the jason shergold music collector site
Wednesday, 11 May 2016
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 May 2016 edition is now online, with a look at official and unofficial reissues of early Bowie 45s.
The blog is also home to my "novel within a website", 'How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting', looking at the workings of the UK record industry. Click on any month from 2014 to view one of the twelve parts that form the whole article. And also check out my online photo collection of tour t-shirts, the accurately titled "Rock & Roll T Shirts" by clicking here: rockandrolltshirts.smugmug.com.
Please note: If you ever notice "newer" pages listed top right, this will be the new issue "in progress" - if you click on it, the whole page will not load. When the new issue is ready, it will be mentioned on this page. You can click on previous years tabs to get previous articles. Once you have selected that year, you can click on a different month to look at different acts.
The acts featured appear in the months listed below:
Adam And The Ants - October 2013
All Saints - February 2014
Lily Allen - August 2010
Ash - April 2014
Atomic Kitten - June 2013
Badly Drawn Boy - November 2014
The Beatles - September 2011 / March 2015
The Beautiful South - December 2014
Victoria Beckham - March 2016
Beyoncé - May 2013
Biffy Clyro - June 2014
Blondie - January 2011 / September 2013
Blur - August 2011 / July 2012 / October 2013
David Bowie - September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / January 2011 / June 2012 / September 2014 / January 2016 / May 2016
Emma Bunton - March 2016
Kate Bush - July 2013
Buzzcocks - December 2011
Belinda Carlisle - October 2013
The Charlatans - February 2014
The Clash - May 2011
Elvis Costello - January 2013 / September 2013
Sheryl Crow - June 2013
The Cure - December 2011 / April 2016
Deep Purple - March 2010
Depeche Mode - May 2012
The Doors - December 2013
Bob Dylan - November 2013
Echobelly - February 2015
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - August 2011
Embrace - November 2013
The Flaming Lips - November 2011
Foo Fighters - May 2014
Peter Gabriel - August 2013
Genesis - April 2011 / January 2014
Girls Aloud - August 2010 / November 2013
Goldfrapp - August 2013
Green Day - June 2014
Geri Halliwell - March 2016
Deborah Harry - January 2011
Jimi Hendrix - September 2010
Inspiral Carpets - April 2012
The Jam - May 2013
Elton John - August 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012
Joy Division - March 2011
Kenickie - October 2010
The Kinks - November 2010 / April 2011 / May 2013
Led Zeppelin - November 2015
John Lennon - May 2013
Pixie Lott - February 2011
Madness - November 2011
Madonna - April 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / March 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / March 2012 / November 2012 / January 2013 / November 2013 / March 2014 / August 2015 / January 2016
Mansun - August 2011
Dannii Minogue - September 2011
The Moody Blues - October 2015
Morrissey - April 2014
Kate Nash - February 2011
New Order - October 2012
Nirvana - June 2011 / December 2012
Oasis - April 2013
Pet Shop Boys - May 2011 / June 2011
Pink Floyd - January 2011 / July 2011
P!nk - April 2012
Elvis Presley - March 2011 / October 2011 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014
Prince - January 2015
Pulp - August 2011
Queen - December 2010 / September 2011
Lou Reed - September 2015
Cliff Richard & The Shadows - July 2011
Rolling Stones - July 2010 / October 2010 / March 2011
The Saturdays - April 2011
Siouxsie & The Banshees - March 2013 / July 2014
Slade - May 2012
Sleeper - December 2013
Smashing Pumpkins - June 2012
The Smiths - June 2010
Britney Spears - November 2010 / December 2010
Spice Girls - February 2016
Bruce Springsteen - February 2012
Status Quo - January 2012
Cat Stevens - February 2012
Rachel Stevens - July 2011
The Stranglers - February 2010 / December 2011 / May 2013 / September 2013 / December 2013 / July 2014 / October 2014 / May 2015 / December 2015
Suede - August 2011
Sugababes - August 2012
Super Furry Animals - September 2014
Supergrass - August 2014
TRex - December 2010
Theaudience - August 2011
Thin Lizzy - February 2013
The Thrills - June 2015
Tin Machine - December 2010
U2 - March 2012 / December 2012
The Velvet Underground - October 2010
The Walker Brothers - June 2011
Scott Walker - September 2010 / February 2013
Paul Weller - December 2014
The Who - May 2010 / August 2012 / July 2013
Kim Wilde - October 2013
Yes - July 2015
Neil Young - April 2015
Blogger can have a mind of it's own at times, so if you click on a year and get NO menu, click on the arrow next to the year, and you should get the list of months for that year to help you navigate a bit easier. To return to the homepage, you can click on the tab for the current year. Several blogs are in production, with articles on Bowie and Madonna due over the next few months.
You can email me using the link above, and if you can add any information, you can add comments to the blog using the link at the bottom of the relevant page. Regards, Jason.
Frankie say NO to downloads!
Back in 2010, I did a series of blogs on Bowie, running from the early pre-Space Oddity years right up to the current day, via the criminally underrated Tin Machine period. The first blog ran from 64 to 72, a period in which - “Space Oddity” aside - Bowie released a consist run of flop singles. Suffice to say, these original pressings are now worth a small fortune.
But if like me, you want to try and own these 45s in some form or another in single form, then you could try ‘cheating’ a bit. Many of these singles have, technically, been issued again in the intervening years - some official, some not so official. So, having finally now got nearly all of these releases on “alternative” single releases myself, I thought it would be worth showcasing what these releases are. The purists amongst you might baulk, and will be happy to shell out £500 for a “Prettiest Star” on Mercury, and I acknowledge that - I wish I could do the same. But if you want to cut a few corners - and hey, there are also going to be some people who will want both sets of releases - then this is my own little run through of the sometimes slightly dubious world of the alternative Bowie “Early Years” single releases.
Bowie’s first 45, as leader of Davie Jones And The King Bees, was 1964’s “Liza Jane”. By the late 70s, the rights to release this song seemed to have fallen to Decca, who dutifully put out a 7” reissue of the single in 1978. Possibly in order to showcase that this was a 60s effort, Decca declined to issue the single in a picture sleeve - despite the fact that these were becoming all the rage post-Punk. Instead, they simply issued it in the standard Decca ‘blue and white’ bag (7”, Decca F 13807). By all accounts, the single didn’t sell brilliantly second time around - there is no mention of Bowie anywhere on this release, so perhaps some people simply had no idea who or what it was - but it is obviously nowhere near as rare as the original. There are quotes that only 3500 copies of the Vocalion original were pressed (plus, a series of totally illegal US “repressings“ that can easily be found on eBay), and even though the Decca one is a more obscure release than other Decca singles from the same period (I bought Adam And The Ants’ “Young Parisians” for about £2 some years ago), the reissue is not wildly OTT in terms of value - I recently purchased a copy for £30.
Bowie was then, for a short time, a regular recording artist for Parlophone. Well, he lasted for two singles. First up was a single with The Manish Boys called “I Pity The Fool”, and then his first release where he was billed as a solo artist, Davy Jones - “You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving”. In 1979, EMI decided to stick all four tracks together on an EP (7”, EMI 2925). The EP doesn’t totally have a title, you just have a picture of Bowie and his backing band, The Lower Third, on the cover, with the name of the two bands above. So, effectively, all four tracks get equal billing here. The EP was later issued, in slightly altered but mostly very similar packaging, by the See For Miles label in 1982 as a 10” (10”, See For Miles CYM1), in 1985 as a 12” (12”, See For Miles SEA1) and a CD in 1990 (CD, See For Miles SEACD1). I seem to recall picking up my CD copy a couple of years ago for about £15, so again, not out of the budget of most people. There was also a totally revamped version of the EP in 2013, when EMI did a Record Store Day release called “Bowie 1965!” (7”, EMI GEP 8968) but being an RSD release, meant it was already rising in value as soon as the eBay scalpers got home.
It was then onto Pye, where Jones became Bowie, and three singles were issued on the label. He started his tenure by crediting his band, with 1966’s “Can’t Help Thinking About Me” appearing as a release by David Bowie With The Lower Third, but issued the two follow ups as Bowie solo efforts - “Do Anything You Say” and “I Dig Everything”. The Pye material itself has resurfaced quite a bit over the years, including an EP issued by the label itself in 1972 which included all three A-sides, under the banner of “For The Collector” (7”, Pye 7NX 8002). However, the one to go for is 1999’s “I Dig Everything: The 1966 Pye Singles”. This release is so sexy it hurts. It was issued, as the Pye material often was, as a 6 track Mini Album, but there was also a 3-disc box set release which included, in their own individual sleeves, repressings of the three singles on both vinyl (3x7”, Castle Music ESB07 765) and Compact Disc (3xCD, Castle Music ESBCD 765).
A word on the sleeves themselves. When ‘Early Years Bowie’ stuff first started to surface, the labels used to try and dupe the record buyers into purchasing what they thought might be contemporary sounding music - 1973’s “Images”, dealing with the Deram stuff, was famously issued in a “Young Americans”-esque sleeve. But by 1999, there was starting to become a fascination with this material, to such an extent that seeing actual photos of Bowie from the period was thrillingly retro. So the three singles here are all issued in what are new sleeves designed specifically for the box, but all using pictures of Bowie from the 66 era. On the back, however, are photos from after 66. Reason? A couple of these singles were issued in the 70s by Pye “post-fame” overseas, and photos from these singles appear on the rear. So, “Can’t Help Thinking About Me” has the 1972 Spanish sleeve printed on the rear, and “Do Anything you Say” has the 1972 Japanese sleeve. As far as I can make out, there was no reissue for “I Dig Anything” - it did actually appear as the B-side on both the Japanese and Spanish singles mentioned above - so the back of the third disc in the box is the Japanese “Can’t Help Thinking” 45, also issued in 1972.
Onto the Deram years. To clarify, Bowie issued his first LP on this label in 67, and also released three singles, none of which were included on the album - although two of them did appear in alternate mix form. The first 45, “Rubber Band”, was backed with what was later claimed to be the first Bowie ‘classic’, “The London Boys”, which itself was later issued as a 45 in it’s own right by Deram in 75 to try and cash in on the Bowie name.
By all accounts, the three Bowie 45’s were all reissued “post-fame”. Something to do with the matrix numbers appearing “right way up” on the reissues. Single number 2 was reissued numerous times, as there are varying label designs for “The Laughing Gnome”, with pressings from 1973 and 1980 featuring design differences from the 67 version. “Gnome” was never included on the debut LP, but single 3 was, albeit in alternative form - “Love You Till Tuesday”. “The London Boys” was definitely reissued in 1980, using an injection moulded label design.
If you want to kill three birds with one stone, then I would hunt down the 1986 “Archive 4” EP issued by Castle (12”, Castle TOF 105). Issued in a sleeve that uses a 1980s Bowie image, unsurprisingly, this limited release (7500 only) was one of several EP’s issued by the label that were designed to hoover up old singles (Castle also issued a Small Faces one). What you get on this 4 tracker are “The London Boys”, “Love You Till Tuesday” and “The Laughing Gnome”. Not sure if it’s the LP or 45 mix of “LTYT”, but don’t worry about that - there are a multitude of Deram era comps knocking about that include the single mix. The EP is rounded off, slightly randomly, by “Maid Of Bond Street” from the debut LP.
“Rubber Band” is a bit more awkward. I did see one on eBay recently being offered for £1500. Ouch. Seems to be a post death price hike, as mint copies a few years ago were safely within the 3 figure sum. However, I recently picked up a US pre-release copy for just £40, plus postage, and customs charges (Grrr) and it seems to be quite genuine (7”, Deram 45-DEM 85009). For those of you who are interested, it’s the album mix (again, the 7” mix is easy to find) and the flipside is another track from the LP, “There Is A Happy Land”. My copy is a stock copy, but with a “promotional copy” stamp. Demo copies, first pressings designed specifically to be sent to radio stations, are worth a lot more and are easily identified by the alternative catalogue number of 45-85009.
