the jason shergold music collector site

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Welcome


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

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

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

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

The September 2014 edition is now online, with a look at David Bowie and Super Furry Animals.

The blog is also home to my "novel within a website", 'How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting', looking at the workings of the UK record industry. Click on any month from 2014 to view one of the twelve parts that (will eventually) form the whole article. Please note: If you ever notice "newer" pages listed top right, this will be the new issue "in progress" - if you click on it, the whole page will not load. When the new issue is ready, it will be mentioned on this page. You can click on previous years tabs to get previous articles. Once you have selected that year, you can click on a different month to look at different acts.

The acts featured appear in the months listed below:
Adam And The Ants - October 2013
All Saints - February 2014
Lily Allen - August 2010
Ash - April 2014
Atomic Kitten - June 2013
The Beatles - September 2011
Beyoncé - May 2013
Biffy Clyro - June 2014
Blondie - January 2011 / September 2013
Blur - August 2011 / July 2012 / October 2013
David Bowie - September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / January 2011 / June 2012 / September 2014
Kate Bush - July 2013
Buzzcocks - December 2011
Belinda Carlisle - October 2013
The Charlatans - February 2014
The Clash - May 2011
Elvis Costello - January 2013 / September 2013
Sheryl Crow - June 2013
The Cure - December 2011
Deep Purple - March 2010
Depeche Mode - May 2012
The Doors - December 2013
Bob Dylan - November 2013
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - August 2011
Embrace - November 2013
The Flaming Lips - November 2011
Foo Fighters - May 2014
Peter Gabriel - August 2013
Genesis - April 2011 / January 2014
Girls Aloud - August 2010 / November 2013
Goldfrapp - August 2013
Green Day - June 2014
Deborah Harry - January 2011
Jimi Hendrix - September 2010
Inspiral Carpets - April 2012
The Jam - May 2013
Elton John - August 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012
Joy Division - March 2011
Kenickie - October 2010
The Kinks - November 2010 / April 2011 / May 2013
John Lennon - May 2013
Pixie Lott - February 2011
Madness - November 2011
Madonna - April 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / March 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / March 2012 / November 2012 / January 2013 / November 2013 / March 2014
Mansun - August 2011
Dannii Minogue - September 2011
Morrissey - April 2014
Kate Nash - February 2011
New Order - October 2012
Nirvana - June 2011 / December 2012
Oasis - April 2013
Pet Shop Boys - May 2011 / June 2011
Pink Floyd - January 2011 / July 2011
P!nk - April 2012
Elvis Presley - March 2011 / October 2011 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014
Pulp - August 2011
Queen - December 2010 / September 2011
Cliff Richard & The Shadows - July 2011
Rolling Stones - July 2010 / October 2010 / March 2011
The Saturdays - April 2011
Siouxsie & The Banshees - March 2013 / July 2014
Slade - May 2012
Sleeper - December 2013
Smashing Pumpkins - June 2012
The Smiths - June 2010
Britney Spears - November 2010 / December 2010
Bruce Springsteen - February 2012
Status Quo - January 2012
Cat Stevens - February 2012
Rachel Stevens - July 2011
The Stranglers - February 2010 / December 2011 / May 2013 / September 2013 / December 2013 / July 2014
Suede - August 2011
Sugababes - August 2012
Super Furry Animals - September 2014
Supergrass - August 2014
TRex - December 2010
Theaudience - August 2011
Thin Lizzy - February 2013
Tin Machine - December 2010
U2 - March 2012 / December 2012
The Velvet Underground - October 2010
The Walker Brothers - June 2011
Scott Walker - September 2010 / February 2013
The Who - May 2010 / August 2012 / July 2013
Kim Wilde - October 2013

To return to the homepage, you can click on the tab for the current year. Several blogs are in production, with articles on Badly Drawn Boy, The Stranglers, Prince and The Beautiful South due over the next few months.

You can email me using the link above, and if you can add any information, you can add comments to the blog using the link at the bottom of the relevant page. Regards, Jason.

























































Frankie say NO to downloads!

Bowie - The Comeback King


When I published my first “Classic Albums” blog back in the summer of 2012, for “Ziggy”, everyone had assumed by this point that Bowie had retired - be it through ill health, an attempt to preserve his image, or simply to try and live a normal life. Little did anyone know that he was actually in the middle of making a new record.

The news, on his birthday in January 2013, that a new Bowie album called “The Next Day” was ready for release was a piece of marketing genius. It came so out of the blue, it was astonishing. I think I told somebody at work it was the single most important thing that had happened since the invention of the telephone. Only Bowie could have pulled a rabbit out of the hat like this. New (download only, admittedly) single online straight away, complete with video, followed by the preview of the album cover art, in which he simply recycled the cover of “Heroes” by sticking a great big white square over the top...it was almost too clever for words. In this day and age where everybody is Instagramming everything they do, and telling you on Twitter they have just started a demo for the new album, which will be ready in 2 years time...well, for Bowie to return like this, it just showed you why he was always ahead of the game - and still was. Beyonce got a similar level of acclaim from the mainstream press when she did a similar thing at the end of the same year, but as ever, Bowie had really done it first. And to come from somebody who some people thought was on his deathbed - as I say, absolute indescribable genius.

Everything about this new record was executed brilliantly. A complete lack of interviews, no tour, new images slowly drip fed to the media at his own discretion, here was a man who did not need to be on Facebook every day posting pictures of his breakfast. And the fact that he was then rewarded with a number 1 album, after abandoning all the usual routes of promotion that are supposed to go into big releases like this, was so intelligent it hurts. Proof that selling your soul to radio playlist committees and TV interviewers can be avoided if you have the guts and bravado to do so. Christ, even the new Led Zeppelin reissues are being plugged months before they are due to come out - and they are not even properly new records! Furthermore, the LP itself was a great effort, not quite up to the standard of those 1970s ones obviously, but easily a match for it’s predecessor, 2003’s “Reality”, with several moments of unquestionable brilliance. Not only was the greatest musical artist of all time back, but he had not put a foot wrong at all as he executed his gloriously unconventional return.

Alongside the slow slew of EMI related cash in singles that have been trickling out since Spring 2012, Bowie’s return has resulted in new product both from his new album, and also from other sources - making the last couple of years something of a veritable Bowie feast. So I thought it would be worth just having a quick look at these releases, just to try and bring the story up to date from my last “normal” Bowie blog back in 2011, especially as there is a new 10" single ("Sue") out later this year to coincide with a new Bowie best of ("Nothing Has Changed") that, in it's 3-CD variant, will cover his career from 1964 to the present day.

The Next Day

Issued on the usual formats in March 2013, “The Next Day” was also available in 2 different CD editions - the increasingly common approach of releasing a “normal” version (Iso 88765 461862) and a “slightly posher, nearly deluxe” edition (Iso 88765 461922). The latter featured three extra tracks, taking the total on the album to 17 songs and a running time of just over an hour. A second “download only” single, “The Stars Are Out Tonight”, was released just before the LP release, before getting a Record Store Day release as a white vinyl 7” in April 2013 (Iso 88883 705557), backed with “Where Are We Now”, which had been the first download single. Extra copies were pressed for distribution around the EU, identifiable by an alternate catalogue number and, if you break the shrinkwrap, a different label design on the b-side.

The “white square” imagery was extended, in one form or another, to the subsequent releases. The title track was issued as a square shaped picture disc (Iso 88883 741287), although the “picture” was simply a white square with Bowie’s name and the song title on the front. Both sides played the album mix of the song. Follow up 45 “Valentine’s Day” (Iso 88883 756667) came in a sleeve which had, as it’s front cover, the lyrics printed on a white square - the single itself was a 7” picture disc, with closeup images from the original “Heroes” album cover adorning each side of the record. The b-side was one of the tunes from the “deluxe” version of the LP, “Plan”.

