Sunday, 12 December 2010

It Never Ends: Celibate Rifles - But Jacques, The Fish? 7" EMI Custom,1982

After a few years learning the trade at parties and school dances around Sydney's North Shore, The Celibate Rifles (one of a bunch of one-off party names that stuck) progressed to playing pubs and getting a record out - and what a record! But Jacques, The Fish? is just about the finest record to ever emerge from up that way. Four great songs, some hilarious lyrics, and a frustrating set of sleeve colour variations.

As a rule we don't cross the bridge for nothin'. Every few years though one of our scouts up on the North Shore sends a telegram saying another colour scheme has surfaced and we don our radiation suits, jump in the Wallaby Beat detective van and head up there to bring it home. Now, twenty-eight years after this disc first appeared we think we can close the case on it, so welcome back to another it-never-ends session. There's been several years of does/doesn't it exist to and fro-ing with various parties, now let us supply some clarity.

The first pressing was organised by the band and appeared on EMI Custom labels in late 1982, with catalogue number 13355. EMI Custom pressings appear in one of two colour variations which we'll call black-on-white and white-on-black. These sleeves are different to the later pressing in that the sleeve is flapback - the folds are glued outside the sleeve on the back.

Note also that the colour scheme for these is repeated on the back of the sleeve; black-on-white is black-on-white on the rear (seen to the above right), and white-on-black is white-on-black on its reverse.

It's an odd sleeve in some ways - the iconography is from nowhere: a free-standing ewe with a tied off rifle, a foot on a stick with a tapping toe; and But Jacques, The Fish? You might be tempted to start to align our boys with surrealism and dadaism but we won't make the mistake of previous generations and link the motivations of suburban oicks with French philosophers. Just a healthily odd sense of humour, and a certain iconoclasm which came to characterise, and perhaps plague the band's output as time went on. Ultimately, the rarely seen heavy metal umlaut-ed Ä is probably gonna get you closer to the mark.

There are no mistakes to be made about the music though. All four tracks on here are absolutely great. The influences were Radio Birdman and the Saints - not just lazy pick-a-soundalike by us, but admitted by bassist Michael Couvret and lead guitarist Kent Steedman in several interviews (in Away From The Pulsebeat fanzine for example).

Kicking off with Kent's Theme (They Don't Listen) we have one of the band's earliest songs, dating back to their original singer Ian Martin. A comment on smoking and conformity with the great refrain "doesn't listen to the doctors advising, all she hears is the advertising" leading into the lead break appropriating the Marlboro theme. As we mentioned before, local guitarists love themselves some thematic "references".

Next up is possibly the highlight of the EP, Let's Get Married, a song that never fails to bring a smile to our faces, not just from the ferocious wah-wah solo and group-chanted chorus but mostly from the hilarious lyrics penned by vocalist Damien Lovelock.  We particularly like the line "you must be okay coz you went down on my brother". Lovelock's vocals are excellent across the whole EP.

On 24 Hours the band kick back a bit with a more personal lyric. On this side of the disc the band really start sounding more like Radio Birdman, particularly in the guitar licks and backing vocals. Tubular Greens is the band's first surf themed song, a connection they continued occasionally, as detailed by Stephen McParland in Waltzing The Plank. Amongst other things this included pseudonymous gigs as Sandy Pile and The Beach Bums at Mambo's surf band battles, where they did T.V. Eye as Seaweed Eye. Anyway, cool song, great handclaps.

The EMI Custom EP was distributed by Hot Records. By 1983 Hot Records formally became a label and we have a second pressing of But Jacques, The Fish? as HOT 702. The same stampers were used, but the label is completely different and switches to an alternative spelling of Jacques. The sleeve artwork is the same as the earlier issue. The minutiae are as follows:
  • there is no longer any flapback - the folds are glued inside the sleeve;
  • there are four variations: red-on-white, white-on-red, blue-on-white, white-on-blue;
  • the back of the sleeves standardise - the red sleeves both have white-on-red reverses, and the blues have white-on-blue;
  • interestingly (come on, you've read this far) blue-on-white opens to the left, all other schemes we have seen have the more regular right hand side opening.
As far as rarity or otherwise goes, the EMI Custom pressings are harder to find than the Hot. We can't really divine any relative scarcity amongst the Hot sleeve variations - we'll just report that white-on-blue was the last one to land in our laps.

The lyric/info insert comes on white, blue, green, yellow, red or pink paper. Maybe others too. We haven't been able to find any variations on the inserts between pressings, even the handwritten extra phone number seems to be the same on all copies we've seen.

Finally some music - we've decided to just feature one track, the "all samples not cleared" Kent's Theme. 24 Hours, Tubular Greens and Let's Get Married saw release in the UK on What Goes On on the Quintessentially Yours LP. Kent's Theme was on a UK 7" on Shigaku Records backing Pretty Pictures and also made one of the early punk reissue compilations - Back To Front Vol 6 in 1995. All four tracks are on the Platters Du Jour double album/CD compiling the 7" tracks up to 1990. Go get it. Oh and report any other variations (with documentation please!).

Kent's Theme


February 2012 update Two more variations in hand: EMI Custom with black-on-white front and white-on-black rear; Hot red-on-white front with a red-on-white rear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The first time I saw this band was early 80s at the Footbridge Theatre, Sydney Uni. They were supported by a band called the Stomach Pumps, whose lead guitarist had a Radio Birdman t-shirt and no trousers; he played in his underpants. When they finished their set the guitarist put on his jeans and the band became the Celibate Rifles.
Steve