Sunday, 1 August 2010

Girls Aloud

In order to stop this blog looking like it was written by somebody from “Mojo” or “Uncut”, I decided it was time we looked at a ‘modern’ group - in other words, one whose debut release was on CD, not vinyl. The trouble with ‘modern’ groups, is that their discographies can often be fairly simple. Most indie bands, for example, will issue every single on three formats, with different B-sides on each. So, you simply buy everything you see with their name on, buy the “limited edition” version of their next LP, and repeat ad infinitum. It’s a similar story with Girls Aloud, the leading lights in the world of “Future-Pop“. There are some interesting odds and sods in their back catalogue though, and as the best act to emerge from the heartbreakingly bad world of the reality-TV-pop-show format, and quite possibly the greatest girlband of all time, it’s only fair we look at their complete discography - especially as there are never ending rumours that the band may have actually split up for good.

The Albums

Girls Aloud have issued five “proper” studio albums so far, along with a pair of rather obscure albums released only via the now semi defunct Woolworths chain (they still have a website, pick and mix fans!). They have also released one “Greatest Hits” album, and in the case of most of these, all have either been reissued at some stage, or have been released in a limited edition format. Both of the Woolworths albums, being unavailable anywhere else, are probably amongst the rarest of the lot.

The band’s debut, “Sound Of The Underground”, was issued in the summer of 2003, but following the release of (what was originally) a stand-alone single in the form of “Jump” - recorded for the “Love Actually” soundtrack, but not actually featured in the film - the album was reissued in a new sleeve with “Jump” and several other new songs included. However, some tracks from the original pressing were removed in order to make way for the new material - the CD-Rom section was also changed for the reissue. After the release of 2004’s “What Will The Neighbours Say” (which also included “Jump”, rather strangely), the band’s next album appeared in 2005 in the form of the critically acclaimed “Chemistry”. The album was released in the run up to Christmas, and a limited edition version of the album was released with a free “Christmas Mini Album” - a second CD consisting of four seasonal cover versions, and four new Girls Aloud Xmas tunes. This edition of the album came in a different sleeve to the regular edition, but the photo of the regular edition was included in the fold out inlay, so you could re-fold the inlay to show the normal cover if you so wished.

The band’s 2006 “best-of”, “The Sound Of Girls Aloud”, was also issued in regular and limited editions, each in differently coloured sleeves. The limited edition version included - again - an eight track mini album consisting of alternate mixes, rare B-sides and previously unissued songs. This release was the first commercial GA record to include the “uncensored” version of “No Good Advice”, previously only available on promo. As had now become par for the course with greatest hits albums, three new songs were included on CD1, two of which were also issued as singles in their own right. These new songs were on both the regular and limited versions.

In 2007, the band issued “Tangled Up”, with a “fan-only” edition being issued via various online outlets. This featured photographs of all five band members on the front - the “normal” edition was a slightly dull sleeve with just the band name and album title on the cover. This was also the point at which the first Woolworths album appeared - “Mixed Up” was a one track 40 minute long megamix of eight GA hits. Suffice to say, this megamix is unavailable on any other release by the group.

Studio album five was 2008’s “Out Of Control”. It was reissued barely a month later as a double disc edition, which despite being housed in a DVD sized case, was actually a 2-CD set. The second disc was a thirty minute interview with the band, with snippets of unreleased demos included therein, and was housed in a different picture sleeve. At the same time, Woolworths released “Girls Alive”, an eight track (yet again) album featuring live material, some of it previously unreleased.