Now, given that it was a big hit, “Space Oddity” is slightly outside our remit here. If you want a Philips original, you can get one. It went top 5 remember. But we may as well mention the four - yes, four - reissues that have turned up since. First up, was the 1975 three track reissue (7“, RCA 2593). Not completely sure why RCA decided to put this release out - they weren’t being starved of Bowie product at the time (“Young Americans” at the start of the year, “Station To Station” at the end) but it was issued as part of their “Maximillion” series - ‘3 tracks for the price of 2’. It was originally issued in a contemporary picture sleeve, upon which all three tracks were given equal billing - “SO”, “Changes” and the previously unissued “Velvet Goldmine” - a ‘Ziggy’ outtake reportedly stuck on side 2 without the Dame’s permission. The single was later repressed a few times, and housed in a standard RCA sleeve - initially, the sleeve used was a custom “Maximillion” bag, where “Space Oddity” was more clearly billed as the A-side, and the two bonus tracks as the B-side(s), whilst late 70s and early 80s pressings were housed in what were the regular RCA bags of the time (please look at the brilliant Bowie Singles website for visual presentations).
In 1982, RCA were starting to cash in themselves on the Bowie phenomenon, and reissued 10 Bowie singles as 7” picture discs, as part of the “Fashions” series. Available as a boxset, or individually, these reissues included a repress of the 1975 “Space Oddity” maxi (7“ Picture Disc, RCA BOW 101P). This was followed in 1983 by the “Lifetimes” series, a set of 20 black vinyl 7” reissues that were all, originally, housed in picture sleeves. The sleeves had some connection to the A-side - for the reissue of “Space Oddity” (7“, RCA BOW 518), the image from the picture disc was used - whilst this image dated from circa 1972, it was not too dissimilar to the RCA 1972 reissue of Bowie’s second LP, which was retitled “Space Oddity”. Once the picture sleeve copies had sold out, later pressings were housed in red and grey RCA bags.
In my 2014 blog, I detailed the ongoing series of 40th anniversary picture discs. I think a new blog will be needed to bring the story up to date, but until then, we need to mention the 2015 reissue of “Space Oddity” (7” Picture Disc, Parlophone DBSO 40). It uses, as it’s A-side image, the front cover of the original 1969 French version of the single - a suitably psychedelic looking bit of art. The a-side is the original 7” edit, the B-side is the original B-side - the acoustic version of “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud”. The difference here is that the single is listed as being a AA-side, meaning that “Freecloud” appears here as a UK A-side for the first time ever. Technically. I doubt that the radio stations at the time bothered to play “Space Oddity”, let alone the flip. There is also some talk on the net about whether the A-side is the stereo or mono single mix, but I think my copy is still sticker sealed so even if my tinnitus suddenly eased up, I couldn't tell you. And don't ask if "Freecloud" is the same version as found on the original "Sound + Vision" boxset, or the one featured on the 2003/2014 one. Just buy one if you see one.
Now, onto the infamous Mercury singles. For the 60s stuff, there is probably a reason why none of those singles sold. They are viewed, by many, as simply not being very good. But the three 45’s Bowie put out after “SO” were at a time when he was really starting to find his feet, and there is some really good material here. OK, so yes, maybe “The Prettiest Star” did benefit from being ‘glammed up’ for “Aladdin Sane”, and yes, Bowie did hate “Holy Holy” so much that he revamped it heavily during the “Ziggy” sessions. But whilst it is possible to listen to, say, the three Deram singles and scratch your head in bemusement, listen to the three Mercury singles - and they sound like the work of a completely different artist.
“The Prettiest Star”, “Memory Of A Free Festival Part 1”, and “Holy Holy” were all massive flops. “Star” was reported to have sold less than 800 copies, and I am sure I heard a story suggesting that at least 1000 copies had been pressed, and so the remainder were melted down. By the late 70s/early 80s, the five rarities spread across these discs (“Holy Holy” had an album track on the flipside) were in demand - so in demand, that a pair of US bootlegs were issued to make these recordings available again.
There are several US bootlegs of Bowie rarities, but we are only concerned with the two that were issued with the sole purpose of making these recordings available again. Yes, they can all be found on the “Recall” disc of the 2015 “Five Years” boxset, but back in 1982, they were like gold dust.
Whilst I don’t normally condone bootleg releases of officially available material, I can’t help but admire the “David Bowie And The Hype” EP. It includes “The Prettiest Star”, the sublime b-side “Conversation Piece” and “Holy Holy”, in a sort of cartoon-esque Bowie sleeve. The single comes in a wrap around sleeve, the vinyl itself housed inside a white die cut bag, and therefore should also come with a PVC outer that holds it all together. Inside, it looks - at first glance - like a Mercury single, until you notice that the label is simply DESIGNED to look like that - the record label is the dubiously titled Major Tom (7”, Major Tom 6052 200). Nice. With copies sometimes available for as little as a tenner, I can certainly recommend this curio.
The other Major Tom boot, a repress of “Memory Of A Free Festival Part 1”, isn’t quite so brilliant. It again comes in a picture cover, with an image of Bowie-plus-acoustic that recalls some of the foreign “Space Oddity” sleeves. And it does include the ’re-recorded’ “Part 1” on the A-side, and “Part 2” on the flip. Thing is, in the USA, the “Part 1” recording was edited, and remains - unless you know otherwise - unavailable anywhere else. Whenever the re-recorded song(s) have emerged again, such as on the 1990 expanded “Space Oddity”, it’s been the UK single mixes, and not the US ones, that have been used. So, again, for a tenner, a dubious looking reissue can be yours (7”, Major Tom 6052 201). And perhaps, it’s your only chance to get a copy of this 45 without breaking the bank. But what a shame they didn’t bootleg the US single. OK, so that single is so rare, it's believed by many to have actually only ever reached promo stage, but still - those mixes exist. There are also "promo" copies of the UK Mercury original kicking about on eBay from time to time, housed in original looking bags, with a big hole in the middle, but I understand these are all 'authentic' looking counterfeits. The labels are white, with a big "A", but aren't dinked like the geniune promos, but have a 'smooth' edge around the hole, and usually go for about 50 notes. AFAIK, the proper promos were issued in red bags, the "reissues" in a sort of muddy yellow sleeve.
You could probably write a book about the Arnold Corns period. There are various theories about why Bowie formed this ‘band’. When they celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2011, Bowie’s official site stated it was a way of Bowie being able to record new material under a pseudonym to avoid record company complications. By all accounts, Bowie had been asked to write material for a band named Rungk, and also for a designer friend of his called Freddie Burretti. The initial Arnold Corns recording session, from April 71, involved Bowie actually fronting the members of Rungk, and two songs from the session were chosen to be released as a single the following month, with “Moonage Daydream” on the A-side and “Hang Onto Yourself” on the flip. By the time the single was released, Burretti was, for some never fully explained reason, being presented as the band’s singer. Publicity material for the single involved none of Rungk, and instead, Arnold Corns was presented as a duo of Burretti and Bowie. The single was issued on the relatively small B&C label, but failed to chart. Bowie remained signed to Mercury, and there is somewhere out there, an apparent promo poster from the period simultaneously plugging both the “Man Who Sold The World” LP, and the Arnold Corns 45.
According to the fascinating blog Pushing Ahead Of The Dame, Bowie was seemingly inspired by the Andy Warhol “Factory”, and so continued to immerse himself within a large group of musicians, of which the Arnold Corns setup was seemingly only part of the whole shebang. In the summer of 71, Bowie did a live concert for John Peel, in which material being slated for “Hunky Dory” (“Kooks”, “Queen Bitch“) was mixed up with cover versions (“Almost Grown”, “It Ain‘t Easy“) and tracks from the Arnold Corns songbook (“Looking For A Friend”), although Buretti was not present at the gig. Rungk guitarist Mark Pritchett was however, thus adding to the confusion. Friends Dana Gillespie and George Underwood took lead vocals on a song each, with Gillespie singing a song that was actually destined to be recorded by Bowie on “Hunky Dory“ - “Andy Warhol“.
Soon after, Arnold Corns then went back into the studio with the intention of recording material for a second single. By this time, it was almost as if Bowie was indulging in some sort of weird art experiment, as Burretti was installed as the new singer in the studio, and the not-yet-named-as-such Spiders From Mars were brought in as the musicians for this single. Two singles, both under the same name, but with totally different personnel. There are some reports that talk about Bowie having designed the band to have a “fake” singer, and that it provided the early genesis of the “Ziggy Stardust” character.
Plans were drawn up for the release of this new single that, by all accounts, would not feature Bowie in any musical way at all - a track called “Man In The Middle” on one side, and an “Arnold Corns” cover of a ‘Bowie Original’, the aforementioned “Looking For A Friend”. But almost immediately, Bowie became bored of the project, and pulled the plug. B&C cancelled the release, Burretti became a regular Bowie costume collaborator and attention returned once again to the completion of “Hunky Dory”, with Bowie being dropped by Mercury, resulting in him shipping around a promo copy of the album (on the “Gem Management” label) to try and gain interest - eventually catching the attention of RCA. The rest as they say...
After Bowie had started to gain an audience, B&C decided in the summer of 72 to try and cash in. Rather than just reissue the original Arnold Corns single, they opted to issued a “new” 45 with “Hang Onto Yourself” on one side, along with the unreleased “Man In The Middle” on the flip. Somehow, they didn’t manage to grab people’s attention, and the single flopped. By 1974, with Ziggy now dead, and Bowie a huge star in America, another label called Mooncrest had an attempt at trying to cash in, by reissuing the “Hang Onto Yourself” 45. They too, somehow, failed to get what should have been a captive audience to buy a copy, and this edition too was something of a flop.
By the early 80s or thereabouts, the rarity of the three officially released Arnold Corns recordings caused some enterprising bootlegger to issue what, on the face if it, seemed to be a genuine B&C release. A three track 7” appeared in 1984 which included all three of the songs from the original releases, with what seemed to be an official catalogue number (7”, B&C 200). However, B&C had stopped functioning by the end of 1972, after the release of B&C 190. The label was resurrected a few years later, but these releases used a new catalogue system, meaning that the use of the number 200 by the counterfeiters was almost done as a tell tale sign for the initiated, a way of acknowledging to the experts that this was not a genuine B&C release.
But I like it. It is naughty, and yet also, by reproducing the basic B&C label design, is an opportunity for you to at least own something that LOOKS like an Arnold Corns original. Copies seem to change hands for round about the £30 mark, although some cheeky sods have attempted to offload copies for closer to a ton.
The Arnold Corns story doesn’t fully end there. By 1985, a ‘European’ 12” appeared under the banner of “Arnold Corns AKA David Bowie And The Spiders From Mars”, which coupled “Man In The Middle”, the unreleased “Looking For A Friend” and “Hang Onto Yourself”. By all accounts, it is an official, but not authorised release, but even though it comes in a sleeve which uses a variant version of the Aladdin Sane “flash”, only one of the three tunes actually features Bowie himself. The two “Bowie featuring” songs from the Arnold Corns period, the two songs on the very first B&C 45, have since reappeared with great regularity on various Bowie reissues, although the spoken word intro to “Moonage Daydream” has regularly been edited out of such reissues. That's all folks.
Now, this is the first of FIVE Bowie blogs that are in various stages of production, the plan being to publish them all before the year end. But, given that the follow up to "1.Outside" never even surfaced, forgive me if I too fail to manage five. Or two, for that matter.
Friday, 22 April 2016
Back in 2011, I looked at the Cure’s back catalogue in terms of their singles, given that a sizeable chunk of them were “stand alone” releases, and how a number of compilation albums were later used to give a home to much of this material. I figured it was time to just do a quick albums recap - I won’t really go over the same ground in terms of how they sounded too much, you know all of that - but more to look at how the band’s original LP’s were issued, and their subsequent reissues.
After the usual “pre fame” shenanigans as Easy Cure, the Cure became a trio in time for the release of 1979’s “Three Imaginary Boys”, with Robert Smith joined by bassist Michael Dempsey and drummer Lol Tolhurst. The LP, suffering at times from a feeling of under-production IMO, was the first of several albums to feature the band logo (officially long gone, but occasionally resurrected in a retro style manner now and then) on the cover. However, the album title was completely missing, but there were three household objects on the front that seemed to be there as some sort of “visual” metaphor (a lamp, a fridge and a vacuum cleaner).
