Sunday, 1 April 2012
The likes of The Charlatans and The Inspirals, however, were still relatively new bands, and as such, there seemed to be an excitement surrounding their work. Yes, there were some hiccups, but these were bands in their ascendancy, rather than on a downhill spiral. The Inspirals also had plenty of gimmicky-style things in their favour - the famous Cow T-shirts, the “moo-ing” of the crowd inbetween songs at their gigs…I fell in love with this band. And with the group about to head out on tour with the Mondays (the Mondays are headlining, in case you were wondering), and rumours of a new studio LP on the way, I decided it was time to party like it was 1991 again.
A 4 track promo cassette, the “Cow” EP, was distributed a few months later, consisting mostly of tracks that would fail to re-surface on any later commercial releases. It would not be until over a year later, during the summer of ‘88, that the band’s first ’proper’ release would appear.
Signed to Playtime Records, the band’s first single was “Keep The Circle Around”. It was issued on both 7” and 12”, the latter with three extra B-sides, and marketed as an EP, called the “Planecrash” EP. A second EP, a four-track affair called the “Trainsurfing” EP was recorded later the same year, and was scheduled for a 12” release on Playtime in late 88, and was allocated a catalogue number of AMUSE 4T. 7” promo copies featuring two of the tracks from the EP surfaced, but Playtime went bust soon after the promo surfaced. The EP had already been pressed, and the band decided to release the record on their own Cow Records imprint, putting “Moo 2” catalogue stickers over the original Playtime catalogue number on the back of the sleeve - the “Amuse” catalogue number was scratched into the running grooves of the vinyl. The band also decided to re-press the “Planecrash” EP, giving it a “Moo 1” catalogue number.
It wasn’t too long after the release of the second EP that Holt and Swift left, to be replaced by Tom Hingley and Martyn Walsh. To commemorate their departure (sort of), the band released the “Dung 4” cassette, a mail order only/sold at gigs affair, which included 11 songs taped by the “Mark 1” lineup, and was issued at around about the same time that the Mark 2 lineup started to release their initial singles. It included demo versions of all four songs from the first EP (one of the band‘s famous later “Moosletters“, tucked inside the sleeves of their vinyl singles, plugged the cassette on the basis it included ’alternate versions of all your favourite hits’), plus demo recordings of material that would eventually be recorded and released by the Hingley-led lineup. These cassettes seem to be quite hard to track down, and I admit that I don’t own a copy. But my wife does have the “Garage” flexi disc, which of course is now legally half mine!
When the Inspirals made it big, little was ever mentioned of their early years, which meant that when these early releases started to surface on the collectors market, they fetched reasonably impressive prices (£40 for a “Keep The Circle Around”, for example). However, I am not sure if these releases have kept their value - despite thinking it would be hard to find, I got a “Trainsurfing” EP a few years ago for about £8.
Apart from the flexi, the “Cow” promo and the “Dung 4” cassette, the other nine songs Mark 1 made and released across the two EP’s are now easier to find, as the 2003 box set “Cool As” included all these songs across the 2 CD’s that were included in the set - “Keep The Circle Around” and the lead track on “Trainsurfing”, “Butterfly”, made disc 1 (the “hits” CD), whilst the seven remaining B-sides appeared on the “Rare As” second disc. If you fancy owning an EP with “Keep The Circle Around” on, but can’t find a “Planecrash”, then you could do worse than get hold of the “Peel Sessions” EP (12“, Strange Fruit SFPS 072), which includes the Hingley-led version of the band doing this and three other songs, taped soon after the lineup change in March 1989.
Mark 2, Part 1
The next release was “Find Out Why”, where the catalogue system was changed to the “Dung” prefix. It appeared as a 2-track 7” in a die cut sleeve, and also as a 3 track 12” or CD maxi-single, in a “full” picture sleeve. These latter releases included a bonus b-side, “Plane Crash”, recorded live in the studio and lasting over quarter of an hour long - as such, the b-side of the 12” had to play at 33 1/3 rpm, not 45. The recording seems to have been an exercise in how long a jam session could go on for, as you can hear Hingley remark “we’ve done ten minutes” as the song passes the 10-minute mark.
