the jason shergold music collector site
Saturday, 1 March 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 March 2014 edition is now online, with a look at Madonna on LP from 92 to 95.
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
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
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, Ash, Green Day and Morrissey 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!
In one of my earlier blogs, I think I referred to the “American Life” period of Madonna’s career as the ‘wilderness years’, the awkward time frame inbetween the bouncy pop of the “Music” album, and the hi-energy disco romp of “Confessions On A Dancefloor”. This was not the first time Madonna had seemed to fall off the pop perch though. In the first half of the 1990s, Madonna’s career went through it’s most controversial time so far, as the multi media onslaught of the “Sex” book, the “Body Of Evidence” movie and 1992’s musical outing “Erotica” were seen by the moral majority as some form of nymphomaniac style attack on the mainstream. Madonna was viewed as damaged goods, somebody who had gone too far and whose shock tactics seemed one tabloid baiting gimmick too much.
The albums that followed seemed to be some sort of attempt to get her career back on track, even if Madonna hadn’t quite gone that far off the rails - albums continued to hit the top 10, singles carried on denting the charts, and the 1993 “Girlie Show” tour saw Ms Ciccone still playing in front of huge stadium crowds. But the fluffy R&B of 1994’s “Bedtime Stories” and 1995’s ballads collection “Something To Remember” seemed like an indirect form of apology. Then came “Evita”, then came “Ray Of Light”, and Madonna returned to - that was if she had ever really left - the top of the pop tree.
This is part five of my ongoing look at Madonna’s albums, and covers those “troubled” years that followed the chart busting dominance of 1990’s “Immaculate Collection”. As ever, we shall look at each LP in turn, and then look at the UK pressings (and re-pressings) of each long player. “Ray Of Light” and friends should appear later this year.
To be fair, we had been here before - “Vogue” and “Rescue Me” were earlier examples of Madonna’s new “hip hop” direction, this was just the first time the sound had been applied over a full length album. At times, the relatively simple approach can seem to give the record a slightly underwhelming, almost empty, echoey, sound - the likes of “Fever” and “Bye Bye Baby” sound musically simplistic, vocally sad, and lyrically angry, rather than being upbeat, happy and joyous. But elsewhere, the move into a more dance oriented sound works well - the shuffling rhythms of “Thief Of Hearts”, the Transglobal Underground-isms of “Words”, or the astonishing jazzy rumble of “Secret Garden”. But death and misery ultimately do loom large over this record - “Bad Girl” is sung in a key which makes Madonna sound like she is about to break down into floods of tears at any second, while the doom-laden trudge of “In This Life” is really quite remarkable, it sounds like Black Sabbath covering Christina Aguilera.
As the title suggests, sex is never too far away though. The female anatomy is the subject of both “Secret Garden” and “Where Life Begins”, whilst I have always assumed the final line in “Waiting” must have been some sort of double entendre (“you know how to whistle baby, just put your lips together and blow”) - or maybe it’s just me. But despite the vampy S&M raunch of the title track and that infamous toe-sucking rear cover, it is worth pointing out that the album only got itself a “parental guidance” sticker thanks to the awful “Did You Do It” - a remix of “Waiting” with a couple of guest rappers spouting five minutes of nonsense over the top whilst Madonna is reduced to doing nothing apart from singing the backing vocals in the chorus. So it’s not even a proper Madonna song. And that means it leaves you with a so-called sex addict’s new album, consisting of 13 tracks which between them, do not actually manage to get themselves an X-rated sticker on their own. Maybe the critics misjudged this album all those years ago.
It’s not perfect - the front cover is a bit “abstract”, and at times, the attempts made to stretch it out to double LP length means the quality dips at times - the reggae/dub so-so trundle of “Why’s It So Hard” is the weakest link here, despite being shoe horned into the live shows that followed at the expense of superior material - but when it does show it’s poppier interior, the results are often wonderful, with the vibrant “Deeper And Deeper” a quick throwback to Madonna’s past (complete with a lyrical steal from “Vogue”).
There was some talk, apparently, of issuing the “Erotica” album inside the “Sex” book, as a deluxe boxset release. Madonna had recently formed the “multimedia” company Maverick, but the plan was ditched when it was figured anybody under the age of 18 would thus be prevented from hearing any of her new songs, and a compromise of sorts was reached when a 1-track CD single featuring an alternate mix of lead 45 “Erotica” was included inside the book instead. But with outtakes from the photoshoots for the book featuring in the artwork, and with the video for “Erotica” including video footage from the very same shoots, it became difficult to separate the two projects. They were released within two days of each other in the UK, and on consecutive days in the States. Madonna defended the book as right wing campaigners lined up to ask for her head on a plate, and “Erotica” suffered as a result. It probably is, at a push, Madonna’s weakest effort, but it’s not quite the disaster everybody thinks it is, and does actually include some of Madonna’s strongest material in parts. But by promoting the two together as one, anybody who disapproved of “Sex” was thus always going to struggle to accept “Erotica”.
“Erotica” was issued in the UK on October 19th 1992, initially on three formats (although a rarely discussed DCC format also surfaced at some point). As per previous Madonna albums, the vinyl and cassette editions came with their own unique-to-the-UK catalogue numbers, whilst the CD followed the trend of featuring a numeric catalogue number that failed to differentiate between a German pressing for the German market, and a German pressing for the UK market. The Cassette edition omitted “Did You Do It”.
In an attempt to allow vinyl and CD fans to enjoy a filth-free version of the record, the 13 track version of the record was also issued in the UK on those formats. However, the vinyl pressing of this variant came with a wholly numeric catalogue number - in essence it was a German pressing simply exported to the UK, and became the first Madonna album to be released in the UK since 1984 to appear on LP without the “WX” style catalogue number. This, however, would become the trend for all future Madonna long players in the UK.
In 2012, as part of the Warners “cash in” campaign to try and deflect sales away from “MDNA”, “Erotica” was the fifth and final LP to be reissued on vinyl. It appeared, just like the original, in a gatefold sleeve as a double, with the original inners still intact, but with the usual tell tale signs of it being a reissue, with minor alterations on the labels and on the rear sleeve and spine. As per the other reissues, the original album artwork was photographed (not reprinted) for the reissue, meaning there was a lack of sharpness when viewing the album at close quarters. It was also included in the career spanning “Complete Studio Albums” multi-CD set issued at the same time, housed in a very simple card sleeve, that made no attempt to replicate the original pressing. Both these reissues used the 14 track version of the record.
Erotica (2xLP, 14 track edition, Maverick WX 491, includes “offensive language“ sticker)
Erotica (Cassette, 13 track edition, Maverick WX 491 C)
Erotica (CD, 14 track edition, Maverick 9362-45031-2)
Erotica (2xLP, 13 track edition, Maverick 9362-45154-1)
Erotica (CD, 13 track edition, Maverick 9362-45154-2, includes “does not include “Did You Do It”” sticker)
Erotica (Digital Compact Cassette, 14 track edition, Maverick 9362-45031-5)
Erotica (2xLP, 2012 reissue of 14 track edition, Rhino 8122-79735-6)
It was still hard to shake off her past. In early 1994, there was the now infamous David Letterman interview where Madonna left her host flummoxed, as she reduced the humour to below toilet-level. It was made all the more confusing because the interview seemed to air at the same time that the new “pop” Madonna reappeared on the singles charts.
“I’ll Remember” was a world away from “Erotica”, the teutonic crunch of that album replaced by a more organic, bouncy, pop sound, and a song that had a romantic lilt to it. It had been written for a movie, which might have suggested it was being recorded ’to order’ but by the end of the year, Madonna had released a new album that went even further back into the world of sweet and sugary bouncy pop that some might have thought she had left behind.
“Bedtime Stories” seemed like a deliberate effort to eradicate the black cloud that “Erotica” had cast over Madonna’s career. It was Madonna’s own stab at nineties R&B, recorded with a multitude of producers and the closest Madonna had ever come to making a soul record. It took Madonna back towards the world of mainstream pop radio, the vocals often bright and breezy, and the polar opposite of the sometimes glum and tearful air of despondency that “Erotica” conjured up. Twenty years on, some of it can sound a bit dated - the ’New Jack Swing’ production technique sounds a bit thin and tinny, something like the quite charming “Don’t Stop” does admittedly sound more like the pop acts who followed in Madonna’s wake, like the Spice Girls or Atomic Kitten, rather than the actual woman who invented these acts in the first place.
