Friday, 21 December 2012


Listed below are the bands and singers featured for each month in 2012. The December 2012 blogs can be found due right, and include articles on Nirvana and U2.

The complete list for the year is shown below:
January 2012 - Status Quo
February 2012 - Bruce Springsteen / Cat Stevens
March 2012 - Madonna / U2
April 2012 - Pink / Inspiral Carpets
May 2012 - Depeche Mode / Slade
June 2012 - David Bowie / Smashing Pumpkins
July 2012 - Blur
August 2012 - Sugababes / The Who / Elton John
September 2012 - Elton John
October 2012 - Elton John / New Order
November 2012 - Madonna / Elton John
December 2012 - U2 / Nirvana

To look at blogs from January to November, click on the relevant month, then for the blog you wish to look at, click on the relevant link that will then appear.

"All in all is all we are"

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

U2: 1991-1999

Earlier this year, I looked at U2’s earlier recordings, covering the late 70’s and the 80’s. As mentioned before, the period from 1980 to 2000 were covered a few years back by a pair of “Best Of” sets, and so this month, we look at the period more or less covered by the second one. A post 2000 look at U2 will follow in due course.


With the critical mauling of “Rattle And Hum” forcing a rethink in the U2 camp, it was Bono and The Edge who were most determined to reinvent the band as sessions for “Achtung Baby” got underway. Although the album was not a wholesale revamp of the band, it’s teutonic beats and dance infused rhythms resulted in a more futuristic sounding U2 come 1991.

“Achtung Baby” is a great record. Probably helped by the fact that it still sounds, most of the time, like old-school U2. But what elevates it above so many others, is that the songs are superb, the band’s love of pop music giving the likes of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” or “Ultravoilet” a structure to hang the electronic bells and whistles onto. The opening crunch of “Zoo Station”, the chugger-chugger sound of The Edge on “Until The End Of The World”, the slow burn finale of “Love Is Blindness”, this was the album where I really started to sit up and take notice of this band.

The band’s “Zoo TV” tour kicked off in February 1992, and it was a new look U2 that hit the stage. Having previously struggled to work out how to deal with the concept of the stadium rock show, the band simply got round the ludicrousness of it by sending it all up - be it Bono in his “MacPhisto” stage outfit, or the bank of TV screens that filled up the stage. The tour was a satirical attack on mass media, the 24 hour rolling news channels, and the weird and not always wonderful world of Satellite TV. There were screens displaying, at hyper fast speed, words and phrases that might - or might not - mean something, there were crank calls to, amongst other places, The Whitehouse, and during each show, Bono would flick a remote control at the TV screens to see “what was on”, with live satellite link ups being conducted on several occasions, including some to war torn Sarajevo during the 1993 leg of the tour.

After finishing the first leg of the tour in November 1992, the band had a six month break before the tour was due to resume in May 1993. However, rather than just have a rest, the band decided to record an EP, with a view to playing the material on stage in order to revamp the setlist. However, at Bono’s insistence, the EP became an LP, and as the weeks passed, more and more material was being written. At one point, somewhere in the region of twenty songs were in various stages of completion. Of course, the concept of writing, recording, and then releasing an album in such a short space of time proved too much, and as the next leg of the tour kicked off, the new album was still not complete, and initially, the band had to commute back and forth to Dublin inbetween shows to try and complete the album.

“Zooropa” was eventually released in the summer, and a large chunk of the album was worked into the band’s set. Critical appraisal was generally good, but the band later admitted it was a flawed effort, with The Edge claiming the songs were not classics, but “experimental”. It still feels like a sort of side project album, a cousin of “Achtung Baby” rather than an LP in it’s own right, which probably explains why it was included inside the boxset edition of “Baby” that was issued last year. That said, it did spawn one of the band’s finest ever singles, “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)”, a tug-at-the-heartstrings ballad that matched virtually anything on “Achtung Baby”.

A stand alone single followed in 1995, when the band’s monumental contribution to the “Batman Forever” soundtrack, “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me”, was issued as a 45. A glorious continuation of the electro-rock sound of “Achtung Baby”, it was home to one of the greatest ever key changes in the bridge between the verses and the choruses, and pretty much convinced me that I had totally underestimated this band. Although it came in a cartoon Batman-esque video, the song had not actually been written for the movie, but was actually an off cut from the “Zooropa” sessions.

Later that year, the band released what really was a proper side project album (unlike “Zooropa“) - “Original Soundtracks 1”, credited to the “Passengers”. A collaboration with Brian Eno (the first time an entire U2 album had a regular “fifth” member, hence the decision to not release it under the U2 banner), it was billed as a series of songs from imaginary movies. Larry Mullen Jr hates it, stating it was the sign of a band becoming too self indulgent. It’s a forgotten part of the band’s past, with only the sole single, the sublime “Miss Sarajevo”, having made it into the band’s live set in intervening years.

Work on “Pop” began in 1996, but was held up during the recording process thanks to a back injury obtained by Mullen Jr. The band did try to speed the process up by working on the album without him, helped in part by the fact that the record would be a continuation of the “electro” stylings of “Achtung Baby”, so you could stick a drum machine in here or there, but the drummer was not entirely happy about this, and eventually, sessions were halted in order to allow him time to recover.

In what seemed to be an attempt to hurry themselves along, the band announced tour dates for the spring of 1997, as this would give them a focus and deadline within which to complete the album. However, the plan slightly backfired, as the band later admitted to rushing the final stages of the album to get it ready in time, and like “Zooropa”, it has since been viewed with an element of dissatisfaction by some fans, and the band themselves. The recording time also cut into rehearsals for the tour, and eye witness reports from initial shows suggest the early gigs on the tour were far from perfect. Some detractors also claim that, far from being another ironic attempt at a rock show that the “Zoo TV” tour was, the appearance of a big lemon on the stage was the sign of a band veering close to self-parody once more.

The first of two career spanning best of sets turned up in 1998, with the first one concentrating on the “1980-1990” part of the band’s past. To help promote the album, an old Joshua Tree-era B-side, “Sweetest Thing”, was re-recorded, and released as a single in it’s own right. Archive live recordings from the earliest part of the band’s career were exhumed from the vaults for use as B-sides, a sign of the band now being seemingly quite happy and proud to revisit their past. The likes of “Out Of Control” had all but disappeared from the setlists circa “The Joshua Tree”. When the band toured their next LP, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” in 2001, a number of oldies were wheeled out for these shows for the first time in many years, a situation that has continued with each tour. More about latter period U2 will appear in a future article.


To my mind, the second greatest single ever released after “Born To Run”, “One” was issued as the third single from “Achtung Baby” in March 1992. It was the song that finally saw the album sessions start to produce something cohesive, following weeks of abortive attempts at song writing, and in-band fighting.

The lyrics have often been misinterpreted, with couples claiming it as their very own love-song, or having it as their first dance at their wedding - despite the fact that the song was a rather more melancholy look at the fractured relationships within the band at the time, as well as also being a comment on the 1990 German Reunification of East and West Germany.

The single was a bit of an odd one out, as the sleeve design bore no resemblance to the artwork used on either the preceding, or subsequent, singles from the LP. It was housed in a quite incredible, but unbearably heartbreaking cover, the now famous “Falling Buffaloes” photograph by David Wojnarowicz.

A number of promo videos were made, although each time one was made, the band had cold feet about using it. The two so-called “withdrawn” clips are probably the most famous ones - the first, a mix of the band sitting around in drag and then driving in Trabant cars around Berlin (both the car and the city were very much adopted as symbols of the whole “Achtung Baby“ promo campaign), was pulled after the band were worried that the “drag queen” element would cause conflict with the single itself, as it was being released as a benefit single for AIDS research. The second, mostly consisting of slo-mo footage of running buffaloes, tied in with the sleeve of the single, but the band didn’t think it did the trick. I personally think both these videos are wonderful. Rarely, very rarely, can a promo video bring you close to tears, and yet both of these are beautiful enough to do so. The former, which climaxes with two Trabants coming bumper to bumper, kissing almost, is a fantastic moment, whilst the second ends with a still of the single cover, a real lump in the throat moment.

As a lover of prog, and a fan of punk, why is it that I find “One”, essentially a ballad, to be so magnificent? Simply because it works. It builds slowly. The Edge’s guitar work is minimalist to start with, epic to finish. And perhaps, simply, the sheer sadness of the song brings out the closet miserablist in me. The lyrics are incredible - “did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth… did I ask too much, more than a lot, you gave me nothing, now it’s all I’ve got… you ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl, and I can‘t be holding on”. Bono gets more and more agitated as the song goes on, and by the time it hits the final stretch, the songs’ momentum has built up to a glorious, skyscraping finale. It is utterly incredible.

Everything about the single just hangs together brilliantly. The song, the words, the videos, the cover. “One” is the sort of single that goes beyond just being a good song, it is classic art. I might actually sound a bit like Bono here, claiming that it’s an audio “Mona Lisa”, or an aural “The Scream”, but it really is that good. On a lesser album, “One” would have been in danger of overshadowing the rest of the entire record, but on “Achtung Baby”, it’s simply the jewel in the crown. I state again - the second greatest single ever made after “Born To Run".

Formats And Releases

With the CD single becoming the format of choice in the 1990’s, it is no surprise to say that you could buy any U2 single from that decade on the format in the UK, and you would at least end up with an exclusive B-side, or an exclusive remix. The only odd one out was “Staring At The Sun”, which included on one of it’s editions, one of the songs from “Original Soundtracks” as it’s 'exclusive' b-side, presumably on the basis that the obscure nature of the album made the record company think nobody would already own it. The song, “Your Blue Room”, even turned up on the B-sides disc of the “Best Of 1990-2000” compilation.

The first single from “Achtung Baby”, “The Fly”, was issued as a limited single, a less than sly attempt to help hype the single into the upper reaches of the charts, with the 12“ and CD editions including a remix of the A-side as an exclusive bonus track. Both this and the follow up single, “Mysterious Ways”, were issued in rather abstract looking picture sleeves. “Mysterious Ways” was the subject of multiple remixing, and along with the standard 5-mix CD and 12” editions, various other - at the time - vinyl only mixes were released.

Following the release of “One”, two further singles were issued from the album. The sleeves of “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”, when placed side by side, formed a larger single photo. The single of the former featured a side view shot of Adam Clayton and The Edge in the rear of a Trabant, the latter featured a side view of the front, featuring Bono and Larry Mullen Jr.

Both singles also went down the remix route. A number of dance mixes of “The Real Thing” were made and spread across a remix 12” and remix CD. These singles came housed in a simple black sleeve, with the titles and info printed in white text on the front. The “remix” version of “Wild Horses” used the same image as the standard CD, but in some rather psychedelically altered colouring.

In what was probably a nod to the visual nature of the “Zoo TV” tour, the first single from “Zooropa”, “Numb”, was only issued in the UK as a VHS Single, although audio promos exist. “Lemon” was the single that never was in the UK - a video was made, and overseas releases exist, but it was not until the release of “Stay” that a UK CD single from “Zooropa” was issued commercially.

“Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me” was issued on a red vinyl 7” as well as a CD edition, and was followed by the sole single from “Original Soundtracks”, “Miss Sarajevo”. It appeared on only one format of major interest, CD again, although the 7” edition came in a unique sleeve. The CD was housed in a quite remarkable cover, a genuine photo from a Beauty Pageant in Sarajevo, with the contestants holding up a banner bearing the legend “Don’t Let Them Kill Us”. It’s quite possibly the most striking sleeve of a single I have ever seen.

The singles from “Pop” went down the two-CD single route, although such was the number of remixes made of “Discotheque” and “Mofo”, that both were issued on 12” as well with exclusive material. Some of the recordings on these singles are on the double disc “Best Of”, but every single - excepting the CD1 “Staring At The Sun” - is still home to at least one exclusive rarity in the UK. Ditto the live tracks on both versions of the “Sweetest Thing” single. It is worth noting that even though the final single from “Pop” was a double A sided release of “Mofo” and “If God Will Send His Angels”, each format only listed one or the other title on the cover, so you wouldn’t immediately be aware that it even was a double A side release. Indeed the “Mofo” 12” includes no versions of “Angels” at all, and the CD1 version includes no versions of “Mofo“ either!

