Monday, 1 August 2011

Mansun


Although it’s shrouded in mystery, next year marks (probably) the tenth anniversary since Mansun split up. Having started their career as what seemed to be a bunch of bandwagon jumping Oasis-alikes from Chester, by the time they released their debut album two years on in 1997, they were being heralded as one of the shining lights of Britpop - helped along by the fact that they didn’t particularly sound like a Britpop band anyway.

When Mansun started, it was difficult to spot just how good they would become. I famously walked out of a Camden Underworld gig in 1995 when instead of Mansun opening for Whale, the running order was reversed and Whale - who I wanted to see - came on first. It was a Radio 1 gig, so I assume the running order was altered for “broadcasting” reasons. And when I saw them supporting The Charlatans a few weeks later, with Northern Uproar, I simply remember being unable to work out which support act was which, so bland did I think they both were. I can just about remember them, and seemed to recall that every song had that drum machine style backing - which considerably bored me.

But by the time I saw them attempting to blow Sleeper offstage at the Ilford Island at the end of 96, with “Wide Open Space” behind them and a slowly burgeoning pogo-ing following, I began to think that maybe I had underestimated them. Gone were those fisherman style hats they had worn the year before, now it was all dyed blond hair and makeup - and when “Attack Of The Grey Lantern” surfaced, critics fell over themselves in trying to praise the record. No two songs really sounded the same, and even the earlier numbers that the band had (probably) played during that Charlatans set, now sounded quite thrilling. Suddenly, it all started to make sense. Here was a band attempting to reach for the skies, unafraid of failing.

After a couple of low key releases, the band signed to Parlophone and released their debut EP, titled “One”. It was the start of what - in collecting terms - would be a fascinating run of releases, fourteen EP’s in total, before finally grinding to a halt sometime after the millennium. Soon after the first EP, it was not too long before the band started to “cheat” a bit with the EP format, as singles were being issued that were the length of an EP, but were turning up on different formats with different track listings - not really what the original concept of the EP in the 60s had been about.

Below, I have detailed the slightly different approach the band took with each release as the years progressed. There were 17 singles releases in total, and five albums - including a best of and a rarities set. I would suggest you check out the Desperate Icons website, seemingly no longer being updated, but which goes into greater detail beyond what you see here.


Take it Easy Chicken - Two EP

Plenty of theories abound around the debut 7”, the 1-sided “Take It Easy Chicken”. Credited to “Manson”, the band later claimed this was a spelling mistake that was only noticed after the single had been pressed, but the other rumour was the band were apparently threatened with some sort of legal action from serial killer Charles Manson, after whom they had named the group, who claimed it was some sort of copyright theft. The second single, “Skin Up Pin Up” b/w “Flourella” appeared on EMI affiliate label Regal, on both 7” and CD. The CD came in a very basic sleeve - basically, it was in a flimsy pouch with no cover - it was one of the pouches you can buy in a box of 25 in Poundland or similar, so if you see a copy in a charity shop, and are thinking “somebody’s thrown the front cover away”, buy it - because that’s how it was packaged.

“One EP” (I shall refer to the EP’s as “EP Two”, or “Two EP”, depending on what reads better from here onwards) was led by “Egg Shaped Fred”, and was issued on 7”, Cassette and CD. Some copies had a hidden fifth track, and although I have seen different websites refer to different formats in relation to which one includes it, I believe the CD was the only format upon which it appeared. The CD also featured an alternative mix of the A-side, although the sleeve made no notable mention of this. The 7” and Cassette mix of the track would later appear on the debut LP, albeit in slightly altered form - “Grey Lantern” ran, for the most part, as one long continuous mix, so where a track was released on 45, the mix for the single was slightly altered at the start, end or both.

The “Two” EP was led by “Take It Easy Chicken”, and was the last release by the Draper/Chad/Hib/Stove line up. In what was probably a deliberate move, this track was not included on the album, but after becoming a top 40 hit, became a staple part of the Mansun live set.

Take It Easy Chicken (7”, Sci Fi Hi Fi 001)
Skin Up Pin Up/Flourella (White Vinyl 7”, Regal REG 3)
Skin Up Pin Up/Flourella (CD, Regal REG 3 CD)
One EP: Egg Shaped Fred/Ski Jump Nose/Lemonade Secret Drinker/Thief (7”, Parlophone R6430)
One EP: Egg Shaped Fred/Ski Jump Nose/Lemonade Secret Drinker/Thief (Cassette, Parlophone TCR6430)
One EP: Egg Shaped Fred (Alternate Version)/Ski Jump Nose/Lemonade Secret Drinker/Thief/Hidden Track (CD, Parlophone CDR6430)
Two EP: Take It Easy Chicken/Drastic Sturgeon/The Greatest Pain/Moronica (7”, Parlophone R6437)
Two EP: Take It Easy Chicken/Drastic Sturgeon/The Greatest Pain/Moronica (Cassette, Parlophone TCR6437)
Two EP: Take It Easy Chicken/Drastic Sturgeon/The Greatest Pain/Moronica (CD, Parlophone CDR6437)



