Sunday, 20 October 2013

October 2013

The October 2013 blogs feature a look at Blur's "Modern Life Is Rubbish", Kim Wilde, Adam & The Ants, and Belinda Carlisle. To look at any of these blogs, click the relevant link to your right.

"Food processors are great"

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Adam And The Ants

A few years ago, as Adam Ant quite publicly battled mental illness, it proved good fodder for the tabloids. The former Prince Charming, falling from grace. As such, when Ant began to edge back to the world of music and live performance, some figured it was a car crash waiting to happen, and indeed, reports began to circulate that some gigs hadn’t quite gone according to plan.

But 2013’s critically acclaimed “Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter” has proved the doubters wrong, and by all accounts, Ant’s solo shows have been a cause for celebration - each show a lengthy trawl through all the hits, including stuff from the early days, when Ant fronted Adam And The Ants.

The Ants were formed in 1977, and over the next few years, went through an alarming number of line up changes - Wikipedia lists all the personnel changes if you wish to indulge yourself, but effectively, there was the “original” line up of the band, and the double-drummer version(s) that made all the hit records. Adam became part of the punk scene, and was thus in the right place at the right time when Derek Jarman started casting for his punk movie, “Jubilee”. It was the start of a thespian career for Adam (he spent much of the 80’s as an acting superstar in the US) but was also the beginning of The Ants’ recording career, as they were invited to record two songs for the soundtrack LP - “Deutscher Girls” and “Plastic Surgery”. The LP was issued by Polydor subsidiary Eg, and thus saw the vinyl debut of the group. A number of other songs were recorded in demo form, but remained unreleased.

However, the group’s appearance on this LP didn’t initially seem to garner any interest from the record companies, until Decca approached them during the latter part of 1978. The label, having been home to The Rolling Stones in the 60s, had slightly fallen out of favour since then, dealing mostly in classical music, but was seemingly determined to get on the punk bandwagon - and thus offered the band a single plus album deal. The band’s debut 7” was therefore released in October that year, the completely un-punk “Young Parisians” - a record which sounded like Sparks covering Jacques Brel, it was done deliberately to confuse people who wanted to pigeonhole the band, but was also done as a “test” on the record label to see how much control Decca were prepared to give to the band. The more punky “Lady” adorned the B-side. The single didn’t quite set the world alight, but Decca initially remained true to their word, and were prepared to issue the band’s debut LP.

Trouble was, there were various financial issues going on at Decca, and even though the band had demoed even more new material, with more than an album’s worth of new songs ready to record, the label admitted they were unable to market the band properly and let them go. Having built up a rapport with punk fanzines, and having garnered something of a live reputation, the group did not disappear from view despite this disappointing setback, and after Adam was featured on the cover of one of the UK music weeklies, they came to the attention of independent label Do It, who signed them in 1979.

In July of that year, their second 45, “Zerox”, was unleashed, backed with another new song, “Whip In My Valise”. This single was far more “in tune” with the sound the band created on stage, although it really had more of a post-punk feel, as opposed to being any sort of tuneless three chord racket. It was followed in the fall by the band’s debut LP, “Dirk Wears White Sox”, consisting entirely of brand new material, and was the subject of highly agreeable reviews. By now, interest in the band was increasing, and the LP hit the top of the UK Independent charts.

But Ant secretly wanted to be a proper pop star, and was disappointed by the relatively small sales of the record. He employed ex-Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren to try and help boost the band’s profile, whose first job was to encourage the rest of the band to leave the group and join a new outfit he was putting together, Bow Wow Wow. This probably wasn’t the activity Ant had expected. But McLaren remained as his manager, and it would actually turn out to be a masterstroke - as the “new” version of the band that Adam put together, would turn them into superstars.

Do It were still owed a single, and an interim line up of Ant, drummer Jon Moss and future regular collaborator Marco Pirroni decided to rework the opening track from the LP, “Cartrouble”. The plan was to release an EP called the “Antmusic” EP, on which the re-recorded song would be joined by some unreleased material from the Do It vaults, but for some reason, the EP never materialised. An edited version of the reworked “Cartrouble” did surface instead as the band’s next single, backed with “Kick”, one of the tracks that was due to appear on the cancelled EP. Rather confusingly, labels quoted the A-side as being “edited from the ‘Antmusic’ EP”.

The new 5-piece line up of the group was finally put together thereafter, with Ant and Marco joined by bassist Kevin Mooney, and the dual drumming force of Merrick and Terry Lee Miall. They garnered major label interest again, and were signed to CBS during 1980. The first single by this line up, “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”, demonstrated perfectly the new “Burundi Beat” sound, and with the distinctive, twanging, Duane Eddy guitar licks courtesy of Marco, the Ants new sound was a stylish and unusual move away from their punkier beginnings, and the single only just failed to hit the top 40. The band had also developed a highly unusual “Highway Robber meets Pirate” look, and people across the country painted Tipp-Ex across their face in an attempt to look like Adam. The image saw the band being lumped in with the New Romantic movement, even if the music was more tribal and guitar driven than the likes of Spandau and Duran Duran.

With The Ants starting to make waves commercially, Do It decided to reissue “Zerox” - and released 3000 copies that were “accidentally” mispressed. The b-side was another of the songs from the abandoned “Antmusic” project, “Physical” - no mention was made anywhere on the record of the new b-side, and the only way to identify a copy was by the matrix numbers. Meanwhile, the “current” version of the band re-recorded the track as “Physical (You’re So)” for the b-side of their next 45, “Dog Eat Dog”, which opened with Adam scowling the lyric “eat your heart out, Do It”, as a response to their cash in pressing.

“Dog Eat Dog” gave the band their first top 10 single, and the following album, “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”, issued in November 1980, eventually hit the top of the UK album charts. The first batch of copies pressed featured a different version of the next single, “Antmusic” - later copies played the single version instead, which amongst other things, lacked the fade-in intro, and was about 10 seconds shorter. Initial copies of the LP also came with an “Ant Catalogue” insert, I think any with the catalogue are the first pressing with the alternate “Antmusic”, but I am not sure if there were less catalogues than there were “first pressings“, as the Shergold family home’s version of the LP plays the alternate mix, but has no catalogue inside.

The “Antmusic” single gave the band another top 10 hit, and CBS then decided to reissue the “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” 45, and this time got it into the top 10 at the second time of asking during Spring 1981. The single was basically the same as before, but the colour of the band name on the front of the single was changed from white text to red. Music and catalogue number remained unchanged. It was then the turn of the band’s former labels to get involved as well - Decca repressed “Young Parisians” (it was also the subject of a 1989 white vinyl 12” reissue on Damaged Goods), whilst Do It issued “Zerox” again with a slightly remixed version of the a-side. This mix has become the more common one, and has been used whenever an Ants CD has been released that includes the song, with one exception - the original 1979 mix was included on the 2000 boxset “Antbox”.

During 1981, Mooney was replaced by one time Roxy Music bass player Gary Tibbs, and the next wave of new material started to surface. First up was the incendiary chart topper “Stand And Deliver”, complete with a video starring Amanda Donohoe, which was edited for single release. The follow up, the glorious stomp of “Prince Charming”, also hit number 1 - and had an equally famous video star, this time being blonde bombshell Diana Dors. The album of the same name charted at number 1 in November 1981. A remixed version of the genius “Ant Rap” (“Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee, Gary Tibbs and yours truly!“) went top 10 when issued on 45 in Xmas 81. The b-side, “Friends”, had originally been recorded (and abandoned) when the group were on Do It, and the original recording was another track potentially lined up for the “Antmusic” EP. The CBS recording, despite appearing first, was thus later referred to as the “second version”.

In 1982, with The Ants now the biggest pop group on the planet, labels that had dealt with the group in a former life started to cash in again. The two tracks from the “Jubilee” LP were given a belated 7” release by Eg, although the version of “Deutscher Girls” featured a couple of new vocal/lyrical overdubs to make it more ‘radio friendly’ - the sleeve used a still from the movie. Some countries credited it to “The Original Adam And The Ants”.

Meanwhile, Do It issued the “B-Sides” EP as a 7” and 7” picture disc release. This three tracker included “Physical”, the original (previously unreleased) version of “Friends” and an alternate mix of “Kick”. Also released, finally, was the “Antmusic” EP, which included all these songs plus the full length, and previously unavailable, reworked version of “Cartrouble”. Strangely, despite the cash in releases having brought the Ants’ story full circle, these “archive” singles would actually turn out to be the group’s swansong.

As Ant made his way back into the studio in 82, he decided to disband the group. There were various reasons - the level of fame that they had attracted had caused internal problems, but feeling unable to take a break due to record label pressure, Adam decided the situation could be resolved by simply going solo instead. He also claimed other band members lacked “interest”, and admitted that much of “Prince Charming” had been mostly recorded by him, Marco and Merrick, with the remaining band members actually contributing very little - songs were more or less complete by the time they came to add their contributions. The first Ant solo single, with involvement from Marco and Merrick, was initially credited to “Adam And The Ants” on both the acetate test pressing (the handwritten credit was scribbled out), and initial copies of the commercially released 7”, before later copies were correctly credited to “Adam Ant”. Antmusic would continue, but in a different form. An Ant solo blog will follow in the future.

Compilations And Reissues

By the time Adam, as a solo artist, started to have record company problems in the early 1990s, he had nonetheless - both with The Ants and on his own - had an unbroken run of hit singles up until then, and a number of compilation albums surfaced thereafter that more or less ran through all the singles from 1978 to 1990. Some were credited to him as a solo artist (1993’s “Antmusic” (CD, Arcade ARC 3100052)), others simply lumped the whole load in as if they were all band efforts (1999’s “The Very Best Of Adam And The Ants” (CD, Columbia 494229 2), although it did identify the solo stuff on the rear cover), with the imagery on both being from the “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” days.

Indeed, most Ant collections tended to care little about what was solo or not, and it really was a case of anything goes. A 1994 flipsides collection, “B Side Babies” (CD, Epic 480362 2), also covered band and solo material up to the end of the 80s, although several B-sides - for whatever reason - were not included.

Before the release of the “Antbox” set (3xCD, Columbia 500782200 3) in 2000, some of the material taped for those early Ants debut albums that were never to be, had appeared - albeit in re-recorded form - thanks to several releases of sessions by the band from the BBC archives - namely 1990’s “Peel Sessions” and 1996’s “The Complete Radio 1 Sessions” (CD, Strange Fruit SFRSCD 099). However, both releases have been deleted, so are increasingly hard to find.

The first notable Ants LP reissue came in the early 80s, when “Dirk Wears White Sox” was issued by CBS in a new sleeve, using typography of a similar style to that used on “Kings” and “Prince Charming”. A number of songs from the Do It original were removed, and replaced by both sides of the “Zerox” and “Cartrouble“ 45’s, at Adam’s request, in order to “make this material available again”. The album reappeared in the mid 1990’s in it’s original cover, with some of the “removed” material installed as bonus tracks at the end. The original vinyl LP mix of “Cartrouble” was still absent, and depending on which pressing you bought, the version of this song that started the album was either the reworked 7” mix from 1981, or the reworked 12” mix from 1982.

