One Summer: An interview with Bob Stanley

❉ The writer and one-third of Saint Etienne chats about his latest and upcoming projects. 

Bob Stanley (@rocking_bob) | Twitter.

Writer and member of Saint Etienne Bob Stanley seems to have been a busy man during this strange truncated year. The latest in a bunch of his excellent compilations for Ace Records, 76 in the Shade, was released last week and with a new compilation due out next month, a new Saint Etienne album in the bag and the much awaited Fall book on the way I spoke to Bob about these and other projects.

76 in the Shade the latest Ace compilation captures the sweltering atmosphere of that famous summer. A lot of the recordings on the compilation were recorded before 76 and Bob says he aimed to include tracks with that “woozy production” capturing that sense of lethargy and the “floaty” feeling of that particular summer. “I had the idea of the compilation for years thinking of what to put on it. I didn’t just want it to be hit records of that summer… Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, David Dundas Jeans On., etc even though there are a couple of hits on it [10cc, Liverpool Express]. Anarchy in the UK came out at the end of that year as well of course!”  I told Bob that many of the tracks on 76 in the Shade I hadn’t heard before, but I feel like I kind of had. “Well the first track [Spike Janson’s Walking so free] was from the test card so you might have heard it without ever realising. It took me years to find out what that was. I used to like recording test card music on cassette …I wrote to the BBC and they said we can’t tell you what it is, and you can’t buy it! In the ’90s I discovered there were other test card obsessives but it’s only about 5 years ago that I found out what the song was. I think that’s the first time it’s come out anywhere.”

I asked Bob if he got all the tracks he wanted for this compilation and is it difficult getting certain tracks cleared?  “I make a compilation to play myself and then perfect it. For this one we got pretty much everything on the list. Liz Buckley and Ace are tenacious.” For a previous compilation State of the Union, “we got a Beach Boys track…and a Dennis Wilson Beach Boys track! Mike Love who owns the rights hated Dennis Wilson, but we somehow got that. And for State of the Union we got a Sinatra track. The Sinatra estate is notoriously difficult.”

Bob’s excellent recent book Sleevenotes was published last year by Pomona and in it he documents his record buying and record making life. I asked him about the story of the track 7 Ways to Love by Cola Boy. This was Saint Etienne in another guise making a record that replicated the tracks they were hearing in clubs at the end of 1990 whilst doing a PA tour. Saint Etienne had released it under this name as they felt it was a novelty even though they expected it to be a hit.  It then became a top 10 hit demanding an appearance on Top of the Pops. “We got our mates to front it [Andrew Midgley and Janey Lee Grace] … and when we went to watch it Top of the Pops wouldn’t let us in. Weird that it’s your own record and you can’t get in!!”

A new Saint Etienne album is “pretty much finished and out next April.” I asked if being in lockdown had affected how they work?   “Being in different parts of the country hasn’t made a huge amount of difference during lockdown [Bob now lives in West Yorkshire]. We’ve been able to communicate through Zoom. We’ve probably been talking to each other more.”

Bob tells me The Fall book will be out next year too. “We’ve got Stuart Bertolotti-Bailey to do the design. He did an art magazine called Dot Dot Dot and works for the ICA. He’s doing the cover and layout and it should look great. The book’s more about the [Wonderful and Frightening] World of The Fall rather than being about them directly. It’s essays on elements of The Fall. Horror fiction, Wyndham Lewis, the role of strong women …  We’ve included unseen artwork, ephemera, posters, flyers and handwritten stuff. We’ve also got a picture of the Hey! Luciani script.” Bob says the book will include essays from among others Owen Hatherley, Adelle Stripe, Ian Penman, Mark Fisher and Sian Pattenden “who talks about the Brix years, when The Fall appeared in the Smash Hits sticker book. Which is weird!!”

More immediately Bob has got a new compilation coming out next month. Called Café Exil it will be “based on imagining David Bowie inter-railing round Europe. An imaginary soundtrack to that. Lots of ’70s European music. I’ve done it with a bloke called Jason Wood and I’m really pleased with it”.  I, for one, can’t wait to hear that.

❉ ‘Bob Stanley presents 76 In The Shade’ (CDCHD 1580) was released 28 August 2020, by Ace Records. RRP £11.50. Order from Ace, free delivery in the UK

❉ James Collingwood lives in West Yorkshire and currently contributes to the Bradford Review where he has interviewed Kay Mellor, George Layton, Tim Booth and Jeremy Dyson among many others. HisTwitter is @JamesCollingwo1

Header image: BBC Music.

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