Sound Of The Underground (Enhanced CD, Polydor 9865315)
Sound Of The Underground (Enhanced CD, reissue, different versions of “Some Kind Of Miracle” and “Life Got Cold”, whilst “Jump”, “You Freak Me Out” & “Girls On Film” replace “Don’t Want You Back”, “Love Bomb” and “Everything You Ever Wanted”, Polydor 9865961)
What Will The Neighbours Say (CD, Polydor 9868948)
Chemistry (2 x CD, Polydor 9875462, also available as single CD in different sleeve)
The Sound Of Girls Aloud (2 x CD, Fascination FASC 010, also available as single CD in white p/s)
Tangled Up (CD, Fascination 1750580, also available in “Band Portraits” p/s)
Mixed Up (CD, Fascination 06025 1753391, sold via Woolworths stores and website only)
Out Of Control (CD, Fascination 1790073, later reissued in new sleeve with bonus disc)
Girls Alive (CD, Fascination 0-06025-1790107-0, sold via Woolworths stores and website only)

The Singles

With each album, the approach by the band’s label to how their singles were presented to the public has altered slightly each time. With the death of the single now upon us thanks to iTunes, latter releases have been restricted to one format per release (although there have been mail order only 7” singles each time). Earlier releases, however, were on two and sometimes three formats.

The first single, “Sound Of The Underground”, was issued on two CD’s, each with different B-sides and housed in different sleeves. The follow up, “No Good Advice”, was released on CD and DVD, the only GA single to be issued on the short lived DVD-Single format. Both formats were housed in different picture covers. The first single to be issued on Cassette was the follow up, “Life Got Cold”, which was also issued on two CD’s - there were exclusive tracks on all three formats, but the picture sleeve of the Cassette and CD1 formats were the same. “Jump” was also issued on two CD’s and a Cassette, with different sleeves for each - again, exclusive songs/mixes appeared on all three editions.

For singles from “What Will The Neighbours Say”, Cassette singles were out (“Jump” would therefore be the last GA single to be issued on that format), and the four singles from the album would all be issued on two CD’s, with different sleeve designs for CD1 and CD2 each time. On the second CD, the enhanced section of the single included not only the video for the A-side, but also a “karaoke” version (basically, the video but with an instrumental mix used instead) and a downloadable Girls Aloud game! It might just be my hearing, but the sound quality of the karaoke videos seemed rather poor, as if it had been remixed into mono - then muffled up a bit more. “Love Machine” and “Wake Me Up” were also issued as 7” picture discs, housed in clear see through sleeves, with exclusive remixes on the B-side, whilst “Wake Me Up” also included a new B-side, “Loving Is Easy”, a very punk rock move.

It was a similar story for the four “Chemistry” singles, all issued on two CD’s with videos, karaoke videos and games on CD2 for each release. There was only one vinyl issue - “Long Hot Summer”, the first single to be released from the album, was issued on 12” with exclusive remixes, and was housed in the same sleeve as the accompanying CD2. This was the first, and last, GA single to be commercially issued on this format. The two singles released in connection with “The Sound Of...”, “Something Kinda Ooooh” and “I Think We’re Alone Now” were issued on two CD’s, with the relevant video on CD2 (no games this time), but there were no vinyl releases at all for either single. “Something Kinda Ooooh” was the last Girls Aloud release to feature a karaoke video as well on the second CD.

The only true stand-alone Girls Aloud single was their 2007 collaboration with fellow Girl-band titans, Sugababes, on a cover of “Walk This Way”. It was the only GA single to be issued on one format only - CD - and featured just the original version and a remix as far as the audio part of the disc was concerned. The CD also included the video, and a “behind the scenes” clip.

With 2007’s “Tangled Up”, the formats became more simplified. All three singles from the album were issued on two CD’s only, with CD1 being the standard 2-track edition, and CD2 featuring three or four tracks plus the video. Only “Can’t Speak French” was issued as a five track CD2. As was the case with the “Chemistry” and “The Sound Of…” singles, the sleeve designs for the CD’s were different on CD1 to the pictures used on CD2 - some radically different, some not.

