Artists-On-Albums: AOA#2 (The Real Tuesday Weld’s Stephen Coates on Oedipus Schmoedipus)

Stephen Coates (The Real Tuesday Weld) on…

Barry Adamson’s Oedipus Schmoedipus (Mute Records, 1996)

Barry Adamson - Oedipus Schmoedipus

Down the road from the Royal College of Art where I studied for a couple of years, there used to be somewhere called Kensington Market.  Even then it was rather out of step with the rest of the high-end posh shops in the area – a kind of sub-Camden collection of goth stalls, pre-‘vintage’ vintage outlets, cool little record outlets and the usual Levi’s, leather jacket and Doc Martin sellers.

A relic of swinging London, it couldn’t survive the rent hikes of the new property age.  On the top floor at the back was a big shop I really liked which sold loungey, Vegas style, ’50s-ish gear. About ten years ago I was in there fingering a pretty sharp burgundy velvet jacket when the slick guy who ran the place dropped a new record onto his player.  Forty minutes or so later I was still standing there, still fingering the burgundy number.

“Can I help?”

“Sorry?”

“With the jacket”

“Oh, er no… thanks I’m fine…”

(Pause)

“Actually, yes you can help – what’s playing?”

“What?”

“The music?”

Barry Adamson

“By who?”

“No that’s the artist – the album’s Oedipus Schmoedipus

I managed to get a bit more info about it out of him before he retreated back behind his counter and occasionally eyed me suspiciously whilst I continued to stand there still. When the music ended, I didn’t buy the jacket but I did go downstairs to one of the record shops and buy the album.  Why? Because I hadn’t heard ever anything like it. In a funny way I still haven’t; although I am more musically literate these days, so I can now perhaps place it, spot some influences, make stylistic comparisons. But more of that later.  Back then I was rather at a loss with contemporary music. In fact I felt rather at a loss with contemporary everything.  I had fairly recently returned to London after a spell in a Buddhist monastery in the mountains of southern Spain.  A series of peculiar experiences had led to me moving from focusing on the visual arts to focusing on the musical arts and as a result, turning to the 1930s jazz played in the house I grew up in.  By good fortune – or synchronicity – I had a computer and a sampler at my disposal and had begun to make music under the name of The Real Tuesday Weld.

But the music of the ’30s and the little contemporary music I listened to was all about individual songs.  Oedipus Schmoedipus was definitely an album – not just a collection of songs.  Even on first listen it seemed to have an underlying story, a sense of a concept.

And also, how on earth could one man make something which sounded like that? And with a computer?  The other thing of course which really got me, was that it sounded, if not like a soundtrack, as if it could or should be a soundtrack.  That was appealing because at the time as well as being a film freak, my favourite, non-jazz musical listening was a collection of Gainsbourg film pieces and the Trevor Jones Angel Heart soundtrack. In the following weeks, as I found out more about it, I got more impressed. You could do this with music? You could do it all mainly with the help of computers (and obviously a lot of talent)?  An album could create a little world in itself? You know, I’m still trying to do all that.

I like most of what Barry’s done – before and after Oedipus – but that album has it all for me. Partly because of the time I discovered it but really because it’s got all the things that I like in an album.  It has great collaborations – Jarvis, Billy Mackenzie, Nick Cave.  It has spoken-word pieces.  It has cool grooves, funny stuff, dark stuff, vibes, classical piano, strings, strange sounds.  It has great songs and great instrumentals and a very good cover of a Miles Davis track.  It sounds like it’s about something but you can’t work out what.  It has played stuff, programmed stuff, sampled stuff. The sequencing of tracks is spot on (a dying art in the world of the individual download and iTunes shuffle I’m afraid).  And it’s made by one guy.  What more do you want from a record?

Sure, these days I can hear influences or correspondences – John Barry, Gainsbourg, John Zorn, Joe Frank – but that’s a pretty impressive list and they are just some of the flavours in its warm, dark soup.  And really, you would have to add David Lynch, Orson Wells and Jim Jarmusch to the mix to really fill out the picture.  I get the impression it’s rather forgotten about these days.  Well, actually I’m not sure how many people knew about it even then.  The guy in the lounge shop was pretty selective in his tastes and I don’t where else I would have heard it.  Of course, “The Big Bamboozle” got used in a big TV ad a few years back and still crops up here and there.  I’m sure it’s a popular record with filmmakers.  It should be.

Buy it, enjoy it.  But do yourself a favour: play it from top to toe, beginning to end with no break – preferably whilst fingering a burgundy velvet jacket.

Notes on the Artist:

Stephen Coates

Stephen Coates is the founding (and only full-time) member of The Real Tuesday Weld.  After a year or so of mainly concentrating on film music, production commissions and his own Antique Beat label, he is currently working hard on a follow-up to the band’s simultaneously-released 2007 LPs – The London Book Of The Dead and The Clerkenwell Kid Live At The End of The World – which should hopefully drop by the close of this year.

In the interim, a few fresh tracks from The Real Tuesday Weld will also surface upon a one-off 7” single released via Tongue Master Records and across several compilations.  A recent collaboration with Joe Coles of The Guillotines – under the name of Lazarus And The Plane Crash – will appear as an EP in the near future too.

www.tuesdayweld.com