There are some moments of genius - the opening “Survival”, in one fell swoop, kills the doom and gloom of the preceding album, even though the lyrics directly reference those “troublesome” years, whilst the funky strut of lead single “Secret” effectively overshadows every act that had influenced Madonna on this record, grooving as it does with a vibrant aura that puts the like of En Vogue in the shade. The amount of reverb on “Inside Of Me” sounds like it’s been produced by The Flaming Lips and Jeff Lynne at the same time, whilst the Bjork written “Bedtime Story” is as weird, awkward and angular as you’d think a Bjork written Madonna song would sound like, all bubbling keyboard rumbles and echoey vocal affects.
Again, it’s an LP that has it’s faults. I have never cared a great deal for the “will this do?” R&B sludge of “Human Nature”, written as an attack on Madonna’s critics after the “Sex” debacle, and thus held up by her hardcore fan base as “her song about defeating the haters”. But it simply ain't “Borderline” though, and that I am afraid, is a fact - I don’t care what the song is about, it sounds worryingly like R Kelly. Strangely, for an album designed to slay the ghost of “Erotica”, the expletives on this song meant this was the first time Madonna had ever sworn on one of her studio efforts - and this is supposed to be her lovey dovey romance album! Still, she returns to slushy genius as side 2 progresses, and the album climaxes with the faultless “Take A Bow”, a beautiful, lighters in the air piece of majestic baroque pop, which although a flop in the UK singles chart - but a mega hit in the US - remains a stunning finale to the album, a genuinely gorgeous listen, and a sign that Madonna was not prepared to give up her crown just yet. It is, simply, a work of utter pop perfection, capable of melting the hardest of hearts, five minutes of flawless heart-tugging beauty.
Critics were divided. Some claimed it was an astonishing return to form, others thought that by making an R&B record, Madonna ended up selling herself short. But I guess it’s her own “Young Americans” - she never made another album like it, and didn’t need to - in the space of just 50 minutes, she had outshone much of the new wave of R&B singers, the likes of Jodeci just weren’t capable of music this good. In, out, job done.
The cover art chaos of “Bedtime Stories” has gone down in legend. The artwork consisted of photographs taken by fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier, and the back cover photo was of Madonna lying on a bed, as the camera sort of “loomed down” on her from behind. For the front cover, a similar - but heavily zoomed in - image was to be used. Because Madonna was looking over her shoulder at the camera, she was thus upside down. When this image was submitted, it was assumed it was the wrong way round, and initial copies of the album saw the photo spun through 180 degrees - so that Madonna was looking at the camera “properly”. That was until somebody told the powers that be that the photo, of course, was SUPPOSED to look like it was upside down, and selected repressings later used the correct “wrong way round” image.
The CD edition was the first Madonna album to be housed in a non-standard coloured CD tray - the bog standard black casing was replaced by one which was sky blue in colour, which helped to make the record “look” soft and warm, to match the cuddly sounds contained within. It was issued in the UK on CD, Tape and LP, all using the now “Europe-wide” generic numeric cataloguing system. As such, there are no “genuine” UK pressings, whilst the vinyl edition seemingly came and went whilst no-one was looking, and copies now sell for inflated prices.
There was a plan for a 2012 vinyl reissue, and some websites even listed the alleged new catalogue number that was allocated to it, but the release never went ahead. As I type this, I am unaware of even anything like a test pressing surfacing, much to the chagrin of those who wanted it on vinyl because of the rarity of the 1994 original. The “Complete” CD boxset includes the record, where it appears in it’s “correctly printed upside down” cover photo.
Bedtime Stories (LP, Maverick 9362-45767-1)
Bedtime Stories (Cassette, Maverick 9362-45767-4)
Bedtime Stories (CD, Maverick 9362-45767-2)
Something To Remember
Designed to sit along “Bedtime Stories” as another reminder of Madonna’s more romantic side, this collection of ballads was mostly a set of oldies, with a couple of new songs tagged on. But some of the older songs were mini-rarities in themselves, and as such, “Something To Remember” is quite an interesting mopping up exercise, even if it’s relentlessly sluggish pace shows that Madonna was probably better at making upbeat music overall - by the time it hits the one hour mark, you may find yourself just wanting a quick “Into The Groove” to liven things up a bit.
14 tunes made the set. Although four of these were billed as being brand new, this wasn’t quite true - the opening and closing numbers were different versions of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You”, which Madonna had recorded with miserable sounding Bristol trip-hoppers Massive Attack for a Marvin tribute album issued a few weeks previous called “Inner City Blues”. The only two genuinely new songs were “You’ll See”, a quite pleasant but slightly bombastic pop track which veers worryingly close to Celine Dion territory, and “One More Chance”, a fairly OK acoustic strum, which would have made a great B-side, but was actually later issued as a single in the UK, making it one of Madonna’s more underwhelming 45’s.
“I Want You” was originally going to be the album’s first single - a video was filmed - before legal wrangling got in the way. This is a shame, because it’s an astonishing piece of work, starting off as a minimalist, eerie, and quiet little number, before slowly and slowly building into something approaching absolutely epic status. You just need to hear it, I really can’t describe it well enough to fully do it justice. It really is quite astounding. But after Motown put obstacles in the way thus preventing it‘s release on 45, it was “You’ll See” that turned up as the first single from the record, complete with a “follow up” video to “Take A Bow”.
A lot of the album consisted of material that had never actually made it onto a Madonna studio album before - recent 45’s “This Used To Be My Playground” and “I’ll Remember”, early period ones like “Crazy For You”, whilst 1984’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” appeared in remixed form. The version of “Oh Father” was the US Video mix, the opening nano-seconds differing from the original album mix found on “Like A Prayer”, but in all honesty, barely noticeable. It has to be said, despite being a ballad overload album, that some genuine classics did make the set, with “Oh Father” also being joined by 1986’s game-changing “Live To Tell”.
In total, the amount of “album mixes of album tracks” came to no more than about twenty five minutes worth of material, meaning that this album does actually offer quite a bit of VFM, as the overall running time just tipped over the 71-minute mark. Incredibly, the vinyl edition of the record was pressed on just a single slab of vinyl - surely the lengthiest LP ever to be shoehorned onto just two sides of an album? As per “Bedtime Stories”, the (relatively few) copies sold in the UK were technically German imports, and it was the Cassette and CD editions that were more commonly found.
The album came with some brief sleevenotes from M herself, explaining the thought process behind the record. Furthermore, it’s release seemed to coincide with Madonna turning her attention back towards music in a far greater manner than ever before - having seemed distant and unobtainable during the previous decade, she turned up on “Top Of The Pops” to plug “You’ll See”, and the whole project did seem to refocus attention on Madonna the singer, rather than Madonna the kinky dominatrix.
I am not really sure why 2013 saw a vinyl repressing of this album - had “Bedtime Stories” got it’s planned reissue, then it would simply have been Rhino doing the next in line - but for whatever reason, it exists. It has been pressed on 180g vinyl, but the album is still a single LP, meaning that whatever improvement in sound quality you might have got from a heavier slab of vinyl, is thus negated by the extreme groove cramming this record consists of. It’s quite a nice thing to look at though, even if it does seem utterly pointless. My copy is still sealed up.
Something To Remember (LP, Maverick 9362-46100-1)
Something To Remember (Cassette, Maverick 9362-46100-4)
Something To Remember (CD, Maverick 9362-46100-2)
Something To Remember (LP, 2013 reissue in stickered p/s, Rhino 8122-79639-6)
Saturday, 15 February 2014
The February 2014 blogs feature a look at All Saints, The Charlatans up until 2003, and part 2 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.
"A few questions that I need to know"
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
And so, for the second time, All Saints are back. The 90’s “cool” version of the Spice Girls, the band are heading out on tour with Backstreet Boys having seen their mid-noughties comeback collapse amidst so-so reviews and public disinterest. It’s difficult to know what the motivation behind this latest reformation is, given that Melanie Blatt has admitted she got involved in the last reunion purely for the money, so we shall have to wait and see what comes next.
The original incarnation of the band was put together in 1993, a trio consisting of Blatt, Shaznay Lewis and Simone Rainford. They signed to ZTT Records and went under the slightly messy moniker of “All Saints 184.108.40.206”, as all three girls had been born in 1975. Their debut single, a cover of Atlantic Starr’s “Silver Shadow”, appeared in 1995, but this was the post-grunge Britpop years, and radio was not interested. The single flopped.