We have already mentioned the double disc “1980-1990” best of in my previous article, and up until last year, with the exception of that album, all of U2’s 1990 releases remained unchanged track listing wise since their original release. But the fall of 2011 saw the re-release of “Achtung Baby”. In addition to the usual 2-CD revamp, there was a “Super Deluxe” boxset, and an “Uber Deluxe” one.

The “Uber Deluxe” box retailed at a wallet emptying £250. Thing is, apart from some fancy packaging, there was nothing really music-wise inside that the cheaper (£80) “Super” box didn’t already have. You got all five of the singles repressed as coloured vinyl 7” singles, and the album on vinyl as well, but with most of these B-sides already included elsewhere in the same box, it did feel like it was simply aimed at people who worked in a bank and had received a bonus and didn’t know what to spend their cash on.

So let’s just look at what the “Super Deluxe” one has. Well, first up, none of the discs come in individual sleeves, so if you want a “Zooropa” in it’s original cover, you’ll have to go and buy the original. There was a disc devoted to alternate versions of the original “Achtung Baby”, and three CD’s full of rare and unreleased songs, B-sides and remixes from the period. There were four DVD’s - the “Zoo TV Live From Sydney” release, the “From The Sky Down” documentary (later released in it’s own right), a DVD of the promo videos, and a DVD of TV material. All in all, rather good VFM. It effectively made the original release rather defunct, although if you do fancy owning a 1991 original, it is worth pointing out that the Cassette edition came in a different sleeve - because the cover was made up of blocks of photos, the cassette - simply by being a different size - features less blocks. The boxset comes in a “4x4” arrangement, the tape a “3x2” one.


It is always quite awkward to try and show a discography that is both “pre” and “post” the release of a boxset, or a career spanning best-of, both of which U2 have done since these singles were released. But I have tried to make it simple.

For each single, I have included the original releases of interest (including the CD1 edition of “Staring At The Sun”, just because it makes sense to do so), with the CD Single being listed as the standard format, and thence any other formats including what were unique mixes/tracks thereafter.

I have then detailed, for the “Achtung Baby” singles, which bonus tracks have or haven’t reappeared since. Where relevant, I have then listed the formats that, if you have both the Super Deluxe box of “Achtung” and the 2-CD “Best Of 1990-2000” releases, you might wish to consider hunting down instead if you are missing any singles. Of course, it may be easier to find the CD version of “One” rather than the Cassette anyway, but you never know.

For the albums, again, I have opted to go for the original CD pressings to show the band’s own cataloguing system, and indeed, in the case of most, these are still the only versions of interest. The only exception to the rule is “Achtung Baby”, of course, with it’s fancy box set editions.


Achtung Baby (1991, CD, Island CIDU2 8)
Zooropa (1993, CD, Island CIDU2 9)
Melon (1993, CD, Island MELONCD 1, originally given free with “Propaganda” fan club magazine)
Original Soundtracks 1 (1995, CD, Island CID 8043)
Pop (1997, CD, Island CIDU2 10)
The Best Of 1980-1990 (1998, 2xCD, Island CIDDU2 11)

“Melon” is a remix album, and with several songs still exclusive to the album, retails for £50 even without the magazine. The band issued another fan club CD in 2000, “Hasta La Vista Baby”, which was simply an edited highlights set from the VHS release, “Popmart Live From Mexico City”.


The Fly/Alex Descends Into Hell For A Bottle Of Milk/Korova 1/The Lounge Fly Mix (CD, Island CID 500)
All b-sides appear on the super deluxe boxset edition of “Achtung Baby”. “The Fly” was also issued on 7”, 12” and Cassette.

Mysterious Ways (Album Version)/(Solar Plexus Magic Hour Remix) (7”, Island IS 509)
Mysterious Ways (The Perfecto Mix)/(Ultimatum Mix)/(Apollo 440 Magic Hour Remix)/(Solar Plexus Extended Club Mix) (Remix 12”, Island 12 ISX 509)
Mysterious Ways (Album Version)/(Solar Plexus Extended Club Mix)/(Apollo 440 Magic Hour Remix)/(Tabla Motown Remix)/(Solar Plexus Club Mix) (CD, Island CID 509)
All the remixes appear on the super deluxe boxset edition of “Achtung Baby”, with the exception of the “Solar Plexus Club Mix”, which appears on the 2-CD version of “The Best Of 1990-2000”. “Mysterious Ways” was also issued on a standard 12” and Cassette.

One/Lady With The Spinning Head (UVI)/Satellite Of Love/Night And Day (Steel String Remix) (CD, Island CID 515)
All b-sides appear on the super deluxe boxset edition of “Achtung Baby”. “One” was also issued on 7”, 12” and Cassette.

Even Better Than The Real Thing (Single Version)/Salome/Where Did It All Go Wrong?/Lady With The Spinning Head (Extended Dance Mix) (CD, Island CID 525)
Even Better Than The Real Thing (The Perfecto Mix)/(Trance Mix)/(Sexy Dub Mix) (Remix 12”, Island REAL U2)
Even Better Than The Real Thing (The Perfecto Mix)/(Sexy Dub Mix)/(Apollo 440 Stealth Sonic Remix)/(V16 Exit Wound Remix)/(A440 Vs U2 Instrumental Remix) (Remix CD, Island C REAL U2)
“Salome” and “Where Did It All Go Wrong?” appear on the super deluxe boxset edition of “Achtung Baby”, whilst the extended mix of “Lady With The Spinning Head” appears on the 2-CD version of “The Best Of 1990-2000”. A number of the remixes, including the “Trance Mix” of the a-side also appear on the boxset, but the “A440 Instrumental Remix” remains exclusive to this single.

Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (The Temple Bar Edit)/Paint It Black/Fortunate Son/Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (The Temple Bar Remix) (CD, Island CID 550)
Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (The Temple Bar Edit)/Paint It Black/Salome (Zooromancer Remix)/Can’t Help Falling In Love (Triple Peaks Remix) (Remix CD, Island CIDX 550)
All b-sides from both singles appear on the super deluxe boxset edition of “Achtung Baby”. “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” was also issued on 7”, 12” and Cassette.

Numb (Video)/(Video Remix)/Love Is Blindness (Video) (VHS, Island 088 162 3)

Stay (Faraway, So Close!)/I’ve Got You Under My Skin/Lemon (Bard Yard Club Edit)/(Perfecto Mix) (CD1, Island CID 578)
Stay (Faraway, So Close!)/Slow Dancing/Bullet The Blue Sky (Live)/Love Is Blindness (Live) (CD2, Island CIDX 578)

Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me (Single Version) +2 (CD, Atlantic A 7131 CD)

Miss Sarajevo (Single Version)/One (Live Modena 12.9.1995)/Bottoms (Zoo Station Remix)/Viva Davidoff (CD, Island CID 625)

Discotheque/Holy Joe (Garage Mix)/(Guilty Mix) (CD1, Island CID 649)
Discotheque (DM Deep Club Mix)/(Howie B Hairy B Mix)/(Hexidecimal Mix)/(DM Tec Radio Mix) (CD2, Island CIDX 649)
Discotheque (DM Deep Extended Club Mix)/(DM Deep Beats Mix)/(DM Tec Radio Mix)/(DM Deep Instrumental Mix)/(12” Version)/(David Holmes Mix)/(Howie B Hairy B Mix)/(Hexidecimal Mix) (3x12”, Island 12 IST 649)

Staring At the Sun/North And South Of The River/Your Blue Room (CD1, Island CID 658)
Staring At the Sun (Monster Truck Mix)/(Sad Bastards Mix)/North And South Of The River/Staring At The Sun (Lab Rat Mix) (CD2, Island CIDX 658)

Last Night On Earth (Single Version)/Pop Muzik (Pop Mart Mix)/Happiness Is A Warm Gun (The Gun Mix) (CD1, Island CID 664)
Last Night On Earth (First Night In Hell Mix)/Numb (The Soul Assassins Mix)/Happiness Is A Warm Gun (The Danny Saber Mix)/Pop Muzik (Pop Mart Mix) (CD2, Island CIDX 664)

Please (Single Version)/Dirty Day (Junk Day)/(Bitter Kiss)/I’m Not Your Baby (Skysplitter Dub) (CD1, Island CID 673)
Please (Live In Rotterdam)/Where The Streets Have No Name (Live In Rotterdam)/With Or Without You (Live In Edmonton)/Staring At The Sun (Live In Rotterdam) (CD2, Island CIDX 673)

If God Will Send His Angels (Single Version)/Slow Dancing (1997 Version)/Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad/Sunday Bloody Sunday (Live In Sarajevo) (CD1, Island CID 684)
Mofo (Phunk Phorce Mix)/(Mother’s Mix)/If God Will Send His Angels (The Grand Jury Mix) (CD2, Island CIDX 684)
Mofo (Phunk Phorce Mix)/(Black Hole Dub)/(Mother’s Mix)/(House Flavour Mix)/(Romin Remix) (12”, Island 12 IS 684)

Sweetest Thing (The Single Mix)/Twilight (Live From Red Rocks)/An Cat Dubh (Live From Red Rocks) (CD1, Island CID 727)
Sweetest Thing (The Single Mix)/Stories For Boys (Live From Boston)/Out Of Control (Live From Boston) (CD2, Island CIDX 727)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Nirvana: The Geffen Years

Last year, I did an article looking at the early years of Nirvana. I did it without fully remembering that it was 20 years since “Nevermind” had been released, and by the year end - bang! Geffen issued their 20th anniversary “Nevermind” deluxe reissue. But as I’ve said before, you can find an anniversary for just about anything at any time. So, to celebrate the… er… 21st anniversary of “Nevermind”, here is a look at the band’s releases after they had jumped ship from Sub Pop. The catalogue numbers listed per LP relate to the original UK CD edition, whilst details of the handful of Nirvana singles from this period are listed where appropriate, detailing the CD and Coloured Vinyl/Picture Disc pressings only, for clarity‘s sake.

Nevermind (GED 24425)

You don’t need me to tell you about this LP. The album that sent Grunge overground, and turned Nirvana into unwitting rock stars, the deluxe boxset issued by Geffen last year is probably the final word on this record - although half the world and his wife already own this album, so anybody who bought it was probably buying it for the second time, at least. There seem to have been a number of official - and unofficial - limited editions of this record when it was first released back in 91, including a US CD pressing in a “Squidgy Pack”, which had a floating baby and dollar bills rumbling about in the front of the packaging - check out the Discogs site for some scans of that one.

Nirvana still seemed to have some sort of contract with Sub Pop, and so “Nevermind” appeared with both Geffen and Sub Pop labels on the rear cover. As well as being issued on LP and Cassette, the CD editions included a hidden track, “Endless Nameless”, which could only be played by fast-forwarding the CD after the official final track, “Something In The Way”, had finished. Of course, it was a bit of tuneless nonsense, which was why it was hidden in the first place.

Four singles were lifted from the LP for promo purposes - more than the entire number of singles the band issued during their time on Sub Pop. The first of these, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, was edited for radio purposes, with thirty seconds of Cobain’s middle eight guitar solo being chopped out, to reduce the running time to 4:30. Some formats of the single played this mix, others played the album version. “Come As You Are”, “Lithium”, and a re-recorded track from the Sub Pop days, “In Bloom”, were issued as singles in 1992.

Although the singles lifted from the album were issued on a number of formats, it was the CD editions that were usually of most interest, as they often featured extra tracks in comparison to what was on the other formats. “Teen Spirit” was issued as a 4-track CD, with “Drain You” from “Nevermind” as a b-side (thus providing fans with a quick preview of the LP), and two other proper b-sides in the form of “Aneurysm” and “Even In His Youth”. Despite not being included on the LP, the former has become a very well known tune in the Nirvana cannon, as the band played it live endless times over the years. In America, “Teen Spirit” was issued in a different sleeve to it’s UK counterpart.

