“Have you got Beetlebum?”
“No. It’s just the way I’m standin‘.”
The happiest job I ever had (and possibly ever will have) was when I worked behind the counter of a well-known High Street music retailer. A stop-gap job that somehow lasted 11 years, it took me all the way from Inverness to Leeds and back again via Ayrshire. Amongst the minority of planks, skanks and wanks in management that I was unfortunate enough to share a tea break with, I met a fair number of like-minded music obsessives, film obsessives and the odd stereotypically sulky sales assistant happy to hang off the counter and unsettle casual browsers looking for chart fodder. Like the one quoted above. He did actually say that, and it was funny.
Anyway. Down to business. I’m not about to get all high and mighty here, but I am about to show a shocking sense of double standards. I don’t really like illegal downloading. Rich, I know, from someone who’s happy to provide crappy mp3s of all and sundry to anyone who fancies them. But I’m not talking about harmless, out-of-print singles from 1973 and whatever else makes its way onto these pages. Is that really affecting anyone? What I don’t like is what I’d term mass-market illegal downloading. The recent BBC report that showed Manchester to be the worst offenders in the UK was quite interesting. Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran are the big losers in the whole thing, as it seems that every school kid and upwards has illegally downloaded their music. It’s said that they’re the generation that understands music to be free, and I’d have to agree. Aye, some percentage or other of them may end up buying the album in the future, but that’s debatable. Anyway, here’s where my shocking double standards really kick in.
I like Blur. I like them a lot. I have done since She’s So High way back when. I’ve bought every single on or around the day of release. Even the shitey ones, and there’s been a fair few over the years. I’ve bought the albums on day of release. Even the shitey ones. Though, they’re all good in their own way, even if some have endured better than others. Leisure and The Great Escape are, to put it politely, ‘of their time’. Think Tank is by far the best, since you’re wondering. So. I have all the singles and all the albums, including Japanese imports and such like. I also have the 10th Anniversary Box Set, bought for a recession-friendly price in the Our Price sale. And there wasn’t even a recession at the time. I have the lot, as they say. Or, at least, I had the lot, until this summer when Blur 21 came out. All the albums. All the singles. All the remixes. Plus some demos and live stuff. At an eye-popping £150, this was one purchase I’d find hard to justify. So, a bit of Googling here and there turned up a download. Low-fi and crappy, but it meant I got all the rarities I wouldn’t have otherwise. The live stuff you can keep, but in amongst the rarities are a few diamonds. Here’s some to chew over:
She’s So High (pre-Blur Seymour demo) Drum machine and studio chatter before some out-of-tune distorted guitar and even more distorted vocals. I can’t listen to the bassline without seeing the cheese-making fop with his floppy fringe mincing about stage right.
Popscene (1991 demo) Mad, noisy, toys-out-the-pram shout-fest. Excellent, as Monty Burns might say.
For Tomorrow (Mix 1 of an early demo). Mainly acoustic guitar and vocals, with the odd bit of shaker for percussion and some synthesised strings. Nice double-tracked la-la-la backing vocals. It’s hard to tell if it’s Damon or Graham who’s singing lead here.
Badhead (demo) The most under appreciated track from gazillion-selling Parklife. Round ‘ere it was all “Oi! get some exercise mate!” Meanwhile, Badhead, with its wistful melancholia and Syd-lite psychedelia was where the real music fans got their Parklife kicks.
Squeezebox (Alternative version of Music Is My Radar) Imagine if Talking Heads got up one morning and instead of micro-biotic, high fibre health food shit ate a big bowl of guitar effects pedals. This is what they’d sound like. Really!
Graham Coxon Fact 1: He favours Converse trainers on stage, as the white toe-cap helps him find the correct effects pedal on which to stomp.
Graham Coxon Fact 2: He told me that on Twitter.
Now. Off you go and buy Blur 21, there’s a good chap.