the jason shergold music collector site

Friday, 19 June 2015

Welcome


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

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

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

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

The June 2015 edition is now online, with a look at The Thrills.

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.

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
John Lennon - May 2013
Pixie Lott - February 2011
Madness - November 2011
Madonna - April 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / March 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / March 2012 / November 2012 / January 2013 / November 2013 / March 2014
Mansun - August 2011
Dannii Minogue - September 2011
Morrissey - April 2014
Kate Nash - February 2011
New Order - October 2012
Nirvana - June 2011 / December 2012
Oasis - April 2013
Pet Shop Boys - May 2011 / June 2011
Pink Floyd - January 2011 / July 2011
P!nk - April 2012
Elvis Presley - March 2011 / October 2011 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014
Prince - January 2015
Pulp - August 2011
Queen - December 2010 / September 2011
Cliff Richard & The Shadows - July 2011
Rolling Stones - July 2010 / October 2010 / March 2011
The Saturdays - April 2011
Siouxsie & The Banshees - March 2013 / July 2014
Slade - May 2012
Sleeper - December 2013
Smashing Pumpkins - June 2012
The Smiths - June 2010
Britney Spears - November 2010 / December 2010
Bruce Springsteen - February 2012
Status Quo - January 2012
Cat Stevens - February 2012
Rachel Stevens - July 2011
The Stranglers - February 2010 / December 2011 / May 2013 / September 2013 / December 2013 / July 2014 / 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
Neil Young - April 2015

To return to the homepage, you can click on the tab for the current year. Several blogs are in production, with articles on Yes and Madonna 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!

Classic Albums No. 16: Let’s Bottle Bohemia


Back in the days when buying the music papers was an almost essential, weekly, ritual, the NME and the Melody Maker would like to try and out-do each other by claiming they had discovered so-and-so first. In the early part of 2003, it was Irish band The Thrills who were the recipients of excitable hysteria from the press. They had existed in one form or another for several years, but it was after demos started doing the rounds in mid 2002, that labels began fighting over getting the band’s signatures on a record contract.

It was Virgin Records who won the battle, and by the end of 2002, had released a 4-track EP led by the title track “Santz Cruz”. It revealed itself to be a record of sublime indie-rock beauty, marrying the jingle jangle of classic REM with Beach Boys style harmonies, and throwing in a bit of a Neil Young-esque country-rock vibe just to finish things off. They sounded like a Californian based band who had never even heard of Ireland, but what they might have lacked in subtlety over the wearing-of-influences on their sleeves, they more than made up for in the quality of their sheer anthemic, joyously, sunny pop, the likes of “Your Love Is Like Las Vegas” being so catchy, it felt as though this was a record that had been made in some sort of bouncy-indie-rock factory, so utterly glorious was the result.

Once the EP was out, people fell over themselves to show their adoration towards the band. As such, with the band’s debut LP in the can, the promotional push for the album’s release was watched extra keenly than usual. Radio programmers jumped at the chance to playlist the follow up release, “One Horse Town”, another piece of near-perfect summer-indie, all pounding off-the-beat drums, banjo riffery, xylophone-driven pop of the highest order. It made waves in the lower reaches of the charts, possibly helped along by the fact that most copies of the vinyl edition that were pressed were pre-signed by the band, offering an instant collectible. When the even more summery “Big Sur” was issued as the next 45 in the summer, it sounded tailor-made for the season, and complete with it’s brilliant “hey hey we’re The Monkees” lyrical steal, helped seal the band’s sudden reputation of making the most happy sounding pop music heard on these shores in years. “Big Sur” dented the top 20, and, in a very short space of time from those demo-hawking days, The Thrills were stars.

The summer of 2003 belonged to The Thrills. I saw them play a swelteringly hot London Astoria that July, which was a sell out - and came hot on the heels of a successful Glastonbury show. A follow up UK tour announced roundabout the same time also shifted tickets quickly, so quickly in fact, that my wife (to be) and I had to settle for upstairs seats only for one of the two shows the band were due to play at the Shepherds Bush Empire that October. In August, they returned to the Astoria as the opening act for The Stones, doing another one of their “stadium warm up” club gigs. Debut LP, “So Much For The City”, hit the top 3 in the UK, and received positive write-ups all over. It came in a slightly surreal sleeve - the five band members with what seemed to be two random women in shot, and recalled those 60s sleeves by listing the song titles on the cover. The band’s logo, in situ on all the recent (and future) single releases from the LP was abandoned for a more generic design, for some strange reason.

With the band now big stars, Virgin reissued “Santa Cruz”, this time as a more regular ’multi-formatted’ 45, whilst a fifth single release was then issued to coincide with the autumn UK tour, the equally summery “Don’t Steal Our Sun”. The tour gave the band the opportunity to try out new material, and future 45 “Whatever Happened To Corey Haim” was one of the new songs played during the tour.

“Corey Haim” was issued in August 2004 as the lead single off album number 2, “Let’s Bottle Bohemia”. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have played this album over the years. Whilst it doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, it has a bit more diversity within it’s sphere than the debut, veering from slowed down, more downbeat numbers, through the summer-indie sound of before, and beyond onto to some occasionally heavy and quite rocking numbers. I absolutely adore it. As I have said before, I find it hard to describe the sound of music - after all, you are supposed to listen to it, not read it - so all I can say is, it is so catchy, it hurts.

By the time it was released, The Thrills were already starting to be seen as “last year’s thing”. We saw them play at the Stafford leg of V2004, where the band seemed to go a bit over everybody’s head for some reason - the joyous, celebratory, vibe of the 2003 shows replaced by a festival crowd seemingly unaware of just how magnificent this band was, and indeed, by the time the promo campaign was being wound down in 2005, radio was losing interest and latter period singles were failing to do much at all. The BBC were shunting them from Radio 1 to the more MOR-oriented Radio 2, and units were not shifting as fast.

But who cares for festival crowds, radio playlisters, and record sales. Because “Bohemia” is a glorious record, and one of my all time favourites. Again, another strange choice you might think, mentioning this one before “The White Album “ (it’s time will come I am sure), but the sheer summery bounce of this record, at least as far as the musical side of it is concerned, is utter genius, and it is at times so hook-driven, you almost end up in tears of sheer joy at the unbridled brilliance of it all.

“Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” opens with a clanging guitar riff, which sets out the “heavier” stall from the off. The choruses are incendiary - led into by a key change in the preceding verse, then another one, and then dominated by some pounding drums, throbbing guitar licks, and harmonies that sound like they have been transported straight from heaven. You just want to punch your fist in the air like a loon. Then, when it calms down for breath after chorus number 2 for a relaxing saunter through the middle 8, a glorious “whoo hoo hoo hoo” by singer Conor Deasy appears in the middle, lifted straight out of the school of genius pop music. What a start.

“Corey Haim” is driven along by a magnificent string section and a keyboard line that sounds like it’s been nicked, then rejigged a bit, from Stevie’s “Superstition” - the jingle jangle tag that threatened to follow them around forever replaced here by something a bit more sophisticated. But whilst the summer pop roar that mostly defined the band is still more or less in situ, at least in terms of the anthemic vibe that the song still manages to produce, the lyrics themselves also go someway to trying to move the band away from that joyous summer sound - the subject of the song, Corey Haim, was a troubled actor who found problems in trying to deal with his gaining of fame as a child actor, and had more or less disappeared from view by the end of the 90s. He is now, also, no longer with us.

“Faded Beauty Queens” plays up to the REM obsession by getting Peter Buck in on guest mandolin. The choruses, again, are sublime...Deasy’s vocals, which often felt like he was struggling to be heard over the music, have a frailty which works brilliantly here - as the hook-laden chorus kicks in, Deasy delivers the withering diatribe “well, I don’t know how it ends up here...wide eyed and new money, with faded beauty queens”. It feels both gloriously upbeat in terms of the music, but slightly miserable in terms of the lyrical content. This seemingly downbeat fascination continues on the majestic “Saturday Night” - again, unbelievably catchy throughout, but with Deasy seemingly distraught at the state of the world...as the song once again wheels through another massive key change, he sings “I’m just a man, not even a great one...is this what they call love on a Saturday Night?” It feels like a disdainful attack on night club culture, youth, life, and, well, just about everything. And you thought The Smiths were leaders in bedsit humdrum.

“Not For All The Love In The World” takes the tempo down, and finally, the feel of the music - sad piano riffs, sadder guitar ones - matches the tearfulness of the words...”and so you crave recognition, but the keys to the city went missing..I guess everybody went to a better party”. Staggeringly brilliant. More strings in the background lend this song a certain poignancy, and by being released as the second single from the album, thus became the first Thrills 45 to bear little resemblance to the far bouncier ones that had preceded it. This was the point at which the chart positions started to suffer.

“Our Wasted Lives”, which opens up the second half, returns us to a faster pace but Deasy still seems unhappy (“hey kids, there’s no romance in fate”) but it’s easy to miss this gloomy view, as the verses race along in a blur of piano romping and electric guitar roars. The choruses then suddenly change course, the song going into a bit of space-rock style ambience, before the REM-esque harmonies kick in once more to bring it back up to speed again. “You Cant Fool Old Friends With Limousines” is a more piano driven piece, sounding not unlike “About A Boy”-period Badly Drawn Boy attempting to cover 70s era Bruce Springsteen with an Irish accent. And still, the lyrics remain quite bleak - “I don’t love you, I just love myself” Deasy scowls at one point.

“Found My Rosebud” is astonishing. At times, it is the sound of Teenage Fanclub and Ozzy-fronted Black Sabbath fighting in a car park. Within just 30 seconds, it has built up into a noisy, catchy-as-hell bastard-son mashup of “One Horse Town” and “Big Sur”, the choruses an incendiary roar of jingle jangle guitar, Deasy’s “sore throat” vocals fighting for space over the top, whilst Charlatans-esque keyboards and Elton John-style piano ensure everything sounds like it is turned up to 11. Deasy is still unhappy - “it’s not like I said that I loved you” he snarls.

“The Curse Of Comfort” recalls the sadness of “Saturday Night” - it trundles along in a sort of minor key misery, interspersed with some marvellous “baa baa ba ba” backup vocals, then explodes into more space-age choruses, marked by one of the greatest key changes ever committed to vinyl, as Deasy cries “wouldn’t want a heart that’s been dented by you”, followed by one of the second greatest key changes ever committed to vinyl. This is music of such beauty, my limited journalistic skills (ie. absolutely none) make it difficult for me to tell you just HOW good this song is.

“The Irish Keep Gate-Crashing” remains one of the great lost 45s, issued as the third and final single from the LP - and a massive flop. “Lust, Top 40 fame, I can smell your catholic shame” Deasy spits as the song rocks along, throwing out hooks and catchy harmonies left right and centre. Another string section soon comes in to up the ante, and towards the end, it sounds like Sgt Pepper-era Beatles battling with Billy Joel, The Shadows and The Byrds all at the same time.