“Come As You Are” came backed with “Endless Nameless”, for those people who didn’t own “Nevermind” on CD, and two previously unissued live recordings of “School” and “Drain You”. “Lithium” came backed with three rarities, a live version of “Been A Son”, a new studio b-side “Curmudgeon”, and a cover of “D-7” taped during the band’s 1990 “Nirvana Play The Cover Versions” Peel Session, where the band, with no real new product to plug, just played four covers for John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show instead. The other three songs from this session would appear later that year on the odds and sods set, “Incesticide”.

“In Bloom” was issued as the tail end of 1992, at around about the same time that Tupelo were reissuing “Sliver” in the UK. The CD edition of “In Bloom” was issued with only three tracks, the two bonus tracks being previously unissued live takes of “Sliver” and “Polly”.

As well as being issued as CD singles, all four singles from “Nevermind” were also issued in the UK as 12” Picture Discs, housed in die cut sleeves. Depending on whatever the record label decided, the “rare” B-sides from the CD editions did or did not appear on these releases. “Aneurysm” made the “Teen Spirit” picture disc, but “Even In His Youth” didn’t. On “Come As You Are”, the live version of “School” appeared on the flip with “Endless Nameless”. However, of some interest, is the fact that the German 12” Picture Disc opted for an alternate track listing, and instead of playing “School”, played the other live b-side from this single, “Drain You”. German copies are easily noticeable by the fact that they were housed in a clear see-through wallet, rather than a die cut sleeve, and thus have the band name and song title printed on the front (these were printed on the sleeve of the UK edition instead).

“Lithium” was missing the “D-7” cover. If you fancy owning this track on vinyl, it is possible to do so, as it was included - along with “Even in His Youth” and the rest of that Peel Session - on an Australian EP called “Hormoaning” in early 1992. Vinyl copies of the EP are quite rare, although there has been a UK/US joint reissue as part of the 2011 Record Store Day event. The easiest version of “Hormoaning” to find is the Japanese CD, issued in what has been described as a “low budget Nevermind” sleeve, and pressed in huge numbers. It was eventually deleted when the band were made aware of it’s existence - they had not authorised the release of the EP outside of Australia - but so many copies had already been pressed, the fact that it was “withdrawn” does not mean that there are not still tens of thousands of them in existence. As for the “In Bloom” picture disc, it played all three tracks from the CD edition.


Smells Like Teen Spirit/Drain You/Aneurysm (12” Picture Disc, Geffen DGCTP 5)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Edit)/Drain You/Even In His Youth/Aneurysm (CD, Geffen DGCTD 5)
Come As You Are/Endless Nameless/School (Live) (12” Picture Disc, Geffen DGCTP 7)
Come As You Are/Endless Nameless/School (Live)/Drain You (Live) (CD, Geffen DGCTD 7)
Lithium/Been A Son (Live)/Curmudgeon (12” Picture Disc, Geffen DGCTP 9)
Lithium/Been A Son (Live)/Curmudgeon/D-7 (BBC Radio 1 Version) (CD, Geffen DGCTD 9)
In Bloom/Sliver (Live)/Polly (Live) (12” Picture Disc GFSTP 34)
In Bloom/Sliver (Live)/Polly (Live) (CD, Geffen GFSTD 34)

Incesticide (GED 24504)

Issued at the tail end of 1992, this seemed like an obvious cash in job by Geffen, keen to make a few quid out of the millions of fans who had discovered Nirvana post-”Nevermind”. It’s objective was to make available rare and bootlegged material, and came in a bootleg style sleeve designed by Cobain - it was therefore the first Nirvana LP to be issued without the use of their logo on the front. US vinyl copies were pressed on light blue wax.

As to what was included, well, the album seemed to be a bit scant on info. Perhaps this was done to further enhance the bootleg feel. So it makes sense to explain it here.

The album opened, in reverse order, with both sides of the “Sliver” 7”, although the mix of “Sliver” was the Tueplo single mix, and not the Sub Pop one, so the “phone outro” part at the end was missing. “Stain” was lifted from the “Blew” EP, whilst three songs taped for a BBC Radio 1 Mark Goodier session made the album, namely “Been A Son”, “Aneurysm” and “Polly”, played in it’s “fast” version (it was originally played by the band in this way on stage before a slowed down version was taped for “Nevermind”), and was thus dubbed “New Wave Polly”.

As touched on earlier, the other three songs from the 1990 Peel Session were on the LP, whilst “Downer” was an outtake, but had been given a second lease of life earlier that year when it was tagged onto the end of Geffen’s CD repressing of “Bleach”. “Beeswax” had been included on a 1991 compilation LP called “Kill Rock Stars”, whilst “Mexican Seafood” had been on the “Teriyaki Asthma Volume 1” 7” Various Artists EP back in 1989. The remaining three songs were all previously unreleased.

There were no singles taken from the album, although Tupelo’s “Sliver” reissue seemed to surface just before the album’s release. The band were asked by Geffen to produce a music video for “Sliver” to send to MTV and Co, to help plug the album, and thus Dave Grohl had to pretend to play the drums on a song he had had no involvement in at all.

Oh The Guilt (TG 83)

Given that Nirvana had never harboured any ambitions to become megastars, you can’t help but think their next move - a return to the world of the Split Single, on the Touch And Go label - was a deliberate attempt to go back to their roots. The only difference now, was that this single would be issued not only on Vinyl, but also on CD. A concession by the record label, or just an acknowledgement that the CD Single was now taking over from the 7”?

“Oh The Guilt” had been knocking about in the band’s live shows for some time, and this studio mix was recorded in Spring 1992. The single was released in February 1993, and was being issued on Touch And Go as this was the label that Nirvana’s partners on the single, The Jesus Lizard, were signed to. Nirvana were technically on the B-side, and as such, “Oh The Guilt” was track 2 on the CD edition. As the A-side act, the Lizard filmed a video for their song - which, after the single had charted in the top 20, led to the likes of “The Chart Show” having to show a clip of their video, despite the fact that it was obvious that it was the Nirvana connection that explained how the single had done so well.

The single was done as a limited edition - just not THAT limited. I got my blue vinyl 7” copy in a Woolworths in Woolwich! The hype surrounding the single - limited edition, new Nirvana material, blue vinyl - saw the now expanded fan base rush to buy the single in it’s first week in case it sold out, and it entered at number 12, although other unofficial charts gave it a top 10 placing. A handful of unsold copies then sold out during the second week of it’s release, but so few were left in the shops by this time, that the second week sales were too minimal to stop the single dropping straight out of the top 40 after that first week.

Australian copies exist - pressed as a 7” Picture Disc, I remember seeing a stack of these in a Virgin Megastore in London, but they were priced at a fiver each. Deciding against buying a single I theoretically already owned on the basis that £5 was a bit steep for a 45, I regret it now, as copies change hands for no less than £100 each! I wished I’d bought the lot, kept one, and flogged the rest.

There was absolutely no plan to include “Oh The Guilt” on the band’s next album, and for many years, the song became one of the leading obscurities in the band’s back catalogue. It got a second lease of life in 2004, when it appeared on the band’s rarities boxset “With The Lights Out”, albeit in slightly remixed form.


Oh The Guilt +1 (Blue Vinyl 7”, Touch And Go TG 83)
Oh The Guilt +1 (CD, Touch And Go TG 83 CD)

In Utero (GED 24536)

Whilst the likes of you and I might like the idea of not having to have a proper job in order to survive, Nirvana never quite got used to the limelight - certainly not Kurt. “In Utero”, depending on where you stand, was either an exhilarating blast of rock and roll, arguably better than “Nevermind”, or was a bunch of rich rock stars moaning about being famous. Either way, there’s no denying the brilliantly cynical opening line of the first song, “Serve The Servants” - “teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old”. Equally telling, was the photo inside showing an MTV microphone being shoved into the face of Krist Novoselic - although you could say here, “don’t bite the hand that feeds”. As the first proper post-”Nevermind” album, there was a huge amount of hype surrounding the record, and there were TV shows and interviews aplenty. And the likes of MTV were heavily supportive.

Once again, the US edition of the Vinyl version came on coloured vinyl, a sort of see-through white/green hybrid, whilst in the UK, the CD edition, like “Nevermind”, went for the hidden track thing again, with “Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip” being tagged on at the end. When this track was later included on “With The Lights Out”, it was listed as a “B-side”, on the basis it had appeared in the US on a 12” single.

As regards the singles, the band wanted - in the UK at least - to avoid any special formats, and wanted it to be that whichever format the fans bought, they would not be cheated out of any bonus material. And so, “Heart Shaped Box” appeared as the first single, backed with a new song, the Grohl sung “Marigold”. The 12” and CD editions added a track from “In Utero”, “Milk It”, as a bonus track to give the buyer some value for money. This “no special formats” rule didn’t seem to apply elsewhere, as in Germany, the 7” editions of the single were pressed on red vinyl.

The next single, a double A release of “All Apologies” and “Rape Me” appeared as a 3-track Maxi on all formats, with bonus track “MV” appearing on every edition. 12” copies included a free art print, which slightly bent the “no special formats” rule.

Of course, you all know what happened next. “Pennyroyal Tea” was being planned as the next 45. It was to be issued in a “new” mix, a more radio-friendly sounding version done by Scott Litt, who had remixed most of “In Utero” for special copies of the LP to be sold in US stores like Wal-Mart, who had refused to stock the “harder” sounding original version of the album. The single mix of “Pennyroyal Tea” was to be taken from this version of “In Utero”, and so whilst not unreleased in the USA, it was due to make it’s debut appearance in the UK where no such “remixed” version of the album existed. The single was due to be issued at the same time that Nirvana were to tour the UK, but Cobain took his own life in April 1994, and the single was cancelled. Nirvana split up on the spot - there was no official announcement, Grohl and Novoselic just assumed that everybody knew that with no Kurt, there was no Nirvana.

Now, over the years, I have lost track of which countries pressed up a “Pennyroyal Tea” before it was withdrawn, and which countries did or didn’t issue a promo. But from what I can gather, this is what survived.

In the UK, a one track CD was issued as a promo, housed in a slim line jewel case, but with no picture sleeve. A 7” single was planned, which was due to feature the band’s cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” from the then recent MTV Unplugged show on the B-side, but apparently, got no further than the sleeve pressing stage. Test pressings may also exist, but according to “Record Collector”, no more than ten were made before the release was pulled, and Geffen ordered them all to be destroyed.

In Germany, a CD Single was planned, and a number of copies were finished. These added an extra track, “I Hate Myself And Want To Die”, originally tossed away by the band on the compilation LP “The Beavis And Butthead Experience”. The mix on the single was missing the Beavis And Butthead skit that preceded the song, but apart from this, the two versions were identical. You will also note that, had the single release gone ahead, then it seems as though the “no special formats” rule was being bent once again.

Suffice to say, any official “Pennyroyal Tea” releases that surface are worth a small fortune, but it is also worth noting that the rather literal artwork that was created (a cup of tea on the cover) had not been OK’d by the band, so any CD Singles that surface, may not have looked this way had the release gone ahead as planned, as the band may not have actually agreed on using the artwork. This doesn’t dent their value any more, but it’s worth acknowledging that any of these “finished” copies may have actually ended up being withdrawn anyway. Check out for more info about the original and fake releases that exist.

Another “In Utero” rarity surrounds the LP itself. In 2003, a UK Vinyl reissue was being planned, but an alternate mix of the album, done by Steve Albini, was somehow used instead. Copies were withdrawn, but a small number escaped and do exist in the collectors world. The main difference seems to be the matrix references scratched into the vinyl’s run out groove (A33 9124 536 S1 320 on side 1, the same but ending S2 320 on side 2). Check out for more info about this and other odds and ends.


Heart Shaped Box/Milk It/Marigold (CD, Geffen GFSTD 54)
All Apologies/Rape Me/MV (CD, Geffen GFSTD 66)

MTV Unplugged In New York (GED 24727)

To be seen as a celebration of the band, plans were being drawn up in 1994 for a double album live set called “Verse Chorus Verse”, the title taken from a Nirvana song that was tossed away as a hidden bonus track on the CD edition of the 1993 Various Artists compilation record, “No Alternative”. It was to consist of two discs - one devoted to material cribbed from various Nirvana gigs, and the second a recording of their MTV “Unplugged” show from 1993. In the end, Grohl and Novoselic alone could not face the prospect of going through hours of tapes to select the best available songs for the live disc, and so the decision was taken instead to issue the Unplugged show on its own - this would simply involve picking the best bits of the show, and would be a far less arduous and emotional task.