Three EP - Seven EP

Although “EP One” had been notable for featuring slightly alternate track listings across the formats, the first Mansun release to go down the multi-formatting route was “EP Three”, led by a track that would appear on the debut LP the next year, “Stripper Vicar”. Two CD Singles were issued, with different B-sides, and even though each disc contained 3 or 4 songs each, and thus did “follow” the concept of the EP format, the fact that the track listings differed meant that the marketing of the single was really no different to any other band on EMI doing different B-sides for different formats at the same time (such as Blur). The decision to offer different tracks on the different CD’s for each single would be something that would continue right up until the final EP in 2001. To add to the confusion, a 2-track Clear Vinyl 7” was also issued, offering just one of the three b-sides that were on CD2 - and was still referred to as an EP on the front cover! Later 2-track releases did not necessarily do this (ie. EP‘s Four (“Wide Open Space“) and Fourteen (“Fool“)).

EP Four, “Wide Open Space”, included “Skin Up Pin Up”, originally the second Mansun 45, and was the original version. Acoustic versions of old EP tracks “Moronica” and “Lemonade Secret Drinker” were also taped for CD2. Again, a coloured vinyl 7” featuring just two tracks was pressed,

EP Five, “She Makes My Nose Bleed”, was not ‘marketed’ as such on it’s cover as being an EP at all, but followed in a similar vain to EP Four - two CD’s and a coloured vinyl 2-track 7”. “Flourella”, the b-side of the second single, was re-recorded for CD1, which also included an acoustic take on the A-side. CD2 included another “new” version of an old EP track, with the inclusion of a live version of “Drastic Sturgeon”, originally on “EP Two“.

The “Taxloss” release made no mention at all of being an EP as well, but given that the follow up single, “Closed For Business”, was billed on the sleeve as “Seven EP”, then it’s safe to assume it was indeed “EP Six”. A 12” was issued containing only remixes of the A-side, thus becoming the first Mansun EP to not quite be a proper EP at all. The two CD Singles offered the usual bonus tracks though, with re-recorded versions of the A-side, “Wide Open Space”, and old EP track “Ski Jump Nose” being spread across the formats. A live 2-track 7”, with “Taxloss” on the A-side, was later issued as a fan club only single. Along with “Stripper Vicar”, the lead tracks on EP’s Four to Six all appeared on “Attack Of The Grey Lantern”.

“Closed For Business” was the lead track on “EP Seven”, and was a brand new non-album recording. Just like “Taxloss”, it was issued on three formats, each of which contained exclusive material, although CD2 and the Clear Vinyl 7” consisted only of re-recordings of old tracks as their bonuses (album track “Dark Mavis” and “Stripper Vicar” on CD2, “Egg Shaped Fred” off EP1 on the 7”). The second CD was the first Mansun release to venture down the ‘enhanced CD Rom section’ route, by purporting to include the “Taxloss” video in this section, but when I tried my copy recently, it didn’t work. Perhaps you had to be connected to the internet to get it to work, and with the band now defunct, any micro-site needed to get it to work would no longer exist. Or maybe my copy is just knackered.

Three EP: Stripper Vicar/No One Knows Us (Clear Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6447)
Three EP: Stripper Vicar/The Edge/The Duchess (CD1, Parlophone CDRS 6447, with poster)
Three EP: Stripper Vicar/An Open Letter To The Lyrical Trainspotter/No One Knows Us/Things Keep Falling Off Buildings (CD2, Parlophone CDR 6447, unique p/s)
Four EP: Wide Open Space/Rebel Without A Quilt (White Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6453)
Four EP: Wide Open Space/Rebel Without A Quilt/Vision Impaired/Skin Up Pin Up (CD1, Parlophone CDR 6453)
Four EP: Wide Open Space/The Gods Of Not Very Much/Moronica (Acoustic)/Lemonade Secret Drinker (Acoustic) (CD2, Parlophone CDRS 6453, unique p/s)
Five EP: She Makes My Nose Bleed/The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6458)
Five EP: She Makes My Nose Bleed/The Most To Gain/Flourella (New Version)/She Makes My Nose Bleed (Acoustic) (CD1, Parlophone CDR 6458)
Five EP: She Makes My Nose Bleed/The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail/Live Open Space/Drastic Sturgeon (Live) (CD2, Parlophone CDRS 6458, unique p/s with poster)
Six EP: Taxloss (Unedited)/Grey Lantern/Taxloss (Lisa Marie Experience Remix) (CD1, Parlophone CDRS 6465, with poster)
Six EP: Taxloss (Edit)/The Impending Collapse Of It All/Ski Jump Nose (Live at the Derby Assembly Rooms)/Wide Open Space (Acoustic) (CD2, Parlophone CDR 6465, black p/s)
Six EP: Taxloss (John 00 Fleming Remix)/(Unedited)/(Lisa Marie Experience Remix)/(Gaudi Remix) (12”, Parlophone 12R 6465)
Seven EP: Closed For Business/Egg Shaped Fred (Acoustic) (Clear Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6482)
Seven EP: Closed For Business/KI Double S ING/Everyone Must Win/The World’s Still Open (CD1, Parlophone CDR 6482)
Seven EP: Closed For Business/Dark Mavis (Acoustic)/Stripper Vicar (Live) (CD2, Parlophone CDRS 6482, unique p/s with poster)



