New sounds from an old favorite: the story of Into Paradise and Dave Long

Dublin's Into Paradise remain one of my favorite groups of all time. They released four incredible albums and a number of killer EPs from 1989-1994 -- mainly on Keith Cullen's famed London imprint Setanta -- before calling it quits. The band had a postpunk vibe that brought to mind legends such as Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, and the Sound. The late Adrian Borland, who fronted the latter, even produced some of Into Paradise's records. I discovered the group in 1989 when I bought their Blue Light EP and debut full-length Under The Water on a visit to England. I'm not sure where I read about them, but obviously something in the description lead me to buy the records without hearing a note. I'm certainly glad I did! I was immediately transfixed by the epic, moody sounds, and the singer Dave Long's breathtaking vocals. A favorite song from this early period is the stunning ballad "I Want You."

Soon after these records came out, Setanta was able to get a licencing deal with Chrysalis and a bastardized version of the debut album, simply called Into Paradise, which combined songs from Under The Water and another EP Change was released in America. Below is a fanzine review I wrote about Under The Water.

Next up was the major label effort, which should have been huge. It was a harder and heavier record with postpunk killers like the intense Magazine-like "Burns My Skin." At this time I struck up a correspondence with Keith Cullen and he even sent me the 12" of "Burns My Skin" which featured a cover of "Shot By Both Sides" as a B-side as well as the debut EP by another Dublin group I came to love, Power of Dreams. Into Paradise did not become the next U2 and their last two albums, Down All The Days (1992) and For No One (1993) were released on Setanta to critical acclaim in Ireland, but without the commercial success that was so richly deserved.

Into Paradise even make a cameo in my forthcoming Whipping Boy-inspired novel, when the protagonist sees what turns out to be one of their last gigs at the Rock Garden. The scene was inspired by this recording of their last ever gig, recently posted on the excellent Fanning Sessions blog.

Some twenty years later and Dave Long is back with a tremendous self-released solo album called Water Has Memory. The man hasn't lost a beat. Songs like the windswept ballads "London is Fog" and  "Music Goes" and the edgy "Saturday Night" bring it all back home again. I hope to visit Dublin next year and would love to buy him a pint or two -- that's the least I can do to thank him for all the wonderful music.

Ben Vendetta is the author of the music-centric novels Wivenhoe Park (2013) and Heartworm (forthcoming Spring 2015). Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be purchased from Elephant Stone Records


Vintage House of Love, Stone Roses and Ride fanzine reviews

A few days ago I posted the first interview I ever did. Here are some reviews I wrote of now-legendary debut albums back in the day by the Stone Roses, House of Love, and Ride. I loved them then and love them now!

Ben Vendetta is the author of the music-centric novels Wivenhoe Park (2013) and Heartworm (forthcoming Spring 2015). Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be purchased from Elephant Stone Records


That Petrol Emotion: The story behind my first interview ever

Before running Vendetta magazine from 1994-2002, I edited a shortly lived zine called New Direction from 1987-1991. While cleaning out my closet, I came across a box of old issues, so I decided that I'd start scanning some articles over the coming weeks, including reviews of then 'new' albums by the likes of the Stone Roses, House of Love, Ride, and the Cure's Disintegration. But first, I wanted to share the first in-person interview I ever conducted with the now legendary Northern Irish outfit That Petrol Emotion.

The group became an immediate favorite of mine when their debut Manic Pop Thrill was released in 1986 while I was studying abroad in England. I remember reading rave reviews in the British press and running out to buy it with my best friend Marc. That Petrol Emotion even make a cameo in my novel Wivenhoe Park when the protagonist Drew and his buddy Johnny see the band in London and talk to Steve Mack afterwards. When I came back to America, I discovered The Big Takeover magazine and was immediately inspired to start my own fanzine. For the first few years I just published record and live reviews, until a friend of mine, Jon, kicked my ass into gear. We went to Detroit to see That Petrol Emotion at St. Andrew's Hall. At the gig Jon went to the side of the stage and started chatting to a dude who turned out to be the group's tour manager. When the concert ended, Jon said to me, come on we're going backstage. I told their manager that you write for Spin and that you just interviewed Billy Bragg! We went backstage -- I'm sure my hands were visibly shaking -- and got to meet everyone in the band, before I conducted a brief interview with bass player John Marchini. As I didn't have a recorder, I jotted down notes on the back of a concert flyer and blended them into the short article below.