A follow up single was recorded by the trio, variously known as “If You Wanna Party (I Found Lovin’)” or “Let’s Get Started”, but by the time it was ready for release, Rainford had decided to quit the band. Thus, it was a duo of Lewis and Blatt that adorned it’s front cover when released later the same year, but this one too fell on deaf ears.
In 1996, the group was expanded to a four piece when family connections put Blatt in touch with Canadian sisters Natalie and Nicole Appleton, and they were invited into the fold. They signed a deal with London Records, and released their next single in the summer of 1997. “I Know Where It’s At” was a perfect showcase of the band’s urban-pop sound, and the label’s PR department must have known what they were doing, as the group became inescapable on TV and Radio. Now renamed to the snappier “All Saints”, the single went top 10, and it was the start of a continuous run of hit records.
The band’s self titled debut LP was preceded by what is probably the band’s signature tune, “Never Ever”, which opened with an almost Shangri-La’s style spoken word intro, before settling down in a laid back R&B groove. It was an enormous hit, and set the band up well for the release of their first LP, a self titled affair which was released in late November, and eventually went top five early the next year. The LP was the subject of mixed reviews - the cool kids liked their funky sound and style, which was felt to be more grown up than the teenybop image the Spice Girls were projecting, but some critics felt this almost anti-pop vibe worked against them on some of the album tracks. The group also came in for some stick for covering “Under The Bridge”, with many wondering how the band could consider singing a song about drug addiction when none of them were drug addicts.
The album was re-released again in 1998. If my memory serves me correctly, several songs were revealed to have included uncleared samples, and a new version of the album was issued with the offending bits removed. “Let’s Get Started” appeared under it’s alternate title, whilst “Lady Marmalade” was listed as being a “98 Remix”. The bonus remix of “Never Ever” which closed the album was changed as well, the “Nice Hat” mix being replaced by the “All Star Remix”. In the credits, “Trapped“ and “Beg” now had a publishing date of 1998, suggesting they were the main songs being ’reworked’ for the reissue.
The singles continued to hit the higher echelons of the charts, with the multi formatting of each of them undoubtedly helping to do this. The double A of the two covers on the album appeared next, followed by “Bootie Call”, an almost R Kelly like piece of strutting soul. A non chart eligible 12” in a unique cover appeared for the collectors. The wistful “War Of Nerves” was issued in late 1998 as the final single from the record, and was followed in December by “The Remix Album”, a 70-minute long continuous mix of All Saints hits. Some were new mixes, some were old, but the single-song structure meant that, effectively, everything on here was brand new material. The two albums were later included in a nifty boxset which also included a VHS called “The Videos”, a compilation of the band’s official post-1995 promos to date, and a few “live at MTV” performances, along with a nice 12” square booklet. It simply seems to also be called just “All Saints” but was referred to, at the time, as the “Xmas Gift Box”.
After all this activity, the band went away to recharge the batteries and begin work on a new album. The first fruits of their labours were seen in the early part of 2000, when a track recorded for the soundtrack to the movie “The Beach” appeared as their next single. “Pure Shores”, produced by William Orbit, was thus a world away from their new-jack-swing inspired debut album, a lovely, ambient piece of pop, with lots of odd keyboard noises, and more of a “pop” vibe than any of the singles that had come before. It went straight into the charts at number one, and with the Geri-less Spice Girls now starting to lose momentum, it suggested that All Saints were now about to steal their pop crown.
Another excellent piece of Orbit helmed future-dreampop, “Black Coffee”, turned up as the next single in late 2000 - and again hit the top spot. It was followed a fortnight later by the “Saints And Sinners” album, initial CD copies of which saw the digipack album tucked into a slightly pointless, but sparkly, pink slipcase. The album hit the top spot, but the excited reviews for the singles weren’t carried across, and critics were again divided. A third single from the album, “All Hooked Up”, also dented the top 10 early the next year.
But trouble was on the horizon. Newspaper reports at the time reported that the band had split up due to in fighting, and the group did indeed announce a hiatus. Lewis later claimed the band had a fight over who should be wearing what for a photoshoot, and it was the final straw. A compilation album titled “All Hits” appeared on London late in 2001, bolstered by a record Blatt had recorded with Artful Dodger in the summer, “Twenty Four Seven”, one of a number of dance collaborations Blatt had completed during her time with the band. Limited edition copies of the album included a free DVD with the promo videos on as well.
In the years that followed, the band had mixed fortunes. Although seen as the “talentless” ones in the group, Nic and Nat had the most high profile post-All Saints career, when, as Appleton, their “Everything’s Eventual” album did quite well in the charts. This was not the first time they had recorded outside of the All Saints set up, as they - and Blatt - had starred in a movie in 2000 called “Honest”, and all three of the girls got to sing a solo tune each for the soundtrack. Blatt’s solo career never got off the ground, she released her first “proper” single, the excellent “Do Me Wrong”, in 2003, but after it failed to the hit the top 10, she was dropped by her label, and the planned album was abandoned. Lewis also managed a solo album in 2004.
And then, come 2006, All Saints decided to make a comeback. They signed to Parlophone and released their first single for well over five years towards the end of the year, “Rock Steady”. It dented the upper reaches of the charts, and All Saints were well and truly back. Or at least, that’s how it seemed. The following new studio album, “Studio 1”, despite being tipped as a big selling chart topper, didn’t do a great deal, despite being issued as a limited edition double disc release with a free DVD including exclusive footage and extra audio material. It only just about got into the top 40, and was the subject of mixed reviews once more. A planned second single, “Chick Fit, was relegated to a download only release and the band seemed to just disappear from view. I have no recollection of them ever calling it a day, but Blatt was later quoted in interviews as referring to the band in the past tense.
As I type this, I am still not sure if the return is going to herald a new album, or if this is a cashing in, retro style, jaunt around the UK - after all, everybody else has been at it the last few years (remember when bands used to reform and it used to be exciting, because they had been AWOL for twenty five years?). The band have been quoted as planning on playing a "hits heavy" set only, with no new material. Time will tell.
The albums list is based on initial pressings, and any important repressings. The singles are more or less everything on every format, as rarely did the girls ever release a “pointless” single. It is worth pointing out that, being of both a dancey persuasion and popular overseas, multiple promos and variant editions of most of these things exist which may be of interest to completists, and although slightly outside the remit of this article, I have listed a few odds and sods from my own collection at the end.
