Thursday, 17 November 2011

November 2011

This month, there is the final look at the Madonna UK Singles Discography, covering the years 2005 to 2009, plus a look at The Flaming Lips post-"Zaireeka" and Madness pre-"Wonderful". To look at any of these blogs, click on the relevant tab top right.

"Hey You, Don't Watch That, Watch This"

Friday, 11 November 2011

Madness: 1979-1986

After Madness reformed in 1992, it took them a good seven years to get around to releasing their first studio album since the reunion. In the decade plus that has passed, they have managed just two new studio albums - and one of those consisted of cover versions.

In their original incarnation, Madness were a bit more prolific - issuing six albums in seven years, along with a significant number of singles. Although the line up keeps shifting back and forth, it does seem as though Madness are here to stay, and a career spanning box set has just been issued. To celebrate, I thought it best to do a feature on the “Early Years”. The post-”Madstock” years will be covered at a later date.

Original Albums & Singles

The band released their debut 7” on Two Tone in 1979 - their one and only release on the label. “The Prince” was recorded as a tribute to ska singer Prince Buster, who had recorded the song which gave the band their name. A cover of this song appeared on the b-side of the 45.

The band then signed to Stiff, and recorded another Buster cover, “One Step Beyond”, as their first single for the label. Mostly instrumental, the intermittent vocals were done by Chas Smash, although as he was not officially in the band at the time, the single subsequently came in a cover featuring the original six piece line up of the band, without Smash. “One Step Beyond” was the first Madness single to be issued on a 12”, with an additional bonus track on this format. Madness would use the 12” on a regular basis throughout the rest of their career as an opportunity to include extra B-sides or remixes of the a-side.

“One Step Beyond” was also the title of the band’s debut LP, issued late in 79, and housed in a similar sleeve to the single of the same name. It was the only Madness album to really showcase their love of ska and reggae (until 2005’s “The Dangermen Sessions”), and as such, is thought of by some as their best album from this period of their career. Two more singles would be released from the LP - “My Girl” and “Night Boat To Cairo”, the latter as the lead track on a 4-song EP, upon which Smash finally appeared on the cover of a Madness record for the first time.

Their second album, 1980’s “Absolutely”, saw the band head in a more Kinks/Ian Dury inspired “pop” direction, although the saxophone sound set them apart from many of their contemporaries. The front cover of the LP showed the group outside Chalk Farm tube station, in Camden, North London - their spiritual home - although slightly different shots were used on different editions; I have a Canadian LP which uses a different shot to my UK copy. By now, they were starting to get a reputation as fun loving clowns who made stupid videos - hence the “Nutty Boys” nickname - but this masked the fact that some of the band’s lyrical content was very dark. The highlight of “Absolutely”, “Embarrassment”, dealt head on with racism, and was based on a real life story of a white woman becoming pregnant by a black man.

Following the release of their third LP, “7”, in 1981, the band taped what would be the first of six stand alone 45’s before the demise in 86. “It Must Be Love” was a Labi Siffre cover the band had started to perform in the live arena, and the decision was taken to issue a studio version as a single. Despite appearing on both 7” and 12”, the same mixes of both sides appeared on each format. The following five non-album singles, for the record, were “House Of Fun”, “Driving In My Car“, “Wings Of A Dove“,. “The Sun And The Rain” and “Waiting For The Ghost Train”.

The final Madness album of the 80’s to feature the seven-man line up was 1984’s “Keep Moving”, after which keyboard player Mike Barson left. Released in 1984, it was the band’s first studio album since 1982‘s “The Rise And Fall“, the first time they had gone a year without releasing a new studio record. The sixth album, 1985’s ”Mad Not Mad”, is a curio - lauded by the NME but slated by Suggs, the band had expanded to a seven piece again by recruiting Steve Nieve from Elvis Costello And The Attractions to play keys on all of the album, although he was absent from live, TV and Video duties. The mixed reaction to “Mad Not Mad” is indicative of how Madness’ albums have been perceived over the years - they have always been thought of as a singles band, and didn’t get around to making a genuinely “classic” LP until 2009’s “The Liberty Of Norton Folgate”. Even the recent CD reissue series seems to ignore the album, despite the fact it was reissued along with all the other LP’s of this period in 2010 - a recent Salvo Records catalogue included in “Record Collector” refers to all the reissues except this one!

Plans for a seventh LP were considered, but with the band starting to fall apart, the decision was made instead to throw in the towel. Barson replaced Nieve for the recording of the stand alone “Waiting For The Ghost Train” single, their swansong release, with the band aping the “One Step Beyond” single cover on the sleeve. By the start of 1987, Madness were no more.

The Madness

A slightly forgotten part of the band’s past is the short lived 1988 reunion. Suggs, Smash, Lee Thompson and Chris Foreman reformed as “The Madness”, presumably to avoid any potential legal wranglings. They released a self titled album on Virgin Records, although it failed to set the charts alight, and stalled way outside the top 50. Two singles were released from the album, although the second, “What’s That”, failed to enter the top 75, the first Madness related release to fail to do so. The situation may or may not have been hindered by the complete absence of a promo video for the song.

The CD version of the album included four extra tracks, which also appeared as B-sides on the various singles. The “I Pronounce You” single included a B-side not on the album, “Patience”. By the end of 88, The Madness had gone the same way as their predecessors, and Madness were finally no more. At least, not until the 1992 “Madstock” reunion shows which eventually, in a long winded way, led to the permanent formation of the band.

In the years that have passed, The Madness have been semi written out of history. Don’t go to a Madness gig expecting them to play anything off this album, indeed, even the group’s “best of” albums tend to ignore this release. The video edition of “Divine Madness” does include the clip for “I Pronounce You”, but that’s about it. More on that release a bit later on.

The Compilations

In the last 10-15 years, there have been a steady stream of Madness compilations, which all seem to cover more or less the same ground. However, the band had already released what could be regarded as at least one definitive set by the end of the 90’s, so you might wonder why they keep coming.

The band’s first collection had appeared midway through their original incarnation, when “Complete Madness” surfaced in 1982. It included all of the band’s 12 singles issued up to that point, and was padded out with a few other odds and sods to give it a 45 minute plus running time. An accompanying VHS was also released, which included videos for all 12 singles, plus a clip for “Bed And Breakfast Man”, from the first LP.

When the band split in 1986, a follow up set “Utter Madness” was released, concentrating on the latter half of the band’s career. Again, album tracks were used to pad the set out. The cover was another variant on the “One Step Beyond” image, and CD copies included a mega mix called “Seven Year Scratch”, which had appeared on the B-side of the 12” version of the “Waiting For The Ghost Train” single.

In 1990, Virgin released the first Madness album to really make an attempt to include some of the band’s rarer numbers. “It’s Madness” was a 16 track affair, split equally between hit singles and B-sides/EP tracks. Four of the six stand alone 45’s were included. It was deemed important enough to spawn a 1991 follow up, “It’s Madness Too”, which veered a bit more in the album tracks direction instead. “The Sun And The Rain” made this release, but “Waiting For The Ghost Train” failed to make the cut. Although the fact that neither set gets anywhere near to including all the missing B-sides, they are both seen as vital cogs in the Madness back catalogue, and they were both reissued in snazzy new sleeves by Virgin in the late 1990’s.

