the jason shergold music collector site

Sunday, 10 July 2016

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 July 2016 edition is now online, with a look at Bowie live material sourced from 1972 to 1987.

The blog is also home to my "novel within a website", 'How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting', looking at the workings of the UK record industry. Click on any month from 2014 to view one of the twelve parts that form the whole article. And also check out my online photo collection of tour t-shirts, the accurately titled "Rock & Roll T Shirts" by clicking here: rockandrolltshirts.smugmug.com.

Please note: If you ever notice "newer" pages listed top right, this will be the new issue "in progress" - if you click on it, the whole page will not load. When the new issue is ready, it will be mentioned on this page. You can click on previous years tabs to get previous articles. Once you have selected that year, you can click on a different month to look at different acts.

The acts featured appear in the months listed below:
Adam And The Ants - October 2013
All Saints - February 2014
Lily Allen - August 2010
Ash - April 2014
Atomic Kitten - June 2013
Badly Drawn Boy - November 2014
The Beatles - September 2011 / March 2015
The Beautiful South - December 2014
Victoria Beckham - March 2016
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 / January 2016 / May 2016 / July 2016
Emma Bunton - March 2016
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 / April 2016
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
Geri Halliwell - March 2016
Deborah Harry - January 2011
Jimi Hendrix - September 2010
Inspiral Carpets - April 2012
The Jam - May 2013
Elton John - August 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012
Joy Division - March 2011
Kenickie - October 2010
The Kinks - November 2010 / April 2011 / May 2013
Led Zeppelin - November 2015
John Lennon - May 2013
Pixie Lott - February 2011
Madness - November 2011
Madonna - April 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / March 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / March 2012 / November 2012 / January 2013 / November 2013 / March 2014 / August 2015 / January 2016 / June 2016
Mansun - August 2011
Dannii Minogue - September 2011
The Moody Blues - October 2015
Morrissey - April 2014
Kate Nash - February 2011
New Order - October 2012
Nirvana - June 2011 / December 2012
Oasis - April 2013
Pet Shop Boys - May 2011 / June 2011
Pink Floyd - January 2011 / July 2011
P!nk - April 2012
Elvis Presley - March 2011 / October 2011 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014
Prince - January 2015
Pulp - August 2011
Queen - December 2010 / September 2011
Lou Reed - September 2015
Cliff Richard & The Shadows - July 2011
Rolling Stones - July 2010 / October 2010 / March 2011
The Saturdays - April 2011
Siouxsie & The Banshees - March 2013 / July 2014
Slade - May 2012
Sleeper - December 2013
Smashing Pumpkins - June 2012
The Smiths - June 2010
Britney Spears - November 2010 / December 2010
Spice Girls - February 2016
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 / December 2015
Suede - August 2011
Sugababes - August 2012
Super Furry Animals - September 2014
Supergrass - August 2014
TRex - December 2010
Theaudience - August 2011
Thin Lizzy - February 2013
The Thrills - June 2015
Tin Machine - December 2010
U2 - March 2012 / December 2012
The Velvet Underground - October 2010
The Walker Brothers - June 2011
Scott Walker - September 2010 / February 2013
Paul Weller - December 2014
The Who - May 2010 / August 2012 / July 2013
Kim Wilde - October 2013
Yes - July 2015
Neil Young - April 2015

Blogger can have a mind of it's own at times, so if you click on a year and get NO menu, click on the arrow next to the year, and you should get the list of months for that year to help you navigate a bit easier. To return to the homepage, you can click on the tab for the current year. Several blogs are in production, with articles on Bowie and Tubeway Army 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!

Bowie Live Part 1: Before Tin Machine


When Bowie passed away, various experts came out of the woodwork to talk about how he was more than just a great singer, but also a great actor, a great painter, and also, a supreme stage performer. But in all honesty, Bowie was never a regular touring act, spending several periods of his career in a state of gig-less inactivity. There were no tours during the late 70s or early 80s, whilst live performances between 1991 and early 1995 were virtually non existent.

In addition to this, there were some tours that were nothing more than trawls around the festival circuit (2002’s “Heathen” shows), and other tours where getting tickets was a bit of a lottery as Bowie hit the clubs instead of the arenas (1997’s shows in support of “Earthling”). Technically, the only ’proper’ tour Bowie did after the shows for 1995’s “Outside” were the “Reality” shows in 2003/2004 - which turned out to be his last.

As such, the gaps between one tour and the next means that looking at Bowie’s gig life, post-”Space Oddity”, is not quite as daunting as you might think. This was not a man who played shows every year, unlike Dylan has post-1987. So I thought it would be fun to look at Bowie’s tours from the “Ziggy” days onwards, looking at what was officially released from each, and when. The early years haven’t really spawned anything official at all, the best you will get is the “In Concert” stuff on the “Bowie At The Beeb” album, so we are looking here at what happened after Arnold Corns had been abandoned, and “Hunky Dory” had started to prick up people’s ears. This is part 1, looking at the period from 1972 to 1988. There are a few releases in here not previously documented on earlier Bowie blogs I have done, so it’s not completely pointless, but I hope you enjoy it. Part 2, from 1995 to 2004 will appear early next year I think.


1972 - 1973

The Ziggy Stardust tour was, in reality, a series of smaller tours sort of “clumped” together, but were all presented as a showcase for Ziggy and the Spiders From Mars. The first handful of shows were now legendary, under attended, gigs in Aylesbury and at the Toby Jug pub in London, but by the time “Aladdin Sane” was out, Bowie was able to fill venues like Earls Court. For some years, there were no official releases of any of these shows, and by the time they finally did start to appear, they sort of appeared in ‘reverse’ chronological order.

In 1979, a film documenting the final gig of the tour, the now famous (second) show at Hammersmith Odeon on 3rd July 1973, was released, and generally became known as “Ziggy Stardust”. It had been filmed by D A Pennebaker, who had been asked to film about 20 minutes worth of footage on RCA’s behalf, but after seeing the previous night’s show, Pennebaker was so impressed, he decided to film it all. The film was, for the most part, a fully fledged document of the show, interspersed with bits of backstage footage, and some great “pre gig” scenes filmed outside the venue of the fans, which captured the whole Ziggy phenomenon. RCA also recorded the entire show, ostensibly because it was the last gig of that part of the tour, although it sometimes seems a bit of a coincidence that it would turn out to be the show during which Bowie killed Ziggy - Pennebaker has, in one interview, claimed that he was approached by RCA specifically because they thought ‘it might be the last show he will play’.

Eventually, Pennebaker’s film was given a proper theatrical release, and emerged in 1983, before making it onto home video soon after. RCA decided to issue a “soundtrack” album to coincide with the cinema release. Bowie, having moved away from music in the early 80s to concentrate more on his acting career, thus incurred the wrath of RCA who decided to fill the market with Bowie product whenever things went quiet. By 1981, Bowie was so convinced that RCA would dig the tapes out of the archives, that he made the decision to try and produce a decent sounding mix of the show himself with help from long time producer Tony Visconti. “Ziggy Stardust The Motion Picture” was thus issued, initially on LP and Cassette, in October 83, although it was later given a (now deleted) CD release (EMI CDEMD 1037) in 1992.

Neither the film nor the LP featured the full gig - the encore had included performances of “Jean Genie” and “Round And Round”, with Jeff Beck guesting on guitar - and even though these songs were shown in an hour long US TV special which documented the show in 1974 (available on Youtube), Beck refused to allow for either the LP or movie to include these songs when the “official“ release was being put together. Restrictions due to the logistics of vinyl saw “Changes” moved towards the end of the record, appearing at the start of side 4, whilst “Width Of A Circle” was heavily edited. “Cracked Actor” was actually longer than the version in the film, as Pennebaker declined to show the intro to the song in the movie.

In 2003, a 30th anniversary reissue was conducted. Not only did the film reappear on DVD in remixed form, but so did the soundtrack. The running order was revamped so that the songs appeared in the same order as the film, whilst “Width Of A Circle” was included in unedited form - with a running time some five minutes longer than the 1983 version. According to my notes, the version in the film is still slightly edited, but I could be wrong. The Beck tracks were still missing. The 2003 version was slightly retitled, appearing as “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars - The Motion Picture Soundtrack”, and appeared on both CD and Double Red Vinyl (EMI ZIGGYRIP 3773). 2014’s “Five Years” boxset includes not only albums originally issued in the 1969-1973 period, but live albums taped during the same time frame. The box thus includes the 2003 version of the LP. The box has been issued on both vinyl and a slightly more affordable CD set (Parlophone DBXL 1), and the LP itself is now available as a stand alone vinyl release for about £20.

Some of the songs have appeared on other occasions. “White Light White Heat” was issued as a 7” by RCA to promote the album (RCA 372), with the live version of “Cracked Actor” on the b-side, using the same front cover image as that on the album. The 1989 “Sound + Vision” boxset (technically only ever available in the UK on import) included three songs from the album - “Ziggy Stardust”, “White Light” and “Rock N Roll Suicide”, the latter minus it’s ’farewell speech’ ending. This track got yet another lease of life in 2014, when it appeared on the flip of a Record Store Day 7” picture disc reissue of the studio mix of “Rock N Roll Suicide“ itself (Parlophone DBROCK 40).

It was the CD edition of the “Sound + Vision” box which also provided the next bundle of official recordings from the Ziggy tour. The boxset came with a bonus disc, which included three previously unissued live recordings of “John I’m Only Dancing”, “Changes” and “The Supermen”, all taped at a show at Boston Music Hall on 1st October 1972 (Rykodisc RCS 90120). In 2003, an expanded 2-CD 30th anniversary edition of “Aladdin Sane” included all three tracks on the second disc of the package (in a different order) along with a previously unheard take of “Life On Mars” from the same show (EMI 583 0122). Then, in 2013, a 40th anniversary picture disc reissue of the “Life On Mars” 7” was issued, which included the live version of “Mars” from the Boston gig again on the flip (Parlophone DBMARS 40). So, four tracks, and a multitude of ways to get them. The “Aladdin Sane” reissue is probably the easiest approach.

The 2 disc “Aladdin Sane” also included two other live recordings from the tour. There was a “lo fi” recording of “Drive In Saturday” from the Cleveland Public Auditorium, taped on 25th November 1972. It must have been lifted straight from an audience recording, but no other songs from the same show have appeared officially yet. And there was also a recording of “Jean Genie” from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on 20th October 1972.