“Move” was issued at the tail end of 1989. Again, an instrumental mix of the track, titled “Move In”, appeared as a bonus track on the 12” and CD editions. The b-side, “Out Of Time”, was not a cover of the Stones’ classic, but an Inspirals original, and was used as a set-opener on the UK Spring 1993 tour - the first time I ever saw the band. I can still remember the sheer thrill of hearing the band come on, play the opening bars of “This Is How it Feels” to huge cheers, before going straight into this garage rock stormer. Unforgettable.
By the start of 1990, the band were signed to Mute - not quite a major label, but certainly a label that could help with distribution. “Joe”, “Find Out Why” and “Move” were all reissued, and the next 45, and the first to be issued on Mute, “This Is How It Feels”, gave the band a huge hit. Mute must have had some clout that Cow Records simply didn’t have. The radio mix of the song was a different version to that which would appear on “Life”, with the “found him under a train” line deemed to be un-radio-friendly, and thus was replaced with the “left a note for a local girl” lyric. An instrumental version of another track due to appear on “Life”, “Song For A Family”, appeared as a B-side on all the formats, titled “Tune For A Family”. The band also recorded a couple of songs from the Mark 1 days, “Seeds Of Doubt” and “Whiskey”, neither or which were ’retitled’ second time around, and these re-recordings appeared on different formats of the single. The band were now starting to use the 12” and CD formats to resurrect the EP stylings, and although the single appeared on 7”, it only offered up some and not all of the extra tracks, something that would become quite commonplace in the years that followed. The band also began to indulge in their dance-music leanings, as a limited edition numbered second 12” was issued, housed in a different sleeve featuring two mixes of the a-side. Copies with the band’s fourth newsletter still inside are worth a bit more than those without.
“Life” was issued in April 1990, and remains a thrilling organ-driven, psychedelic, indie-rock wig out. I am amazed that it has not been the recipient of any sort of “anniversary” or deluxe reissue. Apart from the aforementioned “This Is How It Feels”, the only other previously released single to make the album was “Move”, and even then, vinyl copies omitted this track. In the US, it was followed by the “Cool As ****” EP, which included “Joe”, “Out Of Time”, and all three tracks off the “Find Out Why” maxi. It was issued by Cow Records and was thus given a DUNG catalogue number, meaning that it looks like a UK release on first glance. Again, due to it’s length, the entire second side of the 12” was taken up by “Plane Crash”.
Single number 2 from “Life” was another stormer, “She Comes In The Fall”. As well as being issued as a 2-track 45 with a new mix of album track “Sackville” on the flip, it was also issued as a triple-A side 12”, with an alternate remix of the A-side, and a re-recorded version of “Commercial Rain”, now titled “Commercial Reign”. The CD version added a remix of the latter as a bonus track, called the “Snatch Mix”. A remix 12” was issued, offering different mixes of all three songs from the single, but just to confuse matters, “Commercial Reign” was re-titled as “Commercial Rain” for this release! In America, “Commercial Reign” got issued as a standard single in it’s on right on Elektra (12”, Elektra 0-66606), which included the “Snatch Mix” as the lead track, plus three more versions, but again, all were re-spelt as “Commercial Rain”. The final track on the UK Remix 12” was a dub version of “Sackville”, retitled “Dubville”.
As so often happens with a band seemingly on a roll, the band issued an EP of new material in the fall of 1990, the “Island Head” EP. It appeared as a 4-track release on 7” and 12”, but the CD version rather strangely replaced “I’ll Keep It In Mind” with a remix of the lead track, “Biggest Mountain”, and featured an alternate mix of “Gold Top”. There was also a 12” only “Island Head Live” EP, featuring another variant track listing, with all four songs being taken from a forthcoming live video, “Live 21790”, taped at the band’s mega Manchester G-Mex show earlier that year.
