the jason shergold music collector site
Wednesday, 18 November 2015
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 November 2015 edition is now online, with a look at Led Zeppelin.
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 form the whole article. And also check out my online photo collection of tour t-shirts, the accurately titled "Rock & Roll T Shirts" by clicking here: rockandrolltshirts.smugmug.com.
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
Badly Drawn Boy - November 2014
The Beatles - September 2011 / March 2015
The Beautiful South - December 2014
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 / September 2014
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
Echobelly - February 2015
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
Led Zeppelin - November 2015
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 / August 2015
Mansun - August 2011
Dannii Minogue - September 2011
The Moody Blues - October 2015
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
Prince - January 2015
Pulp - August 2011
Queen - December 2010 / September 2011
Lou Reed - September 2015
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 / October 2014 / May 2015
Suede - August 2011
Sugababes - August 2012
Super Furry Animals - September 2014
Supergrass - August 2014
TRex - December 2010
Theaudience - August 2011
Thin Lizzy - February 2013
The Thrills - June 2015
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
Paul Weller - December 2014
The Who - May 2010 / August 2012 / July 2013
Kim Wilde - October 2013
Yes - July 2015
Neil Young - April 2015
Blogger can have a mind of it's own at times, so if you click on a year and get NO menu, click on the arrow next to the year, and you should get the list of months for that year to help you navigate a bit easier. To return to the homepage, you can click on the tab for the current year. Several blogs are in production, with articles on Madonna and The Stranglers 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!
There are a number of things about Led Zepp, apart from the music, that are quite interesting. The fact that they were formed as an incarnation of another already existing group, the fact that they refused to release any singles in the UK, the fact that they never played a gig north of Watford after 1973, the fact that they have issued not one but three “untitled” records, and the fact that they have just completed a reissue campaign which was at times so underwhelming, it makes you wonder why they bothered. More of that later on.
The band’s reputation as possible originators of heavy metal - a claim that, if it were me, I would attempt to disprove - or at least, as one of the leading lights of “hard rock”, is undisputed, and up until the end of the 70s, the group had released a series of solid, and sometimes spectacular, records upon which their legacy was built. This is a brief little overview of what was a relatively short career, but one which has had a long lasting impact. Because the UK discography is relatively simple, eight studio albums, one posthumous single, and a few other bits and pieces, catalogue numbers for each release are shown in the main article itself. This will relate to the original release, be it vinyl, CD or DVD, and the 2014/15 reissue campaign will be mentioned at the very end.
The band’s origins go back to 1967, when guitarist Jimmy Page joined The Yardbirds in time for the release of their “Little Games” album. By 1968, the band had more or less broken up, but there was the small issue of an already scheduled European tour on the cards. Page was given the nod to put together a new line up of the band to fulfil these dates, and the band were to be renamed “The New Yardbirds”. Imagine going to see the “New Oasis” and realising it consists just of Bonehead and four other random people. Anyway, this new version of the band was completed with the hiring of singer Robert “Percy” Plant, bass player John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham, through various contacts that Page had, and a concert setlist consisting heavily of covers was put together, alongside the odd old Yardbirds hit, such as “For Your Love“. “Dazed And Confused”, which the original Yardbirds had covered in concert, remained in the set, and a revamped (and re-credited) version would appear on the first Zeppelin album.
Even though The New Yardbirds had been put together to complete the outstanding tour dates, the chemistry that the band members found between themselves as soon as they had done their first rehearsal was regarded as something special. This encouraged them to consider making this a full blown career, rather than just be used as a contractual obligation duty, and after the tour was finished, the group decided to go into the studio to record an LP. A UK tour was also scheduled, and initial dates under “The New Yardbirds” banner were played in October 1968, but the consensus is that the arrangement Page had been granted had just been to complete the European tour, and so when word filtered through of the continued existence of the ‘Yardbirds’ to former member Chris Dreja, the band were informed that a name change would be required. By November 1968, the group had been re-christened Led Zeppelin, although Page has quoted in some interviews that he wanted to change the name anyway to showcase this band as being quite separate from his old one. The name was derived from the phrase ’going down like a lead balloon’, in reference to a conversation Page had had with The Who’s John Entwistle during the final years of the “Old” Yardbirds, about Page’s desire to form a super group with members of The Who and Jeff Beck.
The band’s debut LP, simply titled “Led Zeppelin” (LP, Atlantic 588 171) surfaced in 1969. The band’s R&B roots appear quite heavily across the record, although John Paul Jones’ organ arrangement on “Your Time Is Gonna Come” helps to move this record away from what could otherwise have been just another UK band having yet another stab at traditional US music once again. That, and Page’s guitar histrionics, Bonham’s powerhouse drums, and Plant’s vocal range, help to lift the album‘s quality above that of, say, the first Moody Blues record. I don’t go back to this record as often as some of the others, but when I do, I realise that this is actually a very good beginning to a career that would really blossom on future releases - the blues is in there, but thankfully isn’t of snore-some modern-day Clapton stylings, but is a version spiced with psychedelic splashes, and pure rock and roll noise. Just check out “Communication Breakdown”.
The wheel wasn’t completely reinvented on “Led Zeppelin II” (LP, Atlantic 588198), issued later the same year, but there was an element of the sound being ’expanded’ - the gargantuan roar of “Whole Lotta Love”, the quiet bit loud bit thrill of “What Is And What Should Never Be”, the warped R&B of “The Lemon Song” with it’s famous squeezing the lemon lyric, and the closing “Bring It On Home”, where Percy’s vocals sound like they were recorded on a tape deck where the heads hadn’t been cleaned beforehand for about 50 years. Despite the “no singles” rule in the UK, the overseas arms of the band’s label didn’t comply with this instruction, and by now, the issuing of 45’s in other countries had helped cement the band’s reputation in the USA and beyond, with the likes of “Whole Lotta Love” turning the group into worldwide superstars. An edited version of this track was made available on radio station promos.
“Led Zeppelin III” (LP, Atlantic 2401 002), from 1970, is notable not only for it’s “wheel” artwork, but the fact that the band more or less completely changed direction here, creating an album that was heavily, heavily indebted to acoustic and folk music. You can’t find a single person with a bad word to say about Zepp nowadays, but apparently, back then, the music press hated them, and when they heard this one, hated them even more because of it‘s musical about turn. It’s now seen as a defining moment in rock and roll history, the point at which the Zepp began to make themselves harder to categorize, and helping to make folk-rock no longer be seen as a dirty word. That said, the opening number is still the best, the electrified primal roar that is “Immigrant Song”.
From many, myself included, it‘s the fourth album which was the first real Zepp classic - and is probably still the best. Famously issued without a title as an apparent two fingered salute to the music critics, the appearance of four symbols on the cover and the fact this was the next release after “Zepp 3“ explains why everybody and their dog refers to their 1971 album release as “Led Zeppelin IV” (LP, Atlantic 2401 012). Home to the much scoffed at, but epically awesome madness that is “Stairway To Heaven”, this record rocks hard - the snarling double whammy opener of “Black Dog” and “Rock And Roll”, the organ driven throb of “Misty Mountain Hop”, the acoustic swirl of the sublime “Going To California” and the thunderous pounding of “When The Levee Breaks”, where Bonham’s drums sound like they have been transported in from the depths of hell, this is a record that hipsters might want to try and moan about, but it really is as good as it’s reputation suggests. As a live band, the Zepp were now starting to move away from clubs and theatres to bigger and bolder venues, and the era of stadium rock was starting to dawn.
But the music still remained good for the next few albums. 1973‘s “Houses Of The Holy” (LP, Atlantic K 50014) may well have been home to the awful cod-reggae of “D’Yer Maker” (a reminder that, along with UB40, you should really leave this sort of stuff to the experts - or at least, to The Clash), but was also home to the storming rock of “The Song Remains The Same”, the melodic beauty of “The Rain Song” or the keyboard twizzles of the majestic “No Quarter”. Such was the quality of what made this set, was that they left the (potential) title track off the LP altogether. The group headed out on tour, and were now firmly established as arena conquering rock beasts. They played three shows at New York’s Madison Square Gardens, which were filmed for a potential concert film, only for the concept to be temporarily shelved. There was no UK tour conducted in support of the record, the band’s last UK gig having been back in January (two months before the album’s release) at the modestly sized Preston Guildhall. For some, the retrospective view here is that this was the beginning of the end.
The aforementioned recording of “Houses Of The Holy“, the song, was resurrected for the band’s 1975 release “Physical Graffiti” (2xLP, Swan Song SSK 89400). The first release by the band on their own, newly formed, record label, and again housed in a fancy sleeve (a die cut front cover, displaying a house, which allowed you to alter what you could see through the windows), it’s regarded by many who don’t view the fourth LP as the bona fide classic, as the bona fide classic. It’s a sprawling affair, being a double album, and was split more or less half and half between newly recorded material, and older outtakes, brushed off and given a tarting up. But repeated listens only help to reveal it’s brilliance, be it the boogie woogie fun of “Boogie With Stu”, the strutting funk of “Trampled Underfoot” or the enormous, gargantuan, roar of “Kashmir”, a song so massively huge, it makes the entire AC/DC back catalogue sound like Belle And Sebastian.
So popular were the Zepp, the consensus was, in their homeland at least, that there were simply no venues big enough around the provinces of the UK to house them if they wished to tour. So their UK “tour” to promote the album consisted of a 5-night residency at London’s Earls Court. At the time, the idea of a band holing themselves up in a single venue was considered highly unusual, and promo material was designed to try and sell this to people as an “event” - fans from across the UK were encouraged to take the train to visit the band play in the capital. A novel idea at the time, but a sure-fire sign that Zeppelin were effectively starting to get ‘too big’, and that the era of mega acts just playing in London as part of their so-called “World Tour” was slowly emerging.
A planned tour outside the UK to promote the album was cancelled when Plant was involved in a car crash in August 1975, which left him with serious injuries which took some time to heal. Plant was still in a wheelchair as the band began work on a new studio album instead several months later, released the following March as “Presence” (LP, Swan Song SSK 59402). It again came in a quite iconic sleeve, with a number of slightly surrealistic images of people being photographed with a strange black obelisk shaped object sitting in front of them, known as “The Object“. Critics were rather harsh on the record, which is strange, given that it is home to the stop-start groove of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and the monumental blast of opener “Achilles Last Stand”. With a tour impossible to conduct, due to the slow recovery of Plant from his injuries, attention instead turned to the “postponed” 1973 concert film. By the end of the year, footage from the gigs had been turned into the movie “The Song Remains The Same”. Given that home video was yet to be properly invented, a soundtrack album was created so fans could buy some form of document to tie in with the event (2xLP, Swan Song SSK 89402). The LP wasn’t quite a genuine soundtrack, as several songs featured in the film were absent from the record (and vice versa) whilst some of the songs that did appear on both versions were sourced from different shows for the different formats. Critics again were harsh, as were band members, none of whom felt it captured the full blown Zeppelin concert experience. It did, if nothing else, officially document the elongated versions of “Dazed And Confused” that the band played in concert, with the version here weighing in at 27 minutes in length.
By 1977, Plant and the band were ready to tour again, and conducted a tour of North America. Plans to play in the UK were not considered, as UK tax legislation had been set at such high levels for high earners, that the band would have played the entire tour at a complete loss - the days of gigging at the Dagenham Roundhouse were now over. Given that the band’s last album was now a year old, the group only played a handful of songs from it, and instead opted for a sort of greatest hits set instead. But barely two years after Plant’s car accident, disaster struck again. A fortnight before the tour was due to finish, Plant received news that his son back in the UK had died of a stomach infection. The remaining five dates were immediately cancelled, and the Zepp were back on hold again as Plant flew back to the UK.
In late 1978, the band reconvened to record what would be their eighth, and final, studio album. Legend goes that neither Bonham nor Page were in great shakes health wise, and that the album was heavily driven along by Plant and Jones. This goes someway to explaining why the album seems a bit guitar-lite, and why some of us are a bit under whelmed by “In Through The Out Door” (LP, Swan Song SSK 59410), which was released in late summer 1979. Bizarrely, for an album released in the seventies, it seems to almost be an indicator of how bland and over-produced music would become in the EIGHTIES, the record was sort of ahead of it’s time but in a bad way. Yes, the keyboard driven buzz of “Carouselambra” is quite thrilling, and the retro rock and roll of “Hot Dog” is fun, but the polished AOR sound of “In The Evening” and “All My Love” sound completely out of place when compared to anything the Zepp had done before.
The LP was housed in another fascinating sleeve, a brown paper bag designed to give it the look of a bootleg album (a bit odd, given that it was simply the new studio LP). Inside, there was a piece of black and white artwork which - and god knows why anybody decided to do this - would colour itself in if it was washed in water. The album was being seen as the Zepp’s big comeback, and the band announced a comeback gig at the ludicrously large Knebworth Park for August 1979 (to be preceded by some smaller shows in Copenhagen the month before). Despite having not played in the UK since 1975, and with punk having threatened to get rid of them, the Zepp were still hugely popular, and the show sold out. A second gig was lined up at the same venue, but for the following weekend, and although the plan was to release the album in time for the shows, technical hitches meant that by the time the band hit the Knebworth stage for the first time, the LP was still on the “to be released” schedules, and eventually surfaced after the second Knebworth show.
The Knebworth shows may well have shown how monumentally big the band were, but the Zepp themselves were unhappy with the gigs, feeling that it was too big a venue to conduct a comeback, that the crowd didn't feel fully involved, and that the band themselves were a bit shaky. But it was all supposed to be the start of the rehabilitation of the band, and in 1980, a tour of Europe was lined up. Beginning with a show in Dortmund on 17th June 1980, the band adopted a new approach - a shorter setlist, and a more stripped back style, an attempt to try and get away from the excesses of the more recent shows, and a throwback to the band’s more intimate club roots. The final show was in West Berlin on 7th July.
