Thursday, 16 May 2013

May 2013

The May 2013 blogs are an eclectic bunch, featuring Beyoncé, The Stranglers, The Kinks, John Lennon and The Jam. To look at any of these blogs, click the relevant link to your right.

"I don't believe in Beatles"

Saturday, 11 May 2013


As a punk rock loving indie kid, I probably shouldn’t like Beyonce. Although now she’s done Glastonbury, it all makes it more “official”. As I type this, Mrs Jay-Z is heading out on a rather delayed tour plugging her fourth LP, and there are stories of ridiculously OTT and extravagant riders, with all photographers bar an official snapper being banned from the gigs, in order for the published tour images to be printed only if they have been given the nod by the lady herself. It’s obviously the sound of someone so far removed from reality it’s frightening, but pop stars have never supposed to be normal.

Whilst it can always be worrying liking somebody whose albums get five stars in the likes of “Heat” magazine (the fact that it is not a music magazine, but a gossip column rag, is the giveaway), there’s simply no getting away from the fact that, like Rihanna, Beyonce’s music is way beyond your usual ho-hum R&B nothingness that gets churned out by the awful likes of Usher. Yes, there have been a few near misses (“If I Were A Boy” is a bit dreary), but there have been some moments of glorious pop, weird left field electronic beats, and incendiary arms in the air high energy romps. And if you don’t believe me, I give you two words that meet all those criteria - “Single Ladies”. End of discussion.

Whilst Destiny’s Child were still an ongoing concern, Beyonce began her solo career in 2002, although she had already featured on a single by Amil back in 2000. She had made an appearance in the Austin Powers movie “Goldmember”, and recorded a song specifically for the soundtrack called “Work It Out”. It was issued as her first official solo single, and although it performed poorly in the States, it was a big UK chart hit, suggesting that Beyonce would probably do OK were Destiny’s Child ever to split - which they eventually did. It was issued on three formats, including Cassette, all of which included exclusive remixes.

Beyonce had already started work on her first solo LP when the single was released, and the end result was issued in 2003 as “Dangerously In Love”. It was trailed by the astonishing “Crazy In Love” single, featuring a memorable horn sample which gave the song an insistent ‘hook‘ - it was classic pop of the highest order. It was so good that it cast a huge shadow over the rest of the LP, and whilst some of the other singles were quite pleasant R&B grooves, parts of the album were too near to being filler material, the insistence of including a number of ballads on the record made it sound, at times, like identikit soul music. “Crazy In Love” nevertheless suggested a solo career could have legs, and it was a massive chart hit worldwide, still regarded by some as Beyonce’s signature tune. In the UK, the iconic promo video got an official release on a DVD Single, along with two different CD editions, and a non-chart eligible 12” issued a week later featuring some more exclusive remixes.

The other singles from the LP were issued in a mixture of formats - “Baby Boy” appeared on three different CD editions, the last of which featured little music but when purchased, gave the buyer the opportunity of downloading a free Beyonce ringtone. “Me Myself And I” was issued on two CD’s and a 12”, but by the time “Naughty Boy” got chosen for single release, the label seemed to be easing up on material, and just a single CD and 12” were issued for this release.

At this point, Beyonce returned to the day job, and another DC album called “Destiny Fulfilled” was issued in 2004. But it would turn out to be their last. A greatest hits album, “#1’s”, appeared in 2005, and was notable in that it featured, alongside oldies from the band’s past, a Beyonce solo track called “Check On It”, a sign I guess that although no one member of the band was bigger than the others, Beyonce was really still the most important. “Check On It” was issued as Beyonce’s next single, and the solo career resumed.

If the debut LP was patchy at times, the same could not be said for the awfully titled but utterly thrilling “B’Day”, issued in 2006. It was an exhilarating blast of left field pop, all juddering rhythms and crackly electro noises, helped in part by the insistence of Beyonce to feature “proper” musicians on the record, as opposed to having it created using computers. It’s a superb record, the Stax horns on “Green Light”, the slinky “Kitty Kat”, the dancehall strut of “Get Me Bodied”, the Crazy In Love-esque pumping of “Freakum Dress”, and the none more beautifully sweet “Irreplaceable”, this was the sound of a woman slaying the likes of Eve and Missy Elliott with ease.

It was originally issued as a basic 10 track album, although in the UK, a couple of extra tracks including “Check On It” were tagged onto the end. It later got a heavily revamped deluxe reissue, the contents of which differed from country to country. The UK one saw the 10/12 track LP now 19 songs in length, with an altered running order, so that a new song, a duet with Shakira called “Beautiful Liar” now opened the album.

The deluxe album used a new cover, and included a free DVD. It consisted of 12 - yes 12 - promo videos, even though barely half of these were actually issued as singles around the globe, and even less got this honour in the UK. The DVD was also available as a separate “Video Album”, and initial copies of that version of the DVD included an extra video for “Still In Love”. However, it ran into legal difficulties, and later pressings removed the clip. The version on the deluxe “B’Day” edition did not include this clip at all, although some sources claim a handful of initial pressings did include it, but if they did, few must exist as I bought my copy on the day it was released and that video is definitely missing.

Some of the new songs on the deluxe edition were then issued as singles in their own right, including the aforementioned Shakira duet and the ballad “Listen”, originally recorded for another Beyonce-starring move, “Dreamgirls”. Videos for both these songs are also on the DVD in the deluxe edition. Of the four singles that were released from “B’Day”, three appeared on two different CD versions and a 12”, it was only “Listen” that appeared on just a single format, the CD.

In 2008, Beyonce returned with her third studio effort, “I Am Sasha Fierce”. In a moment of prog style insanity, the (rather brief) album was split across two discs - the first disc, “I Am” was the genteel public Beyonce, disc 2, the “Sasha Fierce” one was supposed to represent the more feisty side of Mrs Carter. Some editions appeared as a deluxe version with extra tracks on each disc, but it still failed to take the total running time to anything more than what a single CD could have coped with. The album was later reissued in a new cover in 2009 as the “Platinum Edition” with extra tracks, and with the original running order now totally mixed up, so that the mid tempo songs and faster R&B tracks were now intermingled, to some extent destroying the original concept of the LP. The “Platinum” version also included a free DVD of promo clips.

Like “Crazy In Love” before it, “Single Ladies” is in danger of towering over the rest of the record. It came complete with a famous, much imitated video (remember the one in “Glee”?), but musically was an absolute giant of a song - oddball, squelchy beats, catchy as hell, it is really quite an unusual and subversive sounding piece of pop, and yet, it sits alongside “Crazy” as the high point of Beyonce’s career. That’s not to say the rest of “Sasha Fierce” is poor - “Halo” is a rather charming europop-esque high pitched trill, “Video Phone“ a slightly mad piece of minimalist electro clash, and “Sweet Dreams” a euphoric bout of noisy electro pop. It’s certainly not far off “B’Day” in the genius pop stakes.

Originally, “Single Ladies” was not going to be released as a single in it’s own right. In the UK, it had appeared on the flipside of the lead single from the album, “If I Were A Boy”, but was then issued as a single “due to popular demand”. Subsequent singles “Halo” and “Sweet Dreams” were issued as 2-track CD’s and ultra limited 12” singles, with between 1000 and 1500 copies only pressed for each of the latter, although the fifth single from the LP, “Broken Hearted Girl”, was only issued on CD.

2011 saw the release of “4”, the subject of much hype, given Beyonce’s now superstar status. But it was regarded as a bit of a disappointment, as it seemed overladen with ballads. This is not always a bad thing, “Best Thing I Never Had” may feature some of the worst lyrics of all time (“you showed your ass, and I saw the real you”) but it’s a pleasant lighters aloft stroll, although the consensus was that if there had been more tribal stomps like lead (digital) single “Run The World”, it would have been up there with “Sasha Fierce”. Curiously, initial copies of the album which were housed in a different cover came with a free EP which included mostly hi-energy pounding R&B romps and remixes, which made you wonder why they hadn’t been put on the record in the first place. No physical singles were taken from the LP in the UK, although "Best Thing" did get released in Germany, and import copies may have made it to some shops, and to coincide with the current tour, the album is being reissued in it’s “deluxe” cover with a revamped running order with a couple of songs from the bonus EP now installed as part of the main album.


If this were to be a worldwide Bey discography, it would take forever to talk about it. Foreign only singles, variant track listings, dubiously “official” Best Of albums from Thailand...I will leave that to Wikipedia for now. Here instead is the UK stuff. The albums are the original pressings or, where they exist, the revamped later reissues. The singles shown are all of the UK physical releases on all formats, I have omitted most “collaborative” singles, apart from the Shakira one, for ease of use.


Dangerously In Love (CD, Columbia 509395 2)
B’Day (CD+DVD, “Deluxe” reissue, Columbia 88697 09125 2)
I Am Sasha Fierce (CD+DVD “Platinum Edition”, Columbia 88697 56937 2)
4 (2xCD, first pressing, Columbia 88697 933582, 2013 repressing features less songs)