In November, the album was reissued in expanded boxset form as “The Next Day Extra” (Iso 88883 787812). The front cover was now a complete white square with name and title, the remnants of the “Heroes” cover from the original pressing no longer in situ on the front image. The new version of this album was a triple disc affair - the original 14 track album, a bonus album called “Extra” and a DVD with clips for all of the singles released so far, dubbed “Light“. Each disc came in it’s own sleeve, and there were several booklets as well, including one with nothing but blank white pages.

The bonus tracks from the original “deluxe” version were moved onto disc 2, where they were joined by 5 new songs and remixes of “Love Is Lost” and “I’d Rather Be High”. “Love Is Lost” was planned as the next single, and a video was made, meaning that the “Light” disc thus only featured some, and not all, of the promo clips for the record.

“Love Is Lost” appeared on 12” only (Iso 88843 016561), pressed on white vinyl, with the remix version serving as the A-side and the remix of “I’d Rather Be High” on the flipside. Again, the “white square” imagery was used as part of the artwork. The single included an exclusive track (for now), as a heavily edited mix of the remix of “Love Is Lost” finished the single.

Zeit!

The video and lyrics of “Where Are We Now” referenced Bowie’s time in Berlin in the late 70s, alongside - of course - the decision to recycle the artwork of “Heroes” that dated from the same period. This seemed to spur EMI into jumping on the bandwagon, and so in May 2013, they issued the 5xCD set “Zeit! 77-79” (EMI DBZEIT7779).

This box basically covered the “Berlin” years, featuring reissues of the three so-called ‘Eno Trilogy’ albums, “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger”, alongside the live album that appeared slap bang in the middle, 1978’s “Stage”. The catalogue number references the time frame in which the albums were released, although Low had been recorded during 1976.

As regards the three studio albums, these were repressings of the “bonus track-less” editions of the albums that EMI had reissued in 1999, and were still the current editions if you were to buy them individually in the shops. But “Stage” had been revamped in 2005, and the box included this edition - the original album remixed, extra tracks added, and the running order changed. For those of us old enough to have bought “Stage” years ago, who were then too lazy/skint to buy it again in 2005, well, appearing in a boxset which cost no more than “The Next Day” had done was too good to miss. Yes, this release screams “cash in” from start to finish - the packaging is relatively simple, just the CD’s shoved into an upturned slipcase which can make them difficult to ’extract’ - but it looks lovely, and does also show how, in such a short space of time, Bowie was virtually untouchable by this part of the decade - “Sound And Vision”, “Boys Keep Swinging”, “Blackout”, etc, etc, etc...solid gold from start to finish.

The 40th Anniversary Reissues

I do get confused nowadays as to which label owns which label, given that EMI and RCA - once rival record companies - all now seem to be part of the bigger Sony/Columbia Records conglomerate. But EMI still seems to exist in one form of another, albeit as part of the Parlophone imprint, which goes someway to explaining how alongside Bowie’s return, a series of seemingly unconnected releases have appeared from his (sort of) former record label.

Since 2012, each of Bowie’s UK single releases from the glam years have reappeared as 40th anniversary repressings. Some have been released as Record Store Day releases, thus doubling in price by the end of the day as they hit eBay, whilst others have seemingly been pressed in larger numbers, thus keeping the value down to a reasonable level - or maybe, it’s just that the RSD ones have had their values artificially affected upwards by the scalpers.

Either way, it’s difficult to ignore these releases, and whilst few are offering anything “new”, they are quite interesting and even I have found it difficult not to buy one when my local HMV decides to stock copies. Each of the reissues are 7” picture discs, with the original b-side altered for something else related to the period, and come in sticker sealed clear see through sleeves. Releases up to “Life On Mars” are on the EMI label, with all others appearing on Parlophone instead - but the basic concept remains.

I have already mentioned the 2012 reissue of “Starman” (EMI DBSTAR 40), which included on the flip the audio from the famous TOTP performance of the same song. This was a RSD release, so copies have now hit triple figures, ridiculous when you consider the original pressing is worth next to nothing in comparison. The reissue of “John I’m Only Dancing” (EMI DBJOHN 40) turned up later the same year, which did the clever - but pointless - thing of having the normal single mix on side A, and the “sax” mix on side B. Again, an original copy can probably be picked up in a charity shop for loose change, but the 2012 edition is hovering around the £35-50 mark.

The reissue of “The Jean Genie” (EMI DBJEAN 40) coincided with the US “Black Friday” event, but copies of the single were issued in both the US and the UK - again, UK copies are selling for similar amounts to “John”. The b-side is another one of those “live vocal” performances from “Top Of The Pops”, and in keeping with the two preceding releases, is thus an alternate version of the a-side. It is worth pointing out that whilst these TOTP mixes are the first time they have ever been released officially, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that these performances have been shown on TV in recent years, and going onto Youtube will give you both the sound - and vision.

The b-side of the first 2013 reissue, “Drive In Saturday” (EMI DBDRIVE 40), was another previously unreleased audio mix of something that exists online, a performance of the track on the Russell Harty show in 1973. But the first real rarity seemed to occur with “Life On Mars” (EMI DBMARS 40), which included on the a-side, a Ken Scott remix of the track, done back in 2003 for a seemingly abandoned reissue of “Hunky Dory”. The flipside is a live recording that had previously surfaced on the expanded 2003 reissue of “Aladdin Sane”, but this is all a bit academic, as there remains material on that record that has not resurfaced since. So not a real box ticker there - but worth getting for that A-side mix, even if it does sound fairly similar to the album version. Again, some editions of the new best of are planned to include this rarity.

“Sorrow” (Parlophone DBSOZ 4030) is a bit of a looker, although the photoshoot from which the image is taken was also the original home for the picture that adorned the - cheaper - black vinyl picture sleeved reissue from 1983. The a-side is the standard album mix off “Pin Ups”, albeit with a 2013 copyright date because of it being a digital remaster. The flipside is a live version taped in 1983, hence the “4030” catalogue number, lifted from the “Serious Moonlight” VHS.

“Rebel Rebel” (Parlophone DBREBEL 40) follows the same path as “John”, with the UK single mix on the A-side, but the freaked out US 7” mix on the flip. 2014’s RSD release was “Rock N Roll Suicide” (Parlophone DBROCK 40), which saw the price tag - on day one - hitched up to more than the releases that preceded, and indeed, followed it. Blatant profiteering and further proof that this event all seems like one big con which isn’t saving independent stores, but is adding to the major label‘s coffers. Anyway, I digress. Nice Ziggy image on the front, with the Hammersmith Odeon performance of the same song from the final Ziggy show (and album) on the other side.

The iconic “Dave plus Dog“ image was enough to entice me to shell out for “Diamond Dogs” (Parlophone DBDOGS 40) earlier this year, although again, there’s nothing here that we don’t already know about. The 7” edit on the A-side, and the version off “David Live” on the back. Sign of the times, is that the latter is the (apparently) slightly remixed 2005 remix, done for when the record was reissued, which is “making it’s debut on vinyl” this time around. Remember when the rage was for a vinyl recording being made available on CD for the first time? How times have changed.

Whilst these releases have generally been ("Jean Genie" aside) pitched at the UK market, there is another US one worth mentioning. In America, the “Diamond Dogs” long player was promoted at the time by the “1984” single, and the 2014 Record Store Day event over there saw a picture disc reissue of said 45. Suffice to say, it will cost you an arm and a leg to track this one down, and you will have more chance getting the original pressing (or the 1984 release issued to help promote the “Fame And Fashion” best of).