“The Beast Inside” Onwards
The follow up single, “Please Be Cruel”, was released after the album was out, and was remixed for the 45 version. Again, although issued on a variety of formats, it was the “extended play” ones that were of most interest, featuring as they did b-sides unavailable elsewhere. Two different versions of a new track, “St Kilda”, were included, one of which was an instrumental, but the band had stopped “renaming” songs when they appeared in an alternate version, and this mix was simply listed as “St Kilda (Instrumental)” on the sleeve. A second Peel EP, titled “Peel Session” (no “S” at the end, this time), surfaced circa 1992. It included performances of two songs from “The Beast Inside”, and two from the “Island Head” EP (10“, Strange Fruit SFPS 085).
Early on in 1992, and material from the band’s third LP started to materialise. “Dragging Me Down” surfaced in the spring, and was seen as something of a return to form after “The Beast Inside”, complete with a stomping Slade-esque intro. 7” copies of the single featured an edited mix of the singles’ b-side, “I Know I’m Losing You”, whilst 12” copies included a free art print. The follow up single, “Two Worlds Collide”, also included a free art print with the 12” edition.
“Revenge of The Goldfish” had an October 92 release date now pencilled in, and a third single off the album, “Generations”, was released a couple of weeks before. It was one of two singles that would be marketed in similar ways by year end - both this and follow up “Bitches Brew” were issued on 12” with a new b-side and a bonus remix or two, and two CD Singles with bonus live tracks featuring material originally recorded during different phases of the groups career, with the first CD coming in a fancy oversized box that was designed to hold the second CD as well. And so, CD1 of “Generations” came backed with live recordings of pre-”Life” material, CD2 came backed with live recordings of songs from the first LP. “Bitches Brew” featured live versions of “Beast Inside” material on CD1, and “Revenge Of The Goldfish” material on CD2. In each case, a remix of the a-side was the lead track on CD2, whilst “Generations” was also issued on a Cassette featuring the same tracks as the 12”.
The aforementioned 1993 tour was timed to coincide with a stand alone single, “How It Should Be”, with the 12” and CD editions featuring two extra B-sides. Work on the fourth album started thereafter, and at the end of the year, four songs were previewed on a BBC Radio 1 session for the “Evening Session” show. The first single from the LP, “Saturn 5”, appeared early the next year, and although there was no “reinventing the wheel” going on, the Inspirals were continuing to release fantastic pieces of Farfisa driven pop. Again, two CD singles were issued, in different sleeves, with the former coming in a double-digipack sleeve, designed to hold both CD’s, although you had to take CD2 out of it’s sleeve for it to fit into the pack. One of the b-sides, “Two Cows”, was a re-recorded version of the Mark 1 song, “Theme From Cow”.
For the next single, the band roped in The Fall’s Mark E Smith to provide additional vocals. However, the album version of “I Want You” would be Smith-less. Again, two CD singles were issued, with CD1 once again in a “mega” box, whilst there was also a numbered 7” offering two of the three versions of the A-side that adorned the CD editions. Various remixes of both new and old material padded out the rest of the CD’s.
“Devil Hopping” appeared soon after. It’s title was inspired by the fact that the band’s Belgain producer, Pascal Gabriel, tended to pronounce the word “developing” as “devil-opping”. Although the album was released on the usual bog standard formats, this time around, a couple of limited edition releases were issued. Initial copies of the CD version featured a free “BBC Sessions” CD Single, housed in it’s own sleeve, which came shrinkwrapped with the main album. The back of the single featured not just the track listing of this bonus EP, but the main album as well, so that anybody browsing it in a record shop would get to see the song titles of the whole record. The BBC disc featured all four recordings from the 1993 Evening Session broadcast, and unopened copies still intact are probably worth a few quid, although some of the BBC discs have been sold separately over the years, and you might pick up a copy of one of these for a fiver or less. Limited vinyl editions of the LP came with a red vinyl 10” featuring the BBC material, although I understand these were only sold through independent record stores, and not the big shops like Tower or HMV.
The End And The Return
The band’s demise took place thereafter. Although there was a BBC Session for Mark Radcliffe, and festival appearances at the likes of Glastonbury, “Devil Hopping” would be the final studio LP. A compilation album and accompanying video, “The Singles”, was issued in late 95, and “Joe” was reissued as a single to coincide. This release was dubbed “Joe ’95”, and appeared in three versions - a bog standard CD, a “Live” 7” and an “Acoustic” 7”. The CD seemed slightly pointless, although it did include “I’ll Keep It In Mind”, which was missing from the CD version of the “Island Head” EP. New material appeared on the 7” versions, although both also included previously issued recordings.