Work It Out (Album Version)/(RC Groove Nu Electric Mix) (Cassette, plays same both sides, Columbia 672982 4)
Work It Out (Radio Edit)/(Blow Your Horn Dub)/(Azza’s Nu Soul Mix) (CD, Columbia 672982 2)
Work It Out (Album Version)/(Azza’s Nu Soul Mix)/(Maurice’s Nu Soul Mix) (12”, Columbia 672982 6)
Crazy In Love/Summertime/Crazy In Love (Maurice’s Nu Soul Remix)/(Video) (CD1, Columbia 674067 2)
Crazy In Love (Album Version)/(Adam 12 So Crazy Remix)/(Rockwilder Remix) (CD2, diff p/s with poster, Columbia 674067 5)
Crazy In Love (Video)/(Maurice’s Nu Soul Remix)/My First Time (DVD, unique p/s, Columbia 674067 9)
Crazy In Love (Album Version)/(Instrumental)/(Rockwilder Remix)/(Lego’s Poontin Muzik Dub) (12”, Columbia 674067 6)
Baby Boy (LP Version)/(Instrumental)/Summertime (Featuring Ghostface Killah) (CD1, with insert, Sony 674408 2)
Baby Boy (LP Version)/(Maurice’s Nu Soul Mix)/(Junior Vasquez Club Anthem Remix) (CD2, diff p/s, plus insert, Sony 674408 5)
Baby Boy (CD3, bordered p/s, inner sleeve has details of free ringtone offer, Sony 674408 0)
Me Myself And I (Radio Edit)/Dangerously In Love (Live from “Headliners”) (CD1, Sony 674522 2)
Me Myself And I (Radio Edit)/(Eastern Delight Mix)/Naughty Girl (Live from “Headliners” - Video)/Work It Out (Live from “Headliners” - Video) (CD2, bordered p/s plus insert, Sony 674544 5)
Me Myself And I (Eastern Delight Mix)/(Eastern Delight Mix Instrumental)/(Album Version) (12”, Sony 674544 6)
Naughty Girl (Album Version)/(Featuring Lil Flip)/(Featuring Lil Kim)/Naïve (HR Crump Remix Featuring Da Brat)/Naughty Girl (Live from “Headliners” - Video) (CD, Sony 674828 2)
Naughty Girl (Album Version)/(Featuring Lil Flip)/(Featuring Lil Kim)/(Calderone Quayle Club Mix Edit) (12”, Sony 674828 6)
Check On It (Album Version)/(No Rap Version) (CD, with insert, Columbia 82876 772532)
Check On It (Album Version)/(Instrumental)/(Grizz Remix) (12”, Columbia 82876 772521)
Déjà Vu (Album Version)/(Freemasons Dance Remix) (CD1, Columbia 82876 884352)
Deja Vu (Album Version)/(Freemasons Radio Mix)/(Freemasons Club Mix - No Rap)/(Maurice’s Nusoul Mix)/(Maurice’s Nusoul Mixshow Mix)/(Video) (CD2, diff p/s, Columbia 82876 884372)
Déjà Vu (Freemasons Club Mix - No Rap)/(Freemasons Radio Mix)/(Freemasons Club Mix Instrumental)/(Freemasons Radio Mix Instrumental) (12”, die cut sleeve, Columbia 82876 896841)
Irreplaceable/Ring The Alarm (Freemasons Club Mix Radio Edit) (CD1, Columbia 88697 024472)
Irreplaceable/Ring The Alarm (Freemasons Club Mix Radio Edit)/(Karmatronic Remix)/(Tranzformas Remix)/(Video) (CD2, Columbia 88697 024482)
Irreplaceable (Album Version)/(Instrumental)/Ring The Alarm (Freemasons Club Mix Radio Edit)/(Album Version) (12”, Columbia 88697 025021)
Irremplazable EP (CD 8 track mini album, Columbia 88697 164492)
Listen/Irreplaceable (Dy Speedy Remix) (CD, Columbia 88697 059602)
Beautiful Liar (Album Version)/(Freemasons Remix Edit) (CD1, Columbia 88697 091242)
Beautiful Liar (Album Version)/(Freemasons Remix Edit)/(Maurice Joshua Remix)/Deja Vu (Featuring Jay Z - Freemasons Remix)/Beautiful Liar (Video) (CD2, diff p/s, Columbia 88697 093072)
Beautiful Liar (Freemasons Club Remix)/Deja Vu (Freemasons Club Mix)/Beuatiful Liar (12”, Columbia 88697 093191)
If I Were A Boy/Single Ladies (CD, Columbia 88697 417512)
Single Ladies (LP Version)/(Redtop Remix Radio Edit) (CD, Columbia 88697 475032)
Halo (Original Edit)/(Dave Aude Remix (Radio Edit)) (CD, Columbia 88697 519782)
Halo (Album Version)/(Dave Aude Remix (Radio Edit))/(Olli Collins & Fred Portelli Remix) (12”, diff p/s, Columbia 88697 513881)
Sweet Dreams (Album Mix)/(Steve Pitron & Max Sanna Club Remix - Radio Edit) (CD, Columbia 88697 565722)
Sweet Dreams (Album Version)/(Dave Spoon Remix)/(Steve Pitron & Max Sanna Club Remix)/(Olli Collins & Fred Portelli Remix) (12”, Columbia 88697 577201)
Broken Hearted Girl (Album Mix)/(Catalyst Remix) (CD, Columbia 88697 614332)

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Jam

It was thirty years ago that The Jam released their greatest hits farewell LP, “Snap”, having disbanded at the very end of 1982. Since that time, the band’s appeal has never diminished, helped I guess by leader Paul Weller continuing to have a fairly high profile career with both The Style Council and as a solo artist. There have been continuous calls for the band to reform, and even though each member of the band has collaborated with one other on at least one occasion in the last decade, Weller has shown no interest in revisiting his past.

Last year saw a 4 disc reissue of the band’s final studio LP, “The Gift”, and with expanded reissues of most of the group’s celebrated studio outings having already been released beforehand, you would assume that should be the final repackaging of the band’s quite prolific output - six studio records in five years. It probably won’t be, but let’s pretend it will be, and thus this article is designed to look at what has appeared in Jam Land.


Like most bands, The Jam had a long gestation period at the start of their career, with some minor variations in line up, the earliest recorded incarnation of the band dating way back to 1972. By 1977, the line up had settled down into the classic trio of Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler. Emerging just as Punk was going overground, The Jam’s power pop energy saw them being categorized alongside the likes of the Pistols and The Clash, but the band’s sound and look was not quite 100% Punk. Not only were the band happily acknowledging influences of bands from the sixties, groups that Punks were supposed to hate as being “dinosaur acts”, but the group’s love of soul music and mod culture, saw them decked out not in day-glo hair and safety pins, but in sharp suits and matching ties. Detractors of the group tagged them retro style “revivalists”, but in truth, the fact was that The Jam were really one step ahead, and this would prove to be to their advantage.

Debut album “In The City” appeared in May 1977, the title track of the LP having been trailed as a single a month before. It had a vibrant energy running through it, and the inclusion of songs also covered by The Beatles and The Who showed their primary influences. The album went top 20, the single top 40, and The Jam looked to have arrived seemingly overnight. Following a glorious stand alone single “All Around The World” a few months later, the band’s second album, “This Is The Modern World” appeared before the end of 77. It has long been dismissed as a rush job, an attempt to cobble together something for the record company, but it has it’s admirers, and it’s reputation seems to have improved in recent years. It came in a superb sleeve of the trio standing near a pair of tower blocks, Weller looking ultra-cool in his “double arrow” jumper.

Another stand alone 45, the energetic scowl of “News Of The World”, followed in the spring of 78. Written by bassist Foxton, who also sang lead vocals on it, it suggested good times ahead. But Weller, seen as the band’s principle songwriter, was going through writers block, and material for a planned third album was put together consisting mostly of Foxton penned tunes, which the band’s label flatly refused to release. The Jam, having survived “second album syndrome”, were now in danger of actually struggling to release a third.

Weller decided to fully embrace his love of The Who and The Kinks, and set about writing songs that either recalled the spiky R&B of the former (the final guitar shredding section of “In The Crowd”, the pumping energy of “’A’ Bomb In Wardour Street”), or the pure Englishness of the latter (the lyrical detail in “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight”, the cover of The Kinks very own “David Watts”), and in doing so, came up with a more coherent, and memorable LP, than the “Modern World” record. 1978‘s “All Mod Cons” is now seen as the band’s first bona fide classic, if not THE bona fide Jam classic. It was also home to the astonishingly beautiful “English Rose”, written by Weller about his first girlfriend, consisting of nothing more than Weller, acoustic guitar, and a recording of waves crashing on a beach. Originally, the LP made no mention of the song, it appeared as a bizarre “hidden” fifth track, and although some claimed this was because the band were worried it was so un-Jam-like, Weller later explained that the song only made sense when you listened to it, and that having the title and lyrics printed on the album would have meant nothing.

“All Mod Cons” resurrected the band’s career. The singles released from the LP, all of which appeared in “single mix” form, were all sizeable hits, and the album was a critical and commercial success. More stand alone singles followed in 1979 (“Strange Town” and “When You’re Young”), before the release of album number 4, “Setting Sons”, trailed by the politically charged “Eton Rifles”. Determined to not sit still now that he had rediscovered his song writing mojo, the album was originally designed to be a sort of concept album about three friends who lose contact with each other, but get in touch after a war, only to find that they have grown apart - the concept was abandoned, but the cover image of three soldiers in an embrace depicts the original plan, and is a quite touching image. The album retained the band’s trademark spiky power pop sound, and despite some reservations about the inclusion of another cover-version-via-The Who at the end of the LP, “Heatwave”, it’s seen by some as being as good, if not better, than “All Mod Cons”.

By now, The Jam were fast becoming superstars in the UK. And I don’t mean that lightly. Gigs were selling out, and single sales were improving rapidly. When another stand alone 45, the double A of “Going Underground” and “Dreams Of Children” was issued at the start of 1980, it went to number 1. So did “Start”, the lead single from the next studio LP, “Sound Affects”, and the band’s own “tribute” to the Beatles’ “Taxman”. Such was their popularity, that when German import copies of the “That’s Entertainment” 45 began to appear in the UK, sales were so brisk that the single charted at number 21 on import sales alone, as no UK release was planned. Never before had an imported single sold so well before, not by The Beatles, Stones or anybody.

1981‘s “Sound Affects” was the third classic LP on the trot, drawing influences from both post-punk acts like Joy Division (listen to the rhythmic strut of “Pretty Green“), and in a throwback to their mod days, soul acts and the likes of Michael Jackson (“Boy About Town” is a euphoric horn driven Northern Soul style stomper). The original plan was to try and make each song less then three minutes in length, giving it the feel of being an LP full of hit singles in waiting, but this didn’t quite work, and a number of songs that made the LP exceeded this time limit. In the UK, it became their highest charting LP to date, reaching number 2.

At the tail end of the year, the band released another stand alone 45, the incendiary “Funeral Pyre”, driven along by Buckler’s insistent drum patterns, and Weller’s own terrifying lyrics (“in the funeral pyre, we’ll watch the flames grow higher”). It too seemed to recall the edgy post punk stylings that inhabited parts of “Sound Affects”, but the follow up single changed everything. “Absolute Beginners” sounded unlike anything the group had ever recorded before. At a push, it did take the Northern Soul influence of “Boy About Town” as it‘s starting point, but this time, expanded the concept to it’s limits - up until this point, The Jam were very much a three piece power pop guitar band, now they sounded like Earth Wind And Fire, guitars being used simply to fill the spaces rather than being used to drive the song along, and there were horns and trumpets everywhere. I bloody love it. The record company later claimed they wished it had been a B-side, presumably because it didn’t sound like The Jam, but it’s a crucial 45, because it more or less shows you how the band were about to split up.

In January 1982, The Jam returned with a double A side offering from their next studio album, “The Gift”. On one side was “Town Called Malice”, another Northern Soul style whammy, but with some rather dark and depressing lyrics, perfectly summing up the hopelessness and humdrum of Thatcher’s Britain, whilst on the flipside, was a non more groovy outing called “Precious”, all wah-wah guitars and operating at a level of funk that Prince would have been proud of. A 12” single was issued, offering alternate versions of both sides - “Malice” appeared in live form, whilst “Precious” was extended to 12-inch length, the first time the band had really gone totally disco. The single hit number 1, and the band got to perform both songs on “Top Of The Pops” one after the other on the same edition of the show, a feat unheard of since the days of The Beatles, and offered to the band due to their now huge popularity.

