the jason shergold music collector site
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
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 April 2014 edition is now online, with a look at Morrissey & Ash.
The blog is also home to my "novel within a website", 'How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting', looking at the workings of the UK record industry. Click on any month from 2014 to view one of the twelve parts that (will eventually) form the whole article. Please note: If you ever notice "newer" pages listed top right, this will be the new issue "in progress" - if you click on it, the whole page will not load. When the new issue is ready, it will be mentioned on this page. You can click on previous years tabs to get previous articles. Once you have selected that year, you can click on a different month to look at different acts.
The acts featured appear in the months listed below:
Adam And The Ants - October 2013
All Saints - February 2014
Lily Allen - August 2010
Ash - April 2014
Atomic Kitten - June 2013
The Beatles - September 2011
Beyoncé - May 2013
Blondie - January 2011 / September 2013
Blur - August 2011 / July 2012 / October 2013
David Bowie - September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / January 2011 / June 2012
Kate Bush - July 2013
Buzzcocks - December 2011
Belinda Carlisle - October 2013
The Charlatans - February 2014
The Clash - May 2011
Elvis Costello - January 2013 / September 2013
Sheryl Crow - June 2013
The Cure - December 2011
Deep Purple - March 2010
Depeche Mode - May 2012
The Doors - December 2013
Bob Dylan - November 2013
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - August 2011
Embrace - November 2013
The Flaming Lips - November 2011
Peter Gabriel - August 2013
Genesis - April 2011 / January 2014
Girls Aloud - August 2010 / November 2013
Goldfrapp - August 2013
Deborah Harry - January 2011
Jimi Hendrix - September 2010
Inspiral Carpets - April 2012
The Jam - May 2013
Elton John - August 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012
Joy Division - March 2011
Kenickie - October 2010
The Kinks - November 2010 / April 2011 / May 2013
John Lennon - May 2013
Pixie Lott - February 2011
Madness - November 2011
Madonna - April 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / March 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / March 2012 / November 2012 / January 2013 / November 2013 / March 2014
Mansun - August 2011
Dannii Minogue - September 2011
Morrissey - April 2014
Kate Nash - February 2011
New Order - October 2012
Nirvana - June 2011 / December 2012
Oasis - April 2013
Pet Shop Boys - May 2011 / June 2011
Pink Floyd - January 2011 / July 2011
P!nk - April 2012
Elvis Presley - March 2011 / October 2011 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014
Pulp - August 2011
Queen - December 2010 / September 2011
Cliff Richard & The Shadows - July 2011
Rolling Stones - July 2010 / October 2010 / March 2011
The Saturdays - April 2011
Siouxsie & The Banshees - March 2013
Slade - May 2012
Sleeper - December 2013
Smashing Pumpkins - June 2012
The Smiths - June 2010
Britney Spears - November 2010 / December 2010
Bruce Springsteen - February 2012
Status Quo - January 2012
Cat Stevens - February 2012
Rachel Stevens - July 2011
The Stranglers - February 2010 / December 2011 / May 2013 / September 2013 / December 2013
Suede - August 2011
Sugababes - August 2012
TRex - December 2010
Theaudience - August 2011
Thin Lizzy - February 2013
Tin Machine - December 2010
U2 - March 2012 / December 2012
The Velvet Underground - October 2010
The Walker Brothers - June 2011
Scott Walker - September 2010 / February 2013
The Who - May 2010 / August 2012 / July 2013
Kim Wilde - October 2013
To return to the homepage, you can click on the tab for the current year. Several blogs are in production, with articles on Foo Fighters, Biffy Clyro and Green Day 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!
For a man who last released a new album in 2009, Morrissey has kept in the public eye quite well since then. A seemingly never ending set of “retro” themed singles, album reissues, that book, and recently, a new 45 and a revamp of 1992’s “Your Arsenal”. Plus, coming soon, a repressing of “Vauxhall And I” and an album of brand new material as well.
It can all be quite confusing trying to keep up, so I thought it would be a good time to try and cover the story so far. The reissue of “Your Arsenal” means the first three (four, if you include singles set “Bona Drag“) albums have all been reissued, meaning the HMV period of his career has now been completely revisited. The article is split into sections - looking at the original album releases, the singles (and associated boxsets), and the retro leaning revamps of the past five years.
Morrissey signed to the EMI/Parlophone stable in 1988, releasing his debut LP “Viva Hate” on the HMV label that year. It was later reissued in 1997, in a new sleeve with a selection of bonus tracks sourced from the pool of b-sides Morrissey had dished out early on in his career. The album was promoted by two peerless singles, “Suedehead” and “Everyday Is Like Sunday”.
Morrissey released a series of standalone singles thereafter, and amassed a sizeable bulk of material through these releases. Similar to the “second Smiths album that wasn’t really an album” that was “Hatful Of Hollow”, 1990 saw the release of the magnificent “Bona Drag”, which compiled the five independent A-sides that had followed “Viva Hate”, the two singles from that first LP, and seven selected B-sides. Just like “HOH”, it was a superior album to the one that preceded it, as it was apparent that Moz was tossing away material on flipsides that were better than most people’s A-sides (“Hairdresser On Fire”, “Disappointed”, and the career highlight “Will Never Marry”).
1991 saw the release of “Kill Uncle”, followed by 1992’s “Your Arsenal”, produced by Mick Ronson. It was at this point that the NME started their “is Morrissey racist?” campaign, despite the fact that the album featured the anti-racist track “The National Front Disco”. The situation was fuelled by Morrissey’s appearance at the Madstock festival, where he brandished a Union Jack onstage, although I always viewed this as an attempt to upset the small minority of Madness fans who had latched onto the band during their “semi skinhead” phase in the 70s - it was Madness who had unwittingly garnered a small group of right wing supporters who failed to understand the band’s left wing politics, not Morrissey. When the NME repeated the claims about a decade later, they got taken to court - and lost. The paper later claimed they were “misquoted” each time and never thought Morrissey to be racist in the first place.
A live album culled from December 1992 performances in support of “Your Arsenal” appeared the next year as “Beethoven Was Deaf”, before the next studio album appeared in 1994 on the Parlophone imprint, the critically acclaimed “Vauxhall And I”, rumoured at the time to be Morrissey’s swansong as the lyrics reflected a turbulent time in his life when he lost several people close to him, including Ronson. It wasn’t the end, but Moz was only months away from a change of label.
In the early part of 1995, another stand alone 45 appeared when “Boxers” was issued as the next Morrissey 45. It was later included on the “World Of Morrissey” compilation, a sort of odds and sods round up covering the period post-”Bona Drag”. Thereafter, Morrissey left Parlophone and signed to RCA for the magnificent, but controversial, “Southpaw Grammar” - some fans were baffled at the ’epic’ nature of some of the material, it was an album with only eight songs in total, with two weighing in at over ten minutes in length, but I guess this just appeals to the prog lover in me. I also enjoyed the comic silliness of lead single “Dagenham Dave”, but the NME were in the middle of their hating Morrissey phase, and called it a “tune impaired three minute drone”.
A fortnight after RCA put out the “Boy Racer” single to help plug the LP, Parlophone issued their own stand alone Moz 45, “Sunny”. Despite Wikipedia claiming it to be a “cash in” release, the single did actually appear with Morrissey’s blessing, and he appeared on “Later” plugging both it and the “Southpaw Grammar” record soon after.
In 97, Moz moved to Island for the “Maladjusted” record, a return back to the poppier less prog sounds of the earlier albums, although he was at his most cutting lyrically on this record thanks to “Sorrow Will Come In The End”, written about the legal wranglings he was encountering with some of his ex-Smiths bandmates at the time. In the UK, Island figured it was all a bit too close to the bone, and didn’t include the song on the album at all. Three singles in total were released from the LP, and although the second of these, “Roy’s Keen”, saw Moz booked to perform the song on Top Of The Pops, the single failed to hit the top 40 - at the time, the boundary for which you could or could not appear on the show. As such, the pre-filmed performance was ditched and shoved into the vaults, only getting an airing when wheeled out for a outing on “TOTP2” over a decade later.
Thereafter, Morrissey seemed to end up in the wilderness. There was some talk of a release called “Oye Esteban”, which turned out to be a US only DVD collection of promo clips, and as the nineties went into the noughties, Morrissey seemed to have been cast aside by the industry. However, a series of shows in 2002 saw him still at the top of his game - he toured regularly including in the UK, where in the fall he played two shows at the Albert Hall and a celebratory show at the Brixton Academy, supported by the relatively unknown Libertines, where by now, he was happily shoe horning old Smiths hits into the set - as the fans brandished their flowers, a euphoric air came over the crowd as he climaxed with “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. Morrissey may have been dead and buried as far as the record labels and radio stations were concerned, but in the real world, he was still commanding a sizeable and obsessive following.
New songs were tried out on this tour, and eventually, in 2003, Moz signed to the Sanctuary label. Just as he had helped to resurrect the old HMV imprint earlier on in his career, arrangements were made for his next album to appear on the old Attack label, previously known mainly for it’s reggae output. Some wondered if this was the same Morrissey who in Smiths days had claimed reggae was “vile” - it was the same one, but it was also the same Morrissey who had made that comment up purely to agitate the interviewer at the time.
Quite how a relatively small label like Sanctuary put Morrissey back into the public eye in the way they did, I don’t know. Comeback single “Irish Blood English Heart” was as vibrant as anything he had ever done, and gave him a proper hit single, whilst the new album, “You Are The Quarry”, was a stunning return from the wilderness, that in the end, spawned no less than four singles. Each of the singles came laden with multiple bonus tracks, and a later reissue of “Quarry” - in an altered front sleeve - came with a free bonus disc of nine of the flipsides, and previously unreleased (officially) video footage. A live album, “Live At Earls Court”, followed in 2005 - the title shows you the sort of megasized venues Morrissey was now playing, not bad for someone who was still struggling to get radio and TV airtime in the UK.
