the jason shergold music collector site

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Welcome


Hello there and welcome to the "Jason Shergold Music Collector Site".

This blog features articles about various bands and singers, and how to go (more or less) about collecting their records. In the main, the articles will be aimed at people trying to get a collection together from scratch, looking at shortcuts to doing so where they exist, but some articles will be a bit more specialised, with features of video releases, Japanese pressings, etc. As it's built using a Blogger template, it can - at times - look a bit DIY, just think of it as the internet version of "Sniffin' Glue".

As a UK based music fan, most of these articles will revolve around UK discographies, but not necessarily just for UK bands. Although, for some artists featured, their discographies will continue to grow, the post-iTunes scenario is that you can more or less guess what formats albums and singles will be released on nowadays, so these blogs in the main will help to fill in the gaps when multiple physical formats were all the rage.

The blog will be updated at least once every month - if you find that the homepage does not show the Tamla logo above, it will be that the site is being updated, and may not be available for viewing for an hour or two. The updates are expected to occur initially at the start of each month, any later blogs to be published that month will appear at random as the weeks progress. You will be able to click on older editions using the menu buttons in the top right.

The August 2014 edition is now online, with a look at the latest in my "Classic Albums" series, "LOOP" by Supergrass.

The blog is also home to my "novel within a website", 'How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting', looking at the workings of the UK record industry. Click on any month from 2014 to view one of the twelve parts that (will eventually) form the whole article. Please note: If you ever notice "newer" pages listed top right, this will be the new issue "in progress" - if you click on it, the whole page will not load. When the new issue is ready, it will be mentioned on this page. You can click on previous years tabs to get previous articles. Once you have selected that year, you can click on a different month to look at different acts.

The acts featured appear in the months listed below:
Adam And The Ants - October 2013
All Saints - February 2014
Lily Allen - August 2010
Ash - April 2014
Atomic Kitten - June 2013
The Beatles - September 2011
Beyoncé - May 2013
Biffy Clyro - June 2014
Blondie - January 2011 / September 2013
Blur - August 2011 / July 2012 / October 2013
David Bowie - September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / January 2011 / June 2012
Kate Bush - July 2013
Buzzcocks - December 2011
Belinda Carlisle - October 2013
The Charlatans - February 2014
The Clash - May 2011
Elvis Costello - January 2013 / September 2013
Sheryl Crow - June 2013
The Cure - December 2011
Deep Purple - March 2010
Depeche Mode - May 2012
The Doors - December 2013
Bob Dylan - November 2013
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - August 2011
Embrace - November 2013
The Flaming Lips - November 2011
Foo Fighters - May 2014
Peter Gabriel - August 2013
Genesis - April 2011 / January 2014
Girls Aloud - August 2010 / November 2013
Goldfrapp - August 2013
Green Day - June 2014
Deborah Harry - January 2011
Jimi Hendrix - September 2010
Inspiral Carpets - April 2012
The Jam - May 2013
Elton John - August 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012
Joy Division - March 2011
Kenickie - October 2010
The Kinks - November 2010 / April 2011 / May 2013
John Lennon - May 2013
Pixie Lott - February 2011
Madness - November 2011
Madonna - April 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / March 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / March 2012 / November 2012 / January 2013 / November 2013 / March 2014
Mansun - August 2011
Dannii Minogue - September 2011
Morrissey - April 2014
Kate Nash - February 2011
New Order - October 2012
Nirvana - June 2011 / December 2012
Oasis - April 2013
Pet Shop Boys - May 2011 / June 2011
Pink Floyd - January 2011 / July 2011
P!nk - April 2012
Elvis Presley - March 2011 / October 2011 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014
Pulp - August 2011
Queen - December 2010 / September 2011
Cliff Richard & The Shadows - July 2011
Rolling Stones - July 2010 / October 2010 / March 2011
The Saturdays - April 2011
Siouxsie & The Banshees - March 2013 / July 2014
Slade - May 2012
Sleeper - December 2013
Smashing Pumpkins - June 2012
The Smiths - June 2010
Britney Spears - November 2010 / December 2010
Bruce Springsteen - February 2012
Status Quo - January 2012
Cat Stevens - February 2012
Rachel Stevens - July 2011
The Stranglers - February 2010 / December 2011 / May 2013 / September 2013 / December 2013 / July 2014
Suede - August 2011
Sugababes - August 2012
Supergrass - August 2014
TRex - December 2010
Theaudience - August 2011
Thin Lizzy - February 2013
Tin Machine - December 2010
U2 - March 2012 / December 2012
The Velvet Underground - October 2010
The Walker Brothers - June 2011
Scott Walker - September 2010 / February 2013
The Who - May 2010 / August 2012 / July 2013
Kim Wilde - October 2013

To return to the homepage, you can click on the tab for the current year. Several blogs are in production, with articles on Badly Drawn Boy, Super Furry Animals, The Stranglers, Prince and The Beautiful South due over the next few months.

You can email me using the link above, and if you can add any information, you can add comments to the blog using the link at the bottom of the relevant page. Regards, Jason.

























































Frankie say NO to downloads!

August 2014


The August 2014 blogs feature a look at Supergrass and part 8 of my 'novel within a website', "How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting". To look at either of these blogs, click the relevant link to your right.























































"And David Banner and Roger Moore were all there, oh yeah"

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting: Part 8 - The DVD Single


The DVD single should have saved the record industry. The concept of the pop promo was so well established by the late 1990s, that the idea of releasing the latest video - commercially - by your favourite popstar at the same time that the single was released seemed like a glorious idea. So why didn’t it work?

There had long been problems in how to make videos available “at the time” ever since MTV had come into existence in the 1980s. The most common approach, was to actually wait until it was time to release a greatest hits album, and issue a “Greatest Videos” VHS to coincide, after the event. This seemed like the only way to resolve the issue. But you never knew if the band you liked were going to survive long enough to release such a set, so you had to make do with having your VHS tape on “Record / Pause”, and then hit the record button whenever a video came on that you liked. You always missed the opening seconds, it was impossible not to.

Sometimes, extenuating circumstances would see some of these clips appear, not quite exactly at the time, but at least reasonably soon after the event. After “Let’s Dance” had turned Bowie into a superstar, there then followed the “Video EP” release, featuring the three videos from the album that had been in hyper rotation on MTV and which helped Bowie become even more famous than he already was. When MTV banned “Justify My Love”, Warners issued it on a two track Madonna single at more or less the same time as the audio editions. But these were the exceptions rather than the rule, and Video Singles really only ever appeared at random times, usually generated by some one off special event.

The DVD had an advantage over the chunkier VHS. It was the same shape as a CD, so the logistical nature of how you could make a “video single” available on the shelves next to the CD Single solved itself - as long as you put the single in a standard package, and not a movie style “long box”.

At first, the DVD Single appeared as a quirky “hey, look at this” gimmick release, following on from when the likes of Suede had issued a Minidisc single in 1999, and then never did it ever again. When Madonna got another one of her videos banned in 2000, “Music”, Warners issued a 2 track single again - but this time on DVD. It had the “TV Edit” and the “uncensored” versions, came in a long box, and was quite overpriced for what you got - about £7 for 8 minutes of music. But it was a start. When she managed to get another video banned a couple of months later, “What It Feels Like For A Girl”, another DVD single was on the cards. But this time around, there was no “TV version” available, so instead, the DVD was padded out with some remixes, rather than use any other video footage. And this, as bizarre as it sounded, would turn out to be the standard approach for the DVD Single in the UK.

Now. If the record industry was nice, they would have simply allowed people to issue a 3 track DVD, with videos for all three tracks, and at the same price as a 3 track CD. But no way were they going to agree to that. So, in order to keep prices down, various rules were announced whereby the actual amount of video material that could be included would be, well, “short”.

If I remember correctly, in order to be eligible to count towards sales in the singles charts, the DVD had to follow one of these three rules:

a) the video of the A-side, two minutes of “other” footage, and an audio only extra track
b) the video of the A-side, and two more audio only tracks
c) a video, not of the A-side, lasting no more than 10 minutes, plus audio tracks lasting in total for no more than five minutes

Do you spot the connection there people? DVD stands for (possibly) “Digital Video Disc”, and yet, several minutes of your life would be spent WATCHING A BLANK SCREEN. Or at least, a screen with no video action. Think about this logically. For those of you who, like me, still play VHS tapes (or can at least remember them), if you was watching a VHS and suddenly the screen went blank, but the sound carried on, you would assume there was some sort of fault. Has my SCART lead fallen out? Is the video faulty? Something like that. But here, we had a single format where the concept of including three minutes of non-video video was being actively encouraged. It felt like the equivalent of buying a Ferrari, and then taking the wheels off and leaving it in your garage. The DVD Single was probably thus doomed from the start.

