Good evening children. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
White Horses was a late 60s/early 70s TV show that readers here of a certain vintage will remember. I don’t, but I am more than familiar with the show’s theme tune, thanks in no small part to the Trashcan Sinatras and the lost art of the b-side. The original, sung by Jacky (real name Jackie Lee) is a light ‘n breezy affair, all mellow parping brass, plucked strings and perfectly e-nun-ci-ated vocals. Twee doesn’t even begin to describe it. Belle & Sebastian fans (d’you see what I did there?) probably rate it as crucial a record as there could possibly be. Tuck it just so under the sleeve of your duffle coat and pop on down to the University Cafe why don’t you?
Image stolen from Five Hungry Joes
The Trashcans take the original and give it the full-blown Cocteau Twins treatment – chiming 12 string guitars, a reverb-soaked vocal that has Frank Reader harmonising with himself throughout and a drum beat that is a sonic metaphor for those white horses that run wild and free in the Camargue in the south of France. The slide guitar that pops up in the middle is sublime – that’s when I softly sigh – sonic cathedrals of sound, man! Sonic cathedrals of sound. And they stuck it away on a b-side (see advert above). Criminal!
An unfamiliar-looking Wedding Present ground out a version for a late-era Peel session (July 2004) that has Gedge and co. twisting Jacky’s pop-lite original into something quite creepy and menacing that wouldn’t sound out of place on Twin Peaks. Adopting the standard indie blueprint of quiet-loud-quiet-louder, this is the sonic equivalent of a gnarly piece of wood – on first glance it looks ugly and out of place, but on closer inspection reveals itself to be a thing of rare beauty. Or something like that.
The b-side to the Jacky original was another crackly curio called Too Many Chiefs (Not Enough Indians). If you listen carefully, it sounds a wee bit like the long-lost cousin of Tequila by The Champs. But just a wee bit.
In 1970, a guy called Gerald (not A Guy Called Gerald) gave White Horses the full Papa Smurf treatement. Listen to this once then bin the mp3 and go and wash your hands. Eugh!