2006’s “Ringleader Of The Tormentors” carried on where “Quarry” left off, with a quick return to the epic nature of “Southpaw” on the seven minute plus long “Life Is A Pigsty”. In 2008, he moved to Polydor for the career spanning “Greatest Hits”, which included two new songs, “All You Need Is Me” and “That’s How People Grow Up”. Not only were both of these issued as singles, but both were then included on his first Polydor studio record, 2009’s “Years Of Refusal”. Since then, most Morrissey releases have been of the retro variety - the fall of 2009 saw the release of B-sides record “Swords”, and 2011 saw another “hits” set, “The Very Best Of”, released by EMI - but again, on another resurrected label, Major Minor. Moz has also gone back and overseen the reissue of many of his old studio albums, usually revamping the track listings and front cover imagery.
In the summer of 2000, EMI put out a box set called “The CD Singles 88-91”, featuring repressings of the first ten Moz solo singles. The track listings were based, in the main, around the original CD Single releases, so all B-sides from the period were present and correct. Placing these releases in context, “Suedehead” and “Sunday” were singles from the first album, discs 3-7 are the stand alone releases later collected on “Bona Drag” whilst discs 8 and 9 are the two singles taken from “Kill Uncle” - “Our Frank” and “Sing Your Life”. Disc 10 was a reissue of 1991’s stand alone rockabilly romp “Pregnant For The Last Time”.
By the end of the year, a second box set covering the “91-95” years was issued. The same format was followed, so once again, all the (EMI) b-sides from the period were present and correct. Disc 1 was a repressing of the stand alone “My Love Life” single, with discs 2-4 being the three singles lifted from “Your Arsenal”, and 5&6 the 45’s lifted from “Vauxhall And I”. Disc 7 was the stand alone collaboration with Siouxsie Sioux, “Interlude”, and disc 8 was the “Boxers” maxi single.
Although this was the point at which Moz moved to RCA, the boxset was designed to collate all the EMI singles, so disc 9 is the post-”Dagenham Dave” EMI single, “Sunny”. A nice touch, in my opinion. Although some of this material had been included on the “Suedehead” best of album issued in the mid 90s, a later 2009 release called “The HMV/Parlophone Singles” compiled everything from these 19 singles onto a single (3 disc) set. Whichever way you go, there really is some essential stuff tucked away on these releases.
As regards the remaining pre-”Wilderness Years” releases, it was usually only the CD editions of these singles that were of interest when first released. “The Boy Racer” appeared on two different CD editions, both with exclusive flipsides, whilst the Island releases also came on 12”, replicating the CD track listings. Once on Sanctuary, the amount of bonus material surfacing was quite significant, with multiple editions surfacing for pretty much each release. Not only did Sanctuary release four singles from “Quarry” but they managed four from “Tormentors” as well.
Once on Polydor, the re-emergence of the 7” was well and truly established, and the singles released during 2008 and 2009 featured new songs spread across multiple formats, usually including two different vinyl editions. Most of Moz’s singles since then have been reissues designed to plug the latest revamped album re-release, with the only “new” singles since then being 2011’s “Glamorous Glue” (a US single originally, but not a UK one - released to plug “The Very Best Of“) and this year’s "Satellite Of Love".
Now, given that I had mostly all of the Morrissey studio albums by the time he started reissuing them, I will be honest - I don’t really have many of these revamps. But it makes sense to detail what they are, so that when my sister wins the lottery, she can give me £50 to go and get the ones I am currently missing.
The albums were not reissued in the same order in which they were originally released. So it started in April 2009 with the reissue of 1995’s “Southpaw Grammar”. Housed in a new cover, and with a typeface designed to look like another RCA record (Bowie’s “ChangesOneBowie” compilation from 1976), the original eight track album was rejigged into a new running order, and joined by four new songs - namely three outtakes and “Dagenham Dave” b-side “Nobody Loves Us”.
Issued the same day was a reissue of the 1997 Island outing “Maldajusted”, which again featured a revamped track order. All the B-sides from the period were included, including “I Can Have Both”, “This Is Not Your Country” and “The Edges Are No Longer Parallel”, all previously only available on the 12” and CD editions of their relevant 45 releases. However, two tracks from the original were removed, including “Roy’s Keen”, which seemed like an odd move.
“Bona Drag” was up next, in 2010, with a new “gothic” style sleeve. The “coloured in” original sleeve was now printed in a more sombre tone - basically the original photograph untouched - with the title in a rather fancy font. The original album was kept intact, but with six bonus tracks added, whilst four of the existing songs appeared in a slightly different mix to their 1990 originals. “Will Never Marry”, edited down from the original single release to fit onto the LP originally, remained edited. “Everyday Is Like Sunday” was reissued as a single to coincide, with new B-sides and in a new cover.
2012 saw a reissue of “Viva Hate”, returning the album to it’s original cover photo from the 1997 repressing, but with a further use of the “gothic” style typeface for the album title. Again, there has been some messing about - “The Ordinary Boys” was removed in favour of a previously unheard outtake, along with an extended fade now found on “Late Night Maudlin Street”. “Suedehead” was reissued in a ‘Mael Mix’ on 10” to coincide.
2013 brought a repressing of “Kill Uncle”, in a completely new sleeve. The version of “There’s A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends” is an alternate take, whilst two extra tracks have been added. Although pre-dating the original release of this album by a good two years, “The Last Of The Famous International Playboys” was reissued to coincide. This year saw the revamp of “Your Arsenal”, complete with a previously unissued concert on the accompanying DVD. “Tomorrow” appears in it’s ’US Mix’, whilst the forthcoming “Vauxhall“ generally leaves the original album intact, opting simply for a “smoothing over“ of the front cover, and a stack of bonus live tracks.
The usual words of explanation. Given that more or less every Moz album has been reissued at least once in one form or another, I have - where they exist - listed the original CD pressing, followed by any repressingss or reissues. Some of the first pressings are essential, some are not and vice versa.
For the singles, I have listed all formats of interest - for the EMI singles from 88-95, I have listed all variants on the basis that all of the B-sides can be found on the “HMV/Parlophone” triple disc release, although I would suggest you try and track down the two boxsets that cover this period, as they tick all the boxes in two quick hits. The Island era singles are also listed on all formats, given that all the B-sides are now on the current version of “Maladjusted”.
Of the five recent singles, where the release was a reissue of an existing Moz UK 45, I have listed details of the reissue alongside the details of the ORIGINAL pressing, so that if you do buy the 3 disc set, then it will be easier for you to work out where to go next. As for the singles from “Quarry”, the nine b-sides that were generated from the first three 45s off that album were later included on an essential reissue of the album, so I have listed all the formats for those, as all are now of equal importance.
“Swords” managed to include a number of B-sides not previously rehomed, and I have detailed where notable flipsides were included where relevant. Some Moz singles, now containing nothing rare, are still listed on the basis of the artwork being either different or unique, but it’s up to you what you hunt down. A handful of 7” singles exist with essential B-sides missing, so these are omitted completely in the interests of clarity.
Viva Hate (CD, HMV CDCSD 3787)
Viva Hate (CD, 1997 reissue with 8 extra tracks, Parlophone CDCNTAV 2, some issued in box)
Viva Hate (CD, 2012 reissue with altered track listing, Liberty CDBLG 30357)
Bona Drag (CD, HMV CDCSD 3788)
Bona Drag (CD, 2010 reissue with extra tracks, Major Minor CDSMLP 70)
Kill Uncle (CD, HMV CDCSD 3789)
Kill Uncle (CD, 2013 reissue with altered track listing, Parlophone CDPCSX 7375)
Your Arsenal (CD, HMV CDCSD 3790)
Your Arsenal (CD+DVD, 2014 reissue, CDCSDX 3790)
Beethoven Was Deaf (CD, HMV CDCSD 3791)
Vauxhall And I (CD, Parlophone CDPCSD 148, some later issued inside 3-CD boxset with “Bona Drag” and “Kill Uncle”)
Vauxhall And I (2xCD, 2014 reissue with bonus “Live at the Theatre Royal” disc, Parlophone 0825 6462 99508)
The World Of Morrissey (CD, Parlophone CDPCSD 163)
Southpaw Grammar (CD, RCA 74321 299532)
Southpaw Grammar (CD, 2009 reissue with altered track listing, RCA 88697 472562)
Maladjusted (CD, Island CID 8059)
Maladjusted (CD, 2009 reissue with altered track listing, Polydor 006007 531 74678)
Suedehead: The Best Of Morrissey (CD, EMI CDEMC 3771)
You Are The Quarry (CD+DVD, Attack ATKDX 001, DVD includes promo for “Irish Blood”)
You Are The Quarry (2xCD, reissue with enhanced CD Rom section on CD2, Attack ATKDD 013, different sleeve)
Live At Earls Court (CD, Attack ATKCD 014, some copies in digipack [ATKDP 014])
Ringleader Of The Tormentors (CD+DVD, Attack ATKDX016, DVD includes promo for “You Have Killed Me”)
Ringleader Of The Tormentors (CD, Attack ATKCD016)
Greatest Hits (2xCD, Polydor SKL 6004, with free “Live At The Hollywood Bowl” disc)
Greatest Hits (CD, Polydor SKL 6005)
Years Of Refusal (CD+DVD, Polydor SKL 6013, DVD includes live footage and promo for “All You Need Is Me“)
Years Of Refusal (CD, Polydor SKL 6014)
The HMV/Parlophone Singles 88-95 (3xCD, EMI 50999 685916 2)
Swords (2xCD, Polydor 532 2207, with free “Live In Warsaw” disc)
Swords (CD, Polydor 532 2208)
The Very Best Of (CD+DVD, Major Minor CDSMLP 71)
Suedehead/I Know Very Well How I Got My Name (7”, HMV POP 1618)
Suedehead/I Know Very Well How I Got My Name/Hairdresser On Fire/Oh Well I’ll Never Learn (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1618)
