Monday, 30 January 2023

Whatever Happened To Reg?

Side 1 of a cassette compilation, recorded 2nd December 1989 by my friend Stuart for my 19th birthday nine days later.

I read the sad news on Sunday that Tom Verlaine passed at the age of 73, with some of my fellow bloggers posting tributes to him and, by default, Television and in particular Marquee Moon. In 1989, I don't think I had heard a single note of music by Television. In fact, it was probably 1993, when I sent a cheque in the post to Melody Maker and received by return a CD compilation, Rebellious Jukebox.

Commenting on C's wonderful Tom Verlaine tribute at Sun Dried Sparrows, Swiss Adam said that the title track of Marquee Moon "is one of those songs that when you hit play, you're in for the duration, no way you're going to turn it off before the full thing has unfolded". 
I know what he means. Marquee Moon closes Rebellious Jukebox but it's not the original album version, a relatively brisk run through, stopping just shy of ten minutes. Oh no. This is a live version, clocking in at fourteen minutes and forty five seconds. Quite an introduction to the band, let me tell you.

Which makes the appearance in 1989 of Tom Verlaine's mug on the homemade (by me) sleeve to this cassette inexplicable. Verlaine - either solo or with Television - doesn't appear on the compilation at all! I guess I'd taken a cutting from a music rag and decided that Tom looked "Reg" enough to adorn the cover. So, this is my personal if somewhat irreverant tribute to the great musician. So long, Tom, you were something special.

Returning to the selection, being a 19th birthday present, you get a snippet of Paul Hardcastle's big hit before thankfully cutting to one of Pixies' finest moments. What seems so surreal now, thirty-odd years later, is that this was very 'now' compilation, most of the tracks having come out in 1989 or the year before, with the odd smattering of older songs. Stuart was into U2 and Cactus World News, we had a shared love of O.M.D., Talking Heads, The Sugarcubes and The Doors, and he was introducing me to R.E.M.'s incredible back catalogue. We'd been to see The Jesus & Mary Chain live for the first time at the Studio in Bristol the previous month and Stuart was raving about The Stone Roses' debut album, which at that point I hadn't yet heard.

This might have been the first mixtape that Stuart did for me and it's a good one, even if it did require a bit of fast forwarding at the end to get to Side 2. It's a snapshot of a time in our lives where the decade (and our teens) was coming to an end and anything seemed possible. Happy days.

And who was "Reg"? There was an inscription on the cassette: "Smarmy Reg Varney". Neither of us were fans of On The Buses or Mr. Varney, it has to be said, but it was knocking around as one of those meaningless catchphrases at the time. Sometimes, that's as deep as it goes...
1) Intro / Bone Machine: Paul Hardcastle / Pixies (1988)
2) Touch Me (Album Version): The Doors (1969)
3) UV Ray: The Jesus & Mary Chain (1989)
4) The Beginning And The End: O.M.D. (1981)
5) Unchained Melody (Cover of Todd Duncan): U2 (1989)
6) The Book I Read: Talking Heads (1977)
7) Just A Touch (Album Version): R.E.M. (1986)
8) Bee: The Sugarcubes (1989)
9) Reconcile (Single Version): Cactus World News (1989)
10) What The World Is Waiting For: The Stone Roses (1989)
11) Riders On The Storm (Album Version): The Doors (1971)
12) No Compassion (Part II): Talking Heads (1977)

1969: The Soft Parade: 2
1971: L.A. Woman: 11
1977: Talking Heads: 77: 6, 12
1981: Architecture & Morality: 4
1986: Life's Rich Pageant: 7
1988: Surfer Rosa: 1
1989: All I Want Is You EP: 5
1989: Automatic: 3
1989: Fools Gold EP: 10
1989: Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!: 8
1989: Rebound EP: 9

Side One (44:54) (Box) (Mega)


  1. "Smarmy Reg Varney", that made me laugh - and the idea that Tom Verlaine looked "Reg" enough to adorn the cover... these little catchphrase, in-joke things are priceless. I reckon someone should compile a book on them, it'd be so off-the-wall. I loved Adam's observation of MM (and thanks for the mention too). Your comp is so interesting with its authenticity of being a 19th birthday present in 1989... a lovely snapshot of the variety of music and mix of eras it came from that was doing it for you then and how these different choices could sit alongside each other.
    So good that you kept all these.

    1. Many thanks, C. I just realised, having name checked your blog and Adam's comment, that I forgot to add my own comment! I will revisit when I'm back from work this evening.

      I loved receiving as much as giving cassette (and later CD-R) compilations. Many of them are sadly unplayable now or were previously mangled after being played to death. It's been a real joy recreating them and lovely when a song or a selection connects with other visitors to this, let's face it, very self-indulgent blog!