It was followed by 1980’s “Seventeen Seconds”, which seemed an altogether more coherent release, moving the band nearer to a more post-punk sound, with some very strong (albeit rather depressing) subject matter. The band had a new bass player, Simon Gallup, whilst for this album only, the post-punk chill was often provided by their new keyboard player Matthieu Hartley - although Hartley would be gone by the next album. The front cover was a piece of abstract art, the music has been variously described as “ethereal” and “goth”, and it really was a big leap forward. The Cure, despite being seemingly resolutely un-commercial, soon found themselves on ‘Top Of The Pops’ playing their latest hit, the minimalist classic “A Forest”.
With Hartley gone, the band’s next album was recorded as a trio, 1981’s “Faith”, although the ‘electronic’ sound of the previous album was retained, mainly by getting Smith to provide keyboard and synthesizer work on the record, with Tolhurst being credited as drummer and “programming”. This was the first of several Cure releases during the decade which appeared as expanded Cassette pressings - the album was included on the first side of the tape, whilst a lengthy instrumental called “Carnage Visors” appeared on side 2. This was the soundtrack to a film that was shown, in lieu of having a support act, on the band’s subsequent tour. A “Deluxe Edition” reissue campaign of most of the band’s back catalogue was started in 2004, and the reissue of “Faith” included “Carnage Visors” as one of the tracks on the bonus disc. The trio made another rather downbeat album, 1982’s highly acclaimed “Pornography”, before imploding at the end of the subsequent tour.
As mentioned in the last blog, the Cure did return relatively quickly, initially as a synth pop duo consisting of just Smith and Tolhurst, before quickly adding a new drummer in the form of Andy Anderson. 1984’s “The Top” was officially recorded as a three piece with former Easy Cure member Porl Thompson as an additional contributor, before he later joined on a full time basis, whilst a subsequent tour saw Phil Thornalley added as the band’s new bass player - Smith had recorded all of the bass and guitar parts on the LP himself.
The subsequent tour spawned the band’s first live album, “Concert”, culled from shows played in London and Oxford in May 84. The cassette version was issued as the band’s next “long play” release, with a series of ‘official bootleg’ recordings covering the band’s career from 77 up until the present day on the flipside. The second side of the tape opened with the previously unheard “Heroin Face” (from the Easy Cure days) and concluded with what was, at the time, a regular Cure set closer, “Forever” - the band never got around to releasing a studio version of the song. The reissue campaign saw everything from this side of the release get a second lease of life across the various “deluxe” reissues, with “Heroin Face” being added to “Three Imaginary Boys”, “Forever” being added to “The Top”, and the remainder being added to the relevant albums from inbetween, dependent on the ‘age’ of the song.
It was time for a line up change again - Anderson was ejected from the band for ‘bad behaviour’ and replaced by Boris Williams, whilst Gallup rejoined as bassist. Thus, we had what for some is the definitive Cure line up of Smith, Tolhurst, Gallup, Thompson and Williams. 1985’s “The Head On The Door” was a classic, avoiding the sometimes patchy, directionless sound of “The Top”, and managed to be a moment of indie-rock brilliance, despite being recorded slap bang in the middle of a decade full of musical horrors. “Inbetween Days” and “Close To Me” were moments of genius pop and the album, helped along by the likes of the anthemic guitar buzz of “Push”, and the atmospheric widescreen beauty that was the closing “Sinking”, was arguably the best Cure album to date. As mentioned in my previous Cure article, the album was followed by the multi formatted (and variously titled) 1986 “hits” set, “Standing On A Beach”.
1987’s “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me” was seen as the band’s move into the world of superstardom, another toweringly brilliant effort, which this time saw them shift major units in the States. A double album, later limited pressings of the vinyl were technically a triple, as a free 12” was included featuring a selection of recent B-sides and remixes. The original running time was just a bit too long for the CD format, and so “Hey You” was removed from the compact disc edition. As a sort of apology, a remixed version appeared as the flipside to the “Hot Hot Hot” single. Technology has been revamped so that the most recent editions of the CD have the full track listing, as a result of pressings plants using ‘track pitch reduction’ to squeeze extra data onto the disc. Whilst the album was being recorded, there were internal band problems, as Tolhurst was starting to contribute less and less to the group - the spiteful “Shiver And Shake“ was reportedly written about Tolhurst, and appeared towards the end of the LP...I can‘t think of too many songs on albums which are attacks on existing band members who helped record the actual song. He was still with the band as they began work on their next record, but was eventually fired after seemingly recording no music for it, and was replaced by Roger O’Donnell, creating the next “classic” Cure lineup.
1989’s “Disintegration” was the band’s third near flawless effort on the trot, and confirmed their status as arena-filling alt. rock superstars. It was later described, lyrically, as the “follow up” to “Pornography”, even though the music often had a beautiful, airy, and poppy feel - unlike it’s so-called predecessor. Vinyl copies, as opposed to being issued as a double, were instead issued as single LP with several songs removed due to time constraints. The band took to performing the album in it’s entirety on the following tour, and put together a promo only album, “Entreat”, which featured live performances of eight of the songs. After bootlegs began to surface, the band counteracted by issuing “Entreat” as a regular album in a revamped sleeve, although I seem to recall it was done as a sort of limited budget release, to avoid accusations of ‘cashing in‘. The “Deluxe” version of “Disintegration”, along with it’s expected second disc of rarities, also features a CD called “Entreat Plus” - the entire “Entreat” album, and the four other songs from the album not on the original release, all in remixed form. It was followed by 1990’s remix set “Mixed Up”, a decent enough listen in it’s own right, with some of the re-workings being enjoyable enough excursions, as opposed to it being an unlistenable re-imagining of the material, which you do get with some remix collections.
For reasons that are not totally clear, the reissue campaign conducted in the mid-noughties stops here. All of the band’s pre-1990 studio albums appeared as 2 or 3 disc editions, and it is impossible to ignore the fact that multitudes of rarities from the 70s and 80s surfaced on these editions - but the stuff from the 90s onwards is not. Strange, when you consider 1992’s “Wish” - for which O’Donnell had quit, to be replaced by Perry Bamonte - is another piece of alternative rock genius, home to the swirling psychedelic opener “Open”, the bouncy pop thrills of “High” and “Friday I’m In Love”, the epic “From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea”, and the snarling goth menace of “Cut” and “End”. The band toured the smaller UK venues at the time of it’s release, before hitting the arenas in the fall, where the band played shows which drew heavily on the album. Although the songs were not featured in the same strict order as the LP, the likes of “Open” and “High” would usually appear at the start, with the likes of “Cut” and “End” played immediately before the encore. By now, the band’s encores themselves were usually as long as most band’s normal sets - The Cure was fast becoming a sort of big haired UK version of Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band.
The tour was documented with not one, but two live albums. Firstly, “Show”, a double CD documenting the basic setlist (minus encores) from a pair of shows on the US tour in July 92, and was then followed up with “Paris”, a single CD featuring a more esoteric setlist, compiled with songs that were either played in the main set on only selected occasions, or during the encores. As it’s title suggests, it was pieced together from three shows the band had played at the city’s Le Zenith venue in October. A headline performance at the “Great X-Pectations” festival in Finsbury Park the following summer should have cemented the band’s reputation as Kings of Gloomy Rock, but things started to unravel a bit instead thereafter.
The band’s 1995 headline slot at Glastonbury was slightly overshadowed by the two previous night’s headliners - new kids on the block Oasis on the Friday, on the cusp of mega stardom with the release of “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” due in several months time, and Pulp on the Saturday, perennial underachievers who had been asked to step in for the unavailable Stone Roses, and subsequently put on the gig of a lifetime. The Cure, appearing here with yet another, newly reconfigured lineup, played some new songs from their unfinished next album, but it felt a little bit like some old gits gate-crashing the Britpop party. Their set, whilst good, lacked a certain special something that Oasis and Pulp had pulled out of their respective hats on the previous nights.
1996’s “Wild Mood Swings”, in some respects, represents the Cure at a sort of low point. The band had seen the departure of Thompson and Williams after conclusion of the “Wish“ tour, and the band had at one point consisted purely of Smith and Bamonte, with Gallup temporarily out of the band due to health issues. The Glastonbury show saw the band’s new line up being showcased, with Gallup back in, and new members in the form of old boy Roger O’Donnell and Jason Cooper.
The album lacked the energetic thrill of “Wish”, but still had some nice bouncy pop like “Round & Round & Round”, the shimmery post-Goth strum of “Jupiter Crash” and ‘Friday I’m In Love’ style ultra pop like “Mint Car”. It just didn’t quite have the “oomph” factor of “Wish”, lead single “The 13th” in particular, being a quite strange, slightly low-key choice of lead single - all juttering rhythms and not very Guitar-y at all. Some reviews of the album were less than complimentary.
Perhaps it was asking too much of the band, especially one going through major line up changes, to make a follow up album to even come close to “Wish”, but “Wild Mood Swings” did keep things going. The subsequent tour saw the band once again do the rounds of the arenas, and as a live act, The Cure were still quite epic - lengthy sets, an increasingly expanding back catalogue, I seem to recall the band’s gig at Wembley Arena in December 96 was one of the best shows I ever saw them play.
From here on, the band’s line up remained vaguely stable for a while. 1997’s “Galore” was a hits set celebrating the period from after the release of the 1986 best of, but unlike other “Part 2” hits sets, was actually a thing of pure wonderment - showing just how well the Cure navigated the choppy waters of the 1980s music scene. But the band were now starting to become more and more of a touring band, with the timeframe between albums increasing, and a feeling that their superstar days were kind of behind them.
2000’s “Bloodflowers” isn’t one I have listened to much, but apparently I should - it is described as the final part of the “Pornography”/”Disintegration” ’Misery’ trilogy. Fiction didn’t bother to issue a single in the UK to promote it, possibly sensing that the band’s days as hit single makers were over - the new song on “Galore”, the sparky fun that was “Wrong Number”, had stalled way outside the top 40. Japanese copies featured a bonus track not on the UK CD version, and copies were made widely available at the same time as the UK release - it did make it feel, to me anyway, like the UK version of the record, with it’s “no single” status, and “less songs than the Japanese one”, was being slightly cast adrift. It probably wasn’t, but it did feel like The Cure, arena filling stars who routinely used to dent the charts, were sort of being put out to pasture by their label, radio stations, and TV shows.
However, the band’s next label, Geffen, seemed to take a greater interest. The band’s time on Fiction was marked by the slightly pointless “Greatest Hits” set, and the arguably more interesting B-sides set “Join The Dots”, and once the band had moved to their new home, there seemed to be a real consensus in the record company promoting the band again. 2004’s self titled effort was hyped via a multitude of single releases, whilst the original pressings of the album came with a free DVD to try and encourage buyers to get in quick. The album sold well, and was critically acclaimed, it seemed to return to their noisier roots, taking the visceral attack of something like “Pornography“, but re-tooling it for the 21st century.
Despite being issued as far back as 2008, “4:13 Dream” remains the most recent Cure studio effort. Recorded by a new look four piece of Smith, the returning Thompson, Gallup and Cooper, the keyboard parts were handled by Smith. The band lined up a tour to promote the album but in the end, the album was pushed back and pushed back, eventually being pushed back so far that the LP was finally released after the completion of the tour! The “4 Tour”, a reference I guess to the new line up, ran from July 2007 to June 2008. The band played just one gig in the UK, at Wembley Arena, on 20th March 2008, where they rattled through 25 songs before returning for an encore, presented in 3 parts, which consisted of 16 - yes, count ’em - 16 songs. The third encore was a 7-song run through of material entirely from the “Three Imaginary Boys” period. Monumental. My sister was knackered by the time they finished. Four singles were released from the LP in the run up to it’s release, on a monthly basis from May to August, with each release being issued on the 13th day of that month.