Hidden track “A City Of Long Nights” doesn’t necessarily deserve to be hidden away - it’s shuffly, almost drum-machine like beat, does seem to put it at a bit of a disadvantage compared to what has come before, but there are still some great words here, as Deasy mutters about used car salesmen and plastic surgeons. It brings the album to a bit of an odd close, you would think at this point that the anthemic stride of “The Irish” would work better as a proper finale, although there is still something to admire in it’s jingle jangle guitar rhythms. But then, things are brought full circle with an orchestral reprise of “The Irish”, and the record suddenly feels like it is springing towards a classic album finale. The reprise reminds me of early period ELO - which is only ever a good thing. And that’s it.

“Let’s Bottle Bohemia” was a top 10 hit in the UK, and a number 1 in their native Ireland - helped along, possibly, by the fact that initial copies of the album there included a free DVD unavailable with regular UK copies. But with The Thrills being seen as “last year’s news”, the lack of radio play combined with the music press already having found somebody else to slobber over, meant that it was going to be difficult to keep momentum - and the final single from the LP stalled outside the top 40. The group, in danger of burnout from what felt like a non stop 2 years, took time off before work began on a third LP, with a desire to try and keep expanding their sound. Numerous songs recorded during sessions in 2006 were abandoned because they were deemed to be under par, too similar in sound to what had been released before, but eventually, enough material was deemed suitable for the band’s 2007 effort, “Teenager”. However, their return was not greeted like the second coming, and the only people interested were the indie kids who had loved them first time around - the “floating voters” were unable to be coerced, as radio play of the album’s first single was limited, so sales of the album were restricted really to the hardcore following. “Teenager” failed to dent the top 40, and a second single from the album was cancelled as Virgin feared that the band had lost their pulling power. After a summer tour in 2008, the band went on hiatus, Virgin dropped them from the roster, and that really was that. Interviews in the following years suggested a return was possibly likely, but it never happened. A curious mail order only “hits” album was issued in “Teenager” style packaging on Amazon’s website, and the group became yet another indie band to sadly fade away.

Which is a shame, because The Thrills, at the time, were genuinely, well, thrilling. Some of those songs were, and still are, sublime, so having them dumped into pop’s dustbin is a bit sad. I know, there are plenty of other 90s and 00s indie bands in there as well, but the fact that one of BBC’s “Sound of 2003” bands have sort of just withered away, is not something to celebrate. I remember the excitement of those shows from that period, and for it all to be now just a fading memory...the fact that the bass player, last I heard, was an accounts manager, barely a decade after sharing a recording studio with the guy out of REM, is a bit heartbreaking. Guitarist Daniel Ryan says that the release of “Teenager” coincided with Virgin’s parent company, EMI, being taken over by private equity firm Terra Firma, which didn’t help matters, numerous EMI acts soon after attempted to jump ship as the running of the label went downhill. He said the band “never split up, but there came a point where we just did not want to do anything anymore. I feel we made a good third album...but there comes a point in the music business when your credit just runs out”.

Oh well. But at least we still have the music. And those Thrills records, especially, “Bohemia”, remain glorious pieces of work. Their jingle jangle bounce is infectious, and the hooks that run throughout that LP are near perfect. I am not sure, if you don’t know this band, if I can really convince you to go and pay a fiver for an 11-year old indie rock album by a now defunct band...you know, what with Radio 1’s obsession with “youth culture” and “new music” which prevents anybody from being allowed to listen to anything that was recorded more than 6 months before. But if, unlike Radio 1 bosses, you actually LOVE music, and quality music at that, then you will love “Let’s Bottle Bohemia”. It is beautifully constructed pop music of the highest order, and that’s what counts.

Discography

ALBUMS - RECOMMENDED EDITIONS

So Much For The City (2xCD, Virgin 596 533 2, with 7-track bonus disc)
Let’s Bottle Bohemia (Irish CD+DVD, Virgin ICDV 2986)
Teenager (CD+DVD, Virgin CDVX 3037)

UK COMMERCIALLY RELEASED SINGLES

Santa Cruz/Deckchairs And Cigarettes (White Vinyl 7”, Virgin VS 1840)
Santa Cruz/Deckchairs And Cigarettes/Your Love Is Like Las Vegas/Plans (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1840)

One Horse Town/Don’t Play It Cool (Orange Vinyl 7”, Virgin VS 1845)
One Horse Town/Car Crash/Don’t Play It Cool (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1845)

Big Sur/Your Love Is Like Las Vegas (Acoustic Version) (Blue Vinyl 7”, Virgin VS 1852)
Big Sur/No One Likes To Be Upstaged/One Horse Town (Demo)/Big Sur (Video) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1852)

Santa Cruz (Radio Edit)/Don’t Play It Cool (New Version) (Burgundy Vinyl 7”, Virgin VS 1862)
Santa Cruz (Radio Edit)/Blue September (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1862)
Santa Cruz (Video)/It’s So Easy/Just Travelling Thru (Live, London Abbey Road Studios 2003)/The Thrills Home Movies (Video) (DVD, Virgin VSDVD 1862, unique p/s)

Don’t Steal Our Sun/The One I Love (Live, BBC Radio 1 Jo Whiley Show 27.6.2003) (Green vinyl 7”, Virgin VS 1864)
Don’t Steal Our Sun/One Horse Town (Live, London Abbey Road Studios 2003) (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1864)
Don’t Steal Our Sun/Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me/Santa Cruz (Acoustic Version)/Don’t Steal Our Sun (Video) (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1864, different p/s)

Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?/A City Of Long Nights (Acoustic Version) (7”, Virgin VS 1876)
Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?/Big Sur (Brooklyn’s Own D Sardy Mix) (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1876)
Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?/If I Wasn’t So Pretty/Whatever Happened To Corey Haim? (Live, London Maida Vale Studios 4.8.2004)/(Video) (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1876, white p/s)

Not For All The Love In The World/Saturday Night (Acoustic Version) (7”, Virgin VS 1890)
Not For All The Love In The World (Radio Edit)/What A Cruel Trick To Play Upon Myself (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1890)
Not For All The Love In The World (Radio Edit)/This Guy’s In Love With You (Live, BBC Radio 2 Ken Bruce Show 3.8.2004)/Not For All The Love In The World (Sebastien Teller Remix)/(Video) (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1980, unique p/s)

The Irish Keep Gatecrashing/Not For All The Love In The World (Acoustic Version) (7” Picture Disc with poster insert, Virgin VS 1895, numbered, original copies sticker sealed)
The Irish Keep Gatecrashing/Viva Las Vegas (Live) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1895)
The Irish Keep Gatecrashing (Video)/Movie Premieres/The Making Of “So Much For The City” (Video) (DVD, Virgin VSDVD 1895)

Nothing Changes Around Here (Radio Edit)/Second Guessing (Pink Vinyl 7”, Virgin VS 1947, poster sleeve)
Nothing Changes Around Here (Radio Edit)/Some Other Day (Blue Vinyl 7”, Virgin VSX 1947)
Nothing Changes Around Here (Radio Edit)/That Boy (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1947)

Note: promo editions of all of these exist, including CDR promos of things such as the first “Santa Cruz” pressing - some feature all of the tracks listed, and some come in unique “titles” sleeves. These may be easier and cheaper to find than some of the pressings listed above.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Stranglers - Compilation LP’s Pt 5


So this is, certainly for now, my final blog about the Stranglers’ “authorised”-ish compilation releases. They cover a period from early 2010 until late 2013, and are pretty much all of the best of sets released during this period, the earlier flood of “Mark 2 only” releases during the noughties having by this point, more or less, dried up. But there are still probably more compilations from this period than anybody really needs in their lives, so let’s see why they were released.


Decades Apart
(2xCD, EMI 5099 945 603228)

If you only buy one Stranglers best of, then this 2010 release is the one. Not necessarily because it ticks all the boxes, but because it comes book ended with a pair of new Mark 4 recordings, making it the first hits set to include totally new material. But beyond that, it is still one of the top 5 compilations released by the band, mainly because it achieves something that none of the others have ever done.

And that is to include material from all four incarnations of the group. Not only that, but it is also the first Stranglers comp to include material from the China Records years, meaning that the likes of “Heaven Or Hell” are appearing on a best of set for the first time ever, despite being nearly 20 years old at the time of release.

One of the problems of how you balance a set like this, is whether you go for a split in terms of years or material - this one goes for the latter, so the first disc covers a period from albums one to eight, the second disc albums nine to sixteen. But what this does of course mean is that even after disc 2 is well underway, Hugh is still in situ. Fair enough, the group ultimately were more prolific when he was in the band. But the album comes in a sleeve showing the Mark 4 lineup quite proudly on it’s cover, which has the effect of almost reducing Hugh, Paul and John to mere sidemen in the band’s career, a situation made more bizarre when you consider that there are only four Mark 4 recordings on the entire record. If any Stranglers compilation should have come in a generic sleeve NOT showing band members on the front, then this should have been the one.

Each of those 16 albums are represented usually by the big hits from each one. The exception is “The Meninblack”, whereby the two singles released were both flops, so it is the band’s calling card “Waltzinblack” that gets the nod instead. Interesting, but given that other ‘flop’ singles crop up during the remainder of the album (“La Folie“, “Sugar Bullets“, etc) means that this is another situation where the record that is for some the band’s best LP, is being almost written out of the band’s official history. See also “Hits And Heroes” for another example of an airbrushing of the band’s career circa 1980/81.

For the single-less “Coup De Grace”, it is the title track which gets included, which still sounds gloriously raucous after all these years, even if the band did decide to drop it from the European leg of the 2014 tour, after it seemed to fall on deaf ears at the UK gigs. Elsewhere, there is a combination of non-LP 45’s (“Go Buddy Go”), singles that never were (the promo only “Golden Boy”, the cancelled “Unbroken”) and selected latter period album tracks, designed to show that the Mark 2 and Mark 3 lineups had some absolute corkers buried away (“Time To Die” and “Norfolk Coast”).

Of course, trying to cram 33 years worth of material into a pair of CD’s was always going to be a challenge, and you can probably create your own list of “why didn’t it include that”-type songs that are missing (I’ll start you off with “Straighten Out”). But as the only Stranglers comp to cover their career from start to finish, it is automatically more representative of their diversity than anything else on the market, and the two new songs make it an essential buy. Furthermore, it seemed to be issued as an almost budget style release when it was first issued, so hunt around and you might still pick it up for a fiver if you look in the right places. Bargain.

Tracklisting: Retro Rockets/Grip/Peaches/Go Buddy Go/Something Better Change/No More Heroes/5 Minutes/Nice N Sleazy/Walk On By/Duchess/Nuclear Device/Waltzinblack/Golden Brown/La Folie/Strange Little Girl/European Female/Skin Deep/No Mercy/Always The Sun (Sunny Side Up Mix)/Nice In Nice/All Day And All Of The Night (7” Mix)/96 Tears (Edit)/Heaven Or Hell/Time To Die/Sugar Bullets/Golden Boy/Lies And Deception/In Heaven She Walks/Coup De Grace/Norfolk Coast/Big Thing Coming/Long Black Veil/Unbroken/Spectre Of Love/I Don’t See The World Like You Do


Essential
(CD, EMI 5099 968 023324)

Every so often, a label such as EMI will issue a number of compilation albums by a variety of acts that have, or had, a link to the label at some point in their life, where the title is shared by each compilation. I have mentioned elsewhere on this site a number of best of sets issued by Universal under the banner of “Icon”. So in 2011, EMI issued a number of albums under the banner of “Essential” - alongside The Stranglers, there were releases by the likes of Talking Heads and Dr Hook. What we have here is a budget-esque release that covers, once more, the EMI period of the Mark 1 years. To be fair, there’s no denying the sheer punch of what is on offer here, indeed, you could call most of it essential (but I share Baz’s view that I could possibly not be too bothered if I never heard “Something Better Change” again).