In 1992, with the reunion looming, “Divine Madness” was released. Depending on which format you bought, it was either the final word on Madness pre-1989, or not. The audio edition ignored material from “The Madness”, and for some reason, only included 22 of the band’s 23 singles from the 79-86 period. “The Sweetest Girl”, a single lifted from “Mad Not Mad”, was missing. The video version though included all 23 singles, the “Bed And Breakfast Man” clip and, as mentioned earlier, “I Pronounce You”. It was, therefore, the complete history of Madness on film from the 70s and 80s.

In 1998, “The Heavy Heavy Hits” rectified the situation audio-wise, by including all 23 Madness singles up to 1986. However, with the band eventually heading back into the studio at the end of the 1990’s, it wasn’t too long before greatest hits sets began appearing and re-appearing with revamped track listings including some of these songs. However, as all such sets have been restricted to single CD sets, older songs have had to make way for the new ones. As I type this, there is not one Madness best-of which includes every Madness single from 1979 to 2011. This is probably why the best of’s keep coming, as the labels attempt to strike the right balance between old and new hits - one would assume we will eventually get a complete singles set at some point.


As the Madness reunion kicked off in 1992, a seemingly non stop run of singles started to appear. It began with a reissue of “It Must Be Love” in February, which appeared on several formats, the CD edition of which added old rarities in the form of “Never Ask Twice” (renamed “Airplane” for some reason) and “Don’t Quote Me On That”. “House Of Fun” came backed with a Spanish version of “One Step Beyond”, with an unreleased version of “Gabriel’s Horn” on the 12” and CD editions.

“My Girl” appeared on two different CD editions. The sleeve mimicked the 1979 original - photographs of the at-the-time six man lineup appeared on the cover, and for the 1992 edition, new photos of the same band members appeared on the front. A series of previously unreleased live tracks appeared as b-sides, with CD2 including a version of a song called “Precious One”, which has never appeared on a Madness studio record.

Whilst the Madstock shows, unsurprisingly, concentrated almost entirely on old hits, the band opted to perform a cover of “The Harder They Come” at the gigs. A live album and video from the concerts appeared later that year, and a version of this song that was included on both these releases was also issued as a single to coincide. Live tracks from the shows appeared as B-sides across the various formats.

The final Madness single before the 1999 release “Lovestruck” turned up in 1993, when “Night Boat To Cairo” was remixed multiple times for single release. The 12” included four different versions of the song, with the CD adding the original LP mix.

The Box Sets

During the 90’s and Noughties, a series of Madness box sets were issued that made a decent - but flawed - attempt at putting a sizeable chunk of product into a single package.

1999’s “The Lot”, as it’s title suggests, included all of the six studio albums on CD from the 79-86 period. However, for some reason, the decision was taken to not include the original album covers. Instead, each album was paired up with another one, and these 2-on-1 sets appeared in unique gatefold picture sleeves. A nice touch, but utterly odd. Each of the band’s 24 promo clips from the period appeared as bonuses on a CD-Rom element on each disc, four videos per disc. The releases, more or less, tied in with the accompanying album, but with five clips from “One Step Beyond” in existence, the decision was taken to add the ‘odd one out’, “Bed And Breakfast Man”, to the “Absolutely” disc instead to balance the numbers.

Some years earlier, just after the “Madstock” event, Virgin had released “The Business”, a 3-CD box set dubbed the ‘Definitive Singles Collection’. It was a pretty good set, including nearly every a-side and b-side from the 79-86 period. Repetition was mostly “out”, so where an alternate mix had appeared on a 12”, it was excluded from the set in preference to the 7”/Album mix.

It was not perfect though. “Seven Year Scratch” had to be edited to squeeze onto the box, but this was offset by the inclusion of the jukebox-only “Stretch” mix of “Our House”. But the problem concerned some of the b-sides in the set. The decision had been taken to turn the box into a sort of audio documentary, with interview clips inbetween certain songs, and on occasions, as one song faded out, an interview clip cut in, meaning that a handful of numbers were thus “edited” for this release.

This situation was eased, partly, in 2003 with the “Singles Box Volume 1” CD box set, featuring CD reissues of the band’s first batch of singles from “The Prince” up to “Cardiac Arrest”. All b-sides from this period were present and correct, and the singles were - usually - housed in their original picture covers to boot. However, the problem here is not with this set, but the fact that there hasn’t been a “Volume 2” covering the later years.


I have listed below, in chunks, most Madness releases - on at least one format - covering the 79-93 period. The lists are fairly self explanatory. The ‘Important Madness Singles’ list mostly includes 12” releases, as these usually featured extra tracks/mixes compared to the 7” counterparts, many of which are not on “The Business”.


The Prince/Madness (7”, Two Tone CHS TT3, box set version comes in picture sleeve similar to selected overseas releases)
One Step Beyond/Mistakes/Nutty Theme (12”, Stiff BUYIT 56)
My Girl/In The Rain/Stepping Into Line (12”, Stiff BUYIT 62)
Work Rest & Play EP: Night Boat To Cairo/Deceives The Eye/The Young And The Old/Don’t Quote Me On That (7”, Stiff BUY 71)
Don’t Quote Me On That/Swan Lake (Promo Only 12”, Stiff MAD 1)
Baggy Trousers/The Business (7”, Stiff BUY 84)
Embarrassment/Crying Shame (7”, Stiff BUY 102)
The Return Of The Los Palmas 7/My Girl (Demo)/That’s The Way To Do It/Swan Lake (Live) (12” with comic, Stiff BUYIT 108. Box set version obviously has no comic, and comes in “Nutty Boys” p/s, some original 7” pressings come in different “canteen” sleeve)
Grey Day/Memories (7”, Stiff BUYIT 112, also on Cassette [ZBUY 112])
Shut Up/Never Ask Twice/A Town With No Name (12”, Stiff BUYIT 126)
It Must Be Love/Shadow On The House (7”, Stiff BUY 134, also on 12” [SBUY 134])
Cardiac Arrest (Extended)/In The City (12”, Stiff BUYIT 140, box set version adds LP version of A-side)


House Of Fun/Don’t Look Back (7”, Stiff BUY 146, picture disc also available [PBUY 146])
Driving In My Car/Animal Farm/Riding On My Bike (12”, Stiff BUYIT 153)
Our House (Extended)/Walking With Mr Wheeze (12”, Stiff BUYIT 163)
Tomorrow’s Just Another Day (Warped 12” Version)/A Blue Skinned Beast/Tomorrow’s Just Another Day (Guest Vocal, Elvis Costello)/Madness (Is All In The Mind) (12”, BUYIT 169, export copies pressed for release in South Africa have alternate catalogue number [BUYIT (C) 169])
Wings Of A Dove (Blue Train Mix)/Behind The 8 Ball/One’s Second Thoughtlessness (12”, Stiff BUYIT 181, some 7” copies come in different sleeve to this edition)
The Sun And The Rain (Remix)/Fireball XL5/My Girl (Live at the Brighton Centre, May 1983) (12”, Stiff BUYIT 192)
Michael Caine (Extended)/(Album Version)/If You Think There’s Something (12”, Stiff BUYIT 196)
One Better Day/Guns/Victoria Gardens (Remix)/Sarah (12”, Stiff BUYIT 201)
Yesterday’s Men (12” Version)/All I Knew/Yesterday’s Men (Demo Version) (12”, Zarjazz JAZZ 5-12)
Uncle Sam (Ray Gun Mix)/Please Don’t Go/Uncle Sam (Demo) (12”, Zarjazz JAZZ 7-12)
Sweetest Girl (Dub)/(Extended)/Jennie (12”, Zarjazz JAZZ 8-12)
Waiting For The Ghost Train/Maybe In Another Life/Seven Year Scratch (12”, Zarjazz 9-12)

Some other formats exist that may be of interest, such as the “flag bag” 7” version of “Uncle Sam”, whilst others included - at the time - rare b-sides that made it onto “The Business”, this explains their non-inclusion in this list. The recent Salvo reissues of the band’s first six albums include virtually all of the b-sides, so even some of the singles listed above are now of no more interest to their “shorter” 7” counterparts. Try before you buy, etc, etc, etc.