“The Gift” became the band’s first number 1 album. It was originally housed in a striped carrier bag, which bore the legend “A Gift...”, which are now as rare as gold dust. The album was a full blown funk and soul horn-driven party-style extravaganza, absolutely buzzing with energy, most noticeably on the gloriously simple yet thrilling “Trans Global Express” (sample lyric: ba ba ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba), or on the pounding “Running On The Spot”, but it was not all hi-energy Maximum R&B excursions, “Carnation” with it’s beautiful piano solo recalled early John Lennon. Some critics were unsure, and you will see some so-so reviews scattered around the net - the idea of three punks making an album that sounded more like a Hot Chocolate LP seemed to baffle some people. And indeed, it seems that nobody in the band except Weller was fully convinced or enamoured by this about-turn transition.

The album’s release was followed by another stand alone single, the towering epic beauty that was the string laden “Bitterest Pill”, which - excluding the import singles that were charting inside the top 30 - was their seventh top 10 hit in a row, proof that even though some were unsure of their new direction, the somewhat devoted fan base were not disowning them. But despite the group’s continuing popularity, Weller was starting to feel edgy. He was being torn in different directions. Firstly, he was worried that the band were in danger of outstaying their welcome - I seem to recall he had been quite vocal about why some heritage acts were still carrying on for years after their best days were behind them, I am sure he had a bit of a falling out with Pete Townshend for not splitting up The Who after Keith Moon died - whilst he was also not sure that the three piece guitar band was the ideal vehicle for carrying on with the funk and soul direction he was now taking, and wanted to continue to take. And so, he decided to split the band with them at the very top of their game both on stage and in the charts, something which left the remaining band members distraught and upset. A final farewell tour in December 82 saw them filling the enormodromes of Wembley Arena night after night, and a live album consisting of recordings from throughout their career, from club gigs in 77 up to the present day, called “Dig The New Breed” was released to coincide. After a final, slightly bad tempered show in Brighton, Mod Central if you wish, where the band climaxed as you might have expected from such a single minded man like Weller, with the title track of the last LP, rather than say “Going Underground”, that was it.


In 1983, Polydor issued “Snap”. It was a double album trawl through the hits, padded out to double LP length via the inclusion of various bonus album tracks. Where a single had been lifted from an LP, but issued in “single mix” form, it was these single mixes which made the set. “Funeral Pyre” appeared in a slightly remixed form to the original 45, whilst the version of “That’s Entertainment” was a previously unheard demo version. The album included a free 4-track “Live” EP, consisting of some previously unheard recordings from one of the Wembley “Farewell” shows in 1982. Some of these songs later appeared on a live album included with the 2012 boxset edition of “The Gift”, but not all.

In 1985, a CD version of the album was produced entitled “Compact Snap”. Space restrictions meant that some songs from the original would have to be omitted for this release, and so the decision was taken to remove all of the extra album tracks for this release (the “Live” EP was also, obviously, not included). Nonetheless, you did get all sixteen of the singles the band originally issued in the UK, and where the single was a double AA you got both sides, so this in many respects was a perfect singles collection, more so even than “Snap”. The demo version of “That’s Entertainment” was included again, and only “Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero” was missing from the set, on the basis it was only officially released on 45 in the UK after the band had split.

In the years that followed, The Jam were allowed to be laid to rest, and it was The Style Council who kept Weller in the public eye. The fluidity of the line up, along with the fact that instrumentals were in, and anyone, not just Weller, could take lead vocals on any song, saw him achieving his aim of having a “collective” as his outlet for his more pop-oriented songs, something he thought was impossible to do with The Jam. But by 1991, with Weller now having gone solo after the short lived Paul Weller Movement had come and gone, Polydor decided to bring The Jam back into public gaze. This was done by the release of the “Greatest Hits” LP, a slightly pointless release post-”Snap”, but which went down a slightly alternate route by offering up all of the band’s 18 (including imports) singles, along with “Precious”. Quite why one AA side made the set, and none of the others did, I don’t know, but it was obviously designed to try and showcase the band’s 45 output in the UK. Also issued at the same time was a collection of promo videos, but this was simply nothing more than a track by track reissue of an earlier VHS, “Video Snap”. To help plug the LP, “That’s Entertainment” was reissued in a new sleeve, on a variety of formats. The various B-sides had all been issued before, but were nonetheless interesting items - the live version of “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” that appeared on the flip of the original German 7” was here again, whilst the 12” and CD editions added the live version of “Town Called Malice” from the original “Malice” 12”.

A companion release, “Extras”, appeared in 1992. A far more interesting release, this one was aimed more at the collector, and cobbled together B-sides, rarities and previously unreleased material. Many of the band’s B-sides were included, but several for some reason were missing (“War”, for example), this must have been done to try and free up extra space for the unreleased songs. Both tracks from the “Pop Art Poem”/”Boy About Town” fan club flexi issued in the early 80’s were included, although the latter was remixed for the set, as was the cover of The Who’s “Disguises”, originally the flip of “Funeral Pyre”. Also included was “The Great Depression”, a b-side never originally released in the UK during the band’s existence, as it had appeared on the import only “Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero” 45, only appearing in the UK for the first time - officially - when the single was released in 1983. Again, a “new” Jam single appeared to promote the record, “The Dreams Of Children”. Originally issued as a AA-side with “Going Underground”, legend goes that the original 7” was supposed to feature “Dreams” as the lead a-side, but that the labels got mixed up, and “Going Underground” became the lead track. Although issued as a AA, few referred to it as such, and “Going Underground” became one of the most famous Jam records. As such, “Dreams Of Children” got somewhat relegated, which explains it’s appearance on “Extras” rather than “Greatest Hits”. Again, old live b-sides were used as flipsides, with two of the three live tracks from the original “Going Underground” doublepack appearing on several of the editions. The third track on the original doublepack, in case you were wondering, was the same live version of “Tube Station” that had appeared on the “That’s Entertainment” single.

Another live album appeared in 1993. “Live Jam” was for the most part a trawl through previously unheard recordings from throughout the band’s career, although the three live tracks from the “Going Underground” doublepack were here again, albeit in remixed form. Also included was the live version of “Town Called Malice” once again. It was followed in 1996 by “The Jam Collection”, a slightly odd compilation of album tracks and B-sides. Included was the one “missing” single from “Greatest Hits” (“5 O’Clock Hero”) but it was still an odd release. It was the sort of album that you would have expected from a budget label (and The Jam have had a few of those), but this was a much hyped major Polydor release, and seems to have been done to showcase the non hit making side of the band. Trouble was, several B-sides were still missing again, so it feels like a wasted opportunity.

But 1997’s “Direction Reaction Creation” made up for it. A 5-CD boxset which attempted to include everything the band had ever recorded (nearly), it included all of the band’s A-sides, studio B-sides and album tracks, with the final disc being devoted to demo recordings and unreleased bits and bobs. The box ran in chronological order, so it opened with both sides of the “In The City” single (although the LP mix of the track was used rather than the 7”), then you had everything else from the first LP thereafter. Live recordings were excluded, so the b-sides from “The Modern World” etc, were all missing.

In most instances, where a single had been lifted from an album and had been edited for 45 use, it was actually the album mix only which made the boxset, although the 7” mix of “Start” was used instead of the LP version. Both versions of the Foxton penned “Smithers Jones” were included though, mainly because the orchestral remake made for “Setting Sons” was so radically different from the original version that had surfaced as a B-side. The versions of “Funeral Pyre” and “That’s Entertainment” were the originals, and not the revamps used on “Snap”, whilst the 12“ mix of “Precious“ was used in preference over the LP version.

A companion greatest hits release, “The Very Best Of The Jam” appeared more or less at the same time. Whilst you could argue about the pointlessness of this one, it actually nailed it as regards the band on 45, as you got all of the 16 singles, both of the “import only“ singles, and the other songs from the AA releases. 21 songs in total, job done. That didn’t stop the release of another best of set, “The Sound Of The Jam”, appearing in 2002.

To coincide with the “Very Best Of”, “The Bitterest Pill” was issued as a single again. There was nothing rare on any of the formats issued, the CD added some bonus tracks from the “DRC” boxset, but that was it. 1999 meanwhile saw the re-release of the “Going Underground”/”Dreams Of Children” single, which appeared as a 2 track CD Single, designed to look like a vinyl single - it came in a sleeve apeing the old Polydor “red” singles sleeve, and seemed to have been released for no obvious reason, although there was a Jam tribute LP, “Fire And Skill”, issued the same year.

With 2002 marking the 25th anniversary of the band’s debut releases, the original “In The City” 7” was reissued - at 1977 prices. The front and rear covers were basically the same, just the usual variations such as a new catalogue number and barcodes showing a difference between this release and the 1977 one, plus a plug on the back for the “Sound Of The Jam“ comp.

The 45rpm Box Sets

Although they rarely get talked about as being a singles band, a la Madness, The Jam and the 7” single go hand in hand. Not only did they issue a sizeable number of stand alone 45’s, and non album B-sides, but nearly all of The Jam’s singles got a second lease of life - twice - in the early 1980’s.

Many of the Jam’s singles re-entered the charts in 1980, following the number 1 success of “Going Underground”, and again in 1983 after they had split. As I was far too young to remember quite how this was achieved, I can’t quite confirm if the old singles were simply repressed to meet demand, or if there was a specific reissue campaign. What is known, is that many Jam singles were re-pressed AT SOME POINT, housed not in their original picture sleeves, but in plain white die cut sleeves. It is also understood that these repressings used different coloured labels to the original first pressings. My wife thinks she bought a few Jam singles in these white bags, and seems to think they were later pressings of current singles that were still on the charts, rather than a 1980 or 83 revamp. Even the excellent site seems to be unable to shed any light on these versions, but I did see a reference on the Discogs site claiming the 80‘s repressings were housed in picture covers, but featured differences that set them apart from the original issues.

In 2001, the original 18 singles (the 16 UK ones, and the two import ones) were repressed on CD for inclusion in a pair of excellent box sets, both called “45 RPM”. The first one covered the nine single releases from 1977 to 1979 (Polydor 587 610-2), the second the seven UK 45’s and two import copies from 1980 to 1982 (Polydor 587 620-2). Each disc featured an original single in a reproduced sleeve, with the original B-side(s) present and correct. Because the aim of the boxes was to showcase the link between The Jam and the 7” format, tracks that only ever appeared on 12” were thus absent - so no ’Live’ “Malice” or 12” mix of “Previous”.

Where a video existed for the A-side, this was included as a bonus on the relevant single, but given that previous Jam compilation videos had included clips for tracks that were never singles, this meant that the likes of “Video Snap” retained exclusive material, making the addition of these bonus videos a nice, but ultimately pointless, exercise.

