Reissue! Repackage! Repackage!

“Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra track (and a tacky badge)”

Part of me wants to disapprove of the latest reissued, remastered version of The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead.

But I really can’t.

Listening to the 3 discs (1: the album remastered, 2: demos and “previously unheard” material, 3: Live in Boston, much better than “Rank”) is like falling in love with the band all over again.

I think they missed a trick by leaving the brass – yes, the brass – off of the final version of “Never Had Nobody Ever” though:

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The Smiths – Never Had No One Ever (Demo)

Ordinarily, I’d not endorse something like this, but, frankly (Mr Shankly) this is a must own for fans.

Go get.

More soon.

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How to Do a Cover Version

If ever there was a post that would earn me my second ever Take Down notice, this is it.

But then again, I’ve basically said that Bill Wyman is a paedophile on these pages before and nobody batted an eyelid, so maybe I’ll be okay.

In 1958, The Staple Singers released a record called “This May Be The Last Time”, and it went like this:

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The Staple Singers – This May Be My Last Time

But that’s not the original version; it can’t be, because that came out in 1958, and I’ve tracked down a recording from five years earlier, which appeared on this album:

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The Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama – This Could Be The Last Time

“My”…”the”…okay the title may be ever so slightly different, but it’s the same song, right?

And that’s fine, they’re both utterly great versions.

And then in 1965, this got to #1 in the UK Charts:

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The Rolling Stones – The Last Time

Well, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, there’s some different lyrics thrown in, but that’s no problem, the Stones are proud of their blues and gospel roots, so they obviously credited – or the very least part credited – the original artists, right?

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Oh. Bit awkward.

It wasn’t until 2003 that Keith Richards decided to set the record straight: “We came up with ‘The Last Time’, which was basically re-adapting a traditional gospel song that had been sung by the Staple Singers, but luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time.”

Hmmm.

Let’s take another look at that single sleeve again. There’s another name that leaps out, isn’t there? Andrew Loog Oldham.

Oldham was The Stones’ manager (I can heartily recommend his autobiography “Stoned”, by the way, but I’ve not read the pip-squeezing other two “2Stoned” and “Rolling Stoned”) and producer, and creator of this:

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The Andrew Oldham Orchestra – The Last Time

Hang on just one moment, though. Something about that rings a few bells too, doesn’t it?

From this:

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The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

As a result of a fairly infamous legal battle, centred around the alleged plagiarism by lead Verve-ist Richard Ashcroft, Jagger and Richards were added to that as co-composers, so they got their slice of the pie.

Which, given the above, is a bit rich, really, isn’t it, dear reader?

Mind you, Ashcroft really should have known better. It’s not like Jagger and Richards didn’t have form for that sort of behaviour…..For back in 1991 this record met a similar fate:

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Carter USM – After The Watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way)

…which borrowed heftily from this:

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The Rolling Stones – Ruby Tuesday

Ah, plagiarism. As some anniversary or another of this album’s release is almost upon us, it seems appropriate for me to sign off with this:

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The Smiths – Cemetry Gates

More litigious nonsense soon.

Replenishing the Vinyl

There’s a reason this series is called what it is. I may have mentioned it before, if so, forgive me and skip on a couple of paragraphs whilst I run over it one more time.

Between 2008, when I moved to London, and 2012, when I moved into the flat I live in now, I lived in a shared house.

The living room housed all my music, CD and vinyl, along with a battered old stereo with a turntable and CD decks on which you could play whatever tickled your fancy.

Truth be told, the vinyl got played less than rarely, and so it was that it wasn’t until I moved into my new (current) flat that I realised the turntable no longer functioned.

Fast forward a couple of years: I have bought a new turntable, connected it up to my amp and speakers and decided that the first record I’m going to play is something by The Smiths.

This has become something of a tradition of mine; whenever I has moved home – which happened a lot, I now realise, looking back – the first thing I would do in my new pad was set up the stereo and play a record by my favourite band.

Except – where had all my Smiths album gone? And…wait…and my Wedding Present albums? And my R.E.M. albums? And my Billy Bragg albums?? And oh gosh, so much more.

