Alternative Version, Dylanish

The Blond Waltz

Bob Dylan‘s Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands is one of his very best. And with a canon of songs as rich and impressive as the one that he has casually amassed over the last 50 years, that’s really saying something. Bob Bob Shoobeedoo Wob.

Bob DylanSad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands (Mono version)

dylan blonde outtake

It’s a love song, of course, waltzing in on a breeze of liquid organ, trademark wheezing harmonica and that thin, wild mercury sound that the Zim was eager to perfect around this time. A musical onion, it’s multi-layered, shrouded in mystery and code and jam-packed full of words and phrases I won’t even begin to pretend I understand.

It’s a straightforward paen to Sara Lowndes (Lowndes/Lowlands look quite similar, dontchathink?) who, at the time of writing it was Dylan’s wife of 6 months. If you listen to the self-explanatory ‘Sara‘ on the decade later Desire, Dylan admits that much;

Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel

Writin’ ‘Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands’ for you.”

Even this is coated in very Dylanesque ambiguities and contradictions though.

Some accounts have Bob writing the song in the studio in Nashville while his crack team of expensive sessioneers played cards and twiddled their thumbs in an adjacent room, patiently waiting for their boss to tell them the song was complete and ready to be committed to tape.

Others have insisted that the song arrived fully formed in the Chelsea Hotel and ripe for recording by the time of the Blonde On Blonde sessions.

Gonzoid speed freak Lester Bangs claims to have it on good authority that Dylan wrote the song whilst wired out of his nut on some cocktail of amphetamines or other, but then, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Two or three half-truths don’t make the whole truth, but I’d wager the real story is an amalgamation of those accounts. What can’t be denied though is that the finished track is sprawling, majestic and epic (it fills the entire 4th side of Blonde On Blonde) and is the result of a one-take recording at 4 in the morning, Dylan’s dawn chorus for the dreamers and the doomed.

dylan sad eyed lyrics

Sad Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands has that late night/early morning feel, understated and creeping around on tip toe, as if the band are scared to hit the strings too hard and are playing quietly so as not to disturb the neighbours, with some of the chord changes coming in slightly behind the beat a result of the band listening carefully to Dylan or watching him for their cue to change.

The musicians (including Al Kooper on keys and Charlie McCoy on guitar) didn’t really know what they were in for. They hadn’t actually heard the finished song and so were understandably rather surprised to find the song clocking in at over 11 and a half minutes. With the unspoken telepathy that comes from playing with the very best of musicians, they joined the song on its journey, climaxing when the chorus came in, only to find themselves faced with verse after verse of meandering beat prose and harmonica breaks. By the 6 minute mark most were assuming the song was nearly over, which is why it builds to a crescendo on more than one occasion. Dylan must’ve had a right laugh at their expense.

dylan saraBob ‘n Sara, 1966-ish


George Harrison was a big fan of Sad Eyed Lady… Its lilting waltz was a defining influence on The Beatles‘ under-apppreciated but eternally groovy I Me Mine……

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, demo, Double Nugget, Dylanish, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Live!, Most downloaded tracks, Six Of The Best, studio outtakes

P.O.P. B.O. ’14

Somehow, this is the end of the 8th year of this blog. 8 years! I never for a minute thought I’d be down this road for so long, but here I am, slowing down slightly, but still writing whenever the muse takes me. In the past, I used to write loads over the Christmas period and store it all up like a squirrel hiding nuts in trees, so that when I was busy with my real work I could drip-feed my wee articles online at regular intervals when time was of the essence. These days, holidays mean holidays. For the past week or so I’ve done sweet F.A. apart from sit around in my underwear eating cheese until 3 in the afternoon. Occasionally I’ve tidied up a bit, but that’s only after the Applewood smoked or Wensleydale and cranberry has run out.

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It’ll be good to get back to the old routine in January and, along with work, get back to writing about music on a (hopefully) more regular basis. Until then, here’s the annual end of December post.