All three Ants albums were reissued in 2004 - they all used the original track listings, plus bonus tracks, and used the same cover art as the original pressings, but the existing typography for the band name and album titles were removed, and replaced instead by a specialised “logo” design around the border that incorporated them both in one. The reissue of “Dirk” included everything from the “Zerox” and “Cartrouble” singles, and the entire “Antmusic” EP (as well as, of course, the original UK LP mix of “Cartrouble“ now back in situ), whilst the CBS albums concentrated mainly on previously unreleased demos of songs both included on the relevant LP - and not.

The following year, Ant’s solo albums from the 80s were reissued in similar style, and were also made available in a boxset called “Remastered”. The box was designed to also hold the reissues of the Ants albums (a big chunk of foam was shoved into the box to stop the solo CD’s from rattling about), whilst the box included an exclusive rarities album, “Redux” (CD, Columbia 519731 2), which was split roughly between previously unreleased material from both the band and the solo years.

The most recent reissue, and possibly one of the best, is 2009’s “Original Album Classics” (3xCD, Columbia 88697 94210 2). This nifty little boxset includes reissues of the three Ants albums in vinyl style card sleeves, and feature the expanded track listings of the 2004 editions. However, the artwork has been restored to the original 1980s designs, meaning that the reissue of “Dirk” comes in the ‘colour’ CBS sleeve from the early 1980s, as opposed to the black and white “Do It” original. Intriguing. Meanwhile, “Kings” includes both the original LP and later single mix of “Antmusic”, the former appearing as the first of six bonus tracks.


Given that The Ants ceased to exist in the early 80s, the back catalogue is relatively simple, at least when viewed in it’s basic form - a number of singles on one format only, and until the turn of the century, three studio albums that, quirky pressings aside, sounded more or less the same as they always did. The compilations and posthumous releases detailed above are important, and in some cases, essential. The list below is of all the UK singles that were issued between 77 and 82, and the original pressings of the LP’s, although I would suggest that only the “original“ version of “Dirk Wears White Sox“ is of interest to newcomers, given that the 2009 boxset covers all the bases music-wise.


Dirk Wears White Sox (1979, LP, Do It RIDE3)
Kings Of The Wild Frontier (1980, LP, CBS 84549)
Prince Charming (1981, LP, CBS 852681)


Young Parisians/Lady (1978, 7”, Decca F13803)
Zerox/Whip In My Valise (1979, 7”, Do It DUN8, later pressings play either alternate mix of A-side or “Physical” on B-side)
Cartrouble (Edit)/Kick (1980, 7”, Do It DUN10)
Kings Of The Wild Frontier/Press Darlings (1980, 7”, CBS 8877)
Dog Eat Dog/Physical (You’re So) (1980, 7”, CBS 9039)
Antmusic (7” Mix)/Fall In (1980, 7”, CBS 9352)
A.N.T.S (1981, Flexidisc, Lyntone 9285)
Stand And Deliver (7” Mix)/Beat My Guest (1981, 7”, CBS A1065, some in poster bag in diff p/s)
Prince Charming/Christian D’Or (1981, 7”, CBS A1408, some in gatefold p/s)
Antrap (7” Mix)/Friends (1981, 7”, CBS A1738, some in “advent calendar” p/s, some pressed as picture disc in clear bag)
Deutscher Girls (7” Mix)/Plastic Surgery (1982, 7”, Eg EGO5)
The B Sides EP: Friends (Do It Version)/Physical/Kick (Alternate Version) (1982, 7”, Do It DUN20, some pressed as picture disc)
The Antmusic EP: Kick (Alternate Version)/Physical/Cartrouble (Part 1)/(Part 2)/Friends (Do It Version) (1982, 12”, Do It DUNIT20)

For those of you who like to know these things - the “B Side Babies” release includes all the CBS flipsides, except “Press Darlings”. “Young Parisians” tends to appear on most best of sets, as does “Deutscher Girls”, but “Lady” and “Plastic Surgery” remain a bit more obscure - the latter is on “Antbox”, but “Lady” seems to only be available on pressings of the “Young Parisians” single, be it either the Decca original or any of the later re-releases.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Classic Albums No.11: Modern Life Is Rubbish

There is a theory, that if the first album you buy by a particular artiste is not their debut album, then this could be for one of two reasons. One, is that you for some reason had never heard of said artiste before. The other, is that it is only now that they have done something that has impressed you enough to make you splash the cash.

I have a tendency to sometimes hear a record by somebody, think “oh, I quite like that”, and then manage to not buy any of their records for years. If at all. I seem to recall liking a Fu Manchu video I saw on MTV in 2002, and then promptly did nothing about it. This is either sheer laziness, or the fear that, as a record collector, once I have bought a record by this artiste, that this will automatically result in a number of “required records” having to be added to my already sizeable hit list. For those of you yet to discover The Fall, for example, when it happens, it will take you forever to get their back catalogue.

I do remember quite liking “There’s No Other Way” by Blur when it came out in 1991, probably because it’s shuffling rhythms made it sound like bands I already liked at the time, such as The Charlatans. But I didn’t rush out to buy it, nor the subsequent LP it appeared upon, Blur‘s debut album “Leisure“.

But by 1994, Blur were fast becoming one of the biggest bands not just in the world of indie-rock, but in the UK in general. “Parklife” had been a critical and commercial success, and by the end of the year, they were headlining the likes of Alexandra Palace. Once a band becomes that popular, it’s generally expected that you have to have an opinion on them - do you love them, or do you hate them? You have to decide, you can’t sit on the fence anymore.

My brother bought this album on Cassette. Having expressed a fondness for them, he told me that I would like this record, and made me a copy - he even photocopied the inlay so I had a replica of the original artwork, albeit in black and white. And I did like it. What impressed me about “Parklife” was that it was not an album of nothing but potential hit singles in waiting, but seemed quite diverse and experimental at times. The “oom pah” instrumental stomp of “The Debt Collector”, the Syd-era Pink Floyd-isms of “Far Out”, I had hated “Girls & Boys” when I first heard it, but I began to appreciate it’s oddball Human League meets Elvis Costello meets Sparks hybrid sound.

I finally got round to buying my own copy of “Parklife” years later, but before then, it was the 1995 follow up, the now much maligned “The Great Escape”, that was the first Blur album I bought when it was first released. At around about the same time, maybe before, maybe just after, I went back and completed the set by buying 1991’s “Leisure” and 1993’s “Modern Life Is Rubbish”. I am not quite sure exactly when it happened, but at some point, I realised that the latter was quite possibly Blur’s masterpiece, and that the adoration that got heaped onto “Parklife” was probably a year too late.

“Modern Life Is Rubbish”, effectively, did everything that “Parklife” did, but with less “nudge nudge wink wink” behaviour, and with more punk rock guitars. Like the oddball mini-instrumental “Lot 105” that closes “Parklife”? Well, “Commercial Break” and “Intermission” got there first. Love the hyper punk rock thrash of “Bank Holiday”? Then check out “Advert”. Fascinated by the Britpop “sound” of “Badhead” and character study of “Track Jacks”? Then try “For Tomorrow” and “Colin Zeal”. “Parklife” is possibly a better record, because it smoothes down the rough edges of it’s predecessor, but “Modern Life” is important because it set up the rest of the band’s career. When “The Great Escape” came out, it was described by somebody as the final part of their “Britpop Trilogy”, thus ensuring that “Modern Life” was seen as the starting point for the rest of the band’s lifetime.

What I love about this album is that it does, quite successfully, show you the two sides to the band that more or less defined everything they did up until “Think Tank“. On one hand, the punky, guitar driven noise that was explored on “Coping” and “Oily Water” would later be used as the template for 1997’s “Blur”, on the other, the more “Britpop” mainstream sound on the likes of “Chemical World” or “Sunday Sunday” would inform huge chunks of the two albums that followed. Without this album, it’s difficult to know if Blur would have become the band they are today.

The record is made even more fascinating, by the fact that it was rejected by the record label not once, but twice. There are reasons for this of course, which you may or may not agree with, but it simply makes the success of this record even more to cherish. Out of adversity comes a story of triumph. OK, so whilst the current sight of the band trawling the festival circuit playing more or less nothing but the hits with no new album on the horizon is a bit "easy target" and a tad depressing, you can’t fully blame this on the break through into the mainstream that “Modern Life” more or less succeeded in doing - or at least opened the doors for them to run through. A good album is a good album, and if it eventually results in said band becoming stadium filling rock stars, then that’s the way it is. And yet at one point, “Modern Life Is Rubbish” was seemingly on the verge of not being released at all.

Let’s rewind a bit to 1991. In August of that year, two days after Nirvana’s famous Saturday lunchtime Reading Festival show showed the rumblings of Grunge about to go overground, Blur released their debut album “Leisure”. It was the recipient of mixed reviews, some critics seeing it as a worthy addition to the Baggy/Madchester scene being led by the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets & friends, others saw it as a pointless and underwhelming addition to the genre. The band themselves expressed a certain discomfort with the album, the suggestion being that the label had specifically asked for the likes of “Bang” to be recorded for the album, thus increasing the amount of “Baggy” material that was on the record, and thus the likelihood of success. But Blur seemed far happier with some of the noisier material that was being tossed away as B-sides, or lost in the middle of the album (such as the shoegazing growl of “Slow Down”), and more or less disowned the album.

In late 91, the band recorded a chunk of demos with producer John Smith, as start of preliminary work on a second album. The band were so impressed with what they recorded, that much of the material was deemed good enough to be released officially, without any attempts at re-recording the demos professionally. The first material to surface from this session was when “Oily Water” turned up on the “Volume 2” compilation album. As the title suggests, this was the second release by a ground breaking magazine/CD called “Volume”. Each issue came housed in a thick digipack sleeve, with a booklet featuring articles and interviews with all the bands featured on the CD. “Oily Water” was deemed so important, that not only was it lined up for inclusion on the abandoned version of “Modern Life”, but it eventually appeared on the released version from 1993, where the original “Volume 2” demo mix was included in unblemished form.

At the tail end of the year, another compilation provided the home for another one of the demos, when “Resigned” appeared on the “Food Christmas Party Tape”. It was one of two Blur tracks to be making their debut here, as the cassette also included a previously unreleased remix of “Leisure” album track “High Cool”. Even though, again, this version of “Resigned” was the exact same one that would later re-emerge on “Modern Life”, the cassette remains of some interest because the remix of “High Cool” has never resurfaced. But it’s perhaps telling that although, from a collectors point of view, it is that mix of “High Cool” that gets people excited, from a musical viewpoint, “Resigned” was a far greater indicator of where the band were heading.