The show took place just after the release of “In Utero”, and has gone down in legend as not just one of Nirvana’s finest moments, but as the finest Unplugged show done by anybody. Whilst most acts who appeared on the show just attempted to do acoustic versions of the hits, resulting in some messy results (I still have nightmares whenever I hear REM having a crack at “Love Is All Around”), the band knew doing a stripped down “Teen Spirit” was never going to work, and so decided to base the setlist around the songs from the back catalogue that they knew could benefit from the Unplugged treatment. The hits, mostly, were to be excluded. The band also decided to do a number of covers, nothing new there, but this time on the basis that they could get something out of these songs that they might not have got from trying to do “Lithum” or such like.

MTV had a heart attack when they heard what was going on. They were also distraught when the band announced they were going to have some special guests, but instead of Pearl Jam or Soundgarden turning up, it was a not-exactly-endorsed-by-MTV act instead, The Meat Puppets. But Nirvana knew exactly what they were doing, and the set worked perfectly. It was only a misjudged missive by Kurt, before “About A Girl” - “this is from our first record…most people don’t own it”, only for it to be accompanied by huge cheers during the opening bars, that jarred somewhat.

With Nirvana now MTV darlings by the end of 1993, the show was broadcast on a regular basis, and thus got heavily bootlegged in video form. So when it came to putting the LP together, it made sense to try and offer material that had not made the original broadcast, and as such, a number of “previously unavailable” songs were included to try and help sell the product. Of course, it worked, and “Unplugged” was a chart topper worldwide. Once again, some countries issued copies on white vinyl, whilst the Cassette edition came with an information sticker on the front so big, it more or less obscured the whole cover image!

The audio edition has since been made defunct, as “Unplugged” has since been released on DVD. You get two versions of the show - the original, “songs in the wrong order” edited TV version, complete with on screen captions, and the full length concert, which includes - of course - everything previously included on the audio edition. There were no singles released from the LP in the UK - indeed, there have been no commercial Nirvana singles in the UK since “In Utero”, reissues excepting - although “About A Girl” did appear as a single in selected overseas territories.

Singles (GED 24901)

Although technically a European pressing, “Singles” was officially released in the UK in 1995. It was a 6-CD Single box set, concerning itself with the commercially released singles from “Nevermind” and “In Utero”.

What you got were repressings of the German versions of the singles. In most instances, the artwork differed little from the UK ones, although the singles were housed in slim line jewel cases (the UK “Nevermind” singles were issued as digipacks). As these were re-pressings, the original catalogue numbers from the original German releases were thus present and correct, which were of a different format to the UK ones.

B-side wise, well, Geffen decided to go off in a slightly different path with these singles when first released when compared to the UK versions. In some instances, this did not matter, in others it did. “Teen Spirit” appeared as a three track CD, with the “Edit” mix appearing as the A-side, and although only two of the three UK B-sides appeared, thankfully they were the two non album rarities “Even In His Youth” and “Aneurysm”. “Come As You Are” included all four tracks as per the UK edition, whilst “In Bloom”, “Heart Shaped Box” and “All Apologies” also appeared with the same bonus tracks as the UK originals. The only let down was “Lithium”, issued as a three track single and thus missing “D7”.

Aside from this, and ignoring the possible ‘cash in’ question marks, it’s a nice item. I love the front cover image, although bonus marks are lost for not sourcing the original artwork for these releases, instead the original covers seem to have been photographed, meaning the inlays for each of the singles have a bit of a “fuzzyness” to them, especially where the text for the song titles appear. A recent Record Store Day event has seen the release of the similarly titled “Nevermind Singles”, which opts for 10” reissues of the four singles from said LP.

From the Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah (GED 25105)

Just after Cobain’s death, a live VHS called “Live Tonight Sold Out!” appeared. Although it seemed, on the face of it, to be a video version of what disc 1 of the abandoned “Verse Chorus Verse” project might have sounded like, Cobain had actually been working on the release before his death, and - like “Unplugged” - it just took a bit of tying of loose ends before it was able to be released.

“From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah” was, to all intents and purposes, the delayed first half of “Verse Chorus Verse”, a live history of Nirvana told via a variety of previously unissued (officially) live recordings. Although it had taken Grohl and Novoselic several years to finally get around to working on this project, in many instances, it turned out that the shows that were used as the source material seemed familiar - several tracks were from a gig in Amsterdam in November 1991, recorded by VPRO-TV, and were thus in good quality, but had been subject to the bootleggers. Ditto the inclusion of a song from the band’s 1992 Reading Festival show. Gigs at the Paramount Theatre, Seattle and Del Mar Fairgrounds had been delved into previously for b-sides. The running order was based, vaguely, around the standard Nirvana setlist, with “Blew” appearing at the end, as it had often been the standard gig closer.

The length of the album was, for a vinyl record, a bit awkward. Too long to squeeze onto a single slab of vinyl, but not long enough to try and spread across two, the decision was taken to include a vinyl only track on side 4 of the album, a five minute sound collage of snippets of songs from various shows. Suffice to say, this “song” (it has no official title) is still only available on the original vinyl pressings. Most people probably own this record on CD, although it is worth pointing out that - due to it’s rectangular shape - the Cassette version features a differently designed cover to both the LP and CD versions.

Nirvana (493 523-2)

Following Cobains’s death, much legal wrangling surrounding how future Nirvana material would be released took place between Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, and Novoselic & Grohl. The situation was eventually resolved, and part of the solution was the release of this best-of set in 2002.

Coming in a simple black sleeve with the Nirvana logo placed in the centre, whatever the merits or lack of this release might have, you can at least argue that design wise, it looked impressive. Certainly better than if it had been called “The Best Of” or “Greatest Hits”. It was, for the most part, a selective trawl through the band’s back catalogue with a few rarities thrown in.

The big selling point was the inclusion of a previously unissued song, “You Know You’re Right”, used to start the album off. Although the set ran in more or less chronological order, this outtake dated from January 1994. The other rarities on the album were the original EP mix of “Been A Son”, which for US buyers, was making it’s official release in the band’s homeland, whilst the ‘Scott Litt’ mix of “Pennyroyal Tea” was also included, the first time this mix had been made officially available in the UK.

“Nirvana” is, thanks to that opening rarity, an essential purchase, but it still feels a bit patchy. Trying to put together a 16 track best-of, from a band who never released more than 16 singles, feels a bit odd. Had the release been longer, and thus opened up the opportunity to include B-sides and more rarities, it could have been turned into a more complete collection, along the lines of “Singles Going Steady” or New Order’s “Substance”.

It was, believe it or not, not the final Nirvana “hits” collection. Geffen have since issued another one called “Icon”, which is nothing more than an even shorter version of this one. It was part of a series of releases by various Universal Music acts, all of which shared this title, although the sleeve designs were unique to each act. The Nirvana one opted, like “Nirvana”, to have a big band logo covering much of the sleeve, so it again looks quite impressive, but quite who this was being aimed at, is beyond me.

With The Lights Out (0602 4986 48384)

There is always a problem with multi disc box sets. Many of them opt to include a mix of hits and rarities, only for you to realise you have shelled out £40 for 40 minutes worth of “new” material. But then, if you fill the whole thing up with never before heard material, the argument is you are trying to get somebody to pay over the odds for 4 hours worth of songs that if they had been good enough, would surely have already been released in the first place. So, you can’t win.

“With The Lights Out” goes for the latter approach. A three CD plus 1-DVD release, its’ primary objective was to include rarities from the earliest, pre-”Bleach” years of the band, through to the end in 1994. The DVD would do the same, but in “visual” form.

Of course, the appearance of “new” material is always going to be of interest to the collectors, which accounts for most of the box, but what previously released rarities made the set? Well, disc 2 offers an early version of “Stay Away”, known as “Pay To Play”, which appeared on the “DGC Rarities Volume 1” compilation, and their cover of “Here She Comes Now”, issued on a split 7” as mentioned in my previous Nirvana article. Also on this disc are the b-sides “Aneurysm” and “Curmudgeon”, plus that Peel Session version of “D7”. We have already mentioned the inclusion of “Of The Guilt”, whilst also on disc 2 is “Return Of The Rat”, previously issued on another comp called “Eight Songs For Greg Sage And The Wipers”.

Disc 3 includes another b-side in the form of “Marigold”, plus the aforementioned “I Hate Myself And Want To Die”, again missing it’s “Beavis and Butthead” intro, and “Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol…”. The aforementioned “Verse Chorus Verse” is also here, but as it was one of two Nirvana songs to be recorded (but not both released) with that title, it appears here under it’s alternate title, “Sappy”.

The DVD, by opting to go down the rarities route, is as you would expect, fascinating, but it leads to a strange situation. None of the band’s promos for their singles are included, with the exception of “In Bloom” - but this is the original version for the Sub Pop single that never was. And given that this very clip had been released before on a Sub Pop Various Artists VHS, whilst the Geffen version is only available as part of the “Nevermind” box set, well… it’s all a bit strange that the real rarities in the band’s video cannon are the clips for the hit singles!

Disc 1, meanwhile, includes amongst it’s odds and sods, a number of songs taped by the band for a KAOS FM Radio Session in the States in 1987. The whole session has since been made available on a semi-legitimate CD called “Classic Airwaves”, unavailable in the USA due to ’copyright issues’. As mentioned on my Springsteen blog, recent years have seen a rise in these official bootlegs on various independent labels, and as far as Nirvana go, this is one of at least two such releases now on sale in the UK.

Sliver: The Best Of The Box (6024 988 67181)

You do have to wonder whether or not the remaining members of Nirvana really approved this one. “Sliver”, as it’s title suggested, included a number of selections from “With The Lights Out”. Fair enough. But the decision to include three new songs smacked of record company exploitation. Why weren’t they on the box set in the first place?

Whilst you can argue till the cows come home about how morally acceptable it is to make people pay the price of an album just to own an EP’s worth of new songs, at least the three songs are of interest. An alternate version of one of the big hits, “Come As You Are”, another version of “Sappy”/”Verse Chorus Verse” - the first time this song had therefore appeared on a normal priced Nirvana album - plus an early version of “Spank Thru”, taped way back in 1985 when the band were known as “Fecal Matter”, thereby pre-dating everything on “With The Lights On”. Indeed, the demo tape it came from was the first set of recordings made by the band in any form, although pedantic types will argue that Nirvana were actually formed after Fecal Matter had split up, as Novoselic is absent from this recording.

Although the amount of material issued on “With The Lights Out” and “Sliver” is merely the tip of the iceberg as far as unreleased studio/live material goes, the fact that these releases were produced suggested that they were seen to be the final word on the band. “Wishkah” did the job with Nirvana on stage, this was as far as the label would go in making available “unreleased material”. And for a short while, no more Nirvana material surfaced. But record companies are never ones to stop looking to make a fast buck, and by 2009, they had found their next source for a release from the vaults.

Live At Reading (06025 272 037-3)

Quite why it took until 2009 to release this 1992 gig, I am not sure. But at least by releasing “Live At Reading”, it does do the job of showcasing Nirvana at their explosive best. And, even if it feels like it’s just covering the same basic ground as “Wishkah” and “Live Tonight”, at least it’s all from a single show.

“Live At Reading” was taped at what was being rumoured, at the time, to be the band’s final gig, because Cobain was believed to have been at death‘s door. This explains why Kurt was wheeled onstage in a wheelchair, and then “collapsed” when he tried to stand up. The show was taped at the Reading Festival on 30th August 1992, just over a year after the band had played the same festival, where they appeared just after lunchtime on the Saturday afternoon, as relative unknowns, playing a few bits from “the new LP“, and lots of old grunge stuff. One “Nevermind” later, and they were headlining the Sunday night.

