RIP Alan Wills
Yesterday the devastating news that Alan Wills had died was announced. He was 52. The cause was complications of a car crash he was in over the weekend. He was the drummer in Shack (massively influential, but who never quite got a respect they deserved) and the founder of Deltasonic Records. Deltasonic took its name from two sources “I predominantly wanted it to be a guitar label and the guitars we liked are rooted in the blues, so Delta, and Sonic is from Sonic Youth, just the coolest band name ever.” Wills once said. Once you realise this, a lot of what was released under that banner make sense. If you listen to the first Coral release Shadows Fall, this personifies the label. It marks its statement of intent and shows that this will not be your usual guitar based label. It’s still arguably one of the greatest singles ever released!
I personally owe a huge debt to Deltasonic and Alan Wills. At the time when the label started I was at university and was going to a lot of gigs. There wasn’t a great deal out there that was jumping out at me. A lot of the bands I was seeing were pretending that they were The Strokes, or Oasis. There isn’t anything wrong with this, it just wasn’t really talking to me much. Then all of a sudden (in the space of a few months) there were a few bands that didn’t sound like the others and were taking their influences from older bands that I didn’t really know about. This was exciting. Over the next few months I had stopped listening to what was current and had started going to record shops and going through their back catalogue. Not everyone liked them as much as I did. I remember after seeing The Zutons on their first UK tour of small venues my friend said to me as we were walking home “I don’t get why you like this label. It all sounds like Scouse sea shanties!” Sadly in hindsight they did have a point.
Since I found out about Wills’ passing I have been playing a lot of Deltasonic stuff. I have made an unofficial Top 10 Deltasonic tracks. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have over the years.
Once of the last new bands to be released on Deltasonic. Here we find the Miles Kane stretching his musical muscles. Rascals took their cues from the Freakbeat scene of the 1960’s. This is another example of Deltasonic finding a bad that not only lives up to their mission statement in sound, but also had a willingness to experiment.
The best Coral song, that was never a single. By far the stand out song on their excellent second album. This song buys into their myth that they were all taught how to play guitars by gypsy’s at the bottom of their parents gardens.
Danny Connors only released one EP on Deltasonic. I was drawn by his vocals and incendiary guitar playing. Connors a Northampton native was one of the first musicians not from Liverpool to be signed to the label. I always wanted an album, but alas it never came.
Candie Payne should have been for Liverpool what Amy Winehouse was for London. She reimagined a version of the 1960’s that never really existed (apart from on Top of the Pops and Beat Club) and used current musical trends to create an album that sounds rooted in the past, yet with an eye (and ear) to what was currently going on.
The Dead 60s were another band that showed that Deltasonic wasn’t just about sea shanties. Sounding like a mixture of The Clash and Specials, the Dead 60s released one of the best party albums ever! Sadly they never managed to live up to the quality and fun of it. Their second album got a damp squib of a release after a being put back, and put back. When it finally was released their sun had set.
The Basement sounded like Dylan after he’d annoyed most of Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. They had amazing riffs and brilliant lyrics. I was worried that when I saw them it would all sound the same, but I was happily proven wrong. The Basement at the Joiners in Southampton is still one of my favourite gigs. Shame they never really had crossover appeal, but their first two singles (Medicine Day and Slain the Truth) still get regular rotations.
The Little Flames were the band that ever were. After releasing three amazing singles their debut album was scrapped at the last minute. This is a massive shame as the album is chocked full of brilliant songs, anyone of them could have been a single. After they broke up Miles Kane formed Rascals, Last Shadow Puppets and then went solo. Part of me wishes that they’d stayed together a bit longer to get the recognition for writing what could have been one of the best debut albums ever!
Whilst the Zutons now might be a bit of joke at the time they were amazing. After the Devils Deal EP I was hooked. Then came arguably their best song Creepin’ an’ a Crawlin’. It showed would could be accomplished with a basic band set up and a saxophone. The new couple of singles were just as good, but when the album came out it was disappointing. In hindsight it is still pretty good, but at the time it felt like all their early promise had been for nothing.
Transition is the second most important song that Deltasonic ever put out. It showed they weren’t just about bands pillaging from the past, they were a current and vibrant label, who’s bands saw was have happening at that moment and tried to push it to the next level. The Longcut did this and what’s more that made it look easy. Possibly was the best thing about the Longcut was that their album lived up to the hype and promise of the early singles and EPs. Sadly not a lot of people bought it, which is a shame as it’s brilliant.
Shadows Fall is unsurprisingly the best song that Deltasonic ever put out. I won’t go over what I have already said but it’s flawless from start to finish. In all of this blog I haven’t mentioned one man who helped shape Deltasonic’s sound and style as much as Wills. Ian Broudie produced a lot of the early stuff (and his only solo album was released through Deltasonic too). He helped lay down a blueprint that would help the label grow from strength to strength whilst never really deferring from the original mission statement.
I usually dislike obituary pieces as I feel that the person writing it has an ulterior motive, but in this case I just wanted to draw light on a few songs and bands that have been forgotten a bit and to generally say thank you to the man who started it all going, and helped shape not only my university years, but the years that followed. Thank you Alan Willis. You will be missed!
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