privileged to have been a part of it.
F: That was really good fun. I met some really nice people.
Who do you see as holding the Vaselines flame these days?
E: The Vaselines. We hold our own flame even if we know it’s going to hurt.
F: Probably a bunch of sad 40-year-olds like ourselves living in the nostalgic past.
What are you proudest of in your lives?
E: Not much. Could’ve tried harder, could’ve done better, could’ve run faster, could’ve jumped higher.
F: Having the brass neck to just go for it.
Were The Vaselines really pure sleaze like all us cutie kids down South always suspected – or was it all pure and virginal?
E: We were a healthy young couple and liked the idea of sleaze, but if someone had offered us a threesome or wanted to shove a yam up my ass we’d have run a mile.
F: Eugene and I are actually brother and sister. Does that make it more or less sleazy?
How come your songs had so many equine motifs?
E: I was a horse for one day after a day trip to the Isle of Millport. It’s all in the song, ‘The Day I Was a Horse’.
F: Eugene liked to shag horses.
Who were some of your other favourite bands on 53rd And 3rd?
E: Shop Assistants, BMX Bandits.
F: Hmm, better ask that the other way round.
How would you compare 53rd And 3rd with Sub Pop and Constrictor (for example)?
E: Sub Pop pay you royalties when they sell your records. Don’t know much about Constrictor. Where they the publishing company whose contract we signed in German without a translation or a lawyer?
How much of an influence were your surroundings?
E: Only in that this is where I met Frances and Stephen. I suppose in the cold, dark winters we had to make our own entertainment, indoors. We wrote songs and drank cider with vodka. In the same glass.
F: If you have ever lived in Glasgow you would know that to live here you have to be hard as snails…oops, I mean nails.
Who are your favourite poets?
E: William Blake, Philip Larkin.
F: Sylvia Plath, Edwyn Morgan, Liz Lochhead, William Shakespeare, Robert Burns.

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