Around this time of year I employ a team of stat monkeys to sift through everything published on Plain Or Pan over the last 12 months. Numbers are fed into a specially-constructed silver machine, crunched and spat back out. Amongst the stainless steel saliva lie the 25 most listened to and/or downloaded tracks of the year.

Below is that list, a CD-length collection of covers, curios and hard-to-find classics. Download the rar file, sequence as you please and burn away.



Baby HueyListen To Me

The Lovin’ SpoonfulDo You Believe In Magic?

French FriesDanse a la Musique

Oscar BrownThe Snake

Al BrownHere I Am Baby

RadioheadThese Are My Twisted Words

Bob DylanBoots Of Spanish Leather

Ian Dury & the BlockheadsHit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

Michael MarraHamish

Paul WellerFlame-Out

Bo DiddleyShe’s Fine, She’s Mine

Barbara & the BrownsYou Don’t Love Me

Tommy James & the ShondellsCrimson & Clover

LightshipsDo Your Thing

The BeatlesIt’s All Too Much (Much Too Much bootleg version)

Les Negresses VertesZobi la Mouche

Trash Can SinatrasGhosts Of American Astronauts (Live at Fez, NYC 2004)

Eddie FloydI’ve Never Found A Girl

The SmithsThere Is A Light That Never Goes Out (demo)

Curtis Liggins IndicationsWhat It Is

ThemI Can Only Give You Everything

Kim Fowley Bubblegum

A CampBoys Keep Swinging

The SlitsI Heard It Through The Grapevine (demo)

Madness Un Paso Adelante


And here’s to health, wealth and happiness to you all for 2015. All the best!

Cover Versions, demo, Dylanish, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

Band Aid

I’ve been enjoying the recent latest release in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. Number 11 shines a light on the Basement Tapes, the name given to the set of landmark recordings Bob did with The Band in 1967 in the basement of Big Pink, the cabin in the woods that served as a commune/writing/rehearsal space for The Band.

As any music scholar knows, the Basement Sessions unwittingly became the first bootleg LP, when some tracks were spirited out of Big Pink, into the ether and onto a record titled ‘The Great White Wonder’. Bob fans lucky enough to lay their hands on a copy marvelled at the down-home, rootsy feel of it all. Taken in context, the musical world was ingesting heaps of hallucinogens, dressing up in silly clothes and humping anything that moved, under the guise of ‘free love’.

 Bob Dylan

A burnt-out Dylan eschewed all this nonsense by totalling his Triumph in a motorbike crash and taking to time to convalesce at his own speed. The recording at Big Pink found him running loosely through a set of songs that had their roots in long-forgotten Americana, creating an arcane set of mystical wonder.

For years it’s been easy enough to uncover complete sets of this stuff in the darkest corners of the internet, but much of it is poor quality and while you might be of the notion that the song is key, a lot of it is unlistenable.

The official release comes in a couple of formats – the eye-wateringly expensive Complete Sessions that I’d assume is just that, though I’m certain that some Bob Cat somewhere has a version of Yea! Heavy And a Bottle Of Bread or Don’t You Tell Henry sung by Rick Danko’s dog that the compilers missed for some reason or other. Look in the darkest corners of the internet and you can no doubt find it too. I went for the recession-friendly 2CD set, which compiles all the essential stuff at a far better sound quality than my old CD bootleg from years ago.

bob and band bw

Recorded on a mobile recording unit loaned to them by Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman through microphones borrowed from Peter, Paul and Mary, it’s terrific stuff, with Bob leading The Band through first versions of never-since played originals and exhumed olde worlde tunes. It’s not music Dylan intended for mass consumption. It’s him and The Band (and the occasional dog at their feet) merrily running through whatever the hell they like, however often they feel like it. Had they known it would become the stuff of legend, it’s possible the group would’ve tried to make it more contemporary. Thankfully, this music remains as pure and clean as the air around Big Pink. Nowhere on the Basement Tapes will you hear the sound of the beat group, nor will you hear “the sun’s not yellow it’s a chicken”-type lyrics.