By the time of 2008’s “Out Of Control”, the impending death of the 45 led to the band issuing all three singles from the album on one format only - a 2-track CD single, without video. All three singles were edited/remixed for single release, with both “The Promise” and “Untouchable” featuring non-album B-sides as well. “The Loving Kind” came backed with a “Stars on 45” style megamix, called “Girls On 45 Volume 2”. However, all three singles were issued as mail order only 7” picture discs via the band’s website - the singles were housed in clear sleeves, and used the same photo as per the CD editions. “The Promise” came backed with a live recording of “Man Overboard” lifted from a recent DVD, and “Untouchable” included a remix of “Love Is The Key”. “The Loving Kind” featured a never before released B-side called “Memory Of You”, making it (for a while) easily the most obscure and rarest Girls Aloud tune to be officially released. However, by the end of 2009, the track had made it’s CD debut courtesy of the band’s Singles Box Set. More of that next.

Sound Of The Underground/Stay Another Day/Sound Of The Underground (Brian Higgins Remix) (CD1, with insert, Polydor 0658272)
Sound Of The Underground/Stay Another Day (Instrumental)/Interview (CD2, diff p/s, Polydor 0658202)
No Good Advice/On A Round/No Good Advice (Dreadzone Vocal Mix)/(Video) (CD, Polydor 9800051)
No Good Advice (Audio)/(Photogallery)/Sound Of The Underground (Video)/No Good Advice (Behind The Scenes - Video) (DVD, diff p/s, Polydor 9800052)
Life Got Cold/Girls On Film/No Good Advice (Doublefunk Clean Vocal Mix)/Life Got Cold (Video) (CD1, Polydor 9810656)
Life Got Cold (LP Mix)/(Radio Edit)/(29 Palms Remix Edit)/(Stella Browne Edit) (CD2, diff p/s with free poster, Polydor 9810657)
Life Got Cold (Stella Brown Original Mix)/(Radio Edit)/Lights Music Camera Action (Cassette, plays same both sides, same p/s as CD1, Polydor 9810658)
Jump/Girls Allowed/Grease (CD1, Polydor 9814103)
Jump/Love Bomb/Jump (Almighty Vocal Mix) (CD2, diff p/s, Polydor 9814104)
Jump/Girls Allowed (Almighty Vocal Mix) (Cassette, plays same both sides, unique p/s, Polydor 9814105)
The Show/Jump (Flip & Fill Remix) (CD1, Polydor 9867041)
The Show (LP Version)/(Gravitas Club Remix)/The After Show (Interview)/The Show (Video)/(Karaoke Video)/(Game) (CD2, diff p/s, Polydor 9867040)
Love Machine (Album Version)/(Tony Lamezma Mix) (Numbered 7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Polydor 9867985)
Love Machine/The Show (Flip & Fill Remix) (CD1, Polydor 9867983)
Love Machine (Album Version)/(Gravitas “Disco” Mix)/Androgynous Girls/Love Machine (Video)/(Karaoke Video)/(Game) (CD2, diff p/s with insert, Polydor 9867984)
I’ll Stand By You/Real Life (CD1, Polydor 9869129)
I’ll Stand By You (LP Mix)/(Tony Lamezma’s Club Romp)/What Will The Neighbours Say Album Medley/I’ll Stand By You (Video)/(Karaoke Video)/(Game) (CD2, diff p/s with insert, Polydor 9869130)
Wake Me Up/I’ll Stand By You (Gravitas Vocal Dub Mix Edit) (CD1, Polydor 9870425)
Wake Me Up (LP Version)/(Tony Lamezma’s Love Affair)/History/Wake Me Up (Video)/(Karaoke Video)/(Game) (CD2, diff p/s with poster, Polydor 9870426)
Wake Me Up/Loving Is Easy/Wake Me Up (Gravitas Club Mix) (Numbered 7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Polydor 9870427)
Long Hot Summer/Love Machine (Live at the Hammersmith Apollo) (CD1, Polydor 9873410)