Anyhow, in 2001, plenty of people began dabbling with the format - and started releasing crappy looking and shabby feeling DVD singles. The likes of Ash and Oasis opted for the “10 minute non video” approach, including some pointless “behind the scenes” footage which I never watched more than once. Meanwhile, the promo clips for these singles were either left in the vaults, or were shoehorned onto the inferior CD Rom part of the accompanying CD Single. The whole point of releasing a DVD Single in the first place was to try and include the promo, I would have thought, and yet here we had bands simply doing the exact opposite.

Most acts, thankfully, did at least try and put the promo video on the single, but for a lot of bands, they seemed to be a bit slow in doing it - Starsailor had issued several singles from their debut LP before they finally tossed out “Lullaby” on DVD - and for some reason, they also stuck the video on the CD edition as well, almost as some form of apology. Other acts started off quite well by issuing a DVD - with the video - for the first single from their new album (see The Magic Numbers “Take A Chance”), only to lose interest by the time of the second single (see, well, The Magic Numbers “This Is A Song”). There just seemed to be a completely random, disinterested, and slightly “can’t be bothered” approach from the labels, and maybe the bands as well, towards the format.

Even acts who you would have thought were born for the format struggled to show any interest - pop pin ups Girls Aloud managed just one DVD single in their entire career, instead deciding to showcase their videos by adding them as bonus features to each of their live DVDs, which surfaced on an almost annual basis. Britney rarely attempted any either. Madonna, meanwhile, had also given up and carried on issuing the usual audio formats instead, preferring to issue multiple 12“ singles instead of DVD releases, meaning you had to wait until 2009’s “Celebration” before any of her latter period promos appeared “officially“ on DVD.

Why was this? Well, I would argue that it was because the messy rules about what could or could not be included possibly just didn’t sit well with the bands or the labels, who just decided to go down the regular single route instead. Maybe there were cost issues as well, maybe they weren’t selling, I don’t know. But you really never knew, when somebody announced details of their next 45, if a DVD was in the offing or not - it was 50/50, possibly less. There seemed to be no pattern, at times, as to when somebody would issue one, and what would be on it.

Every so often, a genuinely interesting release would surface. In the UK, Bowie’s 2003 comeback single “New Killer Star” was issued on DVD only, backed with an (audio) “Love Missile F1-11” and the Electronic Press Kit for his new album. It was sort of like having an A-side, B-side, and a sort of bonus track, and because it was on this format and this format only, it felt special. But Bowie never issued another DVD Single. The year before, Supergrass had arguably gone one better, when they realised that they had, in their vaults, a song less than two minutes long, and therefore, a video for said song could be included as a B-side on the disc WITH THE VIDEO IN FULL, thereby complying to the rules. And so “Seen The Light” appeared with both the video for the A-side, and a live video recording of the hyper energetic “Never Done Nothing Like That Before” on “the flip“. Total genius. It would be three years before they would bother with the format again.

At the time the format came into view, through to when it died a death, I was still buying singles on a regular basis, and so ended up buying virtually all of the releases by the bands and singers I liked on DVD. They are all in a big box together, separated from the CD’s, and so, as a whole, are probably quite interesting from a historical viewpoint. A snapshot in time, you could say. But taken as individual items, they often just feel awkward - four minutes of a promo, and then nine minutes of B-sides whilst still photos of the band appear on the screen in screensaver style mode. Had everybody issued DVD singles, and they all followed the same rules, then it might have seemed like a more regular format - but the scattergun approach, both between different labels and then within each of their own acts themselves, killed off any form of “standardisation”, and meant that some DVD Singles seemed OK, whilst others seemed a tad rubbish in what you got for your £2.99. I’m sure if I did dig out one of those Oasis ones, Liam and Noel are probably moaning about something on it which could be quite fun to watch, but really, I’d sooner just listen to “Definitely Maybe” instead.

The DVD Single just sort of disappeared, as opposed to being properly killed off. I am sure somebody somewhere can tell you who released the last one, and although I believe chart rules mean somebody could still issue their next 45 on the format, I doubt there are many takers. In the end, the price put off the floating voters, and thus the sales of the single failed to be boosted by this super duper futuristic format. When iTunes came along and allowed people to download the latest Promo by whoever it was for about 99p, well, that was the end of that. The decision then by acts to have their own Vevo channels on Youtube, allowing you to watch these clips for free, well, this finally killed the format stone dead. Single sales were therefore not resurrected by the DVD Single. The labels had to come up with another trick, and we shall look at how this didn‘t really work either in the October blog. Next month, the insanity that was, and still is, Universal's "Deluxe Edition" album reissues.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Classic Albums No.14: Life On Other Planets


I don’t fully remember the exact point at which I realised that the fourth Supergrass album was a work of genius. When I first bought it, I played it, then filed it away, and that was it. But in the years that have passed, I have returned to it again and again, more so than other Supergrass records. Why? Well, it seems to be one of those records which is catchy enough for some of the album tracks to get into your brain after one play, so that when you go back to it again later, you realise you can remember about half of what the LP sound like - in other words, the singles and those catchy album tracks. So you listen to it again, and then remember that the other album tracks are glorious. Some of them start to get into your brain second time around. So later on, when you revisit it again, you realise you can remember more of it, so you play it again…and so on, and so forth.

It’s not just me. The album received several ecstatic reviews when it came out, with Allmusic mentioning how much fun the record was in comparison to 1999’s self titled predecessor, whilst the band themselves later explained how they approached the record differently after the previous album “lacked urgency”. Even the BBC review at the time claimed it was possibly their finest effort so far.

The history of Supergrass can be traced back to the early 1990s, and the Oxford based band The Jennifers, who included in their ranks singer and guitarist Gaz Coombes and drummer Danny Goffey. After splitting in 1992, Coombes came into contact with Cambridge born Mick Quinn, and the trio formed Supergrass in 1993. They were signed to the local label Backbeat Records, and released a limited edition debut 7”, “Caught By The Fuzz”, in early 1994. Follow up single “Mansize Rooster” was also issued by Backbeat soon after, by which time, they were starting to attract the attention of the major labels. They were signed to Parlophone, who arranged for the two singles to be reissued. This involved slightly remixing both sides of both singles, and issuing them - in the same order - as both 7” singles and CD singles, with an extra track on the CD edition of each. And so it was that “Caught By The Fuzz” appeared as their third single in late 1994, with “Mansize Rooster” turning up in the spring of 95. This was followed by a curious US only release on Sub Pop of a brand new song, “Lose It”, which sold enough copies in the UK to chart just inside the top 75, as a buzz around the band began to build.

The first Parlophone single to feature a completely “new” a-side appeared next, in the form of “Lenny”, which gave the band a top 10 hit. The debut album, “I Should Coco”, was released soon after, and immediately pushed Supergrass into the public eye. Critically acclaimed, and a big seller, the album slotted perfectly into the Britpop genre that was emerging in the UK, albeit in a more relentlessly energetic form than some of their contemporaries, as the album mixed Jam-like power pop with Madness-style English eccentricities. A comical video for next single, the cheeky cockney knees up that was “Alright”, simply made them even more popular, and seemed to suggest Supergrass were a bunch of cartoonish popstars, always up for a laugh and a joke - something which was always in danger of overshadowing their career as they tried to make more grown up records later on. Such was the impact of the video, that Steven Spielberg approached the band with a view to making a Monkees-style TV series, but the group (possibly wisely) refused.

After a stand alone single was issued in early 1996 to capitalise on the band’s ongoing success (“Going Out”, later included on their next album), the band carried on touring, including a high profile slot at Pulp’s outdoor mini festival at Hylands Park in Chelmsford in 1996. Their second album, 1997’s “In It For The Money”, by and large moved away from the hyper bouncy sound of the debut - “It’s Not Me” was a simple, but heartfelt, acoustic strum, “Late In The Day” exhibited an element of song writing maturity mostly absent on the debut, and the title track, with it’s gloriously repetitive guitar driven menace, seemed to exhibit an air of melancholy and grudging cynicism. It still sold by the bucket load.

1999’s self titled effort didn’t fare so well, despite lead single “Pumping On Your Stereo” having a video which seemed like a throwback to the “Alright” days - the band were depicted as cartoon like Muppet-esque characters. It still sold well, and spawned a magnificent 45 in the form of the epic “Moving”, but was regarded by the critics as missing something, lacking the spark of the debut, or the inventiveness of “In It For The Money”. It was seen as being a bit too downbeat and too mellow.

It’s against this backdrop of “difficult third album syndrome” that “Life On Other Planets”, or “LOOP” as it sometimes gets called, was conceived. With long time keyboard player (and brother of Gaz) Rob Coombes now officially on board as a fourth band member, material was debuted during shows in 2001, including their support slot at Radiohead’s homecoming gig in South Park in Oxford in July. Almost as if they knew they had recorded a corker of an album, the first single was issued as a limited edition 7” in the summer of 2002, a rather low key start for what would be a miraculous album. “Never Done Nothing Like That Before” was an astonishing record, a ramshackle punk rock roar, with a slightly psychotic vocal delivery, the noisiest song the band had ever made, and done and dusted within two minutes. It made Blur’s “Song 2” sound like “Stairway To Heaven”.