The gig had been taped and videoed, and thus audio and video bootlegs had been doing the rounds for years. The release of this album allowed the whole gig to be released officially in full, with both a CD and DVD edition being released. Time constraints on the CD meant that the performance of “Love Buzz” had to be excluded, whilst a lot of the amusing between songs banter had to be cut in order to squeeze the remaining 24 songs onto a single disc. Even then, the closing number, “Territorial Pissings”, had to be heavily edited to fit on, as the original version - as found on the DVD edition - featured the band doing a 10 minute long instrumental finale. Copies of the DVD included a CD as a free bonus, which made the standard CD edition of the record somewhat superfluous.

Although nobody knew it at the time, the show was not Nirvana’s final gig, but it was the final show they would ever play in the UK. In that respects, it seems like it should really stand up as the final word on Nirvana as a live act, but that has not stopped the live DVD from the “Nevermind” box set (“Live At the Paramount”) being issued in it’s own right last year. You do wonder just how many other gigs might get released in full, as I understand several other Nirvana shows, although released in parts on “Live Tonight” and “Wishkah”, are sitting gathering dust in the vaults.


Maybe it’s just me, but it does seem as though the music scene in the UK is hitting “1980s” style problems at the moment, with a lot of decent bands either struggling to make it onto radio, or simply splitting up. Even pure pop is struggling, this year's mostly god-awful “T4 On The Beach” event showing just how badly we missed the likes of Girls Aloud.

And when you listen to Nirvana, you realise just how far BACKWARDS we seem to have gone. The band’s marriage of Abba melodies, and Black Sabbath riffs, when it worked, worked brilliantly. So, when I hear somebody banging on about the genius of Professor Green, or how cutting edge Example is supposed to be, I feel like crying. And don't get me started on Plan B. “Nevermind” is now twenty one years old, yet still sounds like it was made yesterday, and still sounds so far ahead of most “alternative” acts, it’s baffling. And the fact that we seem to be unable to find the “new Nirvana” (Idlewild and Nine Black Alps at least gave it a go), is heartbreaking really. Perhaps bands this good just don’t come along that often. What a shame.

Rest in peace Kurt.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

November 2012

The November 2012 blogs feature a look at Madonna's 1987 remix LP, "You Can Dance", and Elton John from 1988 to the present day. To look at either of these blogs, click the relevant link to your right.

"Everything crumbles sooner or later"

Madonna: You Can Dance

“I hate megamixes”, Madonna barked in an early period interview. And so in 1987 she gave the go-ahead for her own megamix album, “You Can Dance”.

Oh, I’m just being a bit cheeky. What Madonna was referring to was those Stars On 45 jobs, where you got a verse and a chorus of a hit single, then it segued into another, and so on, and so forth, so you got 14 “songs” in 3 minutes. “You Can Dance” was Madonna’s gift to the disco world, a remix album ’for the fans’, an album consisting of two lengthy continuous mixes of Madonna tunes, to give you the impression you was in a club that played nothing but Madonna music. Madonna had become aware of the growing remix trend, and was keen to experiment with the format, allowing some of her closest buddies to re-work some of the old songs for this LP. Although the timing of it’s release was possibly a bit cynical - November 1987, just in time for the Christmas market - the album was not a quick cash in job, and although it can sound rather quaint now compared to some remix albums, where little gets left of the original songs once the remixers have had their hands on them, many people will tell you that it is an important cog in the Madonna machine.

The theory behind the album was that Madonna, when she had started, was an “Underground“ New York dance music queen. But “Like A Virgin” and “True Blue” had turned her into a megastar. It wasn’t quite that she had sold out, but that she now belonged to the public. The disco indebted debut LP had been followed by a pair of pure pop outings, and “You Can Dance” was designed to take Madonna back to her roots, taking some of the big pop hits, and reworking them for the club crowd.

Even before plans for this album were hatched, 1987 had been quite a busy year for Ms Ciccone. The fifth and final single from “True Blue”, “La Isla Bonita”, had been another number 1 single in the UK, and she had set off on her first World Tour, making her first “proper” live UK debut at Roundhay Park in Leeds on August 15th. The “Who’s That Girl” tour took it’s name from the movie of the same name, for which a soundtrack LP, overseen by Madonna herself, was issued in the summer of 1987.

“Who’s That Girl” has long been listed in Madonna discographies, even though it is clearly a compilation release. Of the nine songs on the record, Madonna only sings four of them, with a mixture of other acts filling up the rest of the LP. But helped in part by Madonna’s name and image being all over the cover, and the fact that some of the material remains exclusive to the album to this very day, it’s long been considered an “essential” part of the back catalogue. Although the title track was issued as a single worldwide, the remaining three songs are not easily available in their LP form elsewhere - “Causing A Commotion” was remixed for single release, “The Look Of Love” was issued in the UK and France, but not the US, whilst the final song, “Can’t Stop”, is unavailable anywhere in any form apart from on the LP.

Although “You Can Dance” was allocated a catalogue number that would have placed it mid-way release date wise slap bang between “True Blue” and “Who’s That Girl”, I understand that no work on the album began until the summer of 1987. The album was to include seven Madonna songs - six oldies and a new one, “Spotlight”, taped during the “True Blue” sessions but left unreleased because it apparently sounded too much like “Holiday”. I say oldies, rather than hits, because although most of the songs on here had been issued as singles somewhere in the world, they were rather obscure. So you got “Holiday” and “Into The Groove”, but you also got the likes of “Over And Over” and “Where’s The Party”, neither issued as singles in the UK or US.

Six of the seven songs were to be remixed for the project, but not, as you might have expected, the six oldies. Instead, “Spotlight” was to be given a revamp - the unreleased version had lasted about four minutes in length, and so it was to be given the 12” treatment for the LP. Instead, it was 1983’s “Physical Attraction” that was to remain unblemished for the album. The only concession, of course, was that as this song was to be part of a continuous mix, the opening bars of the song would sound different to the version on the “Madonna” LP, but once it was underway, production wise, it would sound identical to the original album mix.

Vinyl was still king in 1987, which explains why two mixes, rather than one, were to be created from the seven songs. Madonna would eventually get to do a “single” continuous mix album with the UK CD edition of “Confessions On A Dance Floor”, some eighteen years later. In addition to this, of the six songs being reworked for the project, five were also to be remixed in “Dub” form, these mixes being made to be spread across the CD and Cassette formats as bonus tracks. Quite why no dub mix of “Everybody” was made, I have no idea, as there would have been enough space on the CD edition of the album to squeeze it on.

In the USA, three consecutively catalogued promo only 12” singles were released, each housed in their own unique picture sleeves. Each promo coupled together two of the six reworked tracks, with the mixes of “Where’s The Party” and “Spotlight” on one, “Into The Groove” and “Everybody” on another, and “Holiday” and “Over And Over” on the third. These promos have long been amongst the most interesting of all Madonna releases, as the extended mixes on the promos were the full, unedited, remixes - each would have the start, ending, or both chopped off when it came to sequencing them into the “continuous mix” format on the LP. With no “Dub” mix of “Everybody” being made, this meant the second promo had just three, rather than four, tracks. Unfortunately, some of the “Where’s The Party”/”Spotlight” promos were mispressed, with numerous copies skipping midway through the 12” mix of the latter.

Also highly desirable is the “You Can Dance - Single Edits” promo, issued on both vinyl and CD. This contained edited mixes of all seven tracks (the edit of “Physical Attraction” was the original US 7” Edit from 83, the rest were edits of the 1987 revamps), the idea being that if any singles were to be lifted from the LP, then these were the mixes to be used. In the end, only two of the six new edits surfaced commercially, when the “Single Edit” mixes of “Spotlight” and “Where’s The Party” adorned either side of a Japanese 45 issued in early 1988. The vinyl version of the “Single Edits” promo comes in a different sleeve to the CD, the latter was housed in the same basic cover that was to be used for the regular album.

The commercially released vinyl edition of “You Can Dance” featured sleeve notes that were printed on a wrap-around sash on the outer sleeve of the LP that was quite easily damageable. Indeed, the barcode printed on the back of the sash was also printed on the actual back of the sleeve, just in case any went missing whilst they were still in the shops. A select number featured a free poster as well, complete with a suitably stickered front cover.

The Cassette and CD editions featured different bonus dub mixes, the first Madonna album to deliberately be released to try and get punters to buy it twice. The Cassette featured dub mixes of “Spotlight” and “Holiday” at the end of side 1, and “Over and Over” and “Into The Groove” at the end of side 2. On the CD, the two continuous mixes came first, followed then by the dub mixes of “Holiday”, “Into The Groove” and “Where’s The Party”.

“You Can Dance” did quite well for what was not really a proper Madonna LP, hitting the top 5 in the UK. As has been mentioned on this site before, a 4 track White Label 12” was issued as a promo to coincide, which played the four dub mixes that were on the Cassette version of the album. “Spotlight” was issued as the sole single in Japan early the following year, but that was pretty much it. Once out, promotion for the album pretty much ended, and 1988 became the year when Madonna mostly focused on things other than music - doing “Speed The Plow” on Broadway, filming the little seen “Bloodhounds Of Broadway” - only the VHS release of “Ciao Italia”, documenting the “Who’s That Girl” tour, provided Madonna fans with “new” music in 1988.

As has also been mentioned on this site, the album was briefly revisited by the UK arm of Sire in 1991, when the album was used to source B-sides for some of the singles released from “The Immaculate Collection” - the remix of “Into The Groove” turned up on extended play editions of “Crazy For You”, and “Spotlight” was on the 7”, Cassette and CD versions of “Rescue Me”, and in both instances, the mixes were altered for these singles by simply fading out as they came to an end. It would have made more sense to use the unedited mixes from the original US promos, but it is really no surprise to see the record company not bothering to do this, and these edited remixes therefore remain exclusive to these single releases.

Being a remix album, “You Can Dance” has generally been left to fend for its self these past 25 years. The EU wide vinyl releases of Madonna’s earlier LP releases this year ignored the record, whilst the “Complete Studio” albums boxset concentrated purely on ‘proper’ albums. It is still possible to get CD copies of the record, which are technically the same edition as that which came out in 1987. “You Can Dance” did get a bit of a second lease of life in 2001, when - alongside the expanded reissues of Madonna’s first three long players - some countries reissued the album with a “Drowned World” sticker, as featured on the expanded reissues, but apart from that, that’s just about it.


As this blog forms the next part of our long winded, drawn out look at Madonna’s UK LP’s, I have initially listed below the three versions of the LP made available in the UK at the end of 1987. I have also listed the most important of the promo and commercially released related singles from the UK, US and Japan. Aside from the 4 track “Spotlight” white label 12”, the most famous other release related to this record is the “promo only” picture disc issued in some countries with a “PRO-MAD-1” catalogue number. Long rumoured to be a bootleg, various German journalists have since claimed that they received copies from Sire in the run up to the original release of the album.


You Can Dance (LP, Sire WX 76, initial copies with free poster in stickered p/s, all with obi)
You Can Dance (Cassette, Sire WX 76 C, with four bonus tracks)
You Can Dance (CD, Sire 7599 25535 2, with three bonus tracks, including “Where‘s The Party (Dub)”)


Where’s The Party (Unedited Remix)/(Dub)/Spotlight (Unedited Remix)/(Dub) (12”, Sire PRO-A-2905)
Into The Groove (Unedited Remix)/(Dub)/Everybody (Unedited Remix) (12”, Sire PRO-A-2906)
Holiday (Unedited Remix)/(Dub)/Over And Over (Unedited Remix)/(Dub) (12”, Sire PRO-A-2907)
You Can Dance - Single Edits (LP, Sire PRO-A-2892)
You Can Dance - Single Edits (CD, Sire PRO-CD-2892, diff p/s)


Spotlight (Single Edit)/Where’s The Party (Single Edit) (Japanese 7”, Sire P-2348)
Spotlight (Single Edit)/Where’s The Party (Single Edit) (Japanese 3” CD, Sire 10SW-21)
Crazy For You (Remix)/Keep It Together (12” Remix)/Into The Groove (Shep Pettibone Remix Edit) (12”, Sire W 0008 T)
Crazy For You (Remix)/Keep It Together (12” Remix)/Into The Groove (Shep Pettibone Remix Edit) (CD, Sire W 0008 CD)
Rescue Me (7” Mix)/Spotlight (Fade) (7”, Sire W 00024)
Rescue Me (7” Mix)/Spotlight (Fade) (Cassette, Sire W 00024 C)
Rescue Me (LP Version)/(Titanic Mix)/Spotlight (Fade) (CD, Sire W 00024 CD)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Elton John Part 4: The Comeback

As so, as the late 80’s dawned, Elton seemed to start fighting back. By the end of 1990, he had finally managed to get a number 1 single, whilst 1989’s “Sleeping With The Past” also climbed it’s way to the top spot in the album charts. There were a few hiccups in the years that passed, but with the release of 2001’s “Songs From The West Coast”, you couldn’t find a single critic who had a bad word to say about the album. Indeed, every LP that has surfaced since, has been the subject of excitable reviews.