Suedehead/I Know Very Well How I Got My Name/Hairdresser On Fire (12”, HMV 12 POP 1618, some mispressed copies play “The Ordinary Boys“ instead of “Hairdresser On Fire“)
Suedehead/I Know Very Well How I Got My Name/Hairdresser On Fire/Oh Well I’ll Never Learn (CD, HMV CDPOP 1618)
Suedehead (Mael Mix)/We’ll Let You Know (Live)/Now My Heart Is Full (Live) (10” Picture Disc, Liberty 10LBF 15461)
Everyday Is Like Sunday/Disappointed (7”, HMV POP 1619)
Everyday Is Like Sunday/Sister I’m A Poet/Disappointed/Will Never Marry (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1619)
Everyday Is Like Sunday/Sister I’m A Poet/Disappointed/Will Never Marry (12”, HMV 12 POP 1619)
Everyday Is Like Sunday/Sister I’m A Poet/Disappointed/Will Never Marry (CD, HMV CDPOP 1619)
Everyday Is Like Sunday/Trash (Live, Costa Mesa Pacific Ampitheatre 1991) (7”, Major Minor MM721)
Everyday Is Like Sunday (LP Mix)/(Live, Hollywood Bowl 8.6.2007) (7” in die cut sleeve, Major Minor MMX 721)
Everyday Is Like Sunday/November The Second/Everyday Is Like Sunday (Video)/(TOTP 9.6.1988 - Video) (CD, Major Minor CDMM 721)
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys/Lucky Lisp (7”, HMV POP 1620)
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys/Lucky Lisp/Michael’s Bones (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1620)
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys/Lucky Lisp/Michael’s Bones (12”, HMV 12 POP 1620)
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys/Lucky Lisp/Michael’s Bones (CD, HMV CDPOP 1620)
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys/People Are The Same Everywhere (BBC Live Version) (7” Picture Disc, Parlophone R 6887)
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys/Action Is My Middle Name (BBC Live Version) (CD, Parlophone CDR 6887)
Interesting Drug/Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference (7”, HMV POP 1621)
Interesting Drug/Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference/Sweet And Tender Hooligan (Live) (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1621)
Interesting Drug/Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference/Sweet And Tender Hooligan (Live) (12”, HMV 12 POP 1621)
Interesting Drug/Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference (Etched 12”, HMV 12 POPS 1621, some copies play a-side only)
Interesting Drug/Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference/Sweet And Tender Hooligan (Live) (CD, HMV CDPOP 1621)
Ouija Board Ouija Board/Yes I Am Blind (7”, HMV POP 1622)
Ouija Board Ouija Board/Yes I Am Blind (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1622)
Ouija Board Ouija Board/Yes I Am Blind/East West (12”, HMV 12 POP 1622)
Ouija Board Ouija Board/Yes I Am Blind/East West (CD, HMV CDPOP 1622)
November Spawned A Monster/He Knows I’d Love To See Him (7”, HMV POP 1623)
November Spawned A Monster/He Knows I’d Love To See Him (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1623)
November Spawned A Monster/He Knows I’d Love To See Him/Girl Least Likely To (12”, HMV 12 POP 1623)
November Spawned A Monster/He Knows I’d Love To See Him/Girl Least Likely To (CD, HMV CDPOP 1623)
Piccadilly Palare/Get Off The Stage (7”, HMV POP 1624)
Piccadilly Palare/Get Off The Stage (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1624)
Piccadilly Palare/At Amber/Get Off The Stage (12”, HMV 12 POP 1624)
Piccadilly Palare/At Amber/Get Off The Stage (CD, HMV CDPOP 1624)
Our Frank/Journalists Who Lie (7”, HMV POP 1625)
Our Frank/Journalists Who Lie (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1625)
Our Frank/Journalists Who Lie/Tony The Pony (12”, HMV 12 POP 1625)
Our Frank/Journalists Who Lie/Tony The Pony (CD, HMV CDPOP 1625)
Sing Your Life/That’s Entertainment (7”, HMV POP 1626)
Sing Your Life/That’s Entertainment (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1626)
Sing Your Life/That’s Entertainment/The Loop (12”, HMV 12 POP 1626)
Sing Your Life/That’s Entertainment/The Loop (CD, HMV CDPOP 1626)
Pregnant For The Last Time/Skin Storm (7”, HMV POP 1627)
Pregnant For The Last Time/Skin Storm (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1627)
Pregnant For The Last Time/Skin Storm/Cosmic Dancer (Live)/Disappointed (Live) (12”, HMV 12 POP 1627)
Pregnant For The Last Time/Skin Storm/Cosmic Dancer (Live)/Disappointed (Live) (CD, HMV CDPOP 1627)
My Love Life/I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty (7”, HMV POP 1628)
My Love Life/I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1628)
My Love Life/I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty/There’s A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends (KROQ Version) (12”, HMV 12 POP 1628)
My Love Life/I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty/There’s A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends (KROQ Version) (CD, HMV CDPOP 1628)
We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful/Suedehead (Live) (7”, HMV POP 1629)
We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful/Suedehead (Live) (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1629)
We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful/Suedehead (Live)/I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty (Live)/Pregnant For The Last Time (Live) (12”, HMV 12 POP 1629)
We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful/Suedehead (Live)/I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty (Live)/Alsatian Cousin (Live) (CD, HMV CDPOP 1629, version in boxset adds “Pregnant For The Last Time (Live)”)
You’re The One For Me Fatty/Pashernate Love (7”, HMV POP 1630)
You’re The One For Me Fatty/Pashernate Love (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1630)
You’re The One For Me Fatty/Pashernate Love/There Speaks A True Friend (12”, HMV 12 POP 1630)
You’re The One For Me Fatty/Pashernate Love/There Speaks A True Friend (CD, HMV CDPOP 1630)
Certain People I Know/Jack The Ripper (7”, HMV POP 1631)
Certain People I Know/Jack The Ripper (Cassette, HMV TCPOP 1631)
Certain People I Know/You’ve Had Her/Jack The Ripper (12”, HMV 12 POP 1631)
Certain People I Know/You’ve Had Her/Jack The Ripper (CD, HMV CDPOP 1641)
The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get/Used To Be A Sweet Boy (Numbered 7”, Parlophone R 6372)
The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get/Used To Be A Sweet Boy (Cassette, Parlophone TCR 6372)
The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get/Used To Be A Sweet Boy/I’d Love To (Numbered 12“, initial copies with poster, Parlophone 12 R 6372)
The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get/Used To Be A Sweet Boy/I’d Love To (CD, Parlophone CDR 6372)
Hold Onto Your Friends/Moonriver (Numbered 7”, Parlophone R 6383)
Hold Onto Your Friends/Moonriver (Cassette, Parlophone TCR 6383)
Hold Onto Your Friends/Moonriver (Extended Version) (Numbered 12”, Parlophone 12 R 6383)
Hold Onto Your Friends/Moonriver (Extended Version) (CD, CDR 6383, version in boxset adds 7” version of “Moonriver”)
Interlude (Vocal)/(Extended) (7”, Parlophone R 6365)
Interlude (Vocal)/(Extended) (Cassette, Parlophone TCR 6365)
Interlude (Vocal)/(Extended)/(Instrumental) (12”, Parlophone 12 R 6365)
Interlude (Vocal)/(Extended)/(Instrumental) (CD, Parlophone CDR 6365)
Boxers/Have A Go Merchant (7”, Parlophone R 6400)
Boxers/Have A Go Merchant (Cassette, Parlophone TCR 6400)
Boxers/Have A Go Merchant/Whatever Happens I Love You (12”, Parlophone 12 R 6400)
Boxers/Have A Go Merchant/Whatever Happens I Love You (CD, Parlophone CDR 6400)
Dagenham Dave/Nobody Loves Us/You Must Please Remember (CD, RCA 74321 29980 2)
The Boy Racer/London (Live)/Billy Budd (Live) (CD1, RCA 74321 33294 2)
The Boy Racer/Spring Heeled Jim (Live)/Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself? (Live) (CD2, RCA 74321 33295 2)
Sunny/Black Eyed Susan (7”, Parlophone R 6243)
Sunny/Black Eyed Susan (Cassette, Parlophone TCR 6243)
Sunny/Black Eyed Susan/A Swallow On My Neck (CD, Parlophone CDR 6243)
Alma Matters/Heir Apparent (7”, Island IS 667)
Alma Matters/Heir Apparent (Cassette, Island CIS 667)
Alma Matters/Heir Apparent/I Can Have Both (12“, Island 12 IS 667)
Alma Matters/Heir Apparent/I Can Have Both (CD, Island CID 667)
Roy’s Keen/Lost (7”, Island IS 671)
Roy’s Keen/Lost (Cassette, Island CIS 671)
Roy’s Keen/Lost/The Edges Are No Longer Parallel (12”, Island 12 IS 671)
Roy’s Keen/Lost/The Edges Are No Longer Parallel (CD, Island CID 671)
Satan Rejected My Soul/Now I Am A Was (7”, Island IS 686)
Satan Rejected My Soul/Now I Am A Was (Cassette, Island CIS 686)
Satan Rejected My Soul/Now I Am A Was/This Is Not My Country (12”, Island 12 IS 686)
Satan Rejected My Soul/Now I Am A Was/This Is Not My Country (CD, Island CID 686)
Irish Blood English Heart/It’s Hard To Walk Tall When You’re Small (7”, Attack ATKSI 002)
Irish Blood English Heart/It’s Hard To Walk Tall When You’re Small (CD1, Attack ATKXS 002)
Irish Blood English Heart/Munich Air Disaster 1958/The Never Played Symphonies (CD2, Attack ATKXD 002)
Irish Blood English Heart/It’s Hard To Walk Tall When You’re Small/Munich Air Disaster 1958/The Never Played Symphonies (12”, 2006 reissue, Attack ATKTW 019)
The First Of The Gang To Die/My Life Is A Succession Of People Saying Goodbye (7”, Attack ATKSI 003)
The First Of The Gang To Die/My Life Is A Succession Of People Saying Goodbye (CD, Attack ATKXS 003)
The First Of The Gang To Die (Live, Manchester MEN Arena 22.5.2004 - Video)/(Audio)/Teenage Dad On His Estate/Mexico (DVD in stickered ‘purple text’ p/s, Attack ATKDX 003)
The First Of The Gang To Die/My Life Is A Succession Of People Saying Goodbye/Teenage Dad On His Estate/Mexico (12”, 2006 reissue, Attack ATKTW 020)
Let Me Kiss You/Don’t Make Fun Of Daddy’s Voice (Clear Vinyl 7”, Attack ATKSE 008)
Let Me Kiss You/Don’t Make Fun Of Daddy’s Voice (CD1, Attack ATKXS 008)
Let Me Kiss You/Friday Mourning/I Am Two People (CD2, Attack ATKXD 008)
I Have Forgiven Jesus/No One Can Hold A Candle To You (7“, Attack ATKSE 011)
I Have Forgiven Jesus/No One Can Hold A Candle To You (CD1, Attack ATKXS 011)
I Have Forgiven Jesus/The Slum Mums/The Public Image (CD2 in tinted p/s, Attack ATKXD 011)
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out/Redondo Beach/Noise Is The Best Revenge (CD, Attack ATKXD 015)
