Record Review: The Blow Monkeys – It Pays To Be Twelve

RC| UK | 12

RC| UK | 12″ | 1988 | PT 42232 R

The Blow Monkeys: It Pays To Be Twelve UK 12″ [1988]

  1. It Pays To Be Twelve
  2. This Is Your House
  3. Digging Your Remix

This has been a long time coming! 27 years ago I bought every Blow Monkeys single that I saw in stores or in catalogs. This meant a mixture of 12″ and CD singles. Until I found Discogs.com, I hardly knew the full extent of the band’s large discography. There are many 12″ mix variations and when this single was contemporary, I contented myself with the amazing CD single mix of this, my favorite song of 1988. Maybe four years ago when researching on Discogs, I saw that there was a 2nd remix 12″ of the title. The problem was not that it was unavailable; many dealers offered it for sale. It’s that they were all in the UK and worse, Italy! Shipping on the record would hover near $20. Ouch! As of Monday, I had a copy in my home that cost me $3.00 in purchase plus a pittance in shipping; $5.00 for over a dozen 12″ records. Since I collect The Blow Monkeys, how does it stack up 27 years later?

The A-side was a different mix to the expansive Stephen Hague long version that has been a high water mark of both Hague’s career and the grim late 80s UK music scene as well. The melody has remained in Marius DeVries but the funk factor has been turned up several notches. The Roland bassline and scant spray of acid make connections with house music, but the guitars and strings as well as the brass interjections [now dubscratched in places] maintain ties to the wonderful original mix. Dr. Robert’s scatting has been maxed out as well with much more of that in the slightly dubby mix. The EQ was tweaked to make the song sound harder for the house environment of 1988.

When the hint of the sax from the original mix makes a brief appearance after the breakdown, it’s a nice moment of sunshine in the considerably different mix. I’m also thinking that Dr. Robert’s vocal is from another take than what was used on the album mix. His ad libs during the fadeout were definitely not present in the earlier mixes. The only flaw I can pin on this [after all, it was one of Marius DeVries earliest remixes] was that it just sort of peters out after about seven minutes. The ride is very different and a lot of fun, but the climaxes and crescendoes of “It Pays To Be [Long]” aren’t quite put out to pasture here. Still, I’m thrilled to have a very alternate version of a song I’ve loved for nearly three decades.

This Is Your Life has a long a storied tale. It was released as a Stephen Hague produced single prior to “Whoops! There Goes The Neighbourhood” and in a completely different Ten City production the following year. That means that between various CD singles, and numerous 12″ singles, I have a lot of mixes of this song. This one may be my favorite. It’s a relentless, beat oriented, acid-house variant with a lot of brutal machine power. It’s based on the Hague production but ups the intensity many degrees. It takes me back to the earliest days of house music that reached my ears in 1986 when Mel + Kim’s “Showing Out” was a 12″ I just had to have. Let it be said that I don’t particularly hate any styles of music. It’s when they become fads that they cross my bad side.

The cut opens with a deceptive sample of a “Digging Your Scene” remix before a laughter sample that reminds me of the one used on Acid Horse’s “No Name, No Slogan” that surfaced the following year. Another sample that sounds naggingly familiar is used after  the breakdown, where the female vocalist [who sounds Lebanese] who is teased during the intro gets a bigger chunk of the spotlight. I’m wracking my brains trying to think where I’ve heard something very similar to this previously in another dance track. [Note: I’ve since remembered this as an OMD remix from the 90s – not certain which song] In any case, it neatly presages the worldbeat/house vibe of the subsequent Blow Monkeys album, the deeply underrated “Springtime For The World,” which was issued in 1990 about 18 months too soon. The outro breaks down to vocal samples and drums and 303 bassline before a polite fade around the seven minute mark.

Finally, the “Digging Your Remix” cut was what sounds like an oldie, but goodie from the UK 10″ version of that single. It features a Phil Harding remix that is only slightly altered from the original Michael Baker mix of the world-conquering hit single. But the 10″ mix [which I’ve not heard in nearly 30 years] is 7:54 and the length here hovers around the six minute mark. If I were in my Record Cell, I’d grab the 10″ and give that a spin, but that’s just not possible.

This was another excellent 12″ single from one of the most eclectic and successful bands in the core collection. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that The Blow Monkeys were probably on of the latest bands to come along from the UK and make me a die-hard fan. More importantly, they are almost singular in the world for never having disappointed me at any time during my 30 years of fandom. Which makes me all the more resolved to buy the last four albums which I have been shamefully coasting on, even after I pledged for their crowd-sourced 2008 comeback album “Devil’s Tavern.”

– 30 –

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5 Responses to Record Review: The Blow Monkeys – It Pays To Be Twelve

  1. Echorich says:

    Blue Eyed Soul becomes Blue Eyed Funk and Blue Eyed House. Much respect, Monk, for giving voice to the shamefully overlooked Springtime For The World. The Blow Monkeys pulled out all the stops on SFTW – pop, soul, funk, house, world music and it contains a Balearic Classic in La Passionara.
    One of the keys to how good The Blow Monkeys are is that they have never attempted a sound, or a style of music if you like, that they didn’t put their all into. There are no half baked tracks.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – The value of The Blow Monkeys come down to two things for me; Dr. Robert writes compelling songs, and the band is undeniably hot and as you say, unafraid to go anywhere by half measures. Their commitment makes them a consistently rewarding group. I liked the Dr. Robert solo albums, but the ante got upped considerably when they reunited in 2007.

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      • Echorich says:

        You are so right Monk. The Blow Monkeys in the new Millennium are a thing of wonder. The Devil’s Tavern is thing of wonder. It plays off those well worn and confident BM sounds but ups the ante by taking an aggressive and world worn view. You can still hear sounds from jazz to Indian tablas in the mix.
        The follow-up, Staring At The Sea, continues many of the themes of it’s immediate predecessor but also injects some glam and beautiful, introspective pastoral sounds as well. The Killing Breeze is one of the best tracks of their career.
        In between the band’s burst of recent brilliance, Dr. Robert managed to release a wonderful rework of Sycamore Tree from his 2001 solo album and a new track Steal The Silver which had a psychedelic/folk groove that won’t quit.
        2013 saw the release of one of my top 3 favorite Blow Monkeys album, Feels Like A New Morning. It contains a song that it felt like the band had spent the last 30 odd years building up to – Chained. It’s not in your face, but it grabs you and doesn’t let go. When the band decided at the end of 2013 to release a remix by Youth, with Mr. Glover upping the orchestral quotient on the track, I found it mind blowing and magical.
        TBM’s latest album, If Not Now, When? is a celebration of life! Dr. Robert puts on his best T.Rex swagger on the opener OK! Have It Your Way. Along the way, there are songs that make you feel like you fell through the rabbit hole and landed in 1973 or at least in an episode of Life On Mars, Season 1. The album ends with a social/political song, The Lions Of Charing Cross which deals with the endless gentrification of England and specifically London’s Soho and West End. It’s the campaign song for the Save Denmark Street campaign and it’s really very special.

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  2. I confess I have not kept up with the Blow Monkey since SFTW and selected tracks from Dr. Roberts’ solo albums, but apparently this error needs to be rectified!

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