The Santa Monica gig had done the rounds on bootleg for years, having been originally taped for US radio. In 1994, Bowie’s former management company, Mainman, re-emerged with a new label entitled Golden Years. They would release three Bowie related releases over the next couple of years, all of which were issued without Bowie’s consent. “Santa Monica 72” (Golden Years GY 002) was the first such release, a good quality reissue of the full gig, complete with DJ introductions. The UK release looked good, and came with a free reproduction of the original ticket, although some of the overseas releases look more like bootlegs. The Mainman pressing eventually went out of print, and Bowie issued an official release in 2008, slightly retitled “Live Santa Monica 72”, which was more or less the same as the 1994 version. Of interest is that the front cover, whilst different from the Mainman one, includes as part of it’s artwork, a reprint of the ticket (again). It was almost as if Bowie and his team acknowledged the importance of the original release, and were simply retooling it to meet their own approval. The “Five Years” boxset includes this version of the album.

Several of the Santa Monica songs resurfaced on other Mainman releases. Aside from a slightly pointless reappearance for “Ziggy” on the next Golden Years Bowie release, 1995’s “RarestOneBowie” - more on this one in a bit - three tracks from the gig turned up on a CD EP at the same time, the first time “Ziggy Stardust” had appeared as a UK single (Golden Years GYCDS 002). The extra tracks were “Waiting For The Man” and “Jean Genie”. Meanwhile, the newspaper freebie album “iSelect” (EMI UPDB 001), a joint release between EMI and the Mail On Sunday, included “Hang On To Yourself”, as part of an attempt to promote the reissued 2008 version.

As for “RarestOneBowie” (Golden Years GY 014), this hotch potch of odds and sods also included other recordings from the Ziggy tour which, again, remain the only ‘official’ releases from these shows. The final two tracks on the album were a version of “My Death” taped at New York’s Carnegie Hall on 28.9.1972, and the album concluded with another lo-fi recording, “I Feel Free”, from the Kingston Polytechnic on 6.5.1972. Bowie had finally recorded a studio version of the track for 1993’s “Black Tie White Noise”, and it was obvious that this live version had again been snaffled from a bootleg, and included for it’s historical importance.


1974

Bowie’s 1974 tour of America, often referred to somewhat generically as the “Diamond Dogs” tour, not only showed that Bowie was far from being ’retired’, but was a showcase of his new love of soul music. It has been claimed by some that this was the tour in which Bowie changed musical direction halfway through, but this is not strictly true. Yes, the final leg of the tour was dubbed “The Soul Tour”, which boasted a new stage lineup, altered setlist and simplified stage production, but even before the “Diamond Dogs” album had been completed, the first strains of Bowie’s “Plastic Soul” period were already in situ. Just watch the late ‘73 “1980 Floor Show”, a US TV special filmed - strangely - in London, where the likes of “1984” were given their first airing, and you can hear that the seeds were already being sown.

Bowie’s management had been lining up a US tour for the fall of 1973 after the Hammersmith shows, but the killing of Ziggy put a kibosh on that idea. That may or may not explain why “Diamond Dogs” was only promoted on the other side of the Atlantic - what is known is that at first, the tour was designed as a big, theatrical extravaganza, which would have made it difficult, logistically and financially, to cart around the globe. Seen as one of the earliest examples of the modern day ’stadium rock’ spectacle, the stage design saw Bowie inhabiting a place known as “Hunger City” - an idea floated early on was that the show would play for multiple nights in each city, thus giving the “Hunger City” backdrop a sort of home for the week, but this idea was never followed through. In certain cities, Bowie did play what were almost mini residencies, presumably due to healthy ticket sales, and this did at least give the road crew a rest, as the elaborate stage design reportedly took 36 hours to build.

As expected, the new album featured heavily in the setlists - but from day one, the “Plastic Soul” vibe was evident. “Rebel Rebel”, a glam, Ziggy-esque stomper on the LP, was retooled as a loose, funky, sax driven groove. It would take years before Bowie would ever get round to playing a version that sounded relatively faithful to the original. Songs from the Ziggy era remained in place, with the Hammersmith closer “Rock N Roll Suicide” routinely used to close the shows, but by now, had been redesigned as a slow and swaying piece of minimalist R&B, as opposed to the anthemic, rocking, call to arms it had been on the “Ziggy” tour.

Bowie used the tour to try out new material, including performances of a revamped “John I’m Only Dancing” and “It’s Gonna Be Me”, neither of which made it onto the next record. But by the time the tour had been rechristened for it’s final leg, songs from the forthcoming “Young Americans” album were being performed on stage, Bowie quite possibly having decided by this point exactly what was going to appear on the LP, and what was being put into the archives.

Bowie played in Philadelphia during both the first and third sections of the tour, and first time around, played six shows at the Tower Theater on the edge of the city. By all accounts, all of the shows were recorded for what would be Bowie’s first live album, the late 1974 release “David Live”. Initial copies in some countries cited that the album had been recorded over two nights, but with the wrong dates shown (Bowie had left Philadelphia before the first show was alleged to have occurred), and later editions listed two alternate dates, which did actually match the dates of gigs Bowie played there. But experts have stated that the album features material from at least three of the shows.

It was issued as a double album, and as such, was a reasonable document of a typical gig. Space constraints prevented every song that the band played on those nights from being included, but there was space for Bowie’s cover of “Knock On Wood”, which was issued as a 7” single to help promote the album. On the flipside was an outtake from the “David Live” tapes, a magnificently trumped up recording of “Panic In Detroit”, taking the one time Bo Diddley shuffle of a tune, and reinventing it as a piece of epic, thrilling, funk (RCA 2466).

“David Live” had it’s detractors. Be it the ghostly looking Bowie on the cover, or the ‘stilted’ performances, some critics had the knives out. But I have always thought it was a fascinating, and dare I say it, IMPORTANT album - rather than offer up facsimile versions of the studio recordings, Bowie here offered up an album of well known material, but presented it entirely in a form you wouldn’t have heard it in before. Not even The Beatles ever did that. It’s one of my favourite live albums ever.

In the late 70s, long before albums were pressed in the EU and then distributed across the whole of the European Union (that might be over post-Brexit), most countries had their own pressing plants, and this would result in selected European nations issuing albums for distribution exclusively within that country. And so, an edited highlights version of the album surfaced as “Rock Concert” in certain overseas locations. Dismissed as pointless by some, I think it is an essential release. Mainly because there are some unique mixes on it. Bowie and his band would often finish one song and race straight into another, but the “RC” album simply picks whatever it fancied, meaning that you get to hear the opening strains of the next song in the show just as that particular tracks fades out. Well, you might not be excited by that at all, but I love it for that reason. I know - you could just get the same effect by turning the volume down in the right places whilst playing your normal “David Live”. In 1982, this ’shortened’ album was reissued on LP in Holland as “At The Tower Philadelphia” (RCA PL 42993), which used a healthy looking image of Bowie on stage on the cover. They did this by using a picture from the 1978 tour. Still, I was thrilled when I bought this album as a kid, and still cherish it to this day. I was always intrigued as to why no effort was made to put either Bowie’s name nor the album title on the front cover though.

In 1990, as part of the EMI/Rykodisc reissue campaign, “David Live” got the expanded reissue treatment. For some reason, there was no place for the live “Panic In Detroit”. It had had a few second leases of life, appearing on the “Bowie Rare” LP in 1982 (RCA PL 45406), and on the B-side of the RCA Lifetimes picture sleeved 7” reissue of “Knock On Wood” the following year (RCA BOW 505), but not this time around. The expanded “David Live” was issued on vinyl, tape and CD (EMI CDDBLD 1) with previously unheard versions of “Time” and The Ohio Players’ “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” (thus providing you with further evidence that Bowie had already ‘gone soul’ long before the third leg of the tour). They were added at the end of the album, so you could sort of pretend they were the encores, but both would normally be performed midway through the show.

There are other releases of note. In 2005, “David Live” was reissued again (EMI 311 2482). This time around, the two bonus tracks were moved to their correct place in the running order, and “Panic In Detroit” was also restored. This left one song that had been played at the Philly gigs missing, “Space Oddity” - and so this too was included in the reissue. The whole gig was remixed to boot. Meanwhile, the title track of the “Young Americans” album was issued as a 7” in 1975, which included the live version of “Suffragette City” from the “DL” album on the flip (RCA 2523). There was also a Lifetimes reissue of this single as well in 83 (RCA BOW 506). The 40th anniversary picture disc reissue series has also seen mixes from the 2005 version appear on vinyl for the first time, with the reissue of “Diamond Dogs” including the live take of the same song from the LP on the flip (Parlophone DBDOGS 40), whilst the 2014 reissue of “Knock On Wood” was issued as a AA with the live recording of “Rock N Roll With Me” (Parlophone DBKOW 40). The “Sound + Vision” box included three selections from the album, namely “Suffragette City”, “Watch That Man” and “Cracked Actor”. An expanded 4-CD version of the boxset issued in 2003 was the first ‘official’ release in the UK for the set, and is now available in a more compact edition, courtesy of a charming 2014 reissue (Parlophone DBSAVX 1).

Any other recordings you might hear from the tour are boots. There is, in Australia, a release called “A Portrait in Flesh” which has been described by some as being semi-legal, as some state it’s source is from a radio broadcast, where copyright issues outside of the US for such releases can get quite “fuzzy“. More later. Taped at the Los Angeles Universal Ampitheatre, it has done the rounds on bootlegs for years, if it was me, I would just try and locate “a” copy of it, rather than pay through the nose for a release that, despite having a barcode, is still considered by some as a bootleg, rather than a “RarestOneBowie” style unauthorised release. My version is on a 2-CD release called “Strange Fascination” from 1990, and it does the job just fine.


1976

Bowie’s 1976 tour, later named the “Isolar” tour after the moniker that appeared on the tour programme, remains one of Bowie’s most famous tours, and yet one of the least well documented in terms of audio material. From the surrealist imagery that appeared on film just before Bowie took to the stage, to the black and white lighting, and Bowie’s monochrome “Thin White Duke” stage character, the photos from the tour range from stylish to impossibly cool. And yet, only one live album officially exists - and even that is buried away as part of a boxset.

The tour was to promote 1976’s sublime “Station To Station”, and four of the six songs from the album were regularly performed. Most recent single “Golden Years” was rumoured to have been played at least once, but no more. In some respects, just as the 1974 tour had kept chunks of “Ziggy” material, the 1976 tour was not too far removed from the “Diamond Dogs” one, with “Panic In Detroit” once again appearing as a reworked piece of funk, whilst the cover of “Waiting For The Man” was back in the set, and re-invented as a piece of soul music. The shows would open, as the LP did, with “Station” and there was still some “Ziggy” era songs floating about, with “Suffragette City” usually being played second, and “Jean Genie” providing the climax to the encore. After declining to tour the UK in 74, Bowie returned to his homeland, playing six nights at the Empire Pool in London in May 76. They were his only shows in Britain.