A US tour was due next, with the first dates due to take place that October. Rehearsals were scheduled for September, but early on in proceedings, John Bonham died from asphyxiation, caused by a heavy drinking session during the previous 24 hours. He was found by band mate Jones, and immediately, any plans to continue with the planned tour were abandoned. With the band having had no line up changes thus far, things were not going to change now, and in December 1980, the band issued a press statement announcing that Led Zeppelin were no more.
In 1982, as a sort of official “signing off”, the band issued the short but sweet outtakes album “Coda” (LP, Swan Song A 0051). It consisted of what the band claimed were the only outtakes left in the vaults, along with some live recordings and alternate versions of previously available songs. Most of the second half of the LP consisted of outtakes from the sessions for “In Through The Out Door” and were so good, you wondered how these had been overlooked in favour of some of what did make the grade. The band reformed briefly in 1985 for the US leg of Live Aid, with Phil Collins and ex-Chic drummer Tony Thompson standing in for Bonham. The performance was regarded by the band as being nothing short of shambolic, and when a DVD release of the event was being put together twenty years later, the band refused to allow any part of their set to be used, and instead donated a sum of money to charity to make up for any shortcomings their lack of involvement might have had on the release. Bootlegs of the performance do exist, whilst high quality audio clips are also floating around, helped by the fact that BBC Radio 1 included part of the band’s set in remixed form on their “Live Aid: 10 Years On” show in 1995.
By the end of the eighties, the Zepp had briefly reformed once more - with John’s son Jason on drums - in 1988 for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary show, although once again, the band were slightly unhappy with their performance. The band’s back catalogue was also issued on CD. By 1990, Page had been tasked with the remastering of the band’s recordings, and a selection of his results were issued on an untitled boxset issued later that year - housed in a sleeve depicting a take on the famous alien ‘crop circles’ phenomenon of the time, it was later followed by a release called “Boxed Set 2”, so we shall refer to this one as “Boxed Set” (4xCD, Atlantic 7567 82144-5). It ran in more or less chronological order, but was designed actually to work as a vinyl or cassette release, and so certain songs were placed ‘out of sync’ so that they could open or close a particular side of the record. It included four rarities - previously unreleased performances of “Travelling Riverside Blues” and “White Summer / Black Mountain Side”, both lifted from BBC session performances, and a hybrid mash up of the two Bonham drum showcases, “Moby Dick” and “Bonzo’s Montreux”, originally to be found on “Led Zeppelin 3” and “Coda”. There was also a B-side, not bad for a band who didn’t “do” singles, “Hey Hey What Can I Do”, which had slipped out in overseas territories on the flip of the “Immigrant Song” 45 and was thus making it’s UK debut here. An edited highlights set, “Remasters” (2xCD, Atlantic 7567 80415-2) was issued before the end of the year, also in a “crop circles” style sleeve, which made no attempt at all to include any of the rarities this time around. “TRB”, by the way, saw another set of lemon squeezing lyrics, for those of you who like to know about such stuff.
The aforementioned “Boxed Set 2” (2xCD, Atlantic 7567 82477-2) surfaced in 93, with another variant on the crop circle imagery on it’s cover. It’s main duty was to sweep up all of the band’s remaining recorded (studio) output that hadn’t made it onto the first box, and also came with an ’incentive purchase’ track in the form of the previously unreleased “Baby Come On Home”. It was followed by the career spanning “The Complete Studio Recordings” (10xCD, Atlantic 7-82526 2), a US only import according to Discogs, which did what it said on the tin - reissues of all eight studio albums and “Coda” (it’s 10 discs because, of course, “Physical Graffiti” was a double album). The version of “Coda” included here was expanded to include the two BBC tracks from “Boxed Set”, “Hey Hey What Can I Do” and “Baby Come On Home”. The Bonham mash up was left off presumably because it was not a ’proper’ song. The individual albums were then reissued and were, until last year, the latest versions available in the shops, and were identified by their “remastered” legend on the left hand side of the cover.
I can’t remember the exact reasoning behind why “Whole Lotta Love” (CD single, Atlantic AT 0013CD) was issued as a 45 in the UK in 1997. Perhaps it was in a advert, or it had won a “greatest ever riff” poll, I really don’t recall. But appear as a single it did, with a newly created radio edit that was shorter than the LP mix, but longer than the original shortened version that had been created for the original overseas single and promo releases in 69/70. Nothing massively rare appeared as b-sides, “Travelling Riverside Blues” from the first box, and “Baby Come On Home” from the second. All copies of the single were numbered, but in those days, physical singles still sold in big numbers, so thousands of copies were pressed. The same year saw the release of “BBC Sessions” (2xCD, Atlantic 7567 83061-2), which compiled most - but not all - of the recordings the band made for the BBC in 1969 on disc 1, with disc 2 devoted to the band’s heavily bootlegged BBC “In Concert” show at the Paris Theatre in London on 1st April 1971. The band were simply ‘too big’ to return to the Beeb in later years, and so whilst the release is incomplete, it still offers a fairly decent overview of the band’s visits to the Corporation in those couple of years.
After a couple of slightly pointless best of sets in the early 00’s, “Early Days” and “Latter Days” (later compiled into a box set - 2xCD, Atlantic 7567 83619 2), the Zepp once again rose back up over the parapet in 2003 with some more new material. First up was another anonymously titled release, the band’s debut DVD release, which usually gets referred to as “Led Zeppelin DVD” (2xDVD, Warner Music Vision 0349 70198-2), which included TV show footage and gig performances from across the band’s entire career, including footage of the Earls Court and Knebworth shows. It was issued at the same time as a new live album, “How The West Was Won” (2xCD, Atlantic 7567 83587 9), an attempt to try and capture the live Led Zepp sound in a way that “The Song Remains The Same” had failed to do - it was compiled from shows the band had played in the USA in June 1972.
In December 2007, the band reformed for another one off show. Their first since the often overlooked reunion at the 1995 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, it was the band’s first full length show since Knebworth, but was another charity event, meaning tickets were only available through a lottery style random selection process. Another best of set, “Mothership” (2xCD, Swan Song 8122 79961 5) had been issued in the run up to the reunion, alongside a revamped DVD reissue of “The Song Remains The Same” (DVD, Warner Brothers Z5 72654) - the CD edition of the soundtrack was also reissued in slightly reworked form.
After yet another boxset release in 2008 of the band’s studio output (essentially a retitled repressing of the 1993 box), it all finally went quiet. The 2007 reunion show was finally issued on a variety of formats, all taking the basic gig and spreading it across multiple discs, one of the more bog standard being the 3 disc set released in 2012 as “Celebration Day” (2xCD + DVD, Swan Song 8122 79688-7), before it all went quiet again.
Until last year. Despite having said thirty odd years before that there was really nothing in the vaults, the band announced a complete expanded reissue of their back catalogue (or at least, “Coda” and the eight studio efforts) in 2014. How were you to expand an album which supposedly spawned no outtakes? Simple, just offer “different” versions of songs everybody knew. Simples!
And so, starting in the summer of 2014, we got bigger versions of albums with the promise of nothing particularly new. Aside from regular LP and CD reissues of the original albums, there were double disc releases planned (or, in the case of the already double “Physical Graffiti”, a triple) with the extra disc being a “companion” disc upon which alternate versions of material on the regular album were placed, with both expanded CD and Vinyl editions available. The nine albums appeared in chunks, with the first three albums surfacing in June 2014, and “Presence”, “In Through The Out Door” and “Coda” being released just a few months ago. Aside from the four already mentioned formats, each album was also due to appear as a £100 rated super deluxe boxset, which would simply include the double album, double CD and a fancy book. Pointless really, but with the design of each due to be “similar” in style, I guess, anybody with £1000 to spare would find it quite nice buying them all to put next to each other on a shelf.
Given that I already had most of the Zepp’s albums by this point, I gave most of them a miss - but Wikipedia helpfully has a dedicated page to the reissues which explains what you were getting for your cash. Certain albums had a different approach, “Led Zepp 1” features a period gig from the time mostly consisting of tracks from the debut, whereas “Led Zepp 2” features mostly alternate studio mixes of the same songs.
In most instances, the companion disc had a running time that was fairly brief, I guess, so that the material could be easily housed on a single slab of vinyl for the LP versions, meaning that for “Physical Graffiti”, reissued in isolation in Feb 2015, the 80-odd minute album still only came with 40 minutes of extras. The band did get a bit of a knocking for offering what were, at times, barely altered mixes when compared to the original - indeed, I bought a deluxe “ITTOD” and thought that my companion disc was mispressed because it sounded so similar to the original. However, this reissue offered an genuine “alternate album”, the same LP (ie. Identical track timings) but with variant mixes - it’s just a shame some of these variant mixes have sound differences so difficult to spot, even my dogs couldn’t hear them. Despite some songs appearing with totally different titles suggesting they were work in progress versions of the completed songs, they are not - “The Hook” is simply a mono mix of “All My Love”, codeword for “sounding muffled”. Whether this mix was produced at the time for a genuine, proper reason, or if it was just Page having to make something up to fill up the disc, I really don’t know. The sheer pointlessness of it all is, in a way, admirable.
However, the band did push the boat out a bit for the “Coda” reissue. Although they cheated a bit by selling this as “the only reissue to feature TWO companion discs”, the running time of each was designed to balance out with the original - ie. Each disc is only about half an hour long, so even though all the bonuses could have been squeezed onto a single disc, you get asked to pay over the odds for a triple album. Cheeky sods. However, because the original album was an outtakes set, Page made the decision here to use the bonus discs to provide a “history” of the band, and as such, as well as getting alternate takes of “Coda” material, you also get alternate takes of stuff from across the board, such as a “rough mix” version of “When The Levee Breaks”. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.
In theory, the deluxe reissues should put a lid on the Zeppelin history books. It’s unlikely, given that record companies have in recent years become obsessed with repackaging their heritage acts, knowing full well any old tat will sell. Just look at the now annual Dylan outtakes albums. Anyway, that’s not the point here. The point is the Zepp have now been brought back into the public eye again, and in doing so, you can see where Royal Blood got half their ideas from (the other half being Queens Of The Stone Age). There is no doubting that, whilst they are possibly hero worshipped a bit too much by some - still lagging behind The Who in my books - they made some damn fine records, and in some respects, Percy’s decision not to reform is quite honorable. They are not in danger of tarnishing their reputation by staying dead and buried, as it’s difficult to see how a reformed Zepp could ever record another “Kashmir” or “Stairway” or “Levee” - monumental pieces of rock and roll, which helped move them into the upper echelons of music history.
Wednesday, 14 October 2015
The Moodies are another one of those bands who, after a split many years ago, have reformed and are still going, albeit in a slightly altered form. And, like the Quo, Deep Purple and Yes, they are another one of those reformed bands who don’t quite do it for me nowadays. This may be because, between 1967 and 1971, The Moody Blues released a run of six - yep, count ‘em - six absolutely stunning albums, an incredible workrate which produced a series of prog rock classics that rarely drop below levels of utter genius. So it’s always been hard to equate the quality of the material that this version of the band produced, with the one that did bouncy pop like “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” a decade or two later on.
But let’s not worry about what they are doing at the moment, and instead concentrate on the first incarnation(s) of the group.
The first line up of the band consisted of Mike Pinder on keyboards, Ray Thomas on flute and percussion, Graeme Edge on drums, Clint Warwick on bass, and future Wings member Denny Laine as their guitarist and lead singer. They were signed to Decca Records and released their debut single in 1964. Over the next couple of years, the band recorded a sizeable chunk of material, enough to fill up nearly seven singles as well as a debut LP, “The Magnificent Moodies”. Most of these releases failed to do much, a handful dented the top 40, but the album failed to chart in the UK at all. However, their cover of “Go Now”, released as their second 45 in late 64, gave them - statistically - their biggest ever hit, as it went to the top of the UK singles charts. Not even “Nights In White Satin” managed that.
The band’s sound was best categorised as R&B, or a Brummie-version of Merseybeat, and half of the debut album was covers of US R&B, with versions of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and old James Brown records. The band’s US label revamped the album, issuing it in a different cover and replacing several of the songs with material that had been issued in the UK on 45. But by 1966, the group were still struggling to make any real commercial headway, and mid 66 saw the departure of Clint Warwick from the group. He was replaced by Rod Clark, but by the end of the year, Clark had also walked along with, quite crucially, Denny Laine.
Decca continued to issue material by the band - the stand alone 45 “Boulevard De La Madelaine” was released in the UK as their next single, and in France as the lead track on an EP, which also included a previously unreleased track called “People Gotta Go”. There was plenty of more “Mark 1” material already in the can, but after a hyper rare release for “Life’s Not Life” in early 1967, the decision was taken to head in a different direction.
The band’s “classic” lineup was formed in late 1966 by the arrival of new bassist John Lodge, and singer and guitarist Justin Hayward. Initially, the change was gradual - the band remained signed to Decca, and their first single with Hayward, “Fly Me High”, was a flop, which even included an “old style” flipside in the form of “Really Haven’t Got The Time” - it dated from the Mark 1 sessions for the abandoned second album, but was appearing here in a re-recorded form by the new lineup. A second Decca 45, “Love And Beauty”, continued to showcase the band’s move away from their slightly simplistic R&B roots, but was still another non-hit.
