Friday, May 9, 2008

The Flowerpot Men (Part 2 of 2)

For their third release, 1986's Alligator Bait EP, The Flowerpot Men expanded to a four-piece.... maybe. Drummer Mark Irving is undoubtedly a real person, but the "Mr. Delmardes" credited with keyboards and programming has never shown up anywhere else. The "foursome" are joined by singers Sam Brown and Margo Buchanan on backing vocals. The two songs on side one, "Alligator Bait" and "Django", fall into the Flowerpots' established formula, but they widen their horizons on the B-side. "Watching the Pharoahs" (sic) has light, boppy verses divided by a rocking chorus, and "Sharpen My Heart" is a slow, creepy ballad. Also recorded in 1986 was The Janice Long Session, a four-song live performance for Radio One. On this record (recorded March 9, 1986, broadcast April 24, 1986, and produced by Barry Andrews) the band consists of the core duo of Ben Watkins and Adam Peters plus the two backup singers from Alligator Bait. What's notable is how close the performances sound to the studio recordings (most of it is programmed), but also how distinctive Peters' electric cello sounds. So that's what those deep whooshing sounds are. The session also introduced a new Flowerpot Men song, the bouncy "Beat City." That song would appear on the Ferris Bueller's Day Off soundtrack, but no soundtrack album was ever released. Does anyone know if that was a studio version, or this live-in-the-studio session? The Janice Long Session was their last record before they signed to Polydor and became Sunsonic, so this concludes my Flowerpot Men posts. Get both 4-song EPs here or here.


10 comments:

jack said...

Thanks for the history lesson. Ever since their song appeared on Ferris Bueller, I've attempted to find out more about the band. I've also been listening to your earlier posts related to them. They had quite a time on the fringes!

Fantod said...

You're welcome. It seems I neglected to mention any background on Adam Peters: more than just a guy with an electric cello, he was a keyboardist and string arranger for Echo and the Bunnymen. Those lush strings on Ocean Rain are all his doing. After the Flowerpot Men broke up he was in the band Family of God, and he is currently in the New York-based electronic band Neulander.

Ad Nauseam said...

Merçi pour ces raretes je ne pensais que le groupe avait d'autres tracks
Merçi beaucouq

robin said...

Thanks for these -- haven't heard them in ages. But I knew enough to check out Neulander. The first EP was incredible but then followed an album with the same great tracks and lots of boring filler. But do get "sex, god + money".

jagman said...

Thanks Fantod. I love the 'Beat City' track. The version on Ferris Bueller is certainly not the version here. I grabbed a poor copy of the film soundtrack version some years ago from a share site and it's distinctly different - including a timing fluff (I think) at 2:39 and a strangely ragged drum track. Sounds like a studio resording to me... I like the soundtrack version better but probably beacause that's what I heard first.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! By the way, I had to speed up the playback of "Beat City" by about 1.75% to correct the pitch. Is this from vinyl?

Normal variability in household voltage can affect rotation speed on a turntable, which in turns affects the pitch. Does the turntable have a strobe light and/or fine tuning control? I had an old Technics turntable that had a strobe light on the side. You would turn the fine tuning control until the interference patterns from the strobe light on the side of the turntable lined up. That locked in the precise rotation speed.

Fantod said...

Yes, my turntable does have the strobe light fine tuning control, and I use it; and yes, the rips are from vinyl, and all were ripped from the same turntable, so I don't know why the speed would be off one just one song out of eight. May I ask what you are comparing it to for the "true" pitch? Also note that this is a live version of "Beat City"; I believe the only studio version released was on the Ferris Bueller's Day Off soundtrack, which may have been pitch-adjusted itself.

Anonymous said...

You are right. I was trying to match it to the soundtrack version. I think they sped up the soundtrack version. Yet, the soundtrack version is longer, so these are at least different mixes!

I have not been able to find an official studio release of this track. Do you know if there was an official release? There was no official soundtrack release for the movie....

Thank you for sharing! The audio quality of this is much better than the unofficial soundtrack versions, although it is slightly compressed.

Anonymous said...

The version of "Beat City" which appeared in the FBDO was a studio recording and WAS released on a promo 7" single, sent to members of the John Hughes Fan Club and to theatres. It's incredibly hard to find and only a few have surfaced since. Some of the owners have thoughtfully converted them to MP3s and such, and those appear in varying quality around the internet and on unofficial FBDO soundtrack albums.

I believe the two known versions of "Beat City" (the BBC Version and the FBDO Version) are separate recordings, rather than a single recording with two distinct mixes. I won't go so far as to say the FBDO one was recorded *for* the film, but it's entirely possible. At least one track from the film, "Taking The Day Off" by General Public, was recorded for the movie and advertised as such when it appeared as the B-Side to their "Faults And All" 7" single ("Taking The Day Off" was a non-album B-side, only later added as a bonus track to the CD of the album Hand To Mouth).

FBDO director John Hughes (RIP) noted several times that he was getting into non-Top 40 music in the mid-80s, which is why bands like The [English] Beat and Flowerpot Men, neither exactly mainstream at the time, were on the film's soundtrack. It was because the music was fairly eclectic that a proper soundtrack album was never released (and by now, probably never will be, leading to fans making their own).

I was a small part of one of the late-'90s attempts to compile an unofficial FBDO soundtrack, in the early days of the internet as we know it now, where M.H.L.L. called upon any fans with individual tracks to submit them and in return, we'd all receive the completed soundtrack (this was before mass file-sharing). Since most of the versions from the film were not standard album tracks, but 12" versions (March Of The Swivelheads), instrumentals (Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want), and in the case of "Beat City" appearing only on a rare promo single, it's amazing he got all correct versions.

Here's a link to that project, which I'm certain was the first of it's kind and the basis for various (cheaper-sounding) knock-offs:

http://www.80s.com/saveferris/frames.html

The link to the soundtrack project is at the very bottom of the page.

I hope this clarifies things,

MadTheDJ

murphmanz said...

Only had Walk on Gilded Splinters at the time but was a big fan of other pieces of Peters' work (Bunnymen, Triffids). I was quite late in finding your blog - is there any possibility of re-uploading the two Flowerpot Men links?