December 1991 saw the band head into the studio with John Smith again to record more new songs in “non demo“ form, including the re-recording of one of the tracks originally taped at the demo session, “My Ark”. The sessions continued into January the following year, with “Into Another” also the subject of a re-recording of one of the old demo tracks. By the end of the sessions, the band had ditched some of the tracks from the original demo session (“I Love Her” and “Turn It Up”), material from the first Smith session (“Beachcoma”, “Miss America”, “Colin Zeal” and “Seven Days”) but a projected album was now being pieced together. According to the excellent “Veikko’s Blur Page” (who has been very helpful in the creation of this article, thanks Veikko!), the running order was to be:

Intermission/Oily Water/Mace/Badgeman Brown/Popscene/Resigned/Garden Central/Hanging Over/Into Another/Peach/Bone Bag/Never Clever/Coping/My Ark/Pressure On Julian/Commercial Break.

The album was presented to Food Records, only for them to turn it down. Given that many of these songs later trickled out on compilations and B-sides, many of you may be familiar with these songs, and if you are, you may or may not agree with me when I say you can see why Food rejected the album. A lot of the songs are quite awkward, angular affairs - don’t get me wrong, I like “Hanging Over” and “Into Another” but both sounded as though they had been recorded when Graham was using a guitar with faulty strings, whilst Damon’s vocals are either channelling Syd Barrett or are simply out of tune - take your pick. Food secretly wanted Blur to “do a Nirvana” and as this record was not “Nevermind Part 2”, the record was subsequently ditched. Things were about to go from bad to worse. Enter “The Wilderness Years”.

With the second album deemed to be “not up to scratch”, the band were sent back into the studio to try and record (or re-record) material worthy of release. A session with Steve Lovell in February 92 resulted in revamps of “Popscene” and “Turn It Up”, the latter being recorded - again - seemingly at Food’s request on the basis that it would help the album do well in America. “Popscene” was soon being touted as the band’s next single, a very early preview of the - at the time - completely unfinished second LP. During April, the band played four “new” songs for BBC Radio 1’s “Evening Session” - “Into Another”, “Hanging Over”, “Colin Zeal” and “Seven Days”, suggesting that despite Food’s belief that the planned album was unsuitable, some songs were still being considered for the record, either in re-recorded form or in their original versions. This session is now viewed with a great deal of interest, because although three of the four songs would appear in 1993 either on the album or as B-sides, “Seven Days” would not. The song would not see the light of day until it appeared in 2000 on the flip of “Music Is My Radar” - and it was the actual BBC recording that was used there as well.

By this point, it had dawned on the band that due to some financial disasters, the band were more or less broke. A lengthy 6-week US tour was scheduled for May and June in an attempt to try and recoup some losses, by which time “Popscene” had been released as the next single. Three tracks from the “abandoned” album were resurrected for use as B-sides, with “Mace” appearing on all formats, “Badgeman Brown” on the CD and “Garden Central” on the 12”. A self produced track, “I’m Fine”, was also included on the 12”, which seemed to date from the 1991 Demo session.

The band were proud of the single. It was a major leap forward from the “baggy” sound of the earlier 45’s, with a zingy Coxon guitar line, and a vibrant energy throughout. It was a noisy bugger of a record, and although it seemed to pre-date the Pavement-apeing sound of the 1997 self titled LP (the band were touring with Dinosaur Jr at the same time the single was released), it later got described - inaccurately, IMO - as the first ever “Britpop” single. This may come from the fact that Albarn himself later described it as a very British single, I guess the Madness sounding horn section was the reason for this statement.

Despite the multi formatting madness, requiring completists to have to buy the single on both 12” and CD to get all the “new” songs, (Blur had always been issuing their singles on multiple formats with variant tracklistings since day 1), it didn’t do the trick chartwise. “Popscene” charted at number 32, lower than the much despised “Bang”. This left the band feeling slightly bemused. The label, at some point, lost interest in the band again, and apparently, plans to release “Never Clever” as the next single (another survivor from the 1991 Demo Session) were abandoned due to “lack of public interest”. Although “Never Clever” remained in the Blur live set, it would fail to make it onto the final version of “Modern Life”, instead turning up - with “Popscene” - on the 1997 “Food 100” compilation LP.

With this sound of (relative) failure ringing in their ears, the US tour simply made matters worse. Blur had toured the country before, and had enjoyed the experience, but this time around it was different. Grunge had now gone fully overground, and Blur found themselves touring the country that had invented it, whilst promoting a now archaic sounding LP (“Leisure”, technically, was still their new album) which they didn’t particularly like. The setlists of the time revealed what their opinion of the record was, with much of the set consisting of material planned for inclusion on the not-yet-released follow up, vinyl only B-sides like “Won’t Do It” and “Day Upon Day” appearing in preference to some of the “baggy” stuff, with the likes of “Bang” conspicuous by their absence. Americans just didn’t seem to care much for Blur, and the group found themselves playing to half full, disinterested crowds, which began to instil a sense of “Anti American” feeling within the group. Albarn, becoming homesick as the tour went on, began to write new songs that had a real “British” vibe to them, a combination of his anti-USA attitude being reinforced by listening to a tape of The Kinks that was on the group’s tour bus. In a similar way to how The Jam reinvented themselves circa “All Mod Cons”, Albarn’s new songs were influenced by Ray Davies’ own view of ’Englishness’.

Once the US tour was over, the band did not immediately reinvent themselves. Yes, Albarn was now wearing a mod-style suit, but instead, they still seemed bruised and battered by the experience, and were on something of a self destructive streak. They played a now famous Glastonbury Festival show in June, a slightly chaotic, alcohol induced, middle-of-the-bill but energetic 50 minute set - a far cry from the sleek show they put on nowadays - a PA module landed on Damon‘s foot during the ramshackle set closer, “Day Upon Day“. On 23rd July, the band played a gig that was to become the turning point of their career, a charity gig for the “Gimme Shelter” organisation at London’s Town And Country Club. You have probably heard about it. Bright young Britpop things Suede were on first, whilst Blur, still seemingly in an alcohol induced stupor, played what is regarded as either their greatest ever gig - or their worst. Band members kept falling over, Albarn advised the crowd to go home the minute he came onstage because the band were likely to be “rubbish” (or words to that effect), and true to his word, according to eye witness reports, it was a near shambles. The band survived long enough to play the full set, but the label were worried, and the band were warned that they needed to buck up their ideas. Albarn later apologised for the “awful” show they put on. Suede had blown them off stage without even trying, and the music press loved them and now hated Blur. Although at this point, it is easy to look at Blur as being “just another indie band”, Albarn had greater ambitions, and seemed to take the advice to heart. In August, attempts at recording new material for the second album started again.

For this session, the band worked with XTC’s Andy Partridge. An attempt at re-recording “Seven Days” was conducted, along with stabs at new songs written on the US tour - “Sunday Sunday” and “Coping”. However, the band were unhappy with the session, feeling that Partridge had successfully made them sound like Blur, but that this was exactly what they didn’t want. Another session with Steve Lovell in October spawned “Villa Rosie” and a re-recorded “Sunday Sunday”, but progress was still slow.

A chance meeting with Stephen Street, who had worked with the band previously, was the catalyst for the album really starting to take shape. The resultant sessions saw a number of older songs being re-attempted (“Colin Zeal”, “Coping”, “Pressure On Julian” and, at the behest of the label again I do believe, “Turn It Up”) along with a number of other new recordings. Several songs from the original Demo/John Smith sessions were still being held over for inclusion on the album, whilst some of the new songs would later only surface as B-sides (“Magpie” and “When The Cows Come Home”). “Magpie”, in the end, would see the light of day when it appeared on the flip of 1994’s “Girls & Boys”, and would be revealed as just one of numerous songs demoed during 1992, which would take some time to surface officially, including others such as “1992” and “Pap Pop”.

A completed version of the album, consisting of 14 songs, was presented to Food at the end of 1992. Unless I am very much mistaken, this was the “new” track listing of the second album, which bore little resemblance to the originally planned second record:

Intermission/Advert/Colin Zeal/Pressure On Julian/Starshaped/Blue Jeans/Sunday Sunday/Oily Water/Miss America/Villa Rosie/Coping/Turn It Up/Resigned/Commercial Break.

“Popscene” was deliberately left off the record, the band believing that as the single had sold in such meagre numbers, that their fans did not “want it” or did not really “deserve” it. “Intermission” and “Commercial Break” were originally recorded under the working titles of “Intro” and “Outro”, I understand they were to appear here at the start and end respectively, but in the end, they were slotted in at the end of side 1 and side 2 instead. As regards the “new” version of the album, half of the LP dated from the recent Street sessions. The exceptions were the previously discussed “Oily Water” and “Resigned”, “Villa Rosie“ and “Sunday Sunday“ from the late 92 Lovell session, “Intermission” and “Commercial Break” from the 1992 Smith session, and “Miss America” from the 1991 Smith Session, ditched from the original track listing but suddenly back in vogue.

Trouble was, Food were still unimpressed, claiming the album lacked “hardly any singles”. Albarn responded to this by writing more material during Christmas 1992, “One Born Every Minute” (eventually recorded and released as a 1995 b-side) and “For Tomorrow”. Another track that had been demoed and then shelved, “Chemical World”, was also chosen as a contender for the record, and both this and “For Tomorrow” were recorded by Street in early 93, along with a proper version of “When the Cows Come Home” and another future B-side, “Young And Lovely“. Even then, the band’s US label, SBK, didn’t like the mix of “Chemical World”, but did like the demo version that the band offered them instead. Other bonus tracks were tagged on as well in the US, especially on the CD editions, including “Popscene“. And so, with “For Tomorrow” placed at the start, “Chemical World” on side 1 before “Intermission”, with the US version playing the demo mix instead (later released, curiously, as “Chemical World (Reworked)” in the UK as an alternate A-side, when it was the UK LP version that was actually the ’reworked’ take), “Modern Life Is Rubbish” was finally complete, some 18 months after work had started on it.

“Modern Life” was not the enormous-selling hit that Food might have liked, but it did seem to shake off the ghost of “Leisure”. It charted at number 15, Blur’s only studio album to not dent the top 10, whilst all three singles charted inside the top 30 - but none higher than “Bang”. But the band were proud of it, Food’s concerns of the band releasing a “British” album generally proved unfounded as critics showed a great deal of love for the record. The Britishness theme was extended to the painting of the steam locomotive that adorned the front cover, and an image of the band on a London tube train inside.

A sizeable chunk of non-album material was issued across the three singles that followed, helped by some more over-zealous multi formatting games by the label. “For Tomorrow” saw the inclusion of four tracks from the “abandoned“ version of the LP, namely “Into Another”, “Hanging Over”, “Peach” and “Bone Bag”, whilst “Beachcoma” was lifted from the vaults for inclusion on the second CD edition along with “When The Cows Come Home”. “Chemical World” came backed with “Young And Lovely” and another relic from the abandoned LP, “My Ark”, along with a new b-side taped in the summer of 1993, “Es Schmecht”. 7” copies featured a cover of “Maggie May”, taped in 1992 for the NME “Ruby Trax” covers album. CD1 replaced the single edit of the A-side with the “reworked” demo version, and was padded out with three live tracks from the Glastonbury show - “Come Together”, the at-the-time-new song “Pressure On Julian” and the single-that-never-was “Never Clever”, which at the time of the Glasto show, was already generally considered to have been already ditched as a potential 45 by Food. It’s inclusion on this single was, until the studio mix appeared on “Food 100”, the only place this track could officially be found.