I Pronounce You/Patience (7”, Virgin VS 1054, also on 7” box set [VSX 1054], 12” [VST 1054] and CD [VSCD 1054] with extra tracks from CD edition of album)
What’s That/Be Good Boy (7”, Virgin VS 1078, also on 12” with extra track from CD edition of album [VST 1078] and CD [VSCD 1078], and a pair of “interlocking“ picture discs)


One Step Beyond (LP, Stiff SEEZ 17)
Absolutely (LP, Stiff SEEZ 29)
7 (LP, Stiff SEEZ 39)
The Rise & Fall (LP, Stiff SEEZ 46)
Keep Moving (LP, Stiff SEEZ 53)
Mad Not Mad (LP, Zarjazz JZLP-1)
The Madness (CD, Virgin CDV 2507)


Complete Madness (LP, Stiff HIT TV1)
Utter Madness (LP, Zarjazz JZLP-2)
It’s Madness (CD, Virgin CDVIP 105)
It’s Madness Too (CD, Virgin CDVIP 117)
Divine Madness (Video, Virgin VID 2692)
The Heavy Heavy Hits (CD, Virgin CDV 2862)


It Must Be Love/Bed And Breakfast Man/Airplane/Don't Quote Me On That (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1425)
House Of Fun/Un Paso Adelante!/Yesterday’s Men/ Gabriel’s Horn (Demo) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1413)
My Girl/ERNIE (Live)/Embarrassment (Live)/Tomorrow's Dream (Live) (CD1, Virgin VSCDG 1425)
My Girl/Precious One (Live)/My Girl (Live)/Disappear (Live) (CD2, Virgin VSCDT 1425)
The Harder They Come (Live)/Land Of Hope And Glory (Live)/Tomorrow’s Just Another Day (Live)/Take It Or Leave It (Live) (CD1, Go! Discs GODCD 93)
The Harder They Come (Live)/Embarrassment (Live)/Grey Day (Live)/Baggy Trousers (Live) (CD2, Go! Discs GOLCD 93)
Night Boat To Cairo (LP Version)/(Paul Gotel Rude Mix)/(Paul Gotel Rude Edit)/(Well Hung Parliament Dub Edit)/(Paul Gotel Rude Instrumental) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1447)

A number of other notable rarities exist, such as the “My Girl” flexi and the “Dance Craze” Compilation cassette. The booklet inside “The Business” lists the most important of these, and also details the early period 45’s that were reissued by Virgin after the band switched labels from Stiff in the mid 80’s. Again, the recent expanded reissues include all of the rarities tucked away on these releases, along with Radio Session material, so I would suggest tracking down the Salvo repressings in preference to the vinyl originals.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Madonna: UK Singles 2005-2009

And so we come to what may well be the last bunch of physical Madonna singles - ever. Now signed to the Live Nation stable (not even a proper record label), and with somebody in HMV recently telling me they don’t stock many singles because “there’s no interest”, and with the likes of Mercury Records refusing to press physical singles except in “extreme circumstances”, who knows if Madonna will ever release a proper single in the UK ever again.

2005 saw the release of the excellent “Confessions On A Dance Floor”, which along with “Like A Prayer” and “Ray of Light”, sits in the top three Madonna LP’s. It’s mix of pop, dance and electro resulted in a futuristic sounding record - not bad for a 47 year old, the tabloids told us. 2008’s “Hard Candy”, simply by having to follow it up, resulted in shrugs of shoulders, but was a fairly good effort. And whilst the running order of 2009’s best-of set “Celebration” could have been better, at least the actual songs on it were pretty damn good.

As ever, all UK formats are listed below. What is interesting about many of these singles is that, with the death of the 7” now a given, Warners opted to issue a number of Madonna 2-track CD singles which offered up nothing you couldn’t get on other formats - a fascinating throw back to the way the singles market used to work (a cheap format with less songs for the floating fan), so unlike many of the CD singles from “American Life” and “Music“, which tended to be designed so you had to buy more than one, some of these singles are for the completists only.

Hung Up

Using an Abba sample to genius effect, and with a magnificent video to boot, this was an incendiary first single from “COADF”. Whilst, on the face of it, the A-side mix of the 12” was supposedly just the album version, “COADF” had - of course - been mixed on the CD edition into one long continuous song, so the lead mix on the 12” was of slightly more interest than you might have thought at the time of release. Vinyl copies of the LP featured “unedited” versions of all the songs instead, and it was the unedited mix of “Hung Up” which made the 12, so it‘s interest factor dissipated a bit for anyone who bought the vinyl edition when it was eventually released.

The same sleeve, a superb one at that, adorned all three formats. CD1 offered just two tracks, CD2 offered the same two plus a bonus mix - the easiest way to determine which is which from a distance is that different stickers were used on each CD.

Overseas editions of the single feature Madonna images on the back cover, but the back cover of the 12” was a “glitter ball” image, also used on promo copies of the single. The same image was used on the printed side of the two CD editions as well.

Hung Up (Radio Version)/(Tracy Young‘s Get Up And Dance Groove Edit) (CD1, Warner Bros W695CD1)
Hung Up (Radio Version)/(Tracy Young‘s Get Up And Dance Groove Edit)/(SDP Extended Vocal) (CD2, Warner Bros W695CD2)
Hung Up (Vinyl LP Version)/(SDP Extended Dub)/(SDP Extended Vocal)/(Tracy Young’s Get Up And Dance Groove Edit) (12”, Warner Bros W695T)


Given that a first single from an album will always be a sizeable hit, as it is “new” product, you sometimes have to go that extra mile when it comes to singles released once the LP is out. And so “Sorry” appeared on two CD’s again, but this time with alternate track listings. CD1 featured a remix of album track “Let It Will Be”, CD2 came with a stack of mixes of the A-side.

Again, the same cover was used for all three formats. CD2 came in a thick jewel case, and with all those mixes, had a running time in excess of half an hour. The 12” once again included the “vinyl LP” album mix of the a-side, and remixes that could otherwise be found on CD2, including a remix by Pet Shop Boys.

This time around, the back cover did feature a series of Madonna images, and like “Hung Up”, the CD’s offered the radio mix of the a-side.