What makes “LOOP” so special is that it marries the effervescent blast of the debut with the forward thinking, intelligent, music of “In It For The Money” - there are catchy hooks all over the place, heart melting key changes, and numerous “classic rock” references…Genesis style keyboard swirls everywhere and 70s era Pink Floyd guitar solos throughout.

Opening number “Za” sets the stall out straight away. It fades in with a space age style synthy intro, possibly a reference to the UFO-esque album title? Then, it suddenly hits you with it’s rinky dinky piano intro, before lurching straight into a stomping keyboard filled roar, the sound of the entire “Parklife” album being recorded by Roxy Music in one go. An astonishing start. And it simply gets better and better as it goes on.

“Rush Hour Soul” is near perfect, galloping along with it’s catchy “whoo whoo wh-whoo whoo” guitar/keyboard hybrid calling card, before veering into a space rock style chorus, predating the first Secret Machines album by a good two years in doing so. Towards the end, the song breaks down into a manic Sonic Youth style noise excursion, before pausing for breath, and then raucously kicking back into life for it‘s final few seconds. Glorious.

“Seen The Light” sees the band wear the classic rock influences on their sleeve quite explicitly, as Coombes doesn’t so much tip his hat to Marc Bolan with his singing style, as opposed to rather stealing it hook line and sinker. The song itself also exhibits an air of T Rex glam throughout, complete with some marvellous “la la la” backing vocals during the choruses, before ending with an Elvis impersonator style vocal finale, Coombes finishing on the “thankyouverymuch“ line straight out of the Presley songbook. Sublime. And that’s even before we mention the bizarre “sheep baa” noise that appears out of nowhere in the middle section.

“Brecon Beacons” is the great single that never was. It opens with another catchy-as-hell guitar driven opening, then chugs along with a relentless energy whilst borrowing little bits of “Race For The Prize”, all of which masks the rather dark lyrics (“Well, they found the body down on Brecon Beacons”). But it is impossible to not be drawn in by the hooks that lurk throughout this song, nor the subtle key changes that add the air of drama needed in the choruses, to accompany the slightly spooky line “it’s retribution from the supernatural, you better watch out ’cos they’re coming to get you!” - followed by a celebratory “whoo!“ from Coombes. Flawless.

“Can’t Get Up” starts out sounding worryingly like Jon Bon Jovi’s “Dead Or Alive”, and you think to yourself - “OK, fair enough, they couldn’t keep that up for long”. But then you get to the chorus, and bang! It turns into something utterly euphoric, honey dripped hooks everywhere, as multi tracked vocals come out and grab you. It sounds like The Beatles and The Sweet’s “Blockbuster” having a love-in.

“Evening Of The Day” also chugs along a bit like it’s stuck somewhere between 1966 and 1996, a sort of Paul Weller solo track circa “Stanley Road” played by The Kinks. But once again, the choruses tumble out of the speakers with a big smile on their face, as Coombes more or less steals an old Spinal Tap lyric by singing “if she’s not on that 3.15, then I’m gonna know what sorrow means” with utter relish, before some Neil Young & Crazy Horse style guitar licks hover in the background. Just as you think the song has ended, literally crashing to a halt as the sound of musical instruments seem to go careering across the studio, it segues into what sounds like a cross between “Meddle” era Pink Floyd and the end of Genesis’ “Giant Hogweed”. Staggering.

We have already mentioned “Never Done Nothing Like That Before”. Just to remind you again, it is incredible.

“Funniest Thing” takes things down a notch, but retains the melodic pull that runs constantly throughout this album. Genteel verses, that burst into glorious, raucous, hook-laden choruses. The harmonies have probably been stolen straight from Bowie somewhere along the line, but it’s done with such an effortless ease, it’s hard not to be smitten with what you are hearing. Yet again, a subtle key change in the choruses makes you swoon with delight when you hear it. Interestingly, things struggle with hit single “Grace”, which heads back towards the “Alright”-style cockney knees up sound of old, and thus provides arguably the weakest link in the chain. It’s telling that the one song that sounds most like the Supergrass of the past, is thus the least fascinating on the record, a sign of just how far they had come. But it’s still quite charming, especially at the finale as Coombes sings “Monday, Tuesday” in a style that sounds like a character out of Steptoe And Son.

“La Song” opens with a marvellous, slow, sad melodica/keyboard intro, then wham! This could be anything off of “All Mod Cons”, only with added “la la la‘s” and Sparks style glam. The middle eight features the intro again, only this time with backwards Byrds style guitar lines and Kraftwerk synthesizer jabs all over the top. Impressive stuff.

“Prophet 15” is another song that sounds like it has been beamed in from the future, sounding like a bizarre cross between Replicas-era Tubeway Army, George Harrison and the final part of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond“. In the choruses, the album hits it’s most beautiful melodies, and it’s most affecting key changes so far, whilst Coombes lists off a roll call of pop culture references “…and Oscar Wilde and Peter Cook were close by…and Joe The Lion and Marvin Gaye were there, oh yeah”. It’s so perfect, so beautiful, this blog simply cannot do it justice. You just need to hear it to appreciate it in all it’s stunning glory.

“Run” incredibly ups the ante, despite the fact that we are now at the end. It’s basically “Because” by The Beatles updated for the 21st century, before heading off into several minutes of psychedelic, blissful, kaleidoscopic, full blown prog territory, before some “Fashion” style guitar comes screeching in overhead as the finale builds and builds, before calming down and settling into some more Pink Floyd style noodling. It brings the song to a dignified, and relaxing end. Nearly. Because just as you think it’s over, in comes a fairground style waltz instrumental, albeit one that sounds like it’s being played by Yes circa 1972, before the record finally comes to an echoing, shuddering, end.

It is difficult not to feel like you have listened to something approaching a lost classic when hear this LP. Quite how a record this catchy, this beautiful, and ultimately, this much fun is rarely talked about is rather heartbreaking. It certainly outstrips a lot of the landfill indie that sold in big units, bands that Supergrass often got lumped in with (Keane, Snow Patrol, The Kooks), and whilst those bands were turned somehow from also-ran Britpoppers into megastars, Supergrass - and this LP in particular - just seemed to get left behind. It’s a glorious record, almost futuristic and electronic in it’s sound at times, and whilst it may well be a naughty concoction of just about every band who have ever been on the cover of “Mojo”, it all hangs together so perfectly. It’s my favourite Supergrass album, and one of the best so-called “Britpop” albums ever made.

Of course, Supergrass were never able to top this album. 2005’s “Road To Rouen”, despite being a critics’ favourite, was overall a slow, rather quiet, sounding record, one that failed to grab your attention in the same way “LOOP” did. By the time of 2008’s “Diamond Hoo Ha”, the group were in something of a state, with band members suffering near fatal injuries, and Parlophone starting to lose interest in the band. The third single from the album was cancelled, and the band resorted to forming their own label in order to release it as a limited edition mail order release on vinyl only. The group finally threw in the towel whilst working on aborted seventh studio LP, and that was that.

I cannot praise “Life On Other Planets” highly enough. I always think it is difficult to try and describe the sound of music - after all, music is supposed to be listened to, as opposed to being “described” to someone else. But I can only sum up by saying that it is Supergrass’s masterpiece, their own mini “White Album”, a magnificent pop record played by a masterful ‘guitar band’ at the top of their game. Even now, Supergrass are probably still remembered not by this record, but by “Alright”, a situation summed up by somebody called Troy Carpenter, who once claimed they were a “fun loving rock group, whose undeniable musical talent is sometimes overshadowed by the sheer ebullience of it’s music”. “LOOP” was in some respects an attempt to redress the balance, to make a grown up record that could be seen as the older, cleverer, more adult brother to “I Should Coco”. It may not have convinced the general public, who by this point, were gravitating towards the horrors of 50 Cent and The Black Eyed Peas, but it remains a classic - lost in the midsts of time, but one that I hope people will one day discover for themselves. I just can’t say this enough, this is brilliant, brilliant music, and I implore you to track this record down. Best album of 2002? Definitely, maybe.

Discography

So, my first Supergrass blog, so an excuse to go for a full blown discography. Fairly simple - “Loop” related material first, then what came before and after. We are generally looking at (nearly all) vinyl and CD pressings, some Grass albums came on Cassette, but none of the singles issued on the same format ever gave you anything the Compact Discs didn’t, so most tapes have been omitted for clarity.