I would end up interviewing a hundreds of bands in the coming decade, including Ride, Catherine Wheel, Suede, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Brian Jonestown Massacre, but this little chat with That Petrol Emotion will always remain one of my favorite writing memories.

Ben Vendetta is the author of the music-centric novels Wivenhoe Park (2013) and Heartworm (forthcoming Spring 2015). Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be purchased from Elephant Stone Records


Two greats from '88: House of Love and Ultra Vivid Scene

1988 was a great but somewhat overlooked year in rock 'n' roll. The English music scene that captivated me so much when I first fell in love with alternative sounds at the beginning of the decade was going through growing pains. My beloved Echo and the Bunnymen, who could do no wrong, released their tepid fifth self-titled album in 1987;  one that would break them in America, but at a price. They were never the same again. The original Sisters of Mercy lineup disintegrated, the Psychedelic Furs lost their edge, and most depressing of all, the Smiths broke up. My favorite band, the Jesus and Mary Chain released a much different follow up to Psychocandy, which while great, left me jonesing for noise.

Noise would make a return. Groups like Spacemen 3, Loop, and My Bloody Valentine had already been revisiting the spirit of Psychocandy, with unique twists of their own, while American acts like Dinosaur, Jr. and the Pixies were making a similar splash, especially in England. All of these groups would end up becoming huge influences on what would later be termed shoegaze. Against this backdrop, the House of Love and Ultra Vivid Scene released their seminal debuts in 1988 on Creation and 4AD, respectively.

The House of Love were the perfect marriage of sixties rock 'n' roll classicism and contemporary noise pop. Think Mary Chain meets the Smiths. The combination of Guy Chadwick on vocals and Terry Bickers on guitar was as mesmerizing as Morrissey and Marr. Their self-titled album was a breezy affair, clocking in at barely thirty minutes without a wasted word or note. I remember buying a vinyl copy of this for $5 at a used record store in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Wazoo and playing it five times in a row that Saturday afternoon. Later, I would pick up a German compilation of the singles that did not appear on the record, including "Destroy The Heart" and "Shine On."

Ultra Vivid Scene was an American act fronted by Kurt Ralske, who brought to mind the Jesus and Mary Chain, Velvet Underground, and Spacemen 3. At this time, I was writing a crap fanzine that shall go nameless (a predecessor to my much better '90s zine Vendetta) and was able to score an Ultra Vivid Scene promo cassette. I wore it out so much in my car that I ended up having to re-buy it on vinyl! To this day, that record and the group's follow up Joy 1967-1990 are in heavy rotation.

Ben Vendetta is the author of the music-centric novels Wivenhoe Park (2013) and Heartworm (forthcoming Spring 2015). Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be purchased from Elephant Stone Records


Wivenhoe Park press clips

My novel Wivenhoe Park has been out for about eight months now. Here's a selection of press clips thus far. Articles first, followed by reviews: feature
QRD magazine interview
PopJunkie review

Cool Cleveland spotlight

The real protagonist of Wivenhoe Park, in fact, is the music, and the book celebrates the scene from the chapter headings right down to its soul. It’s an addictive read, an affirmative and faithful story of sex, drugs and rock & roll. Where an equivalent novel such as Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity becomes evermore unrealistic to get to its happy ending,Wivenhoe Park retains a believable optimism through sheer faith in rock & roll.

– Paul Rayson, Muso’s Guide

“I enjoyed Wivenhoe Park thoroughly. Ben Vendetta captures the youth feel and mood of those times quite vividly. His description of an embryonic Primal Scream gig is bang on; people always skip over that period of the band when  they were most interesting and unpredictable. Cool that Meat Whiplash get a mention also, a defining Creation moment for sure.”

– Sam Knee, author of A Scene In Between

“This is classic coming of age stuff. Drew makes friends, hangs out with bands, dates inappropriate girls, takes drugs and whole lot more. But what makes Wivenhoe Park such a joy is that Ben writes in a very engaging way … If you ever enjoyed High Fidelity, went to a British University in the mid 80s or are counting the days until Cherry Red reissues the legendary C86 compilation (as a two disc set!) you’ll love this.”