The story of how the Moodies went from primitive R&B groovers into space-rock pioneers is open to question, but the legend goes that the group, after all these flop records, were in debt to Decca. Decca sound engineers had been working on a method of trying to improve the sound of new fangled stereo recordings, and had developed something called “Decca Panoramic Sound”. An offshoot label, formed from the title of this invention was launched as Deram, and the Moodies were allegedly approached by Decca with an offer - they would write off the debt, if the Moodies agreed to record an album that could be mixed in - what was now being called - the “Deramic Sound System”. A number of orchestral albums were due to be issued in this way in late 67, and Decca wanted the band to collaborate with their own in-house orchestra to create a rock/classic hybrid album.
Apparently, the plan was to record an adaptation of the classical piece “Symphony No 9”, but that once in the studio, the band simply set about recording an album of completely original songs, although the move from Decca to Deram did happen, and the “Deramic Sound System” logo appeared on the next album cover. The in-house orchestra, dubbed the “London Festival Orchestra”, did appear on this album as planned, but there remains scepticism about the backstory of the record, with some sources stating that the plan to record the symphony was something that was later talked about with the band in the 1970s.
Either way, album number two was issued in November 1967 - the ground breaking “Days Of Future Passed”, seen by some as the originator of the ‘concept LP’, more so than “Tommy” or “SF Sorrow”. It represented a mind boggling leap forward from the debut album, and was designed to showcase a typical 24 hour day. The album consisted of seven “pieces” of music, starting with “The Day Begins”, going through “Dawn“, “The Morning“, “Lunch Break“, “The Afternoon“, “Evening” and ending with “The Night”. Each of these pieces included at least one original piece of Moodies music, alongside a short orchestral section written by Peter Knight. The orchestral sections were designed to link each of the songs together, so that the album ran continuously across both sides of the record, but - like Deep Purple’s later “Concerto For Group And Orchestra” - the rock/classical hybrid was not perfect, as at no point did the band and the orchestra actually appear on the same individual song together...the nearest we got was that the LP mix of “Nights In White Satin” (which formed most of “The Night”) concluded with a Knight conducted orchestral flourish, something totally absent from the single mix.
There are moments of genius throughout - the opening and closing sections feature Graeme Edge poems narrated by Mike Pinder, both of which feature lines about the “cold hearted orb” - ie. The Moon. By repeating these lines at the end of “The Night”, it successfully brings the album full circle. And then we have the sheer beauty of “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)”, later issued as an edited overseas 45, the punchy bounce of “Peak Hour”, the growling piano driven roar of “Twilight Time” - this is a genuine masterpiece, and gave the band the commercial break through they deserved.
It was the first of seven albums to be issued with this lineup of the band before their mid 70s “split”, and the start of a run of much loved LP’s that sometimes get referred to as the “Core 7”. Each of these albums would usually follow a theme of sorts, although none were as explicitly spelt out as “Days Of Future Passed” had been. 1968 saw the release of the second of the “Core 7”, “In Search Of The Lost Chord”. It came housed in a gatefold sleeve, something that would become par for the course for the next few years, with a suitably proggy front cover. Again, the music was often spectacular - the romping pop of “Ride My See Saw”, the trippy pop of “Legend Of A Mind”, the spaced out psych of “The Best Way To Travel”, the hippyish, Indianesque rumble of the closing “Om” - this was light years away from “Go Now“. As per “Days”, the songs cross faded into one another to produce what were effectively two long pieces of uninterrupted music. This was music designed to be listened to in one setting. Please do not let me catch you streaming “part of it”. This cross fading trick would be repeated on future releases in the “Core 7” series.
1969’s “On The Threshold Of A Dream” was the first of five albums to be issued in gatefold sleeves whose full artwork was only revealed when the gatefold was fully folded out. In true proggy “respect the artwork” style, the track listing was completely absent from the back cover, and the inside had a posh lyric booklet. Yet again, the music was often flawless. The album title provided inspiration for the band, who then formed their own Threshold Records imprint, and issued their second LP of the year on their “new” label in late 69, “To Our Children’s Children’s Children”, which was home to the sublime “Watching And Waiting”, and several numbers which appeared separately throughout the record but which were ’linked’ (the two parts of “Eyes Of A Child”, along with side 1‘s “I Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Hundred” and side 2’s “I Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Million”).
On the subsequent tour, the band found it almost impossible to recreate any of this material on stage, such was the psychedelic complexity of it all, and so decided to “scale it back” for 1970’s “A Question Of Balance”, which was designed as a more ’rock and roll’ album. The artwork was still gloriously OTT, this time in a portrait-gatefold sleeve (ie. designed to be opened out and folded downwards, not left to right), and was home to the enormo-hit “Question”, a gloriously raucous acoustic guitar driven semi-orchestral romp, that despite being part of the new scaled back sound, was still as brilliantly noisy and anthemic as anything that had come before.
1971 gave us “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour”, it’s title derived from the EGBDF mnemonic ’music’ formula, which like some of it’s predecessors (“Departure“ on “Lost Chord“, the robotic madness of “In The Beginning“ on “Threshold“), opened with a short but sweet introductory number designed to sort of wind the album up from a standstill, this time around being the big booming mostly instrumental proggy growl that was “Procession”, in which the band slowly chanted the words “Desolation, creation, communication”, before launching into the ultra-pop throb of “The Story In Your Eyes”. Glorious stuff. This particular song was issued as single, which like many of the band’s post-”White Satin” 45’s, was a spectacular flop. It was almost as if the band were seen by their fan base as a genuine “albums act”, what with all those bonkers opening numbers, concept album features and constant cross-fading, and these singles were not how you were ’supposed’ to listen to the band.
Now, you would need to ask my sister - who had bought all of the “Core 7” records pretty much when they first came out up until this point - as to why she never bothered with “Seventh Sojourn”, the band’s eighth LP but only their seventh with Hayward, hence the title. I eventually tracked it down in a charity shop years later. It may be psychological, having listened to her collection of the other records in the “Core 7” many many times for many many years before, but I’ve never gone back and listened to this one as much as the previous six. “Uncut” apparently only gave it two out of five, so perhaps she didn’t buy it at the time because it was seen as patchy, and maybe I don’t play it a lot because I think it must be patchy. But it does feature the complex pomp of “Isn’t Life Strange”, all wobbly vocal madness in the verses, followed by big, grandiose, mega-ness in the choruses. And you also get the harmony driven glory of “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band”, where more or less everybody in the group takes lead vocals AT THE SAME TIME and follows The Byrds’ own “So You Wanna Be A Rock And Roll Star” in proclaiming the slight pointlessness of rock and roll music, and was reportedly written to deflate their fans own view of the band, who allegedly saw them as music messiahs who had mystical healing powers, so I am told (see Wikipedia). The LP went top 5, and “Singer” dented the top 40, but “Nights In White Satin” was still floating around like an albatross, and repressed copies of the original 1967 release sold in such high numbers after a Deram driven promo campaign, that it made it into the top 10. It even went top 20 again as part of a third “revamp” for the release in 1979.
The band did head back into the studio in 1973 to begin work on album number nine, and at least one song, “Island”, was finished, before the band decided they probably needed a break, as there hadn’t been a period of more than a year without new Moodies material (“Island” was later added as a bonus track to an expanded “Seventh Sojourn”). A ’final’ tour to promote the album was conducted, before the band announced their hiatus. To mark their “temporary” sabbatical, Threshold issued the utterly monumental “This Is The Moody Blues” in 1974. Ignoring the Denny Laine years completely, this double LP set offered a run through of singles, flipside “A Simple Game” (later covered by The Four Tops) and standout album tracks (such as the two parts of “Have You Heard” that were used to bookend “The Voyage“, and the haunting genius of “Melancholy Man“). In keeping with the original albums, cross fading was employed here, and because many of the songs were appearing here ‘out of context’ from their original LP’s, the cross fades were thus mostly different, meaning that pretty much everything here was appearing in what were essentially new mixes. A collectors dream. “Nights In White Satin” and “Late Lament”, which had formed the bulk of “The Night” on “Days Of Future Passed”, were again used here as album closers.
In 1977, with the band still on hold, Decca rummaged through the vaults and pieced together the “Caught Live +5” set which, despite featuring then contemporary photos of the band on the cover, consisted entirely of material from the 60s. A double LP, the first three sides documented the band’s Royal Albert Hall gig on 12.12.69, with the fourth side a set of 5 studio outtakes (hence the title). The band seemingly disowned it, I guess that was the reason this stuff had been left in the storeroom for eight years.
The group reformed later that year to begin work on the follow up to the “Core 7”, with the appropriately titled “Octave”. However, as the final stages of the recording process took place, Pinder decided to leave the band, and by the time it was released, the band were being presented to the public as a four piece. Former Yes man Patrick Moraz joined, although after he left, the rest of the group claimed he was never more than a session musician. Ray Thomas left a few years ago due to ill health, reducing the band to a trio. This does mean, for anybody who is still keeping the faith, that drummer Graeme Edge is now the sole surviving member, just like Paicey in Purple.
Compilations and Reissues
For those of you who are only interested in the Mark 1 and 2 lineups, once you have “This Is The Moody Blues” in your life, what next? Well, I would certainly recommend the Dutch only 2001 release on BR Music called “The Singles +”, which features all of the band’s UK a-sides from the period, along with stuff that made it to A-side status overseas (“Stop”, “Melancholy Man”), the odd b-side and stuff from after 1973, including Justin Hayward’s quite charming “Forever Autumn”. For the stuff from the Deram and Threshold years, this means you get rare 7” edits from the period.
1989’s “Greatest Hits”, which covers the 1967-1988 period, includes two 1988 “reworkings” of stuff from the “Core 7” years - slightly pointless, especially as these re-recorded songs lack the punch of the originals - alongside five “untouched“ songs from the Mark 2 years. The 1994 boxset “Time Traveller” is mostly concerned with the Mark 2 years, and includes an alternate mix of “House Of Four Doors” which sees the original “Pt 1” and “Pt 2” mixes glued together. There have also been several “posthumous” releases, such as the BBC sessions album “Live At The BBC 1967-1970” (issued 2007) and “Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970” (issued 2008). A couple of Moodies’ best ofs in more recent times have made the effort to include “Go Now” at the start of the proceedings, including 1997’s “The Best Of The Moody Blues”, whilst completists may be interested in 1987’s “Prelude”, which cobbled together the “genuine” standalone A-sides and B-sides from the Mark 2 years (ie. not the 7” mixes of album tracks that were issued as flipsides) along with the five studio outtakes from “Caught Live”. 2006’s “An Introduction To The Moody Blues” was concerned entirely with the Mark 1 lineup.
All of the eight albums from this period have now appeared in expanded form. “The Magnificent Moodies” has appeared on a number of occasions in expanded form, more so than any of the “Core 7”, suggesting Decca have never cared for it a great deal so have left everyone else to step in every so often to have a go at revamping it. A late 80s reissue of the album was issued on Decca, and included all 13 of the non-album A-sides and B-sides that appeared before Hayward joined, which was then followed by a slightly bizarre reissue on Repertoire Records in the 90s which included only a random selection of the same batch of material. My copy is a later Repertoire reissue, from 2006, which includes the 13 rarities plus “People Gotta Go”. The most recent reissue has been this year, to tie in with the 50th anniversary, which does all this and then adds a second disc of outtakes, including material from the aborted second LP.
The “Core 7” albums were subjected to a special reissue program in 2006/7. Now, given that - “Seventh Sojourn” aside - there is, in my opinion, little to choose between this lot in terms of their sonic genius, it’s difficult to work out why some were subjected to 2-CD Deluxe repressings, and others were given more bog standard single-disc reissues, with just a handful of bonuses shoved onto the end of the original album. Many of these releases were issued as hybrid SACD releases, and featured a big chunk of material taped for the BBC - but after the Beeb material was shoehorned onto the “Live At The BBC” set, then all of the albums were reissued as regular CD’s in 2008 (the SACD is now, officially, a dead duck of a format) with the original double disc releases repackaged as single disc releases, with much of the BBC session material now missing. However, the ‘08 reissue of “Lost Chord” saw some of it’s non-BBC rarity material go AWOL as well, so I would urge anybody starting from scratch to try and go for the double CD sets if they can. I assume the decision to reissue these ones as single discs was so that the prices for each could be set at a standard level.
Legend has it, that the original master tapes for “Future Passed” had reached a level of deterioration by the late 70s, so much so that a new mix of the album had to be created for future releases. Therefore, anybody owning a copy of this record on vinyl or cassette that was pressed before 1978 has in their hands, a now unavailable mix. I did read somewhere, or maybe I imagined it, that some other albums may also have been affected. So, for fun, the discography below lists the original pressings of the eight studio albums, on the basis that at least one is an essential buy - and then, the details of either the most recent reissue, or the most important one, from the noughties and beyond. We also have some of the important “other” releases thereafter and all of the singles from the period.
ORIGINAL STUDIO ALBUMS AND LATER IMPORTANT REISSUES
The Magnificent Moodies (1965, LP, Decca LK 4711)
The Magnificent Moodies (2015 reissue, 2xCD, Esoteric ECLEC 22473)
Days Of Future Passed (1967, LP, Deram SML 707)
Days Of Future Passed (2006 reissue, 2xCD, Deram 983 2150)
In Search Of The Lost Chord (1968, LP, Deram SML 711)
In Search Of The Lost Chord (2006 reissue, 2xCD, Deram 983 214 7)
On The Threshold Of A Dream (1969, LP, Deram SML 1035)
On The Threshold Of A Dream (2006 reissue, CD, Deram 983 2153)
To Our Children’s Children’s Children (1969, LP, Threshold THS 1)
To Our Children’s Children’s Children (2006 reissue, 2xCD, Threshold 983 2156)
A Question Of Balance (1970, LP, Threshold THS 3)
A Question Of Balance (2006 reissue, CD, Threshold 983 7706)
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971, LP, Threshold THS 5)
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (2007 reissue, CD, Threshold 984 5506)
Seventh Sojourn (1972, LP, Threshold THS 7)
Seventh Sojourn (2007 reissue, CD, Threshold 984 5507)
Note: it is also worth pointing out that 8 track cartridge versions of these records exist, many including alternate mixes of a number of the tracks, due to the “logistics” of the format - “House Of Four Doors“, on “In Search Of The Lost Chord“ for example, appears in three sections, as opposed to the two sections you get on LP. Whether you can play any of these or not once you find a copy, is another story.
