Strawberry Letter 23
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Glasgow’s Seated Records return with more archival Scottish New Wave material; this time, in the form of Pop Wallpaper’s disco-not-disco interpretation of the Shuggie Otis classic, “Strawberry Letter 23”. And interpretation is the right word, guitarist Evan Henderson confesses that the lyrics sang by Audrey Redpath on the record were, “err inaccurate due to pre-internet home recording translation”. The Edinburgh band first released “Strawberry Letter 23” in 1986 as a double A side 12” alongside original song, “Nothing Can Call Me Back". The 1986 record’s sleeve states that the original - “Strawberry Letter 23" has been “re-modelled for special pleasures, namely on the dance floor”. Here the re-model has been re-modelled once more. The track is recontextualised for 2022 playing on a four track 12” that includes an unreleased instrumental demo version of the track, as well as mixes from label founder Pigeon Steve and close friend of the label, Useful Tom. Wallpaper’s first EP “Over Your Shoulder” was released in 1984. The release received a considerable amount of radio support, not least from Radio 1’s John Peel and Janice Long, which culminated with a live session for Long’s show at the BBC’s studios in London. Released a couple of years later, Strawberry Letter received similar levels of radio play. Despite (much to the band’s confusion) being tracked by Motown UK at one point, Pop Wallpaper did not go on to receive commercial success and eventually went their separate ways. “Strawberry Letter 23” sits in the singular historical, cultural context of mid-80s Britain. Following the explosion of punk at the end of the 1970s, in the 1980s many British bands began experimenting with new styles and instruments - always keeping an eye firmly on their punk roots. The loose percussion and synthesiser melodies have an almost new-age, balearic mood, while the falsetto vocals of singer Audrey Redpath are an unmistakable embodiment the Post-punk style of the time. The prominent bass-line suggests a reggae or disco inspiration, and bass player Myles Raymond admits that he obsessed over a Sly & Robbie Taxi records compilation around the time the band put the tune together. This reissue includes an unreleased, unheard instrumental demo-version of the cover, “SL23”. The band recorded the demo during an nighter at Wilf’s Planet studios in Edinburgh, just after Wet Wet Wet had just finished up their own demo for “Wishing I Was Lucky” (Pop Wallpaper all insist they thought it would never be a hit). In this version, we hear the band messing around with drum machines and synths which, in a similar style to Kevin Low and Fiona Carlin on Seated 001, creates a stripped back dance floor work-out that bares almost no resemblance to any version of “Strawberry Letter 23”. In an attempt to emulate the Trevor Horne production style of the time, the band’s drummer Les Cook recalls pushing for more and more reverb on the drums during the session to a reluctant producer Chic Medley, who “eventually obliged, but needed a lot of persuading”. Much to Cook’s disappointment “the reverb was toned down when we got to the final release”. On the B side, label boss Pigeon Steve delivers a dubbed-out and acid drenched, cosmic rendition of the track with “SL24”, before Useful Tom (son of Pop Wallpaper bass player Myles Raymond) brings the EP to an end with spacey de-construction of fractured vocals and gliding synths on the B2 with “SL25”.