What a fun novel with sneaky depth. BT’s own Vendetta brings back an ’80s era when a stunning, now-legendary post-punk/indie rock scene was blazing in Britain, yet this time, unlike with punk rock, a smaller slice of Americans followed its brilliance. He slyly evokes this in a coming-of-college-age story of throwing off the influence (and snares) of normal Middle American life by instead immersing himself into the thick of the NME/Melody Maker/Sounds-fed maelstrom in England itself (while seeing a bit of the continent). The scenes of hot concerts, encountering the new albums, and meeting key players such as Creation Records impresario Alan McGee are as vivid as the romantic angst of an early 20-something negotiating the love/sex conundrum and the constant worrying about identity and career—it’s all as funny as thoughtful. And I didn’t see the ending coming, either.

–Jack Rabid, The Big Takeover

If you were a post-punk kid growing up in the suburban Midwest in the ‘80s, London was your Mecca. Not all of us made the trip that decade, but now we can, thanks to Vendetta’s vivid portrayal of a young Anglophile abroad, drowning out the ache of first heartbreak in a mad dash through the British music scene. If John Hughes were still alive… well… he’d never touch this story. It’s too full of the sort of gritty realism that never made it into his well-scrubbed coming-of-age stories.

– Robert Cherry (former Editor-in-Chief, Alternative Press)

I was jazzed when I heard music writer Ben Vendetta was writing a book. I always enjoyed reading his zine, VENDETTA and his contributions to Jack Rabid’s BIG TAKEOVER zine and our music tastes are pretty similar. Regarding his book…is it autobiographical? Well, not really (hmm…) but it follows the life of Drew, a Michigan university student who decides to travel abroad and study in a small British town (near London). Along the way he lives, he loves (love stinks), learns and, oh yeah, he sees lots and lots of bands, listens to a ton of records and generally talks about bands like Primal Scream , The Smiths and Echo & the Bunnymen to anyone who’ll listen (and he has the t-shirts to prove it) . He nearly reaches his goal of becoming a famous music writer for one of the British weeklies but finds out back stabbers aren’t only in America, but who cares, he got to meet Bobby Gillespie!. For those of us who came of age in the 80’s and didn’t give a hoot about bands like Foreigner or Poison but instead wanted REAL music then WIVENHOE PARK will be a real page turner that’s hard to put down. It certainly was for me.

– Tim Hinely, Dagger

Wivenhoe Park wrenched me back to a mid-80s Britain where punk was dead and alternative/goth ruled. If birds, booze and Bunnymen are your thing, as they are mine, then dust off your Sisters of Mercy LPs, squeeze into your Meat Is Murder t-shirt and enjoy the ride.

– Dave Hawes (Catherine Wheel)

With Wivenhoe Park, writer Ben Vendetta takes you back to a simpler time when culture and relationships were complicated but fun, and when music really mattered to your life. This dive into historical fiction is like a post-punk version of High Fidelity, with a bit more grit, sass, and reality. It’s a great read.

– Tony Schinella (Award-winning journalist, broadcaster; musician)

Wivenhoe Park blew me away. The writing is so good and so descriptive that I really felt like I was reliving my 20s when I read it. It’s very evocative. Wivenhoe Park brings you back to that rollercoaster ride of your early 20s. Every great new discovery — music, friends, food, drinking, the opposite sex — is like a match to dynamite. Every disappointment is the end of the world. With each experience, Drew grows just a little bit. In the end, he’s figured out who he is, what he can give to the world, and what it takes to be a great partner and friend.

– Michelle Briand, WXRV (The River)

Ben Vendetta is the author of the music-centric novels Wivenhoe Park (2013) and Heartworm (forthcoming Spring 2015). Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be purchased from Elephant Stone Records