LOOP VERSIONS

Life On Other Planets (LP + poster, Parlophone 541 8001)
Life On Other Planets (CD, Parlophone 541 8002)

LOOP ERA SINGLES

Never Done Nothing Like That Before (Numbered 1-sided 7”, Parlophone R6583)
Grace/Velvetine (Pink Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6586)
Grace/Velvetine/Electric Cowboy/Grace (Video) (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6586)
Grace/Tishing In Windows (Kicking Down Doors)/That Old Song (CD2, Parlophone CDR6586, different p/s)
Seen The Light/The Loner (Grey Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6592)
Seen The Light/The Loner/I Told The Truth (CD, Parlophone CDR6592)
Seen The Light (Video)/Never Done Nothing Like That Before (Live, Oslo John Dee 25.9.2002 - Video)/Brecon Beacons (Shepherds Bush Empire 2002)/Rush Hour Soul (Shepherds Bush Empire 2002) (DVD, Parlophone DVDR6592, black p/s)
Rush Hour Soul/Everytime (Green Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6612)
Rush Hour Soul/Everytime/Rush Hour Soul (Video)/Everytime (Video) (CD, Parlophone CDR6612)

SELECTED OTHER ALBUMS

I Should Coco (LP + 7”, Parlophone PCSX 7373, 7“ includes exclusive tracks)
I Should Coco (CD, Parlophone CDPCS 7373)
In It For The Money (LP, Parlophone PCS 7388)
In It For The Money (2xCD, Parlophone CDPCS 7388, second disc of selected B-sides, later copies on one disc only)
Supergrass (LP, Parlophone 522 056-1)
Supergrass (Enhanced CD, Parlophone 522 056-0, different sleeve with CD-Rom material, later copies use standard cover and have no enhanced element)
Supergrass / I Should Coco (French Only 2xCD Box Set, Parlophone 541103-2, “Supergrass” is the ’later’ standard pressing)
Supergrass Is 10 (2 x Clear Vinyl 10”, Parlophone 578 994-1)
Supergrass Is 10 (CD, Parlophone 571 160-2)
Road To Rouen (LP, Parlophone 333 334-1)
Road To Rouen (CD, Parlophone 333 334-2)
Diamond Hoo Ha (LP, Parlophone 519 7341)
Diamond Hoo Ha (CD, Parlophone 519 7342)

PRE LOOP SINGLES

Caught By The Fuzz/Strange Ones (7”, Backbeat BEAT 4)
Mansize Rooster/Sitting Up Straight (Green Vinyl 7”, Backbeat BEAT 6)
Caught By The Fuzz/Strange Ones (7”, Parlophone R6396)
Caught By The Fuzz/Strange Ones (Cassette, Parlophone TCR6396)
Caught By The Fuzz/Strange Ones/Caught By The Fuzz (Acoustic) (CD, Parlophone CDR6396, bonus track later released on “Lose It“ 7“)
Mansize Rooster/Sitting Up Straight (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6402)
Mansize Rooster/Sitting Up Straight/Odd? (CD, Parlophone CDR6402)
Lose It/Caught By The Fuzz (Acoustic) (US Yellow Vinyl 7”, Sub Pop SP 281)
Lenny/Wait For The Sun (Numbered Blue Vinyl 7”, Parlophone RS6410)
Lenny/Wait For The Sun/Sex! (CD, Parlophone CDR6410)
Alright/Time (Yellow Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6413)
Alright/Time/Condition/Je Suis Votre Papa Sucre (CD, Parlophone CDR6413)
Going Out/Melanie Davis (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6428)
Going Out/Melanie Davis/Strange Ones (Live) (CD, Parlophone CDR6428)
Richard III/Nothing More’s Gonna Get In My Way (Yellow Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6461)
Richard III/Sometimes I Make You Sad/Sometimes We’re Very Sad (CD1, Parlophone CDR6461)
Richard III/Nothing More’s Gonna Get In My Way/20ft Halo (CD2, Parlophone CDRS6461, different p/s)
Sun Hits The Sky (Radio Edit)/Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (Numbered White Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6469)
Sun Hits the Sky (Radio Edit)/Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others/Sun Hits The Sky (BBC Radio 1 Evening Session Version) (CD, Parlophone CDR6469, with 3 postcards)
Late In The Day/We Still Need More (Than Anyone Can Give) (Gold Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6484)
Late In The Day/We Still Need More (Than Anyone Can Give)/It’s Not Me (Demo Version) (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6484, with poster)
Late In The Day/Don’t Be Cruel/The Animal (CD2, Parlophone CDR6484, different p/s)
Pumping On Your Stereo (Single Version)/You’ll Never Walk Again (Green Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6518)
Pumping On Your Stereo (Single Version)/You’ll Never Walk Again/Sick (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6518)
Pumping On Your Stereo (Single Version)/What A Shame/Lucky (No Fear) (CD2, Parlophone CDR6518, different colour p/s)
Moving/Believer (Blue Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6524)
Moving/You Too Can Play Alright/Pumping On Your Stereo (Video) (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6524)
Moving/Believer/Faraway (Acoustic Version) (CD2, Parlophone CDR6524, different p/s)
Mary (Album Mix)/(Lamacq Live) (Silver Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6531)
Mary/Pumping On Your Stereo (At Peel Acres)/Strange Ones (At Peel Acres) (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6531)
Mary (Lamacq Live)/Richard III (At Peel Acres)/Sun Hits The Sky (At Peel Acres) (CD2, Parlophone CDR6531, different p/s)

POST LOOP SINGLES

Kiss Of Life/We Dream Of This (Clear Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6638)
Kiss Of Life/We Dream Of This/Kiss Of Life (Tom Tom Club Full Mix) (CD, Parlophone CDRS6638)
St Petersburg/Kiss Of Life (Live @ Portsmouth Pyramids) (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6670)
St Petersburg/Kiss Of Life (Live @ Portsmouth Pyramids)/Bullett (Live @ Portsmouth Pyramids) (CD, Parlophone CDR6670)
Low C/Roxy (Live at Ronnie Scotts 2005) (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6675)
Low C (Album Mix)/(Live, Oxford Playhouse) (CD, Parlophone CDR6675)
Low C/Lady Day And John Coltrane (Live at Ronnie Scotts 2005)/Low C (Video)/St Petersburg (Video) (DVD, Parlophone DVDR6675)
Fin (Album Mix)/(Live on BBC Radio 2 Jonathan Ross Show, 2005) (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6682)
Diamond Hoo Ha Man/345 (Numbered Brown Vinyl 7” + stickers, Parlophone R6753)
Bad Blood/Rough Knuckles (Brown Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6755)
Bad Blood/Beat It/Bad Blood (Diamond Hoo Ha Men Version)/(Video) (CD, Parlophone CDR6755)
Rebel In You/Car Crash (Numbered White Vinyl 7”, Supergrass Records PARL001, mail order only, first 200 copies signed)


Thursday, 24 July 2014

July 2014


The July 2014 blogs feature a look at The Stranglers, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and part 7 of my 'novel within a website', "How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting". To look at any of these blogs, click the relevant link to your right.























































"Golly jeepers, where'd you get those peepers"

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Siouxsie And The Banshees 1982-2002


Last year, I looked at the UK releases by Siouxsie And The Banshees that were covered by their first hits LP, 1981’s “Once Upon A Time”. Well, now it is time to finish the job, and look at both the releases covered by the 1992 follow up, and the handful of records that filtered out thereafter.

“Twice Upon A Time”, especially when viewed in conjunction with it’s successor, is a magnificent overview of a band in their prime - the sound of a punk rock band moving as far away as humanly possible from their origins. Look at what they were doing during this time, and you can clearly see just how far ahead they were advancing when compared to some of their contemporaries.

When first released, the CD pressing of “Twice Upon A Time” came in an oversized slipcase designed to hold the CD edition of “Once Upon A Time”, even though that one had been issued in the days of vinyl. The space for the first disc was taken up with a piece of cardboard, and each copy was numbered and included a free mini poster. Whilst I understand these original pressings are now worth a small fortune, the “regular” CD edition can still be tracked down, and together, these two collections work as a better overview of the band than 2002’s “high speed” compilation that was “The Best Of Siouxsie And The Banshees”, where an attempt was made to try and condense everything onto a single CD.

As before, the listings below show the latest CD pressing for each studio LP where they have been remastered, and in the case of the un-remastered latter albums, the original (and often never reissued in any form) release, whilst all notable and essential singles from the period are shown. Several rarities from this period have gone AWOL, others haven’t, and each section discusses exactly what went where after the event.



A Kiss In The Dreamhouse (Polydor 531 489-6, digipack pressing)

Regarded by many as the band’s defining masterpiece, 1982’s “A Kiss In The Dreamhouse” represents the final piece in the Banshees jigsaw - the album that was the end of the journey from the early gobbing punk rock years, to a band creating ethereal, dreamy, and often dazzling “goth indie”. The lush waltz of “Melt!”, the propulsive throb of “Painted Bird”, the string driven jerkyness of “Slowdive”, this is the sound of a band at the peak of their powers.