So in terms of new, recorded, studio output, that’s it. But as a live band, it’s a totally different story. Whilst the pickings since signing to Geffen have been slim (indeed, I think they are label-less at the moment), the band’s touring escapades are quite intense. Following the release of “Bloodflowers”, the band conducted a tour in which the three albums from the trilogy were played in full. The idea of doing multiple albums, in full, in the same show has been repeated since. A 2011 tour saw the first three studio albums played in full (with former members rejoining temporarily to help out) which became known as the “Reflections” shows. The line up has fluctuated even more since their last studio outing, and 2016 will see the band head out on another tour where although new material is mooted, the tour is being billed as featuring “hits, rarities and favourites”, suggesting another set of 3 hour long shows that will undoubtedly delight the hardcore. The band seem to be quite proud of their past, and are more than happy to revisit it - a tour poster for the band’s run of Christmas shows at the Hammersmith Apollo from a few years back proudly used the original “Cure” logo as featured on “Three Imaginary Boys”. As I type this, the band are a five piece again - Smith, Gallup, O’Donnell, Cooper and former Tin Machine guitar mangler Reeves Gabrels. But it could easily have changed again by the time you read this.
So. When I was a kid, and those “expanded” Bowie albums came out in 1990, I was under the impression that the whole point of these releases were to make the album available on CD, with extra tracks taking up the otherwise ‘empty space’ that you had at the end of the LP, and that these releases were the ‘definitive’ edition.
Of course I was wrong. Every few years, something happens, and these so-called definitive releases get replaced by something else. A few years back, I had heard a rumour that the Cure’s deluxe ones had been deleted. From what I can gather, they dutifully were. And in their place came single disc, bonus track-less, reissues. Pointless. But the good news is Amazon now seems to be stocking double disc pressings from the EU with a 2012 copyright date, so it does seem as though somebody has seen sense, and that the expanded releases do now seem to exist in one form or another. The first wave were housed in fold out sleeves, the 2012 run in regular slim line cases.
Anyway, given that me and my sister got into the Cure years ago, and between us, bought all these records some 20 or 25 years ago now, I have decided to list the original discography because this is really what most of my collection consists of. I have then detailed the reissues separately, showcasing the cat numbers that were used on the original reissues from 2004/5- the 2012 ones seem to have more ‘generic‘ numbers, with about 20 digits each - too much to type out! The single disc versions, being cheaper, are still on catalogue as well.
Of course, the double (and triple) disc pressings are the ones to go for if you have the time and (little bit of extra) money to go hunting them down. A quick look while I was writing this suggests the 2012 copies are now doing the rounds at a tenner a go. Nice (although one or two albums seem to be "AWOL"). As an aside, what I will say, is that in terms of the original releases, the extra tracks on the double play cassettes have all resurfaced on the double disc releases, whilst the extra tracks from the MC version of “Standing On A Beach” and the material from the “Kiss Me” 12” are all on “Join The Dots”. The “bonus” track on the “Bloodflowers” album, “Coming Up”, was included on the vinyl edition, and later appeared on “Join The Dots”, it’s first time on a UK CD release.
ORIGINAL PRESSINGS DISCOGRAPHY
Three Imaginary Boys (LP, Fiction FIX 1)
Three Imaginary Boys (Cassette, Fiction FIXC 1)
Three Imaginary Boys (CD, Fiction 827 686-2)
Boys Don’t Cry (LP, Fiction SPELP 26)
Boys Don’t Cry (Cassette, Fiction SPEMC 26)
Boys Don’t Cry (CD, Fiction 815 011-2)
Seventeen Seconds (LP, Fiction FIX 004)
Seventeen Seconds (Cassette, Fiction FIXC 004)
Seventeen Seconds (CD, Fiction 825 354-2)
Faith (LP, Fiction FIX 6)
Faith (Cassette, Fiction FIXC 6)
Faith (CD, Fiction 827 687-2)
Pornography (LP, Fiction FIXD 7)
Pornography (Cassette, Fiction FIXDC 7)
Pornography (CD, Fiction 827 688-2)
Japanese Whispers (LP, Fiction FIXM 8)
Japanese Whispers (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 8)
Japanese Whispers (CD, Fiction 817 470-2)
The Top (LP, Fiction FIXS 9)
The Top (Cassette, Fiction FIXSC 9, unique p/s)
The Top (CD, Fiction 821 136-2)
Concert (LP, Fiction FIXH 10)
Concert (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 10)
Concert (CD, Fiction 823 682-2)
The Head On The Door (LP, Fiction FIXH 11)
The Head On The Door (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 11)
The Head On The Door (CD, Fiction 827 231-2)
Standing On A Beach (LP, Fiction FIXH 12)
Standing On A Beach - And Unavailable B-sides (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 12)
Staring At The Sea (CD, Fiction 829 239-2, with 4 extra tracks)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 13)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (2xLP + Orange Vinyl 12“, Fiction FIXHA 13)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 13)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (CD, Fiction 832 130-2)
Disintegration (LP, Fiction FIXH 14)
Disintegration (Picture Disc LP, Fiction FIXHP 14, in see through PVC sleeve)
Disintegration (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 14)
Disintegration (CD, Fiction 839 353-2)
Entreat (LP, Fiction FIXH 17)
Entreat (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 17)
Entreat (CD, Fiction FIXCD 17)
Mixed Up (2xLP, Fiction FIXLP 18)
Mixed Up (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 18)
Mixed Up (CD, Fiction FIXCD 18)
Wish (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 20)
Wish (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 20)
Wish (CD, Fiction FIXCD 20)
Show (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 25)
Show (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 25)
Show (2xCD, Fiction FIXCD 25)
Paris (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 26)
Paris (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 26)
Paris (CD, Fiction FIXCD 26)
Wild Mood Swings (2xLP, Fiction FIXLP 28)
Wild Mood Swings (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 28)
Wild Mood Swings (CD, Fiction FIXCD 28)
Galore (2xLP, Fiction FIXLP 30)
Galore (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 30)
Galore (CD, Fiction FIXCD 30)
Bloodflowers (2xLP, Fiction FIX 31)
Bloodflowers (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 31)
Bloodflowers (CD, Fiction FIXCD 31)
Greatest Hits (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 32)
Greatest Hits (CD, Fiction FIXCD 32)
Greatest Hits (2xCD, Fiction FIXCDL 32, with free “Acoustic Hits“ bonus disc)
Join The Dots (4xCD, Fiction 981 463-0)
The Cure (2xLP, Geffen 986 284-6)
The Cure (CD, Geffen 986 288-6)
The Cure (CD+DVD, Geffen 986 289-0)
4:13 Dream (CD, Geffen 06025 176 42256)
Bestival Live 2011 (2xCD, Sunday Best SBESTCD 50)
2004-2006 REISSUE DISCOGRAPHY
Three Imaginary Boys (2xCD, Fiction 982 182-8)
Three Imaginary Boys (CD, Fiction 982 182-9)
Seventeen Seconds (2xCD, Fiction 982 183-1)
Seventeen Seconds (CD, Fiction 982 183-2)
Faith (2xCD, Fiction 982 183-4)
Faith (CD, Fiction 983 074-5)
Pornography (2xCD, Fiction 982 183-7)
Pornography (CD, Fiction 982 183-8)
The Top (2xCD, Fiction 984 001-2)
The Top (CD, Fiction 984 001-3)
The Head On The Door (2xCD, Fiction 984 001-6)
The Head On The Door (CD, Fiction 984 001-7)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (2xCD, Fiction 984 008-0)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (CD, Fiction 984 008-1)
Disintegration (3xCD, Fiction 532 456-6)
Disintegration (CD, Fiction 532 456-8)
Saturday, 5 March 2016
When it came to work outside of the Spice banner, not all of the Spice Girls did it for me. The two Mels fared the worst. Mel B, as the one who seemed most in love with all things R&B, thus set off on a fairly unsuccessful solo career which did nothing more than offer mediocre attempts within the genre - a pointless exercise when the likes of Destiny‘s Child already existed. Mel C, as the avowed indie girl, should have been the one who walked away from the band with the most kudos, but after an ill-advised “punk” set at the V Festival, ended up indulging in a career that seemed most successful, chart wise, when she went down the dance route, but which again, music wise, offered up only so-so offerings within a genre where quality music is usually very difficult to get right. Put it this way, she didn’t do a “Blue Monday” or “The Model”.
It was the remaining trio who made the best Spice-related solo records, mainly because none of them ventured too far off the pop path with which they had made their mark. They too all experienced varying levels of success, and as I type this, neither Geri, Vicky or Emma are officially “currently inbetween" albums. So this blog, which nabs it’s subtitle from a Frankie Valli boxset BTW, could well be, forever more, the definitive list of the best Spice solo efforts.
By jumping ship whilst the band were still an ongoing concern, it was Ginger who thus made the first real solo outings outside of the trio, following a one-off Mel B effort and a Mel C collaboration with Bryan Adams. 1999’s “Look At Me” was a real statement of intent, a big booming Shirley Bassey-esque piece of pomp. A limited edition version of the CD single featured postcards using stills from the promo video, in which Geri took on different personas - “Bitch”, “Sister”, “Vamp” and “Virgin”. It dented the top 5 and showed that, despite having been subjected to much grumbling about her vocal skills in the past, Geri potentially had the staying power to rival her former group in the charts.
Seen by some of us not just as Ginger, but also as “Sexy Spice”, EMI decided to play up on Geri’s slightly vampy image on the next single, the flamenco romp of “Mi Chico Latino” - Geri sashayed around the video in a skimpy bikini, and the two CD Single editions issued both utilised images of Geri’s ’sultry beach’ look. From this release onwards, EMI generally decided to really kick out bonus chunks of B-side material, with new recordings adorning the first CD edition, and remixes the second. More or less every Geri single subsequently issued on EMI followed a similar path.
“Chico” was the second of four singles lifted from Geri’s debut LP, “Schizophonic”, issued in the summer of 1999. As it’s title suggested, it was issued in two different covers - a white, angelic sleeve, and a red, devilish sleeve. In America, Capitol issued the CD in a boxset edition, housed in an oversized black box with the “white” version of the album, a keyring, and a VHS containing the “Look At Me” video and an interview, housed in the same basic sleeve as the “Look At Me” single. Sales wise, “Schizophonic” - at last count - had sold more copies than the Spice Girls sole LP without her, “Forever” - further proof, potentially, that the Spice Girls minus Geri weren’t quite really the Spice Girls.
In 2001, with her former band by now having gone on an indefinite hiatus, Geri continued to have the last laugh by returning with a hi-camp, and hugely successful, cover of “It’s Raining Men”, the first release from her second LP “Scream If You Wanna Go Faster”. It was also featured in the “Bridget Jones’s Diary” movie, which possibly helped it shift more units, alongside EMI’s continued ’double CD’ approach to Geri’s singles. As with most Geri 45s, promo 12 inch copies were pressed in a different sleeve with a barrage of remixes. What these promos also offered up regularly were full length remixes, which usually had to appear in edited form on the commercially released singles due to timing restrictions. I have several Geri promos, but probably not enough to offer an authoritative view on the subject, but the potential is there for these releases to be looked at in more depth.
I seem to recall that the weekly inkies hated the “Scream” LP, but from what I can remember, it’s nothing disastrous. Certainly, the title track - issued as the next single - was another piece of gloriously hi-energy hyper pop, and was further proof that as huge as the Spice Girls had been, Geri had shown how an individual member could prove to be just as big outside the group. She plugged the LP at 2001’s “Party In The Park”, where she paraded round onstage in a bodysuit and not much else, furthering the “Sexy Spice” image.
After a third single from the LP, “Calling”, got no further than number 7, Geri was reportedly unhappy at it’s “failure” and stepped away from the world of pop. EMI, it seems, must have been disappointed with the sales of the last album, although it had gone top 5, because when Geri - now performing as “Geri” and not “Geri Halliwell” - returned in 2004, she was on a new label, a sister EMI imprint called Innocent, home to the likes of Billie and Spice-esque Liverpudlians Atomic Kitten.