The second box is probably more interesting, simply because it includes the two Jam singles that appeared as 7” doublepacks - “Going Underground” and “Beat Surrender”, and they come in the relevant sleeves with all additional B-sides intact. The “Beat Surrender” disc comes in a gatefold sleeve, thus mirroring the 1982 release, and is therefore also housed in the “flag” sleeve, rather than the “girl” sleeve. The two import singles are repressings of the original German releases, rather than the later UK reissues, and as such, the “That’s Entertainment” disc retains it’s original Metronome, rather than Polydor, detailing.

Each box came with a booklet, and a limited edition art print. Some years later, the two boxsets were repressed as 7” single box sets, and thus, to all intents and purposes, featured individual discs that looked the same as their original releases from twenty plus years before.


This list should be fairly self explanatory. Original Live, Studio and Compilation LP’s from when the band were “in existence” are first, followed by notable posthumous releases. The 7” singles list shows what was used as the source material for the “45 RPM” boxsets, whilst this is a followed by a list of “other” singles that were not particularly represented by these releases. Enjoy.


In The City (LP, Polydor 2383 447)
This Is The Modern World (LP, Polydor 2383 475)
All Mod Cons (LP, Polydor POLD 5008)
Setting Sons (LP, Polydor POLD 5028)
Sound Affects (LP, Polydor POLD 5035)
The Gift (LP, initial copies in carrier bag, Polydor POLD 5055)
Dig The New Breed (LP, Polydor POLD 5075)
Snap (2xLP + 7”, Polydor SNAP 1)


Compact Snap (CD, Polydor 821 712-2)
Greatest Hits (CD, Polydor 849 554-2)
Extras (CD, Polydor 513 177-2)
Live Jam (CD, Polydor 519 667-2)
The Jam Collection (CD, Polydor 531 493-2)
Direction Reaction Creation (5xCD, Polydor 537 143-2)
The Very Best Of The Jam (CD, Polydor 537 423-2)
This Is The Modern World / All Mod Cons (US “2 On 1” CD, Universal 314 549 396-2, plus bonus tracks)
The Sound Of The Jam (2xCD, Polydor 589 781-2)
The Jam At The BBC (3xCD, Polydor 589 6902, limited edition release with free “At The Rainbow” CD, later copies omit this disc)
All Mod Cons (2006 expanded reissue, CD+DVD, Polydor 983 9238)
Setting Sons (US 2001 expanded reissue, CD, Universal 314 549 631-2)
Sound Affects (2010 expanded reissue, 2xCD, Polydor 533 0678)
The Gift (2012 expanded reissue, 3xCD+DVD, Polydor 06002 537 1933 2)
Copenhagen April 1982 (Mail Order LP, Polydor 06025 37185955, all songs lifted from "The Gift" Box Set)


In The City (7” Mix)/Takin’ My Love (7”, Polydor 2058 866)
All Around The World/Carnaby Street (7”, Polydor 2058 903)
The Modern World (7” Mix)/Sweet Soul Music (Live, London 100 Club 11.9.1977)/Back In My Arms Again (Live, London 100 Club 11.9.1977)/Bricks And Mortar (Live, London 100 Club 11.9.1977) (7”, Polydor 2058 945)
News Of The World/Aunties And Uncles/Innocent Man (7”, Polydor 2058 995)
David Watts (7” Mix)/”A” Bomb In Wardour Street (7“ Mix) (AA 7”, Polydor 2059 054)
Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (7” Mix)/So Sad About Us/The Night (7”, Polydor POSP 8)
Strange Town/The Butterfly Collector (7”, Polydor POSP 34)
When You’re Young/Smithers-Jones (7”, Polydor POSP 69)
The Eton Rifles (7” Mix)/See Saw (7”, Polydor POSP 83)
Going Underground/The Dreams Of Children/Away From The Numbers (Live, London Rainbow Theatre 3.11.1979)/The Modern World (Live, London Rainbow Theatre 3.11.1979)/Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (Live, London Rainbow Theatre 3.11.1979) (AA 2x7”, Polydor POSPJ 113, also available as standard 7” without live tracks with alt. catalogue number)
Start (7” Mix)/Liza Radley (7”, Polydor 2059 266)
That’s Entertainment/Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (Live, London Rainbow Theatre 3.11.1979) (German 7”, Metronome 0030.364, later officially released in UK as POSP 482)
Funeral Pyre/Disguises (7”, Polydor POSP 257)
Absolute Beginners/Tales From The Riverbank (7”, Polydor POSP 350)
Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero/The Great Depression (German 7”, POSP 2059 504, later officially released in UK as POSP 483 with extra B-side “War“)
Town Called Malice/Precious (AA 7”, Polydor POSP 400)
The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)/Pity Poor Alfie/Fever (7”, Polydor POSP 505)
Beat Surrender/Shopping/Move On Up/Stoned Out Of My Mind/War (2x7”, Polydor POSPJ 540, “flag” p/s, also on 12“)


When You’re Young (Live, Newcastle City Hall 28.11.1980) (7” Flexi, Lyntone no cat. No.)
Pop Art Poem/Boy About Town (Alternate) (7” Flexi, Flexipop FLEXIPOP002, later issued as standard 7”)
Tales From The Riverbank (Alternate) (7” Flexi, Lyntone no cat. No.)
Town Called Malice (Live, London Hammersmith Palais 14.12.1981)/Precious (Extended Mix) (12”, Polydor POSPX 400, striped die cut sleeve)
Beat Surrender/Shopping (7”, Polydor POSP 540, “Girl” p/s)
Move On Up (7” Flexi, Polydor PAULO 100)
The Peel Sessions EP: In The City (Peel Session)/Art School (Peel Session)/I’ve Changed My Address (Peel Session)/The Modern World (Peel Session) (CD, Strange Fruit SFPSCD 080, also on 12”)
That’s Entertainment/Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (Live, London Rainbow Theatre 3.11.1979) (7”, Polydor 867 380-7, 1991 reissue, also on Cassette, 12“ and CD editions add “Hammersmith Palais“ version of “Town Called Malice“)
The Dreams Of Children/Away From The Numbers (Live, London Rainbow Theatre 3.11.1979)/The Modern World (Live, London Rainbow Theatre 3.11.1979) (CD, Polydor PZCD 199, also on 12”, 7” and Cassette copies omit “The Modern World”, 1992 issue)
The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)/The Butterfly Collector (7”, Polydor 571 598-7, CD adds alternate mixes of “That’s Entertainment” and “The Bitterest Pill” from 1997 boxset)
Going Underground/The Dreams Of Children (AA CD Single, Polydor 561 4792, 1999 “European“ release)
In The City/Takin’ My Love (7”, Polydor 587 6117, 25th Anniversary Edition from 2002)

Sunday, 5 May 2013

John Lennon

Of all the ex-Beatles, it is John whose legacy has outdone the others. Nobody has ever given much thought about what Ringo has been up to since 1970, apart from “Thomas The Tank Engine”, Macca’s solo material has been flaky (although Wings were superb) and although George’s towering “All Things Must Pass” is now regarded as the best post-Beatles Beatles LP, it is Lennon who is still seen as the Cool Beatle. He was the most vocal peace campaigner in the band, returned his MBE in the late 60s, seen by some as an anti-Royalist statement, was viewed as the Avant Garde Beatle who wrote all the weird stuff on “The White Album” and has cemented his solo career reputation with songs like “Imagine”.

But, like Hendrix, Lennon’s solo career is a bit of a confusing body of work. There are solo singles that weren’t solo singles, albums that don’t seem to get a mention because John is seemingly absent on parts of them, whilst the man himself spent the entire second half of the 70s nowhere near the music industry. So I thought it would make sense - for my benefit at least - to look at Lennon’s output, and place into context what he released, where and when.


Whilst The Beatles were still an ongoing concern, John and Yoko Ono recorded three “experimental” albums in the late 60’s. Whilst most people are aware of these albums, few have ever actually heard them and even less have actually bought them. I think I have heard bits and pieces, maybe, but the general consensus is that they are unlistenable nonsense. For the record, the three albums were “Unfinished Music No 1” (the famous “nudes” cover), “Unfinished Music No 2” and “The Wedding Album”. All have been made available on CD if you so wish, but even the biggest Lennon or Avant Garde music fans have been known to be less than impressed by these efforts.

Lennon and Ono then formed a band, The Plastic Ono Band, ostensibly a five piece band including Eric Clapton, but which became more of an organisation consisting of anybody who happened to be recording with them at the time in later years. As such, Lennon’s debut 45 is not officially a solo single at all, as 1969’s “Give Peace A Chance” was simply credited to the “Plastic Ono Band”. But Lennon handles all the lead vocals on the song, with Ono offering nothing more than backing vocals and handclaps, and indeed the other “official” members of the band are not even present on the recording. The b-side was an Ono led track called “Remember Love”, and Lennon would continue this habit of releasing a single with a Yoko B-side for several years. A second Lennon/Plastic Ono Band 45, “Cold Turkey”, would be issued before years end.

In late 69, the band issued a live album, “Live Peace In Toronto 1969”, recorded at a gig the previous September, which also followed the half John/half Yoko approach, with the entire first half of the album featuring John on lead vocals, the second half featuring Yoko. The appearance of Yoko’s “wailing, pitchless, brainless, banshee vocalizing” (quote from Allmusic) has long led people to dismiss this album, and the first re-release of this record on CD didn’t occur until 1995, possibly due to a lack of interest until then.

1970’s “Instant Karma”, issued as The Beatles were collapsing, was released in some countries as a full blown solo single, with a sleeve depicting the legend “Lennon Instant Karma”, although officially, it was still a Plastic Ono Band recording. A Yoko track, again, adorned the B-side. It was then followed by the release of Lennon’s “official” debut LP, the clumsily titled “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”. A Yoko LP, in a near identical cover, called “Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band” was issued simultaneously. None of the three singles Lennon had released so far appeared on the record. It has long been seen as a post-Beatles classic, an angry and at times depressing record, but it’s not quite as violently aggressive as reviews make out. For every primal scream style wail that inhabits something like “Well Well Well”, there are beautiful Beatles-esque ditties like “Isolation”, and for every lo-fi tear stained moment of sadness like “My Mummy’s Dead”, there is a thrilling rock and roll moment like “I Found Out”. Later Lennon albums would “out-Beatle” it, but it’s a glorious LP, and far from the “disturbing” tag that sometimes follows it around.

There were no singles lifted from the LP in the UK (although a heavily edited “Mother” would appear as a US 45), and Lennon’s next UK 45, “Power To The People”, would be another new song, credited to “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”. Like all the previous singles, it was housed in a picture sleeve, a relative rarity in the UK at the time, using a brilliant image of Lennon as some sort of Japanese Miner. A remixed version of Lennon’s debut LP was issued on CD in 2000, with “Power To The People” added as a bonus track, along with the more obscure “Do The Oz”, a track which had appeared on the B-side of a Bill Elliot 45 on Apple in 1971.