Earlier that year, the band had released the glorious roar of “Fireworks” as a stand alone 45, which despite sporting artwork similar to the 45’s that followed, was never included on the subsequent album, and only really found a home when it made it onto the “Twice Upon A Time” collection. The current expanded edition of “Dreamhouse” does include a version of the song, although it is the original 12” mix that makes the set. Having issued their last few singles on this format, the band were now beginning to release each single as a 12, often with an extended version of the a-side, and always with extra tracks on the flipside. Whilst the (regular) B-sides made it onto “Downside Up”, some of the 12” mixes from the 80s and 90s have disappeared into the ether. Followup 45, and lead single from the LP, “Slowdive”, was also the recipient of a 12” mix, and this too makes the expanded CD edition, along with a couple of previously unissued demos.

In theory, “Melt!” formed part of a double a-side single, but I have no real recollection of people ever mentioning the single in such a status, and indeed, said track “Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant” is absent from “Twice Upon A Time” - but is on “Downside Up”.

SINGLES

Fireworks/Coal Mind (7”, Polydor POSP 450)
Fireworks/Coal Mind (Gatefold 7”, Polydor POSPG 450, slightly different cover design)
Fireworks (12” Version)/Coal Mind/We Fall (12”, Polydor POSPX 450, unique p/s)
Slowdive/Cannibal Roses (7”, Polydor POSP 510)
Slowdive (12” Version)/Obsession II/Cannibal Roses (12”, Polydor POSPX 510, different p/s)
Melt!/Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant (7”, Polydor POSP 539)
Melt!/A Sleeping Rain/Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant (12”, Polydor POSPX 539, unique p/s)



Hyaena (Polydor 531 489-5, digipack pressing)

Although the band had already gone through a number of line up changes before 1982, the departure of John McGeoch marked the start of an almost regular “change of guitarist” situation within the band. Having temporarily been in the band before, and with his own band on semi-hiatus, The Cure’s Robert Smith rejoined in time for the band’s next single release, another stand alone job in the form of a cover of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, which remains one of the band’s biggest hits. Later that year, a live album called “Nocturne” was released, culled from a pair of shows the band played in September/October at the Royal Albert Hall. Issued as both a regular LP and a VHS, I don’t think I have the latter, but I do remember seeing it on TV years ago, where the continuity problems of cobbling together the best bits of two gigs was obviously apparent, as Smith’s shirt changed with more or less each song!

“Nocturne” was also reissued a few years back as part of the remastering campaign (some years after the VHS edition resurfaced on DVD), where unlike the studio efforts, it came with no bonus tracks (Polydor 531 489-4). This is a shame, because there were a pair of massive rarities in the vaults - live recordings of “Headcut” and an - at the time - new, unreleased song called “Running Town”, from the RAH shows, only previously issued on a rare fan club only 7”. Only 2500 copies were pressed, and neither recording has appeared again since.

When I first heard it, I was disappointed with 1984’s “Hyaena”. I figured it was the Banshees’ own “mid 80s” mis-step, their “Dirty Work”, or their “Never Let Me Down”. But then, when I kept listening to it, it began to reveal it’s genius. Perhaps it is just so far from “Hong Kong Garden” that it threw me at first, but that’s what ultimately makes it so special - the echoey romp of “Dazzle”, the piano strut of “Swimming Horses”, the epic rumble of the closing “Blow The House Down”...this was pop music light years away from the three chord limitations of punk, and all the better for it.

As if to even further distance themselves from the safety pin brigade, 1984’s “The Thorn” EP was a four track single full of ORCHESTRAL reworkings of oldies from the past. Two of the songs from the EP, led by “Overground”, were also issued as a standard 7”. All four tracks from the EP made the “Downside Up” boxset, where they were included in isolation from the rest of the box, as a sort of CD EP pressing. This disc was not, sadly, included in a repro of the original EP sleeve, but was simply the last disc in the 4-disc set.

Both “Dear Prudence” and the 12” mix of “Dazzle” are on the current expanded version of “Hyaena”, along with a couple of demos. Rarely reported is the fact that the 12” edition of “Prudence” featured a slightly longer mix of the a-side, but it is the 7” mix that makes both “Twice Upon A Time” and “Hyaena”. All of the other b-sides from the period - except, of course, the live “Running Town” - are now on “Downside Up”.

SINGLES

Dear Prudence/Tattoo (7”, Wonderland SHE 4)
Dear Prudence/Tattoo (7” in fold out sleeve, Wonderland SHEG 4, green p/s)
Dear Prudence (12” Mix)/Tattoo/There’s A Planet In My Kitchen (12”, Wonderland SHEX 4, pink p/s)
Headcut (Live)/Running Town (7”, Wonderland FILE 1)
Swimming Horses/Let Go (7”, Wonderland SHE 6)
Swimming Horses/Let Go/The Humming Wires (12”, Wonderland SHEX 6)
Dazzle/I Promise (7”, Wonderland SHE 7)
Dazzle (7 Mins Plus Glamour Mix)/I Promise/Throw Them To The Lions (12”, Wonderland SHEX 7, slightly different p/s)
Overground (New Version)/Placebo Effect (New Version) (7”, Wonderland SHE 8)
The Thorn EP: Overground (New Version)/Voices (New Version)/Placebo Effect (New Version)/Red Over White (New Version) (12”, Wonderland SHEEP 8)



Tinderbox (Polydor 531 489-3, digipack pressing)

1986’s “Tinderbox” is an unusual part of the Banshees’ canon. When released in 1986, the decision was taken to release it in expanded form on CD, where all of the rarities from the two preceding singles that formed as pre-release promo for the album (b-sides and a 12” ’Eruption’ mix of 1985’s “Cities In Dust“) were tagged onto the end as bonus tracks. Very nice.

Of course, that edition of the CD has now been superseded, and with the relevant flipsides now on “Downside Up”, the current pressing of the record includes outtakes alongside the still-in-situ 12” version of “Cities”. One of these extras is an alternate take of the obscure late 1987 stand alone 45, “Song From The Edge Of The World”, a track that has spent most of it’s life out in the wilderness, as the band were not happy with the production of the track, and even fought - successfully - to keep it off of “Twice Upon A Time”.

By this point, Smith had left the band again, to reignite The Cure, and the guitarist here was John Carruthers, who had taken over from Smith just before the recording of “The Thorn” EP.

SINGLES

Cities In Dust/An Execution (7”, Wonderland SHE 9)
Cities In Dust/An Execution (Posterbag 7”, Wonderland SHEG 9)
Cities In Dust (Extended Eruption Mix)/An Execution/Quarterdrawing Of The Dog (12”, Wonderland SHEX 9)
Candyman/Lullaby (7”, Wonderland SHE 10)
Candyman/Lullaby/Umbrella (2x7”, Wonderland SHEDP 10, 2nd disc 1-sided and housed in individual numbered die cut sleeve)
Candyman/Lullaby/Umbrella (12”, Wonderland SHEX 10)



Through The Looking Glass (Wonderland 831 474-2)

I often forget this one exists - 1987’s covers album. It was previewed by a cover of “This Wheel’s On Fire”, chosen as Sioux loved the ‘original’ by Julie Driscoll - she was horrified when she later realised that it was actually a cover of an unreleased Bob Dylan track, as she was never a fan of His Bobness.

“The Passenger” was an Iggy Pop cover, and Pop later commented on how much he loved the “horn driven” treatment the band gave it. Both singles were issued on a number of formats, as increasingly, multiple gimmick driven pressings were starting to emerge for all Siouxsie 45’s.

Had the remasters campaign been finished, then this album would have been the next in line to get an expanded repressing, but at the time of writing, no such reissue is likely to be forthcoming. Severin was reported to be working on a career spanning boxset several years ago which would have included all of the albums, including this one, but no word as yet as to whether it is still going ahead. As for “Song From The Edge Of The World”, the “Columbus” mix was one of several remixes included on the second disc of the “limited edition” version of “The Best Of” set, but the original 7” mix is still only available on the original 7” and Cassette pressings. The 2002 "hits" set was selective in what 12” mixes it included, and neither of the extended mixes of the two singles from this LP were considered for inclusion, making the 12” formats of these 45s essential buys. Again, all of the b-sides from the period, including the rare “She Cracked”, made it onto “Downside Up”.