Redondo Beach/There Is A Light That Never Goes Out/It’s Hard To Walk Tall When You’re Small (BBC Radio 2 Janice Long Session 17.12.2004)/There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (Video)/(Live, Manchester MEN Arena 22.5.2004 - Video) (DVD in unique p/s, Attack ATKDX 015)
You Have Killed Me/Good Looking Man About Town (7”, Attack ATKSE 017, b-side later included on “Swords“)
You Have Killed Me/Good Looking Man About Town (CD1, Attack ATKXS 017, b-side later included on “Swords“)
You Have Killed Me/Human Being/I Knew I Was Next/You Have Killed Me (Video) (CD2, Attack ATKXD 017, different p/s)
The Youngest Was The Most Loved/If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look At Me (7”, Attack ATKSE 018, b-side later included on “Swords“)
The Youngest Was The Most Loved/If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look At Me (CD1, Attack ATKXS 018, b-side later included on “Swords“)
The Youngest Was The Most Loved/Ganglord/A Song From Under The Floorboards/The Youngest Was The Most Loved (Video) (CD2, Attack ATKXD 018)
In The Future When All’s Well/Christian Dior (7”, Attack ATKSE 021, b-side later included on “Swords“)
In The Future When All’s Well/Christian Dior (CD1, Attack ATKXS 021, b-side later included on “Swords“)
In The Future When All’s Well/I’ll Never Be Anybody’s Hero Now (Live at The Palladium)/To Me You Are A Work Of Art (Live at The Palladium)/In The Future When All’s Well (Video) (CD2, Attack ATKXD 021, different p/s)
I Just Want To See The Boy Happy/Speedway (Royal Albert Hall 2002) (7”, Attack ATKSE 023)
I Just Want To See The Boy Happy/Late Night Maudlin Street (Royal Albert Hall 2002) (7” Picture Disc, Attack ATKSE 023X)
I Just Want To See The Boy Happy/Sweetie Pie/I Want The One I Can’t Have (Royal Albert Hall 2002)/I Just Want To See The Boy Happy (Video) (CD, Attack ATKXD 023)
I Just Want To See The Boy Happy/Sweetie Pie/I Want The One I Can’t Have (Royal Albert Hall 2002)/Speedway (Royal Albert Hall 2002)/Late Night Maudlin Street (Royal Albert Hall 2002) (12” Picture Disc, 2007 reissue, Attack ATKTW 025)
That’s How People Grow Up/The Boy With The Thorn In His Side (Live, Omaha 11.5.2007) (7”, Polydor 478 0363)
That’s How People Grow Up/Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself? (Live, Lehi 15.10.2007) (7”, Polydor 478 0364, unique p/s)
That’s How People Grow Up/The Last Of The Famous International Playboys (Live, New York 27.10.2007) (CD, Polydor 478 0362)
All You Need Is Me/Drive In Saturday (Live) (7”, Polydor 478 0963, b-side later included on “Swords“)
All You Need Is Me/My Dearest Love (7”, Polydor 478 0964, unique p/s, b-side later included on “Swords“)
All You Need Is Me/Children In Pieces (CD, Polydor 478 0965, b-side later included on “Swords“)
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris/Death Of A Disco Dancer (Live) (7”, Polydor F20006)
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris/Because Of My Poor Education (CD1, Polydor F20007, b-side later included on “Swords“)
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris/Shame Is The Name (CD2, Polydor F20008, unique p/s, b-side later included on “Swords“)
Something Is Squeezing My Skull/I Keep Mine Hidden (Live, BBC Radio Theatre) (7”, Polydor 478 1877)
Something Is Squeezing My Skull/This Charming Man (Live, BBC Radio Theatre) (CD1, Polydor 478 1875)
Something Is Squeezing My Skull/Best Friend On The Payroll (Live, BBC Radio Theatre) (CD2, Polydor 478 1876)
Glamorous Glue/Safe Warm Lancashire Home (7”, Major Minor MM 722)
Glamorous Glue/Treat Me Like A Human Being (7” Picture Disc, Major Minor MMPD 722)
Glamorous Glue/Treat Me Like A Human Being/Glamourous Glue (Video) (CD, Major Minor CDMM 722)
Satellite Of Love (Live)/You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side/You Say You Don’t Love Me (Live) (7” Picture Disc, Parlophone RPD 6914)
Satellite Of Love (Live)/You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side/Vicar In A Tutu (Live in Hyde Park)/All You Need Is Me (Live in Hyde Park) (12”, Parlophone 12R 6914)
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Imagine the scene. You are watching a film in the cinema when, halfway through, it stops, and you are ushered out of the theatre. You are told that if you want to see the rest of the film, then you will need to pay again to get back in. Some people decide that they can more or less guess what happens, so decide not to bother, and head home. A bunch of latecomers, stragglers who missed the start of the film, are also given the opportunity to enter on payment of the entrance fee, and figure that they can probably catch up with what happened in the first half of the film, so pay their money. You decide to pay as well, mainly because you want to see the whole picture, and so end up shelling out twice as much as everyone else to see the complete film. Not two films, one film. You have paid twice as much as everyone else, but it is difficult to know if your life is any the better for this experience.
This, dear reader, is the ludicrous premise upon which the “Double CD Single Set” was born. The most blatant cash guzzling trick pulled by the UK music industry, it didn’t happen in some overseas territories, certainly not in The States, where the maxi single format was usually long enough to gather together all the various B-sides and remixes that were being planned to appear on the flipside of the latest single by whoever it was. But in the UK, what started off as a thought out, collector friendly approach to a single release, became another industry standard, which by the end of it’s reign in the late noughties, had simply become the latest in a long line of record company scams, the labels issuing these things with little love or attention, tossing them out en masse with little fanfare which did nothing but to further (un)enhance the reputation of the music biz of being a money driven machine, treating the fans with a certain amount of contempt.
The Double CD Single format worked, initially, like this. A single would come out on the usual formats. By the time the Double CD approach was being properly tried out, format restrictions on the number of editions allowed per 45 were in force, and by the time it really kicked in in 1992, four formats was the official max. So, your favourite band would issue a 7”, a 12” maybe, and a CD. No fourth format. The CD would come in some magnificently OTT packaging, a glorious fold out sleeve, in a box too big to fit on your shelves, and inside, there would be space for two discs. But there were not two discs. Only one. In the space where the other disc would have been, there would be a CD shaped piece of cardboard, with the legend “CD2 - out next week. Features blah blah blah”.
A week later, that fourth format would appear. It was the other CD. Invariably, the packaging would be minimalist, a CD tucked inside a simple card sleeve which would rub against the playing surface of the disc and leave it scratched as you tugged it out. But this mattered not, because the idea was for you to remove the CD from said crappy packaging, insert into your big box where your piece of “blah blah blah” card was, and voila! You had a sort of maxi EP, or mini album, or something.
Whilst it was not unknown for multi formats to have been issued before, there was usually a more subtle approach. Where acts had previously issued two CD singles, it was usually that one was pressed as a picture disc, one not - but the songs on each were the same. It was not unknown for the 12” edition of a 45 to differ slightly from the Compact Disc one, but often, it was usually because the 12” went for a unique mix somewhere, and in doing so, had to omit something found on the CD edition - check out Madonna’s “Rescue Me” UK releases for one such set of examples. Otherwise, the track listings were really quite similar. But the Double CD Set was far more “intense”. Basically, nothing that was on the first disc - apart from, maybe, the mix of the a-side - could be found on the second. So, you could play your completed double disc set, and pretend that you were listening to some sort of “album”, albeit quite a short one, because none of the songs would repeat themselves.
Why did the labels do this? Well, for several reasons. One, of course, was for profits. Get Joe Public to buy this latest single twice, and you could make twice as much money as if you had stuck out instead, as format number 4, a 12” with the same songs on. Second, was that singles were starting to struggle in the UK. Sales were sluggish, and the hype surrounding most releases meant that by the time the single hit the shops, people had been informed of the release date about a month before, so everyone would rush down to HMV the day it came out, resulting in the single hitting the top end of the charts on week 1, and then dropping out of the charts altogether on week 2, as there was nobody left to buy the thing. Issuing CD2 on week 2, allowed for the second week sales to remain healthy, possibly healthy enough to see the chart position remain static, or even rise. But later on, as the double CD set became a common place chart fiddle, this approach was abandoned, and the two CD’s would appear in the shops together. This, however, had the alternative effect of possibly doubling those week 1 sales, thus increasing your chances of a number 1 record. Whatever method they used, the labels were quids in with this new invention.
At first, the concept of the double CD set was approached with a certain amount of “what do we do with it” confusion by some bands. The Stones began dabbling with the concept in the late 80s, when “Rock And A Hard Place” was issued on a number of CD editions, including one in a tongue shaped sleeve. But The Stones didn’t really have enough b-sides to go round, and so took to sticking old “hits” on the different editions. The idea behind this was that the CD was still relatively new, and a lot of people still owned these old records on vinyl, so it would allow them to obtain bits of the back catalogue on the new fangled Compact Disc format. Duran Duran were another band that did this. But the idea of making “Emotional Rescue” available on CD, but not the rest of the album from which it came, was obviously a bit stupid, and this concept largely fell by the wayside soon after. But as the concept of the double CD set became more and more commonplace, bands found themselves having to ensure they had enough material in the vaults to go round.