Sorry (Radio Version)/Let It Will Be (Paper Faces Vocal Edit) (CD1, Warner Bros W703CD1)
Sorry (Radio Version)/(Man With Guitar Mix)/(PSB Maxi Mix)/(Paul Oakenfold Remix)/(Green Velvet Remix) (CD2, Warner Bros W703CD2)
Sorry (Vinyl LP Version)/(PSB Maxi Mix)/(Paul Oakenfold Remix)/(Green Velvet Remix) (12”, Warner Bros W703T)

Get Together

Another concerted effort in trying to get the hardcore fan base buying multiple formats to get this one into the charts, “Get Together” was issued on 2 CD’s again with different B-sides (both in the same cover) and a 12” picture disc, always a favourite with the collecting crowd.

The second CD, again, came in a thick jewel case, whilst the picture disc offered nothing exclusive, but did use a beautiful picture of Madonna. It came in a clear stickered sleeve, with a barcode and track listing on the sticker. Copies offered without the sticker are worth a bit less.

At around about the same time as this release hit UK stores, the US were treated to a triple 12” set (or was it actually a remix album?) called “Confessions Remixed”, offering up plenty of mixes from the three singles released in the UK so far. It included a remix of “I Love New York”, which remains to this day unavailable in the UK. The release was quite expensive to start with, so not sure how much you will need to shell out for it nowadays. All of the other tracks were available on the UK editions of the singles.

Get Together (Radio Edit)/(Jacques Lu Cont Vocal Edit) (CD1, Warner Bros W725CD1)
Get Together (Vinyl LP Version)/(Jacques Lu Cont Mix)/(Danny Howells & Dick Trevor Kinkyfunk Mix)/(Tiefschwarz Remix)/(James Holden Remix) (CD2, Warner Bros W725CD2)
Get Together (Radio Edit)/(Jacques Lu Cont Mix) (12” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Warner Bros W725T)


That rarity, a Madonna single without Madonna on the front. Although once again, a 12” picture disc was pressed, which did feature the lady on it’s a-side playing surface.

“Jump” also included another one of those Madonna oddities, the proper B-side - a track called “History”, which turned up on the CD2 and Picture Disc formats. A non chart eligible double 12” pack was released a week or so later, which included everything off the previously issued formats, plus the never before released “Axwell Remix” of the a-side. The image used on the picture disc adorned the back cover of this format.

CD2, this time around, came in a slim line jewel case, just like CD1, so the only obvious difference was the sticker that appeared on CD2, was not on CD1. Meanwhile, such was the running time of the double pack that it seemed to achieve another Madonna rarity - including pretty much every mix of the track from the US edition of the single on a UK one as well.

Jump (Vinyl LP Version)/(Extended Version) (CD1, Warner Bros W744CD1)
Jump (Radio Edit)/(Junior Sanchez’s Misshapes Mix)/History (CD2, Warner Bros W744CD2)
Jump (Jacques Lu Cont Mix)/(Extended Version)/History (12” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Warner Bros W744T)
Jump (Jacques Lu Cont Mix)/(Vinyl LP Version)/(Extended Version)/(Axwell Remix)/(Junior Sanchez’s Misshapes Mix)/History/Jump (Radio Edit) (2x12”, Warner Bros W744TX)

4 Minutes

First single from “Hard Candy”, with Timbaland doing his weird vocal thing again. “Hard Candy” was seen by the critics as an attempt to go “urban”, but with mixed results, whilst other people thought that Madonna working with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, as she did on this single, was akin to The Beatles reforming and then working with Robbie Williams and Celine Dion on a comeback single. Perhaps Madonna was doing a bit of care in the community style charity work for acts less musically adept than herself…

“4 Minutes” is a bit of a nothing single if you ask me, there were far better moments on the LP (“Heartbeat”, “Beat Goes On”, “She’s Not Me”, plus many more), but it did it’s job and gave Madonna another number 1 hit in the UK. To be honest, it came more alive on the following “Sticky And Sweet” tour where, after Madonna had spent an hour and a half pointlessly reconstructing on stage pop songs that were perfect on record and didn’t need revamping in the first place, hearing her do this one “straight” was a blessed relief.

Once again, CD1 offered only two of the three tracks that were on CD2, and came in the same sleeve. The stickers, again, were different. A 12” picture disc was also issued, housed in a clear stickered sleeve, which offered up the not-available-elsewhere-at-the-time ”Tracy Young House Radio” remix. A fourth format was then, sort of, released at a later date - a 33rpm 12” double pack with a stack of extra “new” mixes. However, this was actually a German export single, despite it being listed as a fourth UK format, and had a German style “9362” catalogue number, as opposed to the UK “W” cataloguing system. Therefore, as I am in pedantic mood, it falls outside the remit of this article. But I suggest you try and find a copy, as it tramples over all the UK ones.

4 Minutes (Album Version)/(Bob Sinclar Space Funk Remix) (CD1, Warner Bros W803CD1)
4 Minutes (Album Version)/(Bob Sinclar Space Funk Remix)/(Junkie XL Remix) (CD2, Warner Bros W803CD2)
4 Minutes (Radio Edit)/(Bob Sinclar Space Funk Edit)/(Junkie XL Remix Edit)/(Tracy Young House Radio) (12” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Warner Bros W803T)

Give It 2 Me

Now, yet again, this is more like it. A stormer of a single, quite why this wasn’t issued as the lead single off the LP, I shall never know. Important enough to be used as set closer on the tour, everything about this single is just perfect - fabulous video, fabulous cover using stills from video, pop perfection of a song. And Timbaland isn’t on it. What more do you want?

Same cover on the two CD editions, once more, with the CD1 being a bit pointless, in that both tracks are on the other formats. Again, CD2 has a different sticker to CD1. The 12” picture disc, for once, uses the same photo on it’s front, and comes in a stickered clear sleeve, and features a unique mix not on the CD formats.

By now, the single was becoming a bit of a dying art form, and I seem to recall that none of the HMV’s in Birmingham - the UK’s second city - stocked the picture disc. Shocking really. The upshot of this was that Madonna’s 24 year run of top 20 hits was about to come to an end, and I ended up buying a copy bloody miles away in HMV in Chester!

Give It 2 Me (Album Version)/(Oakenfold Extended Mix) (CD1, Warner Bros W809CD1)
Give It 2 Me (Album Version)/(Oakenfold Drums In)/(Eddie Amador House Lovers Remix) (CD2, Warner Bros W809CD2)
Give It 2 Me (Oakenfold Extended Mix)/(Oakenfold Drums In)/(Eddie Amador Remix) (12” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Warner Bros W809T)

Miles Away

A flop in Madonna terms. “Miles Away”, an ode to her soon-to-be-divorced-from husband (whoops), staggered into the top 40 at number, erm, 39. This was the first Madonna single to stall outside the top 30 since the original “Borderline” 45 from 1984.

It’s no surprise really. The single was only issued on two formats, when three was the allowed maximum, with the CD edition offering up two tracks - both of which were also on the 4-track 12” picture disc, so a bit of a pointless release really. The CD did at least come in a proper sleeve, the picture disc was in a stickered clear sleeve yet again. The cover featured no Madonna photo, but “stamps” from venues Madonna was visiting on her tour were used to fill the sleeve.

“Miles Away” was issued at the tail end of 2008, and although Madonna returned for an arena tour in 2009 - the first time she had ever done a “Part 2” leg of a tour - no more singles from “Hard Candy” were issued.