For “Sunday Sunday”, the b-side machine went into overdrive, with exclusive material on every one of the four formats. With the original second album session vaults nearly, but not quite, emptied, the band used alternate sources for flipsides. A number of unreleased tracks from the band’s pre-Food days, when they were still called Seymour, were spread across the 7”, 12” and CD editions, whilst a special “Popular Community Song” CD EP came backed with recently taped music hall standards “Let’s All Go Down The Strand” and “Daisy Bell”. The EP was originally planned to be released as a 4 track single, but Albarn “deleted” the other song, “For Old Times Sake”, seemingly by accident. The artwork on all of these singles seemed to tie in with either the theme of Britishness, or the Americanisation of British culture - a Spitfire plane on “For Tomorrow”, a sports car on “Chemical World”, and the “Victorian family” image alongside a mega Big Mac burger on “Sunday Sunday”.

So what of the album itself? Well, it really is a glorious piece of work. Moan all you like about record companies, but having Food “force” Damon into writing a single really worked when you consider that “For Tomorrow” came out of this demand, a beautiful piece of baroque pop, with the “choir” section in the middle eight being a piece of soaring musical perfection that lifts the song to an astonishing high. “Advert”, written as a response to the invasion of cable TV by the shopping channels, and consumerism in general, in response, is a far more scuzzy, growling, beast of a record, Britpop but through an effects pedal. “Colin Zeal” cackles with an edgy spark, anthemic choruses and key changes in just the right place. Indeed, it isn’t really until the chugging awkwardness of “Pressure on Julian” that you get the impression of how “odd” the original version of the album could have been. This is the first song on the released “Modern Life” that was intended for the original version, and you can hear the anti-baggy snarl the song exhibits quite clearly.

Conversely, “Starshaped” is glorious, a piece of catchy indie-pop that benefits greatly from those high pitched backing vocals, structure wise, it’s simple but brilliantly effective. “Blue Jeans” doesn’t quite hit the same glorious highs, but shuffles along pleasantly, all harmonium and Syd-style vocal inclinations. And “Chemical World” is magnificent, all crunching rhythms, booming drums, spiky guitar, and pure Britpop style observations (“peeping Thomas has a very nice view, across the street at the exhibitionist”). The following “Intermission”, starts off slowly with a rinky dink piano riff, then starts to build and build, speeding up as it goes, as Coxon unleashes his mighty guitar effects across it’s length and breadth. It’s brilliantly executed, a highly imaginative finish to an impressive first half.

Side 2 is just as good. The stomping thud in the verses of “Sunday Sunday” giving way to a wonky, Seymour-style “anti guitar” solo in the middle eight. “Oily Water” is shoegaze-era Blur at their best, the final section a monumental wall of sound which is never self indulgent, but is held together by Alex’s bass and Dave’s propulsive drums, the song never descending into chaos despite Graham’s guitar histrionics. Again, as almost if to prove a point, the following “Miss America” sounds very much like it’s a demo recording, all wobbly sounding instruments, and Damon’s vulnerable vocals muffling their way through the speakers, as he again heads down Barrett Way (“she no jellybean she’s a jemima ho ho”).

“Villa Rosie” starts off with some more warped Coxon effects, before settling into a slightly oddball piece of pop, a more spaced out “Starshaped”, whilst “Coping” spits and snarls with an aggressive sneer, driven along by some full on manic keyboard noises. And even though they may hate it, “Turn It Up” is certainly no worse, perhaps it’s even better, more “wall of sound” style production at the start with Coxon’s guitar filling the room whilst James’ bass keeps everything in check. It’s not cool to say so, but I love it.

“Resigned”, as one of the older tracks, has an air of “Leisure” about it, at least the more experimental side of the band from that time frame. Rowntree’s drums beat out a shuffly rhythm, the harmonium casts a strange spell across the song as Coxon‘s insistent guitar chops along, it all gives a feeling of desperation and sadness even before Albarn’s little boy lost vocals cut in - it’s a truly spellbinding piece of work that brings the album to a quite remarkable (nearly) end. “Commercial Break” is the more quirky of the two instrumentals, starting off like a band trying to get going in a rehearsal room, then breaking into a noisy and rampant Coxon led sprawl, feedback stumbling out of the speakers before it careers from a breakneck speed to a sudden, sharp, stop. And that’s it. 16 songs, just under an hour, and a record that barely puts a single foot wrong.

As part of Blur’s recent rehabilitation, “Modern Life” was reissued (as were all of the LP’s) in 2012, in newly expanded form. Of the seven studio records, it’s one of several that upon being reissued, offered nothing in the way of previously unreleased material, but instead uses it’s bonus disc to display the B-sides recorded during the period, and thus in this instance, gives you a sort of alternate version of the album - a “what might have been” situation. The second disc includes all of the relevant studio material from the period, in “release date” order. So you get the blistering “Popscene” and it’s attendant flipsides, including the warped rumble of “Badgeman Brown”, complete with it’s variants in tempo, structure and time signature. Radio edit mixes are excluded, but alternate versions are not completely ignored, so you get the extended “For Tomorrow” (but not the acoustic B-side retake) and the “reworked” “Chemical World”. All of the other B-sides of “For Tomorrow” are here, including the trumpet driven march of “When The Cows Come Home”, which could have slotted onto either side of “Parklife” with little problem. Most of the “Chemical World” flipsides are here, including the oddball strut of “Es Schmecht”, which sounds like a bizarre punchup between Squeeze, The Specials and Kraftwerk, and their charming take on “Maggie May”, which always sounded to me as though it was recorded whilst Damon was struggling to set his microphone up, his voice having a strange sort of strangulated effect, with the original mandolin driven Rod The Mod original now sounding like it was recorded in the most echoey room ever, Dave’s drums sounding like cannons going off.

Space constraints more or less stop things there - the other covers that were recorded at the time for compilation albums are sadly missing (“Oliver’s Army” and “Substitute”), whilst the historically important live tracks from Glastonbury are also absent. The reissue came housed in a special box, with a free booklet and art prints inside, with the two discs housed in a special cardboard “vinyl style” gatefold sleeve. At the same time, the band issued their “21” boxset which across it’s multiple discs, sheds some more light on the period. “I Love Her”, which remained unreleased for some time, later turned up as a fan club single and appears on the second disc of the expanded “Leisure” release. The recorded versions of “Magpie” and “One Born Every Minute” appear on the relevant second disc of their respective albums (“Parklife” and “The Great Escape”).

The boxset also includes two double disc “Rarities” albums, and more material related to the period appears here. There is no space, still, for any of the “Sunday Sunday” Seymour-period B-sides, but disc 1 of “Rarities 1” does include demo versions of a couple of songs which appeared in re-recorded form on the single, namely “Dizzy” and “Mixed Up”. Disc 2 of the same release deals with “Modern Life Is Rubbish” material, so you get the original 1991 demo of “Popscene”, an alternate version of “I Love Her”, an early version of “Turn It Up” when it was known as “Kazoo”, along with demos of “Julian”, “Colin Zeal”, “Sunday Sunday” and “Never Clever” - actually the same version that had appeared on the “Food 100” comp.

Also on here - the three songs taped with Andy Partridge, more demos of songs which made the album (“Advert”, “Starshaped”, “Blue Jeans”), more demos of songs which didn’t (“Beached Whale”, the aforementioned “Pap Pop”, “Death of A Party” - later issued as a fan club single) and the band’s infamous gig freebie single from 1992, “The Wassailing Song”. The disc ends with the original demos of “Magpie” and “Cows Come Home”, and a demo of “For Tomorrow”. Still no space for the acoustic B-side though, nor those Glasto performances. Even the “compilation album only“ live version of “Sunday Sunday“ from the same show (tossed away on the “In A Field Of Their Own“ mail order CD) fails to get an outing.

“Rarities 2” also includes material vaguely related to the period, although this is subtitled as being from the “Parklife And Great Escape” era, but there is a demo of “One Born Every Minute”, probably dating from 1993 rather than 1995. Nowhere to be found are the demos for the unreleased “Singular Charm”, “Pleasant Education” or the aforementioned “1992” - famously named after the year in which it was originally written, as opposed to when it was eventually released (1999) and also long seen as making vague references to the famous “Wilderness Years” would have been fascinating to hear a version of it from this period.

During the years that followed, material that would eventually appear on the major breakthrough record, “Parklife”, was trialled onstage, and a buzz began to surround the band, finally reaching it’s climax when the follow up to “Sunday Sunday”, “Girls & Boys”, stormed the upper reaches of the charts in 1994. This is a period that is quite fascinating, because here was a band playing the club circuit trying out unknown songs from an album that would shake the world of indie-rock to it’s core. But I still maintain that “Modern Life” deserves it’s place in history. Because without it, “Parklife” probably wouldn’t have happened. It has it all - shoegazeing guitar effects, early Pink Floyd mannerisms, brass instruments, slightly unhinged instrumentals, punk energy here, big Britpop style flourishes there, and in the case of the 2012 edition, a second edition of even more weird and wonderful strangeness. Listen to both discs one after the other, and it shows you just how open minded the band were in the period between the release of “Leisure” and the oncoming “Parklife”. It’s a brilliant record, very original, utterly clever, incredibly intelligent, exhilaratingly noisy at times, heartfelt, bruised, battered and tearful at others. Later Blur records may arguably have been better, but they usually concentrated on one or the other facets that made “Modern Life” so special - or in the case of “Think Tank”, decided it couldn’t be topped so avoided it’s influence altogether. Twenty years on, it still sounds glorious. “Parklife” may have turned Blur into superstars, but it was “Modern Life Is Rubbish” that really started it all.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Kim Wilde in the UK

When I saw Kim Wilde back in 2002, it was on one of those awful 80’s “Here And Now” packages. That year, the line up was enlivened by the fact that Altered Images and The Human League were part of the line up as well as Ms Wilde. She only played for about 20 minutes, made a risqué joke before playing “You Came”, and basically rattled through a few of her biggest hits, no album tracks here. Like Altered Images, it seemed as though her appearance on the tour was a retro style decision to briefly revisit her past, as she had begun to carve out a career as a TV Gardener a year or so before, and hadn’t released an LP in the UK since 1995.

But I later found out that whilst Wilde’s UK pop career was more or less killed off by TV and Radio showing little interest in her anymore, it was a bit different elsewhere. Kim, it seems, is big in Germany, and there had been some “non UK” single releases in those intervening years since 95. Indeed, Kim has released no less than three LP’s in Europe since that “Here And Now“ show. I am guessing her UK Xmas tour will possibly not involve her playing anything from these records, although you can get them cheaply from Amazon, the days of expensive “import albums” now (mostly) long gone.