Following the constant record/tour/release schedule that had eaten up all of his time for the previous 2 years, Bob essentially used the sessions as a way of recording new stuff that could be somewhat cynically sent to other artists to have hits with, ensuring Bob’s pockets stayed healthily full whilst maintaining a low public profile. Much of the stuff from the sessions did indeed do this;

Both The Band and The Box Tops put out versions of I Shall Be Released. The Mighty Quinn became a hit for Manfred Mann. The Byrds made You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere the lead track on their Sweethearts Of the Rodeo LP.

My favourite is This Wheel’s On Fire, a weird ‘n wonky slice of claustrophobic nonsense, all walking basslines and odd chords.
Bob Dylan & The Band – This Wheel’s On Fire

bob basement

Even better than Bob’s one take wonder is Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll’s, who released the definitive version in 1967; all swirling psychedelia and phased vocals, with shimmering Hammonds and eerie mellotron.
Brian Auger and Julie DriscollThis Wheel’s On Fire


No stranger to a Bob tune, Rod Stewart wraps his gravelled tones around a version that is too rock for solo Rod but not swaggering enough for The Faces. A rather misplaced cover, if y’ask me. As a ballad singer, he did Mama, You Been On My Mind far, far better. Worth searching for.
Rod StewartThis Wheel’s On Fire


Siouxsie & the Banshees had a good stab at it too, going for an eastern gothic feel more in tune with Auger and Driscoll than Dylan’s, 12 string guitars competing with both a rattling snare and Siouxsie’s ice maiden vocals for attention.
Siouxsie & the BansheesThis Wheel’s On Fire


Predictably, both The Band and The Byrds had a go at it. You’ll know where to look if you need to hear them.

basement cover

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, demo, Dylanish, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, Most downloaded tracks, Six Of The Best, studio outtakes

Lucky Seven

Plain Or Pan began back in January 2007. December 2013 saw the 7th full year of the blog. The end of the year makes me come across all misty eyed and giddy at the thought of this blog being not only still in existence but in rather rude health. At some point recently, the one-and-a-half millionth visitor crossed the threshold to read all about James Brown or Lou Reed or some forgotten Teenage Fanclub b-side. Facebook followers are in abundance, Twitter sends its fair share of readers in this direction and if you read that wee panel on the right, you’ll notice visitors from as far afield as Buenos Aires, Berlin and Ayr. Thank you one and all!

What better way to celebrate 7 years of typos, titbits and factual inaccuracies than with the annual Plain Or Pan Best of the Year CD*.

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*I’ll provide the tunes. You make the CD.

Our team of stat monkeys works double shifts over the festive period before presenting me with documented proof of the most listened to and downloaded tracks from Plain Or Pan throughout the year and I compile them into a handy CD-length album, complete with artwork, that can be added straight to your iTunes or wherever and onto your iPod to listen to during that new-fangled jogging craze you’ll ditch by February. Alternatively, it could be burnt off to listen to, old-skool style, on a couple of shiny discs in the car.

Tracks included:

PixiesRiver Euphrates (Gigantic ep version)

Victoria Wood14 Again

The SmithsRusholme Ruffians (demo)

James Brown(Hot) I Need To Be Loved

SupergrassCaught By The Fuzz (acoustic)

The CrampsI Wanna Get In Your Pants

The House of LoveDestroy The Heart (demo)

Neil YoungBirds (Mono single version)

Elizabeth Archer & the Equators Feel Like Makin’ Dub


Dave EdmundsBorn To Be With You

The CliqueSuperman

Ike TurnerBold Soul Sister

CanI’m So Green

WilcoImpossible Germany

The Mamas and PapasSomebody Groovy

Santo & JohnnySleepwalk

Dee ClarkBaby What You Want Me To Do

The SpecialsToo Much Too Young (LP version)

Barry AdamsonSet The Controls For The Heart Of The Pelvis


MogwaiThe Sun Smells Too Loud

Trash Can SinatrasLittle Things That Keep Us Together

Roxy MusicVirginia Plain (Peel Session)

*** a cracker! ***

Get it here.

pop 7 cover art

Normal service resumed next week. Lookin’ forward to it!

