“Record” Review: Mari Wilson + The Wilsations – Born Lucky

Mari Wilson with The Wilsations ca. 1982

Mari Wilson with The Wilsations ca. 1982

Today I’m going to talk about one of the four or so pre-recorded cassettes I’ve ever added to the Record Cell. As a youngster, I predated the boom in pre-recorded cassettes that the Sony Walkman® engendered at the dawn of the 80s. For me, cassettes were what I made at home of my records, so that I could listen to the music without wearing the record out. I used a mix of normal and high-bias tapes, depending on the caliber of the music in question. Core collection groups, were automatically relegated to a nice TDK/Maxell FeCr C-90.

As I said, after a few years, the popularity of the Walkman® sparked a decade or more long boom in pre-recorded tape sales, that meant nothing to me. I didn’t “get” the Walkman®, in spite of trying a knockoff for a while. I could see the cost of buying batteries every few days would prohibitively impact my baseline purchase of vinyl. So I never developed the habit of listening to music on headphones all of the time. By 1981, I had a great quality cassette deck and the tapes I made were recorded in realtime and sounded way better than mass duped tapes that were recorded at 20:1 or higher writing ratios. So I almost never bought pre-recorded tapes. Except for this one, which was the second such purchase of mine ever.

The Compact Organization | UK | CASS | 1983 | KPINK7

The Compact Organization | UK | CASS | 1983 | KPINK7

Mari Wilson + The Wilsations: Born Lucky UK Cassette [1983]

  1. Baby It’s True [live]
  2. Beat The Beat [live]
  3. Love Man [live]
  4. End Of The Affair [live]
  5. Dance Card [live]
  6. Tu No Me Llores

I had barely begun to buy all of the Mari Wilson records I could find by the mid-80s. This meant that a lot of mail order was called for as I began my éntree into the hardcore record geek world. I never saw Mari Wilson records in local shops, so this was a must. Nevertheless, I happened upon this tape in store, thought not in my local emporiums.

It was on a trip to Tampa, when a trip to the legendary Vinyl Fever [possibly my first] yielded this true gem! Don’t ask me why I was perusing the cassette bins there, but I may have been searching for the UK cassette of Toyah’s “Mayhem” since it had two cassette-only bonus tracks. That seems to be a logical conclusion. Anyway, I found this little puppy, of which I had no idea of up front! So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I snatched it up greedily.

mari wilson - wonderfulUK7A

The Compact Organization | UK | 7″ | 1983 | PINK7

It was apparently bundled as a premium with the UK 7″ of this single [at left] which is still the only Mari Wilson UK 7″ single release not in my Record Cell to this day. I have the 12″ but that and four dollars will get you a cup of coffee. But enough facts… how is the tape anyway? As superb as the Compact Organization records were, Mari Wilson & The Wilsations were all about live performance! Not for nothing did no less an aesthete than Bryan Ferry pick them to open for the Roxy Music Avalon tour in England in 1982! And these five cuts are corkers! With an 11-piece band, no corners were cut and no quarter was given. The live take of “Baby It’s True” mirrors the 12″ “Discotheque Arrangement” of the song and the build up by Hank B. Hive of his climactic intro to the song live is somewhat briefer, albeit just as intense, as on the record. The first time I heard this, I was not privy to the 12″ arrangement and was well and truly blown away by the heaps of smarm Hank managed to trowel onto the stage on this amazing cut.

The live version of “Beat The Beat” ends with the additional lyric “who wants to live in America” right on the meter, for an fantastic cold ending quite unlike the recording. Until I heard this, I had not connected the rhythm underpinning the song as having been lifted from West Side Story’s finest song (though “Gee Officer Krupke” gives it some stiff competition in my mind).

The rest of the live songs here are actually less campy* than their vinyl counterparts. Mari Wilson live was a bona fide supper-club soul review, no matter how plastic they tried to be; you can’t argue with success. By the time that early single “Dance Card” is loosed upon the Pleasuredome crowd, I’m guessing that the sax player’s hair might have been a little tousled!

For some reason, the sixth and final cut on this tape is the Spanish version of “Cry Me A River,” which is the only studio cut here. Moreover, it previously appeared on the 12″ version of “Cry Me A River” as well, making it’s appearance here [especially in lieu of another hot live song] kind of puzzling. At the very least, this live record of The Wilsations on their sole UK tour stands to tout the incredible potency of a group that was kind of a “specialist” act on disc, but more than blossoms with the full eleven piece lineup into an impressive group that played and sang with extreme fervor. Alas, the group was simply too expansive to take onto the road on a regular basis, and after their one hit [“Just What I Always Wanted”] peaked and ebbed, the group broke up and returned sadly to the real world. This tape has held up very well through the years and digitizing a clean copy of this for my Mari Wilson BSOG a few years back was effortless.

– 30 –

* …not that there’s anything wrong with that…

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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6 Responses to “Record” Review: Mari Wilson + The Wilsations – Born Lucky

  1. Echorich says:

    Love Mari Wilson. So many have attempted to follow, but never quite got the tongue in cheek and serious artist thing exactly right.
    First pre recorded cassette for me was Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel – the one with Games Without Frontiers. Second was Duran Duran debut. Both were also purchased on vinyl at or just after the cassette purchase. After that the cassette purchases ended up being import and specially boxed like the ACR and New Order cassette boxes, a few cigarette box cassingles like Echo’s Shine So Hard EP. The most important pre recorded cassettes I have are my NME cassettes from the very early 80’s – which we have discussed before.

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  2. Taffy says:

    I have never bought a stand-alone prerecorded cassette – the only one i own came shrink-wrapped to the NME or Select magazine (maybe Q magazine too).
    Meanwhile, huge fan of Mari Wilson here (Virna Lindt and the Compact label too). I love all of Mari’s albums, right up to her recent releases, but nothing can touch Show People for sheer retro-perfection. Of course in the anything goes early 80’s new wave it made total sense that a night out dancing would involve shaking my ass to synthpop, rockabilly, power-pop, goth, and the pre-rock affectations of Mari’s big band (not to mention her beehive and opera gloves!).

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  3. JC says:

    “Mari Wilson & The Wilsations were all about live performance! ”

    I’m with you on that PPM. They were a band I just couldn’t quite ever get into via records but I did catch them live at a University gig in 82 or 83 and was knocked out by how enjoyable and entertaining it all was. One of the first ever times that I realised it was possible to be in a live setting and have fun without pogoing!!

    Now how about an Imaginary Compilations contribution over at T(n)VV??????

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  4. Gavin says:

    I have never seen this cassette in the wild-how lucky you were to find it!
    I bought quite a few pre-recorded tapes over the years,mostly when I was squatting in London’s Docklands in the late 80s and only had a Walkman to listen to music on.
    Earlier though,I did go for the special edition ones like Visage’s Beat Boy,double play classics by Associates and Japan,Toyah’s Mayhem,Perhaps by Associates and others.I still have them all and a couple of tape players.
    Sorry to dredge up an old thread!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – There were two cassettes I specifically looked for in the 80s. This one, and Toyah’s “Mayhem.” I found this one in Tampa, at the almighty Vinyl Fever [r.i.p.]. Never apologize for reactivating old threads! On the contrary! Every time someone leaves a comment on an old post, dead kittens get their angel wings!

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