But why does it exist? Well, apart from being another fan-fleecing exercise, it does seem as though it works on other levels - I think I bought my copy in a Tesco store for about six quid, so it is the sort of release that the label knows a supermarket will stock, and that it’s price will bring in the floating voter as they go shopping for their fruit and veg. And also, I guess, it could be seen as an introduction to the band for any newbies who might have discovered them in recent times. But apart from the edited “Walk On By” and 1989 re-jig of “Grip”, and the odd non-LP hit, it’s really nothing more than a rehash of stuff you all already know. Nice cover, nicked straight from the 1989 “Singles” set, but beyond that, one for the hardcore only.

Tracklisting: Peaches/Golden Brown/Strange Little Girl/No More Heroes/Straighten Out/Hanging Around/Walk On By (Edit)/La Folie/Something Better Change/Grip 89/Duchess/Nice N Sleazy/Bear Cage/5 Minutes/London Lady


All The Best
(2xCD, EMI 5099 972 183823)

Another thing I have mentioned here before is the now confusing world of what is or is not a UK release. And on the face of it, this 2012 job is a German import - after all, the EMI website plugged on the back is the German division of the company, www.emi.de. But EMI releases did often have spaces on the back where different countries were listed, and if the album was due to be released in that territory, as opposed to be imported into, a ‘localised’ catalogue number would be printed. And, despite this one being made in Germany, copies were pressed with a UK catalogue number in situ on the sleeve as well! So, it makes the grade.

What have we got? Again, another one that seems to share it’s title with other one-time EMI stablemates, this is a sprawling double disc trawl through the Hugh-helmed EMI years once more, with an, at times, near random approach to what has made the set. It feels, at times, as though it has been designed to fit onto a triple vinyl set or something - five big hitters, then four reasonably big hitters, then some album tracks and flop singles - it sort of goes back and forth and all over the shop, throwing in the odd B-side (“Top Secret”) alongside tracks that seem to be making only their first, or maybe second, appearance on a Stranglers comp (“Peasant In The Big Shitty”).

It’s a curious release - anybody wanting a big overview of what went on between 77 and 82 may as well go the whole hog and go for the ’more or less complete’ “The Old Testament” boxset, whilst those of you fascinated by the flipsides will do better to go for the “no holds barred” round up on “The UA Years”. The inclusion of “You Hold The Key” is nice, as there is not one ESSENTIAL Stranglers release that has included it before, only interesting ones, but again, anybody who was alive in 1999 will have shelled out for “Hits And Heroes” already, and won’t need to flap about this one. Quite nice cover, and at times, so scattergun it’s entertaining to just look at it’s track listing (my copy is still sealed), but again, post-”Decades Apart”, a trifle pointless.

Tracklisting: Peaches (Edit)/Grip/Golden Brown/Strange Little Girl/Duchess/5 Minutes/Nuclear Device/Bear Cage/Something Better Change/Tomorrow Was The Hereafter/The Man They Love To Hate/Let Me Introduce You To The Family/Sometimes/Bring On The Nubiles/Choosey Susie/Sweden/Do You Wanna/Thrown Away/Outside Tokyo/La Folie (Edit)/No More Heroes (Edit)/Hanging Around/Straighten Out/Go Buddy Go/Bitching/You Hold The Key To My Love In Your Hands/Peasant In The Big Shitty/Nice N Sleazy/In The Shadows/N’Emmenes Pas Harry/Just Like Nothing On Earth/Top Secret/Tramp/Waiting For The Meninblack/I Feel Like A Wog/Dagenham Dave/Rok It To The Moon/The Raven/Shah Shah A Go Go/Waltzinblack


Sight And Sound
(CD+DVD, EMI 5099 963 606225)

Once more, another EMI release as part of a ‘series’ - I think there was a Human League “Sight And Sound” out at the same time. Now, the “Sight And Sound” tag had been used before - there is a near flawless Blondie release from the mid-noughties that had a CD packed to the brim, and a DVD with more promos than you could shake a stick at, but this series, dating again from 2012, took a more “measured” approach. So, the running time of the CD is well under the potential 79:59, whilst the accompanying DVD of promos is, ahem, ‘selective’.

The audio side is EMI era, but covering all line ups, so Mark’s 3 and 4 get a tune each. Of course, this does mean the “what happened between 1982 and 2004” question pops up again, to which the answer of course is “very interesting stuff - but not allowed here”. Bah humbug. The DVD is nice - the three big hitters are here (GB, “Peaches” from Battersea and the made-after-the-event clip for “Heroes”), whilst the remainder are basically edited highlights from 1982’s “The Video Collection” VHS, with the infamous strippers performance of “Nice N Sleazy” shoehorned in here simply because it HAD to be. Of course, there is no space for anything genuinely rare like the promo clip for “Sweden”, whilst “Straighten Out“ is omitted seemingly because it looks the same as the clip for “SBC“, which does get the nod. Yet again, the “Meninblack” LP is virtually written out of history once more, and the “Singles” photo is recycled one more time, and whilst it is a nice thing to own, especially at budget price, it feels more like a sampler, something to nibble on for a while before sinking your teeth into something a bit meatier.

Tracklisting: Grip/Peaches/Go Buddy Go/Something Better Change/No More Heroes/5 Minutes/Nice N Sleazy/Walk On By/Duchess/Nuclear Device/Waltzinblack/Golden Brown/Strange Little Girl/Big Thing Coming/Spectre Of Love/Grip (Promo Video)/Something Better Change (Promo Video)/Peaches (Live, Battersea Park - Video)/Hanging Around (Live, Battersea Park - Video)/5 Minutes (Promo Video)/No More Heroes (1982 Video)/Nice N Sleazy (Live, Battersea Park - Video)/Duchess (Promo Video)/Golden Brown (Promo Video)/Strange Little Girl (Promo Video)


Skin Deep
(2xCD, Music Club Deluxe MCDLX 189)

Back in 1994, Blondie - yes, them again - issued a glorious double CD set called “The Platinum Collection”. Playing on the fact that the band seemed to be more popular in the UK than their native US, it featured the A-side and B-side of every UK 7” the band had released during their original incarnation(s) from 1976 to 1982. In order to pad the set out, where a single had also been issued in the USA but with a different flipside, then this track was added as a bonus. Blondie didn’t really do that many B-sides, and so at times, it was almost a “best of the album tracks set”, but it ran in chronological order, and did at least showcase the changing face of the band during that period.

Blondie issued quite a few 12 inches in their time, but only issued a handful of 12”-only flipsides. These, of course, were missing from “The Platinum Collection”, but it didn’t matter - because the most important ones had already been hoovered up by an earlier set, the 1993 odds and sods collection “Blonde And Beyond”. Thus, between then, “TPC” and “BAB” offered up, more or less, every A-side and B-side that the band had issued in the UK - it was just the old alternate remix that got lost along the way.

“Skin Deep”, in a way, is The Stranglers’ “Platinum Collection”. Issued in late 2013, it was the first attempt anybody had had at trying to get the band’s Epic-era flipsides into one place. Epic had toyed with the idea after Hugh had left the band, but the project didn’t really get off the ground, and apart from the odd one that resurfaced here and there, the only time any of them had gotten a second lease of life was really when they were shoe-horned as bonus tracks onto the 2001 expanded reissues of the band’s Epic-era albums.

So, what you get here is the a-side of a single, then it’s B-side, then another a-side and so on and so forth. According to internet sources, radio edits may or may not be included where they should be (again, my one is sealed, so I can’t comment). But here’s where it goes wrong. As soon as we get to single number 3, the band had gone into the world of the 12”-only b-side, meaning that whilst “Pawsher“ is here, “Permission” is missing. Then “Hot Club” goes AWOL. And so on, and so forth.

It gets a bit odder on disc 2. “Golden Brown” was famously issued by Epic in 1991, seemingly without the band’s say so, and is included here - but being an EMI owned recording, means that not only is it dumped randomly at the start of the disc, but it’s the 1987 recording as found on the Epic-released “All Live And All Of The Night”. And furthermore, the flipside of said 45, “You”, taped in the mid-to-late 80’s and thus a genuine Epic era recording, is completely missing, despite having appeared on the 7” edition of the single, and thus being eligible for this release. Instead, you get the 1990 7” mix of “Always The Sun” (on top of the 1986 edit), but you do also get the charmingly genteel finale that is it’s relevant flip, “Burnham Beeches”, so it’s not all bad.

Now, if you simply fancy owning SOME of the band’s b-sides from the period on CD, then fill your boots. But I can’t help but think that this is a fairly niche likelihood, and that whilst the album itself is an interesting attempt to show the band’s “pop” period in an alternative light, the fact that so many 12” and CD only bonus tracks from the time are missing, makes it a slightly wasted exercise. Not to add the fact that the front cover seems to date from pre-”European Female” days as well. Suffice to say, it was left to the band themselves to sort this mess out, and within six months, the band issued the complete B-sides set “Here And There”, firstly on the merch stall on their 2014 tour, before giving it a full blown commercial release towards the end of the year. This release was talked about in greater detail on my "Stranglers on SIS" blog last year.

Tracklisting: European Female/Savage Breast/Midnight Summer Dream (Edit)/Vladimir And Olga/Paradise/Pawsher/Skin Deep/Here And There/No Mercy/In One Door/Let Me Down Easy (Edit)/Achilles Heel/Nice In Nice/Since You Went Away/Golden Brown (Live)/Always The Sun (Edit)/Norman Normal/Big In America/Dry Day/Shakin’ Like A Leaf/Hitman/All Day And All Of The Night (7” Mix)/Viva Vlad/96 Tears (Edit)/Instead Of This/Sweet Smell Of Success (Edit)/Motorbike/Always The Sun (Sunny Side Up Mix)/Burnham Beeches


Saturday, 18 April 2015

Neil Young


If anybody deserves to be given international hero status, then it has to be Neil Young. For nearly 50 years, Young has been confounding/confusing/delighting critics and fans alike, be it when he plugs into the big amps for some fuzz-guitar rock with Crazy Horse, strapping on an acoustic guitar like an old hippy on “Harvest”, or indulging in genre hopping insanity on the likes of “Trans” or “Everybody’s Rockin’”.

Young has never quite broken through, properly, into the mainstream. Most of his albums were not promoted via hit singles in the UK, indeed sometimes, there were no singles at all - and he has, at times, been so productive (two new studio albums alone in 2014) that it is hard to keep up. Even when he headlined Glasto in 2009, he was overshadowed by their choice of headliner the following evening - a certain Mr Springsteen. But delve into the back catalogue, and there are gems all over the place, and you start to wonder why Young still feels like a cult singer, when he should be one of the most adored and admired artistes of all time. Suffice to say, I don’t think X Factor have ever done a “Neil Young” week. I doubt Cowell even knows who he is.