Cover Versions, Dylanish, Hard-to-find

Boss Tunes

I haven’t ever quite got Bruce Springsteen. I can appreciate the appeal, and I can rattle off a list of his tunes I quite like, but that’s just it – tunes I quite like. There’s nothing there I love. Not even Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. Or Hungry Heart. Or Cadillac Ranch. Or Born To Run. I like ’em. But I don’t love ’em. I don’t feel the need to re-spin them as soon as they’ve faded out in the same way I do with many other musical sacred cows. What’s the difference between Born To Run and most of Meat Loaf’s outpourings over the last 30 years? Very little, if y’ask me. And Meat Loaf is a pantomime figure to be laughed at and poked with a big shitty stick. So why not Bruce?


Bruce’s schtick is all just a wee bit forced, I think. Everything’s done through gritted teeth and clenched fist, his furrowed brow and earnest intentions dressed up in last year’s Levis for maximum ‘man of the people’ effect.  Four hour live shows? Come on! Even if Paul McCartney turned up in my back garden and ask me to accompany him on fat-fingered guitar to play a four hour greatest hits show, that would still be about two hours too long. Possibly. And all that huffing and puffing and biker-booted blue collar bluster – pffft! – even his ballads sound as if they’re wrapped in layers of testosterone, desperate to escape their confines, but bundled up as tightly as his upper arms underneath the sweat-stained cut-off denim shirt. Look at him! He can’t even play that famous Tele of his properly due to the constrictions. That, in part, explains the gritted teeth I suppose.

Here’s the crux though – Bruce writes a good song. I know he does. But his versions just don’t hit the spot the way the cover versions do.

Because The NightBruce version

Written during the Darkness On The Edge Of Town album sessions, he dashed off Because The Night, discarded it almost immediately and gave it to Patti Smith, who was in the studio next door recording what would become the Easter LP. She got herself a writing credit as she changed some of the words and added her own. But you knew that already. Her version is better. In fact, hers is the definitive of the 18 covers (and counting) to date. PJ Harvey certainly thinks so……..she based much of her mid-career on it. But you knew that already too.

patti smith 7

Because The NightPatti version

Along with Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, Patti’s Because The Night reminds me of French toast. I have a vivid memory of listening to the ‘Hit Parade’ countdown one sunny Summer night on a wee portable radio in the back garden and hearing both records while my dad made French toast in the kitchen, the sizzle and smell making its way back to me sitting with my back against the roughcast on the garage wall. Patti’s record eventually got to number 5, though I’m too scared to Google the rest of this fact as it’s very likely both records didn’t ever appear in the same chart. Don’t check. Or if you do, don’t tell me if I’m wrong. It’ll ruin what has been a 35+ years memory.

bruce-springsteen- face2 Huff….pufff…wheeze….

Inspired by a lyric in Elvis’ Let’s Play House (“You may have a pink Cadillac but don’t you be nobody’s fool”), Bruce wrote Pink Cadillac as a car-as-sexual-metaphor bluesy gruntalong. Written at the turn of the 80s but kept it in his vaults until 1984, Bruce stuck it on the b-side of Dancing In The Dark.

Pink CadillacBruce version

The year previously, Bette Midler had asked to record it, presumably to add her own high camp gloss to an already suggestive lyric.

I love you for your Pink Cadillac….crushed velvet seats….riding in the back…oozing down the street.”

Pink Cadillac is not a girls’ song‘, vetoed Bruce.