The next picture disc release in the UK is shaping up to be quite interesting. On the face of it, nobody really needs a reissue of “Knock On Wood” (Parlophone DBKOW 40). But 1974’s “David Live” was promoted by different singles on different sides of the Atlantic. So whilst the UK got this much maligned cover, the US got a live version of “Rock N Roll With Me”, and the forthcoming 7” release features KOW on side 1, and RNRWM on side 2 - with the single being marketed, of sorts, as a double A side release. This means that “Rock N Roll” is technically being released as a UK single for the first time ever. Both tracks again appear in their “tarted up” 2005 remix form.

Other Stuff

In my “Bowie On Vocalion” blog, I made reference to Bowie’s early period singles on the Parlophone label in 1965, one with The Manish Boys and one as “Davy Jones”. Both were later coupled together on an EMI 7” EP in the late 70s, and again in the 80s by See For Miles on a 10” and then a 12“, before resurfacing as a CD single in 1990.

Well, whilst Bowie’s current label were putting out their 2013 RSD release, EMI/Parlophone decided to get in on the act by releasing “Bowie 1965!” (Parlophone GEP 8968), a 7” that once again cobbled the four tracks from these two 45’s onto a single EP. Nice sleeve, and a nice idea to get all this stuff into one place again for those of us who simply cannot afford the original pressings, but the RSD connection has seen the price rise after day 1, and it hasn’t really dipped. Copies never seem to go below the £20 mark for it, whereas the earlier reissues, including the CD edition, are pitched somewhere nearer the £10-15 mark.

Not something I was ever aware of until recently, was the fact that in those pre-Space Oddity years, Bowie briefly joined a mod group called The Riot Squad, who existed for two or three years in the mid 60s, and went through an alarming number of lineup changes. They never managed a full album, but did issue several singles. By early 1967, Bowie had joined and became their latest singer. A number of songs were taped in the studio with him on vocals, but he left relatively quickly to resume his solo career and the release of his debut LP. These songs were unearthed in 2012 and made available to download, before all four songs turned up on the 2013 7” EP “The Toy Soldier” (Acid Jazz AJX 329S).


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Super Furry Animals


It is almost impossible to describe, other than to just call them “indie”, exactly what genre you would file the Super Furry Animals under. Spiky power pop, techno interludes, acoustic dreaminess, drum and bass breakdowns - they have had a crack at all of these, often all within the same song. They remain one of the most fascinating, original, and glorious bands the UK has ever produced, but never quite got beyond their cult status. Currently on hiatus, their disappearance from the music scene automatically means watching something like Glastonbury on the TV is going to be slightly underwhelming without them around to shake it up a bit.

Formed in 1993, the earliest incarnation of the band was led by future Hollywood superstar Rhys Ifans, but he left before the band even had a sniff of a record deal. In 1995, the group signed a deal with Welsh indie label Ankst, and released their first EP, the now famous “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochynygofod In Space” 7”. It consisted of four songs, all sung in Welsh - when the band later started to record songs in English, they were viewed as traitors by the more hardcore Welsh speaking inhabitants, and the band responded to this by later issuing a gig freebie, with a Welsh title but which translated into English roughly as “This Is A Song To Save The Welsh Language (Not)”.

After another EP on Ankst, “Moog Droog” (including an early version of later hit “God! Show Me Magic”), the band were ‘discovered’ by Alan McGee, a couple of years after he had discovered Oasis, who signed them to his Creation label, and their debut LP, “Fuzzy Logic”, was issued in 1996. It’s timing saw the band lumped in with the Britpop movement, but the album was a far sparkier effort than some of the Dadrock clones who were trundling around - the incendiary roar of the opening “God!”, now in re-recorded form, the slo-mo vibe of “Gathering Moss”, the astonishing melodic pull of “Hometown Unicorn”, the chugging catchy bounce of “Bad Behaviour”, this remains one of the finest debut albums you will ever hear. Some of the “jazz cigarettes” style references can be dangerously close to student prank style childishness (the lyrical content of “Something For The Weekend”, the obsession with Howard Marks), but musically, it’s top notch.

Creation issued four 45’s from the album, each of them of a monumentally high standard, the last of which was the almost Beatles-esque beauty of “If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You”. One of the planned b-sides was a track called “The Man Don’t Give A Fuck”, which featured a sample from a Steely Dan song. However, problems in getting the sample cleared meant that the single had to appear with the track missing, and once the clearance issues were sorted, the decision was taken to release “The Man” as a one sided blue vinyl 7”, and a 12” containing multiple remixes. A CD edition was also released, but with one song less than the 12. A second pressing, from 2004 in a new cover, was issued as a one track CD and 12” featuring a newly recorded live version of the song, as part of the promo for the “Songbook: The Singles Vol 1” best of set.

1997’s “Radiator” carries on where “Fuzzy Logic” left off - beautiful acoustic strums (“Demons”), hi energy guitar pop (“The International Language Of Screaming”), keyboard driven AOR (“Play It Cool”) and indie rock meets techno insanity (“Mountain People”). It was later reissued in 2005 in the USA with a bonus CD EP of period B-sides (as were the band‘s other Creation era studio albums), whilst Ankst re-released the first two EP’s during 97 to cash in on the band’s new found fame in covers similar to the “(Nid) Hon...” gig freebie single.

The band returned in 1998 with an EP, the 4 track “Ice Hockey Hair”, issued in a semi transparent plastic case. A double A-sided 7” featuring two tracks from the EP was also issued in standard packaging to coincide, featuring “Ice Hockey Hair” on one side and “Smokin’” on the other. “Smokin’” was later included on the rarities album “Out Spaced”, issued later the same year, and was used to compile various B-sides, EP tracks and other rarities from the first five years of the band’s career, including the 7“ mix of “The Man“. Initial copies of the CD came in a “breast shaped” rubber sleeve, available in three different colours.

1999’s “Guerrilla” was previewed by the calypso-like “Northern Lites”, and was another album of genre busting genius, be it the Cat Stevens/Nick Drake-esque vibe of “The Turning Tide”, the bleeping minimalist electro sweep of “Some Things Come From Nothing”, or the fizzy punk roar of “Do Or Die”. Initially released on CD in a slipcase - thus meaning slipcase-less copies are worthless - the second single from the LP was the astonishing, almost lullabye style hush of “Fire In My Heart”, a track that slowly builds to a euphoric, key changing, time shifting climax, and is an absolute work of genius. The NME called it a “psychedelic folk gospel record” which they said confirmed the band as the best british singles group “in ages and ages”.

In 2000, the band made a return to their roots by recording a welsh language LP called “Mwng” and issuing it on their own Placid Casual label. It was in many respects a low key affair, described on Wikipedia as an “understated rock record” with a “wintery persona”, and recorded at minimum cost. The album was previewed by a limited edition 7” called “Ysbeidiau Heulog”, which came backed with the unavailable-anywhere-else flipside “Charge”, a raucous racket actually recorded during a BBC Radio 1 Peel Session, as opposed to being a “proper“ studio recording. “Mwng” itself was issued on coloured vinyl, and despite it’s under the radar style release, it still managed to get into the album charts at number 11. The band had recorded the “lo-fi” album in response to the fact that many radio stations were ignoring the pop nuggets that had been offered up on “Guerrilla”, and reasoned that they may as well sing in their native tongue if radio weren’t even playing their English language recordings.