OTHER CDS OF NOTE
This Is The Moody Blues (1974, 2xCD, Threshold 820 007-2, 1989 reissue with booklet and foam inner)
Caught Live +5 (1977, CD, Threshold 820 161-2)
Greatest Hits (1988, CD, Threshold 840 659 2)
The Singles + (2001, 2xCD, BR Music BS 8123-2)
Live At The BBC (2007, 2xCD, Deram 984 720-2)
Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival (2008, CD, Eagle EAGCD 380)
Steal Your Heart Away/Loose Your Money (7”, Decca F11971)
Go Now/It’s Easy Child (7”, Decca F12022, reissued in 1985 with “I Don‘t Want To Go On Without You“ on B-side on Old Gold)
I Don’t Want To Go On Without You/Time Is On My Side (7”, Decca F12095)
The Moody Blues EP: Go Now/Loose Your Money/I Don’t Want To Go On Without You/Steal Your Heart Away (7”, Decca DFE 8622, p/s)
From The Bottom Of My Heart/And My Baby’s Gone (7”, Decca F12166)
Everyday/You Don’t (7”, Decca F12266)
Boulevard De La Madelaine/This Is My House (But Nobody Calls) (7”, Decca F12498)
Life’s Not Life/He Can Win (7”, Decca F12543)
Fly Me High/Really Haven’t Got The Times (7”, Decca F12607)
Love And Beauty/Leave This Man Alone (7”, Decca F12670)
Nights In White Satin/Cities (7”, Deram DM161, later reissued in 1983 on Old Gold)
Voices In The Sky (7” Mix)/Dr Livingstone I Presume (7” Mix) (7”, Deram DM196)
Ride My See Saw (7” Mix)/A Simple Game (7”, Deram DM213)
Never Comes The Day (7” Mix)/So Deep Within You (7” Mix) (7”, Deram DM247)
Watching And Waiting (7” Mix)/Out And In (7” Mix) (7”, Threshold TH1)
Question (7” Mix)/Candle Of Life (7” Mix) (7”, Threshold TH4, later reissued in 1983 on Old Gold)
The Story In Your Eyes (7” Mix)/My Song (7” Mix) (7”, Threshold TH6)
Isn’t Life Strange (7” Mix)/After You Came (7” Mix) (7”, Threshold TH9)
I’m Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band (7” Mix)/For My Lady (7” Mix) (7”, Threshold TH13)
Tuesday, 15 September 2015
In 1989, Lou Reed released a ‘comeback’ album called “New York”. Critics queued up to worship at it’s altar, whilst Reed himself provided some very brief sleeve notes about it being a return to the basic 3-man “guitar, bass, drums” rock band set up. Reed was newly signed to Warners offshoot Sire Records, and it was one of three glorious releases Warner Brothers put out the same year, alongside “Like A Prayer” and “Batman”.
By the end of the year, one of Reed’s former labels, RCA, decided to cash in on Reed’s new found fame, by issuing a compilation LP called “Retro”. Now, there may have been some record company ‘issues’ going on, but with the exception of mid-80s fluke hit 45 “I Love You Suzanne”, EVERYTHING on the record dated from a period between 1972 and 1976. Had Reed been so unproductive in the following 13 years that he only managed one album?
In the days before the internet, you had to work harder to find out what you had missed - and when. And slowly but surely, the gaps began to get filled in. I found myself in a record shop in Reading in December 1991, where I picked up a copy of the 1984 double-LP “Live In Italy”. It had the hits on it, Velvets tunes and a load of songs I had never heard of - these were songs that I later found out had been featured on what was, at the time, Lou’s latest studio venture, 1983’s “Legendary Hearts”. When I saw Lou on his 1996 tour, he wheeled out the title track of 1984’s “New Sensations”. I heard people, some time later, talking with great excitement about 1982’s “The Blue Mask”. The video for “No Money Down”, from 1986’s “Mistrial”, got the Beavis and Butthead treatment.
If we add to the mix 1980’s “Growing Up In Public”, then that was the eighties sorted out. But what about the late 70’s? Well, I did hear a story about the tour to support 1979’s “The Bells”, where during one show at the Hammersmith Odeon, Lou and his band apparently finished with a lengthy heavy metal jam, done seemingly to infuriate the crowd so much, that they would take it as their cue to leave. And I eventually heard about “Rock And Roll Heart”, the first Reed album to appear on Arista in 76, but only that it was a so-so, passable follow up to the sublime “Coney Island Baby”.
Before she moved out to Norfolk, my sister Sharon lived in Leytonstone, and then Harold Wood - both on the edges of London. Me and my mum would go to visit every so often, where I would rummage through her record collection. I remember seeing a copy of an album by Lou called “Take No Prisoners”, which despite being released whilst Reed was still signed to Arista in the UK, was some form of Dutch pressing on RCA. I think she said that it was a hard album to find, and this was the only way she had been able to get a copy. It explains also how several of the Genesis albums I inherited from her when she got married were pressed in Portugal.
I borrowed the record and taped it off her to have a listen (she would eventually buy me a CD copy some years later which, again, was a European RCA pressing that she had had to trawl the internet for - this was an album that, quite obviously, was not as common to find as “Transformer” in any form). It was a strange record. On several songs, Reed would launch into the opening chords of one of his most famous songs, then stop to tell jokes and rant about rock critics. There is a 17 minute long version of “Walk On The Wild Side”, during which Reed manages no more than about half the lyrics of the song, spending the rest of time doing his rock star / stand up comedian routine, as the band just plays the riff over and over.
Whilst this is, in it’s own way, kind of entertaining, it’s a shame - because when, elsewhere on the record, Reed simply decides to play something straight, the effect is devastating. The version of “Berlin” that is on here, is based on the original ’rock and roll’ version on the self titled debut LP, and it’s rocks hard. The LP was compiled from a series of shows Reed had played at the Bottom Line club in New York in May 1978 - again, another story I heard about these shows was that on one night, he turned up late, got heckled before he had even played a note, and that set the tone for the evening. Whether or not the “rambling” versions of the hits on “TNP” were from this show, or whether or not Reed was routinely treating his back catalogue with a sort of bored disdain, I am not sure. But the album did prove that when Reed and his band let rip, they were nothing short of unstoppable.
Included on here were three songs that had appeared in studio form on the album Reed was promoting at the time of the Bottom Line shows - 1978’s “Street Hassle”. They were three of the most impressive pieces of work on the whole LP. Side 1 offered the politically incorrect “I Wanna Be Black”, an anti-racism rant which has it’s origins, as you’d expect in typical Reed style, in black music - specifically Soul Music, just check out those E Street style horns - whilst featuring the sort of lyrics that nowadays, in this world of social media, would have had the less than intelligent types berating Reed for being stereotypical, or possibly even being an actual racist himself (“I wanna be black...and have a big prick too”) but which actually paints a darker picture of the USA (“wanna be like Martin Luther King, and get myself shot in spring”). Then there was the snarling, scowling, one chord wonder that was the closing “Leave Me Alone”, in which Reed seemingly demands the entire world, well, leave him alone. I get it Lou, I get it. But arguably the masterpiece was the 10-minute-plus multi-part rock opera that was “Street Hassle”, complete with more lyrics that even now sound shocking (“hey, that cunt’s not breathing”), but whose main selling point was it’s almost poetic, and epic, form of song writing - building and building to a big climax, and despite it’s lengthy running time, something that felt like it was all over all too quickly.
Round about the time that the Virgin Megastore chains were turning into Zavvi, I recall going into their shop in Birmingham on a weekly basis in the mid-noughties. They were having a clearout. “Less celebrated” CD’s were being knocked out at a fiver a pop. Those late 70’s Lou ones were all there. Looks can be deceiving, but there seemed to be something of a “who cares” attitude that surrounded these records. They, despite all originally coming out on the same label in the UK, were now on slightly different labels. “Rock And Roll Heart” had been repackaged quite nicely to make it look swish, with the legend “A 70’s Classic” printed on a sticker on the front, but I wasn’t so sure - I’d never heard anybody claim it to be better than, say, “Sally Can’t Dance”. Both it and “The Bells” had been reissued on a relatively obscure label called Buddha Records, which suggested the main division of Arista didn’t care a great deal for it (although the labels were all part of a bigger conglomerate).
“Street Hassle” was also in there. It had suffered the biggest indignity. Whilst the other pair had been given the fancy reissue treatment to at least try to revamp them for a new generation, this one was the very same CD edition that had been made back in the early 90s. The original album cover, for reasons unknown, had been shrunk in size, and placed inside a thick, sky blue coloured border. It had a copyright date for when it had been pressed (1992), which sort of showed how long it had been left in the wilderness when compared to the more recent reissues of it‘s cousins. It didn’t really have anything approaching what you might call sleeve notes - this was par for the course with 80s/90s bog standard CD pressings (check out all those almost lo-fi Cohen and Dylan reissues that CBS used to toss out without any real care in the same period), so you just got a fold over piece of card attempting to act like a booklet, with the track listing and nothing else. It was the old style silver CD, with no fancy label design. It was almost as if Buddha believed a bit in “RNRH” and “The Bells”, as if they were long lost classics seeking re-evaluation, but cared little for “Street Hassle” and so simply didn’t bother. It was almost as if Arista had, back in 92, just thought, “well, we’d better stick it out on CD - RCA have put “Metal Machine Music” out so we really can’t justify leaving this one out in that case“, and just knocked it up, design wise, during a lunch break. It felt unloved, and uncared for. I bought it to complete the set, and took it home expecting it to just be another one of those ’quite pleasant’ records that you, as a collector, have to buy, but which you are unlikely to go back to very often.
I had a listen to it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After just one listen, “Street Hassle” had left me gobsmacked. It was - excuse my language - fucking astounding.
History, increasingly, seems to be showing “Street Hassle” as Reed’s REAL long lost classic - perhaps even more so than “The Blue Mask”. It was a record that was released slap bang in the middle of punk by somebody who had been in the industry for well over a decade, but who had succeeded, somehow, in making a record that was far more “punk” than some of the records being made by the so-called “punk” bands. It was far more raucous than, say, any of the records made so far by The Jam and at times, lyrically, far more daring, challenging, and downright brutal than anything on “Never Mind The Bollocks“ or “The Clash“. This was, at times, rock and roll at it’s most cutting edge.
The opening “Gimmie Some Good Times” begins with what is possibly the cleverest first 30 seconds on any album EVER. The riff from “Sweet Jane” kicks in. A heckler (voiced by Reed) shouts the opening line “Hey, if that ain’t the Rock N Roll Animal himself”, whilst Reed, as himself, sings the opening line “standing on the corner...suitcase in my hand”. The album has barely started, and Reed has managed to self-reference both his former band and the name of one of his live solo records without even breaking sweat. This is, without doubt, pop art of the highest order. Total and utter genius.
“Dirt” reminds me of Iggy Pop, a sort of growling, dirgy, snarl that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on “The Idiot”, with guitars that sound like a sort of warped version of the riff that would later be used on Bowie’s “Fashion”, as Reed once again plays with pop culture references so brilliantly, it sounds like he could do this sort of stuff in his sleep...”do you remember that song by a dude named Bobby Fuller...I fought the law and the law won” he slurs. Monumental.
The title track still, all the years after I had first head it, had the power to shock and amaze. The beautiful orchestral intro that extends throughout the first section, the plaintive female vocals that “ooh ooh ooh” away quietly in the middle, the spoken word (and uncredited) passage courtesy of Bruce Springsteen - the King of New York and the King Of New Jersey on the same record, Holy Cow. The middle section is quite violent in it’s imagery (“you know that bitch will never fuck again”) but it’s obviously Reed writing, and speaking, from the perspective of a third person, whose coarse language is simply the way they choose to express themselves, and is, in a way, no different to the vicious language you might get from a Scorsese gangster film. It is, in some respects, an astounding piece of daring art. By the time Springsteen reads out the “tramps like us, we were born to pay” line, in another piece of self-referential pop culture brilliance, and the song starts to slowly build to the climax of it’s 11 minute long journey, it’s difficult not to feel astonished by what you have just heard. Ditto “I Wanna Be Black”. Just as eye wateringly offensive as it was when I first it, it was still just as brilliantly clever lyrically, and musically, as funky as hell.
“Real Good Time Together” was the latest in a long line of re-recordings of, at the time, unissued Velvets tunes by Reed. It starts off with Lou and his guitar wobbling in and out of the speakers, as if it was recorded on a dodgy C90, and the microphone was dangling underwater. Then, as it approaches the finale, you start to hear a more “professional” version approaching slowly, fading in, getting louder and louder until it drowns out the “shaky” version. It’s glorious - full blown, hi-octane, high energy rock and roll, and it is absolutely awesome. Suddenly, the spirit of the rock and roll is in the room, powerhouse drumming, saxophone wailing, and the effect of the change of pace is devastatingly exhilarating.