Lennon’s second solo LP, “Imagine”, was issued in 1971. Although the first release to be credited as a “pure” Lennon solo record, Yoko’s shadow still looms large, most noticeably on the song called “Oh Yoko”. Original copies included the record in an inner sleeve, with a poster and postcard insert (a famous photo of John and a Pig), later reissues - AFAIK - kept the inserts but used a plain white inner bag instead of the lyric adorned inner sleeve. Although the LP is seen as a more “pop” effort than it’s predecessor, at times, it actually seems more politicised - the snarling “I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier”, the venom spitting “Gimme Some Truth”, the anti-Paul “How Do You Sleep” (later retracted by John)...there is some high octane rock and roll on here inbetween the genteel harmonies of “How” and “Jealous Guy”.

The title track was never issued as a single in the UK at the time, although a video was later created using footage filmed at John & Yoko’s home in England, and the single eventually got a UK release in 1975 to coincide with the “Shaved Fish” collection. And whilst it is difficult to take John seriously as he sings “imagine no possessions” whilst sitting at a grand piano in a huge country mansion (rock stars are supposed to be hypocritical, I suppose), there is no denying the melodic pull of this and the rest of the album, which fully justifies it’s “classic album” tag.

John returned to the “collaborative” world later in 71, when he recorded the “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” single with Yoko, who provided some notable high pitched vocals in the chorus of the song - the single appeared as a “John & Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band” release. A wonderful Christmas single, which is both joyous and uplifting musically, yet lyrically quite sombre, its UK release was delayed by a year, and thus appeared as a 1972 Christmas UK 45. Original copies were housed in a picture sleeve, and pressed on green vinyl, but later pressings were pressed on black vinyl and came in standard black die cut sleeves. Again, it was a Yoko song on the flip, but the single was reissued in 2003 in it’s original sleeve (and with the 7” edition again coming on green vinyl) but with John material on the b-side this time around.

1972 also saw the release of another “forgotten” Lennon LP, although like “Live Peace”, there is a reason. “Sometime In New York City” was another collaborative effort, again released as a “John & Yoko” album. It is a mix of studio and live material, sometimes with John on lead, sometimes Yoko, and again, this has led to most reviews of the album being less than agreeable. It spawned a now well known Lennon song in the form of “Woman Is The Nigger Of The World”, and it has been made available on CD, but it has long been thought of as a side project LP, and not the follow up to “Imagine”. “Woman” did get a US single release, but the UK release was pulled.

The official follow up to "Imagine" was 1973’s “Mind Games”, the subject of a mix of both good and ho-hum reviews from critics, but another sterling piece of Beatles-style melodic fun, the title track in particular being a stone cold classic 45. The album, released just as they were splitting up, features a large image of Yoko’s face in the background, and a mini-John in the foreground. A later reissue on EMI’s budget label “Music For Pleasure”, reprinted this image multiple times across the cover for some reason, creating a sort of “psychedelic” effect (just like on the debut Pink Floyd LP), and with the artist name and album title reprinted in a huge font at the top middle, quite unlike the minimalist approach of the original. In keeping with his avant garde interest, the final song on side 1 was a 3 second long silent track called “Nutopian International Anthem”.

1974’s “Walls And Bridges” carried on where “Mind Games” left off, more great harmonies and more recently, something of a critically acclaimed long player, with “#9 Dream” another piece of superb Beatles-ish ultra-pop, and the storming “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” featuring some great boogie-woogie piano from Reg Dwight, and marvellous saxophone work from Bobby Keys. It was issued as the first single from the LP, and Elton famously claimed that it would give Lennon a chart topper. The pair had a bet - if Elton was right, Lennon would join Elton on stage to perform the song at a future gig. And so it came to be that on 28th November 1974, John dutifully joined Elton for a performance of this and two Beatles oldies at a show in New York. Although Lennon would later perform at a “filmed for TV” show, this gig famously was his last ever proper concert performance, Lennon having already shied away from gigging due to some form of stage fright. Not only that, but “Walls And Bridges” would turn out to be the final full album of (mostly) Lennon originals that he would release before his death. Like “Mind Games” that preceded it, it too was reissued in remixed form in the noughties with bonus tracks, and also in a new sleeve, but the current edition in the shops uses the original mixes, the original cover and minus all bonus tracks.

Lennon’s last “full length, proper solo” LP released before his death was 1975’s covers album “Rock N Roll”. Lennon was legally required to record several songs on a future LP that had originally been published by Big Seven, after admitting to “borrowing” a lyric from a Big Seven number (Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”) for “Come Together” on 1969’s “Abbey Road”. He decided to do a whole album of (rock and roll styled) covers, and “Rock N Roll” was duly born. Although it is seen as something of the black sheep of the Lennon family, I have always loved this album - the brilliant Hamburg era picture of John on the cover, the sheer thrill of “Slippin’ And Slidin’”, the magnificent horn filled attack on “Stand By Me”, it’s an album full of energy. Maybe, because I don’t own many of the originals, I am able to have a different viewpoint than others, but it’s always struck me as an album where John is having fun, he even re-covers “Ya Ya”, another version of which was taped for “Walls And Bridges”. Although Wikipedia claims it too was the recipient of an MFP reissue in a new sleeve a la “Mind Games”, the MFP reissue (from 1981) uses the same front cover. It too has since been reissued in remixed, and then un-remixed, form on CD.

And then, it all went quiet. Reunited with Yoko, John decided to have a life of domesticity, becoming a house husband in order to look after new born son Sean. Punk came and went, but during 1980, Lennon decided to make a new album, claiming that he wanted to make a record as good as Bowie’s “Heroes”. He decided to make a record with Yoko, with a John sung track alternating with a Yoko sung track, apparently so this would create “a musical dialogue” between “husband and wife”. And so, Lennon’s “sixth” (or thereabouts) solo album appeared in late 1980 on Geffen, credited to “John Lennon / Yoko Ono” and titled “Double Fantasy”. Whilst there is no denying the brilliance of Lennon’s contributions (the glorious doo-wop pastiche that is “Just Like Starting Over”, the ridiculously soppy but stunningly beautiful “Woman”), the album is - in my opinion - ruined by the fact that Yoko crops up in between each moment of John-ness. Critics tore it apart as well, many commenting that they cared not one jot for the husband and wife relationship the album was trying to describe.

Lennon was assassinated barely weeks after the album’s release, and history was thus re-written. Published reviews slating the album were withdrawn, and the album was re-evaluated, even ending up with a Grammy for “Album Of The Year”. Like the EMI albums, it was reissued with extra tracks in 2000, and the most recent edition comes in a new cover with a second disc of “stripped down” alternate versions of all tracks.

An album of outtakes called “Milk And Honey” appeared on Polydor in 1984. Very much a companion piece to “Double Fantasy”, it was actually taped after the sessions for that LP, but is another John & Yoko affair, with a similar cover. It too appeared with additional tracks some years ago, but the 2010 reissue is a bog standard reissue of the 1984 original. If, like me, you happen to care little for Yoko’s musical output, it’s difficult not to wonder what might have been if the sessions for the two albums had been merged, and that all of the John songs on these two records had appeared together on a proper solo LP. You can’t help but think just how good an album containing both “Watching The Wheels” AND “Nobody Told Me” would have been. Well, the long deleted 1990 boxset “Lennon” (4xCD, Parlophone CDP 795221 2), is where you should go - this 4 disc set includes nothing that rare, but does devote an entire CD to the Lennon material from “DF” and “MAH”, along with a version of Yoko’s “Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him”, tossed away on a 1984 compilation LP.


In recent years, there seems to have been a disproportionate number of Lennon compilations issued, but unlike, say, some of the Stranglers ones, all of these have been given the nod by Yoko. But that doesn’t mean that 2005‘s “Working Class Hero” or 2010‘s “Power To The People” are any more use than the older best ofs that have already surfaced. If you have never bought a Lennon comp, then buying virtually any one you see should do the job, but in reality, the best best-ofs had been released long before those two.

1975’s “Shaved Fish” (LP, Apple PCS 7173), issued as it was between “Rock N Roll” and “Double Fantasy”, is thus almost an overview of Lennon’s entire career. It includes all of Lennon’s self penned singles from the 1969-75 period, although not necessarily in single form. Of all of Lennon’s non-LP singles, two of them appear in alternate form - only the opening minute of “Give Peace A Chance” opens the record, whilst “Happy Xmas” cross fades into a previously unreleased excerpt of a live version of "Peace" at the end. “Turkey”, “Karma” and “Power” all appear in their original form. The edited 7” mixes of “Woman Is The Nigger Of The World” (from the US single) and “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” appear, along with a unique new edit of “Mother”. The remaining three songs, “Imagine”, “Mind Games” and “#9 Dream” appear in their original 7”/LP mixes. The album was later issued on CD, and according to Wikipedia, several songs appear in slightly different form on the CD edition (CD, EMI 7 46642 2).

1997’s “Lennon Legend” (CD, Parlophone 7243 821954 2) doesn’t quite tick all the boxes, but does at least include most of the rarities missing from “Shaved Fish”. You get the full original “Give Peace A Chance” and “Happy Xmas” 45’s, as well as the never-before-on-CD US 7” edit of “Mother”. All of the other non album 45’s, “Instant Karma”, “Power” and “Cold Turkey” are on here as well, plus a lot of those Geffen/Polydor 45’s and selected album tracks. Also worth a mention is 1982’s “The John Lennon Collection”. It includes a unique edit of “#9 Dream” and also includes the 1970 album track “Love”, which appeared as a single at the time in totally remixed form (LP, EMI EMTV37).

Odds And Sods

Given Lennon’s legendary status, it is not a surprise that a number of outtakes have continued to surface post-”Milk And Honey”, although they don’t seem to have appeared at such an exhaustive rate as other acts. Maybe, as Lennon didn’t really tour that much, there isn’t that much in the vaults - and there can only be a finite number of alternate studio versions of the songs he released.

1986’s “Menlove Avenue” (LP, Parlophone PCS 7308) and 2004’s “Acoustic” (CD, EMI 874 4282) are the main albums as regards posthumous material. The former concentrates on never before heard songs, the latter - despite sounding like it might be an MTV Unplugged style event - is mostly a collection of acoustic demos of songs you already know.

1998’s “John Lennon Anthology” (4xCD, Capitol 7243 830 6142) was a boxset full of outtakes, and spawned a cheap “edited” CD of selections from the box at the same time called “Wonsaponatime” (CD, Capitol 497 6392). The most recent set of reissues, conducted in 2010 to celebrate what would have been John’s 70th birthday, were also collected together in a boxset called the “Signature Box” (9xCD, EMI 5099990650925), which also includes a bonus disc of more outtakes, and a singles disc, including the five non-album 45’s from 69-72 and the sole Lennon B-side issued during his career, “Move Over Ms L” from 1975‘s “Stand By Me“ (“Do The Oz”, as it was never credited to Lennon when first released, therefore doesn’t officially count).