And that was that, until Natalie Cole somehow got the go ahead to record her version and take it all the way to number 5 (just like Patti) in March 1988. Bruce calling it Pink Cadillac was a bit more glamorous and rock ‘n roll sounding than, say, Pink Camel Toe, that’s for sure. But we all know what he was getting at, eh? Nudge, nudge, wink wink and all that. It’s quite spectacular that someone so straight-laced as Natalie ‘daughter of Nat King’ Cole should be allowed to record it. Maybe she thought she was singing about a car.

Pink CadillacNatalie version.

Barring the none-more-80s glossy feel (or, to be more accurate, because of the none-more-80s glossy feel) it could almost be Aretha Franklin as recorded by Prince, couldn’t it?

pink cadillac 7

*Bonus Track!

Ever one for spotting a trend and putting an arty spin on it, here’s David Bowie doing It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City. Recorded in 1974 in the middle of his white-powdered Young Americans phase, it’s a tune that divides Bowie fans. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a brilliant version. I bet those check-shirted good ol’ boys over the Atlantic hate it though.

Nothing at all like the Brooce original. Poor man’s Dylan, no?

By now, of course, there’ll be people I know, friends even, who are rattling off tut-tut-tut emails to me, pointing out the errors of my ways. Waaaaaghh! Here….have a Bruce face in reply….

bruce face

Dylanish, Hard-to-find, Most downloaded tracks

Yesterday’s Papers – The Cat In The Brand New Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat

Yesterday’s Papers is my way of infrequently getting new life out of carefully selected old posts. It’s terrific that new readers seem to find Plain Or Pan on a daily basis and often request particular pieces of music which, for one reason or another no longer have working links. There’s also some stuff on here that I, being vain and narcissistic, still enjoy reading and, even though I would like to take an editor’s pen to the text and re-write much of it, I think new and not so new readers might enjoy reading it too.

Every Yesterday’s Papers post is presented exactly as it was written when it first appeared on Plain Or Pan, apart from the odd spelling mistake or grammatical error that escaped my editorial eye first time around. Oh, and the links to the music have all been updated too.

First appeared July 2, 2008

Got the new issue of Mojo through the letterbox today and amongst the usual excellent mix of articles, I spotted a wee nod to ‘Dylan Hears A Who’. This was a project that I stumbled across quite by accident about a year ago, where a couple of guys recreated Bob Dylan‘s golden mid-6os period with the most authentic-sounding band ever, playing songs who’s lyrics are made up entirely from words and phrases taken from the writing of Dr Seuss. It has to be heard to be believed, but trust me, the album is easily one of the Top 3 things I’ve ever downloaded. Even the artwork is beautifully pastiched…

According to Mojo, mp3′s of ‘Dylan Hears A Who’ are hard to find. A bit of poking around on the internet shows this to be true. Dylan loved the music  – there’s faithful pastiches of ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’, ‘Tombstone Blues’, ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ and much more, but the dylanhearsawho website was shut down on the instructions of the Dr Seuss estate. Booooo! Pastiche fascists! So a year late, I’m posting it here. Artwork is included!

The Cat in the Hat

There’s something happening here and you don’t know what it is? Try before you buy!  Here‘s the aforementioned splendid take on ‘Tombstone Blues’, entitled ‘Green Eggs & Ham’. See what I mean? Now go and download the whole lot. You won’t regret it. ‘Too Many Daves’ sounds like one of those hotel room tape recordings that Bob fans go mental over. I’d forgotten quite how good Dylan Hears A Who actually is. Thanks, Mojo. Now. What are you waiting for?

Cover Versions, Dylanish, Sampled

Rods And Mockers

Like many people of a certain age (and that includes you, you! and YOU! reading this, judging by the profiles of those of you who so far have ‘liked‘ us on Facebook – thanks!), I grew up with the sound of my Dad’s record collection playing regularly in the background.  With no insider knowledge of what was hip or otherwise, I’d happily hum along to any old rubbish if it had a good tune and a catchy melody. When I started making my own friend-influenced choices about music, my dad’s record collection suddenly became something to be embarrassed about and I’d do my best to steer clear of it with all the gusto normally reserved for a smelly old man approaching with a big shitty stick. More fool me, as that meant an almost teenage-long love affair with Hipsway whilst living in denial of anything Beatles, Stones, and Dylan related. A few years down the line, of course, I nicked all the good bits and they now sit happily on the shelves behind where I’m currently typing. Nowadays, I tend not to play many Beatles, Stones or Dylan LPs. They’re all there (taps head), stored on my own limitless hard-drive and can be accessed wherever and whenever required. Better not being played here than not being played at my Dad’s, I could ration quite easily.