A number of songs on the album were actually recorded live, or at least partly recorded live, and you can hear the crowd mumbling as “Shooting Star” kicks into life. Probably the one song on the LP that needs more listens to stick in the head than the rest, but still, pretty much flawless. More sax, more growling electric guitar, and more of Lou’s trademark drawling vocal, it sounds like a cross between T Rex, anything off Transformer and mid 70s Bowie. And then you have the masterful “Leave Me Alone”, with it’s sample line “leave me leave me leave me leave me leave me alone” and “John I’m Only Dancing”-esque sax breaks. Also recorded live, it - just like the others - uses this to it’s advantage, the sound booms, it’s simply feels bigger and bolder and brasher and warmer - I apologise if it was actually recorded fully in the studio, but it certainly FEELS live, and not watered down by any tinny production a studio concoction can sometimes produce.
“Wait”, on first listen, sounds like it’s the first take of a demo. But that’s the secret of it’s brilliance. Opening with a none-more-Bruce and the E Street band influenced sax-driven starting section, Lou sounds like he’s on the verge of a breakdown throughout, whilst sounding simultaneously quite sweetly charming and even lovelorn, delivering his lines with an air of almost worryingly edgy vulnerability, whilst a female singer sings a completely different set of lyrics at the same time. There’s so much going on - I love it. It’s both ramshackle, shambolic, and monumentally pop all at the same time. As the female backing vocalists pitch in at the dying end with what I think is a line which goes “I met him on a Sunday”, evoking the spirit of The Ronettes or The Crystals, well, it’s just the most perfect end to a most brilliant album.
I would be lying if I were to claim that “Street Hassle” is better than “Transformer” - after all, that’s the one with “Vicious”, “Andy’s Chest”, “Perfect Day”, “Satellite Of Love” and “Hangin’ Around” on, 36 minutes of glam rock brilliance. But the sheer unexpectedness of “Street Hassle”, an album which until I heard it, had never even come close to registering on those “100 Greatest Albums Ever” polls, and yet when I heard it throughout for the first time, left me open mouthed at the sheer brilliance of it all, is something that should be celebrated. Where had this record been all my life? And why, even now, is it still never mentioned in the same breath as “Rubber Soul”, or “Surf’s Up”, when it’s not far off the greatness of those records - or is, perhaps, actually even better than both? Who knows. But all I can say, is that whenever I go back to this album, which I do far more than “The Blue Mask”, it never ceases to amaze. It is, in it’s own way, one of the great punk records of our time. Albeit one seemingly unknown to most human beings. A crying shame really. Now is your time to discover it.
Oh, and I know it’s been a while now, but Lou, thanks for the music - especially the stuff on this one. Rest In Peace.
Now. For whatever reason, Lou hasn’t had much of a makeover of his back catalogue, with only a handful of releases being given expanded reissues. Others have been repressed to keep them on catalogue, but otherwise look and sound just like they did when they first appeared. But, to try and give you an idea of what is currently available, the list below are what I am 99% certain are the most recent editions of all of Lou’s studio and live albums. I haven’t listed some of his more recent collaborations (the Metallica one, the one recorded by his Metal Machine Music band, etc) but I have listed the John Cale releases (“Drella” and “Bataclan”) because of the obvious VU links. And also because “Drella” is absolutely essential.
You will see a wide variety of labels here - many of them are, nowadays, part of a single bigger outfit...this explains how there are releases on Buddha of both RCA and Arista albums, which in the 70‘s, were completely separate from one another. “American Poet” and “Batalcan” were both originally released by labels to which Lou never had any connection, which probably explains why the most recent releases are on totally different labels as well - it would seem the rights to these recordings are available to anybody who fancies having a go at releasing this material, so don’t be surprised if they reappear on yet another indie label in a few years time. I have not listed the ever growing list of similar “unofficial but not bootleg” live albums that, by being radio broadcasts, also seem to get round copyright issues, as the list of these is difficult to get 100% accurate, so I have left them alone for now.
It’s also worth pointing out that a number of these releases have been included in boxsets that, especially if you want more than one album, are often cheaper than trying to buy a regular single CD release. The latest versions of “Lou Reed” and “Transformer” were included in a 2-in-1 boxset release in late 2002, whilst the run of the five studio albums from the Warners years from “New York” to “Ecstasy” can be bought en masse courtesy of the “Original Album Series” release.
There are two RCA era “Original Album Classics” sets - one which runs from “Lou Reed” to “Coney Island”, although it ignores the live albums and “MMM”, but includes all the bonus tracks from the previous expanded reissues of what is here, and another which covers all the studio and live albums for the period from “Blue Mask” to “Mistrial”. The merging of labels means there is a third one, which includes the expanded “Rock N Roll Animal”, “Rock N Roll Heart”, “The Bells”, “Growing Up” and “Street Hassle” itself. Buying these last four will give you a massive chunk of the back catalogue for less than £60. Which is a lot less than what each of those individual Led Zepp super deluxe reissues have been knocking about for!
LOU LP DISCOGRAPHY
Lou Reed (1972, CD, Camden Deluxe 74321 727122)
Transformer (1972, CD, RCA Heritage 07863 65132 2, 2002 expanded reissue with bonus demos of “Hangin‘ Round“ and “Perfect Day“)
Berlin (1973, CD, RCA 88697 104162)
Rock N Roll Animal (1974, CD, RCA 07863 67948 2, 2000 expanded reissue with previously unissued versions of “How Do You Think It Feels” and “Caroline Says I”)
Sally Can’t Dance (1974, CD, RCA 07863 69383 2, 2001 expanded reissue with unreleased bonus track and single mix of title track)
Lou Reed Live (1975, CD, RCA ND 83752)
Metal Machine Music (1975, CD, Buddha 74465 99752 2)
Coney Island Baby (1976, CD, RCA Legacy 82876 78251 2, 2006 expanded reissue with bonus B-side material and previously unreleased alternate takes)
Rock And Roll Heart (1976, CD, Buddha 74465 99657 2)
Street Hassle (1978, CD, Arista 262 270)
Take No Prisoners (1978, 2xCD, Arista Heritage 07822 10609 2)
The Bells (1979, CD, Buddha 74465 99659 2)
Growing Up In Public (1980, CD, Buddha 74465 99658 2)
The Blue Mask (1982, CD, RCA 07863 542212)
Legendary Hearts (1983, CD, RCA ND 89843)
Live In Italy (1984, CD, Sony/Music On CD 86272 21051, available for some years as a budget price release called “Live In Concert” in a unique p/s, pressings from 2005 reverted to original title in new sleeve, this 2014 release replicates the original vinyl release)
New Sensations (1984, CD, RCA ND 90671, some websites currently advertise a 2013 repressing which may use a different cat number)
Mistrial (1986, CD, RCA ND 90253)
New York (1989, CD, Sire 7599 25829 2)
Songs For Drella (1990, CD, Sire 7599 26140 2)
Magic And Loss (1992, CD, Sire 7599 26662 2)
Set The Twilight Reeling (1996, CD, Sire 9362 46159 2)
Perfect Night: Live In London (1997, CD, Reprise 9362 46917 2)
Ecstasy (2000, CD, Reprise 9362 47425 2)
American Poet (2001, CD, Easy Action 23566 03802, 2005 reissue)
The Raven (2003, 2xCD, Reprise 9362 48373 2)
Animal Serenade (2004, CD, Reprise 9362 48678 2)
Le Bataclan 72 (2004, CD, AEPI 291012 900821, 2013 reissue)
Hudson River Wind Meditations (2007, CD, Sounds True M1117D)
Berlin: Live at St Ann’s Warehouse (2008, CD, Matador OLE 8492)
PS. A Lou UK singles blog will appear on this site at some time. It took me several years to finally get this one on here, so don’t hold your breath.
Wednesday, 5 August 2015
With the release of 1995’s “Something To Remember” being designed as a showcase for ‘Madonna The Singer-Songwriter’, the stage was thus set for a comeback by the Queen Of Pop. Her return to the throne was a two pronged attack - starting with the none-more-mainstream hysteria that was “Evita”, followed by the futuristic sounds of 1998’s “Ray Of Light”, in which Madonna simultaneously revisited her disco inspired past, whilst also bringing the Electronica genre fully into the pop charts. Welcome to part 6 of my look at Madonna on Thirty Three and a Third.
Elsewhere on this site, I have mentioned that Madonna plugged the first single from “STR”, “You’ll See”, via a Top Of The Pops TV appearance - the first time she had appeared on this (now mostly defunct) UK pop institution for more than a decade. This was achievable mainly because Madonna was already in London anyway, recording the soundtrack for the “Evita” movie. Ever since talk about trying to adapt this musical for the big screen had been started in the late 1970s, Madonna’s name had long been associated with it, and now, finally, her dream had come true.
For much of the final quarter of 1995, Madonna was holed up in a London hotel, heading out after lunch to the local Whitfield Street Studios to record the score of the film. She returned the following May to finish filming on the movie itself, this time renting a house - with a huge front wall - in West London, by which time she was pregnant with her first child. She was thus camera shy this time around, and would come out of the house with an open magazine held in front of her face to try and shield herself from the photographers. By the end of May, filming and recording on “Evita” was thus finished, and Madonna focused then on delivering Lourdes that October.
Promotion for “STR” had trundled on alongside all this activity, with singles being issued on both sides of the Atlantic during the first half of 1996. After a remixed “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” had surfaced in the US, and “One More Chance” had turned up on 45 in the UK, Madonna’s next single was “You Must Love Me” - the first release from “Evita”, and a new song written specifically for the movie adaptation.
Madonna’s involvement in “Evita” gave Warner Bros an excuse to really push the soundtrack album. It was promoted as heavily as any ‘normal’ Madonna album might have been, with not one, but three singles being released in the UK, just as they had done with the earlier non-Madonna but Madonna-heavy “Who’s That Girl” soundtrack LP. Furthermore, they issued not one but two variant editions of the soundtrack itself - firstly, to coincide with the movie release in late 1996, they put out a 19 track “highlights” set on both CD (Warner Bros 9362 46432 2) and Cassette (Warner Bros 9362 46432 4) and then followed this up with a version featuring the full (nearly) unedited movie score as a 2xCD set (Warner Bros 9362 46346 2). This edition came in a new sleeve, with a slightly altered title, and I am convinced it was issued in the UK in early 97 to coincide with ‘Awards Season‘ despite showing a “1996“ copyright date. I could be totally wrong, it was a long time ago. As for the movie itself, both Madonna and the film picked up honours at the Golden Globes, whilst “You Must Love Me” got “Best Original Song” at the Oscars. This was the nearest Madonna ever got to bagging herself an Academy Award, but at least she sung the winning song, so you could say she had an Oscar by proxy.
With the whole “Evita” project now over, it was time to go back - properly - to the day job. In May 1997, Madonna began working on material with former collaborator Babyface, who had co-written the majestic “Take A Bow” for 1994’s “Bedtime Stories”. The songs the pair came up with recalled this pop triumph a bit too closely, and sensing a feeling of déjà vu, Madonna abandoned the partnership.
Madonna then briefly worked with one-time Belinda Carlisle collaborator Rick Nowels. In just over a week, the pair came up with seven songs, but any plans to use these songs with Nowels producing seemed to be either non-existent, or were also abandoned, as Madonna was soon working with another collaborator soon after, old pal Patrick Leonard. Again, this partnership was short lived, as the songs they were coming up with did not fit Madonna’s vision for the album - at least not with Leonard‘s planned production techniques - but a number of songs from both these sessions were put “in the bag“ for future reference.
A suggestion was made by Maverick Records head honcho Guy Oseary to Madonna that she might consider working with electronica act William Orbit. Orbit had worked with Madonna before, but only in a remix capacity - he had created reworkings of “Justify My Love” and “I’ll Remember”, but Madonna was interested in trying to create an entire album of Orbit-helmed music.
A number of the songs that Madonna had already written with Nowels and Leonard were played to Orbit, who thought they sounded a bit too polished, but some of which he figured could be re-worked. Three of the songs from the Nowels session thus survived, “The Power Of Goodbye”, “To Have And Not To Hold” and “Little Star”, the first two of which were to benefit from production work by Orbit and Leonard, with the latter being produced instead by Marius De Vries. Several songs from the Leonard sessions also survived to make the final cut - “Skin” and “Nothing Really Matters” were overseen by Orbit and De Vries, whilst Orbit and Leonard co-produced “Frozen” and “Sky Fits Heaven”. One thing you can see here, is that despite the album often being referred to as a full blown Orbit/Madonna collaboration, there were actually three other co-producers on this record alongside the lady herself.
Nevertheless, Orbit’s involvement was crucial and substantial, and he came up with various electronic inspired pieces which were played to Madonna, to which she attempted to write lyrics. At least eight songs were completed by the pair, with seven given the nod for official release. One of these, “Has To Be”, was a collaboration between Madonna, Orbit and Leonard, with Orbit producing, but was left off the regular album, surfacing as a B-side in the UK instead. Of the remaining six, three were straight ahead Madonna/Orbit songwriting/production efforts - “Swim”, “Shanti Ashtangi” and “Mer Girl”. The other three songs featured help from outside songwriters, although the shared credits for the title track came about because Orbit’s original demo was based heavily on a 1971 song by Curtiss Maldoon, called “Sepheryn”. Orbit had worked with a relative of one of the members of the band on a version of the song, which was then reworked by Madonna with the blessing of the group.
Work on the album began in earnest in mid June 1997, and with most of the album being designed to follow the “electro” vibe of Orbit’s own solo material, much of the music was created using computers, meaning that few people other than Madonna, the engineers, and Orbit, were ever in the studio. Orbit’s computers were prone to breaking down, and Madonna had to wait whilst he fixed them, something she found frustrating. As a result, despite being a computer driven recording experience, the time frame of recording lasted longer than any previous Madonna album had taken, with finishing touches not being applied until November that year.
The album had something of a hippy, earth mother vibe - Madonna had become fascinated with Kabbalah and mysticism in general, and had started to study Hinduism and Buddhism. She took up Yoga. The front cover image also looked nothing like the stocking-clad sex kitten image that had appeared in the early 90s on “Justify My Love“ and in the “Sex“ book. The song “Shanti Ashtangi” featured lyrics in Sanskrit, and the video for lead single “Frozen” showed her with Mendhi imagery on her hands.