So here is my intro to Neil Young. Of course, being Neil Young, means that it’s longer than most articles I would do that I would consider to be in-depth! Each of the officially recognised solo albums are listed (those “radio broadcast“ albums all over Amazon have to be omitted, to avoid opening a big can of worms), with either the original LP catalogue number or the original (ish) CD one, dependent on date of release. I have used the Geffen lawsuit era (roughly) as the crossover point between the two, because that’s as good a time as any. A list of Young’s UK 45’s follows at the end of the article.

History/Albums Discography

After stints in several bands, The Squires and The Mynah Birds, had yielded little success, Young formed Buffalo Springfield alongside - amongst others - Stephen Stills. They were essentially a multi front man band, with three of the five band members taking lead vocals on their first album. In-band fighting was apparent pretty much from the start, and after the self titled debut album had surfaced in 1966, Young temporarily quit the band the following summer, forcing him to miss the group’s appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. He rejoined and helped to finish a second album, “Buffalo Springfield Again”, although such were the tensions within the group, that many of the tracks were essentially solo recordings by different band members. The group split up soon after, and a third album appeared posthumously in 1968 under the title of “Last Time Around”. Young’s 1977 best of, “Decade”, included all but one of the Buffalo Springfield songs on which he sang lead vocals, although he also wrote several more where the vocals were handled by other band members.

Young released his first solo LP “Neil Young” (LP, Reprise RSLP 6317) in late 1968. It failed to do much commercially, and Young began his famous grumblings about his issues with recorded sound with this record, claiming that the album sounded wrong, and authorised a remixed version for release, which appeared in 1969. The album was later reissued in the UK in 71, and this and all subsequent CD pressings use this later mix. It is an album that, especially if you listen to the later stuff first, can sound underwhelming and a bit gentle at times, but the sheer anthemic beauty of the orchestrated and joyously catchy “The Loner”, the most famous track from the record, showed that Young definitely had potential as a solo act.

Starting with his next LP, Young began to occasionally record albums with backup groups - a number of band members from an outfit called The Rockets were invited to appear on his next album, and were dubbed Crazy Horse. The first of several records to thus be credited to ‘Neil Young With Crazy Horse‘ (or similar), “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (LP, Reprise RSLP 6349), was a remarkable leap forward, an astonishingly ambitious piece of work - extended guitar solos everywhere, many of the songs follow the basic “verse chorus verse” formula, but are interspersed with lengthy, rambling, guitar workouts. Something that could be over in three minutes is instead stretched out to nine or ten minutes in length. The epic nature of “Down By The River” and “Cowgirl In The Sand” remind me very much of the longer drawn out numbers that Dylan had been recording in the 60s (“Stuck Inside Of Mobile”), albeit with less poetry, and more rock and roll. Not every Young album that followed would keep to this path, but it did - in a way - predate his “Godfather Of Grunge” tag that he got given in the 1990s.

Young began to operate a sort of dual career from here on in - he joined Stills again to form Crosby Stills Nash And Young, who released an album called “Deja Vu” in 1970. A stand alone single written by Young, called “Ohio”, was issued by the group midway through promotion of the album, in response to the Ohio shootings that had taken place in May of that year, an event that had left Young shellshocked. “Helpless” from the album, along with “Ohio”, were later included on “Decade”. By the end of the year, Young’s third solo album “After The Gold Rush” (LP, Reprise K 44088) had been released, in which the raucous guitar rock of “EKTIN” was largely replaced by country rock stylings, or in the case of the astonishingly stunning title track, little more than Young and a piano. It was his second classic on the trot, and was further evidence of how he didn’t necessarily need to be part of a group to make good records. Just as well, because after a CSNY tour spawned a live album in 1971 called “Four Way Street”, the group imploded.

1972’s “Harvest” (LP, Reprise K 54005) briefly put Young firmly in the mainstream. The harmonica driven “Heart Of Gold” was issued as a single, and became a hit worldwide. Young struggled to come to terms with his sudden emergence as a pop star, and as he famously wrote in the sleeve notes for “Decade”, “...this song put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch”. Nevertheless, it is a great album - the monumental baroque whirl of “A Man Needs A Maid”, the time signature jumps throughout “Words”, the country-fied twang of “Old Man”, the simplistic acoustic strum (but lyrically mournful) “The Needle And The Damage Done”...at least the mainstream had made the right choice when they decided to use this album to turn Young into a star.

The success of “Harvest” pushed Young in a completely opposite direction. His next three albums would be almost relentlessly downbeat, and later came to be known as the “Ditch” or “Doom” trilogy. One of them still remains unavailable on CD, as does what was Young’s next venture, “Journey Through The Past” (2 x LP, Reprise K 64015). In essence, a soundtrack album for a film directed by old Shakey himself, featuring sizeable chunks of material recorded by Young, either as a solo artist, with CSNY, or with Buffalo Springfield, it’s “soundtrack” tag comes from the fact that a couple of recordings are by an orchestra with no Young involvement, and a Beach Boys track appears at the very end - but given that most of the other material is exclusive to this album, has meant it has always had an air of desirability around it. Only one song on the record was genuinely “new”, a Young solo piece called “Soldier”, and an alternate edit of this song later made it onto “Decade”.

Numerous reasons have been cited as to why 1973’s “Time Fades Away” (LP, Reprise K 54010) remains unavailable on CD. It was the first of several Young albums to feature new material captured exclusively from concert recordings, and Young later claimed that the tour from which it was culled was nothing short of a disaster. His view was that the problems surrounding the tour (band members heavily indebted to drink or drugs, Young struggling from a throat infection, the recent death of Crazy Horse member Danny Whitten, financial issues) resulted in a bad record - or at least a record that brought back bad memories. Critics loved it, but it seemed to have chronicled a period in Young’s career that was problematic, and he obviously didn’t want to be reminded of it. It has been reissued recently as part of a hyper expensive vinyl only boxset, “Official Release Series Discs 5-8”, which you figure has almost been done deliberately to try and keep the record ’out of sight’ (as an aside, Young’s first four solo albums can be purchased on CD en masse thanks to the “Official Release Series Discs 1-4“ boxset, which is also a hell of a lot cheaper).

From some years, the same fate befell 1974’s “On The Beach” (LP, Reprise K 54014). The country rock charm of “Walk On” and the finger picking groove of “For The Turnstiles” later made it onto “Decade”, but the rest of the album languished out of view. Young was apparently unhappy with the sound of the record, and thus didn’t want it put onto CD until improvements could be made. In 2003, it was one of four Young solo albums that were remastered using “HDCD” technology, and the green light for these albums was granted as part of the “Neil Young Digital Masterpiece Series” reissue campaign. For some, it remains Young’s greatest record - certainly the tearful acoustic lament of “Ambulance Blues”, the epic nine minute album closer, remains one of the most beautiful and brilliant things Young has ever recorded. Unlike the other albums in the series, this one really is a masterpiece. It’s release coincided with a CSNY reunion tour, during which each band member got the opportunity to perform material from the solo careers (Young took the opportunity to perform songs from “On The Beach“), but it took until 2014 for any of the shows to be documented officially, which occurred via a multi disc box set in the fall of that year. At the time, the only “new” product by the band was a compilation album, and again, they split up again soon after.

Recorded before “On The Beach”, it’s safe to assume that the reason that “Tonight’s The Night” (LP, Reprise K 54040) was delayed was due to the highly personal lyrical content that runs through the record - the title track makes a direct reference to the recent death of one of Young’s friends after a drug overdose, and Danny Whitten. The album had in fact been unofficially shelved, but when the playback of this album versus a newly recorded Young album called “Homegrown” at a party gained greater praise, Young ditched “Homegrown” and opted to release “Tonight’s The Night” instead, later claiming that “Homegrown“ was ‘a very down album‘. The title track was some ten minutes in length, but was split into two and used to bookend the record. Reunited in full with (an obviously reconfigured) Crazy Horse soon after, 1975’s “Zuma” (LP, Reprise K 54057) was home to another Young classic in the form of the sprawling growl of “Cortez The Killer”.

Young went into extra curricular mode again in late 76, when he formed the Stills-Young Band with Stephen Stills (after an attempt at a full blown CSNY reunion fell apart), and they released their first - and only - album entitled “Long May You Run”. The title track was later included on “Decade”. Young’s next solo record was another that remained unavailable on CD for many years, 1977’s “American Stars N Bars” (LP, Reprise K 54088) - once again, home to another stone cold Young rock classic, “Like A Hurricane” - a gloriously epic, intense, and tearful lament, where Young’s vulnerable vocals and sad sounding keyboard lines try to battle the monumental guitar solos that run throughout the song.

Originally planned for release before “American Stars”, “Decade” (3 x LP, Reprise K 64037) remains the best of all of the (relatively few) Young compilations. Never one to do much in the way of “non album material”, it’s mostly a run through of key album tracks from Buffalo Springfield onwards, with several tracks obscure enough that they would now call them ‘deep cuts’, but that are often better than Reprise’s choice of singles were (in the UK at least), such as the beautiful harmony driven “Tired Eyes” off “Tonight’s The Night”. There are several rarities (and the original running order would have had more), such as the early period live b-side recording of “Sugar Mountain”, an alternate mix of “Hurricane”, and several previously unreleased tracks. It has since been squeezed into a double CD format, with the album then tucked inside a differently designed slipcase. Indispensable.

As punk approached, Young - typically - fought his way straight through it in his own bloody minded manner. Firstly, by issuing a country/folk rock influenced effort in 1978 called “Comes A Time” (LP, Reprise K 54099), and then, a more raucous and aggressive effort called “Rust Never Sleeps” (LP, Reprise K 54105) the following year - as if he was taking the punks on at their own game. Like “Time Fades Away”, this record of new material was recorded live (with Crazy Horse) and shared it’s title with a concert film, which featured a completely different track listing. The film was issued by RCA on the long defunct VideoDisc format (in a different, and far more surreal sleeve), but has since been made available on DVD. The UK 45 taken from the album was “My My Hey Hey”, which was an acoustic version of the album’s closing number “Hey Hey My My” - which was also issued on the flip of the same single. An accompanying live album, “Live Rust” (2 x LP, Reprise K 64041) was issued in late 1979, which had a running time pushing the 75 minute mark, meaning that the current CD edition has several songs included in edited form to keep it down to a single disc.

The 80s were a different time for Young. If “Rust Never Sleeps” had cemented his reputation in rock, then everything that followed for the next seven or eight years, almost went some way to undoing all that hard work. You will struggle to find too many people who will talk excitedly, or even know, 1980’s “Hawks & Doves” (LP, Reprise K 54109), the third of the four left unavailable on CD until 2003. The last of the four was Young’s next album, “Re-Ac-Tor” (LP, Reprise K 54116), which despite being another collaboration with Crazy Horse, suggesting 100% raucous punky grunge, was actually the first Young album to feature synthesizers. It does still maintain the ramshackle, messy, rough-around-the-edges vibe of earlier Crazy Horse records, but there is a slight “new wave” element lurking in the background, a pointer of things to come. It marked his final release for Reprise, and he moved to Geffen Records, who presumably, were hoping for a return to the “Rust Never Sleeps” period.