Miles Away (LP Mix)/(Thin White Duke Remix) (CD, Warner Bros W814CD)
Miles Away (LP Mix)/(Thin White Duke Remix)/(Rebirth Remix)/(Johnny Vicious Club Mix) (12“ Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Warner Bros W814T)


And so we come to the end. The title track of the career spanning 2009 Greatest Hits job, this was quite an entertaining pop romp, a lot better than you might expect to be chucked away as a bonus on a best-of record. Three formats were issued again, with the two CD editions coming in identical sleeves. CD1 was a massively pointless 1-track affair, aimed squarely at the “floating” fan. CD2 had loads of remixes, but I can’t remember what any of them sound like.

There was also a 12” picture disc, again in a clear sleeve. If my memory serves me correctly, it came in a rather flimsy sleeve, unlike the firm plastic ones the picture discs used to appear in in the 80s and 90s, another sign that the world of the singles market was starting to breathe it’s final breath. The four tracks could all be found on CD2, so it’s for completists only really.

Madonna’s UK singles are a strange bunch really - the various “strict” chart rules meant that in many instances, they offered up less than their US or European counterparts, but there were some impressive one off’s along the way - the 1991 “Crazy For You” and “Holiday” repressings, the brilliant picture discs for the likes of “Deeper And Deeper”, and some nifty non-chart eligible releases. If you are serious in trying to track down not just all of Madonna’s singles, but all of the mixes made for each, then you might need to research what else is out there, rather than just plumping for the UK pressings. I shall be looking at Madonna’s albums, starting with the earlier ones first, next year - another fascinating set of records.

Celebration (CD1, Warner Bros W819CD1)
Celebration (Album Version)/(Oakenfold Remix)/(Benny Benassi Remix)/(Oakenfold Remix Dub)/(Benny Benassi Remix Edit)/(Johnny Vicious Club Mix) (CD2, Warner Bros W819CD2)
Celebration (Album Version)/(Benny Banassi Remix)/(Oakenfold Remix)/(Oakenfold Remix Dub) (12” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Warner Bros W819T)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Flaming Lips: 1999-2011

The Flaming Lips are the greatest live act to have ever walked this earth. End of discussion.

Ever since “The Soft Bulletin” tour, where the band famously played without a drummer, my wife and I have made a pledge to see them at least twice on each headline tour they have done of the UK. Having both seen them at different venues on the first leg of the early 2003 “Yoshimi” tour (this was before we first met), we went to our first Lips gig together later that year at a celebratory Hammersmith Odeon (or was it Apollo?) gig. We have since seen them five times on the “At War With The Mystics” tour, three times on the “Embryonic” tour, and recently went to ALL THREE of their UK summer gigs, essentially still plugging “Embryonic” - at the Eden Project, Ally Pally, and at the Jodrell Bank Observatory. And even when the crowd have stood there, arms folded, not quite sure what’s going on, the band have never disappointed.

In order to understand how the Lips became so good at putting on a live show, you have to rewind to the mid 1990’s, when the band were in something of a mini crisis. So, in typical Lips style, we shall look at their career backwards! After all, a DVD of promo clips did this some years back. A future blog should deal with the early years and the earlier Warner Brothers days, but this month, I shall detail the band’s four “major” albums and related singles from the last 12 years, as well as looking at how the live show developed tour on tour once they had finally found a new drummer.

The Soft Bulletin
(Warner Bros 9362 47393 2)

The Flaming Lips had released their first EP in North America, simply titled “The Flaming Lips”. The original lead singer was Wayne Coyne’s brother Mark, who left after it’s release. The band released four albums between 1986 and 1990, all of which were later reissued on Restless Records before being “discovered” by Warner Brothers. However, they did not do a “Nirvana” or a “Sonic Youth”, and the band’s first major label release, 1992’s “Hit To Death In The Future Head”, was not much of a seller. 1993’s “Transmissions From The Satellite Heart” provided them - eventually - with a shock US hit single in the form of “She Don’t Use Jelly”, and was the first album upon which current guitarist Steven Drozd joined them - but as a drummer. The band also recruited a new guitarist in the form of Ronald Jones, who replaced Jonathan Donohue, who was going “full time” with his other band, Mercury Rev.

1995’s “Clouds Taste Metallic” was only a moderate success, and it marked something of a dark spell for the band - Jones left, Drozd and bassist Michael Ivens both had near fatal brushes with death, and Warners were wondering why they had signed a band who were failing to sell any records. Coyne, slightly fed up with the basic “rock music” sound, decided to experiment, and conducted the “Parking Lot Experiments” in 1996. He had, at the time, noted that if you played the same song on different CD players, that the players did not play “in sync”, and you ended up with a different sounding song. He thus made a tape of new Flaming Lips recordings, and then conducted experiments in car parks in North America where he would hand out 40-50 copies of the tape to people, who would then be asked to play them at the same time on their car stereos.

Coyne liked the idea of extending this “multi surround sound” idea to CD, and in early 1997, the remaining trio released the US-only 4 CD set, “Zaireeka”. Each CD consisted of (the same) eight new songs, with different mixes on each CD. The idea was that each CD should be played simultaneously (on four CD players), creating what you might call an ’octophonic’ sound experience. The material on the album moved away from the band’s earlier slightly “freaked out” music, into a more symphonic sound, and although “Zaireeka” was regarded by some critics as being a bit of a mess (listen to some the discs 'on their own', and it's all a bit shambolic), the same recording sessions were spawning songs that were being planned for use on the band’s next “proper” album. The record was 1999’s “The Soft Bulletin”.

Upon it’s release in May of that year, “The Soft Bulletin” was regarded as a triumphant success. Critical acclaim was universal, and although the album failed to dent the US top 200, it has sold steadily in the band’s homeland over the years. It’s success in the UK was helped by MTV airing the videos for the two singles, “Race For The Prize” and “Waitin’ For A Superman”, and by the end of the year, the album was not only competing in “Best of 99” polls, but also “best of the 90’s” and “best of the millennium” polls. One can’t help but think that the loss of Jones effectively forced the band into looking at new ways of recording - Coyne was later quoted as saying his instrument of choice was not the guitar but “the recording studio”. He also later admitted that the trio simply pieced the album together bit by bit in the studio, without any consideration as to how - as a trio - they were going to play the material live.

The UK version of the album had a slightly different track listing to the US version, including “Slow Motion” instead of “The Spiderbite Song”, and concluded with remixes of the two singles and a track called “Buggin’”, the original mix of which turned up on the “Austin Powers 2” soundtrack album. The UK version has since been re-released as a double disc edition, including a DVD-Audio disc with a 5.1 surround sound mix, with “The Spiderbite Song” and the ’Austin Powers’ mix of “Buggin’” replacing the original three bonus remixes.

The two singles released from the album included two tracks from “Zaireeka” as b-sides, thus making their official UK debut. Two different CD’s were issued for each single, and the same b-sides were used across all 4 discs. But - you guessed it - each of the mixes were different, and the plan was for you to buy all four, then play the b-sides at the same time on four different CD players. So, the first “Race For The Prize” CD has the ‘disc 1 of “Zaireeka”’ mixes of “Riding To Work In The Year 2525” and “Thirty Five Thousand Feet Of Despair”, the second CD had the ‘disc 2 of “Zaireeka’” mixes of the same songs, and so on, and so forth.