Motherhood also seemed to filter into proceedings. The terrifying finale, “Mer Girl”, featured numerous family references, with the “daughter that never sleeps” line being an obvious reference to Lourdes, as was the entire “Little Star“ single. A later single, “Drowned World / Substitute For Love”, featured a video which concluded with Madonna hugging a child, whilst the lyrics of “Sky Fits Heaven” included the line “child fits mother, so hold your baby tight”. It’s safe to say that there was a lineage here between the death of Madonna’s own mother at such an early age, and the reaction that it seemed to be having on her now she was a mother herself.
When it wasn’t coming over all spiritual, or indeed all miserable, “Ray Of Light” bristled with a vibrant energy. Whatever you might think of Orbit’s own solo records, the combination of his dance music stylings with Madonna’s pop suss, created something genuinely forward thinking. The title track was a blaring, hi-energy romp, that almost made “Into The Groove” sound like a Tindersticks B-side, whilst the monumental build up of “Drowned World” helped to create one of Madonna’s more unusual, and stunning, pop nuggets. The pounding throb of “Sky Fits Heaven”, the off kilter crunch of “Candy Perfume Girl”, the techno rumble of “Skin” - as impressively grand and bold as “Evita” was as a movie, the music itself was dangerously AOR, so much so that it even sounded dated seconds after you’d first listened to it (it was an old musical though, really, to be fair), but “Ray Of Light” sounded like it had been beamed in from the future. Just as Bowie had gone drum and bass the year before on “Earthling”, Madonna too was ahead of the pop crowd - this was a record that predated the Xenomania designed future-pop of Girls Aloud some five years before they happened, and even now, it still seems light years ahead of what sometimes passes for “modern pop” these days (yes I’m talking about you, Taylor Swift).
In terms of releases, “Ray Of Light” appeared in the UK on the three standard formats of the time - Double LP (Maverick 9362 46847 1), Cassette (Maverick 9362 46847 4) and CD (Maverick 9362 47487 2). The cassette edition eventually went out of print, whilst the CD version - of course - remains on catalogue, thanks to Madonna’s disinterest in repackaging her back catalogue. The vinyl version was technically reissued in 2003 as a 180g edition, and although some copies were issued - especially in Europe - in a suitably stickered sleeve, others weren’t, and given that the original catalogue number was retained, there is nothing visually different between a 1998 original or a later repress. Similarly, anybody buying a CD edition of “ROL” today may not get a copy with the “featuring the hits” sticker that appeared on the original 1998 release, but it is otherwise to all intents and purposes, exactly the same. It is also available in the 2012 “Complete Studio Albums” boxset, housed in a simple card sleeve, retaining the front and rear cover designs and also the original graphic display as found on the disc itself, plus the less comprehensive "Original Album Series" 5-CD box issued at the same time. I intend to do a full look at these boxes in due course.
As mentioned in earlier “Madonna on LP” blogs, Warners had - by now - abandoned the concept of UK specific catalogue numbers, and all pressings of the album were essentially made in Europe, and then distributed around the continent. However, original UK pressings had a special Warner Brothers hologram with the “UK” legend printed over the top, so effectively, any without these are German imports or later repressings (at least regards the CD edition). The US was also treated to a special limited edition version in a fancy 3-D reflective digipack - some copies were exported around Europe, and listed both the US catalogue number and a “European” one on the back only (Maverick 9362 46884 2), but copies were not stocked in that many stores IIRC. I don’t have one, and I used to go to HMV on a weekly basis back then. Along with a similarly “swish” version of 1994’s “Bedtime Stories”, the 90s saw the beginning of a lengthy period in which all ‘new’ Madonna albums were treated to a more special US release than their UK counterparts (finally ending, sort of, with this years “Rebel Heart“) - more detail in my future Madonna album blogs.
“Ray Of Light” was the subject of much excitement by the critics - it was seen not only as a return to form, but was claimed by some to have been single-handedly responsible for the movement overground of the hitherto underground “electronica” genre. This might be pushing it a bit, given that the likes of The Chemical Brothers had been having hit singles in the UK at least two years before. But it certainly was a contemporary sounding release, and is cited by some as being Madonna’s finest effort. Warners seemed thrilled by it, issuing a gargantuan five singles from the record, and it seemed to get Madonna on a roll again - it was followed by the Doors-inspired psychedlic-electropop of “Beautiful Stranger”, Madonna’s (one time) stand along single from May 1999, another collaboration with Orbit, and seen as further evidence of Madonna’s now undisputed “Queen Of Pop” status being totally confirmed. But the five years that followed were a bit more troublesome, and Madonna had to conduct another “comeback” in 2005. My next blog, possibly due before year end, will look at the albums released in that sometimes awkward 2000-2004 period.
Monday, 13 July 2015
Up until a few years ago, my entire Yes collection was on vinyl only. This was because of two reasons. One, was that my interest in the band was mainly in the pre-”Owner Of A Lonely Heart” material, all of which, of course, dated from the days before CD’s had even been invented. But the reason I had managed to get them all on vinyl in the first place, was that I had been introduced to them at a very early age, early enough to have been able to hunt down the second pressings of these records that could still be picked up - new - in record shops in the early 1980s. It is a bit strange looking at the current obsession with vinyl, and it’s “inflated” price tags, considering I paid no more than a fiver for my copy of “Tales From Topographic Oceans”, which came in it’s original gatefold sleeve and with it’s original custom labels. Buying one of the more recent “collectors edition” versions will cost you about four or five times as much.
Like early Purple, early Yes were a thing of wonderment. Described by some as ’symphonic rock’, those pre-83 albums were gloriously inventive, all mad key changes, songs within songs, occasional psycho guitar solos, keyboard twizzles, and tracks that usually went on for about 10 minutes. They later got chastised, along with the entire Prog genre, of being too pompous, but just look what we eventually got as a reward in their place once they were successfully ousted - Wham, Whigfield and Ed Sheeran. Ouch.
Yes threw in the towel in 1981, and only came back when a number of ex-members began working on a poppier sounding album a couple of years later, under the working band name of Cinema. Once the realisation sunk in that virtually everyone involved in the band had been in Yes at some point (including their producer), it was decided that using the Yes name could be a money spinner. And so it was that Yes returned in 1983, sounding nothing like the Yes I knew from those earlier albums. I’ve struggled to come to terms with everything they’ve recorded since.
So, for now, Yes are another band for whom the main sphere of excitement to me is the first phase of their career. You simply can’t deny the genius that runs through the likes of “Close To The Edge” or “Going For The One”. So, to tie in roughly with a new album and boxset of live recordings taped entirely during the glory days of 1972, “Progeny”, and as a mark of respect to the man who was there from day 1 onwards, Chris Squire, who passed away last month, here is my tribute to the band whose complex music, at times, does make Radiohead sound like the Brotherhood Of Man in comparison.
After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, the Yes lineup was established during 1968 with Jon Anderson on vocals (John in those days), Chris Squire on bass, Bill Bruford on drums, Peter Banks on guitar and Tony Kaye on keyboards. Like a lot of new groups, they were short on material so had no choice but to play covers in their live set. However, rather than just play note for note renditions of these songs, the band put their own jazzy twist on some of them, elongating them and bending them out of shape. This got them noticed on the gigging circuit and they came to the attention of Atlantic Records, who signed them to the label the following year.
1969’s self titled debut effort shows signs of these early beginnings - there are several covers on the album, and both the takes on tracks by The Byrds (“I See You”) and The Beatles (“Every Little Thing”) are more or less double or nearly triple the length of the original recordings. Housed in a simple sleeve, a black cover with the band’s then logo inside a speech bubble, it shows some vague signs of their proggier future - at eight songs long, it is (by Yes standards) an LP consisting of potential hit singles in waiting, albeit a bit longer than those in the hit parade of the time! “Sweetness” was indeed issued as a single in the UK, but didn’t do a great deal. Poppy follow up 45 “Looking Around” was withdrawn from sale before, or possibly just after, it’s planned release date, either way, few copies exist and the price for a copy is a three figure sum. The stand out track on the LP is the closing “Survival” - like most of the record, it does more or less follow the pop structure verse-chorus-verse approach, but has a lengthy instrumental intro that sounds like it has come from a completely different song, which is then reprised in slightly noisier form at the song’s climax. Six minutes in length, it gives some indication of the multi-part songs that would fill up much of the band’s repertoire in the future.
For the 1970 follow up “Time And A Word”, Anderson decided he wanted an orchestra on most of the album, but they seemed to have been instructed to play the parts that would otherwise have been played by Banks. This infuriated the guitarist, who was convinced it left him with little do on the album, and after recording was finished, he either left the band or was fired by Anderson - one rumour was that Anderson was of the opinion that Banks was not able to cope with the increasingly complex material they were writing, which might be why he wheeled the strings in in the first place. By the time the LP was released, new guitarist Steve Howe had been drafted in as his replacement.
Despite reservations by some critics about the “intrusive” use of an orchestra, I have always felt this record was a big leap forward from the debut. The opening cover of Richie Havens’ “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” is as thrilling a start to a record as you are ever going to hear - the strings kick things off with the theme from “The Big Country” - whilst the psychedelic trippy vibe of “Astral Traveller” points at the direction the band were starting to head. In Germany, initial copies came in a different sleeve (the same photo that had appeared on the US copy of “Yes”) and featured alternate mixes of the Havens cover and “Sweet Dreams”, this latter track (in it’s normal mix) was one of two issued as the band’s next UK 45s (the title track was the other one, but like the withdrawn “Looking Around“, is seemingly hyper rare). The UK release came with an ‘artistic’ image of a nude woman on the front, but this was deemed “too filthy” by the US leg of the label, who released the LP instead with a photo of the band - trouble was, they used a picture of the new line up, and not the actual lineup who had recorded the album.
The band’s next album, 1971’s “The Yes Album”, was where the story really starts to take shape. Howe revealed himself to be something of a guitar virtuoso, and the band began to write songs that were lengthier than anything they had ever attempted before, with two songs (“Starship Trooper” and “I’ve Seen All Good People”) featuring several sections grouped together, with these different sections being listed as individual pieces on the credits complete with their own titles. With the exception of “A Venture” and the recorded-on-stage in 1970 acoustic solo piece by Howe called “Clap”, nothing on the LP was shorter than six and a half minutes in length. It was the real beginning of the band’s genuine “prog” phase, and represented a move towards increasingly inventive and forward thinking music. The album was housed in a now famous shot of the group posing with a mannequin’s head and Kaye in plaster after the band were involved in a car accident after a gig in Basingstoke the night before. Although the US division of Atlantic decided to issue the first section of “I’ve Seen All Good People” as a single, under it’s subtitle of “Your Move”, no commercially released single was issued in the UK - indeed, the next Yes UK 45 would not surface until early 1974. “Your Move” did surface as a promo, with a section of “Starship Trooper” (“Life Seeker”) on the flip.
Although Atlantic UK were unsure of the band as being potential hit single makers, their attraction as a live act was cemented, and their success as an albums group was established with “The Yes Album”, becoming not only their first LP to hit the top 40, but one that made it into the top 5. As work on the follow up LP began, Kaye became the next to leave the band - his decision to not use new-fangled electronic keyboards like the Moog, was seen by other band members as the sign of another band member being unable to keep up with the band’s changing approach to writing and recording, but Kaye seemed to jump before he was pushed, and left the group after claiming his style of playing conflicted with Howe’s guitar work. Other reports however suggest that, like Banks, he was fired from the group because of his refusal to “keep up with the trends”.
Kaye’s replacement was one time Strawbs keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Yes had crossed paths with Wakeman before, who had increased his earnings by being a quite prolific session player on some genuinely classic records - he appeared on so many Bowie records, he was just a stones throw away from becoming one of the actual Spiders From Mars. His arrival into Yes marked what was, for some, the classic lineup of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe and Squire. The resultant album was 1971’s flawless “Fragile”. The first time upon which Roger Dean designed artwork was featured, this record showcased both the individual talents of the five band members, as well as revealing how good they worked together as a unit. There were five pieces designed to highlight each band member, with each credited only to the individual player - Anderson’s multi-tracked vocal chant “We Have Heaven” was included twice on the record, with an uncredited reprise being used to close the album. Bruford indulged in some jazz drumming exploits in the short but sweet “Five Per Cent For Nothing”. Wakeman reworked “Cans And Brahms” as a solo piece consisting of electric piano, harpsichord and synthesiser sections. Chris Squire’s contribution was the bass heavy (mostly) instrumental workout “The Fish”, although the ending section features harmony vocals repeating the phrase “schindleria praematurus”, which is itself the name of a saltwater fish found in the Pacific. Howe’s contribution was the acoustic strum of “Mood For A Day” which, like Squire’s contribution, were the longest of the five solo pieces.
What remains are some of the best things Yes had ever committed to tape. The opening “Roundabout”, despite being eight and a half minutes in length, was chosen by the US label to become a single, where it was not so much edited, as opposed to being chopped into pieces, with one of the remaining pieces being used as the 7” edit. Story goes that when the US public latched onto this bouncy pop nugget, they were shocked when they heard the more-than-twice as long LP mix. “South Side Of The Sky” was a soaring piece of psychedelic prog, where the snarling guitar licks, keyboard flourishes, and in-your-face vocal production created something of monumental epicness. The equally glorious bombast of the closing “Heart Of The Sunrise” featured a psychotic Wakeman driven intro so good, that 6Music’s Lauren Laverne later decided to feature it during the opening section of her radio show.