In 2001, the band moved sideways to Sony - Creation had been half owned by the major since the early 90s, and by now had been officially dissolved. The group’s first effort for the “new” label was 2001’s “Rings Around The World”, another glorious piece of genre-shredding “alternative rock”, which included a cameo from Paul McCartney on the catchy-as-hell “Receptacle For The Respectable“, and - over a decade before the “Beyonce” album - promo videos for each and every song. The CD was issued alongside a DVD edition which included all the clips, bonus tracks and remixes - the bonus tracks were later issued in ‘audio’ form as b-sides of future singles. The “cinematic” album was previewed by the sublime “Juxtaposed With U” 45, a wonderful string driven piece of adult pop, albeit with some magnificently bizarre computerised vocal effects in the verses. The title track, issued as the next single, sounded like a cross between The Sweet and ELO, whilst the album threw up more stunning highlights, like the gospel country trill of “Run Christian Run”, or - in the bonus DVD section - the almost hypnotic marching crunch of “All The Shit U Do”.

2003’s “Phantom Power” followed a similar path by also being issued on a DVD edition. Again, there were moments of inventiveness here that other bands could only dream of - “Out Of Control” sounded like Primal Scream jamming with Johnny Cash, opening track and future 45 “Hello Sunshine” was a glorious piece of lighters-in-the-air pop, complete with the immortal “I’m a minger, you’re a minger too” lyric, whilst album closer “Slow Life” was a mesmerising epic, complete with plenty of strings, an insistently nagging chorus, something that sounded like but probably wasn’t a melodica, and at seven minutes long, was still far too short. It was later issued as the lead track on a download only EP, which was also released in physical form as part of the 2004 remix package “Phantom Phorce”, with the EP in it’s own ’floppy disk’ style sleeve, tucked inside a cardboard sleeve that could be unfolded and shaped into an old arcade style machine. Genius.

Following the release of the “Songbook” collection, the Furries seemed to fall slightly off the radar. It was if they were now the old men of indie, and radio seemed uninterested. 2005’s “Love Kraft” was previewed by the “Lazer Beam” 45, and then once the album was out, no more singles were issued. It was the last release by the band on Epic. They then went back to their roots, again, by signing to indie label Rough Trade for 2007’s “Hey Venus” and 2009’s “Dark Days/Light Years”, an album from which no physical single releases were made. If these do turn out to the final releases by the group, it will prove to be a fairly quiet end to one of the UK’s most fascinating, original, and genuinely superb bands.

Discography

ALBUMS: LP/CD/DVD/SACD PRESSINGS

Fuzzy Logic (LP, Creation CRELP 190)
Fuzzy Logic (CD, Creation CRECD 190)

Radiator (2xLP, Creation CRELP 214)
Radiator (CD, Creation CRECD 214)

Out Spaced (LP, Creation CRELP 229)
Out Spaced (CD, Creation CRECD 229, with extended mix of “Blerwytirhwng?”, initial copies in rubber sleeve [CRECD 229 L])

Guerrilla (2xLP, Creation CRELP 242)
Guerrilla (CD, Creation CRECD 242)

Mwng (White Vinyl LP, Placid Casual PLC 03 LP)
Mwng (CD, Placid Casual PLC 03 CD)

Rings Around The World (2xLP + 7”, Epic 502413 1)
Rings Around The World (CD, Epic 502413 2)
Rings Around The World (DVD, Epic 201457 9)

Phantom Power (2xLP, Epic 512375 1)
Phantom Power (CD, Epic 512375 2)
Phantom Power (DVD, Epic 202072 9)

Phantom Phorce (2xCD, Placid Casual PLC 07 CD/08 EP, later copies omit the EP and come in standard packaging)

Songbook: The Singles Vol 1 (2xLP, Epic 517671 1)
Songbook: The Singles Vol 1 (CD, Epic 517671 2)
Songbook: The Singles Vol 1 (DVD, Epic 202620 9)

Love Kraft (2xLP, Epic 520501 1)
Love Kraft (CD, Epic 520501 2)
Love Kraft (SACD, Epic 520501 6)

Hey Venus! (LP, Rough Trade RTRADLP 346)
Hey Venus! (CD, Rough Trade RTRADCD 346)

Dark Days/Light Years (2xLP + CD, Rough Trade RTRADLP 546, unique p/s)
Dark Days/Light Years (CD, Rough Trade RTRADCD 546)

SINGLES: 1995-1998

Llanfair PG EP: Organ Yn Dy Geg/Fix Idris/Crys Ti/Blerwytirhwng? (7”, Ankst 057, 1997 reissues exist in different p/s)
Llanfair PG EP: Organ Yn Dy Geg/Fix Idris/Crys Ti/Blerwytirhwng? (CD, Ankst CD 057, 1997 reissue in different p/s)
Moog Droog EP: Pam V?/God! Show Me Magic/Sali Mali/Focus Pocus/Debiel (7”, Ankst 062, 1997 reissues exist in different p/s)
Moog Droog EP: Pam V?/God! Show Me Magic/Sali Mali/Focus Pocus/Debiel (CD, Ankst CD 062, 1997 reissue in different p/s)
(Nid) Hon Yw’r Gan Sy’n Mynd I Achub Yr Iaith (Gig only 7”, Debiel SS 01)
Hometown Unicorn/Lazy Life (Of No Fixed Identity)/Don’t Be A Fool, Billy! (CD, Creation CRESCD 222)
God! Show Me Magic (New Version)/Death By Melody/Dim Bendith (CD, Creation CRESCD 231)
Something 4 The Weekend/Waiting To Happen (7”, Creation CRE 235)
Something 4 The Weekend/Waiting To Happen/Arnofio/Glo In The Dark/Something For The Weekend (CD, Creation CRESCD 235)
If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You/Guacamole (7” in stickered poster bag, initially shrinkwrapped, Creation CRES 243)
If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You/Guacamole/(Nid) Hon Yw’r Gan Sy’n Mynd I Achub Yr Iaith (CD, Creation CRESCD 243)
The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (1-sided Blue Vinyl 7”, Creation CRE 247)
The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (7” Mix)/(Howard Marks Mix)/(Wishmountain Mix)/(Darren Price Mix) (12”, Creation CRESCD 247)
Hermann Love’s Pauline/Calimero/Trons Mr Ur (CD, Creation CRESCD 252)
The International Language Of Screaming/Wrap It Up/Foxy Music/No K (CD, Creation CRESCD 269)
Play It Cool/Pass The Time/Cryndod Yn Dy Lais (CD, Creation CRESCD 275)
Demons/Hit And Run (7“, Creation CRE 283, fold out sleeve)
Demons/Hit And Run/Carry The Can (CD, Creation CRESCD 283)
Ice Hockey Hair/Smokin’ (7”, Creation CRE 288)
Ice Hockey Hair EP: Smokin’/Ice Hockey Hair/Mu-Tron/Let’s Quit Smoking (CD, Creation CRESCD 288)

Note: where two or more editions of a single are listed, this is because the extra tracks on the “extended play” formats were later included on “Out Spaced”.