They didn’t get it. 1982’s “Trans” (LP, Geffen GEF 25019) was overloaded with synths, and vocoderized vocals, heavily influenced by Kraftwerk and mostly as far removed from his work with Crazy Horse as you could get. It opened and closed with countrified guitar tunes that recalled his glory days, but pretty much everything else inbetween did not. He then offered the label another pure country album for release as the follow up, but so stunned were Geffen by “Trans”, that they refused to release it, and asked specifically for Young to record a “rock and roll” album. Young took them at their word, and began work on an album heavily influenced by 50s rockabilly, including covers of “Mystery Train“ and “Bright Lights Big City“, with a band called the Shocking Pinks. Midway through the sessions, Geffen heard what was going on, and were infuriated, hoping instead that Young was going to record a “Zuma 2”, rather than something so throwaway which sounded like it predated Young’s entire career - and aborted the sessions. As such, 1983’s “Everybody’s Rockin’” (LP, Geffen GEF 25590) was issued as an almost mini album, Geffen agreeing to release what had been completed in those sessions, which gave it a running time of under 25 minutes.

Horrified by what Young was doing, Geffen sued Young in December 83, claiming he was violating his contract by making deliberately “non commercial” music. Head honcho at the label, David Geffen, later apologised to Young for the action, admitting that he should have left Young to follow his career choices. Young was later quoted as saying that the records he was making were deliberately varied each time around because “...it was a way of further destroying what I’d already set up. Without doing that, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now”. After countersuing, and touring for the best part of a year, Young eventually got his way, and released a country album as his next effort, 1985’s “Old Ways” (LP, Geffen GEF 26377), although it was a highly altered version of the originally planned release that Geffen had refused in 1983, with which it shared it‘s title.

With Geffen and Young now having come to some sort of agreement, Young continued to release “not very rock” records like 1986’s “Landing On Water” (CD, Geffen GFLD 19130), the first album which would spawn a single complete with an extended remix in the UK, but another album that did little sales wise, nor won much critical acclaim. It rather awkwardly married occasional Crazy Horse style guitar licks with synths and 1980s production values. The same fate befell 1987’s “Life” (CD, Geffen GED 24154), which like “Landing On Water”, was promoted with a single release by Geffen (“Long Walk Home“), but did little in the hit parade.

Young returned to Reprise in 1988, and almost immediately, seemed to revamp his career. “This Note’s For You” (CD, Reprise 7599 25719 2) pushed him back into the mainstream in the States, a blues influenced album originally credited to “Neil Young And The Bluenotes”, but later reissued as a standard ‘solo’ album after legal action was threatened by Harold Melvin (and his Bluenotes). Another reunion with CSNY this time spawned a new album called “American Dream” later the same year. But it was 1989’s “Freedom” (CD, Reprise 7599 25899 2) that returned Young to the position he had held a decade previous. It was home to folk and rock tunes that fully recalled his 70s heyday, and it‘s signature song was the enormous “Rockin’ In The Free World”, included in both acoustic and electric form...the latter, a noisy, firebrand beast of a song, politically charged, and the first signs of Young staking his claim for that Godfather of Grunge title. It remains one of Young’s best known songs, and was proof that the 80s hadn’t killed him off, but had seemed to re-energise him.

1990’s “Ragged Glory” (CD, Reprise 7599 26315 2), recorded with The Horse, was even better. Snarling, messy, noisy, and aggressive, this was almost an “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere 2”, such was the epic nature of many of the songs, and the barrage of guitars and feedback that emitted from them. It is home to much of Young’s best “latter period” material, such as the bile driven “Fuckin’ Up”, the epic growl of “Love To Burn” or the melodic grunge of “Love And Only Love”. The subsequent tour spawned an equally thrilling live album “Weld” (2 x CD, Reprise 7599 26671 2), which at one point, included a bonus one-track disc of spliced together feedback, captured from numerous songs at numerous gigs. The disc was also issued as an album in it’s own right as “Arc” (CD, Reprise 7599 26769 2).

Returning to his approach of ‘destroying what had come before’, Young’s next album took him back to the world of folk and country, 1992’s sublime “Harvest Moon” (CD, Reprise 9362 45057 2). The title track gave Young another worldwide hit, helped by MTV showing the video, a beautiful acoustic waltz of a ballad, with added slide guitar. In the UK, Reprise attempted to turn it into a mega hit by issuing it on multiple formats, with the second CD edition including three of the “previously unreleased” tracks from “Decade”, which at the time, had not yet been repressed on CD. The charming “From Hank To Hendrix” and the romantic lilt of “Unknown Legend” helped to create an album that, like “After The Gold Rush”, succeeded in following up an epic rock and roll record with something much simpler in sound, but which was just as affecting.

Possibly designed to try and cash in on Young’s brief flirtation again with the mainstream, Geffen issued the “Lucky Thirteen” (CD, Geffen GED 24452) compilation in 1993, featuring material from his time on the label along with some previously unreleased recordings from the end of that period with The Bluenotes. Of the 13 (surprise surprise) songs on here, no less than eight were either unreleased versions or alternate edits. So whilst it’s a hits album with absolutely no hits on, it’s kind of interesting in that it covers the most controversial period of Young’s career, and does so in a fascinating way. It could so easily have just been 13 album tracks in album mix form, so fair play to all concerned for taking a more unusual approach. Many of the “alternate” versions made reference to being taken from the “Reprise Records Neil Young Archives”, a sign that Young was already making plans for a career spanning boxset of unreleased material, and whilst there has indeed been an “Archives” box finally made available in recent years (the first of several planned volumes), none of the Geffen material from this album actually made it onto the first volume, as it was concerned with 60s/early 70s material only. The opening number on “Lucky“, an extended “Sample And Hold” originally from “Trans”, is now also available on the CD edition of the latter, in place of the original “short“ mix - “Trans” was another one that got a long delayed re-release on CD at the start of the noughties (it is also home to a new, longer, mix of “Like An Inca”).

Young’s new found success saw him being lined up to do MTV’s Unplugged series, but again, like Dylan, what should have been an unquestionable success by an artist who seemed perfectly suited to the concept, didn’t quite go according to plan. The first attempt left Young frustrated, unhappy with the performance of his group, and the version released on LP that summer, simply, as “Unplugged” (CD, Reprise 9362 45310 2) was actually from a second set. In typical Young mode, the set was quite eclectic and occasionally obscure, but Reprise used the release to try and keep Young firmly in the public eye, with several tracks being released as singles. The album also included a “new” song, a never before released outtake from the 70s called “Stringman”. It later got a second lease of life when it appeared as a b-side on Young’s 1994 standalone single “Philadelphia”, a masterfully sublime and dreamlike piece of heartbreaking piano music, taken from the soundtrack album of the film of the same name. Springsteen’s “Streets Of Philadelphia” became a much bigger hit, but Young’s contribution is eye-wateringly beautiful.

With Young now aligned to grunge, he seemed to feel a certain amount of affinity with the genre. 1994’s magnificent “Sleeps With Angels” (CD, Reprise 9362 45749 2) at times bristled with a snarling menace that sounded not unlike his (new) contemporaries, whilst the title track was a reference to the recently passed-away Kurt Cobain, who had quoted Young in his suicide note. At other times, the record had a more woozy, laid back vibe, an attempt Wikipedia says was to “recapture some of the atmospheric experiments Young...played around with in the “After The Goldrush” era”, whilst the epic “Change Your Mind“ - a 15 minute ramble bizarrely chosen as a single release - recalled the monumental guitar workouts on “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere“. Reprise were once again determined to keep Young in the mainstream, releasing not one but THREE singles from the album. Each time, material from “Tonight’s The Night” was used as b-side material, almost as if the link between the two albums was being deliberately played upon (both dealt with, in a way, the death of one of Young’s musical allies, but Young was not happy when a year later, an interviewer brought this subject up, and he refused to discuss it). However, even though the fantastically growling sneer of “Piece Of Crap” made some impact chart wise, none of these singles came anywhere close to “Heart Of Gold” popularity, and Reprise would only release one more physical single by the man in the UK in the following years. As if to further play up to the Godfather of Grunge tag, 1995’s “Mirror Ball” (CD, Reprise 9362 45934 2) was recorded with Pearl Jam as his backing band, before the release of several newly improvised instrumentals were included on another soundtrack release, “Dead Man” (CD, Vapor 9362 46171 2).

Reunited with the Horse again, 1996’s sublime “Broken Arrow” (CD, Reprise 9362 46291 2) veered between gloriously epic drawn out rock jams during the first half, and simpler (sometimes more folk driven) shorter numbers in the second half, before concluding with a taped “on stage“ cover of “Baby What You Want Me To Do“, complete with the crowd talking all over it, obviously unaware of what Young was playing. It works rather well though, and brings the album to an understated close. In the US, the second song on the album, “Loose Change”, appeared in edited form on the CD, whilst vinyl copies added a bonus track in the form of “Interstate”, unavailable anywhere else in the UK. Young and the Horse went out on tour in support of the album, and a documentary film called “Year Of The Horse” was shot during the proceedings, and was later released on VHS and then DVD. An accompanying album of the same name, but in a different sleeve, was released in 1997 (2 x CD, Reprise 9362 46652 2), and is simply incredible - Young and the band crash and growl their way through bits of the back catalogue, but it works brilliantly IMO...the rather sweet “When You Dance I Can Really Love” is transformed into a grungey, heavy, meandering rock beast, as is everything else on the record. As Young jokingly laughs at the start, “it’s all the same song”. Maybe, but it’s a damn fine one.

Several years passed before the release of the acoustic tinged “Silver & Gold” in 2000 (CD, Reprise 9362 9362 47305 2), although the end of 1999 had seen the release of another CSNY album, “Looking Forward”. This was then followed by another live album, the curiously titled “Road Rock Vol 1” (CD, Reprise 9362 48036 2), given there has never been a Volume 2. It was credited to “Neil Young Friends And Relatives”, on the basis that various collaborators were on board, but the only really vocal contributor is Chrissie Hynde, who duets with Young on a cover of “All Along The Watchtower”. Unlike the double disc “Year Of The Horse”, this one has a running time of only just over an hour, and although there are some attempts at typical Horse-style ramblings (the opening “Cowgirl In The Sand” drags on for 18 minutes), it doesn’t quite pack the same punch, presumably because the Horse are absent here. One of the songs on here was totally new, never having made it onto a Young studio album before (“Fool For Your Love”) whilst a live DVD in a similar sleeve was issued at the same time, which featured everything from this album, bar “Watchtower”. Young toured Europe in 2001, including an appearance at what was supposed to be the ‘Irish Music’ festival in London, The Fleadh - not too sure exactly what “Cinnamon Girl” quite has in common with The Dubliners. Several new songs were tried out, which featured on his next album, the “soul” influenced “Are You Passionate?” (CD, Reprise 9362 48111 2) in 2002.