All gone, and I have no idea who could have taken them. There are suspects, but nothing I can prove. But whoever took them knew what they were doing: it was like someone had worked out which records I treasured dearly and then taken them.

So when I say that I’m replenishing the vinyl, I’m actually trying to buy the records I lost, and if I get a few other bargains along the way, then fair enough, I’m owed that break.

But the thing is (Part One), I’m kinda nerdy picky about replacing the stuff I lost: for example, all of The Smiths records were the original prints on the Rough Trade label, so if I’m going to buy them again, that’s what I want, not any of the poxy re-releases.

Thing is (Part 2), the original Rough Trade releases of The Smiths records are quite expensive to replace. But I have managed to track down two so far.

And here’s a song from the first, from their debut album that I dedicate to whoever has my records:

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The Smiths – You’ve Got Everything Now

Thieving bastards.

More soon.

“In the End, It Took Me a Dictionary to Find Out the Meaning of Unrequited” #4

Let’s be honest, if I’m going to post songs about unrequited love, then there’s a fairly healthy stash of tunes to choose from in The Smiths’ back catalogue.

This one has always been a favourite of mine, a tale of a boy and a girl, one consumed by the fear of rejection, frozen in the teenage terror of revealing to the other that they, y’know…erm…kinda…erm…y’know…think they’re pretty sweet, and the other confused about why he doesn’t just come right out and say it.

When I was a teenager, this was definitely a situation I experienced. Confession time.

I was set up on a date by a mutual friend once. Thing is, I didn’t know it was a date. What had been arranged was a few drinks with a friend, and then I’d crash on her sofa, but it turned into what I now know is one of those “OK, we’re all here, great! Oh no! I just remembered I have to be somewhere else, you two will be okay won’t you? Bye!!” kind of things.

But stupid teenage me, despite raging levels of testosterone, was too dumb to read the signs.

I was supposed to be crashing over at the mutual friend’s place that night, and so when my “date” said it was fine and I could stay at theirs instead, that’s all I assumed it was: me sleeping on a sofa or in the spare room.

See, at this young age, I didn’t know that women colluded like this. As far as I was concerned, it was all just terribly bad luck that our mutual friend couldn’t stay, and jolly good of her friend to step in to keep me company and let me crash over. 

And whilst I really did like the young lady in question (quite a lot), I had no idea that the feeling was reciprocated.

As we left the pub at chucking out time, to a chorus of “*****’s going to have sex tonight!” (her name removed, just in case) from a loitering group of lads, I remember thinking “Ha! Idiots! Course she’s not, this is nothing more than a convenient arrangement to save me getting a taxi home! I’m just sleeping on her sofa! Fools!!!”

And so it was that as we cosied up on the sofa, watching television as her parents slept soundly upstairs, that I utterly failed to recognise or act upon every advance she made, of which, she subsequently told me, there were many.

Whenever I hear this song, I think of that night, and shiver:

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The Smiths – Girl Afraid

More embarrassing revelations soon enough.

There’s Just One More Thing…

I mentioned last week that my old mate Rich was coming along to The Wedding Present gig last night, on his birthday.

Rich, as I’m sure I mentioned before, is the chap who properly got me into what we now rather endearingly call “indie” music; my brother had laid the foundations, but it was Rich who built on them.

I will never forget the time he played me The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”…

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The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

…closely followed by Billy Bragg’s “The Man In The Iron Mask”

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Billy Bragg – The Man in the Iron Mask

…and then I think something by The Chesterfields, probably this:

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The Chesterfields – Nose Out of Joint

…followed up by Microdisney…

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Microdisney – Town to Town

…by which point I was smitten.

Last night, The Wedding Present played none of those songs, for what I hope are fairly obvious reasons, but they did play this, which I made sure Rich and I had a hug to on the line “You’re not like anyone I ever met”.

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The Wedding Present – A Million Miles

Now we’re all grown up and responsible, professionally, Rich is a teacher. To me, he’s always been one.

Happy (day after) Birthday mate. Love ya.

More soon.

I Am The Mouth

Shortly after I came up with the idea for what is now a hypothetical Indie night (just to recap: this was to play the songs by Indie acts which got forgotten in favour of more established dance floor fillers; indie music for the discerning palate, if you will) I  met up with my older brother.