Since the delayed “Imagine” single release in 1975, several Lennon singles have since re-emerged. “Imagine” appeared in 1999, as some sort of “best record of the millennium” tie in event, whilst there is a brilliant 1992 “Instant Karma” CD single, mirroring (some of) the original sleeve design(s). The discography below goes into greater detail.


The list below shows the original Lennon albums, and the now deleted remixed/extended CD editions that surfaced in 2000 onwards. The singles shown are the UK releases, covering all releases and reissues from 1969 until the present day.


Live Peace In Toronto 1969 (LP, Apple CORE 2001)
Plastic Ono Band (LP, Apple PCS 7124)
Imagine (LP, Apple PAS 10004)
Sometime In New York City (2xLP, Apple PCSP 716)
Mind Games (LP, Apple PCS 7165)
Walls And Bridges (LP, Apple PCTC 253)
Rock N Roll (LP, Apple PCS 7169)
Double Fantasy (LP, Geffen K 99131)
Milk And Honey (LP, Polydor POLH 5)

Note: a 2011 boxset reissue of “Imagine” exists, but includes nothing not already available. There also exists a live LP, taped on 30th August 1972, and released in 1986 as “Live In New York City” (LP, Parlophone PCS 7301). A VHS of the same show, including some Yoko solo performances, was also released.


Plastic Ono Band (CD, EMI 528 7402, adds 2 bonus tracks)
Imagine (CD, EMI 7243 5 24858 1 9, no bonus tracks)
Sometime In New York City (CD, EMI 0946 3409 7628, altered tracklisting, but adds 2 bonus tracks)
Mind Games (CD, EMI 7243 5 42425 2 6, adds 3 bonus tracks)
Walls And Bridges (CD, EMI 340 9712, new cover, adds 3 bonus tracks)
Rock N Roll (CD, EMI 7243 874330 2 1, adds 4 bonus tracks)
Double Fantasy (CD, Geffen 528 7392, adds 3 bonus tracks)
Milk And Honey (CD, EMI 535 9592, adds 3 bonus tracks)

Note: the 2010 reissues are all basically reissues of the original LP’s, without any extra tracks. The only one that is designed as a collector’s edition is the revamped “Double Fantasy Stripped Down”. All of the earlier “noughties” EMI releases shown above benefited from remixed sound on most songs, but “DM“ and “MAH“ were merely remastered, not remixed. Most/all of these albums were previously issued on CD in the 80’s, again these were un-remixed reissues of the original LP’s. “Live Peace” was issued some time after these original CD releases, but was not reissued again during either the noughties nor in 2010, and the current CD edition is the sole repressing from 1995 (CD, EMI CDP 790 4282). It also includes slightly different mixes to the 1969 original.

UK 45’s

Give Peace A Chance +1 (7”, Apple APPLE 13)
Cold Turkey +1 (7”, Apple APPLES 1001)
Instant Karma +1 (7”, Apple APPLES 1003)
Power To The People +1 (7”, Apple R 5892)
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) +1 (7”, Apple R 5970)
Mind Games/Meat City (7”, Apple R 5994)
Whatever Gets You Thru The Night/Beef Jerky (7”, Apple R 5998)
#9 Dream/What You Got (7”, Apple R 6003)
Stand By Me/Move Over Ms L (7”, Apple R 6005)
Imagine/Working Class Hero (7”, Apple R 6009, repressed in 1980)
Just Like Starting Over +1 (7”, Geffen K 79186)
Woman +1 (7”, Geffen K 79195)
Watching The Wheels +1 (7”, Geffen K 79207)
Love (Remix)/Gimme Some Truth (7”, Parlophone R 6059)
Nobody Told Me +1 (7”, Polydor POSP 700)
Borrowed Time +1 (7”, Polydor POSP 701, some in poster sleeve)
I’m Stepping Out +1 (7”, Polydor POSP 702)
Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him +1 (7”, Polydor POSP 712)
Jealous Guy/Going Down On Love (7”, Parlophone R 6117, from 1985)
Imagine/Jealous Guy/Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (7”, Parlophone R 6199, also on picture disc and 12“, issued to coincide with the “Imagine John Lennon” soundtrack LP and VHS, from 1988)
Imagine/Jealous Guy/Happy Xmas (War Is Over)/Give Peace A Chance (CD, Parlophone CDR 6199)
Instant Karma/Oh My Love/Mother/Bless You (CD, Parlophone 880 084 2, technically Dutch only import, from 1992)
Imagine/Happy Xmas (War Is Over)/Give Peace A Chance/Imagine (Video) (CD, Parlophone CDR 6534, from 1999)
Happy Xmas (War Is Over)/Imagine (Green Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R 6627, from 2003)
Happy Xmas (War Is Over)/Imagine/Instant Karma/Imagine (Instrumental) (CD, Parlophone CDR 6627)

Note: the likes of “Imagine” got reissued after Lennon’s death, there is a 1985 repressing of this and “Happy Xmas” using the original catalogue numbers, both pressed on black vinyl with silver injection labels. There are also reissues of “Give Peace A Chance” on the EMI Golden 45’s label from 1984 and a 2010 “Special Edition” one sided reissue of - again - “Imagine” in a new sleeve. Some of the Geffen era 45's were reissued in die cut sleeves in America pressed on coloured vinyl in the early part of the noughties, but are not that easy to track down now.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Classic Albums No.5: The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society

I would imagine many people view The Kinks as something of a singles band. Just mention the names of “Waterloo Sunset”, “Sunny Afternoon”, “Lola”, or “You Really Got Me”, and most people with a pair of fully functioning ears will know what you are talking about. But mention the titles of some of the albums from the same period, such as “Kinda Kinks” or “Arthur” and you are unlikely to get the same reaction.

The situation hasn’t been helped by numerous singles collections over the years concentrating on nothing post-1972, suggesting that the band didn’t even seem to exist in the years leading up to 1996 (which they did), so The Kinks back catalogue has seemed shrouded in mystery, with only those early singles seeming to be their legacy.

But plenty of other outside influences confuse matters a bit more. The Kinks seemed to be struggling to sell large numbers of albums in the UK soon after their initial burst of hit singles, and so even though the likes of “Sunny Afternoon” were huge chart hits, the accompanying albums were struggling to have the same impact. The album from which “Sunny Afternoon” was lifted, “Face To Face”, did OK, but was famously outsold by a budget label semi greatest hits album “Well Respected Kinks”, issued a couple of months previously. The band’s fifth studio LP, 1967’s “Something Else By The Kinks”, also struggled in the charts - it seems as though The Kinks were well supported by the singles buyers, but that nobody could afford to, or wanted to, stump up the extra cash needed for a Long Player.

It’s against this backdrop of what seems to be fan apathy that the band released their masterpiece, 1968’s “The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society”. At the time, it was just another flop album, praised by some critics but dismissed by others, and became the lowest selling album of the band’s career. It would turn out to be the final album by the original line up of the band, as bassist Pete Quaife would leave soon after, and more or less marked the end of The Kinks as hit record makers, as it failed to chart anywhere in the world. There would be a resurgence of interest in the band in the USA during the 70’s and beyond, and in the UK, a few early 70’s singles hit the charts (“Lola”, “Apeman”) whilst their accompanying albums bombed, meaning the band were destined to become a cult band. The last time I saw them, in 1994, was at the 2000-ish capacity Brentwood Centre. The following year, by comparison, I saw the Stones at Wembley Stadium - in front of 72000.

But in more recent times, this period of the band has been reviewed. Several albums have been re-evaluated, and in doing so, the question marks being asked as to why a band releasing albums this good were allowed to fall off the radar are wholly valid. And of all the albums that have been re-evaluated, it is - to give it it’s sometimes official shortened title - “Village Green Preservation Society” that sits at the top of the pile.

When it was first released, several critics remained unmoved. 1966 had given us “Pet Sounds”, 67 was the year of “Sgt. Pepper”, and the ammunition aimed at “Village Green” by some was that it was totally retro - while The Beatles seemed to be embracing new technology, a forward looking band unafraid to experiment - reaching it’s ultimate conclusion on the avant garde “Revolution 9” on “The White Album” - detractors of The Kinks claimed that “Village Green” was the polar opposite, the sign of a band looking backwards, scared to embrace the future, and that it was far too whimsical to exist post-Summer Of Love. But of course, that’s where the record’s genius lies. It’s refusal to accept that all progress is good progress is as relevant now as it was then, and its yearning for a simpler life, when times were (maybe) better in some respects, is a far truer statement of what was happening in the late 60’s. Altamont was just around the corner and that finally killed the peace and love vibe. The Kinks, you could argue, foresaw this a year before.

Davies would later be acknowledged as one of Britain’s finest songwriters, and that he achieved this accolade by writing about very “English” themes. “Village Green” exemplifies this attitude. It has been said that the nostalgic element came from the band’s own fractious relationship itself, with concert riots and on stage fighting being in danger of killing off the band entirely. The love hate relationship between the Davies brothers still continues today. Ray, seemingly distraught at what the band were turning into, began to look backwards at “the good old days”.

Work on the album began as far back as the summer of 67, when the band recorded the song “Village Green” during the “Something Else” sessions, but it was left off the final running order. Ray Davies began to work on a sort of concept album based around the themes explored by this song (the key line being “I miss the village green“), by starting to write songs that were deeply routed in English culture, telling stories of towns and villages, and feelings of nostalgia, all of which was later described by Allmusic as an album “lamenting the passing of old fashioned English traditions”.

Although the songs could be taken as individual pieces of music (two variant editions of the album later came to exist, with different songs), the nostalgic element of the song writing runs throughout virtually everything on the album, creating that theme of Englishness. Some will tell you that earlier albums, like “Face To Face” had a distinct theme, or that the band didn’t really embrace the concept album format until “Arthur” or “Lola versus Powerman” or even “Preservation Act 1”, but there is no denying that if you were to try and remove something like “Picture Book” and shove it onto, say, “Percy”, then replace it with “Milk Cow Blues”, it just wouldn’t quite work.

The title track is the opening number, and sets the theme accordingly, with lyrics like “we are the Desperate Dan appreciation society” and “God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards”. The nostalgia element is at it’s most notable on “Do You Remember Walter” and “Picture Book”, songs lamenting the loss of contact with old friends on the former and also the fleeting nature of fame, and the use of photographs to try and preserve the past on the latter. “Last Of The Steam Powered Trains” refers to the finale, in 68, of main line standard gauge steam locomotives on Britain’s railways, before dieselisation and electrification took over.