Long Hot Summer (Album Mix)/(Benitez Beats)/Real Life (Live at the Hammersmith Apollo)/Long Hot Summer (Video)/(Karaoke Video)/(Game) (CD2, diff p/s with inserts, Polydor 9873589)
Long Hot Summer (LP Version)/(Tony Lamezma Rides Again)/Jump (Almighty Remix) (12”, in same p/s as CD2, Polydor 9874045)
Biology/The Show (Tony Lamezma Club Mix) (CD1, Polydor 9875296)
Biology/Nobody But You/Biology (Tony Lamezma Remix)/(Video)/(Karaoke Video)/(Game) (CD2, diff p/s, Polydor 9875297)
See The Day/It’s Magic (CD1, Polydor 9875964)
See The Day/I Don’t Really Hate You/See The Day (Soundhouse Masterblaster Mix)/Chemistry Album Medley/See The Day (Video)/(Karaoke Video)/(Game) (CD2, diff p/s, Polydor 9875965)
Whole Lotta History (Ash Howes Mix)/Crazy Fool (CD1, Polydor 9877402)
Whole Lotta History (Ash Howes Mix)/(Whole Lotta Lamezma Mix)/Teenage Dirtbag (Live)/Whole Lotta History (Video)/(Karaoke Video)/(Game) (CD2, diff p/s, Polydor 9877403)
Something Kinda Ooooh/The Crazy Life (CD1, Fascination 1709880)
Something Kinda Ooooh (LP Mix)/(Tony Lamezma Mix)/Models (Single Edit)/Girls Aloud Megamix by Jewels & Stone/Something Kinda Ooooh (Video)/(Karaoke Video) (CD2, diff p/s + postcards, Fascination FASC 006)
I Think We’re Alone Now (Single Mix)/Why Do It? (CD1, Fascination 1714586)
I Think We’re Alone Now (Single Mix)/(Uniting Nations Remix)/(Tony Lamezma Baubletastic Remix)/Jingle Bell Rock/I Think We’re Alone Now (Video) (CD2, diff p/s, Fascination 1714587)
Walk This Way (Single Mix)/(Yoad Mix)/(Video)/(Behind The Scenes Footage - Video) (CD, Fascination 172 433-1)
Sexy! No No No…/Something Kinda Ooooh (Live at the Bournemouth International Centre) (CD1, Fascination 1744931)
Sexy! No No No… (Album Version)/(Tony Lamezma’s “Yes Yes Yes” Mix)/Dog Without A Bone/Sexy! No No No… (Video) (CD2, diff p/s, Fascination 1744981)
Call The Shots/Rehab (Live in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge) (CD1, Fascination 1749896)
Call The Shots (Album Version)/(Xenomania Club Mix)/Blow Your Cover/Call The Shots (Video) (CD2, diff p/s, Fascination 1753047)
Can’t Speak French (Radio Edit)/Hoxton Heroes (CD1, Fascination 1762720)
Can’t Speak French (Radio Edit)/Je Ne Parle Pas Francais/Can’t Speak French (Passions Remix)/With Every Heartbeat (BBC Radio 1 Jo Whiley Show 23.11.2007)/Can’t Speak French (Video) (CD2, diff p/s, Fascination 1764167)
The Promise (Edit)/She (CD, Fascination 1788035)
The Promise (Edit)/Girl Overboard (Live at the London O2) (Numbered 7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Fascination 1788935)
The Loving Kind (Radio Mix)/Girls On 45 Volume 2 (CD, Fascination 1794885)
The Loving Kind (Radio Mix)/Memory Of You (Numbered 7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Fascination 1794887)
Untouchable (Radio Mix)/It’s Your Dynamite (CD, Fascination 2704479)
Untouchable (Radio Mix)/Love Is The Key (Thriller Jill Mix) (Numbered 7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Fascination 2704480)

The Box Set

Having issued some 21 singles since their inception, the idea of a Girls Aloud singles box set makes sense. It was issued at the end of 2009 - which, at the time of writing, was also the last point at which the group had issued a single. So, if they were to never return, the box would be a complete history of the band on 45.