The tour is being conducted to coincide with a Christmas album, which seems to be getting a proper UK release, and will therefore be her first “new” album here for 18 years. Bananarama went through a similar situation in the 1990’s. I do rather adore Kim Wilde, I heard “The Touch” again recently and nearly passed out with excitement (her great lost 45), so I thought I would look at her UK releases, especially as she too, like Belinda Carlisle, is in the middle of a comprehensive reissue program as I type this.


Wilde, famously, has a real pop pedigree, being the daughter of rocker Marty Wilde. She released her self titled debut LP in 1981, which curiously featured her plus the three members of her touring band on the front, which might have suggested to the uneducated that Kim Wilde was the name of the band. Wilde later stated that it was done because “it was passe for a female to attempt...a serious career in pop”, and the striking image was done to try and boost her credibility stakes. The accompanying singles, however, featured Kim solo (or at least, nobody other than Kim looking at the camera).

For anybody discovering Kim nowadays, their introduction might be via some of the more “pop” stuff she did later the same decade, so they might be shocked at the sparky, synth driven, new wave that inhabits the first album. The first single from the LP, the glorious “Kids In America”, sounded like Blondie covering Kraftwerk, and featured a slightly scary video with Kim looking all mean and moody, and somebody cutting their hand on a venetian blind, with blood dripping down the screen. A far cry from “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”.

“Kids In America” was a huge hit, number 2 in the UK, but was no fluke, and the other singles from the album were equally thrilling pieces of high charting electro-pop - “Chequered Love” and “Water On Glass” also went top 10, and Wilde’s debut LP, issued inbetween these two 45’s, was a critically acclaimed, and commercial, success.

1982’s “Select” saw the art department decide to trust the public’s instinct, by featuring Kim alone on the cover. Although I have long believed that this one came in for some stick in the past (the decision to go political on “Cambodia”, and the fact that I am sure even Kim herself once said that “Chaos At the Airport” was awful), it’s deemed to be more “synth”-y than it’s predecessor, and much loved by many. I’ll admit, “View From A Bridge” is magnificently brilliant, and nigh on perfect synthpop.

Things started to go slightly astray with 1983’s “Catch As Catch Can” - another album that, for the most part, followed the synth/new wave stylings of what had come before, only this time with mixed reviews, and relatively poor sales of both the album and it’s attendant 45’s. The album had been previewed with a curveball of a single, “Love Blonde”, a jazzy shuffle that was as uncharacteristic of Wilde as “The Lovecats” was of The Cure (issued the same year, perhaps there was something in the water). The decision to issue the singles from the album on 12” as well as 7” - sometimes with different track listings, meaning completists would have to buy both - couldn’t rescue them from rather poor chart positions, and Wilde left RAK soon after. Her departure was marked by the label in 1984 with the release of “The Very Best Of Kim Wilde”, a run through of the singles (including 1982‘s stand alone 45, “Child Come Away“), selected B-sides, and random album tracks.

By this point in her career, Wilde had signed to MCA, and released her fourth album the same year, “Teases And Dares”. Both the LP and lead single, “The Second Time”, featured Kim as some sort of ‘Barbarella‘-style Sci Fi Supervixen, an image which got played up by the label a bit too much, something she wasn’t actually too keen on them doing. There was a continuation of issuing the singles on 7" as well as 12, and several of these 45’s were even housed in different sleeves for the different formats as well. Wilde was still struggling to regain the commercial ground lost in the last few years, until a remixed “Rage To Love” hit the top 20 in April 1985.

This hit was a sign of things to come. In 1986, Wilde released “Another Step”, which whilst only a moderate seller, spawned some enormous hit singles. The album was a shift in sound, away from the new wave/electro style of the previous records, and towards a far more “pop” mainstream sound. Whilst this might have sounded like the death knell for Kim’s career, this move away from the left field actually worked quite well, her hi-energy cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” giving her one of her biggest ever hits, and deservedly so, as her wholescale revamping of the original was brilliantly conceived. The other singles, “Another Step” and “Say You Really Want Me”, were equally glorious pieces of raucous pop, whilst the second half of the album was mostly full of well received ballads, a deliberate move by Kim, including the magnificently lush “She Hasn’t Got Time For You”. Vinyl copies of the record neglected to include the song “Victim” on space grounds, whilst initial copies came in the well known “map” cover, but with the water and land coloured in in what looked like some amateurish felt tip pen, subsequent pressings used a more “professional” pallet.

In 1987, the album was reissued in a completely new, and arty, black and white image of Wilde, with three bonus tracks - the 7” remixes of “Another Step” and “Say You Really Want Me”, plus a brand new Megamix. For the vinyl edition, these three tracks were housed on a free 12” included in the package, for the CD, they appeared at the end of the record, and for the Tape, the Megamix closed side 1, and the remixes side 2. The year ended with a fun cover of Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”, recorded with comedian Mel Smith - the record was credited to “Mel And Kim”, as an affectionate nod to the SAW pop duo of the same name.

Kim’s stock was now rising, and for many, this culminated in what is regarded as her finest record, 1988’s “Close”, which carried on with the pop sound of “Another Step”, veering between sweet ballads (the unbelievably beautiful “Four Letter Word”), searing power pop (“You Came”, her favourite record BTW) and full blown camp ultra-pop (“Never Trust A Stranger”). The album took a while to catch the public imagination, only eventually charting inside the top 10 during 1989, but each of the singles hit the top 40, many going top 10, and her profile was boosted by a high profile stint as the support on Michael Jackson’s “Bad” tour.

I have long believed that 1990’s “Love Moves” carried on where “Close” left off, after all, everybody knows how gloriously anthemic the singles “It’s Here” and “Time” are, don’t they? Well, the former just dented the top 40, and the other one didn’t, and the LP sold poorly, with little love shown by the critics, so maybe it‘s just me who loves those records. Anyway, last time I listened to it, it sounded alright, and in danger of sounding like a "Daily Sport" reading misogynist, Wilde still looked like a vampy sex kitten on the album and single covers. She seemingly hadn’t aged in the past ten years. In what may have been an attempt to try and remind people of Wilde’s genius pop past, the b-side of the last 45 from the album, “I Can’t Say Goodbye”, came backed with another Megamix.

Such were the poor sales of “Love Moves” and it’s accompanying singles, that 1992’s “Love Is” is thus seen by some as Wilde’s comeback, and it did seem to have an updated 90’s edge to it, be it the crunching rhythm of “Heart Over Mind”, the soaring Belinda-style “Love Is Holy”, or the Bananarama-esque thrill of “Who Do You Think You Are”. With the CD Single now fully established as a major player in the format wars, several of the singles were issued on two CD editions each in an attempt to hit the charts, with other formats coming in unique picture covers as well. It sort of worked, with the three singles issued in the UK at least all going top 50.

The high energy of “Who Do You Think You Are” was carried over into 1993, when Wilde recorded two new equally energetic songs for her “Singles Collection 1981-1993” set - a cover of “If I Can’t Have You” and “In My Life”. The album charted at number 11, and raised Wilde’s profile again, helped by both the high charting position of the “If I Can’t Have You” 45 (number 12) and a brief romance with UK TV presenter Chris Evans. A remixed “Kids In America” was issued overseas, whilst a VHS collection of selected hits from the past was issued to coincide.

And then, things went slightly awry again. 1995’s “Now And Forever” moved further into the dance territory that was found on the likes of “In My Life”, but even though this was very much an attempt to remain contemporary and cutting edge, Wilde was now a bit “old skool”, and the likes of Radio 1 lost interest. In the UK, the album failed to chart, and the singles released failed to hit the top 40. A stand alone single, “Shame”, recorded during the sessions but left off the record, fared even worse.

Wilde appeared in the London stage production of “Tommy” in 1996 (and I’ll admit, seeing her in the flesh for the first time ever was quite thrilling) and she reportedly began work on a new album, but seemed to have lost interest in the industry - she later admitted that she felt too old in an age where the Spice Girls were the new kids on the block, and felt disillusioned with the fact that the music industry had become so “business” minded. She instead began a new career as a TV Gardener, and seemed to have walked away from the music biz for good.

And apart from those “Here And Now” tours, in the UK at least, she did. Another best of in 2001, “The Very Best Of”, did include a new song, “Loved”, but it was only released as a single outside the UK. Wilde’s studio albums issued since have been Euro-only releases, always the sound of something a bit dodgy, but came about simply because she wanted to make music again, and her re-emergence came with a real kudos, allowing her to get the likes of ultra hip Charlotte Hatherley involved in a re-recording of “Kids In America” for 2006’s “Never Say Never”. From a UK viewpoint, the Xmas album will officially be her first studio effort here since “Now And Forever”, and although she may have got a bit of ridicule recently for doing a karaoke version of “Kids” on the tube, the recent expanded reissue of “Close” and her first headline tour since 1987, suggest that Kim Wilde is truly back. Hallelujah!

Reissues And Compilations

Although several of Kim’s latter period albums were released on CD straight from the off, CD editions of her earlier albums always remained a bit more obscure. In 2009, the “pop” division of Cherry Red records, Cherry Pop, set about reissuing her albums, seemingly because the original labels had no interest in doing so. First up, were expanded single disc versions of her three RAK albums. Most relevant rarities from the period were on them - the 7” mix of “Water Of Glass” appeared on “Kim Wilde” along with the non album B-sides from the period, “Select” followed suit but also included the stand alone 45’s “Child Come Away” and the Japanese only “Bitter Is Better”, whilst “Catch As Catch Can” included similar rarities, including the 12” mixes of “Love Blonde” and “Dancing In The Dark”, along with the instrumental B-side mix of the latter. It’s a shame her short take on “Freight Train”, included on the Cassette Interview magazine SFX2 from 1981 couldn’t have been snuck onto the reissue of her debut LP, but I guess logistics got in the way.

In 2010, the label set about reissuing her MCA albums, although the campaign got no further than 1986’s “Another Step”. Rumours were that MCA thought that 1988’s “Close” was something of a pop masterpiece, and wanted to keep it for themselves - born out now of course by the recent 2-CD mega expanded edition that they have indeed just put out. Generally, the revamps of both “Teases And Dares” and “Another Step” featured single mixes, B-sides and any other odds and sods from the period at the end of the original album on disc 1, whilst CD2 came with the 12” mixes from the period - of which, there were plenty. As you would expect, “Victim” and the three bonus tracks from the 1987 repressing of “Another Step“, are all present and correct on it‘s 2010 edition - the only issue is that the European only b-side “Songs About Love“ has been transferred from an original vinyl single (the masters have obviously gone missing), and thus sounds a bit too crackly and loud.

Aside from the aforementioned best ofs, it’s difficult to know where to guide you if you want more - because there are so many of them. Pick of the bunch is probably the budget label “The Hits Collection”, which features - a la “Singles Going Steady” - Kim’s eight RAK singles, then their accompanying B-sides. The set is rounded off with the other major rarities from the period, namely “Bitter Is Better” and the extended versions of “Love Blonde” and “DITD”. If you want to complete the set, then the similarly titled Spectrum release “The Collection” might be of interest, as it covers the MCA years only, and can be seen as a sort of unplanned volume 2. Oh yes, there is another “The Collection” release in existence, a 2-CD trawl through the RAK years, along with a couple of stuff from the euro albums, issued by Music Club.