And that was it. Strange Fruit issued a “Radio 1 Sessions” CD in 1999, which included everything from the first “Peel Sessions” EP, the entire “BBC” disc given free with “Devil Hopping” and much unreleased material, but strangely, little from the 1992 “Peel Session” release. And then, some years later, came the inevitable reunion, with a tour and compilation album lined up during 2003. “Cool As”, as briefly touched on earlier, was issued as a 3 disc set, with disc 3 being a DVD concentrating on promo videos and a few “bonus” clips from the “Live 21790” VHS. Whilst disc 1 was a fairly comprehensive trawl through the A-sides, disc 2 - Mark 1 material aside - was merely the sign of a compilation album dipping it’s toe in the water, as opposed to jumping right in. You got the original “Directing Traffic”, the single mix of “Sackville” and the 1990 version of “Commercial Reign”, plus “Paper Moon” and the unedited “Skidoo”. The band’s cover of “Tainted Love”, originally taped for the NME’s “Ruby Trax” set and then issued as a b-side was included, as was the remix of “Paranoid” and a different version of “Devil Hopping” album track “I Don’t Want To Go Blind”, but there was simply no space to include the huge amounts of rarities that the band had issued as B-sides and extra tracks since 1989. There were a number of new recordings, one of which, “Come Back Tomorrow”, was issued as a single to coincide - apparently having been recorded and then shelved sometime back in the 90’s. More new tracks appeared as B-sides of this single, although for some reason, the 7” edition replaced one of the b-sides with a live version of “This Is How it Feels” from the “21790” video.
After a single disc version of “Cool As” was issued later the same year (the first disc only, marketed as “Greatest Hits”), the band continued to sort of exist in a semi-permanent state, although new material was not on the cards. In 2011, Hingley announced that the band had split, before Boon commented that in fact “one member wants to leave”, and that the group were still an ongoing concern. Thus, the decision was taken to recruit Mark 1’s vocalist Stephen Holt as their singer again, creating an Inspirals Mark 3, and there is now talk of a studio album, which if it goes ahead, strangely, will therefore be the first Inspirals LP with Holt as singer - nearly thirty years after he started the band.
I have listed below most of the important Inspirals releases, although some are more essential than others. One or two singles included bonus tracks that reappeared somewhere else later on, but I have decided to do a list mostly based on releases that were of major interest when first available. A number of 7” and Cassette releases are therefore not shown.
I have not listed any compilation albums which include Carpets material, although there are some of interest (such as “X Ray CD #08”, which includes a live version of “Come Back Tomorrow”). Apart from the VHS releases already mentioned above, the only other video release is 2004’s DVD issue “Live At Brixton”, which as I type this, remains the last physical release by the band. You can listen to a new song, “You’re So Good For Me” on YouTube, so hopefully, an album will follow in due course.