One get out clause was to record gigs, or to grab hold of Radio Session material, to held pad out your CD’s, and there was obviously an interest factor whenever your new single was going to appear with “previously unreleased live tracks”. Don’t get me wrong, the appearance of BBC tracks on the flipside of “Jesus Hairdo” by The Charlatans was of interest to the geeky collector in me, but you could equally argue, given that these were just alternate versions of songs you already knew, what was the point? Especially when the vaults were filled with mountains of stuff that could just as validly been issued as a b-side, but which never was. For every Peel session that was being used as a source for a couple of b-sides, there was at least one more that wasn’t being touched at all.
Anyway, the concept was in. And a number of bands at least tried to make sure that the material was being presented in a thoughtful way. I have already mentioned on this very site the clever clever approach the Inspiral Carpets took with their late 1992 singles “Generations” and “Bitches Brew”, where the b-sides were all live recordings split into “original release date” chunks, so that the earlier material was on “Generations”, and the latter period stuff was on the follow up 45. But equally, there were some releases where you wondered if the bands were going to be able to keep this up - The Stranglers’ “Heaven Or Hell” was issued on two CD editions, but with only three tracks on each disc (the Inspirals releases had four), it suggested that the vaults weren’t always quite as vast as they could have been.
Once the idea of releasing the two CD editions on separate weeks fell out of favour, the other way of showing you which CD was which was to put them in different covers. Slowly but surely, the idea of CD1 coming in a fancy pack got abandoned, and you simply were able to determine which CD you were buying by it’s cover. Blur’s 1995 effort “Country House” was housed in a simple thin jewel case, but the CD2 edition, a four track live EP from a then-recent gig at the Mile End Stadium in East London, was easily identifiable by it’s “Canary Wharf” cover. A nice touch. But given the whole gig had been broadcast on radio, and thus heavily bootlegged, again, you began to wonder exactly what you were getting for your money. It felt like there was a element of barrel scraping being conducted.
But by now, vinyl and cassettes were being marginalised by the industry itself, and so in order to ensure they were able to make enough singles available in the shops, most labels figured they had to issue multiple CD editions, because there wasn’t much else that people were interested in, although indie bands clung onto the 7”, and pop acts carried on with the Cassette format to a certain extent. But the double CD single set was an obvious marketing tool, as it accounted for two of the three formats that were now allowed in the UK, it was just a case of finding material to keep it up. Acts who had previously been almost exempt from the format, like Madonna, also eventually succumbed - the get out clause with Miss Ciccone was to stick some remixes on CD1, and some different remixes on CD2. Simple. But it was difficult to wonder if this was sheer laziness on the part of the labels, because it seemed a bit “cheap”. New b-sides were obviously nice, live recordings a bit of a cop out but intriguing, but different Victor Calderone mixes on different releases? Honestly, who cared?
Trouble was, the approach was now industry standard. It was more or less law that any single appearing on CD, would have to appear on two different versions. What had started as a quirky, “for the hardcore fans” style bit of trickery pokery, was now being viewed as “accepted record company practice”. So accepted, that some acts not only saw their singles issued in non-fancy packaging, but the labels often didn’t even bother to do anything with the artwork itself - Beck’s “Sexx Laws” released in 1999 used the exact same sleeve on each CD edition, the only difference being that each one had a sticker telling you which edition it was. It all seemed very disrespectful to the punter who was being asked to shell out £2.99 twice for these things.
By the millennium, the idea of NOT releasing a double CD set was almost an alien concept, and bands were being “told” to go into the studio to actually record B-sides. Previously, B-sides had been the odd stuff that couldn’t slot onto the new album, left in a box with people unsure where to put them - now, bands were being asked to record specific songs to pad out their next 45. Some bands were less than impressed at being asked to do this, Rick McMurray of Ash actually refusing to turn up for a 1998 “b-sides session” that had been arranged in order to produce material for the planned chart attack of “Jesus Says”.
But resistance was futile. By the time we got to the Noughties, the double CD set was established as standard, as standard as breathing. Format number three was by now usually also an “essential” buy, as there was often a coloured vinyl 7”, or a DVD with some video stuff, or a Cassette single with an “only on this format!” flipside. The days when you could choose which format to buy were over - you were being expected to buy all of them.
Furthermore, you could - at a later date - feel really cheated when the b-sides you’d slavishly paid out for all turned up on a compilation or a boxset, making you wonder why you’d made the effort to go and buy them in the first place. I cottoned onto this at some point, and began only buying the “CD2” version of the latter period Girls Aloud singles, and then - hallelujah! A CD Singles boxset with repressingss of the singles in their - yes! - CD1 sleeves, complete with all relevant flipsides, was issued soon after. That’ll teach you Polydor! I think I saved about £10 in two years. Oh well, it’s better than a slap in the face.
Don’t get me wrong, there would sometimes be some interesting stuff tossed away on some of these singles - the Franz Ferdinand single where one of their album tracks appeared with the drummer singing instead, that French version of “Can’t Speak French”, Siouxsie And The Banshees having an (acoustic) crack at “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, this was the sort of stuff that you couldn’t really shoe horn onto a “normal album”. I like the concept of the b-side. It was just that there seemed to be an awful lot of them about, and it all costs money to collect them all. Bands in the sixties would manage four or five b-sides a year. Now, it was four or five PER SINGLE.
The double CD single set only really died out because the single itself died out. When Kimberley and Co returned with the Northern Soul whammy of “The Promise” in 2008, it appeared on just one CD. There was a mail order 7”, granted, but no CD2 edition. Why? Because the evils of iTunes was causing digital downloading to impact on the sale of physical singles, and the Jason Nevins remix of the a-side was only available to download as an inferior sounding MP3 file. We had gotten rid of the lunacy of the double CD single set, only to replace it with something far more heinous.
Whilst the double CD single set was a concept which, eventually, helped to virtually kill off the Cassette, and to turn vinyl into a niche “hipsters endorsed” format, it wasn’t alone in doing this. The industry itself contributed to the demise of freedom of choice and the painful long drawn out death of the physical single itself. Next month, we shall see what was going on in the first half of the nineties, and how the end result, in the long run, helped to destroy the old style 45 and to make people refer to albums no more as albums, but simply as “CD‘s“.
Saturday, 5 April 2014
Does 2014 really mark the 20th Anniversary of the debut mini album by Ash, “Trailer“, which included as part of the artwork, the legend “Genuine Real Teenagers”? Yes it does. Teenagers no more then.
Ash were formed as a three piece power punk pop band in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland in 1992, and eventually settled on their name after opening a dictionary and picking the first word they liked. In 1993, they made their official vinyl debut when they contributed the track “Season” to a Various Artists 12” released by Raptor Records.
Several demo tapes later, the band caught the attention of one Stephen Taverner, who arranged for them to release a single on his own La La Land record label, and “Jack Names The Planets” appeared as the band’s debut single in February 1994. This, of course, later became highly collectible, such were the small numbers pressed, and was eventually reissued on CD in 2002 with “Season” added as a bonus track. Both sides of the original 7” were later included as hidden bonus tracks at the start on initial pressings of the CD edition of the band’s debut LP.
Ash then moved to Infectious Records, the label to which they were to remain signed to until the decision to start releasing material on their own label in 2009. Before the end of 94, they had released two singles on the label, the sparky “Petrol” and the not so sparky “Uncle Pat”, both of which appeared as multi track CD EP’s.
“Trailer” was so named as the band considered it a preview of their first album - even though said record was barely in the planning stages at the time. It’s movie reference was made more obvious when you acknowledge the fact that the band were huge Star Wars fans. Initially a mini album consisting of “Season”, the first three singles and three new songs, variant editions of the record were made available over the years. Initial UK vinyl pressings came with a free 7” featuring exclusive songs, whilst later overseas pressings added extra tracks but did not includes the songs from the 7“. A later UK pressing with an updated catalogue number came with a different free single, on either vinyl or CD, and included as part of the main album, a cover of Helen Love’s “Punk Boy” - a regular early gig feature, it was also released on a compilation album at the time and also on a Various Artists Fierce Panda single, before being included on a number of Various Artists comps during the next few years.
1995 really saw Ash start to make moves towards the mainstream. It started with the masterful punk rock genius of “Kung Fu”, housed in the famous ‘Eric Cantona’ picture sleeve, whilst follow up singles “Girl From Mars” and “Angel Interceptor” increased the band’s profile further. With the debut LP still quite a distance away on the horizon, the band had by now amassed quite a sizeable back catalogue, complete with an already ever increasing fan base - “Girl From Mars“ just missed out on a top 10 chart placing.
The band’s debut album, named after the year in which the whole of the band were born - “1977” - was previewed in April 96 by the “Goldfinger” single. CD Copies added a bonus track, a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready”, which had only previously been available on a limited edition 7” on the Fantastic Plastic label in 1995. With the album the subject of highly positive reviews, and decent sales, Ash found themselves near the top of the Britpop League Table, a position confirmed when the majestic “Oh Yeah” appeared as their next classic 45. The band started to tentatively dip their toe into the multi format world with this single, as the 7” edition included an exclusive alternate version of the A-side, whilst the CD offered instead their take on Abba’s “Does Your Mother Know”, recorded because lead singer Tim Wheeler was a huge fan.
The first time I saw Ash was at the V97 festival in Chelmsford, where after witnessing the Blur set on the main stage, I raced round to the second stage where Ash were still playing. Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy came out to sing “Oh Yeah” but there was another figure on stage hiding in the darkness. Ash had recently expanded to a four piece with the addition of ex-Nightnurse guitarist Charlotte Hatherley, partly because Wheeler felt the band were restricted as a three piece, but also that he quite liked the idea of having somebody in the band who could sing high pitched backing vocals. Hatherley’s appearance on record occurred soon after, when the band released the title track from the film “A Life Less Ordinary” as a stand alone 45. The cover of the single featured the film’s co-stars Cameron Diaz and Ewen McGregor - it was all a long way from those Downpatrick beginnings.