Given that some of the recent reissues are nigh on essential (“Teases And Dares” includes, amongst other things, a soundtrack contribution and US only remixes, “Another Step” appears in the original rare “felt tip pen” cover), and given that some newcomers will find it preferable to buy these CD’s as opposed to the vinyl originals, the list of 45’s below thus includes some singles that were of little interest when first released, other than to completists, but which are now of interest because the tracks they were missing are to be found on said reissues. Again, given that some of these reissues do only include previously released material, the more hardcore amongst you may prefer to hunt down the original LP’s, and so the albums list shows (one of) the original pressing(s), plus the reissue where relevant. You may also wish to check out the officially endorsed "Wilde Life" collectors site, which has photos and more details of everything listed here and more.


Kim Wilde (1981, LP, RAK SRAK 544)
Kim Wilde (2009, CD, Cherry Pop CRPOP 20)

Select (1982, LP, RAK SRAK 548)
Select (2009, CD, Cherry Pop CRPOP 21)

Catch As Catch Can (1983, LP, RAK SRAK 1654081)
Catch As Catch Can (2009, CD, Cherry Pop CRPOP 22)

Teases And Dares (1984, LP, MCA WILDE 1)
Teases And Dares (2010, 2xCD, Cherry Pop CRPOPD 54)

Another Step (1986, LP, MCA MCF 3339)
Another Step (1987, LP+12”, MCA KIML 1)
Another Step (2010, 2xCD, Cherry Pop CRPOPD 55)

Close (1988, LP, MCA MCG 6030)
Close (2013, 2xCD, MCA UMCREP 2025, includes previously unreleased remixes)

Love Moves (1990, CD, MCA DMCG 6088)

Love Is (1992, CD, MCA MCAD 10625)

Now And Forever (1995, CD, MCA MCD 60002)


Kids In America/Tuning In Tuning Out (7”, RAK 327)

Chequered Love/Shane (7”, RAK 330)

Water On Glass (7“ Mix)/Boys (7”, RAK 334)

Cambodia (7” Mix)/Watching For Shapes (7”, RAK 336)

View From A Bridge/Take Me Tonight (7”, RAK 342)

Child Come Away/Just Another Guy (7”, RAK 352)

Love Blonde (Edit)/Can You Hear It (7”, RAK 360)
Love Blonde (12” Mix)/(Edit)/Can You Hear It (12”, RAK 12 RAKS 360, with free poster)

Dancing In The Dark/Back Street Driver (7”, RAK 365)
Dancing In The Dark (Nile Rodgers Extended Version)/(Instrumental) (12”, RAK 12 RAK 365)

The Second Time (7” Version)/Lovers On A Beach (7”, MCA KIM 1)
The Second Time (7” Version)/Lovers On A Beach (7” Picture Disc, MCA KIMP 1, in clear sleeve)
The Second Time (Extended Version)/Lovers On A Beach (Extended Version) (12”, MCA KIMT 1, unique p/s)

The Touch (7” Version)/Shangri-La (7”, MCA KIM 2)
The Touch (7” Version)/Shangri-La (7” Picture Disc, MCA KIMP 2, in clear sleeve)
The Touch (12” Version)/Shangri-La (12” Version) (12”, MCA KIMT 2)

Rage To Love (7” Version)/Putty In Your Hands (7”, MCA KIM 3)
Rage To Love (7” Version)/Putty In Your Hands (7” Picture Disc, MCA KIMP 3, in clear sleeve)
Rage To Love (12” Version)/The Second Time (US Remix)/Putty In Your Hands (12”, MCA KIMT 3, different p/s)

You Keep Me Hangin’ On/Loving You (7”, MCA KIM 4)
You Keep Me Hangin’ On (WCH Mix)/Loving You/You Keep Me Hangin’ On (12”, MCA KIMT 4)

Another Step (7” Version)/Hold Back (7”, MCA KIM 5)
Another Step (Extended Mix)/(7” Version)/Hold Back (12”, MCA KIMT 5)

Say You Really Want Me (Remix)/Don’t Say Nothing’s Changed (7”, MCA KIM 6, in gatefold p/s)
Say You Really Want Me (Extended Version)/(Remix)/Don’t Say Nothing’s Changed (12”, MCA KIMT 6, plus poster)
Say You Really Want Me (The Video Mix)/(Remix)/Don’t Say Nothing’s Changed (Remix 12”, MCA KIMX 6, different p/s)
Say You Really Want Me (The Video Mix)/(Remix)/Don’t Say Nothing’s Changed (Cassette, MCA KIMC 6)

Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree +1 (7”, Ten Records TEN 2)
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (The Mega Merry Magimix) +1 (12”, Ten Records TEN 2-12)

Hey Mr Heartache (Single Version)/Tell Me Where You Are (7”, MCA KIM 7)
Hey Mr Heartache (Extended Version)/(Album Version)/Tell Me Where You Are (12”, MCA KIMT 7)
Hey Mr Heartache (Kilo Watt Remix)/(Album Version)/Tell Me Where You Are (Remix 12”, MCA KIMX 7, different colour text on p/s)
Hey Mr Heartache (Extended Version)/Tell Me Where You Are/You Keep Me Hangin’ On/Another Step (7“ Version) (CD, MCA DKIM 7)

You Came (7” Version)/Stone (7”, MCA KIM 8)
You Came (7” Version)/Stone (Limited 7”, MCA KIM 8, in boxset with postcards and poster)
You Came (Extended Version)/(7” Version)/Stone (12”, MCA KIMT 8)
You Came (Shep Pettibone Mix)/(Extended Version) (Remix 12”, MCA KIMX 8)
You Came (Extended Version)/(7” Version)/Stone (CD, MCA DKIM 8)

Never Trust A Stranger (Single Version)/Wotcha Gonna Do (7”, MCA KIM 9)
Never Trust A Stranger (Single Version)/Wotcha Gonna Do (7”, MCA KIMSG 9, in gatefold p/s, slightly altered front cover)
Never Trust A Stranger (Extended Version)/You Came (Shep Pettibone Mix)/Wotcha Gonna Do (12, MCA KIMT 9)
Never Trust A Stranger (Sanjazz Mix)/Wotcha Gonna Do/Never Trust A Stranger (Extended Version) (Remix 12”, MCA KIMX 9, unique p/s)
Never Trust A Stranger (Extended Version)/You Came (Shep Pettibone Mix)/Wotcha Gonna Do (CD, MCA DKIM 9)

Four Letter Word/She Hasn’t Got Time For You (‘88) (7”, MCA KIM 10)
Four Letter Word/She Hasn’t Got Time For You (‘88) (7”, MCA KIMB 10, in boxset with poster, unique p/s)
Four Letter Word (Extended Version)/(Late Night Mix)/She Hasn’t Got Time For You (‘88) (12”, MCA KIMT 10)
Four Letter Word/She Hasn’t Got Time For You (‘88)/Four Letter Word (Extended Version) (CD, MCA DKIM 10)

Love In The Natural Way (7 Inch Version)/You’ll Be The One Who’ll Lose (7”, MCA KIM 11)
Love In The Natural Way (7 Inch Version)/You’ll Be The One Who’ll Lose (7”, MCA KIMR 11, poster bag, slightly altered artwork)
Love In The Natural Way (Extended Version)/(7 Inch Version)/You’ll Be The One Who’ll Lose (12“, MCA KIMT 11)
Love In The Natural Way (7 Inch Version)/You’ll Be The One Who’ll Lose/Love In The Natural World (Extended Version) (CD, MCA DKIMT 11, slightly altered artwork)

It’s Here (7” Version)/Virtual World (7”, MCA KIM 12)
It’s Here (7” Version)/Virtual World (Limited 7”, MCA KIMB 12, boxset with poster and lyric booklet)
It’s Here (Extended Version)/Virtual World (Extended)/It’s Here (7” Version) (12”, MCA KIMT 12)
It’s Here (7” Version)/(Extended Version)/Virtual World (Extended) (CD, MCA DKIMT 12)

Time (12” Version)/Someday/Time (7” Version) (12”, MCA KIMT 13)
Time (12” Version)/Someday/Time (7” Version) (Limited 12”, MCA KIMT 13, with free poster)
Time (7” Version)/(12” Version)/Someday (CD, MCA DKIMT 13)

I Can’t Say Goodbye (Edit)/Sanjazz Megamix (Edit) (7”, KIM 14)
I Can’t Say Goodbye (Edit)/Sanjazz Megamix (Edit) (7”, KIMB 14, in postersleeve)
I Can’t Say Goodbye/Sanjazz Megamix (12”, MCA KIMT 14)
I Can’t Say Goodbye (Edit)/Sanjazz Megamix/I Can’t Say Goodbye (CD, MCA DKIMT 14)
I Can’t Say Goodbye (Edit)/Sanjazz Megamix (Edit) (Cassette, KIMC 14)

Love Is Holy/Birthday Song (7”, MCA KIM 15, unique p/s)
Love Is Holy (LP Mix)/(Ambient Mix)/Birthday Song (12”, MCA KIMT 15, unique p/s)
Love Is Holy/Birthday Song/Love Is Holy (Ambient Mix)/You Came (Shep Pettibone Mix) (CD, MCA KIMTD 15)
Love Is Holy/Birthday Song (Cassette, MCA KIMC 15, unique p/s)

Heart Over Mind (7”)/I Found A Reason (7”, MCA KIM 16, unique p/s)
Heart Over Mind (7”)/I Found A Reason/Heart Over Mind (Extended Version)/Touched By Your Magic (Extended Version) (CD1, MCA KIMTD 16)
Heart Over Mind (7”)/You Keep Me Hangin’ On/Love Is Holy/Heart Over Mind (Extended Version) (CD2, MCA KIMXD 16, unique p/s)
Heart Over Mind (7”)/I Found A Reason (Cassette, MCA KIMC 16, unique p/s)

Who Do You Think You Are (7” Version)/Try Again (Club Mix) (7”, MCA KIM 17, unique p/s)
Who Do You Think You Are (7” Version)/Try Again (Club Mix)/Who Do You Think You Are (Bruce Forest Remix)/(Bruce Forest Dub Mix) (CD1, MCA KIMTD 17)
Who Do You Think You Are (7” Version)/(Extended Version)/Heart Over Mind (Club Mix)/Never Trust A Stranger (Single Version) (CD2, MCA KIMXD 17, unique p/s)
Who Do You Think You Are (7” Version)/Try Again (Club Mix) (Cassette, MCA KIMC 17, unique p/s)

If I Can’t Have You (7” Edit)/Never Felt So Alive (7”, MCA KIM 18)
If I Can’t Have You (Kelsey Mix)/(Dub Mix)/(Extended Version)/Never Felt So Alive (12”, MCA KIMT 18)
If I Can’t Have You (7” Edit)/(Kelsey Mix)/(Extended Version)/Never Felt So Alive (CD, MCA KIMTD 18)
If I Can’t Have You (7” Edit)/Never Felt So Alive (Cassette, MCA KIMC 18)