Another of the sounds regularly playing in the background of my formative years was that of Rod Stewart. Cooking, car journeys and Christmas. Rod was always around. When I first heard him, he would’ve been in his ridiculous late 70s disco pomp, a walking fire hazard dressed in skin tight black satin pants and flouncy Bet Lynch blouse, blow wave topped off with enough hair spray to choke a horse and asking if you thought he was sexy. Even at the age of 9 I knew he wasn’t, although my Mum would perhaps have disagreed. Rod was an easy target at the tail-end of the 70s and right through the 80s. A crucial half-step behind the sounds and styles of the day, he was never too far away from a leopard-skin print or a tartan travel rug. He could often be found in day-glo lycra and wearing sun visors and pixie boots.  For uncultured wee boys like myself he was the pink satin tour-jacketed guy with the daft haircut. To the new breed of post-punk musicians, he was the enemy. The champagne swilling playboy, stoating’ out of nightclubs with a wee stoater on each arm. Film stars, models and all manner of  beautiful people dangled off him like the ridiculously sparkly earrings that fell from his lobes.

Winner of The Britt Awards, 1975

But despite the obvious distractions, he made some great records.

As I was getting stuff together for this piece, a thread on the Word magazine blog suggested that had poor old Rod died in 1975, he’d have been held up as one of the greats. A Syd Barrett or a Nick Drake or whoever. As he’s still with us however, he’s just Rod Stewart. Kinda irrelevant in this day and age but more than capable of selling out venues across the planet without any decent new material (but a phenomenal back catalogue) to back him up. Of course, as I know now, early 70s Rod was where it was at. In his prime he was magic. In tandem with The Faces  he made some of the finest records of the time, records that still stand up today. The Faces was all about the feeling, the vibe, the playing, man. I kinda get the feeling that, no matter how much I love those records, The Faces had to be seen live to really be appreciated. And not with Mick Hucknall on vocals either. (C’mon Rod, what’s the problem?) When you listen to solo Rod, it’s all about the writing and the arranging. Rod’s a terrific writer. Ballads, blues or ballsy rockers, he writes them all. He’s also a terrific arranger, a master at taking other people’s songs and turning them into radio-friendly unit shifters. Tom Waits, Crazy Horse’s Danny Whitten, half of Motown and that guy from Scottish also-rans Superstar have all felt the clink of coins in their pocket following a Rod recording session. But you knew all that already.

Easily my favourite Rod arrangements is his take on Bob Dylan‘s Mama You Been On  My Mind. Bob’s original is essentially an unfinished demo, a sketch of an idea of a song written around the time of ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan‘. It coulda been a classic in the Dylan canon, but Dylan in 1964 was spewing out songs of this quality seemingly at will and his own version fell mostly by the wayside. Rod gives it the kiss of life. He takes the demo by the scruff of the neck and reinvents it as a Maggie May-esque 12 string and pedal steel classic. The phrasing! Rod is incredible on this record. It’s available on 1972′s ‘Never A Dull Moment’. My Dad doesn’t know it, cos he only has the Greatest Hits and whatever studio albums Rod was releasing at Christmases 79-85. After that it was a post-Live Aid Queen that rocked his world.  Do yourself a favour and download it here.

*Bonus Track!

See that Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? Have a wee listen to Bobby Womack’s If You Want My Love, Put Something Down On It and see where crafty old Rod got the inspiration for the hook. Got the inspiration? That should read ‘stole‘. And as far as I can tell, nary a writing credit either. Shame on you Rod.