Arguably the pinnacle of Yes’ career came in 1972 with the release of “Close To The Edge”. Dean had now designed a new band logo (the original one had been reused on some later foreign 45’s, but had laid dormant as regards UK releases also immediately after the first album had been issued), and this logo remained in place for every Yes release up until the split. This new logo would often be used in conjunction with some highly elaborate artwork (think Dungeons and Dragons, or Lord Of The Rings, or for you kids out there, Game Of Thrones), but not on “Edge” - instead, the band logo and the album name, in similar typography, were printed at the top of what was otherwise a blank, green, cover. Musically, Yes were pushing the boundaries. For the first time ever, they managed to fill up an entire single side of vinyl with just one song, the gargantuan title track filling up all nineteen minutes of the first side of the LP. Just two more songs were squeezed onto side 2. Again, several songs consisted of separately titled sections, and the US label issued the “Total Mass Retain” portion of the title track as a B-side on a 45. The album represented a move forwards towards increasingly clever, and you could say, slightly pompous music, but the guitar shredding antics of Howe, the insane keyboard histrionics of Wakeman, and Anderson’s high pitched vocals (how odd it is to hear him being interviewed in his normal Accrington speaking voice) helped to create music so bold and colourful...seriously, if you don’t like “Close To The Edge”, well, you don’t like being alive.
But despite this work of genius, it was not enough to stop Bruford throwing in the towel, doing so as soon as recording was completed. Musical differences were the old chestnut, I think Bruford’s complaint was that Yes were becoming more picky, and thus more prog, when it came to writing, whereas his background was more freeform jazz oriented. He joined King Crimson and was quoted as saying that “in Yes, there was an endless debate...in King Crimson, you were just supposed to know”. His replacement was Alan White, who, if you include the reunion years, would end up becoming the second longest standing member of the band after Squire. This new configuration of Anderson White Wakeman Howe and Squire, would, for those who didn’t go for the Bruford years, be seen as the “other” classic Yes lineup.
White had one practice session with the band before a tour to promote “Close To The Edge” was conducted. In May 73, the band’s first live album was released, “Yessongs”, complete with wonderfully OTT Dean designed packaging. In true prog style, the album was issued as a TRIPLE, in a fold out sleeve. Everything bar three songs were recorded on the most recent tour, with the remaining trio being taken from the “Fragile” tour, featuring Bruford (“Perpetual Change”, “Long Distance Runaround” and “The Fish”).
The next album remains the sticking point in the band’s career. The album which is like Marmite - loved by some of us, despised by others and held up as the single reason for hating prog and thus creating punk. That album is “Tales From Topographic Oceans”, the first Yes studio album to be released as a double, and in a way, the band’s first concept album. Anderson wrote sleeve notes for it in which he says the album was inspired by ‘four classes of Hindu Scripture, known as the Shastras‘. Anderson had read a book which referred to the phrase “shastric rules”. The book noted there were four classes of scripture called Shruti, Smriti, Purana and Tantra. Anderson became fascinated in what he was reading, and began to work with Howe on the creation of four “interlocking” pieces of music, each of which would be inspired by the concepts each scripture spoke of.
When it was released in late 73 in the UK, a number of critics tore it apart. The very concept of what Anderson was trying to explain does seem slightly baffling, whilst the fact that it was not only a double, but consisted of just one song on each side, was seen as being the ultimate in proggy excess. Now, I have always quite enjoyed this album - each song, again, consisted of multiple sections although no “sub sections” were listed in the credits...so in my view, it is no different to listening to a pair of late 60s Moody Blues albums back to back (they used to crossfade every song on every album). But no, it was seen as “psychedelic doodling” by some. The album was actually shorter than it should have been, Howe claims that the opening “The Revealing Science Of God” had about six minutes of material edited out - what does exist is a version with a longer ambient opening, which was first issued on the “In A Word” boxset but has been used on all subsequent CD repressings in the UK, over the original “short” vinyl mix.
Wakeman was less than keen on the whole concept, and was only a minor contributor to the album, caused in part by the fact that Anderson and Howe had more or less written the entire record themselves. The subsequent tour was home to the now famous “curry incident”, where during one show, Wakeman was so bored with what he was playing, he ordered a curry and side dishes, that were passed up to him by a roadie during the performance of songs from the album, which he was able to dip into as time passed, hidden as they were behind his wall of keyboards.
The tour initially started before the album was released, and because of the “concept” nature of the record, the band took to performing it in full. There are conflicting reports about how soon the band began to realise this was not going down too well, even after the album was in stores, and how many songs were dropped, but it’s generally considered that at least side 2, “The Remembering”, was ditched as soon as the Spring 74 shows in the USA took place. Other reports suggest side 3, “The Ancient”, got binned at some point as well. Once the tour was over, Wakeman left the band - it seemed to be, in part, that he too didn’t like the “psychedelic doodling”, although you have to remember, this was the man who then in 1975 presented the “King Arthur On Ice” madness. Midway through the tour, Atlantic - confusingly - issued an unedited “And You And I”, the 10-minute side 2 opener on 1972’s “Close To The Edge”, as a UK single, backed with the also-unedited US hit “Roundabout”. The disc, unsurprisingly, had to be played at 33rpm in order to cram these two on, and even then, the grooves must have been squeezed together at a ridiculously intense ratio. Anyone else know of a 20 minute long (over two sides) 7” single being issued in the UK? Ever? “And You And I” had been issued as an American 45 in 1972, but was spread out across both sides of the single.
Wakeman was replaced by Patrick Moraz in time for 1974’s “Relayer”, which did seem like a semi-conscious effort to scale things down from it’s sprawling predecessor. We are back to “Close To The Edge” style track times here, with two songs on side 2, and only one “20 minuter” in the form of the sometimes quite punky “Gates Of Delirium” - the middle “battle” section is quite brash, noisy and bristling with energy, no psychedelic doodling here. Again, over on the other side of the pond, a section of this track called “Soon” was issued as a US 45, backed with an edited version of one of the tracks off side 2, “Sound Chaser”. Both these edits were added as bonus tracks to the 2003 remastered edition of the album when it was reissued on CD in expanded form.
The band toured the album until the summer of 1975, where they took a break to allow each band member the opportunity to record a solo album. To fill the gap, Atlantic issued the retro compilation “Yesterdays” early in the year. It mostly concentrated on material from the early years, a period that predated the Roger Dean years, but came housed in a Dean designed sleeve once more. Rarities appeared in the form of 1970 b-side “Dear Father” and their 1972 recorded cover of “America”, which had appeared on an Atlantic Records ‘Various Artists’ set, and had also appeared in highly edited form as a US 45 the same year.
The band toured again in 1976, with what seems to have been dubbed the “Solo Albums Tour”. Some material from these solo albums was squeezed in, but for the most part, the setlists were full of nothing but “the hits”. The band then reconvened to begin work on what would be their eighth studio album, “Going For The One”. However, early on in the proceedings, the band felt that Moraz was not “playing like he was involved”, and he was asked to leave. Rick Wakeman was invited back into the fold, who found the lifestyle changes since he was last in the band had improved, whilst the rough versions he heard of the new songs represented something he liked the sound of more than the “Topographic Oceans” period. And so the “second” classic lineup was back again.
When released in 1977, “Going For The One” did seem to represent a “new” Yes. The artwork design, by Hipgnosis, was striking to say the least - a nude man staring up at the Century Plaza Towers in LA. There were no less than five songs on this record, which was pressed on just a single slab of vinyl, making it the most “pop” album the band had released since “Fragile” if you base it on ‘number of songs per 20 minutes’. Atlantic realised this and released not one, but two UK singles, the spiky power pop buzz of the title track and the slightly hey-nonny-no, but charming, jangle of “Wonderous Stories”. For a band who had suddenly, possibly thanks to the onslaught of punk, decided to go ’mainstream’, there was the surreal sight of both these singles being issued as limited edition 12 inch pressings, even though the songs themselves were short enough to fit on the 7” pressings with little trouble! For technical clarity, “Going For The One” was slightly edited, with the removal of part of the intro, whilst the flipside was an edit of the one “prog” moment on the album, the 15-minute closer “Awaken”, dubbed “Awaken Part 1”. To confuse matters, both of the two singles were released in identical sleeves, the sleeve itself being a reworking of the album artwork. What hadn’t been lost in the middle of this reinvention, was the melodic hum of the band, with “Turn Of The Century” being as joyously beautiful as anything the band had created before.
What nobody knew then, was that this “comeback” album was more or less the beginning of the end. 1978 saw the release of “Tormato”, which legend has it, was going to be called “Yes Tor”, referring to the peak of Dartmoor, and a canvas showing the planned sleeve design was created by Hipgnosis. Somebody, in reaction to the cover, threw a tomato at the design, which splattered across the front, and a photo of the result was used instead, which caused the album name to now be changed from “Tor” to “Tormato”. At least three people, including Wakeman, all claim to have thrown the object in horror at what was considered to be a poor sleeve design, before it was “redesigned“.
The album seemed to be an attempt to align the band even more with the new wave, with numerous songs fitting within the four-minute time length, and the likes of “Release Release” crackling with urgent energy, but critical reaction was mixed, with band members themselves commenting on both the musical direction of the album and the production technique. The band toured in support of the album, and the pro-animal rights anthem “Don’t Kill The Whale”, a throwback (in a way) to their more hippy days, was a hit.
In late 1979, the band regrouped to work on a planned tenth studio album. But the move away from the more proggy early 70s material didn’t sit well with either Anderson or Wakeman. The remainder of the group wanted to carry on in the same ’heavy rock’ sound that had run through “Tormato”, and material that Anderson was putting forward, was being sidelined by the trio. Wakeman was mostly absent as this breakdown between the two camps gathered pace. In the spring of 1980, instrumental demos were being taped without Anderson even being present in the studio, and there was some concern as to whether he still had a place in the band. In the end, a financial dispute involving Anderson was the final straw and he walked, whilst Wakeman followed soon after, seemingly fed up at the ’inactivity’ that had been in place since the completion of the last tour some nine months previous. The situation hadn’t been helped by Anderson and Wakeman’s desire to salvage something from the wreckage of “Tormato”, and had been keen to record as soon as the last tour had ended - but with the remaining band members seeming at times reluctant to even try to release a follow up, it created disillusionment for both Anderson and Wakeman. It was only after they had left, that Howe Squire and White really decided to try and carry on.
It was luck more than anything which saw Yes manage to record and release a tenth studio effort, issued later that year as “Drama“. The remaining trio were still together, although seemingly unsure what future the band had. They were working in the same rehearsal space as electro-pop duo The Buggles. Both members of the band, singer Trevor Horn and keyboard player Geoff Downes, were huge Yes fans, and had a song which they figured would work better being recorded by Yes rather than themselves. They met up with the remaining members of the band to provide them with the song, and to record a demo. At this point, there was the realisation that the two members of the Buggles could provide a fit for the now departed Anderson and Wakemen, and with Squire himself being a fan of the recently released debut Buggles LP, Horn was invited to join the band as their new singer, and Downes as the new keyboard player. This injection of youth sparked a creative rebirth within the band, with a sound that featured a mix of the new wave leaning of The Buggles, sometimes lengthy compositions which recalled old school Yes, and the heavy rock of “Going For The One” and “Tormato”. The sessions themselves featured a mix of material - songs from the Buggles songbook were introduced into the fold and worked on by the band, as was material demoed before Anderson’s departure. The demo used to introduce the two parties, “We Can Fly From Here”, remained unreleased, but was slotted into future live performances, although a renamed version called “Fly From Here” was later recorded by a more recent incarnation of Yes, the Mark 3 (ish) lineup of 2011 with singer Benoit David (employed after Anderson had quit for a second time).
As if to suggest this was another comeback, and one to be celebrated, Roger Dean was invited back into the sanctum to produce some suitably Yes-like imagery for the album sleeve. An edited “Into The Lens” was issued as a single, whilst an edited “Run Through The Light” surfaced as a 45 in the USA. The band headed out in support of the album, and despite the change in personnel, were treated like homecoming heroes in the States, where the tour included a multiple night run at New York’s Madison Square Gardens. But by all accounts, the UK shows that followed were less successful. The Buggles were more or less a studio creation, and the regular gigging began to take it’s toll on Horn’s voice. Other crowd members seemed less than pleased about this version of the band - despite all those other lineup changes, the departure of the lead singer was obviously a change too far. As regards the setlist, older numbers were mixed up with “Drama” selections, something achievable reasonably well as Horn had a similar singing style to Anderson, slightly high pitched, although not quite in the same league.
As the band continued to tour the UK in the winter of 1980, Anderson’s departure was marked with another live LP - this time a (slim line) double album called “Yesshows”. Culled from the tours conducted in 1976, 77 and 78 (once again meaning different band members from different time frames were documented - this time, keyboard players Moraz and Wakeman), it featured a slightly more varied collection of material than “Yessongs“, simply because the decision had been taken to play “Time And A Word” on the “Tormato” tour, and a live recording of the song from Wembley’s Empire Pool was thus included. The album was designed to try and run in some sort of “setlist order”, which explains why the live version of side 4 of “Topographic Oceans”, “Ritual”, appears in full - but split into two halves and spread over the bulk of side 3, and most of the start of side 4. Subsequent CD editions include this track with the two halves ’stitched together’, although cassette copies released at the time seemingly still featured the two parts as separate entities, even though the format would have allowed the track to be mixed into a single song.