With 1988’s “Reg Strikes Back”, it was (roughly) around this period that Elton, amongst other acts, began releasing singles on the now defunct CDV (Video CD) format. The main selling point of these singles was the inclusion of the video, usually of the a-side, on the disc, but are now quite hard to track down. Given that some of these feature videos that are still commercially unavailable elsewhere, I have decided to list the important CDV’s released during this period. It is also worth noting that, some three years after it’s original release on vinyl, “Nikita” appeared as a CDV in 1988, although with no rare B-sides on the audio part of the disc (Rocket 080272-2). The trouble with CDV’s, was that the video was designed to be played on a laserdisc machine, and how many people have still got a functioning one of those?

As ever, the discography shown is selective. Essential formats are shown, and where other formats exist with identical/near-to-identical track listings, these will be shown in edited form. Any formats that exist with only non-exclusive material will be referred to in the text, but NOT in the discographies. For the actual albums, the most recent edition is (likely to be) detailed. Confused? I hope not…and as I always say, it makes sense when you read it.

Reg Strikes Back (Mercury 558 478-2)

As the title suggested, this 1988 effort was Elton’s own self-proclaimed comeback record. He had gone through the throat surgery, was in the process of getting a divorce, officially coming out in the process, and decided to sell off costumes at auction from his more flamboyant past, a montage image of which was used on the album cover and on the front of one of the singles from the LP. In the USA, it was his first album for new label MCA, and one can almost believe that this helped it get the label of “comeback album”.

Although some critics have failed to see anything extra special with the album, it did spawn some memorable singles in the form of “A Word In Spanish”, a pleasant, genteel ballad, not hampered by the eighties-production sound that could have marred such an effort earlier the same decade, and the upbeat romp that was “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That”, deemed funky enough to warrant a number of remixes. The album also featured a “follow up” to an earlier Elton composition, “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters”, titled - yep - “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Part 2)”. In the tour that followed, Elton would play the original version, and immediately follow it with the “Part 2” version.

The album was reissued in the late 90’s, with some of the single rarities being used to pad out the set. These included the b-side “Rope Around A Fool”, and remixes of “Mona Lisas” and “I Don’t Wanna…” - including mixes not commercially released in the UK. Elton would not record too many more songs that were deemed particularly “remix-able”, and so the expanded “Reg” is more or less the only Elton album which is expanded with “dance floor” material.


I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That/Rope Around A Fool/I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That (Shep Pettibone Mix)/(Video) (1988, CDV, Rocket 080524-2, standard CD copies/12” play same audio tracks, Video later included on “The Very Best Of Elton John“ DVD)
Town Of Plenty/Whipping Boy (1988, 7”, Rocket EJS 17, other formats exist with extra “non rare” tracks)
A Word In Spanish/Heavy Traffic/Song For Guy (Live In Australia)/Blue Eyes (Live In Australia)/I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (Live In Australia)/Daniel (Live In Australia)/A Word In Spanish (Video) (1988, CDV, Rocket 080624-2)
Nikita/I’m Still Standing (1988, 7”, Old Gold OG9776)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart +1 (1988, 7”, Old Gold OG 9789)
Song For Guy/Blue Eyes (1988, 7”, Old Gold OG 9791)
Through The Storm +1 (1989, 7”, Arista 112 185, duet with Aretha Franklin, also on other formats but with no extra Elton tracks)

Sleeping With The Past (Mercury 558 479-2)

No sooner had Elton finished touring the “Reg Strikes Back” album, than this follow up appeared in the late summer of 89. Inspired by 1960’s US soul acts, the album would eventually become a big enough seller to become Elton’s biggest selling album since “Too Low For Zero”. The comeback, more or less, was complete. It also helped that a libel case Elton had brought against “The Sun” newspaper, where they printed a series of made up stories about rent boys and Elton’s alleged cruelty to animals, was successfully won by the former Reg Dwight. The cocaine fuelled 80’s were finally behind him.

Strangely, although Elton’s stock was quite high - I saw him during 1989 at the not-very-small Wembley Arena - he failed to do much chart wise with the singles that were lifted from the LP. By the start of 1990, two singles had been released to promote the record, but neither had done much in terms of sales. A planned third single, “Club At The End Of The Street”, was withdrawn from sale, although strangely, some copies seemed to have escaped and got released in Europe, meaning that copies of this single are not as hard to find as you might think. They are worth hunting down, as CD editions include what seems to be an exclusive, if not quite rare, live version of “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That”.

As legend would have it, it was Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright who, some months after the song had flopped in the singles charts, became obsessed with “Sacrifice” and began to play it on his show. The label decided to reissue the single, but possibly fearing that such a re-release might be seen as a blatant cash in, the decision was taken to issue the single with no rare material as extra tracks, whilst all the proceeds would be donated to charity. Issued as a AA with the other ’flop’ 45, “Healing Hands” (in the same basic sleeve as the original “Healing Hands” release), “Sacrifice” gave Elton his first number 1 single.

“Club At The End Of The Street” was then issued as a single (again), although it’s choice of B-side had changed by this time. The two main b-sides issued during this period, “Dancing In The End Zone” and “Love Is A Cannibal”, appear on the most recent (1998) reissue of the album, which also includes a different mix of “Durban Deep” when compared to the 1989 original.


Healing Hands (Shep Pettibone Remix)/(LP Version)/Dancing In The End Zone (1989, 12”, Rocket EJS 1912)
Healing Hands (Video)/Sad Songs (Live Verona 26.4.1989)/Dancing In The End Zone/Healing Hands (1989, CDV, Rocket 081400-2)
Sacrifice/Love Is A Cannibal (1989, 7”, Rocket EJS 20, CD and 12“ copies add “Durban Deep“)
Sacrifice/Healing Hands (1990, 7”, Rocket EJS 21, CD and 12“ copies add “Durban Deep“)
Club At The End Of The Street/Whispers (1990, 7”, Rocket EJS 22, CD and 12“ copies add “I Don‘t Wanna Go On With You Like That“)

The Collection (Pickwick PWKS 551)

This 1989 release, on the budget Pickwick label, is not the first Elton collection to appear on CD. But it was the first to be issued on CD with extra tracks when compared to the vinyl equivalent.

To be honest, there is nothing rare on here, so it is probably only of interest to the completist. It appeared at a time when vinyl was still King, and the CD format was still only starting to make waves, and so it’s quite possible a lot of people bought this CD on the basis it was full of songs they only had on an LP record.

The track listing veers from well chosen (it opens with the first song off “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, the “Funeral For A Friend”/”Love Lies Bleeding” double header), to impressive (“Come Down In Time”, “The Greatest Discovery”, both live favourites on and off over the years), to downright obscure (“Blues For My Baby And Me”, “Teacher I Need You”). Apart from the odd “Crocodile Rock” here and there, there’s not much in the way of actual hits - a common feature of UK budget releases.

There are plenty of other equally bizarre “best of” sets in existence, but for the rest of this article, we shall keep on the straight and narrow. Starting with…

The Very Best Of Elton John (Rocket 846 947-2)
To Be Continued (Rocket 848 236-2)

Seemingly issued in the UK, but not in the USA, in what seemed to be a bit of a cash in post-”Sacrifice”, “The Very Best Of Elton John” is not to be confused with the earlier “The Very Best Of”. Yes, some of the same songs are on both, but this was a double-CD trawl through the hits. From what I can gather, there was a thought with this album to include the shortened single versions of things like “Honky Cat” and “Song For Guy”, but I understand the album mixes were used instead.

Elton included a very brief sleeve note, which seemed to suggest the album was a “signing off” of what came before - maybe a reference to the libel case, etc - and even seemed to suggest he had discovered God at the same time. Whatever the reason for it’s release, it did a very good job of documenting Elton on 45, down to the point that the 1973 recorded but 1976 single release of “Bennie And The Jets” appeared after “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, thus maintaining the chronological order of the set.

Along with a few stand alone singles from the past, the set concluded with two new recordings, “Easier To Walk Away” and “You Gotta Love Someone”, both of which were issued as singles to coincide, although the latter was edited when issued on 45 (the original mix was also on the “Days Of Thunder“ soundtrack). Also issued in 1991, slightly randomly, was “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”, followed by a live duet of the same song with George Michael, on Michael’s label, which became a huge hit. The duet version became a bit of a rarity for a while, until getting a home on the 1993 “Duets” collection.

“To Be Continued” was a sort of “bigger” version of the hits collection, a 4-CD trawl through the archives, throwing in rarities left right and centre, including “Easier To Walk Away“. Too many others to mention here. It was issued initially in the US, with the UK one appearing at a later date in a new sleeve, and with a slightly altered track listing. A select number were hand signed by Elton, and sold exclusively - I think - through the Harrods shop in London. Suffice to say, you will have to pay a small fortune for this version of the box.


You Gotta Love Someone (Edit)/Medicine Man/Medicine Man With Adamski (1990, 12”, Rocket EJS 2412, also on CD)
Christmas EP: Step Into Christmas/Cold As Christmas/Easier To Walk Away/I Swear I Heard The Night Talking (1990, 7”, Rocket EJSX 25)
Easier To Walk Away/I Swear I Heard The Night Talking/Made For Me (1990, 12”, Rocket EJS 2512, also on CD)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me/Song For Guy (1991, 7”, Rocket EJS 26, 12“/CD copies add “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word“)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live With George Michael) +1 (1991, 7”, Epic 657646-7, other formats exist with more Elton-less tracks)
Nikita/I’m Still Standing/I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (1992, CD, Old Gold OG 6161)

The One (Mercury 558 480-2)

Following another blip in 1991 (rehab, bulimia), Elton - complete with hair transplant - made another comeback in 1992 with this LP. Elton seemed fully rejuvenated, and the album - whilst sounding at times, a tad dated - was an impressive set. From the harmonica driven “Simple Life”, through to the epic bombast of the title track, onto the piano balladry of “The Last Song”, it was a strong album from start to finish. For some odd reason, a track from the box set, “Understanding Women”, was shoved in towards the end, but was an identical mix to the box set version.

By now, it had become almost law for any act releasing a single to issue it on two CD formats, and Elton duly obliged. Trouble was, there wasn’t usually much extra material around to help pad the formats out. “The One”, issued as the first single, appeared in both a nifty looking digipack sleeve with two new B-sides, “Suit Of Wolves” and “Fat Boys And Ugly Girls”, and a second “hits” CD with an image of Elton on the cover, and a load of old singles as B-sides. In some overseas territories, the single was issued in the “Elton” sleeve but with the new B-sides on the single instead.

The third single from the LP, “The Last Song”, included remixes of “The Man Who Never Died” and “Song For Guy” as b-sides on CD1, whilst CD2 - in a slightly altered sleeve - added all three songs from the 1979 “Thom Bell” EP. A nice touch, but to a certain extent, slightly pointless yet again. By the time “Simple Life” was issued as a single, there was simply nothing left in the vaults, and the only selling point of this single was the fact that the A-side appeared in a newly edited mix. Suffice to say, it was a bit of a flop, stalling outside the top 40 if my memory serves me correctly.

“The One” was the ‘last’ Elton LP to get a reissue during the 1998 “Classic Years” reissue campaign, and thus now includes the two b-sides from “The One” CD Single as bonus tracks. All subsequent Elton albums are, usually, only available with the same track listing they had from day one, as the 2003 “Remasters” campaign only dealt with selected albums from the 1977-1988 period of his career.