Eight EP - Eleven EP

Four EP’s were taken from “Six”, the band’s second album and regarded by some as their (prog rock) masterpiece. “Eight EP” was led by “Legacy”, with an extended mix making the CD1 and Cassette releases, whilst a ‘Perfecto’ mix of “Wide Open Space” made CD2 and the Cassette. Acoustic versions of old EP tracks, “The Impending Collapse Of It All” and “Ski Jump Nose” completed the cassette’s track listing. A red vinyl 7”, offering some (but not all) of the B-sides from the two CD formats was issued - I understand - at a later date, but was not eligible for the chart.

The astonishing “Being A Girl” was next, heavily edited for single release (down from over seven to just two minutes) and was dubbed “Being A Girl (Part One)”. The two CD’s - between them - featured drawings of all four band members on the sleeves. The cassette offered up another mix of “Wide Open Space”, this time by the Trouser Enthusiasts, plus “Mansun’s Only Acoustic Song”, one of a number of “Mansun’s Only…” song titles (see also “Mansun’s Only Love Song” on the debut album).

“Negative” appeared in both edited and LP form across the two CD releases that were “EP Ten”, with a live “Take It Easy Chicken” on CD2, and “Mansun’s Only Live Song” on the clear vinyl 7”. “Six”, which confusingly, was the “Eleven EP”, was also issued in single form on CD1 of said release, with CD2 including a live “Being A Girl”. A live version of “Six (Album)” track, “Television”, turned up on the coloured vinyl 7”.

Eight EP: Legacy/GSOH/Can’t Afford To Die (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R6497)
Eight EP: Legacy (Extended Version)/Wide Open Space (Perfecto Remix)/The Impending Collapse Of It All (Acoustic)/Ski Jump Nose (Acoustic) (Cassette, Parlophone TCR 6497)
Eight EP: Legacy (Extended Version)/Can’t Afford To Die/Spasm Of Identity/Check Under The Bed (CD1, Parlophone CDRS 6497, with poster)
Eight EP: Legacy/Wide Open Space (Perfecto Remix)/GSOH/Face In The Crowd (CD2, Parlophone CDR 6497, unique p/s)
Nine EP: Being A Girl (Part 1)/Wide Open Space (Trouser Enthusiast Mix)/Mansun’s Only Acoustic Song (Cassette, Parlophone TCR 6503)
Nine EP: Being A Girl (Part 1)/Hideout/Railings (CD1, Parlophone CDRS 6503, unique p/s with poster)
Nine EP: Being A Girl (Part 1)/I Care/Been Here Before (CD2, Parlophone CDR 6503, with insert)
Ten EP: Negative (Edit)/Mansun’s Only Live Song (Clear Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R 6508)
Ten EP: Negative (Edit)/When The Wind Blows/King Of Beauty (CD1, Parlophone CDRS 6508, with poster)
Ten EP: Negative/I Deserve What I Get/Take It Easy Chicken (Live) (CD2, Parlophone CDR 6508, unique p/s)
Eleven EP: Six (Single Version)/Live Television (Clear Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R 6511)
Eleven EP: Six (Single Version)/Church Of The Drive Thru Elvis/But The Trains Run On Time (CD1, Parlophone CDRS 6511)
Eleven EP: Six/What’s It Like To Be Hated/Being A Girl (Live) (CD2, Parlophone CDR 6511, unique p/s with poster)



Twelve EP - Slipping Away

And so, we come to the end, and the releases from the so-so “Little Kix”. An attempt to sound more polished, the result was an album that was a bit bland and forgettable. Having said that, I always quite liked “Fool” although Paul Draper admits he hates it and is his least favourite Mansun song! Oh well.