MTV and other early '80s gateway drugs

When I was in high school in the early eighties it took effort to discover music by less than mainstream bands. MTV was a godsend, my first gateway drug to alternative sounds. My parents got cable in 1981 and I was immediately thrilled by all the music that was suddenly being thrown in my face on MTV. All music, all the time was the catch phrase as DJ's (MTV called them veejays) would introduce, play, and comment on promotional music videos in rapid fire fashion. Some of the 'new' bands I got exposed to included Echo and the Bunnymen, Duran Duran, the Clash, and U2; legends to this day. I still remember the first time I saw the "Gloria" video and thinking U2 was a great band, but why did they have to make a video of them posing in the docks? Other bands I thought were silly -- I never did dig Flock of Seagulls -- but at least I got exposed to them and was able to make up my own mind. As I got a little older, college radio became a trusted friend, as did word of mouth from kids that seemed far cooler than me, and friends' older siblings. I remember being horrified and fascinated at the same time when a high school buddy's older brother played us Never Mind The Bollocks. Journalists had much more sway back then too. When I started reading the British magazines like Melody Maker and NME, I quickly learned whose tastes were compatible with mine and I would often buy something just because someone else said it was good. When I came back from my junior year abroad in England in '86, I discovered The Big Takeover, a magazine I still write for to this day!

As as a tribute to the early MTV and all my early gateway drugs, here's the official video of the Clash's epic "London Calling" -- rock 'n' roll doesn't get any cooler and more bad ass than this.

Ben Vendetta is the author of the music-centric novels Wivenhoe Park (2013) and Heartworm (forthcoming Spring 2015). Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be purchased from Elephant Stone Records


Psychocandy and Me

It's 2014 and the Jesus and Mary Chain are all the rage again, playing reunion shows some twenty-nine years after the release of their seminal debut album Psychocandy. Next year promises much more of the same when the thirtieth anniversary kicks in. While this makes me feel old, it also makes me feel happy. More than any other band, the Jesus and Mary Chain changed my life for the better. I sign copies of my novel with the inscription 'rock'n' roll saves lives' because they saved my mine. The Jesus and Mary Chain were part of several life changing detours that I took in 1985 when, on a whim, I decided to move to England and study at the University of Essex. My novel, Wivenhoe Park, is a semi-autobiographical account of what went down.

I was incredibly lost my first two years of college. The biggest goal I had when I started school at the University of Michigan was to make the varsity cross country team, but those plans capsized within months as I tried, without success, to balance out running, keeping up with my classes, and partying like a rock star. In high school I would drink occasionally on the weekends, but without parental supervision, things quickly got out of control. I ended up quitting the team, later even getting hospitalized for a week with pancreatitis. I had become so depressed that I ended up seeing a shrink and got prescribed Valium. I certainly didn't mind that part! My sophomore year was a blur -- it probably sounds cliched but I felt like I didn't belong and was looking for an exit strategy. Just a few weeks before study abroad application deadlines were due, I decided to apply for two programs in England: University of Essex and York University. To this day, I'm eternally grateful that my parents let me do this.

I ended up getting accepted at both schools, choosing Essex because of its closer proximity to London. Essex was a completely different world to Michigan. The students were much more politically active and I felt like I didn't have to search so hard to find kindred spirits. For the first time in a long time, I felt at home. In perfect synchronicity, Psychocandy came a few weeks after I arrived and quickly became the soundtrack to my year.  I bought every magazine I could that had articles about the group, even cutting and styling my hair into a spiky mess as a homage to Jim and William Reid. My best friend was another like-minded American named Marc (Johnny in the novel). He arrived on campus in January and we met at a campus disco a few days after he landed in London; the two American dudes with pierced ears. I told him about Psychocandy, which hadn't come out in America yet, and he was desperate to hear it. We ended up going back to my room and playing my cassette and drinking whiskey out of a bottle that I had on my shelf and became friends for life. Marc got me into a lot of great music -- he had a tape of some previously unreleased Velvet Underground tunes -- and we saw countless shows together, even traveling in France and Italy. 

I tried to recapture that reckless rush of youth I experienced in England when I wrote Wivenhoe Park, playing the Mary Chain on repeat as I banged out the early drafts. The album is still my best music friend and because of it I feel like I was brave enough to forge out a path that lead me to becoming a music writer, who even got to meet most of his heroes, including Creation Records founders Alan McGee and Joe Foster, the men who brought the Jesus and Mary Chain to the world. Creation was my inspiration when I had my own label Elephant Stone -- most of the records I put out owed at least something to the spirit of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Happy 30th Jesus and Mary Chain -- hope to catch up with you again sometime soon.

Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be ordered directly from me via Elephant Stone Records


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