All Saints (CD, London 828979-2)
All Saints (CD, 1998 reissue, London 556 004 2, later included in “Xmas Gift Box“ release with new catalogue number [556 017 2])
The Remix Album (CD, London 556 063-2)
Saints And Sinners (CD, London 8573 85295 5, in slipcase)
All Hits (CD+DVD, London 0927 42151 2)
Studio 1 (CD+DVD, Parlophone 378 4442)
Pure Shores: The Very Best Of (2xCD, Music Club Deluxe MCDLX 503)
Silver Shadow (7” Edit)/(UK Swing One)/(Club Sax)/(Jungle)/(Bogle Dub)/(Rare Groove) (CD, ZTT ZANG 53 CD)
Silver Shadow (Shadow 94)/(UK Swing One)/(Club Sax)/(Jungle)/(Underground Mix)/(Rap Dub) (12”, ZTT ZANG 53 T)
If You Wanna Party/Let’s Get Started (Full Krew Mix)/(Classic Paradise Club Mix)/(RnB Edit) (CD, ZTT ZANG 71 CD)
Let’s Get Started (Classic Paradise Club Mix)/If You Wanna Party (Gyro Disney Mix)/Let’s Get Started (Full Krew Mix)/(RnB Edit) (12”, ZTT ZANG 71 T)
I Know Where It’s At (Cutfather And Jo’s Alternative Mix - Radio)/(Original Radio Mix)/(Cutfather And Jo’s Alternative Mix)/(Original Mix) (CD1, London LONCD 398)
I Know Where It’s At (K Gee’s Bounce Mix)/(Nu Birth Riddum Dub)/(Colour System Inc. Vox)/Alone (CD2, London LOCDP 398, unique p/s)
Never Ever (Radio Version)/(Nice Hat Mix)/I Remember (CD1, London LONCD 407)
Never Ever (Radio Version)/(Booker T’s Vocal Mix)/(Booker T’s Down South Dub)/(Booker T’s Up North Dub) (CD2, London LOCDP 407, unique p/s + poster)
Never Ever (Radio Version)/I Remember (Cassette, London LONCS 407)
Never Ever (All Star Remix)/(Booker T’s Vocal Mix) (12”, London LONX 407, unique “titles” p/s)
Under The Bridge/Lady Marmalade (98 Mix)/No More Lies (98)/Lady Marmalade (Henry & Hayne’s La Jam Mix) (CD1, London LONCD 408)
Lady Marmalade (MARK!’s Miami Madness Mix)/(Sharp South Park Vocal Remix)/Under The Bridge (Ignorants Remix)/Get Bizzy (CD2, London LOCDP 408, stickered p/s + poster)
Under The Bridge (Album Version)/(K Gee’s 98 Mix)/Lady Marmalade (98 Mix)/(MARK!’s Miami Madness Edit) (Cassette, London LONCS 408)
Under The Bridge (Album Version)/(Ignorants Remix)/(K Gee’s 97 Mix)/(K Gee’s 98 Mix)/Lady Marmalade (MARK!’s Miami Madness Mix Unedited Version)/(MARK!’s Wrecked Dub)/(Sharp South Park Vocal Remix)/(Sharp’s Trade Lite Dub) (2x12”, London LONX 408, unique “titles” p/s)
Bootie Call (Single Version)/(98 - The Director’s Kutt)/Get Down (CD1, London LONCD 415)
Bootie Call (Single Version)/Never Ever (Booker T’s Vocal Mix)/I Know Where It’s At (Original Mix) (CD2, London LOCDP 415, slightly different sleeve with 4 postcards)
Bootie Call (Single Version)/(Club Asylum Skank Vocal Mix) (Cassette, LONCS 415)
Bootie Call (Album Version)/(98 - The Director’s Kutt)/(Club Asylum Boogie Punk Dub)/(Dreem Team Vocal) (12”, London LONX 415, unique p/s)
War Of Nerves (98 Remix)/Inside/War Of Nerves (Ganja Kru Dub) (CD1, London LONCD 421, black and white p/s)
War Of Nerves (98 Remix)/Always Something There To Remind Me (Live on The Burt Bacharach TV Show)/Never Ever (CD2, London LOCDP 421, with poster)
War Of Nerves (98 Remix - TV Version)/Inside (Cassette, London LONCS 421)
Pure Shores/If You Don’t Know What I Know/Pure Shores (The Beach Life Mix) (CD1, London LONCD 444)
Pure Shores (Original)/(2 Da Beach U Don’t Stop Remix)/(Cosmos Remix) (CD2, London LOCDP 444, green p/s + poster)
Pure Shores/If You Don’t Know What I Know/Pure Shores (The Beach Life Mix) (Cassette, London LONCS 444)
Pure Shores (Cosmos Remix)/(2 Da Beach U Don’t Stop Remix)/(Original)/(Instrumental) (12”, London LONX 444, unique “titles” p/s)
Black Coffee/I Don’t Wanna Be Alone/Black Coffee (ATFC’s Freshly Ground Vocal) (CD1, London LONCD 454)
Black Coffee (LP Version)/(The Neptunes Remix)/(The Wideboys Espresso Mix) (CD2, London LOCDP 454, different p/s + 4 postcards)
Black Coffee/I Don’t Wanna Be Alone/Black Coffee (ATFC’s Freshly Ground Vocal) (Cassette, London LONCS 454)
Black Coffee (ATFC’s Freshly Ground Vocal)/(The Neptunes Remix)/(The Wideboys Espresso Mix)/(Shadow Snipers Vocal Mix) (12”, London LONX 454)
All Hooked Up (Single Version)/(Architechs Vocal)/(K Gee Remix Edit) (CD1, London LONCD 456)
All Hooked Up (Single Version)/Black Coffee (Version 2)/Never Ever/All Hooked Up (Video) (CD2, London LOCDP 456, unique p/s)
Rock Steady/Dope Noize (CD1, Parlophone CDR 6726)
Rock Steady/Do Me/Rock Steady (Calvin Harris Remix)/(Video) (CD2, Parlophone CDRS 6726, different p/s)
Rock Steady (Album Mix)/(Calvin Harris Remix)/(MSTRKRFT Edition) (12” Picture Disc, Parlophone 12R 6726)
I Know Where It’s At (Cutfather And Jo’s Alternative Mix)/(Original Mix)/(K Gee’s Bounce Mix)/(K Gee’s Bounce Instrumental) (12” Promo, London RED1, similar sleeve to CD2, a “BLUE1” promo also exists)
Never Ever (Radio Version)/(All Star Mix)/(All Star “No Rap” Mix)/(Booker T’s Vocal Mix)/(Booker T’s Up North Dub) (German CD, London 570 083-2, track 3 never issued in UK)
All Saints (Japanese CD, London POCD-1260, unique sleeve, totally different track listing to UK edition and with unique mixes of certain tracks)
Chick Fit (Promo Only CD, Parlophone SAINTS 003)
Sunday, 2 February 2014
If you want somebody to blame for the current, money grabbing shenanigans of the record companies, then the inventor of the 12” single is who you need to vent your anger at. Although we had different formats before then, the 12” soon found itself being appropriated by the record companies for potential chart assaults. With the 78 or the Cassette album, these releases were used to give the consumer a choice of playing format upon which to buy the latest release. 78s, before their demise, mirrored what was on the 45, and during the 1970s, Cassette albums did nothing more than include what was on the accompanying LP release, albeit with a sometimes altered track listing (see The Beatles' “Revolver“). The EP, meanwhile, was in fact an independent format that existed alongside it’s 7” cousins, most EPs either dealing with exclusive material for the hardcore fans to seek out, or cobbled together older hits into one place, for anybody who had not bothered to buy those earlier single releases. In all of these cases, the “second” format was never really in competition with the first, other than to offer the consumer an element of choice, without ever really getting in the way.
The 12” did, to be fair, start like that. It began it’s life in the disco scene of the mid to late 70s, with it’s extended playing time offering something the 7” single could rarely match. But by the time the mainstream labels got their hands on it, it soon became used as a tool to help the labels improve their chart positions via “legal“ chart rigging, as 7” and 12” singles began to get issued with alternate track listings, thus ensuring the completists had to own both versions. It set in motion the multi formatting madness that populated the 80s and 90s singles charts, especially by artists such as Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who issued more or less every single on as many different versions as they could think of. In some respects, you could argue, that the greed shown by the labels, the decision to try and get the population to buy the same single time and time again, eventually infuriated the record buying public so much, that the death of the physical single came about through the industry’s financially driven disdain towards it’s consumers.
How did this happen? Where did it all start? Well, legend goes that in the 1970s, a request for a test pressing of a 7” single by disco mixer Tom Moulton, caused some issues, because there were no spare 7” acetates laying around to be used for the purpose. There was, however, a 10” disc, and the record was duly pressed. However, Moulton thought that the idea of a big record with an inch wide set of grooves, and a far bigger run out section looked odd, and asked for another copy to be made with the grooves spread out, so that it looked more like a standard single. Upon doing so, it was realised that the “un-cramming” of the grooves gave the record a better dynamic range, perfect for airing in the disco environment. And so it was that the idea was extended - the 12” single was basically a record the size of an LP, but played at the same speed as a 7”, 45rpm. Depending on how much the grooves were or weren’t crammed together, determined how long the single would last, but generally, a 12” could fit ten minutes of music on each side quite easily. Disco producers began to make songs that were designed to “fill up” the vinyl, and the 12” single was born.
The mainstream soon became fascinated by the format, and regular rock and pop singles began appearing on the format. Leading the charge were Blondie, who issued several of their early period singles on the format in the UK, such as 1977‘s “Rip Her To Shreds“ and 1978‘s “Denis“. In each instance, the track listing was identical to the accompanying 7”, meaning that the 12” editions had been pressed simply for fun - or perhaps were designed for the benefits of the teenage boys who would get to look at a bigger picture of Debbie Harry on it’s cover than if they had bought it on 7”. The “dynamic range” benefits were probably not really a factor. But by 1978, Blondie were interested not just in the 12” format itself, but the disco origins of it, and were starting to write songs that were heavily indebted to the disco scene. In late 1978 they promptly issued a 12” of “Heart Of Glass” which included a special six minute extended remix on the A-side. Things were about to change forever.
