Blur Fanclub Singles

Blessed Is The Cheese Maker

Damon Albarn fairly splits opinion. On the one hand, the oikish mockney Cockney wiv an omnipresent Errol Flynn on his boat race, “Oi!, on the other the indie Sting, admirably keen to break out from the expected norm of Blur recordings, releases and tours by teaming up with the Chinese Ensemble, groovy cartoon characters, some of The Clash, the cream of Africa’s elite percussionists and, seemingly, anything else that takes his fancy. Not all of it works, but when it does, the results, such as the recordings he’s made with the elastic-limbed drummer Tony Allen or the West Coast meets East London stylings of his Gorillaz collaborations with Snoop Dogg can be spectacular.

With Blur seemingly no more, it’s as good a time as any to reappraise Music Is My Radar, their 2000 single released ahead of and solely for the purposes of promoting their Best Of album from the same year. Like all the best singles bands – of which Blur are undoubtedly one – Music Is My Radar stands alone as a single without a parent album, save that hits compilation. As such, it’s almost the great lost Blur tune, despite its blink-and-you’ve-missed-it appearance at 10 on yer actual hit parade.

It’s quite the tune, bridging the gap between Pop Blur and Art Blur. The skittering drums and paranoid locked-in groove mooch in like the long lost cousin of early Talking Heads while Graham Coxon’s guitar alternates between oriental expressionist and foodblender set to spin, given free reign to colour the whole thing as he sees fit.

 BlurMusic Is My Radar

Damon’s vocals are double, triple tracked, conjuring up melodies and counter melodies that breeze across the top. His repetitive ‘Aah! Don’t stop me!‘ and ‘Do-do-dooh‘ refrains burrow deep into the ear and settle in the frontal lobes to be called up and played on repeat at will. He adds a line namechecking the aforementioned Nigerian Tony Allen – ‘He really got me dancin’, he really got me dancin’,’ yet beneath the surface there’s enough interesting stuff bubbling to keep even the most ardent of anti-commercial indie purist happy.

Nagging wee keyboard refrains jump in and out when least expected, save you were planning on nodding off to the noodling groove. Extra guitar lines weave their way like needles creating the freefrom pattern on one of those Fair Isle sweaters that Sarah Lund wore in The Killing. It’s the bassline though that hits hardest.

That lanky, wanky, foppish twit that plays bass wanders up and down the frets, apeing the guitar line here and there but mainly driving the whole thing forwards with unfaltering purpose and groovy swagger. He fairly surpasses himself and without the bass player on this form, Music Is My Radar may well have been a sloppy, unravelling mess, a bowl of musical spaghetti in need of some glue to hold it together. The cheese maker is that glue, commiting to record his finest four minutes in a Blur shirt.

Interestingly, the released version was shortened from Squeezebox, the original 6 minutes + demo.

BlurSqueezebox (Music Is My Radar demo)

Probably the correct choice as this version tends to wander aimlessly up a blind alley occassionally. Just shows what a good producer (Ben Hillier on the single version) can do for a band, turning a meh track into a killer single.

Bonus Track

The b-side to the single – actually track 2 on CD1, as was the fashion at the time, is a really great tune, with loads of crackin’ Coxon guitar lines, electric piano and a gospel choir on the chorus, coming in at a lengthy and bluesy 8 and a half minutes. Jason Pierce would kill for a track like this.

BlurBlack Book

Blur b-sides tended to be crappy, experimental, half-arsed demos or unnecessary wonky, skronky remixes. Black Book is neither, a bona fide lost classic in a back catalogue littered with rubbish. Great singles band though.

Blur Fanclub Singles, demo, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes


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.

Blur Fanclub Singles, Get This!, Sampled

The Fool On Melancholy Hill

I’ve been a wee bit unkind to Damon Albarn on here. Shallow poster boy. Mock-cockney posh boy from middle class Colchester. Pretentious twonk with too many fingers in too many pies. The Africa trotting, Chinese opera-plotting indie Sting. All of this is true, of course, and he is so easy to dislike, but….