SINGLES

This Wheel’s On Fire/Shooting Sun (7”, Wonderland SHE 11)
This Wheel’s On Fire/Shooting Sun/Sleepwalking (On The High Wire)/She Cracked (2x7”, Wonderland SHEG 11)
This Wheel’s On Fire (Incendiary Mix)/Shooting Sun/Sleepwalking (On The High Wire) (12”, Wonderland SHEX 11, “thick border“ p/s)
The Passenger/She’s Cuckoo (7”, Wonderland SHE 12)
The Passenger/She’s Cuckoo (Poster Sleeve 7”, Wonderland SHEG 12)
The Passenger (Llllloco-motion Mix)/She’s Cuckoo/Something Blue (12”, Wonderland SHEX 12, different p/s)
Song From The Edge Of The World/The Whole Price Of Blood (7”, Wonderland SHE 13)
Song From The Edge Of The World/The Whole Price Of Blood (7” Picture Disc, Wonderland SHEP 13, housed in clear sleeve)
Song From The Edge Of The World/The Whole Price Of Blood/Mechanical Eyes/Song From The Edge Of The World (Columbus Mix) (Cassette, Wonderland SHEPC 13)
Song From The Edge Of The World (Columbus Mix)/The Whole Price Of Blood/Mechanical Eyes (12”, Wonderland SHEX 13, blue bordered p/s)
The Peel Sessions EP: Love In A Void (Peel 1977)/Mirage (Peel 1977)/Metal Postcard (Peel 1977)/Suburban Relapse (Peel 1977) (Cassette, Strange Fruit SFPSC 012)
The Peel Sessions EP: Love In A Void (Peel 1977)/Mirage (Peel 1977)/Metal Postcard (Peel 1977)/Suburban Relapse (Peel 1977) (12”, Strange Fruit SFPS 012)
The Peel Sessions EP: Love In A Void (Peel 1977)/Mirage (Peel 1977)/Metal Postcard (Peel 1977)/Suburban Relapse (Peel 1977) (CD, Strange Fruit SFPSCD 012, 1989 re-release)



Peepshow (Wonderland 837 240-2)

For those who don’t believe “Dreamhouse” to be their defining moment, then 1988’s “Peepshow” is often thought of as the other major contender. Continuing where “Tinderbox” left off, this album veers between rampant goth rock (“The Killing Jar”), baroque beauty (“The Last Beat Of My Heart”) and in lead single and opening track, “Peek A Boo“, a song seemingly within it’s own genre of ‘thirties hip hop” according to the Melody Maker. Which, of course, makes it all the more confusing as to why Polydor have refused to reissue it. I think it got some form of budget re-release by Spectrum in the late 90s, but there are no bonus tracks on that version at all.

For the first time in their career, the band began issuing CD and CD-Video singles. A quick look at the entries above will show that the band had by now started releasing singles on their own Wonderland imprint, with their own unique “SHE” catalogue numbers, but the CDV releases were theoretically euro-wide singles, and thus retained standard numeric numbers. The release also marked another change in line up, with Carruthers now out of the band and replaced by the double headed combo of Jon Klein on guitar, and future Therapy? band member Martin McCarrick on keyboards and cello, thus giving the band an almost “official” non-guitar based sound with which to play around in.

“The Killing Jar” was remixed for it’s single release, and appears on “Twice Upon A Time” in it’s 45 version. The 12” mix appears on the double disc “Best Of”. In an attempt to reel in the punters, the version of “Last Beat Of My Heart” which made the singles set was a previously unheard live recording from a then recent Lollapalooza performance. “Peek A Boo” was the subject of several remixes, although few were released commercially, however the “promo only” ‘Silver Dollar’ mix of the track later made the double disc “The Best Of” set. Again, the b-sides are on “Downside Up” with the exception of the alternate mix of “El Dia De Los Muertos”, still only available on the CD edition of “Last Beat”.

The eagle eyed amongst you will also notice some “Peel Sessions” EP’s in these listings - all of the tracks from these releases have been compiled on later radio sessions releases such as “At The BBC”.

SINGLES

Peek A Boo/False Face (7”, Wonderland SHE 14)
Peek A Boo/False Face (Gatefold 7”, Wonderland SHEG 14)
Peek A Boo/False Face/Catwalk/Peek A Boo (Big Spender Mix) (Cassette, Wonderland SHECS 14, numbered and in unique p/s)
Peek A Boo (Big Spender Mix)/Catwalk/False Face (12”, Wonderland SHEX 14)
Peek A Boo/False Face/Catwalk/Peek A Boo (Big Spender Mix) (CD, Wonderland SHECD 14)
Peek A Boo (Video)/False Face/Catwalk/Peek A Boo (Big Spender Mix) (CD Video, Wonderland 080 398 2)
The Killing Jar (Remix)/Something Wicked (This Way Comes) (7”, Wonderland SHE 15)
The Killing Jar (Remix)/Something Wicked (This Way Comes) (Clear Vinyl 7”, Wonderland SHEG 15)
The Killing Jar (Remix)/Something Wicked (This Way Comes) (7” Picture Disc, Wonderland SHEP 15, in clear sleeve)
The Killing Jar (Lepidopteristic Mix)/Something Wicked (This Way Comes)/Are You Still Dying Darling? (12”, Wonderland SHEX 15, bordered p/s)
The Killing Jar (Remix)/Something Wicked (This Way Comes)/Are You Still Dying Darling?/The Killing Jar (Lepidopteristic Mix) (CD, Wonderland SHECD 15)
The Last Beat Of My Heart/El Dia De Los Muertos (7”, Wonderland SHE 16)
The Last Beat Of My Heart/El Dia De Los Muertos (Numbered 7”, Wonderland SHEG 16 in “limited edition gilded sleeve“)
The Last Beat Of My Heart/El Dia De Los Muertos/Sunless (12”, Wonderland SHEX 16, bordered p/s)
The Last Beat Of My Heart/El Dia De Los Muertos/Sunless (Numbered Gatefold 12”, Wonderland SHEXG 16)
The Last Beat Of My Heart/El Dia De Los Muertos/Sunless/El Dia De Los Metros (Espiritu Mix) (CD, Wonderland SHECD 16, minor differences to 7“ sleeve)
The Peel Sessions - The Second Session EP: Hong Kong Garden (Peel 1978)/Overground (Peel 1978)/Carcass (Peel 1978)/Helter Skelter (Peel 1978) (Cassette, Strange Fruit SFPSC 066)
The Peel Sessions - The Second Session EP: Hong Kong Garden (Peel 1978)/Overground (Peel 1978)/Carcass (Peel 1978)/Helter Skelter (Peel 1978) (12“, Strange Fruit SFPS 066)
The Peel Sessions - The Second Session EP: Hong Kong Garden (Peel 1978)/Overground (Peel 1978)/Carcass (Peel 1978)/Helter Skelter (Peel 1978) (CD, Strange Fruit SFPSCD 066)



Superstition (Wonderland 847 731-2)

The gap between Banshees releases was starting to increase now, mainly as Siouxsie and Budgie had their own ‘side project’ band, The Creatures, to keep them busy. And so it was that three years passed before the release of 1991’s “Superstition”, which successfully dragged the band into the 1990s. Previewed by the Bollywood rhythm driven glory of lead 45 “Kiss Them For Me”, “Superstition” had a semi electronic feel to it, thanks to the production work of the New Order/PSB affiliated Stephen Hague. This helped to give it a contemporary feel, but Sioux was later quoted as being less than keen on the album, because of it’s ‘computerized’ vibe.

Both the album and it’s attendant singles were issued in sleeves showing a glammed up Siousxie, with the remainder of the band completely absent. This wasn’t anything entirely new, but it did seem to me as though the label were using Sioux as a focal point around which to help sell the album, in a similar way that Chrysalis used Debbie Harry to flog Blondie records.

Having issued many of the 80s singles in variant sleeve designs up until the “Peepshow” releases, the trend (un)continued here, as with the - sort of - exception of “Kiss Them For Me”, the same basic image was used on each format of each single, with some minor design alterations often the only thing that differed between selected pressings. With all of the flipsides on “Downside Up”, but with most of the remixes from the period absent from “The Best Of”, it’s generally the 12” and CD pressings only that are thus of major interest here music wise (the 7” version of “Kiss Them For Me” having made it onto “Twice Upon A Time”).

By now, the Banshees were part of the old guard - it was well over a decade since “Hong Kong Garden”, and whilst “Kiss” became a big hit single, follow up “Shadowtime” faired less well, the band now starting to struggle to get airplay, although I do recall seeing the promo vid on one of those now-defunct Saturday morning chart rundown shows on TV. The band’s profile however, was re-raised in 1992, when the group recorded the theme tune for the new Batman film, and their collaboration with Danny Elfman produced “Face To Face” - a sublime mix of Banshees goth-pop and Elfman string overload. Unlike some movie tie in singles, this 45 was released on the band’s own label, meaning “proper” brand new B-sides adorned the flip, rather than - say - a track by another band with a song from the movie. “Face To Face” is on both “Twice Upon A Time” and, in it’s 7 and 12 inch forms, “The Best Of”. Meanwhile, the US was given “Fear Of The Unknown”, from “Superstition”, as a single between “Shadowtime” and “Face”, and appears in remixed form on “Twice Upon A Time”.