SINGLES: 1999-2009

Northern Lites/Rabid Dog/This That And The Other (CD, Creation CRESCD 314)
Fire In My Heart/The Matter Of Time/Mrs Spector (CD, Creation CRESCD 323)
Do Or Die/Missunderstanding (Sic)/Colorblind (CD, Creation CRESCD 329)
Ysbeidiau Heulog/Charge (White Vinyl 7”, Placid Casual PLC 002)
Juxtaposed With U/Tradewinds/Happiness Is A Worn Pun (Cassette, Epic 671224 4)
Juxtaposed With U/Tradewinds/Happiness Is A Worn Pun (12”, Epic 671224 6)
Juxtaposed With U/Tradewinds/Happiness Is A Worn Pun/Juxtaposed With U (Video) (CD, Epic 671224 2)
(Drawing) Rings Around The World/Edam Anchorman/All The Shit U Do (Cassette, Epic 671908 4)
(Drawing) Rings Around The World/Edam Anchorman/All The Shit U Do (12”, Epic 671908 6)
(Drawing) Rings Around The World/Edam Anchorman/All The Shit U Do/(Drawing) Rings Around The World (Video) (CD, Epic 671908 2)
It’s Not The End Of The World/The Roman Road/Gypsy Space Muffin (12”, Epic 672175 6)
It’s Not The End Of The World/The Roman Road/Gypsy Space Muffin (CD, Epic 672175 2)
It’s Not The End Of The World/Gypsy Space Muffin/The Roman Road/It’s Not The End Of The World (Video) (DVD in unique p/s, Epic 672175 9)
Golden Retriever/Summer Snow/Blue Fruit (7” Picture Disc in clear p/s, Epic 673906 7)
Golden Retriever/Summer Snow/Blue Fruit (CD, Epic 673906 2)
Golden Retriever (Video)/Summer Snow/Blue Fruit (DVD, Epic 673906 9)
Hello Sunshine (Radio Edit)/Cowbird (7” Picture Disc, Epic 674360 7)
Hello Sunshine (Radio Edit)/Cowbird/Sanitizzzed (CD, Epic 674360 2)
Hello Sunshine (Video)/Cowbird/Sanitizzzed (DVD in unique p/s, Epic 674360 9)
The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (Live, Hammersmith Apollo) (Numbered 1-sided 12”, Epic 675304 6)
The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (Live, Hammersmith Apollo) (Numbered CD, Epic 675304 2)
Lazer Beam/Sunny Seville (7” in black p/s, Epic 676011 7)
Lazer Beam/Sunny Seville/Colonise The Moon (CD, Epic 676011 1)
Show Your Hand/Never More (7” Picture Disc, Rough Trade RTRADS 402)
Show Your Hand/Aluminium Illuminati/Never More (CD, Rough Trade RTRADSCD 402)
Run Away/These Bones (7” Picture Disc, Rough Trade RTRADS 419)
Run Away/These Bones/That’s What I’m Talking About (CD, Rough Trade RTRADSCD 419)


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

August 2014


The August 2014 blogs feature a look at Supergrass and part 8 of my 'novel within a website', "How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting". To look at either of these blogs, click the relevant link to your right.























































"And David Banner and Roger Moore were all there, oh yeah"

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting: Part 8 - The DVD Single


The DVD single should have saved the record industry. The concept of the pop promo was so well established by the late 1990s, that the idea of releasing the latest video - commercially - by your favourite popstar at the same time that the single was released seemed like a glorious idea. So why didn’t it work?

There had long been problems in how to make videos available “at the time” ever since MTV had come into existence in the 1980s. The most common approach, was to actually wait until it was time to release a greatest hits album, and issue a “Greatest Videos” VHS to coincide, after the event. This seemed like the only way to resolve the issue. But you never knew if the band you liked were going to survive long enough to release such a set, so you had to make do with having your VHS tape on “Record / Pause”, and then hit the record button whenever a video came on that you liked. You always missed the opening seconds, it was impossible not to.

Sometimes, extenuating circumstances would see some of these clips appear, not quite exactly at the time, but at least reasonably soon after the event. After “Let’s Dance” had turned Bowie into a superstar, there then followed the “Video EP” release, featuring the three videos from the album that had been in hyper rotation on MTV and which helped Bowie become even more famous than he already was. When MTV banned “Justify My Love”, Warners issued it on a two track Madonna single at more or less the same time as the audio editions. But these were the exceptions rather than the rule, and Video Singles really only ever appeared at random times, usually generated by some one off special event.

The DVD had an advantage over the chunkier VHS. It was the same shape as a CD, so the logistical nature of how you could make a “video single” available on the shelves next to the CD Single solved itself - as long as you put the single in a standard package, and not a movie style “long box”.

At first, the DVD Single appeared as a quirky “hey, look at this” gimmick release, following on from when the likes of Suede had issued a Minidisc single in 1999, and then never did it ever again. When Madonna got another one of her videos banned in 2000, “Music”, Warners issued a 2 track single again - but this time on DVD. It had the “TV Edit” and the “uncensored” versions, came in a long box, and was quite overpriced for what you got - about £7 for 8 minutes of music. But it was a start. When she managed to get another video banned a couple of months later, “What It Feels Like For A Girl”, another DVD single was on the cards. But this time around, there was no “TV version” available, so instead, the DVD was padded out with some remixes, rather than use any other video footage. And this, as bizarre as it sounded, would turn out to be the standard approach for the DVD Single in the UK.

Now. If the record industry was nice, they would have simply allowed people to issue a 3 track DVD, with videos for all three tracks, and at the same price as a 3 track CD. But no way were they going to agree to that. So, in order to keep prices down, various rules were announced whereby the actual amount of video material that could be included would be, well, “short”.

If I remember correctly, in order to be eligible to count towards sales in the singles charts, the DVD had to follow one of these three rules:

a) the video of the A-side, two minutes of “other” footage, and an audio only extra track
b) the video of the A-side, and two more audio only tracks
c) a video, not of the A-side, lasting no more than 10 minutes, plus audio tracks lasting in total for no more than five minutes

Do you spot the connection there people? DVD stands for (possibly) “Digital Video Disc”, and yet, several minutes of your life would be spent WATCHING A BLANK SCREEN. Or at least, a screen with no video action. Think about this logically. For those of you who, like me, still play VHS tapes (or can at least remember them), if you was watching a VHS and suddenly the screen went blank, but the sound carried on, you would assume there was some sort of fault. Has my SCART lead fallen out? Is the video faulty? Something like that. But here, we had a single format where the concept of including three minutes of non-video video was being actively encouraged. It felt like the equivalent of buying a Ferrari, and then taking the wheels off and leaving it in your garage. The DVD Single was probably thus doomed from the start.

Anyhow, in 2001, plenty of people began dabbling with the format - and started releasing crappy looking and shabby feeling DVD singles. The likes of Ash and Oasis opted for the “10 minute non video” approach, including some pointless “behind the scenes” footage which I never watched more than once. Meanwhile, the promo clips for these singles were either left in the vaults, or were shoehorned onto the inferior CD Rom part of the accompanying CD Single. The whole point of releasing a DVD Single in the first place was to try and include the promo, I would have thought, and yet here we had bands simply doing the exact opposite.

Most acts, thankfully, did at least try and put the promo video on the single, but for a lot of bands, they seemed to be a bit slow in doing it - Starsailor had issued several singles from their debut LP before they finally tossed out “Lullaby” on DVD - and for some reason, they also stuck the video on the CD edition as well, almost as some form of apology. Other acts started off quite well by issuing a DVD - with the video - for the first single from their new album (see The Magic Numbers “Take A Chance”), only to lose interest by the time of the second single (see, well, The Magic Numbers “This Is A Song”). There just seemed to be a completely random, disinterested, and slightly “can’t be bothered” approach from the labels, and maybe the bands as well, towards the format.

Even acts who you would have thought were born for the format struggled to show any interest - pop pin ups Girls Aloud managed just one DVD single in their entire career, instead deciding to showcase their videos by adding them as bonus features to each of their live DVDs, which surfaced on an almost annual basis. Britney rarely attempted any either. Madonna, meanwhile, had also given up and carried on issuing the usual audio formats instead, preferring to issue multiple 12“ singles instead of DVD releases, meaning you had to wait until 2009’s “Celebration” before any of her latter period promos appeared “officially“ on DVD.