…you can’t argue the fact that he’s one prodigious talent. It’d be hard to disagree that Blur are (?)/were (?) one of the great singles bands, right up there with Madness when it comes to looney tunes and merry melodies. And it’d be hard to argue that Gorillaz aren’t that far behind. Dig deeper and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a whole host of other terrific records. And not just the afore-mentioned Chinese opera or melodica-enhanced African soul music. The widely eclectic list of folk he’s collaborated with would be unbelievable if it wasn’t true. Off the top of my head – Lou Reed. Snoop Dogg. Mark E Smith. De La Soul. Gruff Rhys. Shaun Ryder. Dan the Automator. Half of The Clash. Michael Nyman. Del Tha Funky Homosapien. Bobby Womack. Flea. Toumani Diabaté. Ike Turner. Fela Kuti’s drummer, Tony Allen. All have answered the Albarn call, done their bit and waited while Damon has worked his magic in the studio and re-packaged the results to feature his toot-toot-tooting almost-in-tune melodica and unmistakable genre-defying, melancholy-applying vocals. Regardless of the collaborator or genre, the Albarn record, with its hangdog vocal and uplifting gloominess is instantly recognisable.

The current Mojo (the one with Weller on the cover) has a good wee feature on Albarn’s extra-curricular activities. It focusses on the stuff he’s been doing with the polyrhythmic Tony Allen and Flea as Rocket Juice and The Moon. The prospect of sock on the cock slap bass and rapping doesn’t fill me with too much excitement, but I’m keeping an open mind. Especially as Mojo compiled a list of essential non-Blur Albarn tracks, most of which were new to me, all of which are terrific:

Trek To the Cave (Albarn & Michael Nyman)

Time Keeps On Slipping (Albarn & Deltron 3030)

Sunset Coming On (Albarn & Toumani Diabaté)

Every Season (Albarn, Tony Allen & Ty)

Feel Good Inc. (Albarn, Danger Mouse & De La Soul)

Kingdom Of Doom (The Good, The Bad and The Queen)

Heavenly Peach Banquet (Albarn, Shi-Zeng & David Coulter)

Hallo (Albarn, Tout Puissant & others)

It‘s an excellent place to start your re-appraisal of oor Damon if, like me, you felt he was getting a bit too big for his well-travelled boots. My favourite Damon Albarn moments? That’ll be Dare, with Shaun Ryder on vocals. Great cooing Damon backing vocals and a subtle chiming percussion track that takes its cue from Talking Heads’ Once In a Lifetime. Initially called It’s There, it was renamed after unsuccessful attempts to get the newly re-toothed Ryder to pronounce it correctly when he sang.

And the look of ecstatic fanboy joy on his face as he punches the air when Bobby Womack comes in on Stylo (below) is magic. Damons’ own wee Jim’ll Fix It moment, I’m sure.  (2mins 10 seconds, if you want to fast forward. Though, why would you want to fast-forward?)

Close friend and fellow music obsessive Rockin’ Rik reckons Albarn is the 21st Century Brian Wilson. While he’s still to write his Sunflower, let alone his Pet Sounds, on the evidence so far I can just about go along with this.

*Bonus Track

In keeping with the pan-global spirit of this post, here‘s GorillazFeel Good Inc. incorporated into some Fela Kuti afrobeat rhythm track. You can get a whole album’s worth of this stuff here. Go! Go! Go! And then Go! Go! Go! here and catch some of those Blur Fanclub-only singles that keep being deleted by the man. Gotta be quick though.

Blur Fanclub Singles, Cover Versions, demo, Dylanish, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, Live!, Most downloaded tracks, Studio master tapes

Three! Free! Fae Me!

Plain Or Pan is 3 years old and what better way to celebrate than with a compilation CD…..

Add your own Ronco/K-Tel voiceover:

Featuring the most popular downloads from last year’s blog, this compilation is the ideal taster for what Plain Or Pan is about. Covers, curios and the odd hard-to-find classic, this fantastic double CD is not available in the shops or from any good online retailers. Get it only at myTunes! Free! Today! Now!

