Virginia Astley

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so, you gonna tell me about this, what? where Norman Phay? where Dr C? where Marcello Carlin? where David Inglesfield? carmody?

who is V Astley? Klassix or d(u)d/

gareth, Sunday, 17 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I love the way you assume certain knowledge on my part (though, obviously, I can't speak for any of the others you invoke). I've never heard her. But I have a feeling she gets quite a bit of space in Michael Bracewell's "England Is Mine", and that she did an album called "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure". Am I getting warm? Actually, didn't Norman mention her once? Anyone?

Robin Carmody, Sunday, 17 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I don't know very much about Ms Astley (have one 7" and a duet with David Sylvian on a tape comp), but I do know she has at least one insane fan. Encountered one summer morning a few years ago in WHSmiths at Victoria, a very shabby man with "The Complete Godlike Genius and Beauty of Virginia Astley" stencilled on his filthy jacket, and "World's Biggest Virginia Astley Fan" on his icky bag. He was reading The Wire.

Like Rat-Tail, is this man a minor London celebrity? A mid-80s NME freelancer who went too far - a shellshocked casualty of the hip-hop wars?

Michael Jones, Sunday, 17 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

maybe that WAS norman?!? surely not...

he told a funny story abt her swearing at a roadie, i think

mark s, Sunday, 17 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I've read the references to her in the Michael Bracewell book, but never heard anything by her. Bracewell's descriptions sounded very appealing but I find a lot of things not to be as good as they are described.

David Inglesfield, Sunday, 17 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I've got a casette with a couple of albums on which hasn't troubled my ears much. She put her kids singing on them (there's a whole minigenre of this - hey thread idea!). Actually they troubled my ears so little that I can't remember anything about them - wistful chamber pop which sounded delicious and could have been very special except there were no hooks at all.

Yes the world's biggest VA fan is a minor London celeb of sorts - he used to hang around the MVE shops looking for stuff by Virginia and IIRC became quite abusive on one occasion when someone doubted her genius. I suspect she was aware of him, and her solicitors were too.

Tom, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Daughter of Ted Astley (Danger Man, Randall & Hopkirk etc. composer). Married to Pete Townshend. Formerly one-third of Ravishing Beauties (sort of early-'80s Miranda Sex Garden). Album "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure" (Rough Trade '83) complete and utter classic and partly recorded in Port Meadow so doubly classic.

Marcello Carlin, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Her SISTER married Pete Townshend.

Features on the awesome Vic Godard/Subway Sect track "Spring is Grey".

Dr. C, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

not related to Rick then?

MarkH, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Now, that won't do at all, Marcello! I guess it falls to me, then, to do the right thing by my fellow City under-graduates (albeit a couple of years ahead of me).

Here is some boring stuff about VA.

Now what you really need to know:
The Ravishing Beauties were formed in December 1981 by VA, Kate St John (later of The Dream Academy, I think) and Nicky Holland, primarily to allow Virginia to fulfil an invitation to support the Teardrop Explodes at Club Zoo. VA had always wanted to have a synthesizer group called The Raving Beauties. And when Bill Drummond said to the three, "You can play in Liverpool if you've got a name", VA said as a big joke "The Raving Beauties" - Drummond misheard this as “The Ravishing Beauties", which then stuck.

Their live shows were something else: the women wore dresses with holes in them, known as teabags, and sang sad songs - just the three of them and a Revox with the backing tracks on it, which were usually cued up wrong. Between the songs was total chaos punctuated by frequent embarrassed laughter: “getting drunk a lot and improvising” sums the trio up quite well. But while this was initially ‘natural’ amateurishness, things got more and more contrived as time went on, not helped by the fact that the group had acquired its own clique of cult followers (the original Belle and Sebastian then! ;-) ).

No records were actually released by The Ravishing Beauties mainly because VA was trapped in a solo recording contract and the other two didn’t want to get involved. Things eventually reached a gloomy stalemate and Nicky and Kate quit in June 1982.

Although the song 'Futility' featured on an NME compilation tape Mighty Reel (September 1982), credited to the band, it is not clear whether in fact all three play on the track. The trio did, however, (memorably) appear twice on BBC Radio 1 ("Walters Weekly", IIRC).