The ownership of the 12” by the mainstream opened up multiple possibilities. For any acts who did NOT claim to have always had a dance element to their sound, the 12” was a perfect excuse to resurrect the spirit of the maxi single, or the EP, and some acts began to release bonus tracks on the 12” edition of their latest single, albeit at a price. You would pay, say, 99p for the 2-track 7” or £1.49 for a 12” that added a third track (see The Cure‘s 1981 single “Charlotte Sometimes“). The “floating voters” would go for the 7”, just to get the hit they had heard on the radio in the form they had heard it on the radio, and at minimum price, and the hardcore would shell out extra for the 12” to get all the new songs - this would soon become industry standard.
For the pop acts that did claim to be inspired by dance music, even if only very briefly, the 12” was used as an opportunity to do, usually, one of two things - a maxi single where the a-side mix was also extended alongside the inclusion of 12“ only b-sides (such as Siouxsie And The Banshees’ “Spellbound”) or the 12” was used as an alternate format, where the all of tracks from the 7” were left off completely in order to take full advantage of the new fangled format. If the 7” included album tracks on either side of the disc, this was not an issue, but some acts would have a “radio remix” done of their latest hit, which would be used for the a-side of the 7” but completely left off the 12” (see Madonna’s 1985 hit "Angel", or 1986's “Open Your Heart”). When The Stranglers released the stand alone 45 “Bear Cage” in 1980, never to be included on a studio album until it appeared as a CD bonus track many years later, a 12” was also released featuring extended mixes of both sides of the single, and nothing else, meaning completists had no choice but to buy the same single on both of the available formats in order to get all of the band’s “new” material. This would be the sort of approach that would be pushed to it’s limits throughout the rest of the decade. Strangely, when The Jam hit the top spot in 1982 with “Town Called Malice”, another single available on both 7” and 12” in different covers, the group and their label, Polydor, were accused of “fixing” the charts via this approach - both by industry players and associates of The Stranglers themselves, as the band’s very own “Golden Brown” was being held off the top spot by Weller and Co!
The 12” became so associated with the pop mainstream by the mid 1980s that the concept of the “extended dance mix” also became an industry standard - acts who seemingly would never have gone near a club in their life, watched as their latest single was remixed into a lengthy, often messy, eight minute long funk workout, seemingly for no other reason than to take advantage of the extra playing time that a 12” gave them over a 7”. What started off as maybe an oddball, occasional, obsession (The Stranglers abandoned the concept for some years after “Bear Cage”) soon became a must-do event. You name it, just about everybody went down the 12” dance mix route in the eighties, with everyone from Status Quo and Elton John to The Clash and David Bowie being the recipients of shape throwing dance revamps on the a-side of their latest single. For acts who survived long enough to witness the demise of the format, and with it, the generic 12” mix, these old dance mixes now look like bizarre relics of a bygone era.
The size of the 12” also allowed for an element of clever-clever design advantages over the 7”. Not only were numerous 12” singles pressed as picture discs (as were 7“ singles), but the sheer size was perfect for including things like free posters, and the likes of Madonna again saw virtually every one of their 12” releases coming with such freebies in the years between 1984 and 1992. With the emergence also of the shaped picture disc, singles were able to appear on multiple variant vinyl editions, although usually, the track listings of most mirrored what could actually be found on one of the other formats. You still generally had, at most, a standard 7” track listing and a standard 12” one, it was just you might get the same track listings on two or three different formats apiece.
As the eighties progressed, the world of remixing got more complex, and many acts saw their latest efforts being revamped, in different forms, by different remixers. But chart rules in the UK at that time meant that a single could last no longer than 20 minutes, so some acts got round this by issuing two different 12” singles, with the first lot of remixes on one 12”, and the second lot on another - see 1990‘s “So Hard” by Pet Shop Boys for starters. With seemingly no obvious restrictions on the number of formats you could have, acts often issued the same single in different sleeve designs as well, to try and get the fans to buy the same thing multiple times. In the case of the PSB’s, for example, it was not unknown for some copies of their latest single to appear in one sleeve showing Neil on the cover, and another with Chris (see 1988’s “Heart”). With the Cassette and Compact Disc formats also starting to become popular at the end of the 1980s as well, acts at times were coming close to releasing just shy of eight or nine formats per single, a slightly ludicrous situation that never quite got that ridiculous with the album formats.
The 12” began to lose it’s grip on the format wars in the early part of the 1990s. Mainly because the CD was starting to become the format of choice across the industry, as vinyl, in general, began to be seen as a slightly archaic, and sometimes unreliable, format. The CD single, quite simply, could do everything the 12” did and more, and usually without skipping or getting stuck, and given that the 12” still had those dance music connotations attached to it, acts who had used it purely for the EP stylings it offered, simply transferred their affections to the CD - it was more “middle class” I guess, the format beloved by the Yuppies, and so a new Julia Fordham single would be more suited to a CD edition than a 12”. As the restrictions on the number of formats allowed started to get reduced bit by bit as the decade progressed, vinyl began to get marginalised, and it was the 12” that failed to fully survive. It had received a bit of an overhaul in 1992, when the chart rules allowed for both 12” and CD singles to have a running time of up to 40 minutes, as long as the single included no more than six remixes of the same song (no B-sides allowed). But pop groups like The Spice Girls started to gravitate towards the CD and the Cassette, the consensus was that their young fan base wouldn’t even OWN a record deck let alone be interested in the format (although the debut Spice LP appeared on vinyl, possibly as a nod in part to the strand of their more mature fan base, such as me!) and the bands and singers who had been forced to move with the times and go down the “dance mix” route, simply moved with the times again and walked away, by reverting to issuing EP’s or Maxi Singles on CD with an A-side, and two or three new B-sides, by the middle of the decade. Elton dance mixes became virtually non existent as the millennium approached.
By the late 90s, vinyl made something of a minor comeback, usually as part of a quirky collectible style release, and although the dance/pop crossover acts like Madonna and Depeche Mode continued to adopt the 12” format for their own means, the resurgence in popularity of the 7” overwhelmed it, the amount of indie bands heading down the seven inch route simply outnumbered the amount of pop and electronic acts who continued to indulge in the world of the remix, and 7” releases by the early noughties were far outweighing the amount of 12” pressings, at least within the mainstream. 7” singles had a cool factor to them that the 12” didn’t. A lot of mainstream acts simply ignored both, as neither format really met with their desires, with the likes of Bowie and Suede both issuing singles on multiple CD editions on occasions in the latter part of the decade and the start of the 2000s, with no vinyl pressings at all for said single releases. In the end, the cost grounds attached to the creation of physical singles in general post-iTunes made even the 7” an extortionate format by 2010, so any 12” singles that were being pressed were thus even more expensive, with price tags not far off the £9.99 mark at times. The same old names continued to try and keep the format going, and even the likes of Paul Weller stepped in at times to remind people of their soul and funk credentials by issuing the occasional release on 12” only, but really, the format had reverted back to it’s roots - most releases were by pure dance acts, and the mainstream pop acts that had jumped on the bandwagon in the early 80s had long since jumped back off again. Even The Mode’s 2009 single “Peace” failed to get a 12” release, appearing instead on 7” and CD formats only, a sign that the 12” had more or less gone underground again. Madonna’s “Celebration” from the same year was on Picture Disc only, offering up selected highlights from the CD edition, and was thus aimed purely at the fanboys and nobody else. The 12” had become a cult.
But the format by this time had already made it’s mark. The sheer lunacy of multi formatting in the UK singles charts had been established by the turn of the century, and even as the 12” began to fall by the wayside, at least as regards the non-dance acts, the concept of multiple formats per single was now par for the course. Even today, there are still a few bands sticking by the multi formats approach, something that would not have started without the invention of the 12”. But it was really the use of the Cassette and CD formats that helped take it to the next level, both in the album and singles charts, and we shall look at quite what happened as the 1990s approached next month.
Saturday, 1 February 2014
A few months back, I had a pop at Girls Aloud for throwing in the towel after just a decade in the business. To be fair to them, they are not the only ones. I have lost track of the number of indie bands who were dropped by their label, and promptly split up due to “money issues” and “musical differences”. Now, I have never been in a band, so I can’t comment on how much of a setback being kicked off a label can be, or how much of a financial loss some groups may operate at, but still, you hear about how people who wanted to be rock stars all their lives, only for them to be running their own roofing firm when it all goes pear shaped ten years later. I struggle to understand how or why this happens.