In My Life (LP Version)/(Lifestyle Mix)/(Dub Mix)/(Get A Life Mix) (CD1, MCA KIMTD 19)
In My Life (West End 7”)/(West End 12” Remix)/(West End D’oomy Dub)/If I Can’t Have You (Made In Japan) (CD2, MCA KIMXD 19, different p/s)

Breakin’ Away (Original 12” Mix)/(T-Empo Dub)/(Matt Darey Vocal Mix)/(Matt Darey Dub) (12”, MCA KIMT 21)
Breakin’ Away (Radio Mix)/(Original 12” Mix)/(Matt Darey Vocal Mix)/Staying With My Baby (Radio Mix) (CD, MCA KIMTD 21)
Breakin’ Away (Radio Mix)/Staying With My Baby (Radio Mix) (Cassette, MCA KIMC 21)

This I Swear (Radio Mix)/(Wilde Remix)/Heaven (Matt Darey 12”)/(Eddy Fingers Vocal) (CD, MCA KIMTD 22)
This I Swear (Radio Mix)/Heaven (Matt Darey 7”) (Cassette, MCA KIMC 22)

Shame (Jupiter’s 12” Mix)/(Matt Darey’s Vocal Mix)/(T-Empo’s Club Mix)/(T-Empo’s Dub Mix)/(Matt Darey Dub) (12”, MCA MCST 40080)
Shame (Jupiter’s Radio Mix)/(Matt Darey’s Vocal Mix)/(T-Empo’s Club Mix)/Hypnotise (CD, MCA MCSTD 40080)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Belinda Carlisle

When the record companies started reissuing old albums in expanded form in the 1990s, it seemed on the face of it, that the reissues were concerned with either classic artists (Bowie, Costello) or at least individual classic albums (say, the deluxe edition repackaging of the likes of “Disraeli Gears” or “Damn The Torpedoes”). But we are now in a position where almost everybody is seeing their entire back catalogue being revamped in expanded form. Even where some of the albums contained in that back catalogue are a bit shabby.

This means that even some less celebrated artistes are seeing their work being offered up to the public in such a way, you are led to believe that you are being offered a new version of a lost classic (or indeed, classics). This isn’t always the case, but if you happen to like one of these less celebrated artistes, well, you are in luck. You name it, almost everyone is having their back catalogue reissued in extended form - including acts you may possibly despise. I’m still not sure how The Thompson Twins albums can be deemed good enough in the first place to have been re-released in deluxe form, but that’s just my opinion.

However, I have long had a bit of a soft spot for Belinda Carlisle. I can’t remember if I discovered The Go-Go’s first, then her solo work, or the other way round, and even though she has never managed to release a stone cold, near perfect classic LP, she’s made some great singles. This year has seen her four Virgin-era albums from the late 80’s/early 90’s reissued in mega expanded form, and even though you could argue all day about which one is the best (she doesn‘t seem to have a generally agreed “classic record“), all four are getting the same “full on” treatment. If you don’t have any of these records, but you too have always had a soft spot, then this will be like manna from heaven for you.

The Go-Go’s collapsed in 1985, and although the various members went off in different solo directions, it was lead singer Carlisle who would eventually have the most high profile career. Initially, she remained on the same label that The Go-Go’s had been signed to, IRS, and released her first album, “Belinda”, in 1986. Several singles were issued in Belinda’s homeland of the USA, but in the UK, the album went generally un-noticed - it failed to chart, while the single 45 lifted from the LP, “Mad About You”, failed to dent the top 50. The album was reissued about a decade ago, featuring remixes from the period as bonus tracks, as well as being housed in a new sleeve (the same image as that found on the “Mad About You” single, at the top of this article), but this has been deleted and is not at all easy to find.

Carlisle then signed to Virgin, and suddenly, everything went stellar. The first single for her new label, “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”, hit the top spot, and more or less established her as a chart bothering popstar for the next ten years. Much has been made of the fact that the single and it’s corresponding LP, “Heaven on Earth”, were deemed by some as a backwards step, the one time punk rocker making an album of anthemic, bombastic, pop nuggets and nearly OTT power ballads, but there’s no denying the thrill of the choruses in “Heaven”, nor the sugary sweet laidback summer vibe of “Circle In The Sand”. It’s no “Like A Prayer”, granted, and there may be a bit of filler on it, but Carlisle proved that she could produce a catchy piece of music, even if it did need professional songwriters sometimes to do it - or an ex-Go Go such as Charlotte Caffey. The album was reissued in 2009, with bonus remixes and a reissue of the “Belinda Live!” video on a free DVD included in the pack, the original VHS release from 1988 having long been deleted.

There was little wheel re-inventing on 1989’s “Runaway Horses”, but again, it’s hard to deny the melodic punch of “Leave A Light On” or “We Want The Same Thing”, and Carlisle certainly proved again she knew her way around a key change or over a roaring power chord. Curiously, the album signalled the end of Carlisle as a chart star in any form in the USA, as everything she released there during the rest of the 90’s and beyond flopped, and Carlisle instead became a big star in Europe, even moving to France eventually. A VHS/Laserdisc release called “Runaway Videos”, featuring most of her promo clips to date, was issued in 1991.

In the fall of 91, Carlisle returned with her fourth LP, “Live Your Life Be Free”. Again, power-pop is the name of the game here, but it did seem to have an added sparkle, the album and singles coming in quite colourful, fun looking sleeves, Carlisle glammed up to the nines, with a sparkly new logo, it was almost as if she knew she had to move with the times, and not get stuck in the 80’s. Allmusic helpfully describes this album as adding “a bit of dance flavour” to her pop template, and although she was still behind Madonna in the pure pop stakes, there was still plenty to enjoy. Carlisle’s success in the UK remained unabated, but by now, the US had lost interest.

Conversely, 1993’s “Real” saw her lose ground somewhat, the album seemed to be an attempt to showcase a more grown up Carlisle, the cover art shows her dressed down in scruffy jeans and plain white longsleeved top. I read somewhere that Carlisle had deliberately changed tack slightly, citing a desire to 'follow her heart creatively', rather than being motivated by commercial success - and if that’s true, she got her wish, as the label issued no more than two OK-selling singles in the UK. Last time I listened to it, it sounded not that different to the ones that had gone before, but the lack of memorable hit singles would probably suggest that of the four albums being reissued, this is the least celebrated. I will admit though, “Lay Down Your Arms” is catchy as hell.

But 1996’s “A Woman And A Man” was a real turnaround in fortunes. Her first (and last) album for new label Chrysalis, it seemed as though the 1995 Go-Go’s reunion and the emergence of Britpop seemed to energise Carlisle, and this was an album that veered between peerless power ballad (“In Too Deep”) and hi-energy ultra pop (“Always Breaking My Heart”). Although some will claim that the album is a mostly relaxed, un Go-Go’s like outing, and all the better for it, don’t go thinking this is an album of sound alike ballads - “California” sounds like she’s trying to audition for The Beach Boys, whilst “Love In The Key Of C” struts along on a shuffling rhythm before some glorious guitar signals a killer key change in the choruses. This record is arguably Carlisle’s best, but being on Chrysalis, and not Virgin, means it is not being reissued.

In the UK, EMI ultimately took over Chrysalis - they also “acquired” Virgin, which possibly explains why Carlisle shifted back to the Virgin imprint for a 1999 best of called “A Place On Earth”. It was not her first compilation (that would be 1992’s strangely titled “The Best Of Belinda Volume 1” - “Volume 2” does not exist), but it was arguably a better overview of her career, although trying to condense all the hits onto a single CD just wasn’t possible - a situation partly caused by the inclusion of new songs, and the desire to include all four singles from the “A Woman And A Man” release, other albums were not afforded this luxury. Initial copies included a free bonus CD of old remixes, and although the recent reissues include remixes on the second disc of each release, space constraints have prevented all the mixes from getting a second lease of life, and - apart from the original single releases - the 2-disc “A Place On Earth” is thus still the only way to get some of these items.

Since then, Carlisle - as a solo performer - has been rather quiet. Another Go-Go’s reunion in the early noughties spawned their first studio album for some fifteen plus years, and although there were plans for a farewell tour, this hasn’t really happened, and the group have continued to tour in one form or another ever since. A French language album of covers, “Voila”, turned up in 2007, and she is one of a number of ‘Eighties Acts’ (I use that term through gritted teeth) who have recently released a live CD + DVD combo called “Live From Metropolis Studios”, taped earlier this year. She has also recorded a new song, “Sun”, which has been included on a new collection called “Icon” - I have mentioned elsewhere on this site how a number of comps using this title have been issued for a wide range of artists, but this one is unusual in that it includes this new song exclusively.


Some notes, as ever. Originally, most of Belinda’s singles featured something exclusive on the B-side of the “extended play” 45’s, or the CD edition. But quite a few of these have been hoovered up by the reissues of all her pre-”A Woman And A Man” albums and the double disc “A Place On Earth“ set. So this list is based on what you need if you have the expanded reissues of all the LP’s, and that 2-CD best of, which because these releases have been quite comprehensive, means that more or less every format is thus shown. Try before you buy, etc. Basically, if you opt to just hunt down the vinyl copies of Belinda’s LP’s, then you will really need to be buying the 12" or CD editions of all the singles shown below.

As regards those recent album reissues - well, you get the main LP, then various 7”/Radio Edits on disc 1, and B-sides/Remixes from the period (usually) on disc 2. Disc 3 is a DVD featuring the relevant promo clips from the period, along with a Belinda interview. A nice touch, but given that promo clips - of course - exist for singles released both before and after this period, well, it’s simply not the full monty, but that’s not the fault of the record company, it’s just the fact that these reissues are only covering that 1987-1994 period. A proper promo clips best of would be welcome, if anyone is listening.

“Heaven On Earth”, again, also includes the “Belinda Live!” film, but for some reason, no attempt has been made to include Belinda’s other live VHS, “Runaway Live”, on the third disc of the “Runaway Horses” reissue. For clarity’s sake, I have listed both the original LP releases (on their original “standard” format), and also the 2013 reissues, although it is worth noting, that all of the reissues seem to include some previously unreleased remixes, so if you are a newbie, they are probably the easiest place to start.