Beginning with 2003’s “Greendale” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 48533 2), Young began to issue, on a fairly regular basis, CD’s that came initially with a free DVD, sometimes featuring extra footage, but sometimes just featuring the relevant album in High Definition sound, as this was closer to how he wanted the music to sound than the accompanying CD did. “Greendale” has divided critics - a rock opera detailing the life of a family living within a fictional town, I quite enjoyed it’s epic nature last time I listened to it (several songs pass the 10 minute mark), but some critics tore it to shreds. The first pressing includes a solo performance of the album by Young on the DVD, later pressings replaced this with a performance by Young and Crazy Horse.

Were it not for the hi-def sound approach, then there would have been little need for 2004’s “Greatest Hits“ (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 48924 2), which for the most part offers up selected material from the still-on-catalogue “Decade”, even including “Ohio” and “Helpless”, but which has an overall running time that sees it all sit on a single disc quite comfortably. But it does feature some of the big hitters from the later years, and the free DVD - as well as featuring the full album - also includes the promo clips for “Harvest Moon” and “Free World”.

2005’s “Prairie Wind” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 49494 2) was viewed at the time as possibly being Young’s swansong - the record dealt with the death of his father, and was recorded just before Young himself underwent surgery for a serious condition. Some of the lyrics dealt explicitly with mortality, almost as if Young was preparing himself for death, and at times, it can feel incredibly personal. But of course he survived, and returned with the anti-war diatribe that was 2006’s “Living With War” (CD, Reprise 9362 44335 2). A reformed CSNY toured the album, which caused problems at some shows, as parts of the band’s more conservative audience vocally expressed their annoyance at Young’s anti-war, and what seemed to them as anti-American, lyrics.

Towards the fall of 2006, Young began to finally start getting his “Archives” project underway. He started with the release of “Live At The Fillmore East” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 44488 2), a 40-ish minute document of (most of) the electric segment of the shows Young played there with Crazy Horse in March 1970. Of the six songs included, three of them were - at the time of recording - brand new songs, including “Winterlong”, as featured on “Decade”. The DVD included the audio from the CD, along with photos from the gig. It was the first of several albums to be released under the banner of the “Neil Young Archives Performance Series” (NYAPS for short), and was labelled ‘Volume 2’ - the volume number related to the recording date of the show within the planned series, meaning that a ‘Volume 1’ was still sitting in the vaults. The following year saw the release of ‘Volume 3’, another double disc release called “Live At Massey Hall 1971” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 43327 2), this one coming with a DVD containing exclusive footage.

Just as “Old Ways” was technically the second version of an album of the same name, so 2007’s “Chrome Dreams II” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 49906 4) was issued with a title confirming it was a follow up to an album that was never actually issued (circa 1977). It’s title gave a clue that it was, at times, a bit obsessed with cars (“Beautiful Bluebird”, “Spirit Road”) whilst the album itself picked through the various genres that Young had dabbled with throughout his career - be it the “Harvest”-esque acoustic strum of the opening track, the grungy snarl of “Dirty Old Man”, the epic drawn out rock of “No Hidden Path” or the (Bluenotes) horn driven romp that was “Ordinary People”. Part of this variety was almost by default, as several songs actually dated from the different parts of Young’s 80s Geffen period.

‘Volume 0’ of the NYAPS releases was released in late 2008 when “Sugar Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968” was released (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 49839 8). So numbered as it predated all of the other planned albums in the series, this was the very show at which the previously released live b-side version of “Sugar Mountain“ was recorded. Everything else on the set, though, was previously unreleased. Young’s aforementioned 2009 Glasto slot was part of a tour plugging “Fork In The Road” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 49787 2), another record referencing the world of the automobile.

Young’s “Archives Vol.1” boxset was finally issued in 2009. Available as a CD boxset, technically on import only (8xCD, Reprise 175 292-2) but also as a DVD or Blu-Ray edition, it included rarities and album tracks from the days of The Squires up until the period circa “Journey Through The Past”. The CD edition was spread over 8 discs, two of which were “single disc” editions of the “Fillmore East” and “Massey Hall” releases (ie. no DVD this time around). ’Volume 1’ of the NYAPS was finally included, a 1969 Toronto gig called “Live At The Riverboat”. The remaining five discs mixed up material from Young’s solo career, Buffalo Springfield, CSNY and more, although the CD edition of the box was missing several numbers from the “Early Years” disc, as it occupied just a single CD on this edition of the set, but was covered in greater depth on the DVD/Blu-Ray sets. Each disc was housed in it‘s own individual sleeve, with the “Fillmore” and “Massey” releases using the same sleeves as per their original pressings. Also missing from the CD edition was a reissue of the “Journey Through The Past” film, although it was made available as a separate release on DVD and Blu-Ray through Young’s own Archives webpage. On the 6 “new” discs, virtually everything was rare or unreleased, including alternate tracks from existing studio albums - just as Young’s debut had been reissued in a new mix soon after it’s original release, so had “After The Goldrush” - and a mix of tracks from both versions of both albums make the box. Also included was the standalone 1972 45 with Graham Nash, “War Song”, never officially released in the UK before.

The release of the boxset was followed by ‘Volume 12’ in the NYAPS series, “Dreamin’ Man Live ‘92” (CD, Reprise 9362 49855 3). Taped, as the title suggests, during 1992, it features solo acoustic performances of the entire “Harvest Moon” album, from shows which took place both before and after the release of the LP. Whilst some “acoustic albums” are hopeless affairs, which take decent songs and rip all of the heart out of them, these songs are perfectly suited to the format, and it’s a near essential release.

It’s much loved by the critics, but I can’t help but think that 2010’s “Le Noise” (CD, Reprise 9362 49618 6) deserves to be approached with caution, a solo album on which Young uses only an electric guitar, rather than an acoustic. As such, it bounces around with lots of feedback and reverb, so can all feel like you are just listening to one long song, whilst all the time, really waiting for it to kick into gear. Still, kind of admirable, in a “Metal Machine Music” sort of way. It was followed by another NYAPS release, “A Treasure” (CD, Reprise 9362 49579 3), also available as a CD + Blu-Ray release, which is a bit of a bugger if you don’t own a Blu-Ray machine. It was taped on the 1984-85 tour that Young undertook whilst the lawsuit with Geffen was blowing up. Don’t believe those who tell you that “Nothing Is Perfect” is being released here, in any form, for the first time - because Young also performed it at Live Aid in 85, which was released on DVD in 2005.

In recent years, Young’s output seems almost to have been a sort of revisiting of his past - be it the folk rock approach (of traditional music standards) on 2012’s “Americana” (CD, Reprise 9362 49508 5), or the rambling guitar epic-ness on “Psychedelic Pill” (2 x CD, Reprise 9362 49485 9) released the same year (so rambling, that “Driftin’ Back” had to be chopped into two halves to fit onto the vinyl pressing).

2013 saw the release of another NYAPS set, “Live At The Cellar Door” (CD, Reprise 9362 49434 5). Of interest is that the set was labelled ’Volume 2.5’, necessary because it had been taped inbetween the Fillmore East and Massey Hall shows, but it did make you wonder if the original planned series was being revamped as it went along, as if this was an extra show that had been discovered, or a change of plan saw it given the green light. This release includes, as do other releases in the NYAPS set, Young doing one of those Buffalo Springfield songs that he wrote but did not sing on, “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong”.

He then returned with another album of covers, 2014’s “A Letter Home” (CD, Reprise 9362 49399 9). Available as a hyper expensive boxset from the USA, it was recorded in Jack White’s “Voice O Graph” recording booth, and the US edition actually appeared on White’s own Third Man Records imprint. By the end of the year, we also had “Storytone” (2 x CD, Reprise 9362 49324 0), the first pressing following the format of the earlier, original, “Greendale” by featuring an orchestral version on one disc and a solo version on the other.

UK Singles Discography

Oh Lonesome Me/Sugar Mountain (Live) (7”, Reprise RS 20861)
The Loner/Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (7”, Reprise RS 23405)
Only Love Can Break Your Heart/Birds (7”, Reprise RS 20958, later reissued with alternate b-side and new cat number)
Cinnamon Girl/Down By The River (7”, Reprise RS 23462)
When You Dance I Can Really Love/After The Gold Rush (7”, Reprise RS 23488)
Heart Of Gold/Sugar Mountain (Live) (7”, Reprise K 14140)
Old Man/The Needle And The Damage Done (7”, Reprise K 14167)
Southern Man/Till The Morning Comes/After The Goldrush/Heart Of Gold (7”, Reprise K 14350)
Walk On/For The Turnstiles (7”, Reprise K 14360)
Lookin’ For A Love/Sugar Mountain (Live) (7”, Reprise K 14416)
Don’t Cry No Tears/Stupid Girl (7”, Reprise K 14431)
Like A Hurricane (Edit)/Hold Back The Tears (7”, Reprise K 14482)
Four Strong Winds/Motorcycle Mama (7”, Reprise K 14493)
My My Hey Hey/Hey Hey My My (7”, Reprise K 14498)
Hawks And Doves/Union Man (7”, Reprise K 14508)
Little Thing Called Love/We R In Control (7”, Geffen GEF A 2781)
Wonderin’/Payola Blues (7”, Geffen GEF A 3581)
Weight Of The World (Extended Version)/Pressure (12”, Geffen GEF 7 T)
Long Walk Home/Cryin’ Eyes (7”, Geffen GEF 24)
Rockin’ In the Free World (Edit)/(Live LP) (7”, Reprise W 2776, later reissued in 1994 on 7” and Cassette, with alternate catalogue number and p/s)
Rockin’ In the Free World/Cocaine Eyes/Rockin’ In The Free World (Live LP) (CD, Reprise W 2776 CD, later reissued in 1994 with “Cocaine Eyes“ replaced by “Rockin‘ In The Free World (Edit)”, alternate catalogue number and p/s)
Harvest Moon (Single Edit)/Winterlong (7”, Reprise W 0139)
Harvest Moon (Single Edit)/Old King/The Needle And The Damage Done/Goin’ Back (CD1, Reprise W 0139 CD)
Harvest Moon (Single Edit)/Deep Forbidden Lake/Campaigner/Winterlong (CD2, Reprise W 0139 CDX, unique p/s)
Long May You Run (Live - Edit)/Sugar Mountain (Live Version from “Rust Never Sleeps“) (7”, Reprise W 0207)
Long May You Run (Live - Edit)/Sugar Mountain (Live Version from “Rust Never Sleeps“)/Cortez The Killer (Live Version from “Rust Never Sleeps“)/Cinnamon Girl (Live Version from “Rust Never Sleeps“) (CD, Reprise W 0207 CD)
The Needle And The Damage Done (Live)/You And Me (7”, Reprise W 0191)
The Needle And The Damage Done (Live)/You And Me/From Hank To Hendrix (CD, Reprise W 0191 CD)
Philadelphia/Such A Woman/Stringman (Live) (CD, Reprise W 0242 CD)
Piece Of Crap/Tonight’s The Night (Cassette, Reprise W 0261 C)
Piece Of Crap/Tonight’s The Night (Part 1)/(Part 2) (CD, Reprise W 0261 CD)
My Heart/Tired Eyes/Roll Another Number (CD, Reprise W 0266 CD)
Change Your Mind (Edit)/Speakin’ Out (Cassette, Reprise W 0276 C)
Change Your Mind (Edit)/(Album Mix)/Speakin’ Out (CD, Reprise W 0276 CD)
Downtown (Edit)/Big Green Country (Cassette, Reprise W 0314 C)
Downtown (Edit)/(Album Version)/Big Green Country (CD, Reprise W 0314 CD)


Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Beatles In Mono and The USA


Just like The Stones, the albums The Beatles released in North America throughout most of the 60s bore little resemblance to their UK output. Albums were issued that came in different sleeves, with different track listings, and with totally different titles, to those being released back in their homeland. This was partly due to a desire by US labels to issue shorter albums than those released in the UK (US albums struggled to hit the half hour mark, whilst UK records had an average running time closer to 40 minutes in length), whilst US labels also used to like squeezing recent hit singles onto the band’s latest long player, in an attempt to help promote the album - a worldwide industry standard now, but viewed with an element of disbelief by affected groups at the time.