Bowie once stated that he was disappointed that no official film was made, given that the shows had a very striking visual element - but footage of the gigs do exist in part, courtesy of at least one TV show, and parts of it were shown (in the background) during the lengthy rolling Sky News reports that were aired on the day of Bowie’s death. Rehearsal footage of complete songs also exist on Youtube.

In 1991, the EMI/Rykodisc reissue of “Station To Station” added two live recordings from a gig that Bowie had played in New York at the Nassau Coliseum on 23rd March. I picked this up on a US Cassette copy, which used a ’cut down’ front cover (Ryko RACS 0141-2), that differed not only to the vinyl and CD editions, but also slightly to the original UK tape edition as well. The two songs were both versions of songs from the original “STS” LP, “Word On A Wing” and “Stay”. In 1995, the “RarestOneBowie” set included a version of “Queen Bitch” from the same gig. Bowie had split from the Mainman management company in 1975, so it is interesting to see both a Bowie authorised release and an unauthorised one using the same gig as source material - achievable it seems because the recordings were conducted independently by RCA. The New York gig had been taped for broadcast on American radio, and had done the rounds as a bootleg for some time. Originally issued as “The Thin White Duke”, original bootlegs concluded with two songs Bowie performed on the Cher show in 1975.

Eventually, the entire Nassau gig was released officially in 2010 as part of the “Station To Station” boxset. Aside from the Super Deluxe box I mentioned in my original Bowie blog(s) from the same year, the gig was available as well in a slightly more affordable triple-disc CD set (EMI BOWSTSX 2010), which included the studio LP and the “LiveNassauColiseum’76” album in their own individual sleeves inside a clam shell box. “Panic In Detroit” was edited, I think, for space constraints - the Super Deluxe Edition included the Nassau gig on double vinyl as well as CD, so it would seem as though this mix was created in order to avoid groove cramming. Anybody wanting to hear the full, 10 minute long version, complete with unedited drum solo, will need to track down a bootleg. You was able to download it officially as well, at some point, but as you might know, downloading is not my forte. And that’s it for official releases.


1978

Bowie didn’t tour as a solo artist in 1977, the year of “Low” and “Heroes”, choosing instead to play keyboards as part of Iggy Pop’s band as he toured the Bowie produced “The Idiot”. But he did end up belatedly promoting these albums the following summer, on the “Isolar 2” tour.

As mentioned, I think, on an earlier blog, it was rumoured that Bowie agreed to this tour to try and recover the “losses” he had incurred during the years when he was signed to the Mainman management group, where the financial deals he had signed up for were rumoured to have left him a bit skint. Even the title of the tour suggests that it was designed as a “second lap” of the original 1976 shows, with the stage design an extension of the original minimalist approach. However, in a now famous interview backstage with Janet Street Porter just before he took to the stage at one of the Earls Court gigs in June, he admitted that he was enjoying touring more, so even if he had agreed to the gigs as an attempt to gain some financial security, then at least he was now actually providing the audience with art that he had total involvement with. This was the polar opposite of what later happened in the 80s.

Just as it had been in 76, Bowie launched the tour in North America, and a number of shows were recorded for a planned live album. The reasoning behind this was to try and counteract the rampant bootlegging that had occurred of the Nassau gig on the last tour. For the first time since 1973, Bowie conducted UK shows outside of London, with gigs in Newcastle, Stafford, Glasgow and the capital. Multiple shows were conducted in each location.

Alongside songs that had (again) survived from the previous tour, including three of the four songs from “Station To Station” that had regularly been played in 76, Bowie played a number of the instrumental numbers that had appeared on “Low” and “Heroes”. On the likes of “Warszawa”, the performances were an almost note for note replication of the studio recordings, almost as if Bowie had brought the original synths with him onto the stage, creating versions that he later referred to as being ’ponderous’.

No attempt was made to try and recreate the atmospheric guitar sounds that Robert Fripp had brought to the studio versions of “Heroes” or “Beauty And The Beast” - instead, Bowie employed a violinist on the tour, and several of the songs featured the instrument quite prominently, meaning several songs found themselves being slightly reworked on stage. I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard a single live take of “Heroes” that comes anywhere near to the avant garde beauty of the original. Bowie also, just for fun, decided to play a big chunk of the “Ziggy” album on stage, and all 11 songs were reportedly rehearsed with many, but not all, being performed at different points on the tour.

Bowie would perform a big chunk of the ‘new’ material during the first half of the show, before hitting the audience with a 20 minute long bit of nostalgia by rattling through five or six “Ziggy” songs halfway through. The three “STS” tracks were usually used as the climax to the show. RCA taped the final gig in London, but despite this, there were seemingly no plans to do anything with those tapes, and when “Stage” appeared in the fall of 78, it was compiled exclusively from the US gigs previously recorded.

“Stage” was, like “David Live” before it, a double album. However, rather than using the format to give the listener a vague idea of what the gigs from the tour sounded like, the album was controversially split into sections, with each side of the LP being devoted to a different part of Bowie’s career. The “Low” and “Heroes” material took up the second half of the record, and the “Station To Station” stuff landed on side 2, alongside a version of 1975‘s “Fame“. Five tracks from the Ziggy days opened proceedings. I could be wrong, but I believe this may well have been done to not only place the songs in more or less chronological order, but also to act as a bit of a retro throwback. The opening numbers on the LP, “Hang Onto Yourself” and “Ziggy Stardust”, had been the routine openers on the 1972 and 1973 gigs.

Coloured vinyl was now also all the rage. Initial copies of the UK LP appeared on yellow vinyl, whilst the “Breaking Glass” 7”, issued late in 78 in an attempt to (re)promote the LP, appeared on blue vinyl when issued in Holland. The UK edition was pressed on black vinyl, and in a different sleeve (RCA BOW 1) and included two other songs from the “Stage” album, “Art Decade” and “Ziggy Stardust”. The 1983 “Lifetimes” reissue (RCA BOW 520) used a totally different picture sleeve as well.

In 1991, as part of the ongoing EMI/Ryko reissue campaign, “Stage” was reissued. It came with an extra track, Bowie’s psychotic take on “Alabama Song”. Despite being one of the more oddball concert choices, Bowie was obviously quite taken with this song - despite the fact that The Doors’ version from their first LP was superior, Bowie later even went into the studio to cut a new version for release as a single, making it one of the more ‘out there’ Bowie 45’s. In the UK, the reissue of "Stage" appeared on CD and Cassette (EMI TCEMD 1030).

In 2005, as with “David Live”, a revamped and remixed version of the album appeared. Overseen by Tony Visconti, the songs were first reordered to appear in the order in which they had originally been performed on stage. “Alabama Song” now thus appeared just before the “Station To Station” material. In addition to this, two songs that had been played at the gigs but never released were also included as bonus tracks (in the correct part of the show as well), “Be My Wife” and “Stay”. Even so, this version of the album was not as ‘complete’ as it could have been, as several songs performed during the gigs that had been recorded were still omitted from the new edition (EMI 7243 863 4362).

As for the Earls Court show, versions of “Be My Wife” and “Sound And Vision” were issued on “RarestOneBowie”. This show marked the first time that Bowie had ever played the latter, and decided to do so as it was the final night of the European tour, hence the shout of “this is all last night stuff folks” during the opening section. The aforementioned “Sound + Vision” boxset also included three songs from the original, unremixed, version of “Stage” - “Station To Station”, “Warszawa” and “Breaking Glass”.


1983

You can count on one hand the amount of officially released (audio) songs - not gigs note, but songs - in the Bowie catalogue that have come from the “Serious Moonlight” tour. By 1983, we were now living in MTV land, and home video land. And so, rather than just record songs for a live album, why not just film a concert for a live video? And so, that’s what happened. We shall look at Bowie on Film in the next blog.

Only two songs seem to have surfaced with Bowie’s blessing. The third single from the album that the tour was promoting, “Let’s Dance”, was “Modern Love”. On the flipside was a live recording of the same song, lifted from a show that was taped for radio broadcast in Montreal on 13th July 1983. Original copies of the 12” (EMI America 12EA 158) came with a free poster, and general consensus is, that a large number of these have either been destroyed, or separated and kept from the single, so copies with one inside will be worth more than those without. One reason as to why this, and nothing else, from the tour was released in audio form is probably because the “Serious Moonlight” video that was released omitted this song entirely, which in itself was probably because footage of Bowie performing the song on stage had been used for the promo video. If you buy either the 2003 or 2014 version of the “Sound + Vision” boxset, this one-time rarity is now available in this expanded set.

The only other song to have been released in audio form is actually one lifted straight from the video. When “Sorrow” was reissued as a 7” 40th anniversary picture disc in 2013, the reissues in that series at that time were using ’alternate’ versions of the A-side as their B-sides, and so the live version of the same track appears on the flip (Parlophone DBSOZ 4030). This performance dates from Vancouver on 12th September 1983.


1987

Bowie’s “Glass Spider” tour remains probably the most divisive moment of the man’s career. For some, it was the final straw, the sign of a man losing his way completely whilst playing to the biggest crowds of his career underneath the legs of what was apparently a big arthropod. For others, it was seen as a groundbreaking stadium spectacular, setting the way for future pop acts to approach the concert performance in a different way, as opposed to just holding a microphone and singing the hits.

In my opinion, it was flawed from the outset. Bowie’s new album, “Never Let Me Down”, had been written with the sole purpose of Bowie then being able to present most of it’s content on stage, which was a problem when said material was the weakest of the man’s career so far. Thus, Bowie found himself performing large numbers of so-so tracks like “87 And Cry” - had the new album been really good, then it wouldn’t have been a problem wheeling out most of the songs. But it wasn’t, and so it’s difficult to listen to or watch a show from this tour without feeling slightly bemused by it all. It’s Bowie, so you can still get some enjoyment out of it, but at times, as the late 80s gated drum sound hurts your ears, you will find yourself thinking “is this the same guy who was doing ‘Be My Wife’ ten years ago?”

If you accept that Bowie simply got better from this point on, then you can start to look at the more interesting parts of the show, accepting it as a tour which represented the start of the turning point. Bowie, determined to try and shake off the ‘mainstream pop’ tag he had found himself lumbered with post-”Let’s Dance”, dragged some obscure oldies out of the bag for this tour, playing several songs for the first time in years (“Big Brother”, “Time”) whilst others were seemingly being played for the first time ever, despite dating from the previous decade (“Sons Of The Silent Age”, “All The Madmen”). Early on, Bowie too seemed to realise that neither the album nor the tour were quite the return to form he had hoped they would be, and was dropping some of the new material as the tour approached it’s climax.