Aye. It’s the ideal companion to last year’s double CD (still available here). Kicking off with the notorious Beatles Revolution take 20  outtake/outfake? that nearly melted Plain Or Pan for good in January last year, I’ve included some odd ball covers (Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed, the Dead Weather track), Fleet Foxes spin-offs (White Antelope), one of Johnny Marr’s favourite records (The Equals), rare fanclub-only releases (Blur), hardly-heard studio gems (The Temptations), demos (Marvin Gaye, The Pretenders), rarities (The La’s white label version of Timeless Melody – only 500 exist) and a whole lot more over 2 CDs. I’m rather proud of this wee compilation. It includes some nifty home-made artwork too! Right click on CD1 and CD2 below to download each CD in one go.


CD1                                                 CD2


Complete tracklisting:

Disc 1

The Beatles – Revolution (take 20)

The Kinks – I Need You

Pop Levi – Blue Honey

The Temptations – Ball Of Confusion (unreleased version)

Booker T & the MGs – Sing A Simple Song

Ike & Tina Turner – Bold Soul Sister

Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed & the Trueloves – Ace Of Spades

Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On (demo)

Arctic Monkeys – Baby I’m Yours

Afghan Whigs – Band Of Gold

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (live)

The Soup Greens – Like A Rolling Stone

The La’s – Timeless Melody (GOLAS3 version)

Trash Can Sinatras – Snow

Super Furry Animals – Citizens Band

The Sundays – Wild Horses

Sparkelhorse/Danger Mouse feat Nina Persson – Daddy’s Gone


Disc 2

Glasvegas – The Prettiest Girl On Saltcoats Beach (full length version)

The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket (demo)

The Byrds – Mr Tambourine Man (vocal track)

Frank Blake – You Don’t Have To Cry

The Equals – Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys

The Fall – Lost In Music

Dead Weather – Are Friends Electric?

John Kongos – He’s Gonna Step On You Again

Grace Jones – Pull Up To The Bumper (12” mix)

Blur – Sing (To Me) (demo)

Inspiral Carpets – 96 Tears

Beck – Sunday Morning

White Antelope – It Ain’t Me Babe

Eddi Reader – Blues Run The Game

Stone Roses – Love Spreads (Guitar Track)

Neu! – Hallogallo


Blur Fanclub Singles, demo, Hard-to-find

His Arse Was Just A Blur

That’s the punchline to a well-quoted Billy Connolly joke, where he explains the joys of cycling at high speed. You yourself better get on yer bike and download the following tracks ASAP before the internet police remove some or all of them quicker than you can say “Wow! More Blur fanclub singles!” Go! Go! Go!

This is the second volume of the Blur Fanclub Singles. You can find out the background to the singles here, where the first few tracks are still available (after much re-uploading).  


2000: Sing (To Me)

Early version of an insignificant album track (Leisure) that gained it’s rightful status as a melancholic piano and vapour guitar-fest when it was included on the soundtrack to Trainspotting. This early version finds Damon mumbling and shouting nonsense a la a Home Counties Mark E Smith over the top of a piano seemingly played by Les Dawson. “So what’s the word?” The word is excellent, Damon. Top notch.


2001: Tracks from a Camden Electric Ballroom gig in September 1999

I’m Fine

Bone Bag

No Monsters in Me

Young & Lovely

The gig itself was a one-off b-sides gig where Blur played nothing but, er, b-sides. For the record, the original studio version of I’m Fine can be found as an extra track on the 12″ and CD single of Popscene. These days, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg to buy. In the days of Nirvana, the post-Leisure pre-Modern Life… Popscene single was considered a bit of a flop and quickly forgotten about, much to the band’s chagrin.

Bone Bag backed CD2 of For Tomorrow, the single that introduced the band’s new found kicking-against-the-pricks anglified-and-proud-of-it organic Kinksian Modern Life Is Rubbish sound. Nah. I don’t know what that means either. And I wrote it. But you get the drift.

No Monsters In Me is a late era Blur b-side, making its appearance on the CD single of The Universal, that tune that Britrish Gas hijacked for their TV adverts. Young & Lovely was a track I always thought could’ve been held back for greater things. Instead, it was stuck away on the b-side of Chemical World. In hindsight, that makes Chemical World that rarest of things – a Blur single with good A and B sides. Let’s face it. Some of Blur’s b-sides are a bit ropey, aye?


