Thursday, June 22, 2006

Record Shopping In The European Theatre

Calum Marsh

There's a used record store about a block away from my apartment. I visit fairly often, since I'm always walking past it, and I've noticed something fairly obvious which had previously never clicked: rare records pass through these stores all the time - every day, in fact. I held previously a romantic vision of nostaligic record collectors, sitting at home and spinning their copies of Low and Swordfishtrombones with grace and delicacy, and never even imagining the thought of giving them away. But such is not the way of the world. I know that somewhere, at this very moment, a copy of The Queen Is Dead that has been collecting dust in a box in someone's attic for fifteen years is being brought in to your local record shop - the LP's owner will not shed a tear tonight or remember the album fondly, and he will use the five dollars that he gets on trade to pick up a used and badly scratched copy of All That You Can't Leave Behind, which he had been meaning to buy for some time and, if he remembers correctly, has some pretty okay songs on it.

So I've been looking for rare records. In the past few months alone, my patience and diligence has uncovered a bounty of treats: the aforementioned The Queen Is Dead, Closer, Swordfishtrombones, Ambient Four: On Land, Drums & Wires, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, Fear Of Music, The Lounge Lizards, Disintegration, Solid Gold, and a number of others. It's taken on a toll on my bank account, yes, but can I really put a price, commercial goods...?

Last week I stumbled upon something rather interesting: Life In The European Theatre, an extremely rare punk and ska compilation from 1981. I hadn't planned on writing about this LP, but Jonathan's post on the history of Ska music inspired me to sit down and do so. Life In The European Theatre is an interesting snapshot of the British music scene in the aftermath of the Punk explosion, but it's also a surprisingly comprehensive portrait of Ska's second wave. Hell, I'm very tempted to call it the second-wave Ska compilation, but there's probably a much better one floating around and it probably has a catchier title.

Nevertheless, The Eurpoean Theatre remains an unusual but thoroughly enjoyable collection of songs that by artists that range from "most important band ever" to "I think I know that one song they did" - but for the most part, surprisingly, we get the bands that count. It's good, too, that a record featuring so many big names has so many surprises: I'd expect and am okay with The Clash's 'London Calling' kicking things off, but it was a shock and relief to find that songs by the other big names - XTC, The Jam, The Stranglers - are a whole lot less obvious (a lot of B-Sides and Rareties, which is always good).

So what's the story with this compilation? From the liner notes:

NUCLEAR POWER - No single civil industry theatens our lives and the lives of future generations with such brutal finality as Nuclear Power. It will have a deep and damaging effect on all of us. An enormous, appalling expensive risk. Despite the soothing words of the nuclear industry, accidents will happen.

Everyday, the radioactive rubbish dump of leathal nuclear waste grows bigger - in spite of the fact that no one yet knows hot to dispose of it with safety and certainty. It is a deadly inheritance to leave our children and their children. Of course, everyone needs energy - now, and in the future. But heat from atom splitting will fail to provide the kind of secure source of energy we all need because it is complex, over-centralised, and un
reliable, and also creates the materials for any country to assemble and atomic bomb.

Meanwhile, it is diverting vast sums of money and scientific research resources away from the only true long term solutions to our needs: an enery conservation programme, coupled with the harnessing of the only abundant source of energy the world will always have: the sun.

Half of the recording artists royalties (sic) from this album go into a fund for projects opposing nuclear arms and power.

Um, what? Since when is the sun a source of power we'll always have? I'm sure glad I bought this record, otherwise I'd be totally unaware of the awesome and unimaginably dangerous threat of NUCLEAR POWER. Hey, aren't people saying that Nuclear Power is the best way to avoid furthering the effects of global warming? Didn't Al Gore say it was the safest and most effective energy source we can currently harness to prevent damage to the planet? I'm so confused...I think perhaps I should write to the record company and question this matter.

I wonder if, twenty five years from now, some punk kid sitting at his supercomputer will tease our generation for worrying about what ails us. "Ha Ha Ha", he'll guffaw, "Global Warming? What silly nonsense they worried about!" I'm reminded of a classic scene from Woody Allen's Sleeper: a scientist from the future observes that in our time, people didn't eat deep fat, steak, cream pies or hot fudge: "Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true". Maybe it's silly to worry, or maybe it's a serious danger - I'll error on the side of caution, but I'll never know for sure - or, hell, maybe Nuclear Power will kill us all.

Here's Life In The European Theatre. I've included the songs where possible and I've offered alternative tracks from the same bands for the ones I couldn't come across. Listen to them all and think hard about what Nuclear Power is doing to our planet, and what you can do to help.