Praise be then for The Charlatans (UK). Despite having lost not one but two band members in tragic and fatal circumstances, this year marks the 25th anniversary of their debut home made demo cassette, which in indie rock terms, is really quite a remarkable achievement. Although, and this is an often overlooked fact, the only member now remaining from the original lineup is bass player Martin Blunt. And you just thought it was the oldies on the “Golden 60s” tours who kept going in that manner.
The Charlatans story is quite a complex one, and so I thought we would cover the first half of their career only in this blog. 2003 may seem like a random cut off point, but the previous year had seen the band’s then current and former labels issue between them three releases, which all had a slightly “retro” feel to them. Anybody not in the know might have assumed the band were about to switch labels, or split up, but no, they simply just carried on, returning with a new album in 2004.
Although the band came to prominence as part of the Madchester Baggy scene, the band actually had their origins in the West Midlands. The earliest incarnation of the group was put together during 1988, with Blunt joined by guitarist/vocalist Baz Ketley, keyboard player Rob Collins and drummer Jon Brookes. There was a feeling that Ketley wasn’t quite suited to the band, but before anybody had the chance to ask him to leave, he actually made his own decision to quit. He was replaced by Tim Burgess as the band’s new singer, and guitarist Jon Day. The band relocated to Burgess’s hometown of Northwich, and as their HQ was set up in the town, this became seen to be their home location - and given it was nearer to Manchester than it was the Midlands, that - and their early Stone Roses-esque dance inspired sound - helped to get them that “Madchester” tag.
The band formed their own label, Dead Dead Good, and in October 1989, released a three track tape of demos called “October 89”. All three songs would be featured, sometimes in re-recorded form, on some of the band’s earliest commercially available releases. Soon after, the band got themselves a distribution deal with Revolver, and released their debut single, “Indian Rope”, in early 1990. Possibly as a nod to the shuffling, Happy Mondays style rhythms the single inhabited, it was issued on a dance floor friendly 12” only with two extra b-sides, including “You Can Talk To Me” from the demo cassette. Once the band found fame and fortune later the same year, the single was reissued with a slightly revamped catalogue number on both 12” and CD.
The single caught the attention of indie label Beggars Banquet, who signed the band to their Situation Two offshoot. Their next single catapulted them into the charts - “The Only One I Know” was a classic, organ driven, indie disco stomper, and became the sound of 1990 alongside “This Is How It Feels” and “Step On”. The b-sides included on some formats “Imperial 109”, half of a much longer song called “109“ (the second half appeared on the debut LP) and, on the CD only, a BBC Radio Session version of “You Can Talk To Me”. Follow up single “Then” appeared in September, another glorious organ driven groove, with Burgess’s little-boy-lost vocals complementing the fuzzy rumble of the track. The b-side was a new song called “Taurus Moaner”, and alternate versions of both songs were used to pad out the various formats of the single.
“Some Friendly”, the band’s first album, followed soon after. It’s a magnificent beast of an album, the only flaw being that as the album progresses, a slight feeling of déjà vu begins to trickle in during the second half of the album, and you begin to struggle to remember which song is which. Although the band were later known to comment about the overproduced sound of the album, with the bass buried in the mix and the sound described as “thin”, this actually helped to bring it’s dance-y elements to the fore. The album climaxed with the monumental “Sproston Green”, even now a regular gig closer, where the growling bass intro and organ fuelled finale are often extended to their limits on stage, taking the five minute original to a length usually double that time.
The vinyl edition, for some reason, was housed in a white outer PVC sleeve. Why, I don’t know. In addition to this, “The Only One I Know” was dropped from the vinyl version, partly due to space constraints but also because the band only wanted to “release one single from each album”, conveniently forgetting that it was on the CD edition. Their next album would also spawn two singles.
With the band seemingly on a bit of a roll, new material surfaced in 1991 with the “Over Rising” single, issued on some formats as a 4 track EP including three more new songs. “Happen To Die” was edited down for inclusion on the single from the original recording, whilst “Opportunity Three” was a remix of album track “Opportunity”. It was also the last release to feature Jon Day, who left soon after, and was replaced by Mark Collins, who turned up thinking the band had wanted a second guitarist, unaware that he was actually being asked to join as Day’s replacement. All of the tracks from the EP are on the 2010 expanded edition of the debut LP, although the version of “Happen To Die” is the unedited mix, which first appeared as a B-side later on in 1992.
The first material on which Mark featured was 1991’s “Me In Time”, a now nearly forgotten single from November, which again, the band have been less than complimentary about in subsequent years (although it has been played on stage in recent times). The 12” and CD included “Subtitle”, an alternate version of which would appear on their next studio album, 1992’s “Between 10th And 11th”. This album, another one of those that sometimes feels at times underwhelming, and slightly hampered by ’second album syndrome’, was nonetheless trailed by the remarkable “Weirdo” 45 in the spring of 1992, all juttering keyboard stabs, and funky as funk drumming. A “US Version” of “Sproston Green” adorned several editions of the single as a B-side.
The band’s first real venture into the world of multi formatting occurred that summer, when single number 2 from the record, a remixed “Tremelo Song”, appeared as the band’s next 45. Two CD editions were issued, the first of which came in a gatefold sleeve designed to hold both discs. Disc 2 was subtitled “The Charlatans Live”, and featured three live recordings (including “Tremelo Song”) from a Manchester Apollo show in April 1992. This CD came in a different cover, and was issued in a simple card sleeve, albeit shrink-wrapped to a big white box - the idea was to put the gatefold single, and anything else you could squeeze in, inside the box. Despite this blatant attempt at chart rigging, the single stalled outside the top 40.
After the Rob Collins armed robbery fiasco in 93 (look it up on the net, not relevant to the story here), the band came back fighting in 1994 with the storming “Can’t Get Out Of Bed” single. This was the first of two releases to include free band postcards inside, with one in the 7” and one in the 12”. More were included in the brilliantly titled follow up CD Single “I Never Want An Easy Life If Me And He Were Ever To Get There”, more Hammond driven indie pop of the highest order. This one came housed in an oversized box, numbered, with the date of release and date of deletion printed inside the packaging - unsold copies were due to be pulled from the shops seven days after it’s release, seemingly another attempt to “hype” the single into the upper reaches of the top 40. It got to number 38. Despite having a catalogue number of BBQ31CD1, suggesting there was a second CD edition, there wasn’t, nor were there any other formats at all. A demo of “Can’t Get Out Of Bed” was one of three new B-sides.
“Up To Our Hips” is a pretty decent album, but still seems to hide slightly in the shadows of “Some Friendly”. What it does show is a band starting to move forwards - “Feel Flows” is an instrumental number, which sounds a bit like it would be used in the middle of a stakeout scene in “The Sweeney” if they redubbed one of the old shows with a new soundtrack. “Autograph” has a Dylan-esque vibe, something the band would take to extremes on later efforts, whilst third single, “Jesus Hairdo” is driven along by a noisy slide guitar vibe throughout. This one was issued, again, on multiple formats - two CD editions were released, one including BBC Session recordings on the “B-side”, which came housed in a green “The Charlatans Collection” box, designed to hold the CD edition of the album, the two “Jesus Hairdo” singles, the “Bed” CD and the “Easy Life” disc, even though that was already in it’s own box! Again, this bout of multi formatting did not result in a big hit single, and the band vowed to stop issuing multiple editions of their 45’s. This they mostly managed until they signed to a major in the late 90’s.
No sooner had the promo campaign for the record calmed down, than new material emerged in the form of zinging new 45 “Crashin’ In”, a magnificent statement of intent, all soaring guitars, pounding drums, and more keyboard wizardry. If you view the “Up To Our Hips” chart position of number 8 as a failure, then this was a real “comeback” single. It was a very early taster of their fourth album, nowhere near completion at this stage in the game, and not released until the late summer of 1995.
In the early summer of 1995, the band issued their first ever double-A, when “Just Lookin’” and “Bullet Comes” appeared as the next single, and the band headed out on tour to coincide. This was another sterling single, and suggested album number 4 was going to be a biggie. The early August release of “Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over” seemed to only confirm this, another Dylan sounding piece of masterful indie, a bit like Neil Young jamming with The Stranglers. 12” copies of the single included a remix of album opener “Nine Acre Court”, an alternate mix of which was later tossed away on a music magazine freebie cassette as well.
