Strange Man Changed Man
Strange Man, Changed Man Reissued on CD by Universal Records in 2007!!
BIG NEWS!! I don't know what motivated Universal records to reissue Bram Tchaikovsky's first album, "Strange Man, Changed Man", on CD, but I'm sure glad they did! This reissue (CD B0010216-02) has the songs in the US LP version sequence (see below) instead of the original UK sequence. It's a straightforward bare-bones reissue, with no extras or additional liner notes. Sound quality is very good, but not outstanding. Unlike the recent Orchestra Luna reissue, which is an import and priced fairly high, this CD is readily available from Amazon at less than $15.00...a real bargain. The older import version of the CD (with the original UK track sequence) has become increasingly rare, often selling for more than $70.00 on eBay and at other sources. This is a truly enjoyable album from 1979 and I suggest you pick up a copy for your listening pleasure.
And now, back to our regular program....
Everyone should own at least one Japanese import CD, if only because the printed lyrics are so darn funny. There are many older English-language albums that are available on CD only from Japan. It is not uncommon for these albums to have printed lyrics in both Japanese and English, even if the original album did not include printed lyrics at all. I'm guessing that this is to help Japanese listeners to understand the English lyrics, something that is difficult enough for English-speaking listeners to do (check out Misheard Lyrics at amiright.com.)
I've already commented on the errors in the English lyrics from Orchestra Luna's Japanese CD. The errors on Strange Man Changed Man are almost as good. For example, the correct lyrics,
"And there ain't no telling when I feel like yelling..."
are rendered in the printed lyrics as,
"And the rain don't tell him when I feel like yelling..."
I don't see how they thought that made any sense at all. Plus, there are spaces in the printed lyrics where Peter Barakan (credited with transcribing the lyrics) apparently couldn't make out what was being sung. These spaces are even more puzzling, as the omitted words are usually quite obvious. For example,
"I have a [blank] lover, she's here in my hands..."
needs a two-syllable word starting with "f". Yes! The missing word is indeed "faithful"!!
But enough nitpicking. This is Bram Tchaikovsky's first and best album and it has only been available on CD from WEA International in Japan. It is now out-of-print, though copies show up from time to time on eBay and from other on-line stores specializing in collectible or rare albums and CD's. It is WEA catalog #WPCR-1764.
The song order on this album differs significantly from that of the 1979 US release (Polydor #PD-6211) that I own. No songs are omitted or added, but the first side begins with "Strange Man Changed Man" on the US release, while the Japanese CD begins with "Robber" (inexplicably rendered as "Robbert" at several places in the printed lyrics.) "Girl of My Dreams" begins the second side of the US album and ends the first side of the Japanese release. Here are the entire song sequences for each release:
US LP Release
Japanese CD Release
I haven't positively confirmed this, but I'm assuming that the Japanese CD has the songs in the same order as the original UK LP release. Several websites list the original album as Radarscope #RAD-17 and at least one has the song sequence listed in the same order as the Japanese CD. It also appears that the Japanese CD insert is a reprint of the original vinyl LP cover, including the designations for side 1 and side 2 and the statement that it was "Printed and Made in England" (check it out on the scanned images above.) I will have to look into this a bit more to verify it.
As for the eponymous group itself, Bram Tchaikovsky was born Peter Bramall on November 10, 1950, in Lincolnshire, England. He started playing guitar in his teens and was already in a group by the mid-1960's. In the 1970's he formed the All-Time Heroes, with James Roper playing bass, Majo playing keyboards, and Keith Line playing drums. They recorded some demos and also landed themselves a spot supporting Man on tour, but by this time they had become Roper. They changed their name again, reverting to a shorter version of their first name, Heroes, and put out a cover version of Bruce Springsteen's "Growing Up".
Bram originally auditioned for the Motors in February, 1977, and although he failed the first audition he was soon taken on, thus ending the career of Heroes. In 1978, while Andy McMaster and Nick Garvey had the Motors idling while they wrote songs, Tchaikovsky formed Battleaxe with Micky Broadbent playing bass/guitar/keyboards and Keith Boyce (formerly of Heavy Metal) playing drums. They put out a Garvey-produced single, "Sarah Smiles", on the Criminal label before signing to Radar. "Sarah Smiles" would later appear on their first album.
Now known simply by the name of their leader (whose split from the Motors was permanent, but apparently amicable), Bram Tchaikovsky set about recording Strange Man Changed Man in November and December, 1978, and January, 1979, at the Pebble Beach and Basing St. Studios. Mike Oldfield joined them to play tubular bells on the track, "Girl Of My Dreams", which broke into the US Top 40. Co-producer Garvey provided some backing vocals and the bass on "Lady from the USA", while former Heroes sideman Roper took some of the photographs for the album cover. Peter Ker and the members of Bram Tchaikovsky co-produced the album with Garvey.
The Russians are Coming (UK)
By the time of the second album, Boyce had left the group and former Heroes drummer, Line, had taken over. Denis Forbes had also been brought in to help Tchaikovsky and Broadbent with guitar, bass and vocals. Bob Andrews (of the Rumour) helped out with keyboards on the track, "Pressure", which was also the title of the album in the USA. (The UK title for the album was The Russians are Coming.) Broadbent had left by 1981 and the band themselves left the rapidly disintegrating Radar label and signed to Arista. Funland was recorded at Rockfield studios in January and February of 1981 with a brand new line-up of Tchaikovsky, Forbes, Lord Richard Itchingham playing bass, and Derek Ballard playing drums. It would be the last album by the band and despite persistent rumours of a Motors reunion, Bram remains out of the limelight.
Why am I so fond of this album? I'm not really sure. The punk-pop phenomenon was sweeping the UK at the time. I was listening to a lot of Elvis Costello (who wrote better songs) and other performers (most of whom played their instruments better), but this album just stuck in my mind for some reason. I bought a vinyl copy of the album at its release and still pull it out to play occasionally. I just find it enthusiastic and enjoyable. Go figure!
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