Resultant live shows were undertaken, despite the fact that the album had been created using multiple tracks, and not just three people in a studio recording a basic rock album. The touring line up consisted of the basic trio - Drozd turned his hand to piano and guitar, and the band used tapes to fill in the drum parts. The basic elements of the future live shows were coming together, with mirroballs, video screens at the back of the stage, a big gong, loudspeakers and fake blood (a la the “Superman” video). Some of the songs were played in front of projections of Drozd playing the drums, to give the effect of a four piece being on stage but it would be on the “Yoshimi” tour that the band would expand onstage to a proper four piece, and would expand the extracurricular activities to ensure that as a live band, things would really start to take off.


Race For The Prize (Remix)/Riding To Work In The Year 2025 (Zaireeka Disc 1 Mix)/Thirty Five Thousand Feet Of Despair (Zaireeka Disc 1 Mix) (CD1, Warner Bros W494 CD1)
Race For The Prize (Remix)/Riding To Work In The Year 2025 (Zaireeka Disc 2 Mix)/Thirty Five Thousand Feet Of Despair (Zaireeka Disc 2 Mix) (CD2, Warner Bros W494 CD2, different colour p/s)
Waitin’ For A Superman (Radio Edit)/Riding To Work In The Year 2025 (Zaireeka Disc 3 Mix)/Thirty Five Thousand Feet Of Despair (Zaireeka Disc 3 Mix) (CD1, Warner Bros W505 CD1)
Waitin’ For A Superman (Radio Edit)/Riding To Work In The Year 2025 (Zaireeka Disc 4 Mix)/Thirty Five Thousand Feet Of Despair (Zaireeka Disc 4 Mix) (CD2, Warner Bros W505 CD2, different colour p/s)

Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
(Warner Bros 9362 48141 2)

With the band having successfully made a record that moved away from the basic “rock band” sound, they continued to mine the “symphonic” feel of it’s predecessor. Work on “Yoshimi” was still conducted as a three piece, but in the run up to the album’s summer 2002 release, word began to filter through that the band were to recruit a session drummer to supplement the band. And indeed, Kliph Surlock joined the band for their live dates, eventually joining “full time” on 2009’s “Embryonic”.

Prior to the album’s release, the band toured the UK - and the response to these gigs was phenomenal. Not only were the Lips now a fully fledged four piece again, the first time since the days of “Clouds Taste Metallic”, but the live show was getting bigger and bigger - people in animal costumes dancing on either side of the stage, Drozd and Ivins also performing in ‘Cuddly Animal’ suits, balloons being thrown into the crowd, on top of the already in-place video screens and fake blood…the basic elements of the now famous Lips live show were there. Possibly sensing that their old non-symphonic songs didn’t quite fit in with the new ones, and the fact that the band’s increasing fan base may not have been aware of the old songs, the set list consisted almost entirely of material from “Yoshimi” and “The Soft Bulletin” only. When “Yoshimi” was released, it was the subject of ecstatic reviews once more, with vinyl pressings being issued on coloured vinyl in the UK.

The band returned to the UK for a tour in January 2003, supported by the likes of British Sea Power. Each night, they also featured a mystery “surprise” guest, and when I saw them, at the Forum in North London, Tim Wheeler from Ash did a quick acoustic set just before the band came on. “Race For The Prize” was now the standard set opener, and the band’s love of Pink Floyd saw them covering “Lucifer Sam” (originally on the Floyd’s 1967 debut LP, “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”) as second song of the night, before performing “Yoshimi” as the third number. Some pre-”Soft Bulletin” material featured in the form of “Lightning Strikes The Postman”, accompanied by a mind altering strobe freakout, as well as “She Don’t Use Jelly“, which featured a video introduction lifted from a 1990’s US TV show the band had performed the song on, with the host announcing “there’s a different breed of rock band out there in Oklahoma City…”. Other numbers from the new album included “In The Morning Of The Magicians” and “Do You Realize??”. The band had taken to doing “acoustic” reprises of certain songs at the end of the song proper, with both “Yoshimi” and “Jelly” getting such extensions. “Do You Realize??”, now the main set closer, was also prefaced by a video of a TV show featuring the band, this time from “Beverley Hills 90210” (yep, no kidding), with Tiffani Amber Thiessen announcing “Please Welcome The Flaming Lips!”, which then skipped back and repeated “The Flaming Lips!” four more times, before a 1-2-3-4 count-in flashed up on the video screens - followed immediately by the opening bars of the song, and a massive confetti eruption. “Waitin’ For A Superman” and “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton”, both off “Soft Bulletin”, were played during the encore, the latter using the same “Drozd On Drums” video projection that had been used on the “Soft Bulletin” tour.

The buzz surrounding the band as a live act was now unstoppable, and they stole the show at Glastonbury that summer. Second on the bill before headliners Radiohead, the band decided to include not just a stage full of people in animal costumes, but also had two people dressed up as inflatable suns at the front of the stage. Watching the band open with an incendiary “Race For The Prize”, with Drozd, Ivins and Surlock in their animal outfits, cuddly tigers, chickens and elephants dancing along, the smiling inflatable suns, the balloons being bounced around by the crowd, and Coyne, spinning his lamplight contraption around his head…nobody was putting on such a fun, joyous and simply riotous show as this. Not only had they released possibly the album of 2002, they were now unquestionably the greatest live act in the world by the end of 2003.

Singles-wise, three singles were issued in the UK to help promote the album - “Do You Realize??”, “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1” and “Fight Test”. Each single was issued in three formats - two CD’s with various bonus B-sides, and a DVD single featuring the promo clip for the relevant A-side. The sleeves of the DVD editions featured stills from the corresponding video. There were in fact two different clips for “Do You Realize??”, but chart rules only allowed the UK promo clip to be included on the single. “Do You Realize??”, for some, remains the single greatest song the band had ever recorded. It may sound fun and joyous, but it’s message that “everyone you know someday will day” brings tears to the eyes. In a 3 minute song, the band had managed to explain just how fantastic life could be, but also how heartbreaking it could be, both at the same time. The band were now chart stars, and after finishing the UK tour in early 03, they appeared on “Top Of The Pops” to plug “Yoshimi”, where Justin Timberlake - dressed as a furry animal - joined them onstage.

The band returned to the UK again at the end of 2003, and the first Lips gig me and my (then future) wife attended as a couple was a monumental show at the Hammersmith Odeon/Apollo. Given that the band had played generally small venues on the “Soft Bulletin” tour, the group themselves were somewhat overwhelmed by the fact that they had managed to fill a 5000 capacity ballroom. Coyne admitted this to the crowd, and if I remember correctly, was so amazed at the number of people who had come to see them - it was their biggest headline show to date - that he challenged the crowd in the downstairs standing area to try and bounce the balloons that were fired out during the opening “Race For The Prize” up towards the first floor balcony area.

It’s difficult - if you have never seen the band - to describe just how good a Lips show can be. A Guardian review at the time puts it quite well... ”the air is thick with balloons. A projector flashes images of mushroom clouds and hurricanes. A man in a safari suit swings a lamp like a lasso. All around him are people dressed as furry animals...and this is just the first number”. The setlist had altered since the summer 02 shows, with a manic cover of “Seven Nation Army” by now fully installed as the second number of the show. “Fight Test” appeared (I can’t remember if I saw them do it at The Forum), and on this night, they did a heartbreakingly superb “Waitin’ For A Superman” - which would disappear from the UK setlists until 2011. There was also an outing for “The Golden Path”, a recent single collaboration with The Chemical Brothers. As it was to be their last tour of the UK before Christmas, the band played a cover of “White Christmas” at the end, Coyne singing it through a loudspeaker, whilst what I think were a group of elves wandered along the gap between the stage and the front row, shaking hands with the crowd. Simply incredible. As the Guardian review concluded, “The Flaming Lips inspire the communality of a rave, a 60’s happening or a giant birthday party. Audience members bat balloons around and grin at strangers. They couldn‘t be happier”.