“The Charlatans”, issued on 28th August 1995, really did seem like the sign of a band ready to take on the world. From the decision to self title the album, to the printing of the song titles on the cover (just like they used to do on those Motown records in the 60s), it was brimming with confidence. “Here Comes A Soul Saver” even nicked a Pink Floyd riff, and the album ended with a magnificent piece of near-instrumental indie-funk called “Thank You”, a brilliantly high energy and interesting end to a great record. The band could not have known then, that even though the final song was not designed as any sort of farewell statement, it would be the last song that keyboardist Rob Collins would feature on on a new Charlatans record.
In 1996, with work at an advanced stage on album number five, Collins died in a car crash on July 22nd. Although there were some reports later on that Collins was on the verge of being fired from the band, the group had lined up shows for August, including a support slot at one of the Oasis uber-gigs at Knebworth Park. The band decided to carry on, and borrowed Primal Scream’s Martin Duffy for both this and their V96 show on August 18th. I was at the latter, and there was a real sense of triumph as the band decided to claw victory from the jaws of defeat, and put on a defiantly upbeat powerhouse of a show. Paul Weller, who had to follow them, seemed almost pedestrian by comparison.
Soon after, the first fruits of the next record emerged when the incendiary “One To Another” appeared as the next single. With a keyboard intro resembling the sound of a bomb dropping, and acid house inspired drum loops, this was even more of a “comeback” single than “Crashin’ In” had been. The history behind it’s creation added to the story of course, but even so, this was the sound of a group really coming out fighting.
With keyboard work on the album completed by Duffy, the band were now presenting themselves as a four piece - at least temporarily. The new album, “Tellin’ Stories”, was previewed in 1997 by the majestic “North Country Boy”, more Dylan meets the Stone Roses (albeit Stone Roses circa 1994), with a video just featuring the now reduced lineup - which I always find quite sad to watch whenever I see it. The title was partly nicked from Bob’s “Nashville Skyline” opener, “Girl From The North Country”.
The album is another glorious treat, and no less than four singles in total were eventually released from it - a far cry from when they wanted to only release one per album! “How High” is a raucous Oasis-like rush of guitars, the title track a majestic mini epic, which ends with a superb extended instrumental section, Brookes’ drumming driving the song along to it’s ending as Collins’ glorious guitar licks swerve in and out of the mix. In keeping with the theme of finishing their albums with notable closing pieces, this one ends with the simply titled “Rob’s Theme”. Despite the heartbreak that came with the making of this album, it seemed to take the band to a higher level of critical and commercial acclaim than ever before, and the band ended the year by headlining the Docklands Arena in London, where the band put on one of the best shows I ever saw them perform, climaxing with an incendiary “Sproston Green”. The album has also been the subject of an expanded reissue, from 2012.
The band’s tenure with Beggars was now at an end, and the band signed to major label MCA. To mark their departure, Beggars issued the “Melting Pot” best of set, mostly dealing in chronological order with the singles, but with some missing (“Indian Rope”) and B-sides and album tracks thrown into the mix instead (“Opportunity Three”, “Here Comes A Soul Saver”, etc). Unlike most major best of sets, there was no new material on here, and no singles were released to coincide. Vinyl copies were originally shrinkwrapped, and with nothing rare on the album, there was thus no reason to open them.
With touring keyboardist Tony Rogers now officially in situ as the band’s new fifth member, the band returned in 1999 with “Us And Us Only”, trailed by the remarkable “Forever” 45, a seven minute long keyboard driven epic, opening with a lengthy build up intro, and a song itself which builds and builds until it soars out of your speakers. It is possibly the best of all the band’s “comeback” singles, or at least, the most ambitious. The album itself saw the band mostly now well beyond their baggy routes, with the influence of Dylan all over the record. “Impossible” featured a harmonica solo which sounded like it had come straight off of “Blonde On Blonde”, whilst “A House Is Not A Home” seemed to have a riff borrowed straight off the ’Albert Hall’ version of “I Don’t Believe You”. The band’s dance background was revisited on “My Beautiful Friend”, which married country rock influences with electronic drum loops.
If you want proof that The Charlatans are a band to cherish, an indie band who went beyond just making a few good Britpop style albums, then 2001’s “Wonderland” should be the final bit of evidence you need. Burgess adopted a falsetto vocal for most of the album, whilst several of the songs, such as lead single “Love Is The Key”, featured a throng of female backing singers, resulting in numbers that sounded unlike anything the band had ever recorded. “A Man Needs To Be Told” was a glorious mix of Dylan inspired country-esque slide guitars, gospel vocals, and a shuffling almost return-to-baggy rhythm, before galloping into a final euphoric sprint to the finish. Despite the success of the album and the first two singles, a planned third single, “You’re So Pretty We’re So Pretty”, was pulled from the release schedules, and only appeared as a single when it was issued in revamped form in 2006 to help plug MCA’s “Forever” compilation.
In 2002, the band collaborated with their former label on a pair of retrospective releases. “Melting Pot” was reissued in a new sleeve, slightly retitled as “Melting Pot: The Best Of The Charlatans”, whilst an accompanying b-sides collection called “Songs From The Other Side” was released on the same day, which again included some of the more oddball b-sides (such as remixes) but not all of the original studio ones. A couple of months later, and MCA got in on the act (kind of) with the release of “Live It Like You Love It”, a live album taped at the band’s Manchester MEN show in December 2001. Although I seem to recall this album being touted as a “buy it now or else” limited edition, an un-limited edition was also issued - the limited one featured a “VIP Backstage pass” style sticker taped to the front of the casing, the non limited ones used the same image but as part of standard CD style artwork.
The band would release one more studio album on MCA in 2004 before once again heading off for pastures new. I hope to cover the later years in a future blog.
Many of the band’s albums were originally released on the standard formats - of the time - of CD, LP and MC. Tracklistings were usually identical, so I have listed below all of the original pressings. Reissues are only listed where they were done as expanded deluxe editions adding extra, and unreleased, material.
For the singles, I have generally tried to list the formats that are of interest from a musical viewpoint. Where multiple formats for a 45 are shown, this is either because they all feature the same songs, all were (and still are) of interest as they include (or included) something rare, or do/do not include b-sides available on some of the expanded albums or the B-sides set. Singles whose big selling point when first released was ONLY that they came in a unique picture sleeve are not really listed.
Some Friendly (LP, Situation Two SITU 30, some housed in PVC sleeve [SITU 30 L])
Some Friendly (Cassette, Situation Two SITC 30, includes “The Only One I Know”)
Some Friendly (CD, Situation Two SITU 30 CD, includes “The Only One I Know”)
Some Friendly (2xCD, Beggars Banquet BBQCD 2068, 2010 reissue in newly designed slipcase sleeve with extra tracks, “The Only One I Know” moved onto bonus disc)
Between 10th And 11th (LP, Situation Two SITU 37)
Between 10th And 11th (Cassette, Situation Two SITC 37)
Between 10th And 11th (CD, Situation Two SITU 37 CD)
Up To Our Hips (LP, Beggars Banquet BBQLP 147)
Up To Our Hips (Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBQMC 147)
Up To Our Hips (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQCD 147)
The Charlatans (2xLP, Beggars Banquet BBQLP 174, includes “Chemical Risk”)
The Charlatans (Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBQMC 174)
The Charlatans (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQCD 174)
Tellin’ Stories (LP, Beggars Banquet BBQLP 190)
Tellin’ Stories (Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBQMC 190)
Tellin’ Stories (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQCD 190)
Melting Pot (2xLP, Beggars Banquet BBQLP 198)
Melting Pot (Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBQMC 198)
Melting Pot (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQCD 198, 2002 reissue uses same catalogue number)
Us And Us Only (LP, MCA/Universal MCA 60069)
Us And Us Only (Cassette, MCA/Universal MCC 60069)
Us And Us Only (CD, MCA/Universal MCD 60069)
Us And Us Only (2xCD, MCA/Universal UMC 2904, expanded 2011 reissue)
Wonderland (2xLP, MCA/Universal MCA 60076)
Wonderland (CD, MCA/Universal MCD 60076, some in different textured p/s [MCD 60077])
Songs From The Other Side (CD, Beggars Banquet BEGL 2032 CD)
Live It Like You Love It (CD, MCA/Universal MCD 60079, numbered VIP casing, un-numbered copies have alt. catalogue number [MCD 60080])
Also worthy of a mention, although nigh on impossible to find, is the fan club only live album “Isolation 21.2.91”, available on both LP and CD.