Although it was referred to as the “Singles Box Set”, the box was officially known as “The Singles Collection”. It was available only through the band’s website, and featured each of the band’s 21 singles in their own individual sleeves. The artwork used was based around the CD1 format for each single (or, obviously, the standard CD format if there was no second CD available). The only difference between the sleeves was that for the box, each single featured a thin coloured border around each sleeve. The lead tracks on each disc were the songs that had been made available on the original CD/CD1 single, with the extra tracks from the other formats appearing thereafter. Several previously cassette or vinyl only recordings thus made their debut on CD with this set.

But that wasn’t all - where the original single had been issued on DVD, or there had been a CD-Rom element on the CD, the material from these releases were added, where appropriate, in an enhanced section on each CD. Furthermore, where there were promo only remixes, or related items issued as downloads via sites such as iTunes, these were also included - meaning the amount of material debuting on CD commercially was quite substantial. In some instances, there were so many bonus tracks, the running times of some of the discs were a good hour long! There was a 22nd disc - a “Rarities” disc featuring (yet again) eight songs, a mix of previously unreleased alternate takes and obscure items from the back catalogue, such as “On My Way To Satisfaction” from the “St Trinians” soundtrack album. Quite simply, the amount of material on this box was astonishing, and it was widely regarded as being one of the best singles box sets to have ever been released.

There has been some controversy surrounding the set. Originally pegged at a £50-ish price tag, the box didn’t sell, so in early 2010, it was re-promoted at a knock down £35 price tag with an extra disc - a CD-Rom featuring all of the nine karaoke videos from the set housed on one disc. Despite the fact these were already available on the relevant CD’s elsewhere in the box, Universal came in for some criticism over this move.

In terms of music, this means that by buying this boxset, you would no longer need to buy any Girls Aloud single previously released. In terms of artwork, the list of singles that are still worth getting for their different picture sleeves are:
Sound Of The Underground - CD2
No Good Advice - DVD
Life Got Cold - CD2
Jump - CD2 & Cassette
The Show - CD2
Love Machine - CD2 & 7” Picture Disc
I’ll Stand By You - CD2
Wake Me Up - CD2 & 7” Picture Disc
Long Hot Summer - 12” or CD2
Biology - CD2
See The Day - CD2
Whole Lotta History - CD2
Something Kind Ooooh - CD2
I Think We’re Alone Now - CD2
Sexy! No No No… - CD2
Call The Shots - CD2
Can’t Speak French - CD2
The Promise - 7” Picture Disc
The Loving Kind - 7” Picture Disc
Untouchable - 7” Picture Disc

Girls On DVD

Given that Girls Aloud are, how shall we say, “photogenic”, it’s fair to say the DVD format suits them perfectly. The good thing about the band’s videos, is that they have all been made available across a variety of releases - something you can’t say about fellow pop goddesses like Madonna.

The band’s first DVD, “Girls On Film”, was issued at the end of the promo campaign for “What Will The Neighbours Say”. Taking it’s name from one of the band’s B-sides (itself a Duran Duran cover), the main body of the DVD included the promo clips for all of the band’s videos that had been released at the time, from “Sound Of The Underground” to “Wake Me Up”. The video for “Jump” differed to that originally sent to TV stations - the original included clips from the “Love Actually” movie, but these were removed from the version on “Girls On Film”. The rest of the DVD was padded out with numerous TV show performances, with a fairly sizeable running time.

Thereafter, Girls Aloud started to perform live, and most future DVD’s were taken from recent concert tours. The bonus features on these DVD’s included any “new” promo clips not previously available on DVD. “What Will The Neighbours Say Live” followed soon after, and included the “Long Hot Summer” clip as a bonus track. At the same time that “The Sound Of…” was released, a DVD entitled “Greatest Hits Live”, which was actually taped on the “Chemistry” tour ,was released (a specific “Greatest Hits” tour followed soon after), and this featured the clips for “Biology”, “See The Day” and “Whole Lotta History” as extra tracks.