IMPORTANT COMMERCIAL RELEASES DISCOGRAPHY - 45
Garage Full Of Flowers (Split 7” Flexidisc, Debris DEB6)
Keep The Circle Around/Theme From Cow (7”, Playtime AMUSE 2)
Planecrash EP: Keep the Circle Around/Theme From Cow/Seeds Of Doubt/Garage Full Of Flowers (1988 Version)/96 Tears (12”, Playtime AMUSE 2T, later reissued on Cow Records MOO 1)
Trainsurfing EP: Butterfly/Causeway/You Can‘t Take The Truth/Greek Wedding Song (12”, Cow Records MOO 2)
Joe/Commercial Mix/Directing Traffic/Commercial Rain (12”, Cow Records MOO 3, later reissued on Mute on 12” [DUNG 3T] and CD [DUNG 3CD])
Find Out Why/So Far (7”, Cow Records DUNG 5, in stickered die cut sleeve)
Find Out Why/So Far/Plane Crash (12”, Cow Records DUNG 5T, also on CD [DUNG 5CD], later repressings on Mute exist with same catalogue numbers)
Move/Out Of Time/Move In (12”, Cow Records DUNG 6T, also on CD [DUNG 6CD], later repressings on Mute exist with same catalogue numbers)
This Is How It Feels (Extended)/Tune For A Family/This Is How It Feels (Radio Mix)/Whiskey (Cassette, Mute DUNG 7MC)
This Is How It Feels (Extended)/Tune For A Family/This Is How It Feels (Radio Mix)/Seeds Of Doubt (Mark 2 Version) (CD, Mute DUNG 7CD, also on 12” [DUNG 7T])
This Is How It Feels (Robbery Mix)/(Drum Mix) (Numbered 12”, Mute DUNG 7R, unique p/s)
Cool As **** EP: Joe/Find Out Why/So Far/Out Of Time/Plane Crash (US 12”, Cow Records DUNG 9-1, also on CD [DUNG 9-2] and Cassette [DUNG 9-4])
She Comes In the Fall (7” Version)/Sackville (Single Version) (7”, Mute DUNG 10, also on Cassette [DUNG 10MC]. A-side mix later included on “Cool As” and “Greatest Hits“]
She Comes In The Fall (12” Remix)/Commercial Reign/Sackville (Single Version) (12”, Mute DUNG 10T, CD edition adds “Snatch Mix“ of “Commercial Reign“ [Mute DUNG 10CD])
Commercial Rain (Rub A Dub Mix)/She Comes In The Fall (Accapella)/Commercial Rain (Hog Battered Mix)/Dubville (12” in gatefold sleeve, Mute DUNG 10R, unique p/s)
Island Head EP: Biggest Mountain/Gold Top/Weakness/I’ll Keep It In Mind (12”, Mute DUNG 11T, test pressings exist that are housed in die cut sleeves instead, also on 7“ [DUNG 11])
Island Head EP: Biggest Mountain/Weakness/Gold Top (Mix)/Biggest Mountain (Kammer Mix) (CD, Mute DUNG 11CD)
Island Head Live EP: Weakness (Live)/I’ll Keep It In Mind (Live)/Biggest Mountain (Live)/Mountain Sequence (Live) (12”, Dung MUTE 11R)
Caravan/Skidoo (Edit) (Promo CD, Mute DUNG 13CDR, pressed in 1991 but excess copies later given away as gig freebies)
Caravan (Single Mix)/(What? Noise Rethink)/Skidoo (CD, Mute DUNG 13CD, also on 12” [DUNG 13T]. A-side mix later included on “Cool As“, rather than LP/7“ version)
Caravan (No Windscreen Mix)/(Naked Mix)/Skidoo (Possession Mix) (Numbered 12”, Mute DUNG 13R, unique p/s)
Please Be Cruel (Remix)/St Kilda/The Wind Is Calling Your Name/St Kilda (Instrumental) (12”, Mute DUNG 15T, also on CD [DUNG 15CD])
Dragging Me Down (Seven Inch Version)/I Know I’m Losing You (7”, Mute DUNG 16, also on Cassette [DUNG 16MC])
Dragging Me Down (Seven Inch Version)/I Know I’m Losing You (Unedited Version)/Dragging Me Down (Pascal Gabriel Extended Mix)/(Jon Dasilva Remix) (CD, Mute DUNG 16CD, also on 12” with tracks in different order [MUTE 16T])
Two Worlds Collide (Seven Inch Mix)/(The Twelve Inch Mix)/Boomerang/Two Worlds Collide (The Dub Mix) (CD, Mute DUNG 17CD, also on 12” [DUNG 17T])
