Thursday, 4 August 2011

American Music Club: 'California' and 'United Kingdom'

Right. Explain this to me. Why, in the name of all that is holy, are ‘California’ and ‘United Kingdom’ by American Music Club not available on CD? Let me get this straight…I can walk into one of the four Record Shops still open in the UK and buy the entire James Blunt* back catalogue, but two of the finest records of the 80s languish in some kind of vinyl purgatory? You have GOT to be kidding….

Well, here’s the thing. Keen students of BPFE will notice the link to AMCs mainman Mark Eitzel’s blog over on the right hand side of the page. I was delighted to see he was writing and added him to the blogroll without really paying too much attention to the content of his posts. A few days ago I read them.

Bloody hell.

If you thought his lyrics were good (which of course, they are) then his prose is absolutely stellar. He writes about often inconsequential things, but with such an eye for detail and with such eloquence that he draws you in so deeply, you’ll struggle to re-surface. You probably won’t want to either.  But the saddest thing is that (as he details in one of his posts) he has to write and record to keep food on the table. Now of course, the vast percentage of writers and musicians have to do that, but none of them are as good as Mark Eitzel. Go on, name three writers that can construct a complete world and fill it full of emotion in three minutes or less, that still HAVE to work to live? You can’t can you?

It’s a dark place that Eitzel inhabits. Love is unrequited, damaging or in the past in most of his work. People mention Bukowski a lot in connection with him – a lazy comparison but still valid. The worldview is similar and the cinematographer’s eye is common to both, but ol’ Chuck couldn’t come up with heartbreaking melodies over beautiful, idiosyncratic music.

Whenever I hear AMC, something weird happens to me…after a while, all I can think about is Eitzel, alone, in a bedsit (above a bar, natch) drunk on really cheap scotch. And my overpowering desire is to take him to a nice, sunlit park and buy him a really big sandwich. I really need to change my therapist….

(A live version of 'Here they Come Down ' from 'United Kingdom')

But back to the music…it comes as no surprise that I am not the first person to fawn over him as he won The Rolling Stone songwriter of the year award for 1991. That is what they call damming by faint praise. I’d really urge you to listen to his music if you haven’t already and buy whatever’s available. It’s pretty much all essential and needs re-issuing. Rykodisc where are you? ‘California’ is an amazing piece of work and ‘United Kingdom’ aint too far behind. Satisfaction is guaranteed. I was going to put up an Eitzel solo gig, but when I saw how little AMC stuff was around, I thought I’d better do the decent thing and post this stuff. The ME live show will be up in a week or two, so don’t fret.

I could gush embarrassingly for hours, so I’ll stop now. Suffice to say Mark Eitzel is one of America’s foremost writers of Popular Music and the purse keepers of the Music Industry are doing him a terrible disservice.

(There is a superb Eitzel/AMC book available: Wish the World Away: Mark Eitzel & the American Music Club by Sean Body. It’s highly recommended)

(* I have nothing against James Blunt and have no opinion either way on his music, he was just an easy target. Sorry James...)

  1. "Firefly" (2:49)
  2. "Somewhere"  (3:01)
  3. "Laughingstock"  (4:17)
  4. "Lonely" (2:42)
  5. "Pale Skinny Girl"  (3:33)
  6. "Blue and Grey Shirt"  (3:33)
  7. "Bad Liquor"  (1:57)
  8. "Now You're Defeated"  (2:28)
  9. "Jenny" (2:38)
  10. "Western Sky" (3:28)
  11. "Highway 5" (3:49)
  12. "Last Harbor"  (4:35)
United Kingdom
  1. "Here They Roll Down" - 4:12
  2. "Dreamers of the Dream" - 2:59
  3. "Never Mind" (Live at the Hotel Utah) - 4:05
  4. "United Kingdom" - 4:20
  5. "Dream Is Gone" - 3:55
  6. "Heaven of Your Hands" - 3:01
  7. "Kathleen" (Live at the Hotel Utah) - 2:20
  8. "The Hula Maiden" (Live at the Hotel Utah) - 4:59
  9. "Animal Pen" - 3:20


  1. Blasphemy!! How dare you mention James *unt in the same paragraph (let alone page) as the god-like AMC/Eitzel!

    Apart from that faux pas, another stellar post!

  2. I'm feeling your rage Mr D. At the risk of being thrown out of Team Awesome forever, I really dont find ol' JB that offensive. I can't say I'm a fan, but he doesn't send me into paroxysms of hatred. I guess I'm just a big hippy - love everyone and all that. I reserve my hatred for Shania Twain, Tina Turner (80s material onwards), Cliff Richard (except the early Rock and Roll stuff and about three albums in the 70's), Korn and Limp Bizkit. All their material makes me envy the deaf.

  3. From what I have heard, Merge is currently prepping a reissue campaign of AMC for next year...

  4. @j...

    That is fantastic news. Merge'll do a pretty good job, too.

    Thanks for that.

  5. Hey Rushbo, Somehow, I had let these guys slip off of my radar. Can't find the old albums (probably warped, boxed in the attic), so thanks! for upping these. Consider them snagged. I can't even find anything about this post to give you any crap about... oh, wait - the aforementioned JB faux pas (and a very serious one at that!) and also the slipping in of a few of your more adored records, attempting to call it good music. Cliff Richards!!! Are you serious? Next thing we know, you'll say you even like a few LPs by bands as loathsome as Styx!

    Nice post, though....

  6. Well hardy-har-har Oxy...
    When it comes to Cliff, I have a grudging respect for his really early material, ('Move It' is one of the finest British RnR tunes of that era) and he did a handful of really well polished Pop albums in the late 70's. C'mon, what's not to like about 'We don't talk anymore'? That's practically a Todd Rundgren tune! But 'Millennium Prayer'... that's a bad idea poorly executed aimed exclusively at his key demographic of fawning femail pensioners. I am NOT a fan. But 'Miss You Nights' is ace....

  7. Uncut did an article on great lost albums last year I think and it mentioned then that these two were due imminent reissues. This was last year though so don't hold your breath folks!
    I am also guessing that "Restless Stranger" wont be appearing. It got a very limited reissue 10 years or so ago now and was impossible to track down. I had virtually given up ever finding it when it turned up in the Summer sale at the local Virgin stall for less than 2 Quid!!!

  8. Uncut doing an article on great lost albums? An article that couldn't feature U2 or Bob Dylan or did they find something in their cellar.

    The magazine is always an amazing read, you get to learn how Alllllllllllllllllllan Jones was responsible for every key moment in Rock and indeed Roll.

  9. Tom Mallon, the producer and drummer, still holds the rights which he got back from Warner after they abandoned the reissue project in the late 90s. He keeps talking about reissuing them himself but has not gotten around to it, I suppose. It's rather sad.

  10. James Blunt is a Martial Arts Master,did you know that?So,he kick your a..:!Oouuugghhh... :D
    ''California'' is 1 of my best LPs from '80s,Bad Liquor kicks ass!

  11. ...maybe I could get 'Bad Liquor' to Kick James's ass....