In late 1998, the band’s second album, “Nu-Clear Sounds”, was released. It was issued in the UK on coloured vinyl, whilst the US edition of the album came housed in a new sleeve, with a new version of “A Life Less Ordinary” added as a bonus track, and with several tracks remixed. Although lead single “Jesus Says” seemed like another piece of bouncy power-pop, the album itself overall was darker, an unavoidable situation as the band went into the studio feeling burned out from the non-stop ride they had been on for the last four years. Wheeler admitted he had deliberately tried to steer the band in a heavier direction as a reaction to the more pop oriented sound the band had developed up until that point (even though follow up 45 “Wild Surf” sounded like The Ramones covering The Beach Boys to these ears) and several tracks did seem to veer towards the evils of Metal. When “Numbskull” was issued as a non-chart eligible third single, as a gatefold red vinyl 7” and a special 6 track CD, the accompanying video revealed the burnout at close quarters - a clip of Wheeler involved in sex, drugs and general carnage, it promptly got banned on the spot.
With the band on the verge of financial collapse and critics unimpressed by the second album, they came back fighting. Following the release of a video for a new song “Warmer Than Fire”, issued as a promo only CD-Rom single (and later in audio as a B-side), Wheeler made the decision to try and return to a more pop based sound, and the first fruits of his labour were heard on 2001’s comeback single, “Shining Light” - another piece of glorious left field guitar pop. The album from which it was lifted, “Free All Angels”, returned Ash to the forefront of the Indie Rock world that they had slightly disappeared from post-”1977”, and was a critical and commercial smash hit. The album was issued in different sleeves worldwide again, with an image of the band being used on many overseas pressings, as opposed to the more arty cover the UK edition had. Pick of the bunch is the French version which included a free 2 track acoustic single shrinkwrapped to the album. Infectious really went to town on the promo, with no less than five singles in total being issued in the UK. Starting with the follow up single, the flawlessly catchy “Burn Baby Burn”, the band began to release singles on the DVD format, but rather than use the format to showcase the relevant promo clip, the DVDs included a lengthy “tour documentary” spread across the singles. OK to sort of watch once, but for the glorious Cheerleader-romp clip for “BBB” to be only available on the CD Rom section of one of the other formats, with an obvious lessening of quality therein, did seem like a missed opportunity.
In 2002, the band released their first best of set, “Intergalactic Sonic 7’s”, the title a vague play on that Star Wars obsession. It was a showcase for all of the bands “normal” singles released so far (so no “Get Ready”) along with the ’single that never was’, “Walking Barefoot” (included on Wheeler’s insistence) and a new song, “Envy”, was released as the band’s next 45. Also included was a “bonus” b-sides album, dubbed “Cosmic Debris”, a selective trawl through the band’s flipsides past, as voted for by the fans. As well as being issued as a double CD, there was also a vinyl boxset which included both albums, but the “Cosmic Debris” album was not included in any form of individual packaging, so it just looked like a 4 piece vinyl set, as opposed to any form of album plus “free“ album set.
It did seem, for whatever reason, that the “Sonic 7’s” release turned out to be something of a turning point for the band. When they returned in 2004 with “Meltdown”, the group seemed to be struggling to maintain the radio interest that they had garnered back in their glory days. No longer were they Genuine Real Teenagers, but more Old Aged Gits. Initial copies of this record came with a bonus disc, a live album featuring the entire LP recorded on stage with a few hit singles thrown in as well. The two discs were housed in individual card sleeves, which were then housed in a special see through plastic case.
Whilst working on the album, Hatherley began collecting material for a solo album simultaneously. Her role in Ash had started to grow, to the point that she began to not only write material for the band, but to even take lead vocals on several songs - she had sung on a track called “Grey Will Fade”, one of the flipsides of “There’s A Star”. Hatherley’s debut LP issued the same year was also called “Grey Will Fade”, with a re-recorded version of the track being placed at the end of the record. With the album proving to be a critical and commercial success, and with the remainder of the band toying with the idea of returning to a three piece unit again, Hatherley was asked to leave the band and continue with her solo career. By the start of 2007, Ash had reverted to their original line up once more.
The new look/old look band returned in 2007 with “Twilight Of The Innocents”. The removal of Hatherley from the line up meant that much of the material they had recorded after the “1977” album was now deemed too difficult to reproduce as a three piece, and setlists veered heavily between early period songs and tracks from the new album, alongside selected Hatherley era old favourites like “Burn Baby Burn“.
Soon after it’s release, the band made a bold statement claiming it would be their final album, and that they would concentrate on stand alone singles from now on, as “the way people listen to music has changed”, with Wheeler commenting on the popularity of the downloading of single tracks from the likes of iTunes as the way forward. In 2009, the band announced their plans for this approach, under the banner of the ‘A-Z Series‘. For the next year, the band would release a new single every fortnight - there was no intention of each single having a title that related to where it was being released in the series (what I mean is, the first single was not going to be called “Apple”, and the next one “Banana”), but each single would feature on it’s cover the relevant letter denoting which number/letter in the series it was.
Each single was issued on the band’s own Atomic Heart label as a 1-sided 7”. Various bonus tracks surfaced as digital downloads, but - of course - is way outside the remit of this article. Check the Wikipedia article if you want to know more. Although there was some sort of subscription service whereby you could sign up and have the singles sent to you in advance by mail order, copies were also sent to selected record shops and I got all 26 via the power of a HMV store in Birmingham and the Recordstore mail order chain, who had worked on the subscription service with the band.
Whether or not the A-Z series succeeded, I really don’t know. IMO, a song has to gain sufficient momentum before people start downloading it as an individual track, and by offering 1-sided 45’s at £5 each, none of which were getting any airplay, this was a rather expensive way of presenting 26 new songs to prospective buyers. None of the singles dented the top 40, and with album sales still doing quite well, it did seem as though the band had gotten the wrong end of the stick. Lots of people probably are downloading Adele songs, but that’s because they have heard them on the radio every hour, and there are in fact just as many people buying Adele CD’s at the same time. The band later compiled the songs onto two albums, which did thus seem to defeat the object of the entire exercise, but the band claimed they had to do this to ensure anybody who had missed out on the singles had the chance to hear the songs. Furthermore, bonus tracks were added to the two releases, which suggested that the band were viewing the album as a viable format once more.
With this insanity finally over, Ash released a second greatest hits record in 2011, the simply titled “The Best Of Ash”. Hatherley rejoined temporarily for shows conducted in conjunction with the album, which brought things full circle with a re-recording of debut single “Jack Names The Planets” bringing the record to a close.
Ash spent the last part of 2013 touring, although new songs do not seem to have been forthcoming, especially as their Australian shows in the summer saw them performing “1977” in full, something the band have been doing across the globe for about five years now. So when they do return to the studio, it will be interesting to see if they do release another album a la “Twilight Of The Innocents”, or if they try and venture down that singles path again. Be prepared to get your wallets out again if it’s the latter option!
For the albums - most Ash albums seem to have been issued in two variants (at least) including notable overseas releases. For fun, I have listed both one of the original UK pressings and a selected second edition for any released before Hatherley‘s departure. You might want to buy both, you might figure one edition is worthless. The choice dear viewer is yours. The remainder are just the basic versions - although some came with free DVDs when first issued, so they are probably a bit more than “basic“, to be fair.
Trailer (LP + 7“, Infectious INFECT 14)
Trailer (CD, 1995 repressing with “Hulk Hogan Bubblebath”, “Punk Boy” and free “Kung Fu” CD single, Infectious INFECT 22CD)
1977 (CD, Infectious INFECT 40CD)
1977 (3xCD, 2008 reissue, Warner Brothers 5186 50450 5, includes the “Live At The Wireless” album plus more)
Live At The Wireless (LP, Deathstar DEATH 3LP)
Live At The Wireless (CD, Deathstar DEATH 13)
Nu-Clear Sounds (Clear Vinyl LP, Infectious INFECT 60LP)
Nu-Clear Sounds (US CD in unique p/s with altered track listing, Dreamworks DRMD-50121)
Free All Angels (CD, Infectious INFEC 100CDX)
Free All Angels (French 2xCD in different p/s, includes “Session Acoustique Inedite” single, Edel 5153-9)
Intergalactic Sonic 7’s (Promo CD, with booklet in unique p/s, Infectious INFEC 120 CDP)
Intergalactic Sonic 7’s (Numbered 4xLP Box Set, Infectious INFEC 120LP)
Meltdown (2xCD, with free “Meltdown Live” disc, Infectious 5050467 324626)
Meltdown (CD, later pressing without live tracks but in slightly different sleeve, Infectious 5050467 319721)
Twilight Of The Innocents (CD, Infectious 2564 698206)
A-Z Vol 1 (CD+DVD, Atomic Heart ATOM 16 CDVD)
A-Z Vol 2 (CD, Atomic Heart ATOM 29 CD)
The Best Of Ash (CD+DVD, Warner Brothers 2564 664365)
For the singles, I have split them into chunks in the interests of clarity. For the 1994-97 singles, I have listed selected singles which, when first released, were “missing” bonus tracks that then later turned up on “Cosmic Debris”. Anything not listed is thus pointless, except to hardcore completists. Most of the singles released from 98 onwards were usually designed so every format offered something, but a few more “for the fans” style releases did surfaced from time to time, so are not listed here either because, well, there’s enough here already! Coloured vinyl singles are also listed where they are known to exist, but they don’t come cheap anymore.