October 89: Indian Rope (Original Take)/You Can Talk To Me/White Shirt (Original Take) (Cassette, Dead Dead Good no catalogue no.)
Indian Rope/You Can Talk To Me/Who Wants To Know (12“, Dead Dead Good GOOD ONE, later reissued as GOOD 1 T)
Indian Rope/You Can Talk To Me/Who Wants To Know (CD, reissue of 12“, Dead Dead Good GOOD 1 CD)
The Only One I Know/Everything Changed (7”, Situation Two SIT 70)
The Only One I Know/Imperial 109 (Edit)/Everything Changed (12”, Situation Two SIT 70 T)
The Only One I Know/Imperial 109 (Edit)/Everything Changed/You Can Talk To Me (BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session 20.3.1990) (CD, Situation Two SIT 70 CD)
[Note: all b-sides on expanded “Some Friendly”.]
Then/Taurus Moaner (Original)/Then (Alternate Take)/Taurus Moaner (Instrumental) (12“, Situation Two SIT 74 T)
Then/Taurus Moaner (Original)/(Instrumental)/Then (Alternate Take) (CD, Situation Two SIT 74 CD)
Over Rising/Way Up There/Opportunity Three/Happen To Die (Edit) (12”, Situation Two SIT 76 T)
Over Rising/Way Up There/Opportunity Three/Happen To Die (Edit) (CD, Situation Two SIT 76 CD)
Me In Time/Occupation H Monster/Subtitle (1st Mix) (12”, Situation Two SIT 84 T)
Me In Time/Occupation H Monster/Subtitle (1st Mix) (CD, Situation Two SIT 84 CD)
Weirdo (Single Version)/Theme From “The Wish”/Sproston Green (US Version)/Weirdo (Alternate Take) (12“ with art print, Situation Two SIT 88 T)
Weirdo (Single Version)/Theme From “The Wish”/Weirdo (Alternate Take)/Sproston Green (US Version) (CD, Situation Two SIT 88 CD)
Tremelo Song (Alternate Take)/Happen To Die (Unedited Version)/Normality Swing (Demo) (CD1, Situation Two SIT 91 CD1)
Tremelo Song (Live)/Then (Live)/Chewing Gum Weekend (Live) (CD2 in unique p/s with box, Situation Two SIT 91 CD2)
Subterranean (Live, Blackpool 1993) (Fan Club CD, Beggars Banquet CHAR 7)
Can’t Get Out Of Bed/Out/Withdrawn (12“, Beggars Banquet BBQ 27 T)
Can’t Get Out Of Bed/Out/Withdrawn (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQ 27 CD)
I Never Want An Easy Life If Me And He Were Ever To Get There/Only A Boho/Subterranean/Can’t Get Out Of Bed (Demo Version) (Numbered CD with 3 postcards, Beggars Banquet BBQ 31 CD1)
Jesus Hairdo/Patrol (Dust Brothers Remix)/Feel Flows (The Carpet Kiss Mix) (12”, Beggars Banquet BBQ 32 T)
Jesus Hairdo/Stir It Up/Patrol (Dust Brothers Remix)/Feel Flows (Van Basten Mix) (CD1, Beggars Banquet BBQ 32 CD1)
Jesus Hairdo/Easy Life (BBC Radio 1 Evening Session Version 14.3.1994)/Another Rider Up In Flames (BBC Radio 1 Evening Session Version 14.3.1994)/Up To Our Hips (BBC Radio 1 Evening Session Version 14.3.1994) (CD2 in different p/s + box + insert, Beggars Banquet BBQ 32 CD2)
Crashin’ In/Back Room Window (7”, Beggars Banquet BBQ 44)
Crashin’ In/Back Room Window (Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBQ 44 C)
Crashin’ In/Green Flashing Eyes/Back Room Window (12“, Beggars Banquet BBQ 44 T)
Crashin’ In/Green Flashing Eyes/Back Room Window (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQ 44 CD)
[Note: all b-sides on “Songs From The Other Side”.]
Just Lookin’/Bullet Comes/Floor Nine (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQ 55 CD)
Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over/Frinck (Edit)/Chemical Risk Dub/Nine Acre Dust (12”, Beggars Banquet BBQ 60 T)
Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over/Chemical Risk (Toothache Remix)/Frinck/Your Skies Are Mine (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQ 60 CD)
[note: “Frinck” and “Your Skies Are Mine” are on “Songs from The Other Side”. The cassette edition of this single omits “Chemical Risk”.]
One To Another/Two Of Us (7”, Beggars Banquet BBQ 301)
One To Another/Two Of Us (Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBQ 301 C)
One To Another/Two Of Us/Reputation (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQ 301 CD)
North Country Boy/Area 51 (7”, Beggars Banquet BBQ 309)
North Country Boy/Don’t Need A Gun (Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBQ 309 C)
North Country Boy/Area 51/Don’t Need A Gun (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQ 309 CD)
How High/Title Fight (7”, Beggars Banquet BBQ 312)
How High/Title Fight (Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBQ 312 C)
How High/Down With The Mook/Title Fight (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQ 312 CD)
Tellin’ Stories/Thank You (Live, Phoenix Festival 18.7.1997) (7”, Beggars Banquet BBQ 318)
Tellin’ Stories/Thank You (Live, Phoenix Festival 18.7.1997) (Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBQ 318 C)
Tellin’ Stories/Keep It To Yourself/Clean Up Kid/Thank You (Live, Phoenix Festival 18.7.1997) (CD, Beggars Banquet BBQ 318 CD)
[note: all of the b-sides from the above four singles are on the expanded “Tellin’ Stories”.]
Forever (Edit)/When Your Ship Comes In (7” with poster, MCA/Universal MCS 40200)
Forever (Edit)/A Great Place To Leave (Cassette, MCA/Universal MCSC 40200)
Forever (Edit)/A Great Place To Leave/When Your Ship Comes In (CD1, MCA/Universal MCSTD 40200)
Forever (Edit)/(LP Mix)/Sleepy Little Sunshine Boy/Forever (Video) (CD2 in blue p/s, MCA/Universal MCSXD 40200
My Beautiful Friend (Edit)/Scorched (7” with poster, MCA/Universal MCS 40225)
My Beautiful Friend (Edit)/Your Precious Love (Cassette, MCA/Universal MCSC 40225)
My Beautiful Friend (Edit)/Scorched/Your Precious Love (CD1, MCA/Universal MCSTD 40225)
My Beautiful Friend (Lionrock Mix)/(Jagz Kooner Remix)/(Edit)/(Video) (CD2 in brown p/s, MCA/Universal MCSXD 40225)
Impossible (Radio Edit)/Don’t Go Giving It Up/Impossible (Aim Remix) (CD1, MCA/Universal MCSTD 40231)
Impossible (Radio Edit)/You Got It I Want It/Impossible (LP Version)/(Video) (CD2 in brown p/s, MCA/Universal MCSXD 40231)
Love Is The Key (Radio Edit)/Viva La Sociale (7”, MCA/Universal MCS 40262)
Love Is The Key (Radio Edit)/It’s About Time (Cassette, MCA/Universal MCSC 40262)
Love Is The Key (Radio Edit)/It’s About Time/Viva La Sociale (CD, MCA/Universal MCSTD 40262)
Love Is The Key (Live In The Studio)/I Just Can’t Get Over Losing You (Demo)/The Blonde Waltz/Senses/It’s About Time (Newspaper promo CD, unique p/s, MCA/Universal CHARLCD 1)
A Man Needs To Be Told (Radio Edit)/Shotgun/Ballad Of The Band (Ianocce Remix)/A Man Needs To Be Told (Video) (CD1, MCA/Universal MCSTD 40271)
A Man Needs To Be Told/All I Desire/Love Is The Key (Live In The Studio) (CD2 in different p/s, MCA/Universal MCSXD 40271)
Also of interest is the “Between 10th And 11th” flexi disc, issued in the USA around about the same time as the LP of the same name. One of a number of Charlatans songs recorded for the Beeb but never released in studio form, it can now be found on the bonus disc of the 2006 set “Forever”.
Thursday, 23 January 2014
The January 2014 blogs feature a look at the classic Genesis 1974 LP "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", selected Elvis compilation albums and part 1 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.
"Glory Glory Hallelujah"