Rod ‘n Elton ‘n Lana Hamilton, Studio 54, 1978

Cover Versions, demo, Double Nugget, Dylanish, elliott smith, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, Most downloaded tracks, New! Now!, Peel Sessions, Sampled, Six Of The Best, Studio master tapes, studio outtakes

I Got 5 Years Stuck On My Eyes

I got 5 years, what a surprise!Five Years‘, Bowie’s opening track on the Ziggy album ends with that afore-mentioned refrain. But you knew that already. You might also know that Plain Or Pan has now been going for 5 years. Or you might not. Either way, thanks for visiting time and time again. Whether you’re one of the few who choose to ‘follow this blog’ or you’re one of those misguided creeps who ended up here via Google after searching for ‘Teenage Fanny‘ and got the Bellshill Beach Boys instead, those visits (and the numbers they register behind the scenes in the Plain Or Pan office) are what keeps me a-writin’ and researchin’. Not as often as I’d like to, but as someone commented some time ago, “One good post a week is better than 7 posts of shite.” I might be paraphrasing there, but you get the idea.

As is now customary at this time of year, my team of office monkeys gather up all statistical information made available to them and compile a couple of CDs worth of the year’s most popular downloaded tracks and painstakingly create a groovy cover that goes with it. This is not a quick process. Hours are spent refining and re-refining running orders. At least 14 different covers are produced before a carefully-selected random sample of Plain Or Pan’s target audience (that’s you, that is) choose the cover that speaks most to them. This year is slightly different. The office monkeys have gone on strike (they mumbled something about pensions) and time is at a premium (ie, I don’t have any). The tracks, 2 CDs worth are here. The artwork, not your normal CD cover, more of an image that you can use as cover art in iTunes or however you listen to music on your computer, is there, above this paragraph (right click, save as etc etc). The tracklist? I don’t have one. This year you can choose your own running order from the following:

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John Barry – Midnight Cowboy

King Creosote – Home In A Sentence

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (Rare Italian pressing)

Gruff Rhys – Shark Ridden Waters, which samples….

The Cyrkle – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Midlake – Branches

Elliott Smith – Alameda

Peter Salett – Sunshine

Mott The Hoople – Walking With A Mountain

Primal Scream – Jailbird (Kris Needs’ Toxic Trio Stay free mix)

Primal Scream & PP Arnold – Understanding (Small Faces cover)

Ride – Like A Daydream

The Wildebeests – That Man (Small Faces cover)

Dion – The Dolphins (Tim Buckley cover)

Darondo – Didn’t I

Edwin Starr – Movin’ On Up (Primal Scream cover)

Shellac – My Black Ass

The Rivingtons – Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow (the building blocks of Surfin Bird)

The Survivors – Pamela Jean (Brian Wilson recording)

The Heavy – How You Like Me Now? which heavily ‘borrows’ from…

Dyke & The Blazers – Let A Woman Be A Woman (Let A Man Be A Man)

The La’s – Come In Come Out (John Leckie mix)

The Girlfriends – My One And Only Jimmy Boy

The Whyte Boots – Nightmare

James Brown & the Famous Flames –I’ll Go Crazy

The Jim Jones Revue – Hey Hey Hey Hey, cover of….

Little Richard – Hey Hey Hey Hey (false start take)

Suede – The Wild Ones (unedited version)

Lee Dorsey – Holy Cow

Fern Kinney – Groove Me

Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady (alt mix)

Jackson 5 –  I Want You Back (Michael’s isolated vocal – dynamite!!!)

Reparta & the Delrons – Shoes (the inspiration for The Smiths’ A Rush And A Push…)

Dusty Springfield – Spooky

She & Him – Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want (Smiths cover)

John Barry – The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair

A fairly representative selection of what Plain Or Pan is all about, you might agree. In other words, a right rum bag of forgotten classics and demos and cover versions and alternative takes and studio outtakes and the rest of it. Outdated Music For Outdated People right enough.