We had a few drinks and discussed, first and foremost, music; we’re a long way down the road from when we were kids and we’d rather expose ourselves on the school bus than admit to liking the same music as our sibling.

In fact, for the past twenty five to thirty years or so, we’ve both given each other tips and nudges (and the occasional mp3 or burnt CD, which we later went on to purchase from a reputable dealer) about who we were listening to and who we thought the other would like.

Anyway, in this conversation, we started talking about bands who most people (and I don’t mean you, discerning reader, of course) hadn’t heard of, but who had obviously influenced an artist who was very much “of the moment”.

So I decided to extend the remit of the “I Am The Mouth” night (which has never happened) to include songs which had clearly made an impact on current acts.

And here are the two we were talking about. First, C86 stalwarts, The Shop Assistants:

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The Shop Assistants – Safety Net

and then, The Long Blondes:

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The Long Blondes – Once and Never Again

Hmmm. Now I listen to it again, that chord progression over the chorus reminds me of something else…

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The Smiths – I Want the One I Can’t Have

…which of course was borrowed for this Top Ten’er that I deftly avoided posting recently:

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The Housemartins – Happy Hour

More soon, don’t you know.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #6

Just as I was heading to bed the other night, I performed my obligatory sweep of the TV channels to see if there was anything worth staying up for; I stumbled across “A Taste of Honey”, the film adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s play, starring Rita Tushingham and Dora Bryant. I wisely decided staying up to watch it all was not a good idea, so hit record closely followed by the sack.

As I drifted off into sleepy bye byes, at that annoying moment when your body is all ready to drift off but your brain suddenly thinks of something liable to keep you awake for some considerable time if not dealt with properly, I recalled that Delaney had featured as the cover star of a single by a band I adore. In fact, she also featured on the sleeve of an imported double compilation album by them too.

I would expect approximately 99.9% of you will know where I’m going with this already. The other 00.1%, listen up.

Today’s song formed part of a release which, it seems, led to the end of one of the greatest bands not just of the 1980s, but ever; a band whose legacy as an influence was not really appreciated by many until some 10-15 years after they split.

I speak, of course, of The Smiths.

August 1987, and The Smiths were about to release what would be their last album of original, studio-recorded material, “Strangeways, Here We Come”. But first, the lead single, “Girlfriend in a Coma”; the 12″ and, lest we forget, the cass-single formats heralded two tracks which were not to be included on the album.

The three tracks, “Girlfriend…”, “I Keep Mine Hidden” and “Work is a Four Letter Word” almost seem to compete against each other to see which can be over quickest, weighing in with timings of 2:04, 1:59 and 2:48 respectively. I don’t mean that they seem rushed, far from it. They just seem, well, short.

Brevity of course was a feature the band understood very well. Take “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” which is just 1:53 long. That song is, simply, perfection. Anyone who thinks that “Please, Please…” suffers because of its duration fails to understand that the finest moments in life don’t last for long; you must cherish them, savour them, for soon they will be gone.

But I digress. One of those extra tracks, “Work is a Four Letter Word”, is often cited as being the reason The Smiths split. In an interview with Record Collector in 1992, Johnny Marr said: “‘Work Is A Four Letter Word’ I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn’t form a group to perform Cilla Black songs. That was it, really.”

The final two singles the band released (“I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”)  soon followed, and it has just occurred to me that the additional tracks on those releases were all different versions of already established favourites: the Troy Tate produced version of “Pretty Girls Make Graves”, Peel Sessions of “Rusholme Ruffians”, “Nowhere Fast” and “William, It Was Really Nothing”, a live version of “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” (containing an extra verse, axed from the album version) , a live cover of “What’s The World”, a song by James.

That’s because, I now realise, “Work is a Four Letter Word” was recorded in the same session as “I Keep Mine Hidden” and as such today’s choice is the last ever original composition recorded by The Smiths:

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The Smiths – I Keep Mine Hidden

The same 99.9% of you will know that the original vinyl releases of all (or if not all, most) of The Smiths records had a message etched into the run-out groove. The message on the B-Side of “Girlfriend in a Coma” reads: “And never more shall be so”.

In other words: Goodbye.

More soon.