After the “Drama” tour was wound up a few weeks later, with a batch of 6 London dates across three different venues, Horn announced his departure from the band. He admitted to feeling uncomfortable at being Anderson’s replacement, the relatively lukewarm reaction that surrounded the UK tour seemed to have had an effect on him (even though a look at the itinerary will show it was not only in London that multiple shows were booked to meet demand). He said he preferred to work behind the scenes, and later became more well known as a producer (although there was actually a second Buggles album in late 81). Slowly but surely, other band members drifted away, including Squire, who seemed to retain the legal rights to the band name (even though he hadn’t come up with it, he was, by now, the only original band member left). Howe and Downes were left, but instead formed a new band, Asia, rather than to try and get together a third (sort of) version of Yes. By the start of 1981, came the official announcement that Yes were no more.
The send off to the band came just in time for Christmas, with the November 81 release of “Classic Yes”. A 50 or so minute trawl through what was mostly proggy album selections from the 70s (nothing from “Yes” or “Drama”, but a nod for “Wonderous Stories”), it’s main selling point was the inclusion of a pair of previously unreleased recordings from the 1978 tour of “Roundabout” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” on a free 7” single tucked inside the packaging. These tracks were also included at the end of sides 1 and 2 respectively on the cassette release, whilst a mid-1990s CD pressing, now deleted, included them as bonus tracks at the end.
Reissues and Comps
Long before vinyl repressings were done seemingly as special, “buy it now or else” style over-priced limited editions on 180g vinyl, vinyl albums were bog standard entities, that would fill up entire record shops for years on end. You could wander into a shop and simply pick up a late 70s/early 80s reissue of a record that had originally been issued some years before - no hunting around on eBay or jumping through hoops to track it down. Yes’ back catalogue was repressed by Atlantic throughout the 70s, and copies produced (and presumably, re-produced) in such large numbers, that they could still be located after the band had split in 81.
A number of my Yes records seem to be mid 70’s pressings made in Germany - these come on slightly more flexible vinyl, and even though the catalogue numbers sometimes might be the same, or fairly similar, to the originals, the first giveaway is sometimes the change of label - the first few Yes albums were originally pressed with the red and purple label design, such as the debut release (LP, Atlantic 588 190), whereas my 1975 reissue of this one uses the green and orange one (LP, Atlantic ATL 40034 Z). I think the “Z” on my copy may donate a later reissue. German pressings also used to have the “33rpm” playing speed logo printed inside an upside down triangle on the label, the typography was different, and they used to have a Warner Brothers “W” logo embossed into the back of the sleeve, so even though, for “Yes”, the lyric insert was still intact, and the gatefold still in situ, you knew this wasn’t a first edition that you was holding.
The repressings of “Time And A Word” and “The Yes Album” I have retain lyric sheets and gatefold sleeve designs where necessary. Again, “Time And A Word” was originally issued with the orange and purple labels, by which point Atlantic’s UK cataloguing numbering system had changed (LP, Atlantic 2400 006). Later pressings seem to have been made in both the UK and Germany for the UK market, with slightly different catalogue number and typography designs, but even so, my German repressing (LP, Atlantic ATL 40085) still looks very much like the original, complete with it’s “nude” cover and lyrics insert.
Ditto my “Yes Album”, which was another one originally on the orange and purple label (LP, Atlantic 2400 101) but which I picked up in reissue form in the early 80s. Again, it’s a German reissue, but the gatefold is still intact (LP, Atlantic 40106). The catalogue number doesn’t use the “ATL” code as found on my “TAAW”, this again seems to be the case of it being a later reissue of a reissue.
By 1972, Atlantic records were using a “K xxxxx” format in the UK for their cataloguing system, so any records such as 1971‘s “Fragile” (LP, Atlantic 2401 1019) that you found with this catalogue number instead, were a later UK pressing, but would often still look the business - this album (LP, Atlantic K 50009) again retains it‘s gatefold design, although the booklet given away with the original is missing. Starting with “Close To The Edge”, the catalogue numbers of any UK reissue simply matched that of the original, so you had to look for tell tale signs about the date of your pressing, if you seemed to have a UK produced one. My “CTTE” was a budget release denoted by having a “Prime Cuts” sticker on the front, and was housed in a single, not gatefold, sleeve (LP, Atlantic K 50012). But the original inner bag with the lyrics on was reproduced, although there was a strangely shaped white border around the edge, confirming to even the uninitiated that this was a photographic reproduction of an earlier, differently shaped, inner bag from an earlier pressing. It also included an insert detailing other Atlantic reissues available at ‘nice price’ in your local LP emporium.
For the records from 73-81, it seems as though there were a variety of sources from which I managed to obtain my vinyl versions. My edition of 1973 live album “Yessongs” is a curious US pressing (3xLP, Atlantic SD 3-100), which comes in it’s fold out sleeve, retains it’s photo booklet, but rather bizarrely has UK records inside with the “K 60045” catalogue number system. My “Topographic Oceans” is a later German repress, using the ATL catalogue number system (2xLP, Atlantic ATL 80001), whereas the UK ones used the slightly different “K 80001” number, but still has the gatefold and custom labels - note also that these pressings/repressings of course come without barcodes, so when you look at them now, it seems quite amazing to me really that I have things that cost me next to nothing that are now quite historically important.
“Yesterdays” was hunted down in a charity shop years after the event, so I think I have an original (LP, Atlantic K 50048) whilst my “Relayer” also uses the original cat number (LP, Atlantic K 50096), but must be a later pressing, if not a revamped reissue, of the original release, because I bought it brand new - and it was not 1974 when I did it. But German pressings and repressings would still make it into UK stores alongside these UK ones, as my “Going For The One” may well look like a UK one (gatefold sleeve, custom labels, etc) but has the German ‘ATL’ catalogue number instead of a UK ‘K’ one (LP, Atlantic ATL 50379).
I am fairly convinced my introduction to Yes came just as they were splitting up, so the records I bought near the end of their career would have been purchased so soon after the event, that they would have been original (or at least, first reissue) editions. My copy of “Tormato” has it’s inner sleeve and custom labels (LP, Atlantic K 50518), although it took me a while to track down “Drama”, eventually picked up in a charity shop but again, a gatefold sleeve housed original release (LP, Atlantic K 50736). “Yesshows” is also knackered enough to show it is an original, albeit a US one again (2xLP, Atlantic SD 2-510), whilst I know my copy of “Classic Yes” is also an original, because I bought it soon after the event in the now long defunct Parrot Records in North Street, Romford, complete with it’s free 7” (LP+7“, Atlantic K50842).
Most of Yes’ back catalogue was reissued on CD in the late 80s/early 90s, with “remastered” editions surfacing circa 1994. This second batch saw the entire studio and live back catalogue made easily available again, after the likes of “Yesshows“ had been overlooked for the earlier reissue series. Some of the more celebrated releases have been reissued on other occasions with variant track listings, with expanded double disc reissues in 2013 and 2014 of “The Yes Album”, “Relayer” and “Close To The Edge”. “Yesterdays” also got a second lease of life in the mid 90s, presumably on the basis that it included some otherwise hard-to-find material, and “Classic Yes” also got reissued in 1994 with it’s bonus 7” material intact.
In 2003, the studio albums from the period were all reissued in expanded form with bonus tracks, themselves a mix of previously released rarities, and previously unreleased material. The amount of material on each disc varied from release to release, although most (but not all) featured at least one previously unreleased track. All of these reissues were later included in a 2013 boxset which covered a period from 1969 to 1987, 1987 representing the second split of the band and the end of their association with Atlantic Records. “Classic Yes” was deleted in 2003, but the two live albums remained on catalogue, and still do. Also deleted now is the 1994 reissue of “Yes” which was housed in the US “group” sleeve, but hunt around and you may still be able to track it down online.
Given that, occasional splits aside, Yes are still an ongoing concern, a number of subsequent compilation releases have surfaced in the intervening years, pretty much all of which cover both the pre-1981 and post-1981 years. However, given the adoration afforded to the first phase of the band’s career, they do tend to be biased heavily towards the 69-81 period.
First up was 1991’s boxset “Yesyears”, which included things like the early period B-side “Something’s Coming” (albeit in a rare stereo mix), BBC session material, the US edits of “America” and “Soon” and various bits of previously unreleased material, both studio and live. A companion highlights release, “Yesstory”, was issued soon after as a double CD, which includes several of the rarities from the boxset, but does not include any of the previously unreleased material.
1993’s “Highlights” was a fairly straightforward single disc overview of the band, and saw “Soon” once again make it onto a UK compilation. 1997’s “Something’s Coming” was a 2-CD release featuring the band’s 1969 and 1970 BBC Sessions output, which was renamed (and repackaged) as “Beyond And Before” for the US market when issued the following year.
2002 saw the release of “In A Word”, marketed as a ‘revamped’ version of the “Yesyears” box, but for the most part, featuring a totally different track listing. Disc 2 includes the unedited version of “America” and the expanded “Revealing Science Of God” as mentioned earlier, whilst the start of disc 4 features material recorded with Anderson during the late 1979 aborted sessions for the tenth studio record. It was followed by two releases in 2003, another “hits” set called “The Ultimate Yes”, and a set of newly commissioned remixes called, simply, “Remixes” - this set is notable for only featuring material from the 1969-1981 period.
2005’s “The Word Is Live” was billed as a live companion to the “In A Word” box, with the majority of the three discs including previously unreleased live material from 1970 to 1980. And then there are the other “hits sets” which between them, cover differing time periods - “The Best Of Yes 1970-1987”, and “Wonderous Stories: The Best Of Yes” which runs from 70 to 83. The latter is another release upon which “Soon” makes an appearance.
Anybody interested in getting hold of the other “single edits” and B-sides will probably find that to get them all, will require actually hunting down the original 7” single upon which they appeared. But the 2003-04 reissue campaign of the original studio albums saw some of these rarities get tagged on as bonus tracks - the expanded “Yes” includes the mono mix of “Something’s Coming” and an alternate mix of “Everydays”, which turned up on the flip of the ‘withdrawn’ “Looking Around”.
The reissued “Time And A Word” includes the single version of “The Prophet”, as well as the alternate mixes of “No Opportunity” and “Sweet Dreams”. This reissue comes in the original ‘nude’ sleeve, following a period when the most common CD edition available was a bonus-track less edition housed in the US “Group” cover issued as part of the 1994 reissue series.
The edits of “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Starship Trooper” were made re-available on the 2003 edition of “The Yes Album”, and “Total Mass Retain” turned up on the expanded “Close To The Edge”. As mentioned earlier, “Soon” and the short version of “Sound Chaser” appeared on the expanded “Relayer”, whilst “Abilene” is on the expanded “Tormato”. “Drama” was reissued in 2004, and includes the edited versions of “Into The Lens” and “Run Through The Light”.
For anybody starting from scratch, it would make sense to start by going for the expanded editions, where they exist, of the albums - either by hunting down the boxset, or simply going through and buying them one by one. The 2013/4 reissues mentioned above offer a slightly altered set of bonus tracks when compared to the 2003 editions, so are worth a go if you stumble across them first. All were released on the Panegryic label, a specialist prog label, with catalogue numbers not too dissimilar to the cat numbers used on the original 1970’s releases and repressings. In addition to including the material added to the 2003 reissues, they also include material exclusive to these editions, so are currently the definitive pressings, and are thus detailed in the list below. All were issued as CD+DVD releases, and also as CD+Blu Ray pressings.
For the remainder of the list, I have listed the complete run of live, studio and best-of releases from the original 1969-1981 period - the list shows the most recent CD edition, which as you can see in some instances, is still the Atlantic issued CD editions from the 90s.
The two live albums from the period can still be hunted down, and although the two compilations from the period are now officially deleted, I would still recommend trying to locate a copy of “Classic Yes” that includes the live material. Completists will then need to go for the vinyl original of “Yesshows” to get the chopped up mixes of the two halves of “Ritual”, and any pre-2003 version of “Topographic Oceans” to get the ‘short’ mix of the opening track.
Yes (CD, Rhino 8122 73786 2, 2003 expanded edition)
Time And A Word (CD, Rhino 8122 73787 2, 2003 expanded edition)
The Yes Album (CD+DVD, Panegryic GYRSP 40106, 2014 expanded edition)
Fragile (CD, Rhino 8122 73789 2, 2003 expanded edition)
Close To The Edge (CD+DVD, Panegryic GYESP 50012, 2013 expanded edition)
Yessongs (2xCD, Atlantic 7567 82682 2, 1994 remastered version)
Tales From Topographic Oceans (2xCD, Rhino 8122 73791 2, 2003 expanded edition)
Relayer (CD+DVD, Panegryic GYRSP 50096, 2014 expanded edition)
Yesterdays (CD, Atlantic 7567 82684 2, 1994 remastered version)
Going For The One (CD, Rhino 8122 73793 2, 2003 expanded edition)
Tormato (CD, Rhino 8122 73794 2, 2004 expanded edition)
Drama (CD, Rhino 8122 73795 2, 2004 expanded edition)
Yesshows (CD, Atlantic 7567 82686 2, 1994 remastered version)
Classic Yes (CD, Atlantic 7567 81583 2, 1994 remastered version)
Sweetness (7” Edit)/Something’s Coming (7”, Atlantic 584280)
Time And A Word (Edit)/The Prophet (Single Version) (7”, Atlantic 584323)
Sweet Dreams/Dear Father (7”, Atlantic 2091 004)
And You And I/Roundabout (7”, Atlantic K 10407)
Wonderous Stories/Parallels (7”, Atlantic K 10999)
Wonderous Stories/Parallels (12”, Atlantic K 10999, available on blue or black vinyl)
Going For The One (Edit)/Awaken (Part 1) (7”, Atlantic K 11047)
Going For The One (Edit)/Awaken (Part 1) (12”, Atlantic K 11047)
Don’t Kill The Whale/Abilene (7”, Atlantic K 11184, different pressings use different spelling of b-side)
Into The Lens (Edit)/Does It Really Happen? (7”, Atlantic K 11622)