The One/Suit Of Wolves/Fat Boys And Ugly Girls (1992, CD, Rocket EJSCB 28)
Runaway Train/Understanding Women (Extended Remix)/Made For Me (1992, CD, Rocket EJSCD 29)
The Last Song/The Man Who Never Died (Remix)/Song For Guy (Remix) (1992, CD, Rocket EJSCD 30)
Simple Life (Edit)/The Last Song/The North (1993, CD, Rocket EJSCD 31)

Rare Masters (DJM 514 305-2)
Duets (Rocket 518 478-2)

I have already mentioned “Rare Masters” before, but just to clarify, this 1992 “odds and sods” set included a slew of rare and previously unissued tracks when first released, as well as the whole of the 1971 “Friends” soundtrack. As also previously mentioned, many of these rarities were used as bonuses on the “Classic Years” reissues, but this album still seems to be the place to go if you want the likes of “I’ve Been Loving You”, “Here’s To The Next Time”, “Planes”, “Let Me Be Your Car”, “Rock Me When He’s Gone” and “Ho Ho Ho”.

1993’s “Duets” album, seemed to be a bit of a mis-step. Whether it was Elton opting to duet with artists quite simply beneath him (PM Dawn), or Elton agreeing to sing songs written by his duet partner (Nik Kershaw’s “Old Friend”), it veers a bit too near the middle of the road at times. It feels, for the first half an hour or so, that Elton is just in the middle of a back slapping exercise, happy to tread water as he hangs out with Little Richard and co.

It’s not all bad. The opening kd Lang duet, a cover of Womack & Womack‘s “Teardrops”, is a sprightly little romp, whilst the waltz like cover of “True Love”, with Kiki Dee, is a not too schmaltzy, feel good bit of fun. Getting back with his old sparring partner seems to work well on this one. And once it’s past the halfway stage, it starts to improve - the magnificent RuPaul assisted hi-energy remake of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, the country twang of “Love Letters”, even having George Michael on that live version of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” fails to destroy the simplistic brilliance of the song.

Both “True Love” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” were released as singles. The latter was issued on two CD’s, one of which included the one time rarity “Donner Pour Donner” - a 1980’s French only B-side, but which was rescued from obscurity by being included on “To Be Continued”. “True Love” went down the ’duet’ route, by coming backed with songs of Elton performing with other artists. CD1 included Elton’s live performance of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” at the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute gig, backed by the rest of Queen themselves, plus the Eric Clapton duet “Runaway Train” from “The One”. CD2 included older duets from Elton’s past (“Wrap Her Up”, “That’s What Friends Are For” and ’Part 1’ of “Act Of War”), but other than the latter two getting a second lease of life on CD, again, it’s an academic release.

A third single from “Duets”, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”, was actually issued by the label of it’s duet partner, Marcella Detroit. Suffice to say, of the two CD’s issued, one was backed with Detroit only extras, but CD2 included a couple of remixes of the A-side. Both were issued in slightly different picture sleeves.


True Love/The Show Must Go On (Live, Wembley Stadium 20.4.1992)/Runaway Train (1993, CD, Rocket EJSCD 32, Cassette copies exist which omit “Runaway Train“)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Moroder 7” Mix)/(Moroder 12” Mix)/(Serious Rope 7” Mix)/(Serious Rope 12” Mix)/(Serious Rope Instrumental)/(Serious Rope Dirty Dub) (1994, CD, Rocket EJRMX 33)
Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing (Kenny Dope Extended Mix)/(Troopa Mood Mix) +2 (1994, CD, London LOCDP 350)

Chartbusters Go Pop (RPM Records RPM142)

Whenever you go into charity shops, you will see those “Top Of The Pops” albums. A picture of a scantily clad lady in a leotard, and a list of early 70’s hits listed on the sleeve. But what you won’t find, or hear, is the original acts who recorded these hits. Due to various “licensing” issues, these albums were mass produced by various budget labels, and the covers by anonymous acts were designed to sound identical to the original songs. It’s an odd practise that still occurs today, next time you are in a shopping mall, just listen carefully - is that REALLY Percy Plant doing “Stairway”?

With Elton struggling to do much in the late 60’s and early 70’s, he recorded a number of songs for these albums, but it was not until the early 1990’s that his involvement became public knowledge, and thus it was the RPM label who lovingly compiled “Chartbusters Go Pop”, pulling together Elton’s anonymous outings on these albums, in a sleeve that was a homage to the old records. A number of alternate versions of this same album, including some with several songs missing, have since cropped up in recent years.

Back in the real world, Elton was heavily involved in the soundtrack to the “Lion King”. He contributed three new songs to the album, and two of these were issued as singles in 1994, with the first such release, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, coming backed with an exclusive instrumental mix. CD editions of the single added Elton-less bonus tracks, whilst not one of the formats of “Circle Of Life” included any Elton material as an extra track at all. Both these singles later made it onto 1995’s “Love Songs”, but the third Elton song - “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” - remains exclusive to the original soundtrack album.


Can You Feel The Love Tonight (LP Version)/(Instrumental) (1994, 7”, Mercury EJS 34, other formats play same songs, some with Elton-less bonus tracks)
Circle Of Life +3 (1994, CD, Mercury EJSCD 35, other formats include same/less number of bonus tracks, but Elton does not feature on any)

Made in England (Rocket 526 185-2)

1995 and time for “another” comeback record. “Made In England” was released just as Brit Pop was kicking off, and Elton - along with the likes of The Who and The Kinks - was seen as one of it’s inventors. He appeared on the front of Q magazine, eating a bag of chips wrapped in a copy of - what else - “The Sun” newspaper, and helped along by a series of Royal Albert Hall shows that had taken place in the fall of 1994, Elton was once again in the limelight.

“Made In England” seemed to have an air of seriousness about it. Most of the songs had one word titles (“Belfast”, “Latitude”, “Lies”, and so on), whilst the lead single, “Believe”, was a thrilling, near bombastic roar of a single, complete with black and white video. And whilst the title track seemed like a knockabout, upbeat feeling piece of bouncy pop, it was actually rather bleak, and nearly very anti-English.

Again, B-sides were running out quite quickly into the promo campaign. Although the different CD editions of “Believe” came with previously unissued live material from the 1994 “Solo” tour, “Made In England” only included three rarities, despite being issued on three different editions. A second limited edition CD, housed in a slightly different sleeve, included the three tracks from the 1980 “Live With John Lennon” EP. Again, a nice touch, but all three tracks were available on the reissued “Here And There” by 1996, so this is another CD Single only of interest to the “hardcore”.

The promo campaign was not quite over, but the next single from “Made In England” was actually issued as a trailer for Elton’s next LP, “Love Songs”.


Believe/The One (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994)/The Last Song (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994) (1995, CD1, Rocket EJSCD 36)
Believe (Album Mix)/(Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994) (1995, CD2, Rocket EJSDD 36)
Made In England/Can You Feel The Love Tonight/Daniel (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994) (1995, Cassette, Rocket EJSMC 37)
Made In England/Can You Feel The Love Tonight/Your Song (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994)/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live Los Angeles, Greek Theatre, 1994) (1995, CD, Rocket EJSCD 37)

Love Songs (Rocket 528 788-2)

This wasn’t the first Elton LP to be issued with this title. There had been an earlier “Love Songs” LP back in 1982, chock full of obscure material - most of them probably not even love songs at all. But this 1995 release was far more high profile, even if it’s existence is equally questionable.

Basically, this was a 17 song trawl through the archives, with most of the songs being, if not love songs per se, of the ballad variety. “Your Sister Can’t Twist But She Can Rock And Roll” isn’t on here, for example. The two singles from the “Lion King” soundtrack made it onto here, as did some material from “Made in England”.

Initially, one such song, “Blessed”, was planned to be issued as a single to plug both this and the “Made In England” album, and promo copies were sent to radio, with stock copies of both planned CD Single editions being produced. But for some reason, the release was pulled, and a replacement, “Please”, was issued as the next single instead. The same sleeves were used, and with the two titles being of a similar length, it probably didn’t take too much effort to alter the cover artwork. The planned B-sides, meanwhile, remained identical. Only the catalogue numbers changed.

The b-sides on CD1 were a couple of remixes of "Made In England”, whilst CD2 included some live recordings from the same gigs that were used for the “Here And There” LP. However, all three live tracks were also included on the expanded reissue of the LP that was re-released at more or less the same time, so is only of interest to completists thanks to it’s slightly altered sleeve design.


Please/Made In England (Junior’s Sound Factory Mix)/(Junior’s Joyous Mix) (1996, CD, Rocket EJSCD 40)

The Big Picture (Rocket 536 266-2)

Here’s another album that Taupin thinks little of. And looking at that slightly bizarre cover, you almost wonder if it was just the sleeve that wound him up. 1997’s “The Big Picture” was the sign of a man struggling to know how to follow up something as critically lauded as “Made in England”, and whilst it didn’t sound too disastrous the last time I listened to it, you can sort of tell from the singles that it was possibly trying too hard to be different.

Take the lead single, “Live Like Horses”. A duet with Pavarotti at his 1996 “War Child” charity concert, it sounds exactly like you think it would. Big sounding, over-wrought, and trying a bit too hard to be over-earnest, and if you don’t like Opera, well, then you won’t like the Pavarotti bits either. “If The River Can Bend” sounds far too worryingly like the theme from “Wild At Heart” for comfort, and whilst I do have a bit of a soft spot for “Recover You Soul”, it does sound almost woefully under produced - think of it as minimalist AOR. Indeed, it was the production of “The Big Picture” that wrankled Taupin.

From a collectors point of view, however, the singles produced quite a few items of interest. “Horses” was issued on two CD’s, with each of the two editions including two versions of the track with Pavarotti - one from the gig, and a studio mix. CD1 added a “solo” version, the same as the one that would eventually appear on the LP, whilst CD2 - housed in a different sleeve - added “Step Into Christmas” and an edited mix of the single that never was, “Blessed”.

“Something About The Way You Look Tonight”, a sweeping roar of a single, was up next. Complete with a promo video full of supermodels (including my own personal favourite, Sophie Dahl - here’s where I get my plug in for my “Sophie Dahl Rocks“), it was lined up to be released just prior to the album, and once again, promo and stock copies were produced. However, the death of the Princess Of Wales just prior to it’s release caused a rethink. Elton was friends with Diana, and decided he should do something as a tribute. So he and Taupin wrote and recorded a new version of “Candle In The Wind”, and decided to release it as a double A-side with “Something”. The idea behind this, was that if the single charted, radio stations would have a “non gloomy” song to play, and TV stations could play the video for “Something” instead. Of course, the plan backfired. As the single hit the top of the charts, outselling every single ever released, TV stations made their own video for “Candle In The Wind”, on the basis that this was the reason the single was in the charts in the first place. And Elton came in for a bit of stick by supposedly using the tragedy as what seemed to be an excuse to plug his new LP. Of course, that wasn’t the plan - one track CD Singles just weren’t the done thing back then - and in any case, it’s doubtful that many of the “casual” fans who bought the single even knew, or cared, about the LP.

B-sides from the cancelled version of the single crept out on both the “Diana” version of the single, and “Recover Your Soul”. In a throwback to the olden days, CD1 of the “If The River Can Bend” release was nothing more than a “greatest hits” EP, but CD2 offered up three previously unissued tracks from a 1998 Paris gig.


Live Like Horses (With Pavarotti)/(Live, War Child Concert 1996)/I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (Live, War Child Concert 1996)/Live Like Horses (1996, CD1, Rocket LLHCD1)
Live Like Horses (With Pavarotti)/(Live, War Child Concert 1996)/Step Into Christmas/Blessed (Edit) (1996, CD2, Rocket LLHDD1, different p/s)
Something About The Way You Look Tonight (Edit)/Candle In The Wind 1997/You Can Make History (Young Again) (1997, CD, Rocket PTCD1)
Recover Your Soul (Single Remix)/Big Man In A Little Suit/I Know Why I’m In Love/Recover Your Soul (1998, CD1, Rocket EJSCD 42)
Recover Your Soul (Single Remix)/No Valentines/Recover Your Soul (LP Mix)/(Video) (1998, CD2, Rocket EJSCX 42, different p/s)
If The River Can Bend/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live, Paris The Ritz 1998)/I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (Live, Paris The Ritz 1998)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live, Paris The Ritz 1998) (1998, CD, Rocket EJSDD 43)

One Night Only (Mercury 548 333-2)
Live At Madison Square Garden (Rocket EJC 0001)

Elton’s next “proper” album was 2000’s “One Night Only”, a live trawl through the ‘greatest hits’. Rush released barely a month after the gig(s) took place, in what seemed to be some sort of World Record attempt, the album documented a US TV special compiled from a pair of gigs at Madison Square Garden in New York, with a number of guests dropping by to duet with Elton on many of the tracks.