They were, of course, the best thing EVAH at the time.

A couple of years later, I did see VA play at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, which recaptured the spirit of '82 a bit. I never really rated her solo records tho'.

Jeff W, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I think she influenced Julee Cruise - 'Hope In...' sounds very similar. 'From Gardens...' is the musical equivalent of 'tea on the lawn' on a Sunday - I think it's great. Friends-wise, she's a big friend of Martin Stephenson...although there's no musical similarity at all.

Jez, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Jeffrey, surely YOU are not the MVE lurker?

Marcello Carlin, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I saw the RB's supporting Teardrop Explodes at Hammy Palais in 1982. This was (one of) the gig(s) where Cope cut his chest and rolled around onstage a lot.

Dr. C, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Not unless I is "a minor London celeb of sorts", which wd be news to me. (I was in a MVE a couple of weeks ago tho' - yikes.)

Jeff W, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Jeff - are you a horrible smelly man in his late 50s with Virginia Astley patches all over your clothing who hands out a poorly-typeset newsletter about the activities of Virginia Astley to unsuspecting fellow punters and shop staff? If not then you're in the clear.

Tom, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

The thing I love most about him is the way his voice sounds a bit like Michael "The Beard" McDonald. Remeber when he let his hair grow long and came back all acoustic? Those were good times...oh, wait...we are talking about Rick Astley, right?

Joe "PappaWheelie" Gonzalez, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

! HaVe NeVeR HaD "THe GoDLiKe GeNiuS oV ViRGiNia aSTLeY" WRiTTeN aNYWHeRe oN My PeRSoN Yuo FuXoRZ! @# ! @#~

Hoewever, I probably would have if I'd thought of it, and I do sometimes browse "The Wire" in WHSmith & son. That wasn't me, though. Virginia Astley = 100% classic, though. Sad to say, almost nothiong by her is available anymore which is a fucker, because she made some of the most beautiful music ever. "From Gardens Where etc" is a lovely pastoral instrumental type thing, but my favourites are the 7" "Love's a Lonely Place to Be" and this comp on disques du crepescule which hads a bunch of her early stuff, incl "A Bau a qu" & some other stuff. I'm getting the chills just thinking about the music contained therein. I wish they'd do a good fucking CD reissue programme of her material for fuxake, I mean you can get nearly all of shirley collin's stuff now, and she's totally obscure. Her music is up there w/popol vuh, s & d collins, dead can dance, 11 shadows, & all that sort of spiritual-beauty type stuff. Having said that the album she did on Virgin, w/guest vocals by dave sylvian (who fuxing WISHES he had 1/10 the musical poetry of VA) was a little overcooked IIRC. Anyway, search anything by VA, because most of it, yr not likely to see more than once. It took s.th. like 8 years to locate a copy ov "A Bao A Qu" for example, during which time I had 3 copies of the "rabbi Joseph Gordan" single thru my hands, which'll give U some idea of how rare it is. Poss not worth much $$ tho'. I am knackered & losing the thread.

NoRMaN PHaY, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Oh, and if you don't like it, send it to me. Some of my vinyl is getting kind of worn out.

Norman Phay, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

MiGHTY JeFF W SeZ:

Although the song 'Futility' featured on an NME compilation tape Mighty Reel

If this is the track I'm thinking of, it may be the best record ever made. THX for the link, I will look out the artist label releases mentioned on the website.

Norman Phay, Monday, 18 February 2002 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

one year passes...
"From Gardens"... absolutely astonishing... are any other albums she did its match does anyone think?

Tom May (Tom May), Tuesday, 2 December 2003 14:03 (seventeen years ago) link

apropos of nothing, this thread contains one of Marcello's few factual errors to speak of - Virginia's father was not Ted, but *Edwin* Astley, who gets my respect if only because of his music for certain British Transport Films (mainly "Diesel Train Ride" - shot in Lowestoft when Tim Westwood was a toddler there! -, "Broad Waterways" and the now almost heartbreaking "The Signal Engineers"), as expressive of Britain in the late 50s and early 60s as anything, stripping aside the orchestral grandeur of earlier BTF scores to encaspulate an era of quiet, gentle efficiency.