Like the 83 tour, gigs that Bowie played in Sydney in November were filmed and highlights were used for a video release (two actually, as the first half was on one VHS, and the second on another). Briefly mentioned on an earlier blog was the fact that a label called Immortal later dubbed these recordings, rather pointlessly, into audio form for use on an album simply called “Glass Spider” - they did a similar thing with an early 80s Who release as well.

However, in recent years, there have been some more interesting releases. First up, the two videos were released on DVD in 2007. The missing material was still missing. However, initial copies came with a free bonus album, a gig from Montreal taped on 30th August, spread across two CD’s (EMI 0946 391 00224). This show had previously been recorded for a radio broadcast, and was making it’s first official appearance here. Unlike the DVD, it featured the entire show. Trouble is, this release was done as a limited edition, and last time I looked, copies were selling for wildly inflated prices, so you might have more chance tracking down a bootleg as, being a radio recording, they should be easy to locate.

2015 meanwhile saw the release of an intriguing album on an obscure label called Laser Media, simply called “Day In Day Out”. I have mentioned on other blogs the strange world of the ’unauthorised’ live album, and this is one of those. A double disc set (LM 160), it purports to include a radio broadcast of another show that Bowie played in Sydney on 3rd November, a couple of days before the cameras were brought to the venue to film material for the official VHS. Some experts have stated that the sound suggests it’s a soundboard recording. But, if we assume it’s a radio broadcast, then there is apparently an EU loophole that allows for albums like this to appear in your local HMV or on Amazon. According to one reviewer on the latter, if a concert is recorded outside of the EU, it can then be released within the EU without the artist’s consent. Hence, this release. Not sure how copies are being made available on Amazon in the US though, as last time I looked it wasn’t in the EU.

It’s not perfect - the cover uses a photo of Bowie from the 76 tour, although at least that’s a better look than the mullet he wore in 87 - and the end of disc 1 fades out midway through “Fashion” (and disc 2 fades in midway through “Scary Monsters”) but if you can’t find the Montreal gig, then I’d go for this. Some will state it’s a bootleg, some will argue that being unofficial you should avoid it, but for me, it’s probably the easiest way you will be able to get hold of this show, so if you don’t already own a copy from more dubious sources, I recommend it, despite it’s flaws.


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Madonna Long Players: 2005-2010


Here we go again. Another Madonna LP blog, this time looking at what Madonna did during the second half of the noughties. In keeping with the last blog, we shall make mention of the special edition releases that appeared in the USA for the two studio albums from this period, and the discography at the end lists the official UK editions. In comparison to earlier albums, overall, the choice is limited - as Cassette pressings had more or less died a death, and the Compact Disc was normally the format of choice.

But this was also a period in which Madonna ventured into the world of the live album - all previous efforts having been concert films, videos and DVD’s. It’s not been the most brilliant decision, and we shall see why later. Note, that the discography is for ‘album’ releases only - DVD releases without an audio element were also issued for some of these live releases, but we shall detail them another time.

We begin with a career highlight. 2005’s “Confessions On A Dancefloor” was, like “Ray Of Light” before it, a reminder that nobody does pop music like Madonna does. Heralded by the incendiary Abba-sampling first single “Hung Up”, this was a return to the joyous, bouncy, disco that Madonna had partly sidestepped on the overtly political “American Life”. Whereas that record had an air of sadness and anger, driven by a post 9/11 attitude, this LP was mostly high energy, straight to the point, future pop of the highest order.

It was, kind of, a follow up to 1987’s “You Can Dance”, a record which had been designed to acknowledge the club scene, by featuring one long continuous mix on each side of the album. With “Confessions” being issued in the CD era, the decision was taken to mix everything on the album into one, 56 minute long, mix. It helped to create an exhilarating and often euphoric sound, and it’s modern influences meant that the album didn’t just take on the youngsters of this world, like Britney and Girls Aloud, but essentially reminded them how it was supposed to be done in the first place.

Whereas the promo campaign for “American Life” petered out after three singles, the critical acclaim afforded “Confessions” seemed to give it legs, and Warners issued one hit single after another. In the UK, multiple formats, picture discs and a wave of remixes due to another change in UK formatting rules, helped to produce a series of quite exciting releases. The Pet Shop Boys were invited to remix “Sorry”, whilst “Jump” featured that rare occurrence - an actual B-side in the form of “History”. And then there was the US only triple-12” set, “Confessions Remixed”, a 6 track release consisting of revamps of “Hung Up”, “Sorry”, “Get Together”, “I Love New York” and “Let It Will Be”.

Although the album’s big selling point was it’s continuous mix approach, the two most interesting releases were actually those that messed with this design. First, a limited edition boxset edition of the album featured a bonus track, “Fighting Spirit”, which simply appeared as an isolated track after the 56 minute mix had ended. My copy is from the US, but I am told there was a European pressed edition. Then there was the vinyl edition, which, realising that it was going to be impossible to do anything with the continuous mix situation, instead opted to include unique, unedited mixes of all the tracks. UK copies were also pressed on pink vinyl, so, if you only buy one UK edition of this LP, this really should be it - probably. Might be hard to find a copy cheaply nowadays though.

Whilst Madonna headed back out on tour in the summer of 2006, there was then the slightly confusing issue of a new live release from her previous tour. “I’m Going To Tell You A Secret” was a ‘Truth Or Dare’ style documentary, documenting Madonna’s 2004 “Reinvention” tour - itself a slightly delayed promo plug for the “American Life” album from the year before. As you’d expect, the concert film was issued as a DVD - but came with a free CD. No previous Madonna concert release had headed down this route.

One reason for this change of approach may possibly have been that, being a documentary, the amount of actual music in the film amounted to just over an hour’s worth of material only - something which could be squeezed onto a CD quite easily. And so, it was issued as a sort of “live album with free movie” release. Essentially, the songs that were included in the film were thus utilised for the audio disc, along with a couple of audio only exclusive extras - but this still meant that a big chunk of the gig was completely AWOL. In some instances, the performances in the film were fairly complete, and were thus near DVD to CD transfers, but most of the songs had been subjected to some form of editing, and the CD featured these songs in “unbutchered” form. The CD also ended with a quite brilliant demo of “I Love New York”, wildly different to the finished version on “Confessions”.

For reasons that are not totally clear, the album was issued as a CD+DVD set, and a DVD+CD set. “What’s the difference” you ask. Well, I am guessing the CD+DVD set was aimed at the album charts, the DVD+CD at the video charts, and each release came in packaging ’tailored’ for the format. So the CD+DVD release came in a CD sized box, with a catalogue number based on typical Warners albums, and the DVD+CD came in a DVD sized box, with a catalogue number based on typical Warners video releases. The cat number listed down below is for the CD+DVD release only, just to make it a bit clearer in the context of this article, but it all actually gets more confusing later on. We shall come to that soon enough. We shall leave the DVD+CD release for now for my future “Madonna Live Videos” blog, which is in it‘s very early stages of production.

Whilst all this was going on, the cameras had been carted off to Wembley Arena to film several of Madonna’s shows for her next concert DVD. The not brilliantly titled “The Confessions Tour” was originally a TV broadcast, issued officially in the early part of 2007 - making it three new bits of Madonna product in 18 months.

Aside from the expected DVD release, there was also a CD+DVD set in a CD sized digipack, but whereas the audio element of “Secret” did seem to have an air of usefulness about it, the audio element of “TCT” didn’t. The DVD ticked all the boxes, featuring a typical full length Madonna show in glorious technicolor, thus bettering “Secret” in terms of “concert tour documentation”, but the accompanying CD this time around was obviously restricted to whatever could be squeezed onto an 80 minute long audio disc, so all you got were edited highlights lifted straight from the DVD. Pointless, really. But slightly more strange was the fact that, at the time of writing, this was the beginning of a series of live albums that would be issued to document every tour Madonna subsequently conducted, with the soundtrack of said CD being lifted from the accompanying DVD. And given that this sudden obsession with live albums coincided with Madonna facing increasing accusations of miming, makes the idea of a “live album” even more confusing.

2008’s “Hard Candy” was always going to struggle to shine whilst it remained in the shadow of the “Confessions” long player, and despite arriving with the usual hype and excitement that surrounded all previous Madonna albums - remember the now famous mini gig in Maidstone as part of the Radio 1 “Big Weekend“ ? - critical acclaim overall was a bit muted. It’s reference points of hip hop and modern R&B were always in danger of meaning that Madonna might be selling herself a bit short, and indeed, launching the album via a single featuring both the bland Justin Timberlake and the not-particularly-great Timbaland (“4 Minutes”) was not the sort of arrival akin to that that “Hung Up” had given the predecessor. To be fair, it’s not a bad album, and there were moments of glorious pop like “Heartbeat” and the thrilling follow up 45 “Give It To Me”, it‘s just it was given an impossible task.

There were two editions from the US that were of collectors interest. First up, was the boxset edition which used a slightly different sleeve (the Madonna image from the regular edition, but printed against a black, and not candy coloured, background) and featured a couple of bonus remixes of “4 Minutes”. It also came with a booklet, and, yep, a bag of ‘Starlite Mint Candies’ sweets in a cellophane bag. Suffice to say, any copies that get sold with the sweets missing are worthless. Probably one of the most ridiculous items I have in the collection. By all accounts, the copies that were imported into the UK were marketed as “semi UK” versions, as Discogs quotes a ‘UK release date’ for the box. Still a US release as far as I am concerned.

There was also a vinyl release on ’Candy Coloured’ vinyl. This was a quite elaborate affair, which in addition to having the album pressed as a double, also included a bonus black vinyl 12” with a couple of remixes of “4 Minutes” (different to those on the boxset edition), along with a CD of the regular 12 track album. There has been, in recent years, a real obsession not only with vinyl, but attempts to allow purchasers of said vinyl to not have to actually worry about playing it, with digital downloads and free CD’s often made available as part of the pack. I can both understand this, but also wonder exactly why this happens so often, as some vinyl experts will tell you they buy vinyl because of it’s warm sound, and so probably don’t want some free MP3’s to go alongside it.

I have already mentioned on an earlier blog the head scratching “random” order in which Madonna’s 2009 “Celebration” best-of followed. Madonna’s third hits set, it marked the end (sort of) of her lengthy association with Warners, and unlike the two previous comps which were designed to be listened to one after the other, this one covered her entire career.

It didn’t matter what format you went for - you would get an album full of decent songs, but shuffled around so that you had no idea of just how Madonna’s music had developed since 1982. The mix of production techniques and the pitch of Madonna’s voice going up and down, makes for a slightly incoherent listen - in my opinion.

The “basic” format was the double CD, where each disc concluded with a new song - “Revolver” on one, and “Celebration” on the other. In a slightly strange throwback to the days when record companies would issue cheap, edited highlights, versions of an album for the poorer music lovers, the album was also issued as an 18 track “short” single disc release, minus “Revolver” and multiple hits. It came in a slightly different cover, same image, but in a more ‘colourless’ sleeve. But it doesn’t include “Borderline” so really, what’s the point?