But for The Beatles, the whole situation was made worse by the fact that their US label, Capitol, initially saw no need to release the groups’ records Stateside at all, which meant that by the time they changed their mind, there was an element of “catching up” to do. By the time “Help” was released in the UK as the band’s fifth album, there had already been about NINE releases in the US. Capitol, effectively, had inherited The Beatles without their wishes, as part of the deal the group had signed with EMI. In the UK, their releases were put out on the affiliated Parlophone imprint, and for the US market, Capitol would basically have had to do nothing other than to arrange contemporary US pressings, as Capitol were essentially the US face of EMI. But it seems they viewed the group as being too “British”, with their mop top haircuts, and figured US fans simply wouldn’t get it. So, they refused to release anything by the band, even as the Parlophone releases started to dent the UK hit parade.

Other labels figured that such was the phenomenon of the group back in Blighty, that surely the group had a chance of success, and Capitol - for a while - were happy to license the material out to any old label who showed interest. As such, the first Beatles 45 in the US was 1963’s “Please Please Me”, issued on the relatively small Vee Jay label. It struggled to do much, and failed to get much in the way of airplay. Nevertheless, Vee Jay had signed an agreeement which more or less gave them access to pretty much everything the band had recorded thus far, and they would issue - and reissue - a number of singles and EP’s on their own label, and the associated Tollie imprint, up until the end of Spring 1964.

In the summer of 63, another label had a crack at trying to break The Beatles in America, when Swan issued “She Loves You” as a 45 - but again, radio, critics and the public remained unmoved. By the end of the year, EMI and the band’s manager Brian Epstein, had convinced Capitol to start releasing the group’s records themselves, and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was selected to be released as the next Beatles US 45. The story about how this single turned the States onto Beatlemania has been mentioned on several occasions, and revolved around a US Beatles fan contacting a DJ to ask him to start playing Beatles records on the radio after seeing a US news item about the group. When the single was played, the US public latched onto it big time, and Capitol ended up rush releasing it at the very end of 63 to try and capitalize on the sudden popularity of the band.

This started a flurry of Beatles related activity in the USA, including the release of an album of early period material by Vee Jay in early 64 called “Introducing The Beatles” (Vee Jay VJLP 1062), which had originally been scheduled for a mid 63 release, but was pulled at the last minute. The relationship between Capitol and Vee Jay ended in tears soon after, following stories of non-existent royalty payments from Vee Jay, and Capitol eventually regained the rights to release this material - but not before Vee Jay had reprinted the album in multiple variant forms, including a bizarre double album release which paired the record with a greatest hits set from Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons. Capitol later issued their own variant version of the album as “The Early Beatles” in 1965.

It was a different story north of the border, where the Canadian arm of Capitol exhibited an air of independence away from their US cousins. Even before “I Want To Hold Your Hand” had surfaced in the USA, they had already issued an album called “Beatlemania!” (Capitol Canada T 6051), essentially a retitled version of the band’s recently released second UK album, “With The Beatles”. Mirroring what would happen in the US in the forthcoming years, Capitol in Canada also had to do a bit of catching up, starting with the issue of an album of mostly older material the year after as “Twist And Shout” (Capitol Canada T 6054), which was housed in a sleeve not too dissimilar to the UK EP of the same name.

With Capitol now well aware that they had some superstars on their roster, they issued the band’s second US album - but the first on the Capitol USA imprint - titled “Meet The Beatles”, it’s title seemingly being designed to airbrush “Introducing The Beatles” out of history. Like “Beatlemania”, it took it’s cues - musically and visually - from “With The Beatles”. Within months, older period material (again) was tossed out in the States on “The Beatles’ Second Album”, another attempt to pretend the Vee Jay one didn’t exist. The cover art was replicated on another Canadian only release more or less issued simultaneously, “Long Tall Sally” (Capitol Canada T 6063). This would be the last time that the US arm of the label would issue different records to their Canadian friends, and every Beatles album issued thereafter would appear in both the USA and Canada in identical form. What it did mean, strangely, was that the Beatles have to this day released (one) more album(s) in Canada, than in the United States.

The next US release, strangely, was not issued by Capitol, but by United Artists. The album, “A Hard Day’s Night”, was basically a soundtrack record for the film of the same name, and UA gained the rights to issue the album as they had been responsible for the distribution of the movie. Unlike the UK release, only songs that had a “genuine” connection to the film were included, and the record was thus padded out with orchestral, Beatles-less, instrumentals overseen by George Martin. It bore little resemblance to the UK album, also being housed in a completely different sleeve, but did - for a while - hold the distinction of being the only Beatles album to be issued with the same title in both the UK and the US - that is, if you can call it a proper Beatles album at all.

The first Capitol album to share it’s title, but not the cover art, with the UK was 1965’s “Help” - which, probably not coincidentally, was also the next soundtrack release. Once again, the album was filled with “easy listening” instrumentals. Much has been made of the US edition of the LP, with the title track coming with a 15 second “James Bond” style intro...but in truth, it’s another George Martin instrumental, that comes to a finish before the song starts. So, either an extended mix or an uncredited hidden track at the start of the record - take your pick. The first Capitol album to share the title AND front cover with the UK was “Rubber Soul”. However, the US label were still putting their own spin on the track listing front, and removed four songs from the record, replacing them with (only) two oldies that had appeared on the UK version of the “Help” album. Given that two of the songs removed were “Nowhere Man” and “If I Needed Someone”, it just shows you how little Capitol seemed to care about the integrity of the band’s output. It’s like taking “Stairway To Heaven” off of “Led Zeppelin 4”. The album logo was also printed in a different colour to the UK one.

Although the US release of “Rubber Soul” was the sign of the UK and US labels starting to sort of see eye to eye, there was still “unreleased” material in the USA, and so another ‘American-only’ album was given the green light in 1966. “Yesterday And Today” is probably the most famous of all the Beatles’ “US” albums, not so much for it’s musical content (mixing forward thinking psych-pop like “I’m Only Sleeping” with Merseybeat throwaway filler like “Act Naturally”), but for it’s original cover. The band had been consulted on it’s release, and decided to make a political statement. They were getting increasingly unhappy with Capitol’s “butchering” of their back catalogue, and so submitted a piece of front cover artwork of them in butcher’s coats, surrounded by disembodied dolls and slabs of meat - although McCartney later said that the photo was their comment on the Vietnam War, and that it was from an earlier photoshoot conducted independently from the album release. Capitol, either unaware of the satire, happy to acknowledge their faults, or simply believing of McCartney’s explanation, promptly printed up copies of the album with this cover in place. However, when record dealers saw advance pressings of the record, they complained and Capitol bigwigs pulled the plug. So many “Butcher” covers had been printed, that to destroy them all would have been chaos, and so a compromise was reached - a new cover, with the band posing alongside a massive suitcase (the “Trunk” cover), was simply glued over the top, and copies shipped out to stores.

Again, you have probably heard about the stories of “first state Butcher” covers and “paste overs”. Story goes that when Beatles fans heard about what was underneath their “trunk” cover, they tried to peel the cover off, which even if done successfully, left glue stains on the front. These “third state” releases are worth much less than the untouched “first state” original pressings, as few of the original releases ever made it out of the record company vaults. The original “trunk” covers, left intact, known as the “paste over” editions, are now amongst the rarest editions because so many people ended up ripping the trunk image off. Eventually, the album went out of print, and with the material - technically - available elsewhere, interest in repressing the record remained low, until it was reissued as part of a US Albums boxset in 2014. This, and indeed everything, in that box was also released individually, and so your cheapest option of owning this album is simply to buy this “new” CD edition (Apple B0019708-02). It comes, as all the reissues did, in a re-sealable clear bag, plus obi, and comes in the original Butcher sleeve - but with a free “trunk image” sticker which you can ’paste over’ the Butcher sleeve if you so wish!

The album included three songs from the band’s next UK album, the masterful “Revolver” - albeit in ’alternate US duophonic remix’ form. When “Revolver” was then issued in the US, the amount of “missing” material left in the vaults was pretty much empty, and so the US version of the LP simply came with three less songs. Every subsequent UK album, when issued in the US thereafter, used the same title, track listing, and cover as the UK edition, starting with 1967’s “easy to knock but ultimately, total genius” that was “Sgt Pepper”.

That didn’t stop Capitol from occasionally filling gaps in the market. But whereas the earlier US releases had been messy affairs, the ones that appeared thereafter were far more acceptable. It would take a hard hearted fan to attack 1967’s “Magical Mystery Tour” (Capitol SMAL 2835). Issued as a 6 track double vinyl EP in the UK, it was expanded into “LP form” by Capitol by sticking the EP material (in a different order) onto side 1, and then padding out side 2 with recent non-album A-sides and B-sides. When you consider that this material included “Penny Lane”, “Hello Goodbye”, “All You Need Is Love” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”, well, you can’t argue with that, can you?

According to the excellent John Paul George And Ringo site (www.jpgr.co.uk), “MMT” was available on import only in the UK at the time, but a Cassette only release did surface in the UK, under a slightly alternate title. This was done, I would guess, to allow fans of the new fangled cassette-tape format to enjoy the Fabs on this playing medium. Such was the adoration afforded to this LP, that when the band’s back catalogue was revamped in 1976, “MMT” was given a “proper” UK LP release by Parlophone, and has remained part of the band’s album discography ever since, being included in both the 1987 and 2009 CD reissue campaigns.

With the band on the verge of collapse, Apple decided to release one more US only release in 1970, just before the official final send off that was “Let It Be”. “Hey Jude” followed the path of the US “MMT”, by cobbling together A-sides and B-sides that had not thus far found it onto a US album release, although the opening songs, “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Should Have Known Better”, had appeared on the “A Hard Day’s Night” soundtrack. The choice of tracks was “selective”, rather than “exhaustive”, and as such, featured a cross section of material from across most of the band’s lifespan, but was heavily biased towards more recent “rarities”. Side one started in 1964, but jumped quite quickly towards 1968, whilst side 2 consisted entirely of material from 68 and 69 only. This has led some commentators to bemoan the existence of the record, who figured it was being promoted unwisely as a “new” Beatles record, but if you simply view it as a form of rarities album, then it works quite well. Indeed, with the exception of the slightly knockabout “Ballad Of John And Yoko”, the actual MUSIC on here is virtually flawless.