I haven't investigated Virginia Astley yet. I *should*, though ...

robin carmody (robin carmody), Tuesday, 2 December 2003 14:36 (seventeen years ago) link

Ironically Robin, I'm just writing an email to you which discusses Virginia Astley! ;-) Actually in conjunction with thoughts on your screenplay project. Taking a while to write, but there's a lot to say. :)

Tom May (Tom May), Tuesday, 2 December 2003 14:45 (seventeen years ago) link

Robin - a quick Google search will prove that Ted Astley and Edwin Astley are one and the same person. So Marcello was actually right.

I've only got "Hope in a darkened heart" on tape but it's a great great thing of much beauty. I really should have investigated further by now - had the tape 15 years and done sod all about it.

Those British Transport Films sound great - are they on DVD or video?

Rob M (Rob M), Tuesday, 2 December 2003 15:54 (seventeen years ago) link

ah, thanks for that Rob.

as for the BTF films, "Diesel Train Ride" (1959) is available on VHS - see http://www.bfi.org.uk/videocat/index.php/page/item_view/code/318 with further details at http://www.bfi.org.uk/videocat/more/btf/volume8.html . you can also get "Broad Waterways" (it says 1960 here, but I think it was filmed in 1959) on VHS - https://secure.iwashop.com/SHOP/Videos%20Continued.html . Astley also arranged the music for "Scotland For Sport" (1958), also available on VHS - http://www.bfi.org.uk/videocat/index.php/page/item_view/code/64 and http://www.bfi.org.uk/videocat/more/btf/volume5.html .

robin carmody (robin carmody), Wednesday, 3 December 2003 14:07 (seventeen years ago) link

a good account of Edwin/Ted Astley's career at http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/771888 - I had no idea how much he did (the comment about his early understanding of jazz is spot on - his BTF scores were often very jazzy at a time when most similar travelogues had rather poor Elgar / Vaughan Williams imitations, or "cowpat music" as Elisabeth Lutyens called it)

robin carmody (robin carmody), Wednesday, 3 December 2003 14:28 (seventeen years ago) link

From Gardens Where We Feel Secure has apparently been reissued by Rough Trade recently.

I have Hope in a Darkened Heart myself, and agree with Rob that it is beautiful. Ph4y describes it as a bit "overcooked" above; I'm not sure I agree -- to me, Sakamoto's thoroughly sequenced arrangements complements the apparent serenity quite nicely. (Another album which I tend to mentally group with this one in this respect is Colin Newman's It Seems, but that may not make much sense to anyone else.) "Tree Top Club" would be an absolute cert on my Top Ten Nostalgico-Pastoral Songs list, had I ever made it.

OleM (OleM), Wednesday, 3 December 2003 18:05 (seventeen years ago) link

one year passes...
I have the Rosebud (ver minor American label) issue of From Gardens Where We Feel Secure>..what a gorgeous album! It seems like it would suffer from massive pretenses in concept but it's very organic. The practise is better than the theory.

Ian Riese-Moraine (Eastern Mantra), Saturday, 12 March 2005 01:39 (fifteen years ago) link

one year passes...
Can anyone recommend anything along similar lines to Virginia Astley?

cnwb (cnwb), Wednesday, 2 August 2006 23:49 (fourteen years ago) link

Kate St. John
Faye Wong
i think Sarah from Dubstar sometimes sounds like VA. especially on Goodbye

Ghost Bear Junior High Attendance Party (Ghost Bear Junior High Attenda), Thursday, 3 August 2006 02:27 (fourteen years ago) link

nine months pass...

maybe,
orange
?

love ms. astley.

andi, Tuesday, 22 May 2007 06:01 (thirteen years ago) link

Can anyone recommend anything along similar lines to Virginia Astley?

-- cnwb (cnwb), Wednesday, August 2, 2006 11:49 PM (9 months ago) Bookmark Link

then - my last post. k.

andi, Tuesday, 22 May 2007 06:02 (thirteen years ago) link

i can't believe hope in a darkened heart is still OOP

akm, Tuesday, 22 May 2007 16:05 (thirteen years ago) link

i dont remember this at all

i have no idea who virginia astley is

696, Tuesday, 22 May 2007 16:16 (thirteen years ago) link

nine months pass...

From Gardens Where We Feel Secure is ultra classic, why did it take me 25 years to hear this?