The comeback single on her new label was the bouncy disco romp of “Ride It”, which acknowledged the fetishistic fascination that was starting to occur as regards the vinyl comeback, by being the first commercially released Geri solo release to appear as a 12” Picture Disc. With the two track CD single now also part and parcel of UK releases, Innocent issued one of the CD editions as a “2 for 1” hits release, with “It’s Raining Men” as the flipside, a trick they also pulled with Atomic Kitten at one point. Remixes of the A-side adorned the second CD and 12” releases.
With the next single being a reasonably seductive, and semi raunchy, piece of saucy pop called “Desire”, complete with an equally amorous video, Innocent decided to issue a DVD single rather than a slab of vinyl this time around, and the video was dutifully included on the disc, along with the clip for “Ride It” - a still from the "Desire" promo was used on the front of this edition. Again, remixes (of both old and new material) adorned the CD editions, with one of the CD versions featuring a shot of Geri in a skimpy nightshirt, another attempt at “sexing up” the release, I think.
Now, I am not sure how it then all went wrong. But I will admit, having bought everything by this lady up till this point, I decided to wait for the new album to ’drop in price’ before I bought it. Trouble is, it seems I wasn’t the only one, because by the time I did pick up my copy, “Passion” had entered and disappeared from the UK charts overnight, charting at a lowly 41, with sales of barely 5,500 copies - making “Climate Of Hunter” look like “Sgt Pepper” in terms of success. It brought a premature end to Geri’s career - plans for her first ’proper’ tour were shelved, and “Passion” became the final release by Geri on the label. And indeed, Spice reunions notwithstanding, her final release at all. Since 2005, Geri has been seen hanging out with rich businessmen, getting married, and becoming a kids author. She probably doesn’t need to work ever again, as she was co-credited on a large number of the songs that she recorded, but I really do love Geri - and seeing her pop up now and again as a guest judge on something like “The X Factor” is a bit of a downer, really. There was some one off, download only, Australian single in 2013, but as we all know, downloads don’t count.
Schizophonic (CD, EMI 521 0092, red or white p/s)
Schizophonic (Cassette, EMI 521 0094)
Schizophonic (MiniDisc, EMI 521 0098)
Scream If You Wanna Go Faster (CD, EMI 533 3692)
Scream If You Wanna Go Faster (Cassette, EMI 533 3694)
Passion (CD, Innocent CDSIN 19)
Look At Me (LP Version)/(Mark!s Big Vocal Mix Surgery Edit)/(Terminalhead Remix)/(Video) (CD1, EMI CDEMS 542, with 4 free postcards, digipack sleeve)
Look At Me (LP Version)/(Mark!s Big Vocal Mix Surgery Edit)/(Terminalhead Remix)/(Video) (CD2, EMI CDEM 542)
Look At Me (LP Version)/(Mark!s Big Vocal Mix Surgery Edit)/(Terminalhead Remix) (Cassette, EMI TCEM 542)
Mi Chico Latino/G.A.Y./Summertime/Mi Chico Latino (Video) (CD1, EMI CDEMS 548)
Mi Chico Latino (Original Version)/(Junior Vasquez Main Pass Edit)/(Charlie Rapino 12” Version)/(Claudio Coccoluto The Coco Club Mix) (CD2, EMI CDEM 548, in unique “Bikini” p/s, some/all copies list wrong track listing on disc)
Lift Me Up (Album Version)/(Metro Edit)/(Almighty Edit)/(K Klass Phazerphunk Mix) (CD1, EMI CDEMS 554, in “Car” p/s + poster)
Lift Me Up/Live And Let Die/Very Slowly/Lift Me Up (Video) (CD2, EMI CDEM 554)
Bag It Up/These Boots Are Made For Walking/Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps/Bag It Up (Video) (CD1, EMI CDEMS 560)
Bag It Up (LP Version)/(D-Bop’s Chocolate Vocal Edit)/(Trouser Enthusiasts’ Edit)/(Yomanda Edit) (CD2, EMI CDEM 560, unique p/s)
It’s Raining Men/I Was Made That Way/Brave New World/It’s Raining Men (Video) (CD1, EMI CDEMS 584)
It’s Raining Men (Album Version)/(Bold & Beautiful Glamour Mix Edit)/(Almighty Mix Edit)/(D-Bop’s Tall And Blonde Mix Edit) (CD2, EMI CDEM 584, unique p/s)
Scream If You Wanna Go Faster/New Religion/Breaking Glass (CD1, EMI CDEMS 595, “Good Geri” p/s)
Scream If You Wanna Go Faster (Album Version)/(Sleaze Sisters Anthem Mix [Edit])/(Rob Searle Remix [Edit])/(Burnt Remix) (CD2, EMI CDEM 595, “Evil Geri” p/s)
Calling/Getting Better/Destiny/Calling (Video) (CD1, EMI CDEMS 606)
Calling (Album Version)/(WIP ‘Couer De Lion’ Edit)/(Metro 7 Inch)/(Mauve’s Factor 25 Mix)/(Mareeko Remix Edit) (CD2, EMI CDEM 606, unique p/s)
Ride It (Radio Version)/It’s Raining Men (CD1, Innocent SINCD 69)
Ride It (Radio Version)/(Hex Hector 7” Mix)/(Ian Masterson Extended)/(Maloney Remix) (CD2, Innocent SINDX 69, different p/s + 4 free postcards)
Ride It (Hex Hector 12” Mix)/(Full Intention Mix) (12” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Innocent SINT 69)
Desire/Lift Me Up (K Klass Phazerphunk Edit) (CD1, Innocent SINCD 75)
Desire (LP Version)/(Bimbo Jones Remix (Vocal))/(Shanghai Surprize Remix) (CD2, Innocent SINDX 75, unique p/s)
Desire (Video)/Ride It (Video)/Desire (Behind The Scenes Footage - Video)/True Love Never Dies (DVD, Innocent SINDVD 75, unique p/s)
Note: several of the singles above were also issued on Cassette, often replicating the tracks from the CD1 editions - the disadvantage being that those CD1 releases usually had the video on as well, making them a more worthwhile purchase. I have had real trouble trying to get CD Roms to play recently, suggesting the technology hasn’t survived, so you may find, the cassette singles might be worth a punt if you find one, on the basis the video may not play properly anyway if you go for the CD version instead. Possibly. Same goes for some of the Emma releases detailed later in this article.
It seems sort of strange, given that for many she was the “least musical” of the band, that Victoria Beckham is now one of the most famous women in the world. Being married to a handsome and famous footballer helps, but I still find it incredible that Victoria gets on the cover of magazines all the time still, despite having “retired” from celebrity a few years back to become a fashion designer - put it this way, she gets in “Heat” magazine more often than Tom Ford does.
Vicky’s solo career probably seemed like an unlikely event - after all, this was the woman who doesn’t seem to actually be on the band’s first single at all - but, despite it being a quite brief period, Vicky’s solo years produced some really quite excellent material. She seemed to be able to transfer the R&B influences from the band’s past into quite good solo material in a way that Mel B, for some reason, simply couldn’t do.
Victoria started her solo career with what could have been a one off. She was invited to sing on a 2-step garage tune called “Out Of Your Mind” by a group called True Steppers, Dane Bowers from Another Level was also invited to hide away in the background. It was typically high energy, and despite coming from a genre which simply just had the one tune, by inviting an actual popstar to sing on it, gave it a more mainstream feel, meaning that as a piece of pop music, it was actually quite thrilling.
Of course, when the single stalled at number 2, the press had a field day - Beckham was already very famous at this point, and for her to have a “flop record” was tabloid heaven. Insult to injury was added when the record that beat her to number 1 was another dance/pop collab, as the chart topper that beat her was Spiller’s “Groovejet”, featuring vocals from the one time vocalist of Indie-poppers Theaudience, Sophie Ellis Bextor. Vicky’s biggest gig had been Wembley Stadium, Theaudience’s was the University of London Union.
Nevertheless, a number 2 hit is better than a number 3, and Vicky decided a solo career was not beyond her capabilities. With Spice now on hiatus, she signed a solo deal with the label (Virgin) and returned in the autumn of 2001 with the shuffly dance-pop of “Not Such An Innocent Girl”. In a presumably unrelated throwback to the dual-cover release of Geri’s debut, she was featured on the cover of “Smash Hits” in the run up to it’s release, with one cover featuring Vicky looking innocent, and another cover featuring her looking not so innocent. The single went top 10, and was issued on 12” and DVD, with new flipsides and remixes spread across the formats.
Her self titled album was issued in October 01, also entering the top 10, but selling in relatively modest numbers. The image shown above is of the striking front cover, promo copies were also issued in a completely different sleeve, which for such a photogenic character, interestingly featured no photo of Vicky at all. Instead, the “VB” logo was enlarged to fill the entire cover. “Out Of Your Mind” was not included on the album.
The acoustic strum of “A Mind Of It’s Own” was issued as the next single, but with the single not being particularly remix-able, the B-sides from the CD edition were hawked around all of the other formats as well, as there was simply no other material available. This could potentially have had some effect on the sales figures, but in the end, it too dented the top 10. Like Geri, there was no solo concert performances - indeed, of the trio we are looking at here, mimed TV plugs and the odd guest spot seemed to account for all “public appearances” - but interestingly, she did perform an album track called “IOU” when she was invited to promote the LP on the “Parkinson” TV chat show.
With sales and chart positions nowhere near the levels Vicky had attained during Spice Fever, she was dropped from Virgin, and by 2003, had signed a deal with Telstar. As the most famous of all the Spice Girls, Beckham had attracted the attentions of US record producer Damon Dash, and they began working on an album of R&B and Hip Hop inspired material, under the working title of “Come Together”. Telstar heard the results, and were unimpressed - there was some worry, it seems, as to how they could market such an American sounding album which everybody knew was by somebody as British as they come.
Beckham then recorded an entirely new album called “Open Your Eyes”, which toned down the R&B side and returned her to her “pop” roots. Once it was finished, Vicky was reportedly unhappy with the whole thing, and Telstar now had, in the vaults, enough material for a double album, but seemingly were unsure which bits of it should see the light of day.
In late 2003, they issued a double A-sided single which combined a song each from both the sessions, apparently as a tester to see which song the public liked more. The idea, apparently, would then be to put together an album using material from the preferred session. “This Groove” / “Let Your Head Go”, in my opinion, is the best Spice-solo release of them all. The former is a fabulous, beat driven piece of smoothly crafted R&B, with some absolutely delicious vocals from our Vic, the latter a slightly hyper-manic pop romp, complete with equally psychotic promo video - for a woman always viewed as being dour and miserable, the clip showed she could do ludicrousness and comedy quite well. The single did pretty good, and Beckham, for so long derided as the Spice Girl who either couldn’t, or didn’t want to, sing, seemed to be on the verge of a highly credible, and potentially exciting, musical comeback.
And then it all collapsed. Telstar had gotten into the habit of giving huge advances to acts who then couldn’t help them recoup their money, and it seems as though the amount of money spent on the (two) album(s) was the final straw, and the label went bankrupt in 2004. Beckham and Dash fell out, and Beckham’s music career stalled to an undignified halt. Part of the Telstar deal was the release of a DVD and VHS ’rockumentary’ about David and Victoria called “The Real Beckhams”, about their recent relocation to Spain, and the two promo clips filmed for the single were tagged on as bonuses to the release. The documentary even came with a personalised catalogue number showing it as the second release by Vicky on the label (VHSVB2, for the video version for example), but once the label went under, it brought Vicky’s pop career to an end. She did get involved in the Spice reunions, and for a while continued to dabble in the world of celebrity whilst not saying whether or not a return to the solo career was on the cards (most memorable thing from this period was the Calvin Klein shoot, Google it if you have been living under a rock since 2005) but by the end of 2013, with her fashion designer career starting to fly, Vicky eventually started to talk about her pop career in the past tense. Ten years on from the Telstar debacle, it was finally officially all over.