Missed any of these legendary compilations?

Here‘s the first 2 years, 2007 & 2008

Here‘s 2009’s

Here‘s 2010’s

Download ’til yer heart’s content!

Cover Versions, Dylanish, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Ooh! What’s that bulging in Santa’s sack? Buoyed by the swell of traffic following the Pogues post (a wee bit below), here’s a shortcut to previous Plain Or Pan Christmas stuff:

The James Brown Christmas album . Even better than it sounds. Here.

Dora Bryan‘s 1963 novelty cash-in All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle. Here.

Julian ‘The Strokes’ Casablancas‘ uber-rare I Wish It Was Christmas Today. Here.

Some Bob Dylan festive fare. Here.

The Fall do Christ-mas-ah! Here.

The Ghost Of Christmas Past? That’ll be Phil’s Spectre.

Plain Or Pan is almost 5 years young. Over the festive period you’ll be able to pick up (download!) the annual Plain Or Pan Best Of The Year CD, featuring the most popular downloaded tracks from throughout the year – the ideal way for newbies to quickly catch up on what they’ve been a-missin’ and regulars to plug the gaps in their collection.

Remember, the ‘Whityeherefur?‘ botton on the left is your friend.

Dylanish, elliott smith, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

I’m So Sick Of Snow Patrol-ah!

When people discover that I’m into music in a big way they will ask the inevitable question, “What music do you like then?” My standard glib and non-commital reply has always been, “Oh you know, anything released before 1986,” which, on the one hand tells you nothing, but on the other hand tells you everything you need to know. Why get into the present when there’s so much from the past just waiting to be discovered? Of course, just to be contrary, I’m very much into the present. Two albums currently on heavy rotation (do iPods rotate?) are Skying by The Horrors and Ersartz G.B. by The Fall. Both current, both new, yet crucially both steeped in a wide variety of pre-86 reference points. The Horrors album seems to have taken early Psychedelic Furs and the pre-pomp Simple Minds as its year zero. But that description doesn’t do it justice at all. Full-on, relentless and played by musicians at the top of their game, The Horrors would be my band of choice if I was 17 and had the waist size for skinny black jeans and the gall to wear pointy boots in public. Spotify it then buy it. And that’s an order.

The current version of The Fall are brilliant – tight, taut and tense with seemingly their leader’s approval to, like, get down. The album is all Sabbath riffs and rockabilly rhythms, wonky keyboards and slabs of cement basslines. On some tracks, Mark Smith sounds like an angry dog attacking an old slipper (eg the lyric that healines this piece). On the rest he sounds like a demented Dalek on downers. This may just be the best Fall LP since Extricate. It’s that good. In fact, if this album and The Horrors one aren’t in the Top 5 of any of those Best Albums of the Year lists that should be appearing any day now, I’ll turn my copy of Telephone Thing into a trendy ashtray and smoke myself silly.

Photo ‘borrowed’ from Flybutter via Flickr. Ta!

Another current obsession is Elliott Smith. I’ve written much about him in the past (use the ‘search‘ box on the side there). I love Elliott and return to him time and time again. This week I have been mostly obsessing over Alameda, from his Either/Or LP. It’s not just the way he practically whispers the lyric. Or the ghostly harmonising backing vocals. And it’s not just the way he sounds like he plays guitar with 10 fingers. On each hand. Nope. It’s the way (muso alert! muso alert!) the song goes from monochrome misery into a burst of technicolour joy over a pair of E flat and G minor chords. “For your own protection over their affection, nobody broke your heart. You broke your own…” Majestic is the word I’m looking for. My Christmas holiday task is to master this song on the guitar. Easy chords but a difficult picking arrangement. Pop round at New Year to hear me murder it if you fancy.

Here y’are:

Alameda (Either/Or)

Alameda (Alt. Lyrics)

Alameda (Live WMUC circa June/July 1997)

Oh aye. Is it snowing on your desktop too? Nothing to do with me….