Elton later admitted to hating the release, “cringing” when it was released, as I understand he did a “hits” show against his wishes, although some fans claim it was due to the poor vocals on the album. Whatever the reason, it is a slightly odd album - made even more confusing by the fact that the songs seem to appear in a different order to which they were played onstage on the night.

Interestingly, when Elton released his “1970-2002” hits set a few years later, an accompanying DVD entitled “Greatest Hits Live 1970-2002” was issued in a similar sleeve to the “1970-2002” album, but was actually the full blown concert that had been used to compile “One Night Only”. This DVD can also now be found as part of the 4xDVD Box Set “Dream Ticket”.

Arguably more interesting is the fan club only “Live At Madison Square Garden”, taped a year earlier, and issued by Elton’s “Rocket Club”. There’s a few hits on here, but elsewhere, the choice of material is fascinating (“Ticking”, “Sweet Painted Lady”, etc). I understand that anybody joining the fan club got this as their free gift, and if they re-subscribed at later dates, got other live CD’s or DVD’s as their thank you present. From what I can gather, two more fan club only CD’s exist - “Live At Madison Square Garden Vol 2” and “Elton John Live”.

Prior to all of this, Elton had worked with Tim Rice on a musical called “Aida”, and in 1999, helped put together an album of songs that were to be featured in the musical. Various celebrity friends helped out, whilst Elton sang/duetted on four songs, one of which, “Written In The Stars”, was issued as a single to coincide. Since then, Elton has worked on a number of other musical and soundtrack albums, although in each case, a number of songs were Elton-less. For the record, these releases - many containing what are exclusive material - are 1999’s “The Muse”, 2000’s “The Road To El Dorado” and 2011’s “Gnomeo And Juliet”.


Written In The Stars (Album Version)/(Alternate Version)/Recover Your Soul (Live, Paris The Ritz 1998) (1999, CD1, Rocket EJSCD 45)
Written In The Stars/Aida Album Sampler/Your Song (Live) (1999, CD2, Rocket EJSDD 45, different p/s)
One Night Only EP: Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Live In New York City 2000)/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live In New York City 2000)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live In New York City 2000)/Someone Saved My Life Tonight (Live In New York City 2000) (2001, CD, Mercury INDEPENDENT 402, UK only newspaper freebie)

Songs From The West Coast (Mercury 063 087-0)
Greatest Hits 1970-2002 (063 449-2)

When 2001’s “Songs From The West Coast” was released, Elton revealed why it harked back to his halcyon days of the 70’s. He admitted that some of the intervening albums had faltered because, despite being a pianist, there wasn’t much piano on some of those records. And so the critically acclaimed album included plenty of piano, and not so much of the bland sound of the likes of “Leather Jackets”. Robert Downey Jr got roped in for the video for “I Want Love”, Mandy Moore appeared in “Original Sin”, and Justin Timberlake appeared as a young Elton in “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore”, the video a deliberate pastiche of what it might have looked like backstage at a 1974 Elton show.

A huge chunk of B-sides were issued across these singles, no “greatest hits” EP’s this time, although many of the tracks were actually live recordings from Elton’s September 9th BBC Radio Theatre gig. The three videos were also included on enhanced sections across the CD Singles. After the release of “Original Sin”, a re-recorded “Your Song”, with Alessandro Safina, for the Sport Relief charity, was issued as a single in the summer of 2002. A reissued version of “Songs For The West Coast” appeared thereafter, in slightly revamped artwork, and with a bonus CD. The CD included, amongst other things, the re-recorded “Your Song” plus some slightly superfluous dance mixes of both this and “Original Sin”. The three videos, again, were all included as well.

Although 1990’s “Very Best Of” was a near faultless attempt on filling up two CD’s worth of hits, the “1970-2002” release did equally well, managing to squeeze in a few newer songs without disrupting the oldies too much, as well as throwing in some rarites (the radio edit of “Something About The Way You Look Tonight”, the non-album “Philadlephia Freedom”, and so on). Some copies were issued as a 3-disc set, with CD3 throwing in more album tracks and oddities, and after the re-issued “Are You Ready For Love” hit the top spot, later pressings included this song as well. For clarity’s sake, the catalogue numbers shown above related to the 2-CD edition of “Songs”, and the original first 2-CD pressing of “1970”.


I Want Love/The North Star/Tiny Dancer (Live New York Madison Square Gardens, October 2000)/I Want Love (Video) (2001, CD1, Rocket 588 706-2)
I Want Love/God Never Came There/The One (Live New York Madison Square Gardens, October 2000) (2001, CD2, Rocket 588 707-2, different p/s)
West Coast Songs EP: Ballad Of The Boy In The Red Shoes/Album Snippets/Tiny Dancer (Live New York Madison Square Gardens, October 2000)/I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That (Live) (2001, CD, Rocket EJSE1, newspaper freebie, originally issued with free magazine featuring Elton on cover)
This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore/Did Anybody Sleep With Joan Of Arc?/I Want Love (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001) (2002, CD1, Rocket 588 896-2, with insert)
This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore/American Triangle (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/Philadelphia Freedom (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001) (2002, CD2, Rocket 588 897-2, different p/s)
Original Sin/I’m Still Standing (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/(Video) (2002, CD1, Rocket 588 999-2, with insert)
Original Sin (LP Version)/(Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/All The Girls Love Alice (Live London BBC Radio Theatre 9.9.2001)/Original Sin (Video) (2002, CD2, Rocket 582 850-2, different p/s)
Your Song (2002)/(Instrumental)/(2002 Video) (2002, CD, Mercury 063 9972)
Are You Ready For Love (Radio Edit)/(Original)/Three Way Love Affair/Are You Ready For Love (Video) (2003, CD, Southern Fried ECB 50 CDS)
Are You Ready For Love (Original)/(Ashley Beedle Love And Protection Mono Edit) (2003, Pink Vinyl 12”, Southern Fried ECB 50)
Are You Ready For Love (Original)/(Freeform Five Remix) (2003, 12”, Southern Fried ECB 50 LOVE)
Are You Ready For Love (Radio Slave Remix)/(Serge Santiago Re-edit) (2003, 2nd 12”, Southern Fried ECB 50 LOVER1)

Peachtree Road (Mercury 987 2303)

With Elton’s comeback now fully complete, there seemed to be a new found confidence to go slightly off track at times. 2004’s “Peachtree Road” introduced elements of country music into Elton’s sound (although “Tumbleweed Connection” went down similar lines), whilst the accompanying tour saw Elton open his shows with no less than nine songs from the (twelve track) album, a far cry from the days of the “Leather Jackets” tour, where he played one, maybe two, songs from the record and no more on the tour that followed.

The first single from the album, “All That I’m Allowed”, was issued on a limited edition, numbered 7”, housed in the old “Rocket Record Company” die cut sleeve, with a track from the Thom Bell sessions, “Nice And Slow”, on the b-side - the first time it had been officially available, non-import wise, in the UK.

By 2005, Elton had been involved in the “Billy Elliot” musical, and wrote a number of songs for the production. “Peachtree Road” was reissued with three tracks from the show, including the brilliantly titled “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher”, and “Electricity”, which was issued as a single to coincide. The 7”, pressed on blue vinyl, featured a live version of “Bite Your Lip” on the flipside, taped at a show at the Atlanta Tabernacle in November 2004. Another live song from the show, “Your Song”, appeared in both audio and video form on one of the two CD single editions. The b-side of CD1 was “Indian Sunset” from “Madman Across The Water” (albeit in edited form), picked because it had recently been sampled on a single by Tupac, “Ghetto Gospel”, which had been a huge UK hit. Some copies of the single were pressed incorrectly, and skipped halfway through, making it even more edited than planned!

The reissued version of the album came in a new sleeve, featuring a drawing of Elton, similar to that used on the sleeve of the “Turn The Lights Out When You Leave” single, whilst limited edition copies of the re-pressing came with a free DVD, featuring the nine songs used to open the aforementioned Atlanta show. This version of the album came in a different colour sleeve to the “standard” reissue, and the catalogue number above relates to this pressing.


All That I’m Allowed/Nice And Slow (2004, 7”, Rocket 9868689, numbered die cut sleeve)
All That I’m Allowed/Keep It A Mystery (2004, CD1, Rocket 9868258)
All That I’m Allowed/So Sad The Renegade/A Little Peace (2004, CD2, Rocket 9868257, different p/s)
Turn The Lights Out When You Leave (Edit)/Things Only Get Better With Love (2005, CD1, Rocket 9870664)
Turn The Lights Out When You Leave/How’s Tomorrow/Peter’s Song (2005, CD2, Rocket 9870663)
Electricity/Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance!) (Live, Atlanta The Tabernacle, November 2004) (2005, Blue Vinyl 7”, Mercury 9872343, with poster)
Electricity/Indian Sunset (Edit) (2005, CD1, Mercury 9872164, red p/s)
Electricity (LP Version)/(Orchestral)/Your Song (Live, Atlanta The Tabernacle, November 2004)/(Live, Atlanta The Tabernacle, November 2004 - Video) (2005, CD2, Mercury 9872183)

The Captain And The Kid (Mercury 1707366)
Rocket Man (Mercury 1724430)
Live 2009 (Concert Live no cat. No)
The Red Piano 2009 (Concert Live no cat. No)
Ray Cooper 2009 (Concert Live no cat. No)
The Union (Mercury 2750157)
Good Morning To The Night (Mercury 37110858)

21 years after the release of “Captain Fantastic”, and Elton released it’s ‘follow up’, “The Captain And The Kid”. To recap, the Captain was Elton, Taupin was The Kid. Just as the original had been performed, in it’s entirety, from start to finish on stage back in 75, Elton announced that there would be no singles from “The Captain” as the album was designed to be a single piece of music, to be listened to in one go from beginning to end. This did not stop the label issuing “The Bridge” and “Tinderbox” as promo only singles though. Initial copies came with a free DVD, catalogue details above.

“Rocket Man”, issued in 2007, coincided with Elton’s 60th birthday. It was dubbed “The Definitive Hits”, but by restricting itself to a single CD, and by ignoring any sort of chronological order, seems a pointless release when compared to 1990’s “Very Best Of” or 2002’s “Greatest Hits”. It was sold on the basis that it provided an “introduction” to new fans. A fancy hardback book edition was released, with a free DVD featuring five songs from the ongoing “Red Piano” tour (a triple disc DVD release from the tour appeared in 2008) and five selected promo videos, including one for “Tinderbox”. Again, the catalogue number shown above relates to this edition.

The “2009” albums were part of the now commonplace world of the mail order only “Official Bootleg” CD’s, through websites like Concert Live. A number of shows were selected for release. The “Live 2009” ones are from Elton’s summer concerts, whilst the “Red Piano” and “Ray Cooper” ones are from the fall. The Cooper ones featured Elton and Cooper alone on stage, the two having played shows such as these on and off since the late 70’s.

In recent years, critics have continued to fall over themselves to praise our Reg, with “The Union”, a collaboration with one of Elton’s heroes, Leon Russell, gaining much love from the critics in 2010, whilst this year saw Elton hit the top of the UK album charts for the first time in years - “Good Morning To The Night” was another collaboration, this time with Aussie dance types Pnau, and consists of songs pieced together using samples of pre-1988 Elton recordings. It was initially issued as a half hour long mini album, before re-appearing days later as a longer LP, with bonus remixes. The catalogue number above relates to this second pressing.


If It Wasn’t For Bad/A Dream Come True (2010, 7”, Mercury 2751635)