There was also a vinyl edition. Now, I don’t seem to have this. Either it was so limited I never saw it, or I discounted it as it wasn’t technically a UK edition (Madonna’s UK releases had all been pressed in Europe for many years by this point, and were then generically scattered around the EU, with no UK editions receiving their own catalogue numbers anymore), or it was too expensive. Copies, be they from the ‘UK’ or the US, seem to be fetching ridiculous prices on the market now, suggesting they were marked up quite highly to start with - I really can’t remember much about how I didn’t buy a copy! But if you want one, it’s a quadruple-LP utilising the track listing from the double-disc edition. In terms of “non album” singles, well, you get “Into The Groove”, “Justify My Love”, “Crazy For You”, “Who’s That Girl”, and “Beautiful Stranger”. No “Gambler” again for the second time, almost as if Madonna was continuing to hide this one away from the world, thus increasing it’s obscurity status.

Even though “Celebration” was touted as the final fling for Madonna‘s Warners career, that honour actually fell to 2010’s “Sticky And Sweet Tour”. Another concert film with free album, this show was taped way back during the first leg of the tour in Argentina in 2008, the gig first being shown on TV before eventually being issued “officially” well over a year later. In the UK, the album was issued, technically, on two formats with no “video only” releases, and thus both came with “9362” catalogue numbers, as per all Warners album releases as mentioned earlier. But whilst the DVD+CD edition came in a CD sized digipack sleeve, the BluRay+CD release was actually housed in a slightly oversized plastic, but standard for that format, BluRay case instead.

As per the “Confessions” release, the film was a full blown document of a typical Madonna show, although being filmed in Buenos Aires, this particular gig saw “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” shoehorned into the show as a bonus. The 2009 leg of the tour saw some alterations, but you will need to shop around on YouTube for anything from those dates. But the CD, again, being a CD, was restricted to 79 minutes of audio, so you just had a 13 song “edited highlights” set. I’ll be honest - it’s been a while since I listened to the CD, but I have a feeling at least one song may have been slightly edited for the audio side of the package, so if you get hold of a copy, you may want to give the audio disc a spin just to see if you can spot the differences.

And that was that. A slightly low key end to a lengthy, mostly brilliant, and highly successful, collaboration between artist and label. 28 years on from “Everybody”, and it was all over. Well, sort of. Warners were about to do an “RCA mining the pre-1981 Bowie catalogue” style bit of work on Madonna, but waited until she had a new studio album out until they did it. Madonna on LP in 2012 is coming soon.

Discography

Confessions On A Dance Floor (CD, Warner Bros 9362 49460 2)
Confessions On A Dance Floor (2 x Pink Vinyl LP, Warner Bros 9362 49460 1)
Confessions On A Dance Floor (Limited US CD, Warner Bros 2 49464 2, Boxset edition with 2 books and “Icon” fan club membership insert)

I’m Going To Tell You A Secret (CD+DVD, Warner Bros 9362 49990 2)

The Confessions Tour (CD+DVD, Warner Bros 9362 44489 2)

Hard Candy (CD, Warner Bros 9362 49884 9)
Hard Candy (Limited US CD, Warner Bros 2-440444 (#1))
Hard Candy (2 x US Coloured Vinyl LP + 12” + CD, Warner Bros 1-470972 (#1))

Celebration (2 x CD, Warner Bros 9362 49729 6)
Celebration (CD, Warner Bros 9362 49927 4)
Celebration (4 x LP, Warner Bros 9362 49729 3)

Sticky And Sweet Tour (CD+DVD, Warner Bros 9362 49728 4)
Sticky And Sweet Tour (CD+BluRay, Warner Bros 9362 49675 4)


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Bowie: An Alternative Guide to the Early Years


Back in 2010, I did a series of blogs on Bowie, running from the early pre-Space Oddity years right up to the current day, via the criminally underrated Tin Machine period. The first blog ran from 64 to 72, a period in which - “Space Oddity” aside - Bowie released a consist run of flop singles. Suffice to say, these original pressings are now worth a small fortune.

But if like me, you want to try and own these 45s in some form or another in single form, then you could try ‘cheating’ a bit. Many of these singles have, technically, been issued again in the intervening years - some official, some not so official. So, having finally now got nearly all of these releases on “alternative” single releases myself, I thought it would be worth showcasing what these releases are. The purists amongst you might baulk, and will be happy to shell out £500 for a “Prettiest Star” on Mercury, and I acknowledge that - I wish I could do the same. But if you want to cut a few corners - and hey, there are also going to be some people who will want both sets of releases - then this is my own little run through of the sometimes slightly dubious world of the alternative Bowie “Early Years” single releases.

Bowie’s first 45, as leader of Davie Jones And The King Bees, was 1964’s “Liza Jane”. By the late 70s, the rights to release this song seemed to have fallen to Decca, who dutifully put out a 7” reissue of the single in 1978. Possibly in order to showcase that this was a 60s effort, Decca declined to issue the single in a picture sleeve - despite the fact that these were becoming all the rage post-Punk. Instead, they simply issued it in the standard Decca ‘blue and white’ bag (7”, Decca F 13807). By all accounts, the single didn’t sell brilliantly second time around - there is no mention of Bowie anywhere on this release, so perhaps some people simply had no idea who or what it was - but it is obviously nowhere near as rare as the original. There are quotes that only 3500 copies of the Vocalion original were pressed (plus, a series of totally illegal US “repressings“ that can easily be found on eBay), and even though the Decca one is a more obscure release than other Decca singles from the same period (I bought Adam And The Ants’ “Young Parisians” for about £2 some years ago), the reissue is not wildly OTT in terms of value - I recently purchased a copy for £30.

Bowie was then, for a short time, a regular recording artist for Parlophone. Well, he lasted for two singles. First up was a single with The Manish Boys called “I Pity The Fool”, and then his first release where he was billed as a solo artist, Davy Jones - “You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving”. In 1979, EMI decided to stick all four tracks together on an EP (7”, EMI 2925). The EP doesn’t totally have a title, you just have a picture of Bowie and his backing band, The Lower Third, on the cover, with the name of the two bands above. So, effectively, all four tracks get equal billing here. The EP was later issued, in slightly altered but mostly very similar packaging, by the See For Miles label in 1982 as a 10” (10”, See For Miles CYM1), in 1985 as a 12” (12”, See For Miles SEA1) and a CD in 1990 (CD, See For Miles SEACD1). I seem to recall picking up my CD copy a couple of years ago for about £15, so again, not out of the budget of most people. There was also a totally revamped version of the EP in 2013, when EMI did a Record Store Day release called “Bowie 1965!” (7”, EMI GEP 8968) but being an RSD release, meant it was already rising in value as soon as the eBay scalpers got home.

It was then onto Pye, where Jones became Bowie, and three singles were issued on the label. He started his tenure by crediting his band, with 1966’s “Can’t Help Thinking About Me” appearing as a release by David Bowie With The Lower Third, but issued the two follow ups as Bowie solo efforts - “Do Anything You Say” and “I Dig Everything”. The Pye material itself has resurfaced quite a bit over the years, including an EP issued by the label itself in 1972 which included all three A-sides, under the banner of “For The Collector” (7”, Pye 7NX 8002). However, the one to go for is 1999’s “I Dig Everything: The 1966 Pye Singles”. This release is so sexy it hurts. It was issued, as the Pye material often was, as a 6 track Mini Album, but there was also a 3-disc box set release which included, in their own individual sleeves, repressings of the three singles on both vinyl (3x7”, Castle Music ESB07 765) and Compact Disc (3xCD, Castle Music ESBCD 765).

A word on the sleeves themselves. When ‘Early Years Bowie’ stuff first started to surface, the labels used to try and dupe the record buyers into purchasing what they thought might be contemporary sounding music - 1973’s “Images”, dealing with the Deram stuff, was famously issued in a “Young Americans”-esque sleeve. But by 1999, there was starting to become a fascination with this material, to such an extent that seeing actual photos of Bowie from the period was thrillingly retro. So the three singles here are all issued in what are new sleeves designed specifically for the box, but all using pictures of Bowie from the 66 era. On the back, however, are photos from after 66. Reason? A couple of these singles were issued in the 70s by Pye “post-fame” overseas, and photos from these singles appear on the rear. So, “Can’t Help Thinking About Me” has the 1972 Spanish sleeve printed on the rear, and “Do Anything you Say” has the 1972 Japanese sleeve. As far as I can make out, there was no reissue for “I Dig Anything” - it did actually appear as the B-side on both the Japanese and Spanish singles mentioned above - so the back of the third disc in the box is the Japanese “Can’t Help Thinking” 45, also issued in 1972.

Onto the Deram years. To clarify, Bowie issued his first LP on this label in 67, and also released three singles, none of which were included on the album - although two of them did appear in alternate mix form. The first 45, “Rubber Band”, was backed with what was later claimed to be the first Bowie ‘classic’, “The London Boys”, which itself was later issued as a 45 in it’s own right by Deram in 75 to try and cash in on the Bowie name.

By all accounts, the three Bowie 45’s were all reissued “post-fame”. Something to do with the matrix numbers appearing “right way up” on the reissues. Single number 2 was reissued numerous times, as there are varying label designs for “The Laughing Gnome”, with pressings from 1973 and 1980 featuring design differences from the 67 version. “Gnome” was never included on the debut LP, but single 3 was, albeit in alternative form - “Love You Till Tuesday”. “The London Boys” was definitely reissued in 1980, using an injection moulded label design.

If you want to kill three birds with one stone, then I would hunt down the 1986 “Archive 4” EP issued by Castle (12”, Castle TOF 105). Issued in a sleeve that uses a 1980s Bowie image, unsurprisingly, this limited release (7500 only) was one of several EP’s issued by the label that were designed to hoover up old singles (Castle also issued a Small Faces one). What you get on this 4 tracker are “The London Boys”, “Love You Till Tuesday” and “The Laughing Gnome”. Not sure if it’s the LP or 45 mix of “LTYT”, but don’t worry about that - there are a multitude of Deram era comps knocking about that include the single mix. The EP is rounded off, slightly randomly, by “Maid Of Bond Street” from the debut LP.

“Rubber Band” is a bit more awkward. I did see one on eBay recently being offered for £1500. Ouch. Seems to be a post death price hike, as mint copies a few years ago were safely within the 3 figure sum. However, I recently picked up a US pre-release copy for just £40, plus postage, and customs charges (Grrr) and it seems to be quite genuine (7”, Deram 45-DEM 85009). For those of you who are interested, it’s the album mix (again, the 7” mix is easy to find) and the flipside is another track from the LP, “There Is A Happy Land”. My copy is a stock copy, but with a “promotional copy” stamp. Demo copies, first pressings designed specifically to be sent to radio stations, are worth a lot more and are easily identified by the alternative catalogue number of 45-85009.