SINGLES

Kiss Them For Me (7” Version)/Return (7”, Wonderland SHE 19)
Kiss Them For Me (7” Version)/Return (Cassette, Wonderland SHECS 19, slightly “cut down“ p/s)
Kiss Them For Me (12” Version)/Staring Back/Return (Gatefold 12“, Wonderland SHEX 19, “Snapper Mix“ reference on front cover)
Kiss Them For Me (Kathak Mix)/(Loveappella Mix)/(Ambient Mix) (Remix 12” in “zoomed in” p/s, Wonderland SHEXR 19)
Kiss Them For Me (7” Version)/(12” Version)/Staring Back/Return (CD, Wonderland SHECD 19)
Shadowtime/Spiral Twist (7”, Wonderland SHE 20)
Shadowtime/Spiral Twist (Cassette, Wonderland SHECS 20, slightly re-jigged sleeve design)
Shadowtime (Eclipse Mix)/Spiral Twist/Sea Of Light (12”, Wonderland SHEX 20, “Eclipse Mix“ reference on front cover)
Shadowtime (LP Mix)/(Eclipse Mix)/Spiral Twist/Sea Of Light (CD, Wonderland SHECD 20)
The Peel Sessions 1977-1978 EP: Hong Kong Garden (Peel 1978)/Mirage (Peel 1977)/Carcass (Peel 1978)/Love In A Void (Peel 1977) (Blue Vinyl 7”, Strange Fruit 677002)
The Peel Sessions 1977-1978 EP: Hong Kong Garden (Peel 1978)/Suburban Relapse (Peel 1977)/Carcass (Peel 1978)/Love In A Void (Peel 1977) (Shaped Picture Disc, Strange Fruit 671004)
The Peel Sessions 1977-1978 EP: Hong Kong Garden (Peel 1978)/Helter Skelter (Peel 1978)/Carcass (Peel 1978)/Mirage (Peel 1977) (White Vinyl 12”, Strange Fruit 670002, unique p/s)
Face To Face/I Could Be Again (7”, Wonderland SHE 21)
Face To Face/I Could Be Again (Cassette, Wonderland SHECS 21)
Face To Face (Catatonic Mix)/(7” Mix)/Hothead (12” Picture Disc, Wonderland SHEX 21)
Face To Face (7” Mix)/(Catatonic Mix)/I Could Be Again/Hothead (CD, Wonderland SHECD 21)



The Rapture (Wonderland 523 725-2)

And so we come to the band’s swansong album, released in early 1995. With the five man line up still in place, the final Banshees album was as strong as anything that had come before, excitedly described by MM as a “cornucopia of lush instrumentation”. It had been another long gap between LP’s, although the band had not been totally AWOL - they played Reading Festival in 1993, and I remember my friend and I heading off to the Clapham Grand to try and get tickets on the night for a warm up show they were playing there a day or two before. Trouble was, the tickets available on the day sold out before we got to the front of the queue, and the longer the night went on, the more the touts started asking for tickets, so we gave up. Following the album’s release, guitarist Jon Klein was replaced by Knox Chandler.

“O Baby”, one of the band’s most ‘pop’ moments, sounding almost like REM in parts, was issued as the preview single, and saw the band enter into the world of the double CD single approach for the first time. The amount of extra material that had to be generated was therefore not always going to be of the “normal” b-sides variety as later included on “Downside Up”, and remixes mostly made up the shortfall. This meant that several rarities from this period remain exclusive to the CD editions, as the 7” and Cassette single pressings omitted these rarities on space grounds. Those formats are therefore superfluous to anyone other than the completists, and as such, these pressings are not shown in the list below. “Downside Up” does however include the live recordings that made it onto the b-side of the “O Baby” single, even though you could argue these are not “real” b-sides either.

The one “authentic” b-side of the “O Baby” 45, “B Side Ourselves”, was shoehorned into the band’s early 1995 UK tour, where the popularity of the band - at least within their core fan base - resulted in multiple shows having to be arranged within the capital. The band added a third date in London, a month or so after the tour finished, at The Forum, where the setlist was revamped slightly. I remember, as people now mostly knew what to expect (I‘m sure I wasn’t the only one who was seeing them in London for the second time that year), witnessing a mass exodus to the bar as the opening notes of the 10-minute-long title track rang out across the venue, whilst the group reintroduced an oldie into the encore to shake the set up a bit, which was 1981’s “Spellbound” - even at this stage in their career, the Banshees were never the sort of band you could expect to “play the hits”, so this was a bit of a bonus.

“Stargazer” was issued as the next single, and technically, remains the band’s final 45. CD1 included two new b-sides, and was housed in a fancy “glittery” digipack sleeve, whilst CD2 offered multiple remixes. Again, 7” and Cassette singles with most of the bonus tracks missing also exist. CD2 included a “Mark Saunders” remix which later made it onto “The Best Of”, but the remaining remixes from the period are still only available on the original release.

The Forum date was the last time I saw the band, and marked their final headline show in the UK. In mid 1996, just as The Pistols announced their return, The Banshees announced their split. The usual reasons were given, but it did almost feel as though the return of the Pistols seemed to cause a sort of chemical reaction, as if the band felt that they must have been going for too long, now that former contemporaries were reforming. It had been 20 years since that 100 Club gig, and the Banshees saw that as a good time to call it a day.

SINGLES

O Baby/B-Side Ourselves/O Baby (Manhattan Mix) (CD1, Wonderland SHECD 22, red text)
O Baby/Swimming Horses (Live, KROQ Acoustic Christmas 21.12.1991)/All Tomorrow’s Parties (Live, KROQ Acoustic Christmas 21.12.1991) (CD2, Wonderland SHEDD 22, orange text)
Stargazer/Hang Me High/Black Sun (CD1, Wonderland SHECD 23, “glittery” p/s)
Stargazer (LP Mix)/(Mambo Sun Mix)/(Planet Queen Mix)/(Mark Saunders Mix) (CD2, Wonderland SHEDD 23)


What Happened Next

In 2002, the Banshees reformed with the “Chandler” era lineup for a short reunion tour. Dubbed “The Seven Year Itch” in reference to the time that had passed since their last shows, two of the shows in London were recorded for a DVD and CD (Wonderland SANCD 157). The track listing varied slightly between the two editions.

The tour coincided with the Polydor endorsed “The Best Of”, which included a new song in the form of “Dizzy”. On the 2002 tour, a special “gig only” CD single of “Dizzy” was made available (Wonderland DIZZY 1), which played an alternate version to that found on the best of, where it was dubbed the “Version 1” mix. The compilation was a slightly random, and obviously incomplete, view of the band’s career, which included - uncredited - an alternate version of “This Wheel’s On Fire”. The inclusion of “Song From The Edge Of The World” on the double disc version meant that every stand alone Banshees 45 had appeared on one of the three best of releases, albeit not always in their original 7” form.

In the summer of 2004, “The Best Of” reappeared as a three disc release - the original CD, the remix CD from the limited edition pressing, and a (again, random) trawl through the band’s videos on a DVD (Polydor 06024 9819 8087). The inclusion of “Stargazer”, on all three discs, did at least show the story had been brought up to date post-”Twice Upon A Time”. In the time that had passed since the original 2002 release, McGeoch had passed away and the reissue featured a dedication to his memory inside.

2009 saw the release of “At The BBC” (Polydor 531 576-1), a magnificent 3-CD trawl through the band’s BBC sessions and ‘recorded by the Beeb‘ concerts, along with a DVD of TV performances. It included everything the band taped for John Peel, plus more, and thus superseded those “Peel Sessions” EPs and the “Voices On The Air” release from 2006, a release devoted to everything the band taped for Peel in the 70s and 80s. The set, strangely, grinds to a halt in 1991, meaning that things like the band’s “taped by the BBC” show at the Newcastle Mayfair in 1995 are not included.

2014 has seen things turn full circle, with a double 7” release of “Hong Kong Garden”, housed in a sleeve not too dissimilar to the original release (Polydor SBAN 35). The two tracks from the original have been joined by alternate takes of said songs - the “Thorn” version of “Voices”, and an alternate mix of “HKG” from the “Marie Antoinette” soundtrack.

Given that this is a band that have ceased to exist for over a decade, I can understand if any of you youngsters reading this might not understand what all the fuss is about. If not, then have a quick listen to Savages - not so much influenced by the Banshees, more a stones throw away from being a tribute act.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting: Part 7 - Late 90s, Early 00s


From a record collecting point of view, the UK market had an air of “vanilla” about it come late 1995. The restriction on the number of singles formats, coupled with the rise of the Double-CD single set, had more or less destroyed freedom of choice, with format number three often a tokenistic Cassette release with nothing unusual on music wise - released even though Cassettes were dipping in popularity. Over in the LP charts, vinyl and tape were also being marginalised, as CD’s offered extra tracks unable to be found on those editions.