Why was this? Well, I would argue that it was because the messy rules about what could or could not be included possibly just didn’t sit well with the bands or the labels, who just decided to go down the regular single route instead. Maybe there were cost issues as well, maybe they weren’t selling, I don’t know. But you really never knew, when somebody announced details of their next 45, if a DVD was in the offing or not - it was 50/50, possibly less. There seemed to be no pattern, at times, as to when somebody would issue one, and what would be on it.

Every so often, a genuinely interesting release would surface. In the UK, Bowie’s 2003 comeback single “New Killer Star” was issued on DVD only, backed with an (audio) “Love Missile F1-11” and the Electronic Press Kit for his new album. It was sort of like having an A-side, B-side, and a sort of bonus track, and because it was on this format and this format only, it felt special. But Bowie never issued another DVD Single. The year before, Supergrass had arguably gone one better, when they realised that they had, in their vaults, a song less than two minutes long, and therefore, a video for said song could be included as a B-side on the disc WITH THE VIDEO IN FULL, thereby complying to the rules. And so “Seen The Light” appeared with both the video for the A-side, and a live video recording of the hyper energetic “Never Done Nothing Like That Before” on “the flip“. Total genius. It would be three years before they would bother with the format again.

At the time the format came into view, through to when it died a death, I was still buying singles on a regular basis, and so ended up buying virtually all of the releases by the bands and singers I liked on DVD. They are all in a big box together, separated from the CD’s, and so, as a whole, are probably quite interesting from a historical viewpoint. A snapshot in time, you could say. But taken as individual items, they often just feel awkward - four minutes of a promo, and then nine minutes of B-sides whilst still photos of the band appear on the screen in screensaver style mode. Had everybody issued DVD singles, and they all followed the same rules, then it might have seemed like a more regular format - but the scattergun approach, both between different labels and then within each of their own acts themselves, killed off any form of “standardisation”, and meant that some DVD Singles seemed OK, whilst others seemed a tad rubbish in what you got for your £2.99. I’m sure if I did dig out one of those Oasis ones, Liam and Noel are probably moaning about something on it which could be quite fun to watch, but really, I’d sooner just listen to “Definitely Maybe” instead.

The DVD Single just sort of disappeared, as opposed to being properly killed off. I am sure somebody somewhere can tell you who released the last one, and although I believe chart rules mean somebody could still issue their next 45 on the format, I doubt there are many takers. In the end, the price put off the floating voters, and thus the sales of the single failed to be boosted by this super duper futuristic format. When iTunes came along and allowed people to download the latest Promo by whoever it was for about 99p, well, that was the end of that. The decision then by acts to have their own Vevo channels on Youtube, allowing you to watch these clips for free, well, this finally killed the format stone dead. Single sales were therefore not resurrected by the DVD Single. The labels had to come up with another trick, and we shall look at how this didn‘t really work either in the October blog. Next month, the insanity that was, and still is, Universal's "Deluxe Edition" album reissues.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Classic Albums No.14: Life On Other Planets


I don’t fully remember the exact point at which I realised that the fourth Supergrass album was a work of genius. When I first bought it, I played it, then filed it away, and that was it. But in the years that have passed, I have returned to it again and again, more so than other Supergrass records. Why? Well, it seems to be one of those records which is catchy enough for some of the album tracks to get into your brain after one play, so that when you go back to it again later, you realise you can remember about half of what the LP sound like - in other words, the singles and those catchy album tracks. So you listen to it again, and then remember that the other album tracks are glorious. Some of them start to get into your brain second time around. So later on, when you revisit it again, you realise you can remember more of it, so you play it again…and so on, and so forth.

It’s not just me. The album received several ecstatic reviews when it came out, with Allmusic mentioning how much fun the record was in comparison to 1999’s self titled predecessor, whilst the band themselves later explained how they approached the record differently after the previous album “lacked urgency”. Even the BBC review at the time claimed it was possibly their finest effort so far.

The history of Supergrass can be traced back to the early 1990s, and the Oxford based band The Jennifers, who included in their ranks singer and guitarist Gaz Coombes and drummer Danny Goffey. After splitting in 1992, Coombes came into contact with Cambridge born Mick Quinn, and the trio formed Supergrass in 1993. They were signed to the local label Backbeat Records, and released a limited edition debut 7”, “Caught By The Fuzz”, in early 1994. Follow up single “Mansize Rooster” was also issued by Backbeat soon after, by which time, they were starting to attract the attention of the major labels. They were signed to Parlophone, who arranged for the two singles to be reissued. This involved slightly remixing both sides of both singles, and issuing them - in the same order - as both 7” singles and CD singles, with an extra track on the CD edition of each. And so it was that “Caught By The Fuzz” appeared as their third single in late 1994, with “Mansize Rooster” turning up in the spring of 95. This was followed by a curious US only release on Sub Pop of a brand new song, “Lose It”, which sold enough copies in the UK to chart just inside the top 75, as a buzz around the band began to build.

The first Parlophone single to feature a completely “new” a-side appeared next, in the form of “Lenny”, which gave the band a top 10 hit. The debut album, “I Should Coco”, was released soon after, and immediately pushed Supergrass into the public eye. Critically acclaimed, and a big seller, the album slotted perfectly into the Britpop genre that was emerging in the UK, albeit in a more relentlessly energetic form than some of their contemporaries, as the album mixed Jam-like power pop with Madness-style English eccentricities. A comical video for next single, the cheeky cockney knees up that was “Alright”, simply made them even more popular, and seemed to suggest Supergrass were a bunch of cartoonish popstars, always up for a laugh and a joke - something which was always in danger of overshadowing their career as they tried to make more grown up records later on. Such was the impact of the video, that Steven Spielberg approached the band with a view to making a Monkees-style TV series, but the group (possibly wisely) refused.

After a stand alone single was issued in early 1996 to capitalise on the band’s ongoing success (“Going Out”, later included on their next album), the band carried on touring, including a high profile slot at Pulp’s outdoor mini festival at Hylands Park in Chelmsford in 1996. Their second album, 1997’s “In It For The Money”, by and large moved away from the hyper bouncy sound of the debut - “It’s Not Me” was a simple, but heartfelt, acoustic strum, “Late In The Day” exhibited an element of song writing maturity mostly absent on the debut, and the title track, with it’s gloriously repetitive guitar driven menace, seemed to exhibit an air of melancholy and grudging cynicism. It still sold by the bucket load.

1999’s self titled effort didn’t fare so well, despite lead single “Pumping On Your Stereo” having a video which seemed like a throwback to the “Alright” days - the band were depicted as cartoon like Muppet-esque characters. It still sold well, and spawned a magnificent 45 in the form of the epic “Moving”, but was regarded by the critics as missing something, lacking the spark of the debut, or the inventiveness of “In It For The Money”. It was seen as being a bit too downbeat and too mellow.

It’s against this backdrop of “difficult third album syndrome” that “Life On Other Planets”, or “LOOP” as it sometimes gets called, was conceived. With long time keyboard player (and brother of Gaz) Rob Coombes now officially on board as a fourth band member, material was debuted during shows in 2001, including their support slot at Radiohead’s homecoming gig in South Park in Oxford in July. Almost as if they knew they had recorded a corker of an album, the first single was issued as a limited edition 7” in the summer of 2002, a rather low key start for what would be a miraculous album. “Never Done Nothing Like That Before” was an astonishing record, a ramshackle punk rock roar, with a slightly psychotic vocal delivery, the noisiest song the band had ever made, and done and dusted within two minutes. It made Blur’s “Song 2” sound like “Stairway To Heaven”.

What makes “LOOP” so special is that it marries the effervescent blast of the debut with the forward thinking, intelligent, music of “In It For The Money” - there are catchy hooks all over the place, heart melting key changes, and numerous “classic rock” references…Genesis style keyboard swirls everywhere and 70s era Pink Floyd guitar solos throughout.