Billy Dods, Thursday, 6 March 2008 14:19 (twelve years ago) link

in fact, you've been hearing it your whole life...you just haven't been aware of it...

henry s, Thursday, 6 March 2008 15:11 (twelve years ago) link

I kind of secretly wonder if this is the "London legend" everyone is talking about:

http://rateyourmusic.com/~familycat1

babyalive, Friday, 7 March 2008 17:46 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

imagine enya crossed with julie cruise

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3H6ggryHiM

so good

anita bonghit (rionat), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 13:03 (ten years ago) link

uh, julee cruise

anita bonghit (rionat), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 13:03 (ten years ago) link

love her

sir ilx-a-lot (cutty), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 13:51 (ten years ago) link

only ever heard her track on that some bizarre comp w/ the freaky cover... you know the one

liked it, but never tracked down her album, guess I should

IIIRC she's kinda like a more pastoral version of what the kids today call freakfolk? or (gas) chamber music? world of skin? rasputina? who are her heirs?

鬼の手 (Edward III), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 17:18 (ten years ago) link

what do you mean by more pastoral? more english?

i'm only familiar with hope in a darkened heart, it sounds like folk songs composed entirely on a fairlight. it has this kinda new age vibe but with these slightly cynical and highly romantic lyrics

guess there's a touch of kate bush in some of the arrangements as well

anita bonghit (rionat), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 17:44 (ten years ago) link

i don't know about her heirs. why don't you just listen to some of her own records first?

this japanese dude hara masumi is in a similar vein - folky new age vocal music made on synths

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ectTTqIgZxo

anita bonghit (rionat), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 17:48 (ten years ago) link

def a "the kick inside" influence. more pastoral, less fantastical. like sunlight through a farm window in the english country.

sir ilx-a-lot (cutty), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 17:54 (ten years ago) link

yeah, more pastoral is a euphemism for english

鬼の手 (Edward III), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 18:07 (ten years ago) link

no, it means it sounds like you're on an english farm

sir ilx-a-lot (cutty), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 18:10 (ten years ago) link

man this album is making me seriously anticipate spring

anita bonghit (rionat), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 18:11 (ten years ago) link

on an english farm in the spring

sir ilx-a-lot (cutty), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 18:13 (ten years ago) link

I thought all britishers lived on farms? at least that's the impression I got from all creatures great and small

鬼の手 (Edward III), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 18:26 (ten years ago) link

I meant to link the blog post below here when I first stumbled across it. Oh well, better late than never.

http://fruitierthanthou.blogspot.com/2007/11/ravishing-beauties-john-peel-session.html

(NB - check the comments also)

Jeff W, Tuesday, 2 February 2010 19:33 (ten years ago) link

this is the aforementioned some bizarre comp, va track was called "waiting to fall"

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e8/Ifyoucantalbum.png

鬼の手 (Edward III), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 19:54 (ten years ago) link

Virginia Astley = 100% classic, though. Sad to say, almost nothing by her is available anymore which is a fucker, because she made some of the most beautiful music ever. "From Gardens Where etc" is a lovely pastoral instrumental type thing, but my favourites are the 7" "Love's a Lonely Place to Be" and this comp on disques du crepescule which hads a bunch of her early stuff, incl "A Bau a qu" & some other stuff. I'm getting the chills just thinking about the music contained therein. I wish they'd do a good fucking CD reissue programme of her material for fuxake, I mean you can get nearly all of shirley collin's stuff now, and she's totally obscure. Her music is up there w/popol vuh, s & d collins, dead can dance, 11 shadows, & all that sort of spiritual-beauty type stuff. Having said that the album she did on Virgin, w/guest vocals by dave sylvian (who fuxing WISHES he had 1/10 the musical poetry of VA) was a little overcooked IIRC.

Pash 100% OTM upthread

sleeve, Wednesday, 3 February 2010 02:53 (ten years ago) link

didn't she do Spring is Grey with Vic Godard?

Dr X O'Skeleton, Wednesday, 3 February 2010 12:23 (ten years ago) link

i only know 'from gardens where we feel secure' and it's really special....hearing her sing is like woah! love that song rionat posted.

jabba hands, Wednesday, 3 February 2010 12:59 (ten years ago) link

jabba OTM.