Belinda (1986, LP, IRS MIRF 1012)
Belinda (2003 reissue, CD, IRS 539 9332)

Heaven On Earth (1987, LP, Virgin V 2496)
Heaven On Earth (2013 reissue, 2xCD+DVD, Edsel EDSG 8025)

Runaway Horses (1989, LP, Virgin V 2599)
Runaway Horses (2013 reissue, 2xCD+DVD, Edsel EDSG 8026)

Live Your Life Be Free (1991, CD, Virgin CDV 2680)
Live Your Live Be Free (2013 reissue, 2xCD+DVD, Edsel EDSG 8027)

The Best Of Belinda Volume 1 (1992, CD, Virgin BELCD 1)

Real (1993, CD, Virgin CDV 2725)
Real (2013 reissue, 2xCD+DVD, Edsel EDSG 8028)

A Woman And A Man (1996, CD, Chrysalis CDCHR 6115)

A Place On Earth (1999, 2xCD, Virgin CDVX 2901)

The Collection (2002, CD, Virgin CDV 2955, later reissued in 2009 using image from “Always Breaking My Heart” 45)

The Essential (2003, CD, Virgin 07243 582102 2, similar image to that on “The Collection“, same track listing as “Best Of Volume 1“)

Voila (2007, 2xCD, Rykodisc RCD 10883)

Essential (2012, CD, EMI Gold 50999 644 01829)

Icon (2013, CD, Geffen B0017945-02, US only import)

Live From Metropolis Studios (2013, CD+DVD, Edsel EDMTDVD 001, some copies released as signed, deluxe, editions)

NOTE: there seemed to be a period, in the early 00’s, where Belinda’s back catalogue went into some form of disinterested limbo, and the Dutch reissue label Disky issued a 2-in-1 boxset called “Original Gold”, which included reissues of the “Live Your Life” and “Real” albums. Although it did that tacky thing of listing “the hits” on the front, suggesting it was a compilation, it features both these albums in their original sleeves, in separate cases, inside (HR 857772).


Mad About You (7” Mix)/I Never Wanted A Rich Man (7”, IRS IRM 118)
Mad About You (Extended Mix)/(7” Mix)/I Never Wanted A Rich Man (12”, IRS IRMT 118)
Mad About You (7” Mix)/I Never Wanted A Rich Man/Mad About You (Extended Mix) (CD, IRS DIRM 118)

Heaven Is A Place On Earth/We Can Change (7”, Virgin VS 1036)
Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Heavenly Version)/(LP Mix)/We Can Change (12”, Virgin VST 1036)
Heaven Is A Place On Earth/We Can Change/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Heavenly Version)/(Acapella Version) (CD, Virgin VSCD 1036)

I Get Weak (7” Version)/Should I Let You In? (7”, Virgin VS 1046, some in poster sleeve [VSP 1046])
I Get Weak (12” Version)/(7” Version)/Should I Let You In? (Cassette, Virgin VSTC 1046)
I Get Weak (12” Version)/(7” Version)/Should I Let You In? (12” + poster, Virgin VST 1046)
I Get Weak (7” Version)/Should I Let You In?/I Get Weak (12” Version) (Picture CD in clear case, Virgin VSCD 1046)

Circle In The Sand (7” Version)/(Beach Party Mix) (7”, Virgin VS 1074)
Circle In The Sand (7” Version)/(Sandblast Multimix)/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Cassette, Virgin VSTC 1074)
Circle In The Sand (Beach Party Mix)/(Edit)/(Seaside Mood Groove Mix) (12”, Virgin VST 1074, also on 12“ picture disc in clear sleeve [VSTY 1074])
Circle In The Sand (7” Version)/(Seaside Mood Groove Mix)/(Sandblast Multimix)/(Beach Party Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCD 1074)

World Without You (7” Remix)/Nobody Owns Me (7”, Virgin VS 1114, limited edition copies exist with 2 postcards and lyric sheet [VSX 1114])
World Without You (Extended Worldwide Mix)/(7” Remix)/Nobody Owns Me (12”, Virgin VST 1114, some in poster bag [VSTX 1114])
World Without You (Extended Worldwide Mix)/(7” Remix)/(Panavision Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCD 1114)

Love Never Dies (Edit)/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988) (7” in unique sleeve design, Virgin VS 1150, some in gatefold sleeve [VSG 1150], b-side from “Belinda Live!” VHS)
Love Never Dies/I Feel Free (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988)/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988) (12” with free advent calendar, Virgin VST 1150, b-sides from “Belinda Live!” VHS)
Love Never Dies/I Feel Free (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988)/Circle In The Sand (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988)/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988) (CD, some/all include 3 photo-prints, Virgin VSCD 115, b-sides from “Belinda Live!” VHS)

Leave A Light On (7” Version)/Shades Of Michelangelo (7”, Virgin VS 1210, some copies in fold out poster sleeve [VSP 1210])
Leave A Light On (7” Version)/Shades Of Michelangelo (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1210)
Leave A Light On (Extended Mix)/(7” Version)/Shades Of Michelangelo (12”, Virgin VST 1210)
Leave A Light On (7” Version)/Shades Of Michaelangelo/Leave A Light On (Extended Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1210)

La Luna/Whatever It Takes (7”, Virgin VS 1230)
La Luna/Leave A Light On (Kamikazee Mix) (Limited 7” in unique p/s, Virgin VSX 1230)
La Luna/Whatever It Takes (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1230)
La Luna (Extended Dance Mix)/(LP Version)/Whatever It Takes (12”, Virgin VST 1230, initial copies in fold out sleeve [VSTP 1230])
La Luna (LP Version)/(Extended Dance Mix)/(12” Dub Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCD 1230)

Runaway Horses/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988) (7”, Virgin VS 1244)
Runaway Horses/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988) (Cassette, Virgin VSMC 1244)
Runaway Horses/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988)/Circle In The Sand (Beach Party Mix) (12“, Virgin VST 1244, some copies in fold out poster bag [VSTP 1244])
Runaway Horses/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988)/Circle In The Sand (Beach Party Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1244)

Vision Of You (7” Mix)/Leave A Light On (Kamikazee Mix) (7”, Virgin VS 1264)
Vision Of You (7” Mix)/Leave A Light On (Kamikazee Mix) (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1264, unique sleeve design)
Vision Of You (7” Mix)/Leave A Light On (Kamikazee Mix)/I Feel Free (12” Extended Mix) (12”, Virgin VST 1264, some copies pressed as picture disc in die cut sleeve [VSY 1264])
Vision Of You (Remix 91)/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Live, Philadelphia Tower Theater May 1988) (Clear Vinyl 12” in see through bag, Virgin VSTX 1264)
Vision Of You (7” Mix)/Leave A Light On (Kamikazee Mix)/I Feel Free (12” Extended Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1264)

Summer Rain (7” Edit)/Leave A Light On (Kamikazee Mix) (7”, Virgin VS 1323)
Summer Rain (7” Edit)/Leave A Light On (Kamikazee Mix) (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1323)
Summer Rain (LP Version)/(Justin Strauss Mix) (12”, Virgin VST 1323)
Summer Rain (7” Edit)/(Justin Strauss Mix)/Leave A Light On (Kamikazee Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1323, limited edition copies available in box with postcards, housed in unique p/s [VSCXD 1323])

We Want The Same Thing (Summer Remix)/Shades Of Michelangelo (7”, Virgin VS 1291)
We Want The Same Thing (Summer Remix)/Shades Of Michelangelo (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1291, cut down p/s)
We Want The Same Thing (Extended Summer Remix)/Circle In The Sand (Sandblast Multimix) (12”, Virgin VST 1291, some come in purple boxset with stickers inside)
We Want The Same Thing (Summer Remix)/Circle In The Sand (Sandblast Multimix)/Shades Of Michelangelo (CD, Virgin VSCDP 1291)

Live Your Life Be Free (Edit)/Loneliness Game (7”, Virgin VS 1370)
Live Your Life Be Free (Edit)/Loneliness Game (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1370)
Live Your Life Be Free (Club Mix)/(Edit)/Loneliness Game (12”, Virgin VST 1370, picture disc copies also pressed housed in die cut sleeve [VSTY 1370])
Live Your Life Be Free/Loneliness Game/Live Your Life Be Free (Club Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCDG 1370, digipack sleeve, some in standard case [VSCDT 1370])

Do You Feel Like I Feel?/World Of Love/Do You Feel Like I Feel? (Dance Mix)/Live Your Life Be Free (Dance Instrumental Mix) (CD, Virgin VSCDG 1383, digipack sleeve, some in standard case [VSCDT 1383])
(Note: none of the other formats have the final track on these releases, and I don’t believe it is available anywhere else - hence the listing of just these versions of this 45.)

Half The World/Only A Dream/Live Your Life Be Free (Original Intro Version) (CD1, Virgin VSCDG 1388)
Half The World/Vision Of You (Remix 91)/Circle In The Sand/Love Never Dies (CD2 in die cut p/s, Virgin VSCDX 1388)
(Note: again, mix of “LYLBF” unavailable anywhere else)

Little Black Book/Only A Dream (7”, Virgin VS 1428)
Little Black Book/The Air That You Breathe (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1428)
Little Black Book/Only A Dream/The Air That You Breathe (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1428)
Little Black Book (Little Black Mix Version)/(Belinda’s In The House Mix)/(Album Version)/The Air That You Breathe (CD2 in “black book” p/s, Virgin VSCDG 1428)

Big Scary Animal/Windows Of The World (7”, Virgin VS 1472)
Big Scary Animal/Windows Of The World (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1472)
Big Scary Animal/Windows Of The World/Change (8 Track Demo) (CD1, Virgin VSCDT 1472)
Big Scary Animal/Windows Of The World/Change (8 Track Demo)/Too Much Water (8 Track Demo) (CD2, Virgin VSCDX 1472, same p/s as other formats, but in “poster pack” digipack packaging)

Lay Down Your Arms/Tell Me (7”, Virgin VS 1476)
Lay Down Your Arms/Tell Me (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1476)
Lay Down Your Arms/Tell Me/Wrap My Arms (8 Track Demo)/Here Comes My Baby (8 Track Demo) (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1476, digipack copies exist with track 4 missing [VSCDG 1476])
Lay Down Your Arms/Tell Me/Wrap My Arms (8 Track Demo)/Here Comes My Baby (8 Track Demo) (Limited CD in unique “Belinda” sleeve, with 3 cards, Virgin VSCDX 1476)

In Too Deep/I See No Ships/Jealous Guy/We Want The Same Thing (CD, Chrysalis CDCHS 5033)

Always Breaking My Heart (Single Version)/Love Walks in/The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan (CD1 + 3 postcards, Chrysalis CDCHSS 5037)
Always Breaking My Heart (Single Version)/Heaven Is A Place On Earth/Circle In The Sand/I Get Weak (CD2 in “zoomed in” p/s, Chrysalis CHCHS 5037)

Love In The Key Of C/Kneel At Your Feet/In Too Deep (VH1 Acoustic Session)/Circle In The Sand (VH1 Acoustic Session) (CD1 + 4 calendar prints, Chrysalis CDCHSS 5044)
Love In The Key Of C/Too Much Water (8 Track Demo)/Watcha Doin’ To Me (8 Track Demo)/Don’t Cry (8 Track Demo) (CD2 in diff p/s, Chrysalis CDCHS 5044)

California/Big Scary Animal (Live)/I Get Weak (Live)/In Too Deep (Live) (CD1, Chrysalis CDCHS 5047)
California/Leave A Light On (Live)/Live Your Life Be Free (Live)/Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Live) (CD2 in diff p/s, Chrysalis CHCHSS 5047)

All God’s Children/Runaway Horses/Only A Dream (Cassette, Virgin VSC 1756)
All God’s Children/Runaway Horses/Only A Dream (CD, Virgin VSCDT 1756)