October. Now this blog has 4 years! I didn’t expect to write or interview bands this long to be honest. It’s funny, Emma, who pushed me to blog again, and helped me back in the day coming up with questions for the interviews, has been back in my life this week after a whole year of silence. Don’t know if that means anything, but it’s something really nice. She is one of my dearest friends and I had missed her during all this time. It’s true that she is out of the loop now when it comes to indiepop (she is into Beyoncé and that kind of things), and long are the days when we would talk about friends like The Pinefox, love_tropicana or the “sad girl”. Those were the early days of this blog. I remember many of the great questions she came up with for my interviews, some that I wouldn’t have even thought about asking! Like, when she asked if the Pink Noise’s vocalist hair was real blonde or not (!).
Also since August I have a new great friend, Yuiko, who has been pushing me even further, in making more and more interviews. Sometimes I feel I just blog for her. And I enjoy that idea. She was the one who has made the b-flower interview possible, first by translating my questions to Japanese, and then translating Hideshi’s answers to English. Lots of work, and just for the love of indiepop. Also she was the one who asked me to do interviews with The Thieves, Episode Four and East Village. On the pipeline there are other interviews she has requested like the one with Newsflash or Sugarfrost Records’ Akiko. Hopefully those will be up soon. And you know what’s funny, I’ve never met Yuiko, but before emailing, in July, we both attended the same Jasmine Minks gig in London. Who would have known. Small world.
So yes, I’m thanking those who have kept me blogging as you can already tell. I do blog for my own entertainment to be honest, as I’m a terribly curious person, and need to know the story behind the records and songs I have. It’s all like a big jigsaw for me, trying always to put the pieces together. But, there are people that share that same passion and that have given me feedback and inspiration for keeping this blog alive, even when there were catastrophic moments here earlier this year, and made me wonder if indiepop was dead or not. I figured out this month that indiepop has a chronic disease too, sometimes it feels great, vibrant, but sometimes it gets really ill.
Another person I want to thank is Bart Cummings for talking about every single band he has been in and always having the most interesting answers, he knows what I want to read! And yes, there’s a Bart & Friends interview coming up too these days. What is left? Hydroplane?
Helping me get in touch with bands both Uwe and Jessel have been fantastic through the years.
Also I want to thank Phil Ball for his support and all the great chats about lost bands. Someday I know he’ll digitise his tapes and lots of great obscure bands will be re-discovered. Same goes to my dear friend Andreas that really needs to fix his tape player! One of the few that I know that has the blog on an RSS reader 🙂
Thanks to William Jones from Friends & Summerhouse Records for being an inspiration. Always spaghetti carbonara with him.
Last but not least, to Jennifer for being such a big supporter through all these years. I know she prefers my blog posts to be shorter, but well, I can’t help it. One day I promise that I will retake the book idea for compiling interviews from the blog, so you can all read them just before going to sleep just like I do with my Tintins, comfortably in bed.
I know this blog won’t be as popular as those who offer the whole record for download. People enjoy the easiest route always, one click. Aside from those blogs making music throwaway, making these great songs have no value whatsoever, I believe in the challenge of finding out for yourself, going through the depths of ebay, musicstack, record stores, gemm, discogs, and the entire whole wide web trying to find a record. That’s way more rewarding than one click. So to all the readers who have stuck around, a big THANK YOU. And especially, those that leave comments, you make my day.
And to those that think that I steal their “finds”. Just a couple of words, grow up.
The CDs that have been played at home this week were:
1. The Haywains – A37 Revisited (Cider City)
2. Various Artists – The Legendary B Sides (Richmond)
3. The Ethnobabes – Thoughts on Barbecuing (Perfect Pop)
4. Blackberry Wine – Modern Living in a Survival Handbook (Pony Proof)
5. Sambassadeur – Coastal Affairs (Labrador)
6. Paisley & Charlie – Songs in Black and White (Pebble)
And listening to the Legendary B Sides of what was él Records, I was struck on track number 14 of the second CD, repeating it over and over. I’d say it’s a very Cloudberry song, if that’s a thing you could say. The track was “Valediction” by a band called Ambassador 277. Immediately I started to google about them, to find out who made such a catchy and nostalgic song at the same time. Sad and upbeat. I wanted to know who was singing with breezy vocals, who was the girl that was doing such delicious backing vocals, and who came up with all these great different instrument arrangements all over the song. It’s just a perfect song!
First things first. What’s a valediction? A valediction (derivation from Latin vale dicere, ‘to say farewell’), or complimentary close in American English, is an expression used to say farewell, especially a word or phrase used to end a letter or message, or the act of saying parting words- whether brief, or extensive.
And to make things even more clear, an ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization. But what about the number 277? Is it a secret code?
I wasn’t surprised to find absolutely nothing about them. That’s the story of my life, haha. According to Twee.net and the liner notes of the B sides compilation CD, there was just one release. A 10″ that had on the A side the song “Pop Up Man” and on the B side this new favourite of mine, “Valediction”. I wonder why the 10″ format for just two songs. Could be one of Mike Alway eccentricities? From what I’ve read on many liner notes, él always was usually short on money, so they could have saved some pounds if this was released on 7″, right? But I’m sure there was a reason to do it on a 10″. If there was a label that had reasons to do something for aesthetic purposes and leave the economic reasons behind, that was él.
So now I’m listening to the “Pop Up Man” and it sounds very familiar to me. A little research and I figure out why. This song was covered by the great Minneapolis band Ninian Hawick on the “All Done with Mirrors” compilation released on Le Grand Magistery. It’s a very strange version of the song though, very eclectic. For starters it’s all electronic and has a dancey feel. Not really my thing. And it’s sung in French. I usually skipped this song when playing that compilation.
On the other hand, the original “Pop Up Man” is great, it has a sixties feel with it’s guitar riffs and soft trumpets in the chorus. Just so you know, don’t be deceived by the Minnesota version! In any case, for me, the winner on the record, is “Valediction”. That’s my song. I still don’t have this record, and I haven’t had the chance to see the sleeve. It’s not even listed on Discogs. I wonder if on the sleeve there are more details about this band. Probably. At least some last names.
The band did appear on many compilations usually with “Pop Up Man”. You can check many of these compilation albums here.
And that’s about all I could gather about them. I guess they were long forgotten, hard to compete in a label catalog that included the likes of The Monochrome Set, Momus, The Would Be Goods or Louis Philippe. If you happen to know anything else about them, or if you know what the 277 number means, please leave a nice comment down below. You’ll make my day!
Ambassador 277 – Valediction