In the same week as the Apollo show, the band issued a mini-album (albeit one that was longer than some bands' vinyl albums), “Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell”. It included four new songs, and remixes of the title track (originally on “Yoshimi”) and “Do You Realize??”. It brought to the end the promo campaign for “Yoshimi”, but things were only going to get better.


Do You Realize??/If I Go Mad/Funeral In My Head/Syrtis Major (CD1, Warner Bros W586 CD1)
Do You Realize??/Up Above The Daily Hum/Xanthe Terra (CD2, Warner Bros W586 CD2, different p/s)
Do You Realize?? (Video)/(LP Version)/The Southern Oklahoma Cosmic Trigger Contest/Okie Noodling Epic Sunset Mix No.5 (DVD, Warner Bros W586 DVD, unique p/s)
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt 1/Do You Realize?? (Scott Hardkiss Floating In Space Vocal Mix)/Yohsimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt 1 (Japanese Version) (CD1, Warner Bros W597 CD1)
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt 1/Can’t Get You Out Of My Head (Live, KEXP Radio 5.8.2002)/Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt 1 (Live, AOL Sessions 15.7.2002) (CD2, Warner Bros W597 CD2, different p/s)
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt 1 (Video)/(LP Version)/At The Fish Fry & The Biggot’s Drunk/Galactic Melancholy (DVD, Warner Bros W597 DVD, unique p/s)
Fight Test/Thank You Jack White/The Deterioration Of The Fight Or Flight Response (CD1, Warner Bros W611 CD1)
Fight Test/The Strange Design Of Conscience/Fight Test (Demo) (CD2, Warner Bros W611 CD2, different p/s)
Fight Test (Video)/(LP Version)/Knives Out (Live on Morning Becomes Eclectic, 18.7.2002)/One More Robot (Live, XFM Radio July 2002) (DVD, Warner Bros W611 DVD, unique p/s)
The Golden Path (LP Version)/(Ewan Pearson Extended Vocal) (CD, Virgin CHEMSD 18)
The Golden Path (Video)/(Edit)/(Ewan’s Rave Hell Dub) (DVD, Virgin CHEMSDVD 18, different p/s)
Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell (CD, Warner Bros 9362 48514 2)

At War With The Mystics
(Warner Bros 9362 49966 2)

In 2005, the Lips contributed a new song, “Mr Ambulance Driver”, to a movie soundtrack. It would, in alternate form, appear on the following year’s “At War With The Mystics”. A video was filmed for the track, and soon after was included on the ’Greatest Hits’ DVD release “Void” - which ran backwards from 2005 towards the start of the Warners Years.

“At War With The Mystics” was a sometimes heavier, darker, and at times more political record, but fitted in well with the “Soft Bulletin”/”Yoshimi” releases. “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”, the lead single in the UK (but not the US) was an anti-George Bush rant and along with the second single “The WAND (The Will Always Negates Defeat)”, was issued on a 7” Picture Disc. “It Overtakes Me” later surfaced in EP form, and was featured in a TV ad at the time.

The initial UK tour for the album took place in April 2006, and consisted of four shows. We went to three of them - Edinburgh Usher Hall on the 19th, London Royal Albert Hall on the 22nd and the Birmingham Academy on the 24th. The Edinburgh show saw the debut at a UK Lips headline show of the now famous space bubble - before the opening number “Race For The Prize”, Wayne would surf across the crowd in a large see through plastic ball before being returned (hopefully) to the stage in time for the first song. The bubble was not used at the Birmingham show, as the lighting rig above the stage was too low for the bubble to squeeze underneath.

All three of the shows saw the band on top form, with the stage show just as grandiose as before - if not more. There were confetti showers, and extra big oversized mega-balloons were launched during “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”. During “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 2”, a “laser battle” was conducted by the two sets of dancing fans on either side of the stage - the fans, dressed as Aliens on one side and Father Christmases on the other, shone their flashlights at each other during the song, and was introduced by Wayne as a fight between Scientology and Christianity.

“Free Radicals” had now replaced “Seven Nation Army” as the second song, and was one of several “Mystics” tracks now in the set, along with the likes of “Vein Of Stars” and “The WAND”. The shows also included “In The Morning Of The Magicians” from “Yoshimi”, “The Spark That Bled” from “Soft Bulletin” and “She Don’t Use Jelly” - the latter, a staple of the Lips set for years, was still there, played near the end. At the end, Wayne grabbed a balloon blowing gun and started to pump up a huge balloon, with the band continuing to freestyle their way through the final notes until the balloon got so big it popped. At one of the “Embryonic” shows, I seem to recall the balloon almost refusing to burst, with Wayne looking bemused as the band had to keep playing for longer than expected! The band then returned to race through a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, another anti-Bush statement.

The Albert Hall show was mind blowing - probably my favourite ever Lips show. The atmosphere at the front was electric, and as “Race For The Prize” kicked in, there was dancing from the off. Balloons were everywhere, and as Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals watched from the side of stage, a bell ringer stood not too far away rang his bell after each and every song. Watching the balloons being batted high into the heavens of the venue was a site to behold.

The band returned for more shows in the fall of 2006, including a return to Birmingham - but this time at the significantly larger NIA. We witnessed a show on November 4th at the Brighton Centre, where, having been dropped from the earlier shows, “Fight Test” returned and replaced “In The Morning Of The Magicians”. “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion” from “Mystics” replaced “The Spark That Bled”, whilst “War Pigs” was now gone, replaced by “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” (off “The Soft Bulletin”).

The NIA show was - atmosphere wise - the worst Lips show we have ever seen. The venue was too big - and soon after the usual incendiary opener of “Race For The Prize”, we felt that - despite being near the front - we were stood among people who seemed to not know who the band were, or didn’t seem to know the songs, or just didn’t seem to be having any fun. If you go to a Lips gig and do not at any point punch the air, attempt to bat the balloons, wave your arms, sing along or clap, then why are you there?

The setlist was slightly altered from the Brighton gig - “Fight Test” was out, but the set closed with the band’s ludicrous cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Ridiculous fun, but still not enough to wake the sleeping crowd by the crash barrier.


The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song/Why Does It End? (7” Picture Disc in clear stickered sleeve, Warner Bros W711)
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song/The Gold In The Mountain Of Our Madness (CD1, Warner Bros W711 CD1)
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song/Time Travel…Yes!!/Why Does It End/The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (Video) (CD2, Warner Bros W711 CD2, unique p/s)
The WAND/You Gotta Hold On (7” Picture Disc in clear stickered sleeve, Warner Bros W706)
The WAND (LP Mix)/(Goldfrapp Remix) (CD1, Warner Bros W706 CD1)
The WAND/You Gotta Hold On/The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (In Anatropous Reflex)/The WAND (Video) (CD2, Warner Bros W706 CD2, unique p/s)
It Overtakes Me (12” Mix)/I’m Afraid Of Dying…Aren’t You?/Free Radicals (The Bird And The Bee Mix)/Time Travel?? Yes!! (Yellow Vinyl 12” in clear stickered sleeve, Warner Bros W750 T)
It Overtakes Me (12” Mix)/I’m Afraid Of Dying…Aren’t You?/Free Radicals (The Bird And The Bee Mix)/Time Travel?? Yes!! (CD, Warner Bros W750 CD)

(Warner Bros 9362 49733 8)

At the end of 2008, the long-time-in-production film “Christmas On Mars” was finally issued - it had a limited US theatrical run, but was more or less straight to DVD. The DVD came with a free soundtrack CD, rather than it being an album with a free film - when the Lips returned to the UK the following year, not one song from the soundtrack was performed.