Although all of the singles from the album were issued on three formats, the third format was usually a cassette edition, offering nothing exclusive. “I Can Only Disappoint U” was feature in “Single mix” form for CD1 of the “Twelve EP”, with four new B-sides across the two CD’s. It was later remixed by Paul Oakenfold, and his “Perfecto” mixes adorned the B-side of “Electric Man”, “EP Thirteen”. “Electric Man” was remixed for single release as well for CD1, backed with two new songs, whilst the album mix and an acoustic version appeared on CD2 with one of the “Perfecto” mixes of “I Can Only…”. A 12” in a “DJ Friendly” die cut sleeve was issued, which replaced the acoustic take of “Electric Man” with the second remix of “I Can Only…”. The “EP 13” legend was nowhere to be found on this format.

“Fool” was the last stand, “EP Fourteen”. An edited mix adorned CD1, and new B-sides appeared on both the CD editions. The band slowly ground to a halt, and to celebrate their demise, a 3-CD “Rarities” set, “Kleptomania” was issued, plugged by a 7” featuring two tracks from the set, the a-side of which was “Slipping Away”, and brought the curtain down on Mansun in the same format their career had started nearly a decade before.

Twelve EP: I Can Only Disappoint U (Single Mix)/Decisions Decisions/Repair Man (CD1, Parlophone CDRS 6544)
Twelve EP: I Can Only Disappoint U/My Idea Of Fun/Golden Stone (CD2, Parlophone CDR 6544, black & white p/s)
Thirteen EP: Electric Man (Single Mix)/The Drifters/The Apartment (CD1, Parlophone CDRS 6550)
Thirteen EP: Electric Man/I Can Only Disappoint U (Perfecto Club Mix)/Electric Man (Acoustic Version) (CD2, Parlophone CDR 6550, black & white p/s with poster)
Thirteen EP: Electric Man/I Can Only Disappoint U (Perfecto Club Mix)/(Instrumental Mix) (12”, Parlophone 12R 6550)
Fourteen EP: Fool (Edit)/I’ve Seen The Top Of The Mountain/Promises (CD1, Parlophone CDRS 6553, stickered p/s with insert)
Fourteen EP: Fool/Fade In Time/Black Infinite Space (CD2, Parlophone CDR 6553, unique p/s)
Slipping Away/Getting Your Way (7”, Parlophone R6650)


In 2010, “Attack Of The Grey Lantern” was issued as a 3-CD edition, with EP tracks being used to fill up discs 2 and 3. The single mixes of the 45’s included on the album were not used, but the ‘Alternate’ version of “Egg Shaped Fred” did make the set, as did the “hidden” track from “One EP”. “An Open Letter To The Lyrical Trainspotter”, off “Three EP”, was originally the hidden track on the original CD in 1997, and retained this position for the 2010 version. Live and acoustic B-sides made the set, but remixes were out. “Closed For Business” and it’s B-sides were also included, as were the acoustic versions of “Ski Jump Nose” and “The Impending Collapse Of It All” - despite being released on the first single from the second album, both were re-recordings of old EP tracks and hence deemed acceptable for inclusion. The 3rd disc ended with a new remix of “Wide Open Space”, but don’t go shelling out 20 quid just for that, as I understand promos exist for this reworking, which should cost you less than the album.

Some of these EP tracks had earlier appeared on “Kleptomania”, disc 2 of which concentrated on “B-sides” and stand alone A-sides. “Kleptomania” also included both sides of the “Skin Up Pin Up” 7”, “Can’t Afford To Die” and “Check Under The Bed” off “EP Eight”, “Railings”, “I Care” and “Been Here Before” off “EP Nine”, “When The Wind Blows” off “EP Ten” and “Decisions Decisions” and “My Idea Of Fun” off “EP Twelve”. The remaining five songs date from the 95-97 period, and are now thus on the 3-CD “Lantern”. A best of set, “Legacy”, was also released a few years ago - both as a bog standard CD and a fancy CD + DVD edition, with all the videos.

Attack Of The Grey Lantern (CD, Parlophone CDPCS 7387)
Six (CD, Parlophone 7243 4 96723 2)
Little Kix (CD, Parlophone 527 7822)
Kleptomania (3xCD, Parlophone 866306 2)
Legacy (CD+DVD, Parlophone 371 6982)

Listening again to “Grey Lantern” recently, it seems a shame the band have become something of a forgotten relic. Draper recently collaborated with The Joy Formidable, Richard Oakes from Suede has recently name checked the album, and so it seems some of us are still well aware of just inventive this band were at times. Nobody seems so excited about Northern Uproar though.


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