Aside from the “Englishness” of the lyrics, the album also features some of the best songs, musically, that the band ever recorded. Whilst the album’s central theme might suggest that it is all quite pastoral, an album full of acoustic driven “Picture Book” soundalikes, a great deal of it is not. “Big Sky” has a nagging “nah nah nah nah” riff, that sounds like “Werewolves Of London” ten years before it was written, with Davies literally talking the lyrics over the top. “Phenomenal Cat” sounds like Syd-era Pink Floyd, whilst “Wicked Annabella” has an astonishing drum track, with snarling guitars chugging in and out - it sounds like Queens Of The Stone age covering Kraftwerk. “Monica” sounds like The Gypsy Kings jamming with The Who, “All Of My Friends Were There” feels like it has come straight out of some cockney-knees up musichall production. And words cannot describe the beautiful harmonies of “Animal Farm”, which has one of the greatest key changes in the chorus ever committed to vinyl. By the time you get to the rollocking “People Take Pictures Of each Other”, it’s surprising to think just how varied the sounds are on this record. All this from a band who, in their early days, used to recycle the riff from “All Day And All Of The Night” on later recordings whenever they felt the need (check out the b-side “I Need You”, if you don’t believe me).

The band had amassed enough material for a double album, and Davies was very keen on making this the first such release by the group. But Pye refused to allow it on cost grounds - the relative failure of “Something Else” meant that the label simply didn’t think the LP would sell enough to recoup the costs of releasing a double. Davies instead compiled a 12 track edition, including “Days”, which had been issued as a single in the summer (and which came backed with an old outtake “She’s Got Everything”). He also drew up plans for a totally different version of the album, with just eleven songs and a radically different running order for the US market, to be called “Four More Respected Gentlemen”, which was actually going to open with “She’s Got Everything”, and was only to include six songs from the 12 track “Village Green”, plus a 'so-called' new song (“Animal Farm“) which was absent from the 12 track edition. This release was cancelled, but the 12 track edition of the album got the green light and was issued in New Zealand and selected European territories in October 68. The cover differed in pretty much every country in which the record was released.

No sooner had the album been released, than Ray had a change of heart, and asked for the record to be withdrawn. Pressings of the album stopped and changes were made to the record before production of the UK album proceeded. Aside from using a cover not seen on few, if any, of the 12 track editions, a new 15 song version was planned. “Days” and “Mr Songbird” were pulled, the latter thus not getting a UK release for several years, and five new songs came in as replacements - “Big Sky”, “Steam Powered Trains”, “All Of My Friends”, “Sitting By The Riverside” and the aforementioned “Animal Farm”. Although the running time of this version of the album was still a fairly standard 40 minutes in length, you did get the impression that it was some sort of attempt to get nearer to the double album scenario originally envisaged.

The 15 track edition was issued in both mono and stereo in the UK (LP, NPL/NSPL 18233) and the US, but was a failure. The success of the “Days” single was still not enough to entice record buyers to purchase the latest Kinks long player, and “Village Green” became the worst selling Kinks album to date. After a couple of Dave Davies singles, the band’s next release was the “Plastic Man” single, which true to form, did better sales wise than “Village Green”, by denting the lower regions of the UK Top 40.

By the time Castle set about starting a major reissue campaign of the Pye era albums in 1997/1998, the cult nature of this album had grown to a point where it was now being name checked as the band’s undisputed masterpiece, and it was to prove to be a big seller when reissued. It appeared as a 28 track edition (CD, ESM CD 481) - the original UK 15 track version in Mono, the 12 track version in Stereo, and the mono single mix of “Days” to fill up the disc. Although I had often thought that this album was the first of all the Pye albums to be reissued, as a sort of taster for the rest of the series, I think I must have imagined this, as inside, details of the catalogue numbers of all of the other reissues are listed, suggesting they were all issued at the same time.

Given that the album had been issued in a bewildering variety of sleeves worldwide, some attempt was made to try and showcase this in the reissue. Aside from the miniature re-productions of some of the period singles and overseas editions of the album, the rear of the booklet featured a reprint of the Scandinavian cover. In 2001, all of the band’s Pye era albums were reissued in vinyl style “boxed” sleeves, and wherever possible, an overseas sleeve was used. There were no bonus tracks on these editions - the “Village Green” reissue used the original Italian sleeve, and played the 12 track version of the album (CD, CTMCD 319).

The most CD reissue of “Village Green” appeared in 2004 on Sanctuary. It was an attempt to effectively merge all the various editions of the album into one package (3xCD, SMETD 102). The first disc featured the 15 track version of the album in stereo, adding the two tracks (also in stereo) that were absent from this version of the LP - “Days” and “Mr Songbird”. Also included are alternate stereo mixes of “Do You Remember Walter” and “People Take Pictures Of Each Other”, that appeared on the original “Overseas” 12 track stereo LP. Disc 2 is a mono version of the 15 track LP, boosted with the mono (and single) mix of “Days”, plus a mono mix of “Mr Songbird”, never previously available on any version of the LP. Also included are the period single “Wonderboy”, and the b-sides taped at the time, “Polly” and “Berkeley Mews”, the latter of which eventually got released on the flip of “Lola” several years later. You also get an alternate mix of “Village Green”, whilst the third disc consists entirely of rarities and previously unreleased material.

“Village Green” is an absolute classic. To be fair, The Kinks made quite a few mind blowingly great albums, and maybe others will feature in this list in the future (I have already mentioned on this site my total adoration of the totally unloved “Soap Opera”), but this is the best one. The lyrics are intelligent, describing that same view of Englishness that “Waterloo Sunset” also achieved, the music is mostly beautiful but also sometimes brutal or vibrant, and whilst it might be easy to get wrapped up in the hype that has surrounded this LP in the last couple of decades, it’s fully deserving hype. I was well aware of the album’s reputation before I first heard it, and it matched - if not exceeded - every expectation I had for it. Whilst other so called classic albums aren’t always that classic (Talking Heads’ “Little Creatures” may well have got a 9/10 rating on Allmusic, but it aint “Remain In Light”), “Village Green” justifies the hysteria that has long surrounded it. It may well have marked the beginning of the end of the band as popular hit makers, but it arguably kickstarted the most creative part of their career. Later albums were superb efforts, although none of them ever quite managed to top the sheer inventiveness of this LP. It may well have been the album that accidentally invented Britpop, and therefore accidentally gave us lots of landfill indie in the process, but it’s a remarkably clever album, and never fails to amaze whenever you heard it. Many people may well have taken it’s template and tried to copy it, but nobody quite managed to make anything quite as good. Not even Blur.

As somebody once said, God Save The Kinks.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Stranglers - Compilation LP's Pt 2

As mentioned in my last Stranglers article in 2011, the departure of Hugh Cornwell in 1990 was the catalyst for a never ending stream of “best of” releases in the decades that followed. Some seemed to serve a useful purpose, others just seemed to be there in an attempt to exhume more money from the completists.

This article looks at most of the comps that were issued during the 1991-1999 period. As before, anything with the band logo on the front is included, anything without is not. Just to clarify, box sets and “live” compilations (old gigs newly released) are excluded, the latter may well be the subject of their own article in future.

All Twelve Inches
(CD, Epic 471416 2)

Back in the 1980’s, it had almost become law that if you were to release a single, then it would have to be issued on 12”. The 12” format may well have had it’s origins in the Disco scene, but it was now becoming a mainstream chart format. Some acts saw it as a way of resurrecting the spirit of the EP, or the Maxi-Single, both of which had fallen out of favour in the 70’s, whilst other bands began issuing their latest a-side in extended form, claiming that there had always been a “dance element” to their music.

Whilst modern day remixing usually involves taking the original song, disposing of it entirely bar some of the vocals, and then adding your own music, the 12” mixes that appeared in the 80’s were usually variants of the original album mix. But mid way through, there would be a strange echo-y drum solo, the verse would repeat itself, the song would suddenly go backwards, all in order to make it longer than the original, thus making it an “extended” mix. Usually, these mixes were unbearably messy, taking perfectly good songs and ruining them in the process, but they kept coming.

It was probably psychological. A 12” single was, obviously, bigger than a 7” in terms of actual size, so it was almost as if the labels figured they had to make sure they filled up the a-side of the record. And if that could not be done by having extra B-sides, than an extended mix of the single would solve the problem. Having only dabbled briefly with the 12” format prior to their signing to Epic, The Stranglers would find virtually all of their singles issued by the label would be the recipient of a 12” mix.

In 1992, with the Mark 2 lineup now fully functioning, various labels decided to get in on the “retro” side of the band. A label called Newspeak cobbled together a load of old bootlegs for release as “The Early Years”, whilst JJ worked with EMI on the release of the “Live At The Hope And Anchor” CD, a 1977 London gig that had only appeared officially in bits and pieces, with most of it previously unreleased. Epic decided to offer up an alternative history of the band’s singles for the label with “All Twelve Inches”, a collection of most of the band’s extended mixes from the period.

Not everything the band released as a single on Epic was the recipient of a 12” mix. Indeed, “European Female” wasn’t even issued on 12” at all, but for every Epic single where a 12” mix existed, a mix was thus included on the album. Repetition was “out”, so you only got one of the three “Sweet Smell Of Success” mixes that were originally released in 1990, and the 1990 12“ remix of “Always The Sun“ was also absent, whilst EMI singles from the era were out of bounds, so no “Grip 89” extended mix here. In an attempt to reel the punters in, the album included a previously unreleased 12” mix of “Was It You”. Originally planned to be released as the fifth single from 1986’s “Dreamtime”, new mixes of the track were made - one for the 7” and one for the 12 - but the release was pulled, possibly due to the fact that the preceding singles lifted from the LP had been less than successful, so Epic probably figured they were flogging a dead horse by this point. The 7” mix would remain unreleased for a few more years.

Of all the Stranglers comps on the market, I will stick my neck out here and say this is the most important. Virtually everything here was making it’s debut on CD, and since it’s release, few of these mixes have appeared again, whilst the inclusion of “Was It You” makes it an essential purchase. I love the sleeve, and the album itself does a good job of showcasing the madness that was the 12” “extended” mix during the 80’s. By the 1990’s, the CD Single had become the format of choice, and most CD Singles used album mixes as the lead song, with the extra playing time being padded out with B-sides, rather than extended mixes - although several Mark 2 singles did include “long” versions of the a-side at times.

Track listing: Midnight Summer Dream (12”)/Skin Deep (12”)/No Mercy (Cement Mix)/Let Me Down Easy (12”)/Nice In Nice (Porridge Mix)/Always The Sun (Hot Mix)/Big In America (Texas Mix)/Shakin’ Like A Leaf (Jelly Mix)/All Day And All Of The Night (Jeff Remix)/Was It You (Unreleased 12” Mix)/96 Tears (Tearaway Mix)/Sweet Smell Of Success (Indie-Pendence Mix)

Strangled From Birth And Beyond
(CD, SIS CD001)

This is the odd one out. It’s a comp, yes, but consists almost entirely of songs that any prospective purchaser may not have already owned. Originally issued in 1993, this was a fan club only release (SIS stands for “Stranglers Information Service”) cobbling together odds and sods from both the Mark 1 and Mark 2 lineups. “Strangled” was the name of the magazine they issued.

