Welcome to the latest Squire newsletter where we explore the underground Los Angeles pop scene and play you a surprise from the debut electric Sugarplum live set!
A few months ago we looked at Squire’s powerpop connections and you can read all about it in the newsletter link here!
The recent holiday excursion into the sound of Sugarplum - Blue Summer Days also connects to the powerpop sound of Squire. The Sugarplum live debut was in Los Angeles in February 1997, at the Poptopia festival, organised by Tony Perkins of Martin Luthor Lennon, who also produced the 3 CD volume Poptopia on Rhino Records of the same name!
The Poptopia festival event in LA was a forerunner of the later regular International Pop Overthrow series curated by David Bash, which includes an annual week at The Cavern Liverpool which Squire regularly play! The Poptopia concerts in February 1997 not only provided the opportunity to try out some of the Blue Summer Days songs in front of a powerpop audience before the albums release, but also to see, in hindsight, a stunning array of performances from the other bands - 110 played over 7 days! The concerts included the first gig for 20 years of Emitt Rhodes at the Alligator Lounge,
supported by The Wondermints (who became the Brian Wilson band), and on the night included guest Jon Brion on Chamberlin (a precursor to the Mellotron)!.
Jon Brion also played his regular Friday session at Largo as part of the festival and introduced on stage the stunningly talented Rufus Wainwright, who’s first album he was producing at the time! Other bands playing either The Troubadour, Silver Lake Spaceland or Roxy were Shonen Knife, Go-Go Jane Wiedlin’s band Frosted, Susannah Hoffs, Adam Marsland’s band Cockeyed Ghost which included Robbie Rist (cousin Oliver in The Brady Bunch!) who played a note perfect version of Good Vibrations!. Together with Negro Problem, Baby Lemonade et al. they made up the mid 1990s LA underground pop scene, documented by fanzines such as Yellow Pills,
Popsided, Audities and journalists such as Jordan Oakes, David Bash & John Borack. The trip not only provided a fascinating glimpse of American pop which wasn’t making its way to UK shores, in contrast to the US chart pop or mid 90s Brit pop era, but also a chance to meet up again with old friends such as The Question and Bart Mendoza and Kevin Ring of Manual Scan who came to the show!
It would be five years before Sugarplum repeated the live performance, but the electric debut at the Dublin Castle in Camden London provides an interesting contrast to the Squire performances at the time, that had followed the Squire return at the1999 Mods Mayday concert.
The Dublin Castle set list took the Sugarplum album and sprinkled unplayed powerpop Squire songs, and a couple of pop cover references on top, providing a fascinating glimpse through another window at the Squire repertoire! The Sugarplum set list comprised:
We Are The Numbers
I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
Holiday In England
Confidence & Love
Needles & Pins
No Time Tomorrow
Girl On A Train
Wake Me Up
Of particular note are the two Sugarplum cover versions. The first is Manual Scan’s 'Confidence & Love'. Hi-Lo Records released Manual Scan's debut LP and the song was a highlight of that album.
The track had just been recorded at the time by Sugarplum for the Manual Scan/ The Shambles tribute album called Forty One Sixty, and so we knew the song well, and played it on the night! The second cover, Needles & Pins written by Sonny Bono and Jackie DeShannon,
is perhaps best known in the UK by The Seachers version, which epitomises the 12-string pop sound, but Jackie De Shannon's recording, seen above with Sonny & Cher, was the first release.
The set debuted four songs never played live by Squire - From The Official Squire Fan Club Album came 'We Are The Numbers', 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend', and 'Times Change'! while Hits From 3000 Years Ago's 'Saturday Shopping' also made its live debut. ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’, is due out very soon on an upcoming Cherry Red box set compilation called ‘Kids On The Street’ and was one of the very first Squire pop songs written, indeed it opens Side One of The Fan Club Album!
You can still get the white vinyl Fan Club album or CD here!
And you can see the actual Sugarplum Dublin Castle performance of 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend' here! Indeed, the entire concert was filmed and we hope to share some more in the future!
All the best from Squire!