Whilst a lot of the other US albums were simply compilations of albums tracks from the wrong albums, “Hey Jude” consisted - on both sides of the Atlantic - mainly of material not available at the time on LP. As such, imported copies to the UK sold well, and Parlophone ended up eventually giving it a proper UK release in 1979 (Parlophone PCS 7184). However, with import copies having sold en masse, and with Parlophone forgetting to promote the release, this 1979 pressing sold poorly. It does, however, come in one of the best sleeves of ANY Fab Four release - a brilliant front cover shot from the band’s last ever photoshoot, and another great shot from the same shoot on the rear.

In the years following the band’s demise, the US albums fell out of favour. The usefulness of “Hey Jude” was dented a bit by the “Red” and “Blue” hits sets in 1973, which between them gathered up much of the album, whilst boxsets and rarities albums issued in the UK and US in the late 70s and early 80s helped to fill in most of the gaps. When the band’s back catalogue was dragged into the CD age in 1987, it was the UK albums that were selected for reissue on both sides of the pond, meaning that the likes of “Beatles 65” and “Beatles VI”, big sellers in the US back in the day, were now seen as shambolic relics of a bygone era. The USP of these albums, where not just a-sides but also foreign language tracks and b-sides had been unceremoniously shoved onto the records, was finally lost with the release of the two “Past Masters” albums in 1988, which between them included everything the band had released worldwide that had not made it onto any of the standard UK albums. There was now, technically, no real need for anybody to want to own a copy of “Yesterday And Today”, other than for it’s notoriety.

But, there remains a fascination with all things Fabs-related. And so, in 2004, Apple sanctioned the release of “The Capitol Albums” 4-CD boxset (Apple 07243 875348 2). This included repressings on CD of the first four albums the band had released on the label in the US - namely, “Meet The Beatles”, “Second Album“, “Something New” and “Beatles 65”. Each disc was housed in it’s original sleeve, and thanks to the scant running time of these one-time US only releases, it was therefore possible to include both the mono and stereo mixes of each album onto each individual disc. Aficionados got quite excited, because several of the tracks included had - on the original vinyl release - been “altered” for the US market, and these unique American-only mixes were retained for the versions in the boxset. The individual Wikipedia pages for these four albums give further details as to what tracks were revamped for America.

A second boxset appeared in 2006, which included the next four Capitol releases - the aforementioned “Early Beatles”, “Beatles VI” and the “chopped up” US versions of “Help” and “Rubber Soul”. Early pressings contained the incorrect mono versions of several of these albums (essentially, the stereo mixes reprocessed to “sound” mono, ie. “fold down mixes”, as opposed to using the properly-mixed-into-mono mixes that were originally prepared by Capitol in the mid 60s). The only way of telling which version you have, is to buy one and check the running time of discs 2 and 4. Alternatively, it may be easier to purchase the records released individually from the 2014 US boxset, as these use not only the correct mono mixes, but also include - where they exist - more “US only” versions. “Beatles VI” (Apple B0019705-02) and “The Early Beatles” (Apple B0019704-02) are obviously essential because of their non-UK nature, but beyond it’s inclusion of the “James Bond” intro, “Help“ is less interesting - mainly because the UK release included extra songs, but also because the current (and 1987) stereo CD release of the UK version is a specially commissioned Martin remix did in 1986. This means if you are going to buy any other copy of “Help” aside from your standard remixed UK CD version, it really should be the original UK mono LP, especially as it includes extra tracks not on the original US release (they were shoehorned onto other albums, admittedly). “Rubber Soul” is worth a punt though, as several tracks were issued in completely different mixes in the US on the stereo edition, when compared to the same songs found on the UK version (Apple B0019707-02).

The aforementioned 2014 “US Albums” boxset was designed to tidy the whole thing up. Some people have claimed, or heard quotes, that where an album had previously included a unique US mono and/or stereo mix, the version included was the UK mono/stereo mix instead. Last time I looked, the Wikipedia article for “Yesterday And Today” did, at one point, claim that the “early” mixes of the three “Revolver” tracks had been replaced by the standard UK versions - my hearing just isn’t that good enough to fully be able to tell the difference or not - but it was later altered to suggest that this was not the case, and that all of the 2014 reissues went down the same route as the two earlier boxsets by using the original US mixes. I understand that, where the differences were minor, the UK remasters prepared for the 2009 reissue campaign were used to boost the sound quality (and were then subjected to a 2014 re-remaster!) but that in essence, they are more or less the same as the versions released before, and the individual tracks that made the original US releases special DO remain in situ. Trouble is, the boxset is obviously going to cost quite a lot of money to shell out for in one go, and several of the discs are a bit pointless, so it may be easier to cherry pick the ones you want - there is a “documentary” style album, which many of you will undoubtedly have no interest in listening to, whilst nothing on the edited “Revolver” sounds any different to the regular UK edition(s), and it - of course - comes in the same sleeve. Futhermore, “Revolver” is missing “I’m Only Sleeping”, which was issued in the UK in different versions in both mono and stereo, meaning these particular mixes are not even available on a current Beatles US CD. My choice? The first 4-CD box set, individual releases of the three “proper” albums from the second, and the 2014 reissues of “YAT” and “Hey Jude”. Everything else, IMO, is really for the hardcore completists only.

The story of mono and stereo mixes in the UK is yet another story in the Beatles canon, and the aforementioned JPGR site will give more info as to what was altered for stereo in the early days, and for mono in the middle years. In many instances, where a track had appeared in a wildly alternate form in stereo on a UK album, it was ALSO included on the accompanying US album release (see “Please Please Me”, as available on “The Early Beatles”). As such, buying the suggested releases above (plus the original vinyl pressing of the “Red” album, with it’s stereo mixes of “Help” and “A Hard Days Night”), on top of the albums in the “Bread Bin”, will do the job (plus, a stereo original of “Rubber Soul“ - another one tarted up by Martin 1986) - but only so far. Come “Revolver”, and the US and UK were starting to align themselves, and once we got to 1967, the EMI releases in the UK were matching the Capitol ones...as long as we ignore George Harrison’s claim that the US “Sgt Pepper” sounded different - something to do with the mastering technique, rather than special remixes being used.

So, given that The Beatles continued to issue alternate mixes on the mono copies of their latter period albums, all of which appeared in the Bread Bin boxset in STEREO, and being there are no US album releases of these titles because they matched the UK ones, where do you go next?

Let’s just recap for a moment. All of the band’s initial UK albums were issued in both mono and stereo. But by the time they had issued their self titled masterpiece in 1968, mono was starting to be seen as old hat. So everything that followed - the Beatles/Martin “Yellow Submarine” soundtrack, “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be” - were thus issued in stereo only. When it came to putting the band onto CD in 87, the decision was taken to release the UK albums, as these matched the band’s original vision for the music, and records were issued in stereo or mono, depending on what was considered to be the “standard” format at the time of the original release. So, the pre-1965 albums (everything up to “Beatles For Sale”) appeared on CD in mono, and everything thereafter in stereo.

In 1988, the two “Past Masters” releases tied up the loose ends, with virtually everything included in stereo, apart from a handful of songs in mono, seemingly because that was all that was available. On Volume 1, the first five songs were in mono (tracks lifted from some of the band‘s earliest 45‘s), on Volume 2 it was just the final song “You Know My Name”. The 1993 CD reissue of the “Red” album buggered things up, by using 1987 remixes where they existed instead of the 1965 original mixes of material from “Help” and “Rubber Soul”.

The 2009 reissue campaign was designed to try and improve the “poor sounding” 1987 releases (I personally thought they sounded fine), and the first wave of reissues were stereo revamps of the band’s back catalogue. Having previously been issued in mono in 87, this meant these configurations of “PPM”, “With The Beatles”, “A Hard Days Night” and “For Sale” were now appearing in this mix for the first time since their 1973 vinyl reissues. The remainder were simply reissues of already available CD albums, with “Help” and “Rubber Soul” surfacing again in the remixed form.

A rejigged “Past Masters” was also issued, merging the two existing volumes into one and using a slightly altered front cover. As before, everything was in stereo most of the time, and the stuff that was in mono remained in mono - except for the inclusion of stereo mixes this time around of “From Me To You” and “Thank You Girl”. Quite where they had been back in 1988, who knows.

As well as being issued individually, these reissues were also included in a boxset. It was one of two issued at the same time, the other being “The Beatles In Mono”. This included reissues of all of the Beatles albums that had originally appeared in mono, meaning that this time around, the six album run from “Help” to “The White Album” were making it onto CD in this mix for the first time, at least in the UK variation. “Help” and “Rubber Soul” also included their original 1965 stereo mixes, a nice touch, but a bit of an odd thing to do in a “Mono” boxset. There we go.

The big selling point here is really the reissues of “Revolver” onwards, as most of these albums included mixes on the mono pressings that differed to their stereo counterparts, and was the first time these had been made available again since a set of mono vinyl repressings had been conducted in 1982. Furthermore, unlike those ‘early years material’ stereo revamps, these were mixes that had obviously not been swept up by the Capitol Albums boxsets, but having to buy a boxset to get them seemed a bit cheeky. An even more expensive vinyl only boxset was issued in 2014, but this time around, the albums were also sold individually - using their original labels and catalogue numbers, but each originally shrinkwrapped with a “Beatles In Mono” information sticker on the front, along with the barcode - allowing the original 60s artwork to be faithfully reproduced. The ones to go for from this period are “Revolver” (Apple PMC 7009), “Sgt Pepper” (Apple PMC 7027) and “The Beatles” (Apple PMC 7067/8). The latter is currently valued at about £40, with the others at the £25-£30 mark. Sometimes, going for one of the earlier mono pressings can be more rewarding financially, I got hold of my mono “Help” for about £7 (including postage!) very recently.

An alternative version of the “Past Masters” set was included in the boxset, before being reissued - on vinyl only - in 2014, entitled “Mono Masters” (Apple 6025 3773 451 1). Basically, this takes the same approach as “PM” (single edits, b-sides, foreign language tunes, etc) that weren’t on the regular studio albums, and includes them here in their mono mix form (meaning an overlap with a few things from “Past Masters“ at times). Certain tracks never mixed into mono are thus absent, but the big selling point here is the inclusion of four songs from “Yellow Submarine”. After the soundtrack album had come in for a bit of a kicking, the band considered issuing the “new” songs from the album on an EP, and dutifully prepared special mono mixes of these songs (and “Across The Universe”) for the release. The release was cancelled, and the mixes stuck back in the vaults. “Mono Masters” was the first time they had appeared, and whilst I genuinely can’t tell you just how different they are to the originals, they do sound fabulously clear. “MM” was issued as a triple LP in a tri-fold sleeve, but really has a running time equivalent to that of “The White Album” and is thus also valued at around the £40 mark at present.

I wouldn’t really claim to be a Beatles expert - this article is really me trying to list what I have read elsewhere on the internet in easy to read form for my own benefit - but hopefully this does go someway to explaining the reasoning behind the reissuing of material that, theoretically, people already owned, over the last decade. Now, where’s that CD reissue of “The Hollywood Bowl”?