Victoria Beckham (CD, Virgin CDV 2942)
Victoria Beckham (Cassette, Virgin TCV 2942)
Out Of Your Mind (Radio Edit)/(10 Degrees Below Vs X Men Vocal Mix)/(10 Degrees Below Dub) (CD, Nu Life 74321 782942, with insert)
Out Of Your Mind (12” Mix)/(10 Degrees Below Vs X Men Vocal Mix)/(10 Degrees Below Dub) (12“, Nu Life 74321 782941, unique p/s, with insert)
Out Of Your Mind (Radio Edit)/(10 Degrees Below Vs X Men Vocal Mix) (Cassette, Nu Life 74321 782944)
Not Such An Innocent Girl/In Your Dreams/Not Such An Innocent Girl (Sunship Mix Feat. MC RB) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1816)
Not Such An Innocent Girl (Video)/(Robbie Rivera’s Main Mix)/(Sunship Dub Feat. MC RB) (DVD, Virgin VSDVD 1816, unique p/s)
Not Such An Innocent Girl (Robbie Rivera’s Main Mix)/(Robbie Rivera’s 3AM Dark Mix)/(Sunship Mix Feat. MC RB)/(Sunship Dub Feat. MC RB) (12”, Virgin VST 1816, in unique die cut sleeve)
A Mind Of It’s Own (Remix)/Always Be My Baby/Feels So Good (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1824)
A Mind Of It’s Own (Remix)/Always Be My Baby/Feels So Good (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1824)
A Mind Of It’s Own (Video)/Always Be My Baby/Feels So Good/Victoria “Behind The Scenes” at the Video Shoot (Video) (DVD, Virgin VSDVD 1824, unique p/s)
This Groove (Radio Mix)/Let Your Head Go (Radio Mix) (AA-side CD1, Telstar CDVB 1)
Let Your Head Go (Jakatta Remix)/This Groove (Para Beats Remix)/Let Your Head Go (Radio Mix)/This Groove (Radio Mix) (AA-side CD2, Telstar CXVB 1, unique p/s)
Baby’s solo career seemed to stick the closest to the Spice template. Her career mostly followed the more mainstream pop sound of the group, with occasional flashes of more esoteric, and sonically odd, bouts of future-pop.
Rather strangely, she launched her career whilst the band were still an ongoing concern, with a dance-pop crossover effort, after she contributed vocals to a cover of “What I Am”, recorded by Tin Tin Out. It wasn’t a banging club effort, like Vicky’s debut, but more a shuffly bit of funk-pop, although it was still subjected to some remix treatment. It was a big hit, with some formats technically being issued as a AA-side, as another of the band’s collaborations (with singer Wendy Page) was used to bolster the single’s track listing.
It was eventually, several years later, tagged on as a bonus track to Bunton’s debut LP, 2001’s “A Girl Like Me”. The opening track, “What Took You So Long?”, was issued as the ‘official’ lead single from the album, and showed the breezy, semi-acoustic pop that would characterise the LP. It went to the top of the singles chart, whilst the album went top 5. Critical reaction was mixed, with some feeling that Bunton’s attempts at making a Spice-sounding record seemed like a bit of a waste.
“Take My Breath Away”, issued as the follow up single, had a promo video that recalled Geri’s beach antics for “Mi Chico”, possibly as an attempt to sex up Bunton’s image, and get her away from the whole “Baby Spice” thing. A further piece of shameless record company shenanigans was conducted by issuing said video on a DVD single release. A Tin Tin Out remix was issued as one of the b-sides, I guess, as a bit of a thank you present.
Multi formatting continued with the bouncy pop of “We’re Not Gonna Sleep Tonight”, although this didn’t help the single go any higher than number 20. Bunton then shifted labels from Virgin - like Beckham, she had been signed to the label as part of the Spice connection - to 19 Records, releasing her first single on the label in 2003.
That single, “Free Me” (credited simply to “Emma“, despite the fact I can think of another solo “Emma“ from the dim and distant past), showcased a slightly more vibrant sounding Emma, and was a decent trailer for the second album of the same name. Of all the Spice-related solo efforts, this is probably the standout. Unashamedly influenced by 60s pop, Motown and soul music, it’s arguably better than any of the three albums she issued as part of the group itself, with a sound that was both simultaneously grown up, but also as catchy as hell.
Future singles showcased moments of pop genius, that easily gave new kids on the block, Girls Aloud, a run for their money. “Maybe” was a glorious hi-energy romp of ’sophisti-pop’ (I got that genre from Wikipedia, I don’t think it actually exists), whilst the following “I’ll Be There” was an equally stunning piece of retro glamour-pop (I invented that one). Last single was arguably the best, the slightly psychotic, bossa nova swing madness of “Crickets Sing For Anamaria”. All of this was being done whilst Bunton was being presented as a stylish pin up-esque siren, none of the lollipop sucking from the Spice days, the album, it’s singles and accompanying photoshoots all attempted to showcase a new look, more “adult”, Bunton.
In 2006, Emma took part in BBC’s “Strictly Come Dancing”. Often used by a celeb slightly past their sell by date to try and re-invigorate their career - albeit in a fabulously fun Saturday Night TV manner - Bunton decided to use it instead to plug her new LP, another retro-sounding effort called “Life In Mono”. The first single from the album, a cover of “Downtown”, killed several birds with one stone - it also included Bunton’s co-stars from the TV show in the promo video, and was also that year’s official ’Children In Need’ single. The second CD featured covers of Cilla Black‘s “Something Tells Me” and “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” (also covered, years before, by Geri), another nod to the direction of the retro-pop sound Bunton was now starting to excel at. The new look “sex symbol” image was still in situ - she appeared as a sexy French maid in the video, whilst the “Life In Mono” cover featured an almost-FHM style cover, with Bunton, in saucy over the knee socks, giving the camera the ’come on’.
But the album stalled for some reason. The flipsides were included as (selected) bonus tracks on the Special Edition release (although, there was actually no “not special“ edition), but even this was not enough to get the album to go any higher than 65 in the charts. The LP didn’t get nearly enough the same level of acclaim as “Free Me”, and Bunton’s solo career was suddenly stalling in the same way Geri’s had done 12 months previous. A second single, an edited “All I Need To Know”, was issued in February 2007, although I remain convinced it was withdrawn from sale. I am sure I was buying Bunton’s singles religiously at the time, but it took me until quite recently to pick up a copy - which itself was a promo stickered edition at that. Copies do seem to be scarce, either way, because like the album, it was a relative flop, stalling at number 60 - despite being issued in the download age, it disappeared soon after. By the end of the year, the Spice reunion was underway and Bunton’s often brilliant solo career was quietly shunted into the sidelines.
A Girl Like Me (CD, Virgin CDV 2935)
A Girl Like Me (Cassette, Virgin TCV 2935)
Free Me (CD, 19 Records 986615-8)
Life In Mono (CD, Universal 1718300)
What I Am (Radio Version)/(Gangstarr Remix) +1 (CD, Virgin VCRD 53)
What I Am (Radio Version)/(Gangstarr Remix) +1 (Cassette, Virgin VCRC 53)
What I Am (Gangstarr Remix)/(Groove Chronicles Remix) +1 (12”, Virgin VCRT 53, unique p/s)
What Took You So Long?/(Hey You) Free Up Your Mind/Merry-Go-Round/What Took You So Long? (Video) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1796)
Take My Breath Away (Single Mix)/Close Encounter/Take My Breath Away (Tin Tin Out Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1814)
Take My Breath Away (Single Mix)/Close Encounter/Take My Breath Away (Tin Tin Out Mix) (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1814)
Take My Breath Away (Video)/Invincible/Take My Breath Away (Tin Tin Out Mix) (DVD, Virgin VSDVD 1814, with 4 postcards)
We’re Not Gonna Sleep Tonight (Radio Mix)/(3AM Mix)/Let Your Baby Show You How To Move (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1821)
We’re Not Gonna Sleep Tonight (Radio Mix)/(3AM Mix)/Let Your Baby Show You How To Move (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1821)
We’re Not Gonna Sleep Tonight (Radio Mix)/Let Your Baby Show You How To Move/We’re Not Gonna Sleep Tonight (Video) (DVD, Virgin VSDVD 1821, unique p/s, with 4 postcards)
Free Me/Who The Hell Are You/Free Me (Full Intention’s Freed Up Mix)/(Video) (CD1, 19 Records 980747-2)
Free Me/Tomorrow/Free Me (Full Intention’s Sultra Mix) (CD2, 19 Records 980747-3, unique p/s, with 3 postcards)
Maybe/Don’t Tell Me You Love Me Anymore/Maybe (Bini And Martini Club Mix)/(Video) (CD, 19 Records 981278-5)
I’ll Be There/So Long (CD1, 19 Records 981626-7)
I’ll Be There/Takin’ It Easy/I’ll Be There (Europa XL Vocal Mix)/(Bimbo Jones Vocal Mix)/(Video) (CD2, 19 Records 981626-8, different p/s)
Crickets Sing For Anamaria (Radio Edit)/Eso Beso/So Nice (Summer Samba)/Crickets Sing For Anamaria (Element’s Cricket Dance On Tequila Booty Mix) (CD1, 19 Records 986682-6)
Crickets Sing For Anamaria/Maybe (Latin Version) (CD2, 19 Records 986685-6, blue p/s)
Downtown (LP Mix)/(Element Remix) (CD1, Universal 1717347)
Downtown/Something Tells Me (Something’s Going To Happen)/Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps/Downtown (Video) (CD2, Universal 1717348, unique p/s)
All I Need To Know (Single Edit)/Midnight And Martinis (CD, Universal 1723657)
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
Now. I am not going to claim that the debut Spice Girls LP is on a par with, say, the first Arctic Monkeys one. But with the current trend for bigging up what are, in my opinion, rather bland acts (Adele - the new Celine Dion, Little Mix - sub Girls Aloud), then that would make people who I think are quite good absolute musical geniuses. Indeed, you could argue that not only would Little Mix not have existed had it not been for Cheryl and Co, but that Girls Aloud themselves had the Spice Girls to thank for their entire career. The Spice Girls may not have been the first girl band in the world of pop (we had The Supremes and Bananarama for starters), but they did seem to be the first post-Madonna group designed specifically to cater for a style of “pure pop” that had otherwise been the domain of solo acts like Dannii Minogue. Whilst it is fair to say that Girls Aloud took the Spice template, and re-worked it into something more futuristic and, at times, more cutting edge, the Spice Girls had probably made it easier for that happen.
The Spice Girls, allegedly, had been designed as a female Take That - only with better songs. The idea was, that Take That appealed to teenage girls, and so Spice could be designed for teenage boys, and perhaps, their dads as well. In the end, the Spice Girls had a slightly different demographic - they ended up getting a big teenage girl following, who bought into their whole ’Girl Power’ shtick, but they also caught the attention of those of us who saw them as Madonna’s younger sisters. Yes, I know, they never did a “Borderline” and certainly not a “Like A Prayer”, but equally, they never plunged the depths of awfulness that Boyzone and Westlife managed. They helped to kickstart a new sub-genre of “female pop” that saw the likes of Solid Harmonie, N Tyce, Billie and Britney follow in their wake - the latter soon taking the Princess Of Pop title along the way.
Whilst the likes of the X Factor nowadays seem to be a short cut for those wanting to become famous overnight - which, as we have now seen quite a bit, doesn‘t usually seem to actually happen - the Spice Girls formation was actually quite a long winded process - the genesis of the group as dissected on Wikipedia goes on for ages. The short version, is that in 1994, auditions were held to try and put together a new girl band, and Victoria Adams, Melanie Chisholm and Melanie Brown were amongst the girls who were successfully making their way through the “knockout stages”. Geri Halliwell later ‘forced’ her way into the later stages of the process, and the eventual five piece that was formed, initially under the name of Touch, consisted of these four girls and Michelle Stephenson.
By the end of the year, Stephenson had been replaced by Emma Bunton, and the group rechristened Spice Girls. Although they were, theoretically, a group of unknowns, most members had their “past” rediscovered in the years that followed - Bunton had had a couple of acting cameos, Adams had been a fashion model and had musical ambitions, whilst Halliwell had done everything from TV presenting overseas to posing nude as a glamour girl. The group eventually signed a deal with Virgin Records in 1995, and their debut single was issued in the summer of 1996.