Jack Names The Planets/Don’t Know (7”, La La Land LALA001, reissued in 2002 on CD with extra track “Season” [DD 2007])
Crazed And Confused EP (2x7”, Fierce Panda NING 02, includes “Punk Boy”)
Crazed And Confused EP (CD, Fierce Panda NING 02CD, includes “Punk Boy”)
Petrol/The Little Pond/A Message From Oscar Wilde And Patrick The Brewer/Things (CD, Infectious INFECT 13CD)
Uncle Pat/Different Today (7”, Infectious INFECT 16S)
Uncle Pat/Different Today/Hulk Hogan Bubblebath (CD, Infectious INFECT 16CD)
Kung Fu/Luther Ingo’s Star Cruiser (7”, Infectious INFECT 21S)
Kung Fu/Day Of The Triffids (2nd 7” in “Japanese“ style p/s, Infectious INFECT 21J)
Kung Fu/Day Of The Triffids/Luther Ingo’s Star Cruiser (CD, Infectious INFECT 21CD)
Girl From Mars/Astral Conversations/Cantina Band (Numbered 7”, Infectious INFECT 24S)
Girl From Mars/Astral Conversations/Cantina Band (Cassette, Infectious INFECT 24MC)
Girl From Mars/Astral Conversations/Cantina Band (CD, Infectious INFECT 24CD)
Angel Interceptor/5am Eternal/Gimme Some Truth (Numbered 7”, Infectious INFECT 27S)
Angel Interceptor/5am Eternal/Gimme Some Truth (Cassette, Infectious INFECT 27MC)
Angel Interceptor/5am Eternal/Gimme Some Truth (CD, Infectious INFECT 27CD)
Get Ready/Zero Zero (Red Vinyl 7”, Fantastic Plastic FP004)
Goldfinger/I Need Somebody/Sneaker (Numbered Clear Vinyl 7“, Infectious INFECT 39S)
Goldfinger/I Need Somebody/Sneaker (Cassette, Infectious INFECT 39MC)
Goldfinger/I Need Somebody/Sneaker/Get Ready (CD, Infectious INFECT 39CD)
Oh Yeah/T Rex/Everywhere Is All Around/Oh Yeah (Quartet Version) (Yellow Vinyl 7”, Infectious INFECT 41S)
Oh Yeah/T Rex/Everywhere Is All Around/Oh Yeah (Quartet Version) (Cassette, Infectious INFECT 41MC)
Oh Yeah/T Rex/Everywhere Is All Around/Does Your Mother Know (CD, Infectious INFECT 41CD)
A Life Less Ordinary/Where Is Our Love Going/What Deaner Was Talking About (Blue Vinyl 7”, Infectious INFECT 50S)
A Life Less Ordinary/Where Is Our Love Going/What Deaner Was Talking About (Cassette, Infectious INFECT 50MC)
A Life Less Ordinary/What Deaner Was Talking About/Where Is Our Love Going/Halloween (CD, Infectious INFECT 50CD)
I Only Want To Be With You/Kung Fu (Live At Reading 1996) (Fanclub 7”, on glittery vinyl, Barbie Records KEN 1)
Jesus Says/Taken Out/Heroin Vodka And White Noise (CD1, Infectious INFECT 59CDS)
Jesus Says (Radio Edit)/Radiation/Dancing On The Moon (CD1, Infectious INFECT 59CDSX, different p/s)
Wild Surf/Stormy Waters/When I’m Tired (CD1, Infectious INFECT 61CDS)
Wild Surf (Extended Version)/Lose Control/Gonna Do It Soon (CD2, Infectious INFECT 61CDSX, different p/s)
Numbskull/Blew/Who You Drivin’ Now/Jesus Says (BBC Evening Session Version) (Numbered Red Vinyl 2x7”, Infectious INFECT 62S)
Numbskull/Blew/Who You Drivin’ Now/Jesus Says (Live)/Girl From Mars (Live)/Fortune Teller (Live) (Numbered CD, Infectious INFECT 62EP)
Shining Light (Edit)/Warmer Than Fire (7”, Infectious INFECT 98S)
Shining Light (Edit)/Warmer Than Fire (Cassette, Infectious INFECT 98 MCS)
Shining Light (Edit)/Warmer Than Fire/Gabriel (CD1, Infectious INFECT 98 CDS)
Shining Light/Feel No Pain/Jesus Says (Headrock Valley Beats Lightyear 12” Mix)/Shining Light (Video) (CD2 in unique p/s, Infectious INFECT 98 CDSX)
Burn Baby Burn (Radio Version)/13th Floor/Only In Dreams (CD1, Infectious INFECT 99 CDS)
Burn Baby Burn/Thinking About You/Submission (Arthur Baker Remix)/Burn Baby Burn (Video) (CD2 in unique p/s, Infectious INFECT 99 CDSX)
Burn Baby Burn/Episode One - “Road Trip” (Video) (DVD in unique p/s, Infectious INFECT 99 DVD)
Sometimes (Edit)/Skullfull Of Sulphur/So The Story Goes/Sometimes (Video) (CD1, Infectious INFEC 101CDS, video now on “The Best Of Ash“)
Sometimes/Teenage Kicks/Melon Farmer (Enhanced CD2 in unique p/s, Infect INFEC 101CDSX)
Sometimes/Episode Two - “Back From The Edge” (Video) (DVD in unique p/s, Infectious INFEC 101DVD)
Sometimes (Edit)/So The Story Goes/Skullfull Of Sulphur/Teenage Kicks (Numbered 2x7”, Infectious INFEC 101S)
Candy (Remix)/Waterfall/Nocture/Candy (Video) (CD1, Infectious INFEC 106CDS)
Candy/Stay In Love Forever/The Sweetness Of Death By The Obsidian Knife (Enhanced CD2 in unique p/s, Infectious INFEC 106CDSX)
Candy/Episode Three - “Number 1 (We’re Sorry Miss Jackson)” (DVD in unique p/s, Infectious INFEC 106DVD)
There’s A Star (Edit)/No Place To Hide/Coasting/There’s A Star (Video) (CD1, Infectious INFEC 112CDS)
There’s A Star/Here Comes The Music/Grey Will Fade (Enhanced CD2 in unique p/s, Infectious INFEC 112CDSX)
There’s A Star/Episode Four - “Ash Go Global” (DVD in unique p/s, Infectious INFEC 112DVD)
Envy/I Don’t Mind/Bad Karma Blues (CD1, Infectious INFEC 119CDS)
Envy/Tonight You Belong To Me/I Shall Not Die (CD2 in unique p/s, Infectious INFEC 119CDSX)
Envy (Video)/(Audio)/I Don’t Mind/Bad Karma Blues (DVD in unique p/s, Infectious INFEC 119DVD)
Envy/Bad Karma Blues/I Shall Not Die/I Don’t Mind (Numbered 2x7”, Infectious INFEC 119S)
Orpheus/Everybody’s Happy Nowadays (7”, Infectious ASH 01)
Orpheus/Everybody’s Happy Nowadays/Tinseltown (CD, Infectious ASH 01 CD)
Orpheus/Tinseltown/Orpheus (Video)/Clones (Video)/Making Of ’Orpheus’ (Video) (DVD in different p/s, Infectious ASH 01 DVD)
Starcrossed/Solace (CD, Infectious ASH 02 CD)
Starcrossed/Cool It Down/Starcrossed (Video)/Girl From Mars (Video)/Star Wars Republic Commando Trailer (Video) (DVD in different p/s, Infectious ASH 02 DVD)
Renegade Cavalcade/Shockwave (Numbered 7”, Infectious ASH 03)
Renegade Cavalcade/We Don’t Care (CD, Infectious ASH 03 CD)
Renegade Cavalcade (Audio)/(Video)/Jesus Says (Video)/Renegade Cavalcade (Video #2 - Edit) (DVD in different p/s, Infectious ASH 03 DVD)
You Can’t Have It All/Comet Temple 1 (7”, Infectious ASH 05)
You Can’t Have It All/Ghosts (Red Vinyl 7” in posterbag, Infectious ASH 05 X)
You Can’t Have It All/Saskia (CD, Infectious ASH 05 CD)
Polaris/Chinese New Year (7”, Infectious ASH 06)
Polaris/Kingdom Of Shadow (Green Vinyl 7” in poster bag, Infectious ASH 06 X)
Polaris/Come On Over (CD, Infectious ASH 06 CD)
End Of The World/Suicide Girls (7”, Infectious ASH 07)
End Of The World/Shattered Glass (Cream Vinyl 7” in clear sleeve, Infectious ASH 07 X, b-side lifted from “TOTI“)
End Of The World/Seventh Circle/Wasted On You/Statis In Darkness (CD, Infectious ASH 07 CD)
A: True Love 1980 (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 002)
B: Joy Kicks Darkness (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 003)
C: Arcadia (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 004)
D: Tracers (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 005)
E: The Dead Disciples (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 006)
F: Pripyat (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 007)
G: Ichiban (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 008)
H: Space Shot (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 009)
I: Neon (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 010)
J: Command (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 011)
K: Song Of Your Desire (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 012)
L: Dionysian Urge (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 013)
M: War With Me (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 014)
N: Dare To Dream (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 015)
O: Mind Control (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 017)
P: Insects (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 018)
Q: Binary (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 019)
R: Physical World (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 020)
S: Spheres (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 021)
T: Instinct (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 022)
U: Summer Snow (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 023)
V: Carnal Love (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 024)
W: Embers (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 025)
X: Change Your Name (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 026)
Y: Sky Burial (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 027)
Z: There Is Hope Again (7”, Atomic Heart ATOM 028)
SELECTED OTHER ODDS AND SODS
Cloud 9 (Cassette, no catalogue number, includes “Kung Fu (BBC Radio 1 Mark Radcliffe Version June 1995“)
The Radio 1 FM Sessions Vol 3 (Cassette, Vox GIVIT 13, includes “Petrol (Live, Glastonbury Festival 23.6.1995”)
The Magnificent 7 (Cassette, Melody Maker MMMC 707, includes “Petrol (BBC Radio 1 John Peel Version 30.4.1994“)
Gratis Hits Vol 1 (Cassette, no catalogue number, includes “Punk Boy”)
Radio One Sound City Leeds 1996 (Cassette, Harmless CTYCD 96, includes “Girl From Mars (Live, Leeds Metropolitan University 10.4.1996”)
Childline (CD, Polydor 553 3020, includes “Punk Boy”)
The Basement Tapes (Cassette, Melody Maker MM MMC 1096, includes “Coasting (Demo)”)
Steve Lamacq’s Bootleg Session (Cassette, Melody Maker MMBBC ES 98, includes “Let It Flow (BBC Radio 1 Steve Lamacq Version 15.4.1996”)
Reading 98 (CD, Melody Maker MMREAD 98, includes “A Life Less Ordinary (Tim Simenon Mix)”)
Steve Lamacq’s Bootleg Session Vol 2 (CD, Melody Maker MMBBC ES 99, includes “I’m Gonna Fall (BBC Radio 1 Steve Lamacq Version 23.9.1998”)
The Sound City Sessions (CD, Melody Maker MM-BBC SCITY 99, includes “Jack Names The Planets (Live)”)
A Bunch Of Fives (Enhanced CD, NME CD-ROM AST 2000, includes audio and video versions of “A Life Less Ordinary (Live, London Astoria 31.1.2000)”)
Instant Karma 2002 (CD, Uncut 2002 11, includes edit of “Gimme Some Truth”)
Wild Surf (Radio Version)/(Video) (CD in unique p/s, Infectious INFECT 61 CDSP)
Warmer Than Fire (Video) (CD, Infectious INFECT 74 CDSP)
Sampler EP: Shining Light/Someday (Remix)/I’m Gonna Fall/Goldfinger (CD, Infectious VITEL 1 CD)
Starcrossed (Radio Mix)/(Album Edit) (CD, Infectious no catalogue number)
Tuesday, 18 March 2014
The March 2014 blogs feature a look at Madonna on LP from the first half of the nineties, and part 3 of my 'novel within a website', "How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting". To look at any of these blogs, click the relevant link to your right.