Track Listing:

Side A

1.The Clash - London Calling - Download
2. The Jam - Little Boy Soldiers - Download "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight"
3. Beat - I Am Your Flag
4. The Specials - Man At C & A - Download "Friday Night, Saturday Morning"
5. XTC - Living Through Another Cuba - Download
6. Peter Gabriel - I Don't Remember - Download "Biko"

Side B

7. The Doors - Peace Frog - Download
8. Madness - Grey Day - Download "My Girl"
9. Bad Manners - Psychedelic Eric
10. The Stranglers - Nuclear Device - Download "Golden Brown"
11. Undertones - It's Going To Happen - Download "When Saturday Comes"
12. Echo And The Bunnymen - All That Jazz - Download
13. Au Pairs - Diet - Download "Headache For Michelle (Live)"

Comments on "Record Shopping In The European Theatre"


Blogger Jonathan Migneault said ... (22/6/06 11:45 pm) : 

I'd say they had a good point about the dangers of nuclear power. Considering this little thing called the Chernobyl disaster happened only five years after that compilation was released :P


Blogger Skvid said ... (23/6/06 12:17 am) : 

It's a bit like panning for gold isn't it? My best find was a cassette with the first song my favourite band ever recorded on it. And it only cost me 20 cents. If only I had more time to search...


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (23/6/06 1:39 am) : 

And Three Mile Island, which happened 2 years prior!


Blogger Tim Young said ... (23/6/06 7:30 am) : 

I bought this LP a very long time ago and very fine it is too. I can recommend the whole Au Pairs LP if you stumble upon it. Considering what you have been buying perhaps we should do a UK US LP swap cos I can pick up lots of the stuff you seem to like for very little money over here.

Tim from TFoT


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (23/6/06 10:20 am) : 

Hey, good post.... but did you not consider digitising the actual record instead of providing links to totally different tracks? There's only 3 tracks from this album in your post!


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (23/6/06 10:48 am) : 

There are four, but I see your point. Most of these songs are, as I said, rare and difficult to find. I searched and posted what I found, and had to make replace the ones I couldn't find.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (23/6/06 11:06 am) : 

"Since when is the sun a source of power we'll always have? "

Um, since like 10 billion years ago. Sure, it will burn out in another few billion, but the human race will be dead by then.


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (23/6/06 11:49 am) : 

It was a fucking joke, you idiot.


Anonymous moe said ... (23/6/06 2:58 pm) : 

wtf is up with anonymous douchbags


Blogger Jarret L Green said ... (24/6/06 12:17 am) : 

What about all those people who DO die digging coal for our ACed asses. Nuclear power is the best thing that could happen to this country.

Fuck hippies.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (19/7/06 4:51 pm) : 

A great album...I have a tape of the original UK version, taken from a friend over 20 years ao, and listen to it still just for the live version of "Man at C & A"...which is just not available anywhere else.

And as for the sentiments expressed...nuclear weapons, as opposed to nuclear power, are the real problem. I'm not saying we could simply say "let's ban em, and nuclear power, and be done with it"...I'm just saying that since we don't seem to be able to live in peace at all, how much longer do you think before these weapons of tremendous destructive power will be used deliberately? It could be tomorrow for all you know? And that's what the songs were cautioning...niot nuclear power.


Anonymous A rational thinker said ... (23/7/06 3:50 am) : 

Well, first of all, the songs are incomplete! The available snippets do rock, though. So thx, I guess...

And second of all, you should embrace nuclear energy, as it is quite safe when handled properly. Fight missuses of it in the form of nuclear war!! That is where our planet is in danger. You are far more likely to die from a car crash on your way to work/school/wherever (in your atmosphere-polluting vehicle) than from any accident at a nuclear power plant.

And BTW, the Sun has been around for about 5 billion years and will be around for another 5 billion years. You still want to boycott nuclear energy? -- then boycott the Sun...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (19/1/07 7:51 pm) : 

Er, its not realy about nuclear power, the title comes from Reagens comments about a nuclear war, if fought being fought in the european theatre. Its about nuclear weopons. Oh, and the reason why nuclear powerplants are nowhere near as efficient as the could be is that for the last 50 yrs or whatever that we've had em theyve been constantly used as a source for weopons grade plutonium.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (30/3/07 9:43 pm) : 

How ironic! I just bought this yesterday at a used record shop for $4.50. It's well worth it!


Blogger Ryan said ... (2/5/07 10:53 pm) : 

This comment has been removed by the author.


Blogger Ryan said ... (2/5/07 10:54 pm) : 

is there more than one version of this? i have a copy i bought a few years back but it has a different cover than what's in your picture. mine has this green and black shot that looks like a women holding someone, i guess after an explosion. the songs are the same. sound familiar?


Anonymous Poppy Pepper said ... (23/11/07 1:40 pm) : 

I have the same copy as Ryan. i didn't realize it was rare. I got it for $5 in a record shop that preys on the used record collections of starving college kids. Its a good album, and I agree-VERY ODD.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5/6/08 3:36 am) : 

Folks I had that album new and lost it in Chicago a few days later I have been looking for it ever since (25 years) if any one sees it for sale in any format let me know please thanks Peace!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (26/1/09 8:23 pm) : 

Quote: is there more than one version of this?

Yes, you've got the USA release which has 'Peace Frog' by the Doors replacing one track for which we couldn't get USA release rights. WEA insisted the album art would cause the distributors to refuse it in the U.S. ;), hence the different album art

Chazz Mervyn


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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5/12/09 3:19 am) : 

I taped this from a disc when I was living in Japan in the early 80's, and I'm looking for a replacement tape. Got any leads?


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