I just wish i haden't sold "Hope in a darkened Heart" her duet with Sylvian was grebt.

Deluxe Merseybeat Wig (Jack Battery-Pack), Wednesday, 3 February 2010 13:32 (ten years ago) link

thanks for bumping this thread rionat, been listening on repeat since ;)

sir ilx-a-lot (cutty), Thursday, 4 February 2010 18:04 (ten years ago) link

"From Gardens" was the intro music at my wedding! Wonder if I was supposed to pay a royalty for that?

Ork Alarm (Matt #2), Thursday, 4 February 2010 18:08 (ten years ago) link

def a "the kick inside" influence. more pastoral, less fantastical. like sunlight through a farm window in the english country.

― sir ilx-a-lot (cutty), Tuesday, February 2, 2010 5:54 PM (2 days ago) Bookmark

lol if an english poster posted this they'd get given a kicking by their countryfolk (by which i mean townfolk). we have a fucked up country.

the highest per-vote vag so far (history mayne), Thursday, 4 February 2010 18:08 (ten years ago) link

one month passes...

<3 <3 <3

shite new answers (cutty), Tuesday, 9 March 2010 15:49 (ten years ago) link

yes

am0n, Wednesday, 10 March 2010 00:30 (ten years ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGUy_OpIpOs

teresa banks (r1o natsume), Tuesday, 23 March 2010 23:34 (ten years ago) link

three years pass...

<3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erFnyRhEDCQ

yuoowemeone, Friday, 24 January 2014 10:27 (seven years ago) link

nine months pass...

i love the way sylvian's voice contrasts with hers and rubs up against the music (produced by ryuichi sakamoto!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3Onw0SMtuI

I dunno. (amateurist), Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:27 (six years ago) link

also this

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdaK2djnYHI

I dunno. (amateurist), Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:27 (six years ago) link

two years pass...

The debut sounds pretty swell in a post-election haze.

Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 15 November 2016 18:11 (four years ago) link

Yeah we listened to that earlier this week

sleeve, Tuesday, 15 November 2016 20:13 (four years ago) link

one year passes...

i just created a sample bank using the first track from 'gardens' and pitched them down and im making a slow jam out of this, it is so beautiful

Men's Scarehouse - "You're gonna like the way you're shook." (m bison), Thursday, 21 December 2017 04:57 (three years ago) link

two years pass...

And she's on Bandcamp now

https://virginiaastley.bandcamp.com/

Ned Raggett, Friday, 4 December 2020 23:13 (one month ago) link

Cor, I was at that Riverside Studios show that’s on Bandcamp

Jeff W, Friday, 4 December 2020 23:40 (one month ago) link

Thanks for the heads up. I must have listened to "Hope In A Darkened Heart" a hundred times over the years. My copy is a white label without a sleeve (it was dirt cheap and I was poor) so somehow I never knew until now that it was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto, even though now having that information it is glaringly apparent.

stirmonster, Saturday, 5 December 2020 01:28 (one month ago) link

Very!

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 5 December 2020 02:46 (one month ago) link

I just bumped the Sakamoto thread for Hope in a Darkened Heart. Really odd, peculiar record that I think anyone who is interested in that era of Ryuichi shouldn’t overlook.

Naive Teen Idol, Monday, 7 December 2020 14:43 (one month ago) link

There are some older posts on her FB that detail the process of making that record.

SQUIRREL MEAT!! (Capitaine Jay Vee), Monday, 7 December 2020 15:11 (one month ago) link

Oh good call -- there are actually a bunch of fairly recent posts describing the sessions.

Here's a B-side that a Facebook-er says John Foxx was a big champion of:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67jA6xHFODQ

Naive Teen Idol, Monday, 7 December 2020 15:42 (one month ago) link

Thank you to everybody who made purchases last Friday (and any other day!!) and for your continued support.
Hope to put up something new very soon
VA xxx

howls of non-specificity (sleeve), Tuesday, 8 December 2020 15:20 (one month ago) link

one month passes...

Simon Reynolds review of IGWWFS on Pitchfork.

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/virginia-astley-from-gardens-where-we-feel-secure/

my opinionation (Hamildan), Sunday, 10 January 2021 20:03 (two weeks ago) link


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