It includes 10 songs - some previously available, some not. Not everything is a true Stranglers recording - tracks 3 to 6 inclusive are solo recordings, or side projects. The first two tracks had originally appeared on a 1980 fan club 7”, whilst “The Beast” was an instrumental recording from the “Aural Sculpture” sessions, and never before available. “New Day Today”, originally lined up for inclusion on 1990’s “10” had appeared as a fan club flexi after Cornwell had left the band, whilst the last two songs were outtakes from the Mark 2 album “Stranglers In the Night” (“Mr Big” had also featured in the band’s live sets for a while).

A “proper” full scale release was conducted in 1998, when the album re-appeared in the same basic packaging, but with a new catalogue number. It is now deleted, but all of this material has since reappeared on a later compilation, 2002's "The Rarities".

Track listing: Tomorrow Was The Hereafter/Bring On The Nubiles (Cocktail Version)/My Young Dreams/Goebbels Mosley God And Ingrams/Waiting For The Trees To Grow/Gone Are Those Days/The Beast/New Day Today/Mr Big/I’ll Be Seeing You

The Hit Men
(CD, EMI CDEMC 3759)

Although Epic’s “Greatest Hits 1977-1990” had been a reasonable - and very popular - stab at covering all of the Mark 1 years in one go, it was nowhere near comprehensive enough. So in 1996, EMI had a go. I would like to think the title was taken from the 1987 b-side “Hitman”, but as that was from the Epic years, I doubt this was actually the case.

As the title suggests, this was - for the most part - a singles collection. Thing was, the band had issued too many singles to squeeze onto a single CD, but not enough to fill up a pair. So, the decision was taken to include “selected album tracks” to pad it out time-wise. Fair enough. But, unsurprisingly, all of the album tracks came from the EMI days (bar the “new” 7" mix of “Was It You”) and this results in a rather uneven listen. Yes, they were more prolific between 77 and 82, but for disc two to start with material from 1981, resulting in a sort of “race to the finish” once the Epic material kicks in later on, well, it all just seems a bit cheeky on EMI’s behalf.

Some notes. Edited mixes, usually, were used for the latter period stuff in preference to the album mixes where such things exist, although the sleeve notes seem, at times, to contradict this - there is no mention in the booklet that it’s an edited mix of “Paradise” here, simply claiming it’s taken “from Feline”. Feel free to contact if you think the listing below is incorrect, but I have played it recently and compared and contrasted where necessary. Two different sleeves were also used, one in a “crosshair” target sleeve (thus tying in with the title of the album), one in a “normal” sleeve. And in the case of “Grip” and “Always The Sun”, the later 1989/90 remixes of these tracks were included over the original 7”/Album mixes.

Track listing: Grip 89/London Lady/Peaches/Go Buddy Go/Hanging Around/Choosey Susie/Something Better Change/Straighten Out/No More Heroes/English Towns/5 Minutes/Nice N Sleazy/Toiler On The Sea/Mean To Me/Walk On By/Duchess/Nuclear Device/Don’t Bring Harry/The Raven/Bear Cage/Who Wants The World/Waltzinblack/Thrown Away/Just Like Nothing On Earth/Let Me Introduce You To The Family/Golden Brown/La Folie/Tramp/Strange Little Girl/European Female/Midnight Summer Dream (Edit)/Paradise (Edit)/Skin Deep/No Mercy/Let Me Down Easy (Edit)/Nice In Nice/Always The Sun (Sunny Side Up Mix)/Big In America (Edit)/Shakin’ Like A Leaf (7” Mix)/Was It You (Unreleased 7” Mix)/All Day And All Of The Night (7” Mix)/96 Tears (Edit)/Sweet Smell Of Success (Edit)

The Collection
(CD, EMI Gold 7243 8 56239 2 9)

I have mentioned elsewhere on this site about the major labels’ budget imprints. EMI have had several over the years (Fame, Music For Pleasure) and by the mid 90’s had another, EMI Gold. This 1997 collection typifies how a lot of these budget releases worked - a slightly random looking track listing, some rarities here, some common stuff there, with the release seemingly pitched at “must have them all” collectors and possibly nobody else.

Following the excellent reissue campaign of the EMI era albums in 1987 and 88, and the release of the “Rarities” album, all of these had been deleted by the time this CD was issued. The band’s first two albums had been reissued in 1996 to celebrate the 20th anniversary (or thereabouts) of Punk, even though they were both released in 1977, and although they added relevant bonus tracks, a lot of the old B-sides had by now disappeared from the catalogue as the other EMI era albums were left in limbo.

And so “The Collection”, despite featuring nothing you might not already have, is kind of interesting. Bearing in mind that the likes of “Walk On By” and “Straighten Out” were non-album singles, this is more or less a full blown B-sides and rarities set (save for “Grip”). Indeed, had one or two of the singles been excluded, all of the EMI era flipsides could have been on here. But budget albums were never designed to be “tick box” releases, so just think yourself lucky it’s as good as it is. This release was followed, a few years later, by a release on Disky called “Collection”, offering a less than inspired track listing, and a logo-less cover - hence it’s non inclusion here.

Track listing: Walk On By/Go Buddy Go/Top Secret/Old Codger/Maninwhite/Rok It To The Moon/Love 30/Shut Up/Vietnamerica/Mean To Me/Cruel Garden/Yellowcake UF6/5 Minutes/Sverige/N’Emmenes Pas Harry/Fools Rush Out/Grip/Straighten Out

The Best Of The Epic Years
(CD, Epic 487997 2)

I also quite like this one, despite the fact that it claims everything is a radio edit mix, when most of them aren’t (I think).

A sort of “short mixes” version of “All Twelve Inches”, it includes some items of note. When the Epic era albums were re-released a few years later, most of the b-sides from the period were tagged on as bonus tracks, but the original mix of “Hot Club” was missing. No worries, it’s here instead. You also get the 7” mix of “Always The Sun” (it was the 1990 single remix that appeared on “The Hit Men”) and the 12” 1990 mix of it as well (not previously available on CD). The 12” mix of “No Mercy” near the end seems a bit random, but as the album mix of this same song was also tagged onto the end of the “1977-1990” set as a bonus track, maybe that explains it’s inclusion. The sleeve also claims to be giving a CD debut to the "Strangled House Mix" of "Sweet Smell Of Success", but it actually plays the same version already to be found on "All Twelve Inches".

Track listing: European Female/Midnight Summer Dream (Edit)/Paradise/Skin Deep/No Mercy/Hot Club/Let Me Down Easy/Nice In Nice/Always The Sun (Edit)/Big In America/Shakin’ Like A Leaf/All Day And All Of The Night (7” Mix)/Was It You (Unreleased 7” Mix)/96 Tears/Sweet Smell Of Success (Edit)/No Mercy (Cement Mix)/Always The Sun (Long Hot Sunny Side Up 12” Mix)/Sweet Smell Of Success (Indie-Pendence Mix)

The Masters
(CD, Eagle EABCD 111)

By 1998, the Mark 2 lineup had issued three studio albums, and a live one, and would issue “Coup De Grace” before the year end (an album I, unlike most people, adore - but that’s another story). But there was little in the way of compilations, maybe, I suppose, because there seemed to be no call for them.

This one was the first. But due to circumstances outside the labels’ control, it’s a bit pointless. The band’s eleventh album, 1992’s “Stranglers In The Night”, had appeared on China Records, before the band joined Castle Communications. But - until recently - there were problems in getting this material available for compilation releases on other labels. And so what you have here, is a mix of material from “About Time”, “Written In Red”, the live album “Friday The 13th” - and nothing from “SITN”. Hmm.

You do at least get the two singles from those two studio albums, plus a load of album tracks, and - to reel the punters in - Mark 2 doing “Golden Brown” and “No More Heroes”. Had material from “SITN” appeared as well, it would have made a bit more sense. For completists only.

Track listing: Summer In The City/Valley Of The Birds/Golden Boy/Face/Daddy’s Riding The Range/Paradise Row/In Heaven She Walks/Still Life/Money/Lies And Deception/Joy De Viva/Skin Deep (Live)/Golden Brown (Live)/No More Heroes (Live)

Hits Collection
(CD, EMI 7243 498749 2 3)

A follow up, I guess, to “The Collection”, albeit with a number of the same songs on here as well. But the title is a bit of a misnomer - not only are there album tracks on here, but b-sides as well. “Hits Collection”???

More pointless than “The Collection”, there’s no denying the quality of these songs, and the inclusion of the non album stonker “Who Wants The World” is a nice touch, but really, what’s the point?

Track listing: Peaches/Go Buddy Go/Top Secret/Maninwhite/Walk On By/Golden Brown/Shut Up/Mean To Me/London Lady/Cruel Garden/Strange Little Girl/Fools Rush Out/Old Codger/Love 30/5 Minutes/Grip/Dagenham Dave/Who Wants The World

Hits & Heroes
(2xCD, EMI 521 0892)

Another EMI compilation concentrating on EMI only stuff, this 1999 comp was, for a short time, a (near) definitive overview of the band’s A and B sides from the period. But it was deleted within a couple of years.

It’s a 2 disc affair. Disc 1, is the “hits” disc featuring, as you’d expect, the hits. Disc 2, the “heroes” disc, is more or less a sort of retread of the old 1988 “Rarities” album - B-sides, foreign language singles, the “Bear Cage” 12”, etc. You also get a couple of videos on the CDRom part of disc 1, and a previously unreleased track taped circa 1981 at the end of CD2 - don’t worry, it’s been tagged onto numerous reissues since.

What is most noticeable about this release, apart from it’s mightily impressive artwork, is how 1981’s “Meninblack” album has been airbrushed out of history. Neither the two singles from the LP, nor their corresponding B-sides, are on this record. It’s almost as if somebody knows just how brilliant and underrated that album is, and so has decided to add to the cult by ignoring it entirely. Later pressings of this album neglected to include the second disc, thus making the title slightly odd yet again.

Track listing: Grip/Peaches/Hanging Around/Go Buddy Go/Something Better Change/Straighten Out/No More Heroes/5 Minutes/Nice N Sleazy/Walk On By/Duchess/Nuclear Device/Who Wants The World/Golden Brown/La Folie/Strange Little Girl/No More Heroes (Video)/Duchess (Video)/Golden Brown (Video)/Choosey Susie/Peaches (Edit)/No More Heroes (Edit)/Mony Mony/Mean To Me (“Celia And The Mutations“ version)/Rok It To The Moon/Shut Up/Walk On By (Edit)/Sverige/Old Codger/Fools Rush Out/N’emmenes Pas Harry/Yellowcake UF6/Bear Cage (12” Mix)/Shah Shah A Go Go (12”Mix )/Tomorrow Was The Hereafter/Bring On The Nubiles (Cocktail Version)/The Meninblack (Waiting For ‘Em)/Vietnamerica/Love 30/You Hold The Key To My Love In Your Hands