Generations/Lost In Space Again/Generations (Denmark 2 Germany 0 Mix) (12”, Mute DUNG 18T, also on cassette [DUNG 18MC])
Generations/Joe (Live)/Commercial Rain (Live)/Butterfly (Live) (CD1, Mute DUNG 18CD. Box includes spined cardboard insert inside which CD2 tucks into, although some copies have insert which is not “wide enough“ to actually fit CD2 into)
Generations (Random Regeneration Mix)/She Comes In The Fall (Live)/Move (Live)/Directing Traffic (Live) (CD2, Mute DUNG 18CDR, unique p/s)
Bitches Brew/Tainted Love/Irresistible Force (Frog)/Bitches Brew (Horse) (12”, Mute DUNG 20T)
Bitches Brew/Mermaid (Live)/Born Yesterday (Live)/Sleep Well Tonight (Live) (CD1, Mute DUNG 20CD. Box includes spined cardboard insert inside which CD2 tucks into)
Bitches Brew (Horse)/Dragging Me Down (Live)/Smoking Her Clothes (Live)/Fire (Live) (CD2, Mute DUNG 20CDR, unique p/s)
How It Should Be/It’s Only A Paper Moon/I’m Alive (CD, Mute DUNG 22CD, also on 12” [DUNG 22T]. Track 2 sometimes referred to simply (and officially) as “Paper Moon”)
Saturn 5/Well Of Seven Heads/Two Cows/Going Down (CD1, Mute DUNG 23CD, also on 12” [DUNG 23T])
Saturn 5 (LP Version)/(High Energy Mix)/(Gravity Surge Mix)/Party In The Sky (Donkey Mix) (CD2, Mute DUNG 23CDR, unique p/s)
I Want You (Radio Version feat. Mark E Smith)/(LP Version)/We Can Do Everything/Inside Of You (CD1, Mute DUNG 24CD)
I Want You (Feat. Mark E Smith)/Dragging Me Down (Imaginary New York Mix)/Party In The Sky (Perfect Alien Mix)/Plutoman (Dub Mix) (CD2, Mute DUNG 24CDR, unique p/s)
Paranoid (1-sided Split 7” Picture Disc, Sound Affects SAFPD 016)
Uniform/Paranoid (7” in Camouflage sleeve, Mute DUNG 26)
Uniform/Paranoid/The Way The Light Falls (Feat. Basil Clarke)/Cobra (Satanic Wurlie Mix) (CD1, Mute DUNG 26CD)
Uniform (Scripka Mix)/Paranoid (Sort Yer Head Out Mix)/The Way The Light Falls (Scat Version Feat. Basil Clarke)/Theme From Devil Hopping (CD2, Mute DUNG 26CDR, unique p/s)
Joe (Live)/Sackville (Live)/Saviour (Live) (1st 7”, Mute DUNG 27L)
Joe (Acoustic)/Seeds Of Doubt/Whiskey (2nd 7”, Mute DUNG 27X, different sleeve design)
Joe/I Want You/I’ll Keep It In Mind/Tainted Love (CD, Mute DUNG 27CD, pink/purple p/s)
Come Back Tomorrow/Misbeliever/Breath To Sorrow/Come Back Tomorrow (Video) (Enhanced CD, Mute DUNG 31CD, 7” in different p/s replaces last two tracks with “This Is How it Feels (Live)” [DUNG 31])
Note: the two “Peel Sessions” EP’s are not listed again here, but both seem to be available on a myriad of formats and in different covers. It is also worth pointing out that a number of promos, with unreleased mixes, have been issued over the same time frame.
IMPORTANT COMMERCIAL RELEASES DISCOGRAPHY - LP
Dung 4 (Mail Order Only Cassette, Cow Records DUNG 4)
Life (Cassette, Mute DUNG 8MC, also on CD [DUNG 8CD])
The Beast Inside (CD, Mute DUNG 14CD, original copies include Mute Catalogue insert (“Documentary Evidence 5“), also on LP [DUNG 14] and Cassette [DUNG 14MC])
Revenge Of The Goldfish (CD, Mute DUNG 19CD, original copies includes Moosletter No.11, also on LP [DUNG 19] and Cassette [DUNG 19MC])
Devil Hopping (2xCD, Mute LDUNG 25CD, stickered sleeve, also on LP+Red Vinyl 10” [LDUNG 25])
The Singles (Video, Mute Film MF028. Most interesting Audio edition is the 2xLP+7“ version, which includes a free “Weakness (Live)” single [LMOOTEL 3])
Radio 1 Sessions (CD, Strange Fruit SFRSCD 082)
Cool As (2xCD+DVD, Mute DUNG 30CD)
Greatest Hits (CD, Mute DUNG 32CD)