In the summer of 2009, the band toured the US, previewing their next studio effort, “Embryonic”. In addition to a preview of two or three songs from the LP at most shows, the band also performed “Enthusiasm For Life Defeats Existential Fear”, a song buried away on the 2006 rarities album “20 Years Of Weird”. This song was dropped before the band hit the UK. The band had also, at some earlier shows, been performing a mind alteringly brilliant version of Madonna’s “Borderline”, which was included on a compilation LP at the time, and also turned up on a 2 track Promo CD in the UK with a song by Stardeath And White Dwarfs, who had Lips connections.

“Embryonic” was seen by some critics as a bit of a career suicide move. Heavily influenced by the prog rock bands the group had always confessed to loving, most critics dismissed the album as being a deliberate attempt to make an “anti-Yohsimi”. But repeated listening reveals some gems, and to be fair, the sometimes muffled production was a charming throwback to the olden days - listen to a lot of modern albums, and the production is far too “clean”. Llive, the new songs took on a totally new lease of life.

The band played a six show UK tour soon after, and we went to three. Following a pair of shows at the new London venue The Troxy, we attended the Portsmouth Guildhall show on November 13th. Following a fire alarm during the support bands which caused the venue to be evacuated for quarter of an hour, Wayne made his debut once again - as he would continue to do for the rest of the tour - in the space bubble. “Race For The Prize” was followed by the first of four songs from the album, “Silver Trembling Hands”, which saw a man in a Gorilla Suit jump onto Wayne’s back halfway through and jig along for the rest of the song. This act was repeated at the other shows we saw in Manchester and Birmingham.

“The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” was next, followed by a pared down “Fight Test”, “In The Morning Of The Magicians” and three from “Embryonic” - “Convinced Of The Hex”, “Evil” and “See The Leaves”. Following another pared down ‘hit’, “Yoshimi”, and a quick “Happy Birthday” to someone in the crowd, the band played “Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung” and “The WAND”. However, a combination of a venue with seemingly no air, and some major strobing, saw somebody in the crowd need medical attention, so the band left the stage to allow the situation to calm down. With a curfew looming, “Jelly” was omitted and the band returned to play “Do You Realize??” - now appearing as the band’s encore performance.

With the obvious exception of “Happy Birthday”, the Manchester and Birmingham shows were identical, although “She Don’t Use Jelly” made an appearance at both shows. Again, the Birmingham show seemed to be full of beer-sipping students who didn’t want to enjoy themselves, and as “Race For The Prize” kicked in and they seemed to show no emotion, we decided to barge past them to get to the front where we spotted some people who WERE enjoying the balloon batting - so we joined them.

The band returned to Glasto in 2010 (headlining the second stage), by which time the band had released a track by track cover of Pink Floyd's “Dark Side Of The Moon”. The band had been performing selected numbers from it over the years (“Breathe” got an outing at Glasto 2003) and had been performed on stage in the US in it’s entirety before the studio release. The band recently have been performing the album again on stage in full at selected US gigs.

In 2011, the band conducted another tour of the UK, as part of the “In Our Bodies Out Of Our Heads” tour. The tour took it’s title from a track on a US only EP released that year, pressed on a USB stick tucked inside a “Gummy Skull” - ie. A skull, made of gum, which you had to partially rip apart (or eat) in order to find the stick! The band had pledged to release new music each month of the year, and as well as a You Tube “Zaireeka” style experiment, and a number of US only 12” singles, had thus gone someway to making this pledge a reality. The fifth release, a “Gummy Foetus”, planned for May turned up in July, with three more new songs, and there has recently been the release online of a 6-hour song, thus making Yes look like Napalm Death, along with more 12” releases.

The three shows this year took place in what can only be described as iconic venues - the Eden Project, Alexandra Palace in London, and the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Greater Manchester. The Ally Pally show saw the band play, for only the fifth or so time, “The Soft Bulletin” in it’s entirety. Previous performances had been restricted to the US, where the band had played the US track listing version of the album, but for the UK, of course, it was the UK version of the album that was given an airing. The bonus tracks, of course, were absent, so after “Sleeping On The Roof”, that was it. Some songs were being played for the first time in years, and Coyne introduced several of them by announcing "we may mess this up", despite the fact that such songs had been featured on previous tours. The band’s decision to sometimes extend songs, make them slower (“Waitin’ For A Superman” was performed acoustically) or for Wayne to just ramble on inbetween songs meant an album barely 45 minutes long on vinyl took an hour and a half to perform! The band returned for an encore of “Do You Realize??” (with what looked like a tearful Lou Barlow watching from side of stage, Dinosaur Jr were the main support act) and that was that.

For the other two shows, the band opened not with “Race For The Prize”, but “Worm Mountain”, before performing “She Don’t Use Jelly”, now shorn of it’s video intro and balloon bursting finale. “Yeah Yeah Yeah” was followed by “Is David Bowie Dying”, a slightly obscure choice from one of the recent US only 12” singles, before three numbers from the 2009 shows followed - “Yoshimi”, “See The Leaves” and “Pompeii”. The duo of “What Is The Light” and “The Observer” closed the main set, before encores of “Prize” and “Realize”. At Eden, “Prize” was preceded by a new slow-mo intro, but at Jodrell Bank, a film about the observatory was broadcast onto the huge telescope, which ended with a countdown from ten to one, over the top of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, the famous piece of music featured in “2001 A Space Odyssey”. As it reached it’s climax, the opening bars of “Prize” kicked straight in this time around.

With “Embryonic” spawning no physical releases, the list below is of the two important releases the band have issued since that are of interest to UK fans. I have not listed any of the other limited edition US releases, as most of them are nigh on impossible to track down, but it is worth noting that a live “Soft Bulletin” USB exists - available to you for no less than three figures!


The Dark Side Of The Moon (CD, Warner Bros 9362-49668-7, released after US edition so shows 2010 Publishing date and 2009 Copyright dates on sleeve)
Is David Bowie Dying?/Alan’s Theremin/You Don’t Respond/Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want The Truth Part 2 (Coloured Vinyl 12”, Warner Bros 021159, 1000 only, each single has unique “splattered” vinyl design, housed in clear stickered outer bag, catalogue number scratched into run out grooves only)

The “David Bowie” single was only sold in a pair of US record stores, and is part of the much bigger “Year Of New Music” experiment, which might be worthy of a future blog in it’s own right, but as this is the only 2011 release I own, I am not sure if I am qualified enough to talk about it. A future blog will look at the earlier years of the band, less celebrated by critics, and a bit ramshackle at times, but with a few nice tunes tucked away here and there.