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Going Underground

Back in the 80s, there was this rather alternative music magazine that was pretty widely available. Called Underground Magazine, it was predominantly monochrome, printed on rather cheap paper, and with a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of text. It was one of those mags that I would buy, and I'd only recognise the name of a couple of artists mentioned in the mag - I distinctly remember it having full-page ads for Homestead Records and I don't think I ever knowingly saw any of their records in the wild.

So yeah, it was a bit niche. But every now and then it would have a cover-mounted tape, and that would generally be when I would buy it, even though there was probably only 1 or 2 tracks that I was interested in. Which brings us to

Strum + Drum. A casette given away with a 1987 issue of the magazine. I can absolutely tell why I bought this - it has a new version of "Give My Love to Kevin" by The Wedding Present on it, and although it has a Housemartins track on it as well, I'd have already had that on the relevant LP. I honestly wouldn't have been able to tell you anything about any of the other tracks on it.

But, with the wisdom of being (much) older, I get to listen to it now with more senior ears, and it actually has lots to recommend it. Of course - we have the two tracks that I've already mentioned, but there's a track called Karen from the Go-Betweens which actually sounds scratchy enough that it might have been recorded from the vinyl. There's an Alex Chilton song that I've not heard previously and there's a track called Belle Vue from a band called Miaow!. I've never heard of them before, although they seem to have a track on the C86 compilation, their later singles came out on Factory, and their lead singer was Cath Caroll, immortalised by a song of the same name by Mark Robinson's Unrest, which was released on 4AD /Teenbeat.

I don't know enough about the band to know if this single is typical, but its an effortless assured piece of mid-80s indie, simple, charming, beguiling. I love it to bits, I wish I'd heard it before today. But I'm glad that I did hear it today.

(I just looked it up and the master tapes for the Go-Betweens single had been lost, so all re-releases of this track until 1999 were indeed made from the original vinyl release)

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