Opening number “Za” sets the stall out straight away. It fades in with a space age style synthy intro, possibly a reference to the UFO-esque album title? Then, it suddenly hits you with it’s rinky dinky piano intro, before lurching straight into a stomping keyboard filled roar, the sound of the entire “Parklife” album being recorded by Roxy Music in one go. An astonishing start. And it simply gets better and better as it goes on.

“Rush Hour Soul” is near perfect, galloping along with it’s catchy “whoo whoo wh-whoo whoo” guitar/keyboard hybrid calling card, before veering into a space rock style chorus, predating the first Secret Machines album by a good two years in doing so. Towards the end, the song breaks down into a manic Sonic Youth style noise excursion, before pausing for breath, and then raucously kicking back into life for it‘s final few seconds. Glorious.

“Seen The Light” sees the band wear the classic rock influences on their sleeve quite explicitly, as Coombes doesn’t so much tip his hat to Marc Bolan with his singing style, as opposed to rather stealing it hook line and sinker. The song itself also exhibits an air of T Rex glam throughout, complete with some marvellous “la la la” backing vocals during the choruses, before ending with an Elvis impersonator style vocal finale, Coombes finishing on the “thankyouverymuch“ line straight out of the Presley songbook. Sublime. And that’s even before we mention the bizarre “sheep baa” noise that appears out of nowhere in the middle section.

“Brecon Beacons” is the great single that never was. It opens with another catchy-as-hell guitar driven opening, then chugs along with a relentless energy whilst borrowing little bits of “Race For The Prize”, all of which masks the rather dark lyrics (“Well, they found the body down on Brecon Beacons”). But it is impossible to not be drawn in by the hooks that lurk throughout this song, nor the subtle key changes that add the air of drama needed in the choruses, to accompany the slightly spooky line “it’s retribution from the supernatural, you better watch out ’cos they’re coming to get you!” - followed by a celebratory “whoo!“ from Coombes. Flawless.

“Can’t Get Up” starts out sounding worryingly like Jon Bon Jovi’s “Dead Or Alive”, and you think to yourself - “OK, fair enough, they couldn’t keep that up for long”. But then you get to the chorus, and bang! It turns into something utterly euphoric, honey dripped hooks everywhere, as multi tracked vocals come out and grab you. It sounds like The Beatles and The Sweet’s “Blockbuster” having a love-in.

“Evening Of The Day” also chugs along a bit like it’s stuck somewhere between 1966 and 1996, a sort of Paul Weller solo track circa “Stanley Road” played by The Kinks. But once again, the choruses tumble out of the speakers with a big smile on their face, as Coombes more or less steals an old Spinal Tap lyric by singing “if she’s not on that 3.15, then I’m gonna know what sorrow means” with utter relish, before some Neil Young & Crazy Horse style guitar licks hover in the background. Just as you think the song has ended, literally crashing to a halt as the sound of musical instruments seem to go careering across the studio, it segues into what sounds like a cross between “Meddle” era Pink Floyd and the end of Genesis’ “Giant Hogweed”. Staggering.

We have already mentioned “Never Done Nothing Like That Before”. Just to remind you again, it is incredible.

“Funniest Thing” takes things down a notch, but retains the melodic pull that runs constantly throughout this album. Genteel verses, that burst into glorious, raucous, hook-laden choruses. The harmonies have probably been stolen straight from Bowie somewhere along the line, but it’s done with such an effortless ease, it’s hard not to be smitten with what you are hearing. Yet again, a subtle key change in the choruses makes you swoon with delight when you hear it. Interestingly, things struggle with hit single “Grace”, which heads back towards the “Alright”-style cockney knees up sound of old, and thus provides arguably the weakest link in the chain. It’s telling that the one song that sounds most like the Supergrass of the past, is thus the least fascinating on the record, a sign of just how far they had come. But it’s still quite charming, especially at the finale as Coombes sings “Monday, Tuesday” in a style that sounds like a character out of Steptoe And Son.

“La Song” opens with a marvellous, slow, sad melodica/keyboard intro, then wham! This could be anything off of “All Mod Cons”, only with added “la la la‘s” and Sparks style glam. The middle eight features the intro again, only this time with backwards Byrds style guitar lines and Kraftwerk synthesizer jabs all over the top. Impressive stuff.

“Prophet 15” is another song that sounds like it has been beamed in from the future, sounding like a bizarre cross between Replicas-era Tubeway Army, George Harrison and the final part of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond“. In the choruses, the album hits it’s most beautiful melodies, and it’s most affecting key changes so far, whilst Coombes lists off a roll call of pop culture references “…and Oscar Wilde and Peter Cook were close by…and Joe The Lion and Marvin Gaye were there, oh yeah”. It’s so perfect, so beautiful, this blog simply cannot do it justice. You just need to hear it to appreciate it in all it’s stunning glory.

“Run” incredibly ups the ante, despite the fact that we are now at the end. It’s basically “Because” by The Beatles updated for the 21st century, before heading off into several minutes of psychedelic, blissful, kaleidoscopic, full blown prog territory, before some “Fashion” style guitar comes screeching in overhead as the finale builds and builds, before calming down and settling into some more Pink Floyd style noodling. It brings the song to a dignified, and relaxing end. Nearly. Because just as you think it’s over, in comes a fairground style waltz instrumental, albeit one that sounds like it’s being played by Yes circa 1972, before the record finally comes to an echoing, shuddering, end.

It is difficult not to feel like you have listened to something approaching a lost classic when hear this LP. Quite how a record this catchy, this beautiful, and ultimately, this much fun is rarely talked about is rather heartbreaking. It certainly outstrips a lot of the landfill indie that sold in big units, bands that Supergrass often got lumped in with (Keane, Snow Patrol, The Kooks), and whilst those bands were turned somehow from also-ran Britpoppers into megastars, Supergrass - and this LP in particular - just seemed to get left behind. It’s a glorious record, almost futuristic and electronic in it’s sound at times, and whilst it may well be a naughty concoction of just about every band who have ever been on the cover of “Mojo”, it all hangs together so perfectly. It’s my favourite Supergrass album, and one of the best so-called “Britpop” albums ever made.

Of course, Supergrass were never able to top this album. 2005’s “Road To Rouen”, despite being a critics’ favourite, was overall a slow, rather quiet, sounding record, one that failed to grab your attention in the same way “LOOP” did. By the time of 2008’s “Diamond Hoo Ha”, the group were in something of a state, with band members suffering near fatal injuries, and Parlophone starting to lose interest in the band. The third single from the album was cancelled, and the band resorted to forming their own label in order to release it as a limited edition mail order release on vinyl only. The group finally threw in the towel whilst working on aborted seventh studio LP, and that was that.

I cannot praise “Life On Other Planets” highly enough. I always think it is difficult to try and describe the sound of music - after all, music is supposed to be listened to, as opposed to being “described” to someone else. But I can only sum up by saying that it is Supergrass’s masterpiece, their own mini “White Album”, a magnificent pop record played by a masterful ‘guitar band’ at the top of their game. Even now, Supergrass are probably still remembered not by this record, but by “Alright”, a situation summed up by somebody called Troy Carpenter, who once claimed they were a “fun loving rock group, whose undeniable musical talent is sometimes overshadowed by the sheer ebullience of it’s music”. “LOOP” was in some respects an attempt to redress the balance, to make a grown up record that could be seen as the older, cleverer, more adult brother to “I Should Coco”. It may not have convinced the general public, who by this point, were gravitating towards the horrors of 50 Cent and The Black Eyed Peas, but it remains a classic - lost in the midsts of time, but one that I hope people will one day discover for themselves. I just can’t say this enough, this is brilliant, brilliant music, and I implore you to track this record down. Best album of 2002? Definitely, maybe.