By the start of 1996, Blur had started to run out of B-sides for “The Great Escape” promo campaign. Having sourced BBC recorded material for the flipsides of “Country House” and “The Universal” the previous year, there were no other suitable avenues to venture down in the vaults. As so it was that “Stereotypes”, issued early that year, became the first Blur 45 to actually appear on 45 for well over a year, as opposed to being issued on two CD editions. Issued the day before Valentines Day, “Stereotypes” was housed in a uniquely mocking ’Valentines’ cover pressed on pink vinyl, an obvious reference to the “wife swapping is the future” line in the song. OK, so the b-sides were nothing more than some, but not all, of the ones off the CD edition, a problem that had also afflicted the MC pressing of “Country House”, but the fact that it was actually out on vinyl, was possibly a sign that something was happening. Yes, it had “gimmick” written all over it, but in an age where the Compact Disc was striding across the globe like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, it was nice to see.

Of course, over in “proper” indie land, the 7” had never really gone away. Labels like Fierce Panda and Fantastic Plastic had continued to release singles on the format, often issuing them on 45 and nothing else, but now it seemed as though the mainstream was catching on. By the end of 1996, bands like Fluffy had taken to not only issuing 7” singles on coloured vinyl, but were also including “vinyl only B-sides” on some of their releases (see the black and white sleeved version of “Nothing”, with it‘s cover of “I‘m A Boy“ on side 2).

As the millennium approached, more and more bands began moving towards the 7” in order to use it as a home for spare flipsides. It became increasingly commonplace to abandon the Tape format altogether, and to try and get bands in the studio to record extra tracks to spread out across a vinyl pressing and two CD versions where possible, or at least issue a “gimmicky“ vinyl release pitched at the collectors market. All of the Blur singles from their self titled 1997 effort appeared as coloured vinyl 7s, whilst Sleeper’s “Romeo Me” was the recipient of a 7” with a unique B-side, which meant that when you added up the CD flipsides, resulted in no less than SEVEN new songs being released for the first time (well, remixes and alternate takes, but you get the drift). By the time 1998 came around, the chart regulators placed restrictions on the number of songs allowed per format (down from four to three), and this made the 7” even more important, as issuing something on this format allowed for more new B-sides to be released per 45 than if you didn‘t issue it on 7“. For anybody who hadn’t gone down this route already, now was the time to do so. If you didn’t, you were restricting the outlets upon which to shoehorn your new material. And so it was that vinyl only B-sides and coloured vinyl singles began flooding out, with everyone from The Divine Comedy (“Postcard To Rosie” on the back of “Generation Sex”) to Catatonia (the yellow vinyl “Road Rage”) turning to the humble 7” to help them hitch their latest efforts into the charts. Even a post-”Different Class” Pulp ended up reissuing a number of mid 90s singles on vinyl either for the first time (“Something Changed“), or on coloured vinyl second time around, almost as if they were apologising for not doing it in the first place, as if they had not been “indie” enough when these singles were first released commercially. Vinyl had made something of a hip comeback.

Meanwhile, in the dance/pop crossover land where Madonna was, the consensus was that if the 7” could have a comeback, then so could the 12”. “Frozen” was issued on the format, Madonna’s first vinyl release in the UK since mid 1995, although there was admittedly nothing on that edition that wasn’t on the CD. But it was a start, and Madonna 12” singles became the norm - again - from that point on. Furthermore, even the humble Cassette began fighting back, with both Madonna and The Divine Comedy issuing Tape-only flipsides before the end of 98. It was becoming increasing commonplace for the collectors to have to hunt down all three formats of a single, either to nab all the new b-sides, or to get all the flipsides plus a coloured vinyl pressing, irrelevant of who it was and which genre it slotted into.

That wasn’t all. Not widely reported was the existence in the mid 90s of the “non chart eligible” 12”, which was usually issued as a fourth format the week after the third one. But by 1998, it was becoming more common with, again, Ms Ciccone leading the way. Sometimes these releases would be simple “for the fans” style releases, offering nothing rare (“Drowned World”) but at other times, the format was used to stick out material that had failed to get on the other formats because of the chart rules governing ‘number of songs‘. And it wasn’t only the 12” format that was used, as “Ray Of Light” appeared on two CD editions, with the second one the non chart eligible one (the 12” pressing had been released beforehand as a standard pressing, and did count towards the charts).

Soon enough, anybody with a dance/pop crossover trait was getting in on the act. Many non chart eligible 12” releases began appearing with at least one new “mix” in situ, turning them into an essential purchase for even the slightly-hardcore-but-not-quite fan - see the 1999 PSB release of “I Don’t Know What You Want”. Furthermore, as these releases were not eligible for the charts, then the usual rules concerning how long they were and how many songs they had did not apply, and some of these releases began appearing as totally over the top pressings, such as the follow up PSB release “New York City Boy”, which appeared as a 5 track double 12” in a gatefold sleeve! Of course, it came with a price tag to match.

Why were the labels doing this? Well, they obviously figured that the cost of producing singles that were not going to help their chart position would be outweighed by the profits they would make if they sold them all. Previously, if UK chart rules had prevented a “US only” remix from being released, well, that was the way it was - but now, this was a way around it. By the mid noughties, everyone from Beyonce to Goldfrapp, and Depeche Mode to - yes - Blur were getting in on it.

It wasn’t quite like this in the LP world. Eventually, the Cassette died out, whilst most vinyl pressings had an air of “retro-ness” to them - rarely would a vinyl album include something unique, and when one was pressed, it was usually on heavy vinyl, cost more than the CD, and seemed like a niche format, rather than one the record company were really encouraging you to buy - over in the singles charts, the marketing of the 12” single seemed more “in your face”, but vinyl albums now had a cult feel to them. It was sometimes difficult to know if they even existed, as smaller HMVs tended to hide them away so you couldn’t easily find them. Some vinyl pressings included extra tracks and/or unique mixes of selected songs (such as Pulp’s 1998 offering “This Is Hardcore”) but more often than not, there was some limited edition CD pressing or “tour edition” reissue knocking about, which included songs completely absent from the vinyl edition, which thus made it rather defunct. Every so often, an album would appear on coloured vinyl, or with a free 7” single inside (see another Catatonia release, “Equally Cursed And Blessed“), but really, the album world was being so dominated by the Compact Disc, that most vinyl albums from the period were often of interest to completists only. This explains why some of the pressings from this period are now worth huge amounts of money, as relatively few were pressed because demand had dropped so much.

Come 2000, and the singles market was overflowing with multiple formats, multiple B-sides, and multiple everything. Singles containing nothing but remixes of the a-side were again allowed to play for longer than one without, and when you thus bought one that had been multiformatted, it meant you ended up with about 80 minutes worth of mixes across two discs (see Dannii’s late 90s effort “Disrememberance” as one such example). Pop acts meanwhile decided to resurrect the Tape format for the singles market, with the likes of Atomic Kitten not just issuing Cassette pressings, but including MC-only B-sides and remixes on the format as well. By 2001, format number three could be either a 7”, 12”, Tape or even a DVD (more about that next month) - and virtually every time, there would be something on that format that wasn’t on the CD pressings. The usual trick on the 12” was to include at least one “non-CD” remix (see J Lo’s “I’m Real”) and when you then factored in the existence of a fourth non chart eligible release, well, you can see how much product was being tossed out. Madonna even issued the likes of “American Pie” on not one, nor two, but THREE non chart eligible releases, done by the label to try and maximise profits from somebody who they knew would “sell”.

Ultimately, this was going to cause problems. I remember one day coming out of HMV having purchased all of the required formats for singles released by people I liked for the week. It totalled something ridiculous like £70. I wasn’t even going to play some of these singles, whilst there was at least one 12” in the pile with it’s “vinyl only mix” that was thus only going to be on the turntable for about eight minutes. This was a lot of money to pay for songs that, in reality, were unlikely to improve my quality of life. The labels were basically making me spend money on things that had they not existed in the first place, I wouldn’t have missed. It did feel as though some sort of line had been crossed, that the “vanilla” scene of 1995 had been replaced by a completely over the top approach to the singles market, where not only was each format being pushed at the consumer, but was being done by offering something “unique” each time, making you feel guilty if you refused to buy it. As somebody who loved lots of bands and lots of singers, this meant the total outlay per week on new 45’s - and albums, new and old - had increased significantly. It was only my “ever increasing credit limit” on the credit card that actually allowed me to buy these things, at no point was “real cash” being used to cover these costs. Something had to give eventually, and we shall look at how the industry tried to fix this in a future article. In the next two blogs, we shall look at two of the new formats that came in post-1999 that helped confuse matters even more - one that eventually failed abysmally, and the one that took the album market to a higher state of unit shifting insanity.