Now, given that it was a big hit, “Space Oddity” is slightly outside our remit here. If you want a Philips original, you can get one. It went top 5 remember. But we may as well mention the four - yes, four - reissues that have turned up since. First up, was the 1975 three track reissue (7“, RCA 2593). Not completely sure why RCA decided to put this release out - they weren’t being starved of Bowie product at the time (“Young Americans” at the start of the year, “Station To Station” at the end) but it was issued as part of their “Maximillion” series - ‘3 tracks for the price of 2’. It was originally issued in a contemporary picture sleeve, upon which all three tracks were given equal billing - “SO”, “Changes” and the previously unissued “Velvet Goldmine” - a ‘Ziggy’ outtake reportedly stuck on side 2 without the Dame’s permission. The single was later repressed a few times, and housed in a standard RCA sleeve - initially, the sleeve used was a custom “Maximillion” bag, where “Space Oddity” was more clearly billed as the A-side, and the two bonus tracks as the B-side(s), whilst late 70s and early 80s pressings were housed in what were the regular RCA bags of the time (please look at the brilliant Bowie Singles website for visual presentations).

In 1982, RCA were starting to cash in themselves on the Bowie phenomenon, and reissued 10 Bowie singles as 7” picture discs, as part of the “Fashions” series. Available as a boxset, or individually, these reissues included a repress of the 1975 “Space Oddity” maxi (7“ Picture Disc, RCA BOW 101P). This was followed in 1983 by the “Lifetimes” series, a set of 20 black vinyl 7” reissues that were all, originally, housed in picture sleeves. The sleeves had some connection to the A-side - for the reissue of “Space Oddity” (7“, RCA BOW 518), the image from the picture disc was used - whilst this image dated from circa 1972, it was not too dissimilar to the RCA 1972 reissue of Bowie’s second LP, which was retitled “Space Oddity”. Once the picture sleeve copies had sold out, later pressings were housed in red and grey RCA bags.

In my 2014 blog, I detailed the ongoing series of 40th anniversary picture discs. I think a new blog will be needed to bring the story up to date, but until then, we need to mention the 2015 reissue of “Space Oddity” (7” Picture Disc, Parlophone DBSO 40). It uses, as it’s A-side image, the front cover of the original 1969 French version of the single - a suitably psychedelic looking bit of art. The a-side is the original 7” edit, the B-side is the original B-side - the acoustic version of “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud”. The difference here is that the single is listed as being a AA-side, meaning that “Freecloud” appears here as a UK A-side for the first time ever. Technically. I doubt that the radio stations at the time bothered to play “Space Oddity”, let alone the flip. There is also some talk on the net about whether the A-side is the stereo or mono single mix, but I think my copy is still sticker sealed so even if my tinnitus suddenly eased up, I couldn't tell you. And don't ask if "Freecloud" is the same version as found on the original "Sound + Vision" boxset, or the one featured on the 2003/2014 one. Just buy one if you see one.

Now, onto the infamous Mercury singles. For the 60s stuff, there is probably a reason why none of those singles sold. They are viewed, by many, as simply not being very good. But the three 45’s Bowie put out after “SO” were at a time when he was really starting to find his feet, and there is some really good material here. OK, so yes, maybe “The Prettiest Star” did benefit from being ‘glammed up’ for “Aladdin Sane”, and yes, Bowie did hate “Holy Holy” so much that he revamped it heavily during the “Ziggy” sessions. But whilst it is possible to listen to, say, the three Deram singles and scratch your head in bemusement, listen to the three Mercury singles - and they sound like the work of a completely different artist.

“The Prettiest Star”, “Memory Of A Free Festival Part 1”, and “Holy Holy” were all massive flops. “Star” was reported to have sold less than 800 copies, and I am sure I heard a story suggesting that at least 1000 copies had been pressed, and so the remainder were melted down. By the late 70s/early 80s, the five rarities spread across these discs (“Holy Holy” had an album track on the flipside) were in demand - so in demand, that a pair of US bootlegs were issued to make these recordings available again.

There are several US bootlegs of Bowie rarities, but we are only concerned with the two that were issued with the sole purpose of making these recordings available again. Yes, they can all be found on the “Recall” disc of the 2015 “Five Years” boxset, but back in 1982, they were like gold dust.

Whilst I don’t normally condone bootleg releases of officially available material, I can’t help but admire the “David Bowie And The Hype” EP. It includes “The Prettiest Star”, the sublime b-side “Conversation Piece” and “Holy Holy”, in a sort of cartoon-esque Bowie sleeve. The single comes in a wrap around sleeve, the vinyl itself housed inside a white die cut bag, and therefore should also come with a PVC outer that holds it all together. Inside, it looks - at first glance - like a Mercury single, until you notice that the label is simply DESIGNED to look like that - the record label is the dubiously titled Major Tom (7”, Major Tom 6052 200). Nice. With copies sometimes available for as little as a tenner, I can certainly recommend this curio.

The other Major Tom boot, a repress of “Memory Of A Free Festival Part 1”, isn’t quite so brilliant. It again comes in a picture cover, with an image of Bowie-plus-acoustic that recalls some of the foreign “Space Oddity” sleeves. And it does include the ’re-recorded’ “Part 1” on the A-side, and “Part 2” on the flip. Thing is, in the USA, the “Part 1” recording was edited, and remains - unless you know otherwise - unavailable anywhere else. Whenever the re-recorded song(s) have emerged again, such as on the 1990 expanded “Space Oddity”, it’s been the UK single mixes, and not the US ones, that have been used. So, again, for a tenner, a dubious looking reissue can be yours (7”, Major Tom 6052 201). And perhaps, it’s your only chance to get a copy of this 45 without breaking the bank. But what a shame they didn’t bootleg the US single. OK, so that single is so rare, it's believed by many to have actually only ever reached promo stage, but still - those mixes exist. There are also "promo" copies of the UK Mercury original kicking about on eBay from time to time, housed in original looking bags, with a big hole in the middle, but I understand these are all 'authentic' looking counterfeits. The labels are white, with a big "A", but aren't dinked like the geniune promos, but have a 'smooth' edge around the hole, and usually go for about 50 notes. AFAIK, the proper promos were issued in red bags, the "reissues" in a sort of muddy yellow sleeve.

You could probably write a book about the Arnold Corns period. There are various theories about why Bowie formed this ‘band’. When they celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2011, Bowie’s official site stated it was a way of Bowie being able to record new material under a pseudonym to avoid record company complications. By all accounts, Bowie had been asked to write material for a band named Rungk, and also for a designer friend of his called Freddie Burretti. The initial Arnold Corns recording session, from April 71, involved Bowie actually fronting the members of Rungk, and two songs from the session were chosen to be released as a single the following month, with “Moonage Daydream” on the A-side and “Hang Onto Yourself” on the flip. By the time the single was released, Burretti was, for some never fully explained reason, being presented as the band’s singer. Publicity material for the single involved none of Rungk, and instead, Arnold Corns was presented as a duo of Burretti and Bowie. The single was issued on the relatively small B&C label, but failed to chart. Bowie remained signed to Mercury, and there is somewhere out there, an apparent promo poster from the period simultaneously plugging both the “Man Who Sold The World” LP, and the Arnold Corns 45.

According to the fascinating blog Pushing Ahead Of The Dame, Bowie was seemingly inspired by the Andy Warhol “Factory”, and so continued to immerse himself within a large group of musicians, of which the Arnold Corns setup was seemingly only part of the whole shebang. In the summer of 71, Bowie did a live concert for John Peel, in which material being slated for “Hunky Dory” (“Kooks”, “Queen Bitch“) was mixed up with cover versions (“Almost Grown”, “It Ain‘t Easy“) and tracks from the Arnold Corns songbook (“Looking For A Friend”), although Buretti was not present at the gig. Rungk guitarist Mark Pritchett was however, thus adding to the confusion. Friends Dana Gillespie and George Underwood took lead vocals on a song each, with Gillespie singing a song that was actually destined to be recorded by Bowie on “Hunky Dory“ - “Andy Warhol“.

Soon after, Arnold Corns then went back into the studio with the intention of recording material for a second single. By this time, it was almost as if Bowie was indulging in some sort of weird art experiment, as Burretti was installed as the new singer in the studio, and the not-yet-named-as-such Spiders From Mars were brought in as the musicians for this single. Two singles, both under the same name, but with totally different personnel. There are some reports that talk about Bowie having designed the band to have a “fake” singer, and that it provided the early genesis of the “Ziggy Stardust” character.

Plans were drawn up for the release of this new single that, by all accounts, would not feature Bowie in any musical way at all - a track called “Man In The Middle” on one side, and an “Arnold Corns” cover of a ‘Bowie Original’, the aforementioned “Looking For A Friend”. But almost immediately, Bowie became bored of the project, and pulled the plug. B&C cancelled the release, Burretti became a regular Bowie costume collaborator and attention returned once again to the completion of “Hunky Dory”, with Bowie being dropped by Mercury, resulting in him shipping around a promo copy of the album (on the “Gem Management” label) to try and gain interest - eventually catching the attention of RCA. The rest as they say...

After Bowie had started to gain an audience, B&C decided in the summer of 72 to try and cash in. Rather than just reissue the original Arnold Corns single, they opted to issued a “new” 45 with “Hang Onto Yourself” on one side, along with the unreleased “Man In The Middle” on the flip. Somehow, they didn’t manage to grab people’s attention, and the single flopped. By 1974, with Ziggy now dead, and Bowie a huge star in America, another label called Mooncrest had an attempt at trying to cash in, by reissuing the “Hang Onto Yourself” 45. They too, somehow, failed to get what should have been a captive audience to buy a copy, and this edition too was something of a flop.

By the early 80s or thereabouts, the rarity of the three officially released Arnold Corns recordings caused some enterprising bootlegger to issue what, on the face if it, seemed to be a genuine B&C release. A three track 7” appeared in 1984 which included all three of the songs from the original releases, with what seemed to be an official catalogue number (7”, B&C 200). However, B&C had stopped functioning by the end of 1972, after the release of B&C 190. The label was resurrected a few years later, but these releases used a new catalogue system, meaning that the use of the number 200 by the counterfeiters was almost done as a tell tale sign for the initiated, a way of acknowledging to the experts that this was not a genuine B&C release.

But I like it. It is naughty, and yet also, by reproducing the basic B&C label design, is an opportunity for you to at least own something that LOOKS like an Arnold Corns original. Copies seem to change hands for round about the £30 mark, although some cheeky sods have attempted to offload copies for closer to a ton.