The band’s next release was the rather dubious “Style” DVD, which wasn’t really a music DVD at all, but instead featured each member of the band doing a feature about shoes, make up, jeans, etc. To placate the male members of the band’s fanbase, the DVD also included all of the band’s 16 promo clips released up till that point. The “new” videos were for the singles from “Something Kinda Ooooh” through to “Sexy! No No No”, whilst the original “Love Actually” version of “Jump” was included on this release instead of the "Girls On Film" version. “Tangled Up: Live From The O2” was the band’s next DVD, which featured the clips for “Sexy! No No No”, “Call The Shots” and “Can’t Speak French” as extra tracks. The latter, featuring the girls trussed up in stockings and suspenders, remains - of course - one of the ten greatest pop videos ever made…

Another DVD filmed at the O2 (a bit Londoncentric, Girls), “Out Of Control Live From The O2 2009”, was issued during 2009, featuring the clips for “The Promise”, “The Loving Kind” and “Untouchable”. Mail order only editions featured that strange extra - a bonus CD featuring many (but not all) of the songs from the DVD, something which I fail to understand would be of interest to anyone. Why you would want to just hear Kimberley sing, as opposed to look at her as well at the same time, is a mystery! (PS. Don't tell the wife I said that).

Girls On Film (DVD, Polydor 987 2141, includes free poster insert)
What Will The Neighbours Say Live (DVD, Polydor 987 5155)
Greatest Hits Live (DVD, Polydor 170779-2)
Style (DVD, Fascination 1751479)
Tangled Up Live From The O2 (DVD, Fascination 1782737)
Out Of Control Live From The O2 2009 (DVD, Fascination 2715380)

Other Releases

In addition to all of the above, there are several other releases of note. The band’s version of “Theme From St Trinians” remains available only on the “St Trinians” soundtrack - the CD can be picked up quite cheaply, and has a nice shot of the band from the movie inside the booklet (they made a cameo appearance at the end, effectively playing themselves). The band have also contributed exclusive covers to the likes of “Greasemania” and “Discomania”. A studio version of “Teenage Dirtbag” is also on the “Radio 1 Established 1967” CD, whilst the “Popjustice 100% Solid Pop Music” collection includes a pair of GA tunes as part of a continuous non-stop mix. On DVD, there are a handful of other “non-music” DVD’s, such as “Off The Record”, which is worth getting anyway as it goes ‘behind the scenes’ as the band engage in much promo-activity, and does feature excerpts of GA music throughout the disc.

Once the band had established themselves, various members of the group started to indulge in a variety of solo projects. All of the members, except Nadine, were involved in the "Passions Of Girls Aloud" project, which saw Sarah, Kimberley, Nicola and Cheryl indulge in each of their own life time ambitions, each of which was shown on TV. Cheryl's was to appear as a dancer in a hip hop video, and she appeared in the Will.I.Am video for "Heartbreaker" - also adding backing vocals to the track. Solo work (both music and non-music based) has occupied all of the group since then - with Sarah doing some modelling and acting, Kimberley carving out a second career as a TV presenter, and Nicola being involved in the fashion industry.

Whilst both Sarah and Nadine have dabbled with solo work (Nadine's first solo song however, remains unissued at moment), at the time of writing, the only band member to have issued a solo LP is Cheryl Cole, whose “3 Words” album is an excellent release, and her solo releases are shown below.

Fight For This Love/Didn’t I (CD, Fascination 2721778)
3 Words (CD Album, Fascination 2724424, limited number issued via HMV included free 2010 calendar insert, also issued as deluxe mail order only box set)
3 Words/Boys (CD, Fascination 2729724)
Parachute (Radio Mix)/Just Let Me Go (CD, Fascination 2734193)

Given that Girls Aloud remain the most exciting pop band post-Madonna, it seems a shame that we may have seen their final album already. As I type this, a second Cheryl Cole (or Tweedy) album is being planned, but not another Girls Aloud record. Let's hope the famous five do reconvene to fight off the evils of Westlife and Take That!

Further reading:
Images of the "Singles Collection" boxset:
Official website:
Wikipedia entry, with pictures of all the albums and singles:

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