2002: 2 tracks

Come Together (demo)

Won’t Do It (demo)

No, not a cover of yer Beatles Chuck Berry rip-offathon. Paul Weller and assorted showbiz pals got there first with that one. A live version of Come Together graced CD2 of the Chemical World single, but I think I’m right in saying the demo version featured here is the only studio recording to see the light of day. I’m sure Blurophiles will correct me if I’m wrong. I’m also sure they’d agree Come Together wsas perhaps best left in the studio. A noisy mess is how I’d describe it. Oops!!! Come Together is on Leisure. Of course it is. In my defence, I only have a promo copy of Leisure that has no tracklisting with it.

Won’t Do It graced the 12″ of There’s No Other Way. The demo version sounds exactly the same – the sound of a band finding their feet; one foot firmly placed in the experimental/feedback/racket side of the fence, the other foot making tentative steps towards that green faraway place known as ‘melody’. The first foot wins.

Anyway, enough of this tuneless fanclub nonsense. Only one sleep till the real Fanclub – Teenage Fanclub live in the rock n’ roll hotbed of Motherwell. Review and the usual pish about how great they are to follow.

Oh, and one more thing. The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that the first post in this series ended at 1998 and this post begins at 2000. Somehow, I’ve lost the 1999 tracks and artwork. My computer detectives are onto it……


Blur Fanclub Singles, demo, Hard-to-find

Fish, Phish and all sorts of pish. Thank heavens for the internet.

It seems as good a time as any to post some of these tracks. Actually, a couple of weeks ago would’ve been better, but then as you know, I’m always just a half-step behind what’s currently in vogue. As I write, Blur have played their final gig. Again. And broken up. Again.

blur early


I’ve written about this before, but for those irregular/new visitors, I’ll go on record again and say that I’m a bit of a Blur fan. I have been since day 1. Bought She’s So High on 12″ and faithfully bought each release on the day of release until Crazy Beat limped out from between the grooves of Think Tank to promote a Coxon-less version of the band that had somewhat spectacularly ran out of steam. To be fair though, I played Think Tank a week or two ago and it’s held up fairly well, even without Coxon’s distinctive wonky guitar scratchings.

blur 97

The only aspect of Blur’s back catalogue I don’t have is the fanclub singles that get sent out every Christmas to those in the band’s fanclub. Subscribers to the fanclub received a quarterly fanzine called ‘Blurb‘. Come 1996 (and issue 4 of ‘Blurb‘) lucky subscribers also received a nice wee CD single at Christmas. In these modern times where bands continually blog, twitter and YouTube every bum note they’ve ever twanged, the notion of a fanclub is fairly quaint. But then, if you’re a fan and you’ve gotta have the lot, joining the fanclub was the only way to ensure your collection remained complete. REM have a similar fanclub that send you all sorts of live/demo/rare material that is the proverbial trainspotter’s wet dream.


A pissed Graham Coxon has just been knocked down by a car.

It’s all Britpop’s fault.

Thank heavens then for this thing called the internet. A bit of googling and bittorrenting later, and you too can have the entire recorded output of Fish, Phish and all sorts of pish. Look in all the right places and you might even find stuff you like. A couple of clicks yesterday led me to the very items missing from my Blur collection – the fanclub singles. Over the next few weeks I’ll post a couple of tracks until you too are bang up to date with all things Blurish. The fanclub singles were released once a year between 1996 and 2005. Here’s the first three:


1996: Death of a Party

Acoustic demo version of a track which finally appeared on the Blur’s 1997 eponymously titled elpee. The demo was recorded at Matrix Studios in 1992. Extra points for the Syd Barrett-esque backing vocals. Blur sure set their stall out early…


1997: I Love Her

Demo recorded in 1991 at the sessions that produced ‘Leisure‘. Came with issue 8 of Blurb. Nice cheesegrater guitar/elastic band bass duel. Extra points for the pseudo Syd Barrett backing vocals. Can you see a pattern emerge?


1998: Close

Demo recorded at Maison Rouge in 1992. Sounds a bit like the track above. What with all that backwards feedback fading in, it sure starts a bit like Popscene. Also has something approaching those “Ah ah watch you play” backing vocals that you’ll know from There’s No Other Way. Came with issue 12 of Blurb. Extra points for Coxon’s especially wobbly guitar solo.

More to follow in the next couple of weeks. Keep ’em peeled….