The Arnold Corns story doesn’t fully end there. By 1985, a ‘European’ 12” appeared under the banner of “Arnold Corns AKA David Bowie And The Spiders From Mars”, which coupled “Man In The Middle”, the unreleased “Looking For A Friend” and “Hang Onto Yourself”. By all accounts, it is an official, but not authorised release, but even though it comes in a sleeve which uses a variant version of the Aladdin Sane “flash”, only one of the three tunes actually features Bowie himself. The two “Bowie featuring” songs from the Arnold Corns period, the two songs on the very first B&C 45, have since reappeared with great regularity on various Bowie reissues, although the spoken word intro to “Moonage Daydream” has regularly been edited out of such reissues. That's all folks.

Now, this is the first of FIVE Bowie blogs that are in various stages of production, the plan being to publish them all before the year end. But, given that the follow up to "1.Outside" never even surfaced, forgive me if I too fail to manage five. Or two, for that matter.


Friday, 22 April 2016

The Cure on LP


Back in 2011, I looked at the Cure’s back catalogue in terms of their singles, given that a sizeable chunk of them were “stand alone” releases, and how a number of compilation albums were later used to give a home to much of this material. I figured it was time to just do a quick albums recap - I won’t really go over the same ground in terms of how they sounded too much, you know all of that - but more to look at how the band’s original LP’s were issued, and their subsequent reissues.

After the usual “pre fame” shenanigans as Easy Cure, the Cure became a trio in time for the release of 1979’s “Three Imaginary Boys”, with Robert Smith joined by bassist Michael Dempsey and drummer Lol Tolhurst. The LP, suffering at times from a feeling of under-production IMO, was the first of several albums to feature the band logo (officially long gone, but occasionally resurrected in a retro style manner now and then) on the cover. However, the album title was completely missing, but there were three household objects on the front that seemed to be there as some sort of “visual” metaphor (a lamp, a fridge and a vacuum cleaner).

It was followed by 1980’s “Seventeen Seconds”, which seemed an altogether more coherent release, moving the band nearer to a more post-punk sound, with some very strong (albeit rather depressing) subject matter. The band had a new bass player, Simon Gallup, whilst for this album only, the post-punk chill was often provided by their new keyboard player Matthieu Hartley - although Hartley would be gone by the next album. The front cover was a piece of abstract art, the music has been variously described as “ethereal” and “goth”, and it really was a big leap forward. The Cure, despite being seemingly resolutely un-commercial, soon found themselves on ‘Top Of The Pops’ playing their latest hit, the minimalist classic “A Forest”.

With Hartley gone, the band’s next album was recorded as a trio, 1981’s “Faith”, although the ‘electronic’ sound of the previous album was retained, mainly by getting Smith to provide keyboard and synthesizer work on the record, with Tolhurst being credited as drummer and “programming”. This was the first of several Cure releases during the decade which appeared as expanded Cassette pressings - the album was included on the first side of the tape, whilst a lengthy instrumental called “Carnage Visors” appeared on side 2. This was the soundtrack to a film that was shown, in lieu of having a support act, on the band’s subsequent tour. A “Deluxe Edition” reissue campaign of most of the band’s back catalogue was started in 2004, and the reissue of “Faith” included “Carnage Visors” as one of the tracks on the bonus disc. The trio made another rather downbeat album, 1982’s highly acclaimed “Pornography”, before imploding at the end of the subsequent tour.

As mentioned in the last blog, the Cure did return relatively quickly, initially as a synth pop duo consisting of just Smith and Tolhurst, before quickly adding a new drummer in the form of Andy Anderson. 1984’s “The Top” was officially recorded as a three piece with former Easy Cure member Porl Thompson as an additional contributor, before he later joined on a full time basis, whilst a subsequent tour saw Phil Thornalley added as the band’s new bass player - Smith had recorded all of the bass and guitar parts on the LP himself.

The subsequent tour spawned the band’s first live album, “Concert”, culled from shows played in London and Oxford in May 84. The cassette version was issued as the band’s next “long play” release, with a series of ‘official bootleg’ recordings covering the band’s career from 77 up until the present day on the flipside. The second side of the tape opened with the previously unheard “Heroin Face” (from the Easy Cure days) and concluded with what was, at the time, a regular Cure set closer, “Forever” - the band never got around to releasing a studio version of the song. The reissue campaign saw everything from this side of the release get a second lease of life across the various “deluxe” reissues, with “Heroin Face” being added to “Three Imaginary Boys”, “Forever” being added to “The Top”, and the remainder being added to the relevant albums from inbetween, dependent on the ‘age’ of the song.

It was time for a line up change again - Anderson was ejected from the band for ‘bad behaviour’ and replaced by Boris Williams, whilst Gallup rejoined as bassist. Thus, we had what for some is the definitive Cure line up of Smith, Tolhurst, Gallup, Thompson and Williams. 1985’s “The Head On The Door” was a classic, avoiding the sometimes patchy, directionless sound of “The Top”, and managed to be a moment of indie-rock brilliance, despite being recorded slap bang in the middle of a decade full of musical horrors. “Inbetween Days” and “Close To Me” were moments of genius pop and the album, helped along by the likes of the anthemic guitar buzz of “Push”, and the atmospheric widescreen beauty that was the closing “Sinking”, was arguably the best Cure album to date. As mentioned in my previous Cure article, the album was followed by the multi formatted (and variously titled) 1986 “hits” set, “Standing On A Beach”.

1987’s “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me” was seen as the band’s move into the world of superstardom, another toweringly brilliant effort, which this time saw them shift major units in the States. A double album, later limited pressings of the vinyl were technically a triple, as a free 12” was included featuring a selection of recent B-sides and remixes. The original running time was just a bit too long for the CD format, and so “Hey You” was removed from the compact disc edition. As a sort of apology, a remixed version appeared as the flipside to the “Hot Hot Hot” single. Technology has been revamped so that the most recent editions of the CD have the full track listing, as a result of pressings plants using ‘track pitch reduction’ to squeeze extra data onto the disc. Whilst the album was being recorded, there were internal band problems, as Tolhurst was starting to contribute less and less to the group - the spiteful “Shiver And Shake“ was reportedly written about Tolhurst, and appeared towards the end of the LP...I can‘t think of too many songs on albums which are attacks on existing band members who helped record the actual song. He was still with the band as they began work on their next record, but was eventually fired after seemingly recording no music for it, and was replaced by Roger O’Donnell, creating the next “classic” Cure lineup.

1989’s “Disintegration” was the band’s third near flawless effort on the trot, and confirmed their status as arena-filling alt. rock superstars. It was later described, lyrically, as the “follow up” to “Pornography”, even though the music often had a beautiful, airy, and poppy feel - unlike it’s so-called predecessor. Vinyl copies, as opposed to being issued as a double, were instead issued as single LP with several songs removed due to time constraints. The band took to performing the album in it’s entirety on the following tour, and put together a promo only album, “Entreat”, which featured live performances of eight of the songs. After bootlegs began to surface, the band counteracted by issuing “Entreat” as a regular album in a revamped sleeve, although I seem to recall it was done as a sort of limited budget release, to avoid accusations of ‘cashing in‘. The “Deluxe” version of “Disintegration”, along with it’s expected second disc of rarities, also features a CD called “Entreat Plus” - the entire “Entreat” album, and the four other songs from the album not on the original release, all in remixed form. It was followed by 1990’s remix set “Mixed Up”, a decent enough listen in it’s own right, with some of the re-workings being enjoyable enough excursions, as opposed to it being an unlistenable re-imagining of the material, which you do get with some remix collections.

For reasons that are not totally clear, the reissue campaign conducted in the mid-noughties stops here. All of the band’s pre-1990 studio albums appeared as 2 or 3 disc editions, and it is impossible to ignore the fact that multitudes of rarities from the 70s and 80s surfaced on these editions - but the stuff from the 90s onwards is not. Strange, when you consider 1992’s “Wish” - for which O’Donnell had quit, to be replaced by Perry Bamonte - is another piece of alternative rock genius, home to the swirling psychedelic opener “Open”, the bouncy pop thrills of “High” and “Friday I’m In Love”, the epic “From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea”, and the snarling goth menace of “Cut” and “End”. The band toured the smaller UK venues at the time of it’s release, before hitting the arenas in the fall, where the band played shows which drew heavily on the album. Although the songs were not featured in the same strict order as the LP, the likes of “Open” and “High” would usually appear at the start, with the likes of “Cut” and “End” played immediately before the encore. By now, the band’s encores themselves were usually as long as most band’s normal sets - The Cure was fast becoming a sort of big haired UK version of Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band.

The tour was documented with not one, but two live albums. Firstly, “Show”, a double CD documenting the basic setlist (minus encores) from a pair of shows on the US tour in July 92, and was then followed up with “Paris”, a single CD featuring a more esoteric setlist, compiled with songs that were either played in the main set on only selected occasions, or during the encores. As it’s title suggests, it was pieced together from three shows the band had played at the city’s Le Zenith venue in October. A headline performance at the “Great X-Pectations” festival in Finsbury Park the following summer should have cemented the band’s reputation as Kings of Gloomy Rock, but things started to unravel a bit instead thereafter.

The band’s 1995 headline slot at Glastonbury was slightly overshadowed by the two previous night’s headliners - new kids on the block Oasis on the Friday, on the cusp of mega stardom with the release of “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” due in several months time, and Pulp on the Saturday, perennial underachievers who had been asked to step in for the unavailable Stone Roses, and subsequently put on the gig of a lifetime. The Cure, appearing here with yet another, newly reconfigured lineup, played some new songs from their unfinished next album, but it felt a little bit like some old gits gate-crashing the Britpop party. Their set, whilst good, lacked a certain special something that Oasis and Pulp had pulled out of their respective hats on the previous nights.

1996’s “Wild Mood Swings”, in some respects, represents the Cure at a sort of low point. The band had seen the departure of Thompson and Williams after conclusion of the “Wish“ tour, and the band had at one point consisted purely of Smith and Bamonte, with Gallup temporarily out of the band due to health issues. The Glastonbury show saw the band’s new line up being showcased, with Gallup back in, and new members in the form of old boy Roger O’Donnell and Jason Cooper.

The album lacked the energetic thrill of “Wish”, but still had some nice bouncy pop like “Round & Round & Round”, the shimmery post-Goth strum of “Jupiter Crash” and ‘Friday I’m In Love’ style ultra pop like “Mint Car”. It just didn’t quite have the “oomph” factor of “Wish”, lead single “The 13th” in particular, being a quite strange, slightly low-key choice of lead single - all juttering rhythms and not very Guitar-y at all. Some reviews of the album were less than complimentary.