Discography

So, my first Supergrass blog, so an excuse to go for a full blown discography. Fairly simple - “Loop” related material first, then what came before and after. We are generally looking at (nearly all) vinyl and CD pressings, some Grass albums came on Cassette, but none of the singles issued on the same format ever gave you anything the Compact Discs didn’t, so most tapes have been omitted for clarity.

LOOP VERSIONS

Life On Other Planets (LP + poster, Parlophone 541 8001)
Life On Other Planets (CD, Parlophone 541 8002)

LOOP ERA SINGLES

Never Done Nothing Like That Before (Numbered 1-sided 7”, Parlophone R6583)
Grace/Velvetine (Pink Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6586)
Grace/Velvetine/Electric Cowboy/Grace (Video) (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6586)
Grace/Tishing In Windows (Kicking Down Doors)/That Old Song (CD2, Parlophone CDR6586, different p/s)
Seen The Light/The Loner (Grey Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6592)
Seen The Light/The Loner/I Told The Truth (CD, Parlophone CDR6592)
Seen The Light (Video)/Never Done Nothing Like That Before (Live, Oslo John Dee 25.9.2002 - Video)/Brecon Beacons (Shepherds Bush Empire 2002)/Rush Hour Soul (Shepherds Bush Empire 2002) (DVD, Parlophone DVDR6592, black p/s)
Rush Hour Soul/Everytime (Green Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6612)
Rush Hour Soul/Everytime/Rush Hour Soul (Video)/Everytime (Video) (CD, Parlophone CDR6612)

SELECTED OTHER ALBUMS

I Should Coco (LP + 7”, Parlophone PCSX 7373, 7“ includes exclusive tracks)
I Should Coco (CD, Parlophone CDPCS 7373)
In It For The Money (LP, Parlophone PCS 7388)
In It For The Money (2xCD, Parlophone CDPCS 7388, second disc of selected B-sides, later copies on one disc only)
Supergrass (LP, Parlophone 522 056-1)
Supergrass (Enhanced CD, Parlophone 522 056-0, different sleeve with CD-Rom material, later copies use standard cover and have no enhanced element)
Supergrass / I Should Coco (French Only 2xCD Box Set, Parlophone 541103-2, “Supergrass” is the ’later’ standard pressing)
Supergrass Is 10 (2 x Clear Vinyl 10”, Parlophone 578 994-1)
Supergrass Is 10 (CD, Parlophone 571 160-2)
Road To Rouen (LP, Parlophone 333 334-1)
Road To Rouen (CD, Parlophone 333 334-2)
Diamond Hoo Ha (LP, Parlophone 519 7341)
Diamond Hoo Ha (CD, Parlophone 519 7342)

PRE LOOP SINGLES

Caught By The Fuzz/Strange Ones (7”, Backbeat BEAT 4)
Mansize Rooster/Sitting Up Straight (Green Vinyl 7”, Backbeat BEAT 6)
Caught By The Fuzz/Strange Ones (7”, Parlophone R6396)
Caught By The Fuzz/Strange Ones (Cassette, Parlophone TCR6396)
Caught By The Fuzz/Strange Ones/Caught By The Fuzz (Acoustic) (CD, Parlophone CDR6396, bonus track later released on “Lose It“ 7“)
Mansize Rooster/Sitting Up Straight (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6402)
Mansize Rooster/Sitting Up Straight/Odd? (CD, Parlophone CDR6402)
Lose It/Caught By The Fuzz (Acoustic) (US Yellow Vinyl 7”, Sub Pop SP 281)
Lenny/Wait For The Sun (Numbered Blue Vinyl 7”, Parlophone RS6410)
Lenny/Wait For The Sun/Sex! (CD, Parlophone CDR6410)
Alright/Time (Yellow Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6413)
Alright/Time/Condition/Je Suis Votre Papa Sucre (CD, Parlophone CDR6413)
Going Out/Melanie Davis (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6428)
Going Out/Melanie Davis/Strange Ones (Live) (CD, Parlophone CDR6428)
Richard III/Nothing More’s Gonna Get In My Way (Yellow Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6461)
Richard III/Sometimes I Make You Sad/Sometimes We’re Very Sad (CD1, Parlophone CDR6461)
Richard III/Nothing More’s Gonna Get In My Way/20ft Halo (CD2, Parlophone CDRS6461, different p/s)
Sun Hits The Sky (Radio Edit)/Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (Numbered White Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6469)
Sun Hits the Sky (Radio Edit)/Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others/Sun Hits The Sky (BBC Radio 1 Evening Session Version) (CD, Parlophone CDR6469, with 3 postcards)
Late In The Day/We Still Need More (Than Anyone Can Give) (Gold Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6484)
Late In The Day/We Still Need More (Than Anyone Can Give)/It’s Not Me (Demo Version) (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6484, with poster)
Late In The Day/Don’t Be Cruel/The Animal (CD2, Parlophone CDR6484, different p/s)
Pumping On Your Stereo (Single Version)/You’ll Never Walk Again (Green Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6518)
Pumping On Your Stereo (Single Version)/You’ll Never Walk Again/Sick (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6518)
Pumping On Your Stereo (Single Version)/What A Shame/Lucky (No Fear) (CD2, Parlophone CDR6518, different colour p/s)
Moving/Believer (Blue Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6524)
Moving/You Too Can Play Alright/Pumping On Your Stereo (Video) (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6524)
Moving/Believer/Faraway (Acoustic Version) (CD2, Parlophone CDR6524, different p/s)
Mary (Album Mix)/(Lamacq Live) (Silver Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6531)
Mary/Pumping On Your Stereo (At Peel Acres)/Strange Ones (At Peel Acres) (CD1, Parlophone CDRS6531)
Mary (Lamacq Live)/Richard III (At Peel Acres)/Sun Hits The Sky (At Peel Acres) (CD2, Parlophone CDR6531, different p/s)

POST LOOP SINGLES

Kiss Of Life/We Dream Of This (Clear Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6638)
Kiss Of Life/We Dream Of This/Kiss Of Life (Tom Tom Club Full Mix) (CD, Parlophone CDRS6638)
St Petersburg/Kiss Of Life (Live @ Portsmouth Pyramids) (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6670)
St Petersburg/Kiss Of Life (Live @ Portsmouth Pyramids)/Bullett (Live @ Portsmouth Pyramids) (CD, Parlophone CDR6670)
Low C/Roxy (Live at Ronnie Scotts 2005) (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6675)
Low C (Album Mix)/(Live, Oxford Playhouse) (CD, Parlophone CDR6675)
Low C/Lady Day And John Coltrane (Live at Ronnie Scotts 2005)/Low C (Video)/St Petersburg (Video) (DVD, Parlophone DVDR6675)
Fin (Album Mix)/(Live on BBC Radio 2 Jonathan Ross Show, 2005) (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6682)
Diamond Hoo Ha Man/345 (Numbered Brown Vinyl 7” + stickers, Parlophone R6753)
Bad Blood/Rough Knuckles (Brown Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6755)
Bad Blood/Beat It/Bad Blood (Diamond Hoo Ha Men Version)/(Video) (CD, Parlophone CDR6755)
Rebel In You/Car Crash (Numbered White Vinyl 7”, Supergrass Records PARL001, mail order only, first 200 copies signed)


Thursday, 24 July 2014

July 2014


The July 2014 blogs feature a look at The Stranglers, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and part 7 of my 'novel within a website', "How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting". To look at any of these blogs, click the relevant link to your right.























































"Golly jeepers, where'd you get those peepers"