“Wannabe” is, I guess, the band’s signature tune. It’s probably one of the more patchier efforts in the catalogue, suffering a bit from a tinny production and an almost nursery-rhyme style sound, but it did help to introduce the band to the general public, with it’s roll call for the five girls in the middle section “we’ve got Em in your face...we’ve got G like MC” and so on. The single, like most Spice releases, used a band logo with photos of the five girls located within the five letters of the ‘Spice’ part of the band name. The single was released in the UK, and dented the top 5 straight away, before climbing to the number 1 spot. There was, to some extent, an almost punk rock vibe to the single’s success - Geri in particular, was later singled out for “not being able to sing”, Victoria got a similar slagging from some, but they had created a debut single that was quite catchy, whilst looking unlike any other “pop” group currently out there at the time. The Spice Girls were about to become the biggest band in the world.
The follow up single, “Say You’ll Be There”, was the one to turn the borderline doubters around. It was a lot more sophisticated, a slab of smooth R&B, and far less gimmicky than it’s predecessor had been. Sensing they now had a band on their roster that were capable of shifting more units than they had possibly imagined, the CD2 edition of the single came with a free poster of the band. This single followed “Wannabe” to the top of the UK charts.
The group must have been like manna from heaven to kids TV shows, and magazines like Smash Hits. The five girls had a very distinct look, each of them had a style which saw them get given nicknames by “Top Of The Pops” magazine. Hints of the Village People, maybe. These nicknames, Posh, Sporty, Scary, Baby and Ginger, were later adopted as official monikers by the band’s management - I have an official “Posh Spice” mug somewhere in the archives. And in the case of at least Geri, potential pin up girls for the “older” fans - indeed, one marketing campaign in late 97 saw each of the girls appear on the cover of a “suitable” magazine individually, with Geri appearing in hold up stockings on the cover of “Arena”. They may have been designed as a girl band for the pop crowd, but the popularity of the band was starting to explode in all directions, and the girls were making dents outside of their original target audiences.
As such, the band’s debut LP, “Spice”, was issued in late 1996 on vinyl, to cater for the hipsters, as well as the more ‘kids friendly’ cassette and CD formats. The cassette version was housed in a unique sleeve, as the band logo was designed to run down the cover, as opposed to running left to right as on the LP and CD editions. It went to the top of the charts, and shifted a “Beatlemania”-esque number of units. Some critics were unsure of the whole phenomenon, but it mattered not a jot - the Spice Girls were all of a sudden the biggest pop group in the world.
One criticism of the band was the marketing techniques used by their management to “enhance” their brand. Soon, you couldn’t move for packets of Walkers Crisps, Cadbury’s Chocolate Bars and cans of Pepsi which all adorned photos of the band. You could say, looking at modern pop approaches, that this was the beginning of a problem within the genre, of some groups becoming more well know for their looks or outside merchandising cash-ins than the music, but we’d been here before with The Beatles, and Spice were simply retooling this for the 90s. The band even did their own “Panini Sticker” album style thing, when they produced a photo album whereby you had to try and collect all the photos by buying an envelope of photos in your local newsagents, and then just hoping that you didn’t get too many doubles as time went on. You had to get 120 photos, a real money spinner - of course, by this time, I had completely fallen in love with Emma, so I totally went for it. I managed 100 photos in the end, not bad. But not as good as when I completed the Football 83 album.
With the Christmas Number 1 in the singles charts, back then, having an air of excitement about it, before Cowell and downloading killed it, it was no surprise that the girls decided to have a stab at getting one. The swirling pop of “2 Become 1” was issued, with lyrical changes from the LP mix, just in time for Xmas - and did the job, becoming the band’s third number 1 hit single on the trot, and the first of three consecutive Christmas chart toppers. Again, the second CD edition was done as a bit of a fancy “fan edition”, and also featured a festive flipside in the form of “Sleigh Ride”.
By the spring of 1997, Spice had more or less won over the whole world - they were launched in the US to a similar level of excitement as they had already experienced in the UK. They were invited to open the 1997 Brit Awards, and in doing so, created a piece of genuine pop culture history, as Geri strutted onstage in a barely there Union Jack mini-dress. For those of us who wanted to marry Emma, we now genuinely couldn’t decide between her or Geri. Vicky was very close to being taken by a footballer, so she was off the cards.
The song the band played at the Brits was one side of their new AA-sided single, the glorious hi-energy disco romp that was “Who Do You Think You Are”. The single was issued as the official Comic Relief single, and a second video was created in which the band were joined by (fake) rival group “The Sugar Lumps”, including comediennes Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders and a genuine pop star in the form of Lulu in their ranks. The other side of the single was the slightly schmaltzy gospel inspired “Mama”, in which the band’s own mothers appeared in the video. In Germany, the single was issued in an “autographed” sleeve (pre-signed). The band’s first VHS collection, “One Hour Of Girl Power” was issued soon afterwards, and included the promo clips made for all of the singles thus far. This, and the AA-side single, brought the promotion for the first LP to a close.
As part of the Pepsi tie in, the band’s next single was a mail order only release in the summer of 97, “Step To Me”, a totally brand new recording. I have no memories of how I got my copy, but Wikipedia reminds me that it involved collecting ring pulls from Spice-emblazoned cans of Pepsi, and sending them off once you had the required number. Four different mixes of the songs were included on the CD, which remains unavailable on any other Spice release in the UK. Part of the campaign also saw fans being entered into a prize draw to see the band in concert, as the group were due to play a pair of gigs (their first “proper” ones) in Istanbul in October. I seem to recall that the two shows were sort of “by invite only” and the decision to play in Turkey can surely only be that that was where Geri did her pre-fame TV stint. Otherwise, it seems a bit random. The two shows were filmed and used to compile the “Girl Power Live In Istanbul” VHS.
The gigs were timed to coincide with beginning of the promo campaign for the band’s second LP - the second show took place on 13th October, the same day as the UK release of the first single from said LP. That single was the maraca-shaking madness that was “Spice Up Your Life”, which sailed to the top of the charts just like all the others. It was the first of two singles to feature a B-side with a play on words of the band name, with “Spice Invaders” appearing on the MC and CD1 editions.
The single was taken from the group’s “Spiceworld” album, issued soon after. It formed the sort-of soundtrack to the band’s first movie, also called “Spiceworld”, due for release that Christmas. The idea of the band doing a film was a no brainer, the group were obviously trying to do everything other popstars had done, so this was going to be their “A Hard Days Night”. Again, anybody watching this film should not be disappointed if they come away thinking “hmm, not quite as good as “Duel” or “It’s A Wonderful Life”” but the roll call of stars lining up to do cameos for it, suggested that there was a great deal of love for the Spice Girls. There was a comedic, tongue in cheek charm to what they were doing, with the band paying homage to pop culture across the board - Vicky appeared in promo photos in a re-enactment of the Ursula Andress “Dr No” bikini scene. When the film was issued on VHS the following year, it initially appeared in a number of limited editions, with the film being available in different tin cases which each featured a different Spice Girl on the cover. A later 2-VHS edition included a “making of the film” bonus tape.
The band’s second Christmas Number 1 was “Too Much”, another charmingly sweet piece of pure pop, with a promo clip including bits and pieces from the film. The following February, and the band started their first full tour in Dublin, before playing gigs in the UK in London and Birmingham. Arenas were the order of the day, although so popular were the band, they tended to play multiple shows in each city. Of interest, was that the majority of the UK shows were in Birmingham - in case you didn’t know, the UK’s second city is centrally located, and a lot easier for fans from outside London to get to, but the idea of playing bulk gigs here has never been tried again by anybody, and London is now usually the main port of call for those bands doing a “world tour”.
The band’s gig at the NEC in Brum on 3rd May was taped by the BBC. There were tentative plans to issue the whole gig as a live album, but the plan was never pursued. The Beeb broadcast the show, so bootlegs exist, and a couple of songs were later released officially when the performances of “Who Do You Think You Are” and “Say You’ll Be There” were included as B-sides on “Viva Forever”.
The third single from “Spiceworld”, the infectious Motown stomp of “Stop”, was issued to coincide with the tour. CD1 included live performances from the Istanbul gigs, the first time these had been made available on any format other than the VHS, whilst a cover of “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”, performed as a duet with Luther Vandross on the 1997 “An Audience With The Spice Girls” TV special, appeared as a B-side on CD2. In reality, it’s really Vandross featuring the Girls, as they are mostly restricted to the choruses. The cassette single edition featured nothing rare, but the “Stop” logo used was different to the CD editions due to the quirks of the size and shape of the tape format.
“Move Over”, as recorded in Istanbul, was issued as the next Pepsi “mail order” release. Again, collecting ring pulls was the order of the day. As well as this release, there was also a Various Artists split single release, as three other acts were doing a similar promotion with the company at the time. This EP therefore also includes tracks by Eternal, Hanson and Coolio.
The first leg of the tour was wrapped up in Europe on May 29th 1998. The following day, newspaper reports suggested Geri was leaving the band - I seem to recall The Sun ran an article stating that she had wanted to promote a Breast Cancer Awareness campaign and the rest of the band had said “no”, but don't quote me on that. As the biggest band in the world at the time, this was of course front page “shock horror” news, but apparently, Geri had announced some weeks earlier to her bandmates that she had wanted to leave, so it was on the cards at least as far as the band’s inner circle was concerned. Geri confirmed the news in a statement the following day, although “exhaustion” was cited as the reason.
Plans for a fourth single went ahead as planned, with “Viva Forever” being issued in July. By this point, the band had decided to carry on as a 4-piece, and were in the middle of a US tour, later documented on the “Spice Girls In America : A Tour Story” video. The video for the single was an animated affair, seemingly because there was no time for the band to film a clip, and included an animated Geri - it was seen by some as a sort of “farewell” to the flame haired goddess. It would be interesting to know what they would have done if there had been time to do a proper video, would Geri have made the final cut if it had been filmed before she left? The band finished off their tour with stadium gigs in the UK, and the band’s show at Wembley Stadium on 20th September was later issued as the “Live At Wembley Stadium” VHS.
Plans for a third album had to be temporarily abandoned - tracks had been recorded with Geri’s vocals in early 98, but could obviously not now be used given that she had jumped ship. But during the US tour during the summer of 98, the band began to work on new material as a 4-piece. The first fruits of their labour were heard that Christmas, when the ‘Geri Tribute‘, “Goodbye”, was issued as their first single as a 4-piece. It was another mega hit, the third Xmas No 1, and did seem, at the time, to prove that the band could exist without one of their founding members. A couple of covers performed at the Wembley Stadium show appeared on the CD2 edition of the single, which if I remember correctly, came in a fan designed cartoon sleeve, as part of a competition to design a cover for the single.
Following the release of “Goodbye”, the band went quiet. The band members - and Geri - indulged in various solo side projects, before the four remaining members got back together for a series of UK shows in late 1999. Thereafter, the group made the decision to record a third album, and eventually found themselves working with US R&B producers, which saw their next album head in a less pop direction than had been originally planned. The first single from the LP was issued in late 2000, as another double A-side, designed to showcase the slight mix in styles that ended up on the record. On one side was the jerky R&B throb of “Holler”, on the other, the big, ‘Mama’-esque, pomp of a ballad that was “Let Love Lead The Way”. It gave the band another number 1 single - Australian copies, meanwhile, came housed in a unique picture sleeve.
But whilst this should have suggested the Spice Girls were still big news, there was trouble at mill. The new album, “Forever”, it’s title suggesting a throwback to the ‘friendship never ends’ line in “Wannabe”, was released on the same day as a new Westlife album, and the press started predicting a Blur Vs Oasis style chart battle - although in this case, it was more Blur Vs Brotherhood Of Man. Still, somehow, the popularity of the stool inhabiting Irishmen won the day, and “Forever”, itself smarting from so-so reviews, stalled at number 2. A DVD EP, “Forever More”, featuring the promo clips for “Goodbye”, “Holler” and “Let Love” was issued at the same time, but despite the title, that was it. By the end of 2000, Spice had announced a “hiatus” - one that was to last for a good seven years.