Perhaps it was asking too much of the band, especially one going through major line up changes, to make a follow up album to even come close to “Wish”, but “Wild Mood Swings” did keep things going. The subsequent tour saw the band once again do the rounds of the arenas, and as a live act, The Cure were still quite epic - lengthy sets, an increasingly expanding back catalogue, I seem to recall the band’s gig at Wembley Arena in December 96 was one of the best shows I ever saw them play.

From here on, the band’s line up remained vaguely stable for a while. 1997’s “Galore” was a hits set celebrating the period from after the release of the 1986 best of, but unlike other “Part 2” hits sets, was actually a thing of pure wonderment - showing just how well the Cure navigated the choppy waters of the 1980s music scene. But the band were now starting to become more and more of a touring band, with the timeframe between albums increasing, and a feeling that their superstar days were kind of behind them.

2000’s “Bloodflowers” isn’t one I have listened to much, but apparently I should - it is described as the final part of the “Pornography”/”Disintegration” ’Misery’ trilogy. Fiction didn’t bother to issue a single in the UK to promote it, possibly sensing that the band’s days as hit single makers were over - the new song on “Galore”, the sparky fun that was “Wrong Number”, had stalled way outside the top 40. Japanese copies featured a bonus track not on the UK CD version, and copies were made widely available at the same time as the UK release - it did make it feel, to me anyway, like the UK version of the record, with it’s “no single” status, and “less songs than the Japanese one”, was being slightly cast adrift. It probably wasn’t, but it did feel like The Cure, arena filling stars who routinely used to dent the charts, were sort of being put out to pasture by their label, radio stations, and TV shows.

However, the band’s next label, Geffen, seemed to take a greater interest. The band’s time on Fiction was marked by the slightly pointless “Greatest Hits” set, and the arguably more interesting B-sides set “Join The Dots”, and once the band had moved to their new home, there seemed to be a real consensus in the record company promoting the band again. 2004’s self titled effort was hyped via a multitude of single releases, whilst the original pressings of the album came with a free DVD to try and encourage buyers to get in quick. The album sold well, and was critically acclaimed, it seemed to return to their noisier roots, taking the visceral attack of something like “Pornography“, but re-tooling it for the 21st century.

Despite being issued as far back as 2008, “4:13 Dream” remains the most recent Cure studio effort. Recorded by a new look four piece of Smith, the returning Thompson, Gallup and Cooper, the keyboard parts were handled by Smith. The band lined up a tour to promote the album but in the end, the album was pushed back and pushed back, eventually being pushed back so far that the LP was finally released after the completion of the tour! The “4 Tour”, a reference I guess to the new line up, ran from July 2007 to June 2008. The band played just one gig in the UK, at Wembley Arena, on 20th March 2008, where they rattled through 25 songs before returning for an encore, presented in 3 parts, which consisted of 16 - yes, count ’em - 16 songs. The third encore was a 7-song run through of material entirely from the “Three Imaginary Boys” period. Monumental. My sister was knackered by the time they finished. Four singles were released from the LP in the run up to it’s release, on a monthly basis from May to August, with each release being issued on the 13th day of that month.

So in terms of new, recorded, studio output, that’s it. But as a live band, it’s a totally different story. Whilst the pickings since signing to Geffen have been slim (indeed, I think they are label-less at the moment), the band’s touring escapades are quite intense. Following the release of “Bloodflowers”, the band conducted a tour in which the three albums from the trilogy were played in full. The idea of doing multiple albums, in full, in the same show has been repeated since. A 2011 tour saw the first three studio albums played in full (with former members rejoining temporarily to help out) which became known as the “Reflections” shows. The line up has fluctuated even more since their last studio outing, and 2016 will see the band head out on another tour where although new material is mooted, the tour is being billed as featuring “hits, rarities and favourites”, suggesting another set of 3 hour long shows that will undoubtedly delight the hardcore. The band seem to be quite proud of their past, and are more than happy to revisit it - a tour poster for the band’s run of Christmas shows at the Hammersmith Apollo from a few years back proudly used the original “Cure” logo as featured on “Three Imaginary Boys”. As I type this, the band are a five piece again - Smith, Gallup, O’Donnell, Cooper and former Tin Machine guitar mangler Reeves Gabrels. But it could easily have changed again by the time you read this.

Discography

So. When I was a kid, and those “expanded” Bowie albums came out in 1990, I was under the impression that the whole point of these releases were to make the album available on CD, with extra tracks taking up the otherwise ‘empty space’ that you had at the end of the LP, and that these releases were the ‘definitive’ edition.

Of course I was wrong. Every few years, something happens, and these so-called definitive releases get replaced by something else. A few years back, I had heard a rumour that the Cure’s deluxe ones had been deleted. From what I can gather, they dutifully were. And in their place came single disc, bonus track-less, reissues. Pointless. But the good news is Amazon now seems to be stocking double disc pressings from the EU with a 2012 copyright date, so it does seem as though somebody has seen sense, and that the expanded releases do now seem to exist in one form or another. The first wave were housed in fold out sleeves, the 2012 run in regular slim line cases.

Anyway, given that me and my sister got into the Cure years ago, and between us, bought all these records some 20 or 25 years ago now, I have decided to list the original discography because this is really what most of my collection consists of. I have then detailed the reissues separately, showcasing the cat numbers that were used on the original reissues from 2004/5- the 2012 ones seem to have more ‘generic‘ numbers, with about 20 digits each - too much to type out! The single disc versions, being cheaper, are still on catalogue as well.

Of course, the double (and triple) disc pressings are the ones to go for if you have the time and (little bit of extra) money to go hunting them down. A quick look while I was writing this suggests the 2012 copies are now doing the rounds at a tenner a go. Nice (although one or two albums seem to be "AWOL"). As an aside, what I will say, is that in terms of the original releases, the extra tracks on the double play cassettes have all resurfaced on the double disc releases, whilst the extra tracks from the MC version of “Standing On A Beach” and the material from the “Kiss Me” 12” are all on “Join The Dots”. The “bonus” track on the “Bloodflowers” album, “Coming Up”, was included on the vinyl edition, and later appeared on “Join The Dots”, it’s first time on a UK CD release.

ORIGINAL PRESSINGS DISCOGRAPHY

Three Imaginary Boys (LP, Fiction FIX 1)
Three Imaginary Boys (Cassette, Fiction FIXC 1)
Three Imaginary Boys (CD, Fiction 827 686-2)

Boys Don’t Cry (LP, Fiction SPELP 26)
Boys Don’t Cry (Cassette, Fiction SPEMC 26)
Boys Don’t Cry (CD, Fiction 815 011-2)

Seventeen Seconds (LP, Fiction FIX 004)
Seventeen Seconds (Cassette, Fiction FIXC 004)
Seventeen Seconds (CD, Fiction 825 354-2)

Faith (LP, Fiction FIX 6)
Faith (Cassette, Fiction FIXC 6)
Faith (CD, Fiction 827 687-2)

Pornography (LP, Fiction FIXD 7)
Pornography (Cassette, Fiction FIXDC 7)
Pornography (CD, Fiction 827 688-2)

Japanese Whispers (LP, Fiction FIXM 8)
Japanese Whispers (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 8)
Japanese Whispers (CD, Fiction 817 470-2)

The Top (LP, Fiction FIXS 9)
The Top (Cassette, Fiction FIXSC 9, unique p/s)
The Top (CD, Fiction 821 136-2)

Concert (LP, Fiction FIXH 10)
Concert (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 10)
Concert (CD, Fiction 823 682-2)

The Head On The Door (LP, Fiction FIXH 11)
The Head On The Door (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 11)
The Head On The Door (CD, Fiction 827 231-2)

Standing On A Beach (LP, Fiction FIXH 12)
Standing On A Beach - And Unavailable B-sides (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 12)
Staring At The Sea (CD, Fiction 829 239-2, with 4 extra tracks)

Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 13)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (2xLP + Orange Vinyl 12“, Fiction FIXHA 13)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 13)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (CD, Fiction 832 130-2)

Disintegration (LP, Fiction FIXH 14)
Disintegration (Picture Disc LP, Fiction FIXHP 14, in see through PVC sleeve)
Disintegration (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 14)
Disintegration (CD, Fiction 839 353-2)

Entreat (LP, Fiction FIXH 17)
Entreat (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 17)
Entreat (CD, Fiction FIXCD 17)

Mixed Up (2xLP, Fiction FIXLP 18)
Mixed Up (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 18)
Mixed Up (CD, Fiction FIXCD 18)

Wish (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 20)
Wish (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 20)
Wish (CD, Fiction FIXCD 20)

Show (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 25)
Show (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 25)
Show (2xCD, Fiction FIXCD 25)

Paris (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 26)
Paris (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 26)
Paris (CD, Fiction FIXCD 26)

Wild Mood Swings (2xLP, Fiction FIXLP 28)
Wild Mood Swings (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 28)
Wild Mood Swings (CD, Fiction FIXCD 28)

Galore (2xLP, Fiction FIXLP 30)
Galore (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 30)
Galore (CD, Fiction FIXCD 30)

Bloodflowers (2xLP, Fiction FIX 31)
Bloodflowers (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 31)
Bloodflowers (CD, Fiction FIXCD 31)

Greatest Hits (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 32)
Greatest Hits (CD, Fiction FIXCD 32)
Greatest Hits (2xCD, Fiction FIXCDL 32, with free “Acoustic Hits“ bonus disc)

Join The Dots (4xCD, Fiction 981 463-0)

The Cure (2xLP, Geffen 986 284-6)
The Cure (CD, Geffen 986 288-6)
The Cure (CD+DVD, Geffen 986 289-0)

4:13 Dream (CD, Geffen 06025 176 42256)

Bestival Live 2011 (2xCD, Sunday Best SBESTCD 50)


2004-2006 REISSUE DISCOGRAPHY

Three Imaginary Boys (2xCD, Fiction 982 182-8)
Three Imaginary Boys (CD, Fiction 982 182-9)

Seventeen Seconds (2xCD, Fiction 982 183-1)
Seventeen Seconds (CD, Fiction 982 183-2)

Faith (2xCD, Fiction 982 183-4)
Faith (CD, Fiction 983 074-5)

Pornography (2xCD, Fiction 982 183-7)
Pornography (CD, Fiction 982 183-8)

The Top (2xCD, Fiction 984 001-2)
The Top (CD, Fiction 984 001-3)

The Head On The Door (2xCD, Fiction 984 001-6)
The Head On The Door (CD, Fiction 984 001-7)

Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (2xCD, Fiction 984 008-0)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (CD, Fiction 984 008-1)

Disintegration (3xCD, Fiction 532 456-6)
Disintegration (CD, Fiction 532 456-8)