"Something's coming over"
Wednesday, 12 March 2014
With the 12” now established as the cousin to the 7” single, the Eighties saw the rise of the Cassette and the invention of the Compact Disc. Not only did these formats give the vinyl LP a run for their money, but the single had also started to appear on these formats. By the end of the 80s, it had become commonplace for any album, or any “45”, to have appeared on these three ‘standard’ formats.
Although the Cassette had existed in the 60s and 70s, it had always seemed to be like the ugly duckling when compared to the swan like qualities of the vinyl album. The packaging was too small to allow for any sort of fancy inlay designs, you were lucky to get any lyrics printed inside, and tapes were prone to hissing. But when Sony’s Walkman allowed people to listen to music on the move, Cassettes seemed to get a second lease of life. Instead of buying something on album, then copying it onto a blank C90, a lot of people simply cut out the middle man and bought the latest album by their favourite artist on tape.
The Compact Disc was designed more as a high tech format - yes, the standard CD had a running time approaching 75 minutes in length, longer than the general LP, but the main selling point about the format was that it was - supposedly - indestructible, it did not “hiss” like a tape, nor were there any pops or scratches as you might find on vinyl. For the most part, CD’s did or did not play, and when they did, the sound quality was perfect. Yes, in later years, people started moaning about “compression” and “the loudness war” but, be honest, most CD’s you listen to on a stereo system do actually sound quite good.
In terms of using these new formats within the world of the single, well, it was a strange one. Whilst a 7” single simply played for less time than a 12” because of it’s size, Cassette Singles or CD Singles could be as long or as short as you wanted them to be. To be honest, not many appeared in the UK during most of the 1980s, and when they did, different approaches seemed to be taken for each release, possibly because nobody knew what the standard approach should be. When Frankie issued “Warriors Of The Wasteland” as a CD Single in 1986, it was issued as a bizarre one track 24 minute long mega mix consisting of other remixes of the song. Bowie’s 1981 single “Scary Monsters” appeared on Cassette, mirroring the 2 track 7” that was far more commonly available, but he then spent most of the rest of the decade not issuing anything on the format at all.
But over in the world of the album, these two formats were starting to knock the popularity of the vinyl record about a bit. Vinyl albums, generally, were restricted - on single disc releases - to a running time between 40-60 minutes, but you could usually get twice this amount on a cassette. A number of acts began to use the format to shoehorn on “bonus tracks”, such as the bonus dub mixes on Madonna’s “You Can Dance” in 1987, or the entire second half of exclusive live tracks that surfaced on The Cure’s 1984 “Concert” release, a trick they repeated on two other albums in the same decade.
Another 1980s style piece of quirkyness was to use the extra playing time offered by the MC or CD to feature longer versions of the tracks on the format, when compared to the vinyl pressing. Examples of this included Bowie’s much maligned 1987 effort “Never Let Me Down”, where the agony of the LP version was prolonged even further thanks to the inclusion of “extended” mixes of several songs.
Whilst the use of “longer” mixes on non vinyl copies of albums was, in the main, actually usually quite rare, it became increasingly common, especially into the early part of the 90s, to add bonus tracks to the CD editions, this making the other formats somewhat defunct. Whilst the bonus dub mixes on the cassette edition of “You Can Dance” differed in part to those on the CD edition, suggesting it was all done so as to be pitched at the collectors market, the idea of sticking on extra “non vinyl” tracks became more and more regular on CD, to the point that it almost made the consumer feel as though they were being cheated out of buying records on LP and Cassette, as the likes of Bowie’s “Black Tie White Noise” and The Stones’ “Voodoo Lounge” both offered expanded track listings on the CD pressings. One argument was that, because they cost more to buy, CD purchasers should thus be rewarded with something extra, but the more cynical might argue it was a record company ruse to try and kill of the LP and the Cassette, and thus “force” the public to buy the higher priced CD releases.
It was a slightly different story where the single was concerned though, as the Cassette and CD found themselves starting to occupy a specific space within the world of the 45 fanatic. Both formats really started to be pressed on a more regular basis towards the end of the 80s, and by the early part of the following decade, it was nigh on impossible to find a major release that was NOT being issued on both formats - along with the vinyl releases. Cassettes continued to have something of an identity crisis, as nobody knew how short or long they should be. In the US, a lot of releases appeared as both standard 2 track singles, mirroring the accompanying 7” release (and seemed to be more popular), but also as EP style “maxi singles”, priced more expensively, naturally. But in the UK, it was usually one or the other. Although some releases as late as 1995 were turning up as 4 track Cassingles (see Sheryl Crow’s “Can’t Cry Anymore”), the industry standard was for the Cassette to replicate the 7” releases, and were thus usually quite cheap. One theory was that the floating voter was moving away from vinyl, and most stereos had a tape deck as standard, so people began to gravitate towards the format as vinyl started to get marginalised within the industry. By the early noughties, the Cassette had something of a second lease of life, as pop acts like Atomic Kitten used the format to include exclusive mixes as B-sides (thus giving something “unique” to fans who couldn’t afford CD’s, whilst also meaning the completists had to shell out for an extra format, thus increasing revenue and a potentially better chart placing), and even the odd indie band dipped their toe in the water, with The Divine Comedy issuing “The Certainty Of Chance” on the format with the unavailable-anywhere-else “Maryland Electric Rainstorm” as the extra track on the tape format.
At first, nobody quite knew how to market the CD Single either. How could you make something capable of lasting 75 minutes short enough to be considered a single? One option was to make it smaller, and thus the 3” CD was born. Hugely popular in Japan, where they were issued in awkward-to-store “snap-packs”, 3 inches wide, but some 7 inches in length, doing this automatically restricted the playing time down to something approaching 20 minutes. But logistically, the 3” wasn’t a great format. Many stereo systems had front loading CD decks, which simply couldn’t play them, so you needed an adapter to fit around the disc to make it 5 inches in diameter. Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” appeared as a 3”, but with a free adapter inside and was thus housed in a standard sized CD case, so that more or less defeated the object. The first three singles from Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” album all appeared as 3” CD Singles, in 3” square sleeves - which were then housed inside a plastic 5” square carrying case, thus defeating the object yet again. By 1990, the 5” format was adopted as a UK industry standard, although some late 90s releases by REM and Catatonia were done as 3” releases in snap-packs purely for “collectible” purposes.
In order to try and identify, from a visual aspect, a CD Album from a CD Single, the singles usually came in thinner jewel cases, with thus slightly “simpler” packaging, or in simple card sleeves. The idea being, therefore, that the “width” of the spine would tell you if it was an album or a single. Of course, plenty of people then issued singles in thick jewel cases, which consistently confused charity shops, who insisted on marking up old Stereolab CD Singles at £3 a pop, more than what they had cost when first released!
And so, to clarify, where did this put the industry as the nineties hovered into view? Well, albums were being issued on LP, Cassette and CD, sometimes with identical track listings on each, sometimes not. Even as late as 1995, some reissue campaigns in the UK were being carried out on both CD and Cassette (the Abcko reissues of the old Stones albums), whilst other reissue campaigns became CD only (the UK reissues of the later RCA Bowie LP’s). The single was invariably being issued on 7”, 12”, Cassette and CD, with vinyl pressings often being done as limited editions in fold out sleeves, or with free posters, pressed on coloured vinyl or as picture discs. It was not unknown for some acts to see their latest 45 issued on some seven or eight formats (Madonna’s “Vogue” or The Stones’ “Rock And A Hard Place”), where black vinyl pressings doubled up with “collectible” versions but in many instances, the actual TRACKLISTING was mirrored from one format to another. Fancied getting the Inspiral Carpets single “Two Worlds Collide” with all the new material on when it surfaced in 1992? Well both the 12” or the CD would do the job, nothing more, nothing less. Just because a single was due to come out on six different editions, it didn’t mean you were being EXPECTED to buy all six. You paid your money, and took your choice. In truth, some labels indulged in this madness, and others didn’t. Frankie were still trying all sorts of tricks even as they breathed their last breath.
So what could potentially have been a record collecting minefield, was not quite as bad as you might have imagined. In some respects, the problems really started when the chart regulators began to think that allowing too many formats had the aura of potential “chart rigging” to it, and they began to hit the Frankie’s of this world by beginning a restriction on the number of formats allowed per single. But strangely, this seemed to cause more problems than it was supposed to solve. Tune in next month where we shall look at the greatest industry fiddle in the UK that was ever seen.