By the time the Spice Girls did decide to reunite, the band members had experienced various levels of success. Geri had carved out a decent career of bouncy pop, although a third album released soon after she had signed to Innocent, Atomic Kitten’s label, called “Passion”, had flopped badly. Vicky had spent the latter part of 2003 promoting a brilliant double A side single of “This Groove”/”Let Your Head Go”, planned as the lead release from a second LP to be issued on her new label Telstar - this single showed that she had been unfairly maligned as the “miserable, non singer” in the band, and this release disproved both claims (the video for “LYHG” was nothing short of gloriously psychotic). Months later, Telstar went bankrupt.
Mel B had carved out a career of nondescript R&B, whilst Mel C, who wanted to be an indie act, ended up getting her biggest hit with her own brand of R&B, indicative of the schizophrenic nature of her solo career. Emma, possibly, survived the best. Her second LP, “Free Me”, was a joyous, retro sounding stab at pop, soul, Motown and, in “Crickets Sing For Anamaria”, bossa nova insanity. But when the 2007 follow up “Life In Mono” fell mostly on deaf ears, the signs were thus all there for a reunion. Although I doubt any of them needed the cash.
And so, in the fall of 2007, the world temporarily stopped obsessing over Girls Aloud as their mums returned to show everybody who had invented them in the first place. The Spice Girls were a five piece again, and alongside the inevitable reunion tour, they also recorded a couple of new songs for a forthcoming Greatest Hits package, helpfully called “Greatest Hits”. One of the new songs, “Headlines”, was issued as a single to tie in with the annual Children In Need charity event, although the group courted controversy when the video showing a scantily clad Geri was revealed - she paraded around the clip in a bra and no shirt, which was felt to be ’inappropriate’ for a single being released to help fund a children’s charity. Probably put into context though after the Jimmy Savile stuff, I think you’ll agree.
The “Greatest Hits” releases included a fancy boxset edition, which came with various freebies, and was issued as a 4-disc set. Disc 1 was the normal hits CD, disc 2 was a DVD featuring all of the videos with the exception of “Headlines“. Irritating (the US edition, apparently, does include it). Disc 3 was a “Karaoke” disc - ie. instrumental mixes of the same 13 songs on the DVD, and disc 4 a selection of previously released remixes. Discs 1 and 2 were housed in a “doublepack” sleeve, but discs 3 and 4 came in their own cases.
Since the completion of the tour in 2008, the band have continued to sort of semi-exist. There was a one off reunion during the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony, whilst Victoria announced her “official” retirement from music a year or so later. As rumours began to emerge about a possible 2016 tour to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “Wannabe”, Vicky was quoted as saying she wouldn’t do it. So the Spice Girls have reverted to a four piece again - assuming they ever properly come back.
Fairly self explanatory - never ones, at first, to do “bonus tracks” or “deluxe reissues”, it means you can buy the Spice Girls original studio albums, in the UK at least, on any format and not miss out. So all of these are listed. Although the Japanese “Spiceworld” might be worth hunting down as it adds an alternative mix of “Step To Me” as a bonus.
The hits album was issued as both a CD and CD+DVD, alongside the boxset, which explains why the CD+DVD combo appears in a single case in the box. I have listed all three editions as even though the boxset, IMO, is an essential purchase, I am not sure how much you will have to shell out for it, and you may just prefer to go for an easier to find “less discs” option. I won’t hold it against you, I didn’t pay out for the 15 CD mega box set edition of the last Bob Dylan Bootleg Series release, so I know how it feels.
Singles - buying CD1 and CD2 editions of everything should do the job, but there were also a handful of commercially released 12” singles, usually featuring something exclusive to the format, so they are listed as well. A couple of Cassingles are also worth a look, I have listed them where appropriate.
I have also listed some selected odds and sods that I have in my own collection. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg, there are also numerous 12” promo pressings and promo CD’s that are housed in unique sleeves, or that have commercially unreleased mixes, Discogs is probably the place to go if you want to have a look in greater detail at those. Next month, a look at the best Spice-solo related releases.
Spice (LP, Virgin V 2812)
Spice (Cassette, Virgin TCV 2812, unique p/s)
Spice (CD, Virgin CDV 2812)
Spiceworld (LP, Virgin V 2850)
Spiceworld (Cassette, Virgin TCV 2850)
Spiceworld (CD, Virgin CDV 2850)
Forever (Cassette, Virgin TCVX 2928)
Forever (CD, Virgin CDV 2928)
Forever (MiniDisc, Virgin MDV 2928)
Greatest Hits (CD, Virgin SPICECD 1)
Greatest Hits (CD + DVD, Virgin SPICECDX 1)
Greatest Hits (3xCD + DVD, Virgin SPICECDP 1)
Wannabe/Bumper To Bumper/Wannabe (Vocal Slam) (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1588)
Wannabe (Album Version)/(Dave Way Alternative Mix)/(Dub Slam)/(Instrumental) (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1588, stickered p/s)
Wannabe/Bumper To Bumper/Wannabe (Vocal Slam) (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1588)
Wannabe/Bumper To Bumper (7” Picture Disc, Virgin 06025 37540617, 2013 pressing in clear sleeve)
Say You’ll Be There/Take Me Home/Say You’ll Be There (Junior’s Main Pass)/(Instrumental) (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1601)
Say You’ll Be There (Album Version)/(Spice Of Life Mix)/(Linslee’s Extended Mix)/(Junior’s Dub Girls) (CD2, Virgin VSCDG 1601, stickered p/s + poster)
Say You’ll Be There/Take Me Home/Say You’ll Be There (Junior’s Main Pass) (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1601)
Note: both the above singles made mention of the A-sides being single mixes, but these would seem to be identical to the album versions. The instrumental mix of “SYBT” is on the boxset edition of “Greatest Hits”.
2 Become 1 (Single Version)/(Orchestral Version)/One Of These Girls/Wannabe (Junior Vasquez Remix Edit) (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1607)
2 Become 1 (Single Version)/(Dave Way Remix)/Sleigh Ride (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1607, different p/s, with insert & postcard)
Who Do You Think You Are (Radio Version)/Mama (Radio Version)/Who Do You Think You Are (Morales Club Mix)/(Morales Dub Mix) (AA-side CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1623)
Mama (Radio Version)/Who Do You Think You Are (Radio Version)/Baby Come Round/Mama (Biffco Mix) (AA-side CD2, Virgin VSCDG 1623)
Mama (Radio Version)/Who Do You Think You Are (Radio Version)/Baby Come Round/Mama (AA-side Cassette, Virgin VSC 1623, final track is the LP mix, Biffco Mix available on “Greatest Hits“ box)
Step To Me (7” Mix)/(Matthew’s Disco Steppin’ Mix)/(Matthew’s Extra Spicey Dub)/(Extended Mix) (Mail Order Only CD, Virgin SGPC 97)
Spice Up Your Life (Stent Radio Mix)/(Morales Radio Mix)/(Stent Radio Instrumental)/Spice Invaders (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1660)
Spice Up Your Life (Stent Radio Mix)/(Morales Carnival Club Mix)/(Murk Cuba Libre Mix) (CD2, Virgin VSCDG 1660, different p/s)
Spice Up Your life (Morales Carnival Club Mix)/(Murk Cuba Libre Mix)/(Morales Beats)/(Morales Drums & Dub Mix)/(Murk Sugar Cane Dub)/(Murk Spider Beats) (2x12”, Virgin VST 1660, stickered die cut sleeve)
Spice Up Your Life (Stent Radio Mix)/(Morales Radio Mix)/(Stent Radio Instrumental)/Spice Invaders (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1660)
Too Much (Radio Edit)/Outer Space Girls/Too Much (SoulShock & Karlin Remix) (CD1, Virgin VSCDR 1669, with free postcard)
Too Much (Radio Edit)/(Orchestral Version)/Walk Of Life (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1669, purple p/s, with free postcard)
Too Much (Radio Edit)/(Orchestral Version)/Walk Of Life (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1669)
Stop/Something Kinda Funny (Live)/Mama (Live)/Love Thing (Live) (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1679)
Stop/Ain’t No Stopping Us Now (Live)/Stop (Morales Remix)/(Stretch ‘n’ Vern’s Rock & Roll Mix) (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1679, different p/s, with poster)
Stop/Ain’t No Stopping Us Now (Live)/Something Kinda Funny (Live)/Mama (Live) (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1679, alternative logo p/s, original copies shrinkwrapped)
Move Over (Live) (Mail Order Only CD, Virgin CDUC 116)
Viva Forever (Edit)/(Tony Rich Remix)/(Tony Rich Instrumental) (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1692)
Viva Forever (Edit)/Who Do You Think You Are (Live)/Say You’ll Be There (Live) (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1692, in “live” p/s with poster)
Viva Forever (Edit)/Who Do You Think You Are (Live)/Say You’ll Be There (Live) (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1692)
Goodbye (Radio Edit)/Christmas Wrapping/Goodbye (Orchestral Version) (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1721)
Goodbye (Single Version)/Sisters (Are Doing It For Themselves) (Live)/We Are Family (Live) (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1721, in unique “drawing” p/s)
Holler (Radio Edit)/Let Love Lead The Way (Radio Edit)/Holler (MAW Remix)/(Video) (AA-side CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1788)
Let Love Lead The Way (Radio Edit)/Holler (Radio Edit)/(MAW Tribal Vocal)/Let Love Lead The Way (Video) (AA-side CD2, Virgin VSCDG 1788, different p/s, 4 free cards)
Holler (MAW Remix)/(MAW Spice Beats)/(MAW Tribal Vocal)/(MAW Dub)/(MAW Remix Instrumental)/(MAW Tribal Instrumental) (2x12”, Virgin VST 1788, in die cut sleeve)
Holler (Radio Edit)/Let Love Lead The Way (Radio Edit)/Holler (MAW Remix) (AA-side Cassette, Virgin VSC 1788)
Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)/Wannabe (Soul Seekerz 2007 Remix) (CD, Virgin HEADCD 100)
The Official Video: One Hour Of Girl Power! (VHS, Virgin VID 2834)
Girl Power! Live In Istanbul (VHS, Virgin VID 2842)
Spiceworld (VHS, Polygram 0570 483 No.1, available in 5 different tin editions, or as regular VHS, this catalogue number relates specifically to the “Emma” tin)
Live At Wembley Stadium (VHS, Virgin VID 2874)
Spiceworld + Xtra Spice (2xVHS, Polygram 0592063, includes bonus video with behind the scenes footage and performance of “Mama” at the Royal Albert Hall, different sleeve to original release)
In America: A Tour Story (VHS, Virgin VID 2877)
Forever More (DVD, Virgin VDVD 3, includes clips of “Holler“, “Let Love Lead The Way and “Goodbye”, with free poster)
Who Do You Think You Are (Radio Version)/Mama (Radio Version)/Who Do You Think You Are (Morales Club Mix)/(Morales Dub Mix) (German AA-side CD Single, Virgin 7243 894427 2 4, in ‘signed’ p/s)
An Audience With Elton John (VHS, Telstar TVE 5033, includes “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”)
Pepsi Music Live EP (Mail Order CD Single, Virgin CDLIC 117, 4-track single includes “Move Over (Live)”)
Viva Forever (Edit)/(Tony Rich Remix)/(Tony Rich Instrumental) (Australian CD Single, Virgin 7243 8 95416 0 1, available in sleeves for each band member, this catalogue number relates specifically to the “Baby” edition)
Elton John And Tim Rice’s Aida (CD, Rocket 524 651-2, includes “My Strongest Suit”)
It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (Single Version)/(Shaft’s Radio Mix)/(The Innovative Flex Remix)+1 (Various Artists CD Single 1, Universal 1566012)
It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (Full Length Version)/(Ruff Driverz Innercity Sumo Mix)+2 (Various Artists CD Single 2, Universal 1565982, different p/s)
Spice + Spiceworld (French 2xCD Boxset, Virgin 7243 8501032 3, 2000 reissues of both CD’s in slipcase)
Let Love Lead The Way (Radio Edit)/Holler (Radio Edit)/(MAW Tribal Vocal)/Let Love Lead The Way (Video) (Australian AA-side CD Single, Virgin 8 97341 0, unique p/s)